Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wouldn't this be great?

Mikaela says:
The Onion reports:

President Creates Cabinet-Level Position To Coordinate Scandals

The Scandal Secretary will log all wiretaps and complaints of prisoner abuse, coordinate paid-propaganda efforts, eliminate redundant payoffs and bribes, oversee the appointment of unqualified political donors to head watchdog agencies, control all leaks and other high-level security breaches, and oversee the disappearance of Iraq reconstruction funds. He will also be responsible for issuing all official denials that laws have been broken.

"Many of the current scandals in Washington are crucial to the success of my priorities for the nation," Bush said. "The Department of Corruption will safeguard these important misdeeds."

The Scandal Secretary will choose the elected official or business leader who will assume full responsibility for each scandal once it reaches fruition. His department will pen all tearful apologies and plea agreements and make all necessary arrangements for the designated scapegoat's transition to a think tank, consultancy, law-partner position, or, if unavoidable, cursory stint in a minimum-security prison. Scapegoats who cannot be placed will be given oversight positions within the Department of Corruption itself.

Candidates for Scandal Secretary: Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist at the center of a public corruption scandal; Scooter Libby, former vice presidential chief of staff indicted on five counts; Tom DeLay, former House majority leader charged with conspiracy to violate election laws; and Michael Brown, who resigned from FEMA over his criticized handling of Hurricane Katrina.

Votes? Anyone? Not that this is a democracy: I'm just taking a poll to get a sense of public opinion. I won't take it seriously, I promise!

What would YOU do?

Mikaela says:
Okay, before I get started, I'd like everyone to say hi to the nice NSA agents reading along with us, and a hearty hello to all FBI Agents assigned to our case. Hello, fellas!

This one's for you, boys.

So a friend of mine in Chicago who shall remain nameless to protect his innocence just offered this little story:

A couple friends of his were in Washington and just happened to be standing nearby the White House today when the Presidential helicopter deposited our fair leader. I guess he was feeling friendly, so he grabbed some people out of the crowd and took pictures with them, including my friend's friends.

[I don't know if it really happened! That's a philosophical diversion. Anyway...]

My friend relates all this to me with disgust because "they took the picture!" They just smiled and swallowed all bile. Manners took over. Famous person grips you and pulls you in for a picture, and you just smile, right?

Well, I think some of us might muster up the courage to do something a little more, well, shall we say, thoughtful.

I'm opening this one up to the floor. In a similar circumstance, you're standing next to the President while a photo is taken. What do you do?

Hint: You can probably whisper something quickly with plausible deniability later.

(In a purely hypothetical realm, here: Can someone with a law background answer the question as to how much time you'd get for punching him in the arm? You know, just a friendly punch, but when he flinches, it really shows what a wuss he is?)

New Suburbanism -- Ugh!

Mikaela says:
LA Times reports the suburbs are back in business. Ever wonder what would come of New "Urbanism"? Remember all those times you heard critiques that New Urbanism was really just another way to reinvigorate White suburbs to include the benefits of urban living without those messy urban problems (like oh, say, living near poor people and people of color)?

Well, guess what? Those critiques seem to have flourished in the hot-house of California living.

THE suburbs, long derided as cultural wastelands, are experiencing a renaissance.
What do they mean by culture? You're gonna love this!

They mean high culture: museums, theaters, art galleries, concert halls and restaurants.

And where are the people of color?

Restaurant owners, of course! For that marketable cultural flavor. And as an added bonus, they bring new capital to tap into and drain away!

In addition to a vibrant retail environment and green open spaces, a population with a mix of ages and ethnicities has brought new life to suburbs, urban planners and academics say.

"Immigrants bring culture and restaurants," said Richard Peiser, a professor of real estate development at Harvard University's design school. "They also bring capital from the old country, and multiple generations, which is what any healthy community wants to have."

Don't be fooled. This is still New Urbanism a la Seaside, complete with the all-white, Truman Show cast of perfect Americana:

Unlike the idealized suburb of your parents' generation, the lots are small and close together, and some feature so-called rear-loading garages behind the homes, entered via attractive, landscaped lanes rather than alleys lined with garbage cans.

While the mix of architectural "styles" is lauded, not one word is mentioned about affordable housing or a mix of housing types to support families of different sizes and make-ups. Hmmm. Wonder why?

"Actually, we're bringing back a sense of small-town living," said Ray Young, associate vice president of academic programs and dean of graduate studies at Cal State Fullerton. "We're creating pockets of places for people to gather. People enjoy sitting and conversing with others; they want a sense of community."

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for building more places that work well for the people who live in them. Getting people out of their cars is great. Emphasizing community is great. But this whole emphasis on making better places for white rich people to live? I'm thinking, don't they get enough attention already?

Isn't this a tragic lost opportunity for some emphasis on de-segregation? Think how amazing it would be to have people of different color and class interacting on those nice walking paths and plazas! That's a new form of urbanism I could get behind.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Is he for real?

Mikaela says:
According to the Washington Post, Bush gave a practice speech at the Alfalfa Club over the weekend, in preparation for his State of the Union Address.

I hope this columnist is joking, but I fear it's no joke.

Here's what the Post reports Bush thinks is funny:

You know, you can't please some people no matter what you do. Half the time, they say I'm isolated and don't listen. Then when I do listen, they say I need a warrant.

And he reportedly closed with a note on what happened at the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Samuel Alito. "And let me clear up something else. I do not support torture . . . which is why from now on we're abolishing Senate confirmation hearings.

Such a cocky bastard.

Um, how is this a 'new finding?'

Maggie asks:
We're supposed to be surprised by this?

Study: Bush voters more likely to be racist


m-pyre hits 20,000!

Mikaela says:

Congratulations to our reader from Raleigh, North Carolina, who on Jan 28 2006 11:37:08 am became the 20,000 visitor to m-pyre since we started counting in January of 2005.

A little back-patting to my fellow ms for a great run of it.

Let's spread the m-pyre! Thanks for all your help, readers!

Keep those comments coming. We hate talking in a vacuum!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Female Hostages...of the U.S.

marjorie says...

Let’s call a spade a spade.

Some of the women being “detained” in Iraq are actually “hostages” of the United States to get at their husbands. With every passing day the bankruptcy of this country becomes more and more clear. So much for the promised land…as if there ever were such a thing.

In one memo, a civilian Pentagon intelligence officer described what happened when he took part in a raid on an Iraqi suspect’s house in Tarmiya, northwest of Baghdad, on May 9, 2004. The raid involved Task Force (TF) 6-26, a secretive military unit formed to handle high-profile targets.

“During the pre-operation brief it was recommended by TF personnel that if the wife were present, she be detained and held in order to leverage the primary target’s surrender,” wrote the 14-year veteran officer.

He said he objected, but when they raided the house the team leader, a senior sergeant, seized her anyway.

“The 28-year-old woman had three young children at the house, one being as young as six months and still nursing,” the intelligence officer wrote. She was held for two days and was released after he complained, he said.

Read more here.

To Filibuster or Not to Filibuster

Mikaela says:
To those who question the use of the filibuster against approving Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court:


With the constitution itself hanging in the balance, when will you need to use the big guns if not now?

The Senate threatens to take away filibuster, one of the last checks in our currently imbalanced government.


This is about the NEXT THIRTY YEARS. This is a nominee who WILL SUPPORT THE EXPANSION OF EXECUTIVE POWERS when they are already swollen beyond constitutional recognition.


And to those Democrats who even THINK about not supporting a filibuster when it is "sure to fail," I say to you:


This is it. The time is now. If you don't act here and now to do what you can to put our country back on the right track toward BALANCE -- CHECKS AND BALANCE -- of power, then you will be the first against the wall when the squads come. And we'll be next.

Harold Washington and Racism in Chicago

Mikaela advocates:
Not to be missed (although I did for almost 10 years): my favorite and ever-growing in my estimation radio show This American Life recorded a story in 1997 about Harold Washington, the first black mayor of Chicago.

(Free and downloadable to RealPlayer. Search for "Harold," Episode 84, 11/21/1997.)

They cover the history of Chicago's political machine and the shakeup that allowed a black man to get elected mayor. They talk about all the obstacles he faced -- all but universal opposition -- not only from white communities but from the black community, too, who wanted Harold to abandon his "fairer than fair" rhetoric and funnel jobs and resources to them, just as any other ethnic mayor would be expected to do.

Not only do they talk to Harold's supporters, they sent a reporter to interview white guys at a local bar. When asked why they didn't vote for him, they say, "Because he was black." Pushed farther, they said, "We knew if he got elected, that was it for us. The North Side would turn into the South Side. They're segregated now."

I shouldn't be shocked anymore at rampant and blatant racism. But I have to say: it stuns me every time. I can understand it on some intuitive, individual level. But it's hard for me to believe the reality of wanton, unapologetic, irrational, widespread racism. I just don't get it. I don't understand what the threat is.

On some fundamental level, I have faith -- as I've heard others talk about faith in God -- in the value of multiple cultures. I see, feel, believe no threat in different colors. I just don't experience that fear. I see, feel, and believe in difference, yes. Of course. But how can one be better than another?

The system makes us unequal, but the system can -- and must be -- changed. Because it doesn't reflect reality. We're human. We're beautiful. We are innovative and spiritual. We create multiple symbols and worship life. What is to fear in that, other than one group trying to force its view onto others?

In my experience, that's usually white people forcing its culture onto all others, not the other way around, so what are white people so afraid of? Are they so insecure about their own culture that they think it would be so easily overrun or wiped out if people of another color had some power and some equal opportunity, or, god forbid, some success? Keeping others down out of fear is immoral and deeply evil. Isn't that plain to see?

Watching the South turn?

Maggie says:
For all you fellow transplanted Southern progressives, Facing South is a blog you must check out. I found it over the holidays and check in with it every few days. They pull together some great stuff and I'm continually impressed with their parent organization The Institute for Southern Studies. And if their magazine Southern Exposure is ever hiring, well let's just say I'd practically run home to Durham to apply.

That said, Facing South has some great data on Southern love for Bush, which is not quite living up to its stereotype. Check this out:

It may be more surprising to realize that most of Bush's support isn't in the South, but in the Plains and the West. Only three Southern states -- Texas, Alabama and Mississippi -- are in the top 10 Bush-liking states, and those are the only Southern states where his "approves" outnumber his "disapproves." Here's Survey USA's graph, ranked by "net approval rating" (approves minus disapproves):

Here's what I see: a shifting South. Ignore Texas, Alabama, and Mississippi. Look at the rest of the South:
Louisiana: 48% approve, 49% disapprove
Georgia: 47% approve, 51% disapprove
North Carolina: 46% approve, 51% disapprove
South Carolina: 45% approve, 51% disapprove
Tennessee: 45% approve, 51% disapprove
Kentucky: 44% approve, 52% disapprove

I finally started reading What's the Matter with Kansas? this week and feel like every page is a shot to the heart of Democratic-politics-as-usual to stop screwing up and start getting it right. This begins with a return to a populist message, a connection to real people and what they most need, and an ability to cut through the garbage so that average people will vote for their own interests again, instead of throwing away their jobs and wages by taking a stand for the right of The Ten Commandments to be posted on the town square. I think John Edwards embodies this message more than anyone around mainstream politics right now; it's likely no coincidence that he's become more effective the farther he's removed himself from mainstream Democrats.

To me, the South embodies so much of where Democrats have gone wrong. But as with most things, the answers lie in the simplest of places: in each other, in simple human connections. These numbers should be a call to the heart of Southern organizers to kick into high gear, to start working in a newer, better way. The numbers are close, but they show a big trend, a big change of heart. These numbers also represent a call to our hearts to stop buying into - and most importantly, to stop perpetuating - Rebublican- and corporate media-concocted notions of Blue America v. Red America, because it's just not true. We're a nation of people part red and part blue, all in different equations, none of us easy to pigeonhole and corner into an obvious vote. Nor should we be.

Only until we see Southerners - and the rest of the country - as complex people instead of Blue or Red Voters will progressives be welcomed back into the consciousness of this country. Politics as usual is over. Thank goodness.

Gore and Pinter on the Crisis Facing America

Mikaela says:
This week, I have been inspired by reading the full transcript of Al Gore's Jan. 16 speech. Powerful, historical, and right on, with amazing parallels with Harold Pinter's acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in literature. (Being in England, Pinter has more freedom to mock outright than Gore.)

Pinter berates the U.S.:

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant.

Pinter offers this speech for Bush to make in place of any other on any occasion:

'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'

Across the ocean, closer to home, Gore says:
America's Constitution is in grave danger. ... [T]he American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power.
[W]e make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all of our people....

[Re: NSA's domestic surveillance] The president of the United States has been breaking the law, repeatedly and insistently. A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government.

Our founding fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. They recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution, our system of checks and balances, was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. ...

Vigilant adherence to the rule of law actually strengthens our democracy, of course, and strengthens America. It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint under the rule of law.

And make no mistake: The rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed and examined through the normal processes of government that are designed to improve policy and avoid error.

And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents overreaching and checks the accretion to power.

A commitment to openness, truthfulness and accountability helps our country avoid many serious mistakes that we would otherwise make. [Talks about Vietnam and false information used to justify Iraq invasion.]

The president and I agree on one thing: The threat from terrorism is all too real.

There is simply no question that we continue to face new challenges in the wake of the attacks on September 11th and we must be ever vigilant in protecting our citizens from harm.

Where we disagree is on the proposition that we have to break the law or sacrifice our system of government in order to protect Americans from terrorism when, in fact, doing so would make us weaker and more vulnerable.

And remember that, once violated, the rule of law is itself in danger. Unless stopped, lawlessness grows, the greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles.

As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its mistakes and reveal errors, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police its activities.

And once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we do become a government of men and not laws. [Talks about NSA domestic spy program and Congress' inability to do anything about it. ]

The president claims that he can imprison that American citizen -- any American citizen he chooses -- indefinitely, for the rest of his life, without even an arrest warrant, without notifying them of what charges have been filed against them, without even informing their families that they have been imprisoned.

No such right exists in the America that you and I know and love. It is foreign to our Constitution. It must be rejected. ...

Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution?

If the answer is yes, then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited?

If the president has the inherent authority to eavesdrop on American citizens without a warrant, imprison American citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?

The fact that our normal American safeguards have thus far failed to contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power is itself deeply troubling. ...

As a result of this unprecedented claim of new unilateral power, the executive branch has now put our constitutional design at grave risk. The stakes for America's democracy are far higher than has been generally recognized.

These claims must be rejected and a healthy balance of power must restored to our republic. Otherwise, the fundamental nature of our democracy may well undergo a radical transformation.

For more than two centuries, America's freedoms have been preserved in large part by our founders' wise decision to separate the aggregate power of our government into three co-equal branches, each of which, as you know, serves to check and balance the power of the other two.

On more than a few occasions in our history, the dynamic interaction among all three branches has resulted in collisions and temporary impasses that create what are invariably labeled constitutional crises.

These crises have often been dangerous and uncertain times for our republic. But in each such case so far, we have found a resolution of the crisis by renewing our common agreement to live together under the rule of law. [Cites: Revolutionary War, Lincoln, Alien and Sedition Act, Japanese Internment during WWII, Red Scare, COINTEL Pro, Cold War]

President Thomas Jefferson ... in his first inaugural address ... said, "The essential principles of our government form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. Should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and regain that road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."

Justice Frankfurter ... "The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day."

[W]e may be experiencing something new, outside that historical cycle .... [W]e are, after all, told by this administration that the war footing upon which he has tried to place the country is going to last, in their phrase, "for the rest of our lives." ...

This administration has come to power in the thrall of a legal theory that aims to convince us that this excessive concentration of presidential power is exactly what our Constitution intended.

This legal theory, which its proponents call the theory of the unitary executive but which ought to be more accurately described as the unilateral executive, threatens to expand the president's powers until the contours of the Constitution that the framers actually gave us become obliterated beyond all recognition.

Under this theory, the president's authority when acting as commander in chief or when making foreign policy cannot be reviewed by the judiciary, cannot be checked by Congress. And President Bush has pushed the implications of this idea to its maximum by continually stressing his role as commander in chief, invoking it as frequently as he can, conflating it with his other roles, both domestic and foreign.

And when added to the idea that we have entered a perpetual state of war, the implications of this theory stretch quite literally as far into the future as we can imagine.

This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design into a lopsided structure dominated by an all-powerful executive branch, with a subservient Congress and subservient judiciary, is ironically accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to establish a form of dominance in the world.

And the common denominator seems to be based on an instinct to intimidate and control. ...

[G]ranting unchecked power to this president means that the next will have unchecked power as well. And the next may be someone whose values and beliefs you do not trust. And that is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be concerned with what this president has done. [Examples of judicial branch folding to executive power. Examples of Congress folding to executive power.]
[I]t is the pitiful state of our legislative state which primarily explains the failure of our vaunted checks and balances to prevent the dangerous overreach by the executive branch now threatening a radical transformation of the American system.

I call upon members of Congress in both parties to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of American government that you are supposed to be under the Constitution of our country.

But there is yet another player. There is yet another constitutional player whose faults must also be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the dangerous imbalance that has accompanied these efforts by the executive branch to dominate our constitutional system.

We the people, collectively, are still the key to the survival of America's democracy. We must examine ourselves. ...

It's time to stand up for the American system that we know and love. It is time to breathe new life back into America's democracy. ...

America is based on the belief that we can govern ourselves and exercise the power of self-government. The American idea proceeded from the bedrock principle that all just power is derived from the consent of the governed. The intricate and finally balanced system, now in such danger, was created with the full and widespread participation of the population as a whole. ...

President Eisenhower said this: "Any who act as if freedom's defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America."

Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote, "Men feared witches and burnt women."

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk. Yet in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the full Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol?

Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of nuclear missiles ready to be launched on a moment's notice to completely annihilate the country?

Is America really in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march, when the last generation had to fight and win two world wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they did.

And yet they faithfully protected our freedom and now it's up to us to do the very same thing.

We have a duty as Americans to defend out citizens' rights not only to life but also to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is therefore vital in our current circumstances that immediate steps be taken to safeguard our Constitution against the present danger posed by the intrusive overreaching on the part of the executive branch and the president's apparent belief that he need not live under the rule of law.

I endorse the words of Bob Barr when he said, and I quote, "The president has dared the American people to do something about it. For the sake of the Constitution, I hope they will." ...

[A]long with cause for concern, there is reason for hope. ...

As Dr. King once said, perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.

Return of the Culture Wars

Mikaela says:
Here's the next battlefront of the culture wars: Bible Study in Public Schools

Bible as literature is being marketed as a thinly-veiled attempt to bring religion back into everyday curriculum. Am I sure? Check out this quote from one of the proponents of the BILLS introduced in Alabama and Georgia.

"We are not going to give away the South anymore because we are unwilling to talk about our faith." -- Kasim Reed, Georgia state senator from Atlanta.

Even Howard Dean is weighing in.

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, promised that Democrats would do a better job talking about values to religious voters. "We have done it in a secular way, and we don't have to," he said, adding, "I think teaching the Bible as literature is a good thing."

While the "textbook" to be used is called The Bible and Its Influence, whose author wrote it in part because he was disturbed at the growing ignorance of the biblical story -- arguably a central source of Western culture, it does NOT cover the more controversial "influence" that the Bible has had to justify intolerance against gays, minorities, or other marginalized groups or wars at various points throughout history. It only covers the glowing reports of the Bible's good deeds, spreading light and truth throughout the dark earth. Hmmm... Sounds like a rigorous academic subject to me!

I would not have a problem with a World Religion class, in which all religions are studied as a source of culture and literature. But I suspect that if someone intoduced a bill to teach a class on the Torah and Its Influence or the Koran and Its Influence, not only would such classes be disallowed, the proponent would be at least put on a watch list and more likely either deported or arrested and declared an enemy combatant. If you think I'm exaggerating, keep up with the news! Tariq Ramadan, a leading Islamic scholar and a Palestinian, was denied entrance into the U.S., where he had been hired to teach at Notre Dame University.

A whole class on teaching the Bible backed as a political ploy to get in good with Christian voters is just wrong. It's just wrong. Teaching religion and inculcating religion are two different things. The slope is slippery. We must be vigilant. I agree, actually, that cultural awareness is an important component of education. As such, ALL cultures must be welcomed and taught from a critical distance. That's not what's being proposed here. Know this.

The Changing Color of New Orleans

Mikaela says:
New York Times today reports on a study that finds 80% of Blacks will never return to New Orleans without significant efforts to rebuild the hardest-hit low-income neighborhoods and financial assistance for relocation. Any guesses about how likely that will be? There must be some people out there jumping out of their cushy power-chairs for joy about this one.

Will we let this injustice happen? Survival of the finacially fittest?

Study Says 80% of New Orleans Blacks May Not Return

Of the 354,000 people who lived in New Orleans neighborhoods where the subsequent damage was moderate to severe, 75 percent were black, 29 percent lived below the poverty line, more than 10 percent were unemployed, and more than half were renters, the study found.

The report's author, John R. Logan, concluded that as much as 80 percent of the city's black population might not return for several reasons: their neighborhoods would not be rebuilt, they would be unable to afford the relocation costs, or they would put down roots in other cities.

For similar reasons, as much as half of the city's white population might not return, Dr. Logan concluded.

"The continuing question about the hurricane is this: Whose city will be rebuilt?" Dr. Logan, a professor of sociology, writes in the report.

If the projections are realized, the New Orleans population will shrink to about 140,000 from its prehurricane level of 484,000, and the city, nearly 70 percent black before the storm, will become majority white.

Elliott B. Stonecipher, a political consultant and demographer from Shreveport, La., said that unless New Orleans built housing in flood-protected areas for low-income residents, and also provided support for poor people to relocate, chances were good that many low-income blacks would not return.

"If they didn't have enough resources to get out before the storm," Mr. Stonecipher said, "how can we expect them to have the wherewithal to return?"

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Scaly Scalia

Mikaela asks:
Apparently Scalia does not take the whole climate change post-Abrahmoff very seriously. Did he not get the memo? Special interest payoffs: BAD.

Via Sirotablog:

In a blockbuster exclusive, ABC News reports :
"At the historic swearing-in of John Roberts as the 17th chief justice of the United States last September, every member of the Supreme Court, except Antonin Scalia, was in attendance. ABC News has learned that Scalia instead was on the tennis court at one of the country's top resorts, the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Bachelor Gulch, Colo., during a trip to a legal seminar sponsored by the Federalist Society. Not only did Scalia's absence appear to be a snub of the new chief justice, but according to some legal ethics experts, it also raised questions about the propriety of what critics call judicial junkets."

Scalia publicly refused to tell the press where he was when he missed the swearing in. But ABC News has video of Scalia playing tennis and loafing around at a vacation paid for by the right-wing special interest group.

Evidence of a Culture of Freedom ... Still

Mikaela admits:
I've been nervous lately. Too much governmental scariness happening. Feels very very dangerous. But I was reminded by a good and wise friend that we still have the freedom to dissent. Bush is still on the defensive. He's still trying to sway our hearts and minds, which indicates that we still have power that he wants. Our thoughtful dissent still carries weight. The people still matter. Freedom still operates, even if under seige.

Today, this news from Democracy Now about law students at Georgetown who were brave and stood up and turned their backs on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as he gave a speech defending NSA's domestic spying program authorized by secret Executive Order by our Herr Bush. They weren't arrested. They weren't carried away. After Gonzales scurried back into his hole, the law school sponsored a panel discussion about the program's illegality. These are really really good signs. Yes, I'm sure pictures were taken of each of the dissenters. Yes, I'm sure they have files now if they didn't before. But they're still walking the streets, taking full advantage of their freedom of speech, and exercising their right to dissent. May the People save America.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appeared at Georgetown Law School to deliver an address defending the NSA domestic spy programs. During the course of his address, nearly 30 students stood up one-by-one and turned their back on Gonzales in protest. A panel of law professors addressed Gonzales’ speech, calling it illegal. ...

During Gonzales' speech, the protesting students stayed standing throughout the speech. Five students stood up and wore black hoods reminiscent of ones used at Abu Ghraib. The hooded students held a banner reading the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would sacrifice liberties in the name of security deserve neither.”

Third-year law student Devon Chaffee, said later, “We believe that as law students, we must stand up for the rule of law over the creation of a culture of fear.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Speaking of Justice...

marjorie says...

Speaking of Justice:
How's about some Justice for New Mexico's Minimum Wage Workers??

Next Tuesday, the 31st, there are busloads of people from all over the state traveling to Santa Fe to make their voices heard in favor of a statewide minimum wage increase to $7.50.

If YOU would like to join an organized group going to the capitol, SWOP has room for you on the bus. We're leaving at 9am and returning by 3pm, with lunch provided. To reserve a seat, give the SWOP office a call by Friday: 247-8832.

Please join us!

American Justice

Mikaela asks:
What is wrong with us? Today's news brings this contradiction: If you kill a man, you don't go to jail, just stay home for 60 days. If you don't hurt anyone and actually try to save lives, you serve 6 months jailtime. Does anyone else find that incredible evidence of the screwy and wrong-headed status of "justice" American-style?

From Democracy Now:

Military Jury: No Jail Time For Interrogator Who Killed Iraqi
In other Iraq news -- a military jury in Colorado ruled last night an Army interrogator who killed an Iraqi general would not have to serve any time in jail. The interrogator -- Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr. - killed the Iraqi man after putting a sleeping bag over his head, wrapping him in electrical cord, sitting on his chest and covering his mouth. Over the weekend the military jury convicted Welshofer of negligent homicide which carries a maximum prison term of three years. But the jury chose instead to fine him $6,000 and ordered him to spend the next 60 days restricted to his home, office and church. The Los Angeles Times reports soldiers and officers inside the courtroom broke out in applause after the jury announced Welshofer would not be jailed for the killing.

Peace Activist Gets 6 Months in Jail For Recruiting Station Protest
In upstate New York, a peace activist has been sentenced to six months in jail for pouring blood inside a military recruiting station in March 2003 in order to protest the invasion of Iraq. The man, Daniel Burns, 45, was one of a group now known as the St. Patrick's Four. The other three members will also be sentenced this week.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

SWOP's 25th

Maggie gushes:
Last night's celebration of SWOP's 25th anniversary was a completely amazing event, bursting at the seams with everything wonderful about Albuquerque, filled with some of the most passionate folks in town, and possessing the most positive energy I've seen in one room in ages.

To the SWOP staff who busted their butts making last night possible, thank you. To the night's enthusiastic emcees, thank you. To the very kind bartenders who repeatedly fulfilled my requests for more wine, thank you. To the wonderful friends* who were part of it with me, thank you.

But mostly, thank you SWOP for twenty five years of making Albuquerque a better place to be. This city simply would not be the same without you.

"Twenty five years of stru...ggle. 2-5. 2-5!"

*m-pyre photo awaiting review for posting by Marjorie. In other words, don't hold your breath!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Karl Rove Tries Not to Lie

Mikaela says:
Understatement of the Month Award goes to good ole' Karl, praising Bush as "one of history's consequential presidents" during a speech to the RNC.

Come on! We can all agree there's a grain of truth there! What other President has fucked up so badly single-handedly and gotten us into trouble around the globe? Gotta be GW.

Not my Laura!

Maggie says:
I love when folks unknowingly give us windows right into their marriage, especially Republican ones. Check out this AP wire story, with my snarky comments inserted in italics:

Wife Won’t Seek Office, Bush Says
STERLING, VA – The Senate may be the place for some former first ladies, but President Bush on Thursday categorically ruled out a run for office by his wife, Laura Bush [Anyone else troubled by Bush ruling this out FOR his wife? He wouldn’t dare let her make up her mind HERSELF, I guess…].

“She’s not interested in running for office. She’s interested in literacy,” Bush said during an appearance at JK Moving & Storage [Have his appearances declined in their sex appeal or WHAT? I mean, JK Moving & Storage?!].

The topic came up as the president took questions from the audience after a speech on the economy. A woman asked if Mrs. Bush would ever run for Senate from the first couple’s home state of Texas, and Bush responded “never” – twice. [While chuckling and making eye contact with other good ‘ol boys in the audience, a grimacing Bush signals to his fellow men, “Isn’t this silly woman’s question just so charming and funny? We don’t let our little ladies run for office!”]

He also declined the woman’s plea that he at least ask Mrs. Bush if she might be willing. [The shock and horror of having to ASK his own wife if she’s interested in a career of her own! “No sir, not me. Not in this lifetime. Not this God-fearing Texan!"]

“I’m pretty certain, when I married her she didn’t like politics or politicians,” he said. [“I mean, it’s kind of hard for me to remember back that far, and I was doing coke all the time then, but I think she didn’t like politics. And when she said she didn’t like politicians, she wasn’t talking about me, I’m just the good ‘ol boy doing God’s work here in office. She meant the real thinkers and talkers like that John Kerry fella. Now that’s a politician. I’m just a family man trying to keep my wife on a short leash…”]

God help the sports fan

Maggie says:
Today’s newspaper had me laughing at the earnestness of conservatives hoping for “family-friendly” cable TV packages – as long as it doesn’t interfere with their sports. After being urged to create packages of channels geared toward “family” viewers, Comcast Corp. – the nation’s largest cable company – presented their family package to senators yesterday. Comcast decided not to include ESPN because of “some really disturbing non-family-appropriate programming,” so the family package was left sports-less.

Well this just wouldn’t do for Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia, son of a football coach, who was outraged – but in proper family tones, of course – by its exclusion. “To have a family tier and not have sports on it, in our family, would not be proper family programming. You’re going to have to come up with a family tier plus sports.”

In other words, let Sen. Allen feel like a true family man sitting down with his kids to watch some old-fashioned TV programming, but you are sure as hell not going to take away sports, the only escape from claustrophobic family life and a window into the heaven of guy-time, beer, and underdressed cheerleaders!

And it's not really a family package if it's not exactly what Republicans in the Senate would choose, after all. Because they just are family values, right? Let's just let Republicans design TV schedules. Actually, let's just let them design our entire lives! Because if it's not good enough for Sen. Allen, it's not good enough for me.

Endless Hypocrisy

Mikaela says:
Bin Laden, a self-confessed terrorist, offers a truce and a roadmap to peace and gets this response from Cheney, a terrorist-in-denial:

"We don't negotiate with terrorists."

Umm, newsflash for Cheney: You ARE terrorists.

From Democracy Now:

Making repeated references to opinion polls showing growing US opposition to the war in Iraq, Bin Laden said: “We have no objection to responding to this with a long-term truce based on fair conditions… so that both sides in this truce can enjoy security and stability. And let us build Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which war has destroyed. There is nothing shameful about this solution, even though it prevents billions of dollars from finding their way to the powerful and to the war mongers in America who supported Bush's election campaign with millions of dollars."
White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said: "We do not negotiate with terrorists. We put them out of business. We must not stop until they are defeated."

Just imagine for a second if this situation were reversed, and we offered Al Queda a truce, and Bin Laden said in response: "We do not negotiate with global bullies. We put them out of business. We must not stop until they are defeated."

Can you imagine the outrage? The over-the-top denunciations of his irrationality and irresponsibility in protecting his own people? Hurting his own cause?

Isn't that interesting?

And is it just me, or do we tell Israel to negotiate with Palestine, and vice versa? Inconsistent? Just a little bit?

Let's hope the rest of the world has no prohibitions on negotiating with hypocrites. Otherwise, we're in a whole heap a trouble.

So Gross! So Dangerous! Pentagon -- get ready to defend the American people!

Mikaela says:
Who's the real enemy to the freedom of American people?

Bush & Co. are defending their unilateral and omnipotent legal right to do whatever the hell they want, sending their legions of legal warriors to spread justification for their bullshit.

Administration Paper Defends Spy Program

Detailed Argument Cites War Powers

By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 20, 2006; Page A01

The Bush administration argued yesterday that the president has inherent war powers under the Constitution to order warrantless eavesdropping on the international calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens and others in this country....

In its legal analysis, the Justice Department contends that "the broad language" of Congress's authorization to use force "affords the President, at a minimum, the discretion to employ the traditional incidents of the use of military force," including the warrantless surveillance program.

The Justice Department also argues that the inherent presidential powers in Article II of the Constitution -- to wage war -- cannot be abridged or impended in the context of a global terrorism fight. Justice lawyers say they believe that the president's powers are consistent with FISA but that if there is any question of a conflict, the president's powers trump FISA.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon issued a memo apologizing for its complicity in domestic spying and ordered agents to go to retrainings on domestic surveillance.

Hmmm... military strife brewing? I think I'd rather have the Pentagon on my side vs. a fewer # of "intelligence" officers. If it comes to that, I think the White House might get thoroughly scrubbed. Scary times, indeed.

That's a Whale of a Fish Tail

Mikaela says:
Gotta love it when science caves to military pressure.

Reference to Sonar Deleted in Whale-Beaching Report

By Marc Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 20, 2006; Page A09

Documents released under a court order show that a government investigator studying the stranding of 37 whales on the North Carolina coast last year changed her draft report to eliminate all references to the possibility that naval sonar may have played a role in driving the whales ashore.

The issue of sonar's effects on whales is a sensitive topic for the U.S. Navy. It has clashed with environmentalists in several court suits seeking to limit use of the technology because of its possible effects on marine mammals and other sea creatures.

The January 2005 stranding occurred shortly after naval maneuvers in the area -- which is off North Carolina and in the region where the Pentagon wants to build a controversial underwater sonar training range.
She also noted that one of the injuries -- air bubbles in the liver of a pilot whale -- had been reported in mass strandings in the Bahamas and Canary Islands associated with sonar activity.
Air bubbles were found in the organs of several whales that stranded in the Canary Islands after a sonar exercise, leading some researchers to conclude that the animals swam to the surface too rapidly and suffered a version of the bends. If air bubbles were present in the whales that beached in North Carolina, it could suggest that sonar caused their stranding, as well.

Just picture how much pain SONAR must cause for these whales to buck all of their evolutionary training and surface too quickly, causing them to die. Shouldn't a report investigating their beaching explore that very horrifying possibility, even if it's just to rule it out?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Oh! Onion ... You've found the Truth in Satire Yet Again

Bush Urges Senate To Give Alito Fair, Quick, Unanimous Confirmation

January 17, 2006 | Issue 42•03

WASHINGTON, DC—President Bush urged the Senate Monday to act with speed, evenhandedness, and absolute obedience in confirming Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. "Each of you, as servants of the public trust, must consider this man carefully, review his record, and vote 'yes,'" Bush said. "I ask that you do your duty, and treat this as you would any of my priorities, be they judges, legislation, or wars." Bush's message was not well-received on either side of the aisle, with Democrats accusing him of bullying tactics and Republicans hurt he thought he had to ask.

Brown as Shit

Mikaela asks:
Check out Michael Brown from ABC News giving a speech about emergency response to a bunch of meteorologists at a fucking ski resort (yes, they invited and hired this jackass to give them a speech! I want them to hire me to give them a speech about why they are stupid for asking a discredited and murderous ass to give them a speech. Come on, I could use the money! I'd do a heckuva job.):

Brown said Wednesday he fell short of conveying the magnitude of the disaster wrought by the nation's deadliest hurricane, and calling for help.

"I should have demanded the military sooner," Brown, former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told a gathering of broadcast and National Weather Service meteorologists at a ski resort in the Sierra Nevada.

But Brown, who was relieved from his command in the hurricane region and stepped down from FEMA in September, said it was time to learn from Katrina's aftermath to make things better in the future.

"I think it's important to realize that all of us made mistakes. … After a while you get a different perspective," Brown told The Associated Press after his speech. "I still do believe that things weren't working too well down there."

Brown said he doesn't want to play the blame game.

"Let's figure out what went wrong and what we can do to make it work better next time," he said. "It may not be a Katrina, but it may be a big wildfire out West next time."

How can he not be embarrassed? Where is his sense of shame? Does entitlement really extend so far as to make him believe he still has the right to say ANYTHING publically about emergency response?

It's one thing to take your resigned self into the private sector as a consultant to milk their cash cow if they're stupid enough to hire you as an "expert."

It's another thing to continue speaking publically as though you have a goddamn thing to say about improving emergency response.

I am outraged. How can he ...? How? What the hell have we come to when the depth and breadth of your incompetence that led to thousands of deaths is exposed, not to mention the deadly irresponsibility of those who put you in power because of political nepotism, and you still don't believe yourself to be discredited?

If no one else is going to say it, I will:

Hey, Brownie! SHUT UP. Hang your head in shame as your deadly failure warrants and GO AWAY QUIETLY.

What's WITH these people?

Wilkerson Speaks

Mikaela says:
There is such an important article in today's Washington Post -- (tellingly buried in the "Style" section) about Larry Wilkerson, Col. Powell's former chief of staff, who recently lambasted the Bush administration in several interviews, most famously calling Cheney and Rumsfeld a "cabal" that hijacked the government.

What could his motives possibly be? Well, consider that he may be the finest patriot we are likely to see for years to come. If only if only if only there were more like him willing to tell the truth about the dangerous power brewing in Washington and spilling over into the blood of citizens in foreign countries across the globe (see Swiss investigation confirming secret CIA prisons).

Sorry for the long excerpting, but this shit is HISTORIC and VITAL information we should ALL KNOW and REMEMBER!!! (Order of quotes shifted for organization)

On the cabal:
Wilkerson calls Bush an unsophisticated leader who has been easily swayed by "messianic" neoconservatives and power-hungry, secretive schemers in the administration. In a landmark speech in October, Wilkerson said: "What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made."

Powell did address Wilkerson's central charge of secretive White House decision-making in an interview with the BBC in December. "I wouldn't characterize it the way Larry has, calling it a cabal," Powell said. "Now what Larry is suggesting in his comments is that very often maybe Mr. Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney would take decisions in to the president that the rest of us weren't aware of. That did happen, on a number of occasions."

On Iraq:
[Wilkerson] is particularly appalled by U.S. treatment of enemy detainees, counting at least 100 deaths in custody during the course of the war on terrorism -- 27 of them ruled homicides. "Murder is torture," he says. "It's not torture lite."

As for the invasion of Iraq? A blunder of historic proportions, he believes.

"This is really a very inept administration," says Wilkerson, who has credentials not only as an insider in the Bush I, Clinton and Bush II presidencies but also as a former professor at two of the nation's war colleges. "As a teacher who's studied every administration since 1945, I think this is probably the worst ineptitude in governance, decision-making and leadership I've seen in 50-plus years. You've got to go back and think about that. That includes the Bay of Pigs, that includes -- oh my God, Vietnam. That includes Iran-contra, Watergate."


"Here we are with a failure in Iraq, a massive failure. Not only an intelligence failure, but it looks like it's gonna be a real failure on the ground. How do you suddenly transform that? Well, you suddenly become a Jacobin yourself, you're suddenly for this messianic spread of freedom and democracy around the world. You're suddenly an advocate of all things that John F. Kennedy was an advocate of: 'We will bear any burden, pay any price.' You've discarded John Quincy Adams, who said we're the friends of liberty everywhere, the custodians only of our own. And you've suddenly said, 'I'm the custodian of the whole world's liberty, and by God if you don't realize it I'm going to bring it to you -- and if I have to bring it to you at the point of a gun, that's the way I'm going to bring it to you!' "

On Bush's Lying to Get Us into War (Using Powell to Do It):
Wilkerson won't say outright that he and Powell were deliberately snowed by intelligence reports tailored to fit a political push for war, but he has edged closer to that view, noting, "I've begun to wonder." It turns out that the administration relied on fabricators' claims about Hussein's illusory WMD programs and, in one case, an al Qaeda suspect whom the CIA turned over to alleged torturers in Egypt.

"I kick myself in the ass," Wilkerson says. "How did we ever get to that place?"

The speech tarnished Powell's gold-plated reputation, but he has never publicly pointed a finger at then-CIA Director George Tenet or the White House.

"Nothing was spun to me," Powell told David Frost in a BBC television interview last month. "What really upset me more than anything else was that there were people in the intelligence community that had doubts about some of this sourcing, but those doubts never surfaced up to us."

Why didn't the doubts reach Powell? Perhaps because then he wouldn't have given the speech at all?

"That's right," Wilkerson says, shooting a hard, solemn stare across the restaurant table. "That's right."

He also says, "I am prepared to entertain the idea that they used him."

On Why He's Speaking Out & Why Others Aren't

"Combine the detainee abuse issue with the ineptitude of post-invasion planning for Iraq, wrap both in this blanket of secretive decision-making . . . and you get the overall reason for my speaking out," Wilkerson says.

"It never became personal for Powell, because he believed in the process," says Robert Charles, a former assistant secretary of state who worked with both men. "I believe it was harder for Larry, because he felt such great empathy for the boss, the most seasoned military officer he had ever served with."

Wilkerson, on this period with Powell: "I can say in all truth that in 16 years he never blew his stack. He got mad at me one time and asked me to leave the office -- told me to leave the office -- and that was towards the end when he was truly embattled, embittered and besieged, in my view. And even though it made me a little angry, I didn't take it that seriously because I knew at that point he was not a happy camper.")

Wilkerson went so far as to draft a letter of resignation to Bush. He never sent it and now wonders whether he should have come out guns blazing before the 2004 election. But becoming a vocal political defector in Washington can mean lonely exile, a loss of stature and income.

"I know it's very hard to put kids, job security and all that sort of stuff aside. I think that's the answer to why more people don't speak out."

Evidence of Patriot Sainthood:

Wilkerson has no intention of cashing in as a Bush critic. He hasn't joined a think tank or become a cable news pundit-for-hire. He has turned down publishers who want him to write a tell-all book for big money.

Wilkerson says he may write an academic text about presidential decision-making. This month he began supplementing his retirement with part-time teaching jobs at George Washington University and the College of William & Mary.

Recently a speakers bureau called Wilkerson to ask what fee he would want for a speech to a corporate audience. "I said I'd speak for the highest fee they'd pay," he recalls.

But there was a condition: The money couldn't go to him. He said he wanted it all donated to scholarships for children in the Colin L. Powell Leadership Club.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Kate O'Beirne makes MY world worse

Maggie says:
As regular readers know, nothing gets me going quite like women who hate women. The latest installment is Kate O'Beirne, who is the primary reason I decided I would never, ever, watch another episode of "The Capital Gang" again, at least while she was still a commentator.

O'Beirne is a nightmare. She's loud, she's abrasive, she horribly overstates and generalizes, she's ignorant, and she's just plain mean. She's the perfect hypocrite for the right: a tough, outspoken woman who proclaims she hates feminists and the left without once acknowledging that her ability to be who she is today is hugely due to the gains of the women's movement and social progress over the last forty years.

As I said, O'Beirne is my worst nightmare. Stuck with a choice of being confined in a small room with O'Beirne or George W. Bush for all eternity, I would choose Bush. At least he and I could talk about... fishing or something. O'Beirne and I would just end up killing each other.

Leave it to the poster girl for female self-hatred to gently title her new book "Women Who Make the World Worse: And How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports." Ah yes, gentle Kate.

Thank goodness there are smart women who are calmer than I am about how to deal with her. This Salon interview (get the free day pass to read it) does several things really well:

  • It shows what a smart choice it was for me to get out of journalism, because I could never pull off what Rebecca Traister does here with such good manners. (And let's face it, manners matter to this Southern girl.)
  • It spotlights just how ridiculous and weak O'Beirne's accusations toward feminists are and how she really doesn't understand much of anything about modern social movements, including the very gains she's personally enjoyed because of them.
  • It pinpoints why this book is just plain weak and unoriginal - using old and easily attacked feminist statements such as 'all sex is rape' (which I've attacked, too), for example, rather than taking on newer, sex-positive, lifestyle-choice-positive feminism. And what's the point of re-hashing stuff from decades ago? I guess it works if you have nothing new to say about modern women's issues...
  • It sheds some light on how her notions of what it means to be masculine are as misguided as her perceptions of femininity. In a single breath, O'Beirne will state that "men just wouldn't want to stay home and raise kids while their wives work" while also maintaining that feminists think "all women who stay at home are stupid." So... it's okay for O'Beirne to generalize about manly men but not okay for anyone else to generalize? And I don't know a single feminist who thinks a woman staying at home means she's stupid -- give me a break! But since O'Beirne has set the tone, I'd love to make some generalizations about her and her husband's sex life... ;-)
  • Finally, it makes me feel better to know that at least one interview is out there that breaks through O'Beirne's complete bullshit and balances the bulk of her reviews a little. If you want to see what I'm talking about, check out this outrageous National Review interview, where one of her "hardball" questions from the female interviewer is "Seriously though, feminists always go on about unequal pay when most pay discrepancies simply make sense and are, in fact, fair, right? Why can't anyone get them to shut up?" Please tell us, dear Kate. Please tell us why we deserve to make less than men...

Whew! I need a good girls' night after reading this crap. Girls? Girls?

Technorati tags: ,

Monday, January 16, 2006

For Martin

Maggie recalls:

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
Only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
Only love can do that."

Women Presidents -- Go Chile!

Mikaela says:
Chile has elected its first female president, voting 53 to 47 against a billionaire representative of the old guard globalist businessmen.

From the Washington Post:

"You know that I have not had an easy life, but who has had an easy life?" Bachelet told supporters Sunday night during a victory speech in downtown Santiago. "Violence entered my life, destroying what I loved. Because I was a victim of hate, I have dedicated my life to turn that hate into understanding, into tolerance and, why not say it, into love."
With Bachelet's election, Chilean voters continued a region-wide trend toward the political left in national elections. The most recent presidential elections in Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia have brought liberal or socialist candidates to power, creating two distinct groupings of leaders in South America. In countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia, the prevailing political discourse questions the benefits of free-trade agreements and encourages more independence from U.S. government and business interests. Bachelet, however, is expected by analysts to fall into the second grouping, represented by fiscally conservative presidents who aim to direct government spending toward social programs.
"Many here think Chile doesn't have a soul and has very little sensitivity for its people," said Raul Sohr, a political analyst in Santiago. "There's been a lot of growth in recent years, but the distribution of income is still appalling. A lot of people are hoping that she'll put a little heart into the very technocratic changes that previous administrations have made."

This last quote has me squirming just a little bit. Isn't it just a stereotype of women that if we have any strengths as leaders, it's because of our motherly hearts? Can't we just have good politics, toughness, and the strength of our convictions to do the right thing and win the hearts and minds of others?

I watched a documentary last night about Shirley Chisholm's historic bid for President of the United States in 1972. She certainly did NOT come across as motherly, nor did she argue that being a woman was a political asset on any level. She just used her considerable brain power and articulateness to argue for what she believed. As a person. That's a woman I can get behind.

Last week, I was at the Frontier and heard a young woman, a Republican, adamantly and repeatedly stating to her boyfriend that "in our lifetimes, a woman will NOT be President." He seemed to think otherwise, and it was unclear because of her tone whether she thought that was wrong. It seemed more like she herself had bought into the argument that women should NOT be in positions of power, Republican or Democrat.

It was a little eerie because perhaps 10 years earlier, also at the Frontier (life is so ironic at times, no? Stranger than fiction...), I also argued that a woman could not be President of the U.S. I said, maybe if she's single, but if she has a husband? It will never happen. And children? Forget it. My youthful arrogance made me rather ... um ... forceful in my ignorance. A man who had been sitting nearby slipped me a napkin as he left in what I imagine now was a bit of disgust. The napkin read: "Margaret Thatcher?" Oof. Right. Married. Kids. Powerful leader of the arguably the second-most powerful nation on earth. Hmmm... Immediate reassessment as I was put firmly in my place.

Watching Shirley Chisholm, the first serious female candidate for President and certainly the first (and only?) serious Black woman candidate for President, what struck me is the shame that her effort to make room for other people of color and women to run for the highest office has not been taken up more than it has. And why not? Thirty years later, it's still all but unimaginable? As Chisholm said, why is it always "white men, white men, white men"?

What is it that women can bring to leadership, if not their motherly hearts? What about the ability to see into the blind spots? What about the ability to speak for those too long silent, too long marginalized, too long disempowered, too long badly represented by white men white men white men?

Good for Chile for making room for a new leader. Here's hoping they can outsource the political model as part of a new U.S. trade agreement.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Mikaela says:
Building off a tragedy -- he was 39! Only 39! He'd only be 77 today! -- I'm trying to make the most of this memorial holiday.

As Maggie reminds us, we're supposed to use tragedy to grow.

So this is probably the first MLK Jr. day that I remember that has me mesmerized with tractor-beam intensity on the amazing phenomena of the layering of cultures in America. On the surface -- white America, with its focus on money and power and consumption. Enveloped within it, cultures without whiteness at the center -- black, Hispanic, Asian, and on and on. Living in the same or neighboring spaces but embuing them with different cultural meanings, using them through different cultural practices, using tactics to distinguish identity and steal power to transmute it to serve other cultures. And grow different sources of power within. The more room these cultures make for themselves in shared spaces, the more mainstream culture will turn from a bastion of whiteness to a truly multicultural society.

I was watching the Kings of Comedy yesterday. Talk about a prescient analysis of race relations! I had the strangest visceral sensation of truly understanding my grandfather's racism. Yes it's irrational and loathesome, but for the first time, I understood that what he fears is what will happen. Black culture is vibrant and beautiful, and it will take room and take power from white culture.

Watching these smart, funny, powerful men, I knew how much my grandfather would fear them and why. They do represent change, which for those currently in power, means a loss. But for the rest of us, it means progress. Evolution. The opportunity for learning. For embracing and celebrating cultures different from our own but with a wealth of information and understanding and prayers and connections that we don't all have access to on our own.

And the truth of it is that white people are at a disadvantage because we do not have the experience of living in multiple cultures simultaneously. People of color live every day sailing through each moment on multiple levels of awareness, a part of the surface reality that privileges whiteness -- still after all these years and so much work and so much death -- while working within and enriching their own cultures. They understand multiple levels of symbolism and multi-level communication. What do most white people know or experience about other cultures? At most, we're tourists, buying our way in. Peeping Toms. Think about how much more people of color understand about white culture than the other way around.

Of course it doesn't have to be this way. And it won't be this way for too much longer. The objective truth is that minorities are fast becoming majorities in America, and power and wealth will not be too far behind. For those of us white liberals who believe in embracing other cultures -- learning through others -- because we are all people at the same time as we have unique and sustainable cultures -- we have the time and opportunity to do our parts to learn about other cultures through experiencing them.

It's one thing to do research the way some anthropologist would -- and how weird is that concept? Whole white institutions constructed to study otherness to keep it academic and foreign -- but as one member of a living culture engaged in another living culture. Not to take it over but to experience it as a simultaneous and equal reality. Isn't that what equality will mean? Shared cultural knowledge. Not necessarily shared cultures, but a world that's truly multicultural. Where all cultures are operating with the same power in the same spaces.

When I think about the places where this happens now -- the spoken word cultural scene, for example -- they are all places of incredible creativity and energy. Perhaps openness to other cultures translates to an openness to knowledge of the world that is beyond our individual understanding. We are all made up of the same particles, aren't we? Love is at the center of all we do no matter what color we are, isn't it?

And wasn't that MLK's message? That to be enlightened was to fight for equality because we are all equal, even though we may come from different cultures. What I understood, thanks to my racist grandfather and five wise Kings, is that it's truly not about skin color; it's about cultural knowledge.

The solution for one is the solution for all in the sense that throwing off the balance makes more room for everyone. "Injustice anywhere threatens injustice everywhere." And vice versa. Making room for one culture anywhere makes room for all cultures everywhere.

The school bell is tolling for me; it's time to learn.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Do we learn nothing from our movies?

Maggie says:
CNN: "Scientists at work on a pill to fade traumatic memories"

C'mon, people! As every Kaufman fan knows, erasing traumatic memories only causes more problems than it solves! We're not supposed to forget pain, we're supposed to grow from it! Get yourself to Blockbuster, you crazy scientists, you!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Support the Arts! And Girls! And Wine! And Lofts! Fuck it... Just Come!

Mikaela advocates:
Heads up:

Friday Jan 13
7:00-11:00 PM
Opening Reception
Factory on Fifth
"Old Ladies Don't Throw Snowballs...and other hidden hazards of the fourth dimension"
Portraiture in paint and metal

Juliet Wing, Jessi Murphy-Blevins, Loryn Udell and Celeste LaForme

and Special Musical Guests

Romeo Goes To Hell and

Unit 7 Drain

See you there around 8 pm!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bumper Sticker Thought of the Day

Mikaela says:
Maggie got the 3 Ms these really cool bumper stickers for X-mas:

i blog.

I had a thought this morning for a little addition:

i blog; therefore, IM.


Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Three Bees in My Bonnet

Mikaela says:
Wasington Post reports: IRS not only discriminates against liberal churches, it also goes after low-income families. Who's in charge over there? Has everyone gone insane?

Speaking of going insane, ABC is reporting that Lockheed Martin knew a year and a half before one man went on a murder spree in a Mississippi warehouse, shooting six and killing eight Black workers before killing himself, that he had threatened to do just that! Despite the warning and multiple incidents, the company never took any action against the racist employee, and now it disavows all responsibility. Shocking, right? Right.

But we don't just leave our dirty laundry at home. Looks like we also outsource hate. Also in the Post:

In an article published this week in the Army magazine Military Review, British Brig. Nigel Aylwin-Foster, who was deputy commander of a program to train the Iraqi military, said American officers in Iraq displayed such "cultural insensitivity" that it "arguably amounted to institutional racism" and may have spurred the growth of the insurgency.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

12 Dead Miners: Who's Responsible?

marjorie says...

The working people in this country deserve a lot better than what they're getting, not only from the Bush administration but from the entire American population that seems happy to let organized labor go to hell in a handbasket.

Sure, let's bash on the Republican party for being the heinous group of people that they are when it comes to worker's rights and safety. But, I really can't go there too much because the flip side to that is always that the Democrats are somehow all about labor. And they aren't. The Democrats have let labor go on a long downward spiral, just like they've sold out the rest of the left. And the American public has for the most part bought into anti-labor rhetoric, Democrat and Republican alike. And this is what you get: 12 Dead Miners.

It WASN'T just an accident.

It was the outcome of standard operating practice across the board in a capitalist system: companies weigh the costs (which includes injury, even death, to workers) against the benefits of any particular action, such as, say, complying with safety regulations. Skate that thin edge, do just barely enough if you have to...and don't do anything if the fines aren't much, and aren't enforced anyway.

Illegal to bust a union organizing drive, to fire activist workers who want to start a union? Well, let's weigh the paltry costs we *might* incur in back pay and fines against the benefit of keeping out a union...hmmm. RIGHT TO ORGANIZE??? Who cares about rights, unless we *have* to? If you don't believe this, go talk to any labor attorney who routinely works on these cases.

So now we're going to get a Senate hearing. Well, FINE. The question is, what are the results going to be? What's the American public going to demand?

For starters, greatly increased fines with proper enforcement for labor violations would be good. Then we all need to realize that we are losing an incredible amount when we buy into this notion that "labor had it's day but isn't necessary any longer." Labor is necessary, and the right to organize has to not only be legally enforced--it has to be supported by all of us, in the street if necessary. The next time you hear of a strike or a protest or a union drive--just go on down and show your support. Because, really, we're all implicated in the deaths of those miners if we won't do what we can to ensure that those with the most dangerous, the most onerous, and the most menial jobs have unions.

The photo above of a man at a vigil in West Virginia came from the Seattle Times.