Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentines day resolution 2012

People in this country really like to torture themselves. They hype up random calendar dates into major events with outlandish expectations that no one can actually afford and then are massively disappointed and depressed when events don’t turn out like the advertisements.

News flash: Those “loving moments” in advertisements are preformed by paid actors, written by some executive to sell the moment in hopes that you will (sucker) by the product.  

When the moment doesn’t live up to the hype and, they never do, people become depressed. Then those helpful pharmaceutical companies step in to make everyone feel better with pretty pills. I have an idea, let’s stop buying the hype and just treat each other kindly everyday. 

If the last one hundred years has taught us anything it should be that money doesn’t buy happiness. Giving your loved one a box of candy one day of the year really means nothing. Telling him or her that you care about them daily and treating them with respect and dignity, that will build a relationship. 

So why don’t we treat Valentines Day a bit more like New Years Eve.  Toast each other and make a resolution to treat each other well in the coming year. 

Or we could just stay on the treadmill of over priced, over stressed, series of disappointing Valentines day dates, filled with high drama leaving us exhausted and disappointed in each other. Soon to be breaking up and starting the same pattern with a different significant other. 

You choose.  But I suggest try a little tenderness.  

Sunday, February 12, 2012


I was truly saddened to hear of the death of Whitney Houston last night. Not because I consider myself a fan, I wasn’t, but because yet another gifted artist was unable to slay her dragons. Whitney had an amazing voice no matter what genre of music you follow.

The public will most likely never know what demons chased her down the rails of addiction, but once on that train there are very few opportunities to get off the track. It seemed that Whitney and earlier this year Amy Winehouse had both found a path out of the darkness. Then shockingly both were reported dead.

It is hard for many to understand that the same insecurities or personal pain that drive one to “create” are frequently a double-edged sword that can easily spiral into self-destruction.  The demons are present even with the trappings of success, or maybe because of that success such as in the case of Kurt Cobain.  

Whitney Houston despite her addictions and obvious demons, gave joy to many with her voice and contributed to numerous charities such as The Bronx Zoo, The Emmanual Cancer Center, The Boys and Girls Clubs of America, The Magic Johnson Foundation for Pediatric AIDS, The NYFD and NYPD Foundations for 9/11 Relief Workers, The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, The United Negro College Fund, and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. As well  she founded the Whitney Houston Foundation for Children which aids sick and homeless children, and works toward the prevention of child abuse, teaches children to read, and has built inner city parks and playgrounds.  

People no matter what their successes in life can be tormented in ways that others don’t understand.  Kurt Cobain ended his own life, Amy Winehouse drank herself to death. We don’t yet know if Whitney relapsed or if her heart gave out after years of battling her addictions, but her gifts will be missed, as are those of all the artists who traveled this harsh path before her. 

Rest in peace, I hope you all found somewhere that the torment couldn’t reach. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Overruled and now what

Prop 8 overruled by the US 9th Circuit Court – now what does it mean? 

YEAH!! Score one for the liberal/progressive/gay rainbow flag/punk rock/queer/I am not narrow-minded crowd(s).  This decision means that prop H8 as it became known in many left circles will no longer be law in the State of California.

Yes, let’s celebrate. Have a beer or a coffee or march in the streets. Be loud and proud, queer and allied, party! We have won a battle, but not quite the war.

Congratulations are in order because yet another court has confirmed that Proposition 8 has no place in a free open society that separates church and State. That Country does not allow the civil rights of a minority to be voted on.

So lets spend the next few days reveling in a victory, then we need to get back to work because this isn’t over.  Why might you ask? Let me lay this out for you:

The way this 9th Circuit decision is written is very limited. Courts have double speak down to an art form.  This decision by the 9th Circuit is based on Romer v Evens primarily.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romer_v._Evans  The good part of that is the Romer decision is for Gay Rights. The bad part is that it has nothing to do with marriage or the assertion that marriage is a fundamental right.  In citing Romer the 9th Circuit is addressing Justice Kennedy the swing vote on the Supreme Court directly, however appeals court judge Stephen Reinhardt did not say gays and lesbians have an equal right to marry under the Constitution. Instead, he said California's voters violated the Constitution because "Prop. 8 singles out same-sex couples for unequal treatment by taking away from them alone the right to marry,".  (emphasis added)

Currently our Supreme Court is leaning conservative, politically and socially.  We did get the Lawrence v Texas ruling out of them in 2003 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_v._Texas however, I am not convinced that the Supreme Court would take this case, or if they did, that marriage equality proponents would get the outcome they desire.  There is a 4/4 split on the court with Justice Kennedy as the swing vote, he did write the Lawrence opinion, however the 9th Circuit cited Romer, which Justice Kennedy also wrote but that decision turns on the exclusion of rights not on a concept of enforcing a fundamental right.  The Proposition 8 case doesn’t address issues of differing laws between states nor is it framed as an issue of a fundamental individual right, therefore most likely the Supreme Court will not grant this case a hearing.

The Supreme Court hears about 1% of the cases that are appealed to them each year, normally the court hears cases based on differing laws in states or the violation of a fundamental right, with the opinion handed down by the 9th Circuit Court the battle over Proposition 8 has neither of these issues. Basically, this decision is limited to California, and if the Supreme Court heard the decision they could still issue a ruling that only affected California.

Marriage equality most likely will still have to be fought State by State, regardless of this latest victory for Californians. 

Friday, February 3, 2012


Women and progressives woke up this week to the shocking news that the Susan G. Komen Foundation was pulling its’ funding from Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings. However by weeks end, amid a hailstorm of negative press and public outrage, the Komen Foundation reinstated their Planned Parenthood funding with a meek apology. 

The question is should the progressive community really have been shocked by this latest turn from the Komen Foundation? Cancer research should not be a political issue, yet the rightwing has waged a fairly successful war on reproductive rights (read women’s rights) over the last year and Planned Parenthood is squarely in their sights. The Komen foundation has moved further and further off point from their mission statement and has aligned their “brand” with corporate dollars. The Komen Foundation seems more concerned with fundraising than with patient care or research. 

Looking at some of the corporate sponsors over the last year for the Komen Foundation, there is an alarming trend toward slapping a pink ribbon on just about anything to make a buck. Kentucky Fried Chicken, Ford, the National Football League (and Major League Baseball) Yoplait etc. This blatant pandering, in addition to reports of lobbying efforts to limit research into possible environmental links to breast cancer by Komen, has called into question the organization’s integrity and commitment to its’ mission statement.  

This is the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s stated mission "to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality of care for all and energizing science to find the cures." 

Obviously the current leadership is more interested in playing politics and ensuring their own salaries then actually finding a cure for breast cancer. New leadership is needed to refocus the organization away from the political and back to the needs of cancer patients and survivors as well as the ongoing research for a cure. 

Until a time when the Komen Foundation can demonstrate a recommitment to its’ mission statement, I pledge my financial support to organizations like the Avon Walk and Planned Parenthood. 

To that end I created a petition to keep the pressure on the Susan G. Komen Foundation, to refocus on their mission statement.  With high visibility comes responsibility. 

If you agree please sign and pass on.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

we the people with rights

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

  • - Preamble United States Constitution, ratified 1788

This is arguably one of the greatest documents written in human history. It was radical for its time in the granting of a diversity of human rights to all classes, though it was limited to white males. These rights have been extended over the last two centuries to include all citizens of the United States regardless of race, religion or sex. Today the citizenry of the United States take these rights for granted. While the founding fathers did limit who they granted rights to I argue that they intended these rights to extent to all men in or outside of the United States, though they knew they could only enforce these rights within their country’s borders.  Thus, United States Constitutional rights should be extended to all people when they have cause to deal with the US justice system. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. 

  • - Paragraph 2 The Declaration of Independence, adopted 1776

The Declaration of Independence was written by the founding fathers twelve years before the Constitution was ratified. It clearly states, “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights”.  “Men” as stated in the Declaration of Independence, I assert, includes all people regardless of color, genders, religions and nationalities per the redefinition of Constitutional Law protections over the last two centuries. All human beings have unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

So why in the United States today, is our judicial system excluding people from protections under the Constitution? 

There are many political, social and fear-based reasons for the current standing of non-documented and other political detainees to be outside of the protections of the Constitution. Most reasoning comes down to budgetary concerns and protectionist mentalities as well as a combination of conservative federal judges and limited court challenges from detainees. 

Currently the United States is engaged in one official armed conflict in Afghanistan, however we have troops in over 150 countries, in which the United States can detain people as enemy combatants in the War on Terror.  Normally, as an enemy combatant/prisoner of war a person’s human rights are protected under the Geneva Convention, however an enemy combatant is defined as having been apprehended on a battlefield, during the course of a war. This definition may or may not apply to combatants in Afghanistan, since the United States hasn’t declared “war” in Afghanistan. It most definitely does not apply to individuals turned over to the military by foreign governments or people swept up in raids in a country where there is no “open hostilities”. This allows the US government to define detainees as outside of protections of the Geneva Convention.  Since they are also rarely US citizens they do not qualify to have rights under the United States Constitution. 

Most of these individuals are held on indefinite detainment. Without the protections of the Geneva Convention or the United States Constitution they have no right to even know the charges by which they are being detained.  

Undocumented People 

There are also many detainees who are being held for violations of their immigrations status, these people may or may not have been picked up in the United States. Immigration processes disregard any Constitutional rights of these individuals based on the fact that the person is not a citizen of the United States. People in immigration detention face numerous obstacles to defending their due process and human rights, including inadequate access to lawyers and medical care. Do we really want to define that citizenship is the only basis to exercise the rights granted by the United States Constitution? 

Mistakes in immigration arrests are made on a regular basis. Does it really matter if that is a small percentage? How many people arrested for immigration violations are white?  Or rich? There are many inequalities and abuses in the system that would be rectified by the acknowledgement of detainee’s human rights under the Constitution. 

Parsing human rights as to US citizens v non-citizens is not only demeaning of everyone's humanity, it is based in an imperialist paternalistic mindset that the western world is "superior" to those deemed outside of the west. Not only is this problematic and outdated but creates the disingenuous state of mind that torture is acceptable because these aren’t “our people”. The delineation of citizenship is random lines drawn on a map; it is not a true representation of humanity or a basis for granting human rights. 

What is the benefit to limiting Constitutional rights of foreign nationals? 

"The Supreme Court has also held for more than a century that aliens within the United States are persons entitled to constitutional protection. That includes aliens who are unlawfully present, although recent Supreme Court dicta suggest that intensified concerns over both drugs and migrants penetrating the border may put pressure on that commitment.”
- Strangers to the Constitution: Immigrants, Borders, and Fundamental Law
  Gerald L. Neuman, JD, PhD

Historically Constitutional rights were afforded to anyone living within the US, however in the past ten years with the Unites States purging on a diet of fear post 9/11, immigration has been used extensively as an excuse to interview, detain and deport suspected “terrorists” (i.e. people of Arab descent). The assumption that terrorist are strictly from outside of the United States, solidly grounded in the identity of “other”, goes against the history of terrorist attacks like the Oklahoma City Bombing, the Atlanta Olympics Bombing, and the anthrax attacks after 9/11, all perpetrated by American Citizens. 

Expanding on the fear of “other” the Government has included the War on Drugs under the immigration authority, which is primarily directed at Latin American peoples who are living in the United States.  This coupled with the fear mongering of immigration opponents, who decry the porous nature of our southern borders reflects in the disproportionate numbers of Latin Americans being held in the immigration deportation centers.  

Part of the reading of the constitution that expands rights to non-citizens is grounded in the desire to alleviate caste-like classes from US society.  I assert that in the last ten years, since 9/11, the conservative elements in our political system have been actively pushing for a caste system under the guise of national security and an ideological identification of who is “truly” a citizen/patriot.  The argument that being able to curtail people’s human rights makes us safer is illogical at best and in actuality leads us down a path to fascism.  Short cuts around human rights are never going to ensure our safety. Not short term suspensions or in the long run, because depriving others of their human rights damages our own personal Constitutional rights. And voiding anyone’s human rights not only damages our standing in the international community, but it should damage credibility in the US social and political spheres. 

The citizens of the United States should demand their government recognize that every human being has unalienable rights, including the rights guaranteed by the Constitution regardless of where they were born.  This is the only way to ensure the rights of those that cannot protect themselves. Protecting all people’s rights is the only way to truly ensure our own human rights will be respected.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Troy Davis RIP

A man named Troy Davis was killed this week.  Many people died in the United States this past week, we are a large complicated society, there were many tragedies I am sure; drunk drivers, illnesses that could have been averted, or the loss of a child to a senseless accident. However those deaths weren’t done in my name. Troy Davis’s death was committed by the State of Georgia, in the name of the people of the United States.

I, for one, refuse to accept this as justice.

I am not a Christian, but I have read Jesus’ teachings. I don’t understand the preaching of Christian values with the blood lust of the death penalty. Didn’t Christ say turn the other cheek and preach forgiveness? The death penalty is about vengeance and Americans love their “vengeance” or more accurately violence.  Actually, there are appropriate individuals who should seek vengeance, namely white men, others should allow them to act in their name (women and the side kick/minority male).

Our culture has devolved into synthesized gladiator sport (football and ‘action” movies) while mouthing the virtues of forgiveness and turning the other cheek. Note that most high paid movie actors are action stars who as white men frequently spurn the laws of society to seek vengeance on someone who has “done them wrong”, usually by killing their wife or child or both. They are renegade hero’s who must ‘honor” their loved one, by murdering someone else.

Frequently this display is very black and white and of course white is right. There is no discussion of why the individual killed the wife or child, normally it is just a sadistic exercise by a very “evil” person and the audience can feel good about routing for the hero in his adventure to slay the “evil” because the person is not human, they are dehumanized into a monster.  In the end the monster almost always dies, the hero is vindicated and rides off into the sunset with his replacement women and all is well in the world.  

However, our society isn’t shot in black and white and rarely is there actual an eye witnesses or cameras catching the murder on film. We have a legal system and police who are over burdened and sometimes take short cuts. Also individuals have rights. Human rights; which include the right to LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I don’t know if Troy Davis was innocent or guilty, but I know there were questions about the process that convicted him, recanting of testimony from witnesses and little or no physical evidence linking him to the crime. At law we call this “reasonable doubt” and in a criminal case at trial it would result in a verdict of not guilty. Unfortunately for Mr. Davis, this evidence was presented post conviction, and the State chose not to review his conviction or commute his sentence.  Vengeance on the march. Mr. Davis was dehumanized by his conviction in the eyes of the State, but what of the virtue of forgiveness?

What if the man is not guilty?

The reality is this society views the Christian "virtues" as weakness and runs toward the Roman Coliseum piped into the living rooms or movie theaters for this week’s installment of violence. That civilization fell -- this one is slowly killing itself as well with the same tools: greed, violence and inhumanity.  We view this idealized vengeance as a limit on the violence of our society when in actuality it is a further perpetration of violence.

In such a society can we really fool ourselves into thinking that we can judge someone fairly and put them to death while calling the United States a Christian nation?  There are too many contradictions in logic and in our culture for a reasonable person to feel the vindication of vengeance in the death penalty in this country.

We are teetering on the brink of another historic fall of civilization complete with greed, corruption and gladiator sport. 

Unfortunately for Troy Davis, and this society, he was thrown to lions this week. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

reformative justice, prisons and fear

In the wake of the horrible crimes committed in Norway, many in the US think that the Norse will modify or change their prison system. Yet, it is a system that has worked in comparison to our very broken punishment based prison system.

Reading this article:


I was struck by a question in the last paragraph:

"Now, in light of the July terror attacks that left 77 people dead, can Norway's humane approach to prison truly reform mass murderers? And -- more importantly -- should it?"

Should it? WTF? I am not sure that it is possible to "reform" mass murders, but why would the failure to rehabilitate a very small group of offenders call into question the track record of a very successful prison system?

"Norway has a significantly lower recidivism rate than the United States." 

That statement was made in the preceding paragraph (and it is true). So, what Norway is doing is working. Yet, the author has the gall to ask if this humane approach should be continued in light of one individual's actions? This demonstrates what is wrong with the "justice system" in the United States. In the US exclusion form society is valued over re-entry, rehabilitation and education. This model creates more criminal activity and fracturing of society, perpetuating the insecurity and fear of the citizenship. 

I would put forth that the system in the US is fatally flawed. It is based on controlling individuals without giving them any reason to reintegrate into the "normal" social fabric. Not only do convicts lack marketable job skills, they are shunned by society and are frequently have been victimized in prison or at the least have suffered the dehumanizing effects of a violent and broken prison system.  

Supposedly we want a society that is free from fear. To be free of fear we must trust our fellow citizens. Right now we don't. We are a fear based society that has imprisoned, according to a US Department of Justice report published in 2006, over 7.2 million people. That means roughly 1 in every 32 Americans are held by the justice system or almost 3 million more people than the total population of Norway. 

Per 100,000 the US has 743 adults to Norway's 71incarcerated as of 2009 and 2010 respectively. 

The US system has little if any rehabilitation programs or processes. Recidivism in the US is close to 65% as of the 2007 Department of Justice report.  

In the US we have had more individuals attack defenseless targets in mass shootings (10+) than anywhere else in the world. We have a prison system that doesn't work and definitely doesn't "deter" violence, in fact, it perpetuates it, at least against anyone in the system. However, we think the Norse should adopt our system because of one violent individual?

I think there is adequate demonstration in the US society that our prison system is not working.  Perhaps we should look at adopting some of the Norse rehabilitative programs to heal our society rather than suggest that they adopt our very broken system.