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More NYPD Racism

Posted by libhom Wednesday, April 30, 2008 4 comments

The New York Civil Liberties Union has just released a report that exposes racist inconsistencies in the NYPD's draconian marijuana enforcement policies:

Between 1997 and 2007, police arrested and jailed about 205,000 blacks, 122,000 Latinos and 59,000 whites for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Blacks accounted for about 52 percent of the arrests, though they represented only 26 percent of the city’s population over that time span. Latinos accounted for 31 percent of the arrests but 27 percent of the population. Whites represented only 15 percent of those arrested, despite comprising 35 percent of the population.

Government surveys of high school seniors and young adults 18 to 25 consistently show that young whites use marijuana more often than young blacks and Latinos. The arrests also are heavily skewed by gender. About 91 percent of people arrested were male.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “The NYPD routinely targets young men based on their skin color and where they live. Arresting and jailing thousands for marijuana possession does not create safer streets. It only fosters distrust between the police and community and strips hundreds of thousands of young New Yorkers of their dignity.”

The arrests, which cost taxpayers up to $90 million a year, are indicative of the NYPD’s broken windows approach to law enforcement, in which police focus on minor offenses as a method of reducing crime. This approach, also called quality of life policing, has caused a dramatic spike in stop-and-frisk encounters between police and city residents.

In 2007, the NYPD stopped nearly 469,000 New Yorkers. Eighty-eight percent were found completely innocent of any wrongdoing. The racial disparity in the stop-and-frisk encounters is almost identical to the disparity in marijuana arrests: Though they make up only a quarter of the city’s population, more than half of those stopped were black.

Read the NYCLU Press Release

Read the Full Report

The UN Shows Leadership in the Global Food Crisis

Posted by libhom Tuesday, April 29, 2008 1 comments

While the corporate media are obsessively fanning racist hysteria over Bill Clinton's post-Lewinsky "spiritual adviser," Rev. Wright, the global food problem has become a crisis. Driven by unusual weather caused by global warming, increasing energy costs, increasing demand from India and China, and most of all, overpopulation, food costs are soaring while the incomes of the global poor are not. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has focused attention on one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Now comes another blow, seemingly out of the blue. But it is not totally out of the blue. It was known that we predicted even two-three years ago that this crisis would come. I am sorry that the international community had not listened more attentively. That is the challenge of rising food prices that is a crisis for the most vulnerable populations. It threatens to undo all our good work. If not managed properly, it could touch off a cascade of related crises -- affecting trade, economic growth, social progress and even political security around the world.

We are familiar with the causes: rising oil prices, growing global demand, bad trade policies, bad weather, panic buying and speculation, the new craze of biofuels derived from food products and so on and so on. We all know the effect on markets: how the price of basic food stuffs seems to hit new records almost daily, how the price of rice, in particular, has gone from $400 a ton some weeks ago, to now $1000 a ton.

Think of the impact on ordinary people. Even in Europe and the United States, consumers are grumbling. But imagine the situation of those living on $1 a day, who might spend two thirds of their income on food.

In Liberia last week, I heard how people have stopped purchasing imported rice by the bag. Instead, they increasingly buy it by the cup -- because that’s all they can afford. It is worth remembering that Liberia’s descent into chaos began, in 1979, with food riots.

In Côte d’Ivoire, political leaders told me how they worry about that the crisis in food could create social unrest and undermine their efforts to build real democracy -- at a time when they are so close to success.

In Burkina Faso, the President told me how desperately the nation needs help, where so many people live on simply $1 a day or less. One senior Government official spoke to me especially forcefully. The crisis in food, he said, is a greater threat by far than terrorism. “It makes people doubt their dignity as men,” he said. And he added: “The issues of hunger and survival and how to live have become burning issues for the international community.”

He is calling for immediate action:
First, we must feed the hungry people.

Together, we call on the international community to urgently and fully fund the emergency requirements of the World Food Programme (WFP). Those requirements currently stand at $755 million, and they will inevitably grow in the future. Without this emergency relief, we will see a sharp rise in hunger, malnutrition and disease around the globe. We will see increased social tension and economic decline.

What is Bush doing? He's drooling over all the money his investments are accumulating from war profiteering companies leeching off of the Iraq catastrophe. He doesn't have time to care about people making $1 a day. In fact, if he could take away half of that for himself and his rich friends, he would delight in doing so.

A Moving, Personal Perspective on the Armenian Genocide

Posted by libhom Saturday, April 26, 2008 3 comments

I won't attempt to summarize it, but I just found an incredible personal perspective from someone whose grandparents lived through the Armenian genocide on Hrag Vartanian's blog.

My Armenian Genocide Story

If you live in New York as I do, please Contact Schumer, and tell him to drop Clinton and support Obama.

The way that Ms. Clinton and her campaign have conducted themselves has been dishonest, horribly racist, and destructive to the Democratic Party as an institution. There is no way that Hillary Clinton can win a majority of the legitimate delegates. Her only chance of being the nominee is stealing the nomination via a superdelegate scam. If she pulls that off, she will face the fate of the last sleazebag who stole a Democratic nomination: Walter Mondale.

Clinton's long-standing support for the Iraq War is reprehensible. Her saber-rattling with Iran only makes her 2007 vote for a war with that country even more dangerous. Her threats of nuclear attacks against Iran raise serious questions about her judgement, her temperament, and her very sanity.

I've just contacted my non-Clinton senator and asked him to do what is best for the country and the party, not what is best for the Clintons.

Contact Schumer Now!

 

I wish I could say I'm surprised, but I'm not. I wish I could say that the events before the trial, the trial, and the verdicts had diminished the credibility of the NYPD, Bloomberg, the Queens District Attorney, and the New York judiciary. But, none of them had any credibility to start out with.

No reasonable person can honestly justify the verdicts. It's all about racism and corruption. This is one of those times I am ashamed to live in New York.

A Grassroots Video for Obama

Posted by libhom Friday, April 25, 2008 3 comments



Hat tip to the Pagan Sphinx for pointing this out. Her friends Poetryman and Ben Heine made it. This is part of a MoveOn.org pro-Obama, and Pagan Sphinx would like her friends to win.

My favorite part of it is that it reminds us of the hope and inspiration that Obama represents. The corporate media along with the Clinton and "Keating Five" McCain campaigns want us to avoid even the thought of working for a better country. They want us cynical and in a state of complete resignation.

You can vote for this video. There are lots of contestants. If they don't win, I hope they put it on YouTube. The visuals have artistic merit.

 

Codepink is offering a way to support Mideast peace while challenging rightist media bias.

The US mainstream media has blasted Carter for meeting with leaders of Hamas--the party that won the January 2006 elections in Palestine. We, on the other hand appreciate his tremendous courage and conviction: by agreeing to talk with Hamas, Carter is staying true to America's democratic principles of recognizing the legitimacy of a representative government, while underscoring the hypocrisy of the US mainstream media and the White House.

...

Send Jimmy Carter a thank you and a Pink Badge of Courage for his efforts to actively seek a solution to the agonizing conflict between Israel and Palestine. We will deliver your signature directly to the Carter Center in Atlanta, along with a beautiful Jerusalem Hope Candle crafted by Israeli and Palestinian women that embodies Carter's vision of creating durable peace in the Middle East.

From Democracy Now! 4/24/08:

AMY GOODMAN: Lawmakers and the NAACP are calling for an investigation into reports that federally funded scientific experiments in 2000 spread sewage sludge on the yards in poor black neighborhoods to test if it could fight lead poisoning in children. The Associated Press reported on Sunday that researchers spread a mix of human and industrial wastes from sewage treatment plants on the lawns of nine low-income families in Baltimore and a vacant lot next to an elementary school in East St. Louis. The families were told the sludge was safe and not informed about the toxic ingredients the sludge could contain. The report implicated researchers and funders from Johns Hopkins University, the Kennedy Krieger Institute, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Housing and Urban Development Department and the Agriculture Department.

The researchers say the experiment successfully reduced the amount of lead in the soil. But some scientists question the findings, as well as the choice of neighborhood and lack of transparency with the residents. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will convene a hearing on the subject next month.

I’m joined right now in Washington, D.C. by John Heilprin. He’s the Associated Press reporter who broke this story.

Amy Goodman's interview exposes some truly reprehensible behavior by Bill Clinton's adminstration plus major academic and philanthropic organizations.

A bit later in the interview:
JOHN HEILPRIN: Well, one of the problems is we don’t know exactly who they are. No one will identify them. They were all families from these poor, low-income neighborhoods, black neighborhoods in Baltimore in so-called empowerment zones. And all of them agreed to take on—to have this Class A fertilizer tilled into their lawns. These were basically bald dirt lawns with high levels of lead contamination. And the Class A sludge fertilizer was tilled into the lawn to create grass cover, and on the theory that if the children ate the dirt, they would be better protected from the lead contamination, because the sludge would mix with the lead in the soil and make that pass safely through the body. That was the researchers’ theory.

AMY GOODMAN: But John, these families were given a financial incentive to accept this sludge on their lawn.

JOHN HEILPRIN: They were. They were given food coupons, free lawns, free doormats. We didn’t put that in the story. And they were essentially told that this was commercial-grade fertilizer, that it was safe, as you reported, and that they would be better off, that they would be better off using this fertilizer than before.

The thing that I found interesting was that this government-sponsored research essentially operates on the premise that this fertilizer is safe enough and good enough to eat, even though the researchers say that the fertilizer was not fed directly to the children, the premise of the research is that if they eat it, they will be better off.

Later, Helprin discussed who were the targets of this disturbing research.
JOHN HEILPRIN: Well, no one knows, of course, exactly why they picked those families or the neighborhoods, but I do think that nationwide, as with the spreading of sludge and with the research, it tends to go to areas where it is not challenged. In sludge spreading, the sludge is generated by cities, big city, rich cities, like New York, LA. They try to get rid of it in more rural areas, predominantly minority areas. And some of this research, as we reported, in East St. Louis also was done next to an elementary school. It was tilled into the soil next to an elementary school with 300 students, all of whom were black, and almost all were poor. No one can say for sure why that was done, but it seems to me that perhaps it’s done in areas where there are fewer questions. That’s what some of the experts say.

The racism of the Clinton campaign has its roots in the the Clinton past. It isn't just a tactic of the moment.

 

Obviously, this doesn't apply to everyone who has voted for Hillary Clinton, but it certainly describes her most unthinking and rabid zealots. They are starting to remind me of the Paul obsessives from a few months ago.

Here is what some of them actually believe:

When Clinton responds to negative media coverage, she is a tough candidate who can win.

When Obama responds to negative media coverage, he is the "boy in the bubble."

Corporate media outlets routinely go against the interests of the corporations that own them by supporting the centrist Obama over the conservative Clinton.

Campaign promises should be taken as literal facts, even when they contradict the actual record of a given politician.

Any criticism of Clinton is misogynist, regardless of what that criticism is.

Clinton, a militant Christian fundamentalist, actually is a feminist.

Clinton is more experienced although she has less experience in public office than Obama does.

Any sleazy campaign tactic is OK because the Republicans will use that tactic in November.

Even though Clinton publicly supported NAFTA and lobbied for it, she always was against it.

Clinton's inaccurate claims in prepared remarks about a Bosnia trip were the result of her being tired.

Enthusiasm for a political candidate which would be perfectly normal in most democracies is cultish.

Having "superdelegates" select a nominee is a legitimate, democratic process.

Being half black in an incredibly racist society is a political advantage.

A vote for the war in Iraq is not a vote for the war in Iraq.

A vote for a war with Iran is not a vote for a war with Iran.

Guilt by association is intellectually valid, if the target is Obama.

A history of broken promises should be ignored.

Liberals are the true elites, not super wealthy donors.

The only factor any voter considers is whether or not they want a woman president. So, any Obama supporter is against having a woman president.

Hillary Clinton deserves credit for anything anyone likes about Bill Clinton's administration, but no blame for anything anyone dislikes about her husband's administration.

Clinton is a woman of the people, even though she was on Wal-Mart's board of directors for six years. (She also sips from a shot glass.)

Optimism and hope are sinister and must be stopped at all costs.

 

I've admired Michael Moore ever since TV Nation, so his endorsement of Obama is of interest to me. The similarities between some of his reasons and some of mine make it even more interesting.

Seriously, I know so many people who don't care if the name under the Big "D" is Dancer, Prancer, Clinton or Blitzen. It can be Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Barry Obama or the Dalai Lama.

Well, that sounded good last year, but over the past two months, the actions and words of Hillary Clinton have gone from being merely disappointing to downright disgusting. I guess the debate last week was the final straw. I've watched Senator Clinton and her husband play this game of appealing to the worst side of white people, but last Wednesday, when she hurled the name "Farrakhan" out of nowhere, well that's when the silly season came to an early end for me. She said the "F" word to scare white people, pure and simple. Of course, Obama has no connection to Farrakhan. But, according to Senator Clinton, Obama's pastor does -- AND the "church bulletin" once included a Los Angeles Times op-ed from some guy with Hamas! No, not the church bulletin!

Resisting the Clintons' white supremacist ideology is an important reason why I'm supporting Obama. Moore, with a little help from Stephen Colbert, then skewers the "reasoning" of the Clinton Smear Campaign.
This sleazy attempt to smear Obama was brilliantly explained the following night by Stephen Colbert. He pointed out that if Obama is supported by Ted Kennedy, who is Catholic, and the Catholic Church is led by a Pope who was in the Hitler Youth, that can mean only one thing: OBAMA LOVES HITLER!

Moore also said something quiet prescient.
How sad for a country that wanted to see the first woman elected to the White House. That day will come -- but it won't be you. We'll have to wait for the current Democratic governor of Kansas to run in 2016 (you read it here first!).

You should read the entire commentary. It really deconstructs so many of the Clinton campaign's talking points.

 

Google Analytics Is Fun

Posted by libhom Sunday, April 20, 2008 1 comments

I set up Google Analytics for my blog, and I was pleasantly surprised by the results. I'm getting roughly 140 unique visitors per week these days.

The small number of comments one sometimes gets can be a bit discouraging, but this blog is fitting the general pattern of "lurkers" outnumbering people who participate more actively.

According to usability expert Jacob Neilsen:

In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action.

...

Blogs have even worse participation inequality than is evident in the 90-9-1 rule that characterizes most online communities. With blogs, the rule is more like 95-5-0.1.


Neilsen says some rather harsh things about people who comment a lot, but I don't share his views, especially for blogs. People who comment often are a terribly important part of blog communication.

However, I would recommend Google Analytics or some other non-obtrusive web statistics setup so you can see that people really are reading what you have to say.

Update: Blue Gal has some great tips for new bloggers. She really is a force in promoting progressive ideas on the Web.

 

What I've heard and read from Sam Harris has been on progressive media outlets where he has been quite reasonable, in most respects. I had no idea how nutty he can be until I listened to today's Equal Time for Freethought show on WBAI.

Sam Harris actually supported torture, in some circumstances.

The disturbing Huffington Post item is from 2005.

Imagine that a known terrorist has planted a bomb in the heart of a nearby city. He now sits in your custody. Rather than conceal his guilt, he gloats about the forthcoming explosion and the magnitude of human suffering it will cause. Given this state of affairs—in particular, given that there is still time to prevent an imminent atrocity—it seems that subjecting this unpleasant fellow to torture may be justifiable. For those who make it their business to debate the ethics of torture this is known as the “ticking-bomb” case.

While the most realistic version of the ticking bomb case may not persuade everyone that torture is ethically acceptable, adding further embellishments seems to awaken the Grand Inquisitor in most of us. If a conventional explosion doesn’t move you, consider a nuclear bomb hidden in midtown Manhattan. If bombs seem too impersonal an evil, picture your seven-year-old daughter being slowly asphyxiated in a warehouse just five minutes away, while the man in your custody holds the keys to her release. If your daughter won’t tip the scales, then add the daughters of every couple for a thousand miles—millions of little girls have, by some perverse negligence on the part of our government, come under the control of an evil genius who now sits before you in shackles. Clearly, the consequences of one person’s uncooperativeness can be made so grave, and his malevolence and culpability so transparent, as to stir even a self-hating moral relativist from his dogmatic slumbers.

This is so absurd. On a factual level, people who actually do interrogations report that torture leads to bad information, precisely the opposite of what one would hope for in the "ticking-bomb" scenario. Any reasonable person should be able to see why. When a person is being tortured, they are being given an incentive to tell the inquisitor what they think the torturer wants to hear. That is usually different than the actual truth.

Harris tried to argue for a limited use of torture, not one that would correspond with the Bush regime's policies, at least in theory.
I am one of the few people I know of who has argued in print that torture may be an ethical necessity in our war on terror. In the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, this is not a comfortable position to have publicly adopted. There is no question that Abu Ghraib was a travesty, and there is no question that it has done our country lasting harm. Indeed, the Abu Ghraib scandal may be one of the costliest foreign policy blunders to occur in the last century, given the degree to which it simultaneously inflamed the Muslim world and eroded the sympathies of our democratic allies. While we hold the moral high ground in our war on terror, we appear to hold it less and less. Our casual abuse of ordinary prisoners is largely responsible for this. Documented abuses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere have now inspired legislation prohibiting "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment of military prisoners. And yet, these developments do not shed much light on the ethics of torturing people like Osama bin Laden when we get them in custody.

In practice, I'm skeptical of the notion that torture being considered "ethical" under highly limited circumstances is possible in real life. Let's take the Iraq war, for instance. Troops involved in the occupation are in danger from any direction all the time. There literally is no way to distinguish somebody who wants to kill them or their friends from a little girl walking to school. (The friends part is of particular importance because the situation and current military practice encourages occupying troops to form extremely strong bonds of friendship.)

They live the "ticking bomb" scenario on a daily basis. If they act according to Harris' view of ethics, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis will be tortured. Apparently, that may well already have happened.

Harris then goes on to make an argument that conflates torture with other forms of warfare both practically and ethically. It doesn't make much sense, given that actual objectives have been historically shown to have been achieved with warfare, while torture has yet to be shown to accomplish any goal other than to make the targeted population suffer.

I hope Harris has changed his mind since then. It would be nice to think he has become more rational on the subject now that the US is further past the 911 attacks, but I have not been able to find any evidence of this online.

 



Dennis Kucinich 4/9/08. Hat tip to Dandelion Salad. If you've wondered why the corporate media worked so hard to silence his presidential campaign, this video should give you a really good idea.

The pro-Clinton bias during the last Democratic debate was rather extreme. I'm sure many viewers were wondering if the hosts were paid off by the Clinton campaign. They weren't.

Pro-Clinton favoritism is hardly limited to the far-right ABC's agenda while hosting one debate. The corporate media have consistently favored Ms. Clinton, repeating her campaign's talking points as if they were facts, especially when the Clinton campaign has attacked Obama from not being 100% pure white.

The bias is hardly limited to that. Point of view is important in writing and is tremendously important in slanting articles. The vast majority of print media articles and TV coverage have been from the point of view of Ms. Clinton and her campaign. They focused on her strategy, her chances of winning, and her feelings about the campaign. Far less ink and time have been given to items with the points of view of her opponents.

Why?

If you have followed the Clintons will have noticed that the Clintons campaign from the political center, but they govern from the right. There is very little difference from the actual agendas of the Clintons and the GOP, despite rhetoric from both parties to the contrary. The feud between the Republican Party and the Clintons is as fake as anything in pro wrestling.

The corporate media's owners are greedy, rightist Republicans. The owners of most of the companies advertising are greedy, rightist Republicans. It should surprise nobody that these media outlets would want a de facto Republican like Hillary Clinton chosen as the Democratic nominee.

When anything in the corporate media seems unfair or bizarre, it helps to think about that behavior in the context of corporate interests and the ideology of the very wealthy. It is an extremely useful analytical tool

 

Dennis Kucinich made an important point during his campaign about the connection between the war in Iraq and an economy that depends on petroleum and other CO2 generating fuels. The connection between global warring and global warming is one that Amy Goodman picked up on for some time on Democracy Now!.

There is another side to the connection between the war on Iraq and climate change. Codepink made an important point in a recent email blast:

War is definitely not green. It is, in fact, quite the opposite. The U.S. military is the single largest consumer of oil in the world and the world's larger polluter, generating 750,000 tons of toxic waste annually. If we stop funding the war for oil in Iraq, our tax dollars can go toward developing clean, green sources of energy that will help us build a healthy, peaceful planet.

Weapons use a lot of energy. Shipping hundreds of thousands of people plus weapons and equipment generates a tremendous amount of CO2.

Sign Their War Is Not Green Petition!

 

Clinton Adviser Attacks Liberals

Posted by libhom Monday, April 14, 2008 5 comments

From the Fayetteville Observer 4/13/08:

Clinton aide decries ‘liberal elites’

By Mike Baker
The Associated Press
ADVERTISEMENT

WILSON — Bill Clinton didn’t directly mention Barack Obama’s comments about bitter working-class voters as he campaigned for his wife across eastern North Carolina on Saturday, but he might have been the only one who didn’t.

Former state Democratic Party chairman and current Hillary Rodham Clinton adviser Tom Hendrickson, when introducing the former president at a rally in Wilson, said rural voters don’t need “liberal elites” telling them what to believe. Before the rally began, Clinton campaign staff members gave volunteers stickers reading “We’re not bitter.”

This line about liberals being elitist is an old, far-right, Republican talking point. It is both ironic and absurd, given the fact that it is the right which represents the interests of the wealthy elites.

I would like to say I'm surprised that a Clinton adviser would use an old trick from the GOP playbook, but it is so consistent with the Clintons' true values and agenda. The Clintons are rightist Republicans in every way except party registration.

The Clintons are so of-the-people that they have received tens of millions of dollars in "speaking fees" in return for right-wing policies which have made the rich richer and everyone else poorer.

The Dumbest New York State Tax Form - The IT-2

Posted by libhom Sunday, April 13, 2008 5 comments

top of IT-2 Form, Summary of Federal Form W-2 Statements

I couldn't have made this one up if I tried. The geniuses in the New York State government actually make taxpayers fill out a form where the information is copied verbatim from W-2 forms, instead of including the W-2's with the state tax return.

The stupidity and lack of consideration for NY residents is sadly typical of the incompetent state government, a level of incompetency that is equaled by the New York City government. It's like they are having a race to go from the finish line to the start. If you don't believe me, try asking a question on 311. It's as if it is run by the Department of Wrong Answers.

The weird thing is that state and city governments in other parts of the country are far more efficient than in New York. Government efficiency increases massively west of the Mississippi, but New York is among the worst on the East Coast.

The irksome political aspect of this is that the rightists try to act like government is inherently inefficient (despite the fact that Medicare is much more efficient than HMO's and health insurance companies). Most of the major television media in this country are located in New York, so the writers, producers, reporters, etc., live in an environment which reinforces the right-wing view of government, even though it doesn't generally apply.

Sigh.

The deficits resulting from the war on Iraq and Bush's huge tax cuts for the rich have provided an excuse for the Bush regime to underfund important domestic programs. One of which is breast cancer research. Breast cancer research, AIDS research, and other medical research is an area that has been a far too low priority for politicians in Washington who spend more in a month on the Iraq conquest than they do on breast cancer research in a year.

From the Advocacy Alliance Action Alert on breast cancer funding (default text):

We are requesting:

* $250 million for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, the federal government's breast cancer screening program for low-income, uninsured women, in partnership with OVAC. This $250 million is $5 million more than the authorized level for 2009.

* $21.5 million for patient navigators who can help guide cancer patients through the emotionally and financially draining health care system.

* A 6.9 percent increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a 9.5 percent increase for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the federal government's 2009 budget to account for inflation and make up for flat funding over the past several years.

Sadly, the President's budget proposes flat funding or even cuts for these programs. Clearly, with inflation factored in, there is not enough to maintain these programs at current levels - much less undertake new life-saving research or expand services to more women in need!

As your constituent, I ask you to support a responsible investment in cancer. The federal government spends about $5 billion annually researching cancer, yet the disease costs our nation more than $200 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity. Funding for cancer programs has remained essentially flat over the last several years. Please make sure these agencies are properly funded.

Take Action!

Kudos to Keith Olbermann for speaking out against anti-atheist bigotry. Hat tip to reason and reverence.



Here are the bigoted comments that show just how far this country needs to go to deal with its Christian supremacy. According to Rob Sherman's website, the offending politician later apologized to him by phone, but how could something like this happen in the first place?

The following exchange between atheist activist Rob Sherman of Buffalo Grove and Ill. Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) took place Wednesday afternoon in the General Assembly as Sherman testified before the House State Government Administration Committee.
I know from experience that many of you will side with Davis (update -- apparently I was wrong! ), but I ask you to consider what the outcry would have been if a lawmaker had launched a similar attack on the beliefs of a religious person.

Davis: I don’t know what you have against God, but some of us don’t have much against him. We look forward to him and his blessings. And it’s really a tragedy -- it’s tragic -- when a person who is engaged in anything related to God, they want to fight. They want to fight prayer in school.

I don’t see you (Sherman) fighting guns in school. You know?

I’m trying to understand the philosophy that you want to spread in the state of Illinois. This is the Land of Lincoln. This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God, where people believe in protecting their children.… What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous, it’s dangerous--

Sherman: What’s dangerous, ma’am?

Davis: It’s dangerous to the progression of this state. And it’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists! Now you will go to court to fight kids to have the opportunity to be quiet for a minute. But damn if you’ll go to [court] to fight for them to keep guns out of their hands. I am fed up! Get out of that seat!

Sherman: Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and I’m sure that if this matter does go to court---

Davis: You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon.

Davis is hardly the only anti-atheist bigot in the Democratic Party. When a federal appeals court ruled that the Pledge of Allegience should be restored to the version before "Under God" was added, then Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle called the ruling "crazy."

Learning Something from a Dutch Gay Man

Posted by libhom Saturday, April 12, 2008 1 comments

A recent conversation I had with a Dutch gay man really opened my eyes to a point of view on the difficult relationship between the Dutch majority and the Muslim majority. It is different than the racist stereotype (which probably applies in some cases), the views of American Christians who hate Dutch Muslims because they aren't Christian, and the claims of many on the European left about Islam and the West.

The Dutch have managed to build a largely secular society where women are free to have abortions (with government funding too) and queers are treated as equals. The Netherlands deserves a tremendous amount of credit for this achievement.

Many Muslim immigrants have attacked abortion and advocated outlawing it. Many Muslim immigrants make bigoted statements against lesbian, gay, bi, and trans people and advocate against equality for queers under the law.

There is a sizable segment of the Dutch population that just wants to keep their basic human rights. Also, immigrants have an obligation to respect the societies they move to. Immigrants certainly have a right to their own ways, but they are obligated not to impose those ways on the countries where they are guests.

When some on the left label this as "racist," it creates a credibility gap for the left partly because it fails to address the legitimate concerns Dutch people have. The credibility gap grows when one remembers that Islam is a religion that includes people of all races, not a race.

When some on the left attack secular values and government, they have lost their way. Religion is a reactionary force in society, and one of the most important projects of the left is to reduce the role of religion in the state and everyday life. It really doesn't matter what the religion is.

So much of what we read about in Europe is filtered through media that are extremely pro-religious and hostile to secularism. It makes it difficult to get any understanding of what actually is going on in the world.

Pro-Wrestling is softcore porn for gay/bi men.

If you don't believe me, think about it for a moment. If a guy makes a living in a Speedo occasionally dominating and usually being dominated by other men, usually also wearing Speedos, what does that mean? Why would men want to watch this?

That job description certainly applied to B. Brian Blair, former WWF "Superstar." (One fun thing about the now WWE is that every performer gets to be a superstar.) Here is his wrestling website which has nearly naked pics of him. Here is a pic with Blair on the left and his much cuter tag team partner Jim Brunzell on the right.

Now that Blair has pretty much retired from his public, nearly naked, man-on-man contact, he has ended up becoming a heterosexist county commissioner in the state of stolen elections, Florida. He even sent out an email to his supporters which was quite hysterical regarding the Day of Silence, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's annual event to publicize harassment and assault against queer youth in the schools. Here is some of the text from the over-the-top email courtesy of Tampa Bay's Channel 10.

"I have always believed that all citizens are equal and should be treated accordingly. On the other hand, no group of citizens should be given government sanction and support to promote their social and sexual agenda upon the rest of us and especially, on our children."

"Considering the fact that the same school system does not want to allow just one Minute of Silence in the classroom for God, this is preposterous."

"Can you imagine asking for a 'Day of Cheer for Heterosexuality?' If no action is taken to change this policy, then perhaps it is time for another surgical strike from the majority; 'A Day of Abstention' from school participation might be considered."

Notice how heterosexists cannot help but allude to the old pedophilia libel. It really is an obsession with them.

Back to pro wrestling as gay/bi porn.

One of the things that gay men talk about a lot among themselves, but not so often among the hets is that so many "straight" men really aren't that heterosexual. This truism is reflected in a popular joke.
What's the difference between a gay man and a straight man?

a six pack

This is a bit of an exaggeration, but bisexuality among men is far more common than our society acknowledges. I'm sure gay men reading this have been hit on in showers and locker rooms by guys with wedding rings on. It's easy to lump them in with closeted gays, and some belong there.

However, many of those men are just as aroused by women as men. Yet, they have few socially acceptable outlets. That's where pro wrestling fits in.

The sweaty, struggling men wearing next to nothing can be really hot. But, these sweaty, near naked men are being all macho and fighting, a perfect cover in our neurotic and macho society.

Pro wrestling companies seem a bit self conscious about this. They often have nearly naked woman parading around to straighten things up a bit. The UFC and other real, mixed martial arts promotions also are gay/bi porn and use the same trick. I guess it makes a major segment of their audience feel safer.

Is Blair bi or gay? I have no clue. There are plenty of hardcore gay porno stars who are hetero men. Personally, I hope Blair is 100% hetero. Someone as dimwitted, ugly, and obnoxious as him is someone who would be embarrassing to be associated with. If there actually are any straight men who have gotten this far, I'm sure they are hoping against hope that Blair is not heterosexual.

Tell Congress NO on Another Corporate Controlled Trade Deal

Posted by libhom Wednesday, April 09, 2008 4 comments

The Bush regime's corruption and efforts to attack middle class Americans are legendary. The latest example is a slimy trade deal they have struck with the corrupt, rightist government in Columbia.

Corporate controlled trade has played a significant role in America's current economic crisis. NAFTA, the WTO, and trade normalization with China have dramatically increased our budget deficits, which has increased our foreign debt. Much of our recession is based on a lack of credit, part of which is an inevitable result of too much previous borrowing.

The tens of millions of decent paying jobs lost to corporate controlled trade deals contribute dramatically to our economic downturn while dramatically lowering the quality of lives of far too many Americans. Please take action to stop Bush's efforts to play the Columbia FTA ("Free Trade" Agreement) scam on Congress. The House must vote soon, and it is of critical importance that they vote "NO."

AFL-CIO Action Alert

The AFL-CIO also has an important point in the default text, though it is never a good idea to quote word-for-word from default text in an Action Alert since it shows little effort or involvement in the issue.

Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world for a trade unionist--well over 2,000 union leaders and members have been murdered there since 1991. And the government routinely ignores or violates internationally recognized workers' rights.

Then, they insist on certain benchmarks for Colombia before the US should accept a deal, but I think they are making a mistake there. The whole point of the deal is to ship American jobs abroad. That is a bad thing to do regardless of what palliatives are added to the agreement. There is no such thing as a good "free trade" deal.

Americans for Democratic Action is opposing the FTC as well. Here are some points they made in their Action Alert email.
This trade agreement comes at a huge cost for Americans and Colombians alike, including major job loss, the decimation of family farmers, increased immigration and destruction of the environment. This agreement is modeled off much of the same flawed language found in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). We can only expect the results of the Colombia FTA to be the same.

For Americans, it means more losses in jobs and exports, decreased living standards for middle-class families, and a weaker domestic manufacturing base. For Colombians, it means more substandard wages, the destruction of their country's biodiversity, ruined livelihoods for family farmers, and an increased pressure to emigrate.

...

Trade isn't “free” when thousands are killed for standing up in the workplace, or when we destroy the most biodiverse regions on the earth. It isn't free when we lose thousands of Americans jobs so corporations can pay substandard wages across the border. These prices are simply too high.

...

The Colombia FTA is modeled after much of the same flawed language found in NAFTA and CAFTA, which resulted in major job loss, environmental degradation, decimation of family farmers and increased immigration.

More Contact info from ADA:

Capitol Switchboard
(202) 224-3121
www.congress.org

From Greenwich Time 4/9/08:

A federal investigation has concluded that Sen. Joseph Lieberman's 2006 re-election campaign was to blame for the crash of its Web site the day before Connecticut's heated Aug. 8 Democratic primary.

The FBI office in New Haven found no evidence supporting the Lieberman campaign's allegations that supporters of primary challenger Ned Lamont of Greenwich were to blame for the Web site crash.

Lieberman, who was fighting for his political life against the anti-Iraq war candidate Lamont, implied that joe2006.com was hacked by Lamont supporters.

"The server that hosted the joe2006.com Web site failed because it was overutilized and misconfigured. There was no evidence of (an) attack," according to the e-mail.

At the time, Lieberman accused supporters of his opponent, Ned Lamont, of being responsible:
Visitors who tried to access Lieberman's site at the time received a message calling on Lamont to "make an unqualified statement denouncing this kind of dirty campaign trick and to demand whoever is responsible to cease and desist immediately."

The incident was covered in the media because the Lieberman-Lamont race captured national and international attention.

Blumenthal denied The Advocate's FOI request on the grounds it was a federal matter, and it took more than a year for the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice to respond.

The Lieberman campaign alleged it was the target of a "denial of service attack," which can involve bombarding a Web site with external communications to slow it or render it useless.

Lieberman and his minions falsely accused Lamont of something their own mismanagement caused. Of course, most readers of this blog know that Lieberman has been lying about Iraq for years, pandering to war profiteers rather than showing loyalty to our country and the people who are stuck in Iraq in an illegal and unAmerican war.

Lieberman will do anything to keep power. No one should ever trust anything that man says.

John McCain certainly likes corporate interests and war, but that's not the only thing that concerns me about him. Hat tip to It's My Right to Be Left of Center for pointing out this Raw Story article about McCain's disturbing behavior. The article quotes a passage from Cliff Schecter's upcoming book, The Real McCain:

Three reporters from Arizona, on the condition of anonymity, also let me in on another incident involving McCain's intemperateness. In his 1992 Senate bid, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain's hair and said, "You're getting a little thin up there." McCain's face reddened, and he responded, "At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you c___." McCain's excuse was that it had been a long day. If elected president of the United States, McCain would have many long days.

One can and should notice the misogyny. One should also notice the mood swings and inappropriate behavior.

This reminds me of a March interview with The Nation's Robert Dreyfuss on Democracy Now! Most of the interview focuses on John McCain's bellicose foreign policy agenda. However, at the end of the interview, Dreyfuss also comments on his personal interactions with McCain and the perceptions of the politician by others who deal with him on a regular basis.
ROBERT DREYFUSS: Yes, I use that quote, and it says immediately after that that shortly after saying that, Thad Cochran endorsed McCain. So it’s clear that the Republicans are gathering around their leader, despite the fact that many senators, not just Cochran, but many Republican senators view McCain with alarm and not because he’s some sort of closet liberal—it’s true that on some domestic issues he lined up with some Senate liberals—but on foreign policy, they’re are scared of him. And on a personal level, McCain has had a tendency over the years—this is so well known on Capitol Hill—to erupt, to explode, to scream and yell at his colleagues in the Republican caucus, in closed-door meetings behind the scenes, and sometimes even in public. So he has scared a lot of his colleagues, who I’m sure are supporting him, like Cochran did, out of party loyalty, but who’ve said, as Cochran did, that they’re extremely concerned about his temper and his apparent willingness to explode.

And I’ve met McCain up close. I rode around the bus with him nine years ago when he was campaigning in New Hampshire. I found him scary up close. I think when you see him two feet away, he looks like somebody whose head could explode. He’s got a very barely controlled anger underneath his sort of calm demeanor that he seems to almost grit his teeth to keep inside. And I found him very scary personally. And I’m always shocked, I’m always stunned, when media who cover McCain don’t bring that across. He’s not a jolly fellow. He’s not somebody who you want to sit down and have beers with, where I could see people think that about President Bush—he’s kind of an amiable dunce, as someone said about an earlier president. McCain is not somebody I want to have a beer with. I think he’s a really scary guy.

It looks like the start of a pattern.

Useless Widgets

Posted by libhom Monday, April 07, 2008 5 comments

Here's a meaningless break from my overly serious rantings.

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
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Shit! I need to curse more.


Name That Code
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66% Geek


27

Support Diplomacy with Iran

Posted by libhom Saturday, April 05, 2008 3 comments

From a Peace Action West Action Alert:

Tensions continue between the US and Iran. In early March, the US voted in favor of the third UN resolution imposing sanctions against Iran for continuing to enrich uranium.

Representative Barbara Lee (D - CA) has introduced the Iran Diplomatic Accountability Act of 2008 (HR 5056) to begin direct and unconditional diplomatic negotiations between the US and Iran. This bill would allow the president to appoint a high-level representative of the US or a special envoy for Iran to help ease tensions between our two countries.

We are now in the sixth year of the war in Iraq, and it is important for all of us to speak up in favor of exercising diplomacy to prevent future conflicts.

US insistence that Iran suspend uranium enrichment as a precondition for direct talks is counter-productive to the ultimate goal of ensuring nuclear non-proliferation. To prevent an escalation of hostilities, the US should engage directly with the Iranian government. Real diplomacy is a tool that shouldn’t be used only to reward one’s allies.

The longer negotiations are postponed, the more likely it is that there will be a war between Iran and the United States.

An attack on Iran would put our troops in Iraq in an even more deadly situation, given that Iran has missles capable of reaching them, and the majority of Iraqis are Shi'ites who have strong religious and cultural ties to Iran.

In a world which even Bush admits is "addicted to oil," a war with Iran would be devastating to an already weak global economy. The losses of Iranian, Iraqi, and American lives would be inexcusable.

Take Action!

 

One of the biggest distortions in the corporate media is that Bear Stearns got a federal bailout. That is inaccurate. Bear Stearns is going out of existence, and their investors are getting pennies on the dollar.

What is happening is that JP Morgan Chase is getting Bear Stearns at a fire sale price because their is little short term capital available for Bear Stearns. The Bear Stearns building is worth more than the amount of stock offered by JP Morgan Chase.

After snatching up Bear Stearns in a stunning $236 million rescue deal, real estate industry sources say that JPMorgan Chase & Co. has a wealth of options with the firm's headquarters: it could sell the Bear Stearns building for up to $1.2 billion or even back out of a deal to build a new downtown headquarters and instead take over the firm's 383 Madison Avenue headquarters.

What the taxpayers are guaranteeing is at least $150 million in questionable Bear Stearns debt that originates from subprime mortgages. The mortgage-based paper is being backed up with our money on behalf of JP Morgan Chase (which assumes the risk by buying the other corporations), not Bear Stearns. One question you might ask is:

So what? They both are disgusting corporations.

Well, the so-what of all of this is that the media are spinning to keep the blame away from JP Morgan Chase, a viable corporation, rather than the defunct Bear Stearns. This is part of the general corporate favoritism of their media, and it also represents kissing up to a major advertiser.

 

Hat tip to From the Left for pointing out this story.

Air America Chair Charlie Kireker actually has attacked the free speech rights of that company's talk show host by suspending Randi Rhodes for off air comments at an Air America sponsored event:

STATEMENT OF AIR AMERICA RADIO, FROM CHAIR CHARLIE KIREKER

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 3, 2008

New York - Air America has suspended on-air host Randi Rhodes for making inappropriate statements about prominent figures, including Senator Hillary Clinton, at a recent public appearance on behalf of Air America in San Francisco which was sponsored by an Air America affiliate station.

"Air America encourages strong opinions about public affairs but does not condone such abusive, ad hominem language by our Hosts," said chair Charlie Kireker.

I disagree with what Randi Rhodes said, because of the way the comments were worded. In fact, Rhodes repeatedly said things in the past I found offensive, which led to me decide not to listen to her show anymore. I have decided not to repeat the particular comments that got Rhodes suspended, though you can follow the link to the From the Left above if you want to know specifically what Rhodes said.

Air America is supposedly this liberal network, yet it is acting like a typical right-wing corporation, punishing employees who don't toe the corporate line. The issue here is the loss of our personal liberties to corporations and the government.

It would be one thing to disavow Rhodes' comments. Air America would have every right to do that. I disavow the way she worded the comments. But, corporations, especially ones that are involved in talk radio, should have the absolute highest standards for free speech.

Contact Air America!

 

People who want Hillary Clinton to drop out of the race have a lot of justifications for their views, justifications which have merit. Clinton has no chance of winning enough legitimate delegates to gain the nomination. All that remains for her is to steal the nomination via a superdelegate scam that would divide the party, and give the GOP the White House, the House, and the Senate as disenfranchised voters stayed home or voted for a candidate other than Clinton.

It also is true that Clinton's attacks make life easier for John "Keating Five" McCain. John McCain must be salivating at the site of Clinton smearing his eventual opponent, Barack Obama. The Clinton strategy of trashing Obama so Clinton can face McCain in 2012 is as unrealistic as it is reprehensible. If Obama loses to McCain, Democrats will overwhelmingly and accurately blame the Clintons, and the Clintons will never be forgiven.

However, more cerebral reasons for wanting Ms. Clinton to face reality are less motivating than an understandable emotional reaction to her behavior. The main reason that so many Democrats want Clinton out of the race is that the way she has conducted her campaign is absolutely sickening.

When you think of all the lies, the white supremacist hate, misdirection, fear mongering, and McCain glorification that has come form the Clinton Smear Campaign, it is easy to understand why people just want it all to stop. Hillary Clinton is running a Rove-style GOP campaign, trying to position herself as the lesser of two evils by making every dishonest negative comment she can.

Real Democrats feel like they need a shower when they listen to the Republican campaign of the Clintons. The Clintons' tactics really are that filthy. There just is no way Hillary Clinton will ever be president after this.

 

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