Monday, January 31, 2005

Divide and conquer

I've been giving some thought to this inability of people to get along, or at least coexist with one another. I find that generally, most human beings are not particularly friendly, or open to interaction outside of their tightly-controlled class or group--most tend to run in packs or cliques and when I show up at some gathering--like an after-hours business event, or even a gallery opening--I all-too-often end up standing in the corner, with my glass of wine or other beverage, feeling stupid and out of place. Rather than recognize that we're all in this mess together and that occasionally, meeting a new person outside of our small circle might be interesting, or at least expand our comfort level in social settings, most prefer the boring sameness of their own tribe.

Due to snowstorms, part-time jobs and the demands of writing a couple of freelance articles, I've been unable to make it to my local library. As a result, I've been desperately scouring the house for reading material of any kind. Yesterday, I grabbed Michael Moore's Stupid White Men off the shelf. I think my significant other picked this up at a used book store, but I hadn't read it. Having seen Fahrenheit 911 last June (Moore loosely based the premise for the movie on SWM), I was familiar with much of Moore's critique of the Bush administration and corporate America's gang rape of the working class, but reading through the book has me shaking my head anew and just muttering to myself--how did American's get sold this right-wing, fascist, bill of goods being shoved down our throats (or up some other bodily orifice!) by America's latest installment of the ruling class?

Speaking of class, asfo_del, over at Living on Less has some mighty good comments on class and the whole "divide and conquer" strategy that most of us are too stupid, or too self-absorbed to pay any attention to. We continually pick someone below us to step on, groping our way up the ladder of social darwinism.

In her post about perusing other blogs, she mentions becoming angered ("grouchy" she writes) at the way that comments are made, some in a rather vicious and hateful manner, towards anyone daring to break ranks, demurring from the status quo. She writes:

"Here's my theory: if you are a member of an historically oppressed group, the members of another, slightly more privileged, group are not your oppressors. The ruling class is your oppressor. Only those who have real power can control how society conducts its dirty business of dividing and conquering. Some people have been granted certain advantages by the ruling class because it's expedient: it creates divisiveness, jealousy, and resentment, which are always good to keep the people bickering among themselves, and it makes those who have been persuaded they must hold onto those perks for dear life into foot soldiers in the oppression of those less privileged. The minute it's no longer in the interests of the powerful for those privileges to exist, they're gone. Witness the current dwindling away of the middle class. With so much of the political process increasingly controlled by corporate money and fear-mongering, it's becoming no longer necessary for the ruling class to maintain a relatively content base of loyal voters.

So are there individual men and groups of men who oppress individual women and groups of women? Of course, but they're only the messengers, the patsies who have been told they will lose everything unless they dig their claws into something. Yes, sure it's worthwhile to try to slap some sense into the poor die-hard fools, but let's not lose sight of the real engine behind inequality."

Strong writing and analysis, indeed!

Sunday, January 30, 2005


I went to see Kinsey, the movie, last night. I first read about the movie back in November. An article appeared in the Bowdoin Orient, the student newspaper of Bowdoin College. This article made me aware that Kinsey was a Bowdoin graduate, which I did not know. The writer did a good job of covering details about the movie and giving information on Kinsey, particularly the controversy that follows the deceased sexologist, years after his death.

Until Kinsey undertoook his scientific investigation into American sexuality, the culture was awash in misinformation, lies and damaging folklore about a core behavior of our species. Seeing the movie made me reflect back to the time, just after World War II, when sexuality was being practiced, but often, behind the proverbial closed doors and drawn blinds of our puritanical veneer. Kinsey literally tore the veil in two and introduced Americans to the holiest of holies concerning human sexuality.

I can only imagine the firestorm that greeted Kinsey and his reports when they were first released to the public in 1948 (Sexual Behavior in the Human Male) and 1953 (Sexual Behavior in the Human Female).

Kinsey became, and still remains, a lightning-rod for any persons or groups that seek to return American culture to the dark ages of Victorian sexual mores and the double-standard that was prevalent in society.

The release of the movie has brought renewed attacks on the man, who first and foremost was a scientist. Nearly fifty years after his death, repressed and frustrated moral arbiters are still trying to tarnish and discredit the man's reputation and lifelong work, with lies and innuendo.

I thought writer/director, Bill Condon, did an excellent job of presenting Kinsey as a human being, warts and all. I’ve read that the film is an honest attempt at trying to piece together Kinsey’s life and work, and attempts to eliminate the voyeuristic fascination that some have with perpetuating myths about him.

It’s amazing to me, that almost 60 years after his groundbreaking work appeared, we as a nation are still fixated on legislating morality, which primarily pertains to sexuality. While sexuality in any consensual arrangement can be a means for positive expression that other interactions fall short of, we are still seeking to limit sex, while rarely, if ever eliminating government-sanctioned violence and murder. If there is one constant in American life and culture, it’s the hypocrisy and outright lunacy that exists in relation to sexuality.

Friday, January 28, 2005

The Free Press

For as long as I can remember, I have been a sucker for the "free" newspaper. In almost any town or city across America, you can find them stacked in variety stores, restaurants and other public places. Some of these are weekly, others monthly and they vary in terms of content.

What I enjoy most about reading these publications is their abilitiy to consistently give the reader a sense of the local community and culture. If you want to know the pressing issues of a town or city, then pick up that community's free paper(s).

Last night, I stopped in Damariscotta to meet a good friend for dinner and happened to pick up The Free Press, published in Rockland. For those of you from "away", Rockland (as well as Damriscotta) are Maine communities that are representative of our state before the "flatlanders" came in and decided that us poor benighted Mainers needed their help in civilizing our state. When you drive south, you'll see the end result, especially the South Portland area--box stores, chain retail establishments, fast food restaurants--all built over a former marshland that's been filled in.

Back to my free newspaper premise; while reading through The Free Press, I found a letter to the editor (the true voices of the people) and one written by The Humble Farmer stood out as I read it. I thought it was so clear and concise in making his point that I'm going to republish it for the edification of others:

Support Our Blitzkrieg

Over 12 million people voted for Hitler, and 70 years later we must believe that many of them already knew what he was going to do. After 1933, at every stage of his career, Hitler had a lot of serious support from well-meaning people. Back then it would have been considered unpatriotic to question your neighbors who really believed in Hitler’s plan to bring his kind of freedom to the oppressed people in Poland, France and Holland. True, in the German academic community there was an uncomfortable scholar or two, but in 1944 a critique of the program within earshot of one’s fascist neighbors would have been unproductive. The dissenters prudently kept their opinions to themselves. About the only way one could identify them was by the lack of that little black “Support Our Blitzkrieg” swastika on the back of their cars.

The humble Farmer
St. George

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Real analysis

Now that I've had the opportunity to vent my spleen (Actions Always Trump Words), I feel better--adjusted and at one with the universe--or at least not wanting to pull a Michael Douglas ala Falling Down.

Since I'm feeling calmer after my little trek through the woods on skis (amazing how the brisk winter air and sunshine makes life a bit more tolerable), I'm going to let you read one of my favorite writers--the literate and culturally accurate James Wolcott, of Vanity Fair.

After reading Wolcott, digest this; apparently the President's briefing was part of an overarching strategy--designed to "lower expectations" and not place any definition on what success would mean.

From the NYTimes:

[The president's words were part of an aggressive White House communications strategy this week and next to frame the risky Iraqi election - a critical test of his assertion that the country is on the path to stability - in the best possible light. The goal, a Bush adviser said, was not only to lower expectations but to avoid any definition of success. ]

In light of all of this, apparently some Democrats are coming around, including Senator Kennedy.

Actions always trump words

Disclaimer: The following comments contain profanity and the sentiments expressed may piss off those who live in the world of happy talk.

Talk is cheap! Anyone can say they are for something, such as the current buzzword, "values". It's when we examine the actual actions that we get a better idea of what is behind the speaker's words and subsequent values.

President Bush talks alot about education, values, liberty/freedom and an ownership society that will benefit microbusiness and entrepreneur's, like me. When you examine his actions however, you see something totally different.

Take education for example. The President has grossly underfunded his NCLB initiative. When he talks of freedom, he forgets to mention the loss of civil liberties in our own country, not to mention the loss of freedom and culture that his "war on terror" has visited on innocent Iraqis. As far as an ownership society and a commitment to entrepreneurship, how can you run an entrepreneurial business when the fucking IRS sends you out threatening notices on a three year old tax return!!

The Democrats on Capitol Hill ought to be acting like an opposition party. Senators such as Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd and other sorry-ass white males, talk a good game during confirmation hearings, such as the recent Condi Rice dog-and-pony show. However, when it comes time to vote, Biden and Dodd, along with other SAWM's voted "yes" to confirm the lying, arrogant, bitch.

There are some of course, who back their words up with actions--Barbara Boxer comes to mind, as does Jim Jeffords, a registered Independent. There must be something in the water in Vermont to spawn Jeffords, Socialist Representative Bernie Sanders (he's registered also as an Independent, because Socialist scares the bejesus out of the American sheeple) and Howard Dean. Speaking of Vermont and Dr. Dean, I like his recent quote concerning his fellow Democrats and how they should be interacting with their Fascist brethren across the aisle. If the progressives had their way, Dean would be the new DNC chair, hands down.

"The Democratic Party will not win elections or build a lasting majority solely by changing its rhetoric, nor will we win by adopting the other side's positions. . . . 'Values' has lately become a code word for appeasement of the right-wing fringe. But when political calculations make us soften our opposition to bigotry or sign on to policies that add to the burden of ordinary Americans, we have abandoned our true values."

Of course, those worthless sacks of shit (mostly SAWM's), the members of the DLC, are doing all within their power to sabotage his bid to save the donkey.

For something more edifying, you can read about a Maine writer/journalist who personifies action and courage and his upcoming release of his first book. You'll find it over at the blog on my website, the place to find all things uplifting.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Post-inaugural analysis; What next?

If you couldn't tell, I like thoughtful analysis. While I can't always reach that goal on my own, I feel confident in my sleuthing abilities to locate some from time to time.

This article belongs in that category. It's not always easy to sift through the white noise that we are fed--intentionally, I believe--designed to keep us confused and focused on unimportant matters.

With my focus given to my book for most of today, Weiner's article should provide you with some fodder to think about for a bit.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Faith reclamation project

We are living in a time when the specter of theocracy is looming on the horizon. This reality is closer to fruition than most of us care to think about. Much of our current political debate is clearly wrapped in the flag of Xian dominionism, which has roots across the fruited plain.

Last night, as I was driving home from a new writer’s group that I’m thinking of joining, I was listening to Air America and Janeane Garafalo/Sam Seder. They had as their guest, Jim Wallis, a self-professed evangelical. While Wallis uses the term, his practice of faith is much different than the anti-gay, anti-abortion, “sack cloth and ashes” practice of so-called evangelicals such as James Dobson, Pat Robertson and others on the religious right.

Wallis is an interesting man in that many of his positions put him in a line of succession with some of the well-known clerics of the late 60’s, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and William Sloane Coffin. With an emphasis on a gospel that seeks to lift the downtrodden and marginalized, it makes attempts at mirroring the essential message of Jesus, which was love.

Whenever I hear someone such as Wallis speak, it makes me reflect back on my own spiritual journey that’s left me where I’m currently at—someone who calls himself a post-Xian primarily because there was no place for my theology within any type of organized vehicle of faith. I use the term because it at least leaves a door open for dialogue occasionally with someone who claims to believe in God or admits to being a follower of Jesus. If I were to tell them I’m an agnostic, it freaks them out too much and often prohibits any discussion of spiritual matters.

I’ve spent time in my journey along most points on the American Xian continuum of theology. I’ve had a foray into fundamentalism (even attended Bible college, believe it or not) where I got to see the Elmer Gantrys up close and personal—let me tell you, it ‘ain’t a pretty site! This experience so scarred me that I spent a good 15 years away from any semblance of spirituality. I came back and made an aborted (ironic choice of terms, don’t you think?) attempt at embracing a more “toned down” and “loving” version of American Xianity—labeled evangelicalism—only to find it very similar to the fundamentalism that was a part of my life in my early 20’s.

Theology, like philosophy, sociology and other modes of study interests me. There are actually branches of Xianity where the mind and the spirit aren’t at odds—granted, these places are hard to find and not in vogue much in Bush’s America, but can be found if one takes the time to seek them out. I find I enjoy reading “liberal” theologians such as Harvey Cox, Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Tillich and others because they never shut off the minds that they were given in their quests to find God. They also didn’t make a practice of telling others how to live, either.

Speaking of journeys, you’ll be able to find some guideposts of my own spiritual journey on the net if you have an inkling to see where I’ve been at times over the past few years. If you plug “Jim Baumer” and either “Strange Days” and “Being Church” into Yahoo or Google, it will bring up things I’ve written while attempting to find some spiritual place of rest along my quest for truth. It’s interesting (and a bit scary) that your writing will follow you along the electronic thruways of cyberspace.

One article that I found interesting about the whole fundamentalist dynamic involves Jay Bakker, the son of the infamous Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. It’s interesting in the sense that despite being burned by religion and spiritual charlatans, who happened to be his own parents, Bakker is trying to forge his own spiritual path. In doing so, I think he’s closer to the teachings of the gospels than his huckster parents were, as well as much that passes for Xianity in our current religious milieu.

I’ll end with this. One thing that Wallis said last night really stuck with me. He was talking about why he calls himself an “evangelical”, particularly in the context of how and by whom the word is currently being used. Wallis minced few words in saying that in his opinion, Xianity had been hijacked by people and politics for means that are not in the historic spirit of Christ. He mentioned that there is a spiritual tradition that hearkens back to people like Dorothy Day, King, Coffin and others, that has been stolen. Wallis said that it needed to be reclaimed and that is what he and his organization, Sojourners is trying to do. This tradition puts more credibility in feeding and clothing the poor and hungry than it does in draping flags over the American war machine. This tradition offers hope to poor women on welfare, rather than demonizing them and making them feel dirty and unwanted. It’s a tradition that would thunder loudly against a coronation that spends $40 million honoring a war criminal, when children are starving a block away. To that tradition, I offer a hearty “Amen”!

Taking time for a laugh

I wanted to put up a link to a site that will give you a good chuckle (and we all know we need to laugh a little to keep from cryin'). I heard it on Malloy's show last night.

Make sure you watch the SNL skit with Barbara/Jenna--it's an absolute hoot! Personally, I don't think there is a big difference from the comedy and the reality.

There's a second clip you also need to watch--it's from CNN and Wolf Blitzer is covering the inaugural procession down Pennsylvania Ave. Blitzer, in the studio, tosses the feed out to the parade route to a live reporter. The feed has problems, so you can't hear the reporter, but you do hear a protestor yelling, "Fuck Bush" periodically for about one minute, until Blitzer recognizes there is a problem and pulls it back to the studio. If you have a decent video player, you'll also notice the amount of protestors packed in at the beginning of the parade route.

Now that you've had some comic relief, then read this and you'll be brought back to reality. Russ Mokhiber and Robert Weissman have an article at in which Robert Kennedy, Jr. gives his impression of the Bush administration. Kennedy minces few words and uses the "F" word in relation to the administration's policies.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Here's Johnny!

Because we're a television/media saturated culture, so many non-talents and wannabes receive way more than their share of face time and adulation.

With the passing of Johnny Carson, an American icon is no more. Yet, because of the very medium he was so intrinsically a part of, his clips will live on for a long, long time.

Yesterday, I saw a couple of wonderfully touching pieces on Carson, including some hilarious clips with Ed McMahon, his trusted sidekick, as well as one with a very young George Carlin.

Carson was an original and there will never be another. Maybe that's a mark of greatness and legend--the inability to clone or recreate a sequel or sorry ripoff.

Here's a great interview with the master, from 2002.

Empty rhetoric

Here’s an item that tells me that politics trumps all else, including the long-term survival of our species.

My very own senator from Maine, Olympia Snowe, co-chairs the International Climate Change Task Force. From their report, this international group has laid out that we are close to the point of no return on environmental damage to the planet. The group, which also includes Senators McCain and Leiberman, is recommending wholesale emissions reductions as one part of a plan to stem the degradation to our ecosystem.

Interestingly, Snowe and McCain are Republicans who have done very little to “rock the boat” concerning George Bush’s well-documented lack of concern for all things environmental.

Where was Snowe while her president was engaging in over 150 separate actions designed to undermine environmental protections? The current administration continues to wage a historic assault on the environment, yet senators like Snowe and McCain continue on, loyal to a fault to a party that cares little for anything as insubstantial as the environment.

Personally, I am coming close to my saturation point on the amount of hypocrisy I can tolerate from the likes of senators like Snowe, McCain and Leiberman.

Snowe loves to be touted as a moderate Republican, but prudence dictates that the senator recognize the gravity of the situation and leave behind a party that cares little about most of her concerns, including the Kyoto Treaty and other policies designed to stem the downward environmental spiral we’re on.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Team success

I’ve always been a sports guy. Growing up in a small town, sports were my salvation. Baseball allowed me to acquire confidence by giving me a pursuit where I excelled, particularly in high school. Being competitive, athletically-built and possessing a right arm that allowed me to throw a white sphere past most boys my age, allowed me a good measure of success through my high school years.

After high school, my experience with the realities of big time sports at the college level brought me face-to-face with what happens when you no longer can perform due to injury. Looking back, much of my desire for cooperation and community comes from my experiences of team sports. The learned sacrifice that is so important for the success of one’s team—acquiring the ability to put aside what’s best for the individual to coalesce into a unit that is greater than the sum of its parts—I know it sounds corny, but I’ve seen its success firsthand over the years of playing and later, as a coach.

Over the past few years, I’ve lost interest in much of what passes for professional sports. While I coach a group of college-age baseball players every summer, I couldn’t get excited about this year’s Red Sox finally putting away “the curse” and winning the World Series. The same is true about basketball and hockey. While I followed professional football and the old Boston Patriots when I was as young as eight or nine, I have lost interest in pro football over the past decade or so. Occasionally, I’ll read an article in The Globe about the team and its recent successes. I am aware that Coach Bill Belichick has assembled a team in the truest sense of the word. The current Patriots play old-time football and embody the concept of self-sacrifice that I speak of from my experiences. That’s not easy to do in a world of professional sports that has been overrun by corporate interests bastardizing the simplicity of sports that we learned as children.

On Friday, I drove to visit my son at college. He attends Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, which is about 10 miles away from Gillette Stadium, the home of the Patriots. I had never driven through Foxborough, or had seen the stadium up close, so I got off the Interstate a few exits early just to drive by the complex where the Pats play. Like so often happens, I have become intrigued by the historical machinations of how the team came to be located out in this remote area of Massachusetts—Foxborough is basically a drive through community on U.S. Rte 1—between Boston and Providence. In the early days of the Patriots, they were based in Boston and even played their games at Fenway Park from 1963-1969, before relocating to suburban Foxborough.

I say all of this to introduce an article in today’s Boston Globe about Willie McGinest, who plays defensive end for the Patriots. The article highlights the humility of a man who plays a sport that prefers flamboyance and celebration to quiet acts of sacrifice. It shows that regardless of the culture around us, dignity and humanity can still flourish. This gives me hope, in light of our dominant culture that seeks to extinguish those very elements from our DNA.

The sucker in me for human interest stories will probably have me sitting in front of my TV tonight. I’ll be watching the actions of #55 for New England, as they play Pittsburgh in this evening’s post-blizzard contest in the Steel City.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The sound of the planet dying

It's Saturday night and the snowstorm that's been bearing down on the Northeast for most of the day has apparently arrived. After a couple of glasses of wine, I'm in a perfectly maudlin mindset to reflect upon the state of the country, and I guess, the world.

Earlier today, I read Rick Perlstein's article, "The Eve of Destruction". The Barry McGuire version, with Barry's gravelly voice keeps ringing in my head as I consider some of Perlstein's thoughts from earlier.

The proverbial "inmates are running the asylum" comes to mind as I reflect back on the week. Seeing the Napoleanic strutting of Bush and his henchman, against the backdrop of DC police pepper spraying those brave enough to stand up to the empire, hasn't left me terribly optimistic. There was an armed presence unlike anything we've ever witnessed in our lifetimes at an inaugural, protecting an elected official from the masses, and we don't bat an eyelash in protest. Realizing that when someone who ordinarily would be considered ready for the men in the white coats, is a trusted friend and supporter of the White House, is a clear indication that something is terribly amiss in our land. We have an Attorney General who has no concern for international rules of law and advocates torture. Our President, who was AWOL for most of the prior seven months before the events of 9-11, is thought of by half of the country as our savior from terror and worthy of another term. We sit in front of our TV sets and see a woman who looks like she's received a lobotomy, wearing a dress that cost $10,000 or more (?), and we laud her as someone worthy of honor, shows how far we've fallen. (see # 40)

You see, if you read Perlstein's article closely, everything that the Bush administration does is part of a closely calculated plan to destroy the American way of life that has been part and parcel of our heritage since the end of the Second World War. Social Security, progressive taxation, our educational system, all are being dismantled as part of the Bush vision of an "ownnership society".

Adding to this dystopian scenario is the damocles sword of another terrorist attack upon our country and the ratcheting down of a police state that would make the reality of totalitarian rule complete.

I don't know whether I'm being alarmist or prophetic. All I know is that things don't look too good for liberty and freedom for you and I, despite what our fearless leader babbled on about during his sermon on coronation day.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The anointing

I spent Coronation Day morning away from the television and radio and missed the President’s address. I had driven north on the snowy and windy interstate to the small town of Dexter, Maine to conduct another interview for When Towns Had Teams. While I'm busy with the actual writing, I'm still conducting additional interviews for later chapters, or to fill in gaps in information that I might still have.

Researching my book about local baseball in Maine has allowed me the privilege to sit down with the true greatness of America—its ordinary citizens—the real movers and shakers of liberty and freedom.

Of course, I did flick on NPR on my drive home. Even the commentators on public radio were somewhat taken aback by Bush's stern and serious tone—some called it a “scolding” tone—of his inaugural speech/sermon. I can’t remember which commentator it was, possibly Howard Fineman of Newsweek, who said that Bush was channeling the hellfire and brimstone of Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards.

If I do watch any mainstream news in the evening, it is usually Keith Olbermann’s Countdown. Olbermann (he even has a blog) won my respect when he was one of a small fringe in any mainstream context, willing to look at possible irregularities and even fraud in Ohio’s voting results.

The other channels kept showing the swearing in, or the other standard clips of Bush dancing with Laura (who looked a bit pudgy in that world-class dress she supposedly was wearing; personally, I thought it was hideous, but that’s just me showing my obvious lack of pedigree). Even the usually adroit C-Span spent about an hour devoted to a couple of “prunes” gushing about Laura’s dress (I’m sorry, but it was freakin’ ugly!).

It would have been nice if someone had shown that there was a bit of dissent afoot in W-town yesterday. NPR did break away and have a correspondent at Lafayette Park where apparently much of the counter-inaugural activities were happening. Olbermann showed the limo being pelted by eggs (an internet report has it that the limo sped past protesters—probably at Bush’s behest—and slowed down beyond the cordoned off malcontents), but by and large, it was the usual “all is well” coverage of the Bush junta.

One good thing about a second term for an aristocrat—it tends to improve the offerings coming from the rock world. Reagan’s second term spawned the heyday of punk and some of the best protest music since the late-60’s, so at least I have that to look forward to.

Lastly, if you couldn't get enough of the liberty and freedom talk yesterday, here are a few pictures to remind you exactly what the Fuhrer's code words mean to those we are extending our beneficence to.

The photos and accompanying story ran on the BBC. Newsday picked it up here, but why wasn't it all over the U.S. press? Gee, I wonder?

For those who hold to the throwback theology of Edwards (and fundamentalists in the United States), I have one thing left to say; judgement day's a comin'!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Symbolism and show, over substance

So much of our protest in America is symbolic. I’m sure it makes everyone feel good about themselves (myself included), but I question how effective any of it really is. Tomorrow’s “Not One Damn Dime Day!” comes to mind in discussions about symbolic protest, versus planned, sustainable and effective actions.

My thoughts on this subject and much of the “lifestyle” activism that is so fashionable, is prompted by the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and time spent considering how his work and life had such a lasting quality to it.

On Monday, Heather Gray’s provocative article at Counterpunch touched on the misconceptions about King’s role and legacy, as well as the methods that he employed in speaking to power in this country. As thoughtful writing so often does, Gray really made me sit up and take notice when she spoke to the matter of fighting injustice. With quotes like, “Nonviolent social change requires long, hard and sustained work, research, development of solutions, and, importantly, on-going commitment. It demands far more than bringing folks together to march and wave banners”, you know that you aren’t dealing with some liberal feel good, lets march up and down and sing “kumbaya” means of protest article.

Since the immoral and unjust war began in Iraq, I’ve marched in three different marches, attended countless rallies decrying George Bush and his administration of lies, as well as its attending security culture in the U.S. Nothing’s changed. Innocent men, women and children are still dying. We've seen the USAPA blanket dissent in this country with a palpable fear.

Once again, we are being told that if we don’t buy that Snickers candy bar, or put a tank of gas in our car, then magically, this theocratic demagogue that claims he’s our duly (dubiously?) elected leader, is going to reconsider his ways and have the troops home by this weekend.

I understand the concepts underlying the protest—that disabling our economy by withholding capital can make a difference and make our leaders take notice—it’s just that in order to do this, it will take weeks and months of capital starvation before anyone notices. One solitary day and $10 worth of purchases won’t bring down our consumer machine. Oh, I know—everyone will be able to pat themselves on the back—like we did when we voted in November, only to see many of our votes not counted, or thrown out. This after we were harangued and shamed by the "Anybody But Bush" nazis into voting for the empty suit ticket of Kerry/Edwards.

Based upon her research, Gray came up with the following methods that King used so effectively in his campaigns to bring about lasting social change. They were certainly effective enough to get him killed. From Gray’s article, here is a brief summary of those methods: (1) once the problem is identified it is essential to research the issue (i.e. define the problem, who are the key players, who or what is being affected) - the research and analysis should be above reproach as disputed or incorrect facts and figures can completely undermine the efforts for the evolving campaign; (2) based on the research, state clearly what needs to change to solve the problem and identify the strategy for solving the problem; (3) recruit others to join the struggle, share your findings and strategies, get their input if necessary, but essentially seek a commitment from them (i.e. this is the problem, this is what we intend to do, are you with us?) (4) teach them in nonviolent tactics (i.e. being non-confrontational during direct action); (5) attempt to resolve the problem through negotiations (i.e. negotiations with whoever controls the policies needing to be changed); (6) if that doesn't work, apply pressure through direct action techniques, which at times need to be sustained for a lengthy period (i.e. boycotts, mass demonstrations); (7) negotiate again, if necessary engage in direct action again - often more research is required or more clarity on the solutions needs to be developed; (8) finally, if the problem is solved, seek reconciliation.

I’m all for bringing down the empire and stopping this unjust war, I just don’t want to participate in any more “lifestyle” events that are symbolic versus substantive.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Flag droppings

This just in from the "weird item of the day" file:

Seems as though someone in Germany has invented a new style of flag stand.

Monday, January 17, 2005

MLK, 2005

Too many who call themselves members of the clergy—reverends, pastors, priests, rabbis and others—are but morally-bankrupt apologists for flag and country.

It troubling when someone like me, with no affiliation or truck with what passes for Xianity in my own country, still recognizes that scripture clearly and unequivocally teaches followers of Christ to speak out in a prophetic manner against war, exploitation and other evils committed against fellow human beings.

At one time, our country had men that thundered loudly in a truly prophetic manner, against our government’s flawed policies in Southeast Asia, namely Vietnam. One such man was the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Many attempt to marginalize the legacy of King by calling him merely a civil rights leader. While there is no doubt that Dr. King spoke out against the evils of racism and segregation, he was so much more than that.

King was a champion of the poor, the downtrodden, as well as the segregated members of the African-American community. Daring to speak out on issues surrounding class, particularly the crushing poverty that many were facing in a land of plenty, King overstepped the boundaries that power in this country allowed him to operate within. King’s calls for an “economic restructuring”, an “end to modern economic imperialism” and “a structural transformation” proved too incendiary to ignore. The FBI waged "war" against King, using all manner of tricks and other ruses to discredit him. When that didn't work, it became necessary to "take him out", due to his direct threat to the ruling class in this country. Ultimately he was killed, with the full support of the U.S. government. If that statement shocks you, then you haven’t done your history homework. Dr. Martin Luther King's assination clearly involved covert actions by branches of the United States government (FBI/COINTELPRO), in full recognition of many in the upper reaches of our so-called representative republic—democracy as some like to humor us with.

What saddens me in 2005 is that so little of Dr. King’s work has been carried out. While there is no doubt that his legacy and fallen mantle has spurred on countless members of social justice movements the world over, there is still crushing poverty, racism is still entrenched in all aspects of our society and our government is still taking our tax dollars and murdering innocent men, women and children thousands of miles away, this time calling it a “war on terror”.

I found this address that Dr. King gave on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York. While the “I Have a Dream” speech gets the most attention, I consider this one of the most moving and convicting sermons/speeches that he ever gave. I hope you’ll take the time today to listen or read and commit yourself to carrying on Dr. King’s unfinished work that calls upon all of us to put our shoulders to the plow.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Coronation of a King, Pt. II: Don't Look!!

If you recall, I mentioned an item that I heard Mike Malloy mention about not being able to look at the Prez at the coronation, crowning, or whatever the hell they are calling it.

Here's the link to the Scripps-Howard story.

Don't tread on me (at least not my writing)!

I recently had an incident happen where someone who at one time was particularly close to me, anonymously sent me an article I wrote back in the fall of 2000. How did I know who it was if it was sent anonymously? Let me just say I have my ways. The intent of this person was obviously to marginalize what I’ve written over the past couple of years. Since what I wrote back in 2000 was obviously of a different persuasion, and less oriented to the progressive ideals I currently espouse, the connotation was that I obviously couldn’t be sincere in my current views, or anything that I’ve written.

Like many more famous and well-known figures (David Brock comes to mind), I’ve had a conversion of sorts—this being the nonreligious kind. My political orientation has shifted from a right-of-center libertarianism, to the left-of-center progressive populism that I currently embrace. In reality, this is more in line with my working-class, blue collar roots, than any blue-blood brand of conservative economics ever could be.

This person also felt emboldened enough to manipulate me in the area of spirituality. As I’ve written a number of times, my faith can best be labeled post-Xian; I no longer see the need to practice Xianity in any “left behind", or civic religion sort of way.

Over the weekend, I allowed this person to occupy too much space in my head, but out of this period of reflection, I was able to stumble across an excellent article written by Karen Horst Cobb, back in October. I can’t remember if I posted this on my other blog or not, but this writer was able to so closely articulate my thoughts as to my current location on the spiritual continuum, that I’m going to include the link to her article.

All I can say to those who question my sincerity in where I’m at politically, spiritually, and ideologically is this; my current position is much more in line with the progressive ideals that I held in my 20’s and into much of my 30’s. My brief foray into the politics of hate and religious fundamentalism was the aberration. I’m thankful that the first term of Emperor George helped me to wake up and see what time it was. Now if only others would leave the fold and join us apostates in the wilderness of dissent.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Blueprint for Democracy

Howard Dean was my man for president. I was heartbroken when the powerbrokers in the Democrat Party felt the need to do in his campaingn in favor of the charisma-challenged, and obviously courage-less John Kerry. I know, despite the lies of the SBVFT ad and the Sinclair BS, Kerry appears to have shown leadership and gravitas while a soldier and when he came home from the war. I don't want to get off on that rabbit trail here.

Back to Dean. Why I like him and why so many others who care about our country and its future like him, is captured in this brief quote from Laura Gross, Communications Director at Democracy For America. Just back from a trip, Gross is sharing what it is about Dean that captivates her and makes it so much fun to work on the DFA staff. In the quote is the crux of where Progressives and other Dems concerned about social justice, fairness and taking our country back from the Crypto-Fascists need force the Democrat Party:

"One of the amazing things about this job is that no matter how many times I see it happen, seeing how people react to Governor Dean still amazes me. There's always such a variety of people—young and old, from every background. And there's always a blend of people who have seem to have supported Gov. Dean forever and those who are coming to see him for the first time, as if to see what this is really about.

He talks about how in a democracy voting only earns you a C-, that to earn an A you have to organize in your community and even run for office yourself; about the need to build a party that competes in all 50 states every year, not just 18 states every 4 years; about the fact that we need real reform that comes from outside Washington. And when he does, no matter who they are, people appreciate his vision and his common sense."

That's it in a nutshell. Either the DLC and other drifters to the right get it and get out of the way, or those of us who care for real democracy need to form a third party that is representative of working class values, equality for all and economic justice--and maybe run Dean in 2008!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Holding onto journalistic traditions

I'm just getting in from a rockin' show by Maine's very own Matt Newberg and the Hurricane at the St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center in Portland. The St. Lawrence is a historic church that had been abandoned on Munjoy Hill in Portland. A neighborhood group, friends of the St. Lawrence, have decided to organize and reclaim this abandoned space. They are in the process of turning it into a place where people can gather, away from the cares of our world that is increasingly spinning out of control.

Speaking of out of control, what the heck has happened to journalism in this country? If we can't count on journalists to dig and investigate the corruption, lies, and other shenanigans of our elected (and handsomely paid) public officials, in particular those of the Bush Crime Syndicate, we are in for some rough sledding, my friends.

One of the few journalists operating, who is a throwback to the days when muckraking was a term of honor amongst the profession, Frank Rich, has an excellent column from the upcoming edition of the Sunday New York Times. It requires free registration, which is worth one's while, because The Times, along with The Washington Post, occasionally still practices journalism.

I'm pasting Rich's column in for your edification.

January 16, 2005

The New York Times

"All the President's Newsmen"

by, Frank Rich

One day after the co-host Tucker Carlson made his farewell appearance and two days after the new president of CNN made the admirable announcement that he would soon kill the program altogether, a television news miracle occurred: even as it staggered through its last nine yards to the network guillotine, "Crossfire" came up with the worst show in its fabled 23-year history. This was a half-hour of television so egregious that it makes Jon Stewart's famous pre-election rant seem, if anything, too kind. This time "Crossfire" wasn't just "hurting America," as Mr. Stewart put it, by turning news into a nonsensical gong show. It was unwittingly, or perhaps wittingly, complicit in the cover-up of a scandal.

I do not mean to minimize the CBS News debacle and other recent journalistic outrages at The New York Times and elsewhere. But the Jan. 7 edition of CNN's signature show can stand as an exceptionally ripe paradigm of what is happening to the free flow of information in a country in which a timid news media, the fierce (and often covert) Bush administration propaganda machine, lax and sometimes corrupt journalistic practices, and a celebrity culture all combine to keep the public at many more than six degrees of separation from anything that might resemble the truth.

On this particular "Crossfire," the featured guest was Armstrong Williams, a conservative commentator, talk-show host and newspaper columnist (for papers like The Washington Times and The Detroit Free Press, among many others, according to his Web site). Thanks to investigative reporting by USA Today, he had just been unmasked as the frontman for a scheme in which $240,000 of taxpayers' money was quietly siphoned to him through the Department of Education and a private p.r. firm so that he would "regularly comment" upon (translation: shill for) the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind policy in various media venues during an election year. Given that "Crossfire" was initially conceived as a program for tough interrogation and debate, you'd think that the co-hosts still on duty after Mr. Carlson's departure might try to get some answers about this scandal, whose full contours, I suspect, we are only just beginning to discern.

But there is nothing if not honor among bloviators. "On the left," as they say at "Crossfire," Paul Begala, a Democratic political consultant, offered condemnations of the Bush administration but had only soft questions and plaudits for Mr. Williams. Three times in scarcely as many minutes Mr. Begala congratulated his guest for being "a stand-up guy" simply for appearing in the show's purportedly hostile but entirely friendly confines. When Mr. Williams apologized for having crossed "some ethical lines," that was enough to earn Mr. Begala's benediction: "God bless you for that."

"On the right" was the columnist Robert Novak, who "in the interests of full disclosure" told the audience he is a "personal friend" of Mr. Williams, whom he "greatly" admires as "one of the foremost voices for conservatism in America." Needless to say, Mr. Novak didn't have any tough questions, either, but we should pause a moment to analyze this "Crossfire" co-host's disingenuous use of the term "full disclosure."

Last year Mr. Novak had failed to fully disclose - until others in the press called him on it - that his son is the director of marketing for Regnery, the company that published "Unfit for Command," the Swift boat veterans' anti-Kerry screed that Mr. Novak flogged relentlessly on CNN and elsewhere throughout the campaign. Nor had he fully disclosed, as Mary Jacoby of Salon reported, that Regnery's owner also publishes his subscription newsletter ($297 a year). Nor has Mr. Novak fully disclosed why he has so far eluded any censure in the federal investigation of his outing of a C.I.A. operative, Valerie Plame, while two other reporters, Judith Miller of The Times and Matt Cooper of Time, are facing possible prison terms in the same case. In this context, Mr. Novak's "full disclosure" of his friendship with Mr. Williams is so anomalous that it raised many more questions than it answers.

That he and Mr. Begala would be allowed to lob softballs at a man who may have been a cog in illegal government wrongdoing, on a show produced by television's self-proclaimed "most trusted" news network, is bad enough. That almost no one would notice, let alone protest, is a snapshot of our cultural moment, in which hidden agendas in the presentation of "news" metastasize daily into a Kafkaesque hall of mirrors that could drive even the most earnest American into abject cynicism. But the ugly bigger picture reaches well beyond "Crossfire" and CNN.

Mr. Williams has repeatedly said in his damage-control press appearances that he was being paid the $240,000 only to promote No Child Left Behind. He also routinely says that he made the mistake of taking the payola because he wasn't part of the "media elite" and therefore didn't know "the rules and guidelines" of journalistic conflict-of-interest. His own public record tells us another story entirely. While on the administration payroll he was not only a cheerleader for No Child Left Behind but also for President Bush's Iraq policy and his performance in the presidential debates. And for a man who purports to have learned of media ethics only this month, Mr. Williams has spent an undue amount of time appearing as a media ethicist on both CNN and the cable news networks of NBC.

He took to CNN last October to give his own critique of the CBS News scandal, pointing out that the producer of the Bush-National Guard story, Mary Mapes, was guilty of a conflict of interest because she introduced her source, the anti-Bush partisan Bill Burkett, to a Kerry campaign operative, Joe Lockhart. In this Mr. Williams's judgment was correct, but grave as Ms. Mapes's infraction was, it isn't quite in the same league as receiving $240,000 from the United States Treasury to propagandize for the Bush campaign on camera. Mr. Williams also appeared with Alan Murray on CNBC to trash Kitty Kelley's book on the Bush family, on CNN to accuse the media of being Michael Moore's "p.r. machine" and on Tina Brown's CNBC talk show to lambaste Mr. Stewart for doing a "puff interview" with John Kerry on "The Daily Show" (which Mr. Williams, unsurprisingly, seems to think is a real, not a fake, news program).

But perhaps the most fascinating Williams TV appearance took place in December 2003, the same month that he was first contracted by the government to receive his payoffs. At a time when no one in television news could get an interview with Dick Cheney, Mr. Williams, of all "journalists," was rewarded with an extended sit-down with the vice president for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, a nationwide owner of local stations affiliated with all the major networks. In that chat, Mr. Cheney criticized the press for its coverage of Halliburton and denounced "cheap shot journalism" in which "the press portray themselves as objective observers of the passing scene, when they obviously are not objective."

This is a scenario out of "The Manchurian Candidate." Here we find Mr. Cheney criticizing the press for a sin his own government was at that same moment signing up Mr. Williams to commit. The interview is broadcast by the same company that would later order its ABC affiliates to ban Ted Koppel's "Nightline" recitation of American casualties in Iraq and then propose showing an anti-Kerry documentary, "Stolen Honor," under the rubric of "news" in prime time just before Election Day. (After fierce criticism, Sinclair retreated from that plan.) Thus the Williams interview with the vice president, implicitly presented as an example of the kind of "objective" news Mr. Cheney endorses, was in reality a completely subjective, bought-and-paid-for fake news event for a broadcast company that barely bothers to fake objectivity and both of whose chief executives were major contributors to the Bush-Cheney campaign. The Soviets couldn't have constructed a more ingenious or insidious plot to bamboozle the citizenry.
Ever since Mr. Williams was exposed by USA Today, he has been stonewalling all questions about what the Bush administration knew of his activities and when it knew it. In his account, he was merely a lowly "subcontractor" of the education department. "Never was the White House ever mentioned anytime during this," he told NBC's Campbell Brown, as if that were enough to deflect Ms. Brown's observation that "the Department of Education works for the White House." For its part, the White House is saying that the whole affair is, in the words of the press secretary, Scott McClellan, "a contracting matter" and "a decision by the Department of Education." In other words, the buck stops (or started) with Rod Paige, the elusive outgoing education secretary who often appeared with Mr. Williams in his pay-for-play propaganda.
But we now know that there have been at least three other cases in which federal agencies have succeeded in placing fake news reports on television during the Bush presidency. The Department of Health and Human Services, the Census Bureau and the Office of National Drug Control Policy have all sent out news "reports" in which, to take one example, fake newsmen purport to be "reporting" why the administration's Medicare prescription-drug policy is the best thing to come our way since the Salk vaccine. So far two Government Accountability Office investigations have found that these Orwellian stunts violated federal law that prohibits "covert propaganda" purchased with taxpayers' money. But the Williams case is the first one in which a well-known talking head has been recruited as the public face for the fake news instead of bogus correspondents (recruited from p.r. companies) with generic eyewitness-news team names like Karen Ryan and Mike Morris.

Or is Mr. Williams merely the first one of his ilk to be exposed? Every time this administration puts out fiction through the news media - the "Rambo" exploits of Jessica Lynch, the initial cover-up of Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire - it's assumed that a credulous and excessively deferential press was duped. But might there be more paid agents at loose in the media machine? In response to questions at the White House, Mr. McClellan has said that he is "not aware" of any other such case and that he hasn't "heard" whether the administration's senior staff knew of the Williams contract - nondenial denials with miles of wiggle room. Mr. Williams, meanwhile, has told both James Rainey of The Los Angeles Times and David Corn of The Nation that he has "no doubt" that there are "others" like him being paid for purveying administration propaganda and that "this happens all the time." So far he is refusing to name names - a vow of omertà all too reminiscent of that taken by the low-level operatives first apprehended in that "third-rate burglary" during the Nixon administration.

If CNN, just under new management, wants to make amends for the sins of "Crossfire," it might dispatch some real reporters to find out just which "others" Mr. Williams is talking about and to follow his money all the way back to its source.

Coronation of a king

Well, the week we’ve all been waiting for—inaugural week—is just around the corner. With the expected cost of the festivities expecting to exceed $40 million dollars, our compassionate conservative emperor hasn’t spared any expense for his coronation.

Historical precedent holds that war time presidents toned down inaugurals, from George Washington to Franklin Roosevelt. Washington postponed his until May 7 in 1789, while FDR didn’t have one at all in 1945, in deference to the American soldiers dying overseas. Our current president however, forever showing his privileged pedigree, isn’t going to allow a few dead troops to spoil his party. Not even a tsunami can keep George, Laura, and the twins from basking in the perks of power.

We all know that Captain Codpiece doesn’t like contact with the hoi polloi, so security is unprecedented from any previous presidential inaugural. Last estimates were that the cost of the security alone was topping $17 million for the 6,000 police and 2,500 storm troopers on hand, to keep the rabble away from our beloved despot. Part of this tab will be picked up by the city of D.C., already financially strapped and lacking in basic necessities for many of its predominantly poor, and coincidentally, African-American citizens. Let them eat cake!

Tuesday’s Toledo Blade got it right when the editorial writer wrote, “A diamond-studded package of receptions, concerts, fireworks on the Ellipse, three candlelight dinners, and no fewer than nine official inaugural balls are set, all enclosed in a cocoon of security said to be the tightest of any in the 216-year history of such events.

Everything is bigger, more lavish, and more costly than any of the 54 presidential inaugurals that have gone before. For those who can afford them, tickets to the various events come hitched to sponsorship costs of $100,000 and $250,000. To the casual observer, it might appear that a coronation is about to occur, although we have it on good authority that the United States is still a constitutional democracy - albeit one whose presidential.” I’ll shout a hearty, “Amen!” to that!

Not everyone is overjoyed about the gala events, come January 20th. Groups from all over the country are planning to forego the balls and expensive black tie dinners, and actually wage some citizen dissent. Events as simple as turning one’s back on the president, to others being planned by Code Pink and Billionaires for Bush plan on letting the country know that not everyone approves of our leader's actions.

In a truly weird item, Mike Malloy reported on his show last night on Air America that there was a news report indicating that Bush and his security people are refusing to allow members of the crowd to look at the president? Entertainers and other performers supposedly were told not to look at him while they performed at events attended by the leader of the Bush Family Crime Syndicate. I’m not sure how they plan on doing this short of shooting anyone who dares cast their eyes upon his visage. Come to think of it, that might not be that farfetched? As to the veracity of the report, I’ve been unable to find an actual news story or link that supports this, but knowing Malloy, I don’t doubt that it’s true. I’ll continue to look, but if anyone has a link, please send it my way and I’ll be happy to put it up for others.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on our president and his quest for royalty. Personally, I’ve always preferred our supposedly representative form or government, to the British system of Kings and Queens.

Speaking of English royalty, it appears that Prince Harry doesn’t know that wearing a Nazi uniform to a costume party might offend a few people. Apparently his privileged education at the best schools that money can buy, never taught the little snot any history (Holocaust? What's a Holocaust?).

The powerful keep finding new ways to show themselves to be the pompous, condescending asses that they really are.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Zen of winter

Yesterday brought another winter weather event to those of us assigned to the purgatory that is the Northeast in January. Actually, despite the warnings of the local news and weather people, with their dire storm theme music and predictions of treacherous travel, yesterday’s “storm” wasn’t bad at all.

I spent part of my afternoon commute to my soon-to-be ending seasonal job, reflecting on when did all this hysteria around a few snowflakes begin? While I may have missed it with the more important pursuits of growing up—girls, games and guitars—I rarely remember snow being a big deal, and we seemed to have more frequent snowfalls, with greater amounts.

As I tooled along Route 136 bordering the Androscoggin River heading into Auburn, the road had a few places where I could feel my car beginning to slide, so I just backed off the accelerator, like any winter-driving pro would do. Unfortunately for me, I never got to utilize my winter driving skills to the max, as I approached car after car, barely creeping along at 30 mph. Most of the trip could have been easily negotiated at or approaching the posted speed limit of 45, if not for the incessant fear-laden drivers in my path.

Winter has its perks. You’ll think I’m crazy, but most of the time, I enjoy shoveling after a fresh snowfall. No snowblower or tractor for me to clear the compound. No sir! Certainly, if one has a bad back, or other physical limitations shoveling might kill you; at the least, it might land you in the hospital. Fortunately for me, I’m still not too fat, or decrepit to systematically clear my paths and area of the driveway where my cars sit. Granted, I have a snowplow come and clear my 300 foot driveway, but the other areas of my yard bring a certain enjoyment in the patterns created with my shovel and strong back.

Probably the pleasure derived from shoveling was learned as a child, when my father and I would go out after a storm and work our way, first shoveling the driveway, path to the mailbox, and clothesline area for my mom. Over the years, I’ve developed a particular fastidiousness about keeping my yard clean, whether it was the small apartment I lived in, or the rural three acres I sit on today.

The temperatures are supposed to rise and tomorrow, rain is predicted. That’s the part of winter I’ve come to despise. If we’d only have snow, without sleet, freezing rain and plain rain, I’d probably enjoy winter more. At least I got a couple of treks through the woods in on my skis over the past few days. It was a needed diversion from manuscript editing, working on my monthly newsletter for WriteforYou, and the other drudgery of being cooped up inside.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Not in a million years

Imagine for a moment that you are driving down a road in a rural part of a state like Maine (could be Montana, upstate New York, South Dakota, or other states with low population densities). You pass very few houses along the unfamiliar road that you are motoring down. It’s now late in the afternoon and you decide to pop open the glove box of your vehicle and take out that weed you’ve been dying to smoke.

After taking your time and rolling a perfect joint, you fire it up and enjoy the first few tokes of some mighty fine pot. Seeing that it’s a perfect summer day and you feel up to a walk in nature, you leave your vehicle and strike out down a path just a few yards off the road. About 30 minutes later, the combination of the pot, the three beers and the uppers you took earlier are all making you disoriented. You decide to head back to your truck, but after an hour of thrashing through the underbrush, you can’t find the goddamn vehicle.

Finally, after what seems like an eternity, you come out on a road that you don’t recognize. About 6pm, see an older couple just arriving home at the farmhouse on your right and decide that you’ll try to arrange your disheveled hair and pick the burrs out of your beard before asking for some directions. Somewhat paranoid from the drugs and feeling foolish at your stupidity, you sheepishly invent a story about fishing and getting lost, while asking for directions. The older man is very accommodating and even offers you lemonade on this hot July day, before volunteering to drive you back to your truck.

When you finally locate the vehicle, it’s obvious someone’s been in the glove box, as your dope is gone, and so is your journal, registration, and receipts. Not wanting to say anything to the Good Samaritan that just gave you a lift and saved your sorry ass, you thank him and wave as he drives away.

The next afternoon, after completing your chores, you hear a news report about a missing 15 year old, the next town over. You wonder if she ran away and if they’ll ever find her, before quickly pushing it out of your mind as you clean up and begin preparing your dinner.

Later that night, around 10pm, there is a knock at your door. You are startled as you were in the back room and had dozed off while watching television. You natural inclination is to assume the worst, because knocks at night are never about good news. Two county sheriff’s deputies are standing at your door. They want to ask some questions about papers of yours that were found near the body of a dead 15 year old girl in the general area where you were lost yesterday.

Sound farfetched? Well meet the story of Dennis Dechaine. While the fictional account above varies somewhat from his story, the general gist of his conviction for a murder back in 1988 that many (myself included) are convinced he didn’t commit, forms the basis for my little tale.

I wrote about his situation back in August on my blog over at JBIWFY. Interestingly, the organization Trial and Error found my post for that day and has put it up at their website.

Dennis Dechaine has been incarcerated since the summer of 1988 on a case that was mishandled, bureaucratically bungled, and has serious holes in the state’s case against him.

Jim Moore, the former federal agent and author of Human Sacrifice, systematically takes the case apart in his excellent book. Like many, Moore assumed Dechaine was some psycho, or pervert, and was justly locked away in the bowels of Maine’s prison system. When he attended a local meeting of Trial and Error for the heck of it, to see what kind of whackos would be defending a murderer, Moore became intrigued and impressed with the level of commitment he saw.

As he began his investigations for the book, it became apparent that there were serious criminal justice issues, evidence destruction and other information that was withheld from the jury.

I urge Mainers to read the book and get involved with freeing Dennis. If you live in another state, you will find the book extremely interesting and it will make you realize that there are countless men and women locked away within our criminal justice system for crimes they didn’t commit. The truly scary part is that the actual killers are still walking around, free to kill again and again.

Tommorrow is “Dennis Dechaine Day-2005” at the State House in Augusta. Members of Trial and Error will be there and taking part in a conference call with Dennis. Members will also be lobbying state representatives on Dennis’ behalf, calling for a complete and independent investigation into a reopened case.

It’s so easy to be callous and think, “that would never happen to me”; the reality is that Dennis Dechaine never thought it would happen to him, and yet he sits at Thomaston, where he’s been incarcerated for the past 17+ years.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The hour grows closer

I was up early this morning after four and one half hours of sleep. I had worked an eight hour shift last night at my seasonal call center job and didn't get in until after midnight.

My book proposal has occupied my day, from about 5:30am, until now. I did manage to get out for a brief walk with my trusty companion, Bernie. Other than that, it's been edit, edit, edit, trying to get my sample chapters up to a standard that an editor will sit up and say, "damn, this some good writing."

I should be ready at some point tomorrow to get my first mailing out to a publisher and thus begins the waiting game.

As I wrote the other night, it's somewhat frustrating to see non-writers touting books that anyone knows damn well, they didn't write. Writing is a grind, whether you are writing poetry, fiction, sci-fi, or nonfiction.

At this point, I'm running on fumes and not able to focus enough to write anything coherent on some of the topics I intended to touch on earlier in the day.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The simplest of pleasures

Sometimes in the midst of a world that appears crazy and off the track, you have to seize simple pleasures to get through another day. There's only so much political posturing, pain, death and distruction that one can keep abreast of.

For me, music is one of those simple pleasures. Whether I’m listening to a new artist, a groove-worn favorite, or even banging out some rudimentary chords on my trusty Yamaha acoustic, it’s hard for me not to feel better with a song in my head and hopefully in my heart.

I’ve discovered a new way to enjoy more music in my life. While I’ve become a fan of internet radio through WMFU, I just stumbled upon I had heard my friend Jose of Spouse make mention of the station in the past, but while reading through his tour diary from Spouse’s just completed tour, I learned that they recorded some tracks while in St. Louis for 3wk.

Thanks to my newfound internet radio companion, I’ve been able to listen to a slew of indie music ranging from new artists (for me) like the wanteds, Tegan and Sara, The Fiery Furnaces and Bright Eyes, as well as old faves like Guided by Voices, Wilco, PJ Harvey and The Mountain Goats.

Speaking of simple pleasures, there is nothing more relaxing than curling up on the couch with that someone special, both of you reading your books, while the snow falls quietly on the deck outside the window.

A quiet dinner with the one you love (and haven't seen all week), conversation, a glass or two of wine and all seems right in this little corner of civilization.

The world may be going to hell in a handbasket, but for today, I’m choosing to enjoy pleasure and tune out the pain and exploitation for a few hours.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Wanted: An opposition party

Yesterday’s events in the well of the Congress provided a glimpse of how a democracy is supposed to operate. While I certainly wish more in the Congress had been more courageous and voted against certification of the electoral vote, the 32 who did have the courage to vote their convictions have provided a blueprint for the rest of their colleagues. While it’s disappointing to me that others in the Senate didn’t follow the principled leadership of two women, one Jewish and the other an African-American, I'm not surprised that fellow senators like privileged white males Ted Kennedy, Frank Lautenberg and others, didn't think it important enough to make a real statement and push this into the mainstream media and ultimately, faces of the apathetic masses. While there was actually some debate and discussion on the subject, the fact that the vote, particularly in the Senate, indicates that the heartbeat of democracy is barely beating.

To deny that there were widespread irregularities and examples of fraud during November's vote, is to deny the evidence that is available for anyone willing to take a few minutes to review it. Organizations like Black Box Voting, No Stolen Elections, as well as the investigative journalism on the subject being done by Greg Palast has shown light into the dark corners of our failed voting processes. What galls me the most is that ordinary citizens and others, linked by technology, are more educated on the scope of the issue than our paid representatives in Washington, save for a few. Possibly, it’s less an issue of education with some and more of an issue of outright corruption. When I think of not one Republican coming forward to show support for Boxer and her Democratic colleagues in the House, I am inclined to attribute it more to the latter than the former. The handful of Republicans that should have taken a stand like McCain, Ron Paul and even my own senator from Maine, Olympia Snowe, toed the party line like the obedient sheep that they truly are.

Regardless whether their candidate won or not, when voters can no longer be assured that their votes will count, honor and rectitude would dictate the issue receiving bipartisan support. How can we continue to justify the tragic deaths of our young men and women in Iraq in the name of democracy, if we aren’t vigilant on our own shores to preserve its integrity? Unfortunately, it was obvious to me yesterday that Republicans care little about democracy now that they have control of the three branches of government, as well as the complicit support of the mainstream media.

As Palast so aptly illustrated in his book, the voting irregularities in Florida during the 2000 election disenfranchised large numbers of African-Americans and other minority voters. During the past election in November, minorities were once again subject to having to deal with lack of voting machines, long lines and waits to vote, archaic procedures, to even having their votes thrown out. Interestingly, Republicans don’t seem to have the will to address the issue because minorities, particularly African-Americans and those who live in the poorest areas of the U.S., predominantly vote Democratic. This is a form of racism that shouldn’t be present in 2005, yet it appears that the Republican Party has now become the advocates of Jim Crow in our country.

During the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960’s, the Dixiecrats in the south were the ones perpetuating racist policy, segregation and Jim Crow laws. Now, 50 years later, the roles have flipped and the Republican Party is now the proponent of racism, bigotry and Jim Crow in our country.

Last night I watched the Congressional proceedings on C-Span. Sitting in my living room, I witnessed Republican after Republican speaker get up and condemn the machinations of democracy and speak in favor of African-American disenfranchisement. As I listened to Republican pieces-of-shit like Tom Delay, the most obvious charlatan in the chamber talk about the Democrats’ "spite, obstructionism and conspiracy theories," I thought it would be more appropriate for he and his fellow Republicans like Trent Lott and Bill Frist, as well as George Voinovich (who sold out his African-American constituents) to come to the podium wearing their white hoods. Delay, who is the poster boy for the right-wing, Jeebus-loving, "left behind" fundamentalists who voted en masse for the Fuhrer Bush, permeates the chamber of the Congress with the stench of hell and death whenever he rises to speak.

While the gauntlet was being thrown down by 32 courageous champions of truth and integrity, other members of Congress continued the business as usual approach to validating the agenda of plutocracy. Given the opportunity to act like an opposition party, the Democrats, including newly elected Senator Barack Obama, tucked their tails between their legs and ran. Democracy for all intents and purposes is finished, at least in the short term and we are in for one hell of a rocky road the next four years.

I want to end my monologue by saying how disgusted I was with both John Kerry and John Edwards. Both of these men were absent in voting on yesterday’s certification. Both of them invalidated the toil and commitment of time that tens of thousands of ordinary citizens put in trying to get them elected. To not be a part of the debate on one of the primary issues of our electoral system yesterday proved to me how unsuited both of them are to lead.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

32 out of 530

For only the second time since 1877, a challenge was issued to the counting of the electoral votes for president. The last time it occurred was in January 1969 when the two chambers were forced to interrupt their joint vote-counting session and meet separately due to a North Carolina elector designated for Richard Nixon, deciding instead to cast his vote for Independent challenger George Wallace. Both chambers agreed to allow the vote for Wallace.

A handful of members from the House and a lone Senator, Democrat Barbara Boxer (D-California) showed courage and integrity in trying to bring the voting irregularities to the floor for debate. When Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) and Boxer formally protested the Ohio votes, it forced the House and Senate to convene seperately and debate the irregularities.

While the final votes on certification were not close at all, with the House voting 267-31 to uphold the Ohio votes (John Edwards was absent) and the Senate voting 74-1 in favor of the Ohio electoral votes, with Boxer being the lone Senator showing any courage and willingness to dissent. Democratic challenger for president John Kerry also was absent from the voting.

I've posted a link to the roll call votes for the House and the Senate.

While the Democrats didn't show themselves to be much of an opposition party today, the Republicans were absolutely lacking in any integrity, with not one GOP representative or senator breaking ranks and challenging the massive irregularities endemic during the the November vote for president.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Stolen election?

Here's an interesting website that keeps the door open concerning November's election results. There is also plenty of information on the site that might give you fodder, should you care to involve yourself in the process, to reform our elections.

What? Elections need reforming? In America??

Ah, just leave me alone!

Fascism phase II

We are in that post-holiday period of the year when many go into some form of hibernation. Part of it has to do with the letdown that accompanies the harried activity and build up that is our modern day version of the holidays. If you live in colder climes, part of it is due to the inhospitality of the weather and the shorter days.

Some might be jacked up by their New Years’ resolutions. Whether they are losing weight, getting a new job, spending that holiday cash, or some other form of self-delusion, after about a month, all those good intentions and other diversions will come crashing down. Life will revert to a boring routine of watching TV, renting movies, drinking/drugging and generally “tuning out” the realities of the real life, modern day progression of birth, school, work and death.

It’s in the context of this milieu that government and in particular, the current administration, is seeking to ram through legislation and additional elements of their blueprint designed to undermine democracy in the good ‘ole U.S.A.

If you don’t think what I’m talking about is progressing more rapidly than I care to imagine, try David Neiwert’s blog Orcinus, for a reality check about the shakeout from America’s shift rightward.

Just back from a couple of trips to Montana and Idaho, Neiwert gives us the lowdown on what’s shaking out in Red State America. If you read Neiwert at all, you know he’s thorough and analytical to a fault. Because of this his writing is so invaluable, as well as difficult to refute. I don’t like to do a lot of cut and paste, but with someone as good as Neiwert, it’s required. I’ll post just a bit here, but make sure you visit his site and read the entire piece; it’s very good, albeit scary:

(From Orcinus, Jan. 4, 2005)
Having made two post-election jaunts to the red state hinterlands of Idaho and Montana, I'm back to report that, well, things are getting ugly out there. In some cases, really ugly.I've been talking for some time about the course that eliminationist rhetoric on the right would eventually take by the force of its own nature: pretty soon we'd go from talking about liberals as traitors to overtly wishing for violence to be visited upon them and discussing locking them up, followed in due course by such violence and incarceration becoming a reality.Well, it is now becoming a commonly spoken sentiment on the right to wish for violence against liberals and to simultaneously suggest they and all "traitors" (including Muslim Americans) should be locked away. We're firmly into Phase II now.

You hear it when conservatives -- especially those red-state cultural conservatives from the working class who are most likely to vote against their own self-interest, and then blame liberals for how lousy their lives are -- get together among themselves for their communal liberal-bashing hatefests. They'll say it when they think no one else is listening. You can hear it from "fringe" radio figures like Michael Savage. Or you can read it in the unpublished letters to the editor that most publications choose not to run.It's the natural outgrowth of the kind of rhetoric we've gotten from the national conservative punditry, manifesting itself on a less sophisticated but more direct and plain-spoken mode.My very clear impression of the rank-and-file American right is that many if not most of them, at the behest of their leaders, now believe that opposing George W. Bush and the Iraq War, as well as his handling of the War on Terror, is an act of genuine treason worthy of the ultimate social condemnation, including incarceration and execution. They feel not only vindicated but profoundly empowered by the election result, empowered to silence their opposition, by force if need be.These aren't just my impressions from hanging out in Deep Red Country. The evidence is abundant elsewhere as well. Consider, for instance, some of the letters to the editor received by Editor and Publisher after it published a piece by former USA Today publisher Al Neuharth (who is not exactly a liberal) questioning the administration's handling of Iraq.One writer wished we had formed an alliance with Hitler (so we could have eliminated Commies and leftists from the planet first), while the rest called the offending authors "cowards and traitors", "unAmerican," "jackals," and the like. Then the threatening notes enter:

Their dissent equals treason. The terrorists got him just like all the other rich liberals who side against our victory. They forget that wars end, and then the country takes stock of who was where.

More along those lines:

  • Neuharth should be tried for treason along with a lot of other blowhards who should be spending their energies condemning the barbarism of our enemies, the same people who destroyed the Twin Towers.... In the end William Joyce was executed for giving aid and comfort to the enemy during war time. Would that the same fate befall Al Neuharth!
    The consummate expression of these attitudes was this:

    The Patriot Act will put both of you (Neuharth and Mitchell) on trial for treason and convict and execute both of you as traitors for running these stories in a time of war and it should be done on TV for other communist traitors like you two to know we mean business. This is war and you should be put in prison NOW for talking like this. Who the hell do you people think you are? You give aid and comfort to our enemies and aid them in murdering our proud soldiers. You people are a disgrace to America. Your families should be put in prison with you, then be made to leave and move to the Middle East ...This is a great Christian nation and god wants us to lead the world out of darkness with great leaders like President George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Communists like Al and Greg will soon be in prison and on death row for your ugly papers. We won the election and now you are mad. We own America and all the rights, you people are trash, go back to Russia and Africa and take your friends with before we put you on death row after a fair trial.

Editor and Publisher had earlier been the recipient of a similar e-mail from a fellow named Joe M. Richardson voicing similar sentiments, while holding forth on the subject of the soldiers who dared to question Donald Rumsfeld (cited by Atrios):

  • The duped soldier should be put at the very front of the action, no armor. The cooperating sergeant's career should be over and maybe become MIA. Pitts and all his cronies should be executed as traitors. We are fighting a war, the debate is over, you’re either for us or against us, there is no middle ground. I say start executing the leftists in our country, soon.
    Bow-tied Beltway Republicans (and liberals, too) like to disregard talk like this as unrepresentative. But I don't think that's the case any longer. I think they're not just blowing smoke, they're deluding themselves. It's out there, and it's just about everywhere.

In addition to all of Neiwert's stuff, there is this on the Bush crime syndicate's concentration camp at Guantanamo, as well as—thanks to the machinations possible under USAPA—dissent can lead to indefinite imprisonment if the current administration has its way.

Maybe we should be paying a little more attention, don't you think? A good place to begin might be Mike Malloy's show via Air America. Become a truthseeker!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Write Amber, write!

The book buying public’s wait is over with today’s release of Amber Frey’s new book, Witness for the Prosecution. Regan Books, that bastion of literary integrity is set to cash in on America’s addiction to salaciousness and titillation. Frey is set to join J.K. Rowling in the book reading preservation society.

I’m going to step way out on a limb here and predict that Frey’s book is sure to spend time on the bestsellers list. With titles like, “Oh My God! Lacy’s baby is due on my birthday!” and “Isn’t that a little twisted, Scott”, this work is just begging to find its place on my 2005 list of books to read.

I’m amazed by Frey. She’s obviously brighter and more talented than her stereotypical profile and persona would lead one to believe. Stupid me!! I’ve been researching, interviewing and losing sleep working a seasonal job trying to keep my project moving forward and I’m still a good week away from having my proposal remotely ready for a publisher. Frey on the other hand has talent to burn, juggling supporting herself as a massage therapist, being a mother, while sexually satisfying her sociopath boyfriend and still finding the time to crank out a book! I’m doing it all wrong, I guess.

Just today, I spent 10 hours today holed up doing some hard editing and rewriting on my own book that seems caught in some kind of purgatory of delays, self-critical procrastination and general blood and guts toil that comes with writing a book of any merit.

Please forgive me for sounding a little bitter about another hack that probably hasn’t written anything longer than 100 words since high school, yet lands a lucrative book deal and large advance. Can anyone say ghostwriter? Frey joins another princess of popular culture, porn star Jenna Jameson, bookending Regan's rush to embrace sex and murder as they ride to the top of America's cultural trash heap. Now that would be a book signing worth attending! Maybe the two could collaborate on a new book, How To Use Sex and Violence to Win Friends and Eliminate Enemies.

I’m curious to hear what her advance was. I’m sure it’s six figures and some change. Regan might not be held in high esteem by many in the writing community due to its pantheon of pseudographers (Gen. Tommy Franks, Sean Hannity, Jack Canfield, Jameson and now Frey), but it uses Barnum’s famous adage to its advantage.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Bobos at the NY Times

David Brooks=mainstream columnist at major daily=hack

Another column in a growing pile of anti-intellectual drivel from conservatives and pseudo thinkers about the disaster in SE Asia, being passed off as journalism.

Brad Delong's blog pretty much says it all on Brook's latest pile of dung; Here it is:

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Passing of a true patriot

I’ve not been spending a lot of time imbibing news other than from my trusted internet sources. I’m usually a reader of the local dailies and the NY Times on line, but for some reason, this past week has seen a variance from this routine. As a result, I missed the passing of an important American writer and patriot in the truest sense of the word. I’m somewhat surprised I didn’t catch this at some point while cruising the blogosphere.

Susan Sontag, writer, activist and one of America’s underappreciated thinkers passed away on December 28th.

A tireless advocate for human rights, Sontag spent considerable time traveling around the world advocating for the marginalized. During the 1990’s Sontag called attention to the escalating civil war in Yugoslavia and lobbied world leaders to intervene.

Susan, over at Suburban Guerrilla has a fitting tribute to an American intellectual and original thinker that I’ll miss hearing from as we navigate the minefield of a second Bush term and a coarsening culture rife with ideological booby traps.

Being angry

I found an article on anger by Kirsten Anderberg over at Infoshop. It was interesting to me as I’ve often been accused of being “too” angry, or had people say to me on more occasions than I care to be reminded of, “boy, you’re really angry about that, aren’t you?” Usually the context involved an issue where there was a perceived grievance concerning the lack of justice extended to myself or others.

Obviously, there are destructive forms of anger, particularly involving physical or emotional harm inflicted upon others. In Anderberg’s case, this isn’t the anger that she is writing about. The anger that Anderberg is addressing is the anger that comes from seeing justice and equality go wanting at the expense of lies and greed. She speaks about the kind of anger that comes from watching innocent people harmed by one’s government in the name of exporting democracy. While Anderberg mentions that the labeling of being “too" angry is often directed at women and people of color, as a white, privileged male, I too have had this charge hurled my way.

What I found most fascinating about the article and about her premise concerning anger, was the recognition that being labeled “too" angry is most often a tactic for marginalizing her as a thinking person and her critique or criticism of some form of wrongdoing or an immoral or unethical policy. Anderberg accurately represents how the term is used at times when she has been critical of the abuse and disempowerment that comes from being a woman. It also comes when a person refuses to acquiesce in a docile way to the status quo or middle-class paradigm of conducting our lives.

While her article is from the context and perspective of being a woman and the disempowerment that comes from our patriarchal society, the marginalization she speaks about isn’t limited only to women and minorities. Being a male and part of the working, or slave class can produce behavior that gets you labeled “too” angry. If you dare to speak out at meetings, or not act like a sheep in the workplace, that can get you labeled as “too” angry.

Daring to speak out against your government and its abuses will certainly get you labelled quickly. Refusing to put the flag in a position of superiority over people or other cultures can get you labeled pretty damn fast as being “too” angry. I’ve often thought it somewhat dysfunctional not to be angry when you look at all the abuses that are perpetrated in the name of family, faith and flag.

It’s interesting to look at who has been accused of being "too" angry historically. Malcolm X was considered “too" angry. Chicano activists, led by Cesar Chavez during the California Grape Strike were labeled “too” angry. Leaders of Native movements reclaiming land and demanding that treaties be honored have been labeled “too” angry. Feminists fighting for the right to control their own bodies are labeled as being “too” angry.

When I look at how the world operates, promoting the corporate interests of the powerful, at the expense of those who provide the labor necessary for their capital, I am amazed that there isn’t more anger. This is a testament to the level of mastery and manipulation that the powerful are able to enact upon the population in the forms of family, education, media and other tools of control. To see this level of injustice and not be angry enough to want to change things and demand justice is the true anti-social behavior, in my opinion.