July 26th, 2010

OUaT - Snow caught

Politics and Conservation: An Alliance?

Thanks to the mods for approving this as a discussion topic!

First, some background. I just got back from a conference involving marine educators and one panel was a round table discussion about the oil spill. Although it mostly focused on where to find legitimate information, I felt one obvious way for people to get involved was being overlooked so I brought it up at the end. Now I'm kinda on the hook for following through with my suggestion, so I thought this would be a great place to start.

Basically, some of us on the marine science end of things would like to get together with civics/social studies/PoliSci teachers (our powers combined!!) and activists to target civic responsibility and putting political pressure on politicians who vote against their states' best interests when it comes to the environment. Although Gulf coast states are obviously a good place to start, this also needs to be targeted at "upstream" areas who can have just as much of am impact but often don't realize it. As a way to start, I was asked if I knew ways to contact such teachers and get some input on that, and to put together some information on how students and their families can get involved politically. Sadly, this is something for which the marine education world has pretty much no current outreach efforts (at least not to my knowledge), so we may be starting from scratch here.

Right now there are a lot of people contacting marine institutions and asking us what they can do about the spill - most want to help clean up, but for many reasons that's just not feasible, especially when it comes to young students. So you end up telling them to volunteer locally at wildlife habitats, donating to organizations that will actually benefit the affected areas, etc, and so far the civics side of things is being ignored. Seriously, not a single other person in the panel mentioned it as something their organizations were doing, wanted to do, or even thought of doing. Unfortunately, scientific organizations often end up being connected with certain donors that makes it difficult for employees to get involved politically in any outspoken way: eg, government scientists pressured to alter or suppress their anti-corporation/business/industry research results, non-profit employees risking their jobs if they speak out politically against politicians who are/were large donors or founders of their organizations, general ignorance of the system because of the stigma of "politics", etc. It's a mess, and many scientists and marine educators end up completely disdaining the world of politics even though they need to be active if conservation agendas are to succeed.

However, I think I can get some big institutions on board if there's enough interest in a project - one panelist who was very interested is based out of the J.L. Scott Marine Education Center at the Uni of Southern Mississippi, and has ties to COSEE (Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence) and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, and she asked me to send her some more ideas. Ideally it would be great to put together some resources that could lead to classroom activities about the oil spill that would be useful to both science and social studies/civics teachers, plus information on how people who care about the environment and conservation can get involved in local and national politics. COSEE and the GoMA especially have the resources to incorporate these issues into existing outreach programs, not only in coastal regions but in landlocked areas as well.

I feel it's important not only to help these organizations get their messages about conservation and oil spills out, but also to add this extra component of civic responsibility. If anyone here is in a position to be involved in such outreach in any way - be it as a classroom teacher, scientist, activist, community organizer, etc - I'd love your feedback. Even just existing resource or educational materials suggestions, known political organizations who could get in on this, or even other online venues to post this and signal boost would be great. I try to keep my online identity separate from my RL one, but if necessary I can contact people individually with my professional contact information. I'd like to have some concrete ideas to send my contact at COSEE, who will know better than I the way to really get the ball rolling on something like this.

For those wanting trusted information on the oil spill that hasn't been filtered through the media, please visit the The Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant oil spill website.
Sufjan Smile

Afghanistan casualty rate highest of war

Eight months after the Obama administration announced a “surge” of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to crush the Taliban-led insurgency, the rate of US and allied casualties has soared to the highest level of the nearly nine-year war and is beginning to match the bloodiest stages of the occupation of Iraq.

Five more American soldiers were killed on Saturday, four in a single roadside bomb blast in an unspecified area of southern Afghanistan. The fatalities were announced amidst a desperate aerial and ground search by American forces to locate two missing Navy personnel.

The pair, whose identity and unit have not been made public, allegedly drove out of a base in the Afghan capital Kabul on Friday evening and, according to Afghan government sources, was stopped at a checkpoint on the edge of the Charkh district in the neighbouring province of Logar. Like numerous areas of southern Afghanistan, Charkh is largely under the control of the Taliban.

On Sunday, Taliban representatives claimed that the pair had been ambushed in Charkh and one captured and one killed. No explanation has been provided for the actions of the sailors apart from that given by a Logar provincial government representative, who told the Washington Post that a security guard at the checkpoint said they were “drunk” and “not normal.”

The body of the slain man has reportedly been recovered by US forces. The US military has not confirmed that the other sailor is being held by the Taliban. Private Bowe R. Bergdahl, an American soldier who allegedly walked out of his base in eastern Afghanistan in June 2009 and was captured, is still being held by the Taliban due to the US military’s refusal to agree to a prisoner exchange.

The six fatalities over the weekend have pushed the total July death toll to 77, of whom 56 have been US personnel. The occupation forces suffered their largest monthly loss of the entire war last month with 102 killed, 60 of whom were American.

2010 will almost certainly be the most costly year of the entire war for the US-led occupation. The death toll has already reached 399, compared with the last year’s toll of 521.
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Source: WSWS

Young men and women are hooked via the poverty draft (recruitment numbers dispropotionately skew towards the poor from rural areas with low job opportunities) and sent overseas to be pushed through a meat grinder, sieved unto the hills of Afghanistan for whatever establishment geas. People who want a future, to benefit their communities, deserve better than to be made a hand in the butchery of the state. Who have everything to lose while those pushing the policy have everything to gain.

If You Love the Demise of ACORN, You are Going to Love This!

Senate Strips Funding For Legal Settlement To Black Farmers From War Bill

Five months after President Obama announced a $1.25 billion settlement for black farmers who faced overt discrimination by the USDA in the eighties and nineties -- and several days after the Sherrod case brought the issue up again -- Congress again refused to authorize the money.

On Thursday, the Senate quietly stripped the funding for the Pigford II settlement and several other programs from a supplemental war funding bill. Senators then unanimously passed their version of the bill, which will go back to the House.

Conservative opposition to the settlement came to light last week in the aftermath of the Shirley Sherrod scandal. A farm collective founded by Sherrod and her husband that was forced out of business by the discriminatory practices received a $13 million settlement as part of Pigford last year, just before she was hired by the USDA. Some, including Rep. Steve King (R-IA), have called the settlement a fraud.

Majority Leader Harry Reid blamed Republicans for the failure to pass Pigford.

"I hoped that tonight the Senate could finally right a wrong that has been left unresolved for far too long. But Republicans stood in the way," he said in a statement. "As recent events have reminded us, the fact that justice and fairness were denied to black farmers for so many years continues to have ramifications today. ... Republicans should be held accountable for standing in the way of justice for those affected."

But several Democrats -- including Sens. Evan Bayh (IN) and Tom Carper (DE) -- also voted to block the bill.

Ian Tomlinson ruling: we must all fight this whitewash

First Blair Peach. Then Jean Charles de Menezes. Now Ian Tomlinson. It is our duty to raise Cain this time

Hundreds of thousands of us have now seen the footage of the newspaper-seller shambling peacefully home from work. We've seen how, without warning or provocation, PC Simon Harwood attacked him from behind, hitting him with a baton then shoving him to the ground. We know that the officer had unlawfully removed his badge, and that his face was obscured by a balaclava. We know that, a few minutes afterwards, Ian Tomlinson collapsed and died. We also know that the Metropolitan police lied about his death to the media and to Tomlinson's family.

Fifteen months later the director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, decides that "there is no realistic prospect of a conviction against [Harwood] for any offence arising from the matter investigated and that no charges should be brought against him". The evidence for his role in Tomlinson's death, Starmer says, is contradictory, and the time limit for pressing lesser charges has sadly expired. Starmer provides no convincing explanation of why it has taken him so long to make his decision, or of why a jury should not be allowed to make its own assessment of the evidence.

Now picture the opposite case: a civilian launching an unprovoked attack on a policeman, captured on film, which is immediately followed by the policeman's death. The Crown Prosecution Service ponders and dithers before deciding that the assailant should get away scot free. Implausible? You have just understood that in the United Kingdom equality before the law exists only in textbooks.

The excuse Starmer gave is that conflicting medical evidence means that a causal link between the assault on Tomlinson and his death could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt. It is true that the evidence is not consistent. But nor is its quality.

Starmer's decision not to prosecute PC Harwood rests on the first autopsy, conducted by the pathologist Dr Freddy Patel. Other pathologists have expressed astonishment that Dr Patel was chosen for this case. A Home Office standards committee had already ruled that he had not maintained professional standards in three other cases, after he had failed to detect what appeared to be clear evidence of injuries. He is facing a disciplinary hearing before the General Medical Council for alleged incompetence in 26 cases.

This isn't the first run-in he has had with the council. In 1999 he was reprimanded by the GMC for speaking to reporters about the death of a man in police custody that he was investigating, and making an unsupported allegation against him. It looked like an unwarranted attempt to help the police out of a tricky situation.

Patel decided that Tomlinson died naturally. But he found three litres of fluid in Tomlinson's abdominal cavity. His notes initially suggest that this was blood. He disposed of the fluid. Then he changed his notes to suggest that it wasn't blood but something else. Two subsequent postmortems, conducted by far more eminent pathologists, both concluded that Tomlinson died of internal bleeding consistent with his body hitting the pavement.

We don't yet know why Patel was chosen to conduct the first autopsy, but it is widely believed he was recommended to the coroner by the City of London police. The police have refused to comment. Why could a jury not have been allowed to decide which autopsy, and which pathologists, it trusted?

This is a moment in which the pomp and majesty of the law falls away to reveal a squalid little stitch-up. In years to come you will hear Keir Starmer's decision mentioned alongside the Widgery report, the Hutton report and the failure to prosecute the killers of Blair Peach and Jean Charles de Menezes. The Tomlinson whitewash will be seen as one of British officialdom's most notorious swindles.

The difference in this case is that, thanks to citizen journalism and the Guardian's investigation, we have unequivocal footage of what happened to the victim. We also know that the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which made its own assessment of the evidence, found that the case was strong enough to warrant prosecuting PC Harwood for manslaughter. This time the Crown Prosecution Service cannot hide behind police lies about what happened. We know what happened: we've seen it. This makes the stitch-up even more infuriating and obscene.

So what can be done? Ian Tomlinson's family doesn't have the money to mount a private prosecution. But could we not raise it for them? I would welcome some advice about how much would be needed and how it could best be found. But right now our duty as citizens is to raise Cain: to show that we will not accept such blatant inequality before the law. If not now, when?

Source: The Guardian

The Tomlinson family have set up a fighting fund - see here. (thanks guy in the comment section)
abfab, smoking

Grab your barf buckets, right-wingers are not done with Shirley Sherrod yet!

Breaking News: Shirley Sherrod is a liar!

She says that her relative was "lynched," but really the man was merely handcuffed and beaten to death by a sheriff and two deputies on the courthouse steps! No, really:
Anyone who has lived in the American South (as my family once did) and is familiar with American history knows well the dread behind stories of lynch mobs and the Klan. What difference is there between a savage murder by fist and blackjack -- and by dangling rope? Obviously, in the practical sense, none. But in the heyday -- a very long time -- of the Klan, there were frequent (and failed) attempts to pass federal anti-lynching laws. None to pass federal "anti-black jack" or "anti-fisticuffs" laws. Lynching had a peculiar, one is tempted to say grotesque, solitary status as part of the romantic image of the Klan, of the crazed racist. The image stirred by the image of the noosed rope in the hands of a racist lynch mob was, to say the least, frighteningly chilling. Did Ms. Sherrod deliberately concoct this story in search of a piece of that ugly romance to add "glamour" to a family story that is gut-wrenchingly horrendous already?
Everyone knows lynching is done with a rope, not handcuffs, fists and a blackjack! They didn't even set him on fire, for goodness sake!

(no subject)

Here's something that may give fans of San Francisco's impending Target invasion some pause: the company's financial support for an anti-gay Republican politician whose friends include a "kill-the-gays" Christian rock singer.


The story goes like this:

Bradlee Dean, the frontman of a Christian rock band in Minnesota called You Can Run But You Cannot Hide, recently said that Muslim countries that execute LGBTs are "more moral than even the American Christians," plus some mouth-foaming about gays engaging in abominations and child molestation. Ugh.

So what's the Target connection? Well, Bradlee's ministry received money and support from Tom Emmer, an anti-gay Minnesota Republican running for Governor. And Tom Emmer's campaign got a boost from Minnesota Forward, a PAC running TV ads on his behalf. And Minnesota Forward got $150,000 -- which amounts to about a third of all of their donations -- from Target.

So, to follow the money: Target gave $150,000 to Minnesota Forward, which bought TV ads for Tom Emmer, who says "I believe marriage is the union between one man and one woman," and who hangs out with a guy who thinks killing gays is moral.

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Colorado Turning into a Islamofacist Hippie Gay-loving Paradise. I am Moving Out!

Rocky Mountain Lows: Colorado Republicans Stumbling Toward Primary Finish Line

With just days to go before the August 10 Senate and gubernatorial primaries, Colorado Republicans are tripping, sparring and in some cases, falling apart. Each of the four major Republican candidates in the Senate and gubernatorial races seems to have done at least some self-inflicted damage recently. It's created an odd dynamic in which many of these Republican candidates haven't been able to truly capitalize on their opponent's troubles -- simply because they've been too busy dealing with their own.

Let's run them down:
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Sufjan Smile

The WikiLeaks Afghanistan leak

The most consequential news item of the week will obviously be -- or at least should be -- the massive new leak by WikiLeaks of 90,000 pages of classified material chronicling the truth about the war in Afghanistan from 2004 through 2009. Those documents provide what The New York Times calls "an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal." The Guardian describes the documents as "a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fueling the insurgency."
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Source: Salon

Some fantastic commentary on the wikileaks documents by Glenn Greenwald, which I am not bolding because it is dense and amazing and peppered with links to corresponding sources, every bit is worth a read. Y'all are literate, exercise yo brraaaains.

These documents do measures of wonders to condemn the war effort, which is unjust and unfounded from the bottom up in the first place, and to shine a light on the hypocrisy of the Administration in furthering the war and criticizing Wikileaks when they had purported to "transparency". Especially considering that Wikileaks, in the same fashion as they always release documents, has withheld a signifigant amount of cables which could be potentially dangerous for men and women overseas.

I'm pretty excited for how this will unfold. I only hope it helps engender sentiment for which we can end this war, stop the escalation of violence, and bring our men and women home. Truth is the great crusader.

Lutherans Offer Warm Welcome to Gay Pastors

With a laying on of hands, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Sunday welcomed into its fold seven openly gay pastors who had until recently been barred from the church’s ministry.

The Rev. Dawn Roginski, center, in white, one of seven gay pastors at a welcoming ceremony Sunday at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco.

The ceremony at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco was the first of several planned since the denomination took a watershed vote at its convention last year to allow noncelibate gay ministers in committed relationships to serve the church.

“Today the church is speaking with a clear voice,” the Rev. Jeff R. Johnson, one of the seven gay pastors participating in the ceremony, said at a news conference just before it began. “All people are welcome here, all people are invited to help lead this church, and all people are loved unconditionally by God.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, known as the E.L.C.A., with 4.6 million members, is now the largest Protestant church in the United States to permit noncelibate gay ministers to serve in the ranks of its clergy
— an issue that has caused wrenching divisions for it as well as for many other denominations.

Since the church voted last summer to allow noncelibate gay clergy members to serve, 185 congregations have taken the two consecutive votes required to leave the denomination, said Melissa Ramirez Cooper, a spokeswoman for the church, citing a tally that she said was updated monthly. There are 10,396 congregations nationwide.

The Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ also allow gay ministers. And the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s general assembly voted at its convention earlier this month to do so, though the vote will become church law only if is ratified by a majority of the church’s 173 regional presbyteries. Two smaller Lutheran denominations, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, do not ordain ministers in same-sex relationships.

The seven ministers welcomed at the ceremony on Sunday had already been ordained and have been serving at churches or outreach ministries in the San Francisco Bay Area, but they had not been officially recognized on the clergy roster.


The entire article is at the New York Times

I'm gay and was raised Christian. While I left Christianity largely because of the homophobia (and sexism) I saw in the church, stuff like this warms my heart. I'm glad that more and more Christians are coming around and being more accepting of gay people. Although it certainly sucks that this is as controversial as it is and that some folks will probably leave the denomination rather than accept gay pastors.

Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches in Indonesia Rising: Activists

July 26, 2010

Attacks on Indonesian churches — such as the one pictured above in this file photo — are increasing, activists are warning. There have been 28 this year alone. (Antara Photo)

Attacks on Indonesian churches — such as the one pictured above in this file photo — are increasing, activists are warning. There have been 28 this year alone. (Antara Photo)

Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches in Indonesia Rising: Activists

Jakarta. Indonesian human rights activists on Monday urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to investigate attacks on Christian churches, which they say have increased in the last two years.

From January to July, there were 28 cases of religious freedom violations by “intolerant groups targeting Christians,” up from 17 for the whole of 2008 and 18 in 2009, the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace said in a report.

Collapse ) source My first post here. Can you help me with the tags, mods?

Elton John's choice words for boycotting musicians

Elton John didn't mince words in slamming his fellow musicians for boycotting Arizona over the controversial SB 1070 immigration law. From the stage at his sold-out Tucson Arena concert Thursday night, John savored a few choice, not-so-family-friendly words:

"We are all very pleased to be playing in Arizona. I have read that some of the artists won't come here. They are (expletive)wits! Let's face it: I still play in California, and as a gay man I have no legal rights whatsoever. So what's the (expletive) with these people?"

John has never been one to cave into political pressure from his musical colleagues. He ignored an artist boycott of Israel in June over the flotilla fiasco and played a show in Tel Aviv. He also played Rush Limbaugh's latest wedding reception in early June, which drew the ire of gays and lesbians. Limbaugh is vehemently anti-gay marriage; John is married to his longtime partner David Furnish.

Source: Arizona Daily Star (via Towleroad)

Yeah, Elton... the only fuckwit around here is you. At least RAtM, Gogol Bordello etc. actually have principles, whereas you've shown time and again all you care about is the money.

More information on the Arizona boycott.
Warm tone butterfly (by fruitpunch_it)

UK Film Council axed

The UK Film Council became one of the highest profile quangos to be axed by the coalition government after culture secretary Jeremy Hunt unexpectedly announced its abolition.

In a raft of mergings, streamlinings and closures, Hunt also axed the Museums, Libraries and Archives council (MLA).

John Woodward, chief executive of the UK Film Council, briefed an unprepared staff about the decision at the council's central London headquarters this morning. No one had seen it coming. He said the decision had been taken with "no notice and no consultation".

In a statement Woodward called the proposal "short-sighted and potentially very damaging, especially as there is at present no roadmap setting out where the UK Film Council's responsibilities and funding will be placed in the future".


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New Arizona Law Will Create More Jubs! Prison Industry Will Save Arizona's Economy!

Prison Lobbyists Working For AZ Gov. Brewer Are Set To Profit From Immigration Law She Signed

This Thursday, SB-1070, Arizona’s radical new immigration law, will go into effect. Despite an incoming lawsuit from the Obama administration’s Department of Justice, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) has maintained that her state “will prevail,” claiming that she is simply defending the border integrity and safety of her state.

Yet a new investigation by local Arizona TV news station CBS 5 finds that the Brewer administration may have ulterior motives for its strong support of the new law. The station has found that “two of Brewer’s top advisers
have connections” to private prison giant Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

Paul Senseman, Brewer’s deputy chief of staff, is a former lobbyist for CCA. His wife continues to lobby for the company. Meanwhile Chuck Coughlin, who leads her re-election campaign, chaired her transition into the governorship, and is one of the governor’s policy advisors, is president of HighGround Public Affairs Consultants, which lobbies for CCA.

This is important because CCA currently “holds the federal contract to house detainees in Arizona.” CBS 5 notes that the company currently bills $11 billion a month to the state of Arizona and that, if SB-1070 is successfully implemented, its profits would be significantly padded as it would take responsibility for imprisoning immigrants arrested by Arizona police.

The company maintains that it “unequivocally, did not at any time lobby — nor did we have any outside consultants lobby — anyone in Arizona on the immigration law,” but direct lobbying would not be necessary with allies like Senseman and Coughlin working directly for Brewer.

Coughlin, in particular, has a history of boasting about the influence he has had on the state government on behalf of private business.
In an interview earlier this month, he bragged about privatizing the commercial garbage business in Mesa, Arizona, by coordinating with industry lobbyists. He told the interviewer, “I can make [expletive] happen.”

Perhaps even more alarmingly, he explained his influence over Brewer to the interviewer. Coughlin explained that when he worked for Gov. Fife Symington (R-AZ) as his chief lobbyist, he locked horns with Brewer, who was at the time the Senate majority whip. He explained that his lobbying was so effective that she now says, “I was scared of you guys” — and that he has run her campaigns ever since:
Q: You got to the Capitol not long after Jan Brewer. Have you known her since then?

COUGHLIN: We both have discussed that. We tried to remember when we first really met. We think we met — I’m fairly confident — when I worked for Grant and she was in the House. I was Grant’s lobbyist, because I left Bob’s (Bob Robb) firm and I went to work for Grant as his director of public affairs in ’91, after his election.

Where we really got to know each other well was years later when she was Senate majority whip and I was Fife’s chief lobbyist in ’95. She was the chief vote-counter in the Senate, and it was our job to get the governor’s agenda through, so I got to know her pretty well. Fife’s team had a fairly aggressive, robust reputation. She’ll say to this day, “I was scared of you guys,” that we’d come in and threaten her or something like that. I don’t recall that.

She called me after I left Fife’s employ in ‘96 and started a firm called Coughlin Communications. We changed that to HighGround about four months later when Wes (Gullett) joined me. She came to me after that session and told me she wanted to run for county supervisor. We’ve run all her campaigns ever since.
CBS 5 filed a video report on CCA’s ties to the Brewer administration. Watch it:

aurora // once upon a time

WikiLeaks hardly presenting a revelation on Afghan war

Afghanistan is the Groundhog Day of wars, and discussions: Every day is a brand-new day; no one ever remembers what happened the day before or the day before that; knowledge and wisdom do not accumulate; no one learns a bloody thing.

Consider what The Globe and Mail Monday called “Facts on the Ground, A Darker Portrait of Afghan War” and what The New York Times and The Guardian headlined “The War Logs.”

Generally speaking, the newspaper consensus on the 92,000 classified documents unleashed upon the Internet by the WikiLeaks organization is as follows: The war is going more badly than previously acknowledged or thought and the big shock/horror hammer is purportedly that the Pakistani military is working in the shadows to support the Taliban.

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I gotta be honest, I agree with Christie Blatchford. Also, inb4 "Canada's mentioned in WikiLeaks?"