Saturday, March 10, 2007

Planet Amnesty Day

It occurs to me that when the IAU thoughtlessly booted Pluto from the "Big Planets Club", that was a little bit like "Blogroll Amnesty Day".

Hey, the planetroll is gone. Happy "Planet Amnesty Day"! We've decided to rebuild our list of planets, which, after all, was really old and outdated. The universe has changed a lot since we first compiled that list. And we're only going to be adding those planets that we think about on a daily basis. The ones we think are pretty. Sorry, Pluto. Yeah, it sucks, and it feels bad, but we're just looking to the future here!

I can imagine the IAU's version of Atrios then went on to pen an essay entitled, "Why your planet sucks."

Sure, Pluto's just a cold rock really really far away. But even so, I can't help rooting for the underdog. Er, underplanet? Anyway, I enjoyed seeing this:

Seven months after a conclave of scientists downgraded the distant heavenly body to a "dwarf planet," a state representative in New Mexico aims to give the snubbed world back some of its respect. State lawmakers will vote Tuesday on a bill that proposes "as Pluto passes overhead through New Mexico's excellent night skies, it be declared a planet."

The resolution, House Joint Memorial 54, was introduced by Rep. Joni Marie Gutierrez (D-Dona Ana County). It reiterates the importance of astronomy to the state of New Mexico and calls for March 13 to be "Pluto Planet Day."

The date is the birthday of Percival Lowell, the astronomer that posited the existence of a "Planet X" beyond the orbit of Neptune. The resolution also highlights that Pluto's discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh, comes from the county Gutierrez represents. Tombaugh found Pluto in 1930.

"We always took a lot of pride in the fact that he discovered Pluto," Gutierrez said in a phone interview with Wired News. "When they declared it a dwarf planet, we took it as a personal affront, so I envisioned that when then legislative session started, I would propose that at least in New Mexico, Pluto still be considered a planet."

Gutierrez believes the resolution will pass easily.

Read the rest here.

When labels fail us

Originally posted March 6

The other day I was talking to a coworker about plans for the weekend. I mentioned that I might be asking my atheist husband to take Daughter in Ohio to church (where she sings with the choir) so that I could attend my own church. She asked, "You have an atheist husband? So do I!"

I then decided that I should clarify a bit. After all, I had just used the word atheist as a sort of shorthand, to indicate that I was asking a Rather Big Favor of him, since he normally doesn't go to church. I don't think he calls himself an atheist, or even an agnostic. Come to think of it, I don't really know what he would put on a form that asked for religion as part of the demographic information.

But the fact that I am not sure what he would call himself, if asked, does not mean we don't have conversations about matters of faith and belief. We actually have such discussions on a fairly regular basis. It's just that labels don't tend to come up much when we do. Labels often have the effect of magnifying differences rather than helping us find our common ground.

In our almost 20 years of marriage, I have come to learn that Demetrius is someone who thinks pretty seriously about the big questions, even though he doesn't identify with any "name brand" religion. Here's something he wrote earlier today, in a discussion on another blog.

Well... An Infinite Being (I can't believe in a finite God) would perceive cause and effect, action and reaction simultaneously. So, for God to create all there is (exactly as it is) by setting up a few simple rule before the Big Bang isn't such a crap shoot. Why build the Universe atom by atom when I can just tell the atoms how to behave and send the Universe out to build itself? Wouldn't every part of that construction have some key into the whole? Our pursuit of knowledge of the Infinite is only natural.

"...we are the Universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out." - Ambassador Delenn, Babylon 5

That's not religious thinking in the traditional sense, but it certainly is a thoughtful approach to examining life's mysteries. Over the years I've seen the way Demetrius thinks through these things, and have also seen how his understanding of the Big Picture guides his understanding of moral behavior. If you understand yourself as interconnected with All That Is, hopefully your behavior toward others will reflect that. And in his case, I believe it does. And that impresses me more than someone who identifies as Christian but whose behavior is the opposite of what Jesus taught. Yet, I know there are people who explictly state that they prefer to do business with a Christian-owned company, thinking that will assure them a certain ethical standard.

But on the other hand, I have seen plenty of evidence in my years of blogging that some people make automatic negative assumptions about people who identify as Christian, or Evangelical Christian, or Roman Catholic. That's not fair either. Nor is it reasonable to demand that, if one is the member of a particular religious group, one must spend all sorts of time "denouncing" every wrong that has ever been perpetrated by a member of that religion.

My conclusion? One that I think should be self-evident: any one piece of information about an individual, whether it be religious affiliation, race, where they went to school, etc., tells us very little about who they are. You can fill in a bubble on a form, or answer a question on a survey and say that you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Humanist, or what have you. But I really don't know what that means to you unless I ask you, with a genuine curiosity, and with the willingness to check my assumptions at the door.

Stop the Criminalization of Mental Illness

The topic below was originally posted in my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

Several days ago, I wrote about the prison industrial complex in America that is driven largely by profit motive rather than improving society through rehabilitation or crime reduction. One component of America’s incarceration industry is the criminalization of the mentally ill.

An example of this callous ineptitude is former Massachusetts Governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The November 27th, 2006 edition of the Worcester Business Journal, reported that the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health refused to admit any more patients to its hospitals or units. The drastic action was the direct result of cuts Romney imposed on the agency. Perhaps he did so to burnish his credentials as a fiscal conservate prior to announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.

As Pam Belluck reported in the New York Times on March 8th (subscription required), 13 prison inmates have committed suicide in Massachusetts since November 2004. Yet even with troubling figures like these, Romney still forced this agency to stop admitting additional mentally ill patients. Those are people who can wind up in prison. Society pays a high price when aspiring presidents such as Mitt Romney care so little for the citizens they're suppossed to serve.

Universal health care has gained considerable traction as a political issue. Polls even show Americans are ready to pay higher taxes to end the crisis of affordable healthcare in America. It is imperative that any universal healthcare plan also expands treatment for the mentally ill. Perhaps I’m na├»ve but I believe Americans may be agreeable to accepting a substantial investment in coverage for the mentally ill as part of any package.

Celebrities have helped legitimized advocacy on behalf of mental health. Television’s Rosie O’Donnell has candidly acknowledged her personal struggles. Tipper Gore, the wife of former Vice President Al Gore was honest about suffering from depression and the importance of treatment. So has legendary journalist Mike Wallace. Credit should also be given to former First Lady, Betty Ford who shared her addiction problems with America and opened her own treatment clinic.

One Republican I’ve always had a soft spot for is New Mexico’s Republican Senator Pete Domenici. Domenici has a schizophrenic daughter and his perspective as a father helped him become a powerful advocate for the mentally ill. Yes, Domenici is a conservative and I oppose virtually everything his career stands for. True, Domenici was also recently exposed in the metastasizing scandal regarding the partisan dismissal of U.S. Attorneys by the Justice Department and should be held accountable for any laws it’s determined he violated.

Nonetheless, my soft spot for the man remains. Mental illness is an issue my family has coped with. I also have friends with mental illness in their families and appreciate anyone who has used their influence on behalf of the mentally ill. Domenici’s personal stake in the issue facilitated an unlikely friendship with the late liberal icon, Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone. Both collaborated on the Mental Health and Treatment Act of 2001.

Sadly, while mental illness has gained acceptance as a legitimate health concern rather than a stigma to be ridiculed, our society hasn’t progressed far enough in providing treatment to those who need it most. Remarkable, because mental illness is something that cuts across all demographics of race and class in society. Pete Domenici is a powerful conservative member of the Senate Finance Committee. I am a liberal blogger. Yet we both have this in common. Many of you reading this have mental illness in your families or perhaps suffer from it yourselves.

So many of us have loved ones with the inability to function without proper treatment or medication. We care about them and yet the effort can erode one’s spirit and will. For too many families, finding appropriate treatment, obtaining and paying for medication and fighting to prevent our loved ones from slipping through society’s cracks is a losing battle. As a result, the mentally ill often become a danger to themselves and society. The criminalization of the mentally ill has certainly contributed to the swelled populations of prisons.

Mentally ill people don’t belong in prison but when not properly treated that’s where they often wind up. An otherwise gentle soul with schizophrenia or depression that is not properly medicated may commit a violent crime. There is also the tragic case of Timothy Souders. As reported several weeks ago by Sixty Minutes, Mr. Souders suffered from manic depression and committed the crime of shop lifting. It's not uncommon for people who suffer from manic depression to get into this kind of trouble.

Sadly, the Michigan Department of Corrections was ill equipped to manage Mr. Souders special needs and he was put in solitary confinement. As the prison video featured in the Sixty Minutes broadcast showed, Mr. Sounders died from mistreatment. What happened to Mr. Souders is not an aberration. We citizens must ask ourselves, was prison really the best solution for a mentally ill person guilty of shop lifting?

How many more Timothy Souders are waiting to happen? One year ago the New York Times (subscription required) reported how the prescription drug law pushed by the Bush Administration and Republican controlled congress, contributed to a crisis in many states. Beneficiaries of Medicare who are mentally ill experienced massive delays in obtaining the medication they needed to function. Ironically, one of those supporters of this legislation was Senator Domenici.

How many of these people I wonder hurt themselves, or others and wound up in prison? Once incarcerated, as the Timothy Souders tragedy exposed, a prison is typically unable to treat mentally ill inmates effectively and many die in solitary. Some by mistreatment like Timothy Souders. Others kill themselves.

This is not a popular poll tested issue. But it’s a damn important one. Addressing it properly is not only the compassionate thing to do but pragmatic as well. As I see it, the only way is through single payer healthcare that incorporates comprehensive coverage for the mentally ill, renewed investment of mental health clinics as well as research and development into treatments and medication. Otherwise the criminalization of the mentally ill will continue unabated.

When writing about the prison industrial complex I asked if anyone cared. Today I’ll simply ask, what can we do to mobilize action against the criminalization of mental illness? Because the next person imprisoned with mental illness could be your brother.

beating the dead horse

we just had to share with you all something the sailor of vidiot speak said about blogroll amnesty on our comment section:

this isn't a zero sum game. we don't subtract from one site when we add another, we expand the chorus calling for change.
hear that, markos, and to a lesser extent, duncan?

Friday, March 9, 2007

Partial Transcript of MSOC on Gibson's Show

Here's as much of it as I can stand to listen to a second time and transcribe. I really think Gibson is not a nice man. And since I'm trying to give up hating people for Lent (okay, maybe just "cut back"), I probably shouldn't listen to him too much. If I had to spend much more time enduring his snide stereotyping of "the left", I might start swearing like a--like a Maryscott. ;)

John "War on Christmas" Gibson: Maryscott, the reason you're on today, is that nefarious character you were once hooked up with--

Maryscott O'Connor: "Friendly with"-- let's put it that way

Gibson: This is Mar-kos Moulit-sas, also known at Kos, who runs the big far left blog--

MSOC: Oh my god, I knew you were going to say it! Please don't call that blog far left!

Gibson: Why not?

MSOC: Because, listen, until a few years ago, that guy was a registered Republican. If you're going to call that blog anything, call it a centrist blog! He's not liberal!
Gibson: You have ended up in a disagreement with him--

MSOC: I was bound to end up in a disagreement with him. Left-wingers do not like centrists. I have more in common with the right wing than I do with the centrists.

Gibson: That's why call here all the time.

MSOC: Right wingers are ideologues.

Gibson: Centrists are compromisers and appeasers and sellouts.
(About being cut off the DKos blogroll)
Gibson: And he did that because he was mad at you over something.

MSOC: No, he wasn't mad at me. He did that because he wants a seat at the table. You know the name of his book?

Gibson: Yeah, yeah, "Crashing the Gate".

MSOC: He crashed the gate, he got a seat at the table, and then he locked the gate back up! He doesn't want anything to do with people who actually have principles!
...He wants to be in with the big boys. He wants to be the establishment.

Gibson: In terms of getting the troops excited, the blogging world is a "left of center" operation.

MSOC: Oh, right--'cause Little Green Footballs isn't--

Gibson: It's not as big as Daily Kos. You don't see major conservative Republican politicians posting on Little Green Footballs.

MSOC: You couldn't. Little Green Footballs is full of vile people.

Gibson: My point is, you have Ted Kennedy on the Daily Kos and John Kerry on the Daily Kos, and that nebbish Harry Reid, and all these people on the Daily Kos, which is sort of bowing down to--

MSOC: --the netroots--

Gibson: --the nutroots, right. (OMG, you are *so* freaking clever, aren't you? I bet all the other boys at your middle school are in stitches when you tell those jokes. Even more than when you make the milk come out of your nose at lunchtime.)

But I want to know something. Now that you're mad at him, tell me some good dirt!

MSOC: I don't think there's any "good" dirt. I don't think he's doing anything illegal or immoral or unethical--I think he's a putz!
Yup, I think so too. But I'm not mad at him. I'm just tired of him being in the way of people who want to talk about issues like election irregularities, impeachment, or whatever else might scare off deep pockets advertisers. And I'm tired of the farce that posting on his blog can be considered "netroots outreach" by politicians. It isn't. It's a gated community. And since Markos has indeed secured himself, but *not* the rest of us, a "seat at the table", I'm just not all that impressed. It's not *real* outreach, it's just for show.

Our elected and hoping-to-be elected officials are only willing to connect with the netroots by posting on a blog that is one man's privately owned business? One where the the top ad spot goes for $9000 a week? That's not outreach--it's theater.

Pathetic, crappy theater. And it makes a mockery of the true democratic potential so many of us see in the internet. I became active politically because I cared enough about reversing the damage caused by the Bush administration that I was willing to give up some of my precious, limited free time to do whatever I could that might help make a real difference. I *don't* think it's worth spending precious time and energy in order to play some 21st century version of Dungeons and Dragons where can pretend I'm a bit player in this "gate crashing" fantasy.

Nevada Dems say no to Fox

Via Huffington Post:

The Huffington Post can confirm that the Nevada Democratic Party has decided to back out of a Fox News-sponsored presidential debate in August following Fox President Roger Ailes's recent remarks comparing Democratic Senator Barack Obama to al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

Fox News did not answer calls seeking reaction to the decision.

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards had already announced that he would not participate in the Fox debate. His party followed suit today, under pressure from the more than 265,000 people who signed a petition calling Fox "a mouthpiece for the Republican Party, not a legitimate news channel" and urging Nevada officials to cancel.

Click for the rest.

Update: Here's the statement from

Maryscott O'Connor on Gibson's Fox News Radio Show

Maryscott writes:
I'm scheduled to be a call-in guest today, at 5pm pacifc, 8pm eastern, on the right wing radio nutfest that is...
The John Gibson Show
Click here for details.

The human rights of Witches.

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You know, they are still killing witches these days.

Two elderly women accused of practicing witchcraft in Papua New Guinea were tortured and murdered by a group of men who dragged their bodies to a riverbank and burnt them, police say.

A manhunt is under way for the offenders following Monday's killings near the banks of the Bumbu River in the port city of Lae, regional police chief Giossi Labi said.

He described the actions of the killers from one of the city's squatter settlements as "animalistic and inhuman".

And not far from Salem, Massachusetts, the site of America's first witch trial, there is another one going on right now in Long Island.

A former teacher fired from her job at a Hampton Bays elementary school has filed a $2 million federal lawsuit, claiming she was improperly dismissed because the administration and others thought she was a witch.

While the school district was not under obligation to explain why Lauren Berrios was not granted tenure, its lawyer claimed Wednesday that Berrios didn't get along with co-workers, had a condescending attitude and was eventually reported to Child Protective Services after telling tales about imaginary injuries to her own son.

"It's been quite a long time since we've seen a witch trial in this country,'' defense attorney Steven Stern told a jury of five men and three women during opening statements in U.S. District Court.

The war of Christianity against Pagan religions is nothing new and been hot and heavy for a couple of thousand years now. It flared up here in the US a few years back when then US Rep. Bob Barr sought to deny Wiccans in the Army the right to practice their faith.

If you consider the broader definition of Paganism: a faith which is positive, life-affirming and Earth-centric, Paganism is the second largest religious group in America encompassing not only Wiccans, Druids and other Euro-centric ancient faiths, but the Dharmic religions, Native Americans, native Hawaiians and all the indigenous religions of Africa, South America, Asia and Oceania.

Don't believe me? Try this test. Go to your local Barnes and Noble and measure the shelf space dedicated to New Age, Hindu, Buddhist and other Pagan topics. Now go to the section on Christianity and measure the shelf space. Do the same for Judaism and Islam.

See the difference? Someone has to be buying all those Scott Cunningham books.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Alachua elections on again(?)

ALACHUA -- The city of Alachua will move forward with holding its elections, the city commission voted Tuesday, March 6, in an emergency meeting. The vote included allowing the elections' three challengers until 4 p.m. March 7 to "fix the deficiencies" in their qualification papers.

The commission made the vote after a recommendation by City Manager Clovis Watson Jr. to extend the qualifying date to "promote harmony" in the community and possibly prevent "future controversies." But legal actions had been filed against the city the day before, and some of those who helped file that action said the city commission held the emergency meeting when city officials realized they couldn't win in court.

Charlie Grapski, a challenger who filed to run against incumbent Bonnie Burgess, said that because the matter already was filed in court, the city's decision Tuesday holds no weight until a judge hears the case.
Click here to read the entire article and here for an article about Charlie Grapski that appeared in Raw Story last year. See also The Dirty South, which appeared in L.A. CityBeat last year.

International Women's Day

I forgot this was today. Better late than never, I guess.

Celebrated on 8 March, International Women's Day (IWD) is the global day connecting all women around the world and inspiring them to achieve their full potential. IWD celebrates the collective power of women past, present and future.
Click the graphic above to learn more.

Stop Big Media

From the Stop Big Media blog, Columbus Speaks Out Against Consolidation:

Nearly 400 people packed into the Broad Street Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio Wednesday night to testify for more than four hours about the threat of sweeping changes to the nation’s media ownership rules.

“I’m ready to play offense,” said Democratic Commissioner Michael Copps. “So let’s talk this evening about more than just preventing bad new rules, but about revisiting the bad old rules that got us into this mess in the first place. Let’s talk about actually bringing back positive public interest obligations to our broadcast media.”
Click here for the rest.

Steve Gilliard update

Via The News Blog:
Update on Gilly: Not out of the woods yet

Gilly will be under sedation at least through the weekend. Why? Well, the surgery was more delicate than they thought, and they are afraid to put any pressure on his chest--so they didn't close it. So now, he's pretty much in sterile, suspended storage with an open chest cavity (something else covering the wound I suppose) until they can check his healing and stitch him up. They hope to close him up by Monday the latest.

What he had done: Gilly's Mom was too distraught to really get the details. Apparently they did wind up doing the bypass in the end, but she's still not sure if they did the valve repair or replacement (and if a replacement, if he got a xeno or a Jarvis part).
Click here for the rest, and to post a comment with your prayers and best wishes

Light a virtual candle for Steve Gilliard

Accidental leadership

This excerpt comes from a particularly insightful comment by madscientist

Causes left and right tend to spawn leaders, sometimes by accident. They may been someone who is in the right place at the right time. They may particularly devoted to a cause. They may become some uber-leader's boyfriend. Sometimes they just begin to be looked on as a leader. (I have no idea if any of these is true of markos.)

All too often, these leaders begin to notice that people listen to them, that they have some small power. Sometimes, the new leader begins to bask in the power, or to enjoy the adulation. Or both. And sometimes, when this is the case, he uses this to create more power and/or adulation, and those who have enjoyed his leadership are only too glad to give it to him. All too often, this becomes a "cult of personality."

When this happens, the freedom of thought in the cult (as it now becomes) is narrowed, and a premium is put on being with the leader. often a sort of priesthood edvolves whih not only seeks to be close to the leader, but also to be the favored to get any new dogma. then they go about making sure that everyone knows the new dogma. They often admonish or punish those with last weeks dogma. This serves to isolate the leader from the negativity somewhat, and serves his status as a cult figure. Unrest is often aimed at the second in command, who can often go mad with their petty power.

Others, in this situation, try to become a priest by simply choosing to act as a dogma (or rule, unwritten or otherwise) monitor, hoping to thereby be elevated to priest.
Read the full comment here.

skippy sends a fax to sen. reid

skippy sent a fax this morning to sen. reid's office:

i write to express my extreme displeasure at the news that the nevada democratic party has deemed it acceptable for fox news channel to broadcast the reno debate in august.

especially in light of how you, sen. reid, called for president bush to pledge to not pardon scooter libby while at the same time fox news was promoting the false information that there was not even a crime committed, i would think that it was obvious that fox news is not a neutral platform to get the democratic agenda out to the voting constituents.

as the decision was made without the input of several prominent nevada democratic leaders and was made behind closed doors without the input of the executive board of nevada democrats (let alone any other state executive board), i further find it to be a complete reversal of stated democratic values.

i personally applaud sen. john edwards’ pledge to avoid the fox news debate. i sincerely hope that other democratic candidates follow suit, and i urge you to reconsider your position.

to show you how displeased i am, i am going to send back to you the team harry tee shirt i got when i heard you speak at yearly kos last year. you disappoint me greatly, senator. i was hoping for a majority leader who actually worked for the party, not for special interests and back room deals.
if you're interested, reid's office fax number is 202-224-7327 and the phone number is 202-224-3542.

addendum: over at mydd, several commenters suggest we contribute to edwards' campaign and send them an email thanking them and explaining our contribution. also, if any other candidates withdraw, do the same for them.

it is our suggestion that all contributions end with .08 cents, to signify it came from the netroots for this cause.

Border fences and family separation

click to enlarge

For a modern day example of what a border fence will do to us, we need to look at Israel and Palestine. This report is shameful.

What difference does it make? What does make a difference is the appalling question of what prompted a soldier, or a Border Policeman, to open fire from a long way off at the boy and then to leave him bleeding on the ground until he died. What goes through the mind of the shooter, in the moments before and after he takes the life of an adolescent, who was in no way putting anyone at risk - even if he touched a fence that must not be touched? Three fences surround the abandoned airport, and last Sunday we saw no hole in any of them, three days after the unnecessary, criminal shooting.

Fences and wall never work and leave nothing but disaster in their wake. Congress chats a lot about jobs, employment and economic consequences of a border fence, but they have yet too look deeper into the social consequences of such an atrocity.

Steve Gilliard out of surgery

Via skippy, blogger Steve Gilliard is out of surgery. Light a virtual candle for Steve's speedy recovery here.

Sorry, Matt, but when you're a hypocrite, all bets are off

Conservatives sure do love their gay prostitutes, don't they? First it was Jimmyjeff Gannonguckert, now Matt Sanchez, darling of CPAC because he's a Latino gay military conservative.

Today, in a truly cranium-combusting piece in Salon, Sanchez sees nothing inconsistent about sucking up to the very people who revile people like himself.

In September 2005, I wrote a column for the campus newspaper that blasted the anti-military bias among my fellow students at Columbia University. In addition to being an American studies major at Columbia, I am a Marine Corps reservist, and my comrades in arms were proud of me once that column had turned into appearances on "The O'Reilly Factor" and "Hannity & Colmes" and an opinion piece for the New York Post. None of those media outlets knew who I had been before I was a Marine, an Ivy Leaguer and an outspoken defender of the military.

Up until last weekend, Salon and the rest of the left-wing media had largely ignored me. Given the left's constant talk about equality, discrimination, minority rights and systemic oppression, I thought the fact that I was a Latino Marine, a nontraditional, 36-year-old Ivy League student and a 100 percent flag-waving red-blooded Reagan Republican would make my point of view interesting, but so be it. Everything is political now, and even the double standards have talking points.

Then came last weekend. I was invited to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, an annual convention of the right attended by more than 5,000 people, to accept the Jeanne Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award. It was recognition for what I'd said in print and on-air about anti-military attitudes on campus. During CPAC, I had my picture taken with the controversial conservative pundit and author Ann Coulter.

Coulter's comments about John Edwards drew unprecedented attention to this year's CPAC. Then, after a while, some of that attention was turned on me.


Porn reduces the mind and flattens the soul. I don't like it. That's not hypocrisy talking; that's just experience. I sometimes think of myself, ironically, as a progressive: I started off as a liberal but I progressed to conservatism. Part of that transformation is due to my time in the industry. How does a conservative trace his roots to such distasteful beginnings? I didn't like porn's liberalism. In porn, everything taboo is trivialized and everything trivial is magnified.

Being in the adult entertainment industry was sort of like being in a cult, and like all followers of a cult, I have a difficult time figuring out when I stopped believing in the party line. I can tell you, though, that by the time I finished my brief tour of the major studios, I was pretty disgusted with myself. It was an emotional low, and the people who surrounded me were like drug dealers interested only in being with the anesthetized in order not to shake off the stupor of being high.

Why did I become a conservative? Just look at what I left, and look at who is attacking me today. Let's face it: Those on the left who now attack me would be defending me if I had espoused liberal causes and spoken out against the Iraq war before I was outed as a pseudo celebrity. They'd be talking about publishing my memoir and putting me on a diversity ticket with Barack Obama. Instead, those who complain about wire-tapping reserve the right to pry into my private life and my past for political brownie points.

Sure, I had my picture taken with Ann Coulter. I don't agree with what she said, but anyone in the military would defend her right to say it. I'm not apologizing for it. I'm also not going to claim I'm sorry for leaving a long-ago summer job off my curriculum vitae. A lot things in my life don't add up, but then I was never good at math. It's just a part of my past, and as anyone who reflects on the past realizes, it contributes to who I am today.

Yes, it does, Matt. And you're wrong -- no one on the left cares about your past in gay porn. Unlike the people you're sucking up to on the right, we believe that what consenting adults do is their own business. Now, I can't speak for anyone in the gay community, but from where this 100% heterosexual, 20+ years married, middle-aged lapsed Jewish suburban woman is standing, you are not just a hypocrite, but are wrestling with a good bit of self-loathing.

I refuse to associate with any activities sponsored by A.N.S.W.E.R., because their pro-Palestinian view is NOT limited to opposition to Israeli government policy, but veers over into anti-Semitism. I won't associate with groups that hate people like me, nor will I support them or help them to gain power. So why on earth are you willing to associate with people like Ann Coulter and the rest of the crew? Why are you willing to associate with someone who refers to gay marriage as "insane"? Why on earth would you want to associate with people who profess to hate everything that you are? And even if they don't (which I wonder about, since the Republican party and its allies seem to be rife with barely-closeted gay men and women), why would you want to associate yourself with people who are willing to sacrifice YOU on the altar of their drooling, ignorant Jeebofascist base?

Matt, there is help for you -- not help to "cure" homosexuality, but help so that you can better accept yourself and stop allowing yourself to be used by people who would wipe you off the face of the earth if they thought they could get away with it. But you cannot expect to align yourself with the moral scolds of the right and expect your hypocrisy to not be fair game.

(cross-posted at Brilliant at Breakfast)

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Vermont votes to impeach Bush/Cheney

Via Yahoo News

By an overwhelming voice vote, Middlebury called for impeachment.

So it has gone this week at town meetings across Vermont, most of which were held Tuesday.

Late Tuesday night, there were confirmed reports that 36 towns had backed impeachment resolutions, and the number was expected to rise.
Click here for the rest.

The border fence is not a solution... unless you are Halliburton.

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The only one who will benefit from a border fence will be the contractor and it will probably be someone attached to Cheney. And by all evidence seen from the war, Katrina and now Walter Reed, everything this man touches turns to shit. But it wouldn't surprise me if Halliburton got the border fence contract. That is how despotism rolls.

But beyond that, fences and walls never work and the one planned for our southern border will just as much of a disaster - for humans, the economy and for the environment. The stupid man builds a fence, the smart one fixes the problem that created the need for the fence and Bush does not have that ability since he can't bomb the sweatshops illegal immigrants work in here in the U.S. Those are called contributors.

That is Bush's only tool it seems - the bomb. Bomb them into submission, bomb them out of existence, bomb them into the stone-age, we have heard those lines before from the GOP. That is all they know.

They are incapable of solving a problem where the solution begins with the human heart. Cheney's has nothing but springs and gears.

Why being unable to blog during the day sucks

It's not that I wish I were home all day to be able to write something brilliant when Big News Breaks, because that would mean that I was unemployed. And if it's a choice between designing return address logos and reformatting user and design specifications or being home to blog but living in constant gnawing fear about being able to pay the bills, well, that's a no-brainer.

But still, when I see the big GUILTY show up and I can't write about it, it's frustrating as hell.

I'm not under any delusions that the conviction of Scooter Libby on four out of five counts (which came as a surprise to me, given how long the jury was out and the Administration's track record of strongarming the justice system) means a hill of beans. Far from being chastened, the Usual Suspects not only don't care about the unholy marriage of this Administration and its lackeys in the mainstream media that were revealed during this trial, they are sticking to their own delusions that Joseph Wilson is a liar, that Valerie Plame was not NOC, and perhaps the couple's biggest crime -- that they are Democrats.

As to whether Libby will ever spend a day in jail, well, it's a certainty that he'll be pardoned, despite the limp and pathetic entreaties of Harry Reid.

Meanwhile, the fact that the Iraq war was based on total fabrications, the fact that the worst kind of lies were told by Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, will continue to go unpunished. The Bush/Cheney legacy will be a dark one, to be sure, but one without consequences. Patrick Fitzgerald has said that he is done, that he is not going to go after Cheney. And perhaps this is the correct decision, if Cheney has covered his tracks sufficiently well so that conviction is impossible. As to the political ramifications, they are unimportant where Dick Cheney is concerned, especially if you assume that this bunch will leave office in 2009 -- something of which I am not yet convinced. Cheney isn't going to run for president. In theory his years in power will be over, unless some future Republican president loses his mind -- or more likely, the public loses its memory -- and decides his "experience" is an asset. Perhaps this is the reason for shoveling such huge amounts of cash into Halliburton's coffers from so many projects, not just the Iraq war -- it's Dick Cheney's retirement plan.

So while it's tempting to rejoice at the idea that someone in the Bush Administration is actually going to have to accept some consequences for the lies and corruption that are this bunch's hallmark, the reality is that the only person who may suffer consequences is Tim Russert, who is likely to find himself outside in the cold, his nose pressed against the window, where access to this administration is concerned.

(cross-posted at Brilliant at Breakfast)

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

High Praise for My Left Wing

Just spotted this diary at My Left Wing.

My Left Wing Earns High Praise

...CJ emailed me today to let me know that My Left Wing had caught the eye of Cyrano's Journal Online and wanted to tell me how much appreciation there was thereabouts for MLW.
Featured Writers of CJO:

Gore Vidal (Emeritus), Noam Chomsky, Alex Cockburn, Uri Avnery, Michael Parenti, Glen Ford, Edward Herman, Stephen Gowans, Ernest Stewart, John Steppling, Guy Zimmerman, Jason Miller, James Petras , Sheila Samples, Robert Parry, Phil Rockstroh, Bruce Dixon, Danny Schechter, Ilan Pappe, Carolyn Baker, Slavoj Zizek, Margaret Kimberley, Stephen Lendman Charles Sullivan
Click to read all the nice things they have to say about My Left Wing. Very cool.

Hey Hillary! Once you go Black...

click to enlarge

To do this strip, I listen and read a LOT of right wing crap and yesterday's painful brush with idiocy was with Rush Limbaugh.

I heard Hillary's clip from Selma during her rendition from Cleveland's hymn. It sounded so atrocious and fake, I thought it was a satire piece from Limbaugh's production staff - it almost sounded like Whoopie Goldberg in A Color Purple. It wasn't until later yesterday when I realized, it was a real recording.

Holy crap! It was like she was trying out for Spielberg. It wasn't a Southern accent, I can detect those, this sounded to me like a slave accent.

Yes, I know Hillary spent 17 long years in Arkansas, but surely, she would have a passable Southern accent by now. Ya know?

Monday, March 5, 2007

Bono's NAACP Chairman's Award Acceptance Speech

Partial trancript

...When people talk about the greatness of America, I just think of the NAACP...
See, I grew up in Ireland, and when I grew up, Ireland was divided along religious lines, sectarian lines. Young people like me were parched for the vision that poured out of pulpits of Black America. And the vision of a Black Reverend from Atlanta--a man who refused to hate because he knew love would do a better job. (Applause). These ideas travel, you know? And they reached me, clear as any tune, lodged in my brain like a song. I couldn't shake that. And this is Ireland in the 70s growing up. People like me looked across the ocean to the NAACP, and I'm here tonight, and that feels good. It feels very, very good! (Applause.)

Well today, the world looks again to the NAACP. We need the community that taught the world about civil rights to teach it something about human rights. I'm talking about the right to live like a human. The right to live, period. Those are the stakes in Africa right now. Five and a half thousand Africans dying every day of AIDS, a preventable, treatable disease. Nearly a million Africans, most of them children, dying every year from malaria. Death by mosquito bite.

And, this is not about charity, as you know here in this room. This is about justice. It's about justice and equality. (Applause.) Now I know that America hasn't solved all of its problems, and I know that AIDS is killing people right here in America. And I know the hardest hit are African Americans, many of them young women. Today the church in Oakland, I saw such extraordinary people. This lioness here, Barbara Lee (applause) took me around with her pastor, J. Alfred Smith, and may I say that it was the poetry and the righteous anger of the Black church that was such an inspiration to me, a very white, almost pink, Irish man growing up in Dublin.

This is true religion, true religion will not let us fall asleep in the comfort of our freedom. "Love thy neighbor" is not a piece of advice, it's a command. (Applause and cheers.) And that means a lot. That means that in the global village, we're going to have to start loving a whole lot more people. That's what that means. That's right--its truth is marching on. Two million Americans have signed on to the One Campaign to make poverty history, tonight the NAACP is signing up to work with us. And so can you. Its truth is marching on! Because where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die.

And to those in the church who still sit in judgement on the AIDS emergency, let me climb into the pulpit for just one moment. Because whatever thoughts we have about God who he is, or even if God exists, most will agree that God has a special place for the poor.

The poor are where God lives. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is where the opportunity is lost and lives are shattered. (Standing ovation.) God is with the mother who has infected a child with a virus that will take both their lives. God is under the rubble in the cries we hear during wartime. God, my friends, is with the poor, and God is with us if we are with them.

This is not a burden--this is an adventure! And don't let anyone tell you it cannot be done. We can be the generation that ends extreme poverty! Thank you.

Technical Difficulties

Grrr! Yesterday I thought I'd found a good solution for including posters who would prefer to stick with Blogger/Blogspot. Because Wordpress allow you to import posts from other blogs, I figured that I could have those people sign up as contributors on a mirror site I set up on Blogspot, and then I could simply import those posts so that they would display here as well. I have used this feature a number of times, so I had every reason to believe it would work this time as well.

Sigh. The best laid plans of mice...

It is *not* working. Here's what I've gotten the first half dozen or so times I've tried to import posts from the new Blogspot version of this site.

Trouble signing in
We were not able to gain access to your account. Try starting over.

No idea why that is, or if it's a temporary issue, or something related to the switch to the new Blogger. Will try again tomorrow, though.

Does Anyone Care About America's Prison Industrial Complex?

The topic below was originally posted in the Intrepid Liberal Journal on Saturday, March 3rd.

Citizens across the political spectrum are preoccupied by numerous high stakes issues such as Iraq, Afghanistan, corruption, corporatist greed, genocide, global warming and healthcare to name a few. There is also the ongoing rule of an administration subverting the Constitution and undermining our democracy. As a result, some topics of importance have dropped off our radar screens. One subject meriting renewed scrutiny is the prison industrial complex.

The prison industrial complex are entities or organizations that have a stake in construction of correctional facilities, such as prison guard unions, construction companies and vendors specializing in surveillance technology. Just as sectors in the military industrial complex are more concerned with profit than national security, players inside the prison industrial complex are more concerned about making money than actually rehabilitating criminals or reducing crime rates.

It should also be noted that some prisons supply free or low cost labor for state and municipal governments as well as jobs for organized labor. The building and maintenance of America’s prison system on both the federal and state level is a multi-billion dollar industry benefiting private industry, lobbyists and politicians who have the power to award contracts.

In December 1998, Eric Schlosser wrote perhaps the definitive article on the topic for The Atlantic Monthly (subscription required) and observed,

"The prison-industrial complex is not only a set of interest groups and institutions. It is also a state of mind. The lure of big money is corrupting the nation's criminal-justice system, replacing notions of safety and public service with a drive for higher profits. The eagerness of elected officials to pass tough-on-crime legislation — combined with their unwillingness to disclose the external and social costs of these laws — has encouraged all sorts of financial improprieties."
Ultimately, the incarceration industry helped keep much of American society, especially young black men, in a cycle of despair. For example, my home state of New York operated under the Rockefeller Drug laws for over thirty plus years and incarcerated non-violent offenders of drug possession for ridiculously long sentences. Meanwhile, more violent criminals were paroled and their recidivism rates were high.

Sadly, in New York the issue remained largely un-addressed as Governor Mario Cuomo fed the correctional facilities construction beast with more money and contracts. His successor, George Pataki promised to repeal the Rockefeller laws when he took office in 1994 but he didn’t deliver until 2004.

The issue seemed to peak politically during the last years of the Clinton Administration as Schlosser’s article helped garner coverage for public figures who spoke about it such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Since then some organized opposition emerged. A political interest group called Critical Resistance formed to raise public awareness about moral failures in the corrections industry and,

“build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe. We believe that basic necessities such as food, shelter, and freedom are what really make our communities secure.”
Two states worth watching are California and New York. On February 19th, Neal Peirce of the Hampshire Gazette profiled both states in his article, “Growth of the US Prison Industry.” His article was posted in the The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog.

Peirce reports that Governor Eliot Spitzer wants a commission to consider the merits of closing some of New York State’s dozens of prisons. This was also covered on February 5th in the New York Times (subscription required). New York's prison population peaked at 71,000 inmates in 1999 but has dropped by 8,000 the past eight years.

Crime reduction in New York City is the major cause as well as reform efforts to find treatment for non-violent offenders. No doubt the corrections industry will lobby Albany hard to maintain the status quo but Spitzer has demonstrated his fondness for picking fights.

Meanwhile, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is pressing for $11 billion in bonds to add 78,000 beds to California's expanding prison population. Currently, California has 173,000 inmates costing the Sunshine state $8 billion. Peirce quotes a California senior prison official warning that overcrowding and threats of riots are,

"an imminent and substantial threat to the public.''
Peirce also notes that,

“Thirty years ago California's prison system was hailed as America's best, providing education and psychotherapy for offenders.”
Critical Resistance posted the following about California on their website in January:

”Dear Friends,

Last year, we helped defeat plans to build 140,000 new prison and jail cells. While we have collectively made it very difficult for the state to build entirely new large state prisons, the Governor has responded by couching prison expansion in the guise of prison reform. But, we know that expansion is NOT reform. We know that reform lies in reducing the number of people in prison. So, we are back. This time fighting the Governor's plan to build 78,000 new prison, jail and juvenile detention beds and once again, we need you.

The more we make expansion impossible, the closer we get to real moves to reduce the number of people in prison!”
New York of course endured the shameful Attica prison riot of 1971 that resulted in the aforementioned Rockefeller drug laws. The legacy of those laws, widely replicated in other states, were expanding prison populations for possessing or selling even small amounts of narcotics.

Thankfully, Governor Spitzer appears determined to aggressively reform New York’s correction system. However, many communities have an economic interest in preserving the status quo. As State Sen. Elizabeth Little, whose Adirondacks district includes 12 prisons told the New York Times,

"There are over 5,000 corrections officers living in my district. In most of these communities, the prisons are the biggest employer.''
Left unsaid by too many legislators such as State Senator Little and other politicians, is that white constituents are benefiting from union jobs while minorities are incarcerated with punishments not appropriate to the crimes or offenses committed. This is not justice and reflects badly on our national character. One governor, even in a state as large as New York isn't enough. This issue merits activism among civil libertarians across the political spectrum. Does anybody care?

howdy and a tip of the bush kangaroo tail

hi everyone, we are the editors of the blog skippy the bush kangaroo, and are pleased as a platypus to be a part of the independent bloggers' alliance.

if this were a perfect world, and it's not, the iba would be a force as influencial and as recognizable as the other big box blogs, who shall remain markos and duncan nameless. but with some luck and work and due diligence (oh, wait, that's another blog) it is our hope that the iba will become a compendium of the better writers, more diverse thinkers, and more interesting pundits of the left side of blogtopia and yes, we coined that phrase!

we hope that it's obvious from the get-go that the independent bloggers' alliance will not merely be a copy of the big box blogs, in that differing opinions are not only welcome, but an actual requirement to join the club. the last thing we want here is a cult of personality. because as one of skippy's interns recently remarked, markos moulitsas is a brilliant blogger in the same way that tom sawyer was a brilliant fence painter.

it is our fevered opinion that difference is the oil that greases democracy's gears, and conformity is the fuel that feeds fascism's fiat. we don't know what lubricates the libertarians' landrover, and we don't care.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Meaning of a "Black Value System"

This is related to my post about A Black Theology of Liberation from yesterday. In addition to the overview link I posted, I had also looked at a PDF that went into detail about what is meant by a Black Value System. This part stood out to me, and I think I heard it echoed when listening to Barack Obama speaking at an event in Selma commemorating the voting rights march that took place there 42 years ago.

Disavowal of the Pursuit of "Middleclassness"

Classic methodology on control of captives teaches that captors must keep the captive ignorant educationally, but trained sufficiently well to serve the system. Also, the captors must be able to identify the "talented tenth" of those subjugated, especially those who show promise of providing the kind of leadership that might threaten the captor's control.

Those so identified as separated from the rest of the people by:

Killing them off directly, and/or fostering a social system that encourages them to kill off one another.

Placing them in concentration camps, and/or structuring an economic environment that induces captive youth to fill the jails and prisons.

Seducing them into a socioeconomic class system which while training them to earn more dollars, hypnotizes them into believing they are better than others and teaches them to think in terms of "we" and "they" instead of "us".

So, while it is permissible to chase "middle-incomeness" with all our might, we must avoid the third separation method-the psychological entrapment of Black "middleclassness": If we avoid the snare, we will also diminish our "voluntary" contributions to methods A and B. And more importantly, Black people no longer will be deprived of their birthright, the leadership, resourcefulness, and example of their own talented persons.

Anyway, I thought that excerpt was worthy of some reflection. In yesterday's post, I linked to the lively exchange between Sean Hannity and Barack Obama's pastor, the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, about whether Trinity United Church of Christ espoused a "radical separatist" agenda. What I failed to mention at the time is that I do "get" why many White people are uncomfortable with the wording Hannity referred to from the church's web site--commitment to the Black family, the Black community, etc. Hannity asked, wouldn't it sound racist if you substituted the word White--if there was a church that openly stated it was all about supporting and strengthening the White community.

And I can't judge him for asking that. I've wondered the same thing in the past. Wright responded that churches have been that way for ages--White by default. White is "generic" to many of us, so we don't even use the word as a descriptor when we are describing a new person we met, for example. But that's not an easy concept to "get". It's going to take some serious thoughtful discussion among people of good will. Which means, and this is just a guess, it will likely be taking place somewhere other than Sean Hannity's television program.