My "big fundamental" is that being _left_ means working for a more egalitarian, democratic society, but also for fairness, not ethnic or other kinds of favoritism. Because the left has turned away from fairness it is lost and unpopular. I'm a small voice hoping to push the left back toward its basics and its natural popularity.

Monday, July 25, 2005

High School Anti-Recruiting in September? No?

The Achilles heel of the neo-con empire wars is military recruiting. The most recent reports, from June, show it way under target four, five, six months in a row. And the reason is reassuring: the Iraq war is very unpopular, and a strong majority of young people do not want to fight and die there. What if recruiting dips still further, could this force our nation to come home, soon, from its oil and blood soaked crusades? I think so.

We must anti-recruit, however, in our nation’s high schools, not the much more familiar and comfortable college campuses, because that is where the vast majority of potential recruits are. Unfortunately peace activist anti-recruitment (or counter-recruitment) is minimal. I searched reasonably diligently on the internet for organized activities at high schools during the critical first two or three weeks of school. I googled, and checked out major peace organizations and minor. Finally, the fruits of my labor: The Lehigh Valley Peace Coalition plans to leaflet several of the area’s bigger high schools. And there’s something planned for Albuquerque. I’m sure there’s more, but at this point there won’t be much anti-recruitment going on in America’s high schools in the first weeks of class.

What a tragedy, which is particularly acute because of a matter called opting out. “Opting out” allows parents to fill out a form and get their children off the military recruiters’ call and visit lists. Yet this option is best taken, and often can only be taken, in the first few weeks of class. In any case, the military recruiters show up when school starts, in force, and they will have already contacted many seniors in the summer. Will the graphic truth about Iraq be there to counter the lies? Simply exercising our right to post the truth on a school bulletin board might turn someone the right way. But how many students will sign away their souls before hearing of other options?

Finally, where is the national leadership on this issue? Where the heck are the big national peace organizations? Planning for the big march September 24 is fine, but empire seems to withstand big marches. The Achilles heel is in the halls and classrooms of our high schools.

Our goal is to get our troops out of Iraq, and we may be able to help make that happen, soon! We just have to attack our enemy's weak point, and help squeeze dry the supply of cannon fodder. That is what is so exciting about early September: it is the first opportunity since June to speak directly to the potential cannon fodder.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

John Roberts & The President as War on Terror Dictator

The Judge Roberts hearings being 4-6 weeks away, what is important right now for concerned liberals and leftists is to urge Congress not to renew the Patriot Act.

But at the hearings, I hope Democrats raise hell about the near-dictatorial powers the President has been handed (as Commander in Chief of the endless & "not really a war" War on Terror) by the Patriot Act and similar laws, and through Bush's assertion of executive powers without the aid of laws, _and_ the fact that the judicial branch has not thrown out most of this cr-p as unconstitutional or illegal.

Roberts is part of the problem. For example, he has signed on to the Hamdan v Rumsfeld decision, which makes US disobedience to the Geneva Conventions meaningless, with no negative consequences. Hamdan was a case where precedents were more than ambiguous enough to allow his court to do what needed to be done: use judicial power to enforce Geneva Convention POW rights at America's Guantanamo concentration camp. (Of course, the very existence of the concentration camp is an indication of a huge failure of our Supreme Court).

But unfortunately Roberts is most consistent in one thing: the Executive branch is boss and the Judiciary and Congress gotta get out of the way. This is a terrible time in American history -- with Gitmo, the Patriot Act, Jose Padilla, Abu Ghraib and so on all crying out for judicial intervention -- for another executive branch uber alles type to join the Supremes.

Raise hell, Demos.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Vision of Buffalo: A Natural Beauty

Here are some of my many positive impressions of the city in no particular order: super friendly, celebrates Halloween and Christmas better than anywhere else, the awesome Niagara River, the Lake Erie coastline, big beautiful winter snow, great summer weather, the mountains an hour south, Tonawanda's Canal Fest. Oh, and several comfortable, established neighborhoods. I've left out negative impressions, because that's my worst impression about the area: Buffalonians' negative attitude toward their city.

Bufalo is having one of its usual, less than visionary mayors' races right now, so I think the time is right (well, it's been the right time for awhile, actually) to urge a radical, creative vision of the city's future. My fundamental belief (as you might guess from the previous paragraph) is that there is tremendous natural beauty and even more _potential_ natural beauty in and around Buffalo. The city (and Erie County, for that matter) should commit itself to gradually repairing the immense damage wrought by heavy industry and planning fiascos to its waterways, to Delaware Park, and to much else. At the same time, Buffalo should gradually and entirely re-orient itself toward the magnificent Niagara River and Lake Erie. Obviously this means a massive long-term clean-up and (neighborhood-friendly) urban renewal. So let's get started (!), raise the money and make clear and inspiring five, ten, and twenty-year plans. Oh and one more suggestion just to expand your minds a little: establish a big artificial hot springs resort just north of the new Peace Bridge: the region's many Asian tourists will _love_ it in the wintertime!

Finally, we need to revel in the region's awesome winter snowfall! Create festivals and a dog sled race from Buffalo to Toronto or Cleveland. Whatever shows a tremendous positive attitude toward the massive beautiful snowfall. If you want tips, check out how Minneapolis deals with its winter snow and cold.

Isn't the Tonawanda canal area beautiful this time of year? The Tonawandas' people and governments should be justifiably proud of what they have accomplished, and excited about the future of the area. Buffalo needs the same spirit and same direction: it could be a natural beauty nestled by a great river and lake.

Darfur: No Genocide Or Humanitarian Crisis

The following is a "reality-based community" response to the latest harassment of Sudan by Secretary of State Rice and Illinois Senator Obama.
It does not take very much research to find out that there definitely is no genocide in Darfur now, if there ever was. Simply read the World Health Organization website. In June, 2005, the WHO surveyed more than 3000 Darfur families and found the mortality rate had dropped more than three-fold from a year earlier. It was now "below the threshold... usually observed in humanitarian crises." The WHO report duly credited its own efforts and the public health efforts of Sudan's government. There has not been an increase in these mortality numbers since that time. So, the facts tell the WHO that not only is there no genocide, there is not even a humanitarian crisis anymore. As the WHO website reports, and as needs to be recognized, the great improvements in the Darfur situation "clearly demonstrate that international humanitarian assistance has made a dramatic impact in Darfur."

The 2004 charges of genocide appear to be based, at least in part, on exaggerated estimates of the number of people who have died in the region. In October of 2004, the WHO estimated that 70,000 had died up to that time in the crisis. Read also the press conference by a USAID official in July of 2004, who estimated that 30,000 had been killed in acts of violence (by both sides in a brutal civil war), and another 50,000 had died from malnutrition and related causes. Darfur's population is an estimated 6 million, and since late 2004 the situation has dramatically improved. Based on these facts, where is the genocide? Finally, note that both the UN and the European Union investigated the Darfur humanitarian crisis, and neither found genocide had taken place.
It's a matter of life and death that the genocide charge be refuted when it is at radical and documented variance with reality. As I'm sure you will all understand, the rest of the world suspects ulterior motives and hears the rumbling of the deadly American war machine when the US ignores the facts and persists with incendiary charges.