Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics


America and the world

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Happy Solstice, everyone. At my house we celebrate this day with the mantra, “May you walk in peace and love.”

I work in non-profit. In short, I translate perspectives from people living in a war-addled country for a western ear. An American ear.

As I watch the media whip into a froth about Iraq, I can’t help but notice that our perceptions about nation building are similar to our more misguided ideas about humanitarian aid. They both start by thinking that “they” are a problem that “we” can solve. Or control.

President Obama Speaks to West Point Graduates … and the Nation


(Transcript below the fold)

From the White House Blog: “”America Must Always Lead”: President Obama Addresses West Point Graduates

This morning, President Obama traveled to West Point to congratulate the newest officers in the United States Army and to reflect on America’s foreign policy agenda. In the President’s remarks, he acknowledged that our world is changing with accelerating speed and that America must be equipped to respond to an increasingly dynamic environment.

   It will be your generation’s task to respond to this new world. The question we face; the question you will face; is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead, not just to secure our peace and prosperity, but also to extend peace and prosperity around the globe.

The President spent most of his speech outlining his vision for how the United States, and our military, should lead in the years to come. The four elements of American leadership included:

1.   Using military force when our core interests are at stake or our people are threatened

2.   Shifting our counter-terrorism strategy by more effectively partnering with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold

3.   Continuing to strengthen and enforce international order through evolving our institutions, such as NATO and the United Nations

4.   Supporting democracy and human rights around the globe, not only as a matter of idealism, but one of national security

President Obama articulated that the United States is a global leader – a nation that “must always lead on the world stage.”

   Ultimately, global leadership requires us to see the world as it is, with all its danger and uncertainty. But American leadership also requires us to see the world as it should be – a place where the aspirations of individual human beings matter; where hopes and not just fears govern; where the truths written into our founding documents can steer the currents of history in the direction of justice. And we cannot do that without you.

Oil exploration in Virunga National Park

Crossposted from here…

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Guest lodge at Virunga National Park.

Virunga National Park is the jewel of the African rainforest. It is perhaps the most biologically and geographically diverse area on the planet. Its borders contain a vast array of species and lakes, as well as tropical forest, savannahs, and volcanoes. A UNESCO World Heritage Center, this park has come to represent the African forest that supports the planet.

And it’s in trouble.

Aside from the continuing African World War that is being fought inside its borders, a corrupt charcoal trade that is toppling its trees, and rampant poaching that’s endangered its unique species, Virunga National Park has another rival: SOCO International. This park — that is intended to be some of the most protected land on the planet — sits on top of a store of oil. And yes, SOCO set its sites on drilling there. They are exploring as we speak.

If you care about climate, you care about Congo.

What is Succeeding Together?

Crossposted from From Her Silence.

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There is a community-based movement taking place in Democratic Republic of the Congo, supported by a program called Succeeding Together. It is structured to help women help each other by providing education, training, and leadership skills for creating businesses, assisting with family health, and economic development. Now that the graduates are enjoying success, they need a little of your help to spread the word about their work. They want to tell the people of Congo about the positive changes they’ve made in their lives and communities — and want everyone in Congo to know that they can do it too.

Lasting, positive change in Congo has to come from the people of Congo. And it will.

Please help spread the word via social media, your friends, and your family.

Today is the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda

KuangSi2Well, the start of the genocide, anyway. It lasted 100 days and took roughly 800,000 lives. What most of us in the west do not realize is that this was a particular instance of extreme violence that flairs up from time to time in a much larger scale war that is still playing out today.

This war goes by many names, and sometimes the names people use point to wars that supposedly ended some time ago. But make no mistake — this war is still going full throttle, and it’s currently most widely recognized as playing out inside the borders of Democratic Republic of the Congo.

But that isn’t what I am writing about today. War is one story that comes from that part of the world, no doubt. But it isn’t the only story. There is love and hope and community. There is a collective conscious that wants a different future, and there are brilliant people who know how to make it work.

But not with a gun.

And when I think of all the western people who lament that we didn’t do something different to help the people in Rwanda twenty years so, I wonder if they want to know that it still isn’t too late. We can still act in this world to make a difference in that conflict.

Women in Congo Succeeding Together

Some of you here know me and are familiar with my interest in development and gender equality in Democratic Republic of the Congo. You have extended kind comments and interest in diaries I’ve written about HEAL Africa in the past, and expressed interest in new projects I stumble across. Well, today I want to tell you about something new and wonderful. I also have an action item for you at the end.

First, I want you to meet Judy Anderson. Here, she is being interviewed at Clinton Global Initiative while she was director at the US based HEAL Africa, which she and her husband Dick founded:

Judy is a talented facilitator. She has been working with national leaders, vulnerable people, and communities to find real solutions so people in Congo can build a better life. She grew up in Congo, and has been focused on helping groups address health, leadership, gender equality, economic growth, and conflict resolution for most of her adult life. Her focus and commitment recently lead her and Dick to found a new non-profit organization called ACT for Congo.

ACT’s website is under construction and the tax status is still pending, but Judy is hard at work supporting real change. I think this organization is a genuine treasure. Following lessons learned by Robert Chambers (see Rural Development: Putting the Last First or Whose Reality Counts: Putting the First Last) and Paulo Freire, her goal is to find a way to support effective development projects in Congo that are run by proven Congolese community leaders and grassroots organizers. She partners with credible organizations who are doing effective work and demonstrating measurable, positive change in DRC communities.

International relief organizations have their role in helping countries ravaged by famine, upheaval, and war, but they execute temporary projects with finite goals. External relief does not often create any lasting positive change. Lasting change in Congo has to come from the people of Congo.  

Hubris — if only it were just a bad dream

Last night, I watched the much-awaited documentary Hubris, narrated by Rachel Maddow, which laid out for us all how the Iraq war was sold to the American public. I had to watch this show, not to help me make more sense of a war that has deeply and probably permanently affected/afflicted me, but to fill in some of the blanks, and there are many, because I was very disinterested in politics at the time I was deployed. I was just a happy Reservist, enjoying my Microsoft career and my weekend drills (along with the special interpreter missions that occasionally sent me to France, ooh la la!).

After 9/11, everybody knew we’d be going to war. I was just as surprised as my Microsoft teammates and managers when I showed up for my next shift — we all kinda suspected that anybody in the military would be immediately ordered to duty or something. But that’s not how it happened — I know now that Bush and company needed time to prepare their lies case for invading. And I just wasn’t paying attention to all that. I knew I’d be proud to serve my country in that way if called upon, but all that politics stuff was boringgg, and I trusted that those in positions of power were doing the right thing, protected by all the checks and balances our wonderful system of government puts in place. I didn’t even own a TV set, only listened to contemporary French music, not radio, got all my news via the Internet, but glossed over anything pertaining to Congress, the President, all those people up there doing Very Important Work.  

GOP Messaging 2.0: “Hateful Policies Lovingly Framed”

Still smarting from Obama’s re-election and the ongoing implosion of the GOP brand, party leaders have concluded that something’s terribly wrong. Not their message. Nah, it couldn’t be that. More likely it’s the way they’ve been using angry, misogynistic, racist old white guys to carry the party standard. Seems that this is alienating the voters, and We Can’t Have That.

Your intrepid diarist has picked through the dumpster behind Reince Priebus’ office and found some of their latest public relations communiques on a range of subject matter. Oddly, they’re all encrypted in limerick form…

GOP anti-abortion messaging focuses on shaming women who find themselves in difficult circumstances, piling on to compound their anguish, just because they can:

Abortions are evil! Tut, tut!

If you get one, you must be a slut!

Shame on you, Jezebel!

You’ll be headed to Hell!

Guess you should have just kept your legs shut!

However, that misogynistic messaging is proving a little out-of-touch, so the new GOP copywriters are proposing something more, um… upbeat:

Life is sacred, on that we agree

Who would not love a cute, pink baby?

With their eyes full of joy

Every young girl and boy

Is a treasure to you and to me

Speaking of misogynistic messaging, how about all those armchair gynecologists dispensing disinformation on birth control such as…

A legitimate rape? Well, okay…

But most women just lie when they say

Their assailant was armed

Chances are they were charmed

By some boyfriend (at least he’s not gay!)

When life hands women a bushel-basket of lemons, it’s time to make some lemonade:

We’re so sorry; we do understand

Your rape-pregnancy happened, unplanned

Sometimes life’s so unfair

It’s just too much to bear

It’s too bad we can’t lend you a hand.

Harsh views on homosexuality abound in GOP political rhetoric (usually right up to the point when those unfortunate photos come to light):

We’re good Christians! We do not believe

In the marriage of Adam and Steve

It’s grotesque and obscene!

Marriage must be kept clean!

It’s in danger! We can’t be na├»ve!

Under the Kinder Gentler GOP 2.0, it’s time to face facts: not everyone’s a heterosexual. It might be time to ditch the homophobia and realize that gay people do, after all, vote:

Are Republicans biased? No way!

Why, my neighbor’s ex-wife’s son is gay!

He’s a charming young man

Served in Afghanistan

When “don’t ask, don’t tell” passed, I said “yay!”

As we learned in the Ayn Rand petroglyphs, sympathy for the poor, the homeless, the jobless, the sick, the elderly and other losers is a sign of insufferable weakness:

A poor person who can’t pay their rent?

Unemployment check’s already spent?

Well, I simply don’t care!

Not one dime could I spare!

I’m elite! In the top One Percent!

Perhaps that seems a bit, well, uncaring. Let’s see if the new GOP-lite version would sound a little more altruistic:

In the land of the free and the brave

Someone must play the part of wage slave

You should keep working hard

For that house with a yard

And that other nice stuff that you crave.

Of course, there’s nobody like a GOP chicken-hawk draft dodger when it comes to international saber-rattling and war-mongering:

Time to scramble the bombers! Let’s roll!

North Korea is out of control!

And Iran will be armed!

People should be alarmed!

We’re at war for America’s soul!

Well, that sounded nice and patriotic, but since they’ll be fighting these wars using your kids as cannon-fodder, perhaps they need a better recruiting message like this:

Join the Army, young patriot guy!

Beam with pride as our flag flies on high!

Keep America free

In Marines or Navy

It’s all good (well, it’s true: you might die)

While they weren’t busy plotting the next unpaid-for war or stripping women of their rights or shredding the safety net or protecting the uber-rich, GOPers focused their efforts on obstructing that President Obama put forth:

He’s a Socialist Kenyan! Watch out!

All the birthers were right to cast doubt!

That usurper would dare

Push for Obamacare!

Well, impeachment will be our next route

Turns out that those pesky voters keep electing the dude, though, so maybe it’s time for a little more bipartisan approach

Four more years? Well, that sucks, but oh, well…

We’ll try not to freak out or raise hell

“Kumbaya” we shall sing

In the hopes we can bring

Some bipartisan stories to tell

So… by now, you get the picture: same pig, different lipstick. Feel free to add some more rewrites in the comments section below.  

The Guns of August – A Completely Open Thread

A hard if not impossible act to follow, I’ve struggled to find anything further to say on US politics which hasn’t been expressed in comments to and from Chris in his recent ‘Sell Me’ diary.

So forgive this oblique and perverse turn to the personal, as I turn my fire to the Month of August which, in recent memory, has always been the worst month of the year.

I don’t know why that is. I always look forward to August as a sun-baked time of relaxation away from home or – if staying at home – a sneaky enjoyment of the absence of others and the emptiness of the roads and transport system.

But for all its promise, August has always let me down…