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Children Are Forty Percent of Cluster Bomb Casualties

I had noted in an earlier post, Senator Clinton's vote against a ban on cluster bombs (and Senator Obama's vote for the ban) has grave repercussions for children around the world.  This new report given in New Zealand at a conference to draft language for an international treaty banning the use of these weapons came out on Tuesday.

Opening the conference, Disarmament Minister Phil Goff said a strong declaration on cluster bombs at the conference would mark a pivotal step in getting the weapons banned.

More than half of the 76 states in the world that stockpile cluster munitions are taking part in the negotiations, along with a majority of the weapon producers.

However, major producers such as the US, Russia, China and Pakistan have not joined the process and have no observers at the conference.

Cluster bombs are built to explode above the ground, releasing thousands of bomblets primed to detonate on impact. But combat statistics show between 10 percent and 40 percent fail to go off and lie primed in the target area to kill and injure civilians.

UNICEF deputy executive director Hilde Frafjord Johnson, speaking on behalf of 14 United Nations entities that form the United Nations Mine Action Team, said the UN wanted cluster bombs banned.

She said the weapons had a horrendous humanitarian, development and human rights impact.

Ms Johnson said the extensive use of cluster munitions in southern Lebanon in 2006 was a tragic reminder of how they caused death and serious injury of civilians.

“Sometimes, the presence of unexploded sub-munitions forced populations out of their homes and prevented those already displaced from returning home to rebuild their lives and communities.”

Ms Johnson spoke of 12-year-old Hassan Hemadi, who in 2006 picked up an object outside his home in southern Lebanon while he was watering the family garden.

“‘I saw a metal object,”‘ Johnson said, quoting Hemadi.

“‘I did not know what it was and so I picked it up. I started playing with the ribbon on the end, twirling it around. Then I don’t know what happened, it exploded. Now I have lost the fingers on my hand.”

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Senate to Apologize to Indians?

I read today on the AP an article titled, "Indian Apology Close to Senate Passage". The resolution sponsored by Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback hasn't passed, but it's close. About time. This follows the Australian government's apology to the Aborigines. Of course, this doesn't change the fact that the Bush Administration is presently proposing a federal budget for fiscal year 2009 that would eliminate the Urban Indian Health Program which is budgeted at $35 million for this year. This, despite the fact that some 70% of American Indians live off of the reservation and the budget violates the terms that the land was originally ceded to the United States by tribes in the first place. Of course, if the U.S. government can't afford the payments (the Iraq war, according to National is costing us $275 million per day) it can always give the land back! That would include large chunks of Red States--I wonder how that would play on election day?
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Steinem & Jong vs. me & Paglia?

I read a post today on Women's Space about Gloria Steinem's support of Carol Moseley Braun's run for President of the United States during the 2004 election. I finally read Steinem's op/ed piece that was in the New York Times in January on the sexism Senator Clinton faces in the media compared to the (relatively) free pass Senator Obama is given regarding race. I found her piece, "Women are Never Front-Runners" disappointing in its reasoning, particularly, from a woman I admire so much. The generation gap has never felt so painful to me or so inexplicable. I heard the same things from my mom when I told her I was voting for Obama. If she wrote an article for the New York Times, it probably would have said the same thing. Suddenly, my mom--who had raised me up and trained me in a powerful sense of womanhood and feminism--and I were on opposite sides of the fence. Being the good daughter, I have found that hard to take. I also read Camille Paglia's recent column on the election, which is fairly hilarious and, strangely enough, encapsulated so many of my feelings on the issue:
This disarray among Republicans, which may depress voter turnout or even spawn a protest splinter party, offers a fantastic opening to Democrats, if the party can only seize it. The galvanizing energy aroused by Barack Obama's thrilling coast-to-coast victories gives Democrats a clear shot at regaining the White House. However, the three-faced Hillary, that queen of triangulation, would be a nice big gift to Republicans, who are itching to romp all over the Clintons' 20-volume encyclopedia of tawdry scandals.
But, I am left rolling my eyes when she writes:
The old-guard feminist establishment has also rushed out of cold storage to embrace Hillary Clinton via tremulous manifestoes of gal power that have startlingly exposed the sentimental slackness of thought that made Gloria Steinem and company wear out their welcome in the first place. Hillary's gonads must be sending out sci-fi rays that paralyze the paleo-feminist mind -- because her career, attached to her husband's flapping coattails, has sure been heavy on striking pious attitudes but ultra-light on concrete achievements.
Meanwhile, Steinem writes in her piece:
I’m supporting Senator Clinton because like Senator Obama she has community organizing experience, but she also has more years in the Senate, an unprecedented eight years of on-the-job training in the White House, no masculinity to prove, the potential to tap a huge reservoir of this country’s talent by her example, and now even the courage to break the no-tears rule. I’m not opposing Mr. Obama; if he’s the nominee, I’ll volunteer. Indeed, if you look at votes during their two-year overlap in the Senate, they were the same more than 90 percent of the time. Besides, to clean up the mess left by President Bush, we may need two terms of President Clinton and two of President Obama.

But what worries me is that he is seen as unifying by his race while she is seen as divisive by her sex.

What worries me is that she is accused of “playing the gender card” when citing the old boys’ club, while he is seen as unifying by citing civil rights confrontations.

What worries me is that male Iowa voters were seen as gender-free when supporting their own, while female voters were seen as biased if they did and disloyal if they didn’t.

What worries me is that reporters ignore Mr. Obama’s dependence on the old — for instance, the frequent campaign comparisons to John F. Kennedy — while not challenging the slander that her progressive policies are part of the Washington status quo.

What worries me is that some women, perhaps especially younger ones, hope to deny or escape the sexual caste system; thus Iowa women over 50 and 60, who disproportionately supported Senator Clinton, proved once again that women are the one group that grows more radical with age.

Then I read on the Huffpo Erica Jong's take on the sexism in the election. To her, the issue of gender trumps all others.
Or Oprah who forgets she wasn't always Oprah -- I knew her when she had two names. She was always really smart, but she used to identify with women. And now she's joined the Obamarama. I get it. I understand. People want their own color in the White House (pun intended). And nobody said Barack wasn't brilliant.

But the truth is, we have no idea what he stands for. At least I don't. All we have are soundbites and attacks on "the" Clintons. But I guess the great American Amnesiate prefers it that way.
I'd have to disagree with Steinem on the voting record. The vote yesterday on FISA is a case in point. As one reader responding to Erica Jong's op/ed said:
As a young graduate of your alma mater, it pained me to not to cast my primary vote for the first female presidential candidate in my voting lifetime. Unfortunately (that was sarcasm, absolutely fortunately), because my education taught me think for myself and take reasoned, educated stances on issues important to me, I decided not to vote for Sen. Clinton.

Sen. Clinton voted against Senate Amendment No. 4882 last year, which would have banned the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas. While Sen. Clinton voted against the ban, Sen. Obama voted for the ban, acknowledging that cluster bombs are an antiquated form of collective punishment primarily impacting civilians and serving as a long-term impediment to reconciliation. Although the ban did not pass, this is one of the few Senate voting record differences between the two. It speaks loudly to me.

Another divergence between the senators appeared this week: I don't know definitively where Sen. Clinton stands on retroactive telecom immunity because- even though she was in the Potomac triangle when it occurred- she did not attend the relevant Senate session to cast her vote. Sen. Obama attended; he voted against retroactive telecom immunity.

I'm glad you write about the sexism this race reveals and I absolutely agree that in calling Sen. Clinton "Hillary" and Sen. Obama "Obama" we reveal the patriarchal, misogynistic tendencies underlying American society; however, I don't think this is an adequate argument for voting for Sen. Clinton. Does that make me a "Hillary Hater" worthy of your vitriolic language? I don't think so. I don't even think it makes me a woman-hater.
Addressing the issue of calling Senator Clinton "Hillary", I would point out that is exactly what her signs said at the Washington Caucus I attended on Saturday. Here is what they look like and here is what the Obama sign looks like:

Other commentators took Jong to task for invoking the memory of Bella Abzug, a renowned anti-war and women's rights leader to support a candidate that voted for war in Iraq and cluster bombing villages with children.

The statements of Steinem and Jong brought to mind the fight that occurred when it appeared that the 15th amendment would give black men the right to vote but not women. When Frederick Douglas announced that he would support the amendment without woman's suffrage included, Susan B. Anthony declared, "I will cut off this right arm of mine before I will ever work or demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman."

By the way, here is a great video from the Google Employee Q & A series that shows (to answer Jong's request for more specifics) quite clearly what Obama stands for:

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Obama Mama

It was quite inspirational to go to the caucus. I was a precinct captain for Camas, Washington and the turnout was amazing. There were all these Hillary signs and Hillary campaign workers who were very in-the-know and Junior League-ish with pearls and suits and nice flip hairdos. Us Oregonian Obama volunteers were mostly new to the political process and a bit more of the people, if I may say that. But when they counted the votes I was shocked. My precinct went 8-2 for Obama! The Clintonian ladies had given speeches about sexism, etc. and when the Obama voters spoke (some gave short speeches to run for delegates, it was my job to encourage a group of voters to stay and do that) they all spoke of the desire for change and that it was time to end the Bush/Clinton/Bush ruling of our country and that it was okay to have hope.

I am writing an essay on "The Political Education of an Obama Voter," right now. In it, I trace my coming of age during Reagan and my first election in New Hampshire and my disappointment with the Clintons (NAFTA, WTO, Welfare Moms to Work, Don't Ask Don't Tell, the Thong thing). Also, my activism in the Green Party and the Bush regime confirming every thing Noam Chomsky taught me. So many teachers. It's been a bit of joy to go through all that, listening to the Dead Kennedy's again and John Trudell and realizing that those truths they spoke about that enriched my perspective then still apply now.

February 27th is the 35th anniversary of the stand-off at Wounded Knee. I'm thinking about how my parents' generation stood up for Civil Rights in this country even if meant being hit on the head with a baton or being gunned down by the FBI in their houses on the reservation. I owe them a lot. They made my life so much better than it would have been under Jim Crow America.

I saw this post at the Huffington Post. It features Obama's mother and her struggle with cancer. It also includes some audio from "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance". Just think on it she was a white woman who married a black man in the early 60's! It's people like her who are real Americans to me and embody everything that is possible and makes this country great.

Here is the audio from Obama's book "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance":

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Alice Walker Endorses Obama

Heart at Women's Space posted this video endorsement by Alice Walker for Obama yesterday.  She says:
What Alice Walker says on this video is beautiful, hopeful, and well worth watching no matter what candidate you support. I love what she says about writers. I love what she says about needing a President who is in touch with the real world. I love what she says about the importance of having a President who has known and loved and walked alongside many, many people in many different circumstances, people of all different backgrounds, races, ethnicities.
I love how Walker says, "we need someone now who is literary.  Good writing matters for the deeper realization of self" and "we need to have leadership that is strong.  Compassionate leadership actually is strong leadership, strong enough to care and to act in defense of people like the people after Katrina."  She contrast this with "weak people [who] get us into nightmares because they lack self-confidence."  I am reminded of the Clintons when she says, "the other people have had so much experience in misleading us and disappointing us, in never telling us hardly ever the truth of about why they are doing things."  She points out that Obama's background and the places around the world that he has lived makes him see the world as "complicated but workable and I feel we desperately need people in leadership that have more of an idea of the real world than any of the people we have had before."

Here's the video:

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Mixed-blood, like me

I have been trying to pinpoint what it is about Obama that strikes a chord with me. Many Clinton supporters have accused Obama-ites of not being politically astute and of supporting a candidate based on feel-good rhetoric and not the experience that the candidate brings to the presidency. For me, this does not address the Clintons' past betrayals of my political support. I saw then-President Clinton sign NAFTA, put welfare mothers to work, support "don't ask, don't tell", and become embroiled in Republican mud-slinging (mostly self-inflicted, I mean come on a thong!) that brought the Clinton administration to a stand-still for nearly two years.

On top of this, in 1996 President Clinton signed the Relocation Bill that evicted traditional Navajo families (including some of my relatives) living at Big Mountain, Arizona from their land to strip mine the coal that lies just beneath the surface. Strip mining is so environmentally destructive that the land will not inhabitable for several generations. The bill proposed relocating these traditional Dineh to the site of the United States' largest radiation spill called--in an Orwellian touch--"New Lands". I have no faith that things have changed. In the past several years, Senator Clinton has stood by and supported the Bush administration march to war. I believe her vote on the war was a politically pragmatic decision made to pander to the Republican base--with little or no concern for me or other concerned Democrats who opposed it.

But my interest in Obama is not simply a by-product of my distrust of the Clintons' political choices. I began to realize that it is after all the candidates' very attitudes towards public service that lead me to favor Obama . If elected, Obama, born in 1961, will be the first person from my generation to be elected to the Presidency. 1960 is considered the beginning of Generation X, which corresponds with the bottoming out of the birthrate that occurred between 1960-1980. Obama's election would mark the end of the Boomer generation's hold on political leadership and the passing of that mantle onto my own. I was born in the middle of the spread of years that define Generation X, but I recognize in Obama some of the approaches to race and identity that are the marks of a mixed-blood person born in the era following the Civil Rights movement. There has been much discussion about President Clinton's racist postcard that he sent to his grandmother in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. I see this card sent by law student Clinton to his grandmother in the deep South as predictive of his future political maneuvering as our President. He was willing in 1966 to bend to the expected social mores that may have been common at the time (I don't know, I was not alive then) but his actions were lacking in personal integrity and choice of someone coming of age in the midst of change.

I recently read a great article on written by Gary Kamiya called "Bi-racial, but not like me" on the subject. Kamiya's analysis of his support for Obama is the best I've read on the subject. He quotes from Obama's autobiography "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance":
One of those transformative moments comes during Obama's undergraduate days, after he had given a well-received speech urging the university to divest from South Africa. A black friend, Regina, praised his talk, but Obama cynically denied that it had any meaning, saying he just did it for the applause and that it wouldn't change anything. Regina retorted that he was selfish and shallow -- "It's not just about you" -- and angrily left. Left alone, Obama suddenly realized she was right. His mother had told him the same thing, but he had rejected it, putting it down as "white" truths. "Who told you that being honest was a white thing? ... You've lost your way, brother. Your ideas about yourself -- about who you are and who you might become -- have grown stunted and narrow and small.

"How had that happened? I started to ask myself, but before the question had even formed in my mind, I already knew the answer. Fear ... The constant, crippling fear that I didn't belong somehow ... that I would always remain an outsider, with the rest of the world, black and white, always standing in judgment."

Then Obama modulates into something like a vision, at once real and transcendent. He imagines the face of Regina's grandmother, "her back bent, the flesh of her arms shaking as she scrubs an endless floor. Slowly, the old woman lifted her head to look straight at me, and in her sagging face I saw that what bound us together went beyond anger or despair or pity. What was she asking of me, then? Determination, mostly. The determination to push ahead against whatever power kept her stooped instead of standing straight."

And then, an even larger vision. "The old woman's face dissolved from my mind, only to be replaced by a series of others. The copper-skinned face of the Mexican maid, straining as she carries out the garbage. The face of Lolo's mother [Lolo was Obama's Indonesian stepfather] drawn with grief as she watches the Dutch burn down her house. The tight-lipped, chalk-colored face of Toots [Obama's white grandmother] as she boards the six-thirty bus that will take her to work. Only a lack of imagination, a failure of nerve, had made me think that I had to choose between them. They all asked the same thing of me, all these grandmothers of mine."

Finally, the lesson, to be carried forward: "My identity might begin with the fact of my race, but it didn't, couldn't, end there. At least that's what I would choose to believe." Through a long and arduous search for blackness, Obama arrived at humanity.

In a certain way, Obama's odyssey in "Dreams From My Father" mirrors that of the boy hero of the greatest novel America has produced -- a book that is also about race, and the terrible wound that slavery left on this country and all its people. Huck Finn has been abandoned by his father, a bitter, drunken racist, and has to make his way through the world alone. But actually, he is not alone: a fugitive, he drifts down the Mississippi River, the river that runs through America's heart, with Jim, a runaway slave. And in the course of their journey, the wise and kindly Jim becomes Huck's father -- and, by implication, the father of every American. The pathos of Twain's masterpiece is it redeems our nation's dark history by allowing the despised slave to raise, and ultimately teach the meaning of life to, the lost and innocent boy.

Obama's quest is identical, except the colors are reversed. In search of an absent black father, he tries to become authentically black. And it is only when he learns that his father is all too human that he finally comes to understand that he is the child of both black and white, and ultimately of everyone, of all colors. "All these grandmothers of mine."

The man who emerges from this book has the integrity, the wisdom, the "dogged strength," to fight for a reborn America. And he also represents something larger than himself: He embodies hope. But that hope will only become real if the American people make it real. For hope is just a vessel. You have to fill it.
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Obama and Tribes

Senator Obama answers a question from a tribal leader while in Albuquerque, New Mexico earlier this week and says that he will not only work with tribes through the BIA if elected President, but also meet annually with tribal leaders in a joint summit.  This may not sound like much, but it's more than we've ever been promised before.   I got this from the site First Americans for Obama.

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Yes We Can - Si Se Puede!

I've been a fan of Senator Barack Obama since we lived in the Chicago area and my husband and I got to vote for him for Senator. I had signs for him and Kerry in my front yard. They got stolen three times (we were in the only red suburb in a very blue state) and each time, I drove to the Democratic office and replaced them right away! Well, here's my plug for Obama. Yeah, my mom is voting for Clinton and there's really nothing I can say to change her mind.  For her, the very idea that a woman is running for president is the culmination of her generation of women's dreams.  In this case, my family falls within the demographic lines of voters. Women over 45 like Clinton, women under favor Obama. 

I am glad we have the choice between two such qualified and intelligent candidates. It really is an embarrassment of riches for the Democratic party, but I think Obama signals the future. And as a woman whose entire voting life has been dominated by the Clinton/Bush ruling families, I wonder if our country doesn't start to feel uncomfortably like a banana republic? Certainly, women in countries with far less rights have been elected to highest office (I'm thinking of the late former PM of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto), but these women ran on the legacy of their male relatives and political power of their families, not because women have equal rights.

I'd like to see a new start. I'm sick of the polemics of hatred and division in this country.  The idea of TiyospayeNow has always been about finding a better way for our children, our community and Obama's message of unity as a country, as a people--as diverse as we are-- gives me hope. So, here's a video that speaks to that. 

Update: Here's also a link to a post by at the Huffington Post on why he made the video.

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