Saturday, January 31, 2009

FOCUS | Michael Winship: Reading, Writing and Recession

FOCUS Michael Winship: Reading, Writing and Recession

http://www.truthout.org/013109Y

Michael Winship, Truthout: "That was quite a crowd at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, last week. Thousands of students took to the streets in protest. But it wasn't an antiwar march - the campus has a reputation for a lack of activism. It wasn't even a pep rally for UNLV's beloved championship basketball team, the Runnin' Rebels. No, they came out to raise hell as they never have before because Jim Gibbons, the governor of Nevada, just proposed state budget cuts to higher education of a whopping 36 percent. At UNLV, that could mean a budget slash of as much as 52 percent and possible tuition increases of 225 percent."

Castro Demands Return of Guantanamo

Castro Demands Return of Guantanamo

http://www.truthout.org/013109E

Marc Frank, Reuters: "Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro demanded on Thursday that President Barack Obama return the US naval base at Guantanamo to Cuba without conditions, and he accused the new US leader of supporting 'Israeli genocide' against Palestinians. Castro, who had recently praised Obama as 'honest' and 'noble', lashed out at his administration for stating that Washington will not return Guantanamo if it has any military use for the United States and without concessions in return."

Progressive Faith Groups Now Trying to Shift Debate

Progressive Faith Groups Now Trying to Shift Debate

http://www.truthout.org/013109D

Jacqueline L. Salmon and Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post: "With a president they view as more sympathetic to their causes, progressive religious activists are pushing the new Obama administration for aggressive action - on poverty, the environment and social justice issues - that would mark a significant shift in the faith agenda that dominated the Bush years. Many faith groups close to President George W. Bush focused on abortion, stem cell research and same-sex marriage. But now, liberal and centrist evangelicals and other activists say they are getting a voice and trying to turn the debate."

EDTE 18 Students in Action 1.28.2009





Friday, January 30, 2009

World Air Traffic 0-24 hrs (How about a flight today?)

Sent From Jeri:

"It is a 24 hour observation of all of the large aircraft flights in
the world, condensed down to about 2 minutes. From space we look like
a bee hive of activity. You could tell it was summer time in the north by the suns foot print
over the planet. You could see that it didn't quite set in the extreme
north and it didn't quite rise in the extreme south. I have never seen
this before. We are taught about the earths tilt and how it causes
summer and winter and have had to imagine just what is going on, With
this 24 hour observation of aircraft travel on the earths surface we
get to see the daylight pattern move as well."


video

Baha'i International Community deplores destruction of Khavaran cemetery

Baha'i International Community deplores destruction of Khavaran cemetery

GENEVA, 30 January (BWNS) - The destruction earlier this month of a cemetery in Iran used for the mass burial of hundreds killed in the aftermath of the Islamic revolution in 1979 is an outrageous violation of human dignity, the Baha'i International Community said today. At least 15 Baha'is were among those buried at the site."The destruction of the Khavaran cemetery by government agents goes against all concepts of respect for the dead in any culture, including values preached in Islam," said Diane Ala'i, the representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva."We join with other human rights groups inside and outside of Iran in condemning this shameful deed, which is yet another sign of the intolerance of the current Iranian regime," said Ms. Ala'i.Located southeast of Tehran, the Khavaran cemetery was used as the burial site for hundreds who were killed in the early years of the Iranian revolution.Earlier this month, a group of unidentified individuals using bulldozers demolished an area of the cemetery known as the "graveyard of the infidels," the area where many of the people executed in the early years of the revolution were buried.Reports indicate the group clearly represented a branch of the government. It was also reported that the officials told the cemetery custodian that the parcel was being demolished to develop a green space or park.Human rights groups inside and outside of Iran have since registered protests.On 20 January 2009, Amnesty International called on Iranian authorities to "immediately stop the destruction of hundreds of individual and mass, unmarked graves in Khavaran, south Tehran, to ensure that the site is preserved and to initiate a forensic investigation at the site as part of a long-overdue thorough, independent and impartial investigation into mass executions which began in 1988. ..."Iranian human rights advocates, including Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, have also condemned the cemetery's destruction."We have recently learned that Khavaran cemetery, where the victims of the illegal massacre of political prisoners in the 1980s and especially 1988 are buried, has been destroyed by some officials," the Human Rights Defenders' Centre said in a statement issued on 25 January, according to Agence France-Presse. "The Human Rights Defenders Centre condemns this ugly and appalling act and notes that everyone including the authorities is required to maintain the dignity of the dead."At least 15 Baha'is were buried in the same section of the cemetery, all victims in the early 1980s of the government's campaign to systematically persecute Iranian Baha'is for their religious beliefs.Specifically, it is known that eight members of the national Baha'i governing body killed on 27 December 1981 are buried there, along with six members of the Baha'i Spiritual Assembly of Tehran, killed on 4 January 1982. It is likely that other Baha'is were buried there, too.According to a Baha'i whose husband is buried at the site, most of the graves in that section of the cemetery were unmarked, designated only by numerical row markers."They called it the place for 'infidels,'" said the widow, who currently resides outside of Iran. "They just gave us row numbers, and that is how I knew where my husband was. But there were no markers and we were not allowed to identify which grave was which."

To view the home page of the Baha'i World News Service, go to: http://news.bahai.org

What are they thinking?

"The votes against Obama's stimulus package came from a southern confederacy of Republicans and conservative Democrats. Their message to America? Drop dead."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

'Shameful'

'Shameful'

Obama slams Wall Street as "outrageous" for taking $18 billion in bonuses as Americans bail them out

Obama Signs Equal Pay Bill

Greg Palast...

by Greg Palast

January 29, 2009

Republicans are right. President Barack Obama treated them like dirt, didn't give a damn what they thought about his stimulus package, loaded it with a bunch of programs that will last for years and will never leave the budget, is giving away money disguised as "tax refunds," and is sneaking in huge changes in policy, from schools to health care, using the pretext of an economic emergency.

Way to go, Mr. O! Mr. Down-and-Dirty Chicago pol. Street-fightin' man. Covering over his break-your-face power play with a "we're all post-partisan friends" BS.

And it's about time.

Frankly, I was worried about this guy. Obama's appointing Clinton-droids to the Cabinet, bloated incompetents like Larry Summers as "Economics Czar," made me fear for my country, that we'd gotten another Democrat who wished he were a Republican.

Then came Obama's money bomb. The House bill included $125 billion for schools (TRIPLING federal spending on education), expanding insurance coverage to the unemployed, making the most progressive change in the tax code in four decades by creating a $500 credit against social security payroll deductions, and so on.

It's as if Obama dug up Ronald Reagan's carcass and put a stake through The Gipper's anti-government heart. Aw-RIGHT!

About the only concession Obama threw to the right-wing trogs was to remove the subsidy for condoms, leaving hooker-happy GOP Senators, like David Vitter, to pay for their own protection. S'OK with me.

And here's the proof that Bam is The Man: Not one single Republican congressman voted for the bill. And that means that Obama didn't compromise, the way Clinton and Carter would have, to win the love of these condom-less jerks.

And we didn't need'm. Nyah! Nyah! Nyah!

Now I understand Obama's weird moves: dinner with those creepy conservative columnists, earnest meetings at the White House with the Republican leaders, a dramatic begging foray into Senate offices. Just as the Republicans say, it was all a fraud. Obama was pure Chicago, Boss Daley in a slim skin, putting his arms around his enemies, pretending to listen and care and compromise, then slowly, quietly, slipping in the knife. All while the media praises Obama's "post-partisanship." Heh heh heh.

Love it. Now we know why Obama picked that vindictive little viper Rahm Emanuel as staff chief: everyone visiting the Oval office will be greeted by the Windy City hit man who would hack up your grandma if you mess with the Godfather-in-Chief.

I don't know about you, but THIS is the change I've been waiting for.

Will it last? We'll see if Obama caves in to more tax cuts to investment bankers. We'll see if he stops the sub-prime scum-bags from foreclosing on frightened families. We'll see if he stands up to the whining, gormless generals who don't know how to get our troops out of Iraq. (In SHIPS, you doofusses!)

Look, don't get your hopes up. But it may turn out the new President's ... a Democrat!

******

Greg Palast's investigative reports for BBC and Rolling Stone can be seen at www.GregPalast.com. Palast is the author of New York Times bestsellers The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse.

Please subscribe to our reports at www.GregPalast.com.

Fred Karger sent a message to the members of Californians Against Hate.

SACRAMENTO (AP) – Federal judge denies request to keep donors to California’s anti-gay marriage

Statement by Fred Karger, Founder of Californians Against Hate regarding today’s Federal Court Ruling on Proposition 8 Contributors:

The Court today did the right thing by upholding California’s 35 year old Political Reform Act. The law requires that all contributors of $100 and above to state campaigns be reported and available to the public. Every California campaign has abided by this law for over three decades.

It is truly unfortunate that in the heat of a campaign donors are subjected to any undue attention. This has sadly been the case on both sides of last November’s highly emotional Proposition 8 campaign. But the law passed by the voters in 1974 has served our state well all these years and must remain in place.

The Executive Board of Protect Marriage.com who filed this lawsuit, sent a letter to many major donors to No on 8 – Equality California threatening to expose them and take action against their companies unless they gave to the Yes on 8 campaign. Now they complain of harassment?

Gay and lesbian donors fighting several anti gay initiatives in California beginning with the 1978 Briggs Initiative (Prop 6) have contributed to these campaigns in fear of job loss and being outed to their families. No exemption from the law was ever requested.

The Mormon Church and all the other major supporters of Proposition 8 knew the law when they qualified their Constitutional Amendment for the November ballot and must abide by it. The Mormon Church basically required over 60,000 of its members throughout the country to give nearly $25 million to take away the right to marry for same-sex couples in California. After winning their very deceitful campaign by only 4% points, they now hoped to keep the names secret of another 6,600 donors who must be reported on Monday, February 2nd. This is despicable.

The Mormon Church is currently under an active investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission – FPPC (Case # 080735) for allegedly not reporting what could amount to be hundreds of thousands of dollars of non monetary contributions to the Yes on 8 campaign. While this investigation is underway, their law suit named FPPC Chairman Ross Johnson and the other four Commissioners as defendants. Also named were California Attorney General Jerry Brown and Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

Well, if the Salt Lake City based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is going to be that involved California elections, they have to play by the rules. What is the Mormon Church trying to hide?

The Mormon Church is not a named plaintiff in the Federal lawsuit, and through its spokeswoman even denied knowledge of its existence, it certainly must be behind it. They have clearly been the focus of the post election unhappiness.

The Mormon Church is in the midst of a self admitted PR offensive to recessitate its wounded image as a result of their heavy handed involvement in the Yes on Prop 8 campaign (see ABC’s Nightline segment from January 9, 2009. This lawsuit is clearly an attempt by the Church to demonize its opponents, while having others front for them. They have a long and documented history of this type of activity.

We, like all millions of other Californians, applaud the Court’s decision today, and look forward to reviewing the thousands of additional donors to both sides of the Prop 8 campaign when the report comes out on Monday.

Caught on camera: Click on the Arnoldbucks to Watch the video and download your own Arnoldbuck

TED lecture of the day...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jump Rope at Christopher St.

this is cool: http://vimeo.com/1819734

STATE COULD RUN OUT OF MONEY BY SUNDAY

From CFA:

Having run out of the accounting gimmicks and parlor tricks that have kept the state afloat for the past several months, California will officially run out of money on Sunday if legislators and the governor cannot reach a budget deal.

State Controller John Chiang – the man charged with dealing with the state’s day-to-day cash flow problems – said last week that if a spending plan is not adopted this week, he will be forced to cut off all payments except those constitutionally required. Groups protected by that statute include schools, colleges and bondholders.

“At some point someone must take responsibility for getting a deal done,” said CFA President Lillian Taiz. “This governor has utterly failed our higher education system and moreover our state by not passing a budget.”

Some of the people and programs that won’t get paid in February until a budget is enacted include:

- People who file their state income tax returns and are owed refunds.

- College students who are part of the Cal Grant program. For more info see:

http://calfac.org/allpdf/newsreleas/2009_pressrel/PR_012709_factsheetV7.pdf

- Counties who run public assistance programs.

- State programs that provide services for mental health, alcohol and drug rehab, and the developmentally disabled.

- Trial courts.

- Vendors who sell goods or services to the state.

Lessons Learned: Latin American Left Has Much to Teach Obama Supporters Written by Daniel Denvir Tuesday, 27 January 2009 Source: The Indypenden

From Upside Down World

Written by Daniel Denvir
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
Source: The Indypendent

QUITO, Ecuador–Barack Obama’s rise to power leaves progressives in the U.S. to grapple with questions familiar to many Latin American leftists: how do we interact with an ally once he takes office? And is he really an ally after all?

During the U.S. presidential campaign, the right wing exhausted itself in an effort to sow fears over the identity of the “real Barack Obama.” It seems, however, that it is Left-liberals’ hopeful imaginings of Obama that endures. Anything that Obama does that might be disagreeable to the Left—say, support for a “surge” in Afghanistan—is read as smart pragmatic Obama. The President is a self-described Rorschach Test.

This contradiction between promises of change and status quo reinforcing actions creates space for social movements to demand accountability.

In Latin America, it is in Bolivia and Venezuela where social movements most clearly feel they have some sort of ally in their president. But as Forrest Hylton and Sinclair Thomson note, “the election of Evo Morales did not bring about a revolution. It was a revolution that brought about the government of Evo Morales.” In Venezuela, however, President Hugo Chávez brought about the revolution. He did so by appealing to broad popular opposition to free market fundamentalism and yearnings for social justice. As Roland Denis, activist and former Vice Minister of Planning and Development under Chávez, writes, there is a major weakness in “a social movement that is often created within the government’s bureaucracies (Land Committees, Communal Councils, Health, Energy and Water Committees)”.

In both Bolivia and Venezuela, the governments face very real domestic and external challenges. In Bolivia, an opposition led by white racist elites has deployed violent mobs to destabilize the government. And it bears noting that the rightists drew their line in the sand at the very doorstep of modest reform—increased central government shares of natural gas royalties to fund a universal social security program. The political polarization between Morales and the right wing has put the movements to Morales’ left in a difficult position. Oscar Olivera, who led the 2000 Cochabamba water wars against privatization, told Argentinian news site La Vaca that “the real difficulty is that social movements have in large part lost their voice and space for action in the face of this state apparatus.” Olivera, who supported Morales’ 2005 candidacy, also says that the Morales has not done enough to protect citizens against the right wing violence.

In Venezuela, while Chávez still enjoys popular support, problems are surfacing—as evidenced by recent electoral setbacks. Although there is still broad support for Chávez, voters held local politicians responsible for persistent violent crime, unpopular party leaders and problems with basic municipal administration like garbage collection. And as Denis notes, the misleading idea that Chávez is perfect and that all problems can be sourced to corrupt bureaucrats surrounding him, “has become ‘popular’ in every sense of the word.” He says that Venezuela is living a moment of “maximum confusion,” which requires a “qualitative leap forward, to take us to the edge of a new situation in which the relations between the Government and the ‘non-administered’ popular movement is radically changed.”

A similar dynamic is evident in countries where the Left has not taken power. On Mexico’s Left, a struggle rages between the opportunist and more progressive wings of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) as well as the non-electorally inclined Zapatistas. And in Colombia, the Democratic Pole (PD) is an always-difficult coalition of parties ranging from social democratic to Communist. What is important in all of the countries, including our own, is serious strategic thinking. I supported Obama’s candidacy because I thought that the Left would be better positioned under his administration than under a McCain presidency—but what is the strategic rationale for defending his unnecessary rightward moves?


For some people, Obama’s actions demonstrate that he is a sober political pragmatist. I imagine that these defenses of Obama are becoming more difficult now as Robert Gates continues on as Defense Secretary, and agribusiness representative Tom Vilsack takes over the Department of Agriculture while Obama focuses his first comments on the recent war in Gaza on Israel’s “right to defend itself”.

Circling the Wagons

In Latin America, the very real threats (and realities) of U.S. military, political and economic intervention push social movements to rally around their leaders. Attacks by right-wing forces against government reforms also keep activists on the defensive. In Venezuela and Bolivia, the U.S. government has sided with a violent, wealthy elite against Presidents Chávez and Morales. In Ecuador, the debate around adopting a new constitution was dominated by the Catholic Church’s homophobic and anti-abortion campaign, which limited space for criticism from the Left before the document was overwhelmingly approved last September in a nationwide referendum. With the new constitution approved, social movements have taken the new environmental and social protections enshrined therein to organize national mobilizations against President Rafael Correa’s support for large-scale mining.

In the U.S., the right wing and the Republican Party pose a similar dilemma. When conservatives suggest that Obama is a Manchurian candidate, intent on refounding the Caliphate, persecuting Christians and overthrowing capitalism—how can you not defend the guy? How do we celebrate this victory against a racist, far right while simultaneously mobilizing to deal with an Administration that is increasingly looking like Bill Clinton’s third term?

The relationship between Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and the country’s social and indigenous movements has shifted from strained to downright oppositional. Correa began his office with the Left’s cautious support, hitting applause lines with promises to kick the U.S. out of the coastal military base in Manta and criticizing the foreign debt. While he is following through on these two commitments—the U.S. military is leaving in 2009 and Ecuador just defaulted on some of its foreign commercial debt—large-scale mining
, oil and other natural resource issues have led to sharp disagreements.

In Brazil and Chile, the Left is also engaged in raucous fights with their governments. In regional economic heavyweight Brazil, now considered “subimperialist” by many social movements throughout Latin America for its aggressive natural resource grabbing, President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva’s support for agribusiness and biofuels has raised the ire of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) and his dam building initiatives have angered many indigenous peoples. At the same time, Brazilian social movements supported Lula’s reelection in the second round of voting, in part due to increased spending on social programs. In Chile, on the other hand, Democratic Concertation President Michelle Bachelet has maintained the basic contours of anemic social protections passed down by the Pinochet dictatorship, sparking mass student protests in 2006.

In this context of ambiguous electoral victories, movements throughout the hemisphere have come to the conclusion that despite the importance of electing and defending progressive governments, real change cannot come without struggles in the workplaces, schools and streets. Workers making windows and doors in Chicago and landless farmers occupying oligarchs’ landholdings in Brazil and Bolivia legislate their own reality. While social movements in the U.S. should fight to hold Obama accountable for his business friendly tendencies, we must also fight to transform the political landscape from below. After all, it was the massive social movements of the 1930s and not the president’s ideological disposition that pushed FDR to enact his New Deal reforms. But an “inside-outside strategy” holds both promise and pitfalls, as movements navigate the blurry line between critical engagement and cheerleading. As Uruguayan writer Raúl Zibechi writes, “In love as in cooptation, you need two.” The same goes for social change.

Daniel Denvir is a Quito, Ecuador based journalist and a 2008 recipient of NACLA’s Samuel Chavkin Investigative Journalism Grant. He is an editor at www.caterwaulquarterly.com.

Bolivia Looking Forward: New Constitution Passed, Celebrations Hit the Streets

http://www.truthout.org/012709T

Benjamin Dangl, Truthout: "After Bolivia's new constitution was passed in a national referendum on Sunday, thousands gathered in La Paz to celebrate. Standing on the balcony of the presidential palace, President Evo Morales addressed a raucous crowd, 'Here begins a new Bolivia. Here we begin to reach true equality.'"

What Life Asks of Us - David Brooks

"....we are not defined by what we ask of life. We are defined by what life asks of us. "

see full article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/27/opinion/27brooks.html?_r=1&hp

They are still homophobic too...

Is the Republican Party Still the Racist, Character-Assassination, Culture Wars' Squad Created by Lee Atwater? Ask Stefan Forbes. -- A BuzzFlash Interview

Bolivia Sets New Global High Mark for Indigenous Rights

http://www.truthout.org/012709L

Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor: "Bolivia's first indigenous president, Evo Morales, easily won his campaign for a new constitution Sunday - promising vast new powers to the country's indigenous majority and bolstering his political clout. Critics say Mr. Morales is dangerously dividing the nation and merely following in the footsteps of populist leftist allies Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Rafael Correa in Ecuador, who have also rewritten their constitutions to invest the executive branch with more power."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunset with my zoom attachment...




Chicago Transit Tunnel

Forgot I took these fots fro mthe tunnel in the United Terminal in Chicago while in transit from Tel Aviv to Sacramento last week.

Tear Down This Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future

Buzz says "We highly recommend this book that shatters the Ronald Reagan mythology into 1000 tiny shards. Our colleague, Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News, has been working on this revelatory dissection of the Reagan hagiography for quite sometime.Like all myths, the Reagan legend is built on faith not the facts. Bunch does a lacerating job of tearing down the "Reagan brand," which still has a powerful influence over the right wing drift that has characterized America since 1980 -- and that Obama is going to still confront as we try to steer the ship of state back to common sense policies.Reagan was an actor who played his part while others built up an image of who he was that grew even stronger after his presidency, steamrolling any semblance of actual history.Recently BuzzFlash wrote an article on how cities and states are now increasingly privatizing public property and services in order to fill large budget gaps. This is the legacy of the Reagan myth and right wing Grover Norquist-esque efforts to drown government and the public commons. We asked in that BuzzFlash analysis, "Did the Reagan Revolution actually win? Local and State Governments are Selling Off Public Property and Services."So don't think that Obama's victory alone with shed us of the disastrous results of the "Reagan Crusaders." Myths can be pretty powerful and have staying power. Thankfully, Will Bunch is here to debunk the right wing PR construct that became a worship of Reagan."
For more, read the full review by clicking the pic or the link below.
Read The Full Review >>> http://www.buzzflash.com/store/reviews/1464

California is bankrupt....

California is almost out of ways to pay bills, fund programs, controller says
The state controller says California is down to Plan D on its checklist of paying bills. Its cash reserves are piddling; the special funds it borrows from are tapped out, and no one in the private sector is going to lend it any cash at a reasonable interest rate. That leaves what in state government circles are called "payment deferrals" and what in real life is called "stiffing your creditors."

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