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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Simon Billenness' LiveJournal:

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Tuesday, February 24th, 2009
5:27 pm
I was attacked by name today by the Jerusalem Post
Here's the full article.

The editorial is hilarious. I never realized that the Amnesty International USA board was made up of major fundraisers. Why didn't the crack investigative team of the Jerusalem Post discover that I'm unemployed?

On last night's BBC News America broadcast, I was quite proud that both Hamas and the Israeli government both called our report "unbalanced." If that the reaction of both Hamas and the Israeli government, then I think Amnesty International probably struck just the right balance.

I have now been criticized for my human rights work by name by both the Burmese military junta ... and the Jerusalem Post.


No pardon for Amnesty
Feb. 23, 2009

Yesterday, Amnesty International, the world's premier "human rights" brand, called for the destruction of Israel. We're overdramatizing? Were AI to get its way, the UN Security Council would impose a comprehensive arms embargo on the world's only Jewish state - but not on any of the 22 member states of the Arab League, or on Iran. Over time, Israel would find it impossible to defend itself against conventional or WMD threats stemming from hostile states or Palestinian and Islamist terror organizations.

The pretext for the embargo call was the IDF's campaign in Gaza to compel Hamas to end its bombardment of southern Israel and cross-border aggression. Over the years, Hamas has killed hundreds of Israelis in terror attacks. Apparently spearheading AI's anti-Israel crusade is the group's "principal researcher on Israel/Occupied Palestine," the London-based Donatella Rovera.

Though Israel purchases arms from dozens of sources, AI's boycott call is really aimed at the Obama administration: "Israel's military offensive in Gaza was carried out [largely] with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers' money," claimed Malcolm Smart, AI's director for the Middle East.

Either to simulate evenhandedness, or perhaps because it really is blinded by moral relativism, AI perfunctorily called for a weapons embargo against Hamas. It thus appears incapable of distinguishing between Israel and Hamas, between victim and aggressor - between an albeit imperfect Western nation which values tolerance, representative government, rule of law and respect for minority rights, and a medieval-oriented Islamist movement which mobilizes Palestinian masses to hate, teaches its young to glorify suicide bombers, and inculcates a political culture wallowing in self-inflicted victimization.

AMNESTY DOES much good work. Many of its rank-and-file members and contributors are sincerely motivated by a desire to make the world a better place. Yet beyond this good-hearted circle stands a professional cadre backed by agenda-driven money, which, we suspect, is exploiting Amnesty's good name. This cadre relies on world-class public relations and advertising firms to leverage AI's human rights brand for blatantly partisan purposes.

AI has long been under internal pressure to champion an arms embargo against Israel. Some have intimated that Jews in the organization were standing in the way. Francis Boyle, a law professor and pro-PLO activist: "You have… the very powerful role played by the Israel lobby on Amnesty International USA… Amnesty pretty much kowtows to them…" Plainly, Boyle's "very powerful" Jews have been sidelined.

AI is not some amorphous, beatific entity; it's comprised of personalities with all the usual human foibles. Everyone connected to AI needs to say whether they really oppose Israel's right to self-defense. Are we to assume that AI's International Secretariat - Irene Zubaida Khan, Paul Hoffman, Tony Klug, Susan Waltz, Jan Egeland, Menno Kamminga, Jaap Jacobson, Margaret Bedggood, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Neil Sammonds, Melvin Coleman - all support an anti-Israel arms embargo?

AI gets money from foundations such as the Sigrid Rausing Trust (which also funds B'Tselem). Does Sigrid Rausing personally want Israel to stand defenseless against Iran, Hizbullah and Hamas? Do board members Josh Mailman, Susan Hitch, Andrew Puddephat and Geoffrey Budlender?

The MacArthur Foundation, better known for its "genius awards," also funds AI. We have no idea whether its board - Robert E. Denham, Lloyd Axworthy, John Seely Brown, Jonathan F. Fanton, Jack Fuller, Jamie Gorelick, Mary Graham, Donald R. Hopkins, Will Miller, Mario J. Molina, Marjorie M. Scardino and Claude M. Steele - appreciate what could happen to six million Israeli Jews were AI to get its embargo. Does the actor Nicolas Cage, another major AI benefactor, stand behind the embargo call?

A good chunk of AI money comes from its American board - Steve Abrams, Jeff Bachman, Simon Billenness, Jessica Morris Carvalho, Mayra Gomez, Rick Halperin, Theresa Harris, Shahram Hashemi, Bill Jones, Frank Kendall, Carole Nagengast, Christianna Nichols Leahy, Dennis Nurkse, Phyllis Pautrat, Aniket Shah, Barbara Sproul, Bret Thiele and Diego Zavala. Which of them will be first to speak out against this immoral embargo call?

In calling on the US and UN to rob Israel of its ability to defend itself, Amnesty International is speaking in the name of its leaders and benefactors. Silence is acquiescence. Or they can dissociate themselves from one of Amnesty's biggest errors in judgment.

Current Mood: amused
Wednesday, January 21st, 2009
1:24 pm
Ann quoted on the BBC news about Obama
Watch Ann deliver a succinct soundbite as an Obama supporter in this BBC news report:

Her comment occurs at 1.33 in the piece.

Current Mood: pleased
8:51 am
I Will Become an American
After watching the swearing-in of President Obama, I was in tears.

This is not about my admiration for Barack Obama even though I remain steadfast in my belief in his potential to become one of America's most inspiring and most accomplished Presidents.

This is about my admiration for the American people. This reflects my deep respect for a country that can rise above its historical failures and elect a President like Barack Obama.

I emigrated from Britain in 1985. During a trip to Britain in 1988, I came to a stark realization that I felt more at home in America. That is the key reason why I have chosen to live in America for over 20 year.

Yesterday, I felt so proud of the American people that I now want to become one of them.

There was a moment yesterday when I realized this. I noticed that I did not tear up during President Obama's inaugural speech even though I found it eloquent and moving.

I started crying during the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner."

The next time I tear up to that anthem, I want it to be at my swearing-in as an American citizen.

(This is also posted on my blog "Pot of George" at http://simonbillenness.blogspot.com/)

Current Mood: determined
Sunday, January 11th, 2009
6:50 pm
Meme: 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you
Once you read this, please write a LJ entry with 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you or comment on mine.

1. As a child, I won an award for my performance in ballet
2. At my wedding reception, I sang to my new wife: "Take a Walk on the Wild Side."
3. In response she sang to me: "Like a Virgin."
4. Our wedding reception was at the Milky Way Bar and Lanes and included bowling, table football, billiards, unlimited pizza, and - instead of traditional wedding cake - hundreds of assorted gourmet cup cakes.
5. I grew up in Croydon, Surrey; nobody is ever homesick for Croydon.
6. The first album I ever bought was "Out of the Blue" by ELO
7. I wish I could say that the first album I ever bought was "Never Mind the Bollocks" by the Sex Pistols
8. I now prefer to listen to Wilco, Beck, Radiohead, Fiona Apple, and Death Cab for Cutie.
9. "There There," "Kidsmoke," "Peggy Sue," "Never Understand," and "Blue Monday" (original version not the horrid 1988 remix) are among the world's most perfect songs
10. The best break-up song ever is "One Million Rainy Days" by the Jesus and Mary Chain.
11. The best break-up album ever is "Sea Change" by Beck.
12. I've always been bad at breaking up.
13. I am still madly in love.
14. Ann and I carried home recently a filing cabinet that I found outside the home of former U.S. Rep William Jefferson. That is the house in which Jefferson kept thousands of dollars of cash in his freezer. Sadly there was no cash in the filing cabinet.
15. I was once denounced by name as a human rights "activist" in a letter to the Washington Post by the Burmese ambassador to the United States.
16. 44 is my lucky number. I turned 44 in 2008. Obama is the 44th American President.

Current Mood: bouncy
Friday, September 19th, 2008
2:46 pm
I was mugged yesterday
Yesterday, I was mugged just a block away from my home. I live on Capitol Hill in northeast Washington, DC. It was at 4.30pm in the afternoon in sight of several witnesses.

I was carrying groceries in one hand and dry-cleaning in the other. From the corner of my eye, I thought I saw someone close behind me. I didn't look around. The next moment, I felt an arm wrap around my neck from behind.

I could see people on the other side of the street. I yelled for the police. I was on my back. I think that I saw one of the assailants notice my front left pocket wallet. I rolled over on my front, pulled out my "fake wallet" from my back pocket, and yelled: "here's my wallet." They took it.

I felt a couple of medium blows to my head, which I quickly covered with my arms. Then the assailants ran off. I didn't see them but the witnesses on the other side of the road said it was three young men.

The muggers ran away. They only got away with my "fake wallet" which contained two dollars and pieces of cardboard that look like credit cards.

Aside from minor scrapes and bruises, I'm fine. I was not robbed of my real wallet, cell, or PDA. I escaped with even my clothes undamaged.

My neighbors on the block called the police, gave the officers a good description of the muggers, and took good care of me while the police arrived.

The patrol officer took the report in a very polite, helpful, and efficient way. I am going to email his commander to commend him.

Then two of my neighbors walked me the block over to my house. They were disgusted by the youths mugging people in the neighborhood. One of them said: "that kid has a bullet with his name on it." I am going to buy them dinner next week.

I am somewhat amazed that I had the presence of mind to hand over the "fake wallet." I'm definitely buying a replacement.

I read the Washington Post police blotter in the Thursday "DC Extra" every week. I like to keep track of any crime in my neighborhood. I had noticed a week or so ago a report of kids in a car mugging two people around the same time two blocks south.

I posted my account of the crime on local community listservs. Someone then posted it to the local Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) listserv. Finally, at 11.30pm that night, I was amazed that the DC Chief of Police Cathy Lanier took the time to reply the posting. This is what she posted:

Thanks for posting this to the 1D listserv. This senseless crime is very unfortunate. It was ingenious thinking to have the empty wallet. I am also very glad that this victim was not badly injured and that community members assisted. I have been given more details on this and will reach out to the victim. Inspector Robinson and I will also aggressively follow-up on this and make sure officers are working the area to catch this kind of activity."

Cathy Lanier
Chief of Police
Metropolitan Police Department
Washington, DC 20001

I hope that, by sharing my story with my neighbors, it will help them avoid a mugging. I also hope that it will help the police catch the assailants and make our streets safer.

However, I would not want the MPD to spend too much time on my case. Aside from a couple of scrapes and bruises, I am fine. The muggers only got away with my "fake wallet" that two dollars and a bunch of cardboard posing as credit cards. Other people are victims of much more serious crimes every day. I hope that the MPD does not focus on my case to the detriment of much more serious crimes.

I will be even more alert when walking in my neighborhood. I never wear my Ipod. I visibly scan the neighborhood as I walk down the street and look in the eyes of any suspicious individuals approaching me. I rarely use my cell phone on the street and I may stop doing so altogether.

In addition to the folks that walked me home, a neighbor who read the story on the listserv just called to see if I was all right. Despite the crime, this remains the most closely-knit community in which I have ever lived. That reassures me greatly.

Current Mood: chipper
Thursday, July 3rd, 2008
12:24 pm
Facebook, parents, sex...
A friend of mine just had her mother as her friend on Facebook. Quelle horreur! It is such a disturbing situation that she had post about it on LiveJournal.

I'm so glad that my mother has only just discovered email as of a few months ago.

This happened a few years ago to another friend of mine. She was in college at the time.

Her mother actually called her once to ask her whom she had just updated to "in a relationship."

I have an observation about parents and sex. First of all, our parents never had sex. It is just inconceivable that they did. If we have kids, they will of course never have sex. You have to take that on faith ignoring the origin of any grandchildren.

The only conclusion one can draw from this observation is that sex always skips a generation.

Current Mood: amused
11:57 am
Defend the U.S. Constitution
Check the signatures of me and Ann on the ad "A Declaration for Our Times," in today's New York Times!

You can see the ad with its nearly 600 signatories here: http://constitutioncampaign.org/ad/ad.pdf

To quote the campaign:

"The declaration will help bring the administration's constitutional violations into focus. Just as importantly, it will promote the People's Campaign for the Constitution (PCC) as a means for people to act locally, within community coalitions, to hold incumbents and candidates for congressional seats accountable for the oaths they must take to defend the Constitution. Correcting the unbalanced concentration of executive branch power that this administration has amassed will be extremely challenging, no matter who wins the presidential election."

"We ask you to support this grassroots organizing and education campaign by bringing it to your community. With the Constitution on our side, we can reverse the freedom-robbing government actions and policies that are threatening our nation's future. Please sign the pledge for the People's Campaign for the Constitution if you have not already done so. Thank you again for supporting the declaration. We will mail you a copy of the ad with our thanks."

"Please forward widely."

Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Address: 8 Bridge Street, Suite A, Northampton, MA 01060
Web: http://www.bordc.org
Email: info@bordc.org
Telephone: 413-582-0110
Fax: 413-582-0116

Current Mood: chipper
Sunday, June 29th, 2008
11:26 pm
I succumb to meme-age
I don't normally do memes. However, this one caught my interest.

Post 3 things you've done in your lifetime that you don't think anybody else on your friends list has done.

See if anybody else responds with "I've done that."

Have your friends cut & paste this into their journal to see what unique things they've done in their life.

1) I have sat in the U.S. Supreme Court to hear oral arguments concerning the constitutionality of a law that I co-authored.

2) When I was 20 - and in the space of just three weeks - I graduated college, got married, honeymooned in London, and then emigrated to the United States.

3) I was denounced by name in a letter published in the Washington Post by the Burmese ambassador to the United States.

Current Mood: amused
Thursday, May 15th, 2008
12:44 pm
Cyclone Nargis in Burma (Myanmar): How You Can Help
As many of you know, I'm Co-chair of the board of directors of the U.S. Campaign for Burma: http://uscampaignforburma.org

Several of my friends have asked how they can best help the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their homes, their family, and their livelihoods in Burma (Myanmar).

Since the cyclone struck Burma, I've been working almost full-time on helping to provide access to aid for those affected. It's been a crash course for me in humanitarian relief in Burma. Here's what I've learned.

1. It is best to give donation to small charities. The big charities (Red Cross, World Vision, etc.) have big publicity machines and are likely not hurting for donations. We should give our "smart money" to the most effective small charities who devote their money solely for relief and spend little to no money on fund-raising or overhead.

2. It is best to give to charities who were on the ground prior to the cyclone. They are experienced with Burma, already have a network of Burmese partners, and know how to best bypass the regime's rampant mismanagement, diversion, and blatant stealing of aid.

3. Please donate to political action as well as relief. The problem is not that there is insufficient aid. Aid is already piling up on the borders. The real problems is that the Burmese military regime is taking control of aid deliveries and diverting it to feed the army. (The regime is scared that their own troops are hungry and have weapons. The generals fear mutinies and even a large-scale insurrection by junior officers and rank-and-file soldiers.) The regime is also refusing access to the affected regions by aid workers and journalists. It will take political pressure on the regime to force them to let in the aid. That requires funding the organizations that are organizing the most effective political pressure.

Regarding aid, I do recommend Thirst Aid, which was inside Burma before the cyclone and has already been delivering water purification tablets. (Thirst Aid is a small charity run by a couple of experienced Burma aid activists in Oregon and has very little overhead.) http://www.thirst-aid.org

Foundation for the People of Burma was established by Hal Nathan, a San Francisco money manager and, I believe, Buddhist. This group has worked through monasteries inside Burma for several years. http://www.foundationburma.org/

Burma Lifeline is run by Tad and Inge Sargent, long-time Free Burma activists based in Boulder, Colorado.

Burma Border Projects is run by Michael Forhan, a long-time friend and comrade-in-arms. Based out of Worcester, MA, he has been bringing over medical supplies and medical professionals to the famous Dr. Cynthia's clinic Thai-Burma border. The doctors, dentists, nurses, and psychologists not only provide treatment but also provide training for "backpack doctors," who risk their lives to cross the border on foot into war zones in Burma and provide medical treatment. http://www.burmaborderprojects.org

The U.S. Campaign for Burma is raising money that people can earmark for relief. These funds are being passed though 100%. I cannot go into detail about the groups inside Burma to which we are directly sending the money. If the regime learned that we were giving money to those organizations, they would very likely steal the money and put the people in prison.

I would also recommend donations for the political work of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, Burma Campaign UK, and Canadian Friends of Burma. These do the most effective work in lobbying the United Nations, U.S. government and Congress as well as the European Union and its member governments to put pressure on the Burmese military regime to open up its borders for aid and for experienced aid workers.


Thank you for your consideration. Namaste.

Current Mood: busy
Monday, September 17th, 2007
12:07 am
OK, I did the career meme too...
1. Go to www.careercruising.com
2. Put in Username: nycareers - Password: landmark
3. Take the 'Career Matchmaker' questions at the upper left corner
(you need to pick a name there first so the test can address you properly :)
4. Post the top 20 results.

1. Bank Manager
2. Association Manager
3. Health Care Administrator
4. Arts Administrator
5. Industrial-Organizational Psychologist
6. Management Consultant
7. Curator
8. Cosmetologist
9. Human Resources Specialist
10. Recreation Director
11. Esthetician
12. Coach
13. Office Manager
14. Anthropologist
15. Professor
16. Hairstylist
17. Foreign Service Officer
18. Addictions Counselor
19. Director
20. Clergy

Current Mood: amused
Monday, August 27th, 2007
1:41 pm
But At Least My Wife Blogs
I have not blogged for quite some time.

However, my wife, Ann Corbett, has been blogging from her trip to India and Nepal. She's been there on business meeting partners and projects funded by her employer, the Global Fund for Children.

Click on my blog for links:

Current Mood: busy
Sunday, April 1st, 2007
3:40 pm
My Other Journal is my Blog
Check out my blog for a few pictures of kite-flying and cherry blossoms on the Mall in Washington, DC:

So when are you guys going to come and stay with us in DC?

Current Mood: happy
Thursday, January 25th, 2007
8:49 am
Hear Me Roar
Yesterday I updated my blog for the first in several months. I keep an LJ account primarilyn to stay in touch with friends. My "public" face is in my blog: http://simonbillenness.blogspot.com

Just a few hours later, I received an email from Chicago Public Radio asking me to talk about the campaigns by the US Campaign for Burma to force corporations out of Burma.

Over the past ten years, I have been interviewed several times by Jerome McDonnell for his show, Worldview. But the show had lost track of me since my move to Washington, DC. Fortunately a web search by a Worldview producer turned up my blog and my current email address.

There are links to show on my blog. I'm very glad I finally posted an update!

Current Mood: amused
Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007
9:58 pm
I have so much to report.

Last July, Ann and I moved to Washington, DC. We now live in the far northeast corner of Capitol Hill on a quiet section of F Street NE.

We moved so that I could take up the position of Director of the Big Box Collaborative, an alliance of groups battling Wal-Mart and the "big box" retail stores. The first shareholder resolution that I ever filed was at Wal-Mart back in 1992. It's interesting how my work has turned full circle.

I miss Boston badly.

There's more to follow.

Current Mood: contemplative
Saturday, April 1st, 2006
7:16 pm
Welcome, Shea
Shea Mullaney, my friend and fellow member of Arlington Street Church, has a blog: "Soul Meets Blog."

I just found this out when I was browsing my blog's referrer log at Sitemeter. It turns out that Shea already blogrolled me without my knowledge.

I first met Shea at the church's Buddhist reading group. He's fairly well steeped in Buddhism and meditation. He's also written a book of poetry, "Follow the Wolf Moon." I bought the book directly from him. However I must confess that it currently lies in my pile of recently as yet unread fiction.

Shea is also much fun. I wish he'd make it to more of my parties.

I was very psyched when another friend and fellow congregant, Sara Davis, brought him as her guest to my wedding last May. At the wedding reception, he two of them sang "This Bed on Fire," a peppy pop song with wonderfully filthy lyrics, right in front of my parents.

Over the summer, Shea took over one of the Sunday services in his capacity as a member of the church worship committee. He organized a very pagan earth-centered service at the end of which he solemnly smudged volunteers, including me and Ann, with smouldering sage.

A few weeks later, when I was in Nevada with a group of Oxfam staff, I received the gift of small sheaf of sage from a Western Shoshone leader. Since it comes with good karma, I decided to give it to Shea.

Current Mood: procrastinating
Friday, March 31st, 2006
10:21 pm
Actually, I was hoping for Amsterdam
You Belong in Paris

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.
You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.

Current Mood: sleepy
Tuesday, March 28th, 2006
2:16 pm
Apocryphal, maybe? But a great quote nonetheless.
On Wednesday, March 1st, 2006, in Annapolis at a hearing on a proposed Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, Jamie Raskin, professor of law at American University, was requested to testify.

At the end of his testimony, Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs said: "Mr. Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?"

Raskin replied: "Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."

Current Mood: amused
Saturday, March 25th, 2006
3:52 pm
Friday, March 24th, 2006
9:17 am
Wal-Mart Opposes Tightened Port Security
From today's (March 24, 2006) "Washington Wire" column in the Wall Street Journal:

"Wal-Mart resists efforts in Congress to dramatically tighten port security in the wake of Dubai-ports furor. The company argues examining all containers, or even a fixed percentage of them, could impede shipping and boost costs."

There you have it. Wal-Mart opposes tighter port security measures that will cost it money.

I feel safe assuming that Wal-Mart believes that the increased security will increase the company's costs. After all, Wal-Mart would not bother lobbying against these security measures if they did not pose increased costs for Wal-Mart.

I give Wal-Mart a week or so to weather the ensuing storm of criticism before it issues a public statement of support for better port security. I also expect that Wal-Mart will even more quickly issue a press release complaining of being "misquoted" or "taken out of context" by the Wall Street Journal.

Whether that statement will represent an actual climb-down from Wal-Mart's position remains to be seen.

Current Mood: busy
Friday, March 17th, 2006
4:35 pm
Anyone Interested in Seeing Spamalot?
Now that's playing in Boston, I'd love to see it with a group of fellow Python fans.

Current Mood: sleepy
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