May 15, 2005

Honour and martyrdom

Suicide bombing isn't as new or alien as westerners imagine
By Madeleine Bunting

One of the most chilling aspects of the Iraqi conflict is that suicide bombings have now become a matter of everyday routine. During April there were 67, a new record. On Wednesday there were no less than five separate suicide attacks across Iraq, killing 71 people and injuring scores of people.

The rate of suicide bombings - the seemingly endless supply of people prepared to blow themselves up - leaves a western audience utterly bewildered. What kind of psychology motivates people to such violent extremes? The incomprehension prompts revulsion that this form of warfare is historically unprecedented and reveals a peculiar, aberrant irrationality - a kind of inhuman madness. All too quickly, Islam is blamed for deluding its believers into martyrdom with promises of 72 virgins; the old prejudices about Islam as a faith uniquely associated with violence and unquestioning belief are fanned into life again.

But such prejudices won't get us very far in trying to unpick which elements of this violent phenomenon are in fact unprecedented and which are not - or to understand why the strategy has been adopted.

There are two obvious factors. First, the plentiful supply of volunteers crossing into Iraq reflects the radicalisation of a generation of the newly urbanised, under-employed, fast growing populations of many Muslim countries in the Maghreb and the Middle East. Second, suicide attacks are the single most effective weapon against the vastly superior armed force of the US in their heavily defended camps. Along with more conventional resistance tactics, suicide bombings are helping to cripple Iraqi reconstruction and fuelling resentment of the occupation. This has successfully derailed US hubris in a "regional redesign". How else could all these aims have been achieved? more

May 14, 2005

Credibility Matters Little to Brits, Americans
by Helen Thomas

Funny thing about the United States and Great Britain. I once thought their people cared about the credibility -- and accountability of their leaders -- especially when it comes to war and peace. But now I note with regret that the voters in both nations have other priorities.

We're talking about the fact that the leaders of both nations chose to invade Iraq for flimsy reasons that were deliberately drummed up to convince their people that a Third World country was a threat to them. Didn't the Brits say Saddam Hussein could attack in 45 minutes?

The historic election of Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair for a third term is a stunning affirmation that the British people no longer demand credibility from their leaders.

The false rationales for war by both President Bush and Blair went up in smoke without a public outcry. I know Blair returns to power with a much smaller majority in the House of Commons -- compared with his landslide victories in the past -- apparently because of British disillusionment with the war. He also is hearing post-election calls from within his own Labor Party for him to step down. But still, he was re-elected. more....

May 13, 2005

Nearly 2 Weeks After a London Paper Published a Memo that Revealed the Bush Admin Fixed Intelligence to Justify the Iraq War, the Washington Post Decides to Run a Story About It on Page 18. This is Incomprehensible, Unless the First Loyalty of the Post is to the Bush Administration, Not the Truth Upfront and on a Timely Basis.

May 12, 2005

Venezuela - The Country Of Parallels
by America Vera-Zavala

The proclaimed Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela is a revolution made up of parallels. To win elections is not the same as to take state power and in Venezuela opposition still holds many posts in the various departments, state owned companies and media, and control much of the economy. The over cumbersome bureaucracy within the government although not partisan, is slowing down the process as they go on doing the way they always did, and they have not received an education in new Bolivarian public management.

In fact a new Bolivarian Public Management School doesn't exist. Leaders of the revolution; governors, mayors, ministers, officials, bureaucrats, members of parliaments are persons that should be executing the paragraphs in the constitution and making them real, planning and organising the process, guaranteeing that the objectives are met but for various reasons it doesn't seem to be working as smoothly as it should. Together they constitute a thick middle layer in society making change hard. The president's answer to that has been parallelism - a political strategy not yet labelled. Parallelism is being practised by the president as well as on a grassroots level - the people.

An important part of what is actually being won in the process is created through parallels. If the health sector in the country is not willing to serve poor people - the president creates a parallel, brings in hundreds of Cuban doctors and lets them work.

If the educational sector is working poorly and apparently has not been fighting illiteracy - he creates a parallel, develops education programs and makes the communities responsible for their functioning.

If the shops are not selling affordable food - he creates a parallel, creates subsidised shops, and if people are still going hungry - he creates another parallel, provide food and make the communities responsible for cooking and sharing the meals.

And the parallels are working - soon illiteracy will be exterminated. The left-wing theory of creating parallel powers to break down and end the old order is here taken to new breathtaking heights. more....

May 11, 2005

by Sam Smith

The coverage of the debate over judicial nominations is one more example of the media swallowing hook, line, and sinker the spin of the Bush regime. It is naturally in the Republicans' interest to emphasize the potential use of the filibuster by Democrats who oppose the nominations for it raises the spectre of deeply unfair and anti-democratic forces at play.

In fact, it is nothing of the sort. The filibuster is simply a long way around the barn to reach something perfectly democratic that is not only in keeping with the spirit of a working republic but with our own Constitution: namely reaching a consensus through what is sometimes called a super majority.

One may disagree with the need for a super majority but to suggest that it is anti-democratic is absolutely false. As Senator Boxer has suggested, you could greatly simplify matters and just require a three-fifths vote for confirmation of judicial nominations. There not only is nothing anti-democratic in this; one need look no further than the Constitution itself for precedent. more....

May 10, 2005

America's shame, two years on from "Mission Accomplished"
by Robert Fisk

Two years after "Mission Accomplished", whatever moral stature the United States could claim at the end of its invasion of Iraq has long ago been squandered in the torture and abuse and deaths at Abu Ghraib. That the symbol of Saddam Hussein's brutality should have been turned by his own enemies into the symbol of their own brutality is a singularly ironic epitaph for the whole Iraq adventure. We have all been contaminated by the cruelty of the interrogators and the guards and prison commanders.

But this is not only about Abu Ghraib. There are clear and proven connections now between the abuses at Abu Ghraib and the cruelty at the Americans Bagram prison in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. more....

May 9, 2005

FAQ: How Real ID will affect you
By Declan McCullagh

What's all the fuss with the Real ID Act about? President Bush is expected to sign an $82 billion military spending bill soon that will, in part, create electronically readable, federally approved ID cards for Americans. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the package--which includes the Real ID Act--on Thursday.

What does that mean for me? Starting three years from now, if you live or work in the United States, you'll need a federally approved ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments, or take advantage of nearly any government service. Practically speaking, your driver's license likely will have to be reissued to meet federal standards. more....


Silence about U.S. torture tactics is abhorrent

May 7, 2005
My friends and I are wondering why the people of the United States are satisfied with an internal investigation into the torture that occurred at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and in Afghanistan that exonerates just about everyone above the rank of sergeant.

It appears that, during the period since we went to war in Afghanistan, at least 12 humans have been tortured to death by the U.S. military or employees of the U.S. military.

Torture is worse than murder. A murder victim usually dies quickly with his or her dignity intact. Torture takes an individual to the brink of death repeatedly. In addition, it creates an atmosphere of degradation equivalent to rape.

It appears that we feel this is just not worth getting that upset about.

Where is the Moral Majority now? I don't hear you.

-- Gregory T. Gregg, Salem

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No War in Iraq march.

San Francisco, Ca., January 18, 2003
San Francisco, Ca., February 16, 2003


Klezmatics concert photos. (These are uncorrected straight out out of the camera)

On April 3, 2005, Barbara and I went to see the Klezmatics, with guest Joshua Nelson, Jewish gospel singer. To quote the concert program, "Their soul-stirring Jewish roots music recreates klezmer in arrangements and compostions that combine Jewish identity and mysticism with a contemporary zeitgeist and a postmodern aesthetic. Since their founding in New York City's East Village in 1986, the Klezmatics have celebrated the ecstatic nature of Yiddish music with works by turn wild, spiritual, provocative, reflective and danceable." The concert was phenomenal.


Campus Bay

On April 28, 2005, More than 50 people representing many officials, community groups, and other concerned citizens gathered at the Campus Bay site to demand strict oversight of health and safety standards designed to protect the community during and after cleanup of these former industrial sites. Two months have gone by since the Richmond City Council asked the state to authorize the Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) to take the lead on environmental cleanup for the entire Stauffer Chemical / Zeneca / Campus Bay (called Campus Bay in short) site. Meanwhile, DTSC does have oversight on a portion of the site and cleanup will continue before development plans are approved.

The main health concerns include:
That the soil is so toxic that future residents would be exposed in the long term with unknown health effects due to gases from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and direct exposure to toxic soils. They would almost certainly not be informed about the site history or any potential health threats. The developers idea of mitigation, by the way, includes fans inside the high rises to prevent buildup of VOCs where residents live (!!!!!).

Additional concerns:
Many organizations have additional concerns including the visual impact of the high rises on adjacent neighorhoods, visual impact on the coastal zone, proper clean up and restoration of the site in general and the marsh in particular which is critical habitat for many species including the endangered Clapper Rail etc.

A few additional Photos (Most of these photos are not edited or corrected in Photoshop).


This site consists of original photographs and composites by Fletcher Oakes, unless otherwise credited.

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