Yahoo News/AP: Fla. Wal-Mart Workers Start to Organize

This is very good news and I think it might actually work. Despite what Wal-mart would like, I don’t think it has the political capital anymore to crush this movement. It is already too big to stop. I think now it is more likely that Wal-mart will try to sideline or even co-opt this group.

I sure wish they would get this group in Oklahoma. The two biggest exploitative employers these days in Oklahoma are Wal-mart and the Indian Casinos (many who pay their workers $6/hour or less). I would love to see some organizing work in those arenas, either by the mainstream corporate unions or better by the radical folks like the IWW.


Pro-war comedy


American Chronicle: Let’s Not Make Iraq a Foolish Repeat of Vietnam Where Beatniks Won the War for the Enemy

This op-ed piece by Edwin A. Sumcad is written around the absurd (and almost comical) premise that dissent is unpatriotic and could even harm the war effort itself, and that anti-war activists today are creating the same impossible-to-win scenario in Iraq by their protests, that protestors created in Vietnam back in the day.

Hmm… well anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I have serious reservations with the anti-war movement of today (mostly that it lacks a common ethic, be it religious or philosophical, that sets appropriate boundaries and keeps activists from becoming what they are protesting agaisnt… note that I’m referring to the anti-war mass movement, not the peace movement which is rooted deeply in conscience and spirituality)… but that said, one has to wonder if a war could possibly be “just” if those fighting it could so easily be shaken by domestic dissent? Maybe the problem is the war itself. If the war actually had a just cause (and one that is articulated clearly from day one and throughout the war), then the American people would likely buy it. The fact that the majority of Americans do not support the war, is because the war is insane to begin with.

So from my perspective, those who criticize this unjust war are not only exercising their constitutional right, but they are also doing what they can to help this nation that is so full of potential but is right now helpless diseased with a philosophy of imperialism, violence, greed, and most of all a lack of self-control.

One could even argue that one has a patriotic duty to criticize a war that you know is unjust.



MSNBC: John Roberts sworn in as 17th chief justice — Bush sees Roberts following Rehnquist’s path as guardian of Constitution

I know many liberals are upset right now, but I think that is premature. I don’t think Roberts is nearly as conservative as Rehnquist and I think probably is closer to O’Connor in his reliance on the Stare Decisis principle. In fact even if he would support overturning Roe, it wouldn’t matter because Rehnquist did too (see the 1992 Casey decision that is now the law of the land when it comes to abortion).

So what happens next? Here’s my predicions…

1. If Bush picks a super-conservative (in the style of say Scalia or Rehnquist) then things will stay the same (unless Roberts was being tricky in the confirmation hearings and really isn’t a Stare Decisis kind of guy — if that is the case, then the court will move to the right).

2. If Bush picks another stare decisis kind of conservative or a moderate, then the court will move to the left at least on some issues.

So at least on some of the hot button issues, nothing is going to change that much. (unless Roberts is a big surprise) The only thing that would really change things would be if one of the liberal members of the court left (either due to a surprise resignation or death) while Bush was still at the helm.



GetYourActOn.com: New Orleans to D.C. and back again

. . . Everywhere in D.C. we saw places collecting money for the Red Cross and so took it upon ourselves to break it to all these well intentioned individuals that sending the Red Cross money is as good as putting a match to it. Just in case you haven’t caught this bit of info yet, here is what the Red Cross is doing in New Orleans: feeding the National Guard and the police and site seeing. We have not seen one Red Cross person doing one thing for any citizen of New Orleans. They do not bring us food or water (the Salvation Army has done this, tho, and we give them many kudos for being the ONLY official disaster relief doing ANYTHING in the city of New Orleans) or medical care or anything. I have only seen two Red Cross vehicles in New Orleans – one perusing our Toxic Art exhibit outside our house (Jeffrey asked them where they’d been all this time and then told them in no uncertain terms to get lost) and one by the levy break in the lower 9th ward taking pictures. That’s it. So please, people, spread the word – DO NOT give the Red Cross your money if you really want to help. They already have millions, and I’m sure that is plenty enough to feed the National Guard.

On top of the lack of services provided by the Red Cross, I’ll tell you about Jeffrey’s latest experience with the Red Cross shelter we were staying outside of in Covington (the one we were buying toiletries and over the counter medications for the residents as the Red Cross does not provide such things) as registered ‘guests.’ We left the shelter to do relief work with the Vets for Peace while waiting to get back into the city. Before we left, we’d signed up for our Red Cross debit cards, the little amount of money they give you to get by on. These cards took over a week to arrive. Jeffrey went back to the shelter to get our card and check on Daniel who was still there and look for our two missing cats that escaped out of the tent and into the woods. Upon driving up to the shelter, he was stopped by a sheriff who informed him that he was not welcome on the property. Apparently someone forgot to inform us when we left that once you leave the shelter you can not return, and that if you set foot on the property you will be arrested. That’s the kind of thanks you get for leaving to help take care of others. And a very nice way to keep people victims – we’d been trying to help some of the shelter residents get back home – they have FEMA checks to go pick up, but no gas money to go get the checks so they can cash them and buy gas to get home. But they aren’t allowed to leave the shelter. It’s a disgusting and abhorent Catch-22 situation designed to keep people victims and prevent them from helping themselves or others.

I have thought for some time that the Red Cross is incompetent and badly managed, but this story confirms it. But while I’m at it, let me share another story about how the Red Cross operates….

Back in I think 1999 there was a huge tornado that hit in Newcastle, OK (my hometown) as well as in Bridge Creek & Moore. The damage was pretty devastating with many folks having their homes completely flattened. So in response to this my parent’s church did a massive fundraising initiative with other churches of their religious tradition from all over the nation, and used the funds to buy appliances and other necessities for those who lost everything and were rebuilding.

Well after all was said and done there was some funds left, so the plan was to send the funds on to a disaster relief orgnanization that worked in that religious tradition (I forgot its name) but about that time the local Red Cross chapter showed up to see if the church would give the money to them instead. (I’m not making this up)

So as far as I’m concerned, don’t give money to the Red Cross. The Salvation Army seems to be doing a much better job in NOLA according to those on the scene and I think their opperation has much lower overhead than the Red Cross.

I’m also pretty partial to Mennonite Disaster Services, but their focus is more on long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts, an area that is often neglected by other disaster relief organizations… for instance, the last issue I received of the MDS newsletter is telling of how the organization is currently working on rebuilding and repairs homes damaged in the 2004 Florida hurricaines.



Newstalknz.cb.nz – News Talk ZB, Auckland, 89.4 FM

I listened online for about an hour this morning (mytime… I think it was around 3 a.m. there) to the James King show and was very impresseed with the quality of conversation and the civility of it (so, so different than what we have here in the states).

I also was surprised that they read an entire email that I sent the host (commenting on the Lyndie England case… I’ll post it in below) which was really cool…

Subject: Thought from the US on the Lyndie England case

Hello James,

I’m listening online today and thought you might be interested in the thoughts of someone in the US on this case.

I have mixed feelings about her. On one hand she did terribly atrocious and unconscionable things, but at the same time I think she was doing these actions under the orders of her higher-ups. (not just Charles Graner but also the military intelligence officers who are on the scene)

She certainly should have refused to obey those illegal orders (and should be punished for that), but her crime should be mitigated by the fact that her commanders should share responsibility.

Given this, I think her sentence is fair except for the case of her pregnancy. I think a house arrest situation would be better. If this sentence stands she will give birth in a military hospital and then have the child taken away from her (to be raised either by extended family or by department of human services) for those first 3 years, so unfortunately the one who will suffer worst will not be her but her child.

So anyway those are my thoughts. Mostly though I think the real villains here (those up the chain of command in the military, even the President himself) are getting off scot-free even though they likely knew or even ordered the torture of these prisoners to take place.

James M. Branum
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA



MSNBC: A Healthy Toast
It’s not just wine that protects the heart. All alcohol has cardiac benefits—in moderation.



Yahoo/AP: Former FEMA Director Blames Others

I really was feeling sorry for ex-FEMA Director Brown, but I gotta say now that those feelings have passed after this. I know that he wants to make sure that the congressional hearing understands that it was not only the federal response that failed NOLA, but to put the blame solely at the feet of the local and state authorities is appalling and dead wrong.



Yahoo news/LA Times: Bush, Urging Conservation, Seeks to Boost Fuel Supply

President Bush on Monday urged Americans to drive less and embrace conservation more in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and he said he would work with Congress to enact incentives for energy production and refinery construction.

The president also said that he was directing federal agencies to reduce energy consumption and that he would release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as needed to ease the shortages and price increases caused by the hurricanes. . .

In remarks reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s 1977 appeal to Americans to turn down their thermostats, Bush said Monday that everyone had a role to play in responding to the back-to-back storms, which have hampered offshore oil production, refinery operations and fuel distribution in the Gulf Coast region.

“We can all pitch in … by being better conservers of energy,” Bush said after hearing a briefing at the Energy Department. “I mean, people just need to recognize that the storms have caused disruption and that if they’re able to maybe not drive … on a trip that’s not essential, that would be helpful.”

The president said he was ordering agencies in the executive branch to cut back on fuel consumption. Federal employees were being told to curtail nonessential travel, increase use of carpools and mass transit and reduce electricity use during peak hours, he said, “as a way for the federal government to lead when it comes to conservation.”

I’m glad Bush is taking this stance on conservation. I think he should have done it in 2001, but better late than never I guess. This really is critical, maybe more critical than any other national security measure. Conservation is the way to stay free.

Of course if you read the rest of the article, you’ll notice that Bush is all calling for increased production, increased refining capacity, and the rolling back of some environmental safeguards. I’m disappointed by this (because he’s missing the idea that it is not only fuel shortages that are an issue, but also the global warming-induced weather patterns that many Americans believed caused the killer hurricaines of this year)

But all of that aside, I’m too excited by Bush’s pro-conservation statement. I know he has a long ways to go, but is such a good first step. The real test now will be whether he’ll keep advocating this and whether state and local governments would join in promoting conservation. (or better yet, I’m looking forward to the day when the churches would be promoting conservation)


I got one of the much coveted “golden tickets” from WordPress.com, so I have decided to use my blog over there for posting only my bicycle commuting reports (because I figure most of my regular JMBzine readers will find it too mundane)…. so anyway, from here on out my Bicycle Commuter Reports are now posted at: JMBzine.wordpress.com



Asia Media News Daily/South China News Post: Yahoo office accused of betraying journalist — Yahoo co-operated with mainland Chinese authorities to trace a journalist, leading to his arrest, Reporters Without Borders claimed yesterday

Disgusting news. I guess we all saw it coming, but it still is heartbreaking to see a pioneer of the internet (in those glorious halcyon days of the mid-90’s when the internet had such promise of being an avenue for the radical exercise of freedom of speech for all) become an agent of a totalitarian regime. Shame on Yahoo.

I do think though that maybe the US should have a federal law making it a crime to support a totalitarian state in ratting out journalists in this kind of way. Sure Yahoo might get kicked out of China if it complied with such a US law, but then China would suffer as more and more companies have to pull out, and in the end I think will have to cave in.

Also, I’ve been a customer of Yahoo for email for some time (I love their webmail interface with the premium account) but I think their action means I’ll have to look elsewhere for email services.

Thanks go to Okiedoke for alerting me to this story.