Posted by Charles II on May 10, 2013
Just about a month ago, the genocidal president of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina shut down the trial of the man who at that time was ordering the genocide done, Rios Montt. Now, via Meteor Blades at DK, some good news. Mike McDonald of Reuters reports that the trial concluded, and Rios Montt was convicted:
A Guatemalan court on Friday found former dictator Efrain Rios Montt guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity during the bloodiest phase of the country’s 36-year civil war.
He was sentenced to 50 years in prison on the genocide charge and 30 years for crimes against humanity. It was the first time a former head of state had been found guilty of genocide in his or her own country.
Rios Montt, 86, took power after a coup in 1982….
Prosecutors say Rios Montt turned a blind eye [actually, they said he designed the program] as soldiers used rape, torture and arson to try to rid Guatemala of leftist rebels during his 1982-1983 rule, the most violent period of a 1960-1996 civil war in which as many as 250,000 people died.
When our leaders say that can’t get things done, remember that the judge and prosecutor in this case have been constantly threatened. That’s what political courage looks like.
Rios Montt will probably never face actual punishment. He is 86, he has powerful friends at higher levels in the court system (not to mention Guatemala’s president), and it’s not clear that the American government is on the side of justice. After all, the genocide could not have taken place without the active help of Ronald Reagan.
But history has been made. For the first time, a mass murderer has been tried by the population he abused. Caps off to the brave people who used peaceful means to end and finally discredit Rios Montt’s violent reign.
The inestimable Robert Parry reminds us that this makes Ronald Reagan an accessory to mass murder:
U.S. intelligence officers in the region also kept the Reagan administration abreast of the expanding slaughter. For instance, according to one “secret” cable from April 1981 — and declassified in the 1990s — the CIA was confirming Guatemalan government massacres even as Reagan was moving to loosen the military aid ban.
On April 17, 1981, a CIA cable described an army massacre at Cocob, near Nebaj in the Ixil Indian territory, because the population was believed to support leftist guerrillas. A CIA source reported that “the social population appeared to fully support the guerrillas” and “the soldiers were forced to fire at anything that moved.”
Despite these atrocities, Reagan dispatched Walters in May 1981 to tell the Guatemalan leaders that the new U.S. administration wanted to lift the human rights embargoes on military equipment that Carter and Congress had imposed.
What the documents from the Reagan Library make clear is that the administration was not simply struggling ineffectively to rein in these massacres – as the U.S. press corps typically reported – but was fully onboard with the slaughter of people who were part of the guerrillas’ “civilian support mechanisms.”
Posted in Good Things, Latin America | 3 Comments »
Posted by Charles II on March 25, 2013
This is an interview of London Mayor Boris Johnson that shows how an interviewer can be polite, but clear and firm in follow-through. For example:
[The BBC's Eddie Mair] With this admission trousered, Mair continued: “Let me ask you about a barefaced lie. When you were in Michael Howard’s team, you denied to him you were having an affair. It turned out you were and he sacked you for that. Why did you lie to your party leader?”
Johnson squirmed. “Well, I mean again, I’m … with great respect … on that, I never had any conversation with Michael Howard about that matter and, you know, I don’t propose …”
Mair interrupted: “You did lie to him.”
Johnson: “Well, you know, I don’t propose to go into all that again.”
Mair: “I don’t blame you.”
It’s not that Boris Johnson is worse than most politicians–I doubt that he is– but all politicians need to be reminded that they are not above scrutiny, that people see what they do, and remember.
And, by the way, in the perverse way these things go, it may have generated public sympathy for Boris Johnson.
Posted in Good Things, media | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Charles II on February 8, 2013
David Batty, The Guardian:
One of the most prominent members of the Westboro Baptist church has left it after spending her life as part of the fervently anti-gay movement.
Megan Phelps-Roper, who looked after social media for the church best known for its slogan “God hates fags”, announced her departure in a post on the blogging platform Medium in which she also revealed her younger sister Grace, 19, was also leaving.
Phelps-Roper writes: “We know that we’ve done and said things that hurt people. Inflicting pain on others wasn’t the goal, but it was one of the outcomes. We wish it weren’t so, and regret that hurt.
Here’s the story of her conversion from Jeff Chu:
“My doubts started with a conversation I had with David Abitbol,” she says. Megan met David, an Israeli web developer who’s part of the team behind the blog Jewlicious, on Twitter. “I would ask him questions about Judaism, and he would ask me questions about church doctrine. One day, he asked a specific question about one of our signs—‘Death Penalty for Fags’—and I was arguing for the church’s position, that it was a Levitical punishment and as completely appropriate now as it was then. He said, ‘But Jesus said’—and I thought it was funny he was quoting Jesus—‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ And then he connected it to another member of the church who had done something that, according to the Old Testament, was also punishable by death. I realized that if the death penalty was instituted for any sin, you completely cut off the opportunity to repent. And that’s what Jesus was talking about.”
Here is Megan and Grace’s statement.
It’s just amazing what can happen to people who open their hearts to being truthful, non-hypocritical, and loving…what some of us call Jesus.
Posted in Fred Phelps, Fundies, Good Things, religion | 2 Comments »
Posted by Charles II on December 18, 2012
Richard Engel, NBC correspondent, and his crew were freed. Brian Stelter and Sebnem Arsu, NYT:
Richard Engel, the chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, and three of his crew members were freed on Monday after five days in captivity in Syria, the news organization said on Tuesday.
The identities of the kidnappers and their motives were unknown. But an article on the NBC News Web site quotes Mr. Engel as saying their captors “were talking openly about their loyalty to the government” of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
About 15 men, Mr. Engel said on the “Today” show, “just literally jumped out of the trees and bushes” and “dragged us out of the car.” The kidnappers killed one of the rebels whom the crew had been traveling with, he said. [They subjected Engel and his crew to mock executions]
the crew members were freed when the captors “ran into a checkpoint manned by members of the Ahrar al-Sham brigade, a Syrian rebel group,” NBC’s Web site reported. “There was a confrontation and a firefight ensued. Two of the captors were killed, while an unknown number of others escaped.”
Engel is one of the last real correspondents on TV. As this incident shows, he goes in at great personal risk to places no one wants to go. He’s modest and well-informed. He may be the only person on network TV that I actually enjoy listening to and trust.
So, thanks, God, for getting him out safely.
Posted in Good Things, media | 7 Comments »
Posted by Charles II on December 10, 2012
…to Danú (link provides a broad range of their music)
(Image from Iowa State)
Or watch on YouTube:
Posted in Good Things | 4 Comments »
Posted by Charles II on November 27, 2012
Via Greg Sargent, Bruce Bartlett on what it is to realize that being a Republican = being wrong:
After careful research along these lines, I came to the annoying conclusion that Keynes had been 100 percent right in the 1930s. Previously, I had thought the opposite. But facts were facts and there was no denying my conclusion.
I finished the book just as the economy was collapsing in the fall of 2008. This created another intellectual crisis for me. Having just finished a careful study of the 1930s, it was immediately obvious to me that the economy was suffering from the very same problem, a lack of aggregate demand. We needed Keynesian policies again, which completely ruined my nice rise-and-fall thesis. Keynesian ideas had arisen from the intellectual grave.
On the plus side, I think I had a very clear understanding of the economic crisis from day one. I even wrote another op-ed for the New York Times in December 2008 advocating a Keynesian cure that holds up very well in light of history. Annoyingly, however, I found myself joined at the hip to Paul Krugman…
For the record, no one has been more correct in his analysis and prescriptions for the economy’s problems than Paul Krugman. The blind hatred for him on the right simply pushed me further away from my old allies and comrades.
The final line for me to cross in complete alienation from the right was my recognition that Obama is not a leftist. In fact, he’s barely a liberal—and only because the political spectrum has moved so far to the right that moderate Republicans from the past are now considered hardcore leftists by right-wing standards today. Viewed in historical context, I see Obama as actually being on the center-right.
At this point, I lost every last friend I had on the right. Some have been known to pass me in silence at the supermarket or even to cross the street when they see me coming. People who were as close to me as brothers and sisters have disowned me.
Paul Krugman responds
Posted in Good Things, Republicans | 1 Comment »
Posted by Charles II on November 21, 2012
The world is not coming to an end, and has not been since Democrats took charge of Washington.
You have to interact with Bill McBride to understand how modest and gentle a guy he is. I’m not as optimistic as he is… but he’s been right when I have been wrong. Now, maybe that’s because the Fed made him right, but in investing, being right for the wrong reasons beats being wrong for the right reasons.
So, I’d like to give a little thanksgiving for Bill McBride, who has been a voice of insight and sanity during a very confusing time. And I hope he’s right, that the turnaround in housing signals a sustained rebound in the economy. From Business Insider:
I’m not a roaring bull, but looking forward, this is the best shape we’ve been in since ’97 or something.
In 97, I started worrying about what was going to happen when the stock bubble burst. By the time you got to the decent part of the Bush economy 2004-2005, I was so worried about housing I didn’t think much about the economy. Looking forward, this is the best we’ve been since then. We have plenty of problems to work through, but gosh, housing is going to be a tailwind for some time.
Posted in economy, Good Things | 10 Comments »
Posted by Charles II on November 12, 2012
From Thom Hartmann, t/o:
The Occupy Movement is tackling the nation’s debt problem. Though the physical occupations have disappeared, the movement is busy helping Americans avoid foreclosure and providing disaster relief post-Hurricane Sandy. Now they’ve unveiled a new initiative they’re calling the “Rolling Jubilee.” The movement is raising money to buy debt from financial firms at pennies on the dollar. Then, rather than hounding struggling homeowners and students whose debt they just acquired, Occupy is completely forgiving it. As one organizer explained it, “OWS is going to start buying distressed debt (medical bills, student loans, etc.) in order to forgive it. As a test run, we spent $500, which bought $14,000 of distressed debt. We then ERASED THAT DEBT.” Since Wall Street got bailed out and Main Street got sold out, average Americans are drowning in enormous debt. Good on Occupy for doing something about it.
This is what community based organizing can do and, for those who have read this blog over the years, it’s essentially  what I said the government should do long before the mortgage crisis turned into a financial meltdown. If they had done, there would not have been a financial crisis.
Thank God for Occupy. They seem to be the only people with any sense.
1. My solution was actually to force the borrower to reduce the mortgage to the level that it was payable by having the pain shared equally between the bank, the borrower, and the government. What that amounts to is having the government buy the mortgage at a discount, then re-issue it at a lower rate, thereby canceling a portion of the debt. So what OWS did was even better, though I’m sure that the debt they purchased at 4 cents on the dollar was absolutely unpayable.
Posted in Good Things, mortgage crisis, Occupy movement | 13 Comments »
Posted by Charles II on November 10, 2012
Why on earth would anybody be interested in Yiddish books?
Outwitting History describes the rescue of the world’s stocks of Yiddish books from destruction. It’s a great Horatio Alger tale of a college kid who got interested in the history of the Jewish people, and turned it into a career as the head of the non-profit National Yiddish Book Center, which now houses over 1 million books. But it’s much more than that. It’s a story about why knowing history is central to being at home on earth.
Yiddish emerged, beginning in the tenth or eleventh century, along the banks of the Rhine. It evolved into a universal language to allow the Jews of the diaspora to communicate with one another. It’s a Germanic language, so that if one knows German, one can guess what’s going on. And it’s a profoundly evocative language, one that must be so to capture the agony endured by the diaspora. For centuries, driven from place to place, denied the right to work in certain professions or live outside of the ghetto, the Jews have preserved their joys and sorrows in a literature of astonishing breadth.
In 1975, there were almost no Yiddish books in libraries. They were stored in the homes of elderly Jews, in decaying union halls, in the warehouses of obscure publishers—everywhere except where they would be secure. After World War II, there had been a decision taken in the American Jewish community that Hebrew would be the language of the Jews. Yiddish was for grandmothers.
And so, Aaron Lansky set out on a frustrating, hilarious, exhausting journey to rescue books from all over the world. He was fed to the limits of human endurance by well-meaning supporters and he rescued books from dumpsters. He heisted books from the Newark public library (with the collaboration of the librarians, who were rescuing them from malign neglect). He brought books into Lithuania at a time when the imploding USSR did not recognize the authority of Lithuania to issue travel documents and the wrong documents could have landed him in the gulag. And he was greeted by an overwhelming response from the Jewish community to preserve this history, culminating in the establishment of the National Yiddish Book Center at Hampshire College.
The story in itself makes the book worth reading. But in between the lines, one learns about the subtleties of language and culture that make it clear why the loss of a language is as much an occasion for sorrow as the loss of a species. Above all, one learns why the elderly, with their store of memories, are such a treasure: those memories tell us from whence we came and who we are.
It’s a heroic story, but also very funny. And it affirms the notion that if you just do what you love, you will end up doing something wonderful.
Posted in Good Things, history | 1 Comment »
Posted by Charles II on November 5, 2012
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