Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Confessions in Jersey City

I walked to the gym this morning and noticed my new coffee shop in Jersey City is closed for the day. Legal Grounds, which gives coffee for a dollar with your own mug is a down home, coffee shop from days gone by mixed with a hip, wifi feel. Coffee is great, but when they are closed what am I to do? Paulus Hook still lacks lots of these amenities. So, I decided to head to the gym at Synergy, also the cheapest of health clubs in Jersey City.

A guy on unemployment has to watch his budget, eh. It is great though, gives you what you need, Nautilus, free weights, and all kinds of machines. It is also the most diverse gym by far I have ever worked out at...from mom's to kids, to young men to women, from fringe hippies like me, to Arabs, Indians, Latinos, African-Americans, you name it. It is very cool. You want old New York? Come to Jersey City.

After the gym, however - contemplating watching the Palestinian massacre on television without a coffee was not something I cherished. There it was in front of me. Starbucks (no link needed). At the bottom of the gargantuan, pathetically drawn, architecturally stupid, structure of Grove Pointe, a Starbucks. I thought to myself, I have not yet enjoyed the beauty of an egg nog latte yet this holiday season. Voila! In and out in two minutes with a huge egg nog latte. A Venti, they call it. Italian they are not.

The old and new mixed right in this city that is struggling to define itself. Anyway, on January 2nd, Legal Grounds will reopen and I will return.

Thought of the day: Why is one Israeli life worth 350 Palestinian lives?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Is the State of Israel Committing Crimes Against Humanity?

The latest seige on Gaza is just of course the latest seige. Just as the seige in southern Lebanon was a ruse to allow Israel to try and crush Hezbollah, so is this to crush the Palestinian authority, i.e. Hamas and in my opinion the entire two-state solution. This has nothing to do with Hamas, but for a nation committing war crimes engaging in apartheid against another nation while we sit by and watch and participate in calling Israel the "moral" authority in the Middle East. Israel is as "moral" with Palestinians as America has been with the sovereign nation of Iraq. This is not a war, this is a bludgeoning of people, a death blow to people without any rights whatsoever outside of being supplied with arms from the outside Arab world. This is not a war, this is an invasion, much like if the United States were to invade Pine Ridge.

I thought it would be interesting to do a little research since we are subjected to American and on this issue Israeli propaganda via the news. Chris Hedges asked The U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory his opinion, former Princeton University law professor Richard Falk who has called for the International Criminal Court of the United Nations to investigate this situation. He describes what is going in Gaza as this: A recent study reports that 46 percent of all Gazan children suffer from acute anemia. There are reports that the sonic booms associated with Israeli overflights have caused widespread deafness, especially among children. Gazan children need thousands of hearing aids. Malnutrition is extremely high in a number of different dimensions and affects 75 percent of Gazans. There are widespread mental disorders, especially among young people without the will to live.

Over 50 percent of Gazan children under the age of 12 have been found to have no will to live.” Gaza now spends 12 hours a day without power, which can be a death sentence to the severely ill in hospitals. There are few drugs and little medicine, including no cancer or cystic fibrosis medication. Hospitals have generators but often lack fuel. Medical equipment, including one of Gaza’s three CT scanners, has been destroyed by power surges and fluctuations. Medical staff cannot control the temperature of incubators for newborns. And Israel has revoked most exit visas, meaning some of those who need specialized care, including cancer patients and those in need of kidney dialysis, have died. Of the 230 Gazans estimated to have died last year because they were denied proper medical care, several spent their final hours at Israeli crossing points where they were refused entry into Israel. The statistics gathered on children—half of Gaza’s population is under the age of 17—are increasingly grim. About 45 percent of children in Gaza have iron deficiency from a lack of fruit and vegetables, and 18 percent have stunted growth.

Hedges also says: Israel’s siege of Gaza, largely unseen by the outside world because of Jerusalem’s refusal to allow humanitarian aid workers, reporters and photographers access to Gaza, rivals the most egregious crimes carried out at the height of apartheid by the South African regime. It comes close to the horrors visited on Sarajevo by the Bosnian Serbs. It has disturbing echoes of the Nazi ghettos of Lodz and Warsaw.

Former Princeton University Professor Richard Falk calls what Israel is doing against the 1.5 million Palestinians a Crime Against Humanity. Falk, while condemning the rocket attacks by the militant group Hamas, which he points out are also criminal violations of international law, goes on to say that “such Palestinian behavior does not legalize Israel’s imposition of a collective punishment of a life and health-threatening character on the people of Gaza, and should not distract the U.N. or international society from discharging their fundamental moral and legal duty to render protection to the Palestinian people.”

The point of this seige is obvious, to break the back of Hamas that is elected as the Palestinian government. But, Hamas as repeatedly proposed long term truces and "offered to negotiate a permanent truce." During the last cease-fire, established through Egyptian intermediaries in July, Hamas upheld the truce although Israel refused to ease the blockade. It was Israel that, on Nov. 4, initiated an armed attack that violated the truce and killed six Palestinians.

Hamas then resumed rocket attacks on Israel, in which there have been no Israeli casualties. Falk explains the rocket attacks are "a crime of survival." They must resist or accept whatever conditions are imposed upon them. What is more Israel continues to expand the settlements in the West Bank, a clear violation of many U.N. resolutions and a violation of the boundaries imposed long ago. It is done to thwart the two-state solution because the Israeli government (I say Israeli government because the Israeli people want a two-state solution by a clear majority) does not want it. Who knows what elements in Israeli society control what part of the government, but they clearly do and they are hell bent on crushing Gaza as we know it. There is now evidence that Israel would like to push the Gaza strip upon the Egyptians, which Egypt is now allowing Palestinians to move freely there for medical care and other necessities since conditions are so bad there.

What are we to do? Does Israel want this done before Obama takes over? I saw David Axelrod on television yesterday and he refused to comment. Does he think differently? I seriously doubt it, but I hope so. This cannot go on any longer. There are now at least 315 dead Palestinians and 1400 injured. No Israeli casualties have been reported thus far, though Hamas is beginning to step up the rhetoric and call for more suicide bombings.

This is the pinnacle of what "political communication" would call a lack of empathy. How anyone could support this raid on Gaza (seemingly many who did not support the Iraqi invasion) is mind boggling. It is almost as if people feel Palestinians are not people at all, but animals. People who deserve their plight. Muslims (though not all Palestinians are Muslims). This is apartheid. And it is bordering on crimes against humanity.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

An Open Letter to President-elect Obama regarding my Personal Disappointment at the Choice of Rick Warren to Deliver the Inaugural Invocation

Dear Mr. Obama,

My disappointment goes beyond the fact that you chose someone to speak at the inauguration who does not support same-sex marriage rights, because quite frankly, neither do you. But Rev. Warren believes my very existence as a gay man is flawed, that by my living my life honestly and openly, I am acting upon deviant impulses. But this American was made by and in the image of God, just like you and just like Rev. Warren. I pray you will both come to that understanding. I hope you can appreciate my disappoint in your choice.

Best of luck on the 21st.

Ed Campanelli

Friday, December 26, 2008

Rachel Maddow on "Christophobia" Comments

Rachel calls Warren on his weirdness and Obama on his hypocrisy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Human Bondage

There are now more slaves on the planet than at any time in human history. True abolition will elude us until we admit the massive scope of the problem, attack it in all its forms, and empower slaves to help free themselves. - E Benjamin Skinner -

In some cases, one could arrive in Haiti, ask to buy a child, negotiate a price and agree to pay $50 for a child slave. Is it for sex? work? Doesn't matter, they don't ask many questions. And the author makes the point, this is not indentured servitude or so called "slave wages" this is entirely something else - slavery. And it exists in the United States everyday. Though, rhetoric is thrown at the problem almost nothing is being done about it.

Between 2000 and 2006, the U.S. Justice Department increased human trafficking prosecutions from 3 to 32, and convictions from 10 to 98. By 2006, 27 states had passed anti trafficking laws. Yet, during the same period, the United States liberated less than 2 percent of its own modern-day slaves. As many as 17,500 new slaves continue to enter bondage in the United States every year.

The author makes the point that yes, sex slavery is bad and is revolting on its face, but it only focusing on this issue, as the United States has done does nothing to curb the ever growing problem.

Read this account of a slave town in India: Gonoo lives in Lohagara Dhal, a forgotten corner of Uttar Pradesh, a north Indian state that contains 8 percent of the world’s poor. I met him one evening in December 2005 as he walked with two dozen other laborers in tattered and filthy clothes. Behind them was the quarry. In that pit, Gonoo, a member of the historically outcast Kol tribe, worked with his family 14 hours a day. His tools were simple, a rough-hewn hammer and an iron pike. His hands were covered in calluses, his fingertips worn away.

Gonoo’s master is a tall, stout, surly contractor named Ramesh Garg. Garg is one of the wealthiest men in Shankargarh, the nearest sizable town, founded under the British Raj but now run by nearly 600 quarry contractors. He makes his money by enslaving entire families forced to work for no pay beyond alcohol, grain, and bare subsistence expenses. Their only use for Garg is to turn rock into silica sand, for colored glass, or gravel, for roads or ballast. Slavery scholar Kevin Bales estimates that a slave in the 19th-century American South had to work 20 years to recoup his or her purchase price. Gonoo and the other slaves earn a profit for Garg in two years.

Every single man, woman, and child in Lohagara Dhal is a slave. But, in theory at least, Garg neither bought nor owns them. They are working off debts, which, for many, started at less than $10. But interest accrues at over 100 percent annually here. Most of the debts span at least two generations, though they have no legal standing under modern Indian law. They are a fiction that Garg constructs through fraud and maintains through violence. The seed of Gonoo’s slavery, for instance, was a loan of 62 cents. In 1958, his grandfather borrowed that amount from the owner of a farm where he worked. Three generations and three slavemasters later, Gonoo’s family remains in bondage.

There are groups fighting this bondage, but until governments, mainly the US and the United Nations do something the resistance will be a colossal failure. The United Nations whose founding principles were to fight bondage in all its forms has been absent. They have done little to hold any of its member states accountable for widespread slavery.

The United States has been equally absent. They have been willing to criticize nations, but it has resisted doing so with India. Debt bondage has been illegal in India since 1976, but without local laws to combat and enforce "millions remain in bondage." The Secretary of State's own office to monitor human trafficking has urged Condoleeza Rice to "repudiate India's intransigence" in both 2006 and 2007, but in each case she has not.

Read the full article here. And to learn more click here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rick Warren and his Lack of Empathy for Humanity

Ann Curry released another part of her interview with this homophobic preacher. He embarrasses me with his outright bigotry. This is not a moderate evangelical. He is downright hostile to equal rights for all. This is an issue that Barack Obama needs to stand up to, not be inclusive, whatever that means. This is an issue progressives need to take the lead on and defend our brothers and sisters in the gay community. The first inauguration of a black President, a rainbow of cabinet positions (with no openly gay and lesbian people I might add) and we are going to kick it off with this loudmouth preacher? It is an outrage.

It is interesting to note, Warren compares being gay to having "several multiple partners" and to "wanting to sleep with every beautiful woman he sees." Let us put aside his chances of that happening for a second and understand his bigotry against the Gay and Lesbian community. His problem with gay people is not their lifestyle or their "biology" but that they have multiple partners? Is he jealous? Why does he not form an amendment to the Constitution against people with multiple sex partners?

It is astounding to me the level to which people can engage in self deception to hold on to their belief systems. Something that doesn't make sense to them is obviously wrong. What is at issue here is Warren's lack of empathy. This is the catalyst to all social ills, war, disease, famine etc. It is one of the basic tenents of political communication. A murder next door is equal to ten murders in Newark, is equal to 100 murders in Canada, is equal to 1,000 dead in Iraq. People who cannot empathize with for example, an Iraqi who is being bombed every night so they can drive a Hummer is in my opinion dangerous. The same goes here. If we cannot empathize with other humans that are somewhat different than us, then are we truly living in a modern society and accepting humanity for what it is, a mystery. No, these bigots want to have everything explained to them in a book. If it isn't it cannot be true.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Having Rick Warren perform the Invocation is an Outrage

Barack Obama's greatest skill is his ability to reach out to people and find common ground, but that does not mean you slap the people in the face who elected you, progressives and gay people who had a bittersweet night on November 4, 2008. Barack Obama was elected President yes, but gay marriage was voted down by a small margin in what many consider to be the most progressive state in the nation.

But, here is the truth about Rick Warren. He has compared legal abortion to the Holocaust, and gay marriage to incest and pedophilia. He believes that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other non-Christians are going to spend eternity burning in hell. He doesn't believe in evolution. When you actually read some of Warren's statements it becomes highly objectionable, troubling and down right offensive.

Today, in defending Rick Warren Obama talked about how Warren has been an instrument for good and has worked in a ministry for HIV/AIDS in Africa, but even that is a bit of a misnomer. Read Michelle Goldberg's experience: In fact, though, Warren has taken the standard Christian conservative approach to the epidemic, which favors abstinence and prayer over condoms and sex education. I once attended Sunday services at the church of Martin Ssempa, one of Warren's protégés in Uganda and a major force in that country's devastating move away from safe-sex campaigns. It is a heartbreaking thing to watch a tongue-speaking faith-healer promise a room full of sobbing people - many of them poor, many infected with HIV - that Jesus can cure them, if only they believe in him unconditionally (belief demonstrated, of course, in part by tithing generously).

Warren also sent out an email to his congregation about voting (can someone please investigate these tax cheats?) and what to consider while voting. It is instructive. "In order to live a purpose-driven life - to affirm what God has clearly stated about his purpose for every person he creates - we must take a stand by finding out what the candidBoldates believe about these five issues, and then vote accordingly," he wrote. The issues were abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage, cloning and euthanasia.

As Michelle Goldberg points out (the article which this post is based on) says I guess Rick Warren doesn't believe torture is a christian issue. Euthanasia and stem-cell research are to be considered, but not torture of another human soul.

This choice is very troubling to me. I have given Obama the benefit of the doubt on several of his Cabinet choices and will wait to see what happens with policy, but this is strike one for me. In 1992 Bill Clinton had strike three by the time he was inaugurated. First, it was "don't ask don't tell" then it was Lani Guinier and then it was Haiti. I knew he was not going to change the way we do business. We'll see about Obama.

Paterson, New Jersey: 1 in 10 homes are in foreclosure

Paterson, New Jersey is one of the most diverse cities in the nation. Population of Paterson is approximately 50% Latino, 32% African-American and 27% from other races including middle eastern, pacific islander, etc. as well as white, a startlingly diverse city and a total population of 150,000. Shockingly, Paterson is third in the state behind Jersey City and Newark, New Jersey.

In this city of immigrants and African-Americans one in ten homes lay in foreclosure. Habitat for Humanity has built a thousand homes and the Mayor Jose Torres says a great many of these homes are now in foreclosure. The Mayor says at fault is unscrupulous lending practices and the push of the "American Dream" to buy a home. Not everyone can buy a home, says Mayor Torres. But, the problem is if a lender is telling you - that you can buy a home are most people going to disagree?

So, the great majority of homes in foreclosure are from the sub-prime mess where these homeowners could not afford to buy and the lenders (to make huge amounts of money) preyed on these folks, having them put down 5% or less and gave "balloon" mortgages in which at the end of 5 to 7 years, the loan is required to be paid in full. But, the lender tells the buyer: "don't worry about that - you can refinance." And now we have virtually no refinancing at all and so to pay the loan in full is virtually impossible. What happens? Foreclosure.

A subprime mortgage is a type of loan granted to individuals with poor credit histories (often below 600), who, as a result of their deficient credit ratings, would not be able to qualify for conventional mortgages. Because subprime borrowers present a higher risk for lenders, subprime mortgages charge interest rates above the prime lending rate. But, lenders became more liberal in granting these mortgages because of low interest rates and enormous profits to be made because of the high risk of the loan. It is unfair to blame the crisis on people with poor credit history because all of us are experiencing this devastating economic crisis. The subprime loan is so unfair that a late bill can send your interest rate up.

The issue becomes should we be punishing these homeowners for not being able to afford a loan in an economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression. So, instead of bailing first time home owners, or young people struggling, or young Dominican, Indian, Costa Rican, Black or Arab Americans we bail-out the banks who preyed upon this community and countless other vulnerable communities. Now, I know to a certain extent this had to happen, but should we not be keeping these families in their homes? With an unemployment rate of nearly double the national average (10%) this crisis is only going to get worse. Governor Corzine has sent some money to Paterson, but will it be nearly enough?
Hear Mayor Torres discuss the crisis, and try and put a bit of a spin on it, but the outlook is very bleak.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Arctic Melt May Be Passed the Point of No Return

Scientists have found the first "unequivocal evidence that the Arctic region is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the world." It is also 10 to 15 years before it was predicted to happen.

Climate-change researchers have found that air temperatures in the region are higher than would be normally expected during the autumn because the increased melting of the summer Arctic sea ice is accumulating heat in the ocean. The phenomenon, known as Arctic amplification, was not expected to be seen for at least another 10 or 15 years and the findings will further raise concerns that the Arctic has already passed the climatic tipping-point towards ice-free summers, beyond which it may not recover. Scientists believe Arctic Amplification has been occurring for five years now.

Scientists believe the Arctic is considered one of the most sensitive regions in terms of climate change and little is known what will happen in its transition to a new climactic state, only that it will have a direct impact on the northern hemisphere and the rest of the world. It is disturbing to think that the Arctic, the North pole will no longer be considered such. What shall we call it? The North Ocean? The Great North Sea?

Should we not do something fast the world as we know it will change, if not in our lifetimes, then certainly in our children's lifetimes. Read the rest of the article.

Cheney Confesses to a War Crime

Cheney confesses to a war crime, but as Jonathan Turley points out on Countdown, that it is only a war crime if we demand that it is...or is Obama really going to use "change" to restore the rule of law. These acts are obviously impeachable offenses, yet our democratic leadership said "impeachment is off the table."

Listen to this 5 minute plus segmment it is worth it. We have been through eight years of crimes against our constitution and we sat by and allowed it. Will this happen again here? One more thing, outside of Osama Bin Laden, Dick Cheney is the international leader I fear the most.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blogging Out Hunger in New Jersey: We Can't Let this Bank Fail

I was asked to participate in a campaign to involve 100 bloggers in an endeavor to help blog out hunger and ask New Jersey citizens around this time of year to give a little more than usual because New Jersey Food banks supply of food is low. I am a day late, but the need is so great, I thought it important to write about.

First, the Community Food Bank of New Jersey started when the founder and executive director, Kathleen Dichiara saw a need and began giving food out of the trunk of her car in 1976. The food bank has grown dramatically and distributes over 21 million pounds of food and groceries a year, ultimately serving nearly 1,700 non-profits including 436 programs served by its Partner Distribution Organizations (PDOs).

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ)is a member of Feeding America and fights hunger and poverty by the distribution of food and grocery products, by education and training, by creating new programs to meet the needs of low-income people, and by involving all sectors of society in this battle.

We are in some of the worst economic times in this country's history, we all feel it, but the poor and the hungry feel it the most. This is always the case. The Community Food Bank of New Jersey is experiencing some real difficulty in fulfilling the needs of those who are going hungry. Requests for food at the Food Bank have gone up 30 percent, but donations are down by 25 percent. Warehouse shelves that are typically stocked with food are bare and supplies have gotten so low that, for the first time in its 25 year history, the food bank is developing a rationing mechanism. CFBNJ. See the video below.

I can speak to this dire need. This summer at Legal Services we organized a food drive for Middlesex County because every shelter and food bank in the area was experiencing huge shortages of food. We asked our colleagues to come together and organized a food drive and gave food throughout the summer. We did well, but only made a dent in what was needed. And this time of year is extra crucial. People are cold, sick and hunger feels especially lonely around the holidays. What is more this need will not subside soon, it will be with us for the foreseeable future. While our government is giving huge subsidies to big financial institutions, we forget about the people who need us the most, the hungry.

There are several ways to give. Please go to the link of the CFBNJ and locate your county or any foodbank and donate or see how you or your organization can help the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. Because, truly this is one bank we cannot allow to fail.

Monday, December 15, 2008

George Bush shoe attack

Classic reaction to the worst President in American history.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Bail-Out Fails

The bail-out failed because of the hypocritical Senate in which they feed, give, serve up $700 billion dollars with no oversight. And now GM has announced they are closing 20 factories because of "low demand." The employees will be laid-off temporarily, but who knows what this means? Here are the hypocrites who voted to give $700 billion dollars to the banks and not to loan $14 billion dollars to the American auto industry.

Bob Bennett, R-UT Richard Burr, R-NC Saxby Chambliss, R-GA Tom Coburn, R-OK Norm Coleman, R-MN Bob Corker, R-TN John Ensign, R-NV Chuck Grassley, R-IA Judd Gregg, R-NH Orrin Hatch, R-UT Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-TX Johnny Isakson, R-GA John Kyl, R-AZ Mel Martinez, R-FL John McCain, R-AZ Mitch McConnell, R-KY Lisa Murkowski, R-AK John Thune, R-SD

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Overseers of TARP "Bewildered"

A new report released yesterday charges the $700 billion dollar bail-out is almost unmanageable and unaccountable. Surprise, surprise. The report looks into how the Department of the Treasury is spending the money. U.S. stocks have declined 40 percent this year, 12 of the nation's largest financial institutions are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and 171 banks are on the Treasury's "problem list." Since Congress approved the bailout in October, the Treasury has allocated some $335 billion, but some of the most fundamental questions about where that money went remain unanswered.

"It is unclear" the report -- written by a panel led by Harvard Law professor and bankruptcy expert Elizabeth Warren (many might know her from the film "Maxed Out")-- says at one point, and it continues that way for some time, wondering "What is Treasury's Strategy?" "Is the Strategy Working?" What Have Financial Institutions Done with the Taxpayers' Money?"

The most strongly worded section appears on page 20, when the panel charges Treasury with administering "the TARP program without seeking to monitor the use of funds provided to specific financial institutions." It adds: "Treasury cannot simply trust that the financial institutions will act in the desired ways; it must verify."

This is how it works? The Big Three get grilled about a $15 billion dollar loan, (which it is clear the opposition is against the UAW, not the big three because of the "average hourly wage of workers) and the financial institutions are given $700 billion to do as they please with no oversight. Unbelievable. The people who have destroyed our economy and have shot-up jobless claims rise to a new 26 year high of 573 thousand are given money with no oversight to pump their bad loans and bad product so we spend money that is ever losing its value. Yet, car companies who admittedly need to change their whole structure, but need a boost to save at least three million jobs and restructure to compete in the 21st century economy are left out on a limb. The House passed the bail-out bill, but passage in the Senate is not assured.

I hope Obama is watching because the Democratic Congress passed this. Yes, we still have a President that is a bonified moron, but the Democrats passed this with no oversight and gave a gift to the financial institutions who need a swift kick in the ass. Talk about corporate welfare.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Clean Coal?

There’s no such thing as “clean coal.” That’s the message from a new ad campaign launched by a coalition of environmental groups including Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and others. I tend to agree:

The Ban Divorce Campaign

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Laid-Off Workers Occupy Factory in Chicago

Workers at the Republic Windows and Doors factory got three days notice before being laid off. So, the members of the United Electrical Workers Union did what normal, rational people would do. They occupied it. The workers will not go home unless they have assurances they will be paid their severance and their vacation pay.

Under federal law the Company is required to give 60 days notice to its employees. They gave three days notice. Sounds about right, huh? The 250 union workers took turns on Saturday occupying the factory peacefully, while union leaders criticized a wall-street bailout that is leaving laborers behind. One such worker wore a hat that said: "you got bailed out, we got sold out." During the occupation the workers have been cleaning the building and shoveling the snow.

A union leader said the company can't pay its 300 employees because its creditor, Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America, won't let them. Crain's Chicago Business reported that Republic Windows' monthly sales had fallen to $2.9 million from $4 million during the past month. In a memo to the union, obtained by the business journal, Republic CEO Rich Gillman said the company had "no choice but to shut our doors."

Bank of America received $25 billion from the government's financial bailout package. The company said in a statement Saturday that it isn't responsible for Republic's financial obligations to its employees. I am not sure who is at fault here, but for too long business has been allowed to skirt the law while workers and laborers get screwed by their companies.

Depression era occupation is back. This is a tactic used in the depression to force companies to either unionize or force the government to realize a crisis was at hand. This is a sign of a very depressing economy that Robert Reich yesterday claimed, "we may need to start calling this a depression." While we are no where near what happened in the American Great Depression this is clearly more than a minor recession.

Workers were angered when company officials didn't show up for a meeting Friday that had been arranged by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat, Fried said. Union officials said another meeting with the company is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

"We're going to stay here until we win justice," said Blanca Funes, 55, of Chicago, after occupying the building for several hours. Speaking in Spanish, Funes said she fears losing her home without the wages she feels she's owed. A 13-year employee of Republic, she estimated her family can make do for three months without her paycheck. Most of the factory's workers are Hispanic.

And to show that change has truly come the President-elect Barack Obama responded accordingly. “When it comes to the situation here in Chicago with the workers who are asking for their benefits and payments they have earned, I think they are absolutely right,” “What’s happening to them is reflective of what’s happening across this economy. More on this here.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Quote of the Week: Bill Ayers

"I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village. The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices — the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious — as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.

The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.

Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends." - Bill Ayers, Op-Ed, New York Times, December 5, 2008 -

Obama Plan to Stimulate the Economy is Far Reaching

In this morning's weekly address, President-Elect Obama promised to roll out the biggest investment in public infrastructure since the federal highway system of the 1950's was undertaken. In addition to roads and bridges, the new administration will upgrade public schools, build out broadband, make public buildings energy efficient and modernize medical record-keeping.

Friday, December 5, 2008

New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year

I like to check out the best books of the year to see if I missed something or if I need to read something I missed. The best book I read so far this year is Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri which is included in this collection and who I think is one marvelous writer and story teller. I also want to read Toni Morrison's "Mercy" as well. She is a national treasure and will be talked about like a classical writer when she is gone. We should enjoy her while we have her. The only other book on this list I am dying to read is Jane Mayer's "The Dark Side." I hear it is the best book on the shenanigans of the Bush administration that destroyed our Constitution and made us the biggest bully since well, that goes without saying. Supposedly, however this book captures just how bad it has been and the heroes deep within government willing to talk. These reviews are taken right from the New York Times article.


Dangerous Laughter
By Steven Millhauser

In his first collection in five years, a master fabulist in the tradition of Poe and Nabo­kov invents spookily plausible parallel universes in which the deepest human emotions and yearnings are transformed into their monstrous opposites. Millhauser is especially attuned to the purgatory of adolescence. In the title story, teenagers attend sinister “laugh parties”; in another, a mysteriously afflicted girl hides in the darkness of her attic bedroom. Time and again these parables revive the possibility that “under this world there is another, waiting to be born.”

By Toni Morrison
The fate of a slave child abandoned by her mother animates this allusive novel — part Faulknerian puzzle, part dream-song — about orphaned women who form an eccentric household in late-17th-century America. Morrison’s farmers and rum traders, masters and slaves, indentured whites and captive Native Americans live side by side, often in violent conflict, in a lawless, ripe American Eden that is both a haven and a prison — an emerging nation whose identity is rooted equally in Old World superstitions and New World appetites and fears.

By Joseph O’Neill
O’Neill’s seductive ode to New York — a city that even in bad times stubbornly clings to its belief “in its salvific worth” — is narrated by a Dutch financier whose privileged Manhattan existence is upended by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. When his wife departs for London with their small son, he stays behind, finding camaraderie in the unexpectedly buoyant world of immigrant cricket players, most of them West Indians and South Asians, including an entrepreneur with Gatsby-size aspirations.

By Roberto Bolaño.
Bolaño, the prodigious Chilean writer who died at age 50 in 2003, has posthumously risen, like a figure in one of his own splendid creations, to the summit of modern fiction. This latest work, first published in Spanish in 2004, is a mega- and meta-detective novel with strong hints of apocalyptic foreboding. It contains five separate narratives, each pursuing a different story with a cast of beguiling characters — European literary scholars, an African-American journalist and more — whose lives converge in a Mexican border town where hundreds of young women have been brutally murdered.

By Jhumpa Lahiri
There is much cultural news in these precisely observed studies of modern-day Bengali-Americans — many of them Ivy-league strivers ensconced in prosperous suburbs who can’t quite overcome the tug of traditions nurtured in Calcutta. With quiet artistry and tender sympathy, Lahiri creates an impressive range of vivid characters — young and old, male and female, self-knowing and self-deluding — in engrossing stories that replenish the classic themes of domestic realism: loneliness, estrangement and family discord.


THE DARK SIDE The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals
By Jane Mayer.

Mayer’s meticulously reported descent into the depths of President Bush’s anti­terrorist policies peels away the layers of legal and bureaucratic maneuvering that gave us Guantánamo Bay, “extraordinary rendition,” “enhanced” interrogation methods, “black sites,” warrantless domestic surveillance and all the rest. But Mayer also describes the efforts of unsung heroes, tucked deep inside the administration, who risked their careers in the struggle to balance the rule of law against the need to meet a threat unlike any other in the nation’s history.

By Dexter Filkins

The New York Times correspondent, whose tours of duty have taken him from Afghanistan in 1998 to Iraq during the American intervention, captures a decade of armed struggle in harrowingly detailed vignettes. Whether interviewing jihadists in Kabul, accompanying marines on risky patrols in Falluja or visiting grieving families in Baghdad, Filkins makes us see, with almost hallucinogenic immediacy, the true human meaning and consequences of the “war on terror.”

By Julian Barnes

This absorbing memoir traces Barnes’s progress from atheism (at age 20) to agnosticism (at 60) and examines the problem of religion not by rehashing the familiar quarrel between science and mystery, but rather by weighing the timeless questions of mortality and aging. Barnes distills his own experiences — and those of his parents and brother — in polished and wise sentences that recall the writing of Montaigne, Flaubert and the other French masters he includes in his discussion. (First Chapter)

THIS REPUBLIC OF SUFFERING Death and the American Civil War
By Drew Gilpin Faust

In this powerful book, Faust, the president of Harvard, explores the legacy, or legacies, of the “harvest of death” sown and reaped by the Civil War. In the space of four years, 620,000 Americans died in uniform, roughly the same number as those lost in all the nation’s combined wars from the Revolution through Korea. This doesn’t include the thousands of civilians killed in epidemics, guerrilla raids and draft riots. The collective trauma created “a newly centralized nation-state,” Faust writes, but it also established “sacrifice and its memorialization as the ground on which North and South would ultimately reunite.”

THE WORLD IS WHAT IT IS The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul
By Patrick French

The most surprising word in this biography is “authorized.” Naipaul, the greatest of all postcolonial authors, cooperated fully with French, opening up a huge cache of private letters and diaries and supplementing the revelations they disclosed with remarkably candid interviews. It was a brave, and wise, decision. French, a first-rate biographer, has a novelist’s command of story and character, and he patiently connects his subject’s brilliant oeuvre with the disturbing facts of an unruly life.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Prop 8 - The Musical

This is clever and entertaining and hits all the points one needs to see the hypocrisy of this entire issue. "Gay Marriages Will Save the Economy!"

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

A Brief History of the Clenched Fist

While it came to popularity in the late 1960's the clenched fist has been around some say since the neolithic age in cave paintings. In early graphic art, however it goes back to 1917. The fist images were used in some form in the French and Soviet revolutions, the United States Communist Party of course famously with the Black Panther party culminating in Mexico City when two world class athletes used the symbol on the medal stand as a form of resistance, a dark period in McCarthyism in the late 60's in America that cost the two their medals. I love this image, it displays strength and resistance and at times unity.

The first time the symbol was used in the anti-war movement was by San Francisco Bay Area graphic artist Frank's Cieciorka for Stop The Draft Week, for actions January 14, 1968 protesting the arrest of the "Oakland Seven" This poster was adapted from one he had done earlier for Stop The Draft Week (10/17/1967) that used a large, blocky figure wielding a fist. The second poster took the fist and used on its own.

It showed up almost immediately within the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS, which used it in flier for the 1968 Chicago National Democratic Convention protest. A virtually identical fist used in the 1969 Harvard student strike traces its design to School of Design student Harvey Hacker. See some amazing clenched fist pieces of art and more on the history.

As I read about this history we need our own clenched fist, one that symbols the end of free market capitalism and signifies a movement to tie workers around the world together in unity against abusive policies that seek to both degrade humanity and destroy our planet. We need a clenched fist that seeks unity, justice and a green revolution for the 21st century. Any takers?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Broken Glass

I was reading Monday's online version of the New York Times, and came across a great piece in the Arts section about a new exhibit at The Museum of the City of New York. It is entitled, Broken Glass and is a photography collection of shots of 1980s South Bronx. The photographer, Ray Mortenson, who is from New Jersey, started chronicling urban decay around Passaic, and then decided to move to New York, taking the 5 train up to the Bronx.

His work is eerily empty of life, and he never shot people in his Bronx photography. As the article alludes to, his photos stand as a kind of testament to an abandoned time, place and setting. The bronx, in many of the parts that he went to, is light years different these days, and Mortenson hasn't been back in years. From the article:

Mr. Mortenson said he had not returned to those blocks since he stopped taking photographs in the Bronx in 1984. “I’m ambivalent about it,” he said. “There was something about being there alone, about that time, that I guess I want to keep.”

“It was kind of like being in a horror movie,” he added. “But that was all part of it.”

The title of the exhibit refers to a line from the Grandmaster Flash classic, "The Message."

As Sean Corcoran, curator of prints and photography at The Museum asks in the article, when he looks at the shots of these otherwordly places, he can't help thinking:
“How could things get to this point? What political, economic and cultural shifts could lead to such a collapse?”

This is a great question to ask at a time when all over the U.S., as the article notes, peoples' homes, towns and lives look and feel likewise abandoned.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

THE Best Show on Television

We just got finished watching episode 5, season 3 of Brotherhood. It is astonishing to say the least. This is a small scene of its authenticity. But, you must begin from the beginning to truly grip the drama of this show. Below this clip is an excerpted, marvelous review from the New York Times. I am saddened that it will end in three weeks. I wish I were you who have never seen it and could watch it all over again.

“Brotherhood” seems to suffer under the misfortune of timing. Had it arrived 10 or 15 years earlier, when long-form narrative was not the dominant form on cable television, it would have been felt, arguably, more as an explosion than a trickle. The series has at least so far failed to find a large audience, indicating perhaps how much we have come to take good serial drama for granted.

It is a sign of how quietly the show has been received that it produced a landmark moment in modern television last season that went almost entirely unnoticed. Believing that a career criminal suffering from a mild form of brain damage would not exactly make for an ideal father, Michael’s girlfriend, Kath (Tina Benko), aborted the baby they were going to have, without agonizing later that she had made the gravest mistake of her life.

This amounted to one of the most honest depictions of unplanned pregnancy in any medium in quite some time, and seemed to stand out especially on television, where women are typically saved from unwanted children by the convenient and politically neutral plot device of the miscarriage. (Or alternatively, they decide, like Miranda on “Sex and the City,” simply to have them.) Among its many virtues, “Brotherhood” isn’t in the business of life lessons.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


"Garden Groomer", oil on canvas, 25" x 50"

one of my favorite jersey artists has a new show ... check it out!

"Host" , Oil and Acrylic on Canvas 36" x 40"




OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday, December 4, 6-8 PM

INSTANT GRATIFICATION: I'm interested in superficial and product-oriented interference in the natural phases of life, as it pertains to childhood encounters with religion and sex. As a girl raised Catholic, I became accustomed to attractive versions of unattractive ideas in vessels that appealed to me at a young age. Storytelling formulas and strategies are used by parents to make certain complexities, such as Catholicism and sex, appear more final and less questionable. At 23, I'm beginning to dissect those issues that were once deemed absolute. My paintings are adult responses to the formulas I was fed as a child; they're about realizing that the notion of the unobtainable being attainable is indeed false. My body of work challenges the Catholic church's myth of accessibility by acknowledging the impossibility of mimicking an ideal Catholic figure, and by exploring a more personal and organic mode of power and sensuality: sex and the female form.

Celeste Rapone was raised in Wayne, NJ and attended the Rhode Island School of Design, where she received her B.F.A. degree in 2007. Ms. Rapone is the winner of the 2008 Phoenix Gallery Fellowship Program at the Phoenix Gallery.

PHOENIX GALLERY 210 Eleventh Ave. @ 25th St., Suite 902, New York, NY 10001

Tuesday through Saturday, 11:30 – 6:00 PM
212-226-8711 212-343-7303 fax

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Progressive in the Cabinet!

I have been unabashedly unimpressed with many of the Clinton folks now appointed to work for Obama, but this morning the Obama appointed Melody Barnes to head the Domestic Policy Council. She is a front and center progressive who has worked for Ted Kennedy (the lion of the Senate and a lion for progressives) on the Judiciary committee. She has also worked for the Center for American Progress for the last few years. An African-American woman, she will coordinate the mega-board of the Cabinet secretaries of Health and Human Services, Justice, Labor, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Energy, Treasury, Agriculture, Transportation, Interior and Veterans Affairs. Basically, she'll be domestic policy czar. More on Barnes. She also penned an essay at the Washington Post, "What a Progressive President Might Say." Here is part of what she said:

Here at home there is urgent work to do to fight the historically high -- and growing -- gap between our richest and poorest citizens. While the mean income of households on the low end of the income spectrum -- the bottom 20 percent -- is just $10,655 a year, the income of the top twenty percent of households averages almost $160,000. That's 15 times as much. At the same time, according to the latest census figures, the middle class, beset with stagnant wages and mountainous debts, is shrinking. The sad fact is that one of our most cherished values as a society, namely equality of opportunity, is fading as a reality for far too many people...

Here is a small interview with her on C-SPAN:

Happy Go Lucky

Happy Go Lucky is another film by Mike Leigh, who never fails to surprise. He makes films about regular people (in London), not characters that look like they are models or in magazines. These could be people living next door (if you lived in England of course). He has made superior films in Naked, Secrets and Lies ( my personal favorite) and Vera Drake among others. This is a little different, however not as dark, but not as light as you think. Sally Hawkins gives a career performance as "poppy" and confronts the central existential question, "are you happy?"

Sunday, November 23, 2008

uncle sam

"Bubble Make" Uncle Sam, by Renato Alarcao

(published in Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper)

A Public Hijacking that Goes Untold

As reported by Naomi Klein last week the bail-out was nothing, but a fraud and quite frankly the Bush administration committed acts that might be considered criminal. I will link to this article, but will also give the sorted details in brief.

Last week as Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson as well as some minions came to Washington to explain just how the bail-out was going we learned interesting tidbits that are not being reported in the press. Surprise, surprise. First, "in a moment of high panic in September, the US treasury pushed through a radical change in how bank mergers are taxed - a change long sought by the industry. Despite the fact that this move will deprive the government of as much as $140bn in tax revenue, legislators found out only after the fact. According to the Washington Post, more than a dozen tax attorneys agree that "[the] treasury had no authority to issue the [tax change] notice." It is not just the brilliant Klein who reported this, however the bastion of free market capitalism the Washington Post reported on it as well.

So, while we bail-out these huge companies giving them 700 billion in revenue they change a law unchallenged and behind the American people's back so they can avoid taxes?! What is the Democratic response? Nothing.

Secondly, of equally dubious legality are the equity deals the treasury has negotiated with many of the banks. According to Congressman Barney Frank, one of the architects of the legislation that enables the deals: "Any use of these funds for any purpose other than lending - for bonuses, for severance pay, for dividends, for acquisitions of other institutions ... is a violation of the act." Yet this is exactly how the funds are being used.

Lastly, in addition to the $700 billion banks have been given as a gift for hijacking the American people, the Federal Reserve has also loaned out $2 trillion dollars in emergency loans. Where is this money you ask? Incredibly, the Fed will not reveal which corporations have received these loans or what it has accepted as collateral. Bloomberg news service believes this secrecy violates the law and has filed a federal suit demanding full disclosure.

The democrats are squarely absent from the conversation. Barack Obama constantly lets us know, "there is only one President at a time." Of course this is true, but these new policies not allowed by anyone, but the Bush administration has the ability to as Klein puts it, "hobble Obama's ability to make good on his promise of change." For instance, Obama's renewable energy plan is almost the exact amount of money being stolen from the American people because of the unilateral rule change by the Treasury Department.

Obama wants to be a bi-partisan President, which sounds nice, but these people play hard ball and care not for regular Americans. They are not playing in the agreed upon rules and Obama and the Democrats have a responsibility to highlight this. The reason Klein gives for their silence is this: I suspect the real reason the Democrats are failing to act has less to do with presidential protocol than with fear: fear that the stock market, which has the temperament of an over-indulged two-year-old, will throw one of its world-shaking tantrums.

She has more faith in the democrats than me. What I have seen over my adult life gives me no faith in the new Congress or in fact, a man I worked my heart out for, Barack Obama. I am glad we no longer have to worry about our place in the world because indeed it will be restored. But, I doubt heavily that anything significant will change in the way we do business with the rich and powerful and the not so rich and powerful. The rules are set up so that regular people will fail. Is that going to change?

I am not interested in rhetoric anymore. We need a President that will listen to every day Americans and we need to hear him now. I want to know what is going to change. Will we have Regulations that actually stop lenders and banks from merging into gargantuan companies that cannot fail (a move by the way that was made under the Clinton administration)? Citigroup is ready to fail and is going to be bailed out momentarily. Are we going to break up this huge conglomerate corporations? Are we going to stop lengers from predatory lending? Subprime mortgages? What, what is going to change?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bail-outs Only for the Rich, (and Definitely not New Jersey)

It is a strange world indeed when the only people who get bailed out [by us] are the rich and powerful. I heard this morning on NPR the Senate was considering extending unemployment benefits by 13 weeks (something I would personally benefit from at this point), but Bush would veto such legislation. Incidentally, jobless claims are skyrocketing with no end in sight. Just this morning a report by the labor department indicated jobless claims are at a sixteen year high.

There is no real talk about what every day Americans are going through though. It is bail-out banks, bail-out the auto industry, next comes the air line industry. But, where does it end and when does the focus become people, not corporations. Is that not where this conversation should begin? How are people doing? Well, a new report on food and nutrition tells you: one-in-eight Americans who struggled to feed themselves adequately in 2007 even before the economic downturn. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of those affected rose from 10.5% to 11.1%. That's 36.2 million people.

Other highlights: The families with the highest rates of food insecurity were headed by single mothers (30.2 percent), black households (22.2 percent), Hispanic households (20.1 percent), and households with incomes below the official poverty line (37.7 percent).

States with families reporting the highest prevalence of food insecurity during 2005-07 were Mississippi (17.4 percent), New Mexico (15 percent), Texas (14.8 percent) and Arkansas (14.4 percent).

The highest growth in food insecurity over the past nine years came in Alaska and Iowa, both of which saw a 3.7 percent increase in families who struggled to eat adequately or had substantial food disruptions.

"Nationwide, children suffering from a severe disruption in how much food was available to them rose 50 percent, from 430,000 in 2006 to 691,000 in 2007, the worst year since 1998. Not Congolese fleeing the chaos of civil war. Not Dickensian orphans. Americans in the 21st Century."

This begs the question, what the hell are we thinking? Do bail-outs really help Americans? Will this help us turn the corner or is an entirely new way of thinking needed?

Here in the state of New Jersey Legal Services for the poor's funding is down approximately 65%. Lay-offs indeed have already begun in south jersey and the mood at the organization is bleak. Governor Corzine promised an additional 9.5 million in funds to keep the organization afloat. Word, however is this funding is in doubt (maybe Corzine is too busy thinking of who he can bail-out at the Department of Treasury). What will happen to poor people in New Jersey if this organization is forced to gut itself and cut jobs in half, which some of the plans project? Now mind you Legal Services here is asking for 9 million. Compare that to 25 billion the auto industry is asking for? Do we not have our priorities straight? Might we do both? (Just to put these numbers in perspective. The difference between a million and a billion is very significant. It takes 11 days for 1 million seconds to tick. How about a billion? 30 + years!).

While the poor are forced into poverty and "it is a result of the times" Auto executives fly into Washington on private jets and ask for 25 billion. Banks are given 700 billion. What if we took just one of those billions and divied it up amongst the poor? Would that be such a bad idea?

Quote of the Week

"There is a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hand, saying that they're going to be trimming down and streamlining their businesses," Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-New York, told the chief executive officers of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee.

"It's almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high hat and tuxedo. It kind of makes you a little bit suspicious."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Joe Lieberman Retains his Chairmanship

Below Lieberman the turncoat.

So, the Democrats kiss Lieberman's ass today so they can try and get to 60 votes in the Senate. Though it doesn't matter because the Democrats have no back bone and have not had one for a decade or more. Listen to this clip by Lieberman telling us the Democrats left him. So, he goes and supports McCain because the Democrats finally begin listening to the progressive wing of the party.

Is today then, a return to Clintonism? Centrism? Forgoing the people and sucking up to corporations and special interests? Is that what we can look forward to in the coming years with Obama? Lieberman here blames the dems for hyper partisanship. Are you kidding me? The democrats? Joe left the democratic party a long time ago and it is democratic activists who began pushing the democrats to act like democrats again instead of Republican-lite.

If this is what we have to look forward to, you can have it. The democratic party activists (progressives) are responsible for the 2006 landlside, Obama winning the democratic nomination (along with African-American democrats who have been equally ignored) and the 2008 landslide. If these democrats think they will go back to business as usual they have got another thing coming.


From think progress:

Senate Democrats are allowing Lieberman to keep control of the Armed Services subcommittee, even though some of his most misguided and incendiary attacks on Obama were on national security. Lieberman, for example, suggested that Obama hasn’t always “put the country first,” said that President Bush was right for comparing Obama to Nazi appeasers, and worried that Obama was “naive” and lacked the “right stuff to bomb Iran.”

A Progressive Cabinet

Obama is poised to pick 22 people that will be mini-Presidents of their agendas and at times can be as powerful as the President. I have been less than impressed with the names being floated to head Departments. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State? When we look at this pick purely through the lens of a political junkie or even a future historian it sounds very intriguing, but it is a move to the center and hawkishness toward the middle east. We need a progressive agenda going forward not more of the same and when I say more of the same I mean the last 28 years, not just the last dreadful eight. In These Times asked their editors and writers for a list of progressive choices for cabinet positions. I will add my two cents as well. I will not go through the entire list, but these would be stellar picks.

Labor Secretary: David Bonior
Bonior was a senior adviser to the Edwards campaign and came out immediately for Barack after Edwards left the campaign trail. From 1976 to 2002 served as the progressive congressman from the Macomb and St. Clair County suburbs outside Detroit — the famous district of Reagan Democrats. During his tenure, Bonior championed unions, opposed trade agreements like NAFTA, and criticized both President Reagan’s Central American counter-insurgency policies and President Clinton’s civil liberties policies.

Transportation: Earl Blumenauer
Last summer, as Congress wrestled with energy legislation, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) offered a simple, $1 million proposal to encourage bike commuting. To his disbelief, the plan was ridiculed by a number of Republicans, including Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who called two-wheelers “a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem.” In a prospective Obama administration, Blumenauer should get the last laugh.

An eco-friendly labor advocate from Portland, Blumenauer couldn’t be more representative of his liberal district, which he’s served since 1996. In the Oregon legislature and later on the Portland city council, Blumenauer helped direct Portland’s planning renaissance, championing bike lanes, light rail and streetcars. He brought his emphasis on smart growth to Washington, advocating for high-speed rail and launching the Congressional Bike Caucus. In fact, nobody in his congressional office applies for a parking permit.

Defense: Sarah Sewell
The editors admit this a long-shot candidate, but Sarah Sewall should be the next defense secretary. This would be the real glass ceiling this turn around, a woman at Defense.
During the Clinton administration, Sewall served as the first deputy assistant secretary of defense for peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance.

Currently the executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University and a lecturer in public policy, Sewall also directs the Center’s program on national security and human rights.

Sewall has worked at a variety of defense research organizations. In addition to writing the introduction to the University of Chicago edition of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (2007), she has written widely on U.S. foreign policy, multilateralism, peace operations and military intervention. She currently focuses on civilians in war, facilitating dialogue between the military and human rights communities on the use of force.

One of the biggest challenges facing our country today is recognizing — and adequately responding to — the broad spectrum of threats we face in our globalized world. That includes environmental changes and disease pandemics that are contributing to global conflicts. It also includes the weaponization of space; the proliferation of nuclear weapons; and the extravagance of bloated military budgets — while our schools crumble and nearly 46 million Americans go uninsured.

Commerce: Margot Dorfman
For decades, the Department of Commerce has represented the interests of the U.S. global business elite to the detriment of healthy and sustainable commerce.

Since the ’80s, the department has done little to abate the destruction of Main Street enterprise, the collapse of our manufacturing base, the looting of our public infrastructure, massive global outsourcing of jobs, and rampant tax shifting to overseas tax havens.

Prospective Obama administration should nominate Margot Dorfman for secretary of commerce. Dorfman would advocate for Main Street, not Wall Street, and for business owners and employees, not absentee shareholders. She would support high-road enterprise that encourages real investment and healthy growth, not speculation, outsourcing and exploitation.
As CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce Dorfman has supported sustainable business development, durable economic policies, community entrepreneurship, worker education, and small business development for women and people of color. Prior to that, Dorfman worked for General Mills and several small enterprises.

Secretary of State: Jim McDermott
Secretary of state has two major tasks: To define and represent U.S. interests in the world, and to bring the rest of the world’s interests to the United States. Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) — a 10-term member of Congress and a Progressive Caucus stalwart — would do both.
McDermott has been a consistent voice for single-payer healthcare, for increased funding for the U.S. and global HIV/AIDS crisis, and for maintaining the estate tax. And he has stated unequivocally that Big Oil and the Iraq War are causing skyrocketing oil prices.

Like any U.S. politician, his record isn’t perfect, particularly on trade. But unlike most of his colleagues, McDermott is independent and willing to think and act outside the Washington box.
McDermott actively opposes U.S. threats of war against Iran, and he has challenged Israel directly, saying it’s “both appropriate and urgent for the U.S. to raise questions about [Israel’s] intentions” toward Iran.

Secretary McDermott would not only call for redeploying combat troops out of Iraq, he would also press for bringing home all U.S. troops and mercenaries. He would enforce ignored laws prohibiting U.S. bases there. And he would immediately renounce U.S. efforts to control Iraq’s oil. In fact, he read into the Congressional Record the full text of the 1930 Anglo-Iraqi treaty, which set the same terms for British control of oil that the Bush administration is trying to impose on Iraq today.

Secretary of State Jim McDermott would reclaim the primacy of diplomacy in U.S. foreign policy.

Attorney General: Charles Ogletree, jr. (this is my favorite, though I would settle for Russ Feingold) Ogletree was also Obama's mentor at Harvard, but I also fear a Lani Guenier quality to his beliefs and would the Senate confirm him. Of course there will be at least 58 votes for Dems.

For the post of attorney general in an Obama administration, Charles Ogletree Jr. would be a good choice.

Ogletree, a tireless advocate for social justice causes, is the founder and director of the Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, which focuses on issues relating to race and justice, sponsors research and provides policy analysis.

Ogletree is another one of Obama’s Harvard professors-turned-adviser. He counsels the candidate on constitutional and criminal justice issues. He would be the perfect antidote to a justice department poisoned by illegal, politicized hiring, a reprehensible tolerance for torture and a refusal to enforce civil rights legislation.

Before joining the Harvard faculty in 1985, Ogletree served as a public defender in the District of Columbia, a position that helped shape his focus on civil rights and criminal justice issues. He has since earned a reputation as a brilliant legal theorist.

In 1991, he was legal counsel to Anita Hill during the Senate confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas.

Ogletree has also been a prominent media presence, moderating several PBS forums and serving as a commentator on national news programs.

He is author of several books, including From Lynch Mobs To The Killing State: Race And The Death Penalty In America in 2006, and the 2004 book All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half Century of Brown v. Board of Education.

Ogletree is co-chair of the Reparations Coordinating Committee, a group of attorneys pursuing a legal route to reparations for descendants of enslaved Africans.

Kathleen Sebelius: Health and Human Services
Three major obstacles face the next secretary. One, tens of millions of Americans lack health insurance. Two, any attempt to deal with this crisis will result in the private insurance industry — and its lobbyists — swooping in to turn policy changes into a windfall for itself. And three, for eight years, the department has been crippled by low morale and staff departures caused by Bush administration mismanagement.

The next secretary must have the ability to help undo this damage.

Sebelius has shown independence from the healthcare industry. While serving as Kansas insurance commissioner from 1995 to 2003, she rejected an attempt by Anthem insurance company to buy out Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas. As governor, she has challenged the pharmaceutical industry by advocating for the import of prescription drugs. She also set up a state agency to work on plans to obtain better prices for prescription drugs and other healthcare services.

Sebelius has a strong background in health policy, having served on President Clinton’s Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry.
Most importantly, her experience as a governor could provide her with the needed executive ability to fill this vital post.

Treasury: Elizabeth Warren (My second favorite pick. If anyone saw Maxed Out, the documentary Elizabeth Warren showed herself to be both brilliant and a tireless advocate for those left out of this economy).

If treasury secretaries have legacies, the two with the most memorable in the last 16 years are Clinton Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin and recent Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. At different points in their careers, both men championed extremist free-trade policies, had a hand in the deregulatory policies that led to corporate meltdowns; contributed to boom-bust cycles; and spent time heading investment banking behemoth Goldman Sachs. Perhaps the latest financial meltdown will break Goldman Sachs’ death grip — and maybe, just maybe, Elizabeth Warren will be the first woman to head this key department.

A renowned Harvard Law professor, Warren may seem an unconventional choice for a position typically held by a business titan. But a presidency whose economic prospects will pivot on cleaning up conservatives’ laissez-faire wreckage could use a tough-minded regulator at the helm of the government apparatus responsible for collecting taxes and policing Wall Street. Warren fits that description perfectly as one of the nation’s leading experts on the laws and regulations that the treasury department is supposed to enforce, but too often doesn’t.
Having made national headlines as a bestselling author and a leader in the fight against the lobbyist-written Bankruptcy Bill of 2005, Warren would set a new tone for a treasury department that has often been a bought-and-paid-for appendage of Corporate America.
In 2000 and 2002, the National Law Journal named him one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama Will Close Guantanamo Bay and Ban Torture

I have become cynical in two weeks of an Obama elect world. You hear the reports that he can't do this and he can't do that. And I stand steadfast that if Obama does not follow through on his promises I will make this blog critical of Obama very quickly. But, this is nice to hear. Guantanamo is gone as well as torture:

We need to do much more. We need help for the poor in this country as well as the working class and of course the middle class. Not just the fucking rich wall streeters who have their hands in the till. We need a country that stimulates the economy through practical policies that help regular people as well as changing the way we have done business for the last thirty years - capitalism for the rich. I don't see Obama as an FDR type, one who will change America significantly for the better in a progressive way. I hope I am wrong.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Marriage Equality Protests

From Think Progress:

LGBT rights advocates, organized by Join the Impact, turned out in eight countries, 50 states, and 300 cities today in support of marriage equality, with thousands gathering across California to specifically protest the recent passage of Prop. 8. Signs read “Are you better off now that I can’t marry?” and “The same Bible was used to justify slavery,” referencing the ban’s heavy support from the Mormon church. Some pictures from today’s events:

I didn't make the protests and I am curious if anyone did, would they like to share? I hope this is the beginning of something.

Friday, November 14, 2008

An image taken by Hubble Space telescope and released on October 30 by European Space Agency (ESA), shows a pair of gravitationally interacting galaxies called Arp 147. Arp 147 lies in the constellation of Cetus, more than 400 million light-years away from Earth.

Why Card Check Could Change the Economy

What is Card Check? Card Check will be THE most important labor change in the United states in a generation and a bill that encompasses card check among other things is called the Employee Free Choice Act. As of right now what happens if a majority of workers want a union? Currently, a majority of workers can sign up for a union, but the company can veto that decision and demand an election. This allows the company to fire or harass workers, and threaten that it will close the workplace, in order to coerce workers into voting against a union. I have seen it happen personally and I have been the subject of attacks both as a young worker and an organizer. One-quarter of companies illegally fire pro-union workers and 34% of companies coerce workers into opposing the union with bribes and favoritism. In 2005 alone, more than 31,000 employees were awarded back pay by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) due to retaliatory firings and other unfair labor practices by companies. Card check will allow workers to sign up for a union without all the harrassment.

Secondly, even when workers have won the right to be represented by a union, and even though both sides are required to bargain in good faith, companies can drag out the first contract negotiation process for years. And eventually kill the union. And companies face only minimal penalties if they violate employees’ rights to form a union or negotiate a first contract. There are several proposals floating around Washington to change this, but the best is called the Employer Free Choice Act. (EFCA)

Under EFCA, if a majority of employees sign cards indicating they want a union, the company has to recognize the union, as long as it is certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This is called "card check." Additionally, EFCA creates a fair process for resolving first contract disputes and EFCA would level the playing field by requiring the NLRB to take immediate legal action to reinstate workers fired for union activity and assess triple damages against companies that punish or fire employees for engaging in protected organizing activities.

Here is John Judas of the New Republic explaining it in layman's terms.