Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The World's First Openly Gay Leader

Icelandic Social Affairs Minister Johanna Sigurðardottir would be the world's first openly gay leader if she becomes Prime Minister of Iceland, as is widely expected. Although Per-Kristian Foss served as acting Prime Minister in Norway very briefly in 2002, this represents the first time that a gay leader would assume the reins of a modern state.

The Prime Minister of Iceland (currently) is expected to step down due to health concerns and the economic crisis. Read the rest of the article here. It is written kind of as a jest to the American public. Icelanders do not even ask the question or would care writes Ms. Erlingsdottir and find it offensive Americans would. If we could ever live in such a climate...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Playing for Change: Song Around the World

The Playing for Change Community is a group of artists trying to connect the world through music and create peace. Truly beautiful. Join the movement. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead.

ACLU Lays Off a Tenth of its Workforce

Thirty-six staffers, ten percent of the ACLU's workforce is now out of a job. Really shocking. The loss of jobs (which are primarily in the legislative office) mean lesser influence for the ACLU in a time when we need them to advocate for new policies at the Federal Level. The Director of the ACLU responded to the story and wrote to the Huffington Post that because of the Bernie Madoff scandal the ACLU is in dire straits. Mr. Madoff's scandalous behavior has decimated many of the left leaning organizations because foundations that once were (the JEHT and Picower Foundations) are no more:

"Like many organizations today, the ACLU is feeling the impact of the tough economic climate which has resulted in a decline of our assets and reduced the donations and grants that we rely upon to fund our activities, including those from two foundations that were wiped out by the Bernard Madoff scandal. We take very seriously our commitment to our donors and members who count on us to defend the constitutional rights of all Americans, even in difficult financial times. To safeguard the fiscal health of the ACLU and ensure that the vital work of defending civil liberties continues, we have taken a number of steps to cut expenses and streamline our organization, including instituting a hiring freeze, limiting travel, cancelling conferences, and reducing non-personnel costs, resulting in savings of more than $9 million. Unfortunately, additional measures were needed and as a result, the ACLU National Office has been forced to eliminate 36 staff positions, which represents 10% of the current staff. Although we did everything in our power to avoid taking this painful step, it was necessary in order to protect our long term viability and ensure that the ACLU has the flexibility and strength to meet the challenges ahead. In addition, we are freezing salaries for the next fiscal year, which will save an additional 11 positions, and our executive director has voluntarily reduced his pay by 15%. We are confident that making tough financial decisions in the short term will serve to strengthen the organization for generations to come," said Romero.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

hob'art exhibits!



and

Thur, Dec 5 - Feb 14: "Our Hoboken", Sovereign Bank, Hoboken, NJ
As seen on NJ.com online and offline in 'The Waterfront'

and

Mar 1 - Apr 12: "hob'art's Hoboken", Hoboken Historical Museum, Hoboken, NJ
Mar 1: Opening Reception
Mar 29: Panel discussion

Thought of the Day

The Oscars are a joke. The nominations are out. At first glance "The Wrestler" which is THE best American movie this year by far. And no Sally Hawkins for "Happy Go Lucky" the best performance by a male or female this entire year. It is tragic and I know the reason is because as of late, the Oscars has been taken over by the independent film and the foreign film and word was this was the end of the road for that. It is supposed to be the best movies of the year, but constantly what the Oscars comes down to is the best crap of the year.

I guess I will root for Anne Hathaway for easily the most startling and surprising performance of the year in Rachel Getting Married. They cannot have Sally win this year because remember Ms. Cotillard for La Vie En Rose of France last year and her amazing speech and then her views on 9/11? Nope, ain't gonna have a European this year. They did stick in Melissa Leo for Frozen River, which is a nice gesture, but that is all it is...a gesture. And Angelina Jolie is the most undeserved, overrated actor of her generation. I guess that means she is in the lead!

The Dark Knight, while a piece of shit (well, a good piece of shit), Heath Ledger gives a brilliant performance and should be awarded, no doubt, but eight Oscar nominations? While I have not seen The Curious Case of Brad Pitt's Buttons, I hear it is melodramatic and needs an editor (I will see it eventually) and to put this in as best picture and best actor is silly and takes up spots for more well deserved films, like the fucking "Wrestler!" Robert Downey, jr for Tropic Thunder? What?! And while I feel Frost/Nixon was a good film, Langella is excellent, a best director nod for Ron Howard is wholly undeserved. The movie takes its premise from an event, but then creates fiction. The event happened, but they bastardize it and play with it and it comes out as fiction, much the same way "the Hurricane" was criticised as well as many other Hollywood crapolas.

And the thing is, if the Oscars needed to go Hollywood, why not go Wall-E, a film that is getting rave reviews from mommies and children to the New Yorker. Why not credit good films, rather than films that have some good stuff, but when seen in their entirety they are mediocre, much like Slumdog Millionaire. For my money the best of the crap this year is Milk. Milk, which really isn't crap was a really good film with a great performance from a great actor. It is also has perfect timing. But, it is about the seventh best film this year. But, my money is on Slumdog.

But, what do I know? I still can't believe they gave Julia Roberts an Oscar.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

1/20/09

It should have been earlier, but I will take it.

Change Has Come

The first person Obama called as the leader of the free world is Mahmood Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian people and promised to work toward a "durable peace." He called him hours after taking the oath of office and told him he was the first person he called as the American President.

Obama said: "This is my first phone call to a foreign leader and I'm making it only hours after I took office, according to Abbas' assistant.

I am encouraged and while Abbas has been very critical of Hamas (some of it very justified) it is a step forward. Maybe change has trule come. Along with closing down Guantanamo Bay trials and pledging a new transparency, I am hopeful.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's speech

On a first read after a first hear this is so far my favorite part of the speech. There are several highlights I think and all in all is a good speech and only history will judge just how good, but I like these four stanzas in a row.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.


Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

President Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

Americans take for granted the "peaceful transition of power" that is widely discussed in most inaugural addresses. It is true, the vast array of nations do not enjoy this transition and it is, on January 20th a startling sight to see, a marvel we should all be glad to witness and enjoy the fruits of such peace in at least, our homeland.

Especially, after living with these last eight years and the coup that occur ed in December of 2000. We did not take to the streets and cause violence. We chose to accept the decision of our Supreme Court, however illegitimate it might have been and the subsequent damage that has been done to our democracy since. Talk of impeachment, however should have been on the table, but again I digress because that is a different issue in some regards.

January 20th will be a sweet day for many and will usher in a new day for our nation with again a peaceful transition of power, a day the world waits for feverishly. It got me to thinking though, what are the greatest inaugural speeches? In modern day, of course it is Kennedy's which I posted earlier in the week, certainly a work of literature: Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace...

Roosevelt's first, "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" and certainly George Washington's first address that was more a historic moment because of what it meant. But, the greatest speech by a President at an inaugural address is widely considered Lincoln's Second Inaugural address. Actually it isn't even disputed anymore and the speech is considered to have a place next to the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address. He was our greatest President for many reasons that could and should be discussed, but in my opinion his skill as an orator, as a writer and as a person to convey what our nation means, not only in freedom and liberty, but in the tremendous contradictions and hypocrisy that endowed our nation. In his Second Inaugural Address he conveys all of this and is a man humbled by his mistakes and by his ability to have kept our nation in tact. Some say, he alone could have done that.

When I first read his speech I was going through personal crises and needed to come to terms with some painful realities and I read this speech and it helped because of its message of hope, humility and understanding. Lincoln conveyed to our nation our mistakes, but also our grandeur. This type of humility is unknown to politicians today (although Barack is a welcome change) and it is why he is considered our greatest gift to the world. It is such a marvelous document I wanted to share it with the SG. It is not only a work of literature, it is a work of art.

The London Spectator said of the speech at the time: "We cannot read it without a renewed conviction that it is the noblest political document known to history, and should have for the nation and the statesmen he left behind him something of a sacred and almost prophetic character."

It is also different in that it is tremendously short, much like the Gettysburg Address. Brevity is the key to wit could have been invented after Lincoln. He must have also been a marvelous lawyer to convey something so profound in so short an amount of words. Please read:

At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it--all sought to avert it. While the inaugeral [sic] address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war--seeking to dissole [sic] the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether"

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Paradise

Our friend Rajeev took this picture of the city by the bay. Ahhhhhh...I can feel my stress drift away.

Krispy Kreme as a Tool for Abortionists?

The very non-controversial Krispy Kreme doughnuts just became a political issue. They thought they might use inauguration day as a promotional tool to allow customers in their shops (much like Starbucks did on election day). It is probably a copy cat promotion indeed.
Anyway, first the Krispy Kreme promotion:

"Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. (NYSE: KKD) is honoring American's sense of pride and freedom of choice on Inauguration Day, by offering a free doughnut of choice to every customer on this historic day, Jan. 20. By doing so, participating Krispy Kreme stores nationwide are making an oath to tasty goodies -- just another reminder of how oh-so-sweet 'free' can be."

The American Life League (look if you must) is protesting and is not happy with the "liberal" use of the word "choice." Take a read:

"The unfortunate reality of a post-Roe v. Wade America is that 'choice' is synonymous with abortion access, and celebration of 'freedom of choice' is a tacit endorsement of abortion rights on demand," the group's president, Judie Brown said in a statement. This lady has nothing on Anita Bryant.

It actually gets worse: "The next time you stare down a conveyor belt of slow-moving, hot, sugary glazed donuts at your local Krispy Kreme, you just might be supporting President-elect Barack Obama's radical support for abortion on demand - including his sweeping promise to sign the Freedom of Choice Act as soon as he steps in the Oval Office, Jan. 20. I tell ya this makes me want to go by a whole box.

On a happy note I did not know Obama planned to sign the "Freedom of Choice Act" as soon as he steps into office. It is actually true. Barack said: "The first thing I will do is sign the Freedom of Choice Act..." Good!! Let's hope Barack. Let's hope.

Anyway, they go further: "As of Thursday morning, communications director Brian Little could not be reached for comment. We challenge Krispy Kreme doughnuts to reaffirm their commitment to true freedom - to the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - and to separate themselves and their doughnuts from our great American shame.

If Krispy Kreme caves into these fundamentalist nutjobs I will never eat another Krispy Kreme again (I have only had a couple in my life, not that many up north). If they do not, I will happily visit a Krispy Kreme on Tuesday.

Eric Holder as Attorney General

Eric Holder, as Dick Durbin indicates changes the world with three words: "Waterboarding is torture." Progressives certainly have some gripes with the way some of the administration has come together, etc., but it will be nice to know we no longer live in a world where the United States tortures people - legally. Holder holds his own with this fundamentalist fanatic, John Cornyn, Senator from Texas. He gives him the Jack Bauer scenario (how did this make it through to our venacular) and Holder towards the end kind of chuckles at him, respectfully of course.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Nation Cover

See if you can pick out all of the historic figures in this beautifully drawn cover of the Nation. Here is a list of some of them.

1,000 Gazans Now Dead

It seems everyone keeps talking about a cease fire, but 1,000 Palestinians in the Gaza strip are now dead. Releasing new figures, the Hamas-run Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip said 1,018 Palestinians had been killed and 4,700 wounded by Israeli forces so far. The Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said more than 670 civilians were among the dead. Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians hit by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip have been killed since Israel launched its campaign on Dec. 27.

Additionally, this morning the U.N. was shelled by the Israelis in the Gaza Strip. The shelling engulfed the building in fire and destroyed thousands of pounds of food and humanitarian aide intended for Palestinian refugees. The U.N. is demanding an explanation. The Israelis describe the shelling as a "grave mistake." Still, Israel continues to press farther into Gaza to "continue the pressure on Hamas."

"Bullets also entered another building housing The Associated Press offices, entering a room where two staffers were working but wounding no one. The Foreign Press Association, representing journalists covering Israel and the Palestinian territories, demanded a halt to attacks on press buildings."

War is war I guess. So much for the "precision" of Israel's air force, huh?

Monday, January 12, 2009

israel X hamas


another superb illustration by renato alarcao.


Frost / Other People

This is so good. I have not seen Frost/Nixon, and don't know if I will when I get up to NJ, but SNL gets this skit right on. I love the re-run bit.

The Kennedy Inaugural Address

Inaugurations are amazing looks into history and power. Here, we see President Eisenhower, President Nixon (Vice President at the time), President Johnson (V.P. elect) and of course the assassinated President Kennedy. Watch this address and how much it rings true today. I cannot wait to see what Barack Obama has to say. He never disappoints when he speaks, but will he live up to this address? This is a work of literature. "The United Nations, are last best hope?" The world we see today is as, if not more dangerous than the one Kennedy was inaugurated into back in 1961.



The Golden Globes



Sacha Baron Cohen introduces "Benjamin Buttons" and pisses off Hollywood proving hypocrisy reigns everywhere, not just politics. But, the Golden Globes, which I do not take much stock in (when I was younger the Golden Globes were a joke) have turned into a warm-up for the Oscars which I find a bit odd. Most of the best actors are nominated, however and giving Mickey Rourke a statue for his astonishing performance in the "Wrestler" is deserved. It is I believe probably the best film of the year as well, though I have not seen everything - yet. Sean Penn is a close second, however for "Milk" of course.

Sally Hawkins in "Happy Go Lucky" easily, without even thinking about it gives the best female (and the best overall performance) of the year. While, Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet and Kristin Scott Thomas also give amazing performances, Sally Hawkins' "poppy" stands by itself. Maybe Kate will win for her supporting role in "The Reader" at the Oscars.

Ok, but Slumgod Millionaire is I think, one of the most overhyped films of the year and is not worthy of all of this glory. It happens though, everyone gets behind one film (i.e. Titanic, Unforgiven, that William Wallace film) that they think should win and then that is it, all of the other great films get lost in the shuffle (Fargo, Bull Durham, Do the Right Thing to name just a few, but that list goes on forever and last year's There Will Be Blood). Slumdog while good, is a tale of two films. The first, a visually stunning look at the slums of Mumbai (or Bombay) and the life of a young peasant and the second, a ridiculous, cheesy love story, tailor made for Hollywood as Bombay turns into Mumbai. I am not even sure if this film makes it into my top 10 yet and everyone is ready to give it Best Picture. I truly hope not because the issue behind it - in my opinion is we can all make it if we try (much like the very unsubtle message of Forest Gump) which is ridiculous and insensitive to all the peasants and poor of the world that suffer under colonialism and globalism.

But, if you have not seen the Wrestler, go and see it - though it can be hard to watch it is one of the most authentic films in recent memory and also provides an avenue for one of the great young actors of our day, Evan Rachel Wood. She is only in a few scenes, but her power with Mickey Rourke is unmistakable. And "Vicki, Christina, Barcelona" winning over "Happy Go Lucky" is laughable. Just my two cents.

And hooray for Tina Fey and 30 Rock. It seems they deserve it. And Mad Men, the best show on television better sign Jon Hamm to a new season!

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Moment of Empathy in Hoboken

I walked to my Dr.'s appointment today in Hoboken. I took the light rail, which is such a cool form of transportation. It feels like Europe and the views if you take it to Bayonne or over here to Paulus Hook are astounding. The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Lower Manhattan, etc. It is beautiful. If you haven't taken it you should. Anyway. I digress. I went to my Dr. appointment and on the way back to the light rail I stopped at Dunkin Donuts.

As I was walking there I noticed a familiar face collecting change outside the Dunkin Donuts. She is a rough character, but deadpan honest if you speak to her. She reminds me (for some reason) of Ellen Page in Juno. But, she is weary, you can tell, standing in the freezing cold, probably 10 degrees with the wind chill and she is shabbily dressed. She looks exactly like what she is -homeless. Anyway, I give her the change in my pocket, say hello and walk in to Dunkin Donuts. I change my mind and thought I don't want this dreadful coffee (though I prefer it over Starbucks) so I washed my mug and left. No more coffee today.

As I departed I noticed she was still collecting outside the Dunkin Donuts and then I witnessed a moment in human interaction that I thought worth writing about. I noticed a woman, probably a stay at home mom, a yuppie, the privileged in Hoboken that altered this community forever. She left just before me out of Dunkin Donuts, but she was staring at her bagel and she stopped in front of me and turned back, clearly pensive and about to make a move. Her daughter in the baby carriage about two years old, covered by a plastic wrap probably warmer than the young homeless woman has been all day. She turned as I watched and she approached the young woman and said "do you want the other half of this bagel? I just bought it, but I know I won't finish it." The young woman stared at her for a moment in pause and said, "yes." Nothing else, but her eyes said it all, and then "thank you." And the woman turned to leave and said "good luck." You could tell the young woman hadn't felt that kindness in a while.

Wow, I thought, the human feeling of empathy. That is what is missing. A human soul on the street, begging for the necessities of life and what that is like. It is what is missing from the discussions in Gaza. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Mumbai and China. Our ability to see what it is like to live in someone else's shoes. If we ever lose this for good, we lose everything.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thought of the Day

College football season will be over tonight, but more importantly there are 36 Days until Pitchers and Catchers Report.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hamas Rejects Cease Fire


After a brief hiatus from bombing the Gaza strip, Israel will begin the bombing once again. Hamas rejected the cease fire and I am sure this will be the talking point. But, why did Hamas reject the cease fire? It is really the whole reason for this conflict, but you will hear nothing of the blockade that has been in place blocking humanitarian aide, medical aide and really access to outside the Gaza strip for those who inhabit the area.

Hamas reportedly agreed to stop firing missiles and Israel agreed to stop the bombing on the request and mediation skills of French President Nicholas Sarkozy and Mubarak, President of Egypt. Reportedly Mahmood Abbas also agreed to the cease fire. But Hamas officials in Syria told CBS News that they could not agree to the plan because it does not guarantee open border crossings or an end to a crippling blockade.
This is a stalemate because if the blockade ended and border crossings were opened (which any country of its size needs for survival) then Hamas would end the bombing. Period. It is the reason Hamas began the bombing campaign in the first place. The cease fire that Hamas agreed to for six months included the blockade and the close of the border crossings, but a cessation of violence was the issue then. Once Israel broke the cease fire Hamas began shooting rockets and now wants an end to the blockade and open border crossings.

About 300 of the more than 670 Palestinians killed in the Israeli operation by Wednesday were civilians, according to Palestinian and U.N. figures. Of those killed, at least 130 were children age 16 and under, said the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, which tracks casualties.

The United States is also now calling for an investigation into civilian casualties. Read the rest of the article here.

The Trouble with Sanjay Gupta

From Paul Krugman: (I agree wholeheartedly)

So apparently Obama plans to appoint CNN’s Sanjay Gupta as Surgeon General. I don’t have a problem with Gupta’s qualifications. But I do remember his mugging of Michael Moore over Sicko. You don’t have to like Moore or his film; but Gupta specifically claimed that Moore “fudged his facts”, when the truth was that on every one of the allegedly fudged facts, Moore was actually right and CNN was wrong.

What bothered me about the incident was that it was what Digby would call Village behavior: Moore is an outsider, he’s uncouth, so he gets smeared as unreliable even though he actually got it right. It’s sort of a minor-league version of the way people who pointed out in real time that Bush was misleading us into war are to this day considered less “serious” than people who waited until it was fashionable to reach that conclusion. And appointing Gupta now, although it’s a small thing, is just another example of the lack of accountability that always seems to be the rule when you get things wrong in a socially acceptable way.

The next Senator from Illinois will be Roland Burriss: Update

From our friend of the blog R. Thelonious

Caveat, my political prognostication batting average is somewhere in the send him down to the coal miner minor league.

But you can take this to the bank.

The next Senator from Illinois will be Roland Burriss.

The Democratic Caucus has stated emphatically and unanimously that Blagojevich should not appoint. Blago was undeterred; apparently, he did not see Harry Reid's rippling muscles -- they must not have been visible from behind the ear-to-ear grinning Joe Lieberman still beaming from coming out unscathed after an election season where he called President-Elect Obama a Marxist, terrorist-sympathizer and campaigned actively against sitting Democratic Senators.

The legal options available to prevent the Democrats from seating Burriss are tenuous; at best they are an opportunity for procedural delay and to stir up some bad blood for when Burriss eventually gets a seat. Although the latter effect likely will not actually come to pass. Have you noticed that not a single Congressperson has chastised Burriss for accepting the appointment? Back channels are now open.

This is where the rubber meets the road. Everyone has chimed in to say the Burriss is a good guy, but they just can't seat him because Blago is tainted. I ask you -- who voluntarily gets in bed with a tainted politician? Who (other than Lieberman) willingly participates in the process when the Senate Democrats have indicated their collective will?

The Democratic Senators will make lofty pronouncements about integrity of the process, but it is all smoke and mirrors. The Black Congressional Caucus is already circling the wagons. Rush has warned us not to "hang or lynch" Burriss and points out that there are no African-Americans in the Senate now.

At the end of the day, they will proclaim that either their hands are tied, or worse when the PR machine starts to do its damage, that it is the will of the people that Burriss be accepted, and we will all once again ask ourselves is there honor in politics. We will certainly know that politicians protect one another.

The only open question is will Caroline Kennedy succeed to the throne?

Update: The Senate has not agreed to seat Roland Burris as previously reported. It seems likely it is about to happen, however.

Two Olbermann Videos Worth Viewing

The first is a discussion with Hillary Mann-Leverett who discusses the need for a cease fire and in the finality to have a reconciliation government in Palestine that is accepted by the U.S. Alarmingly, she discusses Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and discusses the advisors she is surrounding herself with are "neo-conservative fellow travellers" and may make us long for the Bush days. Harsh rhetoric, but a wake-up call to us to think we may get a different kind of foreign policy. Maybe Obama will surprise us, but it is looking more and more like that will not be the case.



And here where Olbermann calls Cheney, a "fatuous, condescending lunatic." A thing of beauty.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Entitlement Progam Applications Jump in New Jersey

In another sign that this economic crisis may be deepening here in New Jersey food stamp applications doubled and TANF applications jumped 60 percent in October compared to last year's numbers.

Food Stamps provide an average of $1 per meal per person for people on this entitlement program. And TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) not Welfare, the article continues to call the entitlement program Welfare, has not been raised since 1987 in New Jersey (and probably most states) and is $322 per month for a parent with two children, according to the article. Eat your heart out Citibank!

This shows how deeply people may be hurting, however and is a bad sign for our economy. Over the first 11 months of 2008, 34,400 jobs disappeared in New Jersey. The November unemployment rate is at 6.1 percent, up from 4.2 percent this time last year, according to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development website.

Barack Obama is trying to push through a stimulus package with Congress for the moment he steps into office on January 20th. It is a good start for the President-elect, no doubt, but we need a new outlook on the way we fund government and they way we view entitlement programs. A family of three in need is allowed $322 per month (with possible housing costs as well) and the banks receive bail outs in the amount of $700 billion.

Are our priorities really that skewed?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Israel Enters Gaza


Israeli ground troops have entered Gaza beginning a new phase in the offensive.

The "Dark Side" Began Under President Clinton


The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War On Terror Turned Into A War on American Ideals, By Jane Mayer is chilling and masterful. It was a finalist for the National Book Award and one of Ten Bests across most major News papers as well as other major awards of journalism.

I am about half way through and it is so chilling as to curdle the blood and keep you up at night. It makes me not fear the mafia so much or bad neighborhoods or even terrorism, but instead my own country. This is also not a book of opinion, it is a book of journalism. Ms. Mayer is a highly respected journalist with the New York Times and the New Yorker. She is by the way, a masterful story teller.

It goes through much of the sordid details after 9/11 of how we got here, it describes a frightened white house of men who were taken completely by surprise by the attacks. It then goes on to describe the brutal details of how we began to detain Muslim men, torture them and ship them off to other countries surely to be tortured and to participate in that torture. It tells us how we got to Guantanamo Bay and that truly the two men responsible for all of this are Dick Cheney and his assistant, David Addington.

It helps me to see that we were not living in a democracy anymore, we had a weak, intellectually incurious, some said "not very bright" President that was taken advantage by these two men and that this is primarily how we got here. What I found interesting is that the "Dark Side" did not just begin under this regime, however, but surely as the players discuss "there was a war on terrorism before 9/11 and then after 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves came off."

But, a procedure called "Extraordinary Rendition" began under Bill Clinton. It is a procedure where terrorists or shall I say suspected terrorists (this does not seem to mean much anymore) are rounded up in which they are taken to a country outside the laws of the United States, flown in the middle of the night in most cases, gagged and thrown in a body case, until landed. The suspects find themselves in one of several countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, etc. where human rights laws have been disobeyed for centuries, where human rights are not taken seriously and things like the Geneva Convention are not taken too seriously. In a word, the suspects are tortured. This process became a staple of the Bush Administration and is surely still going on, but it began under Bill Clinton.

Granted, the reason it was done was because Clinton would not authorize the CIA to kill Bin Laden. The CIA had been studying Al Qaeda and its terrorist operations and they knew they were serious and Richard Clarke, head of the operations, in charge of counter terrorism for the NSA wanted it done. They went to the White House and asked for it to be done and then it was authorized. Just like that. No legal procedures, nothing.

The team was granted an indictment of Bin Laden in 1998 and for this Bin Laden could be legally tendered to the United States to stand trial, but the CIA was reluctant to give terrorists the due process of American Law. I guess we are too soft over here for other Americans. These 'renditions' began before that, however so the explanation doesn't make much sense. The renditions were authorized by either George Tenet under Clinton, or head of the NSA each and every one of them. At least under Clinton they had procedures.

One such case, I found extraordinary. One of Bin Laden's top lieutenants was captured in Albania. He was actually the top lieutenant's brother named Mohammed Zawahirri. His partner, named Shawki Salama Attiya was captured, others were killed. The captured suspected terrorists were "bound, blindfolded, and taken to an abandoned air base and flown to Cairo." He claims he suffered electrical shocks to his genitals, was hung from his limbs, and was kept in a cell in filthy water up to his knees. Two other suspects were hanged. Another suspect disappeared and was thought to have been executed. Meanwhile what became to be known as the "Albanian Returnees" became a rallying cry for the Muslim world. For we may not know about this, but the Arab and Muslim worlds do.

Jane Mayer goes on to describe what happens next: On August 5, 1998, a month after the Albanian rendition, a London based Arab newspaper published a letter from Bin Laden's top deputy, Zawahiri threatening retaliation against the United States - "in a language they will understand." He warned, that American's message has been received and that the response, which we hope they will read carefully, is being prepared." Two days later, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were blown up, killing 224 people.

This is the fear of all that is happening. When America becomes like the terrorists, engaging in acts that are against our own ideals, we radicalize the Arab world against us. These ideals are not just to be written about, they are to be practiced and they are not just for academics to debate, they are also in place to protect us. We have lost who we are as a people. This is very evident in the current Israeli - Palestinian conflict. This conflict radicalized the Arab world like nothing else, yet we give our unwavering support to a colonialist regime that degrades and humiliates the people of Palestine on a daily basis.

What will become of us after January 20, 2008? Will we continue these outrageous policies of human rights violations or will we see a different future? The jury is completely out on this question.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Thought of the Day

Is there anything more emasculating, more inhuman, degrading, humiliating or excruciating than walking around Target (no link wanted) pushing a big red cart and stuffing piles of shit in it? Just asking.

a brand new bag & a brand new me

a new year, a new home -- in downtown jersey city -- but i needed some new stuff. can't remember the last time i bought anything new (thanks sis for the lovely hand me downs). my only pair of jeans looks threadbare and feels uncomfortable. lucky for me, i moved right around the corner from life, a hip, out of the ordinary boutique stocked with clothes and accessories from local jersey city designers, such as billykirk (whose bag/wallet collection is made by a group of amish leather workers in PA), as well as other collections by rag & bone, mike & chris, joe's jeans & more.
i walked into life, having read about the store in NEW guide/magazine, eager to find something to perk up my lame closet of clothes. life, set in a beautiful brownstone building at quaint 112 morris street in paulus hook, just steps from the light rail, doesn't overwhelm, instead you feel invited in, comfortable browsing and touching the materials. soon enough i met cliff, the owner of life, who chatted with me in a familiar, casual way (unlike the many city boutiques i've shopped at which have a tendency to either make you feel pressure to buy or too uncool), then he magically picked up a few items to show me after i said, help i need a wardrobe boost (but i want usa/locally made items). cliff carefully described each designer's style, and how that item could best solve my clothing ills. everything he presented (billykirk bag, mike & chris grey jacket, jeans, black pants, grey james perse shirt) completely matched my style & fit almost perfectly (life handles alterations). cliff's knack for finding exactly what i craved doesn't feel forced or sales-person-y. with an air of genuine friendliness and expertise with all the designers he carries in the store, he treats each and every customer personally, listening to what the shopper seeks, yet not pushing the purchase or leading one astray.

so now, comforted in my new jeans in the new neighborhood, i praise life, the urban boutique i couldn't seem to find in hoboken, nyc, san francisco or paris ... where i go to shop, browse, pick up the latest NEW guide or visit with cliff to talk about jersey city happenings.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Some (More) Frightening Facts from 2008 (Harper's Index)

1. The United States marked the five-year anniversary of the war in Iraq. Over four million Iraqis had fled the country or been internally displaced, and the total cost of the war, currently about $650 billion, was expected to rise to $2 trillion over the next five years.

2. Tom Jones insured his chest hair for $7 million.

3. Australian police tasered a ram.

4. Japanese men began to wear bras.

5. The United Nations expected the number of starving people in the world to rise to 950 million.

6. A 7.9-magnitude earthquake centered in China’s Sichuan Province left tens of thousands of people dead and millions homeless.

7. The Summer Olympics were held in Beijing, heralded on television by fake, computer-generated fireworks.

8. A man in Swansea, Wales, died from eating too much fairycake, and an elderly German woman filed a lawsuit against a hospital in Bavaria after she went in for a leg operation and was instead given a new anus.

9. One in 100 American adults was behind bars.

10. Global stock markets lost $3.1 trillion in four days, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell below 10,000 for the first time in five years.

Mr. Fish Again (from Harper's)

bret, jemaine and murray

murray and the boys are back -- january 18th on hbo. or watch the premiere episode now online to see if murray can propel bret and jemaine to super stardom, like the policemen or the crazy dogggz.

here in this clip from a season one episode - my personal favorite - murray sings wistfully about his love for the tech support "leggy blond" who just left her temporary post at the consulate.