3/25/2009 3:33:41 PM
It was six years ago this month that the first American missiles—of this war at least—fell from the sky over Baghdad. You know the rest. For all the questions we've asked of the people who led us into this blood-blunder of a war, we've not often stopped to ask ourselves why we were so damn easily led. I stumbled across war correspondent Robert Fisk's most recent book, The Age of the Warrior, in the Utne library this week. The first words of his 498-page collection of articles and essays are, in typical Fisk fashion, words of damnation and profound questioning well suited for this solemn anniversary:
"Iraq, I suspect, will come to define the world we live in, even for those of us who have never been within a thousand miles of its borders. The war's colossal loss in human life—primarily Iraqi, of course—and the lies that formed a bodyguard for our invasion troops in 2003 should inform our understanding of conflict for years to come. Weapons of mass destruction. Links to al-Qaeda and the crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001. We were fooled. Yet I sometimes believe that we wanted to be fooled—that we wish to be led to the slaughter by our masters, to race for the cliff-edge with the desperate enthusiasm of the suicide bomber, our instincts awakened by something that should have been buried at Hastings or Waterloo or Anietam or Berlin or even Da Nang. Do we need war? Do we need it the way we need air and love and children and safety? I wonder."
3/25/2009 11:13:54 AM
The old joke is never put two economists in the same room if you want to know how the economy is doing. But what if you want to know how Timothy Geithner is doing? On Monday the Treasury Secretary unveiled his plan for a private/public partnership to buy up bad loans, in the hopes of getting money to flow from banks to the public once again. While mainstream media focuses on Wall Street’s reaction to Geithner, here are a few alternative sources:
The Hotline provides a detailed summary of the reaction to Geithner’s plan from both the liberal and conservative blogosphere.
Recent reports labeling Geithner as “embattled” or “beleaguered” have Christopher Beam over at Slate wondering if our Treasury Secretary will either resign or lose his job. “Embattled is one of those words that creeps into news reports,” Beam writes, “when a figure reaches a certain threshold of controversy.”
Mike Madden at Salon thinks that the key to Obama’s successfully selling Geithner’s ideas is to focus attention on the plan, not the man, citing the Treasury Secretary’s pronounced lack of media savvy.
And over at The New Republic, Jonathan Chait wonders why we care whether or not the stock market likes Geithner at all. What’s good for stocks isn’t necessarily what’s good for the economy as a whole. “The fact that the market is rallying doesn't mean [Geithner’s plan] will work,” Chait writes, “it just means that the rich folks think they'll come out ahead.”
Sources: Hotline, Slate, Salon, The New Republic
3/24/2009 9:08:33 AM
Alt Wire is a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a different guest blogger every weekday. Today's guest is Joshua Breitbart, (check back tomorrow for POZ editor Regan Hofmann):
I have been doing the Internet equivalent of buckling my seat belt for what I expect will be a bumpy ride. The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), commonly referred to as the stimulus package, includes substantial funding for lots of things we’ve been doing as volunteers or nonprofit workers for at least the past eight years, if not more. Especially for people my age, the bulk of whose activism was spent in the era of "big government is over"—it’s giving us whiplash.
In the world of community technology alone there is $7.2 billion. That doesn't even count the money for health information technology or job training that could also support computer centers and digital media classes or other Internet infrastructure. The proportion of government funding to other revenues will shift dramatically over the next two years for everyone working in this field. Nonprofits that have relied on foundation funding will undergo perhaps the most tumultuous transitions.
The Baller Herbst Roundup: If you follow these sorts of things, then every day you're clicking on links from the Baller Herbst daily roundup. Jim Baller is the guru of public interest telecom law and the invitation-only list is our daily sermon. Jim and his colleagues have prepared a highly-detailed memo on the stimulus bill, which they have shared publicly on their site, along with other helpful resources. Hat tip to Beth McConnel at the Media and Democracy Coalition for passing this around.
Holistic Thinking: The amazing thing about the stimulus bill is that it has so many moving parts. The funding flows through specific government agencies. If you have a narrow focus, that probably works for you. But the bill seems to be intended to reward the kind of expansive, holistic thinking that community media activists have been pioneering for years. Amalia Anderson Deloney has put this in context with a recent article, "Thinking Things Through, Together." She talks about combining weatherization with fiber optic or wireless installations, which would leverage two different pots of stimulus money to achieve our shared goals of environmental and media justice.
The Future of Detroit: In Detroit, people have been thinking about the local economic impact of community media. Jenny Lee, my colleague at Allied Media Projects, gives an overview of how this works in her article, "Detroit: Arsenal of Creativity" I've been sending this one around and it's the only link I've posted to my Facebook profile. The basic argument is that media production is an economic engine unto itself, but it is also the vehicle for imagining new solutions for all of our problems and for collaborating on their implementation. Media is how we think things through together, and then do them.
The Barriers to Government Grants: It will be a challenge to connect the humongous opportunities in the ARRA with local visions of a community media-based economy. Most of us grew accustomed to government being the enemy of vision and progress over the last 8+ years. The first thing we have to do is spread the word. The second thing we have to do is remove some pointless barriers to applying for government grants. One key to both of these will be overhauling the government's Grants.gov website, as Harold Feld describes. I would add to Harold's recommendations the need for XML formatting and RSS feeds. Technical acronyms notwithstanding, the point is to make all of the information – about what grants are available and what people have proposed – accessible and not just available. That way we can pull the information onto other websites where we can comment on it, categorize it, suggest improvements, and make it more graphically enticing.
Don't Keep Your Ideas to Yourself: Don't wait for that to happen, though. People are hatching plans as I write and as you read. In New York, the state senate is holding field hearings on the stimulus bill. In part, the new Democratic majority leader Malcolm Smith is responding to popular calls for transparency in how the state allocates whatever money it receives, but he also wants to see as much federal money come to his constituents as possible. If you have ideas, your elected officials will be excited to hear from you. You should start reaching out to partners and allies now. Also, when Smith says, "The idea of this stimulus package was for Washington to create the resources, hand it off to the state and we get it down to the local level," don't believe him. While state governments have an important role to play, the broadband money is available to go directly to community-based nonprofits, among other potential applicants. (Don't tell Senator Smith I said that.)
BIO: Joshua Breitbart is the Policy Director for People's Production House and a board member of Allied Media Projects. At this year's Allied Media Conference, he and PPH will be presenting their latest video and workshop on cellular phones. You can see their earlier video, "The Internet is Serious Business" (produced with CUP and City-As-School) online. He writes a monthly column on urban media policy for Gotham Gazette.
Previous Alt Wire Guests: Andrew Lam, Jessica Valenti, Jessica Hoffmann, Noah Scalin, Rinku Sen, Paddy Johnson, Melissa Mcewan, Fatemeh Fakhraie , Joe Biel , Anne Elizabeth Moore
3/19/2009 9:15:11 AM
Alt Wire is a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a different guest blogger every weekday. Today's guest is Jessica Hoffmann of
, one of
Utne's 50 visionaries
of 2008. We asked her for five links, and here's what she gave us (check back for tomorrow's guest, Jessica Valenti of Feministing):
Community Supported Publishing:
South End Press is the only radical, feminist, majority-women-of-color book-publishing collective in the United States. The voices and ideas they're publishing are challenging, inspiring, and critical to social-justice movement in the United States. I particularly love their Community Supported Publishing program, which applies a CSA model to book publishing: Starting at $20/month, you can provide consistent sustenance to an essential, paradigm-shifting independent publisher, and in exchange you'll receive every new book they publish, as well as selected backlist titles and discounts on everything else.
Ali Smith is probably my favorite contemporary fiction writer. Very little of her work—which is beautiful, formally inventive, always moving, queer (in so many ways), and unhesitatingly politicized—is available on the Web, but thanks to textualities.net, which is making the archives of Scottish Book Collector magazine available free online, you can read this lovely story right now.
The Radical Women of Color Blog Ring: Scroll past the ads for a list of links to bloggers engaging in grassroots organizing, critical dialogue, storytelling, and so much more around shared—though not homogenous—visions of a world without violence.
The Personal Politics of Resisting Capitalism:Tyrone Boucher and Dean Spade edit this inspiring, thought-provoking, and always-growing collection of ideas about how to connect a political belief in economic justice to personal financial choices.
Sundays off! About six months ago, I started a new habit of not turning on my computer on Sundays. While there's a lot of stuff I love online, I also love creating some regular space away from this zone. Sundays are now about puttering about the apartment, reading books and magazines in print, cooking, being outside, talking to people face-to-face, and otherwise recalibrating in the midst of a life in which many, many hours are spent staring at this screen.
Bio: Jessica Hoffmann is a coeditor/copublisher of make/shift magazine and a freelance writer/editor. Her essays and reportage have appeared in numerous independent media outlets, including ColorLines, Alternet, Bitch, the late and lamented NewStandard and Kitchen Sink, and the anthologies We Don't Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists, Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, and Making Connections: Mother-Daughter Travel Tales. She contributes to the group LGBTQ blog The Bilerico Project and is walking and writing with the blogger brownfemipower in a collaborative blog project called (Re)Thinking Walking, which happens on Mondays at brownfemipower's blog, Flip Flopping Joy. Last year, Utne Reader named her one of "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World."
Previous Alt Wire Guests: Noah Scalin, Rinku Sen, Paddy Johnson, Melissa Mcewan, Fatemeh Fakhraie , Joe Biel , Anne Elizabeth Moore
3/18/2009 12:42:48 PM
When Dan Millis stumbled upon the dead body of 14-year-old Salvadoran migrant Josseline Hernandez Quinteros, he was just doing what he does: leaving water on behalf of the organization "No More Deaths" for immigrants crossing the Arizona desert. "The only safe way for migrants to cross through these militarized zones is on foot,” Millis told ColorLines. “They’re taking superhuman, 100-mile hikes.”
The water is a simple but profound gesture. In the eyes of at least one Fish and Wildlife officer, however, it's littering. Or so says the $175 ticket issued to Millis two days after he discovered the corpse of the young girl, when he was on yet another water drop.
A federal judge ruled against the litterer, but offered no punishment. "Last summer," writes Julianne Ong Hing, No More Deaths volunteers "had face-to-face contact with 580 migrants, giving them food, water or medical attention. It’s a statistic ... that does not count the untold numbers who empty the canisters of water and supplies left along the trail by humanitarian aid groups every night."
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3/18/2009 11:27:52 AM
International adoption, like any business, is driven by market forces. In this month’s Mother Jones, Jim Carney tells the story of a boy adopted from India into an American family who is later revealed to have been kidnapped rather than relinquished. After the news is broken to both families, the boy’s Indian parents wish to have contact with their American counterparts, who choose instead to cease all communication. The article is accompanied by a podcast interview with Carney, who elaborates on what happened after the story was published, as well as his own views on how the supply and demand of international adoption contribute to its corruption.
“American families don’t want children who have lived in orphanages for too long,” he explains, noting the vulnerability of institutionalized children toward diseases, neurological problems, and general lack of care. “They aren’t very saleable.”
So, corrupt adoption brokers look for healthy children of “better stock”, i.e. from loving families, abduct them, and then concoct back stories that label the children as willingly relinquished. Thus, the receiving families, predominantly from the global west, get what they want, and the brokers get paid.
Systemic corruption in international adoption is not limited to India, either, with similar reports common from other sending countries.
For further examination of international adoption’s supply chain, check out E.J. Graff’s op-ed in The Washington Post, “The Orphan Manufacturing Chain,” which breaks down the system.
Beneath the traditional rhetoric of international adoption as save-the-children altruism lies the undeniable influence of basic economics. Framing international adoption in economic terms allows us to deconstruct the various forces that drive it and contribute to its corruption.
Sources: Mother Jones, The Washington Post
3/18/2009 11:07:18 AM
"Want a billion dollars in development aid?," writes Pratap Chaterjee in an excellent new piece on the future of Afghanistan. "If you happen to live in Afghanistan, the two quickest ways to attract attention and so aid from the U.S. authorities are: Taliban attacks or a flourishing opium trade. For those with neither, the future could be bleak."
Chaterjee writes of his recent travels in Afghanistan for TomDispatch and, focusing on a single province, illuminates a terrible imbalance: "With Pentagon expenditures in Afghanistan running at about $36 billion a year, the annual aid allocation for the 387,000 people who live in Bamiyan Province," he writes, "is outstripped every single hour by the money spent on 30,000-plus American troops and their weaponry.
Don't miss Chaterjee's excellent dispatch.
3/17/2009 5:35:47 PM
It’s popular to say that there’s “no place to hide” in the current economic crisis. There is one industry, however, that is riding high: the private prisons. CorpWatch reports that “Detaining immigrants has become a profitable business, and the niche industry is showing no signs of slowing down."
The company GEO Group Inc., for example, saw their annual income climb by $38 million in 2008, with $20 million of reportedly quarterly earnings in February of 2009. The company, which has contracts with federal immigration authorities to lock up undocumented immigrants and other federal inmates, has also been the target of various lawsuits and investigations. Inmates blame GEO Group for civil rights violations, inadequate and sometimes rotten food, overall neglect, and even death.
“The more we looked into the situation the more we realized it was a systemic problem,” Deborah Golden, an attorney with the DC Prisoners Project told CorpWatch. “I suspect that it’s a pattern all over. When you try to run prisons as money makers what you do is cut back on the most expensive thing you can, which is medication and medical care.”
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3/17/2009 9:31:18 AM
Alt Wire is a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a different guest blogger every weekday. Today's guest is Rinku Sen of
. We asked her for five links, and here's what she gave us (check back for tomorrow's guest, activist and artist Noah Scalin of Another Limited Rebellion):
A beautiful writer of "sex race health journalism
." Check out his book on queer teens of color, "Drifting Toward Love."
Rinku Sen is the President and Executive Director of the Applied Research Center (ARC) and Publisher of ColorLines magazine.
3/13/2009 12:17:22 PM
In the wake of International Women’s Day comes a study suggesting that access to reproductive healthcare for incarcerated American women not only varies widely but also often replicates the barriers to healthcare that they face in their home communities. Michelle Chen cites for RaceWire the current issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, which surveyed correctional health providers across the country. The study found that access to reproductive health differs from state to state and that state politics plays a major role in the variation:
“...providers from states with a Republican-dominated legislature or with a Medicaid policy that severely restricted coverage for abortion were more likely to indicate that availability of abortion services was limited than were those whose state had a predominantly Democratic legislature or a Medicaid program that covered all or most medically necessary abortions.”
Furthermore, the study points out that women in prison “disproportionately represent marginalized sectors of our society; they are predominantly women of color, poor, unemployed and undereducated and thus may not have adequate access to health care in general, and reproductive health services in particular...their involvement with the correctional health system may represent one of their few opportunities to access medical care.”
Thus, by denying standardized, comprehensive reproductive healthcare to prisoners, a system that has already barred them from decent medical care fails them once again.
The study invokes both the Eighth Amendment, which guarantees all prisoners the right to healthcare, and the Fourteenth, which prohibits states from depriving a person privacy without due process of the law, thus protecting a woman’s right to choose abortion even under incarceration. It concludes that to uphold these rights the prison system must directly address its healthcare policies through further study and interventions.
Sources: RaceWire, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health
Image by Still Burning, licensed under Creative Commons
3/9/2009 1:29:59 PM
The Nation worked with ACORN to develop a handy list of ten things you can do to avoid foreclosure. The list, which is this month's installment of The Nation's cool new "Ten Things" feature, includes advice for those who may think it's too late—#3: "If you are being foreclosed, call the ACORN foreclosure hot line immediately, at (347) 410-5894"—as well as general, longer-term tips, such as information about renters' rights, organizations that can assist families with foreclosures, and a link to a list of foreclosure scams.
Source: The Nation
Image by respres, licensed under Creative Commons.
3/9/2009 11:55:23 AM
As the U.S. tries to draw down its military presence in Iraq, as many as 10,000 Ugandans, hired by private security firms, have stepped up to take their place, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Many of these Ugandans are paid just $600 per month, as opposed to the $15,000 per month paid to some American guards, making the country a lucrative venue for private recruiters.
“My experience in Iraq is that despite having been shot seven times, it is very great,” Moses Matsiko, who spent nearly four years working for a U.S. firm in Afghanistan and Iraq, told the Christian Science Monitor. Based on his experience in war zones, Matsiko has started his own private security firm, sending nearly 1,200 people to Iraq. He said, “If all goes well, then I hope to be sending people to Afghanistan in the near future.”
Source: Christian Science Monitor
3/9/2009 10:34:00 AM
The debate rages on in school cafeterias about what to feed our kids—whether we want over-processed, pre-fab concoctions replaced with organic piles of healthy, or agribusiness monopolizing the National School Lunch Program. This year Congress will review the Child Nutrition and WIC Act, and considering the ever-increasing obesity rates of American children coupled with the rising price of food, lawmakers have a lot on their plates.
An In These Times article addresses a whole different controversy in the school lunch program, and it is costing taxpayers millions. Sodexo, the second-ranking food-service worldwide, with revenues of around 20 billion last year, is accused of taking rebates, or kick-backs, from their suppliers. Take a New England dairy farm, where they charge the milk producer a few extra cents per half-pint of milk and in return, expect a rebate back. This method of give and take has been common in the food industry since the 1950s says an industry consultant, when kickbacks meant cash in an envelope slipped to the chef. This means taxpayers are paying for Sodexo to charge more for their milk, and it adds up, as this company provides food-service to cafeterias, and other facilities for schools, hospitals, universities, government agencies, the military and private companies across the country.
In These Times explains the scheme:
“The rebate system, endemic to the industry, works like this: A food management company like Sodexo signs contracts to run a client’s cafeteria. The company buys supplies from vendors such as Coke, Kellogg’s or Tyson. Then, chosen vendors send the management company rebates based on a percentage of sales.
“There are generally no cost caps, so rebates—which are not deducted from what the food-service company charges clients—mean higher meal prices. They also limit food choice and quality: food-service companies buy products from vendors that pay bigger rebates rather than those that offer cheaper, locally grown, or higher quality food.”
A produce supplier says, “They try to intimidate you. They have such a grasp on the market. They force you to work on low margin, 20 percent. If you give them a 10 percent kickback, you’re pretty much working for nothing. We lost about $30-to-$40,000 a year, which is a lot for a small businessman.”
“The money involved is massive. Charles C. Kirby, former USDA regional director for child nutrition in Atlanta, says he ran a Mississippi Education Department cooperative buying program from 1992 to 2001. He dealt directly with companies such as Heinz and Kellogg’s and received rebates ranging form 10 percent to 50 percent. In the last year, his rebates were $15 million out of $90 million in purchasing”
For more information relating to the National School Lunch Program read, New York Times op-ed piece, "No Lunch Left Behind."
Or watch this American News Project video, "The Food Lobby Goes to School."
(Thanks, Grist, School Nutrition Association.)
Source: In These Times, NYtimes.com, American News Project
Image by dancing_chopsticks licensed under Creative Commons.
3/6/2009 1:54:40 PM
Driving to work can be dangerous for Latinos in Chicago. Latinos are being pulled over and having their cars searched at disproportionate rates to the rest of the population, according to research by the Chicago Reporter. This alleged racial profiling would be reprehensible under normal circumstances, but with increasing cooperation between local police and immigration officials, routine traffic stops are spiraling into deportations, leading to greater mistrust between Latinos and police.
“State and local law governments collaborating with the federal government [in immigration matters] is very troubling,” Adam Schwartz of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois told the Chicago Reporter. “It leads directly to racial profiling. We think it drives a wedge between communities. It’s a horrible social policy.”
The Chicago police department may have more nefarious motivations for detaining immigrants, Zane Seipler told the Chicago Reporter. For every undocumented immigrant they detain at the McHenry County Jail, the county is paid $85 per day. Seipler alleges that traffic stops and arrests started going up after this policy was put in place. After Seipler requested an investigation, he was fired for violating rules. He’s currently suing for wrongful termination and a violation of the Civil Rights Act, though police say his allegations are without merit.
One possible solution to the racial profiling is to offer everyone, including undocumented immigrants, drivers certificates. In theory, certificates would take the immigration aspect out of traffic stops, fostering greater trust and cooperation between the police and immigrants.
A similar program has been implemented with some success in New Haven, Connecticut, according to Governing magazine. In spite of the pitched political conflicts surrounding immigration, Governing reports that the “Elm City ID Card” has “boosted immigrants' use of the public libraries and made them more comfortable about talking to the police.” Some say it’s helped immigrants feel more a part of the community, too.
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Sources: Chicago Reporter, Governing
3/6/2009 10:38:01 AM
"Rashid Khalidi" ranked ninth among Google's most-serched political buzzwords in 2008—sandwiched between "hockey mom" and "that one." Khalidi holds the Edward Said Chair in Modern Arab Studies at Columbia and has bee no stranger to controversy since taking position in 2003. Last year Republicans tried to use Barack Obama's friendship with the Palestinian scholar and activist to dull the front-runner's shine. A Chronicle Review profile picks up some of that mud for examination and, more importantly, provides a sober history and assessment of the field of Middle Eastern Studies, which Khalidi has made his home for decades.
And in the middle of all of this-—actually at the very end-—Khalidi provides a few short sentences on the topic he has given his career to: Palestine.
"Sitting in his office last month, the professor looks back on his career ... 'It has long been considered an offense against good manners to say the word 'Palestine' in certain quarters. Israel was established in 1948, a source of great joy for some people. Fine, that is well and good. But for Palestinians, that was a disaster in terms of their own history.'
"The Palestinians' national trauma, Khalidi says, has been subordinated to another people's joy: 'I wouldn't ask an Israeli to feel misery at the establishment of his state, so I don't see why a Palestinian should be asked to feel joy about the destruction of his society.'"
Source: Chronicle Review
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