Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Whats Really Goin' Down!

(I think most liberals might agree with 4/5 of this, but just jump off when talking about an "intolerable world order")

Fidel Castro Calls for Unity to Ensure Surviva

Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, Jun 29 (Prensa Latina)

Cuban President Fidel Castro has called for unity in order to survive, in the context of the looming crisis due to the politics of waste of developed countries.

During a meeting here on Wednesday to discuss the creation of PETROCARIBE, the Cuban leader said that problems in the world have mounted up due to a merciless plundering of the third world, unequal exchange, debt and other phenomena.

In view of the world energy crisis, he likewise considered unity and integration between countries essential, and the only path leading to a better future. Everything unites us, but we have been divided, subjected to intervention, humiliated and exploited, the Cuban President said.

He also warned of the tragedy a depletion of oil may mean, and recalled that the reason behind the US invasion of Iraq was not the terrorist action against the Twin Towers in New York, but rather the conquest of energy.

Referring to the high costs of other sources of energy such as thermonuclear, he wondered if there is any hope for Africa and Latin America to develop these technologies.

He considered the current critical situation has been caused by the developed countries' lack of responsibility, and the establishment of an unsustainable, intolerable world order.

The crisis is not only in the field of energy, he said. It includes food production, soil erosion and the likelihood of a nuclear war due to a lack of responsibility, which may lead to an endangering of humankind's survival.

Struggling to Keep the Band and Legend of Sun Ra Alive
June 30, 2005

PHILADELPHIA - In the Germantown neighborhood, an 81-year-old bandleader and alto saxophonist is struggling to maintain a crumbling town house and a legendary big band.

The bandleader, Marshall Allen, lives in a three-story row house on Morton Avenue that since 1968 has been the headquarters of the Sun Ra Arkestra, the avant-garde big band that the keyboardist and free-jazz pioneer Sun Ra formed a half-century ago. Sun Ra died in 1993 at 79, and now Mr. Allen leads the group.

One recent evening at the Sun Ra house, an elderly man with a guitar case was dozing on the porch. Mr. Allen opened the door and shooed him away.

"We still get cats coming by here like it's the old days," said Mr. Allen, who had been spackling the bathroom ceiling. "I can't run the place like that no more. It was different when Sun Ra was alive. He could take in all these nutty musicians and bring out the good in them, but I ain't that talented."

In those old days, the band lived communally in the house, where Sun Ra wrote songs and arrangements and rehearsed and recorded the band, often around the clock.


Veteran of Iraq war denied trip home to Cuba


WASHINGTON -- Cuban-American Carlos Lazo won a Bronze Star for caring for his wounded comrades in Iraq, but he can't get to Cuba to care for a sick son.

Lawmakers from both parties are urging the Bush administration to give Lazo, a sergeant in the Washington state National Guard, an exemption from the strict sanctions imposed on the Castro government limiting family visits to once every three years.

"Surely a hero of the Iraq war who wants to visit his ill teenage son in Cuba is deserving of special consideration," Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., wrote in a letter to White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.

"We trust him in Iraq, but we do not trust him to visit his own family in Cuba," echoed Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., in a floor speech last week.

Dorgan's office said Lazo's case was being considered this week by senior officials at the State Department.


Monday, June 27, 2005

What percentage of the U.S. jail and prison population is mentally ill?

Answer: One in four or one in two, depending how you count.

A follow-up to the post below. This is from the excellent Frontline investigation a few weeks ago called "THE NEW ASYLUMS":

Of the nearly 2 million inmates being held in prisons and jails across the country, experts believe nearly 500,000 are mentally ill. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), 16 percent of the prison population can be classified as severely mentally ill, meaning that they fit the psychiatric classification for illnesses such as schizophrenia, major depression, and bipolar disorder. According to staff at city and community jails, 25 percent of the jail population is severely mentally ill. However, when other mental illnesses, such as anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and depression, are included, the numbers are much higher, and NAMI puts the number of inmates suffering from both mental illness and substance abuse the percentage at well over 50 percent.

One of Five in Jail is American

Here's an article that hasn't graced one US newspaper as yet... though even the major British papers have noted the troubling findngs as they relate to the UK.

Despite representing less than five percent of the world's population, more than twenty percent of the world's imprisoned populaiton are languishing in US jails.

The United States leads the world in putting criminals in jail, according to new figures.

The International Centre for Prison Studies at King's College, London, said on Monday that the United States detains 714 prisoners per 100,000 people.

The US has topped the centre's list since 2000.

"The US has managed in 200 years to reach two million prisoners," said Anton Shelupanov, research associate at the International Centre for Prison Studies. "It's a very concerning rate of growth."

The US total represents 22% of the nine million prisoners reportedly held throughout the world, he added.

Shelupanov told that the growth in the number of prisoners in US jails is down to the US's tough penal policy.

This comes at a time when the US is exporting this growth industry to Iraq:

The United States is spending $50 million to build new prisons to house the thousands of suspected fighters its forces are capturing in Iraq.

With anti-US violence in Iraq continuing to rage, American forces are now holding more than 10,000 people they classify as "security detainees" in their three main jails in Iraq.

This is nearly double the number they held a year ago.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Rice Implies Housing is a Human Right?

With the all the global outrage and condemnation that the country of Zimbabwe has received for its policy of demolishing illegal shanty towns, I thought it'd be a good time to try to expand this outrage to a place where Americans can actually affect change - that is in America.

A 1999 study by the (conservative) Urban Land Institute found that 2.3 million Americans were likely to experience homelessness during that year. We know things have only gotten worse in most cities since then, with the absurd prices brought about by the housing bubble. The study noted that 1/2 of these people were homeless because they were evicted or could not afford housing payments (that is 1.15 million people a year). Of course, we use nice courts and legal documents to kick people out who can't pay one by one, so we don't read about it in the newspapers.

Secretary of State Condi Rice called the eviction of 120,000 Zimbabweans living in crime-ridden, unsafe slums "tragic." She and her UK counterpoint Jack Straw, who normally obsess over "rule of law" and property rights, here see fit to make an international issue out of a country enforcing laws that exist in our own countries.

Condi might have done well to talk to her cousin Constance, who is fighting right now against uncompensated evictions of people (based on supposed gang association) in Watts and Los Angeles. Or she might have found equally tragic the forced evictions of thousands who had lived illegally in public housing in Chicago over the past couple years. Or she might even think about the fact that the United States has the largest amount of people on the strees than any industrialized country.

And no, I am not in support of Zimbabwe's evictions. I find evictions and homelessness disgusting in any country. But I do find it just a wee bit hypocritical for the US' leaders to go on about these things in one country of the world and not in our own backyard. Can we take Condi's words to mean she is against lawful evictions anywhere? Does then, she believe there is a fundamental right to basic shelter... as housing advocates have been trying to get the US to recognize since the 30s. Housing is in the UN Declaration of Human Rights but we've never taken the care to implement that inconvenient human right because it would jeopardize the market-based housing system.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Just 100 More Games Ozzie

With 100 games left in the MLB season, my Chicago White Sox remain the team with the best record in baseball. For the first 2 months they were doing it with starting pitching and Ozzie-ball. Now, coinciding with the return of Big Frank Thomas, they are hitting more homers (5th in the league) but the pitching is 10th in the AL in June (Frank has 4 hrs in 21 ab).

I have been bragging and boasting enough this season, to fake modesty now. I just hope for the train to keep together, and that the loose parts continue their solid play... great to see the bottom of the order's average coming up. It seems the fans are finally showing up in decent, but still disapointing numbers. I wish I was there, I swear I'd go every night. Such is the thinking when you move from your hometown just as only sports team you really give a F about, is doing this.

I might just also add that one could be making a killing on betting White Sox. They continue to be so underplayed in the popular mindset, and therefore national odds, that up til now we were underdogs in San Diego and even against Cleveland and the A's... and modest favorites in most others. I am convinced the way to gamble is to gamble against America's instincts It is just coincidince that seems to be a theme of this blog :).

Next we got 18/24 games at home. We got a nice Dodgers series, and while the media will be focussed on last years World Series in Boston, this years match-up might be at 35th and Shields.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

National Day of Action - Monday, June 13

No Asylum for Luis Posada Carriles
Extradite him to Venezuela for Trial
End the 45-Year U.S. War Against Cuba
Free the Cuban 5 anti-terrorists from U.S. prison

Los Angeles
Press Conference and Rally
Gather at 11 am at the downtown Federal building (Los Angeles and Temple)
Call 323-464-1636 or email for details.
Download the local LA Flyer at
Initiated by A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, more info below

Momentum is building for the June 13 National Day of Action to demand the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles to Venezuela for trial. On this day, he will go before an immigration judge for a hearing in El Paso, Texas. Demonstrations will take place outside of his immigration hearing in El Paso, and in cities and towns across the U.S. and Canada, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Washington DC, New York City, Seattle, Rochester, Chicago, Charlotte, Hackensack, Minnesota, Milwaukee and Vancouver.

Cuba solidarity and antiwar activists are coming together for the local protests around the country. Among the keynote speakers at the Los Angeles demonstration will be Francisco Letelier, the son of Orlando Letelier, the former ambassador, foreign minister and defense minister under the government of Salvador Allende in Chile , who was killed in a terrorist car bombing in Washington DC in 1976. New CIA and FBI documentation shows that Posada was in the meeting to plan that bombing. The Washington DC protest will be joined by Wayne Smith, former Chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, Cuba, from 1979-1982; Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy; Adjunct Professor, Johns Hopkins University; and longtime Cuba specialist. The New York City protest will include members of the family of Raymond Persaud, the young 19-year-old man who was killed in the terrorist bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455. Raymond was on his way from Guyana to Cuba to study medicine there. In El Paso , Mexican organizations from Juarez and El Paso will be participating, along with antiwar and Cuba solidarity activists from Albuquerque , New Mexico , and other cities.

Please see below for details about the protests in El Paso and elsewhere, downloadable flyers, endorsers, and more. There is still time to get involved by attending a protest in your city, traveling to El Paso, or organizing a local activity if there is not one in your city.

Goto for details:

Monday, June 06, 2005

Dilemma for Washington on Darfur Atrocities

Financial Times
By Guy Dinmore in Washington and Nikki Tait in London

The International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday launched an investigation into suspected war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region, a development likely to present problems for the Bush administration as it opposes the court's existence and maintains close intelligence links with the Khartoum government.

The US had no immediate reaction to the ICC statement, and it is not clear whether it will co-operate with requests for help. Sudan has previously refused to co-operate. US legislation blocks co-operation with the court, but a senior State Department official has said that requests could be considered on a case-by-case basis.

John Bolton, whose confirmation as the next US envoy to the UN has been held up in the Senate, has spearheaded Washington's efforts against the court.

At the same time, according to officials, the US maintains a close relationship with Sudanese officials and intelligence officers believed to be responsible for the ethnic cleansing and village burning in Darfur. US officials say Sudan is a valuable partner in the “global war on terror”. Washington also fears Khartoum's isolation would jeopardise the peace deal ending the decades-old north-south conflict.

Heather Hamilton, of Citizens for Global Solutions, which supports the ICC, said there was no sign the US would co-operate with the court. The US could become a haven for suspected war criminals as it would resist extradition of suspects, she added.

Very interesting position Bush is in now. The world is finally acting to provide justice through legal means and the US must decide whether to oppose that on ideological (and practical War on Terror) grounds. It's worth noting, the US is already a haven for war crimes suspects, provided they be of the right-wing political mold (note the conviction of a GOP friendly Cambodian last week on terorism charges... or Emmanual Constance, Haitian death squad leader, or countless Central American killers, and of course our friend Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carilles)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

US Facing Defeat at Miami OAS Meeting

The top US priority at the annual meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Miami looks to be defeated as opposition is stirring among the member states of Latin American and the Carribean. This comes upon a deafeat in the organization last month, when a Chilean socialist beat out Washington's choice for Sec-Gen of the group (the first non-US approved chief in 24 years).

The US plan, to begin a mechanism of grading and shaming of not sufficiently "democratic" countries in the region, is claimed by CNN to be about "fragile" democracies like Haiti, Ecuador and Bolivia but everyone honest knows this is more about Venezuela and Cuba.. and any other would-be socialist governments.

What the plan would actually mean is of some question. Condoleeza Rice is talking about "accountability" on one hand and then not a matter of punishing on the other. But what would this system say of foreign governments funding these so-called "democracy advocacy organizations," who woud report on their own countries. Everyone knows that inevitably, politics will arise and sully the whole affair (like in Geneva or our leader's understanding of the International Criminal Court).

The basic problem in Miami is that no one trusts Bush or therefore, the US anymore to lecture anyone. Maybe they'd be different, if they hadn't been conned by both Democrats and Republicans for 50 years... and Bush hadn't backed the coup in Venezuela or relieved President Aristide in Haiti in two case studies of Washington think about democracy's place in the world.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Music is My Life, Politics My Mistress


A true Chicago legend has passed. You could easily call his early 1960s LPs the first "rap" albums. He jived, scatted, talked and sang about life on the corner until his death. Music and politics, politics and music, Oscar Brown showed the power each can have on the other.

He was a driven man, who worked touring and singing weekly with his daughter in South Side lounges into the last years of his life. I remember seeing him in front of about 40 mixed highly enthusiastic fans on 87th Street. A pure peoples entertainer, Brown digested the progressive black music of all times and was not afraid to push things further -lyrically or stylisticly.

HIs laurels can be found elsewhere. But if you know "Dat Dere," "Work Song," "Afro-Blue" "signifying Monkey" or "All Blues" you know Oscar Brown. He was what an artist shold be.

Opposition to U.S. Makes Chávez a Hero to Many

Enrique Marcarian/Reuters
NY Times

BOGOTÁ, Colombia, May 31 - When President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela arrived at the World Social Forum in Brazil in January, he was greeted with thunderous cries of "Here comes the boss!"

And in Buenos Aires, crowds mobbed Mr. Chávez when he showed up to inaugurate Venezuela's first state-owned gas station in the Argentine capital, part of a food-for-oil deal popular with Argentines.

It is the kind of public adoration that brings to mind another Latin American leader, Fidel Castro, who for more than 45 years has drawn accolades wherever he has gone, much to Washington's chagrin. Now, it seems, the torch is being passed, and it is Mr. Chávez who is emerging as this generation's Castro - a charismatic figure and self-styled revolutionary who bearhugs his counterparts on state visits, inspires populist left-wing movements and draws out fervent well-wishers from Havana to Buenos Aires.

"He's following his own path, his own destiny, and he's doing it against U.S. opposition, so the Latin Americans support it," said Wayne Smith, a former American diplomat in Cuba and now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, which tracks developments in Latin America. "That's sort of the reaction, and it plays toward his advantage in the region."

Mr. Chávez is also riding a wave of popular reaction in the region against the "Washington consensus" of democracy and open markets that the White House, for the moment, seems unable to dampen. While few leaders in Latin America are as provocatively anti-American as Mr. Chávez, three-quarters of South America is governed by left-of-center presidents, and next year Mexico may well elect a leftist populist of its own, Mexico City's mayor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

In a recent, coordinated set of surveys conducted across Latin America by a consortium of polling firms, President Bush was given a 26 percent approval rating - lower even than the much reviled International Monetary Fund....(more)

A rare honest article on Chavez as his rich enemies are sharpening their knives. One correction though: The rejection of the Washington Consensus is not a rejeciton of democracy (free markets yes). It is a call for a deeper, more participatory-style of democracy that looks beyond just having elections every 4 years and stresses the people's input on ALL decisions from the smallest (neighborhood issues) to biggest (drafting the Constitution).

US Holding up Debt Relieft to Poorest Countries

BBC News

Gordon Brown is worried that time is running out for Africa
The UK Chancellor Gordon Brown has put forward a bold plan to tackle poverty in Africa ahead of the G8 Summit of rich countries in Scotland next month. He called for a doubling of European aid by 2010 and 100% debt relief, as well as an end to many trade subsidies.

But the plan is facing opposition in the US - and particularly from President George W Bush. Mr Bush's stance sets up a possible clash with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, due in Washington next week. Mr Bush said on Wednesday that a key part of the plan did not fit with the US budget process....

Too bad Bush gave away the store to the rich by way of tax cuts and an impossible war, so now we can't join with the world and take a historic step to end global poverty. We should be proud of our President's "compassion" and "culture of life."