Wednesday, October 31, 2007

10/30/07 Dem Debate Awards

Last night's democratic debate was a "pile on Hillary" courtesy of leading questions by Russert and Williams.

Worse Case of Expectations not Met: Barack Obama who was expected to take on Hillary. He was hand fed the first question and dropped the ball ( to mix metaphors).

Best Line: Joe Biden. About Rudy: Rudy's sentences consist of " A Noun, a verb and 9/11."

Most Gentlemanly: Richardson. He admonished Edwards and Obama for picking on Hillary.

Most Senatorial, and thus, not pithy: Dodd. People get lost in the nuances that make foreign policy.

Losing the Point, and the Audience: Richardson. Cue people into the "I rescued someone from Abu Gharib" story...say what????

Most on Point, His point, that is : Kucinich. He brought everything back to impeachment.

Most Confident, and the Grace under Fire Award: Hillary. Boy, did she glare at the men in suits who could not look her in the eye when they attacked her---if looks could kill... But when she responded she was full of grace and composure.

And, then there were the UFO sightings --Unbelievable F***Obnoxious Leading questions Award goes to Tim Russert. No comment necessary.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

scary...very scary

Its Halloween, and the traditional parties and parades are happening all across the country--as little kids and adults dress up to trick or treat, or to parade and party in public .

Except in San Francisco's Castro--the west coast ground zero for gays, lesbians and queers of all types. The reason is very scary. Fear of violence made the City of SF cancel the annual Halloween Party-- last year 10 people were injured when insults led to gunfire according to last year's NYT

So, instead of protecting the revelers from the miscreants (and penalizing those who are violent) the city tells everyone to party indoors or elsewhere (NYT 10/30/07).

What is wrong with this picture? Why is gay culture being disappeared? Would this happen to a St. Patrick's Day event?

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Thoughts on the California Fires

Random thoughts as Southern California burns:

* fires are nature's way of clearing for re-growth--clearing out the dense undergrowth and letting new growth thrive
* the fires are cyclical

Knowing this, wouldn't one think that Californians would be cognizant and thus maintain fire breaks, build houses (and other structures) that were fire retardant?

And, then who should pay for the rebuilding?

This is a question that is pertinant not only for California, but for the Eastern seaboard where we build on the dunes and beaches knowing full well the force of the ocean's waves and of normal beach erosion*, not to mention the erosion caused by storms; we build along our mighty (and not so mighty) rivers' flood plains...

* Australia does not allow for building on dunes or beaches because they have realized the normal shifting of the sands From the Australian State of the Environment Report 2001

Erosion of beaches and dunes
The movement of sand is a natural feature of beaches. Beaches can be described as eroding (losing sand and foredunes) or accreting (gaining sand). The frequency and severity of cyclonic or storm events and seasonal weather patterns can result in fluctuations of beach width and slope.
The causes of erosion can be classified as follows (Tomlinson 2001):
short-term natural variability - beach fluctuations, storms,
medium-term natural variability - periodic changes in coastal climate and beach conditions,
medium-term erosion - disruption to local sediment budget due to people's activities, or
long-term natural variability - sea level rise, geological realignment, reduction in sediment supply.
Where development has occurred, property and infrastructure integrity can be threatened by landward movement of the erosion. The south-east Queensland - northern New South Wales coastline has been greatly developed since the mid 1970s but has not experienced a significant erosion event similar to the 1967 event that caused five houses to collapse into the sea on the Gold Coast.
Structures designed to reduce the extent of beach erosion can sometimes result in the opposite effects; that is, increased erosion, either on the beach or on an adjacent stretch of coastline. Similarly, the increasing popularity of offshore undersea barriers to create surfing waves or to dissipate wave energy from sensitive beaches will have ecological impacts that have yet to be determined.
It should be an objective of any coastal management plan for an area such as the Gold Coast to proactively mitigate any erosion caused by groynes and retaining walls (Tomlinson 2001). It should also be an objective to enhance the capability of the natural system to respond to natural sand movement by encouraging dune rehabilitation, for example. However, long-term studies to assess the effectiveness of coastal management strategies are hard to find

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Friday, October 26, 2007

Band Aids

Cathy Collins used the analogy of people noticing other people in the river and helping them out, but never looking at what caused the people upstream to end up in the river, so that there is a never ending flood of people in the river needing to be rescued.

I call this type of rescue, band-aid policy--because it does not solve the problem, it might make the people doing it feel better, it might make the problem look better, it might cure a symptom, it might even help some people. These are one point in time rescues. The underlying root of the problem still exists.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Freedom from Want

Thursday October 25 4-6:30
Pre-conference Event
The Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val Kill Diversity Workshop:
The Freedom from Want--Examining How Structual Inequality affects our ability to uphold Freedom fromWant

Introduction by Cathy Collins ERVK Executive Director,
Brian Riddell Dutchess Outreach
Shirley Adams Catherine Street Community Center
Joe D'Ambrosio Family Partnership Center

for more information :

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Turks, Genocide & US

While Turkey denies the Ottoman Empire's (1915-1917) genocide of 1.5 million Armenians--in fact prosecuting those who dare to speak or write about it. Winston Churchill called the massacre of Armenians "administrative genocide." The "young Turks" "relocated" the Armenians to the desert without food, water, shelter or facilities. The fact that the Armenian Genocide was not known was one of the reasons Hitler gave to persuade others that a genocide of Jews would be tolerated.

And, while there are more important and current issues before the House of Representatives, the House had decided to join over 20 other countries which have previously condemned this genocide. The Democratic leadership brought a resolution that would condemn the mass killings of Armenian almost 100 years ago as a recognized Genocide. (The Armenian Genocide is the second most studied genocide, the first being the Holocaust).

The White House has not supported this resolution because they realize the importance of Turkey in our Middle East policy today, and they do not want to antagonize Turkey.

Shall we say that timing is everything? And, our leadership should be paying attention to what is happening today in Iraq, Afghanistan, The Sudan, not to mention the USA.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Torture, an American value?

Bush (Oct. 5) thinks that "a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head slapping,simulated drowning and frigid temperatures" not to be torture.

On Monday the Supreme Court did not grant review for a case that involved rendition of an innocent person. A German citizen of Lebanese heritage --Khaled el-Marsri-- was literally kidnapped in 2003, and tortured while he was detained in one of our secret overseas prisons in Afghanistan. Lower federal courts took the side of the government which said that the case would render national security at risk, they hid under the state secrets doctrine, so the case never even made it to evidence in lower courts.

What power this gives our government: to torture people, and to do so without any controls or safeguards! Clearly the checks and balances that our founders put in place --in this case judicial scrutiny of executive actions--are folding to the government's trump card of "national security."

Monday, October 08, 2007


It is the 50th anniversary of one of the most influential poems in America: Allan Ginsberg's HOWL. WBAI, one of the more progressive radio stations in the nation, was scheduled to do a reading of this poem, but in light of the FCC's stringent (and potentially expensive) rulings on obscenity, and the profanity Ginsburg employed to make his epic poem against dehumanizing society so vivid, they have decided against such a reading.
What a cruel twist of fate that this poem which won against obscenity charges and other forms of censorship when it was first written, published and read in 1957 should fall victim to self censorship in 2007.

Here is a review I wrote but was not published by InsideOUT magazine about the 50th anniversary edition of the poem:

Howl, Original draft facsimile,transcript and variant versions, fully annotated by author, with contemporaneous correspondence, account of first public reading, legal skirmishes, precursor texts, and bibliography. 50th Anniversary Edition
Allen Ginsberg edited by Barry Miles
Harper Perennial Modern Classics
Collected Poems 1947-1997
Allen Ginsberg
The full title of “Howl , the draft facsimile transcript and variant versions, fully annotated by author, with contemporaneous correspondence, account of first public reading, legal skirmishes, precursor texts, and bibliography” barely hints at the importance of this poem that rocked mid century America, and having been translated into 22 other languages, thus, rocked the world.
If only a cd recording of Ginsberg reading the poem was included, then we could truly hear the rage barely contained within the poem, the rage against a society that was homogenizingly dehumanizing. But even without that recording, this book situates Howl in a society that hurled obscenity charges and conducted censorship trials against this powerful “emotional time bomb [ continuing] to explode in U.S. consciousness in case our military-industrial-nationalist complex solidified in a repressive police bureaucracy” as ” as Ginsberg described it in 1986. His words, as the poem, prophetic and more than ever, timely.
In this volume we are allowed a peak into one of the most creative minds of the Beat Generation. Ginsberg provided annotations to help us understand his imagery. We read the text of the poem as it undergoes revisions.
The perfect storm around Howl and its impact is made clearer by the correspondence and legal proceedings. The editor provides us with another cut at reading social history with the inclusion of correspondence to and from Ginsberg from fellow beats like Jack Kerourac to the poet William Carlos Williams who wrote the introduction to the 1956 published version of Howl. We are privy to letters to and from publishers, friends, and family which allow us an even fuller reading of the poem, the poet, and society.
This 50th edition of Howl also gives us a key that also opens the poems in Collected Poems 1947-1997. The Author’s Preface and Appendices keys us in even more. Yet from reading Howl we realize that his writing mantra of “First thought, best thought” still required editing to reach that correct vibrant pitch. We (re-)read Howl and Kaddish, his two most widely known poems, in chronological order, within hundreds of other poems that memorialize in vivid, shocking word pictures an emotionally and politically charged world from the intimate to the global.
Ginsburg truly was our poet laureate of the political, he was the original Slam poet.

P.S. If you have never read the poem, do so. . . it is as pertinent today as it was in 1957,

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Torture by any other name is....

Torture regardless that Bush says " This Government does not torture people.We stick to U.S. law and our international obligations.'' This administration has trampled the Constitution and the Geneva Accords (with help from Congress).
Courtesy of this administration we--the USA--have lost all our moral standing and democratic principals.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Bush=Scrooge (before the Ghosts)

Bush's callous remark in July about the lack of health care for the poor and children " you just go to an emergency room" as an answer to our health crisis set the stage for the s-chip (state children's health insurance program) legislation he just vetoed .

That comment is very reminiscent of Scrooge's comment "Are there no poor houses?" when he is asked to make a contribution for the poor.

Bush's attitude is shows a lack of compassion, empathy and a total misread on the state of emergency rooms and their overuse affect on health care insurance for those who have it (public or private).

Oh, to have Bush (and company) have the visitation and conversion that Scrooge had. BUT Scrooge started poor, and therefore, the ghosts had something to tap into, Bush was born with the proverbial silver spoon.

It is people such as him that make me want a mandatory 2 year service requirement of all 18-22 year olds (no exemptions, just a delay). That service would either be military or a social service: building adequate housing, working as a teacher's aide, or in a clinic. Thus, not only would our military have a steady stream of soldiers, but we could help bring everyone up to the quality of life we think is minimal in America.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The new Citizens know more about America

The new Citizenship test for those resident aliens who want to become American citizens took affect October 1st. This new test does not test the applicant's memorization prowess as the old one did requiring knowledge of dates and facts, but looks to help assimilate the applicant into American political culture with the emphasis on American values, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and the fundamental concepts of American democracy.

In today's NYT's Bob Herbert* writes about asking a high student "who the vice president of the United States was." The student had no idea. While I have no idea if this student was a born in America American, I do know that many of our high school graduates can not pass the citizenship test. I give a version in my American National Government classes at the beginning of each semester, not more than 2 students (out of 20-25) in each class pass.
These are some basic facts that all Americans should know. Question 14 on the flashcards** asks for the name of the Vice president.
Question 75 on the flashcards "Whose rights are covered by the Constitution" has as its answer: "All people living in the United States." I am so tempted to send copy of this card to the president, the vice president, the acting attorney general, the director of homeland security and the Supreme Court justices...and maybe to all members of Congress.

What does it say when Americans do not know as much about their country as those applying for citizenship?

Study materials:
**The flash cards:


Monday, October 01, 2007

The New Supreme Court Season

The New Supreme Court Season...wish it was pumped as much as the new fall line up on any of the boob tube channels...or Clarence Thomas' new revisionist bio -"My Grandfather's Son,0,6421435.story?coll=cl-books-reviews.

Linda Greenhouse of the NYT calls the upcoming docket calendar: "polarizing."

The 19 case docket includes an appeal from an employer on a racial discrimination case which includes retaliation against the employee, a challenge to a state law requiring a photo id in order to vote, the legality of a writ of habeas corpus from a Guantanamo Bay detainee; whether lethal injections in death penalty cases are cruel and unusual, a case concerning federalism among others...

Pay attention!

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