Thursday Reads

War, Pablo Picasso

War, Pablo Picasso

Good Morning!!

Here are are on the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the never-ending war in the Middle East continues onward. Last night President Obama promised not to send ground troops back to Iraq or into Syria, but it’s very difficult to trust that promise, even though I do think Obama is sincere in his wish to keep the battle against the Islamic State extremists circumscribed.


Reactions to Obama’s speech

From The Washington Post, Countering Islamic State will be hard in Iraq and harder in Syria, officials say.

President Obama’s strategy to beat back Islamic State militants spread across Iraq and Syria will depend on far more than U.S. bombs and missiles hitting their intended targets.

In Iraq, dissolved elements of the army will have to regroup and fight with conviction. Political leaders will have to reach compromises on the allocation of power and money in ways that have eluded them for years. Disenfranchised Sunni tribesmen will have to muster the will to join the government’s battle. European and Arab allies will have to hang together, Washington will have to tolerate the resurgence of Iranian-backed Shiite militias it once fought, and U.S. commanders will have to orchestrate an air war without ground-level guidance from American combat forces.

“Harder than anything we’ve tried to do thus far in Iraq or Afghanistan” is how one U.S. general involved in war planning described the challenges ahead on one side of the border that splits the so-called Islamic State.

But defeating the group in neighboring Syria will be even more difficult, according to U.S. military and diplomatic officials. The strategy imagines weakening the Islamic State without indirectly strengthening the ruthless government led by Bashar al-Assad or a rival network of al-Qaeda affiliated rebels — while simultaneously trying to build up a moderate Syrian opposition.

All that “makes Iraq seem easy,” the general said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share views on policy. “This is the most complex problem we’ve faced since 9/11. We don’t have a precedent for this.”

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

Guernica, Pablo Picasso

The Wall Street Journal, Obama Pushes U.S. Deeper Into Middle East to Fight Islamic State.

In asking Americans to support another military incursion in the Middle East, Mr. Obama said his strategy to combat Islamic State, also called ISIS and ISIL, would be bolstered by a coalition of Arab and European nations. His plan builds on his authorization in August of airstrikes in Iraq to protect American personnel threatened by Islamic State and to provide humanitarian assistance to besieged Iraqis.

Mr. Obama said the U.S. goal now is to help Iraqis reclaim large swaths of territory the group has rapidly overtaken in recent months since spilling over from its stronghold in neighboring Syria. His speech paves the way for the first U.S. strikes at the group’s bases and havens in Syria.

“America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” Mr. Obama said in remarks from the White House. “I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

The president gave no timetable for the new, U.S.-led fight against what he described as “a terrorist organization” with members “unique in their brutality.”

In addition to launching airstrikes against the militants in Syria, Mr. Obama pledged a new dose of support for moderate Syrian fighters also battling the extremist group. Taken together, the steps draw the U.S. closer toward the volatile Syrian civil war and open a new front for American efforts in the region.

Saudi Arabia has offered to host a U.S.-run training facility for moderate Syrian rebels, U.S. and Arab officials said. The facility is expected to be able to handle as many as 10,000 fighters, but details are still being worked out, the officials said.

According to the article, John McCain and Lindsey Graham are on board with the plan. That gives me the creeps, frankly.

Guernica 2: Hommage to Picasso's Guernica, Jose Garcia y Mas

Guernica 2: Hommage to Picasso’s Guernica, Jose Garcia y Mas

Geoff Dyer at The Financial Times, Obama’s bold ambition at odds with strategic caution.

Faced with the rapid advances of Isis in both Iraq and Syria, the approach described by Mr Obama attempts to meet the political realities that the president faces, both in the Middle East and at home.

In spite of the technological superiority of US forces, Mr Obama believes a durable military victory against Isis can only be achieved by soldiers from the region, especially Sunni forces from the areas to which Isis is laying claim. Otherwise a similar group could reappear once the US has left.

At the same time, it gives him some political protection at home. Recent polls have shown that Americans are alarmed about Isis after the filmed beheadings of two US citizens, but that does not mean they will support another long ground war that leads to hundreds more US casualties.

Yet the problem with Mr Obama’s latest strategy is that it risks being a series of half-measures that establish incredibly ambitious goals while lacking the means to achieve them.


It’s an interesting article. It spells out my fear that this campaign against ISIL is going to expand more and more–just like Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

A couple more interesting stories to check out:

Imran Kahn at Aljazira, Iraq and the Obama plan: Officials and experts broadly welcome US president’s plan to destroy the Islamic State group, but with crucial caveats.

Ian Black at The Guardian, Obama puts Isis firmly in US sights but peace in Syria looks harder than before.


Violence Against Women News

From Picasso's War, a commentary on race hatred

From Picasso’s War, a commentary on race hatred

I haven’t followed the trial of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa, but from what I know about the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, I was surprised to see the headlines this morning saying that he has been found not guilty of murder. Here’s the latest from The Washington Post, Judge: Oscar Pistorius not guilty of premeditated murder, but ‘it is clear his conduct was negligent’.

The prosecution has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Oscar Pistorius committed premeditated murder, Judge Thokozile Masipa said this morning. However, the judge added that it “is clear that his conduct was negligent.”

Pistorius’s negligence pertains to a lesser charge the athlete faces, “culpable homicide,” or manslaughter.  The judge applied “the test of a reasonable man” to this charge.

In other words, the judge examined whether it was reasonable for Pistorius to fire four shots through his bathroom door at what he believed was an intruder. In her judgement, Pistorius did not pass this test.

“All the accused had to do was pick up phone and ring security,” Masipa said of Pistorius’s reaction. She added that Pistorius could have also “run to balcony and call for help.” Masipa added that she was “not persuaded that a reasonable person with the accused disabilities,” she said, “would have fired four shots” into the home’s bathroom.

She said that while she thought Pistorius was an “evasive” witness, that does not make him guilty. She said the prosecution has not demonstrated that he “reasonably could have foreseen” that his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, was behind the bathroom door into which he fired four shots, killing her.

On the Ray Rice story, yesterday the AP reported that law enforcement sources in NJ told them that the NFL had received a copy of the tape of Rice knocking out Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February. Following that unsurprising revelation, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went deeper into damage control mode, asking former FBI director Robert Mueller to head an independent investigation into the NFL’s handling of the case. The Washington Post reports, AP story prompts NFL to investigate its handling of the Ray Rice case.

The NFL appointed an independent investigator to look into its handling of the Ray Rice case Wednesday night, hours after a new report contradicted the league’s insistence no one in the league office saw video until Monday that depicted Rice striking his then-fiancee in an Atlantic City hotel.

That report by the Associated Press came as several people familiar with the inner workings of the league said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has no plans to heed the calls for him to resign over his handling of the case.

The league announced Wednesday night that Robert S. Mueller III, former director of the FBI, will “conduct an independent investigation into the NFL’s pursuit and handling of evidence in the Ray Rice domestic violence incident.”

Owners John Mara of the New York Giants and Art Rooney II of the Pittsburgh Steelers are to oversee the investigation, according to the league.

The final report resulting from the investigation will be released to the public, the NFL said.

Brooding Woman, Pablo Picasso

Brooding Woman, Pablo Picasso

I found a couple more disturbing reports about what actually happened at the casino that night in February. Security officers from the casino said that Rice spat in Palmer’s face twice and claimed that she was unconscious from drinking too much.

ESPN reports, Sources: Ray Rice spat at fiancee.

Three current or former security staffers, who spoke with “Outside the Lines” this week on the condition of anonymity, described additional details of the ugly scene captured on video. Two of the men were on duty the night of the assault, while a third had full access to the security video, which he said he has watched dozens of times. released a video this week that showed Rice punching Palmer in the face, appearing to knock her unconscious. Revel security workers watched the incident from the operations room through a security camera of the elevator.

One former staffer said Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back, spat in his then-fiancée’s face twice, “once outside the elevator and once inside,” prompting her to retaliate with movements that were ultimately countered with a knockout punch. According to the men, as Rice punched Palmer, the elevator the couple rode was rapidly approaching the hotel lobby just two floors above the casino floor. A security staffer, dispatched from his lobby post, saw Rice starting to drag his fiancée, who appeared to still be unconscious, out of the elevator.

“Get him away from her! Get him away from her!” the first responder was told by another security officer over a radio, one former security staffer told “Outside the Lines.” The staffer had full access to the security footage.

The security staffers said they did not see any sign of injury on Palmer’s face or head but added that her hair was covering much of her face, making it hard to determine her condition. They also said they didn’t see any blood in the elevator or on the hip-level railing that Palmer’s head appeared to strike as she fell to the elevator floor.

“The first thing he [Rice] said is, ‘She’s intoxicated. She drank too much. I’m just trying to get her to the room,'” one staffer said.

“When she regained consciousness she said, ‘How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid,'” that same staffer told “Outside the Lines.”

There’s much more at the link, and it only makes the entire sorry episode and the NFL’s failure to deal adequately with it more sickening.

A few more links:

NBC Sports, Did Ray Rice Lie to Roger Goodell?

SB Nation, Ray Rice speaks out for the first time since his release.

CBS Sports, Ray Rice’s wife: How could you do this to me? I’m the mother of your kid.

NYT, In Ray Rice cast, NFL sees only what it wants to see.


Cat with bird, Pablo Picasso

Cat with bird, Pablo Picasso

Other News, Links Only

AP, USIS, the contractor that handled Edward Snowden’s security clearance loses federal contract.

BBC News, Michael Brown death: Ferguson highway protest blocked.

The Guardian, Ferguson reform to courts system could leave residents paying more.

The Washington Post, Richard Kiel, who played lovable giant ‘Jaws’ in ‘James Bond’ films, is dead at 74.

ABC News, Five things that may happen if Scotland votes for independence.

Wall Street Journal, EU agrees to implement more sanctions against Russia Friday.

Time Magazine, Ozone layer shows signs of recovery, study finds.

HNGN, Baboons With Closer Friends Have Longer Lives Than Loners.

Forbes, Scientists find gene that may delay aging of whole body.

That’s all I’ve got. What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread, and have terrific Thursday.


Peace, Pablo Picasso

Peace, Pablo Picasso



Playing For Change, Playing For Peace

As a human race we come together for birth, we come together for death, what brings us together in between is up to us. Stop and listen to the universal language of music and bring that positive energy with you everywhere you go.

Mark Johnson, Director Playing for Change

While driving down to Woodstock this week, I finally got a chance to listen to a CD that my Aunt Celeste gave me for Christmas. (We have no CD player, so it is funny and pathetic that if we want to listen to any CD’s we have to go for a long drive…) Back to the music. It was such a good compilation of songs, I wanted to share it with you. Perhaps the music will inspire or entertain you. Maybe after you read this post you will want to explore Playing for Change and become involved in their Foundation, which has set up 7 programs throughout the world. The groups first CD/DVD box set is called Playing For Change and performers from around the world play and sing on it. This box set comes with the full length Documentary, Peace through Music.

Playing for Change is a multimedia movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music. The idea for this project arose from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. No matter whether people come from different geographic, political, economic, spiritual or ideological backgrounds, music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race. And with this truth firmly fixed in our minds, we set out to share it with the world. [Link]

Guguletu, South Africa A twenty minute drive takes you to the Township of Guguletu, which is considered one of the most dangerous areas in South Africa. Among the sea of tin shacks, we found hope and inspiration as a backyard jam session drew in hordes of women and children who danced and sang away the day, baring their souls for all to admire. In 2008, two years later, we returned to the exact spot where this backyard jam happened, and broke ground on the Playing for Change Foundation's first project: The Ntonga Music School! Click on photo to see Playing for Change Slide Show.

While it may seem idealistic to try to promote peace through music, this movement has gained steam and is going forward. I am reminded of the recent Rising in Egypt, where a street musician began to play and sing, and eventually the group of protesters in Tahrir Square joined in. Wonk posted about this on her Saturday post of Feb. 7th : The Selective Mutism of the Progressive Village

Meanwhile, I continue to admire the bravery of the people of Egypt in not taking no for an answer. Here’s that video I linked to on Saturday again…at the time of my drafting this essay on Sunday night, the youtube is up to 445,076 views already. I am scheduling this post to go up on Monday, so I’m sure the view count will have risen even more by then. For those who haven’t seen this video yet, it’s footage of the “Departure Friday” protesters in Tahrir square, led by a guitarist off-camera, breaking into song and calling for Mubarak’s immediate exit–despite the fact that Mubarak stubbornly dug his heels in and did not leave on Friday. They have not lost their fighting spirit (as the Al Jazeera live blog on the 14th day of the protests shows), and neither should we:

Translation: Let’s make Mubarak hear our voices. We all, one hand, requested one thing, leave leave leave … Down Down Hosni Mubarak, Down Down Hosni Mubarak … The people want to dismantle the regime …. He is to go, we are not going … He is to go, we won’t leave … We all, one hand, ask one thing, leave leave.

These flurry of uprising in the Middle East and Africa reminds me of the song on Track 4 called Biko, by Peter Gabriel which says, “You can blow out a candle but you can’t blow out a fire, once the flames begin to catch the wind will blow it higher.” The fire is spreading…perhaps it will catch over here in our own country.

In the documentary, Peace Through Music, the Omagh Community Youth Choir, director Daryl Simpson, says that many religions have used music to spread their message across the world, so it seems natural that music would be the obvious choice to spread peace. I will say that I truly believe the 60’s is a testimony to what cultural and social changes can be accomplished through music. The 60’s was an era that produced some of the best Rock and Roll sounds, it was a new form of music that young people took hold of and made their own. Political change, anti-war, and social freedoms seem to express themselves naturally in Rock and Roll. Just as the idea of peace is expressed through the collection of sounds, recorded throughout the world, melting together…like a comfortable room filled with various eclectic cultural items, there is a mixture of sounds and voices…with no rigidity or sense that any instrument seems out-of-place. To hear artist singing in their native language, over music that is steeped in origins thousands of miles away, on different continents, produces a massala of sounds, which does make you want to reach out in peace.

Playing For Change: Peace Through Music is an exploration into the human spirit and the power of music to unite us as a human race. Through the process of making this film we traveled around the world and discovered that music opens the door to a place where we can celebrate our differences and still connect our hearts. One Love.

Mark Johnson, Director

I am not a musical person, I’ve never played an instrument and cannot carry a tune, so I cannot comment on that level of ability. However, I did study ballet and Flamenco dance when I was a young girl until high school, and I can say from a dancers perspective the rhythms of peace consume your body and soul as you listen to the magnificent sounds produced by musicians and singers recorded outside, within their communities, out in the open streets. Earthy and connected, even when up to 35 musicians play on a single track…and have never met one another.

The first track, “Stand By Me” features vocals and guitar by a man named Roger Ridley. The director Mark Johnson heard Ridley playing his version of stand by me in the streets of Santa Monica. His powerful voice, strong and emotionally charged, stands as a symbol of the entire CD.

Cedella Marley One Love

The second track “One Love” is a truly joyful experience. As the directed explains in the documentary, while recording some of the artist in Dharamsala, India, he passed by a record shop. The window had many albums featuring the countries musicians and singers…and in the center of all these CD’s was a Bob Marley album It is one song that spans the globe as a symbol of coming together in peace.

Another Marley song on the CD is War/No More Trouble.  This Track 3 is unique in that the producers of the disk have included Bob Marley’s vocals on the track. Singing with him is Rocky Dawuni and Bono.  As Mark Johnson says:

As we made our way around the world  we encountered love and hate, wealth and poverty, many different races, religions and ideologies. It became very clear that as a human race, we need to transcend from the darkness to the light and music is our weapon of the future. This song around the world features musicians who have seen and overcome conflict and hatred with love and perseverance. “We don’t need no more trouble, what we need is love.” The spirit of Bob Marley always lives on.

The song on the seventh track is one so positive, performed by Keb’ Mo’ and entitled, “Better Man.” The best way to describe this particular song is to quote from the CD insert:

Keb’Mo’ has been a friend an mentor of Playing For Change since the beginning. He once told us the important thing is to get up in the morning and let the inspiration take care of itself. In this song he states, “I’m gonna make my world a better place, I’m gonna keep that smile on my face. I’m gonna teach myself how to understand, I’m gonna make myself a better man.” Every dream of a better world starts within ourselves.

This incredible CD and DVD documentary is truly something that makes you want to change your life in a positive way. I am bound and determined to become a better woman…I am going to do this by changing myself from within. One love and peace starts with one person…me.

For more information and to pre-order the new dvd/cd see links below:

Playing For Change is a movement to connect the world through music. Sign up for exclusive content, news and updates from hundreds of musicians and students around the globe at

Join the community on Facebook at…

Timeline Playing for Change, scroll down the page:

PRE-ORDER Playing For Change – Songs Around The World 2 now at! Click here to buy:

Playing For Change Page at

For more information about Playing for Change Foundation:

The Playing For Change Foundation is dedicated to connecting the world through music by providing resources to musicians and their communities around the world.

A decade ago a small group of documentary filmmakers set out with a dream to create a film rooted in the music of the streets. Not only has that dream been realized, it has blossomed into a global sensation called Playing For Change, a project including musicians of every level of renown, that has touched the lives of millions of people around the world.

While traveling the world filming and recording musicians, the crew became intimately involved with the music and people of each community they visited. Although many of these communities had limited resources and a modest standard of living, the people in them were full of generosity, warmth, and above all they were connected to each other by a common thread: music.

Out of these discoveries, the Playing For Change Foundation was born and made its mission to ensure that anyone with the desire to receive a music education would have the opportunity to do so. The Playing For Change Foundation is dedicated to the fundamental idea that peace and change are possible through the universal language of music.

Wondering what you can do to help us further our mission? Get involved or Donate

Sima Dives In

I received the opportunity to take part in a small survey from Bold Progressives late on Tuesday night.  It was only three questions, and I thought I’d post my answers here to start my Introduction:

In general, what are you thinking tonight?
I am a liberal, not a progressive, although at one time those seemed the same.  I think too much trust was placed in a leader who had no experience, no proven record and nothing to show for his life but a couple ghost written books and the ability to make people believe in him.  I think that means we’ve had a comeuppance that was as deserved as it was cruel.  I think we have to go back to work… next question.

What do you think the progressive movement should do next? As in, immediately…
Go back to the basics.  Start elucidating and spouting progressive and liberal ideals in easy to understand bits.  Don’t go all professorial on the people, talk to them like they are friends and compatriots, because they are.  We have to tease out the liberal streak that runs deep in most Americans and get it to shine.

Do you think Pres. Obama and congressional Dems should fight harder for progressive policies or seek middle ground with Republicans? (Please elaborate.)
NO middle ground.  Fight, Fight, FIGHT.  I think the middle ground has made this defeat.  I mean, Feingold lost?  Why? Because he went back on his promises and was two-faced about that stupid health care bill.  My Senator, Murray, is struggling.  Not because she is a bad person, but because when the country wanted change to the left, real health care, a public option or medicare for all, we got big insurance’s wet dream.  Murray couldn’t stop it, nor could Feingold.  Obama could have, but didn’t because he is bought and sold.  We need a leader that is willing to betray his or her class (always the upper class) like FDR or Johnson.  Until we get that leader, it’s time to protest, even if it’s Obama’s White House we are protesting.  It’s time to meet and march and get people stirred up.  It’s time for anti-war pickets on every street corner.  It’s time to be heard, not taken for granted.  If we stand up, others will stand up with us.   This will not be easy, but mark my words, it will be done, or America is going to devolve into greedy mediocrity.

In these answers I paid too much attention to health care (which worries me personally right now) and not enough to the economy, un- and under-employment, anti-war protests, women’s rights, farming problems and more.  But my basic goal remains the same regardless.  It’s time for me to go beyond reading blogs, beyond nodding in agreement, beyond speaking up timidly, if at all, when friends say something ludicrous.  It’s time to stand up.

I’m starting with the first cause that got me truly politically active.  Like everyone else in this country, I went into shock after 9/11.  The event generated a huge amount of fear for me, fear not of terrorists, but fear of the horrible backlash I knew would come from our government.  I watched Bush read his stupid book and thought, “He can do anything he wants now, we are doomed.”

The stupid ineffective actions taken after 9/11, the build-up to the Afghan and then Iraq wars told me I was right, we were doomed.  The thought galvanized me, and I found protest groups on the Internet and made myself, shy geeky me, go to the meetings.  We organized and protested twice a week right on the corner in my home-town, right by where the ferry from Seattle empties.  We got honks and waves of support, we got spat on and cursed, we got nearly run over.  We stood in the rain, we stood in the hot sun.  Some of us travelled and got beat up by police as we marched.  My very small town doesn’t beat up demonstrators, thankfully;  not enough of us, and not nearly enough of them.  We made signs.  We went to meetings with our Congress people, and got them to change their minds about a few things concerning the potential war(s), the Patriot Act, supporting Bush blindly, and more.  My Congressman acted on what we’d discussed.  We shouted, we yelled.  Did we make a difference?  Don’t know.  But it made me feel as though what I had to say was at least heard.

We continued protesting after the Iraq war started and more people joined us.  Then the 2008 election rolled around.  Suddenly it seemed as though all the protests died.  Not in Our Name folded up and went home, I suppose they assumed the new President would do the right thing.  Other peace groups just withered, but didn’t die.  No-one protested on the corner any more.  I admit I turned my mind and work to other things.  And on the back burner these last two years the wars have simmered; killing more people, maiming innocents, sending home crippled and devastated young men and women, fuelling anti-American hatred all over, creating a servant soldier class out of our jobless youth, and more, so much more.

So it’s time to pick up the protest banners, the signs and slogans and start fighting again.  Here’s a bit of what I’ve gleaned while updating my moribund peace/anti-war links and searching the Internet.

Peace Action is still at work. Indeed I still get regular emails from them.

United for Peace and Justice is still very active. They started out in 2002 as a coalition of local anti-war and civil rights groups. They recently organized days of action in October. They were in Seattle, but only a few of them. Next time, I’ll be there.

Military Families Speak Out is still going strong. They need a new director.

Courage to Resist. This is an organization that supports members of the military who refuse to go to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Voters for Peace still sends me regular emails. They have regularly scheduled events.

CodePink is still doing stuff. Their webpage’s first link is about making Hillary Clinton doing business Blackwater. I’m not impressed because they’ve always seemed really anti-Clinton to me, but there’s the link for what it’s worth.

There are many anti-war resources linked from at the Holt Labor Library.

Generally, I will be writing about farming, gardening, dirt type concerns here at Sky Dancing. There’s a lot happening with the Federal Government on the food front, and most of it is bad for family farms, but we can change that! I will also sometimes do more Anti-War posts, if people are interested. I’m going to put a bit of bio type information in the comment thread to this post, in order to not make a long post longer.