Thursday, June 28, 2012

Amnesty Staff Cuts, Drone Strikes, Rangel Triumphs in Demo. Primary, Supreme Court, Moving Beyond Malicious Amazon Review, Radio Program Reminder

One of the hats I wear is an Amnesty International (AI) volunteer activist. In 1981, I helped found group 211 in Washington, DC, to which I still belong. Until I joined the Peace Corps in Honduras in 2000, I was Cuba and Dominican Republic coordinator for AI USA. After returning to Washington in 2004, I became coordinator for the entire Caribbean and Canada (with concerns there regarding indigenous and environmental rights). In 2005, I participated in an international Amnesty conference held in Morelos, Mexico. In 2011, I was in San Francisco when we celebrated Amnesty’s 50th anniversary. So, I have stuck with Amnesty through thick and thin, but now our organization is undergoing its thinnest period, facing serious financial challenges, not only in the U.S., but worldwide. The reasons are many, including the economic recession, an expansion of our mandate, and, perhaps, insufficient attention to financial and organizational matters as we confront human rights emergencies around the world, including, right now, those in Syria. It’s been tempting to respond to every identified need when we don’t really have the resources to do it all. The one staff member of AI USA supporting our volunteer efforts around the world for the last decade, working heroically with only the help of rotating volunteer interns, is now being laid off as a cost-cutting measure. As long-time volunteers working with him for years, we were not consulted or forewarned, even though Amnesty is supposedly a grassroots organization. I fear our protests after-the-fact will be to no avail. Our own experience in this regard has been repeated in organizations, public, private, and non-profit, around the country. The money just isn’t there.

My old friend Jimmy Carter has dropped a bombshell, accusing the Obama administration of violating human rights through targeted drone killings. I wondered when any prominent domestic voice was going to call Obama to task on what, arguably, are assassinations carried out without trial or due process. Even though the American public may condone them as effective self-defense, they are ethically questionable. I had thought maybe human rights organizations were shying away from direct criticism, considering Obama preferable to Romney in this case. So far, have not heard a defense from the administration.

My Dominican friends’ cousin Adriano Espaillat running in the Democratic primary in NYC against Charlie Rangel lost, so it looks like Rangel is in again. Everyone in the DR was rooting for Adriano, according to my sources. He gave Rangel a run for his money, but didn’t make it. He did get 40% of the vote, so may do better in two years time. After all, Rangel is 80, has had some ethics challenges, and the district is more Latino than before.

Mixed and somewhat confusing decisions on the Arizona immigration verification law and the Obama health plan have emerged from the Supreme Court, providing at least substantial support to the administration. The court has not split entirely along the usual ideological lines, with Chief Justice Roberts playing a mediating role. However, is becoming increasingly apparent that at least some Supreme Court justices are highly partisan, not the objective, letter-of-the- law authorities we rely on to independently resolve the nation’s most contentious disputes. It does seem that the time has come to have limited, rather life-time, tenure for the Supremes. First, there was their bald favoritism in Bush vs. Gore that possibly resulted, because of the Bush administration’s neglect of warning clues, in 9/11 and, even worse, Bush’s launching of the unnecessary, costly, and deadly Iraq war. Now Justice Antonin Scalia, whom I consider evil personified in the same mold as Dick Cheney, is denouncing the “evil effects of illegal immigration.” How about looking at the useful effects of immigration, whether legal or not? Sphinx-like Clarence Thomas, the man who never says a word, and who tried to savage Anita Hill’s reputation, probably agrees with Scalia, but will only say so in writing. From my perspective, they are both a joke, and not a funny one. In my old age, I’m becoming more pessimistic about humankind and its ability to progress or act half-way rationally. I do think the high court’s decisions on Arizona’s immigration-verification law and health care were somewhat balanced, no thanks to Scalia and company.

While I’m trying to leave behind the shock of that vicious and vindictive (why?) review of my Honduras book, the fact remains that ever since that guy put that up on Amazon in mid-May, I’ve had no sales whatsoever. If he reads my blog, that should give him some satisfaction. My sins, if any, were sins of omission in that I didn’t buy his Honduras memoir and didn’t promote it for an award. Although he has written and self-published many books, apparently none has gotten the recognition he craves. Usually, I’ve had one or two sales of my Honduras book at least every couple of weeks. Now, weeks after his posting, nada. It could be just coincidence or due to the Peace Corps’ departure from Honduras, but it’s rather troubling. If his objective was to stop my sales, he may have done a pretty good job. I also realize that a book’s sales do tend to diminish over time, not that mine were ever that robust. I anticipated that they might pick up after the Canadian radio show, but if listeners go to Amazon, I hope they won’t be discouraged by his review, which will remain there starkly visible in perpetuity. I’m open to suggestions about how to deal with this. Just ignoring it doesn’t seem to be working particularly well, though that’s the main advice I’ve gotten. Would-be readers may not take the trouble to go through all the other 5-star reviews. I notice that his own books have few Amazon reviews. One friend who has seen his review on Amazon is even worried about my physical safety, as he seems to be, in her words,
“ a nut case.” He lives in California, but was out here last September for the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary where I don’t recall ever running into him. Others tell me he was obnoxiously trying to get everyone to buy his books, which he described as “wonderful.” I hope I’m not that pushy.

Gentle reminder about my radio interview (via telephone) this coming Sunday: Conscious Discussions Talk Radio, Vancouver, BC

Interview Time-line

Conscious Discussions airs LIVE at 10 AM (Pacific) Sunday July 1 [Eastern time 1 PM]

The show will be 60 minutes in duration.

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