Saturday, December 16, 2006

Requiem aeternam, Angel Diaz - a Good Friday for Advent

The French social critic Albert Camus reportedly said, "The unbeliever cannot keep from thinking that men who have set at the center of their faith the staggering victim of a judicial error ought at least to hesitate before committing legal murder."

While "life" and "family values" persist as wedge-words in the increasingly deficient American political dialogue, the nation continues to tolerate inhumanity of the lowest form - a mandate to kill its own citizens.

Executions happen every year with barely a "blip" on the media radar - a sadly fitting coda to the lives of men and women whose existences were never really taken seriously by the rest of society. More often than not, we neglected them when they most needed a community and a hope - and in the end, the only representative we sent them to show our concern was the executioner who does his love on our behalf. This is our state.

But once in a while, we see a little more of our cruelty:
In Florida, medical examiner Dr. William Hamilton said Wednesday's execution of Angel Nieves Diaz took 34 minutes -- twice as long as usual -- and required a rare second dose of lethal chemicals because the needles were inserted clear through his veins and into the flesh in his arms. The chemicals are supposed to go into the veins...

...Diaz appeared to be moving 24 minutes after the first injection, grimacing, blinking, licking his lips, blowing and appearing to mouth words.

As a result of the chemicals going into Diaz's arms around the elbow, he had a 12-inch chemical burn on his right arm and an 11-inch chemical burn on his left arm, Hamilton said.

Jesus Christ, betrayed by a friend full of fear and uncertainty to a government all too eager to capitalize off of it, slowly died over the course of six hours, suspended on splintered wood only by lead driven into his wrists and ankles. His last words, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?"

Just as Angel Diaz may have been trying to scream through the paralyzing toxins, injected by the needle of the Republic. "My people, my nation, why have you forsaken me?"

Mr. Diaz, I don't know. But I am sorry. Rest in peace, and may God have mercy on us.

This Advent, when Christians are supposed to be preparing for the memory of Christ's birth and life, we also keep in mind the ultimate tragedy that surrounding Christmas is a sea of crucifixion, if we dare to see the Christ on the injection table, in the chair, at the rope, against the wall - or wherever the people yell, "Crucify him!"

This Advent, God invites us instead to "Choose life." (Deuteronomy 30:19) As one of the bishops of the Episcopal Church in Western Washington said a couple weeks ago, "Hope is a moral choice." It's also a difficult choice in the face of such despair - but the joy of life is the exercise of our hope in spite of all evidence pointing the other way.

Happy holdiays, everyone. See you on the other side.

O Come O Come Emmanuel!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Foreign Policy

Some foreign policies are unfortunate.

Some foreign policies are utter blunders.

And some foreign policies are just plain silly.

Let's set aside value judgments about Israel possessing nuclear weapons for a moment. Anyone with any interest in the subject knows full well that Israel has them. They call their policy "nuclear amibguity" and refuse to confirm or deny that they possess nuclear weapons. You can find a rather detailed account of the Israeli nuclear weapons program here. Just for fun, let's put together some fascinating pieces of circumstantial evidence:

  • Four countries are not signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel1.
  • An Israeli nuclear technician acknowledged the nuclear weapons program
  • The incoming U.S. Secretary of Defense has acknowledged that Israel has nuclear weapons
  • And, of course, the recent slip of the Prime Minister's tongue that inspired this post.

    The point is, Israel's insistence that it has no nuclear weapons is just plain silly. Maybe they'll fool those who can't be bothered to care one way or the other (read: most Americans, at their own peril), but they're not fooling anyone else.

    1 North Korea had been a signatory but withdrew from the treaty in 2003.
  • Tuesday, November 28, 2006

    Aravosis - Limbaugh of the Left

    I have two related confessions to make. First, as a child I read, listened, and watched Rush Limbaugh religiously. Then I realized Limbaugh was a divisive, ignorant, and arrogant bastard. Second, there was a time when I read AmericaBLOG religiously. But over time I came to realize that its creator, John Aravosis, shares the three aforementioned adjectives with Limbaugh.

    Let me state right out the outset, I am keenly aware that his blog has readership in the hundreds of thousands while this blog has a readership of oh, say, 8? Fine. But to what lows of decency has Aravosis fallen in doing so? Let's take a look at one of his commentaries today, attacking comments by Newt Gingrich:

    "Go to Russia or Tehran if you hate freedom this much. I have had it with Republicans who hate America, who hate our freedoms, who hate what this country stands for, and who think that the only way to save our freedoms from the terrorists is for us to destroy those freedoms first. Honestly, how do these scaredy-cat, quaking-in-their-boots, America-haters even dare call themselves patriotic Americans? They are terrified of their own shadow, these Republicans."

    Look, Gingrich is dead wrong in suggesting we need a 'different set of rules' regarding freedom of speech in the modern era. I agree that such a notion is ill-founded and would cut away at the core values of our nation. But I wholeheartedly disagree that to espouse such views is tantamount to hating America, being unpatriotic, or even hating our freedoms. Indeed, through his choice of terms, Aravosis invokes the conservative frame of terrorists, not-so-subtly implying Republicans are the equivalents of terrorists. EVERY progressive should know how dastardly and unjust these charges are.

    Most every American, the staunchest of the neo-conservatives included, wants what is best for this country. We often have profound differences of opinion on what that looks like and how to get there; we will often have sharply contrasting understandings of the freedoms we all share and desire. We will argue, fight, and struggle until the end of times over these questions. This is good, this is healthy; democracy requires such a struggle. So Newt espouses views with which I completely disagree. Fine, nothing new there. And we musn't remain silent in the face of proposals that would effectively curtail the freedoms we hold most dear; we are not even required to play nice. What we cannot countenance, however, are resorts to attacks on one another's patriotism, much less calling one another terrorists.

    Perhaps Aravosis seeks to be ironic, slinging back the same allegations we have faced, but the time for that has long-since come and gone, if it ever existed in the first place.

    (For more examples of Aravosis's intolerance, see almost any post of his)

    As progressives, we do not win through intimidation, we do not win condescension. We win through conveying our values through vigorous, open, and honest debate (and great marketing).

    Sunday, November 26, 2006

    Shameless costumes

    This is the best political cartoon I've seen in a long, long while:

    On a related note, I just heard about this op-ed that ran in USA Today last Monday. Written by a Baptist minister, it's an awesome little primer on why Christian fundamentalists are totally wrong for pinning their disdain for non-heterosexuality on the Bible (instead of their own ignorance and bigotry). And it's even more awesome that it ran in USA Today - this means that the right words went to the right people, for once!

    Cool excerpt:

    On the other hand, Jesus spent a lot of time talking about how we should treat others. First, he made clear it is not our role to judge. It is God's. ("Judge not lest you be judged." Matthew 7:1) And, second, he commanded us to love other people as we love ourselves.

    So, I ask you. Would you want to be discriminated against? Would you want to lose your job, housing or benefits because of something over which you had no control? Better yet, would you like it if society told you that you couldn't visit your lifelong partner in the hospital or file a claim on his behalf if he were murdered?

    It's well-written and to-the-point. What is neither of those things is the public comment section that follows this op-ed on the web version of the article. If you want to take the ideological pulse of the conservative Republican voter base, read through some of the brasher comments. Some highlights include (each from a different author):
    All of us will stand before the Lord's judgement; you and me included.......Now do your JOB! Their house is on fire....Tell them to come to the Lord for salvation. Talk about discrimination are you discriminating against GOD???

    I’m no homophobe or gay basher, I have had good friends that are gay, but I never compromised my standing on the word of God to accommodate their feelings. Believe it or not they actually over time appreciated the fact that I stuck firmly with my convictions and didn’t conform to what society sees as tolerance.

    Just another liberal screed trying to downplay religion and lift up their homosexual agenda. There is a reason that homosexuality has been looked down upon by almost every civilization and religion. It's is against god's will and nature. Homosexuals can't reproduce so they have to coopt your children to advance their agenda and the bible is a major stumbling block in their way, so that is why the attacks on religion and the bible.
    I've sent a comment of my own on the blog of one of the commenters - I will post any response I get here.

    I'll end with another comment from the op-ed page - this one gave me a nice warm feeling. There's hope out there, people!
    I've known I'm gay for 35 years. Yet in that entire time no one has clued me in on the gay agenda. Since you seem familiar with it, please tell me what it is. My 'gay agenda' is to be happy with my partner and family and friends. To lead a decent life, filled with love and decency. Funny. That sounds a lot like the average 'straight agenda'. Except you seem to have forgotten the part about love and decency, at least toward others.
    P.S.: My favorite comment is here - a bit longer, but worth it.

    Wednesday, November 22, 2006

    Taring the Scales of Justice: thoughts on (white) denial

    Tare: To set a display to show zero weight
    From Karl's last post:
    "Do we sweep it under the rug once again, reassuring one another under the cozy blanket of triumphalism? Or do we step forward and acknowledge the reality many of us cannot help but be aware of and tackle the racism that surrounds us and dwells within us?"
    Rock on, Karl Smith, rock on.

    Thank you for reminding us that racism is everyone's issue - no matter how "far" away we are from "those" racists.

    Perhaps people can accuse white liberals of hypocrisy - but in my experience, I have usually found such accusations merely a timid veil for an unwillingness to face one's own complicity in oppression.

    But just because we are accomplice to the systems of privilege that stratify our society does not mean that we're "off the hook" for speaking and acting against them.

    So often, I feel, the fear of hypocrisy or of individual ineffectiveness paralyzes our moral sensitivities. The greatest conservative lie that haunts all activism today is the idea that if you choose to protest, you'd better fix the problem, too. In other words: if you don't have the solution, don't point out the problem.

    I know I've felt this before. For instance, how can I - a middle-class American - have the audacity to oppose unchecked globalization? After all, don't I owe pretty much everything I own to the global system of production and trade? Probably. But that doesn't somehow make it okay.

    People are born into histories they have had no part in creating - ancestries of advantage, epics of entitlement, pedigrees of privilege, traditions of tyranny - and must therefore make a choice: do we take responsibility for the injustices of our forebears, regardless of how much we've benefited from them? Or do we "call it even" and clear the record?

    I think the choice of moral people is clear - my duty is to proclaim my hypocrisy, loud and unproud, and speak and act to repair the legacy of exploitation. And of course, this means something different for me (as a queer person of color) than it does for Karl (a straight white male). It's not going to be "fair" and "equal" - but real justice never is.

    Racism is not about whether YOU or I am a racist. It's not about whether YOU or I can fix the problem ourselves. It's about confronting the entire history of a nation and a world, and saying, "No." Whether we are willing to fight our history seems to determine who is progressive and who is not. What choice will you make?

    Michael Richards and the Truth

    Michael Richards, Seinfeld's Kramer, has recently (and rightfully) been criticized for comments made during a stand-up comedy routine. In response to a black heckler, he responded "Fifty years ago we'd have you upside-down with a fucking fork up your ass." He then proceeded to refer to the heckler at least seven times as a n*****, and in response to objections to his treatment responded, "That's what happens when you interrupt the white man." The video is here. Richards later apologized on The Late Show, stating "I'm not a racist. That's what's so insane about this."

    Certainly Richards has a received a lot of well-deserved criticism and I'm not writing here to add more. No, instead I wish to point out that this is not just a "Michael Richards" problem, but rather an "American society" problem. It would be easy enough for us to take this incident, say it is the racism of a single man, and sweep beneath the rug, away from our consciousness. It may be tempting to believe so, but the passage of the 1965 Civil Rights Act did not absolve us of our sins. We are heirs to a society which, through the exclusion of some, directly benefited, and continues to benefit, others.

    Michael Richards did not pull these words out of thin air. The n-word has *power*, a very tangible power (hence my refusal to even type it). For a white person to invoke it against a black person is to invoke hundreds of years of coercive control and power - slavery, beatings, killings. It is an invocation of privilege and status in society, often (indeed generally) by persons unaware of their own privilege. To invoke the image of a lynching makes this more explicit, and to say "That's what happens when you interrupt the white man" is to leave no question in anyone's mind as to precisely the power you are drawing upon - the power of racism, force, and coercion.

    The thing is, this isn't unique to Michael Richards. The privilege that allowed him to invoke these images in response to a heckler is present in every white American today. We know the magic words to assert control in a situation. We know that if we feel threatened by a person of color, help is but three buttons away. We know that if we shout for help, someone will likely respond - and when they intervene that it will be on our behalf. We know know that we will be believed. These are all forms of privilege; privilege we cannot yield, privilege we must confront But further, we are taught to believe that "they" are different; "they" are dangerous; "they" are 'gangsters' and violent and would do us harm; "they" are exist within "our" society. We are taught these things by the television news, custom and practice, and popular representations in film and literature, to say nothing of the legion of right-wing ideologues who put forth such assertions as facts on a daily basis.

    So from this ugly Michael Richards affair we have again been forced to confront our reality, a racist reality. What to do with it is the question we're left with. Do we sweep it under the rug once again, reassuring one another under the cozy blanket of triumphalism? Or do we step forward and ackowledge the reality many of us cannot help but be aware of and tackle the racism that surrounds us and dwells within us?

    Friday, November 17, 2006


    Recently at UCLA, the campus police used their Tasers on a student of middle eastern descent who refused to leave the library after not showing ID. Here's the video. A few things become entirely clear: the kid is being an ass, but the use of the Taser is entirely unjustified. You have at least 3 police officers capable of picking him up and carrying him out, but instead they choose to shock him repeatedly, and those Tasers are no toys; watch how his body is involuntarily thrown into the air towards the beginning of the video. (Not to mention that over 70 people have died after being Tasered - funny what 50,000 volts of electricity will do, eh?) It is supposed to be a non-lethal aleternative to the cop's gun; would the police have used a gun here?

    And evidently they wanted some more, as you heard the police officer say to a student at the end: "Back over there or you'll get tased too."


    Sure, this student should face the appropriate disciplinary hearings for refusing to comply with university policy (by not leaving the library) and the commands of the police officers, but those officers need to face the consequences for their unnecessary use of force. No one deserves to be treated so cruelly.

    At any rate, it appears the student plans to sue.

    Monday, November 13, 2006

    Fuck me, Sherman Alexie?

    Breaking news flash - The Stranger ran an op-ed from a writer whose viewpoint is totally unexpected considering this person's place in society and furthermore this op-ed is written in an edgy, anti-establishment tone and style. People, this is unprecedented!

    Noted Native American author Sherman Alexie delivers the dignified dying yelp of a franchise bleeding to death. Am I wrong about that? Why else would The Stranger run Alexie's column after endorsing VOTE YES on Initiative 91? It's because The Stranger wanted to give Sonics fans one last slap in the face. Am I the only one who sees the ridiculous and cruel irony they're playing on us here? I have very little respect for The Stranger as a newspaper. Karl can back me up on this considering their recent endorsement of Jamie Pedersen's Republican opponent, Hugh Foskett (who's my math partner, as it turns out... really cool guy).

    I relished the part where famed novelist Alexie writes:
    "I know that a few of you, like Seattle City Council Member Nick Licata, think that the Sonics in particular and professional sports in general have negligible cultural value. Well, I say this to Mr. Licata and to all of you who agree with him: Fuck you."
    I actually ended up voting AGAINST the new stadium contract rules because the P-I ran a very convincing editorial endorsement against it.

    But Alexie is being loud and irreverent - which is exactly why
    The Stranger ran his column. He practically implies that Sonics fans have a "right" to have a place in Seattle to watch basketball. He equates Ray Allen and Luke Ridnour, among the finest examples in a field that's been in serious existence less than a century, to Dickinson and Einstein and Michelangelo - that is totally ludicrous and he must know it.

    The "shock value" of an establishment ivory-tower liberal coming out and saying "tisk tisk" to the yuppies was almost too good for The Stranger to pass up. It's too bad The Stranger always fulfills its tired,
    cliché expectations.

    Alexie's column is even less respectable for the fact that he plays right into
    The Stranger's mold of finding the most unlikely spokespeople possible. Alexie goes out of his way to construct his narrator's identity as the non-white, non-Republican, non-rich, non-illiterate Sonics fan.
    "I grew up dirt-ass poor, so drinking Starbucks feels like a privilege, like something I've earned through luck and hard work."

    "I am a reservation-raised Indian boy, whose mother and father barely graduated high school and never went to college, and I have grown to become a very successful writer."
    He plays a stranger identity politics in his writing to support possibly the most conservative of civic policies - subsidizing an entertainment industry. And suddenly, the white bleeding heart liberal readership of The Stranger has no "politically correct" way to disagree with its Native American hero, Sherman Alexie. Dan Savage couldn't have made it up better. I haven't read Alexie's stories or novels, and I this is something I hope to remedy soon because I hear (and believe) they're quite good. But in this op-ed, he's so self-aware of his "model minority" privilege that it's kinda disgusting.

    I mean, come on - read some of what Alexie's written here. It's like a Republican values brochure:
    "Yep, I am a believer in that sentimental crap known as the American dream. Why do I believe in it? Because I am the American dream."

    "I think that certain people do hate greatness. And I most definitely know that certain American leftists absolutely despise capitalistic greatness."
    Saying that "the American dream" is "sentimental crap" in the same breath as you say you are the "American dream" belies the fact that not only do you not believe it's sentimental crap, but you are also so aware of your irreverence-factor that you relish saying that it is sentimental crap nonetheless.

    Alexie admits to being a 10-year season ticket holder. Is he the sort of "typical fan" for which we find supporters of stadium subsidies whipping up sentimental support among the electorate? How rich do you have to be to be a ten-year season ticket holder?

    This has nothing to do with whether sport brings cultural value and "city-ness" to a city - of course it does! Councilman Licata is an idiot for suggesting otherwise.

    But there is no "right" to sport. There is, however, a right to education and mobility and public health and safety. If the city has money to spare, it must be spent on those first and foremost. Furthermore, public patronage of cultural activities must prioritize those activities that could not otherwise exist at all - ones without entire industrial-commerical complexes supporting them. But as long as multi-million dollar monopolies control the basketball entertainment industry, I'm not too sympathetic to the greed of team owners, nor to the mere nostalgia of sincere fans as a reason to capitulate to them.

    Am I an "uncaring" citizen because this is what I believe? I ask because that's what Alexie is suggesting I am. Fuck me?

    Saturday, November 11, 2006


    Some months ago we blogged extensively on the military activities in Lebanon and Gaza, but then, with the cessation of Israel's incursion into Lebanon, we stopped. Much like the media. And yet today I stumbled upon this story, about the U.S. vetoing a resolution condemning an Israeli attack that killed 18 Palestinian civilians and calling for a cessation of the occupation by the Israeli military and a cessation of attacks by militants. Why was the U.S. the only country on the council to vote against it? There's a story there, but there's a bigger one. Not just why did we veto a measure calling for an end to the occupation and violence, but why weren't we the ones putting it forward?

    I'm not at all confident that a change in the composition in Congress will do anything to alter the United States's approach to the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Why not? Because there is no pressure from the American people on their representatives to do so. Why not? Because we do not hear about what is happening and on the rare instances that we do, it is framed as though there is some sort of parity of power between the occupiers and the occupied. How can that be? Images of Palestinians in the American media tend to depict militants, but clearly that's beyond misleading. What does that do to our perception? Take it from another perspective - the only Israelis most Palestinians see are occupying soldiers. How would that affect their perception?

    On the underlying story, I recommend reading this narrative by a British journalist who was there and talked to the Palestinian people. These are the stories that must come out - war and occupation, they are riddled with tales of human suffering. To ignore that is to ignore reality and perpetuate the violence.

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    Let us rejoice and be glad in it

    What a great day.

    I found out today that I got accepted into Teach For America - I'll be teaching middle school math in Newark, New Jersey next fall. Thank you to friends out there for your support.

    To make matters even sweeter, the returns from today's midterm election are wonderful. Rick Santorum is no longer part of our government. Congressional hearings on wire-tapping, extraordinary rendition, corruption in Iraq rebuilding contracts, and every other failed Bush legacy will now begin. And there's even a glimmer of hope that we can begin to undo the disaster that has been this illegitimate mis-administration from the very start.

    Conservatives are not happy. Like the following person who commented on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's "Sound Off" message board.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present to you the Republican voter base - pissed, ignorant, confused, and, apparently, aspiring poets all of them.
    Lefty's united under this banner:
    Gay "marriage", poking fun at normal people;
    No tax cuts all of the time;
    WA state, no property rights all of the time;
    No tax increase? BWAHAHA, open your wallets;
    LEFTIST god, GLOBAL WARMING! Kill the car, kill the economy, kill soverignty. bow down to the purple mafia, blow mcgreevey, swallow pelosi, islam is king.

    May the dems defund the war, giving the terror cu lt of death the green light to vest bomb the next gay puke parade.

    WA sucks, you deserve the crime wave, destroyed economy for WA suckers.

    I couldn't have said it better myself.

    Let us pray for the repair of our nation and our world (from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer):

    22. For Sound Government

    O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.
    Lord, keep this nation under your care.

    To the President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties.
    Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

    To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.
    Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

    To the Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and justice served.
    Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

    And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve you faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.
    For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Amen.

    Get Out the Vote!

    What does a successful GOTV campaign look like? Well I'm not sure but what I participated in today comes pretty close. It was a bit of a last minute decision, but I decided to take the day off from law school and volunteer with te Democratic Party and it seems to have paid off. Our precinct - and only our precinct at this polling place - RAN OUT OF BALLOTS! (Not to worry, voters could still use the electronic machine, a provisional ballot, or a ballot in Chinese - using an English ballot template to understand it). The Democrats had a fabulous GOTV strategy this year. We visited Democratic voters up to three times and called them, offered rides, doing everything possible to ensure they could vote. And has it paid off? Let's see

  • I-920 is going down in flames (40.1% to 59.8% with the majority of King County still out)
  • I-933 is losing (43.5% - 56.8%)
  • Maria Cantwell will win (currently 55.8%- 41.0%)
  • Susan Owens is up (58.9% - 41.0%)

    Have the Dems finally solved the GOTV mystery? That remains to be told, but we followed a formula supposedly employed in 3,500 precincts statewide. It's a good night!
  • Thursday, November 02, 2006

    Out with the old, in with the new...

    First of all, Karl and I sincerely apologize for the lack of updates. It turns out that law school is challenging, and that senioritis is real. Oh well.

    I just wanted to juxtapose two news stories going into this frigid first weekend of November.

    Today, Pastor Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (which has essentially replaced the Christian Coalition as the "political arm" of conservative Evangelical Christians in the U.S.) resigned his position as Senior Pastor of his megachurch over allegations that he has been paying a man to have sex with him for the last three years.

    When I read the story (sent to me by my boyfriend), I actually said to myself, "Oh my God, holy fucking shit." It was surprising... but then again, it seems like we've been seeing more and more of these kinds of stories recently. Mayor Jim West, Governor Jim McGreevey, Rep. Mark Foley - I don't need to go on. In all fairness, Pastor Ted says that his church (of which he was until today the unqualified boss) has an "independent" (he used that word like ten times) process to investigate the allegations and then discipline him. So I guess I can't just assume... though, it doesn't make sense that a Senior Pastor should just step down suddenly unless greater truths were afoot. Let's see what happens.

    But enough about Pastor Ted. On to Pastor Katharine!

    I really shiver with pride and excitement that this Saturday, the symbolic leader of mainstream Christianity in the United States will be a woman. A progressive, former university professor from Oregon named Katharine Jefferts Schori will become the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. She has selected one of her favorite parts of the Bible to define what her leadership of the Church will look like:
    [Jesus] stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
    -Luke 4:14-21
    In this passage, Jesus has just come back from being tempted by the devil and is officially starting his service to humanity. Jesus himself chooses this portion of the scripture to define his mission. Now, Bishop Katharine has done the same. (I offer more analysis of this scripture on another blog.)

    I think God is having fun with good timing. Pastor Ted is the set up, Pastor Katharine is the punchline. The world's ready for some new laughter. I think this is what "good news" looks like.

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    God and Politics

    For some time now the fundamentalist Christians in this country have attempted to tell us what God thinks on all manner of political issues. Finally, though, God himself (the voice was distinctly masculine) has stepped in to share his thoughts on the minimum wage.

    For the record, yes, God opposes increasing the minimum wage with inflation. And the wisdom is clear isn't it? Just because things *cost* more doesn't mean that the minimum amount of money somebday must earn to afford those things needs to increase. Put another way, where W is "(minimum) Wage" and C is "Cost of living":

    W = C (currently)
    W = C x 1.04n (in the future, where n is the number of years in the future)

    Don't question the math, God said so!

    For those who prefer repetition to blasphemy, click on the 5th thumbnail on the same page.

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    A strange demonstration...

    This is probably the strangest piece of news so close to home that I've seen in a while. According to the story, a caravan of big, slow farm tractors is going to heave its way through perpetually-congested Downtown Seattle.

    Why? To stage support for Initiative 933, a measure on the upcoming ballot that would force the state to "compensate" landowners or developers for any economic loss incurred by regulations on land use. This would be a disasterous precedent that will irreparably impair the planning of sustainable communities unless the state shells out HUGE bucks to developers for their miserable plans to build more useless stores on tracts of dry grass.

    But regardless of whether you support I-933 or not, the logic of this demonstration seems very... off. People who live in the city already regard farm tractors at best "quaint" and at worst "backwards" - tractors are associated with bumpkins and not with progress. And oh my Lord - the delays! Check this out:

    "Vehicles will then make a left on Second Avenue and head south on that street. From there, they will go to Fourth and eventually return to Eighth and Holgate. Organizers estimate about 100 tractors, heavy trucks and horse trailers could participate in the event."
    Now, I-933 supporters are going to immobilize Downtown Seattle, the state's most densely worked-in area in the middle of the state's most densely populated region, with farm tractors and fucking HORSE TRAILERS that only invoke feelings of romantic support from people far, far away from Seattle where there are more fingers on your hand than people living within a mile radius of you.

    I feel like the overall effect is going to be a new cohort of pissed-off and confused people who are going to be very curious about what was so important that farm tractors held them up for two hours in the middle of the smog. Even just preliminary research is enough to find out who is behind I-933 (the building industry) and who is against it (almost everyone else, including all living former governors of Washington state). Combine that with the lingering tension headache from being stuck in traffic as the tenth John Deere rolls by, and I calculate many, many NO votes.

    Am I crazy?

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    Smokescreening privilege

    Slate published this lovely indictment of why we all seem to dislike Bill O'Reilly so much. I never could quite put my finger on it. The article is actually quite old (2001), written as a review of O'Reilly's then-new book.

    Best (weirdest) passage:
    Yet O'Reilly, like many other people, clings to the fantasy that he is a stiff among the swells. He plays this chord repeatedly in the book, a potpourri of anecdotes and opinions about life in general and his in particular. He had a very strange experience as a graduate student at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government (which let the likes of Bill O'Reilly through its ivy-covered gates, he is careful to note, "in an effort to bring all sorts of people together"). Other Kennedy School students, he says, insisted on being called by three names, none of which could be "Vinny, Stevie, or Serge." Their "clothing was understated but top quality … and their rooms hinted of exotic vacations and sprawling family property. Winter Skiing in Grindelwald? No problem." They tried to be nice, but Bill was nevertheless humiliated, in a Thai restaurant, to be "the only one who didn't know how to order my meal in Thai."

    The Slate article is hilarious. Please read it. It's not just about Bill O'Reilly, though - let's remember this critique about anyone who cannot handle their own privilege, and so prefers to create a smokescreen of poverty and powerlessness. What an insult to those whose marginalization is much thicker than mere smoke.

    To face one's privilege is to accept responsibility for using it to further justice. So what is O'Reilly's smokescreen (and that of almost every politician today) really for? Just a question.

    "From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded."

    - Karl Marx Jesus Christ (Luke 12:48)

    Wednesday, October 04, 2006

    No on I-933

    There is a great editorial in the P-I this morning on I-933, the supposed 'property-rights' initiative. The editorial debunks a number of misconceptions put forth by backers of the measure. For most people right now, there are more questions than answers about the initiative and current polling suggests people generally favor it given the current limited knowledge. Learn more and talk to friends and family - passage of this measure would be one awful development for our state.

    Tuesday, September 26, 2006

    The ends and the means?

    First, congratulations to Jamie Pedersen, the virtually-elected new representative to the State House for the 43rd district. In the end, after months of wavering because the candidates seemed to have essentially the same stated opinions on the issues I am most concerned about (transportation, K-12 education, and LGBT rights), I supported Jamie because it is important that lgbt children see an out gay person at leadership positions in society.

    I've been very loathe to post on here because there just hasn't been much good news. I'm tired of just complaining about everything. I know it's important to speak up, but it gets very tiring in face of how much absolutely ridiculous shit there is to put up with.

    I knew that it would take something pretty awful to get me back to blogging... and today, I found it:

    Vernon Robinson has to be the most hateful, unscrupulous, ruthless candidate I've ever seen. Of course, he's a Republican running to unseat the Democratic incumbent in North Carolina. For instance, watch this campaign ad he put on the air.

    (a group of Colbert Report writers couldn't do a better job):
    "These illegal aliens pay no taxes, but take our jobs and our government handouts, then spit in our face, and burn our flag. Well, Vernon Robinson has had enough!"

    "Vernon Robinson is an Air Force Academy graduate who proudly served in uniform under the American flag, the flag Brad Miller voted to let illegal aliens burn and trample."
    Robinson is also nationally known for mass-mailing flyers that criticized Brad Miller's opposition to a straight-marriage amendment and then insinuated that Miller is gay because he and his wife have no children. Well, Miller responded by pointing out that his wife had to have a hysterectomy when she was only 27.

    A normal human being would probably retreat to lick his wounds after having his ass handed to him like Miller did to Robinson. But Robinson pressed on with this new campaign ad which is actually how I heard about the guy at all. You know that when the phrase "bisexual, transgendered, and two-spirited Aleutian Eskimos" is used in a 30-second campaign ad, more important issues are being ignored. In this ad, Robinson's campaign basically wrote spiced-up descriptions of National Institute of Health studies recently funded by the government. This "allowed" them to conclude, "Brad Miller pays for sex, but not for body armor for our troops."

    The republic is broken when people are willing to do "whatever it takes" in order to win. There have to be some things that, even if they're technically legal, leaders agree are totally off-limits and dishonorable. Campaign ads like these are an insult to the ideals of democratic dialogue.

    A guy I know commented recently on this blog. His comment took a lot out of my soul - it's a big reason why I stopped posting. You'll find the post and his comment here.

    The part of his comment that just destroyed me is this:
    "Is this solution perfect? No. Is it honest? Not really. Is it moral? Respectful to homosexuals? Healthy for our society? Probably not. What it is is doable, and for me that's good enough. *shrug* I'm a pragmatic guy. Worse, even. I'm a politician. I think sideways, comfortably using misdirection and lies to achieve (hopefully) noble ends. I believe that the court intentionally left an opening for us to go after, and if going after it brings us the results we want, I wouldn't feel right turning away from it. History will eventually smooth out the details."
    This isn't "just politics." It's evil, and it's sinful, and it's immoral, and it's NOT DEMOCRATIC.

    Democracy requires that each person live and demand life fully according to their highest ideals, not their lowest expectations. If we start to assume, right from the beginning of our dreams, that compromise is the best we can do, then nothing really will ever meaningfully change. I will not accept that there is a distinction between "being realistic" and "being idealistic." If this makes me a hypocrite, then I welcome the label. Better to be an idealistic hypocrite than a "realistic" accomplice to oppression.

    A primer on Christian politics:
    "But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?"
    -Jesus Christ (Luke 6:27-32)

    Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    Preliminary Primary Elections Results

    Ah, the good ol' election night results crawl - you get news, tiny tiny bits of news at a time. Even more difficult now given that there will be thousands of last minute absentee ballots to count yet, but unless those last minute absentee voters prove to be of a significantly different stock, the trends that are being reported tonight ought to give us a good feel for how things fare. You can get the best results directly from the Secretary of State's Primary Elections Results page. From there, you can break down the data in many, many, many different ways. I'll give you my quick and dirty synopsis tonight and hopefully something a bit more detailed once I have more information.

    State Supreme Court, Pos. 2 - No Winner

    Unless something drastic happens, Susan Owens and Stephen Johnson will be headed for the general election. Owens has about 45% of the vote to Johnson's 32%. Assuming the numbers for Richard Smith and Norman Ericson represent the random votes in this race and that Michael Johnson is the random vote plus those who confused him with the other Johnson (and this ought to be fair since none of the three campaigned in any way), Owens would have won outright without them in the race. If Owens encouraged them to run, as has been suggested (and strikes me as credible) she cost herself a primary victory and I think it's safe to assume millions will be poured into defeating her in November. But I get ahead of myself.

    State Supreme Court, Pos. 2 - Gerry Alexander?

    Gerry Alexander is currently leading by about 45,000 votes. Many of the unreported votes thus far are from King County, which is currently trending 70% - 30% towrard Alexander. Suspecting this race might be coming down along party lines, I compared the number of Democratic/Republican Ballots to the number of votes for Alexander/Groen by county. The correlation was surprisingly small (though exceptions, such as King County did exist). Take Adams County Republicans had more ballots than Democrats by a margin of 3:1, but Groen leads only by 58%-42%. Or take Cowlitz County where Democratic ballots outnumbered Republican ballots by 5:2, but Alexander leads only by 55%-45%. Indeed, considering the $1.5 million spent on Groen's behalf to the the $500,000 spent on Alexander's behalf, there are suprisingly few counties where Groen leads by more than 20% (exceptions being Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, and Stevens). Combine that with several counties resoundingly voting for Alexander (King, Thurston, San Juan, Mason, Lewis, and Jefferson) and you have the makings of a strong rebuke to those seeking to buy our State Supreme Court. Of course, this race is far from over.

    State Supreme Court, Pos. 2 - Tom Chambers

    Up 58.5% to Burrage's 41.5% (with a gap of 85,000 votes), Chambers appears poised to win this race and appear alone on the ballot in the General Election.

    State Representative, Dist. 43 - Too Close to Call

    Jamie Pedersen currently leads, but his lead has eroded significantly through the night with Jim Street making strong gains. This will be a precinct by precinct battle (at one point, 2 precincts were added with Pedersen receiving only FOUR votes to the roughly 400 of Stephanie Pure and hundreds to other candidates). Surprisingly Dick Kelley is holding steady toward the bottom of the pack. Unfortunately, we'll never know who the majority of voters wanted - the winner will be lucky to end up with 25-30% of the total vote since there are 6 strong candidates. Oh IRV, where art thou?

    Tuesday, September 19, 2006

    Vote Today!

    At last (all of a sudden?) it's September 19th and time for the Washington State Primary. As I've mentioned before, this primary is critical, as at least two State Supreme Court justices will be decided as well as the 43rd District Representative.

    State Supreme Court, Pos. 2 - Susan Owens

    State Supreme Court, Pos. 8 - Gerry Alexander

    State Supreme Court, Pos. 9 - Tom Chambers

    United States Senate - Maria Cantwell

    Washington State Representative, Dist. 43 - Jamie Pedersen

    King County Prop. 1 - Yes

    Polls are open from 7am until 8pm! Vote!

    Wednesday, September 13, 2006

    Judicial Elections and Hope in WA-04

    Every day I become increasingly convinced that judges simply should not be elected. Think about it, when we vote for politicians (or, more to the point, when we vote *against* politicians) we do so to express an opinion on their performance (or that of their opponents). But neither of these should be the case for judges, particularly those on the State Supreme Court. Mere dissatisfaction with rulings shouldn't be sufficient - the courts exist to apply the law equitably (hopefully leading to a just outcome) regardless of the popularity of the given conclusion. Those decisions should NOT be influenced by public opinion on the subject.

    Clearly there is a tension here. We want judges to be appointed through an apolitical process, but we must have checks on them, to ensure their rulings are within mainstream judicial philosophy. That said, popular elections seem to be about the worst available method of accomplishing that. Most voters are unfamiliar with the workings of the legal system, leaving them susceptible to gross distortions propagated through campaign materials, campaign materials which can be bought and paid for by groups seeking to improve their chances before the Court. The Legislature, at least, offers a venue that has a better understanding of the legal system than the general populace, but is still accountable to the public. Look for this change on the 12th of Never.


    I also promised a bit of hope, and that comes from Washington's 4th Congressional District, where Doc Hastings (R) is facing a challenge from Richard Wright (D). Hastings has been a particularly notorious member of the Washington State delegation to the House of Representatives, receiving a 0% rating from NARAL, Pro-Choice America, a 0% rating from the American Civil Liberties Union, and (are you ready for this?) an astounding 0% rating from the League of Conservation Voters. Yes, this plays quite well to his constituency in central and southern Washington State, but a recent internal poll from the Wright campaign suggests that Hasting's support from the district is very weak. If you can, consider contributing to Wright's election bid and help them get the word out.

    Good heavens, Dems have a shot at taking down Hastings? The end is nigh...

    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    On Judicial Elections

    Or, more specifically, on this year's elections for the Washington Supreme Court. As I posted previously, Chief Justice Gerry Alexander and Justice Susan Owens, two well-qualified justices, are facing challenges from candidates bought and paid for by the conservative Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), a group which often argues cases before the state Washington Supreme Court. (More about the BIAW and its aims here). Additionally, Justice Tom Chambers is facing a run by a dangerously unqualified candidate.

    A useful starting point here is the website, "...a nonpartisan nonpartisan source of judicial evaluation information...." The site includes ratings by the King County Bar Association, the Municipal League of King County, and several others. It also includes campaign contributions and expenditures, with links to state documents detailing where the larger donations (over $1,000) came from. Here are the three Supreme Court races.

    Gerry Alexander

    Chief Justice Gerry Alexander has a clean sweep of newspaper endorsements from across the State of Washington. The King County Bar Association (KCBA) and the Municipal League of King County (MLKC) both rate Alexander highly and significiantly above his opponent. His opponent, more than any other candidate has benefited from the BIAW and its right-wing ilk and that money is being turned into a publicity blitz, including flyers, lawn signs, and even a plane carrying his name on a banner over the city of Seattle. Additionally, paid campaign workers have been knocking on doors on the east side of the state and the BIAW has taken out radio and television ads against Alexander. Call me old fashioned, but I'm not terribly comfortable with a system that elects its judge based on a 30-second tv spot or whose name you saw on the back of an airplane. Gerry Alexander is clearly the superior candidate for this position - Vote Gerry Alexander.

    Tom Chambers

    Re-electing Tom Chambers is another slam dunk. Both the KCBA and the MLKC rated his opponent "Not Qualified" while giving Chambers solid marks. Fortunately, this is one race where the more qualified candidate has the upper hand financially (due to the poor fundraising efforts of his opponent). Vote Tom Chambers.

    Susan Owens

    Finally, there is Susan Owens. Justice Owens faces a challenge from an individual with decent qualifications. The KCBA rated her opponent slightly more qualified while the MLKC rated Owens significantly more qualified. What this race comes down to, then, is that Owens's opponent, like Alexander's opponent, has been bought and paid for by industry - by the very individuals who will be arguing cases before the court. Money is a corrupting influence, which is paticularly offensive in the Judiciary - that branch we expect to be free from any corrupting bias. Owens has proven herself a competent, fair-minded jurist. Vote Susan Owens.

    Monday, September 04, 2006

    2006 Primary Elections Crib Sheet

    Below is a list of candidates deserving of your support in the primary election. Those which are marked by an asterisk (*) WILL BE DECIDED IN THE PRIMARY ELECTION! The other Supreme Court race may well be decided in the primary election if one candidate receives over 50% of the votes. It is imperative that you vote in the primary, as these are some of the most important races of the year. Some races are specific to certain locations, others are statewide. All are for the Democratic primary.

    State Supreme Court, Pos. 2

    Susan Owens - See below

    State Supreme Court, Pos. 8 *

    Gerry Alexander - See below

    State Supreme Court, Pos. 9 *

    Tom Chambers - See below

    United States Senate

    Maria Cantwell

    United States Representative, Dist. 4

    Richard Wright

    United States Representative, Dist. 7 - More information

    Jim McDermott

    Washington State Senate, Dist. 35

    Kyle Taylor Lucas - More information

    Washington State Representative, Dist. 43 *

    Jamie Pedersen


    On Supreme Court Election

    I will post more thoroughly on each of these races in the coming days, but never have I seen an easier choice in an election, nor one so vital. As I previously posted, certain right-wing organizations, led by the BIAW, are trying to buy the State Supreme Court. The last thing we need are unqualified, ideologically-driven Supreme Court justices. Additionally, at least two (but possibly all three) races WILL be decided in the primary!

    Vote Gerry Alexander, Tom Chambers, and Susan Owens for Washington State Supreme Court!

    Thursday, August 31, 2006

    WA-43 Democratic Primary

    When it comes to races in the primary, few are more important than the race for the 43rd District seat (which spans the University District, Capitol Hill, Fremont, and Wallingford) in the Washington State House of Representatives. With the esteemed Ed Murray moving on to the State Senate, there is a void which six Democratic candidates seek to fill, and the winner will assuredly carry the seat in the general election this November. Having reviewed the websites, positions, and experience of all the candidates, allow me to briefly summarize my feelings on each.

    Keep in mind that these are six of the best possible candidates for the State House of Representatives and I only dream that we could have such progressive candidates in each district. They share views on most issues, so it becomes important to find out which issues they will tirelessly advocate and what experience they have to demonstrate that.

    Lynne Dodson

    Lynne Dodson's campaign signs declare "Send a Teacher to Olympia!" and this captures the unique experience she brings to the race. Dodson has taught at the community college level, starting in 1993, and proposes some bold changes to our education system, such as eliminating inequalities in pay amongst educational staff (though I'd like more information on the specifics of this point - inequalities at a given level of instruction? Across geographic regions? Might it not make sense to offer incentives to teach in low income areas? Perhaps that's the reverse of the current problem, but let's be honest about our end goals see the comments; thank you to Lynne Dodson!), a publicly funded early learning education system, and increased state funding for all levels of education - including higher education. In addition, Dodson's website lays out specific proposals on numerous issues, from LGBT rights to gun control, to the environment. Even in this pack of well-qualified candidates, Lynne stands out.

    Dick Kelley

    In his profile by the Seattle P-I, Kelley makes it clear that his main priority will be campaign finance reform, arguing that no issue "...matters as much as curbing special-interest influence." In doing so, however, he commits the standard error of so many well-meaning politicians, for neither in the article, nor on his website, does he ever define what he means by "special interest groups." Is any organization that lobbies legislators a special interest group? Aren't many such organizations simply formed by citizens banding together to advance their collective interests (the Sierra Club, the ACLU, the PIRGs, etc)? To remove this power of citizens to form organizations to lobby their legislators enhances the power of politicians vis-a-vis their constituents, something with which I am exceedingly uncomfortable. Campaign finance reform is important, but Kelley's plan simply isn't well thought-out enough for my comfort. To his credit, however, Kelley has put his money where his mouth is, limiting campaign contributions to no more than $100 from any person or organization. Additionally, Kelley has worked in government since the mid-1980's, giving him experience with the system.

    Jamie Pedersen

    Jamie Pedersen is an attorney with a good deal of experience fighting for civil rights. Recently, he served as one of the lead attorneys for Lambda Legal in the court battle for marriage equality, winning twice in the state court system, only to be overturned by a narrow 5-4 majority of the Washington State Supreme Court in a suspect ruling. Jamie has proven himself a tireless advocate of civil rights for all, including LGBTQ individuals. With the departure of Rep. Ed Murray, this is precisely what the 43rd needs. For Pedersen's committed leadership on this issue, he has earned the endorsement of Equal Rights Washington. Though the other candidates suport marriage equality, they do not have the experience of bringing together so many communities in support of it.

    Stephanie Pure

    As her profile in the Seattle P-I points out, Pure is the youngest candidate for the 43rd. She has served as a legislative aide to Peter Steinbrueck on the Seattle City Council and has been an activist in the Seattle community. In those capacities, Pure has led a successful effort to defeat the Teen Dance Ordinance, protected a city crossing guard program, and helped to expand funding for Seattle's public libraries. In Olympia, Pure promises to focus on improving our educational system through smaller classes and higher teacher salaries, support marrigage equality efforts, and find solutions to provide insurance to more Washingtonians. What strikes me about Pure is her lack of experience in any single field. While I laud her work as an activist, I'm not sure her experience yet qualifies her for the 43rd seat in the same way the other candidates are qualified.

    Bill Sherman

    Bill Sherman has positioned himself as the candidate with the greatest focus on the environment. His background certainly gives him credibility on this issue: as an attorney, he fought to hold Exxon Mobil accountable for the Prince William Sound oil spill; as an employee at the Department of the Interior, he aided in efforts to block the Repbulican Congress's attempts to undermine environmental protections. As a legislator in Olympia, Sherman promises to enact measures protecting Puget Sound and limiting CO2 emissions in Washington State. In an era where the federal government buries its head further in the sand on global warming and environmental dangers, Washington State will have to lead its own efforts to protect the environment. Sherman is a great candidate to do that.

    Jim Steet

    Jim Street recently received the endorsement of the Seattle P-I Editorial Board for his wealth of experience as a former City Council member and Superior Court judge. He is the Director of "Reinvesting in Youth," an effort to reform the juvenile justice system. As the representative of the 43rd District, Street plans to focus on issues of transportation, giving public transit, bicycles, pedestrians the priority in transportation matters. Closely related to this, Street wants Olympia to take a stronger stance in support of the environment. Street is yet another exceptionally strong candidate for this position and would undoubtedly represent 43rd District in a strong and sincere manner.


    As already stated, all six of these candidates are high caliber and even against most progressives in other districts, any of the six would have my complete support. That said, they are running against one another in the 43rd. Below is my ranking of the candidates, based on their priorities for Olympia and track record of success on those issues:

    1.) Jamie Pedersen
    2.) Jim Street
    3.) Lynne Dodson
    4.) Bill Sherman
    5.) Stephanie Pure
    6.) Dick Kelley

    Remember, the primary is September 19th!

    Tuesday, August 29, 2006

    Appeal in Marriage Equality Case

    Supporters of marriage equality today asked the Washington State Supreme Court to reconsider its recent decision upholding Washington State's so-called "Defense of Marriage" Act. Attorneys for Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Northwest Women's Law Center contend that the Court's decision was flawed. Following is a brief overview of several of the arguments:

  • The Court's opinion establishes such a great deference to the legislature that, "...the rights of all Washingtonians [are] subject to infringement at the whim of the barest legislative authority."

  • Any law creating legal distinctions between groups must find a legitimate purpose underlying the law. Those purposes relied upon by the Court (procreation and the welfare of children) are illegitimate (the link between marriage and procreation is a distant one and the law protects the welfare of only some children - not children of same-sex couples).

  • The Court misconstrued Washington State's Equal Rights Amendment as applying to groups (women and men) as opposed to individuals. "...[T]he right to marry a person of one's choosing is an individual right.... The State cannot deprive an individual of a constitutional right by imposing that deprivation equally, as the United States Supreme Court has made repeatedly clear."

    I come away from this motion with a much more detailed understanding of the ways in which the Court's ruling was flawed. This response was precisely what I was waiting for in reserving judgment on the previous decision. To be honest, I hold out relatively little hope of the Court revisiting the matter, but I believe it would do well to do so - justice, and the law, have not been well-served here.

    The motion to reconsider can be viewed in full here (.pdf). It's an easy read - no legal training required (just skip over the case citations) - and creates persuasive arguments for all of the points I briefly outlined above.
  • Monday, August 28, 2006

    RIP, Vashti McCollum

    She may not have been a GI Joe, but she was a true American hero.

    In 1948, Mrs. McCollum won her case before the United States Supreme Court. In an 8-1 decision, the Court ruled that not only is it impermissible for the government to privilege one religion over another, it is also impermissible to privilege religion over non-religion.

    For Mrs. McCollum and her family, such a stand was not an easy one:

    In the three-year legal battle, Mrs. McCollum received physical threats and was fired from her job as a dance instructor at the university. At Halloween, a mob of trick-or-treaters pelted the McCollum family with rotten tomatoes and cabbages. The family cat was lynched.

    It strikes me how little has changed: outspoken supporters of public school-sponsored religion are numerous and politically powerful, and fanatics continue to physically threaten those who would oppose them. I only hope there are enough courageous Americans, like Mrs. McCollum, around today to stand up for their principles and ensure justice for all.

    Monday, August 21, 2006

    Two churches

    USA Today is the paper that longingly waits for a beautiful princess to kiss it on the forehead so that it might one day turn into a handsome and charming cable news program. I never thought I'd see the day when I linked to an article from USA Today, but I guess I was wrong:

    Archbishop tells church to stay in Lebanon: 'You'll make it'

    The article quotes a sermon given just this past Sunday by Archbishop Chrucrallah Nabil Hage, the leader of the Catholic Church in Southern Lebanon:
    "Wherever you are — in Hajji or Tyre or Marjayoun — if you're patient and believe, you'll make it through this," Hage told a standing-room congregation at St. George's Church in this southern Lebanese village... "The Christian message is the same everywhere: a message of peace, a message of love and a message of tolerance," he said. "Even if we have different beliefs, it doesn't mean it should lead to conflict."
    The archbishop criss-crossed the battered fragments of southern Lebanon and through it all, he delivered this message of defiance against extremism and violence: one that has echoed the impassioned pleas given by Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, who has been similarly criss-crossing what remains of Lebanon's civil infrastructure and calling Israel's actions what they are: crimes against humanity.

    Unfortunately, the Christian message doesn't appear to be the same everywhere as the archbishop claims - not in America, at least. Pastor John Hagee continues to spearhead the totally unfounded evangelical movement to support Israel unconditionally. Let's dissect this one later... for now, here is the top Associated Press religion headline from a few moments ago:

    Church fires teacher for being woman

    The headline says it all, really. The best quote from this story comes from the town's mayor, who is talking about a letter written by the church's pastor defending the decision:

    "...those are disturbing remarks in this day and age... Maybe they wouldn't have been disturbing 500 years ago, but they are now."
    While this Baptist church valiantly protected children from the demonic machinations of the female, Archbishop Hage was telling the war-torn Lebanese in his congregations that if they were patient, they would make it. Is this the same religion?

    The archbishop's message that is doubtblessly being repeated throughout the globe wherever people feel an oppression of circumstances that they cannot see or name, but somehow manages to impair their lives nonetheless. What are they supposed to be patient for? Archbishop Hage's sermon should strike luxuriated American Christians as especially ironic - why can't we ask ourselves what the rest of the world seems to be waiting for? Throughout the global south and the third world, people are trying to "make it through" - through what? And where did it come from?

    Let's ponder these questions as we sit in the cushioned pews at John Hagee's air-conditioned megachurch in Texas, listening to how Christians in America can "become a part of biblical prophecy."

    The thing about prophecy, of course, is that it's supposed to get fulfilled no matter what we do or don't do.
    Prophecy implies that God is doing the work alone. But that's not what Christians believe - we (supposedly) believe that the Church exists on Earth in order to do the work of God.

    Christians like me are watching the destruction of the world around them. We must aspire to do work OTHER than "preserving marriage" and keeping women silent in the churches. Archbishop Hage's sermon is telling the Lebanese to be patient and believe - his sermon is telling Americans to start giving a shit about "thy neighbor" and to believe in what Christ really said.

    God have mercy on me, a sinner.

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    U.S. Connection

    I came across an article today from John Sugg discussing the U.S. role in the Israeli attack on Hezbollah and Lebanon. His claims would strike me as outrageous from a lesser journalist, but are closely supported by investigative pieces by the well-known Seymour Hersh and Robert Parry (not to mention that following the deception we saw in the leadup to the Iraq war, this falls within the realm of possibility). Here is a brief excerpt, but I urge you to read the entire article.
    On May 23, according to Parry, Bush encouraged Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to find a provocation to launch an attack against Hezbollah. No doubt, Hezbollah would unwittingly comply, and did by capturing two Israeli soldiers. (Few in the American media would ever note that Israel holds thousands of Arabs prisoners, most guilty of nothing but their ancestry, including almost 1,000 children.) Now, according to Parry, Israeli generals are blaming Bush for pushing them into a quagmire in which, rather than neutering Hezbollah, we've made it into a rallying point for Arabs.


    Israelis, with justification, wanted an end to the Hezbollah harassment. Rather than seek multi-national cooperation, Israel has done to Lebanon what we've done to Iraq -- destroy the country with no exit strategy and no victory. Israeli anger undoubtedly will turn on Olmert, a man who, like Bush, has no combat military experience.

    America is the other loser, in spades. Again. Most of the world perceives us as being delusional at best. We allowed the systematic destruction of a friendly nation and cheered the onslaught. Condi Rice's pathetic statements about "birth pangs" of a new Middle East, and Bush's again-demonstrated incompetence, make us a laughingstock and a pariah.

    If true, our complicity in the destruction of civilian infrastructure increases. We must change our foreign policy to one will will make the world a safer place, and by that I clearly do not mean a foreign policy led by warfare. War may at times be necessary, but it should be the *last* resort, certainly not the first.


    It is not lost on me that we are rapidly approaching primary elections time (September 19th here in Washington) and it's high-time we started looking closely at the candidates and issues coming up. Some matters will be decided in the primary (43rd District State Representative, possibly state Supreme Court judicial elections), others need to be addressed now because decisions are usually made long before election day.

    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    Lebanon, Post Bellum

    Following Monday's UN-imposed ceasefire, Israel and Hezbollah have largely ceased hostilities within Lebanon. It is important, however, to view this not as an end, but as a beginning. A beginning of what, you ask? That is precisely the question.

    Will we see a strengthening of the Lebanese democracy as the government exerts control over all of its territory or will extremists capitalize on civilian losses to consolidate power politically and socially? The U.S. and Israel have a great deal of say in this matter, depending on their commitment to rebuilding Lebanese infrastructure and their continuing support for democracy in country (and as we have learned, democracy is not always convenient to the U.S. national interest - consider Hamas's win in Palestine or the existence of democracies in Europe that would not support our misadventures in Iraq).

    What lessons will be taken from this conflict? Has Hezbollah learned that it cannot continue to assault Israeli military outposts without fear of retaliation? Has Israel learned that it cannot engage in the destruction of a country's infrastructure without facing determined opposition? What opinions of Israel have been created or cemented in the minds of the Lebanese people? These are questions to which answers do not you exist, but answers to them will be critical in determining what this ceasefire is the beginning of.

    One lesson I, as an American, have learned, is that the American government will actively support Israeli military actions (through munitions, etc.) regardless of civilian deaths. We should not support any nation in such manner, not Israel, not Saudi Arabia, not Great Britain, no one. Civilian lives matter, and when we supply the bombs, we share in the complicity, something we must actively resist.

    And when I say this is not an ending, I mean both in Lebanon and Gaza, where incursions continue (that link is a damn good article, btw), and the West Bank, where the number of those illegally settling on Palestinian lands has grown.

    Saturday, August 12, 2006

    Staying on Message

    Apologies for blatantly disregarding Alex's call for a 'lighter note' but I hope I may be forgiven for sharing some troubling thoughts based on today's rally. The event was billed as a "Protest to Defend the People of Lebanon and Palestine", the very matter I have spent a significant amount of time on here. The title, then, was promising.

    The first sign that something might be amiss was the list of groups endorsing the event. The groups on that list of particular concern to me were the likes of the Freedom Socialist Party, the International Socialist Organization, and the Socialist Alternative. My experience has shown me that these organizations are notoriously bad at putting forth a unified message. Indeed, because of their non-mainstream and unfocused messages, they are sufficient to destroy the legitimacy of an event. I would go so far as to argue that having them at a rally is worse than having no rally at all - we aim to persuade those who are not yet on our side, but their messages alienate mainstream members of society. More on this shortly.

    The second sign that something was awry was that I found out there was another rally for the same purpose in Kirkland at the same time today. Now this should never, EVER happen - especially not in a city the size of Seattle. Perhaps the problem is that there are just too many organizations in Seattle all working on this same issue - ANSWER Seattle, the Arab American Community Coalition, the Palestine Solidarity Committee, Voices of Palestine, Youth Against War and Racism, the Council on American Islamic Relations, etc. I'm not necessarily saying they need to consolidate, but there absolutely must be better communication amongst them.

    So this is the my state of mind as I arrived. And then I saw this...

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    Upon closer inspection, I found a number of signs perfectly demonstrating what I mean about unfocused messages. Keep in mind that this was a rally to 'defend the people of Lebanon and Palestine'.

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    These signs all failed to communicate the message that we must end the suffering of Lebanese and Palestinian civilians in this conflict. Don't get me wrong, the Iraq War is a great parallel, where a nation is struck and retaliates not only against the wrongdoers, but also against hundreds of thousands of uninvolved civilians, but that dog sign, along with all the other signs, detracted from the true message of today's rally. Even the speakers were suspect. We heard from a man from New Orleans decrying practices agaisnt African-Americans there; we heard about the American occupation of the Philippines; we heard all about why we should vote for a particular candidate. But there were streches of 20 minutes at a time where we heard nothing about the people of Lebanon and Palestine.

    This issue is too important for progressives to sabotage the message through dilution. Solidarity is important, but not at the expense of spreading a unified message on a particular subject. We must learn to support one another's causes, not hijack them for our own ends. Until we can do that, success will continue to elude us.

    On a lighter note

    Pretty insightful, I'd say. What do you think, Karl?

    By the way, I've finally finished the book I've been reading - Covering: The Hidden Threat to Our Civil Rights by Kenji Yoshino. The final chapter was fascinating... and something I'm itching to ask you about.

    I plan on posting about this book a bit later. In the meantime, anyone interested in a poetic, compelling memoir blended with legal treatise... this book should be irresistable.

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006

    Upcoming Events for Lebanon

    Three upcoming events where you can make your voice heard and get involved. In chronological order:

    Rally to End the Attacks on Civilians in Lebanon and Gaza
    Friday, Aug. 11 5:00 - 6:00pm
    Westlake Plaza (4th and Pine)

    National Emergency Protest to Defend the People of Lebanon and Palestine
    Saturday, Aug. 12 12:00pm
    Seattle Federal Building (2nd Ave. & Marion)

    Reverse the Crisis Fundraiser
    August 13, 2006 6:00 - 9:00pm
    Red Lion Bellevue Inn (11211 Main Street / Bellevue, WA 98004)
    Donations: $30 for adults, $15 for children (4-10)

    This event is being put on by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Arab American Community Coalition to "...raise relief funds for victims of violence in Lebanon and Palestine. A group of recent evacuees from the affected region will be at the event and will recount the conditions there.

    The charities which will be present to receive pledges from attendees at this event will be Islamic Relief Worldwide ( and Mercy Corps International ( We will be accepting phone-pledges to either of these charities from 6pm till 9pm on the day of the event. The three numbers to call to do so are: 206.306.5243, 206.661.8887, and 206.714.8269. These numbers will only be activated during the event."


    I'll likely post on this later, but I wish we could hold an event and not invite the socialists. They are instant death to the legitimacy of any rally and generally spread a message that distracts from the true intent of the rally.

    Also, in a previous post I expressed concern that Israel's actions were "marginalizing centrist voices." According to the New York Times today, that seem to be precisely what is occurring. It's not that I'm clairvoyant, it's that this was entirely predictable, and Israel ignores the repercussions of its actions at its own peril.

    Re-open wound

    "World Trade Center" comes out today. The film resurrects the Twin Towers so that they may be cinematically destroyed - in turn resurrecting our fearful memories of the date that President Bush (in fact, the entire American government and echoing press) has since turned into a cheap Pavlovian trigger. [Aug 29: I previously mistaked this as a "Skinnerian" response - while the two psychologists conducted similar research, my friend Tim pointed out the error.] Like the bell that makes the dog salivate - ringing "9/11" somehow works to make our nation a little more innocent, our conquests a little more justified, our ignorance a little more reasonable, and our obedience a little more necessary. The collective effect seems to be a profound chilling of public discourse about what really has happened since September 11, 2001.

    When the first plane hit in New York City, it was about 5:30am here in Seattle and I was a junior in high school. As a member of the jazz band, I had daily jazz rehearsal at 6:30am, and so I was surprised to awake to confused NPR voices reporting a very unusual airplane accident. I turned my alarm clock off and listed into the shower, silently remembering to flip on the television downstairs before I left for school to see some pictures of what the radio was talking about.

    My initial reaction was: what was wrong with this pilot? I also felt a little weird... and then as I stared at the billowing smoke in the corner of the living room, the reporter suddenly began to scream and the camera panned out to show a dark spot racing towards the other tower. The second plane disappeared into the first fireball I'd ever seen on live TV. I'm shivering a bit as I write this.

    A few kids in the jazz band knew what was happening, but most didn't - most weren't news junkies like me. But when first period started and the rest of the band arrived for symphonic rehearsal, the towers were all that anyone talked about. My friend Tim tried to convince me that the Pentagon had been hit, but I thought that was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard. Mr. Rice left the classroom to find out what was going on. Someone stood on a chair to turn on the TV in the band room, and we all gathered around to watch. One of the towers was now missing. The camera showed footage of trapped office workers jumping. And in front of our eyes, the other tower sank into itself, leaving dust and an image I'll never forget.

    The next morning, our ASB president went on the school intercom to urge careful consideration of what had happened, and especially respect for students from the similar backgrounds as those who had perpetrated the attack. Many of my friends joined bands of students on freeway overpasses to wave gigantic American flags. I almost went too. I found myself chanting "USA! USA! USA!" at least twice within that school year. I remember supporting completely our invasion of Afghanistan. Editorial cartoonists across the country drew Lady Liberty with her head in her hands, weeping. I cried when I first saw it.

    About one-and-a-half years later... President Bush delivered his cowboy ultimatum to Saddam Hussein, threatening destruction if he didn't comply. By this time, America had succeeded in completely alienating the entire diplomatic community except for Tony Blair and Ariel Sharon. That night, I recall an acute sense of shame for being a citizen, a voter, in a country that was committing a gross abuse of power. I knew back then that Iraq had no weapons - as did France, Russia, and China. The former chief U.N. inspector, an American named Scott Ritter, had been making an exhaustive circuit of Sunday morning news programs to call the Bush Administration on its lie and to appeal to Americans to demand more evidence of Iraq's capability and belligerence. Unfortunately, he failed.

    Joe Lieberman has only just now paid the price for kneeling to Bush's clutch of arrows. But Lieberman is hardly the only one to lose due to the American conquest - 40,000 Iraqi civilians, 2,500 American soldiers, and countless families displaced and wounded...

    When the Twin Towers go up and down again on the silver screen these next few weeks, there's no reason we shouldn't remember and venerate those moments that day that brought out a nationalism in even someone as resistant to it as me. But to stop there would be to DENY the lives lost since then in the name of that same day. To take away only pride and self-righteousness from this film would be to close our eyes to the destruction America has wrought upon its neighbors worldwide, and to ignore the fear that has spread within the Republic itself. This film must also remind us of what those in power have used 9/11 for: empire, profit, polarization, and crusade.

    The wound of 9/11 was bandaged with snake-oil. Now a film opens the cut again - this time, with the benefit of history, we can begin to set things right. The balm for deception is resistance.