Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005: Good Night and Good Riddance

Well, tonight is the night. The beginning of the New Year, when a goodly portion of the people attempt to find something fun to do in order to wipe away the old and bring in the new. Personally, I can't wait for 2005 to turn into 2006. I want it over and done. Good Night and Good Riddance 2005. Hello and Howdy-doo 2006!

Don't get me wrong, 2005 was personally a great year for me except for my kitty's illness. Hell, I managed to visit New Orleans exactly one week before Hurricane Katrina. That's about as good as anyone can have it this year, as far as I'm concerned. But like politics, which is all local, life is local, too. Though my local life was primarily good, for the rest of the world, well, it was one thing after another.

If you need to have a catalog of things that went crazy this year, well, you've just not been paying attention and need to get on the ball. No need to recap the bad shit. I hope that your own personal good things were very good, and if you suffered personally, I truly hope the new year brings better things for you.

So, here's to the New Year, which may hold hell and highwater for many of us. Here's hoping, however, that there is lot less hell and certainly a lot less highwater for all of us.


Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

White People This, Black People That

If there's one thing about coming home to Detroit that I can always count on, it's that the issue of race will more than likely rear its head up sooner rather than later. I believe it took about a day for the first inkling to be heard, and by Christmas Day, it was white people this, white people that. It gets to be so tiring to hear it, but I have to ask myself, is it perception or is it truth? And does one person's perception of the truth make it invalid or not? Is it real or not? I just don't know anymore.

Let's start off first by saying that if you get a chance to read Bob Herbert's New York Times op-ed from today ("A New Civil Rights Movement"), he brings up some interesting points. (Hopefully Truthout will pick up the op-ed and rescue it from the behind the New York Times selectwall.)

Herbert starts off his op-ed thusly:

One of the cruelest aspects of slavery was the way it wrenched apart black families, separating husbands from wives and children from their parents.

It is ironic, to say the least, that now, nearly a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation, much of the most devastating damage to black families, and especially black children, is self-inflicted.

You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to know that some of the most serious problems facing blacks in the United States - from poverty to incarceration rates to death at an early age - are linked in varying degrees to behavioral issues and the corrosion of black family life, especially the absence of fathers.

Another devastating aspect of slavery was the numbing ignorance that often resulted from the prohibition against the education of slaves. It was against the law in most instances for slaves to even learn to read. Now, with education widely (though imperfectly) available, we have entire legions of black youngsters turning their backs on school, choosing instead to wallow in a self-imposed ignorance that in the long run is as destructive as a bullet to the brain.
Herbert essentially says that many of the plights of blacks today are self-inflicted wounds, particularly "behavioral issues and the corrosion of black family life," and choosing to "wallow in a self-imposed ignorance," when it comes to the issue of education.

OK, Bob, you've hit on some very raw, vibrant and essential points. And luckily, Herbert acknowledges that a large portion of the black population is not poor and are leading productive lives. At the same time, he goes on to say that millions are being left "out in the cold, caught in a cycle of poverty, ignorance, illness and violence that is taking a horrendous toll."

Yep. I see it in Detroit. I see abandoned houses, boarded up, on many city streets. I see the signs of poverty everywhere, mixed in here and there with middle and upper-class affluence. I see my adopted sisters and brothers trying to grab the golden educational ring, but are struggling to make it academically. Not necessarily because they are 'wallowing in a self-destructive pattern' regarding education, but mostly because they weren't given the proper tools to survive academically in the first place. Partly that's a matter of were they came from, and how tough it is to play catch up by the time they got to my parent's house. You stop trying after a while when it becomes too tough, especially if you're a teenager dealing with those precious hormones.

Anyway, Herbert goes on to sound the clarion call, that there's a crisis in the black community, and though racism is still rampant, he believes that...much of the suffering in black America could be alleviated by changes in behavior. What's more, those behavioral changes would empower the community in ways that would make it easier to successfully confront opponents in government and push the society in a more equitable direction.

I'm not quite sure about this last point. I really want to believe that one could empower the community from the inside and therefore force the outside community to work in a more equitable fashion, but I think part of the problem is that there are too many black folks who believe that nothing, not one thing in the system is going to give them a break in order to rise up and stand on their own two feet. And I believe that there are too many white people who are tired of trying to mollify and understand the black community anymore. Either side is just about fed up with each other. (Of course, this is just probably because I've been beaten down this week with issues of white and black... it always happens when I come home.)

I've had to listen to my dad this week say numerous times that he doesn't understand why Detroit is ranked the poorest city in the country, when everywhere you look people have new cars. He actually said that it might be a conspiracy because white folks are always trying to keep black folks down. I don't know. I look around and see a poor city. He looks around at the city he's been in for fifty years and sees great things, every where.

Yet my niece is home from college, and she believes that she almost failed a class (after getting good grades from every other teacher, and good grades from this class as well) because of possible racism. Her school is pass/fail and her teacher thought of failing her because she mistakenly placed a period outside of a parentheses in a final term paper. I don't know, I wasn't there, but the school is in Milwaukee, and I've heard time and again how segregated and racist that city can be. Was it racism? I have no idea.

I have a friend I went to high school with who can't stand the Mayor of Detroit. And yet my father thinks he's great. Both are black, with different viewpoints of what would make a good Mayor of Detroit. My dad, bless his heart, basically said that only the white folks were for the current Mayor's former opponent, so I guess, if you voted for the opponent and you were black, you were actually white.

Or something like that.

I can't say much about any of this. Truthfully, I'm a bit too lightskinned to really get involved. Does that sound crazy? You bet it does; you bet it is... but once you've been accused of being a honky, an oreo, a white girl, a sell-out, a whatever, believe me, you just don't want to be called those names again. My views are basically that everyone sucks and needs to step back and stop the bullshit and start all over again. I'm tired of blacks crying racism and I'm tired of whites being racist. Chicken or egg, which comes first? Plus, I like alternative rock too much.


Bob Herbert ends his op-ed by proposing a new civil rights movement summit. (God, please let it be with different leaders... uh... did I say that...? well Bob sorta says the same thing...):

The problems facing black people today are comparable in magnitude to those of the Jim Crow era of the 20th century. There were leaders in those days who were equal to the challenge. I believe that nothing short of a new movement, comparable in scope and dedication to that of the civil rights era, is required to bring about the changes in values and behavior needed to halt the self-destruction that is consuming so many black lives. The crucial question is whether the leadership exists to mount such an effort.

A good first step would be a summit meeting of wise and dedicated men and women willing to think about creative new ways to approach such problems as crime and violence, out-of-wedlock births, drug and alcohol abuse, irresponsible sexual behavior, misogyny, and so on.

Addressing issues of values and behavior within the black community should not in any way imply a lessening of the pressure on the broader society to meet its legal and ethical obligations. It should be seen as an essential counterpoint to that pressure. (emphasis added)

Most important, it should be seen as a crucial component of the obligation that black adults have to create a broadly nurturing environment in which succeeding generations of black children can survive and thrive.

Despite the sometimes valiant efforts of individuals and organizations across the country, we are not meeting that obligation now.
And that's because there's a vacuum where our leadership should be.

Oohhh... you go, Bob. You know you gonna catch some flack for that...

I was just speaking with my mother and my nephew, and my ma brought up a good point. The world can throw you a lot of curveballs, a lot of hassles, a lot of turmoil, but mostly it's how you deal with all those curveballs, hassles, and turmoil that separates you from those who make it, and those who don't. If you don't have the will inside of you to better yourself, there is no amount of work that anyone can do to make you push yourself. If whatever forum Mr. Herbert is talking about can address the essential problem of self-motivation and will to power, then that's a good place to start. Though how you teach and instill motivation and will without sounding hokey or authoritative, I just don't know.

And how you teach these things with the generation of leaders we have now, I just don't know either. It is time for something new. The leadership vacuum is immense and it's not going to be filled by some Baptist Republican with a "you are all sinners" speech. Nor is it going to be fulfilled by black Democratic Mayors who are either so firmly ensconced in the monied community (black or white) or so firmly ensconced in a self-perpetuating mythos of the "white man this, the black man that" sensibility as to be locked into a neverending cycle of recrimination.

Who is going to fill the void... well, I just don't know that either.

And that's the problem. I just don't know. Do you?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Ah, Windsor. Some people hate you. Others realize that you aren't the mighty town they thought during their youth. I feel bad for the donut shop that blew up over the holidays. It was on the television news in Detroit, but I can't find a story about it on the web, or in the Windsor Star. I guess Americans just love to hear about things exploding. Especially if they aren't exploding in Detroit.

Here's to you, Windsor.

Oh, and that's the normal winter color of the sky over Detroit and Windsor.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Live Free

Well, 'tis the night before Christmas, and my mother and I are watching "It's a Wonderful Life." Mind you, I have boycotted "It's a Wonderful Life" for the past eight years at least. I don't know, you get to a certain point and you just can't buy into George Bailey's yearly salvation by an angel... since life don't really work that way. It's actually quite refreshing to watch it after all these years.

There's a commercial right now. A very long commercial.

Anyway, last month, I blogged about the segment I saw on CurrentTV regarding the Freedom Quit Smoking Laser Therapy, and how I would love to do it if I had the $399 fee... and I mentioned how great a franchise it would be to own. Well, in full disclosure, I got an email out of the blue from the owner, Craig Nabat, saying that if I would still like to try the treatment, I could do it for 1/2 price. (Gosh, the blogging life... incredible!)

So, even though I was a bit strapped for cash due to the impending possible surgery of my cat, I know I also need to quit smoking once and for all. And if this works, well, the better for me. I've tried a million things, cold turkey, patches, anti-depressants, yada yada yada. I tried the laser therapy yesterday, and truthfully, I haven't desired a cigarette since. Well, maybe twice, but one snap of the little "Freedom Wrist Band" that hurt like hell, and I promptly remembered that I just spent $200 on a final-ditch effort to stop smoking once and for all.

I'll blog about the process more in the coming days, but suffice it to say, so far, so good.

And thanks, Mr. Nabat!

I'll explain Live Free later also.

Have a Merry Christmas folks.

Back to It's a Wonderful Life.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sweet Jeebus, tis the Season

Well, another holiday season has arrived. Yeehaw.

Sorry to sound so depressing, but this year's holiday season is not one filled with cheer for me. It's actually been a great year, full of good things like a new job, opportunities to meet fellow bloggers from the Al Franken Show blog, trips to Martha's Vineyard for relaxing times, a conference trip to New Orleans exactly one week prior to Hurricane Katrina. I published a major paper in the Journal of Genocide Research, and this past weekend, had a fabulous time as Shopper X in the Billionaire for Bush Follies show, "Dick Cheney's Christmas Spectacular." And tomorrow, I head home to see my family. All in all, a good, solid year.

The season, though, brings such sadness as I've gotten a new diganoses on my lovely little kitty, Zanzibar. I thought she had a fatal heart disease, as was diagnosed by my original vet. It was fatal, but with the right medications, she could live longer than expected with the disease. Now I have found out that she actually has a tumor on her adrenal gland, a little bitty gland that rests above the kidney and squeaks out adrenaline and hurts like hell when it's impacted with a tumor.

She needs surgery to correct this, if the tumor hasn't metastisized and spread throughout her little body. The surgery is risky, and after having spoken with the prospective surgeon, it's not impossible to carve it out if it hasn't moved into a major artery between the gland and kidney. The kicker is, though, I don't have the $2500 needed for the surgery, so I have to make a choice: scramble to get the money to pay for a risky surgery that she not make it through, or leave it alone and let her live out her life, however that may be.

I hate this choice. I hate that it comes at the holiday times. I hate that I don't make enough money to pay for it easily. I hate that I live in New York at the moment, a most expensive place for everything. I hate it all, and the holidays just aren't helping with the overwhelming feeling of helplessness about my best friend, my companion, my heart.

I know it sounds corny, but for those of you with friends, I know you know what I'm feeling. It sucks. Badly.

I've been thinking of ways to scramble the money together, and I think I can do it, mostly, with maybe some help from friends. I haven't made up my mind one way or the other about the surgery, I have to wait and see if it's spread to her lungs first.

So, there's my sucky holiday season. Tis the Season. Ho Ho Ho.

I hope everyone has a great holiday. I will still have a great holiday. But I will be thinking and crying and working out a way to come to a decision about this. I've had her since she was born. It would be hard to lose her because I'm unable to pay for it. It would hard to lose her because the surgery is risky or the tumor has spread. It would be hard to lose her after the surgery is done, and complictions set in. In short, it will be hard to lose her.

Happy freaking Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bound for Glory: The Depression Era in Color

Vicinity of Natchitoches, Louisiana, August 1940
Reproduction from color slide

When I think of the Depression Era, I first think of my parents, who are Depression babies. I know from them that it was an incredibly difficult time in our nation's history, and I'm not quite sure how our citizens now would deal with such a crappy economic downfall. Let's hope it never gets to that point again.

I was watching CNN today (home sick from work today, and also have to get ready for my performance in tonight's "Dick Cheney Holiday Spectacular"), and saw a piece about a fascinating new online-only exhibit at the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress (LOC) of the United States is an amazing place. They are the nation's repository of its own history (along with the National Archives and Records Administration or NARA), and have such a vast collection of books that I hear tales of books piled high on the floors because they can't keep up with the decades-old backlog of books that are deposited at the LOC.

They have a fascinating 'new' collection of materials, a set of over 1600 color slides, "Bound for Glory: America in Color, 1939-1943."

Here's what their front page says:

Bound for Glory: America in Color is the first major exhibition of the little known color images taken by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information (FSA/OWI). Comprised of seventy digital prints made from color transparencies taken between 1939 and 1943, this exhibition reveals a surprisingly vibrant world that has typically been viewed only through black-and-white images. These vivid scenes and portraits capture the effects of the Depression on America's rural and small town populations, the nation's subsequent economic recovery and industrial growth, and the country's great mobilization for World War II.

The photographs in Bound for Glory, many by famed photographers such as John Vachon, Jack Delano, Russell Lee, and Marion Post Wolcott, document not only the subjects in the pictures, but also the dawn of a new era -- the Kodachrome era. These colorful images mark a historic divide in visual presentation between the monochrome world of the pre-modern age and the brilliant hues of the present. They change the way we look -- and think about -- our past.

Take a look. I love black and white photographs, but these color photos of an era that we only know of through the brown dust of the prairie and from stories told by our parents or grandparents, really open the eyes to a time gone by... and a time one hopes will never return...

Brockton, Massachusetts, December 1940
Reproduction from color slide

And by the way, my mother was born and raised in Putnam County, Georgia... her family sharecropped... this is what it might have looked like:

White Plains, Greene County, Georgia, June 1941

Thursday, December 15, 2005

War on Christmas: Summed Up

Watch Rep. John Dingell Recite the poem >>>

Twas the week before Christmas and all through the House

No bills were passed ‘bout which Fox News could grouse;

Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheer,

So vacations in St. Barts soon would be near;

Katrina kids were nestled all snug in motel beds,

While visions of school and home danced in their heads;

In Iraq our soldiers needed supplies and a plan,

Plus nuclear weapons were being built in Iran;

Gas prices shot up, consumer confidence fell;

Americans feared we were on a fast track to…well…

Wait--- we need a distraction--- something divisive and wily;

A fabrication straight from the mouth of O’Reilly

We can pretend that Christmas is under attack

Hold a vote to save it--- then pat ourselves on the back;

Silent Night, First Noel, Away in the Manger

Wake up Congress, they’re in no danger!

This time of year we see Christmas every where we go,

From churches, to homes, to schools, and yes…even Costco;

What we have is an attempt to divide and destroy,

When this is the season to unite us with joy

At Christmas time we’re taught to unite,

We don’t need a made-up reason to fight

So on O’Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter, and those right wing


You should just sit back, relax…have a few egg nogs!

‘Tis the holiday season: enjoy it a pinch

With all our real problems, do we honestly need another


So to my friends and my colleagues I say with delight,

A merry Christmas to all,

and to Bill O’Reilly…Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Word of the Year: Integrity

Just in case you were wondering, the word of the year is integrity.

Every year, the online dictionary version of Merriam-Webster produces a list of the top-ten most searched for words, and when a word spikes, M-W attempts to find a correlation to word interest. (2004's word, during an election year, was incumbent.)

According to M-W Online, by way of a Yahoo article by way of the AP:
The noun, formally defined as a "firm adherence to a code" and "incorruptibility," has always been a popular one on the Springfield-based company's Web site, said Merriam-Webster president John Morse. But this year, the true meaning of integrity seemed to be of extraordinary concern. About 200,000 people sought its definition online.
Hmmm... integrity. Maybe it's what people are looking for these days? Is possible.

Other words that made the top ten list include refugee, contempt, filibuster, insipid, tsunami, pandemic, conclave, levee, and rounding out the list, inept.

While most of the words are apparent as to why Merriam-Webster users looked them up (uproar over Katrina evacuees, the Senate uproar over the filibuster rule, the Asian tsumani, "Oh my God, we're gonna die from bird flu," the election of a new Pope, and exactly what an "embankment for preventing flooding; a continuous dike or ridge (as of earth) for confining the irrigation areas of land to be flooded" is), one might wonder why the words "insipid" and "inept" round out the list. Inept spiked in lookup around the time that President Bush "delivered a live prime time news conference that came to an awkward end when some television networks cut him off to return to their regularly scheduled programs." And insipid? We have to thank Brit native Simon Cowell from an episode of "American Idol" when he introduced new wordsmiths to the word while basically calling an aspiring singer "lacking in qualities that interest, stimulate or challenge: dull, flat," or in other words, insipid.

Now, I find this all very fascinating how the Internet can introduce people to new words and information at their fingertips. Fascinating indeed. However, I'm very surprised that the following word from Merriam-Webster's new Open Dictionary didn't make the 2005 list:
muff bunnies (noun) : The small gatherings of curly hairs that accumulate in the corners of the bathroom and at the shower drain.
"Be sure you sweep up all the muff bunnies before company comes."
Submitted by: Roy Davis from Kentucky Dec. 10, 2005 23:20
Maybe it's just too new. 2006, anyone?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Foot. Mouth. Disease. Ahmadinejad.

The motormouth of Iran has managed to do it again. The "Death to Israel Crowd" is awfully tiresome. The "Relocate Israel to Europe Crowd" is a pretty funny bunch. Unfortunately, not funny ha-ha, but funny, that's a stupid freaking idea.

Last month, I blogged about Iran's new President Ahmadinejad's comments regarding Israel. He went off about Israel, and I noted some comments from the website This month, he's at it again, aiming his comments back at the country, and making the even more ludicrous statement that the Holocaust never happened. Ok, right, sure, whatever.

Where is this Iranian game heading? God only knows. Is Iran trying to bolster Palestine, trying to save their own face, or truthfully, trying to start the Great War against the Great Satan (is that the U.S. or Israel these days)?

If Iran wants to start something, wants to elevate the rhetoric between the U.S., Israel and Iran, or wants to put its European allies and Russia into a even bigger endgame bind then they already are... well, they are certainly heading in the right direction. Foot in mouth disease is hard to cure. Let's hope that Ahmadinejad can get over his disease pretty soon. And let's hope there's a breakthrough between Israel, Europe, the U.S., Palestine (yes, Palestine), and Iran soon. God willing.

I'm not optimistic.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Week Ahead

I've been trying to figure out something to blog about. There's so much in the world to talk about, that it's hard to know where to start sometimes. And my week coming up is going to be as busy as hell. A lot of things might get swept under the carpet if I don't pay enough attention, so I'm going to write a little list of things I should be paying attention to, if I have the time. So here goes:

The War on Christmas

Apparently, there's a war on Christmas going on, and I suppose it's something I should remember. However, when I walked out of work on Friday, I literally heard Christmas music being pumped out of loud speakers in the Bronx neighborhood where I work. Apparently, someone is winning the war on Christmas, but I should keep my eye out, just in case the Christmas terrorists (whoever the hell they are) launch a sneak attack on... on... on, well on whatever the hell this whole thing is about.

Governor Blanco's Response to Congress
Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco released about 100,000 pages of emails regarding the fiasco that was New Orleans, Louisiana, FEMA, Michael Brown, and President Bush during the week of Hurricane Katrina back in August and September. I forsee that in the coming week, we're going to be hearing at least a few words about New Orleans again as the emails get filtered through the news media and the spin machines rev back up. Then again, I could be wrong, as mostly it's now seemingly, "Katrina... who?" these days. Ultimately, it's going to take the people of New Orleans to rise up and get the work of politicians, who are really just out for themselves and their political careers, done for themselves. I wish them all well.

UN to (Finally) Go to Darfur?
Well, the UN is contemplating a military operation factfinding mission from December 10-20, to figure out how they can actually stop the killing there. However, they might not be able to round up a troop coalition of African, European, and other countries until September of 2006, just when the African people of Sudan might no longer need them because they'll all be dead.

Go write a letter, will ya?

There's a bunch of other stuff going on, of course, Iraq, Alito, Jack Murtha, Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, the Canadian elections, we're still not prepared for threats to our domestic homeland, Ayad Allawi is going to scream about an assassination attempt instead of a mass shoe-throwing incident in Najaf, and a bunch of other stuff, but there's only so much one can think about in a world gone bonkers.

Have a great week, everyone.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Pretty... and CurrentTV

I'm not in Current TV's demographic, but since the station started (unfortunately taking out the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Newsworld International, damn!), I occasionally tune in and see what the kids are up to. Most of the stories are not in-depth, and a little too kiddie for me, but sometimes they have some pretty cool stuff, particularly on the Google portion of the neverending MTV-like montage of stories, videos and cutesy commentators. And they show stuff over and over and over again. And over again.

But today I saw two things I found interesting (I've only watched it about 6 or 7 times since it started on August 1); a Google piece on NASA's Spitzer Telescope (see above photo) and a piece on how global warming is affecting Eskimos lifestyle, along with a fascinating look at what they eat.

Oh, and I shouldn't forget the piece on laser therapy for smoking cessation. I even checked out the place in the piece, the Freedom Quit Smoking Laser Therapy site. There are two of these particular centers in the country right now, Santa Monica and Royal Oak, MI. Since I smoke, I could do it while I'm at home in Michigan, but at $399 for a session, I think I'm gonna have to take a pass. Sounds like a good franchise to open up, eh? (There are others in the country, I should check it out... ) From what I understand, this type of therapy started in Europe and Canada.

I was also impressed with a piece on French youth during the recent riots. I think it's the first time that I've seen French youth actually talking about and exploring their own neighborhoods for an American television audience.

On that note, I was speaking with a much older person from work the other day, who is originally from Europe and has been living in the U.S. for a long time. He's got relatives in France now. We were talking about other matters, and the riots came up in conversation; he said that, in his opinion, the youth had it all... housing, welfare and a job if they wanted... and that Nicolas Sarkozy, the Interior Minister of France, was right. Which I guess means that the African and Arab youth were "scum" or "rabble" or however you want to translate it, indigent petty and thieving criminals with no respect for the police or French society.

Hey, if you really want to, you can always blame rap music, like some members of the French government or David Brooks did. Of course, you can't really blame entrenched French society and its treatment of Africans or Arabs... nope, you really wouldn't want to do that. /snark.

There's more than one quick and simple reason for the whole bloody mess... it's a combination of things, that all work their ugly heads together to form a big complicated mess. Life is not simple, people, because people are not simple entities, though they all want simple things... like Liberté, Egalité, et Fraternité. Go fucking figure, eh?

I didn't say anything to him. I've come to the conclusion that it's useless to argue about race with certain people over 80. This is the second time I've found myself in a conversation with an octogenerian about race (both times not intentionally), and just kept my mouth shut. Hell, they're almost out of here anyway, so what's the point? "Set in their ways" comes to mind. The first time was with this Italian fellow who lives upstairs and kinda mentioned how bad black kids are. I've never told him that I was black. I also didn't tell him that most of the Italian kids in the neighborhood have certain penchants for disruption and hooligoonism. I just politely said, well, I don't know about any of that.

Anyway, CurrentTV was a little thought provoking for me today. It may not be my regular TV (I miss Newsworld International), but hopefully it's thought provoking for its 18-34 demographic... one can only hope to stir them up somehow.

Here's another pretty picture...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Ben's Thanksgiving

I received the following message from a friend of mine today, about Thanksgiving, written by Benjamin Franklin. Now, I like old Ben, and it's a great little story (though I do have a bit of a problem regarding the source from which it came). Read on:


"There is a tradition that in the planting of New England, the first settlers met with many difficulties and hardships, as is generally the case when a civiliz'd people attempt to establish themselves in a wilderness country. Being so piously dispos'd, they sought relief from heaven by laying their wants and distresses before the Lord in frequent set days of fasting and prayer. Constant meditation and discourse on these subjects kept their minds gloomy and discontented, and like the children of Israel there were many dispos'd to return to the Egypt which persecution had induc'd them to abandon.

"At length, when it was proposed in the Assembly to proclaim another fast, a farmer of plain sense rose and remark'd that the inconveniences they suffer'd, and concerning which they had so often weary'd heaven with their complaints, were not so great as they might have expected, and were diminishing every day as the colony strengthen'd; that the earth began to reward their labour and furnish liberally for their subsistence; that their seas and rivers were full of fish, the air sweet, the climate healthy, and above all, they were in the full enjoyment of liberty, civil and religious.

"He therefore thought that reflecting and conversing on these subjects would be more comfortable and lead more to make them contented with their situation; and that it would be more becoming the gratitude they ow'd to the divine being, if instead of a fast they should proclaim a thanksgiving. His advice was taken, and from that day to this, they have in every year observ'd circumstances of public felicity sufficient to furnish employment for a Thanksgiving Day, which is therefore constantly ordered and religiously observed."
I thought to myself, wow, no matter how you might think of Thanksgiving (I, in particular, think that it's the best holiday ever... sorry turkeys...), so I went looking for the text on the Internet, the larger Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. If you don't know about Project Gutenberg, I highly recommend the site. It's got a lot of old books that are no longer under copyright, and you can download them onto your various portable devices. Ben's original autobiography can be found here.

But I couldn't find Ben's thoughtful Thanksgiving story in it. Why couldn't I find it in Ben's original autobiography? Well, because the story is written not in the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Franklin, but in a book from right-wing publishing company, Regnery, and their updated version of the Autobiography, compiled by Mark Skousen, entitled The Compleated Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Real cool, spelling "compleated" the old-fashioned way, eh?

Skousen's book blurb is thus:
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was the most famous American of his age -- a world-renowned inventor, essayist, philosopher, diplomat, wit, and the only Founding Father to sign the Declaration of Independence, the Treaty of Paris, and the United States Constitution. His Autobiography, though considered the most popular and influential memoir ever written, ends abruptly in 1757, when he was just 51 years old; another 33 years of his life were still to be recorded when he died, including the most eventful years of his illustrious political career. Now, in honor of the 300th anniversary of Franklin's birth, Mark Skousen has accomplished what the old philosopher could not. Drawing from Franklin's own papers, correspondence, and a detailed outline Franklin left behind, Skousen has completed the Autobiography -- using Franklin's own words.
33 more years of Ben! Woohoo!

Well, that's great, helping Ben finish his "Autobiography" (which would then make it a "biography," cause, let's face it, you can only write an "autobiography" if you're alive), and it's great that it is originally posted on the right-wing Adam Smith Institute blog *clears throat of sarcasm*. So what if Skousen finishes Franklin's life for him? Fine, not a problem.

What I do have a problem with is the site where the book is sold (linked on, and the books that are linked to Ben's (buy both books, for $XX.XX dollars, guaranteed delivery by 12/13, just in time for Christmas, not the damned "HOLIDAYS"!) "autobiography," including:

100 People Who Are Screwing Up America (and Al Franken Is #37 by Bernard Goldberg
The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History by Thomas Woods

The Heritage Guide to the Constitution by Edwin Meese, ed.

Do As I Say (Not As I Do) by Peter Schweizer

How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must) by Ann Coulter

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) by Robert Spencer

I'd like to think that ultimately, Ben wouldn't approve. Here's to you, Ben, on this Thanksgiving Day. It was, afterall, Franklin that said this:

QUOTATION:“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

The response is attributed to BENJAMIN FRANKLIN—at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when queried as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation—in the notes of Dr. James McHenry, one of Maryland’s delegates to the Convention.

McHenry’s notes were first published in The American Historical Review, vol. 11, 1906, and the anecdote on p. 618 reads: “A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy. A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.” When McHenry’s notes were included in The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, ed. Max Farrand, vol. 3, appendix A, p. 85 (1911, reprinted 1934), a footnote stated that the date this anecdote was written is uncertain.

Indeed. A Republic with Thanksgiving for all. If you can keep it. (Though I will apologize to all turkeys on behalf of Franklin, he wanted the turkey to be our National Bird, not our National Meal...)

Happy Thanksgiving, folks.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

NYC City Hall Electronic Voting Machine Meeting

So, I'm on this lady's political list, and she sends out bunches of emails a day about the shape of the political world. Sometimes she sends out actions as well. I won't be able to do this, but if you're in NYC, and feel like trotting down to City Hall on your lunch break, there's a meeting on the use of electronic voting machines in NYC.

Mark Crispin Miller will be giving testimony. Lots of people should attend and show the City Council that electronic voting machines need to be accountable down to the last vote.
Committee on Governmental Operations
hearing, Monday, November 21, 2005, 10:00 AM-1 PM

on the 2005 Election and the Help America Vote Act

Council Chambers, 2nd floor, City Hall, New York, NY
N or R train to City Hall
4 or 5 or 6 train to Brooklyn Bridge
1-2-3 to Park Place

Vendor will be there with their DREs and OpScans
My political friend also urges you to write local newspapers. I believe writing to local newspapers is a state-wide issue. Here's an EXAMPLE letter:


To the Editor:

Soon all counties throughout New York State will be upgrading their old lever voting machines. As a voting citizen I'm deeply concerned about which technology will be used to count my vote. I want to feel confident that the voting machine will be secure, reliable and cost effective. I believe that the best choice is the paper ballot counted by the optical scanner. But it seems that if left up to the corporate vendors of voting machines this will not be an option for the county Boards of Elections.

Representatives of the New York State Board of Elections, who are in charge of certifying the machines that county commissioners will choose from, have recently claimed that they cannot compel voting machines manufacturers to submit their optical scanners for certification. This is an outrageous position, given that citizens, state and county legislators, and newspapers all around the New York State are calling for adoption of the paper ballots and scanners rather than expensive, insecure, error prone touch screen computerized voting machines that the vendors would prefer to sell us.

In a huge state like NY, it's absurd for the Board to claim that they have no power to require vendors to submit scanners--unless we now live under an oligarchy instead of the capitalist system. The market is king under capitalism and we, the people, are the market. The Board of Elections is supposed to represent the voters not the voting machines manufacturers, unless they have been hopelessly compromised by undue corporate influence. If that is so, the members of the New York State Board of Elections should be investigated for possible corruption.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Word to Ya Murtha

Well, the American world (or at least people who pay attention), are paying attention to two things today: Bob Woodward's little "I knew about the Plame thing all along, but lookee me! I'm not gonna tell YOU about it"; and a big fella, happens to be a Pennsylvanian Democrat, a Vietnam war veteran, and a conservative Congressman, John Murtha.

There's word on the street that Dems are finding their balls, particularly as Bush and Cheney go around all Godzilla-like calling Dems undemocratic, dishonest and reprehensible. Man, what fire-breathing monsters Boo and Horrorshow are! Maybe President Bush will bring back a little Gojira from his trip to Japan to remind him how a real radioactive monster does it.

President Bush starring as Godzilla!

So now, John Murtha is coming out, after being an avid supporter of the war, and basically saying, "Whoa! You people in that White House are illin'! I've been to that Iraq, and it's a uncontrolled mess! And don't be talking about going to war when you can't even bother to get your ass fighting during Vietnam, not once, but five times."


Ok, he didn't say 'motherfucker,' but I have one thing to say to you, Representative Murtha ...

... Word.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Dowd vs. Gore

I read a great post linked from Crooks and Liars from "Lawyers, Guns and Lawyers" called Dowd and the Kneecapping of Gore. I've written about Maureen Dowd twice on my nascent blog, one in which I was fully behind her regarding her op-ed on Judith Miller, and then more ambiguously when her book, "Are Men Necessary: When Sexes Collide" was excerpted in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. So it's probably a good time to remember just what role she played in helping to demonize Al Gore during the 2000 election. She's one of the reasons, among others, that we now have President George W. Bush. And that just makes me cringe.

Scott Lemieux writes:

But when he was busy being elected, Dowd was lying about Gore's fundraising, peddling the "invented the internet" and "summer chores" lies, accusing Gore of flip-flopping with no evidence, writing idiotic pop-psych nonsense including the "earth tones" crap, discussing Hillary Clinton's haircuts, spreading the "Alpha Male" meme, attacking Gore for having the temerity to discuss actual issues in a Presidential campaign, and on and on and on. (And any feminist defense of Dowd should explain her attacks of Gore in re Naomi Wolf's salary. Anybody think she would comment on the salary of a political consultant if said consultant had a penis?) And she didn't just repeat the empty cliches and lies of others. She actually created some: Dowd invented the bullshit Love Story smear.
Yes, it's certainly good to look back and remember what Dowd hath helped wrought the next time I'm leading a cheer when she slams someone I don't like, like Judith Miller.

I had the opportunity to see Al Gore speak twice last year, once for Move On's environmental conference and then his explosive speech at New York University regarding the Bush administration. I must say that I wish he had shown the fire in those speeches that he lacked somewhat during the 2000 election. I think most of that had to do with the hullabaloo during the last of the Clinton years, and Gore wasn't able to find his feet, trying to distance himself from the scandal and stepping out on his own.

But Dowd didn't help Gore with her columns, and her Love Story smear. And that, I should never forget.

The Experience of Life: Death

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream --
Lingering in the golden dream --
Life, what is it but a dream?
--Lewis Carroll, "A Boat beneath a Sunny Sky"
I remember, as a kid, my first nightmare about being dead. I was laying in a casket, under the earth, and I couldn't get out. I knew I was still alive, that I shouldn't have been in that casket, and there was no way out.

I woke up screaming, in my bed, alive.

Now, I'm not sure why I had this dream. I may have read one too many Edgar Allan Poe stories by that time, and I do remember watching a very terrifying movie, the name of which escapes me right now. It was about a person who was kidnapped, and then buried alive with a water tube, light, and no means of communication with the outside, above-ground world. The air supply was limited, and tied into the time that the ransom had to be paid. I'm sure someone remembers the name of this movie!

A friend of mine's dad died recently, and I went to the funeral. It was a beautiful goodbye. I haven't had anyone really close to me pass away yet. Now that I face the impending passing of my cat (she's still strong, but the heart disease is irreversible and I have a feeling that it's going to be within the next six months), as well as the aging of my parents, and hell, even myself, the life experience of death is inevitable.

Kitties and people don't live forever. But life is so damned short that I don't understand why people are continually at each other's throats with war, hatred, and a myriad of other social ills and complaints that put us on a blood rage against each other.

Life. Is. Too. Damned. Short.

When I was growing up, my mother found Pentacostal religion and took me to church every Sunday for five-hour services for about 12 years. Most of what I got out of the sessions was that I was bad, gospel music was good, and everyone thought way too much about the afterlife and not this life. It was all about the future, what happens when you die, if you're not right by God. There's so much focus on death that it's hard to actually live life.

Life. Is. Too. Damned. Short.

As I approach a close experience of death (the first of what will be many) I'm going to try my best to remember that life, though not good, is here and should be lived to the fullest. I hope that somehow, we all learn one lesson: life is too damn short to kill each other.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Sometimes, you gotta say, "Wha?"

Is Iran trying to get bombed by us? Are we trying to get on the bombing train toward them? Are they upping the rhetoric for their own internal purposes or because they want us to finally come after them and finally fight the war both they and us have wanted to fight since 1979? Are we upping our rhetoric to finally get even for one of the most humiliating events in the history of the U.S.? Are the Iranians funding terrorism in Palestine and Iraq? Are we funding dissident groups to attempt to overthrow the clerical administration of Iraq and install a new Shah? Will the tit-for-tat upscaling of rhetoric between "us and them" get so heated as to explode?

Of course, most of these questions are up for interpretation, but I have to finally get the words out: The U.S. and Iran are on a collision course that, since the Iranian Hostage Crisis (and the overthrow of the Shah that we helped installed before that) has been brewing for a long damned time.

And I doubt this time either side is really going to back down.

I use to know this Iranian guy in Detroit. We went to college together back in 1983. Well spoken, with the most beautiful green eyes, he use to make fun of his Arab friends by saying, "Just remember, I'm Persian, not Arab!" I always thought it was pretty funny, because even though he hung out with them and shared the same religion, he wanted to make sure that his Arab friends remembered he was different. Plus, it just goes to prove that everyone wants to be different in a crowd.

College was really my first exposure to people of Muslim persuasion. I have to say, however, that there was a bit of tension between the Black and Arab populations of Detroit when I was growing up. Many Arabs owned the liquor stores/minimarts in Detroit, and this created a great tension as many blacks didn't have access to the capital to buy and sustain stores, and Arabs were trying to not get robbed in their workplaces. There was a definite disconnect between the two groups in Detroit, and it was always kinda sad.

But back to Iran.

Here's the "wha?" part that I refer to in the title.

I've tried to be as open-minded as I possibly can toward Iran. Not easy, but I try. It's mostly because of the Iranian guy I met in Detroit and others I've met in New York. I appreciate, for the most part, their centuries-old heritage, and there may have been a good reason why the Iranian Revolution happened. I'm not sure what their or our endgame is, the only thing I know is that the road to collision is evident.

I was a bit appalled, along with others, with the rhetoric recently coming out of Tehran when their new President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made comments regarding Israel. Rhetoric, of course, is one of several tools that leaders use to stir their people up, be it to spur them on to greater heights or bolster them in the face of an enemy. But whether President Bush is claiming to "Bring Them On" or Ahmadinejad is proclaiming that America is the "Great Satan," the rhetoric gets a little overtired, stale, and wretched.

President Ahmadinejad, recently spoke at a "World Without Zionism" rally in Tehran. Oh boy, that must have been a fun gathering. According to Wikipedia, here's what happened at that rally.
"[Ahmadinejad,] quoting Ayatollah Khomeini the late Supreme Leader of Iran, [called] Israel a "disgraceful blot" that ought to be "wiped off the map." He went on to decry attempts to normalize relations with Israel and condemned all Islamic leaders who recognize Israel's existence as "acknowledging a surrender and defeat of the Islamic world"; many believe this attack was aimed at nearby nations Qatar, Bahrain, and Pakistan, who have taken steps towards improving relations with Israel."
Ok. That's going to go over well with folks that don't buy into the 'death to Israel' team. No wonder Islamic leaders are pigeonholed into difficult positions when non-Islamic leaders demand that they 'find' their voices when it comes to speaking out against radical Islamist violence, not to mention their own internal problems. Do so, and you'll be condemned by your own. This, in addition to the fact that many fall under the classic term of dictator, and it's just another volatile ingredient in the whole vile mix.

There's a website that I regularly visit when I want some sane opinions about Iranian politics. It's published by an Iranian-American, located in California. He publishes pieces from exiled Iranians from all over the world, mostly outside of Iran. It's written in English, with occasional Persian-language pieces. (Please note: Iranians speak Persian, not Arabic. My old friend from Detroit would want you to know this.) is secular, encourages debate, and above all, does not want to be 'bored to death' by bad writing, according to its FAQ.

So, to gain a little perspective on Ahmadinejad's words, I read some of the remarks from this primarily moderate site.

"The Mouse That Roared," by Iqbal Latif
Why anyone in his right mind would expose Iran to such brutal multifaceted retribution from entire international community. Iran and Iranians deserve better, they are creator of civilizations, this country has been overtaken by clerical thugs who want to put Iran on to a game of chicken, two heavy duty trucks hurtling down towards each other challenging each one to deviate, the one who does first is a chicken, weaker nations with in-house convulsions such as Iran some time can only survive if they are 'chicken' the real issue of Iran is prosperity of its proud, and worthy people.
"Old Policy, New Fears" by Masoud Kazemzadeh
Most observers have asserted that Ahmadinejad's words are the result of his inexperience and that they do not reflect the views of the fundamentalist regime or his faction. One of the more extreme examples of the dominant view is expressed by Columbia University Professor Gary Sick, who said: "Ahmadinejad's role has been very substantially reduced... He's been in office for a hundred days. He's done nothing. I think people are looking around and saying 'This guy is a disaster'. I think they [the regime] are going to isolate him and quarantine him." [See]

In this article, I present evidence which proves that the dominant explanation is false. I show that Ahmadinejad's words are the expression of the actual consensus of the ruling faction of the regime. In other words, Ahmadinejad's words are not the mere utterance of one inexperienced person. Rather, Ahmadinejad expressed the views of the Young Conservative sub-faction and the consensus of the hard-line faction which control virtually all the main levers of power in Iran.[2] This is not mere academic exercise. If the dominant explanation is correct, one may not be too concerned about the off-the-cuff remarks of one man. However, if my analysis is correct, we should expect a more confrontational foreign policy by the regime.

[snip] Instead of dismissing fundamentalists as idiots or their actions as amateurish, we should attempt to analyze and understand the motives behind their actions. This could help those who wish to replace the current nightmarish tyranny with a secular and democratic system.
"Deliberate Mistake?" by Yassamine Mather
There is no doubt that many inside the regime were quick to distance Iran from the implications of the words. One observer in Tehran wrote that Ahmadinejad's comments sounded like an invitation to Bush and the US to attack Iran. Others have written with sarcasm that maybe Ahmadinejad is a secret royalist who is keen to give the US a pretext to invade....Even before Ahmadinejad's alleged faux pas, Tehran was full of rumours that every day his office receives phone calls from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, ticking him off for making this or that mistake....One explanation of Ahmadinejad's comments is that, following its victory of seeing a Shia state established in Iraq (the main component of the occupation government being pro-Iran Shias), the Iranian regime's image is tainted by its support for the US-UK-imposed government in Iraq....Over the last few months, especially since the coming to power in Baghdad of Iran's main allies, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Daawa Party, as well as most of the Arab press are critical of Iran's influence in the region. This could explain Ahmadinejad's outburst, as Tehran tries to distance itself from accusations of complicity with US policies....Another explanation could be found in the increasing role of Israel and Mossad agents in Iraqi Kurdistan....Iran sees Iraqi Kurdistan as being used by Israel and the USA as a base to strengthen their opposition to Tehran in the same way that Iraqi Kurdistan was used to destabilise the Baathist regime.

So here we have several opinions regarding Ahmadinejad's reasoning behind his rhetoric: Iran is playing "chicken" in order to bolster its status in the world; this language is nothing new, just a continuation of official policy, only this time, it was televised loudly in the West; he's expressing the hardline core of the country's conservatives and clerics; he's constantly being upbraided by current Supreme Leader Khamenei and therefore wanted to say things that would please the clerical leadership; Iran can't afford to stay silent as Israel and the Mossad gain footholds in a new Iraq; Iran is trying to step away from its tacit support of US-UK involvement in Iraq; Iraqi Kurdistan is a problem for Iran, and therefore Iran must up the ante for its own ruling majority to feel empowered.

Whatever the reasons, one thing is for sure, Israel is a sovereign nation, and when threats are made against it or any other nation, one must take notice, no matter what one's opinions regarding said country is. Words are like knives and people are on edge these days. It would be no wonder if Israel didn't take retaliatory measures. But it's also a tip in their favor that Israel didn't retaliate with force. Israel is use to words like this, but there will come a day when words lead to action, and no one can say Israel wasn't provoked.

Which means that the U.S. will be provoked as well.

I don't know if we'll ever really go to war with Iran, but they and we are on notice. Remember the "Axis of Evil?" One country down, so to speak, two to go. I don't want to fight with anyone, and I was against the war in Iraq. But if rhetoric turns into action on the part of Iran, I may have to reconsider. It also depends on what the U.S. does in the next few months as well.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Today's Yesterday Woman

"What's a Modern Girl to Do?" asks Maureen Dowd in this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine. Apparently, in this day and age, not much. Feminism, says Dowd, has suffered a massive blow in that the forward momentum of the female empowerment movement at the start of the Feminist Revolution in the 70s has now reverted back to about 1955. Dowd is no lover of the hardcore feminism of the 1970s in that feminists wanted (according to her) more of a conformity to a uniform lifestyle. Dowd writes:
What I didn't like at the start of the feminist movement was that young women were dressing alike, looking alike and thinking alike. They were supposed to be liberated, but it just seemed like stifling conformity.
Though I would take a bit of an exception as to when this "feminist movement" that Dowd speaks of started (see Wikipedia for a history of feminism from the 1850s on), Dowd goes on to say that what she dislikes about what's happening now to women in America is just as bad:
What I don't like now is that the young women rejecting the feminist movement are dressing alike, looking alike and thinking alike. The plumage is more colorful, the shapes are more curvey, the look is more plastic, the message is diametrically opposite - before it was don't be a sex object; now it's be a sex object - but the conformity is just as stifling.
Dowd is promoting her new book, Are Men Necessary: When Sexes Collide, to be published in December. I'm not sure if I'll read her book when it comes out, because the essay in itself scared and depressed me to no end. Advanced critiques aren't so great, either. But still, Dowd's premise might be apropos: Apparently women are making great strides backwards, back into the dark ages, though it can be argued that even the 1970s Feminist Revolution didn't bring us too far forward anyway.

Glass ceilings, lower wages in high and low positions, sex sells. It's hard to be a woman in a 'liberated' Western world. Granted, it's hard to be an unliberated woman in a small Third-World backwater as well, but when I was growing up, I actually had the nerve to believe that I could, as a woman, have a career, make my own money, and make my own way. I was never big on the family thing, but the career was something I wanted badly. Of course, it was a career in acting, but hey, it was something I loved to no end, and I was pretty damned good at it, too.

As to the family thing, well, the sexual thing, I missed the chance at full-on sexual experimentation and debauchery. I could have done some wild and crazy things, but both Jesus's and my mother's voices were way too loud in my head when I had the chance. It's like that sometimes. And as I approach 42, I'm about to miss out on the family thing, too. I think that's suppose to mean that I'm not fulfilled as a woman, and maybe that's true. The little box that is suppose to be a woman's life makes me wanna punch something sometimes.

Dowd also talks about the games that women are suppose to play in courtship. She writes that her mother gave her the book How to Catch and Hold a Man by Yvonne Antelle and how her friends are now clamoring to borrow her out-of-print copy of the precursor to the the 199o's book, The Rules. I tried to read the latter book. I thought I was going to be ill. I can't play that game of look coy, look hot, flirt, be skinny, be tall, be thin, be dumb, I've never gotten the whole thing down. I've never liked to play the game. Therefore, I will probably end up sitting in front of my t.v. for the remainder of my life.

So, what's a 21st Century Woman suppose to do?

Well, let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Let's take a quick look at what women are facing right now. Reproductive rights are under attack, and while not likely to be overturned in America, these rights could certainly suffer major blows. Playboy Club bunnies, clad in new sadomaschist chic, are back and while I wanted to be a Playboy pinup when I was younger (and still do), there is a part of me that objects to the image of women that bunnies project. Religious zeal is hotter than ever, and with many religious tenets, there rests the idea that women are second-class citizens, unclean at certain times of the month, and liable to death at the whim of the village elders. Political leaders in our country claim that they have won a "moral mandate" upon the 2004 election, even beyond the clear blunders of waging a war in Iraq and inept leadership in America. If "moral mandate" is code for "Christian or fundamentalist mandate," we'd be well advised to remember exactly what evangelicals and some other Christians believe about the delineation of the roles of men and women (but if you really want to be a Christian, you can always check out "Christian feminism," for a hoot).

All I'm saying is that I personally don't want to be a 1955 lady. I want women to move forward, into a new 21st century, a new century that I dreamed would be different from all the centuries that preceded it (unless, of course, Jesus does come back and then, everything is pretty much moot). Today's Yesterday Woman is a myth that should be ripped to shreds. Move forward, ladies, and never look back in fear and trepidation. Easier said than done, granted.

Malcolm X, after he traveled throughout Africa, came back with an insight regarding women.
"If you are in a country that is progressive, the woman is progressive. If you're in a country that reflects the consciousness toward the importance of education, it's because the woman is aware of the importance of education. But in every backward country you'll find the women are backward, and in every country where education is not stressed its because the women don't have education."

While Malcolm X would not have condoned a promiscuous lifestyle, his insight is apt. Progressive societies need thriving, educated women, ones that are aware of the value of knowledge. We've come too far and have much too far to go to stop educating ourselves and moving forward.

While I wouldn't want to live under the conformity of rigid feminism, neither would I want to live under the conformity of the sex object. Neither role is fully appealing, and neither role is fully fulfilling. As soon as I figure out what exact role, if any, that I would want to conform to, I'll let you know.

After all, what's a 1964 Girl to do?

Sunday, October 30, 2005


I have a cat, goes by the name of Zanzibar. She's a lovely little thing, and I've had her since she was born. I live alone, so when I come home, she's a treat and a friend indeed to have around.

Now, she's got a big problem, something called hyperthropic cardiomapathy. It's a heart disease that thickens the heart muscles, which makes breathing difficult and blood clots can form, which is bad for humans and cats alike.

With treatment, she has an unknown time to live, like all of us, but her time has been shortened dramatically, anywhere from three months to three years. I love her very much, and will do all that I can to help her live as long as possible. I don't have much money, though, and that's always a problem with doctor's bills and all. And I have pet insurance!

Anyway, there's picture of The Zanzibar above. Send some good wishes her way!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Dear Mrs. Parks

On behalf of my parents and my entire family, thank you for your courage.
Rest in Peace


In yet another round of crazyness in an on-going crazy world, Liz Rozen from the excellent international news blog, War and Piece, has written a story regarding the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, who in turn has broken a story regarding possibly forged documents claiming that Iraq attempted to purchase large quantities of uranium yellowcake from Niger. Her full report, "La Repubblica's Scoop, Confirmed," can be found at the American Prospect. La Repubblica's article, portions of which have been translated from the Italian, can be found here. If you're lucky enough to read Italian, you can go straight to the source... unlike our Government, who likes to make shit up.

Linda Rozen writes:
The investigative reporting team at Italy's La Repubblica has an explosive story out today, on the Italian angle on the Nigergate mysteries. In it they report that Nicolo Pollari, the chief of Italian military intelligence Sismi, met with then deputy national security advisor Stephen Hadley in September 2002 -- just as the White House was assembling the evidence it would use to convince the American public and Congress of the need for war, in large part, the White House claimed, to prevent Saddam from reconstituting his nuclear arsenal. The meeting could help explain why despite numerous attempts by the CIA to get the White House to take out the Niger yellowcake claims from its speeches, the claims made their way back into Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech. The unusual meeting may also help explain the seemingly hysterical overreaction of the White House to Joseph Wilson's pushback on the Niger yellowcake claims, several months later. I'm reporting on the case over at The American Prospect and Tapped.
Rozen later updated that a National Security Council spokesman confirmed that Pollari and Hadley did meet in Italy on September 9, 2002, though what they met about was unconfirmed to Rozen.

According to Joseph Wilson's book, The Politics of Truth (pg. 352), Hadley was
"'one of those responsible for vetting Bush's State of the Union address. On July 22 [2003], Hadley acknowledged that he should have deleted the reference [the "16 words" in the SOTU address] to Iraq's attempts to buy uranium, because months earlier, in two memos and a phone call from Tenet himself, the CIA had warned him that the claim was weak. All three of those warnings had been issued before the president's Cincinnati speech in early October. Hadley clamed that he had evidently failed to recall them three months later, in January. "The high standards the president set were not met." Hadley admitted.'"
Rozen writes in her piece today that:
Yet if anyone knew who was actually responsible for the White House's trumpeting of the Niger claims, it would seem from the Repubblica report that Hadley did. He also knew that the CIA, which had initially rejected the Italian claims, was not to blame. Hadley's meeting with Pollari, at precisely the time when the Niger forgeries came into the possession of the U.S. government, may explain the seemingly hysterical White House overreaction to Wilson's article almost a year later.
Hmmm. The plot thickens. We'll have to wait and see what Patrick Fitzgerald says, as rumor has it that sealed indictments are coming down on Wednesday. Steve Clemons notes:
An uber-insider source has just reported the following to TWN:

1. 1-5 indictments are being issued. The source feels that it will be towards the higher end. 2. The targets of indictment have already received their letters.
3. The indictments will be sealed indictments and "filed" tomorrow.
4. A press conference is being scheduled for Thursday.
We'll see, now won't we? I tend to err on the side of caution. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Random Woman to Sudan

I work in the Bronx and live in Brooklyn. Needless to say, it's a long trip home on the subway. If you've ever been on the New York City subway, you know that a seat is a precious thing during rush hour, and as I get on the train toward home at the penultimate stop on my particular subway, I normally get a seat immediately. I read a lot, try not to engage too much, and get annoyed when someone tries to squeeze in between my big butt and the big butt next to mine when a space in between is smallish.

So I'm reading this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine article on Colonel Nathan Sassaman ("What the War Did to Colonel Sassaman"), who recently retired from the Army after men under his command forced two Iraqi cousins to jump off of a bridge, killing one. Colonel Sassaman would still have his job, if he had chosen to tell the higher ups that he knew about the incident. Instead, he chose not to tell his bosses, and now he's back in Colorado as a civilian.

But that's not this story.

So I'm sitting my big butt in a seat, and there's a smaller seat between me and another woman with a big butt, and a small woman wedges in between us. I'm a little annoyed, but I know that I've done it before, and hey, if the seat is big enough and if your butt's not so big, and you can squeeze in without causing serious turmoil, more power to you.

When the random small woman sat down, she pulled out a letter, which looked like it might have been faxed. Now how do I know that? Well... on the subway, it's very easy to peak over your shoulder and read someone else's reading material, when something catches your eye.

Like the United Nations letterhead on the top of the letter she was reading.

Needless to say, in this day and age, it's something that catches your eye.

She had gotten on at 42nd Street, not far from the United Nations building at 42nd and 1st Avenue. It started: "Dear Ms. C, We are pleased to inform you of your new temporary assignment in the country of Sudan."

And yes. I did feel like a smuck for begrudging her a seat between my big butt and the other lady's bigger butt.

I'm pretty sure it was her letter. She was reading it much too intently. I only caught the first few paragraphs, but essentially, she was off to Sudan for an assignment, doing who knows what for a period of time. I contemplated asking her about it, but she got off at 14th Street, and well, you know, I was looking at something that was none of my business anyway.

The only thing I can say, is that I wish you well, Ms. C.; good luck and bon voyage.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Public Editor Speaks

But will the Times listen?

The Miller Mess: Lingering Issues Among the Answers

The drumbeat to Miller's dismissal gets louder.

If you follow the link to Calame's take on the case, you will find a link where he has posted emails sent to him by Keller and Miller regarding their take on the situation.

Dowd vs. Miller

How deep is the animosity toward Judith Miller at the
New York Times these days? So deep as to be an irreparable danger.

Maureen Dowd (Op-ed columnist and a bit of a diva herself) has called the other diva of the
Times, intrepid reporter and government mouthpiece, Miller, out onto the carpet, and frankly, it ain't pretty.

Miller may have been a reporter of merit at one time, but like many people who have enjoyed excellent and powerful careers, it can all go to their heads. Miller, full of herself, has painted her reputation into a corner that will be hard to come back from. (Though I'm sure a nice job at ultra-conservative and crazed World Net Daily awaits her.) And the
Times, one of America's papers of record, has no other choice but to can her ass to save its own ass from going down in a raging and bloody pit of flames.

Now, Dowd is a bit of a pill herself. She dogged Bill Clinton to no end (deserved and otherwise), and though her wry humor is amazing, I, for one, would like to choke her with it occasionally (metaphorically speaking, of course). There's only so many cute turns of phrases that anyone can summon or stomach, but whatever you can say about Dowd, she's an editorial columnist, not a reporter. And that's the biggest difference between them: Miller reportedly brings forth the actual facts of a story, in order to further the public's knowledge about issues while Dowd takes the news that's out there and adds her opinion to the mix.

So when Dowd goes off and mixes the news, personal opinion, and a full-on slam regarding Miller, the
Times better stand up and take notice. (Dowd's Op-ed, "Woman of Mass Destruction" which currently rests behind the opinion wall that Times Select has built, can be read at

And so should we all.

According to Dowd, Ms. Run Amok (a nickname Miller acknowledges), did the following in regards to helping report us into the current Iraq War:

Judy's stories about W.M.D. fit too perfectly with the White House's case for war. She was close to Ahmad Chalabi, the con man who was conning the neocons to knock out Saddam so he could get his hands on Iraq, and I worried that she was playing a leading role in the dangerous echo chamber that Senator Bob Graham, now retired, dubbed "incestuous amplification." Using Iraqi defectors and exiles, Mr. Chalabi planted bogus stories with Judy and other credulous journalists.
"Incestuous amplication." Great name for a rock band, eh?

On April 30, 2005, Dowd wrote an opinion piece ("Swindler on a Gusher") regarding Mr. Ahmad Chalabi that pointed out something everyone who cares to know, knows: that Chalabi cannot step foot in the country of Jordan because he's under indictment for embezzling money from the nation's bank, and for alledged close ties to Iran. So close, in fact, as to be labeled a spy for the Iranians and leaking information regarding America to Iran. Oh, and for providing patented lies to America to help us into war against Iraq.

According to Dowd, Miller fired off an email to her in defense of the indefensible, that Chalabi (and I'm hyposthesizing here since Dowd didn't mention exactly
what was contained in that email) is an honorable man. OK, whatever.

Dowd, who I suspect might be a little run amok herself (she is a powerful editorial writer, after all; aren't they inheritantly a bit off the beaten track of the traditional leadership of a paper?), wonders why Bill Keller, executive editor of the
Times, did not rail her in, even when he knew that she kept 'drifting back' to national security issues that they had taken her off of after being originally questioned by Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald in the Plame Affair. Dowd goes on to say that Miller was quoted in the Sunday Times of October 16, 2005, that "If your sources are wrong, you are wrong." Dowd correctly nails her on this gem by saying that journalism and reporting are not stenography. A journalist seeks out whether her sources are right or wrong. There is no evidence that Miller ever sought to speak with Joseph Wilson himself, to get a second opinion that didn't come out of the White House Iraq Group and Dick Cheney's office.

Miller even went so far as to manipulate the White House title of her source, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, by naming him as a "former Hill staffer," instead of "current White House mole." Just another falsity in a land of high-flying and dangerous tales.

In essence, the rest of Dowd's piece continues the onslaught by stating the obvious in Dowd's own way, but I'll restate it in
my own way: Miller is a liar and an obsfucator and though Dowd doesn't come out and say it, there is no doubt as to what she's feeling. She sums up her righteous tirade by saying that though she admires Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Bill Keller (Times owner and editor) for standing up for important First Amendment rights, if Miller were allowed to continue at the newspaper, then they are pretty much damned:
Judy told The Times that she plans to write a book and intends to return to the newsroom, hoping to cover "the same thing I've always covered - threats to our country." If that were to happen, the institution most in danger would be the newspaper in your hands.
Hot damn. That's how deep the animosity toward Miller is at the Times and I wouldn't be surprised if a mass walkout happens if and when Miller is allowed to continue to cover "threats to our country." Cause truthfully, in my humble opinion, the biggest threat to our country right now is Miller herself and what she represents: lying to the American people to get the war the government wanted with all their heart and soul.

If that were to happen, the institution most in danger would be the government that you, as citizens, hold in your hands.

So will the
Times commit journalistic suicide and allow Miller to continue in her old job? I certainly hope not. In some respects, the paper has lost so much respectability over Miller as well as the Jayson Blair plagiarism issue, that they don't have a lot further to fall. So, let's hope Sulzberger and Keller (who may have stood up for journalistic freedom, but it sounds also like they were a bit adrift in Hurricane Judy) comes to their senses and fires her.

Is that so wrong of both Maureen Dowd and me to want so much?