Friday, December 14, 2007

Your holiday shopping just got a little bit easier

I got an email this morning from Oxfam America that was full of great ideas for holiday gifts:
$40.00: Here's a gift you can tap into. Provide farmers with a much-needed system to irrigate their land. With your support for two months, four months, or a full year, you'll help farmers grow a bumper crop!

$40.00 They’re cheaper by the dozen. Who can resist these fuzzy little beauties? Your gift provides HIV/AIDS-affected households with a starter flock: a dozen chicks to produce eggs, generate income, and improve nutrition. Now that’s an eggs-ceptional gift!

$25.00 Forget the apple for the teacher; we've got a plum of a gift. School supplies—like rulers, notebooks, erasers, pencils, and pens—mean that a child will have the necessary tools for class. Everyone involved with this gift deserves a gold star!

$18.00 Baby, it's cold outside! And nothing takes the chill off like a cozy blanket—especially for those who are driven from their homes because of a natural disaster. This gift of blankets for an entire family provides both warmth and comfort.

$75.00 It's got milk and so much more! Help a family by buying a cow, and you will provide an entire economic support system. A cow provides nutritious products for a family to sell, mows the grass, and moo-ves a family toward greater opportunity.
Here's how it works. Oxfam America is an amazing organization that works in 26 countries around the world. When you select an item from the online catalog, it represents project goals from grants disbursed by their offices around the world. So purchasing each gift item is a contribution toward Oxfam America's many programs, not a donation to a specific project or goal. So althought it might feel more rewarding as the person who gives if you were actually giving a cow to a family, the bottom line is: donations are used where needed the most--to help people living in poverty throughout the world.

Every year we all say how commercial and material the holidays have become. Maybe it's time we actually did something about it.

Darn right it's Friday

And I'm in serious need of some lightening up ....

December 13, 2003: Saddam Hussein captured

I haven't seen much mention of this in the news today, but it 's now been 4 years since Paul Bremer announced, "The tyrant is a prisoner." From, here are some other important time lines:

US deaths since July 2, 2003: 3684
(Pres. Bush announces, "Bring Them On")

Total Hostile Fatalities since December 13, 2003: 3035
(Saddam Hussein is captured)

Coalition Deaths Since January 30, 2005: 2601
(First Nationwide election since the toppling of Saddam Hussein)

Coalition Deaths Since December 15, 2005: 1843
(General election to elect a permanent Iraqi National Assembly)

Coalition Deaths Since June 7, 2006: 1484
(Death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi)

I think these facts speak for themselves, as far as the lack of success of George W. Bush's private war.

Abuse of women in Iraq: "democracy" means doing whatever you want to them

There is an alarming story in the Guardian this morning about the current state of women in Iraq. Despite George Bush's claims that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein has brought "new rights and new hopes to women," women in Iraq live a life of brutality and death.
[S]ince the 2003 invasion, advances that took 50 years to establish are crumbling away. In much of the country, women can only now move around with a male escort. Rape is committed habitually by all the main armed groups, including those linked to the government. Women are being murdered throughout Iraq in unprecedented numbers.
So-called "honor killings" have risen dramatically. Because there is no state government to regulate the safety of women, cultural and religious factions have taken it upon them selves to enforce rules as they see fit:
In October the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (Unami) expressed serious concern over the rising incidence of so-called honour crimes in Iraqi Kurdistan, confirming that 255 women had been killed in just the first six months of 2007, three-quarters of them by burning. An earlier Unami report cited 366 burns cases in Dohuk in 2006, up from 289 the year before, although most were not fatal. In Irbil, the emergency management centre had reported 576 burns cases since 2003, resulting in 358 deaths.

The Iraqi penal code prescribes leniency for those who commit such crimes for "honourable motives", enabling some of the men involved to get off with no more than a fine.

[A] man from Kirkuk ... accused his sister of adultery. "When we asked him why he wanted to kill his sister, he said, 'Because it is now a democracy in Iraq'. He thought that democracy meant he could do whatever he wanted." But the man's stupidity hid an important point: under the new system of government developing in Iraq, family disputes are increasingly settled not in state courts but by local tribal or religious authorities.
We keep hearing from this administration that violence is down in Iraq. Just a week ago, General Petraeus seemed guardedly optimistic about the situation in Iraq, saying that there is improvement, although there is still a great deal of danger still. The drumbeat from the White House, however, is still "stay the course" (although I haven't heard that phrase in a while, have you? In fact, I think the trend has been: "Mission accomplished," Stay the course," and now "Guarded optimism.").

So while those in office and those running for office would tell us that things are improving Iraq, I remind them of the words of Abigail Adams: Remember the ladies.

UPDATE: From Human Rights Watch, more background on the deterioration of women's lives in Iraq since U.S. involvement there:
Historically, Iraqi women and girls have enjoyed relatively more rights than many of their counterparts in the Middle East. The Iraqi Provisional Constitution (drafted in 1970) formally guaranteed equal rights to women and other laws specifically ensured their right to vote, attend school, run for political office, and own property. Yet, since the 1991 Gulf War, the position of women within Iraqi society has deteriorated rapidly. Women and girls were disproportionately affected by the economic consequences of the U.N. sanctions, and lacked access to food, health care, and education. These effects were compounded by changes in the law that restricted women's mobility and access to the formal sector in an effort to ensure jobs to men and appease conservative religious and tribal groups.
And from the Washington Post recently:

Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, was known for its mixed population and night life. Now, in some areas, red graffiti threatens any woman who wears makeup and appears with her hair uncovered: "Your makeup and your decision to forgo the headscarf will bring you death."

Khalaf said bodies have been found in garbage dumps with bullet holes, decapitated or otherwise mutilated with a sheet of paper nearby saying, "she was killed for adultery," or "she was killed for violating Islamic teachings." In September, the headless bodies of a woman and her 6-year-old son were among those found, he said. A total of 40 deaths were reported this year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Saint George continues his lies. Is it a way of life for these people?

In an interview with ABC's Martha Raddatz, our pathological liar dear leader continues to tell the fib that he stopped drinking one morning in 1986 and has never had a drink since:
"I had too much to drink one night, and the next day I didn't have any," Bush said. "The next day I decided to quit and I haven't had a drink since 1986."
Really, George? So you were sober at this wedding in 1992?

No? How about at the end of this video, where Laura needs to prop you up as you walk away from Air Force One?

And finally, remember "drinks with the G8"?

Personally, I'm getting pretty tired of this holier than thou, recovering addict bull from Bush and his religious conservative pals. Whether it's gay sex or drinking, the hypocrisy in this Administration is reaching a boiling point .....

Here's a concept: Report the facts

Let me preface this post by saying that I have not decided who to endorse in the presidential primary (okay, okay, so that's not exactly breaking news, like Oprah announcing she's behind Obama.) But I am upset about the amount of negative press and non-reporting of positive events concerning Hillary Clinton. Today's example is a new poll out from ABC News and The Washington Post.

In a national poll, (that is, a poll of more than just the Iowa or New Hampshire voters), Hillary Clinton is leading the field of candidates with 53% of probable democratic voters supporting her. Obama, her closest rival, has only 23% support.

To me, this is important news. For the first time in our history, a woman running for president holds a commanding lead in the polls. Yet this story was reported in the Post with this headline:

In Poll, Huckabee Closes on Giuliani

Clinton Far Ahead Among Democrats

I have to say, this kind of reporting is turning me into a Hillary Clinton supporter. Buried at the end of the article was this (emphasis mine):

Clinton's standing on attributes and issues also remains strong. She holds a 3 to 1 edge in being perceived as the strongest leader in the field and a nearly 6 to 1 advantage as the candidate with the best experience to be president. On the issues, she holds 2 to 1 or greater leads on four top issues: the economy, Iraq, health care and terrorism, advantages that have remained steady since late September.

Nationally, Democrats say they put little stock in talk show host Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of Obama. More than eight in 10 said her support will not make a difference in their vote; 8 percent said it makes them more likely to vote for Obama, while 10 percent said it would make them less likely to support him. At the same time, among black women, two in 10 said they are more likely to support Obama because of Winfrey's recommendation. (African American women went for Clinton over Obama in the poll, 54 percent to 34 percent.)

No, I won't voter for Hillary Clinton just because she's a woman. But as a woman who grew up before Title IX was enacted, I spent most of my youth facing the realities of things I could not do because I was a girl. The only time my 6th grade basketball team got to play a real game was during halftime of the boys' game, and that was only because of a dedicated phys ed teacher. I loved politics and current events from an early age, so I eagerly watched Shirley Chisholm and Geraldine Ferraro run for office. I saw, however, that few people took them seriously as candidates — because they were women. A favorite saying about America has always been that anyone can be president. But women and people of color have known the farce of that statement.

For the first time in the history of this country, a woman is running for president and leading the polls. All I ask is that she has a fair shot.

Wednesday poetry break

I woke up this morning in a sour mood, though not sure why. Didn't sleep well, fussed with my sweetie this morning, and grumbled to myself the entire drive to work. And it was a long drive today. I've spend quite a while this morning trying to find a suitable poem for my mood, and I'm still not happy with my choice. But I have a feeling I could spend all morning reading poems and not find one that fits. Another cup of coffee and I think the outlook for the rest of the day will improve.

With Mercy for the Greedy

For my friend, Ruth, who urges me to make an appointment for the Sacrament of Confession

Concerning your letter in which you ask
me to call a priest and in which you ask
me to wear The Cross that you enclose;
your own cross,
your dog-bitten cross,
no larger than a thumb,
small and wooden, no thorns, this rose—

I pray to its shadow,
that gray place
where it lies on your letter ... deep, deep.
I detest my sins and I try to believe
in The Cross. I touch its tender hips, its dark jawed face,
its solid neck, its brown sleep.

True. There is
a beautiful Jesus.
He is frozen to his bones like a chunk of beef.
How desperately he wanted to pull his arms in!
How desperately I touch his vertical and horizontal axes!
But I can’t. Need is not quite belief.

All morning long
I have worn
your cross, hung with package string around my throat.
It tapped me lightly as a child’s heart might,
tapping secondhand, softly waiting to be born.
Ruth, I cherish the letter you wrote.

My friend, my friend, I was born
doing reference work in sin, and born
confessing it. This is what poems are:
with mercy
for the greedy,
they are the tongue’s wrangle,
the world's pottage, the rat's star.

— Anne Sexton

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

3,888 dead: The stories behind 3 tragedies

From the US Department of Defense:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died from wounds suffered when their vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device in Bayji, Iraq. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.
Killed were:
  • Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez, 26, of Waldwick, N.J., who died Dec. 4 in Bayji, Iraq.
  • Pvt. Dewayne L. White, 27, of Country Club Hills, Ill., who died Dec. 4 in Bayji, Iraq.Capt.
  • Adam P. Snyder, 26, of Fort Pierce, Fla., who died Dec. 5 in Balad, Iraq.

These three men won't be coming back to their families for this or any other holiday season:

Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez

Army Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez, 26, had an older brother and a younger sister. His mom and stepdad live in Waldwick, N.J., and he was raised in West Milford, in Passaic County. His father, Craig Hernandez, is a Garnerville resident.

Eric Hernandez had earned his high school equivalency diploma. He knew what he wanted, to join the military, which he did in October 2003. He also had career plans after his Army stint was up - he had already taken the civil service test to become a police officer. His family has a strong law enforcement tradition - his uncle is retired Clarkstown Police Chief William Collins.

Dewayne L. White
White grew up in Chicago's Woodlawn community and attended Curie High School. When his mother and stepfather moved to Country Club Hills during his senior year, White earned his GED and trained to be a welder through a Job Corps program.

White loved to dance, draw cartoons of hip-hop characters and play pool. He adored the family's dog, a Rottweiler named Zeus. And he did a dead-on impression of Donald Duck, his siblings said.

His family remembered how willing White - a broad-shouldered man who stood 6 feet 2 inches - had always been to help others.

When he was about 7 years old, a neighbor gave him a dollar for being a good boy. White gave the money to charity, without urging from adults, because he wanted to help the children of Ethiopia, his mother said.

He maintained that spirit of giving while in Iraq. He always carried candy to pass out to the children, his mother said.

Adam P. Snyder

Everyone knew Adam Snyder was something special, even before he graduated in the top 10 percent at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with studies in Arabic and Middle Eastern history, became an Army Ranger and set off for Iraq.

At Fort Pierce's Lincoln Park Academy, he was named "Mr. LPA." Classmates crowned him homecoming king. His lead performance in The Music Man his senior year earned rave reviews. In the yearbook section titled "Most Likely to Appear On the Cover Of," Snyder is shown on an Entertainment Weekly headlined "Adam Snyder Wins Tony for Music Man."

He loved acting. As a child, he attended three years of theater camp at the Pineapple Playhouse, the local community theater. He struck a deal with his family: After the Army, in 2009, he would go to Hollywood for a year to try his hand at acting.

At Westside Baptist, he had been heavily involved with the youth group. Every summer, he volunteered as a counselor at vacation Bible camp.

"He made coming to church cool to the kids," Ingersoll said. "He didn't have to go to West Point to learn how to lead."

Please continue to do what ever you can to end the war in Iraq. Contact your Senators and Representatives today and tell them we want the killing in the name of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" to end now.

With Hillary Clinton as everyone's new favorite target, the truth be damned?

It's getting harder and harder to be a well-informed voter. In case you hadn't noticed, the mainstream media leans more toward opinion than fact. Point in case, Media Matters catches the Washington Post's David Ignatius, who ignores poll results from his own paper to promote his own opinions:
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius asserted of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign: "[V]oters are grappling with the unusual questions that would surround her presidency. And the most important of these is the 'two presidents' problem. Whatever you think of the Clintons, it's hard to get your mind around having a current and former president in the White House."

But a September 27-30 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 60 percent of respondents said they "personally feel comfortable ... with the idea of Bill Clinton back in the White House." And in several other 2007 polls, a majority of respondents stated that Bill Clinton is an asset to Hillary Clinton's campaign or would have a positive effect on a Hillary Clinton administration.
Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, this type of misleading writing -- his article was titled, "Hillary's Ex Factor: The 'Two Presidents' Issue Isn't Going Away" -- must be addressed. The frontrunner in any race is always the target of scrutiny -- that's a reality of human nature (who doesn't love an underdog?). But Ignatius and others like him in the MSM are not scrutinizing, but are promoting their own opinions -- despite facts to the contrary.

Perhaps David Ignatius is "grappling" with the historic possibility of having a former President in the White House again -- as a first-spouse. And maybe Ignatius finds it "hard to get your mind around having a current and former president in the White House." But to say that "voters are grappling" with an issue when 60 percent are not is not just poor writing -- it's a lie.

Evolution vs. Creationism: Are you freakin' kidding me?

A mighty hat tip to Cootamundra Wattle for this "fodder for the blog," as she put it.

In yesterday's CommonDreams, Sean Gonsalves has an excellent article on the current state of the debate between evolution and creationism. (I can't even believe I just wrote that sentence — what year is this?!)

From Gonsalves:
A federal lawsuit has been filed against a biologist at the world-famous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution by a zebra fish researcher named Nathaniel Abraham, alleging his civil rights were violated when he was fired because his belief in creationism.
Yes, a researcher is suing a biologist over his beliefs in creationism. (Ironically, this researcher studies zebra fish, pictured above, which are featured in a UC Berkeley article from the series "Understanding Evolution." I guess he didn't go to Berkeley.)

Gonsalves points out that the current strategy of creationists such as the one in this case seems to be to "insert skepticism" about evolution into the public arena, since their outright dismissal of evolution on religious grounds has been thrown out numerous courts. And as often happens in these types of passionate debates, facts are being manipulated and twisted to fit the arguers needs:
The evolution vs. creationism debate may be an unavoidable political fight but much more relevant and revealing is what many evolution-believing secular conservatives and evolution-denying religious conservatives have in common: a belief in social Darwinism.

A popular misconception is that Darwin coined the phrase “survival of the fittest.” Actually, Darwin’s thang was “natural selection,” which turns out to involve lots of cooperation.

The origin of “survival of the fittest” can be traced to British philosopher Herbert Spencer, who had an illustrious career justifying racism and imperialism with his pseudo-science 50 years after Darwin published The Origin of the Species.

Spencer bastardized Darwin’s theory and attempted to apply his misunderstanding of evolution to politics and economics. Thus began a political tradition in this country that has reached its apogee today, in which public policy is seen as a vehicle to prevent the weak from being “parasites” on the “fit.”

I encourage you to read the rest of Gonsalves' article here. With the rise in the polls of social conservatives like Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, it's imperative that we know (1) the facts about evolution theory, and (2) where these social conservatives would take us on their journey down creationist lane.
So while science battles evolution-opponents, I’m trying to understand a conservative political species that opposes evolution on religious grounds while supporting social Darwinism on the political and economic grounds.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Guns in America, continued

In an earlier post about the recent shootings in America, I asked simply, "Why?" And now the past few days have brought more stories of innocent people killed because of guns in the hands of angry, sick individuals. Ironically, this all falls within a few days of an incredibly sad and tragic anniversary: on December 8, 1980, John Lennon was shot by Mark David Chapman.

Let's not waste the lives of those we have lost. Let's, together, make the world a place of love and joy and not a place of fear and anger. This day of John's passing has become more and more important for so many people around the world as the day to remember his message of Peace and Love and to do what each of us can to work on healing this planet we cherish.

Let's: Think Peace, Act Peace, and Spread Peace. John worked for it all his life. He said, "there's no problem, only solutions." Remember, we are all together. We can do it, we must. I love you!

Yoko Ono Lennon
Please watch John sing "Imagine." Again, I ask: "Why do we need handguns and semi-automatic weapons in America?"

Math is fun!

As my friends will attest, I am somewhat math-impaired. It just doesn't come naturally to me for some reason. So perhaps that's why I am fascinated when I come across something like the following video, which explains Mobeus Transformations. Geometry was always easiest for me to understand in school because it's visual, but a concept like this is still pretty intense. Fortunately, this video is anything but intense.

So, although you didn't expect a math lesson when you came here, I think you'll enjoy it!