Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Darfur: Complexity as excuse for inaction

Our weekly post from the Coalition for Darfur:

A few weeks ago, PBS aired a made-for-HBO film about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda called "Sometimes in April." Following the presentation, journalist Jeff Greenfieldheld a panel discussion about world's last of response to Rwanda and the similarities to the current genocide in Darfur.

Former Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz was among the panelists and during the discussion, made the following points

Wolfowitz: One of the things that bears thinking about from the Rwanda experience, and everyone of these cases is different, and I think one ought to recognize that. But it seems to me that the thing that stuck me as unique about the Rwanda experience, on the one hand the sheer horror of it, with the exception of the Holocaust and even then at a sort of per day rate, this was probably the worst genocide ever. But secondly, and we'll never know this for sure because you never know the course that wasn't taken, but it was seem as though a relatively modest military action aimed at eliminating that regime could have ended the genocide and ended it rather quickly.

What strikes me and seems to me is true in Rwanda, is true in Bosnia, is true in World War II, is true in Cambodia, this kind of systematic, one-sided elimination of a population is not done spontaneously by another ethnic group, it's organized by a criminal gang and if that criminal gang had been eliminated in Rwanda the genocide would have ended.

But that comes to my last point which is, then it depends on how do you conceive of the peacekeeping operation and nobody proposed, that I know of, going in and taking out the government.

Greenfield: Should they have?

Wolfowitz: I think so, yes.

[edit]

Wolfowitz: This is not a simple problem. The Rwanda case, I think, is striking because it at least it looks in hindsight to have been so simple to prevent something that was so horrible. But most of these cases are complicated ... In a way the Rwanda case is helpful for thinking about things but in some ways it's misleading because mostcases are a little more difficult.

Wolfowitz openly argued that the world should have intervened in Rwanda, but them makes
the strikingly disingenuous argument that Rwanda was somehow "simpler" than the current situation in Darfur.

Rwanda is only "simpler" because it is now over and hindsight allows us to see just how, where and why the world failed. But in 1994, with bodies filling the streets, Rwanda did not appear to be simple at all

U.S. Opposes Plan for U.N. Force in Rwanda
By PAUL LEWIS 12 May 1994 The New York Times

UNITED NATIONS, May 11 -- As rebel forces of the Rwanda Patriotic Front pressed their attack today against the capital, Kigali, the United States criticized a new United Nations plan to send some 5,500 soldiers into the heart of the Rwandan civil war to protect refugees and assist relief workers, saying it is more than the organization canhandle.

[edit]

While not excluding any course of action, Ms. Albright said it remains unclear whether African countries are ready or able to send forces for such a dangerous and complicated mission at the epicenter of a raging civil war.
Ten years later, it now appears as if a few relatively simple measures backed by the necessary political will could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But in 1994, the genocide appeared massively complex and that complexity was routinely cited as a justification for not intervening.

And Wolfowitz is making exactly the same justification for not intervening in Darfur today.

Were there feasible solutions to Rwanda? In hindsight, the answer is obviously "yes." Are there feasible solutions to Darfur? It is hard to say because right now it seems so complex, but there certainly are if the world powers can muster the will to address them.

But unfortunately, it is far more likely that ten years from now, when perhaps another one million Africans have needlessly died, we'll wonder why we did not act when "it looks in hindsight to have been so simple to prevent something that was so horrible."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Machinists vote down contract offer from Onex

From the Wichita Eagle on-line

Members of the Machinists union at Boeing Wichita rejected Onex Corp.' s labor offer today.

Union officials said 57 percent of union members voting voted against the proposal.

The vote could jeopardize Onex's attempt to buy the Boeing facility. Onex officials have said they will not continue to pursue the deal if the contract offer was defeated.

The parking lot of the Kansas Coliseum, where the vote was held, filled early this morning with Boeing Wichita workers whose jobs hinged on the outcome of today's vote.

Some workers carried "No" signs urging people eligible to vote to turn down the five-year deal. Others walked quietly to the lines that extended into the parking lot.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Marc Cooper on an important conference in Cuba

Marc Cooper, columnist for The Nation and LA Weekly and translator for Salvador Allende at the time of the Chilean coup, has some valuable comments about a conference this past weekend in Cuba.

First, what happened and what didn't happen was, as Cooper puts it, remarkable.

For the first time in the 46 years since Fidel Castro has been in power, a coalition of opposition dissidents were allowed to assemble publicly for two days without disruption from the Cuban government.

More than a hundred delegates from small, illegal groups dispersed around the country met in a Havana backyard, denounced one party rule and elected a 36-member steering committee.

In the past any such attempt was smashed with nightsticks and handcuffs. Remember, in Cuba, as Fidel warned sometime ago, you are “either with the Revolution or against the Revolution” and only El Comandante-en-Jefe decides who’s in and who’s out (Hey, didn’t George W. Bush say more or less the same thing when he declared the Global War on Terrorism?).

This time around, the Cuban State Security limited itself to arresting and deporting some European politicians and reporters who came into Cuba to observe the meeting.

Second, Cooper asks why the American left is silent about Castro

the longer Fidel clings to power, and the longer the democratic dissidents are snubbed, the farther and harder to the right Cuba will fall after Castro. The best way to guarantee that the next Cuban regime will be a mafia-dominated dictatorship is to continue the current paradigm—the absolutely stupid polarization of Cuba’s future as either pro or anti-Castro.

That the Neanderthal Right should promote this thinking is perfectly logical. It’s in their favor. But why the continuing silence of most of the American Left on Castro? Why is it left only to Nat Hentoff to speak out? What does it tell us that a great civil liberties lion like Nat is left to publish his op-ed piece in the Washington Times? Why isn’t it on the front page of some other magazines that I could think of?

Third, what's at stake
much of the middle-class, guilt-ridden American Left continues to blindly focus the Cuba issue as solely an American foreign policy question (effectively cutting 10 million Cubans out of their considerations). Standing up to the Yankees is always amusing and often quite the right thing to do—but it shouldn’t win dictators like Castro a moral or political pass.

For those on the Left who say they desire some sort of just society in Cuba in a post-Castro future, it’s time to put up or shut up. Simply apologizing for Castro, usually by repeating ad nauseum the old saw that we as Americans have "no right to criticize" him, will no longer cut it. The choice will only be Castro (who will eventually die) and the dead end Cuba finds itself in, or the worst of the Miami wingnuts, unless that is, you help support and bolster a third, democratic alternative.

Socialist International meets to boost Middle East peace

From the website of the Socialist International

"For a Middle East in peace"

Meeting of SI Council, Tel Aviv and Ramallah, 23-24 May 2005

On 23-24 May in Tel Aviv and Ramallah, the Socialist International, the worldwide organisation of social democratic, socialist and labour parties, will be holding a meeting of its Council, which includes leaders and representatives from its member parties and organisations from around the world. Currently over 160 parties and organisations from some 140 countries are members of the International.

The Council, which convenes every six months, is meeting on this occasion in the Middle East to underline its commitment to the search for peace in the region and to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to move forward along the path of dialogue and negotiation, to overcome conflict and to work together for a better future for both peoples.

Under the main theme "For a Middle East in peace, with political and economic democracy: the social democratic vision", the Council, to be hosted by the SI members, the Israel Labour Party, the Israeli Yachad Party and the Palestinian Fatah, will hold two main sessions. The first one in Tel Aviv on Monday 23, opening at 10.00 hrs at the Dan Panorama Convention Center, and the second in Ramallah on Tuesday 24, also opening at 10.00 hrs at the Ramallah Cultural Palace.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders and decision makers, including President of Israel, Moshe Katsav; President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas; Leader of the Labour Party and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister, Shimon Peres; Leader of the Yachad Party from Israel, Yossi Beilin; Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister, Nabil Shaath; and other members of the leadership of SI member parties Fatah, the Israeli Labour Party and Yachad, will be participating in the discussions programmed in both cities.

Who Wants to Lose to Sebelius

If Kansas Republicans don't come up with a candidate soon, they may want to try a "reality" show. According to an article by Steven Painter in Sunday's Wichita Eagle.

In the political scramble to figure out who will face Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in next year's gubernatorial election, one thing has become clear.

The field of potential Republican challengers is more notable for the names it doesn't include than the names it does.

"The strong candidates that would be formidable against Sebelius have basically removed themselves from the race," said Joe Aistrup, head of the political science department at Kansas State University.

The absence of Sam Brownback, Pat Roberts, Todd Tiahrt, Jim Ryun, Jerry Moran and Phill Kline opens up the field for less-well-knowns within the GOP, which holds a nearly 2-1 edge among registered voters.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Thomas Frank Returns to Kansas


Thomas Frank at Watermark Books, Wichita Kansas May 20, 2005 Posted by Hello

Matt Yglesias of The American Prospect and a popular progressive blogger recently wrote about What's the Matter with Kansas "at times it seems this is the only thing anyone talks about in Washington..."

Frank gave a great talk, which I'll write up later if time allows. Perhaps the most interesting thing he said was that he was writing a sequel, setting forth a plan to overcome the great backlash and promote an assertive economic populism/liberalism.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Knocking on doors "with" Chip Berlet Or Organizing Not Labeling

Chip Berlet, one of the best progressive analysts of the right from his position with Political Research Associates, started his blog with very provocative idea that progressives are wrong to use or overuse terms like "radical religious right" or "religious political extremists." He says that most conservative evangelical Christians do not want a theocracy, in fact, are opposed to the legislative agenda of the Christian right.

Let's role-play. So here I am knocking on a door in Emporia, Kansas, and when the door opens I lead with "We have to stop the religious political extremists!" What’s my next line? (That’s assuming my nose wasn't broken when the door was slammed in my face). Unless the person already agrees with me, there is no constructive next line.
It's easy for me to get into Berlet's thought experiment. Back in the Reagan years I worked in SANE/FREEZE's door-to-door canvass. And, not only do I know people in Emporia. I grew up in Winfield and have lived in Wichita for about the last ten years or so.

Now in some ways, canvassing is more like fund-raising for a cause organization, rather than being part of electoral or union organizing drive. That is you can raise your quota or meet your organizational fund raising goal by finding a few people who agree with you and extracting the maximum from them.

Nonetheless, I discovered that how you approach people can make all the difference in how they react. I'd like to share that because I think it has some relevance to Berlet's case.

In the Washington, D.C. area, where I spent most of my canvassing time, there were lots of military and DOD employees. Frequently, my qualifying question ("I'm on the annual fundraising and membership drive for SANE/FREEZE. We're working to end the nuclear arms race on both sides through a comprehensive, verifiable test ban treaty.") was met with the response "I'm in the military..."

At first, I took that to be a no. But when you are talking to 40 households a night, five nights a week, it can get boring, always reacting in the same way. So I experimented and tried something different.

I discovered that if I responded to "I'm in the military," with "Great, then you know better than anyone that building more and more nuclear weapons doesn't really increase our national security..." I found a fair level of support from those folks.

I came to understand that often the comment "I'm in the military" wasn't a slamming of the door in my face, rather it was a question. Sort of "are you one of those crazy unilateral disarmers who thinks I'm a war criminal?"

Daniel Yankelovich did a major study of public attitudes towards the nuclear arms race and found four major clusters. I simplified and popularized these as not only the familiar hawks and doves, but the less familiar ostriches and owls for training our canvassers nationwide. We even used the four types for role-playing to improve our canvassing raps.

The groups, and this is reconstructing from memory, could be understood as falling along two dimensions. Fear of nuclear war and and fear of the Soviet Union. Hawks (-,+); doves (+,-); owls (-.-); and ostriches (+,+). The importance of two dimensions is that on issues around the nuclear arms race it was important to respond to the concerns of two very different "middle" groups. "Owls," who tended to be well-educated and fairly affluent, were moderates who need to know that arms control proposals were reasonable and bi-lateral and backed by responsible experts. They weren't as concerned about the dangers of the nuclear arms as doves and were far less likely to support unilateral American initiatives to end the arms race. On the other hand, the owls didn't have the extreme anti-Soviet paranoia of the hawks.

The "ostriches," to use an old shorthand that is a considerable oversimplification, were Reagan Democrats. They were the group most likely to believe that nuclear war was a real, imminent threat and on some questions were more anti-Communist than even the hawks. They were simultaneously the most frightened of nuclear war and the most apathetic or pessimistic about the possibility of putting the nuclear genie in the bottle. With these folks, the best approach was to stress the size of the nuclear arsenals, the likelihood of nuclear war unless changes were made. And it didn't hurt to bash the Soviets as well as the United States.

The relevance of this long recounting this long personal history is not merely to agree with Berlet's point about finding common ground. It is also to point to what I think is a parallel for progressives today: the importance of using a multi-dimensional mental map in building alliances and framing issues.

Back in the aftermath of the November election, I pointed to some interesting comments by political scientist Russel Arben Fox, which are still relevant.
One of the paths...[is] a "soft libertarianism" which will be able to pull in the "South Park Republicans" and other small government-types that sympathize with what might be called social liberalism.... The other path is mine: a "communalist-socialist" left that accepts--even embraces--the religiousity of the rural South and Midwest so as to bring the working class back around to (or at least, remove moral barriers from them giving a good listen to) egalitarian politics.
(You can find Fox's comments here.)

So if I was knocking on doors with Chip Berlet in Emporia, I think I might say something along these lines" "Hi, we're with XYZ which is a bunch of people from churches, unions and community groups who have come together to make this a better town, state, and country for everyone. Right now we're asking people to help us protect social security...."

"We think it's a moral issue when people work 40 hours a week and can't support a family...."

Monday, May 16, 2005

Six Kansas farrms get $400,000 in subsidies

AP reports

Six Kansas farms received more than $400,000 each in federal farm subsidies last year, according U.S. Department of Agriculture documents.

Cox Farms of Sublette in western Kansas received $508,000 in payments, most of any farm in the state, records show. The documents were obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.

Other top subsidy recipients were Morning Star Farms of Greensburg, with $489,000; Spring Creek Family Farms of Manhattan, with $458,000; Clawson Farm Partnership of Satanta, with $457,000; Whit-Crop of Leoti, with $449,000; and Winger Farms of Johnson, with $414,000.

Current law limits farmers to $360,000 in subsidies a year, but that cap is filled with loopholes that allow many farms to exceed it.


EWG spokeswoman Erin Seidler calls the current farm subsidy program "a welfare system" for giant agriculture producers at the expense of small farmers. The group reports that 10% of all farmers receive three quarters of all farm subsidies, while two-thirds of farmers get no support at all.

Seidler's group doesn't advocate ending all subsidies, but it favors an overall cap on federal payments, with the money saved being redirected to land conservation subsidies.

"Agribusiness and large farms and landowners often are the ones receiving subsidies, while the small farmers are really only eligible for subsidies under the land conservation program," Seidler said. "That's what we're looking to change."

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Community services conference and book shopping in Lawrence

I attended the annual Kansas AFL-CIO Community Services conference in Topeka on Thursday and Friday. There was lots of good information to bring back to our locals and central labor councils. For those not familiar, labor's community services programs are in large part done in cooperation with the United Way and date back to the WWII years. Traditionally, community services has had two dimensions. First, to connect union members with needs to appropriate community services. Second, to be a vehicle for union members to be of service to the community. In recent years, there is a new strategic dimension, to build the power and influence of the labor movement. The fifty-year old unin counselor program has evolved to the the Union Community Action Network with the goal of training a new generation of labor advocates both on the shop floor and in our communities.

A real highlight of the conference was a presentation on social security and the dangers of the Bush plan to privatize/phase out social security. A great job was done by two UMKC professors: Max Skidmore of the Political Science department and Stephanie Kelton of the economics department.

The conference wrapped up around noon on Friday so I made a side trip to Lawrence to have a visit with my friend David Smith of KU's sociology department.

It happened that Lawrence was in the middle of a downtown bicycle racewith lots streets blocked off and not much parking. I managed to find a place in Lawrence's downtown parking garage and make my way to the Dusty Bookshelf, a second-hand bookstore at 708 Mass. There is also a DB is Manhattan, which is the original, I think. The owners tried to open a store in Wichita's Oldtown, but it didn't work out.

I came away with some real finds: Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology; Out of the Sweatshops (a 1977 paperback history of American garment workers told by collecting contemporary reports); the two volumes of Julius Braunthal's history of the Socialist International; Theodore Draper's classic The Roots of American Communism; William O'Neill's A Better World: The Great Schism: Stalinsim and the American Intellectuals; 1960's labor history books by Thomas Brooks and Leon Litwack; Michael Wreszin's biography of Dwight Macdonald, A Rebel in Defense of Tradition.


Saturday, May 14, 2005

UK university cancels talk by lesbian feminist Muslim

From the website of the left-wing British-based Alliance for Workers Liberty

Leicester University has cancelled a talk by Muslim lesbian feminist Irshad Manji because of fears of hostile reaction from right-wing local Muslims.

Compare Haifa. Ilan Pappe, a lecturer at Haifa University, is a vehement anti-Zionist, as unpopular with right-wing and conservative opinion in Israel as Irshad Manji is with right-wing and conservative Muslims.

Pappe has had trouble at the university, and some professors there are very hostile to him, but he is still in his job, still lecturing.

The pro-boycotters in the Association of University Teachers persuaded the AUT conference on 22 April to declare an academic boycott of Haifa because of Pappe's hard times.

If so, why not a boycott of Leicester University? The Manji incident shows up the pro-boycotters' double standards.

Irshad Manji spoke in London today, 12 May. She is, as far as I can judge, no sort of socialist or social radical, but she is an advocate of universal human rights, an opponent of cultural relativism, an advocate of what she calls a "reformation" in Islam.

According to Irshad Manji, Leicester University gave two reasons for cancelling.

First, that they feared hostile reactions from some local Muslims so severe that they could not guarantee the security of a lecture by Irshad Manji.

Secondly, the scheduled date of the lecture being soon after the General Election, they feared pressure during the election campaign on local politicians to come out against Manji speaking.

Manji is in the midst of a speaking tour of Britain. According to the Outrage news service

Ms Manji describes the main purpose of her visit as being to speak on various dimensions of Islam and human rights - from the perspective of a faithful yet struggling Muslim. "My core message is that no community, no ethnicity, no culture and no religion ought to be immune from respecting the universality of human rights. This, of course, is a controversial message in an age of cultural relativism. Mine is a positive message of pluralism. I truly believe that we can be pluralists without becoming relativists. That's especially important for the lesbian and gay movement to understand, given the bigotry we so often face from ethnic and religious groups."

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Muslim groups boycott Muslim March Against Terror

From the Counter-terrorism blog

"Free Muslims Against Terrorism" are sponsoring a March Against Terror this Saturday in Washington, with the endorsement of numerous Muslim and non-Muslim groups. Ironically, according to "Free Muslims" President Kamal Nawash, four of the leading Muslim organizations won't join in the march in any way. Mr. Nawash won't name them, but it won't be difficult to identify them. These groups shouldn't be taken seriously when they claim to stand against Islamic extremism.
From Robert Spencer
Thomas Haidon, that is what the present March is. At least that's how he represented it to CAIR's Ibrahim Hooper in this phone conversation, of which he kindly sent me a transcript:

TH: Greetings, Mr. Hooper. It's Thomas Haidon from FMAT calling. Asalamu aleykum.

IH: Wa leykum salam.

TH: I am calling with respect to our rally on 14 May 2005. I spoke with your colleague Rabiah Ahmed.

IH: Yes. Thank you. I though FMAT received our official response quite some time ago.

TH: Actually we have not. But we would like CAIR to participate in a stand of unity.

IH: Let's be honest. Our organisations are diametrically opposed. The leadership of this organisation does not believe that FMAT represents the interests of the American Muslim community. We believe that CAIR does, and our organisation has spoken loudly and clearly against terrorism. We are not sure what this rally would accomplish.

TH: This rally is more than a rally against terrorism. It is a rally against jihad and the tradition of violence that aspects of Islam has fomented. We must speak openly and frankly about these issues. Are you ready to stand with us?

IH: Thank you very much, Thomas. FMAT has received our response. Asalamu aleykum and goodbye.

TH: Wa leykum salam.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

12.3 million forced laborers

Press Release from the International Labor Organization

GENEVA (ILO News) - At least 12.3 million people are trapped in forced labour around the world, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said in a new study released today. ILO Director-General Juan Somavia called forced labour "a social evil which has no place in the modern world".

The new report, entitled "A global alliance against forced labour" (Note 1), says that nearly 10 million people are exploited through forced labour in the private economy, rather than imposed directly by states. Of these, the study estimates a minimum of 2.4 million to be victims of human trafficking.

The report also provides the first global estimate of the profits generated by the exploitation of trafficked women, children and men - US$ 32 billion each year, or an average of US$ 13,000 from every single trafficked forced labourer.

"Forced labour represents the underside of globalization and denies people their basic rights and dignity", Mr. Somavia said. "To achieve a fair globalization and decent work for all, it is imperative to eradicate forced labour."

Please read the full release


Fact sheet

Executive Summary

Tiahrt failed to report Delay-linked contribtuion

RAW STORY reported

A stalwart congressional supporter of embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) has confirmed to RAW STORY that in-kind donations for several fundraisers held at skyboxes believed maintained by fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff were not reported until this year.

The congressman, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), amended his campaign finance filings in February and April, listing three in-kind donations from the Greenberg Traurig political action committee, a fund managed by Abramoff’s former firm. The events dated from 2001, 2002 and 2003.

Tiahrt press secretary Chuck Knapp called the amendments “a campaign staff oversight.”


The Kansas congressman was among 20 Republican members who voted recently not to reverse ethics rules some saw as protecting DeLay, and has publicly declared that DeLay did nothing wrong. The House voted to rescind them late last month, 406-20.

Melanie Sloan, executive director for the progressive ethics group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, chided Tiahrt and said his conduct merits an ethics investigation.

“Those kind of errors are inexcusable,” Sloan said. “They’re breaking a law.”

Sloan took particular issue with Tiahrt’s office saying they probably would not have caught the missed payment had scrutiny not come to the lobbyist’s activities.

“We should be expecting better of this out of our members of Congress, and I hope that Tiahrt’s constituents demand a better answer and more accountability,” she continued. “The combination of those comments along with the failure to file properly and in a timely fashion suggest that Mr. Tiahrt’s conduct merits an ethics investigation.”

“I’d like to know what other laws he doesn’t feel like following?” she added. “Exactly who does he think these laws are intended for?”

According to the DeLay Rankings, Tiahrt is the 42nd closest congressman to DeLay. Jim Ryun ranks number 3.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Sebelius Approval Ratings

Survey USA has released a poll of the approval/disapproval ratings for all 50 governors.

Kansas' Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius shows up pretty well


Approval 54%
Disapproval 34%

Monday, May 09, 2005

IDers bring in Islamist journalist

Josh Funk of Knight-Ridder had this intriguing tidbit towards the end of his article on the third day of the evolution hearings.

One of the other witnesses was a Turkish newspaper columnist with no science background but a nearly 10-year-old interest in intelligent design. Mustafa Akyol testified that the naturalistic bias in Kansas' science standards contributes to the ill will between the Muslim world and the United States.

He urged the board to adopt the critical approach to help alleviate that ill will.

"This is not the only reason for anti-Westernism, but it is an important one," he said.

Tony Ortega's story on the Kansas hearings, in KC alternative weekly The Pitch “Your OFFICIAL program to the Scopes II Kansas Monkey Trial" discusses Akyol in detail.

[Akyol] also has identified himself as a spokesman for the murky Bilim Arastirma Vakfi, a group with an innocuous-sounding name — it means “Science Research Foundation” — but a nasty reputation.

Said to have started as a religious cult that preyed on wealthy members of Turkish society, the Bilim Arastirma Vakfi has appeared in lurid media tales about sex rings, a blackmail prosecution and speculation about its charismatic leader, a man named Adnan Oktar. But if BAV’s notoriety has been burnished by a sensationalist Turkish media, the secretive group has earned its reputation as a prodigious publisher of inexpensive ideological paperbacks. BAV has put out hundreds of titles written by “Harun Yahya” (a pseudonym) on various topics, but most of them are Islamic-based attacks on the theory of evolution.

Turkey is a secular country that aspires to join the European Union and boasts several institutions of higher learning on a par with good Western universities. But beginning in 1998, BAV spearheaded an effort to attack Turkish academics who taught Darwinian theory. Professors there say they were harassed and threatened, and some of them were slandered in fliers that labeled them “Maoists” for teaching evolution. In 1999, six of the professors won a civil court case against BAV for defamation and were awarded $4,000 each.
Ortega asked William Harris, the University of Missouri-Kansas City professor of medicine and point-man for the Kansas ID push, about the harrassment of Turkish scientists.
Told of the group’s harassment of biologists in Turkey and evolution’s defeat there, he replies, “Great! Congratulations! I mean, that is the point, once people start to see science more objectively.”
According to an article by Taner Edis, a Turkish-born physicist teaching at Truman State University, Askhol's movement is involved with anti-Semitism and holoccaust denial.
Another interesting difference from ICR emerges when BAV explains how a godless conspiracy established evolution. Much of what appears under the pseudonym Harun Yahya comes straight from Henry Morris, but it identifies the main forces behind evolution as Masons and Jews. This fits in with the all-too-common antisemitism among Islamists; indeed, Harun Yahya is also listed as the author of a book entitled The Holocaust Hoax, which borrows much from well-known American holocaust-deniers (Yahya nd). Bashing Masons may seem peculiar, but this is actually a common motif in Islamist tirades, where Freemasonry, as for many Christian conspiratologists in the past, serves as a symbol personifying the Enlightenment culture that helped to erode traditional religiosity. Usually the ancient enemies — the Jews, who refused to accept Muhammad as the final prophet — turn out to be behind Masonry, secularism, communism, and just about every godless evil.
The revisonist Institute for Historical Review gave a favorable review to the book.

A new revisionist book in Turkey has been receiving both warm praise and sharp criticism. Published in Istanbul, Soykirim Yalani ("Holocaust Deception") is the first book-length dissident study of the Holocaust issue to appear in the nation of some 64 million people...

Holocaust deception and fraud is the focus of the book's second section, which relies to a considerable extent on books and other material put out by the Institute for Historical Review, including the IHR Journal. This section traces the development and impact of Holocaust revisionism, showing how revisionist scholars have succeeded in debunking numerous Holocaust claims.

20 de Mayo: democratic assembly in Cuba

from Babalu Blog

recently released Cuban dissidents Rene Gomez Manzano and Martha Beatriz Roque-Cabello issued a press release stating plans to have independent groups and organizations gather peacefully in Havana on May 20 to debate ways to democratize Cuba.

These dissidents and other Cubans living in exile have formed the Assembly for the Advancement of Civil Society in Cuba and are working tirelessly to make the May 20th gathering an unprecedented showing of solidarity for the cause of human and civil freedoms in Cuba.

What is the Assembly to Promote Civil Society?

The Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba is a coalition of 365 independent civil society groups within Cuba, which can be truthfully called non-governmental organizations.

All these groups – although having solicited official recognition, have been unable to obtain it, because, as it is well known, dissent is not permitted in Cuba -- not even within the Constitution of the Republic.

The Assembly is a learning means, to help educate the social self towards the re-establishment of civil society, aimed at establishing a democratic system in our country.

The Assembly’s course of action is based upon:

-The formation of a democratic culture
-The development of a social movement
-The strengthening of the Assembly’s organization
-The communications among groups to promote the civil society
-The use of all available means to combat poverty and seek the betterment of the community’s life conditions
-The development of a true knowledge of Cuba’s history, in all its dimensions: economic, social and political.
-The undertaking of activities and projects aimed at the protection and conservation of natural resources and the ecosystem.
-The promotion of a true culture on labor rights

We are calling upon all members of the Assembly to participate in a General Meeting scheduled for this year’s first semester, in order to discuss the joint work we need to undertake towards this end in the future. The tyranny that rules our country has always been opposed to all types of activities of independent groups, and more so, to those activities which represent the unity within Cuba and with the exile community.

Notwithstanding the risks we face under this repressive system, we believe it is necessary to carry out this massive event that constitutes a vital sign in the history of this bloody dictatorship.

This is why we are soliciting international support to carry out this important expression of self-determination that represents the dignity and the will of the Cuban people.

I believe it is imperative for the cause of freedom in Cuba to have the support of the outside world. I urge each and every one of you that reads this blog to click the following link and sign your name to this petition of solidarity with this cause. For over 4 decades the present regime in Cuba has maintained itself in power by usurping the will of its people through oppression while the rest of the world has turned a blind eye. Let fidel castro and his regime know that the world is watching.

Petition for Solidarity with the Assembly for the Advancement of Civil Society in Cuba

While all of the messages from those that have signed on are in Spanish, it's important that those working for freedom on the island know that they have many English speaking friends- as well as others - who support their cause. Please take a few minutes to not only sign the petition but to send them a message of support, of solidarity and of hope. Let them know that freedom knows no linguistic barriers.

Here are the fields translated into English for those of you who do not speak Spanish. You do not have to enter information in all the fields, only those that you feel comfortable with.

-Full Name
-Address
-City
-State
-Postal Code
-Country
-Email
-Telephone
-Organization
-Message
Enviar=Send

Again, please take a few moments and show your support. Let the oppressors know that there are those on the outside that are willing to take a stand against their brutality and violation of basic human and civil rights. We all know the importance of having friends at our side during the most trying of times.


Sunday, May 08, 2005

Ryun, Kline Won't Run for Governor

Lawrence Journal-World

U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, who represents west Lawrence, and Atty. Gen. Phill Kline, both conservative Republicans, said they had decided against running for governor in 2006.

"I plan to run for re-election. That has been my plan for some time," Kline said when asked whether he was going to make a gubernatorial bid.

Ryun posted a message on his Web site that said he planned to seek a sixth term in Congress.
Jerry Moran, 1st District Congressman, who was seen as the best, if not only, candidate to bridge the moderate-conservative gap has already bowed out. Considering the race is House Speaker Doug Mays, part of the conservative wing but one who has recently alienated some right-wingers by not keeping moderate GOPers from being moderate GOPers. Senate Majority Derek Schmidt says he doesn't want to run, but might if someone else doesn't step forward who can appeal to both moderate and conservative GOPers.

Other possible Republican candidates include Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh and State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins.

Nazis held convention in KC

The National Socialist Movement held their national convention in the Kansas City area in April, according to the Kansas City Star.

Photos posted on the group's Web site show members gathered at the Berliner Bear, a German restaurant in south Kansas City. About 30 men and women were dressed in uniforms with swastikas. One picture is of a cake with the message, “Happy 116th Birthday Adolf Hitler.”

The Berliner Bear's owner, Bill Womack, denied any knowledge of the group.



This is about six weeks after another Nazi group, the Aryan Nations, proposed--and then cancelled--moving its national headquarters to Kansas City. See our report here.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

ID proponents didn't read standards

The "intelligent design" witnesses didn't do much better in their second day of testimony.

Josh Funk in Saturday's Wichita Eagle

None of the eight intelligent design proponents who testified at the State Board of Education's evolution hearings Friday have read the science standards they want changed.

Under cross-examination, all eight admitted they simply read the 28-page "minority report," compiled by eight members of the standards writing committee, and not the full 107-page draft of proposed science standards.

State board member Kathy Martin spoke up during the meeting to reassure University of Georgia professor Russell Carlson that reading the standards wasn't really important.

"Please don't feel bad that you haven't read the whole thing because I haven't read it myself," Martin said

Heard on the radio, the strongest case against ID is that if there were a designer he would have made a better Kansas Board of Education.

UPDATE
Wichita Eagle editorial May 8 Evolution hearings push religious agenda

Here's what the Kansas State Board of Education has been up to in Topeka: hosting a junk science conference underwritten by your tax dollars.

Its aim: to install the fringe views of a small group of religious activists into state science standards.

Does that make you alarmed, even mad? It should.

Because intelligent design has no support -- none -- among the nation's mainstream science community.

It's too insignificant even to be called a minority view.

The "expert witnesses" admitted as much in their testimony, calling their hodgepodge of criticisms and half-baked theology a "young theory" that is not yet developed enough to be admitted into a classroom.


John Hanna, "Kansas board holding evolution hearings" AP

Pedro Luis Irigonegaray Counsel for Mainstream Science Pre-hearing statement

"Kansas Evolves Back" Washington Post May 8

Something You Probably Didn't Know About American Music

Does American jazz, blues, and gospel owe a debt to a long-forgotten tradition of Congregational line singing in Gaellic which came from Scotland?

That's what is being argued in a conference at Yale University, organized by Willie Ruff, music professor, jazz bassist, and former sideman to Dizzy Gillespie. If so, "the call-and-response" has European as well as African roots.

NPR's Morning Edition had a story by Juan Williams on the conference and the connection on Friday.

Willie Ruff's essay "The line connecting Gaelic psalm singing & American Music" is worth reading, as is Susan Mayfield in the Scotsman.

There is a site of Gaellic Psalm Singing.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Strange Views of ID Proponents

The sham hearings on evolution by the Kansas Board of Education have begun. Josh Funk reports on the first day in the Wichita Eagle. Unfortunately he doens't mention the strange views of the two star witnesses William Harris and Jonathon Wells.

Now if Harris was consistent, he would argue that high school science texts should make room for alternative theories like Christian science. He's the author of a "study" which pruports to scientifically show that prayer causes medical outcomes. Here's a critique of the Harris prayer study.

But Harris is mainstream compared to Jonathon Wells, a follower of Rev. Moon's cult. Ed Brayton has the dirt on his Dispatches from the Culture Wars blog.

One of the most prominent advocates of Intelligent Design Creationism is Jonathan Wells, author of Icons of Evolution. He has a PhD in molecular biology from Berkeley. Let me give you a textbook example of saying one thing to the public and another to one's fellow travelers. In the introduction to Icons of Evolution, Wells wrote:

During my years as a physical science undergraduate and biology graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, I believed almost everything I read in my textbooks. I knew that the books contained a few misprints and minor factual errors, and I was skeptical of philosophical claims that went beyond the evidence, but I thought that most of what I was being taught was substantially true.
He claims this quite often, that he was an evolutionist all through grad school, but eventually he was convinced solely by the biological evidence that evolution was false. Now, what does he say to his fellow travelers? Quite the contrary:
Father's words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle.
The reference to "Father" in this is to none other than our friend, Reverend Moon. Yes, Wells is a Moonie. And as far back as 1976, he tells his fellow Moonies, he had already dedicated his life to "destroying Darwinism" at Moon's urging.

UPDATE I should have read the editorial page. Randy Schofield really nailed it.

First up was William Harris, a Kansas City ID supporter who expounded on the evolution of his religious faith. He began auspiciously by telling the audience that during his Ph.D. work in college he read the Bible and "my whole world changed."

Um, excuse me, but is this the science standards hearings or "The 700 Club"?

His credentials include being a leading researcher on fish oil supplements. He also, at Calvert's prodding, revealed that he was "part of a small rock and roll band."

Roll over, Darwin.

Calvert hovered over him, beaming like a proud headmaster as his star pupil rattled off answers about the atheistic evils of the Humanist Manifesto III, "philosophical naturalism" and other straw men.

He presented the DNA code as evidence of design. Who was this designer? Harris coyly refused to speak for science on this point, although he allowed that, "I believe it to be the God of the Bible."

on Wells

Jonathan Wells, the afternoon's star ID witness, is (scratch, scratch) a Moonie who once wrote that it was partly the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's religious dogma that prompted him to pursue a science Ph.D. and set out to "devote my life to destroying Darwinism."

But he echoed the other witnesses in admitting that intelligent design was a "young theory" that wasn't ready for classrooms.

"Most scientists disagree with me," he said flatly of his evolution criticisms.

So why is Kansas listening to him for advice on the state science standards?

Under questioning, ID looked less and less like a theory that was ready for prime time.



Thursday, May 05, 2005

Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day

Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes’ Remembrance Day

Darfur: Bush Administration Lessens Pressure on Sudan

This week post from the Coalition for Darfur

The United States has played a leading role in attempts to deal with the crisis in Darfur by donating hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid, providing logistical and financial support to the AU [African Union] mission, and pushing for various resolutions and sanctions in the UN Security Council. In September, the Bush administration even took the unprecedented step of labeling the situation "genocide."

But now it appears as if the Bush administration is intentionally lessening its pressure on Sudan.

On a recent visit to Sudan, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick backed away from the earlier genocide designation and offered an oddly low estimate of the death toll in Darfur. Shortly thereafter, the State Department released a fact sheet claiming that an estimated "63-146,000 'excess' deaths can be attributed to violence, disease, and malnutrition because of the conflict;" a figure that is less than half the commonly accepted estimate. Noted Sudan expert Eric Reeves wrote of the State Department's estimate "This is not epidemiology: this is propaganda" and claimed that it called into question "not only the motives of those who have compiled it, but the moral and intellectual integrity of those ... who would cite it."

And last week, Mark Leon Goldberg reported that the administration was working to kill the Darfur Accountability Act.

On the same day, the Los Angeles Times reported that Sudan had become an key source of intelligence information for the CIA and that Sudan's intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Salah Abdallah Gosh, a man widely thought to be responsible for directing military attacks against civilians in Darfur, had been brought to Washington for a meeting with intelligence officials aboard a CIA jet.

The LA Times report revealed that Sudan had provided valuable information regarding al Qaeda's operations, captured and handed over Islamic extremists operating in Sudan, and even detained militants moving through Sudan on their way to join forces with Iraqi insurgents.

There is no doubt that Sudan feels it deserves to be rewarded for this assistance and it remains to be seen what, if anything, the Bush administration intends to offer in return.

These new revelations raise complex questions about our priorities as a nation and serious questions about the future of Darfur. But what must not be ignored in this debate over realpolitik is that millions of people are still in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Thus, we ask you to join the Coalition for Darfur as we seek to raise money for organizations providing life saving assistance to the people of Darfur.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Conference on Theocracy

There was a high-powered conference in NYC last weekend Examining the Agenda of the Religious Far Right .

Frederick Carlson who has one of the best blogs on the radical religious rights reports that " the conference sponsors plan to edit the conference down to an hour long film, which they plan to broadcast and make available on DVD. A book based on the main conference presentations may also be in the works. "

There was a report in the Moonie Washington Times on the conference which was predicatably shrill and a nice column by Newsday's Ellis Henican focusing on Chip Berlet

Chip Berlet isn't the devil. He doesn't even look the part.

He's a big, burly guy in suspenders and a sport shirt who was raised Presbyterian in northern New Jersey. He's spent most of his adult life at the intersection of journalism and community activism - in Colorado, Chicago and Boston. Over the years, he's become one of America's leading experts on the steady rise of conservative Christianity and its growing role in political life. He was onto this long before George W. Bush came into the White House.

These days, Berlet thinks of himself as an organizer, a researcher and a radical left-wing Christian. Yet he counts among his friends quite a few people whom his other friends consider whacked-out right-wing religious zealots.

"Actually," Berlet was saying on Friday afternoon, "I don't like those labels at all, calling people 'religious extremists' or 'radical religious right.' You can't have a conversation when you start that way. I want to talk to these people. I want to engage them. ... I want to have a real discourse about religion and politics."

Welcome to backlash against the latest scary rise of America's Religious Right.

There's plenty of anger and exuberance and outrage in the room. This is New York, after all, where skepticism is always in style. But Berlet might be onto something here, something that could actually work in the battle against religious extremists, by whatever name: Don't insult them. Engage them. And don't back down.

Check out the website of Berlet's organization, Politcal Research Associates, for some of the best information on the far right and how to combat it.

Love Mom Not Walmart



Thousands of Americans are joining the Love Mom, Not Wal-Mart campaign and pledging to purchase their Mother’s Day gifts from companies that treat our nation’s mothers and all women with fairness and respect. Wal-Mart - the largest private sector employer of women in the United States, with over 700,000 female employees - has systemically discriminated against women, and it must stop.

You can sign the pledge on-line. (http://www.wakeupwalmart.com/mom/pledge.html) As a special Mother's Day treat, the Wake-Up Wal -Mart campaign will be mailing the "Mother of All Mother's Day Cards" to Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, Inc. The card will ask Lee Scott to do the right thing for all of our Mothers and end Wal-Mart's pattern of discrimination against women.

This is one of the first efforts in the UFCW's Wake-Up Wal-Mart campaign.

Barry Lynn speaking in OKC

From Mainstream Baptist (Rev. Bruce Prescott of Norman Oklahoma)

Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, will be speaking at the Second Annual Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection at the Oklahoma State Capitol on May 5th.

The Daily Oklahoman ran a feature story and the Norman Transcript printed a notice about the event.

Here are some excerpts from the story in the Daily Oklahoman:

An Interfaith Day of Prayer and Reflection observance, featuring speakers from five faith traditions will be at 11 a.m. on the Capitol's south steps. The observance is sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance, the Oklahoma chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists.

The interfaith observance was held for the first time last year as a way to bring together people of different faiths to celebrate religious freedom.

"It went well last year, and we decided that that was something the community needed," said organizer Bruce Prescott, a Baptist minister who is head of both the Oklahoma chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists.

Prescott said members of the interfaith group were incorrectly labeled as "protesters" last year. Rather, he said, the group that will come together for the outdoor service is united in its celebration of religious freedom, he said.

"The common value that we share is the First Amendment, which is religious liberty. The constitution gives us the right to worship as we please. We're celebrating that right," he said. "We are not protesting them. We are trying to find a way to get broader representation from the community. It's a national day -- it's for everybody."

Prescott said a Muslim scholar, a Jewish rabbi, a pagan and a humanist are scheduled to speak at the event.

Representing the Christian faith tradition will be the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Prescott said in addition to his talk at the interfaith gathering, Lynn will give a related talk Thursday evening at First Baptist Church-Oklahoma City.

Here's a link to more information about last year's event. Here's a link to more information about this year's event.

Monday, May 02, 2005

ABC: UCC NO, Dobson's FOF YES

From the UCC via Chuck Corrie

The communications director of the 1.3-million-member United Church of Christ is questioning a decision by ABC television to allow James Dobson's Focus on the Family to air two commercials during the network's season finale of "Supernanny" on May 2.

In an Associated Press story (May 2), Focus on the Family's president and CEO, Jim Daly, said the spots were an attempt by his organization to offer "faith-based" advice on parenting, despite the fact that ABC executives have twice denied recent similar requests by the UCC to purchase network time as part of its national advertising campaign.

"Focus on the Family is clearly a religious organization," the Rev. Robert Chase, director of the UCC's communication ministry, told United Church News. "Here's yet another illustration of how a particular narrow agenda makes up the rules as they go along, while another religious viewpoint cannot even purchase time on the people's airwaves to proclaim an all-inclusive message."

In December and March, the three major networks denied a purchasing request by the Cleveland-based UCC. NBC and CBS rejected the UCC's 30-second ads as "too controversial." ABC, however, sidestepped the fray by maintaining that it has a blanket policy against all religious advertising.