Friday, May 29, 2009

Memorial Day 2009 - A Look at Women in the Military

Thanks Marcia for another great article. Unfortunately MST (Military Sexual Trauma) is a sadly under-reported problem. If our leaders must continue to send men and women to war then I hope that one day they will adequately address the resulting mental health issues.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

So Much for Post Racial

At least in the mind of one white Pennsylvania woman who apparently thinks that you can cover running away by using the old standby line, "the black man did it".

Yesterday afternoon I was really bothered by the fact that during their 5pm broadcast, Phila,'s Channel 6 News reported that police were attempting to track the location of two carjack victims by using the signal from a cell phone. I thought to myself, that's all the kidnappers need to hear so they can beat the woman half to death in order to avoid being captured and identified.

Now I'm learning that the whole carjacking incident may just be another hoax a la Susan Smith.

Phila Inquirer is now reporting:
"The Bucks County woman who made a frantic 911 call yesterday reporting that she and her daughter had been kidnapped is now believed to be in Florida with the girl, a law enforcement official said this afternoon.

The woman was caught on video surveillence at Philadelphia International Airport yesterday about an hour or so after her call to authorities. Using fake identification and cash, she bought two one-way tickets to Orlando, the source told the Inquirer.

Earlier in the day, investigators examined a car and chased leads in an effort to find the woman and her 9-year-old daughter, Julia Rakoczy.

This morning, as Julia's father appealed on national television for the release of his daughter and ex-wife this morning, FBI Special Agent J.J. Klaver said investigators were following a number of leads in the case. He did not elaborate.

When Sweeten, 38, called police shortly before 2 p.m. yesterday, she said she was in the trunk of a dark-colored 1990s Cadillac.

The mother reported she and daughter were taken by two black men after they were involved in a minor accident with the Cadillac on Street Road in Upper Southampton Township, about a mile north of the city, Klaver said."

This is the type of BS that used to get black men lynched. I wonder how many black men have been pulled over today in the search for Bonnie Sweeten and her daughter.

So the next time that someone tells you that we're living a post-racial society tell them that we're not there yet. Some people must still believe in Jim Crow.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

They Count on Our Short Memories

"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."
-- Albert Einstein

Now that Big Oil has drastically dropped the price at the gasoline pump from the record highs of 2008, most Americans have forgotten about the obscene profits that they raked in and the energy surcharges that virtually every other business passed on to consumers.

Now that the health-care industry has promised to play nice, many in Washington seem to be compromising on the struggle for universal health-care forgetting the millions of Americans without coverage and the millions of others who thought they had coverage until their medical claims were denied.

And now it seems that the prevailing attitude in Washington regarding investigating the apparent abuses of President powers and violations of the Constitution by the previous White House is to let bygones be bygones.

And if history is any indicator, in spite of the outrage over executive bonuses and threatened tea parties, it won't be long before the American public will have forgotten that Wall Street and the banking industry has raided the public treasury in a way that would make even Baby Doc Duvalier blush.

As Einstein said, "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing." The corrupt can generally count on the public's short memory and the need to maintain the status quo.

However, every once in awhile a few people rise up and are not satisfied with just looking on while those who can get away with murder do so, over and over again. And thank goodness that there are media outlets like DemocracyNow who cover it.

Shell on Trial: Landmark Trial Set to Begin Over Shell’s Role in 1995 Execution of Nigerian Human Rights Activist Ken Saro-Wiwa

"A landmark trial against oil giant Royal Dutch Shell’s alleged involvement in human rights violations in the Niger Delta begins this Wednesday in a federal court in New York. Fourteen years after the widely condemned execution of the acclaimed Nigerian writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, the court will hear allegations that Shell was complicit in his torture and execution.".

The True Cost of Chevron: The Alternative Annual Report

"Now Chevron’s annual report reports that 2008 was the company’s most profitable year in history. Just ahead of Chevron’s shareholder meeting, a new report released today tells shareholders more about the hidden and underreported costs of these profits. The alternative annual report is called “The True Cost of Chevron.” It brings together stories from communities across the world—Angola, Burma, Canada, Chad, Cameroon, Ecuador, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, the Philippines and the United States—all directly affected by and in struggle against Chevron’s operations. We speak to the report’s author and James Craig, media adviser for Latin America for Chevron."

Thanks DemocracyNow for reminding us that not everyone forgets.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Why the Pot Can't Prosecute the Kettle

I guess it would be hard to investigate acts of torture during a previous administration when the same thing is going on during your own.

Jeremy Scahill: "Little Known Military Thug Squad Still Brutalizing Prisoners at Gitmo Under Obama

Jeremy Scahill reports the Obama administration is continuing to use a notorious military police unit at Guantanamo that regularly brutalizes unarmed prisoners including gang beating them, breaking their bones, gouging their eyes and dousing them with chemicals. This force officially known as the Immediate Reaction Force has been labelled the Extreme Repression Force by Guantanamo prisoners and human rights lawyers call their actions illegal. "

Monday, May 18, 2009

Just Another Reason Why Nuclear Energy Is No Solution

excerpt from:

Nuclear Cleanup Awards Questioned

by Kimberly Kindy 

The Energy Department has begun releasing more than $6 billion in stimulus money to clean up 18 nuclear sites from New York to California, more than doubling the typical yearly funding for the program. Contractors helped shape the stimulus package and are lined up to get the work, including many that have been cited for serious safety violations and costly mistakes.

The contracts -- along with much broader problems in the department's nuclear cleanup program -- have prompted rare, sharply worded warnings from some government officials and lawmakers who say the stimulus funding is ripe for abuse.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Major Retailers Cutting Prices to Attract Consumers

Many of the nation's top retailers are cutting prices in order to lure cost conscious consumers back into their stores. But if they haven't slash the salaries of their top executives and raised the wages of their front line employees then their efforts are just window dressing.

As Yian Q Mui reported in his article "Prices Fall to Match A New Frugality" for The Washington Post reports:

"The nation's retailers have begun to embrace the new cost-conscious consumer, developing products they can sell at lower prices without driving themselves out of business in the post-splurge era.

Retailers have absorbed the lessons of a ruinous holiday season. Caught with shelves full of unsold merchandise, they slashed prices to draw in shoppers. But the strategy was unsustainable: It decimated profits and resulted in massive layoffs, killing off a number of chains, including Circuit City. Serving recession-era shoppers, retailers realized, would require a long-term strategy featuring lower prices.

'What we have is retailers reacting to a very low-appetite consumer and a consumer that has been now taught to wait,' said Michael Silverstein, senior partner at Boston Consulting Group"
The article continues:
"Some price reductions have come from stripping out fancy details for which retailers once charged a premium. Production costs have also dropped, allowing sellers to pass on the savings. Retailers are streamlining supply chains and creating new merchandise with cheaper components and lower prices. In some cases, they are sacrificing profits and hoping to make up the difference in volume"
So much of this "price cutting" comes from reduced craftmanship, minimizing production costs (i.e, keeping wages & benefits low, outsourcing to foreign labor, etc) and "creating new merchandise with cheaper components". It seems that "sacrificing profits" is a last resort measure.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ramblings from Rehab

a blog post that was started on 5/6/09

Sorry, this is not going to be one of those glamorous public confessions about drug addiction. I just knew that the post title would grab attention. People just love a public fall from grace, don't they?

Rather this is a post about why I've turned off, or rather tuned out, C-SPAN and much of corporate owned media news for much of the past month.

I guess there comes a time in every junkie's life, even a political junkie, when you realize that it's time to kick the habit. When the high you once experienced just isn't there anymore.

When I decided that it wasn't worth destroying my lungs in order to avoid gaining twenty pounds,
I quit cold turkey and haven't looked back. My epiphany came when I lit a cigarette and almost became ill at the smell of smoke on my suede gloves.

Now it seems that I am well on the way to kicking the political habit. This time there's been no startling illumination, just the slow realization that the battle of ideology that so fascinated me as a child isn't really about ideology at all. Politics is about power, acquiring it, holding on to it and brokering it.

I've never been so naive that I believed that politics was pure ideology. While my political heroes might include Barbara Jordan, Robert Kennedy and Ann Richards I'm also a big fan of Lyndon B Johnson, whom I consider to have been a master politician.

I've always understood that politics is a game of give and take, give a little to get a little, compromise on the small issues to win on the big ones. It takes money and lots of favors to win an election and even more money and more favors to get re-elected. It's almost a miracle that any real and meaningful ever occurs.

However after following the news of the bank bailout, the collapse of the US automotive industry, the plans for troop escalation in Afghanistan, the unwillingness to investigate the questionable deeds of the previous administration and, the telling of one fable after another from Congress, I'm beginning to feel that the more things "change" the more they really stay the same.

Watching politics is starting to feel like watching a new football season. A few players retired, a few were traded, the rules committee made a few changes to the rule book, but it's still the same game, And that's the problem, the political game. And while part of me loves watching the theater of the politicians, the power brokers and the media, a larger part of me is weary of the BS. The whole thing is starting to smell like stale cigarettes.

I'm tired of watching a political stage play that has: US military personnel serving 3 and 4 back-to-back tours of duty; bank CEOs profiting from bailouts after they've already fleeced the public: Wall Street execs whining over bonuses while veterans sleep under bridges; and, admissions that the US officials condoned torture that are met by a general malaise and an unwillingness to investigate the practices of torture, extraordinary rendition, illegal wiretapping, war profiteering and other possible violations of the US Constitution.

Don't misunderstand me. I never expected overnight change in Washington. I did expect at least a 90, if not 180, degree course correction.
Is that asking too much?

While this year started out with hope as well as pomp and circumstance, it didn't take long for it to become clear who wrote the biggest campaign checks. Congress writes a stimulus/recovery bill that virtually everyone hates, Wall Street and the banking industry gets a bailout and a tap of the wrist, there is a troop escalation in Afghanistan, auto workers get the shaft, the health-care industry promises to play nice this time and the American public is told it's time to move on and that nothing will be gained by investigating the misdeeds of the previous 8 years. In other words, back to business as usual.

The same applies to much of the political blogosphere. Lots of rehashing the same ole same ole and mainstream media talking points. Of course there has been no shortage of discussion about executive bonuses, Prop 8 and the Sotomayer nomination. These are certainly important issues and worthy of serious discussion. But when these hot button stories devolve into nothing more than more divisive rhetoric they only shift the focus away from the ongoing wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, the practices of torture and extraordinary rendition, the fate of the millions impacted by the failure of the auto industry and the overt corruption of the oil and banking industries.

Maybe I'm jaded or may I just hoped for real change.

However, when I hear reports like the one by Jeremy Scahill's of the Obama administration's continued use of a unit
known as the Immediate Reaction Force (aka Extreme Repression Force) which regularly gang beats Guantanamo detainees, you have to understand that I just can't get overly excited about a Supreme Court nominee, even if it is a woman of Puerto Rican heritage.

As Naomi Wolf pointed out in her article "Busted, Pentagon: Why the Photos Probably Do Show Detainees Sodomized and Raped": "The Telegraph of London broke the news - because the US press is in a drugged stupor."

Commenting on the decision to suppress these photos and the minimal level of public outcry, Ms Wolf writes:
"Is systemic sex crime practiced by the US in a consequence of the lawlessness of `the war on terror' surprising to those of us who work on issues of sexual abuse and war? It is totally predictable: when you give soldiers anywhere in the world the power, let alone the mandate, to hold women or men helpless, without recourse to law, kidnap them as a matter of policy - as US military kidnapped the wives of `insurgents' in order to compel them to turn themselves in - strip them naked, and threaten them, you have a completely predictable recipe for mass sexual assault. The magisterial study of rape in war, Susan Brownmiller's Men, Women and Rape, proves that.

But what is far scarier about these images Obama refuses to release and that the Pentagon is likely to be lying about now is that it is not the evidence of lower-level soldiers being corrupted by power - it is proof of the fact that the most senior leadership - Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney, with Rice's collusion - were running a global sex crime trafficking ring with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Baghram as the holding sites. The sexual nature of the torture also gives the lie to Cheney's and others' defense of torture as somehow functional: the sexual perversity mandated from the top reveals that it was just plain old sick sadism gratified by a very sick form of pleasure. I also pointed out in `Sex Crimes in the White House' that the escalation of the sexual abuse showed the same classic pattern shown by sex criminals everywhere - you start with stripping the victim, keeping him or her completely in your power, and then you engage in greater and more violent excesses with more and more self-justification."

Ms. Wolf continues:
"And women especially, who understand how sexual abuse and rape can break the spirit in a uniquely anguishing way, should be raising their voices loudly.

Whom are we protecting by not releasing the photos? The victims? Hardly. It's, as feminists have been saying for decades, not their shame. The perpetrators? Their crimes are archived; if not this administration, another may well obey the law release the images, which are evidentiary. (Again: that rape and sodomy were directed from the top; prosecute those at the top.)

These photos go to exactly why Obama is burning what is left of the shreds of the Constitution by calling for preemptive detention for about 100 detainees. It ain't because they are `too dangerous,' his pathetic justification. It is because their bodies are crime scenes. It is because the torture, including possibly the sexual assault, they experienced is likely to be so horrific that if they were ever to have their day in court it is others whom Obama needs who would be incriminated." .
Yes, why aren't women everyone screaming their outrage at the top of their lungs?

Why isn't every Christian crying out that this is NOT loving and caring for your brother. Torture is not turning the other cheek or forgiving those who trespass against us. As a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ I do not understand those who profess Christianity and believe that Jesus would advocate returning evil for evil or would remain silent when others do.

May I be so bold to suggest that the Jesus of my faith would probably march into Guantanamo and set the captives free against the passionate protestations of Dick Cheneys, Sarah Palins and Michelle Bachmanns. So forgive me if I've just stopped listening to that cast of characters.

I'm also starting to tune out atheist progressives who think that it is so cool to stereotype all Christians, blame all the evils of the world on religion and then claim to be such great admirers of Martin Luther King and Gandhi.

Of course I am as a thirsty for knowledge and passionate about the issues as ever. But I've grown weary of politicians performing for C-SPAN's cameras and cable news programs with promos that sound like that were written by a boxing promoter.

As I mentioned in a recent post, Albert Einstein is quoted as saying: "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."

Ah, enough of my ramblings for now. I'll keep you posted on my recovery.