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Liveblogging Clinton Global Initiative: Bill Clinton & Bill Gates on Philanthropy

The two Bills: Clinton and GatesCheck out the live blogging with Professor Kim, Cheryl aka Jill Tubman of Jack and Jill Politics, Deanna Zandt, and Josh Levy of after the jump!

Continue reading ‘Liveblogging Clinton Global Initiative: Bill Clinton & Bill Gates on Philanthropy’

First day at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting

This morning I woke up far earlier than usual (6AM!) to get up to the 8am press meeting at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. It’s been a really interesting, crazy time so far, starting from when I first arrived. When I came to Monday’s blogger meeting with Bill Clinton, I was surprised at how relaxed the security was for the meeting. Not so today. Getting into the Sheraton meant passing through the highest level of security I’ve ever experienced. This ranged from the no-tech to the highest of the high tech: manual bag search, walking through a sensor that detected the RFID inside of my press badge and instantly displayed my name and picture on a connected laptop, a metal detector, a handheld wand that could detect the RFID in my badge, AND some weird thing that seemed to take both normal pictures and x-ray type body scans. All to be expected given the number of world leaders, politicians, celebrities, and corporate leaders at the event, but still a bit unnerving. Past the doors, security has been pretty tight as well, with the press being carefully corralled and guided away from any mingling with the Important People.

I’ve spent most of my day in the press room with both bloggers and the more traditional media. These groups don’t mix that much. No matter, because it’s been fun to meet all of the other bloggers who are here and attach faces to names and the words they write. I do keep hoping that Amy Goodman or Juan Gonzalez will walk up into the press room, but I don’t think that’s too likely.

Panelists at the CGI Opening PlenaryDeanna and I liveblogged the Opening Plenary, which was chock full of celebrities, dignitaries, and noble ideas; check the record of the liveblogging for details. Afterwards, I attended the press conference with Lance Armstrong, where he announced the creation of the Livestrong Global Cancer Awareness Campaign as well as details his return to cycling, which he described as another way to raise international awareness of cancer: “While my intention is to train and compete as fiercely as I always have, this time I will gauge victory by how much progress woe make against cancer, a disease that will claim 8 million lives this year alone.”

Afterwards there was lunch (during which I was reminded that I like the idea of roast beef far more than I like the reality of roast beef), followed by the working sessions in which all of the bigwigs who are gathered here get down to business and try to come up with concrete ways to tackle issues of poverty, energy and climate change, education, and global health. I watched and listened to the live feed of the Global Health working session, the theme of which was “Healthy Transitions for Adolescent Girls.” The conversation and discussion that came afterward were fascinating, and I’ll be posting about it shortly. Then, a panel on philanthropy with Bill Clinton and Bill Gates (!), then home. Whew!

Cross-posted at Feministe

Update: U.S. Supreme Court stays the execution of Troy Anthony Davis

After scanning the news over and over again all day hoping for good news but fearing it wouldn’t come, late this afternoon I was relieved to read that the U.S. Supreme Court had granted Troy Anthony Davis a stay of execution. The stay came only hours before he was scheduled to be killed by the state of Georgia.

However, it’s not time to rejoice just yet. This is only a temporary stay until Monday, when the Court will decide whether to hear the case. If they decide not to – as they usually have in cases like these – then the stay is immediately terminated, meaning that Davis could be executed as early as next week.

I don’t know what action can be taken to try to convince the Supreme Court to do what is rational and right and at least agree to hear the case and the new evidence that casts more than a shadow of a doubt on Davis’ conviction, but if Amnesty International or Davis’ family and supporters put out any calls to action, I’ll be sure to post them here.

Meeting Bill Clinton

Me and Bill Clinton

(Note: details of the meeting follow my personal narrative!)

A couple of weeks ago I received an invitation to represent Feministe as a credentialed blogger at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, which kicks off today in NYC. I was psyched, a tad skeptical, and more than a tad nervous all at once. I’ve never been invited to participate in anything as A Blogger, much less something this high-profile. I tend to think of myself as a relatively little fish in the blogosea, and all sorts of self-doubt about whether I was really qualified for this or deserved it started running through my head.

All of this anxiety was amped up exponentially when I got the additional invite to participate in a blogger meeting with President Bill Clinton before the start of the CGI meeting. I responded to the invite right away, but then all that doubt flooded in I nearly wrote back and said never mind. I mean, really – was I good enough or important enough to deserve a spot?

But then I thought to my self, now hold up, Jack. These doubts were certainly due in part to the sorts of insecurities that everyone gets from time to time about their skills, and also due in part to some rational acknowledgment of the fact that, for sure, I haven’t busted ass posting or networking or engaging in the public discourse as much as some other folks out there, so I’m understandably gonna be smaller potatoes. But I think they were also fueled in no small part by internalization of the sort of dynamics that permeate the blogosphere as much as the rest of the world; dynamics of privilege and power that automatically lend higher degrees of traction, legitimacy, or “authority” (as Technocrati puts it) to certain voices than to others for reasons entirely apart from the quality and quantity of their thoughts and words. The kind of dynamics, for example, that led to a 2006 blogger meeting with Bill Clinton being all white (and that helped this year’s meeting be predominantly white, too.) [1] Internalization is all about oppressed people learning to help keep themselves down, so I checked myself and decided not to help out on that count.

There was also an entirely different set of misgivings: how would I reconcile my politics with this meeting? Continue reading ‘Meeting Bill Clinton’

ACTION ALERT: Amnesty International’s call to support Troy Davis

As I wrote last week, Troy Davis was denied clemency last week by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole and is scheduled to be executed on September 23, next Tuesday, despite the tremendous amount of doubt that surrounds his conviction. Besides the Board of Pardons and Parole, the only entity that can stop the execution is the US Supreme Court. However, Amnesty International sent out an action alert today that states that the Board of Pardons and Parole can still reconsider its decision:

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles gave no reason for its denial of Troy Davis’ clemency petition, yet Board members do have the authority to reconsider their decision. On July 16, 2007, the Board did stay Troy Davis’ execution, stating that it would “not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused” (emphasis added).

The failure of courts to hear the compelling evidence of innocence in this case means that massive doubts about Troy Davis’ guilt will remain unresolved.

Amnesty International is asking that people send emails and letters to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole urging that they reconsider their decision in the face of the considerable doubt cast upon Troy Davis’ guilt. Please take a few moments to do this; this may be one of the last chances that Troy Davis has to escape being murdered unjustly by the state.

SieteNueve to Daddy Yankee: “Quedate Callao!”

Y’all might’ve caught wind of how Daddy Yankee took a real pendejo turn in endorsing John McCain for president. That was an annoying “WTF?!?” moment for me, but not terribly heartbreaking; sure, I’ve enjoyed breaking it down on the dancefloor to “Gasolina” and “Rompe,” but I never really looked to Daddy Yankee for political fulfillment or anything like that. So I’m not going to shed any tears over this, though I am probably gonna take his songs out of my house party wannabe iTunes DJ lineup and maybe replace him with some Calle 13 or something (check out “Querido FBI” and “Pal’ Norte” for some of their politics.)

Well, today my friend and fellow blogger Cyborg Yoryie clued me in to an awesome response to Daddy Yankee, this from Puerto Rican rapper SieteNueve. Not only is this an awesome response politically, but it’s also a hot track and serves as my introduction to another awesome politically conscious Puerto Rican hip hop artist. You can download the track for free at SieteNueve’s MySpace page.

ETA: “Quedate Callao!” translates to “Stay quiet!” or “Stay shut up!” Here I’d like to think it translates more forcefully to STFU…

Update: Troy Davis denied clemency, faces execution on Sept 23

UPDATE: I am shocked, angered, disgusted and saddened to say that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole has denied Troy Davis clemency or commutation of his death sentence. (see here and here for articles). This, despite the fact that there was no physical evidence implicating him and seven of the nine witnesses who testified against him have recanted their testimony. This is horrifying. It is also crystal clear evidence for why the death penalty is an immoral and inhumane system that shouldn’t be allowed to continue. How could anyone argue that an ultimate, immutable punishment should ever be applied when you have such an abundance of reasonable doubt and such a dearth of credible evidence? And while this is an extraordinarily wrong case, we have to assume that there are many, many other instances of people being convicted, sentenced, and executed under similarly dubious, uncertain circumstances. It is unacceptable.

At this point, Davis’ only hope is that the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes. With our current Supreme Court, I worry for the chances of that happening; to make matters worse, the Court is currently recessed and may not even get around to hearing the case before Davis’ execution date, which is set for September 23 at 7pm. (end update)

Last July, I wrote asking people to call and demand clemency for Troy Davis, a man sentenced to death in Georgia. He was convicted in 1991 of murdering an off-duty police officer, but as I wrote last year, “the case against him was comprised entirely of witness testimony, which even at the time of the trial contained inconsistencies. Since the trial, seven out of nine of the non-police prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony.” (See my previous post for more details on the case.)

Davis was granted a stay of execution last July less than 24 hours before he was to be killed. However, as reports, “the Georgia Supreme Court and US Supreme Court have refused to hear new evidence in the case — ensuring that doubts about his guilt will always remain.” put out this call to action via email today:

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles is meeting today to decide Troy Davis’ fate. Can you call them right now and ask them to spare his life? Call (404) 651-6599 and tell them you are for clemency or commutation for Troy Davis because you don’t want Georgia to make the mistake of executing an innocent man.

Once you’ve called, please let us know by sending an email to Then, please pass this on to your friends and family–Troy Davis needs all the help he can get.

I made my call a little while ago; it takes only one or two minutes to tell them that you’re calling to ask for clemency or commutation of Davis’ sentence. Please try to spare a few minutes today to help save Davis from an unjust, inhumane death.

“In the spirit of unity with the goal of victory”

Wow. What a night at the Democratic National Convention.

Despite whatever disagreements, criticisms, and disillusionment with the Obama/Biden campaign, the Democratic Party and its power-brokering, wheeling and dealing, cynical underbelly, and the larger political system in this country, I was genuinely energized and genuinely moved by tonight’s roll call. I thought it was going to be a divisive, upsetting mess, but now I actually think it was a good move. Hillary Clinton got the accolades and recognition that she deserves with each announcement of delegate votes going to her, but they were also followed up by unequivocal, usually very and genuinely enthusiastic affirmation of Barack Obama as the confirmed nominee of a united Democratic party.

I didn’t actually get to see the whole process and started watching when Maine was up. Watching the process was electrifying. When New Jersey, my home state, unanimously cast their 127 votes for Obama, I cheered and very nearly cried.

But when New York, my current home, came up – wow. I don’t think any words or actions on Hillary Clinton’s part could have been better than that. When the seas of delegates parting as the Secret Service made a way through to the NY delegation – what a moment. When the mic was passed to her, she said what so many of us have been waiting to hear, and she said it damn well:

With eyes firmly fixed on the future, and in the spirit of unity with the goal of victory, with faith in our party and our country, let’s declare together with one voice right here, right now that Barack Obama is our candidate and he will be our president.

Hell yeah. That really made me tear up. And the jubilation after that vote by acclamation – wow. Just… amazing.

I can’t write more right now, else I’d probably have a whole lot more to say. (Also haven’t seen all the speeches including Bill Clinton’s – watching it recorded on DVR.) But I will part by bringing it back to levity a bit: while watching the talking heads on CNN right after the vote, one of the commentators, John King, actually said this:

“Looking around the room it was stunning. You have over here the South Carolina delegation, the Minnesota delegation, African-Americans old and new – tears as the votes came in.”

Damn! Some of those white delegates from South Carolina and Minnesota were so excited that they’d just nominated a Black man for the presidency, they up and turned Black themselves! It’s a miracle!

The execution of Jose Ernesto Medellin: another American middle finger raised at international law

Recently I decided to read the work of Noam Chomsky for the first time, beginning with Hegemony or Survival. I’m a few chapters in now, and one of the points that Chomsky makes is that the United States continues to show blatant disregard and even contempt for international law and institutions such as the United Nations. Chomsky focuses on the start of the war in Iraq in defiance of the Security Council and the UN in general as one of the United States’ most stark dismissals of international law, but also details similar dismissals with regards to other military engagements. He asserts that this is part and parcel of larger project of the United States, which reserves “the right to resort to force to eliminate any perceived challenge to US global hegemony, which is to be permanent.”

For people paying attention, the US’ disregard for international law – as shown through its preemptive strikes, its dismissals of the Geneva Conventions with regards to torture, its secret renditions, and its snubbing of a litany of treaties and agreements – has been worrisome for a long time. As Chomsky asserts, “when the UN fails to serve as ‘an instrument of American unilateralism’ … it is dismissed.” Essentially, the government of the United States believes that it can do whatever the hell it wants, with a big middle finger raised towards any other nation or international organization that calls it on its murderous, imperialistic bullshit. Or, as John Bolton, our illustrious former UN ambassador, put it: “There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States.”

So when I read this morning about the Texas execution of a Mexican citizen convicted of murder, the story fit right into the larger pattern of the United States’ perception of itself as supreme. Jose Ernesto Medellin, convicted of the 1993 rape and murder of two teenage girls, was executed Tuesday night despite an order from the International Court of Justice at the Hague to halt the executions of Mexican citizens on Texas’ death row. From the LA Times article:

The International Court of Justice in The Hague sided in 2004 with the Mexican government’s argument that the United States had violated the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to inform the arrested Mexican nationals of their right to seek help from the Mexican Consulate.

Mexico has asked that all 51 convictions be reviewed, creating the possibility for new trials or outright dismissals. The Hague court had ordered the United States not to execute any of five men on death row in Texas while the court reviewed their cases.

But the court, a branch of the United Nations, has no power to enforce its rulings. A spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, has said that “the world court has no standing in Texas.”

Emphasis added, because the statement so clearly crystallizes not only the attitude of the state of Texas, but of the United States as a whole. Surprisingly enough, the Bush administration attempted to intervene and halt the executions: “Mr Bush wrote a two-paragraph memorandum to the Department of Justice saying Texas courts must obey the ICJ ruling and review Mr Medellín’s conviction and sentence to determine whether his rights were violated because he was not allowed to contact his consulate.” However, as the LA Times reports, “the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the administration’s arguments, ruling 6-3 that under the Constitution, the president did not have the ‘unilateral authority’ to compel state officials to comply with an international treaty.”

Interesting. So the President seems to have unilateral authority to do all sorts of awful things, but not when it comes to enforcing international law? I suppose this makes sense, though; after all, why should individual states not follow the example of the larger nation in its utter disregard for the rule of international law? In these executions, Texas is only applying the precedent that the US government has demonstrated time and time again: the United States can do what it wants, and fuck the rest of the world if they complain.

The LA Times reports that “Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International contend that executing foreign citizens in opposition to the court order could put U.S. citizens abroad at risk of being convicted and even executed for crimes without having access to U.S. consulates or embassies.” Jeffrey Davidow, former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, expands upon that:

So we now find ourselves on the brink of an irrevocable violation of the most important treaty governing consular assistance for our citizens detained in other countries. A failure to comply with this most basic of treaty commitments would significantly impair the ability of our diplomats and leaders to protect the interests — individual and collective — of Americans abroad. Were the tables turned — American citizens arrested abroad and denied consular access, with an ICJ judgment requiring review of those cases for prejudice, and another nation refusing to comply — our leaders would rightly demand that compliance be forthcoming.

Unfortunately, as the United States continues to flout international law, other nations might not be so interested in extending favor to us that they do not get from us. And why should they? Why should other nations not be allowed to exercise their sovereignty just as the United States does? Oh, that’s right: it’s because the people in power in this nation believe in the Rule of Might over the Rule of Law, and the United States just happens to have the biggest guns.

The women still in the race

Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente

For all the talk about the historic nature of the Clinton (woman!) and Obama (Black!) campaigns that’s gone on in the mainstream media for the past year, you might not have any idea that a third, equally unprecedented ticket was being run: Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, the presidential and vice-presidential nominees of the Green Party. This is the first all women of color presidential ticket in the history of the United States. Now, I understand that a nomination’s historical importance and newsworthiness tends to be defined by the likelihood of its success – or, as is often the case, by the degree to which people decide to blame the Democratic party’s failures on the Greens. Yet one would hope that in between all of the celebrity gossip and other tripe that makes it onto the news regularly, the mainstream media would find a little more time to devote to a presidential ticket that is unique not only for its makeup but also for the platform it’s running on, a platform that offers a radically different choice from the rightly-named corporate parties that dominate the politics of this nation.

But predictably, the mainstream media has almost completely ignored the McKinney/Clemente ticket. When they won the Green nomination, there were a few articles here, a few news reports here, most of them focusing more on the candidates’ chances of being “spoilers” in the upcoming election rather than focusing on, you know, their positions or platform or qualifications, all of which the MSM apparently deems irrelevant. Most of what I’ve heard about McKinney and Clemente has come from the blogosphere, and even here, coverage is slim. The majority of the mentions I’ve seen have been about McKinney being a possible alternative vote for Clinton supporters who don’t want to vote for Obama, and even there, McKinney is discussed less often than John McCain as the alternate vote. Even on Feministe (if my memory and our search tool are working properly), McKinney’s candidacy hasn’t been mentioned in an actual post, only in the comments.

Now I get that this lack of coverage is to be expected, especially if you’re measuring a candidate’s importance or significance by their likelihood to win come November. McKinney and Clemente won’t be in the White House come January, and I’m sure they both understand that. However, the actual presidency is not the only thing at stake here, especially for the Greens and more generally for the future of third parties in this country. In an interview with Newsweek (subtitled “Will a third-party candidate be a ‘spoiler’?”), McKinney discusses another important and far more feasible goal (emphasis mine):

There are currently about 200 members of the Green Party who are elected officials. These are mostly local elections. The Green Party does not yet have representation on the federal level, but it’s quite a successful “minor” party. With 5 percent of the electorate, it can move from minor party status to major party status [and qualify the Green Party for federal funds]. So our goal is to get onto as many ballots as we can, since then achieving a 5 percent goal becomes possible. When I got to Washington D.C., I realized that public policy was made around the table. The 5 percent puts another seat at the table.

As Obama continues to hedge, flip-flop, and trend right on a variety of issues, and as McCain continues to be his usually sucky self, it becomes clearer and clearer that another seat at the table, a true alternative to corporate politics as usual, is desperately needed. And while even 5 percent of the vote is an uphill battle for McKinney, Clemente, and the rest of the Greens, it isn’t impossible. Such a victory would be huge, a major step in breaking this country away from the two-party system that time and time again shows itself to be severely lacking for people who believe in true peace and true justice.

But who’s gonna vote for them? Continue reading ‘The women still in the race’