American Samizdat

Saturday, March 31, 2007. *

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posted by Dr. Menlo at 7:11 PM
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Meet the American mercenaries of Blackwater, who fight outside of the law and take direction from the radical Christian right
The company operates its own intelligence division and counts among its executives senior ex-military and intelligence officials. It recently began constructing new facilities in California (“Blackwater West”) and Illinois (“Blackwater North”), as well as a jungle training facility in the Philippines. Blackwater has more than $500 million in government contracts — and that does not include its secret “black” budget operations for US intelligence agencies or private corporations/individuals and foreign governments. As one US Congressmember observed, in strictly military terms, Blackwater could overthrow many of the world’s governments.

Blackwater is a private army, and it is controlled by one person: Erik Prince, a radical right-wing Christian mega-millionaire who has served as a major bankroller not only of President Bush’s campaigns but of the broader Christian-right agenda. In fact, as of this writing Prince has never given a penny to a Democratic candidate — certainly his right, but an unusual pattern for the head of such a powerful war-servicing corporation, and one that speaks volumes about the sincerity of his ideological commitment. Blackwater has been one of the most effective battalions in Rumsfeld’s war on the Pentagon, and Prince speaks boldly about the role his company is playing in the radical transformation of the US military. “When you ship overnight, do you use the postal service or do you use FedEx?” Prince recently asked during a panel discussion with military officials. “Our corporate goal is to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did to the postal service.”
posted by Uncle $cam at 5:16 AM
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Friday, March 30, 2007. *
When you’re a pirate, some dangers just come with the territory: scurvy, grog hangovers, a walk down the plank at sword point. But being kicked out of school for a day? Bryan Killian doesn’t think that’s a fair reaction to his decision to come to North Buncombe High School wearing an eye patch and an inflatable cutlass. [...]

“I feel like my First Amendment was violated,” Killian, 16, said. “Freedom of religion and freedom of expression. That’s what I tried to do, and I got shot down.”

Freedom of religion? Yes, Killian says, his “pirate regalia” is part of his faith — the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The parody religion, whose “Pastafarian” members worship a sentient, airborne clump of noodles and meatballs, originated in a letter to the Kansas school board urging it to add the religion to its plans to teach evolution and intelligent design side by side. It became an Internet phenomenon, spawning a belief system that holds pirates to be divine beings and blames global warming on the disappearance of the buccaneers.

Satirical though it may be, Killian isn’t laughing. “If this is what I believe in, no matter how stupid it might sound, I should be able to express myself however I want to,” he said. An eye patch is no more disruptive than a Christian cross around one’s neck, he said. His teachers saw it the same way, he said, but Assistant Principal Sarah Cooley didn’t. She assigned him two days of in-school suspension before calling his home to add out-of-school suspension.

[Article continues at link. The impossibility of deliniating which superstition is to be honored and which superstition is disruptive is why the seperation between state and superstition was instituted. Either you welcome every expression of every superstition in every tax-funded event or you disallow superstition in tax-funded events.]

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posted by Trevor Blake at 9:03 AM
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British forces stormed Iranian consulate in Iraq's southern city of Basra and surrounded the office during a shootout with unknown gunmen in Iraq on Thursday, Islamic Republic of Iran's consulate announced.

"British forces sealed off the Iranian consulate in Basra. They went inside for 10 minutes and after that there was intense gunfire on them," Iranian Consul Mohammed Reva Nasir told reporters in Basra.

"This is a provocative act against the Iranian consulate in Basra. I believe it has something to do with the British detainees in Iran," he said.

Now it's getting serious - the third carrier is on its way:USS Nimitz Scheduled To Depart For Persian Gulf

SAN DIEGO -- The USS Nimitz and its support ships will depart San Diego on Monday for the Persian Gulf to join another local aircraft carrier strike group already in the region, military officials said.

The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will join the San Diego-based John C. Stennis Strike Group and relieve the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to Naval Air Forces Public Affairs.

Military officials said in a statement that the two-carrier presence in the Persian Gulf area is intended to demonstrate the country's "resolve to build regional security and bring long-term stability to the region."
The Nimitz Strike Group is comprised of the guided-missile cruiser Princeton, guided-missile destroyers Higgins, Chafee, John Paul Jones and Pinckney, two helicopter squadrons and an explosive ordnance disposal unit.

The Stennis, and its strike group, left Naval Base Coronado on Jan. 20. The aircraft carrier entered the Persian Gulf Wednesday, according to authorities. It is the largest carrier presence in the area since the start of the war in Iraq
posted by Uncle $cam at 2:11 AM
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(CNN) -- The mother of Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former NFL player killed
by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004, on Tuesday rejected
the latest explanation from the U.S. military about her son's death.

"It became very obvious early on that they were lying to us," Mary
Tillman said on ESPN Radio's "Dan Patrick Show." "They were only
telling one side of the story. They weren't telling the other side."

The military reported Monday that nine military officers, including
four generals, will face "corrective action" for making critical
mistakes in the aftermath of the Army Ranger's death.

An investigation by the Army's inspector general and Criminal
Investigation Command concluded officers in Tillman's chain of
command knew almost immediately after his death that he had been
killed by fire from his own platoon, but that information was
withheld from his family for more than a month, in violation of Army

The investigation also concluded that inadequate initial
investigations "contributed to the inaccuracies, misunderstandings
and perceptions of concealment."

Tillman's mother was not convinced.

Everyone involved in the shooting knew almost immediately that her
son had been shot three times in the head by his own troops, she said.

Yet, at the memorial service for her son in May 2004, the military
said Pat Tillman had been killed by enemy fire, she said.

"That was not a misstep, that was not an error," she said. "This was
an attempt to dupe the public and to promote this war and to get
recruitments up, and that is immoral."

Mary Tillman called for a congressional hearing "to have it all aired out."

She added, "I really don't know what happened. We've been told so
many different things."

Shot intentionally?

Mary Tillman said she was not excluding the possibility that her son
was shot intentionally.

"Pat was used," she said. "Once he was killed, I think they saw this
as an opportunity." She noted that April 2004 was the worst month up
to that time in the year-old Iraq war, and the shooting occurred
right after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke.

The latest investigation "only presented the points of view of the
soldiers in the vehicle" who fatally shot her son and an Afghan
soldier and wounded two others, she said.

"They never brought into play what the other witnesses said," Mary
Tillman said.

She described as "shocking" the military's claim that no rules of
engagement were broken.

The platoon members "fired at soldiers who weren't firing at them in
areas where hands were waving and at a building," she said. "All of
those things are breaking rules of engagement."

The soldier believed to have shot her son three times in the head was
asked whether he had made a positive identification of the target
before firing, she said. "This soldier said, 'No, I wanted to be in a
firefight,' " she said. "That was a definite breaking of the rules of

She said the military is still spinning the story for its own gain.

"The first investigative officer, in his statement to the third
investigative officer, said in his opinion, there was evidence of
criminal intent, and he also used the term 'criminal negligence,' "
Tillman said.

"Yet his report has been devalued because it doesn't go along with
what they want out in the public eye."

In 2002, Pat Tillman, a safety with the Arizona Cardinals, turned
down a multimillion-dollar contract offer and instead joined the
Army, a decision he said was a response to the September 11, 2001,
terrorist attacks.

He was shot April 22, 2004, in a remote area near the
Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
posted by Uncle $cam at 1:56 AM
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Blue Gal, is calling on you to Blog Against Theocracy on the weekend of April 6-8.

posted by Uncle $cam at 1:49 AM
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Thursday, March 29, 2007. *
Who Pays for Torture?
BBC: Torturers must pay victims. "States that commit acts of torture should be forced to pay for victims’ rehabilitation, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak has said. Mr Nowak said torture victims required long and costly treatment, and usually rich nations footed the bill rather than the offending states."

Washington Post: Judge Dismisses Torture Lawsuit Against Rumsfeld. "Former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld cannot be tried on allegations of torture in overseas military prisons, a federal judge said Tuesday in a case he described as 'lamentable.'"

[What am I going to say when my neice grows a little older and asks me 'why didn't you do anything?']


posted by Trevor Blake at 11:32 AM
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A medical marijuana activist in Calgary [Canada] was sentenced Tuesday to four months in jail for trafficking in marijuana, but the judge ruled that corrections officials must make sure he has access to the drug while behind bars.

[Article continues at link. This post dedicated to the memory of Peter McWilliams (1) (2).]


posted by Trevor Blake at 8:35 AM
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007. *
CNN reporter Michael Ware, who has been in Iraq for four years: McCain is “way off base... To suggest that there’s any neighborhood in this city where an American can walk freely is beyond ludicrous. I’d love Sen. McCain to tell me where that neighborhood is and he and I can go for a stroll.” (Think Progress)
posted by Anonymous at 3:38 PM
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Does believing that "God is on our side" make it easier for us to inflict pain and suffering on those perceived to be our enemies? If we think God sanctions violence, are we more likely to engage in violent acts? The answer to both those questions, according to new research, is a resounding "yes," even among those who do not consider themselves believers. Social psychologist Brad Bushman of the University of Michigan led an international research effort to find answers to these questions, and said he is very "disturbed" by the results, though he found what he had expected. [...]

"What worries me is when people use God as a justification for their violence. There are scriptures that say you should not take God's name in vain. This is the most extreme version of taking God's name in vain," he said. Yet his own research shows that whether people consider themselves believers or not, they are more likely to be aggressive, perhaps even willing to start a war, if they think God is on their side.

[Article continues at link. Would war diminish if religion diminished? I'd like to find out. Instead I get George Bush on one side and Osama bin Ladin on the other.]


posted by Trevor Blake at 2:37 PM
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This is not the first White house e-mail scandal, nor the first Bush e-mail scandal..

The Top-Secret Computer Messages the Reagan/Bush White House Tried to Destroy
President Reagan tried to shred them electronically...

President Bush tried to take them to Texas...

President Clinton tried to put them beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act...

White House e-mail survived, thanks to a six-year lawsuit brought by the National Security Archive and allied historians, librarians, and public interest lawyers.

The most revealing of the e-mail released to date appears in this book and disk set, edited and richly annotated by the Archive's director.

Here are the highest-level White House communications on the most secret national security affairs of the United States during the 1980s--shockingly candid electronic exchanges you were never meant to see, virtually none of which has ever before been available to the American public.

- The National Security Council (NSC) staff at the White House acquires a prototype electronic mail system, from IBM, called the Professional Office System (PROFs).

April 1985
- The PROFs e-mail system becomes fully operational within the NSC, including not only the full staff, but also home terminals for the National Security Adviser, Robert "Bud" McFarlane, and his deputy, Admiral John M. Poindexter.

November 1986
- The remainder of the White House comes on line with electronic mail, at first with the PROFs system, and later (by the end of the 1980s) through a variety of systems including VAX A-1 ("All in One"), and ccmail.

November 22-25, 1986
- John Poindexter and Oliver North electronically shred more than 5000 e-mail notes in the memory banks of their computer systems, as the Iran-contra scandal breaks.

November 28, 1986
- Career staff at the White House Communications Agency order the November backup tapes of the e-mail system to be saved instead of recycled as usual. Subsequently, investigators from the FBI and the Tower Commission use the backup takes to reconstruct the Iran-contra scandal.

February 26, 1987
- The Tower Commission issues its report on Iran-contra, reprinting hundreds of PROFs notes exchanged by McFarlane, Poindexter and North.

January 19, 1989
- On the last day of the Reagan presidency, the National Security Archive files a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests together with a lawsuit against President Ronald Reagan, to prevent the imminent erasure of the White House electronic mail backup tapes. At 6:10 pm, on the eve of George Bush's inauguration, U.S. District Judge Barrington D. Parker issues a Temporary Restraining Order, prohibiting the destruction of the backup tapes to the PROFs system.

September 15, 1989
- U.S. District Judge Charles B. Richey rules that the National Security Archive and its co-plaintiffs, including the American Historical Association (AHA) and the American Library Association (ALA), have standing to sue President Bush, in order to force him to comply with the retention requirements of various records acts which potentially cover the White House e-mail.

January 25, 1991
- After a year-and-a-half of legal procedural wrangling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upholds Judge Richey's ruling on standing, denying the Bush administration's attempts to have the case dismissed.

November 20, 1992
- On request from the plaintiffs, Judge Richey adds the White House e-mail from the lame-duck Bush administration to the case, issuing a restraining order preventing the Bush White House from destroying its own backup computer records.

January 6, 1993
- Judge Richey rules that computer tapes containing copies of e-mail messages by Reagan and Bush White House staff must be preserved like other government records, because the electronic versions are not simply duplicates of paper printouts, but contain additional information beyond the paper copies.

January 11 and 14, 1993
- Judge Richey issues specific court orders requiring that the Bush White House preserve its computer records. In press interviews, Judge Richey says that despite his orders, he believes that the Bush administration is planning to destroy its e-mail files.

January 15, 1993
- In an expedited emergency ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upholds and modifies the rulings by Judge Richey, holding that government officials could erase White House and NSC computer files, as long as they preserved, on backup tapes, identical copies of what was being erased.

January 19, 1993
- President Bush signs a secret agreement with Don Wilson, head of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), purporting to grant Bush exclusive legal control over the e-mail tapes of his administration. Working through the night, a staff team from NARA takes custody of thousands of tapes and disk drives, hurriedly removing them from White House offices to prevent incoming Clinton appointees from gaining access to them.

February 16, 1993
- NARA career staff who managed the transfer describe in an internal memo how the so- called "midnight ride" had violated NARA's own rules for records transfers and how several sets of tapes ordered preserved by Judge Richey had been lost, erased or damaged.

May 22, 1993
- Judge Richey cites the Clinton White House and the acting Archivist of the United States for contempt of court for failing to carry out his order to issue new and appropriate guidelines for the preservation of the computer records of the Reagan, Bush and Clinton White House staff.

August 13, 1993
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacates Judge Richey's contempt orders but upholds his overall decision that the Federal Records Act (FRA) requires that complete electronic copies of e-mail messages be preserved by the White House, and by extension, government agencies in general. The appeals court remands the case to Judge Richey to decide the issue of the dividing line between "agency" records covered by the FRA and presidential records covered by the Presidential Records Act.

March 25, 1994
- In a brief filed in federal court, the Clinton administration declares that the National Security Council is not an agency, and should be accorded the protection from public scrutiny given to the President's personal advisers. This argument attempts to remove the Clinton administration's White House e- mail from the reach of FOIA requests and the FRA, arguing that all its documents are subject only to the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and therefore not to court oversight.

December 13, 1994
- The e-mail plaintiffs file suit against the Acting Archivist of the United States to void the Bush-Wilson agreement, in American Historical Association et. al. v. Peterson.

February 15, 1995
- Judge Richey rejects the Clinton administration's arguments about the NSC's status as "arbitrary and capricious... contrary to history, past practice and the law," and declares that the National Security Council is an agency. The government subsequently appeals the decision, and the plaintiffs cross- appeal against a portion of Richey's ruling that opens a loophole for senior NSC staff giving advice to the President.

February 27, 1995
- In a separate opinion in the lawsuit over the Bush-Wilson agreement, Judge Richey declares the agreement "null and void," writing that "No one, not even a President, is above the law." The New York Times subsequently editorializes, under the headline "A Special Place in History for Mr. Bush," that "No President has the right to corner official records in an effort to control his place in history." (March 1, 1995, page A18)

September 8, 1995
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit hears oral arguments in the case on the issue of Judge Richey's decision and the agency versus Presidential status of the NSC.

Jr. and friends musta lernt somthing from ol' poppy eh?

Also see, 'Bypassing history:
The secret White House comunication system
posted by Uncle $cam at 9:25 AM
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Tuesday, March 27, 2007. *
At least 40,000 Somalis have settled in Minnesota since the early 1990s, fleeing civil war in their East African homeland. The Twin Cities is home to the largest Somalian immigrant community in the nation. [...]

Federal law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs — so long as that doesn't place an "undue burden" on the business. Defining undue burden, however, can be tricky. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission handled 2,541 complaints of faith-based discrimination last year, up nearly 50% from a decade earlier. Last fall, the Minneapolis transit authority cited the reasonable accommodations law in promising not to assign a driver to buses that carried ads for a local gay and lesbian magazine called Lavender. The driver had objected to the ads — which carry the slogan "Unleash Your Inner Gay" — on religious grounds.

The law has also been used to aid Muslim employees. Managers often allow Muslim workers to schedule their breaks to coincide with the five-times-a-day prayer. Target last week reassigned its Muslim cashiers to jobs that don't require handling pork, such as stocking shelves. Other chains have also made such accommodations. But the taxi driver dispute has resisted easy solutions. About 70% of the more than 900 drivers licensed to work at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are Somalian immigrants, spokesman Patrick Hogan said. In the last five years, 4,854 passengers have been denied service because they carried alcohol.

[My super special religion has three hundred and sixty five non-optional paid holidays. Every four years we have an optional holiday. I also am forbidden from having anything to do with people who are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindu, Buddhist, Pagans, 'spiritual not religious' or agnostic. If I move to Minneapolis will I get the respect my religion demands? More important, can I make other people follow my religion if I'm 'sincere' about it?]


posted by Trevor Blake at 11:54 PM
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I think that Iran has perhaps 2000 missiles with conventional warheads targeted directly at the Green Zone.

Only about a 5 minute flight from Iran and could do some heavy damage.

If indeed we do this, you can bet an attack abroad will be parallel with a major round-up on dissenters at home.

Those not lucky enough to get a cot in the camps, best be prepared for the abrupt shit storm shift in the economy.

Would you like some turnips with your
irradiated cabbage soup, comrade?
posted by Uncle $cam at 3:16 PM
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Monday, March 26, 2007. *
TIME's cover story in every edition but the American one is "Talibanistan", a story about the resurgence of the Taliban. TIME's cover for the US: "Why We Should Teach the Bible in Public School".

Which would be typical, however, long past funny, especially as we are learning of the recent dirty ideological shenanigans going on at the Justice Department, in which we learn that a 5th Amendment Republican Monica Goodling, a Justice Department official under Abu Gonzales is nothing more than a infiltrating ideological dominionist Christian zealot. Goodling, is deeply involved in the firings of federal prosecutors, and refuses to answer questions at upcoming Senate hearings, citing Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

Goodling is a 1999 graduate of Regent University "Law" School. Regent University was founded in 1978 by Pat Robertson.

She graduated from law school in 1999?! And she's already the senior counsel to the Attorney General of the United States?! She must be one spectacular fucking lawyer to have such a short resume yet such an exalted status.


I came across this very interesting comment from a former Dept. of Justice employee at TPM

She has zip prosecutorial experience, but ties to Karl Rove

Monica's job at DOJ is and always has been purely political. She went to Messiah undergrad and Regent Univ. Law School and the sum total of her actual prosecutorial experience is handling traffic cases as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in Paul McNulty's district (now the current Deputy A.G.) for about six months. Her political mojo (which is considerable in light of her age and inexperience) is allegedly linked to Karl Rove.

Finally, David Ignatius had a great column about this in last weeks

The Bush political operatives have become the people the Republicans once warned the country against -- a club of insiders who seem to think that they're better than other folks. They are so contemptuous of government and the public servants who populate it that they have been unable to govern effectively. They are a smug, inward-looking elite that thinks it knows who the good guys are by the political labels they wear.

Traffic cases? traffic cases... *long pause*...OMFG! *Bursts out in maniacal and hysterical laughter*
posted by Uncle $cam at 8:29 PM
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"Soldiers on crutches and canes were sent to a main desert camp used for Iraq training. Military experts say the Army was pumping up manpower statistics to show a brigade was battle ready." (Salon)
posted by Anonymous at 4:36 AM
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Joseph over at his blog cannon-fire reported last week that the mafia that runs this country aka Bushco, have been hiding their e-mails: GwB43: The White House, vote theft, and the email trail and now has an update which call many past and present investigations into account...

...she said is better not to put this stuff in writing in their email system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc.
posted by Uncle $cam at 4:10 AM
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Sunday, March 25, 2007. *
Portland Occulture is the best cult in Portland, Oregon. It includes two harbringers for American Samizdat, Trevor Blake and Klint Finley. The image above is a scan of a recent issue (sold out again!) of the fan-made comic based on PDXO's activities.
posted by Trevor Blake at 10:14 PM
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Introduction. For several years in these pages, in the initial iteration of P!, and in its predecessor ddjangoWIrE, I've concentrated on just a few fundamental themes. Within these themes, I've drawn even fewer nearly ontological conclusions concerning this nation, its people, and its likely future.

This has not been easy work. In spite of raging against the policies and actions of a government run by obvious war criminals and fascist multi-national corporations intent on destroying our nation and others in the name of "open borders", "democracy", and "free trade" by means of total, endless war, it is abundantly clear that radical voices in favor of fundamental paradigm change are still a woeful minority, distinctly disconnected and marginalized. In short, it's pretty damn lonely out here. The best it seems we've been able to do is get some Democrats elected (to carry on the same program as Republicans) and encourage Kucinich and maybe Nader to run again.

Thus, the conclusions I've drawn are very simple:

  • The United States of America is rumbling blindly and headlong on a closed course which is likely, in a relatively short time, to end not only in its own ruin, but also in the destruction of the very foundation of modern western civilization. I am no longer sure that this is a bad thing - the survival of our planet and the majority of its inhabitants, human and otherwise, may depend on it.

    Any possibility that we might be saved by the political and economic emergence of a counter-force, such as China or India, is doomed by the fact that those countries, as well as China, are depending on the same growth models that are the foundation of our own demise. We can hope for no better than disastrous political, economic, and, ultimately, military confrontation from this process.

    There is a glimmer of hope found in the revolutionary movements and governments in Central and South America. But it will be offset by our deadly adventurism, fueled by oil-greed and insane cultural/religious conflict in the East and in western Asia.

  • The citizens of this country, even those who espouse what is named and proclaimed as "progressive" or "radical leftist" politics, are essentially clueless - not just in figuring out how to change things, but in just what the hell needs to change.

  • Finally, Americans of all political and cultural proclivities are locked in a "deer in the headlights" catatonia that relentlessly resists unification and preparation for a bleak future

The "prefect storm convergence" I spoke of above has several ingredients:

  1. An overwhelming realization that the liberal assumptions and clinical narcissism so ubiquitous in our cultural and social foundations afflict even the most studied and articulate radical leftists.

  2. The conviction that our political system is not so much "broken" as simply, finally obsolete. That system, emerging from the Enlightenment roar of the eighteenth century has evolved into a phase of post-liberal and post capitalist malaise that cannot further evolve without violence. Liberalism and capitalism have had their day. The price for the improvements in technology from which (some) humans have derived wealth and comfort and power is now self-evident in environmental collapse, fascist ascendancy, and a planet engulfed in war and genocide. In short, the problem cannot, of course, be its own solution. Violence certainly must be abhored; but even with widespread violent revolution, the outcome would not be so much apocalyptic as just one, bloody, stinking mess of a future existence.

  3. The appearance in these pages just now of three outstanding interviews (Jason Miller's conversations with Joel Hirschhorn and Mike Palecek, and mine with Dan Smith) at the same time I've been reading Robert Kagan's "Dangerous Nation.

  4. My depressing frustration and disappointment in the almost non-existent response I've gotten during the past three months to (a) my attempt to generate discussion and action toward unifying the myriad leftist third parties into a movement; (b) my attempt to recruit an African-American editor to join us at P!; (c) my entreaties to my own readership to not just read, but to respond actively to the issues.

If it sounds like I'm whining, so be it. There may be good reason. If you want good news, I encourage you to watch Fox, rather than read P! The reality is that we are in deep, deep kim-chee and the way out requires unrelenting, honest, critical self-analysis from the individual, through the community, to the national and international level.

We began with a creed that the individual and his rights are the highest ideal. Freedom from the tyranny of autocratic kings and empires was a glowing, driving sun. That revolutionary foundation carried over to a suspicion of government. Although we had some sense of community and cooperation as essential to the survival of a unified Republic and protection against incursion both domestic and foreign, this sense was weak and obscure due to the opportunity based in individual initiative and self-reliance. We were immediately, necessarily a Nation of One, "a Beacon on a Hill."

First, let me bring up "Dangerous Nation", Robert Kagan's seminal history of American liberalism, capitalism, and militarism from the late seventeenth through the early twentieth centuries. I will not quote Kagan's book here, because I'm determined that you should read it. If you have formed a political stance without reading Zinn's history and Kagan's, you are sadly undereducated as to what this country has always been and done.

I will, however, summarize Kagan's main themes.

Toward the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth centuries, the notion of liberalism began to emerge and take hold. As an inevitable outcome of the Age of Enlightenment, liberalism posited that each individual had rights that in essence were surpressed by tyrannical monarchies. Tyranny held that the purpose and duty of its subjects were to support the goals of the crown. Christianity, especially Catholicism, supported, even promoted this idea for centuries.

Although there were rumblings of liberal ascendancy throughout Europe at the time, it was The American Revolution, The Declaration of Independence, and the US Constitution that best articulated and codified the liberal ideal. Across Europe, popular uprisings began to take their lead from what was happening in the New World. It was a powerful idea, this notion that individuals were actually worth something.

But with this power came a conceit: many of the leading American liberal revolutionaries envisioned the American revolution as not only a beacon, but as an absolute necessity for the rest of the world. It is easy to see where the roots of the neoliberal push to "export democracy" began. With the rise of the liberal ideal and the attachment of the democratic system of government to it, in the American (and by extension over time, European) view, all other political, and even cultural, systems were to be overrun and assimilated.

Americans had a distinct advantage. The rise of capitalism was concurrent and fully compatible with liberal thinking. Capitalism is based in and enabled by property ownership. This imperative drove the population hungrily west and south in search of freedom from restrictive government, space, raw materials, and land, land, land.

Having wrested property rights from the crown, available property was seemingly unlimited. At the same time, the population was exploding. Many in the new Republic felt a need to protect it from outside threat by occupying adjacent lands, especially to the south and west. So the push was on.

The critical factor in the American liberal revolution was its total integration with capitalism. We began as a nation if farmers and merchants. We needed markets to survive. The philosophical and democratic ideals would be a non-starter without them. Although feudalism was on its way out and western settlers could flourish with subsistence farming, trapping, professionalism (practicing law, education, medicine, etc.), the rich land owners in the east produced a significant surplus and needed somewhere to sell it. The onslaught of industrialism and manufacturing applied increasing pressure to this situation. It would be awhile before the Nation itself could absorb its own products. Unfortunately, markets often didn't open magically as the need for them arose. Reluctantly, the young country found itself in conflict with other nations who were competing for the same markets.

Early attempts to sympathize with and accommodate the indigenous population of Turtle Island quickly fell to an insidious feature of the liberal/capitalist/Christian philosophical matrix: to leave land "undeveloped" was simply unacceptable. The neoEuropean mind simply could not grasp the concept of living with the earth, rather than conquering it and molding it. Since most native Americans were hunter/gatherers, they found conversion to an agricultural way of life very difficult. Genocide was inevitable.

There was much discussion in the early Republic over what extent the country should become involved in "foreign entanglements." Indeed, we have cycled through many periods of "isolationism" and "interventionism." Mainly due to the need to expand commerce and defend American commercial interests, as well as to respond to foreign threats, the cycles of isolationism tended to be short-lived. We emerged quickly as a global power and were destined to expand and constantly change international alliances.

Kagan's "Dangerous Nation" covers America's history from just before the nation's birth to the end of the 19th century. By that time, the integration and solidification of the liberal/capitalist ideal insured that the United States would become a political, economic, and military force without precedence in the world.

Stephen Kinzer's "Overthrow" picks up where Kagan leaves off. At the dawn of the 20th century and the emergence of the multinational corporation, military intervention was about to become very acceptable as a means to grow the American ideal.

What had begun as a celebration of the rights and potential of the individual human in two hundred years grew into an imperative to change the whole world in America's image. As individual incentive was overtaken by the multinational corporation as the primary way the individual could exercise his right to wealth, we had indeed become, intentionally or not, one very dangerous nation.

(The next part of this series, "Dangerous Nation, Part 2: We Wage War Because We Can't Not", will appear in the near future.)

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posted by Unknown at 10:32 AM
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A Pentagon investigation into the death by friendly fire of Cpl. Pat Tillman in Afghanistan will make recommendations that nine officers, including four generals, be held responsible for mistakes in the way the incident was handled and disclosed, a defense official said.

The Pentagon’s inspector general, in a report expected to be released Monday, has found a series of errors, including violations of regulations and poor judgment by the officers in the aftermath of the 2004 shooting death of Corporal Tillman, the official said.

[Also found in error: claims that there are no atheists in foxholes, and that atheist Pat Tillman was now 'with God.' Corrected by his brother at Cpl. Tillman's funeral.]


posted by Trevor Blake at 8:27 AM
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Saturday, March 24, 2007. *
posted by Philip Shropshire at 11:52 PM
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Friday, March 23, 2007. *
My nominees for Blogs deserving wider recognition and/or Blogs of the Week. Muzzlewatch and the Consumerist.

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posted by Philip Shropshire at 10:30 PM
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posted by Philip Shropshire at 10:25 PM
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Black Panther Press posters for sale. Suggestion: T shirts please. Related: A History of Cointelpro. Who did these graphics?

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posted by Philip Shropshire at 10:20 PM
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How's the Stock Doing for the 'Left Behind' Videogame Company?



posted by Trevor Blake at 7:05 PM
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A Neuqua Valley High senior has gone to federal court seeking the right to wear an anti-gay T-shirt to school next month on the day after a national event in support of gays is scheduled in schools. Heidi Zamecnik, 17, is asking the court to order her school and Indian Prairie District 204 to allow her to express her anti-gay beliefs on April 19, the day after the 11th annual "Day of Silence" is scheduled to protest harassment of gays in schools. [...]

Heidi's father, Carl Zamecnik, declined to comment Wednesday night on behalf of his family, and he referred calls to an attorney. Because of her family's "sincerely held religious beliefs" against homosexuality, "they wish to share their conviction that true happiness cannot be found through homosexual behavior," the suit says.

[I support Heidi Zamecnik being allowed to wear clothing of her choosing on any day. I support Heidi Zamecnik being able to wear t-shirts calling for the murder of homosexuals based on her superstition of choice. I support Heidi Zamecnik being allowed to meet the consequences of her decisions in the form of social osctrasism, ended friendships, silent glares, public mockery, loss of employment opportunities, and being reminded for the rest of her God-given days of the shameful choices she made as a young adult. Also noted is the lawyer's claim that the family's religious beliefs are held 'sincerely.' When it comes to religion, if you believe REALLY HARD it not only becomes true but other people aren't allowed to even tell you otherwise much less act otherwise.]


posted by Trevor Blake at 7:43 AM
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Thursday, March 22, 2007. *

Colonel Daniel M. Smith, USA (Ret.) is Senior Fellow, Military and Peaceful Prevention Policy with the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Dan graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1966. Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant of Infantry, Colonel Smith's initial assignment was as an infantry and heavy weapons platoon leader with the 3rd Armor Division in Germany. Following language training, he then served as an intelligence advisor in Vietnam before returning to the U.S. to do graduate work at Cornell University and teach philosophy and English at West Point . . .

Colonel Smith is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College, the Armed Forces Staff College, and the Army War College. He was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, and the Vietnam Service Medal(4).

Colonel Smith joined the Friends Committee on National Legislation in September 2002 as Senior Fellow on Military Affairs. Dan has a blog, The Quakers' Colonel, where you can read his writing. You can also find selected pieces on FCNL's web site. We are honored that Dan consented to this interview.

P!: In your bio, accessible through "Quakers Colonel" you describe a long and rich military career. Although there are some notable retired
military and intelligence veterans who are very vocal about their objections to our current foreign policies and military ventures, you impress me as being unique. Could you expand on your evolution from a young soldier to a veteran officer now adding your voice to that protest?

Dan: Before I entered West Point, I was an undergraduate at Creighton University in Omaha Nebraska in 1961-62. My putative major was Political Science - in a department that was just emerging from the History Department. The POLYSCi department head and only professor at the time was an extremely intelligent, very liberal person who probably served as an unconscious "intellectual" role model.

Skip ahead 10 years. I had graduated from West Point, been to Vietnam, and was at Cornell University in New York 1971-72 earning a Masters degree in English as the prelude to returning to West Point to teach. West Point had no Philosophy Department although the powers that be had determined (subsequent to my graduation from the Academy in 1966) that a philosophy survey course need to be taught. That course was assigned to the Department of English. At the start of my last semester at Cornell, the Colonel who was the English Department head at West Point called to inform me that I would be teaching not the writing or literature standard courses but the philosophy course. That last semester at Cornell I wrote my thesis, finished with three academic courses, and read everything I could about the philosophers and their systems that would covered in the course I was to teach -- a course which covered
not only secular philosophies but also the main religious traditions (East and West), the philosophy of science, and aesthetics. During the second year I taught, we added Freud and Jung to the formal curriculum with their disciples mentioned in passing. Also in the second and third years, I was tasked to revise and teach an elective on 19th century American thought (probably because my thesis was on American Puritanism
which underlay much of the religious revivalism and intellectual ferment in 19th century New England).

In the three years I taught, I continued to read as much as I could, branching out into the various "sub-strains" and "non-orthodox" and "heretical" interpretations. This brought me into contact with the writings of the notable 20th century Trappist monk and mystic, Thomas Merton, and later with the equally notable mythologist, Joseph Campbell.

All in all, a strange career pattern for a soldier.

. . .

[Read more at P! . . .]

posted by Unknown at 10:04 AM
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A Santeria priest who is suing Euless [Texas] over his religious practice of animal sacrifice would be allowed to kill chickens and hold small weekly gatherings at his home under a settlement offered by city attorneys. But the proposal would continue to prohibit the sacrifice of goats – a practice that Jose Merced says is as essential to Santeria as communion is to Catholics. And it would limit the gatherings to 25 people.

Merced said he will reject the city's offer as a restriction on his religious freedom. "You cannot do initiations without an animal with four legs. You cannot do it with just chickens," he said. "Without that, the religion ceases to exist."

[Eating animals? I'll ask for seconds. Medical research on animals? I'm for it. Military research on animals? I can just barely consider it acceptable in a few specific instances. Animal products in fashion or cosmetics? I'm guessing there are plenty of good alternatives. Religious sacrifice of animals? That has no place in the 21st Century, at all. I'd sure like to see PETA and their kin go after religious sacrifice of animals first and foremost (not incidentally), as it is the least excusable cause of animal death. The largest, oldest and most powerful occult group active today has good advice on this issue.]


posted by Trevor Blake at 8:27 AM
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Wednesday, March 21, 2007. *
Charges of stealing a Mexican flag that offended her are being dismissed against Rhea County conservative activist June Griffin.

Mrs. Griffin, who was set to go to trial on Wednesday for charges that include hate crimes, said she was told by the district attorney's office that the two witnesses against her cannot be found.

Mrs. Griffin said she does not know where the two operators of an Hispanic store at Main and Market in Dayton have gone. "I hope they are at the bottom of the river. They caused me a lot of grief," she said.

[ . . . ]

She said, "I praise God in this. I give Him all the glory. It has really been a wonderful experience."

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posted by Dr. Menlo at 2:56 PM
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007. *
The Bush-Cheney regime is America's first neoconservative regime. In a few short years, the regime has destroyed the Bill of Rights, the separation of powers, the Geneva Conventions, and the remains of America's moral reputation along with the infrastructures of two Muslim countries and countless thousands of Islamic civilians. Plans have been prepared, and forces moved into place, for an attack on a third Islamic country, Iran, and perhaps Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon as well. [...] Like their forebears among the Jacobins of the French Revolution, the Bolsheviks of the communist revolution, and the National Socialists of Hitler's revolution, neoconservatives believe that they have a monopoly on virtue and the right to impose hegemony on the rest of the world. [...] The neoconservatives have had enormous help from the corporate media, from Christian evangelicals, particularly from the "Rapture Evangelicals," from flag-waving superpatriots, and from the military-industrial complex whose profits have prospered.

[Complete article at link. Notice how you can find the article at the far right, at the far left and right in the middle. Notice how the turd in the punchbowl, religion, isn't listed as a central problem.]

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posted by Trevor Blake at 3:54 PM
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My Open Source Joke
Why do the Republicans oppose stem cell research? Because they are afraid that the Democrats will grow a spine.
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:20 AM
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Monday, March 19, 2007. *
What Harm?
Cait Murphy, assistant editor of Fortune magazine, has writen an article called The Poverty / Terror Myth. "The idea that poverty breeds terror appears obvious; how could it be otherwise? [...] In fact, there is now robust evidence that there is no such link." Murphy delivers some of that robust evidence...

"Of the 50 poorest countries in the world only Afghanistan (and perhaps Bangladesh and Yemen) has much experience in terrorism, global or domestic. [...] Remember, most of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were middle-class sons of Saudi Arabia and many were well-educated. And Osama bin Laden himself is from one of the richest families in the Middle East. [...] Asked whether there were "any circumstances under which you would justify the use of terrorism to achieve political goals," the higher-status respondents (merchant, farmer or professional) were more likely to agree (43.3 percent) than those lower down the ladder (laborer, craftsman or employee) (34.6 percent). The higher-status respondents were also more likely to support armed attacks against Israeli targets (86.7 percent to 80.8 percent). [...] 129 Hezbollah militants who died in action (not all of them in activities that could be considered terrorism) were compared to the general Lebanese population. The Hezbollah members were slightly less likely to be poor, and significantly more likely to have finished high school. [...] A study looked at the biographies of 285 suicide bombers as published in local journals, from 1987-2002. And this found that those who carried out suicide attacks were, on the whole, richer (fewer than 15 percent under the poverty line, compared to almost 35 percent for the population as a whole) and more educated (95 percent with high school or higher) than the rest of the population (almost half of whom went no further than middle school). A similar survey of terrorists in the Jewish Underground, which killed 29 Palestinians in the early 1970s, found the same pattern. A comprehensive study of 1,776 terrorist incidents (240 international, the rest domestic) by Harvard professor Albert Abadie, who was sympathetic to the poverty-terrorism idea at first, found no such thing. 'When you look at the data,' he told the Harvard Gazette, 'it's not there.'"

What is entirely unstated in this article is that what these terrorists have as a motivational force. They are all, every one, motivated by religion. Is there any evidence that when a person believes in an invisible monster that lives in the sky they are less sympathetic to their fellow human beings and more willing to cause harm to a stranger? Why, yes there is...

New research published in the March issue of Psychological Science may help elucidate the relationship between religious indoctrination and violence, a topic that has gained renewed notoriety in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. In the article, University of Michigan psychologist Brad Bushman and his colleagues suggest that scriptural violence sanctioned by God can increase aggression, especially in believers. The authors set out to examine this interaction by conducting experiments with undergraduates at two religiously contrasting universities: Brigham Young University where 99% of students report believing in God and the Bible and Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam where just 50% report believing in God and 27% believe in the bible.

After reporting their religious affiliation and beliefs, the participants read a parable adapted from a relatively obscure passage in the King James Bible describing the brutal torture and murder of a woman, and her husband’s subsequent revenge on her attackers. Half of the participants were told that the passage came from the Book of Judges in the Old Testament while the other half were told it was an ancient scroll discovered in an archaeological expedition. In addition to the scriptural distinction, half of the participants from both the bible and the ancient scroll groups read an adjusted version that included the verse: "The Lord commanded Israel to take arms against their brothers and chasten them before the LORD."

The participants were then placed in pairs and instructed to compete in a simple reaction task. The winner of the task would be able to "blast" his or her partner with noise up to 105 decibels, about the same volume as a fire alarm. The test measures aggression. As expected, the Brigham Young students were more aggressive (i.e. louder) with their blasts if they had been told that the passage they had previously read was from the bible rather than a scroll. Likewise, participants were more aggressive if they had read the additional verse that depicts God sanctioning violence. At the more secular Vrije Universiteit, the results were surprisingly similar. Although Vrije students were less likely to be influenced by the source of the material, they blasted more aggressively when the passage that they read included the sanctioning of the violence by God. This finding held true even for non-believers, though to a lesser extent.

The research sheds light on the possible origins of violent religious fundamentalism and falls in line with theories proposed by scholars of religious terrorism, who hypothesize that exposure to violent scriptures may induce extremists to engage in aggressive actions. "To the extent religious extremists engage in prolonged, selective reading of the scriptures, focusing on violent retribution toward unbelievers instead of the overall message of acceptance and understanding," writes Bushman "one might expect to see increased brutality."

What harm does religion cause? Plenty.


posted by Trevor Blake at 5:27 PM
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What It's Like to Be an Atheist
Alice Shannon of Alaska writes to the Peninsula Clarion...

[The above image by way of the remarkable photo blog riot rite right clit clip click.]


posted by Trevor Blake at 8:06 AM
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Sunday, March 18, 2007. *

Your Sunday Atheism Moments

First from an incisive piece called "God's Dupes" from Sam Harris that I think hits a number of points. I guess the premise is that the relatively sensible Mullah Rob (Can't let this one go: Could you name those angry atheists? Could it be that the overwhelming number of studies--there's more than one--show no positive correlation or perhaps these unnamed angry atheists understand the placebo effect?) gives cover to Catholic Jihadists like Funky Dung. So they must all be...destroyed. Okay he didn't say that last part. He has said that people who take the Old Testament God at his angry off times malicious word should be taken as seriously as, say, palmists and astrologers. Sounds good to me.

Here's a snippet:

PETE STARK, a California Democrat, appears to be the first congressman in U.S. history to acknowledge that he doesn't believe in God. In a country in which 83% of the population thinks that the Bible is the literal or "inspired" word of the creator of the universe, this took political courage.

Of course, one can imagine that Cicero's handlers in the 1st century BC lost some sleep when he likened the traditional accounts of the Greco-Roman gods to the "dreams of madmen" and to the "insane mythology of Egypt."

Mythology is where all gods go to die, and it seems that Stark has secured a place in American history simply by admitting that a fresh grave should be dug for the God of Abraham — the jealous, genocidal, priggish and self-contradictory tyrant of the Bible and the Koran. Stark is the first of our leaders to display a level of intellectual honesty befitting a consul of ancient Rome. Bravo.

Oh here's the whole thing. Its that good.

The truth is, there is not a person on Earth who has a good reason to believe that Jesus rose from the dead or that Muhammad spoke to the angel Gabriel in a cave. And yet billions of people claim to be certain about such things. As a result, Iron Age ideas about everything high and low — sex, cosmology, gender equality, immortal souls, the end of the world, the validity of prophecy, etc. — continue to divide our world and subvert our national discourse. Many of these ideas, by their very nature, hobble science, inflame human conflict and squander scarce resources.

Of course, no religion is monolithic. Within every faith one can see people arranged along a spectrum of belief. Picture concentric circles of diminishing reasonableness: At the center, one finds the truest of true believers — the Muslim jihadis, for instance, who not only support suicidal terrorism but who are the first to turn themselves into bombs; or the Dominionist Christians, who openly call for homosexuals and blasphemers to be put to death.

Outside this sphere of maniacs, one finds millions more who share their views but lack their zeal. Beyond them, one encounters pious multitudes who respect the beliefs of their more deranged brethren but who disagree with them on small points of doctrine — of course the world is going to end in glory and Jesus will appear in the sky like a superhero, but we can't be sure it will happen in our lifetime.

Out further still, one meets religious moderates and liberals of diverse hues — people who remain supportive of the basic scheme that has balkanized our world into Christians, Muslims and Jews, but who are less willing to profess certainty about any article of faith. Is Jesus really the son of God? Will we all meet our grannies again in heaven? Moderates and liberals are none too sure.

Those on this spectrum view the people further toward the center as too rigid, dogmatic and hostile to doubt, and they generally view those outside as corrupted by sin, weak-willed or unchurched.

The problem is that wherever one stands on this continuum, one inadvertently shelters those who are more fanatical than oneself from criticism. Ordinary fundamentalist Christians, by maintaining that the Bible is the perfect word of God, inadvertently support the Dominionists — men and women who, by the millions, are quietly working to turn our country into a totalitarian theocracy reminiscent of John Calvin's Geneva. Christian moderates, by their lingering attachment to the unique divinity of Jesus, protect the faith of fundamentalists from public scorn. Christian liberals — who aren't sure what they believe but just love the experience of going to church occasionally — deny the moderates a proper collision with scientific rationality. And in this way centuries have come and gone without an honest word being spoken about God in our society.

People of all faiths — and none — regularly change their lives for the better, for good and bad reasons. And yet such transformations are regularly put forward as evidence in support of a specific religious creed. President Bush has cited his own sobriety as suggestive of the divinity of Jesus. No doubt Christians do get sober from time to time — but Hindus (polytheists) and atheists do as well. How, therefore, can any thinking person imagine that his experience of sobriety lends credence to the idea that a supreme being is watching over our world and that Jesus is his son?

There is no question that many people do good things in the name of their faith — but there are better reasons to help the poor, feed the hungry and defend the weak than the belief that an Imaginary Friend wants you to do it. Compassion is deeper than religion. As is ecstasy. It is time that we acknowledge that human beings can be profoundly ethical — and even spiritual — without pretending to know things they do not know.

Let us hope that Stark's candor inspires others in our government to admit their doubts about God. Indeed, it is time we broke this spell en masse. Every one of the world's "great" religions utterly trivializes the immensity and beauty of the cosmos. Books like the Bible and the Koran get almost every significant fact about us and our world wrong. Every scientific domain — from cosmology to psychology to economics — has superseded and surpassed the wisdom of Scripture.

Everything of value that people get from religion can be had more honestly, without presuming anything on insufficient evidence. The rest is self-deception, set to music.

He also makes the same point at the Beyond Belief conference here.

And let's not forget Multi Medium's Sunday feature Mr. Diety.

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posted by Philip Shropshire at 10:23 PM
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Alexander Solzhenitsyn

As printed in The Washington Post, p. A26
Monday, February 18, 1974

That which should be naked would then really appear naked before the whole world.

So in our timidity, let each of us make a choice: Whether consciously, to remain a servant of falsehood--of course, it is not out of inclination, but to feed one's family, that one raises his children in the spirit of lies--or to shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect both by one's children and contemporaries.

And from that day onward he:

* Will not henceforth write, sign, or print in any way a single phrase which in his opinion distorts the truth.
* Will utter such a phrase neither in private conversation not in the presence of many people, neither on his own behalf not at the prompting of someone else, either in the role of agitator, teacher, educator, not in a theatrical role.
* Will not depict, foster or broadcast a single idea which he can only see is false or a distortion of the truth whether it be in painting, sculpture, photography, technical science, or music.
* Will not cite out of context, either orally or written, a single quotation so as to please someone, to feather his own nest, to achieve success in his work, if he does not share completely the idea which is quoted, or if it does not accurately reflect the matter at issue.
* Will not allow himself to be compelled to attend demonstrations or meetings if they are contrary to his desire or will, will neither take into hand not raise into the air a poster or slogan which he does not completely accept.
* Will not raise his hand to vote for a proposal with which he does not sincerely sympathize, will vote neither openly nor secretly for a person whom he considers unworthy or of doubtful abilities.
* Will not allow himself to be dragged to a meeting where there can be expected a forced or distorted discussion of a question.
* Will immediately talk out of a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film showing if he hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda.
* Will not subscribe to or buy a newspaper or magazine in which information is distorted and primary facts are concealed.

Of course we have not listed all of the possible and necessary deviations from falsehood. But a person who purifies himself will easily distinguish other instances with his purified outlook.
posted by Uncle $cam at 10:19 PM
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posted by Philip Shropshire at 9:57 PM
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posted by Philip Shropshire at 6:23 PM
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On Jan. 31, [Gary] McDonald gave the class, which consisted of juniors and seniors taking it as an elective, an assignment to read an Iroquois tale of creation, "The World on the Turtle's Back," in the course textbook. The textbook's teacher edition suggests having students compare the creation myth with other creation accounts, as well as discuss their own concepts of good and evil.

McDonald used the textbook's worksheet. On it, students were to give examples of how the Iroquois tale reflects four functions of myth - to instill awe, explain the world, support customs and guide people. But he adapted the form, and had the class do the same for the biblical account of creation in Genesis. He provided a paraphrase of the story. After they completed that assignment, he gave them another handout, titled "The Problem With Evil." That handout, which was not part of the textbook's materials, asked questions such as how evil could exist if God is good and all-powerful.

Junior Lanae Olsen, 17, said it all went too far. The assignment was offensive to her Christian beliefs, and came one day after McDonald told the class he was atheist.


"From a constitutional perspective, schools can't teach the truth or falsity of religious belief, and atheism would fall in that parameter," said Alan Brownstein, a constitutional law expert at the University of California at Davis' School of Law.

[Article continues at link. Mr. McDonald is just the sort of teacher that students should feel lucky to have. He did make a mistake in speaking of his personal beliefs. Not because he is an atheist, but because that's not appropriate for school. The comments of Alan Brownstein are confused and worthless. If schools can't teach the truth or falsity of religious belief then we have to stop teaching the Earth is not flat, that the germ theory of disease is more than 'just a theory,' and other facts in favor of giving equal time to bronze-age nonsense.]


posted by Trevor Blake at 8:23 AM
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Saturday, March 17, 2007. *

Taking place tommorow all over Maine, the Every Village Green movement was organized by a humble coffee roaster from Bar Harbor. The term 'village green' seems to have migrated to New England from old England, where the fight still goes on. Adding a 'green infrastructure' to the open spaces mix, Seattle plans ahead.

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posted by Dr. Menlo at 9:58 PM
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Friday, March 16, 2007. *
posted by Philip Shropshire at 10:33 PM
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It only works with Mozilla. Has 50 or so vids so far. You have to move the cursor to find "play".

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posted by Philip Shropshire at 10:20 PM
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Here's a Watchmen like question: Who is the real bad guy: people who mug old ladies or folks who kill a half million Iraqis? If you really wanted to stop crime, then who would you kill first? I think that's the premise for this comic called "Black Summer", which I heard about at Warren Ellis' great site. More quotes from Warren:

Here We Go…

Political blog Outside The Beltway picks up on BLACK SUMMER.

After all, in a broader ethical sense, is there a difference between a superhero, acting outside the due process of law, killing a President he believes to be a criminal any different than a country, arguably acting outside the law, invading another country that it believes to be a threat?

3926 by Warren Ellis | on Mar 16, 2007 @ 6:44pm | in admin
1 blog reaction

And here:

BLACK SUMMER: Interview At Silver Bullet Comics

With additional stuff from William Christensen and Juan Jose Ryp:

BLACK SUMMER is about the final question of superhero fiction: where does a self-identified superhero draw the line at fighting crime? And I don’t mean the Punisher thing of let’s-just-kill-the-bad-guys, or the easy out of “corporations are criminals too.” I mean, where do you draw the line at defining a criminal? Where do you draw the line at pursuing a criminal act? If your ethical compulsion is to step outside the system of law to prosecute or avenge crime — what do you do in a country where your President can be said to have perpetrated an illegal war that’s claimed thousands of lives?

3920 by Warren Ellis | on Mar 15, 2007 @ 1:12am | in Work
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For the record, and for the edification of the prying eyes of either Homeland Security and/or the secret service, I do not support the murder of the current president of the United States. However, I think there are people who may have come to the conclusion that our political system is broken and that all nonviolent avenues have been exhausted. So, I guess I'm saying I wouldn't be surprised if someone took a shot at him. Then again, its only a comic book ha ha ha and ha.

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posted by Philip Shropshire at 10:06 PM
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'Ted Bundy was accused of torturing, raping, and assassinating at least 100 women, including a girl. He went through 3 trials and countless appeals before his case was resolved.

'He had due process of law. Why does a Guantánamo prisoner not?'


posted by Trevor Blake at 9:15 PM
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Police said a motorist beat a former Soviet political prisoner to death with a rock Thursday at a New Jersey highway rest stop after the victim declined to buy his religious CDs.

Brian White of Humble, Texas, was arrested after a 90-mile chase and charged with murder, eluding police and weapons violations.

The victim's secretary said 75-year-old Michail Makarenko of Hillsboro, Va., spent 11 years in prison for anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda. He owned an art gallery, exhibiting works of banned artists.

[BEGIN OBLIGATORY 'PEOPLE WHO DO BAD THINGS AREN'T REALLY REAL FOR REAL CHRISTIANS' STATEMENT] State police said White "possibly is delusional." He wrote on his MySpace page that his latest recording would one day become part of the "next century Bible." [END OBLIGATORY 'PEOPLE WHO DO BAD THINGS AREN'T REALLY REAL FOR REAL CHRISTIANS' STATEMENT]

White's mother is shocked by his arrest. She said, "He's a Christian guy. He made lots of Christian CDs."

[Dude, quit painting all Christians in such a bad light! Jesus never said we should kill people who don't worship Him!]


posted by Trevor Blake at 5:02 PM
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Thursday, March 15, 2007. *
New unreleased e-mails from top administration officials show that the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys was raised by White House adviser Karl Rove in early January 2005, indicating Rove was more involved in the plan than the White House previously acknowledged.

The e-mails also show that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales discussed the idea of firing the attorneys en masse while he was still White House counsel, weeks before he was confirmed as attorney general.

The e-mails directly contradict White House assertions that the notion originated with recently departed White House counsel Harriet Miers, and was her idea alone.
The latest e-mails show that Gonzales and Rove were both involved in the discussion, and neither rejected it out of hand.

According to the e-mails, Rove raised the issue with then-deputy White House Counsel David Leitch, prompting Leitch to e-mail Kyle Sampson, then a lawyer for the Justice Department. Sampson moved over to the Justice Department after working with Gonzales at the White House.

The e-mails will probably be in the regular Friday news dump tomorrow. But this is just too juicy for the press to not salivate about it. It contradicts what the Snowman has said to reporters the last days. Not that means a damn thing.
posted by Uncle $cam at 5:53 PM
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Trevor Blake Letter to Garrison Keiler
[The following in reply to Garrison Keiler's essay Stating the Obvious at]

I was disappointed and saddened by your piece in Salon magazine. I think that you were trying to emphasize that parenthood is about children and not parents, but for no good reason along the way you took a jab at same-sex parents.

It's a stone cold fact that some ethnic groups have higher divorce rates than others, higher rates of children out of wedlock, higher incidences of multi-generation stints in prison, but would you feel comfortable taking a jab at them? How about the difference between atheist parents and Christian parents - guess which one has a lower divorce rate?

It's nobody's business how many times you've been married and whether or not you've had a monogamous relationship during those times. Just as it is perhaps not up to you to look down on people who are not allowed to get married.

I have a friend who married during the brief moment when Oregon recognized same-sex marriage. After her marriage was declared null and void, her wife got in a motorcycle accident. All of a sudden her wife wasn't covered in her insurance, and the medical bills that came to them were staggering. [It wasn't at all a sure thing that she could visit her wife in the hospital - that's reserved for 'family,' you see.] They moved across the country to a state that recognizes their marriage.

The friend I'm talking about above was my boss at a homeless shelter I worked at. Every day I'd see teenagers whose main problem in the world was a lack of parents that would love them. Right now there are thousands of loving, stable same-sex couples that would adopt such children in a heartbeat but are forbidden by law from doing so. Now's the time to speak in their favor, not put them down.

Everybody deserves a chance to be made fun of, and that includes gay people, atheists, ethnic groups, people in Minnesota, etc. But there's a difference between a gentle elbow in the ribs of an equal sitting next to you and kicking someone when they're down.

I've been listening to you off and on since perhaps 1980, and I will continue to do so. I hope you'll take some time to re-consider what you wrote in Salon and write something more soon.
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:41 AM
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Wednesday, March 14, 2007. *
Jesselyn Radack has the details of the whistleblower protection legislation that is being voted on today.

The legislation was looking great until yesterday when the repugs tried to slice it up.

Oh - and President Bush threatened to veto it . Now why would he do that?
posted by Uncle $cam at 12:59 PM
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The uncoupling of American evangelism from the administration of George Bush gathered pace yesterday when one of the largest national umbrella groups of socially conservative Christians issued a statement critical of US policy towards detainees and repudiating torture as a tactic in the war on terror.

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), which represents about 45,000 churches across America, endorsed a declaration against torture drafted by 17 evangelical scholars. The authors, who call themselves Evangelicals for Human Rights and campaign for "zero tolerance" on torture, say that the US administration has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible" in the treatment of detainees.

[Article continues at link. I wish I could post articles of religion in the news like this every day, instead of articles like this and this and this and this and this...]


posted by Trevor Blake at 12:39 PM
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Monday, March 12, 2007. *

Interesting new acid jazz tune by the band called Miso. Very Portisheadish. You can download this vid here. Below: It's not shot very well but I can't get that beautiful guitar riff out of my head. "Sweet Trip" by Chocolate Matter. "Chocolate Matter" by Sweet Trip. And Yes: I directed and produced this Broadcast video, rated at two stars which I think stands for "EX cellence." And Goddamn you Reginald Hudlin. Goddamn you and BET on J to Hell. Update: If you check out Miso's site, linked above, the band actually seems to share the politics of the vid. Like the filipino bjork lead singer...

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posted by Philip Shropshire at 11:38 PM
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New Stickers from the EFF. (from Boing Boing)


posted by Philip Shropshire at 11:35 PM
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There is only one member of Congress who is on record as not holding a god-belief.

Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), a member of Congress since 1973, acknowledged his nontheism in response to an inquiry by the Secular Coalition for America ( ). Rep. Stark is a senior member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and is Chair of the Health Subcommittee.
posted by Klintron at 2:16 PM
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Saturday, March 10, 2007. *
Religion in the News
Larry Wilson: Ex-Steuben pastor pleads guilty to sex abuse charges. A former Steuben County pastor faces up to 32 years in prison following his guilty plea Monday to felony sexual abuse charges. David J. Troup, 39, of Frog Hollow Road, Painted Post, pleaded guilty Monday to all charges in a Jan. 18 indictment. The most serious charge, first-degree course of conduct against a child, carries a maximum sentence of five to 25 years in state prison. [...] State Police arrested Troup in October following a report from the New York Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. They identified the victims as two boys younger than 11 years old and said the incident occurred in the town of Woodhull in July 2005.

Jeff Brumley: Trinity Baptist faces new abuse lawsuit. The second negligence lawsuit in just more than a week was filed Thursday against Trinity Baptist Church, also saying the Jacksonville church hid knowledge of alleged sexual abuse of children by former Pastor Robert Gray in the 1970s. [...] Adam Horowitz, the Miami attorney representing the plaintiff, filed a similar lawsuit Feb. 21. As with that action, the new suit says the church failed to provide a safe environment for the girl, that it concealed its knowledge of other abuse claims against Gray and that it did not report what it knew to authorities.

Former Ft. Worth Priest Convicted of Abuse. A former priest was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years in prison after being convicted of molesting an 11-year-old boy in the early 1990s. The Rev. Thomas Teczar, 65, of Dudley, Mass., was a priest in the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese until his departure in 1993. [...] The victim, now in his late 20s, testified Wednesday that Teczar used threats, persuasion and the use of his Mercedes to entice him to have sex and keep it a secret when he was 11 years old. Teczar told him he could have him taken away from his mother, the man testified before a state district judge. [...] Before moving to the Fort Worth area, Teczar had worked as a priest in the Worcester Diocese, where he was forced out after being accused of inappropriate behavior with a teenage boy. He is no longer in active ministry.

John Spano: California law violates gays' rights, ex-priest says. Defrocked priest Michael Stephen Baker, 59, said the provision denies equal protection of the law to gay people. He cited a provision of the U.S. Constitution that has been used to advance racial and gender equality. Baker, appearing in court with a trimmed gray beard, is awaiting trial for allegedly molesting two boys — one who was unconscious — during weekend Catholic youth trips. Baker's case is the one Cardinal Roger M. Mahony has said "troubles" him the most. Baker confessed to Mahony his interest in children 20 years ago. He was sent for treatment, allegedly molested more children, and was defrocked by Mahony in 2000.

[Religion makes people moral and is good for children.]


posted by Trevor Blake at 8:52 AM
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Friday, March 09, 2007. *
Someday, soon I hope, through enlightened private and public funding, we will carve out of some hills in Mississippi or Alabama, an obsidian panoply of American black heroes. There will, I'm certain, be many more than four faces. It will be called Mt Blackmore.

The short list of candidates should include Marcus Garvey, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Booker T Washington, Sojourner Truth, George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, John Coltrane, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammed, Minister Louis Farrakhan, H Rap Brown, Shirley Chisolm, Ron Dellums, and Muhammed Ali.

One of the reasons that I have the "Help Wanted" ad at the top of the page is that I have a sense that freedom, integrity, and justice in America is more likely to be achieved by a coalition of citizens and legislators other than white males.

I recently in these pages decried what I have seen as a chasm between the white male-dominated Left and other politically leftist groups. I'm looking harder at that and I've grown a bit. Maybe that chasm is a positive phenomenon. Perhaps advocating integration and unity is not such a good idea, because the strength and power of the non-white-male left might be forced to compromise beliefs and programs/policies that are essential to a radical revolution. Barak Obama, I venture, is an exceptionally noticeable result of such integration. Colin Powell and Condi "They Named a Damn Oil Tanker After Me" Rice are the most egregious and nauseating outcomes. (Heh . . . I've been working on a whole hip-hop riff about "CondiMints" that will likely not make it through to these pages - but yuh know . . . y'know?).

A brief mention of some recent milestones:

Cynthia McKinney has been the only member of Congress so far to introduce a bill of impeachment. Sure, she did it when she was out-the-door-lame-duck, but I have a feeling she would have none so anyway. And she probably would have gotten some co-signers, too.

Barbara Lee, as I remember, 'tho I may be mistaken, was the only MC to vote against military action in Afghanistan. She has without exception voted against, and publicly, stridently opposed all military actions from day one of her Congressional membership. She has unfailingly continued and augmented the legacy of her district predecessor, Ron Dellums. Dellums will someday be recognized as being in the top five list of most courageous, conscientious, and brilliant lawmakers this country has ever seen.

Maxine Waters co-founded and now chairs the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus. Other co-founders include John Lewis, John Conyers, and Charlie Rangel. These are some exceptional leaders.

The Congressional Black Caucus is a vibrant force of leadership on Capitol Hill. It is most attractive for the fact that there is a true evolutionary tension at play, a dialectic that is still almost invisable not only in the white-dominated MSM, but in more left-leaning conduits like Capitol Hill Blue and Talking Points Memo.

Glen Ford's Black Agenda Report and The Black Commentator chronicle the forces at play. The latter's writer, Margaret Kimberley provides an unyielding view of the interplay between black and white current events. She also leads the current debate within the black political community as it develops its own right-middle-left dynamic.

In "Freedom Rider: Crazy, Greedy White Men", she writes:
Insanity, avarice and dismal failure aren't barriers to success for powerful white men. They are allowed to make up nonsense to get what they want, kill thousands of people, display jaw dropping incompetence, lie to Congress, the CIA (if necessary), and the American people, and still maintain their positions of authority and political power.

Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States of America, is a perfect example of this phenomenon of untouchability. In the 1970s Cheney served as Chief of Staff to then president Gerald Ford and Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense. Along with people like Paul Wolfowitz, they argued that the Soviet Union was stronger than anyone, even the CIA, believed it to be. . . .

If Cheney, Rummy and friends decide to go to war against Iran, the Democrats won't stand in the way. They will make quiet noises about authorization but in the end they will say yes and Cheney will have been proven right. It doesn't matter if he shoots hunting partners, or gives himself up when he is trying to be secretive. His stock options haven't disappeared either. Perhaps he isn't so crazy after all . . .
This, by the way, is some of Kimberley's lighter stuff.

Over four years ago, Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, in "Corporate Black Caucus", introduced the first inkling of the tension among African-Americans driven by the post-capitalist forces moving at the same time toward middle-class assimilation and underclass disenfranchisement. They wrote, in part . . .
The Congressional Black Caucus says that it has been "the conscience of the Congress since 1969."

If that is in fact the case, why then is the caucus not taking a leadership role on major progressive issues of the day?

Because like the vast majority of members of Congress, the caucus has been bought off by the corporate commercial interests?

Why isn't the caucus taking a leadership role on moving the country toward a solar economy?

Could it be because oil and auto companies like BP Amoco, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell Oil, Texaco, General Motors, Ford, Nissan, and Daimler Chrysler give big bucks to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation?

Why isn't the black caucus speaking out against the tobacco, junk food and alcohol companies that prey on the nation's young and old alike?

Could it be because Anheuser Busch, Heineken USA, Miller Brewing Company, PepsiCo, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, and Coca-Cola give big dollars to the foundation -- and Ms. Tina Walls of the Miller Brewing Company sits on the board of the foundation? . . .
Here's the bit . . . if Pelosi, Reid, Murtha & Company have their way, we will have but a movement toward the center. That movement is more likely to stifle or extinguish a revolution in paradigm. Although Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition had its day, a blurring of colors is not what we need today. We need, conversely a sharpening of outlines. Black is better served as black.

A revolutionary coalition does not require that the parties be grey. There is enough common ground to be found in a multiracial unity in which colors of both skin and principle are sharply delineated. We spoke much about "diversity" in the late 20th century, but in retrospect diversity still was meant to take place in polyglot white-driven assimilation.

The fact is that much is happening in our culture to support clearer outlines and clarify objectives. In many districts across the country, blacks, now parents, who demanded school integration are now promoting segregation. This leaves many liberals, both black and white, aghast, shaking their heads, and muttering something like, "I do and I do and I do for these folks, and this is the thanks I get."

You bet. Look at the record. The underlying imperative of the community action-based War on Poverty/Great Society" was to have "the maximum feasible participation of the poor." I know . . . I was a community organizer and program director in a CAA in the 70s. Our BOD and program executives were overwhelmingly white, in spite of catchment area demographics that were near majority latino and black. There were only a few pockets across the nation in which blacks actually controlled the development and delivery of services. In Boston, for example, Action for Boston Community Development was a black organization, as was the College of Public and Community Service. Hubie Jones, one of my advisors, was a dynamic and forceful leader (and still is).

Jane Addams, whom I wrote about here recently, went through an evolution that started with social work attempting to assist poor immigrants to integrate and assimilate. Her later years were characterized by empowering these same communities to raise their voices beside, not within, the white culture. Her own voice is stirring the same sentiment from long suppression.

Let that voice be heard, yo. It been heard. It heard.
posted by Unknown at 11:24 AM
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