Monday, March 2, 2015

Chicago Mayor Election: candidate policies side-by-side comparison

The election is on Tuesday April 7, 2015

Find your voting place here: http://www.chicagoelections.com/en/your-voter-information.html

 
 Chuy Garcia Rahm Emanuel
Past employers and sources for campaign money
2011 – present Cook County Board of Commissioners


1993 – 1999 Illinois Senate


1986 – 1993 Chicago City Council
2009–2010 White House
2005–2007 Democratic Campaign Cmte
2002–2008 US House of Representatives
2000–2001 Freddie Mac
1999–2002 Dresdner Kleinwort
1993–1998 Executive Office of the President
1989–1989 Richard M Daley Campaign
(Center for Responsive Politics: Revolving Door Summary)


Hired by one of Chicago's largest corporate investment firm (New York Times 12/3/2008)
SEIU Illinois (Chicagoist 12/3/2014)




American Federation of Teachers (Chicago Business 12/12/2014)
Top Contributors for 2008: UBS AG, AT&T Inc, Simmons Cooper LLC, Blackstone Group, Goldman Sachs (Center for Responsive Politics: Contributors summary)
2011: Chicago Mercantile Exchange (NBC Chicago 10/21/2011)
Top contributors 2015 Grosvenor Capital Management, Madison Dearborn Partners, Plumbers and Pipefitters unions, Citadel, Muneer Satter (Steve Can Plan 2/1/2015)
City services
  • Wait-and-see approach to firing (In These Times Nov 12, 2014)
  • 1,000 new police officers on the street and expand neighborhood policing(Chicago For Chuy: Safe Neighborhoods)
  • Replace foreclosed properties with community peace hubs on high-violence blocks
  • Fund and coordinate mental health services for residents.
  • Reduce the risk of exposure to toxic materials and unsafe physical conditions in our homes
  • Remove tipped subminimum wage, and replace it with an hourly wage to reduce poverty and increase economic growth (Chicago For Chuy: Women's Rights)
  • Expand social and economic programs for women and with concern for women of color
  • Use public funds to integrate poor into communities by supporting rent or mortgage
  • Open the books of the neighborhood investment TIF program and move more of it back into schools away from hotel development (Chicago For Chuy: Tax increment finance reform)
  • Earned sick leave (Chicago For Chuy: Equity in health)
  • Advocate for state and federal funds for healthcare
  • Raise awareness of domestic violence
  • Promote a nursing mom’s bill of rights
  • Review the clinic closings
  • Train police in to respond appropriately to mental illness
  • Heavily lobby Springfield to create an elected school board out of the mayor's control (Chicago for Chuy: Elected school board)
  • Lobby state and federal governments to expand roads, buses and trains in Chicago as opposed to downstate (Chicago for Chuy: Safe and reliable transportation)
  • Consider private funds for transit
  • Lobby for a state gas tax to expand buses and trains, and encourage public transit by taxing car drivers
  • complete the railroad and intersection projects identified by the CREATE public-private partnership to speed rail shipment through Chicago
  • Expand dual language programs in schools
  • Halt school closings
  • Reduce standardized testing
  • Require that charters report the same data as traditional public schools
  • (Chicago For Chuy: Better Neighborhood Schools)
  • Create councils and registers to allow immigrants to learn about city services (Chicago For Chuy: Inclusive City)
  • Advocates neighborhood festivals (In These Times Nov 12, 2014)
  • Sent development money to River Point office complex (Chicago Reader 12/12/2012)
  • The largest Chicago TIFs in 2013 by revenue are: Near South ($65.2 million); Canal/Congress ($19.9 million); Chicago/Kingsbury ($19.0 million); Kinzie Conservation ($18.6 million). (Cook County Clerk: 2013 Report)
  • Ended effective $1 million grant for therapy for gang members in 2013, replaced it with database analysis (Chicago Sun-Times 05/14/2014, PBS 6/4/ 2012)
  • Fired 200 CTA employees and cut 12 bus lines (NBC 10/13/2011, The Daily Northwestern 11/12/2012 )
  • Rebuilt the Red Line for 2 years, spending $425 million on it (Chicago Tribune 7/3/2013)
  • Plans to renovate Chicago Blue Line with $492 million (Red Eye Chicago 2/5/2015)
  • Closed 6 health clinics, and fired 125 medical employees to save $1.7 million dollars (Chicago Reader 3/26/2013)
  • Supported the demolition of Prentice Hospital (Chicago Tribune 10/30/2012)
  • Replaced janitors and schoolteachers with new hires to Aramark and charter schools that are not covered by contracts applied to other employees (In These Times 1/21/2015, Democracy Now! 2/23/2015)
  • Hired financial firms Madison Dearborn and John Buck to invest worker pensions (International Business Times 11/13/2014)
  • Fired 150 music and visual arts teachers, and tilted millions of dollars of culture funds towards wealthy neighborhoods. (Chicago Sun-Times 07/09/2014)
  • Created a 3:59 second video of Chicagoans saying they don't know what TIF means (Chicago Reader 6/6/2012)





Sunday, March 1, 2015

My letter to Chuy Garcia

I am a resident and a voter of Chicago. I am concerned with the corruption of Chicago, and am close to despair. I am writing to show you the power of the organizations in Chicago and what they have accomplished. I hope to state my position and let the chips fall where they may.

From the bottom up, there was the program Cure Violence, also called Cease Fire. As far back as Harold Washington, there was a demand to stop gang shootings. Yet alderman candidates are still not well-versed in treatment of crime and violence as a disease. This is truly a tragedy. We now know that the horrible Guantanamo prison has brought in psychologists to work on the inmates. So we already use psychology to treat criminals -- once they're in cages. But when it comes to stopping crimes, it's a different story. It comes down to the notion of justice. Look at the candidate going up against Mr. Daley Thompson. He speaks of infiltrating gangs. Others talk about school programs. Gangs looked at in this fashion are treated as a disease of the society, not on the individuals. Chicago can be a compassionate city, and it can act to change this. From a scientific point of view, Cure Violence has dropped crime in every city it's instituted through helping people learn cognitive therapy -- the ability to challenge one's own thoughts, emotions and behaviors through "self-talk." The Chicago Police raised a hell of a stink over this. To them the criminals are the enemy, and giving them therapy rather than jail is a betrayal.

Science today can also tell us about the economy. We can list what we want and follow those blueprints, even though nobody can understand the whole picture. The internet was invented mostly by experts funded by the federal taxpayer, not pensions. Breakthroughs in the economy need lots of hard work until the foundation is laid for a new step. There is a grassroots movement to "opt-out" of standardized tests Australia right now. But in the States there is much more severe problem. The privatization of schools is not getting educated people into the workforce, rather it is putting them into debt. The debt strike has been announced on Democracy NOW!, a popular alternative media service. Support for this movement would be historic and show a strong interest in investment priorities and the rights of students against private tyrannies. I predict the Sun-Times to dislike it, but the Reader and the International Business Times probably will lend support.

On the environment, global warming is already rearing its horns. The environmental movement needs an educated and involved population, and independence from oil, not only "foreign oil." Illinois pollutes through two main forces: energy and transportation. Global warming is giving us hotter and hotter summers, and Illinois is in danger of losing topsoil, even while Governor Rauner expands coal programs. To see what a country looks like without topsoil, think of Haiti -- malaria-ridden and dependent on international institutions. On the other hand, Germany and Japan have created solar power programs, which have strong protections on capital, rather than debt to international finance. Chicago could try to negotiate with Google which is instituting a solar program. That was the original purpose of corporations, to serve the public good. People in Japan today are wizards at creating electric cars. Chicago needs someone who can stand up to big coal, oil and nuclear to make this happen here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

My letter to Al-Jazeera

To whom it may concern,

Al-Jazeera has retracted its account of the floods in Gaza. I believe I can show this retraction is unnecessary and an incomplete response to a propaganda campaign. The response makes two claims. (A) there are no dams that can be breached in southern Israel, and (B) it was an error to attribute this flood to Israeli intentions.

The journalist Richard Edmondson and the American analyst Yousef Munayyer have firmly debunked (A). Munayyer writes it is not only false, but "demonstrably false. There are MANY dams in the negev area." He includes a video showing how fast water can run in the area. Both Munayye and Edmondson note that the JNF has written about dams  as well. The Nahal Oz dam was analyzed in the April 2014 issue of Geomorphology, which found that in 2001 it had breached and flooded "roads, neighborhoods and agricultural fields." The Palestinian Twitter user "48Refugee" has noted "Israel uses rainwater reservoirs in Gaza for agriculture. During rainy season, Israel allows reservoirs to flood."

I have been able to challenge (B) with the help of the internet. The newspaper Walla! News had a Hebrew story off the AP wire, exclusively, in which they cite an Israeli army official explaining their reason for flooding Gaza. It is no longer on the main site of Walla! News but can still be read on Newshub Israel mirrored. In the final paragraph it reads "Military sources said that following the stormy weather south much water accumulated within the system and therefore it was necessary to drain them." One of the lead agitators  of this media campaign has asked the IDF spokesman to comment on this, and has seen no reply. The story has since been deleted, but Associated Press has not issued a retraction.

The people CAMERA has marshaled to dispute what they believe is anti-Semitic libel have done their best to belittle this when I've brought it to their attention, calling me "biased" and a
"bigot" who is "complicit" in helping you attack Israel. I hope you recognize these are the real
motives of these agitators, not facts. Unfortunately, what they don't know is I would be critical of this story even if it were written about Honduras.

Thank you for your time,
Lewis from Chicago

UPDATE:
For those trying to say "Why would Israel _____?" please see this excerpt from the Noam Chomsky book Fateful Triangle:



































UPDATE 2 (3/8/2015):
Here is a picture of the Israeli government widening the Beersheva river in 2004, increasing its output into Wadi Gaza:

A look at Deir al-Balah

For example, Hamas members serving the municipalities of Beit Hanun and Deir al-Balah are well educated, non-ideological, uncorrupted and responsive to the needs of their constituencies. In one instance, according to Jolle, newly elected Hamas members immediately impounded and then sold municipality vehicles previously given out on the basis of personal connections to those in power rather than professional need. Hamas members elected to professional associations in Gaza have proven to be competent and committed to democratic practices in governing these organizations. Nevertheless, Jolle said he and his government are still wary of Hamas's intentions and remain uncomfortable attributing anything positive to what they still consider to be a terrorist organization.

(Wikileaks.org)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Democracy isn't a beauty contest

There is a clear pattern emerging about what prison is being used for: confessions. Thankfully, The Atlantic monthly has picked up the story from Guardian US adding more details to the reasons Chicago police are keeping a no-lawyer "black site." It should bring to mind the Chicago police won their fight in 2013, with an unfair demand that a citizen peace group called Cure Violence file reports on their clients. They refused, and the mayor canceled the contract, favoring the police.

The police set an unfair standard. It's not bad enough we put people in jail and traumatize them, but then we have to come up with pleasant illusions about how the people exposing this crime are over-reacting.


In a democracy, the press would be critical. Yet after giving him their endorsement, today's "independent" Chicago Sun-Times is celebrating the sites as largely non-violent and effective:
The Guardian story didn’t allege that Church suffered from physical abuse at Homan Square other than his complaint that his left wrist was handcuffed to a bar behind a bench and his ankles were cuffed together.
In April 2014, Church and his two co-defendants were convicted of felony counts of possessing an incendiary device and misdemeanor mob action, but they were acquitted of more serious terrorism charges tied to the NATO summit in May 2012.
But this response itself is a calculation. The Chicago Sun Times lead editorial writer has been  Steve Huntley, who writes with his his jaw clenched in hate at people criticizing torture. His reason is it undermines his project of war.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Obama did not claim to obey international law, just Jeh Johnson did

Via Foreign Policy's link to CFR.org:

First: in the conflict against an unconventional enemy such as al Qaeda, we must consistently apply conventional legal principles. We must apply, and we have applied, the law of armed conflict, including applicable provisions of the Geneva Conventions and customary international law, core principles of distinction and proportionality, historic precedent, and traditional principles of statutory construction. Put another way, we must not make it up to suit the moment.
 Obama only uses words like "commitment" and "support."

Breaking the Geneva Convention on industrial targets that can cause secondary harm to civilians (passed in 1975), the US just bombed an oil rig in Al-Hasakah.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Big Coal likes to think "way ahead"

On the conference room wall, a map of North Antelope Rochelle shows two big shaded areas containing an estimated one billion tonnes of coal. Peabody is preparing to acquire leasing rights when they come up in about 2022 or 2024. “You’ve got to think way ahead,” said Durgin.

(From The Guardian)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Our "good" and "smart" terrorism in Afghanistan

Writer Tom Clancy, a biographer of non-Nazi Chuck Horner, has a bone to pick with "the movies" about military leaders:


"In the movies, military leaders are all drunken Nazis," said Clancy, who has worked on books about retired Gen. Chuck Horner, who led U.S. Central Command Air Forces during the Gulf War, and retired Gen. Carl Stiner, whose missions included the capture of Panama leader Manuel Noriega.

"In fact, these are very bright people who regard the soldiers and Marines under them as their own kids. I thought the people needed to know about that. These are good guys, and smart guys."
 
Let's take a look at Afghanistan, which is under our military rule. We're treating them pretty awfully:
While infrastructure improvement has been hampered in active war zones, notably in rural Helmand and Kandahar provinces, significant change has been achieved elsewhere. Numerous roads have been graded or asphalted, electricity installed in many villages, and agriculture has improved, particularly in the eastern provinces along the Pakistan border. Much of this headway, however, was not instigated by donor aid but rather individual Afghan investment. NATO’s military approaches, particularly in hard-line insurgent areas, have been criticized for not allowing recovery initiatives to reach parts held or otherwise influenced by the Taliban. At the same, some insurgent commanders have pointedly refused to allow any aid project that might show international aid workers in a positive light.

This strategy is a war crime. It is indistinguishable from an espionage operation which we exceuted Nazis for:



But we don't call it terrorism. Instead it's called "centers of gravity" (or, more negatively "benign neglect"). Chuck "not a Nazi" Horner believed in targeting "national leadership and command and control to railroads, airfields, and ports."



Monday, February 9, 2015

Rebuttal to the Chicago-Sun Times endorsement of Emanuel for mayor

NOTE:
This is the website that has your voting location

The mayor is smart enough to know it doesn't hurt to have a 30 million dollar war chest. Rahm Emanuel's campaign has been sending out full-color election flyers that stress issues of taxes and corruption, even though they're mostly minor infractions compared to his own. In the Sun-Times endorsement, these standards continue. I strongly disagree with their take. This is not the man who is "the right mayor for difficult times."

Peppered throughout the endorsement is the antichrist of the horrible teachers union who might be "talking strike" just like when Emanuel childishly "threw" the words "Fuck you" at them before. This version of the teachers union story is so far from the truth I'm amazed they printed it. The editors write the teachers went on strike over such "salty language." In fact, he is a pro-charter school evangelical. According to Ben Joravsky, Emanuel lied to impress his business allies and "insisted that the top-scoring high schools in Chicago are charters—even though no charters are in the top ten." Beyond a sharp tongue wagged at the teachers, Emanuel "increased their hours, cut their pay, portrayed them as money-grubbers, closed unionized schools, and opened more nonunion charters, thus depleting the union's power through attrition."

In the eyes of the editors, the closed mental health clinics and schools are either not important, or somehow a badge of honor for him. The real threat though, according to the emotional pleas of the editors, is that Chicago will stop being a tourist destination, and that the pension fund will "go belly up."

On the first issue, it's hard to believe tourists are all that interested in the projects Emanuel set out. From what I can tell they seem like kickbacks to a favorable alderman. When he built a playground and a half a million dollar garden tucked away in Roger's Park he put up a sign that he was building a better Chicago. He also did that on roads where he fixed pot holes. Debra Silverstein and Joseph Moore returned the favor by going along with his ballot sabotage.*

Onto the pension system with gaps "that threaten to sink the city." It happens to be run by Emanuel's campaign donors. These are the people he treats with more respect for the civic process than should be allowed. According to the investigative journalist David Sirota, while crying poverty the city has a "secret slush fund of taxpayer money" that is burgeoning with business handouts. Tom Ryan of the Firefighters Union Local 2 has argued that we are "asking those who are most vulnerable and who have based the remainder of their lives on what was promised to them, to shoulder the bulk of this sacrifice." To this situation, the self-professed independent newspaper regrettably calls in the big guns. The pensions are "challenges" for the "bullies" to figure out, not a firefighter. The city has "no other way." The hardworking Chicago families he pretends to care for are mistaken for trying to "be happy."


The editors also brag about a renewed Red-Line, but ignore the outrage at the closing of twelve bus lines, including one down Lincoln Ave. The new Chicago Transit Authority president has called this a "balance of some very complicated things" but seems to me to come down to color. Complicated is usually just how politicians say they're helping the upper class white people. Maybe I'm wrong but I doubt it. I've been to Lincoln avenue and seen the life there. Rather than earning their respect, if anything he owes a debt.

Emanuel got his start purifying his party of the anti-war voices. If you didn't like our crusade in Iraq you had to face his wrath. Today he continues a policy bought and paid for by the financial industry. Too bad for Chicago's janitors, bus riders, pensioners, teachers, parents and schoolchildren.

There really is only one thing to say about him in the end: Anybody but Rahm.

* A previous version of this article implied that Joe Moore was the 50th ward alderman. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

14 Reasons to vote Anyone-But-Emanuel (Rahm linksheet)


IL Supreme Court's newest justice, Mary Jane Theis, and Rahm Emanuel lived on the same block in East Ravenswood:
Cook County clerk David Orr ticks off #MayorRahm by asking him to open the books on TIFs—because that's unreasonable.
http://goo.gl/zLNcgy
http://goo.gl/5mwRBv




A community activist uncovered a sneaky way #MayorRahm keeps #TIF money flowing.
Emanuel cuts millions which would have gone to schools to build a hotel and sports arena. All but 3 Alderman OK it.
http://goo.gl/vWTGIo
http://goo.gl/EyY6eG




Emanuel sets a good example only stealing $267 million from Chicago's children and not Swisher blunts.
Rahm Emanuel, new chief of staff, "indicated his support of President Bush's position on Iraq"


http://goo.gl/ns1Lhs
http://goo.gl/QxRTNj




RedEye Chicago:
"For a lot of people, this [bus] is a critical lifeline," Pawar said. Buses and trains did become less crowded last year as ridership dipped.... The No. 11 route lost 706,000 rides after the service cut, CTA data show.
http://goo.gl/H1v11P
Rahm's declaration of full-scale immunity for torturers and war criminals on behalf of Obama:
http://goo.gl/H1v11P




“Whether we're talking about Scott Walker or Rahm Emanuel, it's the same thing."
Rahm Emanuel's "scare tactics are not the answer" Chicago Firefighters Union
http://goo.gl/pkDMh8 (Desmogblog)
http://goo.gl/2ZOlQ7




Rahm Emanuel "threatens to put 350 union custodians out of work"
Reuters must-read on how Rahm Emanuel's battle against teachers is part of a larger class war waged by the rich
Chicagolabor.org http://goo.gl/pkDMh8
http://goo.gl/Xm9ODa





an aggressive supporter of the Iraq War


Rahm Emanuel's "total focus seems to be on the business community" AFSCME http://goo.gl/GVzf7f

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cartoonist unions and Saudi Arabian feminism

With Charlie Hebdo in the news as a stalwart of freedom, maybe it can be helpful to look at what cartoonists in the US had to suffer in the past. When "sneaky" cartoonists in Hollywood began to organize for fair pay and contracts, one thing management did to discourage this was talk about their workplace as a unique paradise. They were their buddies, not the no-good Commies who wanted to destroy the "family atmosphere" where they "felt themselves the aristocracy of their profession, with Uncle Walt the benevolent master over all." Any benefits required gratitude to the boss "for plowing profits back into upgrading the studio's working conditions and paying for drawing teachers" -- and if you didn't like it, he would snitch on you to the government, and the army too.

Feminism in Saudi Arabia, according to the leading activist Wajeha al-Huwaider is not making much headway for this same, simple propaganda tactic.

Many people are brainwashed to believe ours is a “special” society—that’s why we have laws that are un-Islamic but accepted, like preventing women from driving. However, thanks to the Internet, young women and men have a place to express themselves and develop their individuality. They’re more open-minded than their elders, and that will shape Saudi society in the future.



Wednesday, January 14, 2015

We have to stop picking and choosing favorable terrorists

The shock of the terrorist attack on French journalists has generated different responses, some pretty childish, opportunist but also some principled and encouraging. I'm happy to see people like Asad AbuKhalil and Noam Chomsky hold up examples of behavior where the US enthusiastically crushes nonviolent actors. (Not only does this comparison remind me of my responsibility to reflect on my own influence, but it prevents me from feeling that one must accept this kind of violence of Al-Qaeda organizations simply because I don't like the greedy elites in this country. Bad is bad, no matter who does it.) Others have bravely written thoughtful defenses of freedom of speech using Islamic principles, and even analyses of the context of religious symbols in a society that marginalizes people, despite being mocked as sympathizers.

I tried to look up the political network of the terrorist Kouchi brothers who committed the attack. A query.nytimes search revealed they were influenced by a then-22 year old Algerian-connected preacher named Thamer Bouchnak. (NYTIMES 2005). Craig Smith writes he was "benefiting from his aura as the brother-in-law of Yousef Zemmouri, a member of an Algerian terrorist organization, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, who was deported in 1998."

As I researched this group it reminded me a lot of the Hamas/PLO split, where the targeting of PLO members resulted in the strengthening of more Islamist politics.

The split in Islamist Algerian bombers occurred during the Bush Administration's aggressive war in Iraq, not by chance. In a book by Frank Peter and Rafael Ortega, the leader of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, Abu Musab Abd al-Wadud "rejects the idea that his organization means nothing but a change in name." The change, according to Peter and Ortega (GOOGLE BOOK PREVIEW), "coincided with al-Qaeda's adoption of a brand new strategy at the end of 2003, following the American invasion of Iraq." One of his priorities was to see a "widened" approach in "the movement's activities to other countries in the region.". This revision was opposed by the regional Salafist Hassan al-Khattab, and he lost "not because of the strength of the organization" but because there was no other choice. In fact,  Hassan Al Khattab's branch was "dismantled by the Moroccan police at the end of July 2006."(BOOK EXCERPT)

It's important to remember Morocco has been under US-backed dictatorship because of a political calculation during Reagan's first war on terror, similar to the calculation of Obama's humanitarian imperialism. Obama has said before he will welcome peaceful responses, what he called an "unclenched fist" yet has campaigned on punishing the petition to the ICC by the Palestinians, has bombed the Libyan state transmitters, and fanned the flames of war in Syria, Yemen and beyond, because of commercial and strategic interests. The terror attacks, to all those concerned with ending them, should bring to focus the attempt to pick and choose proper terrorist bullies because they support US policies. But unlike the cultural writers I mentioned, there is no thoughtfulness in discussing counter-terror policies.

Outside of a rant here and there, there can be little doubt we will repeat the tragic crimes in Syria that we have in Iraq. This is having a result. France and the United States have taken a Mafia-like approach. President Obama has declared he will "hunt down" the terrorists, and France is continuing to send its Navy to Syria.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The worst prediction ever

Now, I ask my noble friend, who takes up the cause of the Arabs, and who seems to think that their material well-being is going to be diminished under the new system, how he thinks that the existing population of Palestine, of whom he has—very rightly from his point of view—constituted himself the advocate in this House, is going to be effective unless and until you get capitalists to invest their money in developing the resources of this small country—small in area, though great in memories—which, according to all the information we possess, might carry a population far bigger—I will not venture to give figures, but far bigger—than that which it now supports. But it can only do so, I believe, if you can draw upon the enthusiasm of the Jewish communities throughout the world. As soon as all this Mandate question is finally settled, as soon as all the existing legal difficulties have been got over, they will, I believe, come forward and freely help in the development of a Jewish Home.

(http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1922/jun/21/palestine-mandate)

Saturday, January 3, 2015

When politicians raid the public's money it's always sold as creating jobs

Obama said the same thing when he sold billions in weapons to Saudi Arabia.
"I am confident the tour will further strengthen our efforts for a proposed project that will create the largest aquaculture farm in North America. The project is projected to create 426 jobs with the potential to grow to nearly 2,000 jobs in the future. We have partnered with Virginia Tech's Corporate Research Center and an Israeli company that owns and operates these types of facilities around the world."
 
(SWVA Today)

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ari Shavit is a favorite among the superstitious and despairing

At a Shabbat service in August, Zemel’s 22-year-old daughter, Ronit, a senior at Macalester College in St. Paul, sat in the front row of Micah’s sanctuary. She listened to her father say, “What is needed to make peace between the peoples of these two lands is probably more than humans can summon,” which is from “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,” a history of the country’s ethical struggle since its independence, by Ari Shavit, a columnist for the left-leaning Israeli paper Haaretz.

(New York Times : 12/21/2014 : Jason Horowitz)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Democracy" and "communism" in Cuba and the United States

As the Obama administration argues for changing US policy toward Cuba, US professors and newspaper editors are putting the focus on telling us we're the heroes, introducing the pagans to what the Brooking's Institution calls "a rainbow of international investors who will be more respectful of Cuban political sovereignty." Secretary John Kerry hailed the breaking of "ideological cement" that "isolated the United States instead of isolating Cuba"  and says with US help we can expect to "promote a prosperous, democratic and stable Cuba" with the official support of powerful healthcare and telecommunications  companies that have been banned by Haiti and Mexico.

But heroes need villains. These elites who are pushing to end the sanctions (because they will "never work") are warning us that Cubans like to put their greedy little paws on our business. Paolo Spadoni, a Very Serious Person quoted in Reuters, says that Cuba needs to stop "attempting to seize greater control of businesses once they prove successful." Without turning over their phones and hospitals to US multinational investment their economy will not be able to "show substantial improvement." However, what they aren't telling us is this is the very policy of the US business environment. In the World Economic Forum's recent report on infrastructure they highlight "two common distinctions in projects," the "greenfield" investments, where the investors must pay for new construction, and the preferred "brownfield type" in which the wealthy simply buy "existing infrastructure assets that have been operating, and frequently
have a demand history." In other words, taxpayer-funded roads, schools and hospitals.

Moreover, US investors actually celebrate spending millions of dollars to undermine democracy through propaganda:

In a referendum in 1997, voters in Denver in the United States rejected a measure to fund a massive expansion of the city’s transit system, called Guide the Ride. But seven years later, Denver voters agreed to fund a redesigned and rebranded “FasTracks” programme – the largest voter-approved, all-transit expansion in the country at the time.
57
To win support, the city government had proactively engaged with the public and local businesses in the planning of FasTracks and clarified the benefits. It also hired a political consulting firm and conducted a US$ 3.5 million television ad campaign featuring Denver’s mayor. A Citizens Advisory Committee was later established to provide input and advice on implementation to the board of directors of FasTracks.
58
Whether this deal will end up helping Cuban democracy and health is beyond me but it's very far from what US elites are trying to see happen.

Friday, November 21, 2014

What happened to the security guard? Oh, he was Arab so we fired him.

"There are calls on social media sites to sack workers from annexed East Jerusalem. The municipality of Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv, has instituted a rotation system by which parents take turns as guards at their children’s nursery schools, Ynet news agency reported. Another municipality, Kiryat Ono, imposed a ban on workers from the occupied West Bank."

(The Independent)

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Predictors of sexual assault

We compared the most recent dates of people who had versus had not experienced SA to identify differences in their date habits. (c) We compared attitudes of people who had versus had not been involved in SA. Results showed that 77.6% of the women and 57.3% of the men had been involved in some form of SA; 14.7% of the women and 7.1% of the men had been involved in unwanted sexual intercourse. Variables that appear to be risk factors are the man's initiating the date, paying all the expenses, and driving; miscommunication about sex; heavy alcohol or drug use; "parking"; and men's acceptance of traditional sex roles, interpersonal violence, adversarial attitudes about relationships, and rape myths.

(Journal of Counseling Psychology)

In NYT article, US responsibility for war crimes isn't "virtually" anywhere to be found

Serious allegations of war crimes -- "unprecedented" in scale --  have come out through the human rights group Amnesty International, which is not a favorite of the New York Times. Often Amnesty's reports are just ignored in the New York Times. Apparently trying to step up their effort, the newest strategy is to skim the document, quote some government officials, and hope nobody notices the US is responsible at all.

In the article we are presented with an argument from an Israeli military spokesman who says Amnesty "ignores documented war crimes perpetrated by Hamas." This is echoed by Israel’s embassy in London ("ignoring the nature of the enemy") and the Israeli foreign ministry ("Hamas is not mentioned, as if the group has no responsibility for the bloodshed"). But a quick look at the link (in paragraph 2) disproves this.

Thus in the introduction on page 5 of Amnesty's report finds:

Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups fired thousands of indiscriminate rockets and mortar rounds into civilian areas of Israel, killing six civilians, including one child. Dozens of other Israelis, including at least six children, were directly
injured by rockets or shrapnel. A total of 66 soldiers were killed in the fighting.

Amnesty International has documented and is continuing to document serious
violations of international humanitarian law, including unlawful killings and injuries to civilians and destruction of civilian property, both by Israel and by Hamas and Palestinian armed groups. 


The biggest omission however is further on. Although Rudoren claims to provide a summary of "virtually all of its 49 pages" the sole citation of Amnesty that merits more than a two word snippet is where the group:

calls for both Israel and the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court so it can prosecute cases from this summer, and urges Israel to participate in an inquiry by the United Nations Human Rights Council that it has so far boycotted out of concern for predetermined bias.
This is accurate. But frustratingly, these are only two of the three. On page 43 there is a recommendation "to other states" (such as the one where Rudoren's newspaper is based).  In this section, Amnesty International is arguing as publicly as possible that Israeli war crimes could be mitigated by withdrawal of military support:



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Putting all this together, Rudoren's article warps the picture both of our military support and the record in general. There is no explanation for quoting three sources unless you are trying to give a representation of consensus. But this party line exists solely in the government, and their strategy of working the human rights organizations with accusations of bias. Ironically, as the report goes on to say on page 41, "Amnesty International agrees with the conclusion of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem that “there is currently no official body in Israel capable of conducting independent investigations of suspected violations of international humanitarian law”"  The New York Times editors, reporters and especially readers should ask themselves why it's acceptable to crowd out US culpability and an Israeli human rights source.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In Defense of Palestinian Statehood (Response to Jeffrey Goldberg)

In his latest essay, Jeffrey Goldberg observes world opinion is turning against Israel and that this isn't (entirely) due to anti-Semites. To illustrate this he highlights Israel's "friends" who "criticize it on occasion for continuing to advance the settlement cause." I think this is an important principle: if you truly care about someone you'll tell them when they need to get their act together. I'd also add, if they are asking for it, to help them.

My issue is about three quarters of the way through the essay where Goldberg takes a hard-right turn. "None of Israel’s true friends believe that it should immediately, haphazardly remove its army from strategic areas of the West Bank" because that could create "another Arab state that would be susceptible to takeover by fundamentalists." He further cautions that settlements might not be the central issue because "Arab rejection of Israel does predate settlements....their leaders and representatives walked away from each chance." The logic is clear: without the variable of the settlements, Arabs rejected a state anyway, therefore the real issue isn't Israeli behavior but Arab.

I won't go into too considerable detail about the negotiations but I think it's fair to say they are more nuanced than Goldberg allows. Arguing that Arab negotiators continually reject peace is about as accurate as me telling everyone you're lolling around on the floor, which makes you lazy, without mentioning every time you try to sit down I pull the chair out from you. Israeli negotiator Ron Pundak said the rejection of the Palestinian state was part of this maneuvering overall. Goldberg claims there's a "steadily intensifying" tension between Israel and its friends -- but over 20 years ago Israel blocked a deal on "an independent, viable, Palestinian sovereign state" (says Pundak) and yet each president since then has ramped up support for the country. Rather than being adversarial, the US was complicit.

Sticking to the issue of the settlements, Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi argues Israel is able to use a strategy of "banking concessions" whereby the negotiators push their luck with more and more demands (recognition of the State being the latest) as a way to paint themselves as the reasonable ones. Goldberg continues this two-faced act. In his pleasant fiction, Obama's administration are the good guys and Netanyahu's buddies are "venting" reasonable fears. Yet without negotiations, and presumably the legal petition to the ICC which Israel's concerned friends like President Obama oppose, Goldberg is left advocating we sit on our hands and hope the Arabs simply calm down in the name of Israel's security.

If his concern is preventing extremism, Goldberg has it truly backwards. Much like the coup in Egypt and the chaos in Iraq which were a result of US and Saudi policies of finding who is "with us," according to the former US official Larry Johnson "the Israelis are their own worst enemies when it comes to fighting terrorism... They do more to incite and sustain terrorism than to curb it." Americans need to stop the intentional corruption of Palestinian independence. Like the IRA/British conflict, the deal doesn't have to be popular with everyone, it just has to give each side something to leverage against their violent comrades.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

US wants a blitzkreig in the Mideast

 Retired US Air Force commander David Deptula complained the air campaign is nothing more than a "drizzle" and that only a "thunderstorm" will suffice.
To strike a genuine blow at the IS group, analysts say President Barack Obama will have to ramp up the air raids and send US military advisers with local forces into combat, to ensure bombs hit their mark and that operations succeed.

(Source AFP via Yourmiddleeast.com )

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2014 November Election Cheat Sheet (UPDATED)

When researching the referendums on the ballot, I had to do a little digging. Here is what I found.

LEAN NO: The Crime Victim amendment is supported (in principle) by Human Rights Watch,

but it is being used elsewhere to limit speech

While HRW reminds us that "there's not enough enforcement" of victim's rights, in practice this type of bill has been proposed to stop Abu-Jamal from writing anything.

That evidently motivated lawmakers in Pennsylvania to come up with a remedy that is, on its face, flatly unconstitutional. The Revictimization Relief Act, as the Philadelphia Inquirer (10/14/14) reported,
would allow the victim of a crime, or prosecutors acting on the victim's behalf, to bring a civil action to stop an offender from engaging in conduct that causes the victim or the victim's family severe mental anguish.
[...]
The story was covered on today's edition of Democracy Now! (10/21/14), with excerpts of an interview with Abu-Jamal conducted by Prison Radio journalist Noelle Hanrahan:
The press ignores prisoners, as a rule. Most of what happens in prisons are never or rarely reported in the press…. Silence reigns in states all across the United States. But I went to court. I was forced to go to court by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And I won, in a case called Abu-Jamal v. Price, which gives me the right to write. Now they’re trying to take away my right to read my own writings. How unconstitutional is that?
I think it's arguable the text in the Illinois in the amendment uses similar enough language to be something to vote against (underlining in original):

 (1) The right to be treated with fairness and respect for their dignity and privacy and to be free from harassment, intimidation, and abuse throughout the criminal justice process.

Here's the Pennsylvania one by comparison (emphasis mine):

) Redress on behalf of victim.--The district attorney of
2the county in which a personal injury crime took place or the
3Attorney General, after consulting with the district attorney,
4may institute a civil action against an offender for injunctive
5or other appropriate relief for conduct which perpetuates the
6continuing effect of the crime on the victim.

YES: The millionaire tax helps all the schools

I had to read this text a few times but that's what it says:

Should the Illinois Constitution be amended to require that each school district receive additional revenue, based on their number of students, from an additional 3% tax on income greater than one million dollars?

 

NO: The phrasing of the medical cannabis question is not to be trusted

I personally don't smoke, and considering the reputation of California weed, I'm wary of encouraging others to smoke. But this is irrelevant. According to the Annals of Epidemiology, there is no evidence medical marijuana turns everyone into junkies, and in fact, legalizing medical cannabis reduces its  use among adolescents.

Even once you make up your mind, the tricky wording in the referendum might have you fooled. The words "local municipality" seem positive. But in effect this could spell the end of medical marijuana. Because this is what happened in some in Oregon:



According to the Journal of Studies of Alcohol and drugs, there isn't evidence that dispensaries create crime, so the only reason to push this onto the municipalities is to un-legalize it. 

A research study in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs found that medical cannabis is used to treat variety of conditions including chronic pain, migraines and AIDS-related problems. Denying it to people who are suffering then becomes a pointless attack on the sick. Not a nice thing to do to do.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The New York Times vs the Faggy Dissident


The New York Times is running an odd homophobic puff piece about Glenn Greenwald.

RIO DE JANEIRO — On approaching Glenn Greenwald’s home office high in the jungle-encrusted mountains above Rio de Janeiro, all is tranquil, bucolic even. A gurgling stream at the entrance frames the idyll.

And then the dogs notice the incursion. They bark, yap and yowl, and while it’s less “Heart of Darkness” than “101 Dalmatians,” the sheer volume is mind-erasing.

Should we be surprised that the house of Mr. Greenwald, the legendarily combative privacy and national security reporter, is surrounded by loud, barking defenders — or that they are actually pussycats once you get to know them, as is their rescuer?

People on Twitter are mocking the focus on Glenn Greenwald's dogs. But inside of this story's posture of levity in the face of serious business is a subtle character assassination.

In 2009, writing about school bullying Judith Warner looked at what calling a person gay means:

Being called a “fag,” you see, actually has almost nothing to do with being gay.

It’s really about showing any perceived weakness or femininity – by being emotional, seeming incompetent, caring too much about clothing, liking to dance or even having an interest in literature.



 In addition to implying he's a "pussycat" the story clearly supports this idea:

On television and in print, he comes across as the ultimate alpha, ferocious and unbending, but here the dogs refuse to obey him, looking for guidance from his husband, David, instead. The guy who issues face-melting rebukes on cable and Twitter is also the softy who keeps a pack of hot dogs in his car’s glove box to throw to the dogs wandering the favelas.

Of course, you might say an offhand comment or two is a gentle poke. But seeing dissidents as ironic threats has always been both a way to gloat and highlight them as threats.

The story picks up several paragraphs later, happy to trope on his poor technical skills by painting him as a dangerous virus engaging in immature, childish pleasure:

“I went to Google and typed in ‘create a pie chart’ and I ended up with an online pie-chart maker probably intended for first graders,” he said.



True to his intent, Mr. Greenwald’s first-grade pie charts entered the bloodstream of the web, coursing around Twitter and various blogs. Nothing — other than yet another dog rescue — pleases Mr. Greenwald more than lobbing in something from a great distance and watching it detonate. He was doing that long before he ever wrote for The Intercept, the name of the site that he works with at First Look.