Human Rights Day Part 1: Why We Need A Human Rights Movement
Christopher Renner writes for the Kansas Free Press: "On December 10 the world marks the 61st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is commonly referred to as Human Rights Day and this year's theme is: Embrace Diversity: End Discrimination. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillary said:
"Discrimination lies at the root of many of the world's most pressing human rights problems. No country is immune from this scourge. Eliminating discrimination is a duty of the highest order."Download and read An End to Discrimination, the official publication for the 2009 Human Rights Day."
Human Rights Day Part 2: Moving Beyond 'Civil Rights'
Christopher Renner writes for the Kansas Free Press: "As a nation we have been slow to evolve in our understanding of human rights. When asked, most of us think that civil rights are human rights. They are, but they are only the beginning. Civil rights are basically your right to be created equal to everyone else. Civil rights are incomplete if they are not accompanied by economic, social, political, and cultural rights. Unfortunately early on in the civil rights struggle, here was a big battle in the NAACP over human vs. civil rights. At the heart of this battle were two men: Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP and a lawyer who could pass as white, and W. E. B. DuBois one of the founders of the NAACP. DeBois asked: "Why should we ask for only one of the five rights categories?" Eventually, White won, and force out an ever more radical DeBois from the NAACP which set human rights back 50 years. Equality is precious but is incomplete."
2009: A Year in Human Rights
Andrew Wander writes for Al Jazeera English: "With a new US president, international crises from Gaza to Sri Lanka, and continued political impediments to international justice, 2009 has been a busy year for those working in the field of human rights. On Human Rights Day (December 10), Carroll Bogart, the associate director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), shares her views on some of the key moments of the past year and looks ahead to what 2010 might hold."
Rick Warren Should Denounce Uganda's Anti-Gay Legislation
Kapya Kaoma comments for Global Post: "As the world celebrates Human Rights Day Thursday, Pastor Rick Warren should make his own contribution to human rights by denouncing Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. Although homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, the proposed law calls for the death penalty for people convicted of something called 'aggravated homosexuality,' as well as life imprisonment sentences for being gay. If family, friends, teachers or counselors fail to report gay individuals, they too can be imprisoned."
Execissive Secrecy Undermining Obama's Human Rights Achievements
Ken Gude writes for the Center for American Progress: "Today is World Human Rights Day, the annual celebration of the adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The visionary leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt was the driving force behind the Declaration and the United States had consistently pressed for the spread of human rights around the world for decades. America’s longstanding authority as a global leader in human rights was one of our greatest national security assets. But the credibility of America’s commitment to human rights has been severely damaged in the wake of the Bush administration’s official policy of torture and abuse of detainees captured in the fight against Al Qaeda."
Worst Companies for Union Organizing Highlighted for International Human Rights Day
International Labour Forum comments: "December 10 - As human rights advocates around the world celebrate International Human Rights Day, the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) has released "Working for Scrooge: Worst Companies of 2009 for the Right to Associate" - a list of the four worst multinational corporations for union organizing. Among other rights related to workers, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that "everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests" (Article 23, Section 4). The US-based companies on ILRF's list use intimidation and even violence to violate workers' internationally recognized right to organize."
Af-Pak War Racket: The Obama Illusion Comes Crashing Down
David DeGraw writes for Amped Status: "As Obama announced plans for escalating the war effort, it has become clear that the Obama Illusion has taken yet another horrifying turn. Before explaining how the Af-Pak surge is a direct attack on the US public, let’s peer through the illusion and look at the reality of the situation. Now that the much despised George W. Bush is out of the way and a more popular figurehead is doing PR for Dick Cheney’s right-hand military leader Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who is leading his second AF-Pak surge now, and with long time Bush family confidant Robert Gates still running the Defense Department, the masters of war have never had it so good."
War and Poverty in Afghanistan
Katrina Vander Heuvel comments for The Nation: "President Obama has made the wrong decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan--at a cost of $1 million per soldier, or $30 billion a year. What we need is not more war but attention to problems like poverty which so often play a role in breeding insecurity and terrorism. In Afghanistan, as we dispatch these first soldiers, it's important that we pay attention to the dire problem of extreme poverty in that tormented country."
'There hasn't been two seconds of intelligent discussion about living standards in Afghanistan'
John Hanrahan writes for Nieman Watch: "The poverty in Afghanistan is almost beyond imagining. Thirty Afghans die from TB every day; life expectancy is 43 years; per capita income is $426; only 13% have access to sanitary drinking water; fewer than one in four are literate; access to electricity is among the lowest in the world. Conditions for women are brutal. If Obama plans to address these issues, he's pretty much keeping it secret, points out world poverty expert Jeffrey Sachs. But without addressing them, can stepped-up American military involvement succeed? Or is it bound to fail?"
Is US Prepared to Care for More Casualties From Troop Buildup?
David Goldstein reports for McClatchy Newspapers: "As the Obama administration ramps up the war in Afghanistan, veterans advocates say the government must develop a better plan to handle the wounded when they come home. Eight years of war have overtaxed the health care systems that treat service members and veterans, several said, and President Barack Obama's decision to deploy 30,000 to 35,000 more troops in Afghanistan will compound the stress."
Dear Barak, Spare Me Your E-mails
Robert Scheer writes for Truthdig.com: "Barack Obama's faux populism is beginning to grate, and when yet another one of those “we the people” e-mails from the president landed on my screen as I was fishing around for a column subject, I came unglued. It is one thing to rob us blind by rewarding the power elite that created our problems but quite another to sugarcoat it in the rhetoric of a David taking on those Goliaths. "
Texas Populist Jim Hightower Makes Progressive 'Hall of Fame,' as Nation Magazine Gathering Grapples with Conflicted Feelings about President Obama
Don Hazen writes for AlterNet: "The annual Nation Institute dinner in New York City on Monday, where the $100,000 Puffin Prize for Creative Citizenship was awarded, turned into a revealing Rorschach test of how progressives feel about President Obama nearly a year after the inauguration that made many of them downright giddy. Needless to say, the giddiness has dissipated. Obama's escalation of the war effort in Afghanistan was a prime preoccupation of many of the attendees; a mix of leaders, advocates and wealthy donors who support the great investigative work of the Nation Institute and many other progressive causes."
Liberals Are Usless
Chris Hedges writes for Truthdig.com: "Liberals are a useless lot. They talk about peace and do nothing to challenge our permanent war economy. They claim to support the working class, and vote for candidates that glibly defend the North American Free Trade Agreement. They insist they believe in welfare, the right to organize, universal health care and a host of other socially progressive causes, and will not risk stepping out of the mainstream to fight for them. The only talent they seem to possess is the ability to write abject, cloying letters to Barack Obama—as if he reads them—asking the president to come back to his “true” self. This sterile moral posturing, which is not only useless but humiliating, has made America’s liberal class an object of public derision."
Yes, Virginia, It's Bernanke's Fault
Dean Baker writes for the Huffington Post: "As the Senate debates Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's reappointment, it is striking how the media views blaming Bernanke for the Great Recession as being out of bounds. Of course Bernanke bears much of the blame for America's economic collapse. He was either in, or next to, the driver's seat for the last seven years. Bernanke was a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Board since the summer of 2002. He served a six-month stint as head of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisors beginning in the summer of 2005 and then went back to chair the Fed in January of 2006."
Wall Street Snaps Its Fingers
Alexander Cockburn writes for CounterPunch: "For months now, Congress has been stumbling through an exercise billed as “financial regulatory reform,” purportedly dedicated to bringing law enforcement to the Wall Street Casino. One activity notably popular among the gamesters has been the “dark markets” in the $600 trillion derivatives trading markets, not least because trades are executed on a bilateral basis between dealer and customer, with no public price disclosure, at least not until well after the fact. An analogous situation would be for someone buying stock in, for example, the Apple Corporation, to take the price offered by a broker with no opportunity to see what everyone else is paying that day, or that minute.
Thousands of Stimulus Reports Missing, Resulting in Potential Undercount of Jobs Created
Michael Garbel reports for ProPublica: "Eagle Peak Rock and Paving created and saved 32 jobs thanks to an $8 million federal stimulus contract to repair Glacier Point Road in Yosemite National Park. But you won’t find that on Recovery.gov, the government’s Web site for tracking stimulus money. You also won’t find the eight employees hired by Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport in Kentucky, or the 46 jobs claimed for some $65 million in grants awarded to the Louisiana Department of Social Services."
The Real Chicago Way: A privatization scheme that's a loser for taxpayers
Thomas Franks writes for the Wall Street Journal: "When the entertainers of the right aren't declaring their disgust with President Obama for groveling before foreign potentates, they're pretending to fear him as a left-wing thug, an exemplar of what they call "the Chicago way." As imagined by the right, the men in the West Wing are like a demonic cross between the antiwar demonstrators who gathered in Grant Park in 1968 and the Chicago cops who cracked their hippie skulls. Tremble, men of commerce, before this infernal combination. Myths like this are fun to invent. The problem, as ever, is reality."
Gun Activits Take Aim at Obamacare
James Ridgeway reports for Mother Jones: "Right-wingers have long viewed health care reform as a cover for various dastardly liberal plots—from killing off grannies and unborn babies to ushering in a socialist state. Now, pro-gun activists see yet another hidden agenda: Health care legislation, they say, threatens their right to bear arms. The accusation comes from Gun Owners of America, a 300,000 member group that proudly advertises itself with a quotation from Ron Paul: "The only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington." The GOA sits well to the right of the National Rifle Association, which it tends to dismiss as a pack of sell-outs. Yet, like the Tea Partiers who draw Republican congressional leaders to their racially tinged protests against "National Socialist Health Care," the GOA could influence the reform debate. GOA has thrown itself wholeheartedly into the battle for the soul of the GOP, pledging to help oust "RINOs" and other insufficiently trigger-happy Republicans in the 2010 primaries—and to go after conservative Democrats, too."
Billionaires Behind the Hate
Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Zaid Jilani, Lee Fang, and Alex Seitz-Wald write the Progress Report for Think Progress: "Billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch are the wealthiest, and perhaps most effective, opponents of President Obama's progressive agenda. They have been looming in the background of every major domestic policy dispute this year. Ranked as the 9th richest men in America, the Koch brothers sit at the helm of Koch Industries, a massive privately owned conglomerate of manufacturing, oil, gas, and timber interests. They are best known for their wealth, as well as for their generous contributions to the arts, cancer research, and the Smithsonian Institute. But David and Charles are also responsible for a vicious attack campaign aimed directly at obstructing and killing progressive reform. Over the years, millions of dollars in Koch money has flowed to various right-wing think tanks, front groups, and publications. At the dawn of the Obama presidency, Koch groups quickly maneuvered to try to stop his first piece of signature legislation: the stimulus. The Koch-funded group "No Stimulus" launched television and radio ads deriding the recovery package as simply "pork" spending. The Cato Institute -- founded by Charles -- as well as other Koch-funded think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, produced a blizzard of reports distorting the stimulus and calling for a return to Bush-style tax cuts to combat the recession. As their fronts were battling the stimulus, David's Americans for Prosperity (AFP) spent the opening months of the Obama presidency placing calls and helping to organize the very first "tea party" protests. AFP, founded in 1984 by David and managed day to day by the astroturf lobbyist Tim Phillips, has spent much of the year mobilizing "tea party" opposition to health reform, clean energy legislation, and financial regulations."
ACORN Not Guilty
Peter Dreier writes for Talking Points Memo: "ACORN is getting a bum rap -- in the news media, among politicians, and even by some foundations. That's the conclusion of an independent report released Monday, which acknowledged that ACORN needs to improve its management structure, but that it did not engage in illegal activities when two videographers, one posing as a prostitute, showed up at 10 ACORN offices, tried to entrap low-level staff mem¬bers into providing tax and housing advice for their illegal prostitution ring, and secretly videotaped the encounters."
The Manufactured Doubt Industry and the Hacked Email Controversy
Jeff Masters writes for Weather Underground: "In 1954, the tobacco industry realized it had a serious problem. Thirteen scientific studies had been published over the preceding five years linking smoking to lung cancer. With the public growing increasingly alarmed about the health effects of smoking, the tobacco industry had to move quickly to protect profits and stem the tide of increasingly worrisome scientific news. Big Tobacco turned to one the world's five largest public relations firms, Hill and Knowlton, to help out. Hill and Knowlton designed a brilliant Public Relations (PR) campaign to convince the public that smoking is not dangerous. They encouraged the tobacco industry to set up their own research organization, the Council for Tobacco Research (CTR), which would produce science favorable to the industry, emphasize doubt in all the science linking smoking to lung cancer, and question all independent research unfavorable to the tobacco industry. The CTR did a masterful job at this for decades, significantly delaying and reducing regulation of tobacco products. George Washington University epidemiologist David Michaels, who is President Obama's nominee to head the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), wrote a meticulously researched 2008 book called, Doubt is Their Product: How Industry's Assault on Science Threatens Your Health. In the book, he wrote: 'the industry understood that the public is in no position to distinguish good science from bad. Create doubt, uncertainty, and confusion. Throw mud at the anti-smoking research under the assumption that some of it is bound to stick. And buy time, lots of it, in the bargain.' The title of Michaels' book comes from a 1969 memo from a tobacco company executive: 'Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.' Hill and Knowlton, on behalf of the tobacco industry, had founded the 'Manufactured Doubt' industry."
The Physics of Copenhagen: Why Politics-As-Usual May Mean the End of Civilization
Bill McKibben writes for TomDispatch: "Let me be blunt about what amazes me when it comes to global warming. In the U.S., it’s largely an issue for Democrats, “progressives,” liberals, the left, and I simply don’t get that. Never have. If the word “conservative” means anything, the key to it must be that word at its heart, 'conserve'; that is, the keeping or not squandering of what already is, especially what’s most valuable. And for us humans, what’s better than our planet? It’s the only home we’ve got and -- though I was one of those 1950s boys who read H.G. Wells and Isaac Asimov, as well as plenty of pulp sci-fi, and spent too much time dreaming about other planets and the stars -- probably the only one we’ll ever have. For us, there is nowhere else. Wreck it and you wreck us."
EPA Finds Greenhouse Gases Pose Dangers, Plans Regulation
Renee Schoof reports for McClatchy Newspapers: "The Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that global warming pollution endangered the health and welfare of Americans and must be reduced, a move that seemed timed to signal that the US is serious about joining an international bid to reduce the risks of damaging climate change."
The True Story About "Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming"
Rinaldo Brutoco and Madeleine Austin comment for Truthout: "Why have hopes faded for a binding agreement at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen that began this week? Why aren't the people of the world demanding that their national leaders act to avert the greatest environmental crisis the world has ever known?"
Climate Change on the Move: Climate Migration Will Affect the World's Security
Michael Werz and Kari Manlove write for The Center for American Progress: "African immigrants are given drinks inside a hospital tent in Los Cristianos on the Canary island of Tenerife, Spain. The Spanish government set up operations in African countries to discourage migration to Spain, which could intensify with climate change's effects."
The Struggle for Public Education
Sanny Weil writes for The Daily Censored: "Recently, Scott Lay, President and Chief Executive Officer Orange Coast College ‘94, a community college in California, spoke with the Academic Senate President Jane Patton about governance in these difficult times to trustees, administrators, faculty, staff and students at Delta College in Stockton. Like many community colleges bereft of monies, they have struggled to slash millions from the budget and align their limited funds to best serve their community. They are one of the hardest hit in the entire country by the financial and real estate crises that has made devastation for the profits of a few while disembowling public education. The entrusted and not to be trusted “legislature” of California have come up with a resolution contained in their Joint Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education that recognizes that the 'recent economic downturn has taken a toll on the state’s fiscal support for public higher education; however, the economy will revive, according to the resolution, and this Master Plan review can set a framework for funding priorities when funds become available to restore and increase the state’s support for its colleges and universities and invest in preparing its future workforce.'"
The Selling of "Precious:" Hollywood's Enduring Myth of the Black Male Sexual Predator
Ishmael Reed writes for CounterPunch: "One can view Sarah Siegel on YouTube discussing her approach to marketing. During her dispassionate recital she says that she sees a 'niche dilemma,' and finds a way to solve that dilemma. Seeing that no one had supplied women with panties that were meant to be visible while wearing low cut jeans, she captured the niche and made a fortune. With five million dollars, she invested in the film Precious, which was adapted from the book Push, written by Ramona Lofton, who goes by the pen name of Sapphire, after the emasculating shrew in “Amos and Andy,” a show created by white vaudevillians Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll."
Transcript available from AlterNet.
Comcast-NBC Deal Finds Donors Converging with Obama's Principles
Kim Hart writes for The Hill: "The proposed merger of Comcast and NBC Universal will be the first big test of the Obama administration’s stance on the hot-button issue of media consolidation. It could also put the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress at odds with a few of their largest supporters."
Comcast-NBC U Merger Could Hurt Consumers
Josh Silver and Tim Winter comment for the Philadelphia Inquirer: "After months of speculation and rumor, Comcast and NBC Universal have formally announced that they are getting hitched in one of the biggest media mergers in our nation's history. The country's largest cable company and residential broadband provider is poised to take a controlling stake in NBC's broadcast network, dozens of cable channels, 27 local television stations, a movie studio, and a long list of other holdings. If this deal goes through as proposed, Comcast would control huge swaths of the cable, Internet, and content industries. It would be the first of a new generation of media behemoths, with more sure to follow."
Why the Comcast-NBCU Acquisition is Possible: A Glance at Recent History
Kamilla Kovacs reports for Media Access Project: "Many analysts have identified the proposed acquisition between Comcast and NBC Universal (NBCU) as the first example of vertical integration in the communications marketplace of the Digital Age. Few have pointed out, however, that the regulatory framework that allows for such an unprecedented combination of assets is also a 21st century phenomenon. Less than a decade ago, this combination would have been against Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations – indeed, it would have been merely a business executive’s dream. What makes this acquisition attempt possible today is the drastic, systematic deregulation in media policy that has taken place over the last 20 years."
Google, Washington Post and N.Y. Times Create News Tool
Howard Kurtz writes for the Washington Post: "Take the engineering mystique of Google, add the prestige of The Washington Post and New York Times, throw in the spice of secret meetings, and what have you got? A new online tool that, well, isn't exactly going to revolutionize journalism. But those involved in the partnership between the California software giant and two of the nation's top newspapers see it as a first step toward changing the way news is consumed online."
A Municipal Wi-Fi Model that Actually Works
Lynnette Luna reports for Urgent Communications: "While New York City's mobile broadband network garners much attention concerning its ability to serve both public safety and multiple government agencies, Oklahoma City's Wi-Fi mesh network recently passed its third anniversary and is now the world's largest mesh network, handling more than 4 terabytes of data traffic a month and serving up more than 200 applications concurrently for multiple government agencies. Launched in 2006 using Tropos equipment, Oklahoma City's mesh network—which operates in the unlicensed band — now covers 95% of the city's 620 square miles. The vision was to supply public safety with high-speed broadband service but now city departments including transit, public works and IT access the network using a slew of devices ranging from handheld devices, laptops, traffic controllers and video cameras."
Washington to Verizon Wireless: Can You Hear Us Now?
Cecilia Kang reports for the Washington Post: "The Federal Communications Commission sent a letter to Verizon Wireless Friday morning asking the company to explain why it has more than doubled its penalties for customers switching carriers. The inquiry follows pressure by lawmakers, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) who introduced a bill Thursday to curb the penalties known as early termination fees (ETFs). Last month, Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest cellphone service provider, increased its ETFs for smart phone customers to $350 from $150. The company said smart phones had become more expensive to subsidize, making it more costly when customers with discounted phones left long-term contracts early. No other wireless companies have introduced higher ETFs."