Dec 31, 2005

Happy New Year Everyone!

Vera and Vera send their regards.

Here's to a great 2006. Cheers!

(Photo credit: I found this gem

Dec 29, 2005

Project Runway After Party

The cool thing about Bravo is that at 9 p.m. Wednesday nights they show the previous week's Project Runway episode, and at 10 p.m. they show that week's new episode. Last night, Bravo took the opportunity to run repeat episodes. Normally I'd be annoyed with this, but since I started with Episode 4 last week, I figure this is a great opportunity to play catch up.

Episode 2: The Clothes Off Your Back
This episode starts with the designers attending a cocktail party to welcome them to New York. As part of their next challenge, the designers had to literally take the clothes off their backs and create an entirely new garment, using only the material from their own clothing for the fabrication.

You could almost hear the designers' hearts breaking as they struggled with destroying their favorite leather jacket (Santino) or leaving some items out (Zulema, Kirsten).

Santino's brilliance - and ego - are revealed in this episode. He seriously must think that he is the judges' darling. After finding out Chloe won for her mini dress, Santino mutters - in front of Chloe, who must have felt like she was on Cloud 9 - "They just didn't want me to give me two in a row."

Meow. Now there's no question that Santino is a great designer. His Mad-Max-Meets-Dangerous-Liaisons garment was just so imaginative and really indicative of Santino's point of view. It wasn't necessarily pretty, or practical even - but it was definitely intriguing. To be sure, Santino's got some talent (lederhosen lingerie aside). But damn. No he didn't.

Kirsten's refusal to use her family heirloom scarf [Hermes? - M.] in her design proved to be her downfall. I'm sure she thought she'd have to cut it up - but really, she could have just tied it into a bandeau (as she wore it in her exit interview), or a halter. I mean, something. That Porsche t-shirt looked like a reject from the "Flashdance" costume department.

Andrae's emotional outburst regarding his clothing - I still don't even know what he was crying about - was he tired? was he apologizing for wearing the dreaded jean + jean jacket combo? was he ashamed that his denim cheongsam was unfinished? Regardless, Nina Garcia wasn't even trying to hear it. And neither was I. I half expected him to quit the show right there.

And I know I'm going to hell for this, but I was cracking up right there with Santino while Andrae's tears were flowing.

Episode 3: All Dolled Up
The designers were told they were going to design an outfit for a fashion icon. Who could it be? Grace Jones? Heidi Klum? Alicia Keys? Sarah Jessica Parker?

Not so, bitches. "My Scene" Barbie needs a new look.

And the winner of the challenge gets their outfit manufactured by Mattel and sold as a special-edition "My Scene" Barbie, complete with the designer's own photo on the box. Sweet.

Each designer received their own My Scene Barbie as their "muse," and back at Parsons, we learn that Kara freaked out because her Barbie's hat fell in between the escalators.


Daniel "Deadline? What Deadline?" Franco's obsession with detail starts to further reveal itself in this episode. While attention to detail is a great quality, there's a fine line between conscientious and wasting time.

Nick, my other favorite, won the challenge with a flirty, psychedelic, flouncy, colorful dress. It was perfect for Barbie. Very Telemundo, very Copacabana, as Nick says. Santino, never one to disappoint, player hated on his buddy, muttering to himself "I can't believe that shit" when he found out he didn't win.

Most of the designers tried to introduce a couture element to it. Some, like Chloe and Diana, pulled it off. Some, like Raimundo's "surfer girl" look, was way off the mark, and cost him the challenge. He was given the ol' auf wiedersehen.

Dec 28, 2005

Exqueeze me?

I beg to differ:

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Internet users share many common interests, but men are heavier consumers of news, stocks, sports and pornography while more women look for health and religious guidance, a broad survey of U.S. Web usage has found.

The study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project to be released on Thursday finds men are slightly more intense users of the Web. Men log on more frequently and spend more time online. More men also have access to quick broadband connections than do women.

"Once you get past the commonalities, men tend to be attracted to online activities that are far more action-oriented, while women tend to value things involving relationships or human connections," said Deborah Fallows, a research fellow at Pew and author of the report.

A larger number of men surf the Internet for pleasure, with 70 percent acknowledging they go online to pass time, compared with 63 percent of women. Men are more likely than women to listen to music, view Webcams and pay for digital content.

I will say I'm not so much a fan of viewing webcams. But to say that women Internet surfers tend to stick to touchy-feely, relationship-oriented fluff is just bogus. I don't just use the Internet to check my horoscope, dammit.

Myth Busters in full effect.

I am loving me some Juan Cole and Media Matters right now. Why? Because they've both put together lists of top myths about the Iraq war and the whole Bush-spying-on-people thing.

Just the thing for people like me who have too much to think about, are hopped up on leftover See's candy, coming back to work to a million emails, and who are also trying to move into a new apartment all at the same time.

Oy vey.

At least Project Runway is on tonight.

Dec 25, 2005

Who me? Middle Aged?

Today's my birthday. No, really.

This past year has been a year of some real positive affirmations, in terms of my relationships with my family, my friends, the work that I do, and my ever-growing awareness of things happening around me. I often joke with people about how I feel I am getting so old, but really, there is still so much for me to learn, to discover, to experience, that in some ways, I still feel like I'm just a kid.

I once read a quote attributed to Hervey Allen that goes something like this:
The only time you really live fully is from thirty to sixty. The young are slaves to dreams; the old servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.
Aside from the fact that this quote puts me in the "middle-aged" category, I think it is, for the most part, very true. And it's a good thing to know that my time of "living fully" is just at the beginning ...

Happy holidays, everyone. Here's to never being a servant to Regret.

(Note: If by looking at that picture you feel that you're experiencing deja vu, fret not. You've probably seen it here. It's the only baby picture of mine I have that's scanned. It works with this post though. Go with it.)

Dec 23, 2005



I just read over at The Carpetbagger Report that newly released documents about Supreme Court nominee Sam Alito reveal that he pretty much supports wanton wiretapping and eavesdropping by the government on U.S. citizens. This oh-so-timely tidbit of information comes from a 1984 memo Alito wrote to the solicitor general at the time.
[Alito] advocated a step by step approach to strengthening the hand of officials in a 1984 memo to the solicitor general. The strategy is similar to the one that Alito espoused for rolling back abortion rights at the margins. […]

Despite Alito's warning that the government would lose, the Reagan administration took the fight to the Supreme Court in the case of whether Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, could be sued for authorizing a warrantless domestic wiretap to gather information about a suspected terrorist plot. The FBI had received information about a conspiracy to destroy utility tunnels in Washington and kidnap Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser.

That case ultimately led to a 1985 ruling by the Supreme Court that the attorney general and other high level executive officials could be sued for violating people's rights, in the name of national security, with such actions as domestic wiretaps.
As I mentioned in my comments to TCR, it will be interesting to see if this hits the fan during Alito's confirmation hearings. Ooh, the suspense!

Holiday Reflection

I've posted before about Bernie Baran, a Pittsfield, MA native who many feel is a victim of a malicious, fear-driven, homophobic witchunt.

My friend Dan, who is currently working on a film to document Baran's struggle for justice, received this email from his mother thanking people for their support. In light of the upcoming holiday, I thought this would be a great time share this letter and to reflect, through Baran's mother's words, how even the smallest of gestures can mean so much to someone else. And the closing quote by Goethe reassures us that if we continue to fight to get this great country of ours back on track, we will be successful.

Dear All Bee's Supporters;

I'm not sure where to begin as is the case every time I begin a letter like this.

We had all hoped that Bee would be home for the holidays, but we have come much closer in the past five years, because of all of you. You have taken the time to care for someone most of you have never met.

It's funny how life is -- it was over twenty years ago my heart began to see its sorrows. I stopped trusting and believing in people and now because of all the support you have shown my son, a flicker of faith has been renewed.

As the holiday season is here, I rejoice and want to thank each and everyone of you for caring and giving of yourselves. I will always be grateful and I wish you all a wonderful holiday.

I would like to leave you with a quote I believe captures the winning spirit of all of you...

"There are but two ways which lead to great aims and achievements -- energy and perseverance. Energy is a rare gift, it provokes opposition, hatred and reaction. But perseverance lies within the affordings of everyone; its power increases with its progress, and it but rarely misses its aim." -Goethe

Dec 22, 2005

The Project Runway After Party

During my brief tenure here in the blogosphere, I’ve noticed that many bloggers like to have regular features. We got the Friday cat blogging. Techie Tuesday (well, sometimes). Vacation blogging. Assclown(s) of the Week. Florida: Pride of the Nation. You get the idea.

So, I feel compelled to start a regular, weekly feature on something that stirs my passions, my emotions, my appreciation for art and the creation of beautiful clothing.

That “thing” is the Bravo reality series, Project Runway. And to those who have been regular readers since back in the day, you know that I love this show to pieces.

Every Thursday, I’ll be discussing the previous night’s episode and providing commentary. I will be discussing winners and losers, so those of you who rely on watching the reruns, watch out.

I know I should have started from the season premiere, but fuck it. Let’s do this.

Episode 4: Team Lingerie

In this episode, each designer had to come up with a lingerie concept and present their vision to Heidi. Four designers who had the best proposals became team leads and got to pick two of the remaining designers and work as a team to bring this creation to life.

Santino’s kiss-assy homage to lederhosen and Heidi Klum came off as “costumy” and just overdone. I mean, there were some pieces that I thought were sort of cute, but I’d never wear it. But then again, I don’t see the point in lingerie. (That’s a whole other conversation.)

Diana’s collection, “Goddess,” was pretty hot. Black strips of fabric wrapped around the body like bandages, while soft, billowy pieces of chiffon swathed the body. Nice juxtaposition. Not very practical, but then again, totally hot. I found it kind of funny that the raciest collection came from a 22-year-old girl who looks totally innocent and almost – to channel Santino, but not his bitchiness – virginal. Which further proves my point that it’s the quiet ones you gotta watch out for.

Daniel Vosovic’s collection, “Revenge,” was pretty clever, putting an ultra-feminine touch to menswear-inspired lingerie. His whole idea was the ex-girlfriend raiding her boyfriend’s closet and reworking the clothes to suit her own sexy tastes. There’s no question why he won – all of his pieces were very beautiful and realistic, and could actually be worn under your clothes.

Daniel “Deadline? What Deadline?” Franco stole the show with his exasperating I’m-an-artist-and-I’m-being-difficult-for-the-sake-of-being-faux-brilliant behavior that really got my heart racing. Homegirls Chloe and Kara tried their best to keep him in check, but in the end, all of his pieces ended up looking the same. Frumpy and not sexy by any means. He would have done better to design a nice black lace bra and panty set to go along with the rest of the collection. In his desire to construct lingerie to inspire baby makin’ Franco tried to channel Barry White. Instead, the power of Betty White compelled him. Needless to say, Franco got the boot, and quite frankly, good riddens. You can’t even just get a normal, human response from this guy – everything that comes out of his mouth just has to be flowery and complicated and overdone – just like his clothing.

Don’t get me wrong – I so wanted to love Daniel Franco. I wanted him to have a triumphant comeback this season, but he’s got to learn how to let go.

Dec 21, 2005

A lump of coal for Ted Stevens

As you all know by now, the Democrats in the Senate killed a plan to drill in the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) today, after the House pretty much passed it just the day before.

Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who has dedicated the latter part of his career to get the OK to drill there, said that this was the "saddest day" of his life. After years of various tactics, Stevens tried to stick the ANWR drilling provision into the $453B defense spending bill for the troops, thinking this shit would pass so easily, because you know, everyone wants to support the troops and the war and shit.

Oh, please.
Most Senate Democrats and some moderate Republicans said the frigid wilderness and its assortment of wildlife, ranging from polar bears to peregrine falcons, should be protected. Other Republicans said ANWR must be unlocked for drilling to stop a steady slide in U.S. crude oil production.
What kills me is that the motive for drilling all boils down to money. Americans like to say that they care about the environment and the animals and preserving our beautiful land for future generations, but until the price per gallon of gas reaches the $4 mark, they don't worry about it. These politicians who favor drilling in the ANWR seem to not care about the kind of world they'll leave to their children and their grandchildren either - they'll for sure bend over backwards to make sure that oil industry lobbyists keep them in gifts and campaign contributions.

According to the Reuters article above, the ANWR is said to hold about 10 billion barrels of oil. That doesn't seem like a lot, considering that in this 2004 Mother Jones interview, Novelist Paul Roberts says that if we don't depend on OPEC to supplement our own crude oil production, the U.S. will hit our production peak in about 10 years. According to Roberts, "the market is aware that we use 80 million barrels of oil everyday [and this is in 2004, mind you - Mags] and that our maximum production at this point is 82.5 million barrels of oil a day." (Emphasis mine.)

So we use all the oil we sucked out of the ANWR. In how many years? And then what? Don't make me do the math.

Now is the time to press for renewable sources of energy. Kudos to the Dems for putting the pressure on. It's a step in the right direction.

Dec 20, 2005

The Start of the Breakdown?

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. introduced legislation that will "censure President Bush and Vice President Cheney and create a select committee to investigate the Administration's possible crimes and make recommendations regarding grounds for impeachment."

If you'd like to view the PDFs of the proposed pieces of House legislation, you can find them here, along with a copy of Conyers' press release.

This abuse of power by the Bush Administration must be stopped, and a formal censure is a step in the right direction. Clinton got impeached for much, much, less. Our civil rights as Americans, the future of our country and its reputation abroad, is at stake here.

The Progressive Democrats of America provide a link in which you can write to your Congressperson, urging him or her to support Conyers and his all-too-important efforts to censure the megalomaniacs in the White House.

Meanwhile, the WaPo reports Bush's approval rating has "surged" to 47%, in the wake of his non-stop speech giving and by giving the impression that he is holding himself accountable for what goes on in Iraq. WTF is up with people?

Dec 19, 2005


I don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty sick of seeing Bush on TV every day. Bush is now saying that he defends his decision to eavesdrop on Americans, and that if he had to do it over again, he would do the same. Aaaah, yes. That Dubya and his steadfastness, there it goes again.

According to the BBC, Dubya said this:

Mr Bush also said he expected a "full investigation" into who leaked information about the wiretap programme.

"My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important programme in a time of war," he said.

"The fact that we're discussing this programme is helping the enemy," he added.
I am sick and tired of Dubya playing on Americans' fear of another terrorist attack as a means to rationalize and pursue tactics that, in effect, erode our civil liberties. Now, if the government even suspects for a moment that you may have terrorist ties, kiss your privacy goodbye. More and more the rationaliziation for his administration doing things the way they do is like some fucked-up, dysfunctional, paternal relationship in which it perverts existing rules in the spirit of "we know what's best for you, so shut up."

And yet, systems have been in place all along to protect us. According to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the executive branch can monitor people provided that they have a proper warrant. Bush's double-super-secret presidential order bypasses this already-established protocol. And, according to Salon's Tim Grieve, Bush still can't give a proper reason for this except to redefine what "war" is.

If al-Qaida is paying as much attention as Bush suggests, it already knew that much, and it has "adjusted" -- Bush's term -- to that knowledge accordingly. What Bush's program for spying did was remove the warrant requirement FISA imposes. How does that change anything for al-Qaida? How would terrorists communicate differently if they knew that the National Security Agency might be monitoring them without a warrant instead of with one? There's no good answer to that question, and Bush didn't give one.

Bush also failed to explain, at least in any way that made sense, why he needed to evade FISA's requirements. Bush said repeatedly that the war on terror is a new kind of war that requires fast action by United States. "This is a different era, a different war, it's a war where people are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they're moving quick," he said. "We've got to be able to prevent and detect. It requires quick action."

But the FISA process was designed for quick action. And indeed, FISA allows the executive branch to begin monitoring communications immediately and then seek a warrant after the fact. How isn't that "fast" or "quick" or "agile" enough? Bush couldn't say. Instead, he suggest again and again that the FISA process is for "long-term monitoring" and that, after the attacks of 9/11, he saw the need to "detect." He never explained what he meant by that or how the FISA process couldn't be used both to "monitor" and to "detect." It wasn't at all clear that he knew. And if he knew, he certainly wasn't saying.
I used to joke around - because of certain family circumstances - that the government was going to do to my household what, in fact, has been proven to be a practice authorized by the President (by secret presidential order) back in 2001. Remind me to tell you the story some time.

But for now, this latest revelation gives me the chills, and I really don't know what to do about it. I remember hearing on a late-night repeat of "Meet the Press" (thanks to my typical Sunday night insomnia) that this could, quite possibly, be an impeachable offense. But seriously, will this happen? Will Dubya really be made accountable for this? How can this administration continue to be allowed to rewrite the rules and then say "trust us on this"?

Our country really is starting to look more and more like Orwell's 1984. Frightening.

Dec 16, 2005

Baby Steps

This is also cross-posted on Bring It On!

As I'm sure you know, the House sided with Senator John McCain on a measure that would "ban torture and limit interrogation techniques" in U.S. detention facilities. The vote, 308 to 122, is a baby step toward creating a more uniform standard by which torture can be measured. But how many baby steps will it take? From the WaPo:

The vote sends a clear signal to the Bush administration that both chambers of Congress support the anti-torture legislation and want the government to adopt guidelines that aim to prevent damage to the U.S. image abroad. The White House has been aggressively pushing to create exceptions for CIA operatives and to water down McCain's language to keep it from limiting interrogators' options. But it appears that the administration and House Republican leaders lost some leverage yesterday.

Aside from our tarnished reputation abroad, many representatives believe - despite what Dick Cheney might believe - that extreme interrogation tactics lead to misleading information (hmm, that never happens, right?) because, as Rep. Walter Jones (N.C.) says, a detainee will just tell you "what he thinks you want to hear" only to stop the pain.

Exactly. I'm not saying that the provenance of ALL of the bad WMD intelligence stemmed from our current, highly disputed torture practices, but I'm sure it had at least some involvement, when looked at from the aggregate. On Wednesday, Bush even accepted responsibility for listening to this faulty intelligence.

This small victory in the House - while characterized as mostly symbolic - sends a message to the President that more and more people are not willing to support government-sanctioned torture.

But, as is the case with our nation's political realm, the Army's newly released and classified set of interrogation methods will undoubtedly complicate things. While the it states that soldiers must adhere to the Geneva Convention, this 10-page addendum to the Army field manual gives soldiers EXACTLY what they need to know - in terms of what they can do and what they can't do in any given situation - in order to avoid committing an illegal interrogation.

The criticism has already begun:

Some military officials said the new guidelines could give the impression that the Army was pushing the limits on legal interrogation at the very moment when Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, is involved in intense three-way negotiations with the House and the Bush administration to prohibit the cruel treatment of prisoners.

In a high-level meeting at the Pentagon on Tuesday, some Army and other Pentagon officials raised concerns that Mr. McCain would be furious at what could appear to be a back-door effort to circumvent his intentions.

"This is a stick in McCain's eye," one official said. "It goes right up to the edge. He's not going to be comfortable with this."

Since Bush still continues on with his "strategy" of continued occupation of Iraq, this nation really needs to put some stronger definitions around what are illegal and illegal forms of torture. We as a nation cannot sustain this war for much longer, and when all is said and done, our reputation in the international arena will look just like one of the many buildings in Iraq decimated by our bombs.

UPDATE: The White House met with McCain on Thursday, 12/15, saying that the torture ban was a "done deal." Of course, more details need to be worked out and a final draft needs to be written before we can see the full extent of the torture ban, and who has had to compromise. The CNN article doesn't make any mention of the Army field manual and the implications it has on legal/illegal interrogations. Stay tuned ...

RE-UPDATE: Just for kicks, I'm including Mark Morford's take on the torture issue here for your delectation.

Dec 15, 2005

What are you talking aboot?

I read yesterday that the U.S. Ambassador to Canada has strongly advised Canadians to basically stop Bush bashing. Courtesy of Talking Points Memo:
"It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and constantly criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner," David Wilkins said at the Canada Club in Ottawa. "But it is a slippery slope, and all of us should hope that it doesn't have a long-term impact on our relationship."
Oh really!

Turns out Wilkins is another wealthy and unqualified Bush Crony. Salon’s Tim Grieve says:
Wilkins may not know much about Canada -- before he got the ambassadorship, he'd visited the country only once, on a trip to Niagra Falls. But he certainly knows a thing or two about the value of long-term relationships. An old Bush family friend, Wilkins raised more than $200,000 for the president's 2004 reelection campaign. Which means, apprently [sic], that he's pretty much free to say whatever he wants.
Looks like Those Who Support Bush become so emboldened that they feel they can dictate to other countries the content of their political debate. Man, this arrogance: It’s gotta stop. What’s next? Hired goons flown out to all points on the globe at the drop of a hat to enforce the "No Bush Bashing" rule? Ridiculous.

Dec 13, 2005

Que horror!

From the "You've got to be kidding me" department:

A Kansas high school student is suing his school because he was suspended for speaking Spanish in the hallway.

The attorney for 16-year-old Zach Rubio filed the lawsuit over the weekend. The suit details how the phrase "no problema" got Rubio suspended.

So here's what happened. Zach (a U.S. citizen) was walking down the hallway in his school when a teacher overheard him say "no problema." The teacher told him that he should speak English, because "this isn't Mexico."

Principal Jennifer Watts suspended him, and now Rubio is suing the school.

The suspension has since been reversed and Superintendent Bobby Allen has apologized.

From a statement released by the school district:

The Turner School District takes great pride in the cultural diversity of its students, staff and community and does not prohibit students from speaking in any language other than English and has taken steps to ensure that incidents of this nature do not occur in the future.

Riiiiiight. Fire that stupid teacher then.

I seriously hate hearing shit like this. I don't even know what to say. Fucking celebrate diversity, people. Get a grip.

Thanks to Ang for the link.

Oh, okay. NOW I get it.

See here, now this is how you're supposed to honor the troops.

Put them in the belly of commercial airplanes so that they can fly along with the citizens they gave their lives to protect. Except, like, with our luggage and stuff.

Crystal clear now. Thanks. I've seen the light.

Thanks to Paul the Spud over at Shakespeare's Sister for the link.

(Photo credit: ABC Denver)

Dec 12, 2005

We don't torture. No really. Okay, sometimes.

Back in November, during his Latin America tour, Dubya said "we do not torture."

It's his one moment (of many) that parallels his father's "read my lips, no new taxes" lie.

Bush the Elder eventually went back on his word and raised taxes.

His son, Not My President, condones the use of torture behind closed doors while vehemently denying it to our faces.

Nat Hentoff of the Village Voice takes us back to 9/11 - Dubya's crutch - to show how this current administration is rewriting the rules of human rights and redefining torture:

NYU's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice notes in its essential June 28 report, "Beyond Guantánamo: Transfers to Torture One Year After [the Supreme Court decision in] Rasul v. Bush," (on March 6 The New York Times reported):

"[E]xtraordinary renditions [by the CIA] have been carried out pursuant to a classified directive signed by President Bush a few days after September 11, 2001, that purports to grant the C.I.A. an 'unusually expansive authority' [to send terrorism suspects to countries known for torturing their prisoners]."

All Dubya has to do, according to Hentoff, is to sign an executive decree to put an end to the CIA's ambiguously defined boundaries regarding torture. The Center for Victims of Torture sent Bush a letter on June 26 asking him to do just this. The letter has pretty much been ignored.


Today, former White House advisor, Robert Blackwill, lets the cat out of the bag:

"Of course torture should not be widespread and of course there should be extraordinarily stringent top-down requirements in this respect. But never? ... I wouldn't say never," he told the Council on Foreign Relations think tank.
This is a guy who served as one of Dubya's top advisers on Iraq policy before he left to join a consultancy firm in November 2004. I doubt that his outlook on torture has differered in the past year, when he worked under Bush. And after Condoleeza Rice has been working that spin about whether the U.S. has created a loophole that allows for torture overseas or operates secret prisons in Europe, Blackwill's concession can't bode well for the U.S. As Arthur Silber so eloquently puts it:

Barbarism and sadism are now the official policy of our government. And the defenders of that policy still tell the world that we, and only we, can ensure that the values of civilization are transmitted to the future. They seek to destroy the unique value of human life, and they have rendered themselves incapable of understanding the nature of the destruction upon which they have embarked ... And if you support these policies of the administration to any extent at all, you are one of them.

Bush, because of his mishandling of the torture issue, and with his ever-so-righteous party of "moral values," has undermined our nation's moral standing with the rest of the world. No doubt we are seen as barbarians (and I'm not talking about the good kind) in the international arena. How we as a nation can rehabilitate this image once this clown is out of office will prove to be a tough challenge indeed.

Dec 11, 2005

Tookie: My reflections on the death penalty issue

I'm conflicted in my thoughts on the death penalty.

On the one hand, I believe criminals need appropriate punishments for their crimes. Since I am not married, nor do I have kids, I use the "what if this happened to my parents?" test. And Jah forbid, if anything ever did (knock on wood), I'd want the perp to be brought to justice - to the fullest extent. I can totally sympathize with Rebecca Owens, whose father was killed by Stanley "Tookie" Williams:
"He killed my father, and that will never change," [Owens] said. "I think he is a horrible and awful man.

"I don't think it's fair that he gets to breathe and walk around and have interactions, and my father, whose only crime was showing up for work, can't do those things," Owens said. "The impact that my father's death had on me is long-reaching and affects me today."
I don't disagree with the devastation Owens feels surrounding her father's death. But my logic tells me that it's a fine line between "justice" and "vengeance." The former is rational; the other, an emotional response. And the law should be based on reason and logic and not on emotions or subjectivity. Right?

I'm not saying that I think those in jail convicted of heinous, violent, and truly antisocial crimes should have an easy life in jail, but I am not sure if putting them to death is necessarily the answer. Who am I to judge another person, regardless of their behavior? Who am I to say whether one person should live and another person should die?

And who is to say that an incarcerated person does not have the capacity to reform?

Joe Garofali at the SF Chronicle asks this same question in his column today. Currently, 68% of Californians support the death penalty. And the impending debate surrounding Crips Founder Stanley "Tookie" Williams is the impetus of a very serious converation Californians need to have with themselves.

There is a danger that California may become, as Garofali mentions, "Texified," in that the more executions this state performs (is it even possible to come close to the numbers in Texas, Virginia, and Oklahoma?), the more desensitized our state's citizens will be about putting criminals to death. I don't ever want California to lie on its back when it comes to executions. Each execution this state does should be a horrible process full of public debate, protests, brouhaha, etc. because with every criminal put to death in our state, there needs to be some deep soul searching that goes on by everyone. It's a sad day whenever someone is put to death, regardless of the circumstances.

And since the CA Supreme Court ruled today that Tookie's execution wouldn't be stopped, it all lies in the hands of the Governator, a man who has made millions portraying characters who kill. And you can guarantee that from now until the clock strikes midnight Tuesday morning, it will be some high drama.

Will Tookie's execution - as opposed to life in prison- really make our society better or safer?

I'm not so sure.

(Photo credit: SF Chronicle/Daryl Bush)

Dec 6, 2005

Uh oh. Here we go again.

In case you were going through Terri Schiavo withdrawals, here's another "right to die/live" case coming out of Boston's supreme court.

Jason Strickland, 31, beat his 11-year-old stepdaughter, Haleigh Poture, so badly that she is now in a permanent vegetative state. Her brain was "found partly sheared when she was hospitalized on September 11. Her body was covered with burns, cuts and bruises and her teeth were broken."

Understandably, Strickland does not want his stepdaughter taken off life support, because he'll face a murder charge once she "dies." (Why they haven't thrown this guy in jail already is beyond me. Or maybe they have. The article doesn't say.)

A juvenile court in Massachussetts has already declared that the Department of Social Services has the authority to disconnect Haleigh from her breathing machines and feeding tubes.

Where's the mother in all this, you ask?
Haleigh's birth mother, 29-year-old Allison Avrett, lost custody of the girl when she was four years old because of allegations of abuse, said the Department of Social Services, whose lawyers have consulted Avrett in the case. Avrett has said she would prefer the removal of Haleigh's life support system.
Oh, and by the way, Strickland's wife (and Haleigh's maternal aunt and sole legal guardian) was found shot to death with Haleigh's grandmother "in an apparent murder suicide" at her home on Sept. 22. The previous day, police had accused this woman of beating Haleigh with a baseball bat.

Get ready. If this is anything like the Schiavo case, it's gonna get ugly. And don't think Santa and the holidays won't get brought into this. Let the little girl rest in peace, for Jah's sake. She's put up with enough dysfunction in her short lifetime.

Hey Rush, ever heard of a "loofah"?

Did you know that Rush Limbaugh dodged the draft, complaining that he had a cyst?

On his ass?

For real. Stop laughing for a second.

So now he's also blasting John Kerry - who actually served in the military - because he's (Limbaugh's) saying that Kerry called U.S. soldiers in Iraq "terrorists."

I know, I know. Check out the blurb in dispute:

KERRY:... There is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children...

David Sirota at the HuffPo brings it home for us:

...We can just look at the record and see that yes, top military commanders agree with Kerry - not with Ass Cyst Limbaugh. For instance, back in 2003, the UK Guardian reported that Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, head of the allied forces in Iraq, "said the US had decided to revise its strategy and limit the scope of raids after being warned they were alienating the public." He said, "It was a fact that I started to get multiple indicators that maybe our iron-fisted approach to the conduct of ops was beginning to alienate Iraqis. I started to get those sensings from multiple sources, all the way from the governing council down to average people."

Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. military was rightly questioning its own raid strategy – as Kerry alluded to – because:

"The raids turn up little and leave hard feelings among civilians who resent foreign soldiers bursting into their homes, breaking doors and gates and pointing guns at their heads. They resent these men catching their wives and daughters in their bedclothes. They resent them barking orders, telling them to get on the ground, invading their homes, emptying drawers and turning over mattresses."
So let's be clear: what Ass Cyst Limbaugh is doing is both lying about Kerry, and frontally endorsing a radical change in U.S. military policy whereby our soldiers actually do start terrorizing people. He is doing this, even as our own military says that would be a mistake.
So according to Mr. Ass Cyst's logic, because Kerry said "there is no reason to terrorize," that means that the soldiers are? And - as Sirota points out - because Ass Cyst is using this as an opportunity to mock Kerry, is Limbaugh really saying that the troops should?

It's all so confusing. But then again, when dealing with right-wing pundit logic, you never really get a coherent argument anyway.

Looking for something to do this week?

If so, I’m here to help.

Your boss sucks, and you’ve had it up to here? If so, come to the Bad Bosses Bash at the Linen Life Gallery in Emeryville (1375 Park Avenue). According to this article in the Chron, “Oakland author and business consultant Gini Graham Scott will discuss her book "A Survival Guide for Working with Bad Bosses'' and lead participants in some interactive games designed to help identify bad bosses and suggest ways to deal with them.” Much more positive and productive than voodoo dolls and the various spells you’ve undoubtedly been concocting, I’m sure.

SFSU’s McKenna Auditorium will be hosting a screening of “Homecoming,” that anti-war zombie flick written by the Bay Area’s own Sam Hamm – who, incidentally, will be in attendance to answer your questions should you be so inclined. Rumor has it the director may be there as well. But don’t hold me to that. It starts at 7 p.m.

I inform, because I care.

Dec 5, 2005

"Hero-izing" the Duke

So because Randall "Duke" Cunningham plead guilty to accepting bribes in the area of $2.5 million, he's now all of a sudden an honorable man? From the California Conservative:

In his resignation letter, he states, “I learned in Viet Nam that the true measure of a man is how he responds to adversity. I cannot undo what I have done. But I can atone … The first step in that journey is to admit fault and apologize. The next step is to face the consequences of my actions like a man.”

He did not blame others for leading him astray; he did not quibble about the meaning of the word “is.”

Other politicians who have betrayed their trust have escaped punishment. Some are on the lecture circuit, are in demand at the highest of society circles and are considered statesmen by their party.
The Bill Clinton dig aside, I will agree that Cunningham's coming clean and facing his inevitable punishment is the right thing to do. Finally. Someone being held accountable for his actions.

I can think of a few more who should follow his lead.

(Photo credit: AP)

Rumsy the Wordsmither

What is he smoking?

Rumsy is blasting the media, saying that journalists are “rushing to find fault” with the U.S. and its military. Not only are journalists apparently using the wrong terminology, but now they’re also getting their angle all wrong. That instead of reporting on the thousands of U.S. soldiers dying in the war (a fact), journalists should blow sunshine up our asses and remind us all why the soldiers are in Iraq in the first place (insert Bush Misadministration talking point here).

[Rumsfeld] spoke just days after the U.S. military acknowledged that it had paid Iraqi newspapers to publish pro-American news stories written by an "information operations" task force. Rumsfeld complained that the issue "has been pounded in the media" but "we don't know what the facts are yet."

"We've arrived at a strange time in this country where the worst about America and our military seems to so quickly be taken as truth by the press, and reported and spread around the world, often with little context and little scrutiny, let alone correction or accountability after the fact," Rumsfeld told an academic audience.
Don’t forget, Rumsy, that journalism is supposed to be a check on government, not to serve as your personal propaganda machine. And quite frankly, it’s about damn time journalists reported on the negative. Enough people have been hoodwinked for way too long. And if you think this war is going to be won by words, you are a bigger moron than I thought.

(Photo credit: Kevin Wolf, AP)

Bush’s failing report card

The former 9/11 commission issued a report today straight up saying the Bush administration is failing in its efforts to combat terrorism.

It gave the government five failing grades of F -- including for failing to provide emergency communications and appropriate security funding -- 12 barely passing grades of D and nine mid-level grades of C. It received two "incompletes," and only one top grade, an A- in counter-terrorist financing.
Is this surprising to anyone? Bush and his cabal may think they have a successful plan in place, but it’s obvious there is some strategic flaw in their planning. And Dubya can invoke 9/11 all he wants, but even people in his own party are starting to see the light.

“I think we’ve too quickly forgotten the lesson of 9/11,” said Republican ex-commissioner and former Governor James Thompson, “And I think the odds are very good that we’re going to pay a terrible price for forgetting that lesson.”

Indeed. For example, the 9/11 commission recommended that control of WMDs be of utmost priority. But as I posted last month, you can’t control or prevent the proliferation of WMDs if you’re going to give yourself the option of using them to preempt a potential attack by another country. Duh.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) keeps it real:

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York called the report a "top-to-bottom indictment" of the government's approach to fighting terrorism. "The report shows that while the administration and Congress are focused on fighting an offensive war in Iraq, they are dangerously neglecting the defensive war on terror we should be fighting here at home," he said in a statement.
I understand that we as a nation may not be able to return to the halcyon days of pre-9/11, but when we have incidents like the one we had on the Bay Bridge yesterday (which I had the wonderful privilege of sitting in, by the way), we show our citizens just how reactive - and ineffective - our nation’s policy on terrorism really is. I remember sitting in my car, on the bridge and feeling trapped. What if it *had* been a bomb and not a suitcase full of Christmas lights? 9/11 was four years ago, and really, has the U.S. made any progress in putting a stop to terrorism as Bush had promised? Hell no.

Unfortunately, there is no summer school course available to help Dubya get his administration's grades out of the toilet. This administration's tradition of short-sighted foreign policy is inherently flawed, and I guarantee we will be feeling the ripple effects of this quagmire for years to come.

Dec 4, 2005

Sunday Night Insomnia Blogging

So apparently my penchant for tea drinking is possibly going to do me some good after all. According to Reuters:

Coffee and tea may reduce the risk of serious liver damage in people who drink alcohol too much, are overweight, or have too much iron in the blood, researchers reported on Sunday.

The study of nearly 10,000 people showed that those who drank more than two cups of coffee or tea per day developed chronic liver disease at half the rate of those who drank less than one cup each day.
Now don't go rushing to guzzle down mass quantities of either coffee or tea too late in the day, or you'll end up like me: Wide awake, when I should be in bed, sleeping. I blame the two cups of coffee I had for brunch at La Note earlier today.


My favorite reality show, Project Runway, begins its second season this week. And they brought back that annoying, overacting, overachiever guy, Daniel Franco, who was the first designer to get eliminated in the first season for his butcher paper jacket. Man. I cannot wait.


I got stuck in that Bay Bridge "suspicious suitcase" snafu this afternoon. Not fun when 20 people on Harleys are revving up their engines behind you. Did not help my headache at all.


What's up with me channeling Herb Caen all of a sudden?


My birthday is coming up soon, and I was determined to do something with friends this year. Having your birthday on 12/25 sort of throws a wrench in the birthday shindig planning. The venue I wanted is closed for a private event, on the only Saturday I could possibly pull this entire thing off, leaving me back at square one. And the clock is ticking - I wanted to make sure people get enough notice. But at this point, it looks like it (the shindig, that is) won't happen.

Oh well. Maybe next year.

I really should try to get some sleep. I promise I'll blog about more substantive issues this week.

Dec 3, 2005

Absolute Power

(Props to Leigh for the picture.)