Archive for October, 2005

Three teenage girls beheaded in Indonesia

Monday, October 31st, 2005

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Men in black clothes and masks beheaded three teenage Christian girls on Saturday in eastern Indonesia as they walked to school near the Muslim town of Poso, officials said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono condemned the killings, which he described as “sadist and inhuman crimes,” and called an emergency security meeting with his vice-president, as well as military officials and police.

National police spokesman Aryanto Budiharjo said up to six men in black clothes and masks attacked the students in Bukit Bambu village, on the eastern island of Sulawesi.

“The perpetrators wore black attire and veils and they used machetes to slash (the victims),” he told reporters in Jakarta.

The three headless bodies of the high school students, dressed in brown uniforms, were left at the site of the attack. Three heads were found at separate locations two hours later by residents.

Earlier, a police official in Poso gave a different account, saying two men wearing helmets on a motorcycle attacked the 16-year-old students.

He said the student who escaped said the attackers wore helmets and carried a two-way radio.

So are we supposed to be thinking ‘evil Muslims’, ‘Nick Berg’, ‘Zarqawi’? Everytime I hear ‘beheading’ I think ‘psy ops.’

There Are No Moslem Terrorist Organizations In Indonesia

Rosa Parks, Misremembered

Monday, October 31st, 2005

Rosa Parks died yesterday at age 92. Over the days to come, we’ll hear a lot of very-much deserved prasie for Parks’ refusal to abide bigotry and her courage in the service of a cause. Unfortunately, we’ll also hear a new round of recitations of the stubborn myth that Parks was an anonymous, apolitical woman who spontaneously refused to yield to authority and in so doing inspired a movement. The truth, as Aldon Morris wrote in his book The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement, is that a decade earlier in the 1940s Mrs. Parks had refused several times to comply with segregation rules on the buses. In the early 1940s Mrs. Parks was ejected from a bus for failing to comply. The very same bus driver who ejected her that time was the one who had her arrested on December 1, 1955…She began serving as secretary for the local NAACP in 1943 and still held that post when arrested in 1955…In the early 1940s Mrs. Parks organized the local NAACP Youth Council…During the 1950s the youth in this organization attempted to borrow books from a white library. They also took rides and sat in the front seats of segregated buses, then returned to the Youth Council to discuss their acts of defiance with Mrs. Parks.

This history is not hidden. But the Times’ obituary describes Parks’ arrest nonetheless as an event which “turned a very private woman into a reluctant symbol and torchbearer…” Parks was certainly reluctant to see too personal valoration of her as heroine distract from the broader movement. But she was not private about her politics. And her refusal to give up her bus seat was nothing new for her. As she would later tell an interviewer, “My resistance to being mistreated on the buses and anywhere else was just a regular thing with me and not just that day.”
The myth of Parks as a pre-political seamstress who was too physically worn out to move has such staying power not because there’s any factual basis but because it appeals to an all-too popular narrative about how social change happens in America: When things get bad enough, an individual steps up alone, unsupported and unmediated, and spontaneously resists. And then an equally spontaneous movement follows. Such a myth makes good TV, but it’s poor history.

Movement-building takes hard work, no matter how righteous the cause or how desperate the circumstances.

The pivotal moments of the 60’s civil rights movement, as Morris recounts in his book, were not random stirrings or automatic responses. Most of them were carefully planned events which followed months of organizing and were conceived with an eye to political tactics and media imagery. There were even some long meetings involved.

That shouldn’t be seen as a dirty little secret, because strategic organizing and planned imagery shouldn’t be seen as signs of moral impurity. Organizations, like the people in them, each have their faults (Ella Baker was frequently and justifiably furious with the sexism and condescension of much of CORE’s leadership). But the choice of individuals to work together and find common cause in common challenges doesn’t become less pure or less honest or less noble when they choose to do it through political organizations. And there’s nothing particularly progressive about a historical perspective in which Rosa Parks’ defiance of racism is made less genuine by the knowledge that she was secretary of the NAACP.

The myth of Rosa Parks as a private apolitical seamstress, like the myth of Martin Luther King as a race-blind moderate, has real consequences as we face the urgent civil rights struggles of today. Seeing acts of civil disobedience like Parks’ as spontaneous responses to the enormity of the injustice justifies the all-too common impulses to refuse our support for organized acts of resistance and regard organized groups as inherently corrupt. Those are impulses people like Rosa Parks had to confront and overcome amongst members of her community long before she ever made national headlines for refusing to give up her seat on the bus.

Judge Samuel Alito…”Scalito”: Bush’s new nominee

Monday, October 31st, 2005

Alito is the head of the Federal Appeals panel in Philly that has repeatedly denied the appeals of Mumia Abu Jamal. Cheers

U.N. poverty expert finds N.O. ‘shocking’

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

After listening to Hurricane Katrina victims and disaster relief workers for several hours Friday, as well as touring parts of New Orleans, United Nations expert on human rights Arjun K. Sengupta, called America’s response to the disaster “shocking.”

“Something went wrong and it appears to be a gross violation of human rights,” said Sengupta, United Nations independent expert on human rights and extreme poverty.

Robert Fisk: Government for and by the dead

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

…For as someone who has to look at the eviscerated corpses of Palestine and Israel, the murdered bodies in the garbage heaps of Iraq, the young women shot through the head in the Baghdad morgue, I can only shake my head in disbelief at the sheer, unadulterated, lazy bullshit – let’s call a spade a spade – which is currently emerging from our great leaders.

Scooter Meet Josť Padilla

When President Bush was confronted by reporters as he left the White House for Camp David following the announcement of the five indictments of, and the resignation of Vice President Dick Cheney chief of state I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, he offered up a lame comment, which at the same time exposed him as a grotesque hypocrite.

“In our system,” he said, “each individual is presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial.”

Sure. That’s what will happen with Scooter, and with Karl Rove if he gets indicted when the other shoe drops.

But what about Jose Padilla? This U.S. citizen, picked up at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport back in 2001, has been held in a military brig without charge, without access to an attorney, and in solitary confinement without any contact with family members for four years because President Bush has claimed the right, on his sole authority, to declare any American citizen to be an “enemy combatant” and to revoke their Constitutional rights and rights of citizenship.

While you were, ah, distracted, Congress was quietly renewing every major provision of the Patriot Act.

Most of the provisions of the USA Patriot Act, including access to library records, were supposed to “sunset” this month, five years after the law’s passing. Instead, both the House and the Senate have already voted to renew the entire act, with only minor revisions. While they’re at it, they’d like to add some decidedly unpatriotic amendments to expand the death penalty.

These new amendments would let prosecutors shop around for another jury if the one they have is deadlocked on the death penalty; triple the number of terrorism-related crimes eligible for the death penalty; and authorize the death penalty for a person who gives money to an organization whose members kill someone, even if the contributor did not know that the organization or its members were planning to kill.

SOS ‘Was Written In Blood’

AN SOS written in blood on a prison cell wall spelled out the desperation of Bahraini Guantanamo detainee Juma Al Dossary.

It was his last resort after being continuously denied medical treatment as he grew increasingly ill in appalling conditions, he says in his handwritten diary of despair.

He claims he has been savagely beaten, tortured, sexually humiliated, fed bug-infested, rotten food and denied medical treatment, in a systematic campaign of abuse meted out for over three years.

His weight has dropped 30kg to 55kg and he is so weak he can barely stand, he says in the diary, written in July and just released to his lawyers by US authorities.

Mr Al Dossary says he regularly vomits blood, has heart and blood pressure problems, has fainting fits and suffers pains in his head, stomach and left arm – but has been persistently denied proper medical treatment.

The abuse has gone on since his arrest on the

Afghanistan/Pakistan border in December 2001, but took a new form after he complained about the conditions to his lawyer during a visit in March this year.

“In March this year I met my lawyer to discuss my case and I told him about all the torture and abuse that I went through here, but I didn’t know that they were spying on us,” he says in the diary.

“After the lawyer had left, a military man came to me and told me to forget about all that had happened to me and not to remember it or mention it again to anyone, otherwise I will not live in peace.”

House Panel OKs School Lunch Funding Cut

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

WASHINGTON – The House Agriculture Committee approved budget cuts Friday that would take food stamps away from an estimated 300,000 people and could cut off school lunches and breakfasts for 40,000 children.

The action came as the government reported that the number of people who are hungry because they can’t afford to buy enough food rose to 38.2 million in 2004, an increase of 7 million in five years. The number represents nearly 12 percent of U.S. households.

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Tim Wise: Framing the Poor

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

…But just as surely as the media went after those in positions of power, and sought to expose them as witless in all respects, it was even more adept at framing (pun very much intended) low-income black folks in the streets of New Orleans as a collection of deviant criminals. In other words, the more things changed, the more they ultimately stayed the same, with the press presenting images of the desperate and left behind that reinforce negative and racist stereotypes, to the utter exclusion of accuracy and fair-mindedness.

In India, Bill Gates Does Well By Doing “Good”

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

…But all this was besides the real point. The AIDS donation was a mere quarter of the moolah Microsoft was lobbing at the Indian computer market and astute journalists noted the contrast between the Bill-g fan club in Delhi and Cyberabad (as the Andhra capital of Hyderabad was nicknamed) and the media neglect of Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation, who was in India at the same time. Stripped of the AIDS hoopla, Gates’ visit was actually a major skirmish in Microsoft’s ongoing jihad against the free soft ware, GNU+Linux, which Stallman was promoting and which is broadly popular with governments all over the world, especially in developing countries.

Fear and Sex

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

…Fear and sex have had a complex, intertwined evolutionary history, ever since our amphibious ancestors first mated ecstatically in the midst of fearsome predators, up to our modern desire to expose ourselves in risky places, from the Internet to the Oval Office. Hot sex and a touch of fear–risk, danger, taboo–seem to go together. Why is this?

Bono and Geldoff: “We Saved Africa!” O NO THEY DIDN”T

Sunday, October 30th, 2005

…Bono, his voice cracking with emotion, concurred. “We are talking about $25bn of new money…. The world spoke and the politicians listened.”

Journalists and campaigners broke into spontaneous applause; the next day’s media coverage led with Geldof’s “mission accomplished” verdict. But as the millions who signed up to Make Poverty History (MPH) and Live8 rejoiced, inside the upper echelons of MPH all hell was breaking loose. “They’ve shafted us,” a press officer from a British development organization screamed down the phone.