Sunday, September 25, 2011


woman holding To the People of Syria: 

We were profoundly saddened to learn of the tragic death of Ghiyath Mattar, a 26-year old non-violent activist who inspired his fellow Syrians in their struggle against the cruel repression of the Assad government. We send our deepest condolences to you and to Mattar’s friends and family, in particular to his widow, who is expecting a child.
Mattar was murdered after being arrested on September 6, and when his body was returned to his family on September 10 it showed massive bruising and other signs of horrible torture. According to Amnesty International, this brings the total number of reported deaths in detention in Syria since April to more than 90, and heightens concern for four other activists from the Damascus suburb of Daraya who were detained at the same time as Mattar and who are at grave risk: Yahya Shurbaji and his brother Ma’an Shurbaji, Mohamed Tayseer Khoulani and Mazen Zyadeh. All four have been held incommunicado at an unknown location since their arrest.
We want you to know that you are not alone. People around the world have been moved by your determined fight for justice and elementary democratic rights, by your refusal to end your protests despite the brutal violence rained upon you and the arrests of thousands of protesters. As peace activists in the United States, we are writing to express our solidarity with your inspiring struggle. We do not support military intervention in Syria by our government or NATO because we know too well the history of such interventions, made in the name of democracy but actually bolstering Western power rather than popular movements for freedom
We wish you success in your courageous resistance to tyranny. Below is the letter of protest we have faxed to President Assad and Foreign Minister Walid al-Mu’allim.
In peace and solidarity,
Joanne Landy Thomas Harrison
Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison
Campaign for Peace and Democracy
New York, NY, USA
President Bashar al-Assad
Presidential Palace
al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 332 3410
Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid al-Mu’allim
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 214 6251
Dear President Bashar al-Assad and Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid al-Mu’allim,
We are peace activists from the United States, and we write to express our horror and outrage at the reported death in custody of the non-violent activist Ghayath Mattar. We call for an immediate independent investigation of the cause and circumstances of his death and for those responsible to be brought to justice.
We protest the continuing detention of Yahya Shurbaji, Ma’an Shurbaji, Mazen Zyadeh and Mohamed Tayseer Khoulani and urge your government to immediately disclose their whereabouts in detention, allow them immediate access to their families, lawyers and any medical care they need, and to protect them against possible torture or other ill-treatment. These prisoners should be released from custody.
Beyond these particular cases, we call for an immediate end to the mass arrests, the release of all of those detained for exercising their basic democratic right to protest, and the violence and killings your government has inflicted on Syrians fighting for their elementary freedoms.
Joanne Landy Thomas Harrison
Joanne Landy and Thomas Harrison
Campaign for Peace and Democracy
New York, NY, USA
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MeretzUSA (Partnrs for Progressive Israel) on Palestinian Statehood Bid

On Sunday, September 18, 2011, Partners for Progressive Israel (Meretz USA) President Dina B. Charnin, Chair Theodore Bikel, and Executive Director Ron Skolnik issued the following statement on behalf of the organization:

The Palestinian decision to advance their statehood drive via the United Nations, and outside the framework of negotiations with Israel, is a diplomatic turning point that creates risks but also offers new openings for progress toward peace. For the benefit of both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples, we urge the government of Israel to focus on the positive elements we expect to be contained in the Palestinian request, as outlined below, and to refrain from precipitous responses that would escalate tension and serve the agenda of both sides' extremists. Such responses, hinted at in the press, would include a decision to annex West Bank territory, the annulment by Israel of current Israeli-Palestinian agreements, and the easing of rules of engagement to allow live fire to be directed at unarmed Palestinian protesters.
The unilateral Palestinian application for full UN membership is not a development we hoped for when the peace process began. More than anything, it represents the failure of that process to produce a mutually satisfactory outcome, 18 years after the first Oslo agreement was signed and more than a dozen years after a final-status agreement was supposed to have been reached to end the occupation.
We regard the current move by Palestinian President Abbas as an act of desperation, brought on in large part by the Netanyahu government's refusal to resume negotiations where they left off under the government of Ehud Olmert, and to negotiate seriously on the basis of the 1967 lines, adjusted by mutually agreed territorial swaps.

Over the last two decades, and more, governments, organizations and individuals on both sides committed actions that were counterproductive to the spirit of compromise and reconciliation. Acts of terror and the indiscriminate killing of civilians were foremost among these. But the failure of negotiations was also brought on by other factors, including the expansion of Israeli settlements and a rhetoric of intolerance on both sides that has dismissed the other's historical narrative and legitimate national aspirations. 

Regardless of whether or not the Palestinian application at the UN is approved, it will not replace the need for a bilateral Israeli-Palestinian accord, and Israelis and Palestinians will still have to learn to live alongside one another in peace and security. We therefore urge the government of Israel to embrace the positive elements that we hope and expect the Palestinian request to contain:

  1.  Non-violence: The Palestinian application is a diplomatic gambit, not a military offensive. It is imperative that this be the playing field on which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved. 
  2. Two-state solution reinforced: By referring to the 1967 lines as the basis for their state, we expect that the Palestinian application will reinforce the concept of the two-state solution, and weaken the idea, promoted by each side's extreme elements, that one side or the other should dominate the entire area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. 
  3. Recognition of Jewish rights to statehood: By hopefully incorporating a reference to UN General Assembly resolution 181, the international basis for Israel's creation, the Palestinian move could serve to implicitly recognize the Jewish people's right to national self-determination and statehood.
  4. The 1967 lines will not be the final borders: We expect the Palestinian application to indicate that the pre-war 1967 lines will be adjusted in subsequent negotiations with Israel to take into account Israel's security needs and some of the demographic results of its settlement policy.

Should the Palestinians go forward with their application to the UN, we urge President Abbas and his government to include these elements in their proposal - 1) Non-Violence, 2) A Two-State Solution, 3) Reference to the UN partition plan, 4) Final border based on the 1967 lines with negotiated land swaps - and to continue expressing their readiness for renewed peace talks with Israel. We urge Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government not to waste time, and to engage with the representatives of the Palestinian people on the basis of these principles.

While we believe the tactic of seeking UN affirmation of a Palestinian state outside the framework of direct negotiations is far from ideal, approval of a Palestinian request containing the elements noted above could have two positive outcomes for future negotiations. By elevating Palestine to the level of a state, it will reduce (though not eliminate) the asymmetry of power between Israel and the Palestinians that has complicated the process to date. It will also determine the general territorial outline of the conflict's resolution. These two outcomes will allow Israel and Palestine to recommence negotiations from a more productive baseline, and be better positioned to utilize the accepted tools of statecraft to engage with one another constructively.

Palestinian moves at the UN will not bring peace or end the occupation on their own. If handled properly, however, they can serve as the basis for a reenergized and revamped diplomatic process with the potential for resolving the conflict on a bilateral basis.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: Eric Clapton "Groaning the Blues"

Here is Eric Clapton with a nice version of Otis Rush's classic "Groaning the Blues>" Pay attention to the discrete,but effective horns. Nowadays, I find myself often preferring the original blues to the more contemporary covers. Here is Rush's version from the classic 1957 Cobra sessions.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rob Boston on Church and State issues at Wichita UA annual meeting

Rob Boston of the national AU (Americans United for Separation of Church and State) was the featured speaker at the Sept 16 annual meeting of the Great Plains AU, the Wichita chapter.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

International Protests to Save North Korean refugees

From the North Korea Freedom Coalition (via via)

Wherever you are in the world on Thursday, September 22, 2011, please join the International Protest to Save North Korean Refugees slated for 12:00 noon by participating with one of the thirteen countries and twenty-four cities where events will occur. Country and city coordinators are delivering petitions at 12:00 noon to the Chinese embassies calling upon them to end their policy of forcibly repatriating North Korean refugees back to North Korea to face torture, imprisonment and even public execution.

We are simply calling upon China to abide by its international treaty commitments and allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to be able to carry out their mission to help refugees. China's policy has caused this crisis and led to these refugees to be in extreme danger while threatening to arrest and jail those who try to help them
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Sunday, September 11, 2011

4 posts and 2 videos for the Democratic Left

Pablo Velasco takes down a "sophisticated apology" for Castroism's repression of workers.

Scott Keyes on seven progressive policies that make the NFL America's favorite sport by promoting quality, fairness, and diversity, while the loony conservapedia laments  that soccer is socialist

Michael Stephens on infrastructure and free lunches on Multiplier Effects, the blog of the Levy Institute

Numerous studies indicate that the US needs to make $2 trillion worth of necessary repairs to its roads, bridges, and sewage systems.

The key word here is “necessary.”  The issue is not whether to invest $2 trillion to make these necessary repairs.  Unless we decide that we want to return to dirt roads the only question is when.  Right now we are well below full employment (with serious unemployment in the construction sector), and borrowing costs are not just low by historical standards, but comically low—negative real yield territory.  The federal government is being paid to borrow money.

These conditions won’t always hold.  Borrowing to invest in infrastructure, right now, is about as close to a free lunch as you can get.

John Quiggen on Socialized Health care as a feasible utopia

Two videos, each about 1.5 hours worth watching.

"Historical Treatment of the Rosenberg Case" was a panel of the conference "The Rosenberg Case, Soviet Espionage, and the Cold War," sponsored by the Harvard Project on Cold War Studies and George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs.

"The Rosenberg Case and the Historiography of Soviet Espionage in America" A panel of historians and professors examined the effects that Soviet spies had on the American public's mentality and on history itself. .

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Blues on a Saturday: Hound Dog Taylor and Little Walter

 Hound Dog Taylor & the Houserockers featuring Little Walter on harmonica in 1967, about a year before Walter's death.

When Delmark Records shipping clerk Bruce Iglauer couldn't convince his boss to record Taylor, he launched Alligator Records.

And there's a Kansas angle. Bob Koester, the owner of Delmark Records and the Jazz Record Mart, was born and grew up in Wichita.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Democratic Left Roundup

Steve Hendrix, Bayard Rustin, organizer of the March on Washington, was crucial to the movement

for hundreds of civil rights veterans, Aug. 28 will also always be Bayard’s Day, the crowning achievement of one of the movement’s most effective, and unconventional, activists.

Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes & Ronald Radosh “Childs at Play: The FBI's Cold War triumph”

A piece from the Weekly Standard won't often make a my recommended list, but here three expert scholars analyze new revelations from  declassified FBI files about the CPUSA. In the 1950s and 1960s, the FBI had informers in the very highest echelon of the American Communist Party. 

Paul Berman, "Do Ideas Matter: From September 11 to the Arab Spring.

An interesting analysis, but no discussion of independent workers' movements in the Arab Spring.

Sacha Ismail, Atrocities by the Libyan rebels? Some consistency, please!

The reality is that those using the facts of racism and atrocities by the Libyan rebels to justify their hostility to the Libyan revolution are generally not too concerned about the records of those they support. Repression and atrocities of all sorts can be justified or ignored if they fit into the “anti-imperialist” world schema. It is perfectly possible, of course, to raise issues such as racism among the Libyan rebels in good faith - as this article attempts to do. But they are being highlighted by pro-Qaddafi "anti-imperialists" primarily because of the rebels' alliance with NATO, and in order to whitewash Qaddafi.
Jake Blumgart, 4 ways government policy favors the rich and keeps the rest of us poor

James Bloodworth, CUBA: A Paradise of Sexual Tourism 
Since the early years of the Cuban revolution, the government claimed as one of its shining achievements the elimination of prostitution. In reality of course, it lingered on; but through the provision of job opportunities and training for former prostitutes, the revolution did go a substantial way to eliminating the sex trade relative to its documented abundance during the pre-revolutionary era.

Spending time in Cuba in 2011, one cannot but be alarmed by the frequency one notices young Cubans, often no more than 14 or 15 years old, fraternising with European and Canadian tourists of a certain age. Disturbingly, this hustling or "jineterismo" of foreigners often camouflages a more basic sex-for-cash transaction.

Juan Cole on 10 myths about the Libyan War 

Angelo Lopez ,Non-Marxist Critiques of the Capitalist System