Sunday, December 30, 2007

Headline of the month: "Yoga Instructor Zapped by Officer for Yelling"

I must have missed this story in all the pre-Christmas hoopla. Everyone else must have missed it, too, because otherwise I would think (that is, I would hope) that it would get more press than just a couple of paragraphs.

From The Ledger:
DAYTONA BEACH | A police officer used a stun gun to zap a yoga instructor who yelled at her in a crowded department store, drawing questions about the non-lethal weapon's use.

Elizabeth Beeland, 35, went to a Daytona Beach Best Buy on Nov. 26 to purchase a CD player for her father. Her lawyer said she stepped outside the store when she received an emergency call about her daughter, leaving her credit card behind.

A store clerk suspected Beeland was using a stolen card and called over Daytona Beach Police Officer Claudia Wright, who was at the store.

When Wright approached Beeland, she became "verbally profane, abusive, loud and irate," Wright reported.

In a video posted on the Daytona Beach News-Journal Web site, Beeland is seen backing away and avoiding Wright before crumpling to the floor after being hit with the Taser's 50,000 volts.

She was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting a police officer without violence.

The "Don't taze me bro" story from earlier this year got lots and lots of attention and outrage at the time. Unfortunately we were all subjected to repeated showings of the young man badgering John Kerry at the Florida speech, and I guess eventually we all thought, well, he was getting kinda obnoxious. After watching the video over and over again, well, tasing started to seem almost reasonable. I at least wanted to flick him in the forehead.

But here we have a woman who's in the pre-Christmas shopping nightmare that is Best Buy, and she mouths off to a security guard. And that's enough to get her tased?! Good lord almighty! What's next -- Customer Service will have a handy taser behind the counter for when customers get upset about an expired 30 day warranty?

I emphasized the final sentence in the news story because this is where your civil rights just gasped their last sigh: She was not violent, yet she was tased. The arresting officer said the woman was "verbally profane, abusive, loud and irate."

Sister, I taught six years of middle school. Do you know how many hundreds of students I would have tased if that were the benchmark? There was a time in this country when we were allowed to be an irate customer.  Have we become so afraid of the terrorist shadow that even that little slice of our lives has been taken away?

I, for one, plan to continue to be an irate customer when warranted. But I guess I'd better invest in one of those t-shirts: "Don't tase me, bro!" for whenever I hit the mall.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I love Vermont: Reason number 1 million and one

Vermont town seeks Bush, Cheney arrests

President Bush may soon have a new reason to avoid left-leaning Vermont: In one town, activists want him subject to arrest for war crimes.

A group in Brattleboro is petitioning to put an item on a town meeting agenda in March that would make Bush and Vice President Cheney subject to arrest and indictment if they visit the southeastern Vermont community.

"This petition is as radical as the Declaration of Independence, and it draws on that tradition in claiming a universal jurisdiction when governments fail to do what they're supposed to do," said Kurt Daims, 54, a retired machinist leading the drive.

As president, Bush has visited every state except Vermont.

Read more at The Raw Story.

Sign on for Cheney's impeachment hearings

Florida Congressman Robert Wexler continues to work for impeachment hearings against Vice President Dick Cheney. You can help by showing your support at his online petition.
The case for impeachment is strong. In Wexler's words:
When Congress reconvenes in January, I plan to present a list to my Judiciary Committee colleagues of every single person that signed up at I will go to more of my colleagues and ask them to join a letter in support of hearings. We will build on the momentum you have given us.

I was serving in Congress and on the Judiciary Committee for the ridiculous and politically motivated impeachment hearings of President Clinton. During that witch hunt Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, and Ken Starr wasted a year and a half on investigations and hearings about President Clinton's personal relations. However, this attempted coup d'etat by Republicans against President Clinton was not and should not be the standard of impeachment that was enshrined by the Founders in our Constitution.

First, impeachment hearings are only proper when significant allegations exist that the President or Vice-President, or others civil officers, committed actions – within their official duties – that constitute 'High Crimes and Misdemeanors.' The allegations against Clinton – involving a personal affair - never reached this threshold. The serious charges against Cheney involve alleged crimes that are central to his duties of Vice-President; namely war and peace, the widespread violations of civil liberties, and the security of the United States and our covert agents.

Unlike the show trial put on by Republicans against President Clinton, a proper impeachment hearing would involve a fair and objective presentation of the facts without hyperbole or political gamesmanship. The hard evidence that is presented at the hearings will be judged fully both by Congress and the American people. The evidence alone will determine the outcome, and if it is determined that Vice President Cheney committed "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" he should be properly impeached and put on trial before the Senate.

Let your voice be heard. Sign the petition calling for impeachment hearings of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Navy JAG Andrew Williams Resigns Over Torture

As reported by ThinkProgress, a JAG officer with the U.S. Naval Reserve has resigned his commission over the alleged use of torture by the United States and the destruction of video tapes said to contain instances of that torture.

Explaining his resignation in a letter to his Gig Harbor, WA, newspaper — the Peninsula Gateway — Williams said Hartmann’s testimony was “the final straw”:
The final straw for me was listening to General Hartmann, the highest-ranking military lawyer in charge of the military commissions, testify that he refused to say that waterboarding captured U.S. soldiers by Iranian operatives would be torture.

His testimony had just sold all the soldiers and sailors at risk of capture and subsequent torture down the river. Indeed, he would not rule out waterboarding as torture when done by the United States and indeed felt evidence obtained by such methods could be used in future trials.

Thank you, General Hartmann, for finally admitting the United States is now part of a long tradition of torturers going back to the Inquisition.
If we can't state categorically that waterboarding is torture, then you can be certain the practice will be used on any of our own military men or women unlucky enough to be captured by someone determined to show the world what a hypocrite the United States has become. Read the rest of the story here.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto deserved better from the United States

With the assassination this week of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, a crucial link between Islam and the west has been destroyed. Although no saint, Bhutto was the greatest hope for a moderate leader in a country which has struggled to find its way since it gained independence in 1947.  Since then, the country has endured extreme corruption and violence, and many years of military rule. Although it is a Muslim majority population, secular factions have always had a strong voice in Pakistani politics.

Does this all sound a little too familiar? Will the Bush Administration learn anything from the Pakistan experience in its dealings with Iraq? Doubtful. Our Secretary of State, Condaleeza Rice, is an expert -- at Cold War Soviet relations. In other words, she is obsolete. She has been ineffective at transferring her in-depth knowledge of Eastern Europe to the Mid East. Diplomacy in Iraq seems non-existent: her only efforts appear to be the photo opportunities she takes on her "surprise visits" inside the green zone.

Benazir Bhutto and the Pakistani people deserved more from the U.S. As a Harvard and Oxford educated Muslim woman who had the support of a large percentage of the population (though certainly not every Pakistani admired her), she was the best hope for a bridge between Islam and democracy. Yet the Bush Administration sat idly by while President/ Dictator Pervez Musharraf stripped the country of its most basic civil liberties, such as freedom of speech. It was only after outcry from around the world (not led by the U.S.), that Bhutto was allowed into the country to run for office.

With elections scheduled for next month, Bhutto was campaigning throughout Pakistan. Having received many death threats, she requested protection from the Pakistan government, and was given none. The aftermath of Bhutto's assassination consists of riots and turmoil in Pakistan. Will Musharraf go ahead with the elections, or will this be a convenient excuse for him to again call for emergency powers and remain in office?

From Bloomberg: An American friend of Bhutto's, Washington lawyer Mark Siegel, told CNN that Bhutto e-mailed him on Oct. 26, one week after the attack on her in Karachi, to complain that Musharraf's government wasn't protecting her adequately.

Bhutto said she had requested the government provide her with jamming devices to thwart electronically triggered roadside bombs, special vehicles with tinted windows and four police cars to surround her at all times in her travels, Siegel told CNN. Bhutto said all the requests were denied.

``She became increasingly concerned that her security was not getting better, it was getting worse as she toured the country in preparation for the January 8th election,'' Siegel told the network.

The Bush Administration has stood by Pervez Musharraf for many years because he is our supposed ally in the "war on terror." Yet he has allowed the greatest hope for democracy in the region to be killed -- on his watch. More proof that when it comes to foreign policy, the Bush Administration has either (a) no clue, or (b) no interest in peace.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhutto assasinated at political rally

Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was killed at a political rally in Pakistan today. It is a sad continuation of politics that part of the world. Bhutto's father was also assasinated. Indira Ghandi was assasinated, as was her son when he followed in her footsteps.

Details are still emerging about who is responsible for the killings, which included Bhutto and at least 20 others. President Musharraf has been silent thus far, the US State Department has condemned the violence. But when it becomes clear that Musharraf is behind the assasination, what will the Bush Administration do?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wednesday poetry break

The rain is pouring down outside, the sump pump is running furiously. Although I know it too has its drawbacks, at the moment I am dreaming of a New England winter ....

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

— Robert Frost

Media hits Hillary Clinton hardest

A recent report by the the Center for Media and Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., examined almost 500 news stories on ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX from October 1 through December 15, 2007.

TV election news has been hardest on Hillary Clinton this fall, while Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee have been the biggest media favorites, according to a new study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University...

On-air evaluations of Hillary Clinton were nearly 3 to 2 negative (42% positive vs. 58% negative comments), while evaluations of her closest competitor Barack Obama was better than 3 to 2 positive (61% positive vs. 39% negative). John Edwards attracted much less coverage, but his evaluations were 2 to 1 positive (67% positive vs. 33% negative). Sen. Clinton was evaluated more often than all her Democratic opponents combined.

I love the title of their report:

Election Study Finds Media Hit Hillary Hardest , Obama, Huckabee Fare Best; FOX Is Most Balanced (not a typo)

Friday, December 21, 2007

(Equal time) Friday kitten blogging

funny pictures

Friday puppy blogging

I'll be doing only light posting in the next week, but that's probably o.k., because hopefully you'll be doing only light blog reading, spending more time with family friends over the holidays. There's plenty of death and destruction and just aggravating news to write about, and I'm sure I will do so. But for now, here's a "positive" story on which to end the week.
Dog's Warning Saves Woman From Fire

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) - Woman's best friend? A dog who saves her from a fire. Cathy Minnig was exercising on her basement treadmill Wednesday night, wearing music headphones, when her Labrador puppy, Riley, began jumping on and off the couch and otherwise acting strange.

Fire Chief Mike Scott said Minnig took off her headphones to hear fire alarms. She ran upstairs to find her living room engulfed in flames. Minnig grabbed the dog and ran outside, Scott said.

Both woman and dog were OK. Minnig's two sons weren't home at the time.

Scott said Minnig wouldn't have made it out in time without the dog's warning. The house was a total loss. He said the fire appeared to have started near the family Christmas tree.
Well done, Riley, well done.

Today's edition of the lying liars and the lies they tell: Mitt Romney

Why is everything said in the public arena so nuanced? It used to be, if you said that someone did something, you meant they did something. If I said I went for a walk, it meant I ... went for a walk.

Now comes Mitt Romney's description of his father's actions. In an effort to soften the image held by some in the public of the Morman church as racist, Romney recently said this: "My dad marched with Martin Luther King."

Not to be the grammar police, but that is a very simple sentence that states a clear fact. Romney's father marched with Martin Luther King. How could it mean anything else?

Well, after reporters began looking into the timing and location of when this "march" might have happened, things got a little ugly. From the Detroit Free Press:
Romney's campaign cited various historical articles, as well as a 1967 book written by Stephen Hess and Washington Post political columnist David Broder, as confirmation that George Romney marched with King in Grosse Pointe in 1963.

"He has marched with Martin Luther King through the exclusive Grosse Pointe suburb," Hess and Broder wrote in "The Republican Establishment: The Present and Future of the GOP."

Free Press archives, however, showed no record of King marching in Grosse Pointe in 1963 or of then-Gov. Romney taking part in King's historic march down Woodward Avenue in June of that year.

George Romney told the Free Press at the time that he didn't take part because it was on a Sunday and he avoided public appearances on the Sabbath because of his religion.

Romney did participate in a civil rights march protesting housing bias in Grosse Pointe just six days after the King march. According to the Free Press account, however, King was not there.

So now that the facts are out, Romney has a new explanation:
On Wednesday, Romney's campaign said his recollections of watching his father, an ardent civil rights supporter, march with King were meant to be figurative.

"He was speaking figuratively, not literally," Eric Fehrnstrom, spokesman for the Romney campaign, said of the candidate.
Just to be clear, the Oxford English Dictionary definition of figurative:
adjective: not using words literally; metaphorical.
So Romney's description, "My dad marched with Martin Luther King," really means "My dad was like others who marched with Martin Luther King." And I'm sorry, but sounds an awful like "This washer comes with a lifetime guarantee," which in "figurative" speak means "We'll repair this thing once, but not forever." In other words, misleading if not downright dishonest.

I know it's asking a lot for politicians to be honest, but could they just not abuse the English language when they lie? When something is figurative, it means it represents something else. When you say someone took an action, it means they took that actions, not that they took an action similar to the one you stated. Otherwise, if I said I went for a walk, I could mean I though about going for a walk .... which is not at all the same thing.

I need some fresh air. I'm going for a walk. really.

UPDATE: I think when you have to parse your sentences on the campaign trail, it's time to jump the shark. From MSNBC:

"The reference of seeing my father lead in civil rights," he said, "and seeing my father march with Martin Luther King is in the sense of this figurative awareness of and recognition of his leadership."

"I've tried to be as accurate as I can be," he continued, smiling firmly. "If you look at the literature or look at the dictionary, the term 'saw' includes being aware of -- in the sense I've described."

The questioning did not relent. "I'm an English literature major," he insisted at one point. "When we say I saw the Patriots win the World Series, it doesn't necessarily mean you were there." (He meant the Super Bowl, of course.)

Stunningly inept, even for George W. Bush

In an astounding display of stupidity and ineptitude, in 2006 President Bush responded to questions about the lack of legal oversight of government contractors such as KBR Haliburton with jokes and laughter.

Somehow I don't think that Jamie Leigh Jones, who was brutally raped by her KBR co-workers, finds any of this funny, Mr. President.

You can read more at The Raw Story.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Oxymoron of the day: "Department of Justice"

Perhaps someday the U.S. Department of Justice will in fact stand up for ... um, justice. But it didn't yesterday. From Firedoglake:
An extraordinarily brave Jamie Leigh Jones testified before the House Judiciary Committee today. Not-so-brave was the Justice Department -- they were supposed to send a representative, but none showed up.

Jamie Leigh:

"He handed me the drink and said 'don't worry, I saved all my Roofies for Dubai," or words very similar to that. I thought he was joking and felt safe with my co-workers. I believed that we were all on the same team. I took two sips from the drink and don't remember anything after that."

It really is consistent with a larger narrative -- we're not all on the same team. "We" are supposedly fighting terrorists, or weapons of mass destruction, or the evil-doers, or whatever they're packaging it as today, but in the end the corporate cons are just out for the corporate cons and everybody else is just supposed to pay the freight. There really is no "we."

Read the rest here. Below is video of Jamie Leigh, who did bother to show up to testify before Congress. It is painful, but important, to watch.

He needs a gun ... why?

In my ongoing quest to understand why any citizen needs to have handguns or semi-automatic weapons, I give you a good case against owning them:
Union Bridge Man Sentenced for Firing AK-47 to Silence Dogs

FREDERICK, Md. (AP) - A Union Bridge man has acknowledged in court making a bad decision when he fired his AK-47 earlier this year because of his neighbor's barking dogs.

Forty-five-year-old Dennis Kolb pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment Wednesday after telling the judge he screwed up. He was sentenced to one year in prison at his trial in Frederick County Circuit Court.

No one was injured by the gunfire.

On April 28, Kolb said barking dogs were keeping him from sleeping. So he went outside - while intoxicated - with his AK-47 assault rifle and fired multiple shots into the air.

Part Two: She needs a gun ... why?

In all fairness, it's not just the men. From CP24:

He wanted her to turn up the heat - so she shot his big screen TV.

That, in essence, sums up a bizarre case unfolding in a place called Washington Township, Michigan, about 40 kilometres from Detroit, after police were called to a bizarre domestic dispute in a home over the weekend. The argument apparently began when 65-year-old Joseph Grucz asked his spouse Cheryl to make the house a little bit warmer.

It's still not entirely clear why the request enraged the 61-year-old so much, but cops allege she picked up a pistol and fired at him as he cowered behind a pillow. The shot didn't hit him, but careened off in a different direction and put a bullet hole in their plasma TV.

Grucz then fled downstairs and dialed 911. "My wife's got a gun. She's shooting at me," he breathlessly told the operator as he outlined his request for more heat. "She's all excited about it because she's so cheap."

At that point, an already crazy confrontation became almost farcical, as his wife picked up the extension to give her side of the story. "I'm not going to hurt him. He has pushed me over the edge, that was all," she told the startled official. "He has had a stroke, and he's taking it all out on me."

"No I'm not," he defended.

"Yes, he is," she snapped back.

In the end, the heat was put on the wife, who was arrested on a charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm. She could face up to 10 years in prison and even more on the weapon counts that have also been laid against her. She's been ordered to take part in a domestic violence program and was freed on $50,000 bail. But there's no word if she's gone back home to her husband and his now shattered TV set.

The stories behind more war tragedies: Exporting domestic violence

What follows is the particularly disturbing story of three young American servicemen and women: two female sailors were killed in "non-hostile" fire in October. At the time, I was at home recovering from surgery, so maybe I wasn't following the news enough, but I don't remember this story being reported. If anyone else does, please let me know. Most of the initial coverage came from overseas news sources, and there has been very little reported since the killings occurred. There are several details about this story which make me suspicious about the lack of news coverage. From the [Bahrain] Gulf Daily News:
Anamarie Sannicolas Camacho, 20, and her colleague Genesia Mattril Gresham,19, were shot dead at the Naval Support Activity Base, Juffair, at around 5am on October 22.

Their alleged killer, fellow serviceman Clarence Jackson, 20, is still clinging to life after apparently shooting himself in the head immediately after the murders.

He is now at the National Naval Medical Centre in Bethesda, Maryland, US, after being transferred to the US from a specialist hospital in Germany. . . .

[Camacho's mother, Jovie] Paulino, who served in the US Air Force for six years, is also angry at the way the navy have handled the shooting.

"I had entrusted my daughter to the navy when she joined and this is what has happened, I just don't understand," she said. "I was in the military and right now I feel so angry and disappointed. She put her life on the line for our freedom and the only thing they should do (in return) is protect her."

Her comments echo that of Ms Gresham's mother Anita, who earlier blamed officials for leaving her daughter exposed to danger from a man she said turned nasty when she tried to cool their "casual" relationship.

Ms Gresham revealed Jackson had a restraining order against him and had been on suicide watch, after he allegedly attacked Miss Gresham less than four months ago.

She was also angry that Jackson was allowed to carry a gun after his alleged attack on her daughter and that officials were not telling her what happened in the run-up to the killings.
The last report I can find about Jackson states that he is in critical condition at Bethesda Naval Hospital, but is not expected to survive.

Approximately 20% of American casualties in the Iraq War effort are attributed to "non-combat" reasons. Some argue that these types of deaths should not be included in the same category as those who die in combat. I disagree. These two women enlisted in the military, and were killed while serving. By not protecting them from Jackson, the American military might as well have sent them into combat, unarmed.

Jackson previously made threats against Gresham and was ordered to stay away from her. However, as part of the security detail, Jackson was authorized to carry a gun while on duty, which he apparently was at the time of the shooting. Camacho and Gresham were also part of the security detail and each held the rank of master at arms; however, they were off duty at the time of the shooting, and therefore unarmed. According to details of the event, Jackson knocked on their door, immediately shooting both women when the door was opened. There was a great deal of tension on the base following the incident. From Stars and Stripes:
The shooting shocked those stationed on this important Navy base located on this tiny island Persian Gulf nation. But some sources say there were warning signs before the shooting occurred.

Jackson and Gresham had a volatile relationship, sources said. He had made threats against her in the past, was punished for it and ordered to stay away from her. Sources who would only speak on the condition of anonymity said Jackson had just gotten off restriction when he allegedly shot Camacho and Gresham.
Here are their stories.

Anamarie Sannicolas Camacho, 20

Ms Camacho, 20, from Panama City, Florida, joined the US Navy in June last year, because she could not afford to go to college, her heartbroken mother has revealed.

[Her mother] said her daughter knew that going to college would be too expensive, so she joined the navy after graduating from school, so she could fulfill her dream of obtaining a degree.

"She always had big smiles," she said, "She was an individual who was filled with energy."

Genesia Mattril Gresham, 19

From the Gulf Daily News:

Ms Gresham's mother Anita paid a poignant tribute to her 19-year-old daughter yesterday.

She confirmed that Ms Gresham had a casual relationship with Jackson and that he turned nasty after she tried to cool it.

The mother dismissed as untrue reports that the victims were lesbian lovers.

"My daughter, who was affectionately known to her friends and family as Snowflake, was a wonderful person."

I don't know why the mother felt compelled to refer to rumors of a lesbian relationship; I haven't come across this in any of the stories I've found online. It is true, however, that details about these two women have been very scarce, and details about the shooter, Jackson, are just about non-existent. Whether there was a lesbian relationship or not, the women were shot by Gresham's former boyfriend, and as noted by the Daily Kos in an October tribute to these two women:
Every day four women die in this country as a result of domestic violence, the euphemism for murders and assaults by husbands and boyfriends. That's approximately 1,400 women a year, according to the FBI. (link)

Banned by BBC1: Fairytale of New York

Here's my answer to Bill O'Reilly's alleged "war on Christmas." Definitely not your mother's Christmas carol, but I love the Pogues. But now comes word that the BBC has announced that it will be censoring "Fairytale of New York" on its BBC 1 channel because the song uses the word faggot. This, my friends is an attack on Christmas. Enjoy this lovely tune that tells the tale of "merry effin' Christmas" (probably NSFW):


I love my dad. Yesterday I drove my parents to a doctors appointment, and on the way back we passed a house whose front yard that looked very much like this one:

As we passed by, my father -- who only goes to church with my mom so she isn't driving alone, -- shook his head and said, "What would Jesus say?"

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Early poetry break

Today's poetry break comes a day early, as I don't think I'll be able to post tomorrow -- family duties call.

On the recommendation of a friend, I've been reading a fascinating book entitled The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism. It's fascinating because I'm learning a great deal more about the Transcendentalist movement of the 1800s. We all know bits and pieces, I think. You know Henry David Thoreau and Walden Pond, you know Ralph Waldo Emerson. But this (quite long) book looks at three women who were integral to the success of that movement, and it is a very interesting look at the life of women at the time. Elizabeth Palmer Peabody did many things in her lifetime, but one of the most important was to work as an editor and bookseller, ensuring that the works of those mentioned above as well as Nathaniel Hawthorn and Margaret Fuller were published. So thank Elizabeth Palmer Peabody for giving us the poem below, which still rings true today. Enjoy!

Men Say They Know Many Things

Men say they know many things;
But lo! they have taken wings, —
The arts and sciences,
And a thousand appliances;
The wind that blows
Is all that any body knows.

— by Henry David Thoreau

Does God want Mike Huckabee to win in Iowa?

Um, doesn't God have better things to be doing than powering the "surge" in Mike Huckabee's campaign? Not according to the Huckster. Watch it yourself (prepare to be majorly creeped out).

NEWSFLASH! Double standards in America: Women work harder to reach same goals

Yesterday I was part of an interesting discussion thread over at Shakespeare's Sister. The topic of discussion was, basically, whether Hillary Clinton has had the same opportunities as her male counterparts (Bill Clinton included). Most commenters agreed that, no matter what you think of Hillary's Clinton's politics, she is breaking new ground for women as the first "electable" female presidential candidate. There was, however, one commenter who was determined to yank everyone's chain. He certainly yanked mine, and I thought about the discussion for most of last evening.

In retrospect, I think Mr Negative, as I shall call him, served a purpose. He argued that Hillary Clinton, although a woman, comes from a comfortable background and was able to attend law school and work for organizations because she was a woman in the sixties. He said: "Bull@#&!, Hillary came into law and politics when political correctness was at a high point ... Look at her resume, everything she got was handed to her on a silver platter..."

Is that why some people have such a gut reaction to Hillary Clinton -- they view her as privileged? If that is the case, I am even more astonished at the double standards of this country than ever before. Compare Hillary's Clinton's resume to, oh I don't know, let's say the current president, George W. Bush.

Hillary Clinton
1947, born Chicago, Illinois, grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois, attended public schools
(father operated a small textile business, mother was a homemaker)
1965 National Merit Scholar Finalist
1969, graduated from Wellesley College with departmental honors
1973, graduated from Yale University with Law Degree
(worked on the Yale Review of Law and Social Action)
She began a year of post-graduate study on children and medicine at the Yale Child Study Center.[45] Her first scholarly paper, "Children Under the Law", was published in the Harvard Educational Review in late 1973[46] and became frequently cited in the field." wk
1973 Staff attorney for Children's Defense Fund
During 1974 she was a member of the impeachment inquiry staff in Washington, D.C., advising the House Committee on the Judiciary during the Watergate scandal.[49][50] Under the guidance of Chief Counsel John Doar and senior member Bernard Nussbaum,[32] Rodham helped research procedures of impeachment and the historical grounds and standards for impeachment.[50] The committee's work culminated in the resignation of President Richard Nixon in August 1974.[50] wk
1974, became faculty member at University of Arkansas, Fayetteville School of Law
1977, co-founded Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families
1977, became the first woman to be made a full partner of Rose Law Firm

George W. Bush
1946, born in New Haven Conn., grew up in Midland and Houston Texas
(grandfather was a U.S. senator from Connecticut, father oil executive in Texas, mother a homemaker)
Attended private school, Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts
1968 graduated from Yale University (his grandfather's and father's alma mater)
(was president of secret Skulls & Bones Society)
1968 accepted in Air National Guard
(despite scoring in the 25th percentile[21][22] on the pilot's written aptitude test, which was the lowest acceptable passing grade.[23]) wk
1970 applied to Univ. of Texas Law school, was rejected
1972 transfered to Alabama Air Guard to work on a Republican campaign
1973 left Texas National Guard 8 months early to attend Harvard Business School
1975 graduated Harvard with MBA
1976 arrested for DUI
1977 began career in the Texas oil industry

Compare where these two individuals came from, what they did during these crucial years in their lives, and where they are at this point in their lives. It seems clear to me who has had a privileged life and who has had to work for their successes in life. I have not heard Hillary Clinton "play the sexism card" as Mr. Negative claimed. I have only seen her working forward on social issues important to her.

Say what you will about her stands on the issues, but Hillary Rodham Clinton will probably be the first woman president of the United States of America, and she will have earned every right to that title.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Today's Huckabee alert: Son is a dog strangling airline terrorist

The latest edition of Newsweek reports that Mike Huckabee's son could be, uh, shall we say, a negative. In the article "A Son’s Past Deeds Come Back To Bite Huckabee," Newsweek reports on
allegations that one of his sons was involved in the hanging of a stray dog at a Boy Scout camp in 1998. The incident led to the dismissal of David Huckabee, then 17, from his job as a counselor at Camp Pioneer in Hatfield, Ark.
But wait -- there's more! Apparently the Huckster leaned on authorities who were investigating the charges, successfully getting them to drop the investigation despite several witness accounts.
It also prompted the local prosecuting attorney— bombarded with complaints generated by a national animal-rights group—to write a letter to the Arkansas state police seeking help investigating whether David and another teenager had violated state animal-cruelty laws. The state police never granted the request, and no charges were ever filed. But John Bailey, then the director of Arkansas's state police, tells NEWSWEEK that Governor Huckabee's chief of staff and personal lawyer both leaned on him to write a letter officially denying the local prosecutor's request. Bailey, a career officer who had been appointed chief by Huckabee's Democratic predecessor, said he viewed the lawyer's intervention as improper and terminated the conversation. Seven months later, he was called into Huckabee's office and fired. "I've lost confidence in your ability to do your job," Bailey says Huckabee told him. One reason Huckabee cited was "I couldn't get you to help me with my son when I had that problem," according to Bailey.
Huckabee Junior's most recent troubles were in April of this year, when he attempted to take a 40-caliber Glock pistol in his black carry-on bag, along with 8 live rounds in the gun and a nine-round clip in the bag onto a plane. Mike Huckabee himself explained that his son:
grabbed the bag on the way to the airport and didn't realize the gun was inside
And come on now, who hasn't done that?

Time for the Wal-Mart talk: Rolling back reality

I went to a holiday party last evening (actually, it was the annual celebration of Beethoven's birthday), and was immediately face to face with "The Wal-Mart Discussion." Sometimes you don't see it coming, and this was one of them. Most of my friends are very liberal (surprise, surprise, I know!), so I am always shocked to hear that any of them would throw out their values to save a buck.

But I had barely taken a sip of my first glass of wine when a friend -- really she's a friend of a friend -- announced that she had just spent the day at the "new Wal-Mart Super Center and it was fabulous!" I nearly choked on my Cabernet. Rather than get into a nasty argument, my sweetie and I simply said "we don't shop at Wal-Mart, because those low prices come at too high a cost to society." The friend acted surprised at this news, which is fairly unbelievable given the crowd she runs with. So methinks she was trying to cause some drama -- do you have friends like that? But in the small chance that she -- or anyone else -- does not know the truth behind the "fabulous" Wal-Mart, here are some facts about the retail giant, via Wake-Up Wal-Mart:

Wal-Mart cares little for the safety of its workers

  • In 2005, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has upheld a $5,000 fine against a Wal-Mart store in Hoover, Ala., for blocking emergency exits. The court upheld a decision by a judge who found that Wal-Mart was guilty of a serious and repeated offense. [New York Times, 5/17/05]
  • The West Virginia state workmen's comp agency placed Wal-Mart in an "adverse risk" pool because Wal-Mart had unusually high accident rates. [Charleston Gazette, 6/3/99]
Wal-Mart fails to provide a secure retirement benefit for its employees.

  • Wal-Mart sponsors two retirement plans — a profit sharing plan and 401(k) plan — neither of which guarantee workers a fixed monthly pension benefit.
  • Wal-Mart's retirement plans are Enron-like -- in 2003-04, 67% of their combined assets were invested in Wal-Mart stock. [Wal-Mart Stores 5500 IRS Filing, 2004]
  • When employees retire without adequate savings and benefits, they are less able to pay for health care, housing, and food. Communities and taxpayers ultimately bear the cost.

Wal-Mart closes down stores and departments that unionize

  • Wal-Mart closed its store in Jonquierre, Quebec in April 2005 after its employees received union certification. The store became the first unionized Wal-Mart in North America when 51 percent of the employees at the store signed union cards. [Washington Post, 4/14/05]
  • In 2000, when a small meatcutting department successfully organized a union at a Wal-Mart store in Texas, Wal-Mart responded a week later by announcing the phase-out of its in-store meatcutting company-wide. [Pan Demetrakakes, "Is Wal-Mart Wrapped in Union Phobia?" Food & Packaging 76 (August 1, 2003).]
Wal-Mart discriminates against women
  • In 2001, six women sued Wal-Mart in California claiming the company discriminated against women by systematically denying them promotions and paying them less than men. The lawsuit, Dukes v. Wal-Mart, has expanded to include more than 1.6 million current and former female employees, and was certified on June 21 2004 as the largest class action lawsuit ever. [Mondaq Business Briefing, November 1, 2004]
  • In 2001, women managers on average earned $14,500 less than their male counterparts. Female hourly workers earned on average $1,100 less than male counterparts. [Drogin 2003]
Wal-Mart violates Child Labor Laws

  • An internal Wal-Mart audit found "extensive violations of child-labor laws and state regulations requiring time for breaks and meals." [New York Times, 1/13/04]
  • One week of time records from 25,000 employees in July 2000 found 1,371 instances of minors working too late, during school hours, or for too many hours in a day. There were 60,767 missed breaks and 15,705 lost meal times. [New York Times, 1/13/04]
That's not enough? Then I suggest you take a read of Rolling Back Property Tax Payments: How Wal-Mart Short-Changes Schools and other Public Services by Challenging Its Property Tax Assessments

Or, read a story that we've referenced here before, the case of Deborah Shank, a Wal-Mart employee who was left severely disabled in an auto accident -- only to have Wal-Mart sue her for damages she received from the semi driver who ran into her. The settlement that Shank had received from the driver was put into a special account to pay for the catastrophic health costs incurred from her injuries. But Wal-Mart sued her for even more than the settlement amount. Nice.

As you do your holiday shopping, please consider all of these facts. Then decide if it's worth it to save a few bucks at the expense of society's weakest members.

The rich get richer and ... well you know the rest

If it feels like you can't ever get ahead, while the rich of this country seem to be lighting their cigars with $100 bills, you're not alone:
The gains in after-tax income from 2003 to 2005 for the bottom 40% of the country was less than 3%. For the top 1% of the country, it was 43.5%.
From the New York Times:
“A lot of people justifiably feel they are working harder and smarter, they are baking a bigger and better pie, and yet their slice is not growing much at all,” Mr. Bernstein [economist at the Economic Policy Institute] said. “It is meaningless to middle- and low-income families to say we have a great economy because their economy looks so much different than folks at the top of the scale because this is an economy that is working, but not working for everyone.”

At every income level Americans had more income, after adjusting for inflation in 2005 than in 2003, but the increases ranged from almost imperceptible for the poor to modest for the middle class and largest for those at the top.

Merry freakin' Christmas.

Back to the tap: good for your wallet, good for the planet

If you ever doubt the power of good marketing, look at the bottled water industry in America. This country, which has by far the largest supply in the world of clean water available to its citizens, leads the world in consumption of bottled water. The ultimate irony: more than a quarter of that is simply bottled tap water.

We spend more than $15 billion a year on bottled water in the United States. Bottles of water costs up to several dollars a gallon (and more for designer brands). Tap water, on the other hand, is delivered directly to homes and offices for less than a penny a gallon.

From the Earth Policy Institute:
In contrast to tap water, which is delivered through an energy-efficient infrastructure, bottled water is an incredibly wasteful product. It is usually packaged in single-serving plastic bottles made with fossil fuels. Just manufacturing the 29 billion plastic bottles used for water in the United States each year requires the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of crude oil.

After being filled, the bottles may travel far. Nearly one quarter of bottled water crosses national borders before reaching consumers, and part of the cachet of certain bottled water brands is their remote origin. Adding in the Pacific Institute’s estimates for the energy used for pumping and processing, transportation, and refrigeration, brings the annual fossil fuel footprint of bottled water consumption in the United States to over 50 million barrels of oil equivalent-enough to run 3 million cars for one year. If everyone drank as much bottled water as Americans do, the world would need the equivalent of more than 1 billion barrels of oil to produce close to 650 billion individual bottles.
Fortunately, there is a movement toward tap water. More from the Earth Policy Institute:
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represents some 1,100 American cities, discussed at its June 2007 meeting the irony of purchasing bottled water for city employees and for city functions while at the same time touting the quality of municipal water. The group passed a resolution sponsored by Mayors Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, Rocky Anderson of Salt Lake City, and R. T. Rybak of Minneapolis that called for the examination of bottled water’s environmental impact. The resolution noted that with $43 billion a year going to provide clean drinking water in cities across the country, “the United States’ municipal water systems are among the finest in the world.”
So how easy a choice is this to make: by choosing to forgo bottled water and instead drink from the tap, you can save money and reduce waste and fuel consumption. I call that a no-brainer.

Health insurance: Some are more equal than others

A nurses union put this eye-popping ad in about 10 different Iowa newspapers last week. The ad includes a newspaper article on Cheney's last hospitalization for heart treatment with these true words: "If he were anyone else, he'd probably be dead by now."

In response to the Cheney office's claim that the ad is "outrageous," Charles Idelson, spokesman for the California Nurses Association and the National Nurses Organizing Committee, said, "What's outrageous is we have an administration that sits on its hands while we have 47 million people who are uninsured...This administration has ignored this health care crisis. They're indifferent to pain and suffering."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Your holiday shopping just got a little bit easier

I got an email this morning from Oxfam America that was full of great ideas for holiday gifts:
$40.00: Here's a gift you can tap into. Provide farmers with a much-needed system to irrigate their land. With your support for two months, four months, or a full year, you'll help farmers grow a bumper crop!

$40.00 They’re cheaper by the dozen. Who can resist these fuzzy little beauties? Your gift provides HIV/AIDS-affected households with a starter flock: a dozen chicks to produce eggs, generate income, and improve nutrition. Now that’s an eggs-ceptional gift!

$25.00 Forget the apple for the teacher; we've got a plum of a gift. School supplies—like rulers, notebooks, erasers, pencils, and pens—mean that a child will have the necessary tools for class. Everyone involved with this gift deserves a gold star!

$18.00 Baby, it's cold outside! And nothing takes the chill off like a cozy blanket—especially for those who are driven from their homes because of a natural disaster. This gift of blankets for an entire family provides both warmth and comfort.

$75.00 It's got milk and so much more! Help a family by buying a cow, and you will provide an entire economic support system. A cow provides nutritious products for a family to sell, mows the grass, and moo-ves a family toward greater opportunity.
Here's how it works. Oxfam America is an amazing organization that works in 26 countries around the world. When you select an item from the online catalog, it represents project goals from grants disbursed by their offices around the world. So purchasing each gift item is a contribution toward Oxfam America's many programs, not a donation to a specific project or goal. So althought it might feel more rewarding as the person who gives if you were actually giving a cow to a family, the bottom line is: donations are used where needed the most--to help people living in poverty throughout the world.

Every year we all say how commercial and material the holidays have become. Maybe it's time we actually did something about it.

Darn right it's Friday

And I'm in serious need of some lightening up ....

December 13, 2003: Saddam Hussein captured

I haven't seen much mention of this in the news today, but it 's now been 4 years since Paul Bremer announced, "The tyrant is a prisoner." From, here are some other important time lines:

US deaths since July 2, 2003: 3684
(Pres. Bush announces, "Bring Them On")

Total Hostile Fatalities since December 13, 2003: 3035
(Saddam Hussein is captured)

Coalition Deaths Since January 30, 2005: 2601
(First Nationwide election since the toppling of Saddam Hussein)

Coalition Deaths Since December 15, 2005: 1843
(General election to elect a permanent Iraqi National Assembly)

Coalition Deaths Since June 7, 2006: 1484
(Death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi)

I think these facts speak for themselves, as far as the lack of success of George W. Bush's private war.

Abuse of women in Iraq: "democracy" means doing whatever you want to them

There is an alarming story in the Guardian this morning about the current state of women in Iraq. Despite George Bush's claims that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein has brought "new rights and new hopes to women," women in Iraq live a life of brutality and death.
[S]ince the 2003 invasion, advances that took 50 years to establish are crumbling away. In much of the country, women can only now move around with a male escort. Rape is committed habitually by all the main armed groups, including those linked to the government. Women are being murdered throughout Iraq in unprecedented numbers.
So-called "honor killings" have risen dramatically. Because there is no state government to regulate the safety of women, cultural and religious factions have taken it upon them selves to enforce rules as they see fit:
In October the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (Unami) expressed serious concern over the rising incidence of so-called honour crimes in Iraqi Kurdistan, confirming that 255 women had been killed in just the first six months of 2007, three-quarters of them by burning. An earlier Unami report cited 366 burns cases in Dohuk in 2006, up from 289 the year before, although most were not fatal. In Irbil, the emergency management centre had reported 576 burns cases since 2003, resulting in 358 deaths.

The Iraqi penal code prescribes leniency for those who commit such crimes for "honourable motives", enabling some of the men involved to get off with no more than a fine.

[A] man from Kirkuk ... accused his sister of adultery. "When we asked him why he wanted to kill his sister, he said, 'Because it is now a democracy in Iraq'. He thought that democracy meant he could do whatever he wanted." But the man's stupidity hid an important point: under the new system of government developing in Iraq, family disputes are increasingly settled not in state courts but by local tribal or religious authorities.
We keep hearing from this administration that violence is down in Iraq. Just a week ago, General Petraeus seemed guardedly optimistic about the situation in Iraq, saying that there is improvement, although there is still a great deal of danger still. The drumbeat from the White House, however, is still "stay the course" (although I haven't heard that phrase in a while, have you? In fact, I think the trend has been: "Mission accomplished," Stay the course," and now "Guarded optimism.").

So while those in office and those running for office would tell us that things are improving Iraq, I remind them of the words of Abigail Adams: Remember the ladies.

UPDATE: From Human Rights Watch, more background on the deterioration of women's lives in Iraq since U.S. involvement there:
Historically, Iraqi women and girls have enjoyed relatively more rights than many of their counterparts in the Middle East. The Iraqi Provisional Constitution (drafted in 1970) formally guaranteed equal rights to women and other laws specifically ensured their right to vote, attend school, run for political office, and own property. Yet, since the 1991 Gulf War, the position of women within Iraqi society has deteriorated rapidly. Women and girls were disproportionately affected by the economic consequences of the U.N. sanctions, and lacked access to food, health care, and education. These effects were compounded by changes in the law that restricted women's mobility and access to the formal sector in an effort to ensure jobs to men and appease conservative religious and tribal groups.
And from the Washington Post recently:

Before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, was known for its mixed population and night life. Now, in some areas, red graffiti threatens any woman who wears makeup and appears with her hair uncovered: "Your makeup and your decision to forgo the headscarf will bring you death."

Khalaf said bodies have been found in garbage dumps with bullet holes, decapitated or otherwise mutilated with a sheet of paper nearby saying, "she was killed for adultery," or "she was killed for violating Islamic teachings." In September, the headless bodies of a woman and her 6-year-old son were among those found, he said. A total of 40 deaths were reported this year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Saint George continues his lies. Is it a way of life for these people?

In an interview with ABC's Martha Raddatz, our pathological liar dear leader continues to tell the fib that he stopped drinking one morning in 1986 and has never had a drink since:
"I had too much to drink one night, and the next day I didn't have any," Bush said. "The next day I decided to quit and I haven't had a drink since 1986."
Really, George? So you were sober at this wedding in 1992?

No? How about at the end of this video, where Laura needs to prop you up as you walk away from Air Force One?

And finally, remember "drinks with the G8"?

Personally, I'm getting pretty tired of this holier than thou, recovering addict bull from Bush and his religious conservative pals. Whether it's gay sex or drinking, the hypocrisy in this Administration is reaching a boiling point .....

Here's a concept: Report the facts

Let me preface this post by saying that I have not decided who to endorse in the presidential primary (okay, okay, so that's not exactly breaking news, like Oprah announcing she's behind Obama.) But I am upset about the amount of negative press and non-reporting of positive events concerning Hillary Clinton. Today's example is a new poll out from ABC News and The Washington Post.

In a national poll, (that is, a poll of more than just the Iowa or New Hampshire voters), Hillary Clinton is leading the field of candidates with 53% of probable democratic voters supporting her. Obama, her closest rival, has only 23% support.

To me, this is important news. For the first time in our history, a woman running for president holds a commanding lead in the polls. Yet this story was reported in the Post with this headline:

In Poll, Huckabee Closes on Giuliani

Clinton Far Ahead Among Democrats

I have to say, this kind of reporting is turning me into a Hillary Clinton supporter. Buried at the end of the article was this (emphasis mine):

Clinton's standing on attributes and issues also remains strong. She holds a 3 to 1 edge in being perceived as the strongest leader in the field and a nearly 6 to 1 advantage as the candidate with the best experience to be president. On the issues, she holds 2 to 1 or greater leads on four top issues: the economy, Iraq, health care and terrorism, advantages that have remained steady since late September.

Nationally, Democrats say they put little stock in talk show host Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of Obama. More than eight in 10 said her support will not make a difference in their vote; 8 percent said it makes them more likely to vote for Obama, while 10 percent said it would make them less likely to support him. At the same time, among black women, two in 10 said they are more likely to support Obama because of Winfrey's recommendation. (African American women went for Clinton over Obama in the poll, 54 percent to 34 percent.)

No, I won't voter for Hillary Clinton just because she's a woman. But as a woman who grew up before Title IX was enacted, I spent most of my youth facing the realities of things I could not do because I was a girl. The only time my 6th grade basketball team got to play a real game was during halftime of the boys' game, and that was only because of a dedicated phys ed teacher. I loved politics and current events from an early age, so I eagerly watched Shirley Chisholm and Geraldine Ferraro run for office. I saw, however, that few people took them seriously as candidates — because they were women. A favorite saying about America has always been that anyone can be president. But women and people of color have known the farce of that statement.

For the first time in the history of this country, a woman is running for president and leading the polls. All I ask is that she has a fair shot.

Wednesday poetry break

I woke up this morning in a sour mood, though not sure why. Didn't sleep well, fussed with my sweetie this morning, and grumbled to myself the entire drive to work. And it was a long drive today. I've spend quite a while this morning trying to find a suitable poem for my mood, and I'm still not happy with my choice. But I have a feeling I could spend all morning reading poems and not find one that fits. Another cup of coffee and I think the outlook for the rest of the day will improve.

With Mercy for the Greedy

For my friend, Ruth, who urges me to make an appointment for the Sacrament of Confession

Concerning your letter in which you ask
me to call a priest and in which you ask
me to wear The Cross that you enclose;
your own cross,
your dog-bitten cross,
no larger than a thumb,
small and wooden, no thorns, this rose—

I pray to its shadow,
that gray place
where it lies on your letter ... deep, deep.
I detest my sins and I try to believe
in The Cross. I touch its tender hips, its dark jawed face,
its solid neck, its brown sleep.

True. There is
a beautiful Jesus.
He is frozen to his bones like a chunk of beef.
How desperately he wanted to pull his arms in!
How desperately I touch his vertical and horizontal axes!
But I can’t. Need is not quite belief.

All morning long
I have worn
your cross, hung with package string around my throat.
It tapped me lightly as a child’s heart might,
tapping secondhand, softly waiting to be born.
Ruth, I cherish the letter you wrote.

My friend, my friend, I was born
doing reference work in sin, and born
confessing it. This is what poems are:
with mercy
for the greedy,
they are the tongue’s wrangle,
the world's pottage, the rat's star.

— Anne Sexton

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

3,888 dead: The stories behind 3 tragedies

From the US Department of Defense:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died from wounds suffered when their vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device in Bayji, Iraq. They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.
Killed were:
  • Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez, 26, of Waldwick, N.J., who died Dec. 4 in Bayji, Iraq.
  • Pvt. Dewayne L. White, 27, of Country Club Hills, Ill., who died Dec. 4 in Bayji, Iraq.Capt.
  • Adam P. Snyder, 26, of Fort Pierce, Fla., who died Dec. 5 in Balad, Iraq.

These three men won't be coming back to their families for this or any other holiday season:

Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez

Army Sgt. Eric J. Hernandez, 26, had an older brother and a younger sister. His mom and stepdad live in Waldwick, N.J., and he was raised in West Milford, in Passaic County. His father, Craig Hernandez, is a Garnerville resident.

Eric Hernandez had earned his high school equivalency diploma. He knew what he wanted, to join the military, which he did in October 2003. He also had career plans after his Army stint was up - he had already taken the civil service test to become a police officer. His family has a strong law enforcement tradition - his uncle is retired Clarkstown Police Chief William Collins.

Dewayne L. White
White grew up in Chicago's Woodlawn community and attended Curie High School. When his mother and stepfather moved to Country Club Hills during his senior year, White earned his GED and trained to be a welder through a Job Corps program.

White loved to dance, draw cartoons of hip-hop characters and play pool. He adored the family's dog, a Rottweiler named Zeus. And he did a dead-on impression of Donald Duck, his siblings said.

His family remembered how willing White - a broad-shouldered man who stood 6 feet 2 inches - had always been to help others.

When he was about 7 years old, a neighbor gave him a dollar for being a good boy. White gave the money to charity, without urging from adults, because he wanted to help the children of Ethiopia, his mother said.

He maintained that spirit of giving while in Iraq. He always carried candy to pass out to the children, his mother said.

Adam P. Snyder

Everyone knew Adam Snyder was something special, even before he graduated in the top 10 percent at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with studies in Arabic and Middle Eastern history, became an Army Ranger and set off for Iraq.

At Fort Pierce's Lincoln Park Academy, he was named "Mr. LPA." Classmates crowned him homecoming king. His lead performance in The Music Man his senior year earned rave reviews. In the yearbook section titled "Most Likely to Appear On the Cover Of," Snyder is shown on an Entertainment Weekly headlined "Adam Snyder Wins Tony for Music Man."

He loved acting. As a child, he attended three years of theater camp at the Pineapple Playhouse, the local community theater. He struck a deal with his family: After the Army, in 2009, he would go to Hollywood for a year to try his hand at acting.

At Westside Baptist, he had been heavily involved with the youth group. Every summer, he volunteered as a counselor at vacation Bible camp.

"He made coming to church cool to the kids," Ingersoll said. "He didn't have to go to West Point to learn how to lead."

Please continue to do what ever you can to end the war in Iraq. Contact your Senators and Representatives today and tell them we want the killing in the name of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" to end now.

With Hillary Clinton as everyone's new favorite target, the truth be damned?

It's getting harder and harder to be a well-informed voter. In case you hadn't noticed, the mainstream media leans more toward opinion than fact. Point in case, Media Matters catches the Washington Post's David Ignatius, who ignores poll results from his own paper to promote his own opinions:
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius asserted of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign: "[V]oters are grappling with the unusual questions that would surround her presidency. And the most important of these is the 'two presidents' problem. Whatever you think of the Clintons, it's hard to get your mind around having a current and former president in the White House."

But a September 27-30 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 60 percent of respondents said they "personally feel comfortable ... with the idea of Bill Clinton back in the White House." And in several other 2007 polls, a majority of respondents stated that Bill Clinton is an asset to Hillary Clinton's campaign or would have a positive effect on a Hillary Clinton administration.
Whatever you think of Hillary Clinton, this type of misleading writing -- his article was titled, "Hillary's Ex Factor: The 'Two Presidents' Issue Isn't Going Away" -- must be addressed. The frontrunner in any race is always the target of scrutiny -- that's a reality of human nature (who doesn't love an underdog?). But Ignatius and others like him in the MSM are not scrutinizing, but are promoting their own opinions -- despite facts to the contrary.

Perhaps David Ignatius is "grappling" with the historic possibility of having a former President in the White House again -- as a first-spouse. And maybe Ignatius finds it "hard to get your mind around having a current and former president in the White House." But to say that "voters are grappling" with an issue when 60 percent are not is not just poor writing -- it's a lie.

Evolution vs. Creationism: Are you freakin' kidding me?

A mighty hat tip to Cootamundra Wattle for this "fodder for the blog," as she put it.

In yesterday's CommonDreams, Sean Gonsalves has an excellent article on the current state of the debate between evolution and creationism. (I can't even believe I just wrote that sentence — what year is this?!)

From Gonsalves:
A federal lawsuit has been filed against a biologist at the world-famous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution by a zebra fish researcher named Nathaniel Abraham, alleging his civil rights were violated when he was fired because his belief in creationism.
Yes, a researcher is suing a biologist over his beliefs in creationism. (Ironically, this researcher studies zebra fish, pictured above, which are featured in a UC Berkeley article from the series "Understanding Evolution." I guess he didn't go to Berkeley.)

Gonsalves points out that the current strategy of creationists such as the one in this case seems to be to "insert skepticism" about evolution into the public arena, since their outright dismissal of evolution on religious grounds has been thrown out numerous courts. And as often happens in these types of passionate debates, facts are being manipulated and twisted to fit the arguers needs:
The evolution vs. creationism debate may be an unavoidable political fight but much more relevant and revealing is what many evolution-believing secular conservatives and evolution-denying religious conservatives have in common: a belief in social Darwinism.

A popular misconception is that Darwin coined the phrase “survival of the fittest.” Actually, Darwin’s thang was “natural selection,” which turns out to involve lots of cooperation.

The origin of “survival of the fittest” can be traced to British philosopher Herbert Spencer, who had an illustrious career justifying racism and imperialism with his pseudo-science 50 years after Darwin published The Origin of the Species.

Spencer bastardized Darwin’s theory and attempted to apply his misunderstanding of evolution to politics and economics. Thus began a political tradition in this country that has reached its apogee today, in which public policy is seen as a vehicle to prevent the weak from being “parasites” on the “fit.”

I encourage you to read the rest of Gonsalves' article here. With the rise in the polls of social conservatives like Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, it's imperative that we know (1) the facts about evolution theory, and (2) where these social conservatives would take us on their journey down creationist lane.
So while science battles evolution-opponents, I’m trying to understand a conservative political species that opposes evolution on religious grounds while supporting social Darwinism on the political and economic grounds.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Guns in America, continued

In an earlier post about the recent shootings in America, I asked simply, "Why?" And now the past few days have brought more stories of innocent people killed because of guns in the hands of angry, sick individuals. Ironically, this all falls within a few days of an incredibly sad and tragic anniversary: on December 8, 1980, John Lennon was shot by Mark David Chapman.

Let's not waste the lives of those we have lost. Let's, together, make the world a place of love and joy and not a place of fear and anger. This day of John's passing has become more and more important for so many people around the world as the day to remember his message of Peace and Love and to do what each of us can to work on healing this planet we cherish.

Let's: Think Peace, Act Peace, and Spread Peace. John worked for it all his life. He said, "there's no problem, only solutions." Remember, we are all together. We can do it, we must. I love you!

Yoko Ono Lennon
Please watch John sing "Imagine." Again, I ask: "Why do we need handguns and semi-automatic weapons in America?"

Math is fun!

As my friends will attest, I am somewhat math-impaired. It just doesn't come naturally to me for some reason. So perhaps that's why I am fascinated when I come across something like the following video, which explains Mobeus Transformations. Geometry was always easiest for me to understand in school because it's visual, but a concept like this is still pretty intense. Fortunately, this video is anything but intense.

So, although you didn't expect a math lesson when you came here, I think you'll enjoy it!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Guns in America: Why?

In the last couple of days I heard two shocking stories of innocent people being shot. The first, of course, being the 19-year-old who shot 8 people with an AK-47 in an Omaha shopping mall. The other story, which hasn't gotten as much press, is about an 8-year-old girl who was shot when she tried to protect her mother from the mother's ex-boyfriend.

These are very different circumstances: in one we have a depressed, angry young man who steals his stepfather's assault rifle and goes on a shooting rampage. In the other situation, domestic violence rears its ugly head again, as a little girl sees her mother get shot twice and then jumps in front of her to protect her from further harm. Unfazed, the ex-boyfriend fired six shots into the little girl, critically injuring her.

The common thread in these stories: guns.

Why does anyone need to have an AK-47 ? Or, for that matter, a 9mm semi automatic pistol like the one used by the gunman in Detroit? There is no reason to have these guns! I know the argument that citizens should have guns for "protection" but I would like to see a study showing how many times a crime has been averted because a victim had a gun. I've never heard of such a study, so if you know of one please let me know.

I have however, seen studies here, here, and here, for example, that show that guns kept in the home are much more likely to be used to kill innocent people than to ever be used in self-defense. From the Brady Campaign:
A gun kept in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in an unintentional shooting, a criminal assault or homicide, or an attempted or completed suicide than to be used to injure or kill in self-defense.
So I ask you: why ?

Fuel efficiency standards: It's a gas, gas gas!

The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday passed an energy bill that, among other things, would raise fuel efficiency standards for American automobiles for the first time since 1975. You remember 1975, don't you? No? Well, see if you remember what we were driving in 1975:

That's right, it's the 1975 Chrysler Cordoba! I also remember riding around in my friend's 1975 Chevy Nova (although hers was a 2-door model):

So yes, I do believe it might be time to update our fuel efficiency standards. In 1975, the average price of gas was about 59 cents a gallon, which when adjusted for inflation is about $1.70 per gallon. Add to the increased cost of gas the amount of knowledge we now have about climate change and greenhouse gases, and it really is almost unfathomable that auto fuel standards have not changed in 30 years.

It really says a lot about the power of the auto and oil industries.

Not surprisingly, Republican senators have already announced they will filibuster the bill, and President Bush has indicated he will veto it if it makes it to his desk. The two main features of the bill (which are the reasons they are against it): (1) it repeals billions of dollars in oil company tax breaks (yes, the oil companies that are making record profits continue to receive massive tax breaks), and (2) it calls for an increase in auto fuel efficiency standards to an industry average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020.

Please join me in contacting your Senators to tell them you support the energy bill. It's you and me against the oil and auto companies, pal. Tell them it's not 1975 any more ....