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.