Saturday, December 30, 2006
As luck would have it, there is a mega march on Washington on January 27 to stop the war ASAP. I've been working for peace since the very first day of this Iraq mess and unlike protests past, now I am no longer perceived as some counterculture hippie when I hit the streets to protest. Nope, pretty much most Americans are against the war now, not just the far left of the political spectrum. If the March in DC is half as cool as the massive protest in NYC last spring, I'll be happy. But just the same, I hope it's twice as big.
So I close with two questions for you: 1) what is your New Year's Resolution and 2) What can you do PERSONALLY to fight for peace?
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
"You wrote about my brother."
Long, awkward, pregnant pause.
Keep in mind, I recognized the name of course, but it had been a while since Airman Ware's death, so it wasn't exactly fresh in my mind what I wrote about him.
"I hope I didn't write anything that offended you," I typed.
"Not at all," she replied. She seemed grateful that we seemed willing to ask the tough questions, so she reached out.
I have one of those screennames that you can derive from my email address which you can find on this site. I'm not too hard to track down. But I was curious why did she reach out to me. Did she need a friend or was she just trying to keep her big brother's story alive?
Little sister told me -- as per the jag lawyer prosecuting this case -- that Carl died in Iraq because he was shot in the chest by a fellow American soldier, a guy who is now being detained in Kuwait awaiting trial. She pointed out that her brother's (alleged) killer had some mental issues and was admitted to the service at a time when recruiters were bending their standards and accepting just about anyone with a pulse. Anyway, the trial is coming in the spring, probably in March.
We chatted for about an hour that first time. We could have gone on longer, but she is reeeally pregnant and needed to get some rest. She lamented that Carl would never know his niece or nephew. And if that weren't sad enough, Carl's wife is also pregnant with their second child.
Anyway, in case you're wondering why I am sharing all this it's to remind each and every one of you that there is an expensive and increasingly deadly war raging in Iraq. To say nothing of Afghanistan, the mess in Iraq is really out of countrol. I know we all know the Iraq war is happening. Of course we are sensitive to the war. We are progressives after all.
But when I hear stories like Carl Ware's and I think to myself "for every Carl Ware there are like thousands of cases just like his or worse." And the thought sickens me. And that's when I have a gut check and ask myself what am I doing to fight for peace.
Carl's sister asks me "why did my brother have to die?"
If Carl Ware's story can inspire us to work to end this war, then in some small way we could say that he died for peace.
We've tackled a lot of weighty issues here in the liberal blogosphere. Can we now brainstorm a little about ending this war?
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Monday, December 25, 2006
Merry Christmas folks!! Hope it's a good one!
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Don't get me wrong, when I first read one of his books (don't remember which one) I was reasonably amused. It made for good travel reading. But now that he's reached this superstatus of America's witty literary hipster, I've had enough.
With titles like Dress Your Family in Corderoy and Denim and Holidays on Ice and many others, Sedaris is certainly quite prolific. But I hate him. Now with Christman rolling around I am forced to suffer yet another reading on Public Radio of Sedaris' diaries as an elf working at Macy's in Manhattan. At first blush the diaries are funny. The second time they are silly. The third time they are just downright stupid.
Maybe it's sour grapes. Afterall, David Sedaris is a rich and famous writer, and I am just a hack blogger. But I suspect my distaste for all things David Sedaris is rooted in the notion that I am no longer a crystal meth addict. When I was hopped up on speedballs and hadn't slept in a week, I found Sedaris' stuff to be pure genius. But then again, when I was speeding along, I had lots of delusions about what was/wasn't genius.
Now I am sober and now I hate David Sedaris.
Oh, and by the way, if you're looking for a literary recommendation this holiday season, why not check out Agustin Burroughs instead. He's witty without being trifiling, snarky without being gratuitously bitchy and most of all (unlike David Sedaris) Agustin Burroughs is substantative and cerebral.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
That pic is (from left) my nephew Chase, me, my brother Adam.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Need a second to absorb? Read on for Abby's thoughtful, gentle reply.
DEAR ABBY: My problem is an interesting one. I am the president of a country I’ll call “The Untitled Tapes of Harmonica.” Our troops are currently fighting a war in another country, called “Iran.” Things aren’t going so well right now but, like most Harmonicans, my administration wants to succeed in Iran because we understand success in Iran would help protect the Untitled Tapes in the long run. Our goal is clear: a democratic and peaceful Iran that represents all Iranis.
But my real problem is with my father, who used to be president of the Untitled Tapes and also served as commander-in-chief during a previous war in Iran. For most of my presidency, my father has been very supportive of me and has treated me like an adult – and I appreciate that. Recently, however, he has begun telling me how I should run the war in Iran, among other things. He even went so far as to tell some of his friends to issue this report with all sorts of recommendations about the war, which I found very embarrassing. They even suggested that I withdraw the troops!
Abby, I don’t feel this should be my dad’s or his friends’ decision to make. They’ve already had their chance to have a war in Iran, and now I’m the president. They would not listen to me if the tables were turned, believe me. I am doubly upset because now the media thinks I should take their advice. I am a grown man, and I feel I should tell my father and his friends nicely, “I appreciate your advice, but please realize this is still my decision to make.”
Am I being unreasonable? I’m afraid that if I do what they say, my father and his friends will be a constant interference. — DISRESPECTED IN D.C.
When the subject matter is the president and his war follies, sometimes parody works better than anything to make a scathing social commentary.
DEAR DISRESPECTED: I have no doubt that you sincerely hope your war turns out to be a success. But from your letter, I’m not sure that you’ve developed a clear understanding of what it is you hope to achieve during this war. For example, success isn’t really a goal; it’s something you’ve earned when you accomplish a goal. You say your goal is a democratic and peaceful Iran, but you haven’t said how you intend to reach reach either benchmark. The end of a war is often accompanied by peace, but peace is not a military objective – no matter how much we may wish otherwise.
You sound like a very bright young man, and I can certainly relate to your fears of being overshadowed by a famous parent who happens to be in the same line of work. However, sometimes it’s helpful to listen to the advice of older people, who may have accumulated valuable experience before you were even born. They usually have your best interests at heart, even if you don’t understand now.
You might also consider input from the Irani people or a majority of Harmonicans when making your decision, if you feel uncomfortable following the advice of your father and his friends.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Sunday, December 10, 2006
- Bigmany in New Jersey
- Dirty bookstores in New Jersey
- Toy+Soldier+lawn ornament
- "Do black people have achilles tendons?" and finally.....
- "Let peace begin with me"
Saturday, December 09, 2006
For the millions of people in the Darfur region of Sudan, Congressman Payne's chairmanship can't come soon enough. As you know, all hell is broken loose in Darfur. It's a full-blown genocide, a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Donald Payne promises to make the genocide in Darfur a top priority. He has some bold ideas to end the dying as well as the smarts (and the foreign policy chops) to address the Darfur issue head on. And pretty soon, he'll (hopefully) have the clout as well. So check out the interview and see for yourself why Congressman Payne is out last best hope to break the current cycle of genocide.
Thank you for you hospitality Congressman Payne. It's nice to be inDonald Payne:
again. I actually had a really nice walk over to your office to the train station. The city really is looking great. So maybe to start you could tell us a little about your city and your district, and maybe for those out there who do not know you, maybe a little background on yourself? Newark
Well first of all the 10th Congressional District encompasses about twenty or so towns or parts of towns. I am in three counties, the largest being in
. I have a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious district. Quite a bit of my district is also in Essex County and in Union County I have parts of Hudson County and Jersey City . So that makes up my district. It's a lot of blue collar workers, a lot of minority black and Hispanic persons, some of upper income communities as well. Bayonne
Anyhow, I was elected in 1988, going into my tenth term in the 110th Congress. It's really a pleasure to serve the district. Prior to being elected to Congress, I served as a member of the Essex Co. board of Freeholders for a couple of terms.
Twenty years in Congress. Wow and congratulations....DP:
Eighteen going on nineteen and it'll be twenty when I finish this term.JL:
You've been proactive in African issues your entire career. Could you give us a little back ground on your perspective?DP:
I became keenly interested inJL:
Africaduring my college years. I was active in the Civil Rights movement in the but parallel to that, there was a lot of movement for independence (from the colonial powers) in United States Africa. In 1957 got its independence and that was a big thing...I was teaching at Ghana at the time and we had a celebration at what was going on because there was so little attention given to Malcolm X Shabazz High School Africain this country.
I watched the parallel between the Civil Rights movement in the
and the pro-independence movement in US Africa. I don't know if one fed onto the other, but they just happed to occur simultaneously. In fact, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went to the inaugural program in that year. Ghana
As a matter of fact, the 50th anniversary celebration of the independence on
is being celebrated next year in 'o7 and we look forward to participating in that celebration next year. So my interest came at that time and I think the big issue that happened in that era was the Patrice Lumumba case. Lumumba, who was the president of Congo allegedly was murdered by the Belgians with the tacit approval of the Americans, leaving control to (strongman) Joseph Mubutu. (The aversion of Western powers towards communism influenced their decision to finance Mobutu's quest to maintain "order" in the new state by neutralizing --and later murdering -- Lumumba in a proxy coup.) Ghana
I became president of the YMCA of America -- actually the first black person to ever be elected to that post -- in 1970. I got to
Africafor the first time in 1972 (in the capacity of the YMCA leader.) It was a great opportunity because I became a member of the world YMCA board and later became a member of the Y's world refugee committee.
So not only was the interest in
Africathere, but I also had the opportunity -- at a pretty young age --to be in a really responsible position as related to Africaand what was happening there.
Given the breadth of you experience dealing with African affairs it seems like you're uniquely qualified to give us a little primer about the unfortunate situation that's going on inDP:
Darfuris a real tragedy. You would think that genocide couldn't possibly happen again. But it's happening again. In 1916 there was a genocide in , the Turks tried to exterminate a whole group of people and no one did anything. I realize that was a long time ago, but to think that such problems persist. If we had applied what we learned in Armenia , perhaps the Holocaust might have been prevented? Then we've seen the others: in Armenia and Rwanda and we thought there was a resolve for "never again." Cambodia
Secondly, when we did get a
Darfurgenocide resolution passed it was the first time in Congress that a genocide was declared while it was going on. I was encouraged -- just elated -- that the vote was 422- to 0 and went through the day before we adjourned for last summer's recess. Then we went to the Senate and they took on the resolution and without any dissent, they passed it too. So we really thought this was going to mean progress in . But now I am totally disappointed that there has been 100,000 dead since we declared genocide. So I have a real empty feeling that I have let these people down because we were all so elated. When I drew the ( Sudan Darfur) resolution up people said the bill was a long shot. So when it went through, there was elation that we finally had a tool to move forward and have the whole world acknowledge the genocide and then stomp it out. As you know, genocide is an attempt to eliminate a race by various means such as violence and we've been frustrated that there has not really been a proper response.
Jan Egeland's term at the UN is expiring at the end of the month and once again the Sudanese government resented Egeland’s honesty and has made it clear that they do not want him reappointed, so he'll be gone soon. It's really a sad state of affairs.
Resolution 1706 was passed by the United Nations stating the need for 17,300 peacekeeper troops in
. In Darfur, Sudan last week, there was a call for an even larger force, about 27,000 UN and African Union troops, and then the day after the so called agreement, the government of Addis Abiba, Ethiopia changes their tune and said "we didn't agree to that. We are not going to let the UN in." Sudan
Since that time several more villages have been attacked by the Sudanese government. The Janjaweed in
Darfur, they attacked another town....brand new incursions, Janjaweed came into town killed several families, stole their cattle, and burned down the village.
This morning I heard something on public radio and the Sudanese president Omar al Bashir is firm. He indicated that he regarded the presence of UN peacekeepers on Sudanese soil as a return to colonialism. Does his government inDP:
actually support the genocide? Is that crazy to suggest? Khartoum
It's not crazy at all. It is a matter of fact thatJL:
not only supports it, but they are the perpetrators of it. And they are using this neo-colonialism as a way to try to get African countries to say "we should not have foreigners return to Khartoum Africa."
That's hogwash! That's ridiculous. But Al Bashir has been able to continually have people intimidated by these outlandish statements of colonialization. Al Bashir knows that the governments of
Africaare timid about entangling themselves with the government of . And so we do not see the will of the African countries imposing themselves strongly on the Sudanese government. Sudan is one of the stronger African countries, now they have oil wealth and they are just continuing to intimidate the African Union. Sudan
Nicolas Kristoph suggests in today's New York Times that the Janjaweed's attacks are beginning to spread into neighboring countries such asDP:
and the Chad . (see map) Umm, that's kind of similar to what happened with the Central African Republic crisis some years back, it was almost, um sort of Uganda
a proxy war between these militias. What on earth can we do?
It's terrible; you had finally at one point almost a mini-world war inJL:
Africawith the Ugandans and the Rwandans going into the . And Congo and Zimbabwe and others get pulled in as well. Now the Janjaweed is trying to destabilize the government of Angola and I know because I have spoken to the president of Chad on several occasions. Also the water tables in northern Chad have always been historically low and they are almost being depleted and so it created tensions between the (Sudanese refugees) and the people living in Chad already. The Chad has a weak government in the first place, and one another government falls you have even more refugees. It's going to become almost impossible to reach people, to feed people. Central African Republic
The fact that so many people are in flight is why it's so difficult to get an accurate number of deaths in this conflict. On the low end, there are estimates of 200,000 victims of the
Darfurgenocide, other estimates go as high at 450,000. They die from a lot of different reasons -- malnutrition -- the physical killing is about 50% of the total death toll. It's the malnutrition and disease (associated with war and refugee crises) which push the number so high.
This is depressing. I was kind of hoping you'd tell me that I am overly pessimistic about this stuff. But looking at the reality, it's hard to not get down. Is there a glimmer of hope forDP:
Darfurwith the recent Democratic victories in the Congress? Is there a hint of a possibility that there will be a change?
We still have to get the Bush Administration to act.JL:
You know, we find ourselves in this unfortunate situation. If this crisis was pre-Iraq, really I think we would have been able to really I think organize the world community and send some of our troops in -- we would only need a limited number -- to do support and so forth. But because of the
situation, and following Iraq , there has been some timidity about Somalia Africaanyway. But I think the proportions to which is has risen it would have been some affirmative action by now had it now been for the debacle in . Many of us can support Iraq , that is where Osama bin Laden was. We should have committed ourselves to go after him, but as you know we went to Afghanistan instead. So it's been very difficult to get anyone in the administration to talk about any kind of real action on the part of our military. Iraq
I still believe that a UN force should be gathered, that we should have the UN and NATO prepare to assist, that we should provide armored vehicles, which we do not have in Darfur now, and that the biggest weapon, that would be the drones. I say we should have a no fly zone. And you can make your messages known very clearly without putting one single American troop in harm's way. I am not a military guy, so I don't know exactly how they work, but I know that unmanned drones are able to detect and destroy. And if this (genocide) continues, I think we have an obligation to do something to stop it.
I think the first step should actually be the deploying of some reconnaissance-type planes to get a lay of the land, deploy some drone to identify aggressive troops from the government of
who are perusing innocent people and we should destroy them with the technology we have at our disposal. I think if a couple of those (drone missions) were to occur, you might see a change of opinion of the part of the government of Sudan . Umm, it seems kind of far-reaching, but someone has to stop this genocide and we have to do something to show them enough is enough. At some point, enough will have to be enough. Sudan
I strongly support taking on....We could destroy some of those (janjaweed) battalions which could be done simply by pushing a button. It's just that simple.
With the Democratic takeover of Congress and the Senate I am keeping my fingers crossed thatDP:
Darfurwill become a bigger priority. Do you think it's possible that perhaps you might assume a leadership position as one of your committee assignments?
Yes it's quite possible. None of us can say for certain where we will be in the next Congress -- it goes through the process with elections -- and so I can not say for certain where I will be -- but I think it's a good possibility that I will be in a leadership position on the subcommittee that deals with Africa and global human rights. I have been toJL:
Africaseveral times to meet with the Secretary General Kofi Annan and it will certainly be a priority in the new Congress, so far as I am concerned, if I am in a position of leadership on that committee.
With Kofi Annan leaving, Jan Egeland leaving, I just worry about a future that does not look encouraging. But we are going to have to step up to the plate and encourage our European allies that they too have to become more engaged as well. It's surprising the lack of resolve on the part of the NATO countries (regarding the genocide in
If I am not mistaken, Jan Egeland is the UN Commissioner of human rights who was recently kicked out ofDP:
Darfurfor sharing in a blog , accounting the atrocities that were happening. And as a last resort he was so desperate that he put aside the usual diplomatic protocols and started blogging about what he was seeing in Darfur. So he's gone. Kofi Annan is going to go write his memoirs as well pretty soon so I guess the democratic takeover of Congress is the only glimmer of hope that some of us have. So I know we can't be sure of the committee assignments, but don't you think that before you even get out of the gates, having a black person as the Africasubcommittee chairman is symbolically very important?
Oh, there's no question about it. Only for a short time with Congressman Dix back in the 70's was that the case (that a black person led this committee.) But like I said, the issue ofJL:
Darfuris as big as any we're facing right now, like or North Korea or Iran , this is right there at the top. Iraq
But we have lost so much of our moral leadership. We were once a beacon of hope, when the going got tough the
was willing to find solutions and answers. That's been our legacy since the birth of this nation. So it's really a shame that we have sort of relegated ourselves to where we are today. United States
Do you think that possibly assuming the lead onDP:
would be a really great way for the Sudan to possibly restore some of our moral high ground? United States
No question. Let me tell you something: the people in this country are really anxious to see something happen in.JL:
Darfur. For example there's a group of high school kids right here from Milburn, NJ that I spoke with about a year ago. These kids raised over $100,000 for Darfurrelief! Just last week those same students came to an event at Essex County College where African students and these (high school) youngsters from suburban Essex came together for a film showing and discussion where I also spoke.
In Washington DC just yesterday some students from Northern Virginia had a press conference urging their local Congressmen Wolfe and Moran that they want to get their state of Virginia to divest in Sudan! We had that done here, my brother (Assemblyman) William Payne had a bill in NJ and now the state's pension monies are all out of
, just that quickly. It just shows what can be done in about 6 or 7 states now. Trade policy is a federal issue, but we are moving against Sudan with the divestment. Sudan
I had my colleagues from the Congressional Black Caucus and we met with the ambassador of the People's Republic if China and we told him under no uncertain terms that we were outraged by their continued support of the government of Sudan and that their objections to strong resolutions (on the UN Security Council) and that we are not willing to accept this anymore. We also had a meeting with the Arab League and we are totally disappointed in their response and we expect them to come up with some solutions as well. So we are going to keep the pressure on, this is the Congressional Black Caucus whose membership has taken on Sudan as its number one issue
That was one of my questions, aboutDP:
and China and maybe some of the other Arab and Muslim countries like Russia . Don't they have a vested interest in this working out peacefully? Egypt
has more influence on Egypt and could actually act on ( Sudan president) Bashir. They were actually one country for a period of time and Sudan has really been making excuses for their Egypt roll through the years, usually downplaying what is really going on. So we'll let the Egyptian president know that the 2 billion dollars his country gets every year at the first of the year (in US aid)....he's got to get his act together and stop making excuses for the Sudanese government. Sudan
This crisis also has racial overtones. The people getting killed in
are allowed to die because they are black. Sudan
You speak to the racial component of this crisis and that's really the 10,ooo pound elephant in the room, but no one ever wants to acknowledge that it was the Jews in Europe, it was the Asians in Cambodia, it was the Muslims in I guess Bosnia and now it's the black people in Africa. I mean is this a pattern or is this just a huge coincidence?DP:
It looks like a pattern. It seems like we are regressing backwards. No one ever thought in the new Millennium we would be talking about people being killed because they are black. It's unconscionable. And the denial of the part of the Sudanese government that this is even happening....and it's happening before our very eyes.JL:
But the people in
are eager for a solution. They want to know what they can do to help. They are frustrated. America
I think I share a lot of people's frustration. Why the hell doesn't the government do something?DP:
I read an op-ed in the Washington Post by John Prendergast who was the director of African affairs for the National Security Council during the Clinton Administration. Umm, he suggests the American government's inaction is rooted in a deepening intelligence sharing arrangement that
has with Washington which basically blunts any Khartoum response to the violence. Basically he says that our human rights principles are clashing with our post-911 intelligence gathering priorities. US
Absolutely no question about it. The head ofJL:
's intelligence agency was brought here and they brought him here to talk about the sharing of intelligence and Sudan offered the Sudan information about Al-Qaeda. Of course, this is the same regime that arranged for Osama bin Laden to be there (in US ) from 1991-96. So if the Bush administration thinks that their government is leveling with us about Al-Qaeda, they have another thought coming. Sudan
But we are so desperate, so weak in intelligence, that we are willing to really go for anything it seems like. And so it's a bad cop-good cop thing. The Congress is making resolutions, and then the Bush Administration follows up with a wink and a nod. And that's exactly what is happening. When our government has to wallow in the gutter with criminals and murderers with blood dripping off their hands, it's a sad day for the
. United States of America
Well why don't we just admit that there is no viable solution that's palatable to both sides of this crisis and just give up?DP:
Oh we can't give up. We are going to keep fighting and we are going to win. And we will win.JL:
Congressman is there anything that might inspire some hope moving forward?DP:
I believe that when the Congress reconvenes were are going to put together a team of good people to address the Darfur Crisis. To have a roundtable, then hold official meetings to see what ideas are on the table. Then we are going to take the best ideas forth because we are not going to allow people to be killed and murdered simply because their skin is black.JL: I feel so ashamed that I don't even know what to say.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
For more about Darfur:
Sudan Freedon March
High School students speak out against Genocide
(Image courtesy Mike Lane)
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Today we lobby the legislators in Trenton for full marraige equality. I'll be there with a camera and a mic and will post an update tonite. In the meantime, enjoy the second ad from Blue Jersey that highlights why civil unions are not an acceptable substitute for marraige.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
We got a lousy ruling from our Supreme Court that basically punted on the issue of gay marriage. So the fight goes on. Besides, if you aren't willing to fight for your own civil rights, you might as well get used to that spot at the back of the bus.
Friday, December 01, 2006
On World AIDS Day, there is a lot of reflection going on; The whole how far we've come/how far we have to go kinda thing.
I just heard something on NPR which moved me to tears about one of the doctors who figured prominently at the dawn of the AIDS crisis. As a young doc out of med school, he went to work for the Centers for Disease Control and went on to become a pioneer of AIDS research. Listening to him describe how his faith enables him to continute to fight the good fight was very moving indeed. Like I said it got me a little misty.
Sentimentality quickly gives way to rage when I contemplate just how short-sighted President Bush's AIDS policy has been. His whole abstinence-till-marriage routing is so seeped in judgemental religious ideology that it is doomed to fail as a policy, which means of course that more people will die of AIDS in the meantime. The fact that the Bush is exporting these "values" abroad makes it all the more contemptable.
Bush is also staunchly against needle exchange suggesting that providing clean needles "sends the wrong message." I debunk that myth here. Anyway, the message Bush is really sending is that he doesn't care about faggots and niggers and junkies. Sorry for the harsh language, but this is what the President's behavior says to me personally. And since gays, black and drug users are the ones getting the disease in highest numbers, AIDS (unlike the bird flu for example) will lag far beyone Bush's real priorities.
Anyway, if you're reading this, then you know at least one person with HIV. I don't wanna die of AIDS. I 'm tired of my friends dying of AIDS. So many are dead that I am an elderstatesman (of 34) and archivist of the fight, which is a miracle in itself. You can imagine when first diagnosed, the last thing I was thinking was I'd ever be the long-term archivist of anything. For this much I remain grateful.
Which is a perfect note to end on.