Saturday, March 31, 2007

About the "Vote Different" ad guy

This isn't something I can really get into researching and writing about, but I thought it was worth passing along some links for anyone who might be interested in reading some of the background stuff.

At Crooks and Liars, there's a post entitled “ParkRidge47″ Comes Out

Something about this story--I don't know--rubs me the wrong way. All I do know is that Phil DeVellis is not exactly loved by Ohio bloggers. For anyone who's interested in what some of them have been saying, here are some links:

From Plunderbund:

Phil de Vellis’ “Career Trajectory”


Da Blogfatha is here to save the day! Does Jerome actually speak for all of MyDD by giving “Our statement…”? Neat. I seem to remember Phil pissing off the entire lefty blogosphere in Ohio with his crap. But “Phil’s a big reason why Sherrod Brown kicked ass in Ohio in 2006″ does sound better. I hear there is to be some training by the blogpac peeps coming soon. I, for one, CANNOT WAIT!

Vote Different Message: Tighten Up Bitches! (Video)
Phil’s Other Shoe - Why It Matters

From Buckeye State Blog:
Continuing our Conversation: De Vellis' Deception & BSD
Kos and De Vellis
De Vellis: Swell Guy?

I'm sure there's more, but I think I need an Ohio blogger who has followed this more closely than I have to write up a "for dummies" style synopsis for the rest of us.

One Mad Marine Mom on a Mission

Cross-posted at BlueSunbelt, My Left Wing and Diatribune.

Back in February, I wrote a diary at Dkos titled: Why I Fight... For Peace based on the plight of one tough, take no prisoners, Marine mom named Tina Richards. Her website is here.

In January, at first communication with Tina, I instantly admired her for two reasons -- her love for her son, and her love for this country - love for both so deep, so passionate, she's willing to take on Washington D.C. by herself if need be? to honor that love.

With our help, she won't be fighting alone?

In February's diary, I included a couple of heartfelt poems written by her son, Marine Corporal Cloy Richards, during his two-deployments in Iraq. Tina's website is here. Be sure to check out the videos depicting some of her recent battles in the halls of the U.S. Congress, including her U.S. Capitol Police escort out of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office. (by the way, that was Tina giving David Obey a piece of her mind in that video clip played repeatedly on You Tube, CNN and other news outlets a couple weeks ago)

Tina's plight, or more accurately, her fight, began back in January 2003 with Cloy's upcoming first U.S. Marine Corp deployment to Iraq. Little did she know at the time, that deployment would set the agenda for the next 3+ years of her life and beyond. Cloy's home now but Tina's fight is nowhere near over. In fact, her struggle will not end until every other mother's son and daughter in America is home from Iraq as well... and, this time for good.

Below is a recent letter that one tough, take no prisoners, Marine mom sent me. Please take a few minutes to read it. This is the issue of our time.

We must embrace it.

In her own words, this is why Tina Richards fights... for peace.

Just before my son's first deployment in January 2003, he gave me a key chain, "Marine Mom, Toughest Job In The Corp."  I had no idea how true this slogan was to become.

"Mom, I've never seen you cry, " my son told me before his first deployment in 2003, "now is not the time to start." 

Seeing your first-born and only son off to war is one of the most difficult experiences a mother goes through.  As a Marine Mom, it must be done bravely.  I did not look upon him as a man, but as my baby I held in my arms 18 years before.  Yet I entrusted the United States Marines Corp would take care of my son and ensure he would have everything he needed to go to war.  Unfortunately, I already knew when I had to purchase his combat boots for Christmas, this was a forewarning of what was to come. 

For two tours of duties, I waited for news that my son was alive.  When I received the news, I would react with tears and joy.  As I would hang up the phone or finish reading the email, I would be overwhelmed with guilt knowing another mother was receiving the news her son was returning in a flagged draped coffin. 

When he returned, I was faced with a military ready to discard him.  A man torn from the horrors of war.  A person I did not recognize except fleetingly from a glimmer in his eyes.  His cries were desperate; a call in the middle of the night as he held the gun in his mouth.  "Mom, I've killed too many innocent Iraqi women and children," he pleaded, "I don't deserve to live."  As an artillery man, he trusted his Commanding Officers to give orders to kill insurgents, not women and children.

But I did not cry.  At least not in front of anyone.

For almost two years, I watched my son struggle to regain his life.  The injuries, physically and mentally, from this war seemed insurmountable.  The VA sent him letters, "Don't call us, we'll call you," combined with substandard care.  As we fought for what he deserved, I fought to keep him alive.  I was not going to lose him to this war after he made it home alive from two tours.

He found fighting for peace and poetry as a means to live.

I walked the halls of congress with my sons poem to find justice for our veterans and an end to the war.  His report date back to service was March 24.  How could they send him after he honorably served and was honorably discharged?  He was offered special treatment from congressman and senators, but he refused.  How could he accept any help with his brothers and sisters dying in Iraq?  At every turn I was told the impossible cannot happen.  I knew a miracle must. 

On March 24 as I was driving to New York City, my son was personally handed his combat related disability papers.  At 80% disabled, he will not have to return.


  I cried.  I rejoiced.  Never tell a Marine Mom something cannot be done.

Then the overwhelming feeling of guilt hit me again.  Someone else's child would go in his place.  As long as this occupation rages on, I cannot sleep soundly.  Each day my son struggles as this war tears at him.  I cannot enjoy this miracle until I know everyone of our sons and daughters are home. 

So as I walk the halls of congress alone, I notice something missing.  Where were the people in the people's house? 

The citizen lobbyist is out-numbered a thousand to one, though, in these halls. I see lobbyist from all the defense contractors by the hundreds.  I have always wondered why we have a war department but not a department of peace.  It is no wonder when our representatives are talking with the profiteers of war a thousand more times then they talk with those who see diplomacy as a means and our military as the final and last resort.

I was recently at a dinner with Garrett Reppenhagen of Iraq Vets Against the War, where he related his meeting with Senator Kerry.  "Senator Kerry told me, 'I have met with five hundreds people this week, and you are the only one here talking of peace,'" said Garrett.  Until those numbers change, each generation will see war enter their lives.  No matter how hard we work to protect our children, parents will suffer as we send our children off to war.

So Join me in DC... let's reclaim our Democracy.

Folks, this is as much our mission as it is the Richards' family. Every single one of us here and across the left blogosphere wants to end this immoral occupation. We need to focus as much attention and energy on bringing our sons & daughters home as we did to elect Democrats last year.

I implore everyone to donate if you can. Give your time and efforts if you can't. Link the website on your blogs and homepages. It only takes a moment. Then, start peppering your respective congress critters with emails. Tell your friends and family. Tell your colleagues. Ask whomever you can to help in anyway they can.

As I said earlier, this is the issue of our day, perhaps of our generation. Please, please help here.

Please don't let one mad Marine mom fight this fight alone. (although, I've no doubt she'd try)

Below is Tina's itinerary: 

* March 29th
  Activities in Hart Senate Building.
  Bev Smith Show, American Urban Radio Network 7:00 to 8:00 PM

* March 30th
  11:00 A.M. Cannon House Office Building, Washington DC.
  Corner Independence & New Jersey
  Joining with other Military Families, Iraq Veterans, and
  Active  Duty Military to ask once again why Nancy Pelosi refuses to meet with us

* March 31st
  Noon Peace Vigil at Capitol, Quaker Sponsored
  KKPO-FM, Donald Lacy Host of San Francisco 12:15 PM
  KKFI w/ Sondra Lockhart of Kansas City 3-4 pm

  Congress in Recess

* April 1st
  Maryland Statewide Peace Coalition Meeting

* April 4th
  Memphis TN, Make Hip Hop Not War Tour w/ Rev. Yearwood

* April 6th-8th
  Camp Casey, Make Hip Hop Not War Tour

* April 9th
  Move to Maryland (all assistance will be appreciated)

* April 16th
  Launch Campaign to assist Veterans Dishonorably discharged due to PTSD related problems.
  Pressure Joint Committee on Funding of War.
  Launch Campaign to assist Reserve and Active Duty military deployed or due to deploy that are not in medical condition to deploy.

* Meet with Nancy Pelosi.
  (preferably not with the Capitol Police)

Tomorrow, Part Two -- Tina's Plan to end the Occupation - Or, how to correctly use an irresistible force to actually move an immovable object.

Please go to the website.

Happy birthday, Al Gore!

If you'd like to send him a belated birthday greeting (it wouldn't *have* to be belated if the man had an e-mail address) you can send it here.

2100 West End Avenue
Suite 620
Nashville, TN 37203

Al Gore's web site and journal
Live Earth might we celebrate Al Gore's birthday in a way that would be meaningful to him?

Red America, we have a problem.

click to enlarge

Last Wednesday as I was heading home from work, I saw a “Colbert 08″ bumper sticker. Keep in mind, this is in a small rural town in North Carolina. That is when I knew Colbert has really reached out to the masses.

I am beginning to have a sneaking suspicion that more people than I realized, or hoped, are now becoming political active… maybe. Colbert Nation, Daily Show, and Bill Maher all have growing audiences. In traditional media, Keith Olbermann, Anderson Cooper are getting more traction. Lou Dobbs has been trashing the Bush administration for the past three years and it gets worse every night (well, so does Bush). Even Joe Scarborough is cutting Bush no slack as he continuously goes for Bush’s throat.

Then there is social media. On Technorati, “Bush,” and “war” have been on the top tags list for years and YouTube is now the defacto place to go for candidate announcements, ads and user created mash-ups. (Bash-ups?)

Either way, we now may be living in a true Colbert Nation.

Friday, March 30, 2007


Sometimes I get so pissed off at my people that I am scared to even post about it. I honestly couldn't believe my eyes when I read today that the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) agreed to partner with the FAKE NEWS NETWORK to sponsor some upcoming presidential debates . Ever since finding out about this travesty, I have been trying to figure out why the Congressional Black Coons would do such a thing. I mean, have they not heard the pleas and the outcry from thousands of their constituents not to partner with FOX? I know I rip Jessie Jackson from time to time, but I have to give him credit for speaking out against this "partnership" as well. I just wish more of these CBC members would grow some and come out against this partnership with the FAKE NEWS NETWORK.

Folks, we are talking about a group of people that consistently marginalized black people, and use us to play on the fears of their red state watchers to increase viewership. The "fair and balanced" people have not been so fair or so balanced when it comes to black folks. They are the ones that called a mainstream African American church separatist. They are the ones who consistently ignore important stories about black folks and give us fluff pieces about the rotting body of a no talented pin up girl. They are the ones who called black people racist on the occasion of the funeral of the wife of our greatest civil rights icon. And these ignorant ass politicians are co-sponsoring a debate with these mother f*****s.

Do they even know who they are dealing with in Rupert Murdoch? Talk about making a deal with the devil. But I swear some of us will do anything for the almighty dollar. At some point we as black folks have to ask ourselves why we even vote for these jokers. The leaders of these clowns, Bennie Thompson, (D-Miss), and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D- Md) even tried to justify this bull sh**. {"The CBC Institute is committed to presenting the presidential candidates to the broadest audience possible"} All the while ignoring the organized efforts of black folks and thousands of signatures and phone calls to their sorry ass organization.I have been down to D.C. on occasion for the CBC weekend. And my friends, if you want to see cooning in full force, you might want to take a trip down there to see these clowns in person. They are a joke, and they could care less about the people they serve. Most of them are looking out for themselves while trying to line their grubby pockets. (Insert your Dollar Bill Jefferson reference here) They could really care less about black folks or our issues out here. Their focus is getting reelected every two years, and holding on to their power.I am begging every black (or white) person that voted for these clowns to vote for their opponent in their next quest to go back to Washington. I don't care of they are running against the Geico f*****g cave man, do not vote for those mother f*****s; they are fowl, and they are tainted by greed and money."Collaborating with FOX NEWS provides an opportunity to take this presidential election to millions of households". And exactly how many of those households do you think will vote for a democrat?

So way to go CBC, you have embarrassed your selves, your constituents, and your f*****g race. How you live with yourselves I just don't know, but I guess at this stage in your careers, you lost the ability to feel shame a long time ago.But you know what; I feel shame for you, and I am embarrassed that you house Negroes even look like me, or share my heritage. FOX NEWS??? Still, I am not going to trip, I just won't forget, and I hope every other black person that voted for your sorry asses won't forget either.

Icy conditions reported in traditionally hot places

James Carville admits mistake

Carville acknowledged, though, that as a CNN analyst he shouldn't have allowed himself to be featured as the author of a fundraising letter for Hillary. "To be honest with you, my contract at CNN says I'm not supposed to raise money [for Presidential candidates]," Carville conceded. He said he'd approved a stack of letters bearing his signature without checking them closely enough. "I approved it by mistake. It wasn't Hillary's fault, it wasn't my office's fault. I signed off on a whole stack. When CNN found out about it, they called me, and I said, Call the Hillary people, tell them to take it down. Which they did." No future fundraising for Presidential candidates while a CNN analyst, he promised.

Dr. Philip Zimbardo on The Daily Show

From last night's Daily Show, in which Jon Stewart interviewed Dr. Philip Zimbardo, who recently wrote a book entitled the Lucifer Effect. *I* recognize him from those Discovering Psychology videos, which I have been showing to my psych classes for years. (Demetrius still maintains that he looks uncannily like The Master from Doctor Who.)

Philip Zimbardo: It's great to be here--nothing I've done in my whole career is going to earn me more "pizazz units" than being on your program. As my students say, "It's totally awesome, man!"

Jon Stewart: Students at *Stanford* talk that way?

Philip Zimbardo: Students everywhere talk that way.

Jon Stewart: I'm going to start talking that way! Your book, it's called the Lucifer Effect. Now, I was a psychology major--

Zimbardo: What did you get in Introductory Psych?

Stewart: Introductory Psych 101, I got "Yes, your essay was long enough." (Laughter.) But the two famous experiments are the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram shocking experiment, that we're all taught that people are much more evil than they would appear to be on the outside. Tell us about the Stanford experiment.

Zimbardo: No, people are *not* more evil than they would appear to be on the outside. The Stanford Prison Experiment that I detail at great length in the Lucifer Effect really describes the gradual transformation of a group of good boys, 24 college students who volunteered to be in the experiment. Only the normal, healthy ones, randomly assigned by a flip of the coin to be guards or prisoners. What we see is how quickly the good boys--and that's important, they start off good--become brutal guards, and the normal kids become pathological prisoners--

Stewart: Now when you say "the slow descent from good to evil, it took a week, did it not?

Zimbardo: No, it actually took 36 hours. (Laughter) We were counting in minutes. (More laughter.) No, at 36 hours, the first prisoner had an emotional breakdown, and each day after that, another one followed suit. So the study was supposed to go two weeks; I had to end it in 6 days because it was out of control. These good guards were totally into the role of being sadistic, controlling, and dominant. The prisoners rebelled and they got their asses kicked, and the guards just dominated them, and we ended the study because it was out of control.

Stewart: Are those people now running the country? (Laughter and applause.)

Zimbardo: Some of them got jobs at Enron. (Laughter.)

Stewart: It boils down to this--I get the sense that we're in the trouble we're in because of this idea that there is good and there is evil.

Zimbardo: Right.

Stewart: And it doesn't mix, and we are locked in some sort of Hobbit-like battle between the two, but what you're suggesting is, it's pretty much of a flux.

Zimbardo: Oh, absolutely. Essentially what The Lucifer Effect is, is a celebration of the human mind. The human mind is this exquisite organ, which has the infinite capacity for any of us to be kind or cruel, selfish or destructive, villians or heros, and because of that capacity, it really is the situation that moves us in a path to be perpetrators of evil--most of us do not, but are innocent bystanders. And the good thing that comes out of my research is, some of us get moved to be heros. And so the question is, why do good people turn evil, and how can we get ordinary people to be more heroic?

Stewart: Well, here's an interesting thing. We had a kid on the show named Ishmael Beah, from Sierra Leone. As a teenager, they gave him a mixture of gunpowder and cocaine, gave him a gun and told him, "These people killed your family" and turned him into a killer. And then he, himself, worked out of that and has become somewhat heroic. So each person has that same capacity. But, in the so called "death cult", is that how they get people to be this way. Is there a certain kind of technique to turn people into that?

Zimbardo: Yes, but that's extreme. In Rwanda, it was enough to have the local government announce on the radio that starting today, the Tutsi are our enemy. And they went around giving each Hutu family a macheti and a club, and they say "We want to destroy the enemies, because they are a threat to our *national security*"--you've heard that song before. And in three months, Hutus killed 800,000 of their neighbors. And the "weapon of mass destruction" was what? It was a machete and a club.

Stewart: Is there an innoculation?

Zimbardo: Yeah, of course. None of these things happen--in the Stanford Prison study, I draw the parallels of Abu Ghraib, which are identical. I mean, the things that happened in our study all happened at night shift. The worst things that happened at Abu Ghraib were on night shift where there was no supervision and no oversight. You want to eliminate evil in institutions, you have to have strong oversight. You have to have leadership that says, "This is what we will do, this is what you can't do. We will do no harm, and if you do harm, here's what's going to happen. You're going to get in trouble, you're going to lose your job.

Usually in situations like that, the leadership backs off--they let you do whatever you want. In Abu Ghraib, those abuses went on for three months--who was watching the store?

Stewart: So you're saying they should have stopped Abu Ghraib after 36 hours.

Zimbardo: And the same thing with the war we're in--maybe 48 hours.

Stewart: Absolutely. It's unbelievabley fascinating, even for someone who did very poorly in psychology. The Lucifer Effect, it's on the bookshelves now--Philip Zimbardo. (Applause)

Firedoglake's Christy Hardin Smith on The Thom Hartman Program

Christy Hardin Smith was a guest on the Thom Hartmann Radio show earlier this afternoon. The following is one of those "rush transcripts", but hopefully I've corrected any major typos...

Thom Hartmann: Christy, welcome to the Thom Hartmann Program.

Christy Hardin Smith: Thanks Thom, great to be here.

Thom: A recovering attorney?

Christy: Yeah, I'm no longer practicing.

Thom: I see.

Christy: I'm blogging now.

Thom: And it's great that you're doing that, and bringing the perspective of somebody who understands the legal system to this. A whole lot of things happened in this Kyle Sampson testimony. I have some specific points and questions that I'd like to toss out and get your response to. But first, I'm curious as to what your take is on what really happened here yesterday?

Christy: Well, you know, it was funny. One of the commenters on my site today said that in looking at all of this, it was amazing that we'd gotten back to the point where the word fealty had been reintroduced into the political system in the United States. That essentially what the Bush administration was asking was that the U. S. attorneys either be loyal to them and, in effect, swear fealty to what they considered were important political positions or they would be removed from their office. Whether or not those positions were sustainable in terms of looking at the rule of law, whether the law was whatever the Bush administration said they wanted them to do. And that, I think is really troubling.

Thom: Yeah, fealty is such an anachronistic word. Probably most people don't even know the origins of it in feudal society. You want to just give us a 10 second definition?

Christy: Sure. In feudal society, you'd have someone who was the lord of a certain area of land, and those people who lived on that land had to swear to be loyal to the person who owned that particular plot. And they had to give part of their grain, and they had to fight for them when they were asked to. Everything was for that person--it wasn't for the good of the community, it was only for the good of the person who owned that particular plot of land.

Thom: Right, and that person even had, in many European communities, the "right of the first night". It just got very bizarre--absolute power.

Christy: Right. Which is not what we're supposed to have here--we fought a revolution in 1776 for a reason.

Thom: Yes. And so we're back to fealty--it's incredible! So, you were saying...

Christy: We were talking about this quite a bit actually, today we were going over a sort of review in one of my posts of what we had learned yesterday, and additional information that's come out today. The former head of the civil rights division at the Department of Justice wrote an op-ed in the L.A. Times today talking about the problems with civil rights enforcement, and how, instead of being enforced for the benefit of minority groups or women's groups or religious minority groups who may have had issues of oppression, that the civil cights division had been converted to prosecuting voter fraud cases which were *very* questionable. And would be brought up essentially as a suppression issue in areas where they were expecting high Democratic voter turnout--

Thom: Among minorities.

Christy: Right. So they saw that in Florida, and there were other areas of the country, in Ohio, where cases were brought. And that's just one more drop in the bucket of what's been done.

Thom: And they've been able to get away with talking about this in public because the average American doesn't understand the difference between voter fraud and election fraud. That the Republican party is engaged in *widespread* election fraud over the years, in fact for over 25 years they've been operating under a restraining order to stop them from doing some of the things that they did in the 2000 election. Caging, for example. Whereas voter fraud is where an individual who doesn't have the right to vote tries to vote. And those cases are so rare--I think there's been one successful prosecution for voter fraud in the last couple years?

Christy: There haven't been many. And a lot of them have been brought and then have been found to have implemented basically by political opponents who were trying to pull an election result out long enough to be able to get the vote reversed votes thrown out so that their side would win. There are political tactics involved a lot of the time. And when you have a true voter case, a lot of times you don't have to take it to court, because you have enough ability to show that there's a problem. Say, if you have a political pundit who votes in the wrong district in Florida--something like that.

Thom: You mean like Ann Coulter.

Christy: Yeah.

Thom: That's voter fraud.

Christy: Yes, that would be voter fraud, and that *should* be prosecuted. If you are truly commiting voter fraud, then it should be prosecuted. But if you're using it to politicize something, then the question comes, are you doing this because it's the right thing to do for justice, or are you doing this in order to pervert the way that Americans elect their representatives. And if it's the second aspect of it, then you're politicizing the rule of law, and that's wrong.

Thom: And the way this works is that one person, say, a felon who shouldn't be voting in Florida, gets prosecuted for that, and it makes all the headlines. And then one of these groups sends out a flyer, a pamphlet, to everyone in the African American community, as happened in Ohio in the 2004 election, and it happened in Florida as well, that says if you or any member of your family has parking tickets or has ever committed a crime, and you show up to vote, you will be arrested. Now, this is not true, but unknown groups were distributing tens of thousands of flyers that said this, or letters to registered Democratic voters in African American communities. And it was apparently effective in suppressing a certain percentage of the Black vote.

Christy: There were actually allegations of that occuring in Connecticut too, during the primary, when Ned Lamont and Joe Lieberman were running against each other for the Senate primary, in a lot of the areas in Hartford and a lot of the other urban areas in Connecticut that was also happening. Which, it's unusual for it to happen in primary races, but that one was a very tight one, and clearly there was a lot of Republican interest in keeping Joe Lieberman in the Senate.

Thom: We just have about two minutes left here. We're talking to Christy Hardin Smith, who blogs over at who sat through the Kyle Sampson hearings and blogged through the whole thing, and an attorney. Christy, 122 times, Sampson says "I don't know". This is starting to sound like a mafia prosecution.

Christy: One of my long time readers termed it "Rove-nesia"-- (Thom laughs.) That folks who are connected with Karl Rove seem to be having this problem of Rove-nesia every time they're held to account for some problem that they've caused. You know, one of the issues that I think keeps coming up again and again and again, especially if you look at the prosecutors who were fired, almost all of them were from states where the voting was close in the 2004 presidential election, or where voting was also close in terms of congressional or senate races in the 2006 elections, where there are likely to be battlegrounds in 2008, except for the attorneys in California. But all of the attorneys, the U. S. Attorneys in California, have been replaced at this point--every single one of them. And if you can get someone in that state who's willing to politicize election issues and election fraud issues, then you have the potential in looking at the 56 electoral votes that California brings with it, to ensure presidential victory--if you can control those 56 votes.

blogroll binge and purge

one of the more comprehensive looks at all sides of the great amnesty day blogroll purge that we have found is at the republic of t.
(and not just because terrance quotes us three times):

and there's a strange kind of schizophrenia this inspires among those at the top of the list. on the one hand, they seem to be fully aware of the power of their blogrolls, when guys like aravosis, atrios, kos and bowers hold forth at length about why they aren't going to link to some blogs. on the other they seem to deny that they hold any such power, like kos' claim that he's not a gatekeeper (though skippy says kos is a gatecrasher who's closing the gate behind him), though the "blogroll purge" is kind of like closing the gate.
sure the blogs that were cut can still be found, but they won't be getting the kind of traffic that comes from having a link on kos' blogroll. and that's partially because many of the readers at kos at other major blogs are like the people i mentioned in the scenario above: they're looking where everyone else is looking, because everyone else is looking there, and everyone else can't be wrong. by extension, if there was something worth looking at somewhere else, then everyone would be looking at it already. and if they look at anything else, it will probably be what the "authorities" (to borrow a concept from technorati) tell them to look at, in the form of a link.
so, skippy and the others are caught between two apparent laws of human behavior. the first was explained by clay shirky in new york magazine.
the power law is dominant because of a quirk of human behavior: when we are asked to decide among a dizzying array of options, we do not act like dispassionate decision-makers, weighing each option on its own merits. movie producers pick stars who have already been employed by other producers. investors give money to entrepreneurs who are already loaded with cash. popularity breeds popularity.
"it's not about moral failings or any sort of psychological thing. people aren't lazy--they just base their decisions on what other people are doing," shirky says. "it's just social physics. it's like gravity, one of those forces."

the other i attempted to describe in an earlier post.
when you have a fairly static system, again like the economic model mentioned above, where it's in the interest of those at the top to keep things the way they are, you have to find a way to keep the unrest of the "have nots" down to a managable level. one of the ways you do that is to (a) convince them that the peak is reachable by almost anyone and (b) make them feel better about where they are. make the middle sound better, look better, and reward them a little bit and you've created a "middle class" that's satisfied enough to act as a buffer between the top and the bottom. do it will enough and they'll continue to admire those at the top, and probably even link to them.
and of course, the entire system itself must never be spoken of and it's existance should be denied. the articles states that "[t]he very subject of the a-list is so toxic" that none of the big-timers mentioned in the article would agree to be interviewed for it.

as readers of this space know, we have no problem speaking about it at all, perhaps to our detriment.

Reagan's Legacy: Executive Amnesia

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory, c.1954

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory, c.1954

Dali, Salvador

There's a very clever graphic on the cover of The Huffington Post this morning. A Warholesque pattern of 122 images of ex-Gonazales aide Kyle Sampson. One for every memory lapse he reported on the Senate floor yesterday. "I don't remember." Get used to that phrase. We'll be hearing it a lot in the coming weeks and months.

Reagan did it with an actor's flair, but it was Reagan who ushered in this age of executive exceptionalism. "I cannot recall," he said over and over in his Iran-Contra testimony. And with that endearing little nod, that seemed to say, "Why I am just a simple man. A man of the people, baffled by these dark political machinations."

I remember my grandfather cluck, cluck, clucking in disgust. "If he were the CEO of a company," he'd say, "You know how long he'd be tellin' that story? About as long as it took him to grab his things and walk to the front gate." But my grandfather was one of those men in "gray flannel" Paul Krugman writes about. He was the product of that bygone era, when the buck actually stopped somewhere.

This is Reagan's legacy. An era of unaccountability for those who achieve the requisite wealth and influence. A time when men of small skill, but excellent breeding, fail ever upwards and descend, when they do, on golden parachutes. An era when only the little people experience the consequences, not only of their personal failings, but of the colossal failings of their "betters." When average workers of a company like Enron lose their livelihoods, their savings, their homes. But can only stare in rapt amazement as the wheels of justice grind slowly on, bringing few prosecutions and vacating that of a dead architect of corporate failure.

There is no "pound 'em in the ass prison" for even token prosecutions like Scooter Libby. That nice white boy shouldn't see the inside of a jail cell says even his jury. He didn't mean any harm. He was just so forgetful.

Crossposted from The Blogging Curmudgeon.

George Takei's love for "sweaty basketball players"

This actually appeared online some time ago, and it made us laugh out loud. I hadn't even heard of Tim Hardaway before the flurry of headlines about some anti-gay remarks he had made. But I thought this response by George Takei was beautiful, and I grabbed some screen captures because I wanted to be able to share it with people who couldn't watch videos online for whatever reason. And yeah, it actually took me over a month to actually get around to posting it. But if you haven't seen this before, enjoy...

Hello, I'm George Takei. Recently I've been troubled to hear comments by former NBA All-star Tim Hardaway, who said, "I hate gay people. Let it be known I don't like gay people. I'm homophobic."

As a gay man and a human being, I was shocked and saddened. But I want you to know, Tim, on behalf of gay people everywhere, that despite your ugly words, *we* don't hate you. As a matter of fact, we like you. We like you *very* much.

We particularly like your large, powerful legs...your smooth, chocolatey head, glazed in man-sweat.

I'll keep my eyes on you, and let it be known, one day, when you least expect it, I *will* have sex with you!

(Throws his head back and laughs, then the video cuts to the following image, with George voicing over, "I love sweaty basketball players!"

Russia and the Oil Revolution

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As we all know, we have troops deployed around the world. Yet I wonder why we have so many deployment locations. Then it occurred to me that we still have a lot of military in place where it would be strategically viable should other oil wars spring up.

Do we really need all those troops in Europe? Yes, if you need a strong force to seize East European and Russian oil resources. All those Pacific forces would also come in handy for a Siberian offensive.

Are we really spending almost half of our income to the US Treasury on what-if scenarios for oil grabs? Maybe.

Even though most of the 9-11 attackers were Saudis, we attacked Afghanistan. Right after we went in, construction on the Afghanistan pipeline began and the next oil target was Iraq.

I really hate to think I need a tin-foil hat today, but are we keeping all these troops deployed globally for peaceful missions? Do we really need to be in Japan, 60 years after World War 2? How about Germany, France, Italy and Spain?

Are there any Al Qaeda elements these days on Guam?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Inside a "reparative therapy" program

This is another installment of my write-up of the talk by Tanya Erzen (author of Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement) I attended Sunday evening. Click here for the earlier post, which centered around the way the religious right uses the ex-gay movement to advance their political agenda. Here I will share more of what she told us about Exodus International in general, as well as New Hope Ministry, which is the residential program where she did her research.

According to their web site, "Exodus is a worldwide interdenominational Christian organization called to encourage, strengthen, unify and equip Christians to minister the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ to those affected by homosexuality.

And it is an international movement--they are all over the world at this point--of local ministries who attempt to convert gay men and lesbians into what they call non-homosexual Christian lives. They use psychological, counseling, self-help, twelve-step type approaches, biblical approaches, and therapeutic approaches.

Dr. Erzen noted that, while the ex-gay movement started as a Christian movement, it has branched out and there is a Jewish group called Jonah, a Mormon group called Evergreen, a Catholic group called Courage, and there's a counseling and therapy center based in California called NARTH: the National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality.

The movement understands homosexuality as a developmental disorder, a choice, and an addiction, and they believe that it can be healed through a religious process. They really make a distinction in their literature and speeches between being gay and being homosexual, defining being gay as a "false lifestyle" or a misguided choice. They use the term homosexual to emphasize that it isn't part of your identity, but is something that can be changed.

They believe that it is the result of some kind of emotional deficit in early childhood. It is in some ways Freudian because the assumption is that there was a problem with the relationship with the same-sex parent.

The program where Dr. Erzen did her research was a live-in program, so it had men from all over the U.S. and Europe who had left their jobs, houses, and families to move to California to spend a year at that ministry. And the idea behind these ministries is that by all of these men living together and having a healthy nonsexual relationship with someone of the same sex, that that will cure their homosexuality. Because according to this model, the men didn't bond properly with their fathers. So you have all of these men who are dealing with the same issue, wanting to change their sexuality, are living in really close quarters. In some cases, 3 or 4 to a room.

Because this set-up is likely to involve temptation, there are elaborate rules set up. They can't go anywhere by themselves for too long, can't smoke cigarettes (somehow that is seen as a potentially sexual act). Tanya described a dinner she attended there early on where someone had made spaghetti and meatballs with canned peaches. Somebody made some joke, and the person who cooked said, "Well, I'm sorry--Betty Crocker was busy tonight!" That person was then reminded that he'd broken one of the rules, because using "camp" or any kind of sarcastic humor is forbidden, because they believe that links them somehow to their previous life.

In addition to failing to identify with the parent of the same sex, the people running the program also believe that gays and lesbians have a deficit in their masculinity or femininity. So a lot of the workshops they run are about trying to acquire proper masculine or feminine characteristics. So there's an assumption that all men are masculine in a very particular way, and all women are feminine in a very particular way. Some of the workshops Dr. Erzen attended were Developing a Secure Gender Identity, Finding Femininity etc. Some workshops for women addressed how to apply makeup and match your accessories to your outfit, because becoming more feminine was supposed to help lead to the conversion in your sexuality.

Along those lines, Tanya described something called "Straight Man Night". New Hope Ministry is affiliated with a local nondenominational church, and men will come in and talk about what it's like to be a straight man. (Here, I imagined how odd it would be to try to "talk about what it's like to be a straight woman". Really, how does one *do* that?) She said that she initially thought this sounded absurd, but it was actually powerful for many of the men, who told her that they had never had any sort of relationship with a heterosexual man, and many of them thought of heterosexual men as almost a "different species".

The men in the program had to fill out a questionnaire about the people who visited--what they thought of them, and whether they would invite them back. She related that in these feedback comments, one participant wrote several things that he'd learned, but then added, "but there's a lot of things could teach these straight men--like how to dress!"

Uh-oh...that sounded like some of that "camp" humor/sarcasm, didn't it? Really, that was a new one to me. Sarcasm is somehow a gay thing?

Throughout her talk, those in attendance would laugh from time to time--for example at the point where she explained that smoking a cigaratte was seen as a "sexual act". Dr. Erzen was careful to say that the people she encountered in this program were very sincere in their beliefs, and that she didn't want to make fun of them. But she also added that even they would laugh at some of these things.

And it's hard not to laugh, but, at the same time, there's something really sad about all of this idea that there is one narrowly defined "right" way to be masculine or feminine. It's hard for me to imagine that the God who created the universe in all its spectacular diversity wants us to squeeze ourselves into such rigidly defined categories.

Iraq Invasion Excuse #423

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It is list day!




Al Qaeda

"He tried to kill my Dad."


Human Rights


To build a stable Middle East.

Saddam was a Dictator

Saddam tortures people.

Saddam used WMDs on his own people.

They will attack us later.

Plans to attack us within 30 minutes using a fleet of unmanned aerial drones.

They fund terrorism.

Oh, and oil.

Please add to the list.

How the Religious Right uses the "ex-gay" movement

Tanya Erzen, the author of Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement, recently spoke at my church, and I said a little about that here. While I'm sure many of you are familiar with groups like Exodus International already, I know there must be at least a few who are not. At my very progressive Episcopal church, where I heard the presentation I will share below, some members of our congregation didn't know that such a thing as an "ex-gay movement" even existed.

Tanya started by telling us that her topic would be, "The ex-gay movement and how it's shaped debates, especially around GLBT rights in the United States, and will talk a bit at the end about what I see happening in 2008 in terms of the gay marriage issues, as well as some trends I see trends within Christianity which may be positive."

She continued...

The first advertisement shows Alan Chambers, who's the president of Exodus International, which is the umbrella organization for the ex-gay movement, and it appeared in the Cincinnati Examiner as well as other media outlets throughout 2005 and 2006. Basically it was targeted to appear before the midterm election. And the ad, if you read it, includes Alan Chambers' testimony about his homosexuality. But unlike previous testimonies which are very common in the ex-gay movement, this one explicitly makes an argument about gay marriage, and this is something different that the ex-gay movement is doing. Instead of them claiming in this ad that gay marriage is wrong for biblical reasons, it says that making gay marriage legal will prevent gay men and women from realizing what he says are the root issues of their homosexual behavior--basically that they are truly heterosexual. So they're saying, if you give everyone the right to marry, no one will go to ex-gay ministry and transform themselves to what everyone *should* be, according to them, which is heterosexual.

Since the mid-1990s, groups, Christian right organizations like Focus on the Family have taken their cue from people like Alan Chambers, and have moved away from hateful anti-gay rhetoric to language that is more about compassion and hope for healing. They are also trying to make inroads with churches, so that instead of churches saying "We accept GLBT people", they will refer them to an ex-gay group or Focus on the Family.

People like Alan Chambers are very key to the media strategy and policy arguments made by these Christian right organizations.
The talk (more to come in a future post) was based on the research Tanya Erzen did, spending two years in San Francisco at an ex-gay ministry, not undercover--they knew what she was doing. She interviewed people, attended their conferences, and four or five years later is still in touch with a lot of people who went through that ministry.

What the ex-gay movement does, is make the argument that being gay is not biological, not immutable, and because it is not a legitimate identity according to them, you don't have to give people any rights on the basis of that identity. So, what the marriage debate becomes about is not just opposing rights for GLBT people, but denying the very existence of such an identity. Tanya noted that this is a very important and dangerous change they have made in the framing of the issue. These Christian right organizations now rely on testimonies of people who identify as "ex-gay" in their opposition to the whole gamut of public policies that seek to extend basic civil rights protections for GLBT people in the realm of marriage, adoption, school curricula, partner benefits, etc.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Rocking in the Free World

It’s funny, isn’t it?

It says something about our current political system that it doesn't allow a political candidate to speak his mind until he's not a political candidate anymore. Whistle blowers are fired from their jobs when they try to do their jobs. And most of the talking heads supposedly reporting on the news simply read whatever is put in front of them.

But it’s different if you tell jokes. It’s amazing what those guys get away with. As the late Richard Jeni said, "Comedians are the only people given permission to tell the truth."

Isn’t it a shame when you have to go to The Daily Show to hear Jon Stewart and his crew of Merry Pranksters for the "real" news? And how about a angry, clear-eyed skeptic like Bill Maher who will say things about Bush that would make Anderson Cooper, just another haircut floating above an empty suit, dirty his Armani diapers? And then there’s Mr. Fire and Brimstone himself, the crazed Lewis Black, who loves kicking Republican ass.

But as good as these smiling assassins are, none of them are as good as Chris Rock. When he’s at his best, I think he’s the greatest comedic talent of his generation. And that’s why I cheered when I Think I Love My Wife, his new movie, only grossed a dismal 5.7 million dollars over the weekend it opened.

Yeah, I know it’s harsh, but what’s bad for Chris is good for the rest of us. We need a great comedian more than we need another mediocre actor, and as gifted as Chris is comically, he can’t act. It doesn’t matter whether he’s pretending to be a cop, investment banker, convict, CIA agent, or the 13th apostle, he’s still Chris Rock in spite of whatever costume he’s wearing. No, it’s not pretty. How ghastly is it? It’s Robin Williams in Jacob the Liar ugly. Eeorgh.

What Chris does better than anybody else is tell jokes. But his jokes are deadly IEDs packed with incendiary political commentary. During the promotional tour for I Think I Love My Wife, a reporter asked Chris if he thought the United states was ready for an African-American president.

“Why not?” Chris replied. “We already got a retarded president, so a black one shouldn’t be a big deal.”


Move along folks, nothing to see here.

Comedians have to speak in clear language when they talk about what they see going on around them, otherwise their audience doesn’t know they’re trying to say and the jokes don’t work. Politicians, on the other hand, are isolated from the real world so they use a slippery gobbledygook that nobody can understand. Chris Rock has been an insightful, pissed-off, card-carrying member of the reality-based community for a long time now. He can make you think and laugh at the same time.

And Chris hasn’t found a movie vehicle that has come close to matching the raw power and immediacy of his stand-up. Not yet.

Still, it bothers me that most people look for truth in a comedy monologue because we can’t take the pre-fabricated news in papers, magazines and television seriously. But as long as the corporate mainstream media continues to treat the public like brain-damaged children and spoon-feed us artificially-sweetened bullshit, we’ll go to Chris, Jay, David, Conan, and “Weekend Update” for a reality check when the bad craziness is everywhere.

Sometimes it ain't funny--even when it is.

Two Wolves

Some of you may have seen me write about my "bad wolf" in the past, but I can't remember the last time I actually shared the parable or teaching tale of the two wolves.

Home again after school a grandson tells of his anger at a schoolmate who has taken his lunch from him. His grandfather replies, "Sit down, my boy. I, too, have felt a great hate for those who have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But, hate wears you down and does not hurt your enemy. I have struggled with these feelings many times.

"It is as if there are two wolves inside me: one is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

"But the other wolf is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights with everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great.

"It is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."

The boy looked intently into his grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?"

The grandfather solemnly replied, "The one I feed."
The reason I'm thinking about this story again is that there are a number of people out there in the "tubes" who seem to view the internet a great big all-you-can-eat buffet for their bad wolf. Booman wrote about this phenomenon in Don't Let the Paparazzi Get You Down. I haven't had much to say about it, beyond the occasional "mean people suck" (in the comments of the Booman post). I haven't been sure if there was anything helpful I could say. But I've watched as Maryscott checked in during the Rant of the Day or Open Thread at My Left Wing, reporting on the latest hideous thing that was being said about her on another blog. I've wanted to scream "Stop! Please stop doing this to yourself!" But I've refrained--first of all, because there are plenty of people already offering that service, and secondly, because I know it can't be easy to let people talk trash about you in public without trying to refute what they are saying.

So my plan was that I was just going to tune out that sort of vitriol as much as possible, and try to focus my energies in a positive direction. But then I saw the twisted delight some posters took in browbeating Maryscott for not responding perfectly to a suicide note that was posted by her friend on the front page of My Left Wing. But the point is that she did respond, and, together with some mutual friends, helped to save a man's life. And at this point I feel like I have to say *something*. So, here goes...

I will reconstruct this story to the best of my ability, piecing together the information I have gleaned from several diaries. A blogger who goes by the blog name beagleandtabby posted an essay entitled which began with the words "this is a suicide note", noting that he would be dead by the time anyone read his words.

He apparently posted it directly to the front page. Maryscott and others immediately setting about trying to contact beagleandtabby as well as emergency services. I can't imagine what it would be like check my blog one morning and see something like that. My best guess is that there would be a rush of emotions, panic, fear for the worst, but also feeling compelled to do something, anything to try to avert the outcome. Even though, for all I knew, the deed had already been done.

Speaking for myself, I know that I don't do very well when I'm in panic mode. I get physically clumsy and I find it hard to think clearly. I believe that Maryscott handled a difficult situation competently and compassionately. She took the alarming, heartwrenching post off the front page, but left it viewable in the community essays. But she changed the title so that people who knew the poster would recognize that the essay was indeed a cry for help (rather than philosophical musings about "life" in general, which one might plan to read "later".) She also posted at Daily Kos, because some of the people beagleandtabby mentioned by name in his letter were regulars there, and she wanted to get the necessary information to anyone who might possibly be able to help. This was a true crisis situation. Thankfully, Maryscott was eventually able to report:

I called his father. His father called the police for details.

The police had found him in time.

He is the hospital, alive.
That's the good news. The bad news, you can see by reading some of the updates Maryscott has added to her "He's alive" post, a number of posters from DKos have attacked her, calling her an "emotional vampire" for leaving the suicide note up, even though. But, as she goes on to explain,
IF I HAD NOT, I would not have got his last known address, which the police used to track him to where he was eventually found.

The police could do NOTHING with the cell phone numbers we had. IT WAS THE LAST KNOWN ADDRESS THAT SAVED HIM.
I saw the hateful comments that were posted at My Left Wing after Maryscott shared that her friend was indeed alive. Someone who had never posted at MLW before apparently signed up for an account for the express purpose of browbeating Maryscott over the way in which she responded to this crisis. I was livid. I planned to go to my computer and rate every single one of those comments as "Worthless Troll Douchebaggery", but the poster had already been banned (and those comments deleted) by the time I got home. I'm glad the poster was banned, but after such an emotionally exhausting day, Maryscott should never have been subjected to that kind of abuse.

Of course, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that a life was saved, and beagleandtabby's father wrote:
Words on a screen are senseless right now, but I would like to thank Maryscott for the 911 no matter what come in the days ahead. I have no plan or ideas. I only ask that those of you who know him and love him find a way to support him.
In an update to the "He is alive" essay, Maryscott has reported that she has spoken to beagleandtabby. He has asked that his original post be taken down, and she has done so. She had taken down the diary at Kos earlier, because of the awful comments some people made. I've since discovered that, while the diary is gone, those comments are not. I only saw a couple of those comments, but I saw some very well fed "bad wolves". They were feasting. Think of the caricatures of Henry VIII ripping into a turkey drumstick with gusto. It was pretty disturbing.

Sometimes it can be hard to look away from a grisly scene of destruction. But sometimes it becomes vital that we force ourselves to do just that. Because the more you get sucked in, the harder it can be to pull yourself away. Okay, only speaking for myself--*I* can have a hard time tearing myself away. And then I really enjoy seeing someone with a black belt in snark artfully taking down an obnoxious S.O.B.

Ah, Schadenfreude--the breakfast (and lunch, and dinner) of bad wolf champions. But again and again, I have to remind myself--that's not the wolf I want to feed.

And another thing--going back to that story. About that good wolf... is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.
He or she is still a wolf. Still fights when it is right to do so, and in the right way. It's okay to be angry. We *should* be angry about the injustices in the world, and that anger should move us to positive action. "Good wolf anger" is a lot more likely to have that kind of positive outcome. I know this on some level, but occasionally it slips my mind. So from time to time, I'll have to remind myself, "Make sure you're feeding the right wolf."

Conyers Expanding Staff for Upcoming Probes

A harbinger of what’s to come…

Michigan Democrat and chairman of the vaunted House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers Jr., has drawn up a contract – at a cost of up to $225,000 over the next nine months – to aid committee staff in upcoming investigations into past and present conduct of the Bush administration.

According to an unsigned copy of the contract obtained by the Washington Times, the law firm, Arnold & Porter LLP, based in Washington D.C. will delve into the matter of last year’s firing of eight federal prosecutors by the Department of Justice.

More below:

The Washington Times article goes on to state that Arnold & Porter LLP will subcontract with another law firm, Deloitte & Touche in order to:

“…assist Democratic members of the Committee on the Judiciary with issues related to the termination of U.S. attorneys by the Bush administration, possible misrepresentations to Congress, interfering with investigations and matter related thereto."

The contract will augment the committee’s 30-paid staff positions, not including subcommittee member’s staff, for a sum of money not to exceed $25,000 per month, plus authorized traveling expenses. The contract is set to expire December 31, 2007. A partner at Arnold & Porter will be “principally responsible” for contract operations.

The contract also specifies that attorney Michael Zeldin, a former special prosecutor in the early 1990’s, and David K. Gilles, (no link) a former Treasury Department official will act as part of the House investigation.

From the article:

Republicans denounced the move as "scandal-mongering."

"It doesn't take a quarter-million dollars and an army of lawyers to conclude that U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, unless you're a Democrat with a political dog-and-pony show to produce," said Brian Kennedy, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

"If the goal is to distract from the fact that Democrats have no long-term agenda, they're going to need an outside PR firm, not lawyers," Mr. Kennedy said.

Illinois Democrat, Rep. Rahm Emmanuel, responded to the allegations, defending Rep. Conyers decision.

"He has said to the White House, 'We want the truth. Help us,'" said Mr. Emmanuel, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus. "Our goal here is to get to the truth, and every day is a new day when it comes to the White House and their story."

Comments from both the White House and the House Judiciary Committee were not forthcoming.

All I can say is if Republicans think that a couple of tenacious bulldogs like Conyers and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Ca) are going to let go of these scandals, they’re in for a big letdown.

If Waxman’s contentious hearing on GSA-gate held today is any indication… (the Republicans were downright vitriolic)

… hang on to your “party” hats, people. The next 18-months are going to be verrrrrrry interesting.

Cancer is purple.

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This past week has been heavy on cancer news. It has been like the long sequence of Presidential candidacy announcements, but is sadly not. Cancer is not something you elect to get.

First there was the Couric spasm insinuating some dark political motive for John Edwards staying in the race when Elizabeth just got diagnosed with a reoccurrence of cancer. Then BAM, Tony Snow announces the return of his cancer just a short time later. Then yesterday, this diary titled, I Don't Care About Tony Snow appeared on the big orange machine known as Daily Kos and along with over 1500 comments yelling about it.

Folks, here in America, we have politicized damn near everything under the sun. Stem cells, equal rights, hell, food is now a partisan issue! Does cancer have to be one also?

Is it so bad for all of us to recognize cancer as being horrible and we should fight so no one ever has it? Even those who disagree with us politically?

As global warming is really a moral issue, cancer is a health issue and it effects us all equally.

Well, if you smoke, you are less equal than others.

But that is a partisan issue.

Upcoming changes at Cafe Press

Don't know how many of my fellow bloggers are signed up as Cafe Press affiliates--I do know that AmericaBlog has TopicAds on their site, but can't think of others off the top of my head. TopicAds on the Independent Bloggers' Alliance are in the left sidebar and at the bottom of the page, but only for the next couple months, because Cafe Press recently announced that they will be making changes in that area:

The CafePress Affiliate Program powered by Commission Junction is scheduled to launch on April 10, 2007. For more information, including answers to frequently asked questions, please view our overview of the new program.

The current Affiliate Program will be discontinued in late May. Please contact with any questions.
Click here for more information.

(Demetrius just added the Easter design seen above to our Cafe Press shop.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Do we Really Need the Animals in a Coporatocracy?

Cross-posted at My Left Wing, BlueSunbelt, and Diatribune

This is an urgent call to action, people.

We all know that George W. Bush has an ungodly, unconscionable irreverence for life - except his own of course… and those of his Pioneers, Rangers, corporate cronies and the rest of his precious "have mores." He's demonstrated that blasphemous loathing over and over again, i.e., his "we don't do body counts" collateral damage in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his blatant disregard for basic civil and human rights. All that is old news by now. But, as it turns out, his campaign of sacrilege is spreading beyond mere humans and something-less-than-human detainees.

Up until now, I never realized the true depth of his contempt for the natural world. And, I'm not talking about U.S. held, habeas corpus'less terr'ists at Gitmo either. It seems "the decider" has sought to broaden his unholy war powers to extend over the animal kingdom as well.

Somehow, I just can't shake this horrible image of Dick Cheney with a couple of lawyer friends in tow; all dressed in buckskin, totin' trusty Winchesters -- hiding behind a rise somewhere in Wyoming -- waiting for a herd of buffalo to come lumbering by so they can shoot and kill the unwitting beasts just for the sport of it. (or, lack of it)

But, I digress.

The one good thing that could possibly come out of this coming national biological atrocity is that it just may just evoke something deep in the core of the American psyche itself. People in this country -- including the forsaken 29% lemming population - might suddenly realize how truly evil the Bush crime syndicate really is.

Alas, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under Bush's bold, new (mis)direction is maneuvering behind-the-scenes to -decimate- "restructure" the Endangered Species Act. The Bush administration's proposal will decimate the natural world in the U.S.; weakening its fundamental protections, and its very reason for existence. It is the most radical change ever proposed to the act since its inception in 1973.

I felt physically ill when I read the new article. If you're an animal lover like me, you'll be sickened too.

From the article:

March 27, 2007 | The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is maneuvering to fundamentally weaken the Endangered Species Act, its strategy laid out in an internal 117-page draft proposal obtained by Salon. The proposed changes limit the number of species that can be protected and curtail the acres of wildlife habitat to be preserved. It shifts authority to enforce the act from the federal government to the states, and it dilutes legal barriers that protect habitat from sprawl, logging or mining.

"The proposed changes fundamentally gut the intent of the Endangered Species Act," says Jan Hasselman, a Seattle attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental law firm, who helped Salon interpret the proposal. "This is a no-holds-barred end run around one of America's most popular environmental protections. If these regulations stand up, the act will no longer provide a safety net for animals and plants on the brink of extinction."

(emphasize mine)

And, just like every other unethical, illegal or immoral act committed by this administration (that eventually comes to light) -- it gets worse folks. Now BushCo's trying to hide what they're doing over at the once powerful advocate for the country's native mammals, birds and fish. Yes, America's proud, taxpayer-funded Fish and Wildlife Service has become nothing short of a corporate extension of the Bush crime syndicate.

Whether it's ecological, biological or sociological, BushCo is destroying life -- as we know it on Planet Earth -- faster than nature can replenish it.

More from the article:

In recent months, the Fish and Wildlife Service has gone to extraordinary efforts to keep drafts of regulatory changes from the public. All copies of the working document were given a number corresponding to a person, so that leaked copies could be traced to that individual. An e-mail sent in March from an assistant regional director at the Fish and Wildlife Service to agency staff, asking for comments on and corrections to the first draft, underscored the concern with secrecy: "Please Keep close hold for now. Dale [Hall, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] does not want this stuff leaking out to stir up discontent based on speculation."

Many Fish and Wildlife Service employees believe the draft is not based on "defensible science," says a federal employee who asked to remain anonymous. Yet "there is genuine fear of retaliation for communicating that to the media. People are afraid for their jobs."

Chris Tollefson, a spokesperson for the service, says that while it's accurate to characterize the agency as trying to keep the draft under wraps, the agency has every intention of communicating with the public about the proposed changes; the draft just hasn't been ready. And, he adds, it could still be changed as part of a forthcoming formal review process.

Yeah, I almost believe that. Yeah right. It's just another case of keeping in secrecy what should never be happening in the first place. It falls into the category of the Bush administration's infamous weekly Friday night document dumps, and the myriad of secret, Patriot Act enabling "war on terr'er" programs and other CIA black'ops plans that they've "meant to disclose" to both the American people and Congress over the past 6-years.

We all know such tactics are for the sole purpose of spin control. Every administration since the birth of the daily White House press briefing, used them in opportunistic ways. But the Bush administration has redefined the word "opportunistic."

Kieran Suckling, policy director of the national environmental group, Center for Biological Diversity got it right:

"This administration will often release a 300-page-long document at a press conference for a newspaper story that will go to press in two hours, giving the media or public no opportunity to digest it and figure out what's going on," Suckling says. "[Interior Secretary Dirk] Kempthorne will give a feel-good quote about how the new regulations are good for the environment, and they can win the public relations war."

Under Bush's delusional reign, the administration has granted a relative scant number of animal species the benevolent "endangered" status; by far, less than three previous administrations. Clinton had the most, (521) Regan was second (253) and H.W. Bush had (234.)

Even more stunning is the fact that almost half of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees asked, (1400 service biologists, ecologists and botanists) who are working with threatened species, said they were directed by their superiors to simply disregard scientific evidence resulting in recommendations for species protection. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit organization, conducted the survey.

"We are not allowed to be honest and forthright, we are expected to rubber stamp everything," wrote a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist as part of the survey. "I have 20 years of federal service in this and this is the worst it has ever been."

But, in typical Bushbot fashion, Mr. Tollefson defended the new proposals by saying the agency has long seen a need to improve the act. "This is a look at what's possible. Too much of our time as an agency is spent responding to litigation rather than working on recovering the species that are most in need. The current way the act is run creates disincentives for people to get involved with recovering species."

Current Interior Department Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has been an outspoken critic of the act. As a U.S. senator from Idaho in the late 1990's, he championed legislation that would have allowed government agencies to exempt their actions from the act's regulations, and would have required federal agents to conduct cost-benefit analyses when considering whether to list a species as endangered.

Even after the legislation failed, Kempthorne commented that "I really believe that we can make improvements to the act itself." Apparently, the secretary is keeping good on his promise. The proposed draft is littered with language lifted directly from both Kempthorne's 1998 legislation as well as from a contentious bill by former Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif. (which was also shot down by Congress). It's "a wish list of regulations that the administration and its industry allies have been talking about for years," says Suckling.

Let's make no mistake about it, folks. The changes, even though seemingly subtle in nature, generally will strip the Fish and Wildlife Service of its power to perform its stated goal: to protect wildlife. Most of the new provisions are direct concessions to big business and their surrogates at the governorship level who've long complained that the act degrades state economies by prohibiting natural resource extraction.

Well, no kidding. Wasn't that the stated purpose of conservation initiatives in general… to prohibit the exploitation of our environment for profit by big business? One change in particular would significantly limit the number of species eligible for "endangered" status. Right now, if it is likely that a species becomes extinct in "the foreseeable future, (a species-specific timeframe that can stretch for a period of time up to 300-years) it's automatically a candidate for act protections.

However, new rules scale back that timeline to mean either 20-years or 10-generations. (the choice is left up to the agency) As far as certain animal species with long life spans, such as killer whales, grizzly bears and wolves, and others, two-decades doesn't even cover one generation. So, despite being in danger of extinction, those species would never make the list in time to save them.

"It makes absolutely no sense biologically," wrote Hasselman in an e-mail. "One of the Act's weaknesses is that species aren't protected until they're already in trouble and this proposal puts that flaw on steroids."

The sad truth is, gutting the Endangered Species Act signed into law by Richard M. Nixon - no spotted owl fan he, it's safe to say - will only darken further the already aphotic shadow hanging over the Fish and Wildlife Service for the past 6-years. The Bush administration doesn't want the act to be effective. The profits of the administration's big business benefactors languish with regulations. Their bottom line suffers. (along with their donations to the Republican Party.)

This makes me sick, folks. The rest of the gory details are in the very informative article.

Please read all of it. It's a must read. After you finish reading it, get freakin' angry! Shed a few tears as I have, and then send a message to Washington. Call or write your senators (contact info here, committee info here) and congressional representatives here. Also, (House Committee info, and House Leadership) Let `em have it. Tell them to stop supporting the corporate stewardship, the pillaging of our land and the helpless victims of their unmitigated greed and esurient lust for profit. Contact Earthjustice and/or the Center for Biological Diversity and offer to help.

These are the only ways to make a difference. As disheartening as it is to learn of, this information is essential knowledge if we are to fight back against this behind-the-scenes manipulation of nature, and ongoing egregious violations of the public trust.

Look, I realize we have a lot of other things going on, a lot of enormously important things inside and out of this country, but, in my estimation, this is no less an existential threat to our future… our children's future, and our collective fate on this planet.

We need the animals and the pristine environment in which they live - even if the Bush administration doesn't know it.

Will Congress take the bait twice?

click to enlarge

If we examine, and we don't have to do it closely, Bush's unwillingness to listen to his Dad, Congress or the American people, we will still know that Iran is still on his target list.

When the Gulf of Tonkin incident was brought before Congress, it was decried that the North Vietnamese attacked our Navy.

The "Gulf of Tonkin Incident" defined the beginning of large-scale involvement of U.S. armed forces in Vietnam. Historians have shown that the second incident was, at its best interpretation, an overreaction of eager naval forces, or at its worst, a crafted pretext for making overt the American covert involvement in Vietnam.

Are we, as Americans, willing to go to war with Iran for these 15 sailors who "may or may not" have been in Iranian waters? And yes, I am sure they are getting the Abu Ghraib treatment and we really have no business even bitching about that anymore, since our atrocities rolled back the Geneva Conventions. And Americans have already suffered more than 15 casualties since these sailors were captured.

Also, the Iranians can claim the incursion as a hostile act since Bush called them out as evil and moved an impressive amount of ocean-going tonnage to the Persian Gulf.

But will Congress take the bait? Taking in the fact that this Congress BARELY got their act together for a very weak Iraqi War Supplemental, I have to wonder. If Congress takes a stand against any Iranian incursion, it will be a testament to Pelosi's leadership in the House.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Now *that's* what I call good news!

Last night I attended something called "Soup and Study" at my progressive Episcopal church. How progressive? One day last summer, I was talking to two women I hadn't seen there before. This was during coffee-and-donut time after church one day while the General Convention was going on last June, so I asked if that's what they were in town for. One of them responded, no, they had just moved to the area and were looking for a church. They found us by doing a Google search for "gay Episcopal church", and there we were. That made me smile--yep, that would be us. And yet that's now how I think about my church most of the time. It just happens to be one of the bi-products of a church that practices an "open table" where we strive to welcome everyone as they are--doubts, questions, and all, "wherever they are on life's journey".

So, I feel good about belonging to a church like that. I feel lucky to have found such a place. And I feel sad that some people don't even know to long for such a place, because it's never dawned on them that it could exist. That really struck home for me when I was listening to Tanya Erzen last night, as she shared some of the research she did in an "ex-gay" ministry, culminating in her book Straight to Jesus. One thing that she really emphasized was that many of the men she met in that program describe their transformations as a religious process rather than one of sexual conversion. Based on their past experiences, often in conservative/fundamentalist type churches, they were convinced that a positive gay identity and a relationship with God were mutually exclusive. From an article that appeared in Salon last year: Without exception, the men (and a few women, though New Hope only admits men) who sign up for this perceive a fundamental, irresolvable contradiction between their Christian faith and their homosexual orientation.

The article also goes on to say,

What they all seem to have experienced was rejection from the churches and communities they grew up in, which explains their mistrust of the Christian right. "Most of them can't handle the truth," one man told Erzen. "If you're in the church and you're a drug addict, murderer, whatever, guys will come up to you and slap you on the ass. But if you state that you struggle with homosexuality, you get the whole pew to yourself." Some of the men at New Hope had asked their fellow congregants for help and prayers, only to be shunned or told they were possessed by demons. Some didn't dare to speak of it at all.
It really is sad. And, as I started to write up some of what Dr. Erzen shared last night, I could already imagine what some people might say--well, that's the trouble with organized religion. But it doesn't *have* to be that way. And I can't help but think of the pain that some of these people might have been spared, if only...

With that in mind, I'd like to share part of a sermon I read today. It's by Louis Crew, the founder of Integrity (which, for anyone who is not aware, is the Episcopalian GLBT organization). It ends with this story,
When Ernest Clay and I married thirty-three years ago, I wrote my parents and told them about him. They wrote back saying they were happy for us but asked me not to bring him home to visit. “We are old,” they said, “and while most of our friends would remain our friends, we don’t want to put them to the test. We have to live here, and you don’t. But we hope you will continue to come to visit us on your own.”

I showed the letter to Ernest. He smiled when he had finished, but said nothing.

“Well, get your things. We’re driving to see them. It’s only 250 miles and we’ll be there before bed time.”

“Didn’t you read the letter?” he asked.

“They wrote that only because they don’t know you yet. When Dad sees how gentle you are, just like Mother, he will fall in love with you; and when Mother sees….”

“Louie, you’re going to see them, but I am not. I respect their wishes. They have a right to their quiet retirement.

“And you’re going to see them, because if you don’t, something very important in you will die. You are able to love me because they loved you. In that way, I get the best of both worlds: I have a good husband and I don’t have to spend time with my in-laws.”


“No but’s about it,” he said. I sulked, but I went.

After several visits, my father said, “Son, I don’t want to hurt you but I probably will because I don’t know how to talk about it except as a man of my generation, a son of one of the poorest counties in Alabama.

“I don’t understand how flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood could live with a black man as with an equal. At first I thought you might have chosen a black man so that you could feel superior, and I knew that could not be healthy for either of you. Then I feared you might think yourself as inferior because of being gay, and therefore chose a black man. Yet I have listened and listened and I have found no evidence that either has happened.

“And Son, something about you has changed. I loved you before you were ever born. I remember seeing you in the maternity ward with one foot out from under the cover the way I sleep, the way your grandfather slept, the way your great grandfather slept. I remember my joy the first time that I heard in your laugh your mother’s laugh. But son, up until now, something about you has always been incomplete. That’s not so anymore. I am not ready yet to meet Ernest, but you must go home and tell him that I love him, because he has given my son back to me whole.”

We often were amused that neither set of parents could recognize us when we answered the phone. Apparently we have the same answering style. Six years into our marriage, I answered and Dad said, “I’d like to speak to my son, please.”

“Dad,” I am your son, I laughed.

“No, Louie, I want to speak to my other son.”

This one’s for you, I whispered.

He told Ernest, “We are Christians, but we have not behaved like Christians. Will you forgive us, and will you and Louie come spend this weekend with us. We have invited all our friends to come and meet you.”

I believe in the Holy Spirit. I have seen the Holy Spirit happen.

I know that's a long excerpt, but there really is a lot more to the sermon, and I recommend reading the whole thing. Especially if you're interested in learning more about the current issues faced by the Epicopal church. But the story above brought tears to my eyes today, and I thought, "This is exactly what it looks like when the Spirit is at work in people's lives.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned the General Convention, which took place in Columbus last June. It was during that week that I attended the Integrity Eucharist, and had the opportunity to hear Bishop Gene Robinson preach. Here's what he had to say about the Holy Spirit

It's that part of God which refuses to be contained and confined to the little boxes we create for God to live in--safely confined to the careful boundaries *we* set for the Holy Spirit.

The problem is, and the miracle is, and the gift is, God just won't stay put! And God won't let you or me stay put, content to believe what we've always believed, what we've always been taught, what we've always assumed. But change is not just something to be wished upon our enemies, but it is something God requires of us as well.
You can read the rest of Bishop Robinson's sermon here.

One thing I've heard a number of times is that the good news Jesus taught was good news for the poor, the outcast, and the disenfranchised. It didn't sound like such good news to the political and religious leaders of the day. Two thousand years later, things don't seem to have changed much in that regard.