Saturday, December 10, 2005

Bushman Wins the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize

Nice catch by American Zapatista:
Roy Sesana, representative of the Gana Bushman just won the Right Livelihood Award. The Gana are being forced off of their Kalahari homeland by the government of Botswana.

Below is the speech he gave when he accepted the award.

Right Livelihood Award address, Stockholm, 9. December 2005

My name is Roy Sesana; I am a Gana Bushman from the Kalahari in what is now called Botswana. In my language, my name is `Tobee' and our land is `T//amm'. We have been there longer than any people has been anywhere.

When I was young, I went to work in a mine. I put off my skins and wore clothes. But I went home after a while. Does that make me less Bushman? I don't think so.

I am a leader. When I was a boy we did not need leaders and we lived well. Now we need them because our land is being stolen and we must struggle to survive. It doesn't mean I tell people what to do, it's the other way around: they tell me what I have to do to help them.

I cannot read. You wanted me to write this speech, so my friends helped, but I cannot read words - I'm sorry! But I do know how to read the land and the animals. All our children could. If they didn't, they would have all died long ago.

I know many who can read words and many, like me, who can only read the land. Both are important. We are not backward or less intelligent: we live in exactly the same up-to-date year as you. I was going to say we all live under the same stars, but no, they're different, and there are many more in the Kalahari. The sun and moon are the same.

I grew up a hunter. All our boys and men were hunters. Hunting is going and talking to the animals. You don't steal. You go and ask. You set a trap or go with bow or spear. It can take days. You track the antelope. He knows you are there, he knows he has to give you his strength. But he runs and you have to run. As you run, you become like him. It can last hours and exhaust you both. You talk to him and look into his eyes. And then he knows he must give you his strength so your children can live.

When I first hunted, I was not allowed to eat. Pieces of the steenbok were burnt with some roots and spread on my body. This is how I learned. It's not the same way you learn, but it works well.

The farmer says he is more advanced than the backward hunter, but I don't believe him. His herds give no more food than ours. The antelope are not our slaves, they do not wear bells on their necks and they can run faster than the lazy cow or the herder. We run through life together.

When I wear the antelope horns, it helps me talk to my ancestors and they help me. The ancestors are so important: we would not be alive without them. Everyone knows this in their heart, but some have forgotten. Would any of us be here without our ancestors? I don't think so.

I was trained as a healer. You have to read the plants and the sand. You have to dig the roots and become fit. You put some of the root back for tomorrow, so one day your grandchildren can find it and eat. You learn what the land tells you.

When the old die, we bury them and they become ancestors. When there is sickness, we dance and we talk to them; they speak through my blood. I touch the sick person and can find the illness and heal it.

We are the ancestors of our grandchildren's children. We look after them, just as our ancestors look after us. We aren't here for ourselves. We are here for each other and for the children of our grandchildren.

Why am I here? Because my people love their land, and without it we are dying. Many years ago, the president of Botswana said we could live on our ancestral land forever. We never needed anyone to tell us that. Of course we can live where God created us! But the next president said we must move and began forcing us away.

They said we had to go because of diamonds. Then they said we were killing too many animals: but that's not true. They say many things which aren't true. They said we had to move so the government could develop us. The president says unless we change we will perish like the dodo. I didn't know what a dodo was. But I found out: it was a bird which was wiped out by settlers. The president was right. They are killing us by forcing us off our land. We have been tortured and shot at. They arrested me and beat me.

Thank you for the Right Livelihood Award. It is global recognition of our struggle and will raise our voice throughout the world. When I heard I had won I had just been let out of prison. They say I am a criminal, as I stand here today.

I say what kind of development is it when the people live shorter lives than before? They catch HIV/AIDS. Our children are beaten in school and won't go there. Some become prostitutes. They are not allowed to hunt. They fight because they are bored and get drunk. They are starting to commit suicide. We never saw that before. It hurts to say this. Is this `development'?

We are not primitive. We live differently to you, but we do not live exactly like our grandparents did, nor do you. Were your ancestors `primitive'? I don't think so. We respect our ancestors. We love our children. This is the same for all people.

We now have to stop the government stealing our land: without it we will die.

If anyone has read a lot of books and thinks I am primitive because I have not read even one, then he should throw away those books and get one which says we are all brothers and sisters under God and we too have a right to live.

That is all. Thank you.

Roy Sesana
First People of the Kalahari, Botswana

A reminder that the struggles facing indigenous peoples share many commonalities.

Today is International Human Rights Day

From Wikipedia:

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on 10 December.

The date was chosen to honour the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first global enunciation of human rights. The commemoration was established in 1950, when the General Assembly invited all states and interested organisations to celebrate the day as they saw fit.

The day is a high point in the calendar of UN headquarters in New York City, United States, and is normally marked by both high-level political conferences and meetings and by cultural events and exhibtions dealing with human rights issues. In addition, it is traditionally on 10 December that the five-yearly United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights are awarded.

Many other governmental and nongovernmental organisations active in the human rights field also schedule special events to commemorate the day. For instance, on Human Rights Day 2004:


Update: Before I forget, the theme of this year's Human Rights Day is End Torture Now! Some useful info compiled by jimstaro:
Selected learning materials

Study guide on Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (HREA)

A short introduction to torture. It present definitions, key rights at stake, human rights instruments, and protection and assistance agencies. The guide also offer links to the full text of international treaties, and other useful resources on the HREA and University of Minnesota Human Rights Library web sites.

Discovering the UDHR (Amnesty International-USA)

By examining two real cases of human rights abuses students are introduced to the contents and spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).>br>

Human Rights Here & Now: Celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

This manual is intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to further human rights education in the United States. It can be used by educators in classrooms, by human rights advocates in informal settings, and by individuals for their own self-learning.

Illustrated version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

A simplified and illustrated version of the 30 articles of the UDHR. Intended for children eight year and older. Accompanied with instructions for a lesson activity.

Learning Activities about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Some ideas to help you explore images through a human rights lens.

Rights Around the World: A UDHR Jigsaw (Amnesty International-USA)

This activity allows students to extend their knowledge of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) while learning typical rights abuses around the world. It also provides structure for collaborative learning in the classroom.

The UDHR: What's in it for Me?

Through this exercise workshop participants will become more familiar with the provisions of the UDHR's 30 articles; will acquire cognitive and analytical skills in applying the UDHR to specific problems; and will become empowered to apply rights principles in their real life circumstances.

What are Human Rights? - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Estonia)

Chapter from a textbook for an optional subject in grade eight of general comprehensive schools.

The United Nations' System of Human Rights Protection: Educational packet (Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Poland)

This packet familiarises the advocates with the human rights protection mechanisms that exist within the United Nations. Included in this packet are an instructors text, fundamental UN human rights documents, a videotape and lesson plans for presenting the UN human rights system.

Katrina survivors and grassroots converging for conference and a march for New Orleans

The details courtesy of blksista:

Between December 8-10, in Jackson, MS, and in New Orleans, LA, survivors of Hurricane Katrina, along with activist groups, politicians, unions and other grassroots organizations, will attend a State of Emergency Conference and Survivors General Assembly to call attention to displaced black Americans and families under stress and in need since Katrina.

They will also stage a mass march for New Orleans on Saturday.

The People's Hurricane Relief Fund and The Mississippi Distress Relief Coalition have organized these two-city events under the umbrella of the Center for Community Change, a Washington, D.C.-based agency that helps thousands of urban and rural communities nationwide organize for positive change. Its board of directors include Ron Dellums, Peter Edelman, Winona LaDuke and Phil Tom.

In Jackson, more than 50 black organizations, including labor unions and civil rights groups are convening for the State of Emergency Conference to form a national action plan to "rescue" blacks who are dependent on the federal government to help them rebuild their lives. Organizers said the event will allow Katrina survivors to share and document their experiences.

Tomorrow on Saturday, December 10 (also the date of International Human Rights Day), Katrina survivors and their supporters are going to march to support a list of demands that later will be presented to local and Federal authorities.

These demands include the right of return without poverty and with dignity and reparations for negligence, criminal indifference shown to victims and survivors before, during and after the disaster.

Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! program and website included a mention of the Conference as well as discussion-critique and highlights from Leah Hodges and Dyan French's testimony before Congress.

More information can be found on these websites:

http://www.neworleansvfp.org/?q=node/256
http://eurweb.com/story.cfm?id=23825

And no, C-Span isn't carrying these events.

If you're in the area and can be there for the march, make a point of checking it out.

Thursday, December 8, 2005

NOLA Update

A couple good diaries at BooMan Tribune that I would direct your attention to:

"We're in a panic down here." Letter from N.O., which is part a debunking of wingnut talking points and part a call to action:
The point of this letter is that we need you to write to your Congressmen (and women) to get us help. I'd also like to clear up a little misinformation I understand is circulating. Here are things I keep hearing:

1. New Orleans is a toxic waste dump. It isn't. Some chemicals have been found in some of the soil, but there are no alarming reports.

2. There are plenty of jobs, but no one wants to do them. This one is particularly galling--there's no place for anyone to live! Workers are camping in the parks and living in RV's. Not everyone can do that, and anyway, it's illegal. This is a huge problem, and it's not going to get solved without a lot of help from all branches of government.

3. The state misspent money that was supposed to go to levee repair. But the Corps of Engineers is a federal agency! One variation has it that the money was spent on casinos. The only reason we have casinos is to bring in tax revenue. We don't spend money on casinos--we depend on them for money.

4. Our public officials are so stupid we deserve to be deserted. You know, they're really not--and we don't. They're not Rudy Giuliani, (and don't we wish we had him!)--they're just ordinary people of slightly -above average intelligence from a backwater state, who never in a million years thought they'd be called upon to do this kind of a job. They're overwhelmed. It's too big for them. Would yours be any better? Would Giuliani? Consider this--9/11 knocked out 16 acres. Katrina and Rita together devastated 23,000 square miles. 9/11 was over--even the searching--in the amount of time the government took to even get some rescue units in here. Three months later, we're still a shell of a city. New York didn't lose 80 per cent of its land mass and 85 per cent of its population. Giuliani never had to evacuate an entire city. Who knows if even he would look good in our circumstances. And if you don't personally like our mayor and governor, since when do we punish citizens for making poor choices, anyhow? (Besides, you should have seen the other guys.)

5. Things are not getting back to normal here. Actually, the situation is quite dire. Things aren't bad for us personally, but we still don't have mail service or a landline phone. Try living that way. We don't mind because it's little enough, considering. Most-- not a little, but MOST of the city still has no electricity and no gas. Families are split, there's no place to live, schools haven't reopened. Hardly; anyone's come home because they can't--they have no homes, not even FEMA trailers. and no faith that the levees will be rebuilt.

The wingnut talking points I put in bold off-white typeface, and the rebuttals in bold red typeface. Those talking points appear to be little more than the usual round of half-truths, damned lies, and victim blame. Remember that these same wingers were among the ones gleefully spreading rumors about black folks cannibalizing each other. That should tell you all you need to know about the credibility of the dittohead crowd.

The other, Kiss New Orleans Goodbye, looks at just how the Feds have handled (or rather mishandled) the Katrina aftermath. It's galling, to say the least:
Apparently, Bush has decided the city is not worth saving. He has quietly slashed the guts out of what is known as the Coast 2050 Plan by funding it with only $200 million. This might be enough to fix the infrastructure symptoms, but not ameliorate the cause of the overall problem.

Again Bush has reverted to form like a Mafia strangler or knifer. The public know little about this beyond environmentalists and other activists--the same groups, of course, that are viewed with anathema by business and tourism interests. But there won't be any business or tourism worth saving if this is set in stone.

Katrina destroyed the Big Easy -- and future Katrinas will do the same -- because 1 million acres of coastal islands and marshland vanished in Louisiana in the last century because of human interference. These land forms served as natural "speed bumps," reducing the lethal surge tide of past hurricanes and making New Orleans habitable in the first place. A $14-billion plan to fix this problem -- widely viewed as technically sound and supported by environmentalists, oil companies and fishermen alike -- has been on the table for years and was pushed forward with greater urgency after Katrina hit. But the Bush administration has turned its back on this plan.

Instead of investing the equivalent of six weeks of spending on the Iraq war or the cost of the Big Dig in Boston, we must now prepare to pay for another, inevitable $200-billion hurricane in Louisiana. Which is why, tragically, we are better off simply cutting our losses and abandoning New Orleans right now.

And yet people are trying to return and to rebuild as we speak, and many are doing this alone, without FEMA or even insurance. Without implementing and funding the Plan to its fullest, another Katrina will wreck the city, says Tidwell. Mark Davis, director of the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, thinks, "Either they don't get it or they just don't care. But the results are the same: more disaster." Read the whole article. Once again, the Bush administration is in disgraceful denial, and this denial will result in potentially more lives lost.

This administration does not care about its people, starting and beginning with the people who lived on the Gulf Coast. And many of them voted for this same administration.

I'd hardly endorse abandoning the Big Easy, but I do think we have to think realistically about what is involved in protecting the city (and more broadly the Gulf Coast region) from future major hurricanes. The Bu$hCo approach has been to do next to nothing, which will have very detrimental effects on us socially and economically when the inevitable next major hurricane hits.

From the mailbag

Someone I consider a friendly acquaintance sent me a link to a cautionary tale when it comes do doing business with a couple of the big boys on the Democratic Party blog scene:

My Due Diligence on the Liberal Ad Network

The Drudge Retort has been kicked out of the Liberal Blog Advertising Network, a group of 75 liberal sites organized by Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos and Chris Bowers and Jerome Armstrong of MyDD under the guidance of BlogPAC, a political action committee that Moulitsas and Armstrong began in 2004.

Bowers personally invited me to join the network in May 2005, sending several e-mails until I agreed to become one of its founding members. I thought it was a good way to bring liberal blogs closer together and make some money in the 2006 election year, so I've been working on it for six months, running the network's "Advertise Liberally" ad on the Retort 6.5 million times during that span and setting up a private blog for members.

The network has been experiencing a double super-secret flamewar since Bowers announced in mid-October that they were unilaterally changing the rules in a way that excludes several well-trafficked members, including the Retort, Raw Story and Smirking Chimp.

At this time next year, I planned to be sunning on the deck of a new yacht bought with political ad riches, thanks to our country's lack of meaningful campaign finance reform. I saw myself picking up the New York Times, reading about the newly elected Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, the first day of Karl Rove's prison term and the Texas Rangers' victory in the World Series.

Instead, I've just given six months of effort and free ad space worth $2,200 to a liberal ad network that's now my competition.

Some conservatives will have a field day with this, suggesting that liberal bloggers don't know the business world because we're up in our ivory towers smoking medicinal marijuana as we search for gay spotted owls who want to get married. But things could be worse for the liberal ad network -- it could be Pajamas Media.

I think the moral of this story is simple: Practice due diligence before getting into business with Moulitsas, Armstrong and Bowers. A trait that makes them entertaining bloggers -- a talent for getting into fights they don't need to have -- doesn't translate well to making a network of weblogs advertiser friendly.

I realized this a few weeks ago when Moulitsas used the Daily Kos front page to threaten potential advertisers:

... campaigns should advertise on blogs to reach readers, not to "endorse" the publication. We're bloggers. We'll say things that are "controversial". If campaigns don't think they can weather such storms, then by all means they should NOT advertise on blogs.

Because every time a campaign freaks out at a blogger and pulls their ads, we're going to raise a stink about it and inevitably make that campaign look bad. So they should think long and hard before putting money into a Blogad campaign.


My jaw dropped when I read this response to the Kaine gubernatorial campaign in Virginia, which pulled an ad from Steve Gilliard because of his provocative depiction of an African-American politician in blackface. The political situation for a Democrat in a tight race, days before the election, was less important than a blogger's need to keep it real.

Moulitsas can afford to say crazy shit like that, because Democratic politicians view Daily Kos as an ATM machine and assembly line for grass-roots liberal activists. He charges $1,400 a week for ads and regularly sells 6-8 of them.

For the rest of the 75-minus-me members in the liberal ad network, "don't pull an ad or we'll hurt you" is a bit of a tough sell.

This is the sort of thing the Kos/MyDD crowd would like kept under wraps. Conversation about this is precisely the sort of thing that will get you banned or troll-rated out of existence at one of their friend's blogs. Meet the new king-makers. Same as the old ones.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

An insider's perspective on Diebold machines

Something that caught my attention:
"My feeling having been really deep inside the company is that initially Diebold, being a very conservative and Republican company, felt that if they controlled an election company, they could have great influence over the outcome," the source, a registered independent, said...."Obviously screwing with the software would be a homerun—and I do think that was part of their recipe for getting into the election business."

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Happy B-day Steve Wright

I didn't realize it, but one of my favorite comedians turned 50 today. The quote Maryscott O'Connor posted is classic:
It's a small world...But I wouldn't want to paint it.
Read some more quotes here. A couple of my favorites:

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.

I got this powdered water - now I don't know what to add.

I have an existential map. It has 'You are here' written all over it.

I went down the street to the 24-hour grocery. When I got there, the guy was locking the front door. I said, "Hey, the sign says you're open 24 hours." He said, "Yes, but not in a row."

CIA Prisons Located

The details:
Dec. 5, 2005 — Two CIA secret prisons were operating in Eastern Europe until last month when they were shut down following Human Rights Watch reports of their existence in Poland and Romania.

Current and former CIA officers speaking to ABC News on the condition of confidentiality say the United States scrambled to get all the suspects off European soil before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived there today. The officers say 11 top al Qaeda suspects have now been moved to a new CIA facility in the North African desert.

Academic Freedom Watch

Mirecki hospitalized after beating:
Douglas County sheriff’s deputies are investigating the reported beating of a Kansas University professor who gained recent notoriety for his Internet tirades against Christian fundamentalists.

Kansas University religious studies professor Paul Mirecki reported he was beaten by two men about 6:40 a.m. today on a roadside in rural Douglas County. In a series of interviews late this afternoon, Mirecki said the men who beat him were making references to the controversy that has propelled him into the headlines in recent weeks.

“I didn’t know them, but I’m sure they knew me,” he said.

Mirecki said he was driving to breakfast when he noticed the men tailgating him in a pickup truck.

“I just pulled over hoping they would pass, and then they pulled up real close behind,” he said. “They got out, and I made the mistake of getting out.”

He said the men beat him about the upper body with their fists, and he said he thinks they struck him with a metal object. He was treated and released at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

“I’m mostly shaken up, and I got some bruises and sore spots,” he said.

Douglas County Sheriff’s Officials are classifying the case as an aggravated battery. They wouldn’t say exactly where the incident happened, citing the ongoing investigation

The sheriff’s department is looking for the suspects, described as two white males between ages 30 and 40, one wearing a red visor and wool gloves, and both wearing jeans. They were last seen in a large pickup truck.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (785) 843-TIPS or the sheriff’s office at (785) 841-0007.

I added the area code for the Lawrence KS area just in case, otherwise article is unedited.

Let's just say that the goons who did this are at best Bu$h-league Third Reich wannabes. Hopefully someone can catch them and give them their just rewards. Might help them to remember that some of us lefties live in "right to carry" states, before trying something like that in the future.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

The Ward Churchilling of the Radical Left: It's OK When Libruls Do It!

The woman who wrote the above title has much to say worth consideration:

I am a radical. This means I tackle problems at their root: symptoms of fundamental underlying social, political and economic ills are of little interest to me, I am interested in root causes. Accordingly, I have little interest in “fighting the Rightwing”—in discussing their “ideology,” debating their “issues,” debunking their arguments. The Republican base does not interest me, nor do their representatives in government. Their behaviors are merely the extreme symptomatic expressions of more deeply-rooted and widespread ideologies: indeed, symptoms of a society that was once described by the Hungarian artist George Tabori (also a radical) as “sick.” “America is a sick country that has lost its innocence and must find a new identity,” he said, and he was right.

As the burgeoning crisis of criminality in government becomes increasingly apparent, many Americans are waking up to the sad realization that this is true. America is a sick country that has lost its innocence. Nowhere is this awakening more apparent than in the liberal blogosphere. But, the comfortable conclusion liberals in the ‘Sphere arrive at is: BushCo is sick. The rest of us are OK. And if we can just frogmarch these criminals out of office, preferably bound in shackles, everything will be fine. Don't worry, be happy, We will “take our country back” and everything's gonna be all right. America can begin to heal. We can get America back on the right track. What about those of us on the left who never thought America was on the right track in the first place? What about those of us who didn’t need the wake-up call? Those of us who have always known that America was sick?

[...]

Unlike most of my like-minded friends who have decided to take the path of least resistance and look the other way when it comes to vehement and vociferous critical reflection on the way the very same patterns of intellectual dishonesty, social dysfunction, elitist cronyism and the myopic navel-gazing that are symptoms of the malady that is the Republican machine also act as a substitute for looking in the left-wing-liberal mirror, I cannot participate in the same “ignore them in bliss”-survival strategy. Because I have my eye on “what comes next.” What comes next, that is, after we have removed this scourge from office?

Seems that every time anyone on the radical left dares to express criticism of the liberal left, the Democratic minions come out like the Charge of the Librul-Left Brigade: “Hoorah for the Life of a Democrat! Can’t we all just ‘get along’ and join forces in removing the abomination that is BushCo from office? We’re on the same side for christ’s sake!” Ousting the Bush regime is a ‘noble cause’ worth fighting for and it might even be worth casting off the mortal coil of differences in opinion, taste and approach between us—momentarily at least—in order to achieve that goal. But my concern is not just seeking remedy to the present crisis of criminality in government. My concern is and always has been: the future. Seven generations. From this perspective, I have to seriously question whether we really are all “on the same side.”

[...]

nearly every time I ask just about anyone (especially in academia) why they are not more outspoken in their resistance to the fascism that is no longer “creeping up on us,” but rather hitting us head-on like an out-of-control train wreck, you know what they say? They say, “Well, just look at what happened to Ward Churchill.” I’ve been asking academics and public intellectuals on the far left the same question for quite a while now. And it’s amazing how often I get the exact same answer: “Well, just look at what happened to Ward Churchill.” Radicals be advised: if you cross the Michael Moore-line, the left will not have your back. Au contraire: they’ll be on your back and at your heels like a pack of junkyard dogs and you will be on your own. This knowledge then functions as a self-censorship mechanism not only in the academy, but in the liberal blogosphere and in the real-world of political dissent. The left is perfectly willing to eat its own, and is indeed doing a heckuva job!

A novel way to cut down on greenhouse gases

Fight cow flatulence. I kid you not:
BRITISH scientists are fighting climate change by reducing the harmful greenhouse gases produced by flatulent cows.

Researchers claim that by altering the diet of cows they can cut the animals’ emissions of methane — a contributor to global warming — by up to 70%. Scientists and green groups concerned about climate change have traditionally focused their efforts on cars, lorries, power stations and factories that burn fossil fuels and produce millions of tons of carbon dioxide.

[...]

There are 1.4 billion cows worldwide, each producing 500 litres of methane a day and accounting for 14% of all emissions of the gas.

[...]

Now scientists at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen say they have developed a diet that has done the most to reduce the amount of methane produced by cows.

They introduced a food additive, a mixture of organic sugars and a bacterium developed at the institute, into the cows’ diet. It is based on fumaric acid, a naturally occurring chemical essential to respiration of animal and vegetable tissues.

“In some experiments we got a 70% decrease in methane emissions, which is quite staggering,” said John Wallace, a biochemist at the institute who is leading the research team.

Learn something new every day.

Bu$hCo's Iraq War: The Most Foolish War in 2,014 Years

That is quite an accomplishment for Bush the Lesser:
For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.
The most foolish war in 2,014 years? As my dad might say, that takes talent.

Hat tip to Skippy.