Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Kenya: How Genocide Begins

A few years ago, I wrote a paper on the archival collections of a man named Raphael Lemkin. Lemkin is the scholar who first coined the word, "genocide" and systematically wrote about its meaning, origins and affects on society. He singlehandedly pushed through the "Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide."

Article 2 of the Convention reads:

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Now read the Vigilante Reporter.

An excerpt:
There are accounts of groups of people moving east across the country toward the capital, instigateing organized ethnic cleansing. In Nakuru, countless died and were injured in clashes between the Kikuyus and Luos and Kalengins. A new displaced persons camp was opened in the stadium for a group of Luos fleeing violence by the Mungiki sect. Saturday afternoon nearly a thousand men, women and children were taken by the red cross to hide in the stadium after the Mungiki sect murdered 6 people the night before. Police presence was heavy after the first day of fighting and things cooled down dramatically on Monday when people could be seen returning to work and shops opening up for business again. The hospital on Friday evening, however, was a horror scene, with over 60 wounded mostly by machete, stoning and arrows.
To add to what is already happening, yesterday's killing of an opposition leader in Nairobi enters the mix. The Washington Post reports:

Even with former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan in Nairobi to mediate between Kibaki and Odinga, many Kenyans say their country is just a spark away from blazing out of control.

For a while Tuesday, it appeared that the killing of [Mugabe] Were, a 38-year-old lawmaker from Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement, might provide it.

Were was shot once in the head and once in the chest as he was pulling into his driveway, his security guard said. Police are investigating whether it was a robbery, but his supporters immediately called his death a political assassination.

Were was a hero in his district, a mostly poor neighborhood of dirt paths and corrugated-metal homes where he funded an orphanage and paid children's school fees. As a successful candidate for parliament, Were also embodied the hopes Odinga's followers had to win political power.

If you will recall, the 1994 slaughter in Rwanda began in earnest when the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi were killed in a helicopter crash.

All it takes is a spark to ignite the flames. I hope that cooler heads prevail and soon. I hope it's not too late but fear that the time has come and gone to prevent what's about to happen.

May the Universe have mercy on Kenya and all of its people.

What About Iowa??? It's Not White Enough for You?

I was listening to Sam Sedar today, sitting in for Randi Rhodes today since it was her birthday and she took the day off. A couple of the callers today said that South Carolina went for Barack Obama this past weekend because of the African-Americans in that state. They made it sound as if that's the only reason why he won 55% of the vote. I've heard folks repeat this on the talking heads shows on the teevee, also.

I know that Iowa was a caucus and it's a different system of voting for a candidate, but if I remember correctly, Iowa has a hell of a lot of white folks in it. In fact, according to 2006 Census data, the state, with its population of 2,982,085, is 94.6% Caucasian-American. Obama won the caucus with 38% of the vote, compared to Clinton's 30%.

It's not the huge margin of victory seen in South Carolina, but still, Iowa's got a lot of white folks who voted for a black man. And yeah, New Hampshire's got a lot of white folks too (as well as Florida, which Clinton won tonight, despite the lack of delegates to be seated) who didn't vote for a black man, but really, can you say that only black people are voting for Obama? Really?

Note to people: that meme don't necessarily fly. Stop embarrassing yourselves by repeating it.

FISA on for Another Day

OK, I know that was a bad pun for a title, but hey, it's late! I'm just glad that the telecomms who illegally spied on you and me won't be getting amnesty... yet.

An update on today's FISA vote from TPMuckracker:
The fight goes on.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) cloture vote failed 48-45 just now, well short of the 60 votes necessary.

In the end, four Dems crossed over to vote with the Republicans: Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AR), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) was the lone Republican to vote with the Dems.
For now, the old FISA law, perfectly legal and more than adequate in that a warrant is required for wiretaps, will come back online Friday. However, there may be a vote in the House and Senate over the next few days to extend the present Protect America Act for another 30 days.

Now I want to know: why are Senators Pryor, Nelson, Lincoln and Landrieu Democrats? Once again, this Gang of Four have banded together and voted, not only against the best interests of their Party, but against the best interests of the American people as well. Makes my head spin. And thanks, Senator Spector, for being the only Republican to vote with the Dems.

Both Senators Clinton and Obama came back from the campaign trail to vote "Nay" on cloture, and Obama was endorsed by three members of the Kennedy family: Ted, Caroline, and Patrick.

Lastly, some dude gave a speech tonight. Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster that I don't have to listen to him give another one.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Thank You, Senator Dodd

This video (which contains yours truly somewhere in it), was made as a thank you to Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut regarding the stand he took recently on the FISA bill's immunity stance toward the telecomms.

Firedoglake wants you to fax your Congresspersons regarding the bill.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Big Damn Romney Hair Contest

I was completely surprised when I won last night's Big Damn Romney Hair Contest at Cafe Wellstone. Jacqrat Pizzicato was the men's winner. His afro was so big that we only saw his feet. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of him and I, so I only have a pic of me at the winner's board and of course, the hair.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ouch, that's gotta hurt...

Speaking of the mud wrestling I talked of yesterday, this video, submitted without comment from me, has gotta sting...

*Originally seen on Andrew Sullivan's "Daily Dish"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

They Should Just Mud Wrestle

Life Ring -- Chicago 2007
Photo by Elderta

I've got to say that the arguments between Barack Obama (whom I support for the Democratic Presidential nomination) and Hillary Clinton (my Senator here in New York, whom I like as a Senator) are so over the top that I think that they should just mud rassle for the nomination. Don't think that Obama has the upper hand; Clinton could take him since she has Bill who'll tag-team her in the ring and whomp on Barack.

Obama has said that he will not let accusations and swiftboating go unchallenged as John Kerry did in 2004, and with that I agree. Clinton is maligning his record and she should really stop it. She's no saint, that's for sure. The Clinton campaign is going after him fast and furious in order to stem the momentum he had coming out of Iowa. And you know what? It's working. Why? Cause Americans sometimes are pretty easy to lead around by their noses.

I tell you now, from what I've read coming from Republicans over the years, Obama may have trouble winning the White House, but the only thing that can unite the flailing Republicans is Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. How will they unite? By voting the Republican nominee into office.

Maybe I'm wrong, but they hate her with a passion and they aren't too happy with Bill, particularly with the prospect of having to hear him for a potential eight years. For my part, I am tired of the Bush / Clinton / Bush dynasties and I want someone new, particularly if that someone new is a Democrat.

Yep. They should just mud rassle... oh wait... maybe they are doing just that.

A Word About Heath Ledger

I think that word would be, 'damn.'

Other words would be: too talented, too handsome, too young to die.

The worse thing--besides his death at 28--is that he sought to shun the media and gossip spotlight, moving to Brooklyn with his girlfriend and daughter in order to find some respite from the swarming paparazzi. Now, his body, in a bag, is flashed across the world on television. His poor mother and father have to hear of his passing on the news millions of miles away from their son. Rumors fly around about drug use, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, all of which are suffered by scores of people worldwide whose names aren't dragged through the papers, despite not knowing what exactly killed him. His friends must grieve to the pit of their stomachs, knowing exactly who he was, having laughed and played and worked with him while having to hear terrible stories about the person millions of people didn't know. His daughter now has no father and will only be comforted by celluloid memories that won't be the touch of her dad.

Too sad.

I saw him on the street in Brooklyn once, and being the New Yorker I am, I didn't say a thing to him as I stumbled past, but I can tell you, he was unbelievably easy on the eyes.

"10 Things I Hate About You," "A Knight's Tale," and "The Brothers Grimm" are three incredibly fun movies, while "Monster's Ball" packs a punch and "Brokeback Mountain," I've heard, is so sad that I can't even bear to watch it.

All in all, folks young and old pass every day. The greater majority of these folks we never know about, while some of those we do hear of make us sad that they are gone, and still others that we hear of, we don't regret their passing one bit. In the case of Heath Ledger, I personally, feel saddened that I will no longer see his face on new and different streets or that we will no longer see his face in new and different roles on the silver screen.


Rest in peace, Mr. Ledger, rest in peace.

Monday, January 21, 2008

365 Days...

... until George W. Bush officially leaves the White House. My sidebar time clock widget is a wee bite off, but still, mark your calendars. Only one more year. It may be the longest year of them all.

Giraffe Kisses the Sun
St. John the Divine Sculpture Garden, New York City, Fall 2007
Photo by Elderta

UPDATE: And it's Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, too! See what happens when you're not working? The days blend into one!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Life is Incredibly Easy

Sun and Water and Gehry
Chicago 2007
Photo by Elderta

A friend of mine who is a social worker and who's been helping me cope with the past two years told me the other day that I needed to say some mantras in order to comfort myself when times get tough as well as enforce changes in my pattern of thinking. She's not the first person, nor probably the last, to tell me this. I've had a quasi-easy life, with a bunch of rough patches here and there, but the conditions of the world and the neverending voice in my head that tells me I'm gonna go to hell has taken its toll. Now, the cycle of life is being replaced by the cycle of death (the longer you live, the more people you know will pass away, until it's your turn), and while I'm generally happy, I do get down now and then.

Starting in January 2006, my kitty daughter, Zanzibar, died of an adrenal gland tumor. My dad then passed away in August 2006 of colon cancer. My foster brother, Brandon, died at the age of 20 in March 2007, and then on December 21, my aunt Helen died of a heart attack. On January 2, I found myself no longer working. Happy New Year!

Not having a job at the moment is actually a godsend, truth to tell. I've been so tired and emotionally drained over the past two years, that having a break is not necessarily a bad thing as long as I am able to find a position in the next three to five months. I have an entrepreneurial streak that I inherited from dad that will get me through this, and heck, I have three or four simultaneous careers, so something is bound to pan out. I'm trying to take this time to reassess and care for myself without going crazy that I have no job. (I've added a donate button to my sidebar, just in case anybody out there wants to throw me a buck or two... thanks!) Luckily, my social worker friend gave me some excellent mantras to recite, the most relaxing and comforting of which is: "Life is Incredibly Easy."

Now, as you can probably tell from my blog, I quite understand that life is NOT incredibly easy. Wars, genocide, bad government, etc., happens all the freaking time. To top things of, I'm become addicted to reading Andrew Sullivan (ack!) and a para-military force in Second Life has moved in next door to my tranquil house and they've just built a friggin' firing range in what was once a peaceful sim (eek!). Compared to what others are going through at this very second, I have it pretty damned easy. I just corresponded with an independent journalist (The Vigilant Journalist) who was very recently in the Kibera section of Nairobi, Kenya, where clashes between citizens and the military have taken place. People keep asking her if another Rwanda is about to happen. Not. Easy.

So, I'm well aware that life is NOT incredibly easy, but actually saying the words over and over again is quite comforting. Repeating the phrase helps get me through the day, even when I see documentaries like "Taxi to the Dark Side," which I saw last night with my fellow Billionaire, Yvonne. Thank goodness I immediately was able to go to a potluck party afterward because the documentary is quite devastating as well as on target. I said my mantra about a million times afterward on the subway ride out to Brooklyn. In other words if I compare myself to others, life is damned easy.

I wish everyone an incredibly easy life. Even under impossible circumstances. Well, everyone but Dick Cheney. That dude needs to be impeached yesterday.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Flick[e]red Past

J.W. Gates Funeral, N.Y.C., August 23, 1911
Library of Congress Collection on Flickr

A while back, I posted on an amazing late Depression Era--early World War II-collection of photographs newly digitized by the Library of Congress (LOC). The "Bound for Glory: America in Color, 1939-1943" exhibit published over 1600 public domain photographs which were produced from slides and negatives. The online-only exhibit was first presented on the LOC's website and allowed the images taken by the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information as a photographic chronicle of America.

From the LOC webiste:
This U.S. government photography project was headed by Roy E. Stryker, formerly an economics instructor at Columbia University, and engaged such photographers as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Russell Lee, Arthur Rothstein, Ben Shahn, Jack Delano, Marion Post Wolcott, Gordon Parks, John Vachon, and Carl Mydans. The project initially documented the Resettlement Administration's cash loans to individual farmers, and the agency's construction of planned suburban communities. The second stage focused on the lives of sharecroppers in the South and of migratory agricultural workers in the midwestern and western states. As the scope of the project expanded, the photographers turned to recording rural and urban conditions throughout the United States and mobilization efforts for World War II.
This group of photographs has joined a larger collection of materials from the Library of Congress and published on Google's Flickr website. Not only that, you can help the LOC "tag" the photographs, too. Just don't use too many profanities, eh?

The 1600 Depression Era photographs have been joined by 1500 additional "News in the 1910's" set. Gothamist wrote a piece about the New York City-tagged items from this set.

God Save Us From Mike Huckabee

Lately, I've been saying that I would be really mad if America ever made me say the words, "President Huckabee." Why? Well, for one, I've read the Handmaid's Tale and frankly, I don't put it past Christian fundamentalists one bit in this country to want a society that is similar to that rather depressing novel. A society like that (even one iota like that) scares the crap out of me, just like living under a theocratic Muslim society scares the crap out of me, too. Secondly, I grew up in a home that had one foot in sin (my dad owned a bar) and the other near saintdom (my mom knows Jesus), and let me tell you, the sinners were a lot more clear-headed than the saints ever were, even if the sinners were alcoholics and drug addicts.

Personally, the 2004 election made me stop trusting the good sense of Americans who gave us four more horrendous years of George W. Bush. If another Republican comes to office in 2008, particularly one that would like to change the Constitution rather than live within its boundaries, then God help us who don't believe exactly like the Huckabees of the U.S. of A.

Having grown up in both types of worlds, I know that there are not just two types of people, but many variations between both extremes. The Constitution is written for the people in the middle, to protect us from either extreme.

Now, you may think that there would be no way in hell that a man like Huckabee would win the Presidency of the United States. Moneyed and mainstream Republicans alike don't care for his rhetoric, but they have created a monster and may have to sleep with him, too. It's their courting of Christian fundamentalists that have brought them to the possible brink of getting what they asked for... even if they were lying through their teeth about what they really wanted from the fundamentalist masses in the first place. Democrats have stood by for too long laughing at the fever nightmare, thinking that it could "never happen in America" and hoping that Evangelicals would just go away and leave them alone.

I'm here to tell you that a Christian fundamentalist never leaves you alone. They either pray for you secretly in their closet or tell you to your face time after time that you need to repent and embrace Jesus. No matter how much you may believe in a Unitarian, Unity, Lutheran, Catholic or Episcopalian way, they will tell you that your God is not their God. They will also pray that the Devil stops telling you lies so that the veil of righteousness will reveal the true nature of the Holy Spirit. Whatever that means.

I was on the subway the other day and a lady got on, preaching preaching preaching. It didn't matter that she kept contradicting herself... "Jesus loves you and gave you free will and he'll love you no matter what... Jesus will send you to hell if you don't believe" that I had to chuckle to myself. Really? He loves you no matter what that he'll send you to hell if you don't believe. Really? Did you really mean to say that?

Christian fundamentalists and Evangelicals are full of contradictions that you are suppose to believe. Believe with faith, not fact. Believe or be thrown forever into the pit of neverending fire because Jesus loves you and wants you to give yourself freely to him. Believe that their God is the only God. Believe that the Constitution (supposedly, according to them), was written by a bunch of ministers who based the Constitution on the Bible but that this Constitution written by these "minister" Founders should be changed to reflect the "word of the living God" so that the Constitution "[is] in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards."

For my part, I pray that God saves us from men and women like Mike Huckabee. Amen.

Here's a video by a Huckabee supporter.

Contradiction, much?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kenya Update

From my post yesterday regarding Kenya, I noted how I didn't know much about Kenyan politics, but I did know that Kenya is relatively stable compared to much of the Continent. A colleague of mine, Angelique Haugerud, writes about Eastern African affairs (as well as Billionaires For Bush). She appeared on NPR yesterday speaking about the origins of the post-election chaos in that country. You can hear the program here.

If that link doesn't work, go here and search for "Haugerud."

Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane
Results of your search for "Haugerud"

There was one program that matched your search.

Hour 1
Kenya continues to recover from unrest following its recent presidential election. We get an update on the situation, learn more about Kenya's internal politics and ethnic groups, and discuss the implications for US foreign policy. Our guests are ANGELIQUE HAUGERUD, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Rutgers University and BETH WHITAKER, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Kenya in Turmoil

Africa as a continent, as many may know, has been in turmoil for a number of years now. Too many years to count, actually. The country of Kenya, a former English colony, has been relatively stable over the years and has served as a democratic leader for the Continent.

That was a few weeks ago. Now, it's a bit of a different story.

A recent wrangle over the country's elections has left Kenya ravished and there are threats of genocide looming
. I don't pretend one bit to understand Kenya as a nation, and I certainly don't understand its current crisis except to say that there are widespread reports that the election results were flawed.

I was listening to the BBC's "Digital Planet" tonight and heard that a Kenyan living in the United States has, upon the suggestion of Kenyan bloggers, developed a website where Kenyans can report on any violence that takes place near them. The site, called Ushahidi ("witness" in Swahili), can be accessed either through the Internet or through SMS text messaging. While the Internet is not widespread in rural areas of the country, text messaging is a staple of Kenyan society these days.

The effort of getting the word out by Internet of violence and protest was highlighted recently with the Burmese uprising of late last year. The Internet in that country was shut down in order to prevent news of atrocities getting out to the larger world community. While the Ushahidi.com site has only been up for a few days, I doubt that the country will shut down the Internet in response to citizen reporting.

I truly hope that the situation in Kenya rights itself quickly.

Report Acts Of Violence In Kenya

Saturday, January 12, 2008

"Suck It Up"

Over the past week, I've been told by three people to do that very thing, suck it up. I ask you: what is the point were you get to stop sucking it up?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hello World

It's been so long since last we spoke!

Sorry for the hiatus, but I was starting a new job (which I actually no longer have), and I didn't have the time or inclination to write.

Now that I have some more... uh... free time, if you will... I'll hopefully post more than once every two months. I've evolved into a Flippery Fish in the TTLB Ecosystem, so I guess I have to continue my onward and upward evolution.

And thanks Cath, for the prodding!