27 October 2009

Reason #284 that I refuse to work on certain conflicts

News out of the Middle East today: the Lebanese have one upped the Israelis in producing the world's largest vat of hummus, followed up by the world's largest tabbouleh. This is apparently a source of national pride and some allege is a powerful repudiation of Zionism.

See, there are legitimate grievances, and then there is fucking absurdity. You figure out which of those categories is best applied in this case.

This particular conflict resolution professional refuses to work with the blatantly petty.

(Then again, this particular conflict resolution professional isn't doing any conflict resolution work, whatsoever, so maybe we should consider a change of policy.)

25 October 2009

Neoliberalism goes boom

I'll be the first to admit that my grasp of economics and complex theories of capital and class sometimes escape me. I'm just not a theory guy. Anyway, this video is both concise and amusing.

Neoliberalism as Water Balloon from Tim McCaskell on Vimeo.

Hat tip: Africa is a Country

11 October 2009

The National Equality March and shoddy organizing

I just got back from the rally portion of the National Equality March, and if I didn't believe in the march from the outset, I most certainly don't believe in it now.

As many of you know, the march was called for and organized by Cleve Jones, and as announced this afternoon, the planning committee consisted of mostly Californians. These Californians called for the march because they lost proposition 8 last fall. I hate to break it to them (again), but losing prop 8 was their own damn fault. A campaign of generic tv commercials and cocktail parties is not activism, is not mobilizing, and is not convincing to the general public. On the same ballot, chickens gained rights, while gay couples lost them. It's not the radical right's fault that initiative was lost -- they played their role in that saga exactly as they were supposed to. The lesbian and gay activists in California (and I use only those words intentionally) and their mainstream gay rights organization backers at the national level messed it up, and I don't feel sorry for them. From the outset, it was clear that their main objective was to bring their sad song to DC, and they have done so, and I'm still not sorry for them.

The rally today featured 35 speakers, at least 30 of which most people have never heard of. Marriage rights were clearly the order of the day. Don't Ask Don't Tell played a close second. The pending Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was hardly mentioned, and healthcare wasn't discussed at all. As the rally was getting started, the announcer kept talking about "securing equal equality for gays and lesbians." Not only does that phrase make no sense, it isn't fully inclusive of what our movement at least purports to be (though is pretty accurate, sadly). In any event, marriage is apparently the be all and end all thing all the little queers are supposed to blindly get behind.

There was very little mention of the unique issues facing transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States. No mention whatsoever of the rural experience. No mention of the poor and working class experience. No mention of the immigrant experience. No metion of the youth experience. Virtually no mention of the person of color experience. This was a march for the white, the middle and upper class, the educated, the well-to-do, the conformist, the assimilationist, the patient, and most sadly, the blind followers. Barack Obama was given one oratical blowjob after another for his ever eloquent empty promises. Barney Frank, with whom I rarely agree, was scorned for calling the march a waste of time. And, sadly, there were far too many posters saying "listen to Cleve" and "Cleve is right." Right about what, exactly? That he needs and wants attention and thus threw this little party to get it? The only person in the long list of speakers (before I left in frustration) to actually call for people to talk to their legislators at the local, state and national levels was Judy Shepard.

(BTW, there couldn't have been more than 10,000 people there, and that's probably generous. The crowd didn't go much further than the Grant memorial/reflecting pool in front of the Capitol.)

There was no talk of grassroots empowerment (though the grassroots were falsely invoked time and again). No talk of how to actually be an effective organizer. No offers of various strategies to see LGBTQ rights recognized at various levels of government. Instead, the talk was listen to the gay elite, and follow their orders. If you dare ask questions, you must be against us.

Fuck all that. The other day a Human Rights Campaign fundraiser stopped me on the street to ask for money. I tried to politely say I had ethical issues with his organization, and wouldn't give. Rather, than leave me be, he started to argue. I pointed out that that HRC is a racist, classist, sexist, transphobic organization. His only retort was that on "the trans thing," they recently added some words to their charter and decided to not fuck up ENDA this time around. Racist, classist and sexist went unchallenged.

I'll admit, I'm a white, gay, cissexual, well-educated, employed, housed man. I should be the one this march appealed to the most. And yet, it was a turn-off. There was no apparent understanding that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. There was no recognition that the oppressed of the world need to unite and work for and with each other. There was no recognition that the incredibly conservative mainstream national gay movement has failed us all.

I've recently been reading a collection of essays called Smash the Church, Smash the State by several early radicals who were involved in gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans, immigrant and PoC liberation right around and immediately after Stonewall. Several of the authors express astonishment that today's movement (with whom many broke ties long ago) is fighting for marriage rights when 40 years ago the goal was to smash unjust patriarchal institutions, and that rather than fighting for the end of violent oppression and imperialist wars of expansion, today's gay movement is fighting to openly contribute to those efforts.

I guess today we're supposed to congratulate ourselves for working backward.

This is not to say that good things didn't happen around the march. There was a town hall yesterday for trans activists from around the country to network, share experiences, and strategize together. And I also had the real privilege of participating in an all day leadership conference for queer youth from DC and all over the country, where they gained training and skills to take the fight back to their schools and towns and build a better future.

Today is National Coming Out Day. Yet if this march is any indication of the future of LGBTQ activism, then we haven't come out at all. We've built ourselves a new closet that will take years to deconstruct.

17 September 2009

Max Baucus can kiss my pansy ass

This grand non-compromise plan isn't worth the paper it's written on. To paraphrase from The American President, what good is health care reform legislation that does virtually nothing to reform healthcare?

Also, I want more than just some good old fashioned market choice, especially if these ridiculous "you're not insured" taxes are going to be foisted onto people.

Now let me make myself clear: I support healthcare reform. Hell, I support turning the whole healthcare system on it's head, shaking it down, and rebuilding it in Sweden's image. This proposal, however, simply doesn't cut it.

Is there some drive up window wherein I can order 535 legislators with integrity and fortitude?

16 September 2009

Amoral healthcare reform bordering on immorality

This article from today's Post pisses me off in about 14,000 different ways. And, as many of you know, I'm not a morning person. The issue here is mandated coverage, particularly for young adults (like me).

As has been known for some time, the plans progressing through the idiot Congress mandate that everyone has healthcare. Excellent. Good idea. It's both true and necessary.

However, since the public option has been scrapped in the name of political expediency and Rush the Addict Limbaugh, this comes down to an unfunded mandate to the taxpayer.

Anybody other than me notice that unemployment is up and incomes are down lately? No? Have you read a newspaper/blog or heard a radio or seen a TV? No? Then you have no business writing or voting on legislation. Now isn't the time for an unfunded mandate to anybody.

Since I try to avoid national domestic issues like the plague on our houses that they are, I don't have any data available that I can readily cite. What I do know is this: more of my friends are unemployed than there used to be. Many of those that are employed scrape buy. If my job didn't provide insurance, I, like many, simply wouldn't have it. A mandate from Congress will not change that reality. And yes, it's great that the Medicaid cap on income would go up to about $14,000 a year. But what about the multitudes that make more than that (even by a few dollars), but don't have access to employer supplemented insurance?

Say you live in DC and make $20,000 per year, and you don't have a car, so living outside the city isn't much of an option. Rent and utilities will likely eat up at least half, if not more, of that income. If you ate cheaply, you could maybe get by on $100 per month, if you have no dependents. Factor in another few hundred in bus fare, etc. Everyone needs to buy clothes periodically, but assume you rely on thrift stores. That all would come to roughly $15,000 of the 20. Now, where exactly will the $200/month for a baseline government mandated insurance plan come from? Yeah, you could do it, but you could save virtually nothing and your budget would have to be planned to the penny, and you couldn't survive any contingencies (say, a month being unemployed). Even a college graduate making roughly $32,000 per year, but say carrying $20,000 in debt, is going to find it phenomenally challenging to buy insurance, regardless of the cost. A tax break is a nice idea, but those usually come once a year, and after a purchase has been made. Where does the cash come from in the meantime?

My social security deduction already goes straight from my payroll to my grandparents, after a quick stopover at the Treasury. That's fine with me, as I like my grandparents. But to force young people to buy insurance to keep insurance companies' costs down as they pay for my parents' coverage isn't really ethical. If I had wanted to pitch in on the repair costs for my stepfather's recent broken ankle, I could've done that on my own.

Without a public option, any healthcare reform bill is immoral, particularly if it shoulders more of the costs onto people with the least means. How about we cut the disgustingly high salaries of healthcare execs, or something more socially equitable? The people that claim a public option would fund abortions or provide free healthcare to illegal immigrants (heaven forfend!) or haul my grandmother out and shoot her (I defy anyone to even try that -- you'll lose) need to shut the hell up. And I've yet to buy the argument that reform is somehow unconstitutional. But the plans as they're taking shape are immoral, and for a looney lefty like me, that's entirely unacceptable.

EDIT: Had I read to the bottom of the Post's daily email before sending my blood pressure through the roof, I would have discovered that at least one senator's views comport well with my own. All we need are 99 more.

14 September 2009

DC electoral idiot match 2010, round 1 of 7 million

So the WaPo has finally picked up on the fact that Phil Mendelson has a challenger for the 2010 race, one Clark Ray. Personally, I rather like Mendelson, and Ray is gonna have to give me something other than his being somebody else before I'll think about voting for him. Nonetheless, the Post's article featured this ringing endorsement:
Judy Leon, who lives in the 1500 block of 16th Street, attended Ray's announcement with her dog Beta.

"This is a dog whose life was changed by Mr. Ray," Leon said, explaining how the 4-year-old yellow Labrador was rescued from a puppy mill. "She's now able to come out of her shell [at the dog park] and play with other dogs."

That's right, kids. Vote for Clark Ray: He gave an affluent lady's dog a nice place to shit.

'Scuse me while I just go pick up a Mendelson button.

09 September 2009

How to be a nerd in two short days

Last weekend I decided to nerd out and do some ridiculous history sightseeing. The agenda: 1) chase John Wilkes Booth into Virginia, 2) Fredericksburg, battle of, 3) Lincoln Cottage (conveniently located near my home).

I got a late start Saturday, thanks mostly to my own laziness. I decided to skip ye olde crime scene (Ford's Theater) and head directly onto the chase. First stop: Mary Surratt's Tavern, out in Clinton. I toured the home, which is well preserved, and endured the inane questioning of a touron couple and their decidedly special obnoxious child. However, I neglected to take a photo, so you'll just have to trust me. After that it was just stops along the road, as most everything else on the route is either closed, privately held, or just plain gone and marked by one of those little roadside plaques. A few photos:

Dr. Mudd's House

St. Mary's Church

A pine thicket, obviously

After that, I went back in time two years to ye olde Fredericksburg, Virginia, where I walked along the line of battle that was (then) just outside of town (it got too dark for me to attend to the other flank). Again, more boredom:

Sunken Road, Stone Wall, and Ennis House

Inside the Ennis House (don't live in a war zone)

From Marye's Heights toward town and the Union assault

When cannonball meets marble post (Willis Cemetery)

The official tally at Fredericksburg National Cemetary (Union soldiers only)

And then finally the Lincoln Cottage located at the Armed Forces Retirement Home. The museum is small, but quite nice. You can only tour the cottage on an official tour though, which is a little too much Disney history for my tastes (as in, you really don't need a giant plasma screen in each room to have some Lincoln impersonator talk at me). Anyway, I learned something, so that's all that matters.

The front of the cottage

And the rear view.

We now return to our regularly scheduled non-historical nerdiness, already in progress.

03 September 2009

Explaining evangelical higher ed

A friend submitted a query to me just now, and my response was so brilliant, I decided to repost the conversation.
A: ignorance is bliss
A: I just learned there is more than one christian law school
J: yes, there is more than one
A: whyyyyy
A: I thought the jerry falwell one was the only one
J: well, on the 8th day, god said "let's kill all the faggots and beat the womenfolk into submission"
A: hahaha
J: and then the mormons said "we've got just the thing"
J: and then the evangelicals said "we'll see your BYU and raise you a whole system of wackjob 'educational' institutions, and jesus shall be pleased once karl rove gives us the new promised land to run, and we fill israel with red cows"
A: lol....
J: and the lord said, "it is good. a little short on logic, but good"
A: ok that's fun to learn
J: and then the hebrews ran around egypt and there were some wars and some dude was nailed to a tree and then at the end a greek dude in a cave had a wicked acid trip
So there, now you know. Avoid them scary schools of evangelical indoctrination, and stick to the good old fashioned loony left variety. :)

28 August 2009

Vigil for Wednesday stabbing victims tonight @ 6:30pm

In an effort to spread the word just a little further, this is a quick reminder that the vigil for the two trans women stabbed on Wednesday afternoon will be held tonight in the 200 block of Q Street NW. One individual died, and the other remains hospitalized.

Both Transgender Health Empowerment and the DC Trans Coalition have issued statements on the killing.

Please come out to the vigil tonight to observe those killed and injured in this incident, which is being investigated as a hate crime.

26 August 2009

Quickie: Farmboys for the Foreign Service

Have you never left the country? Do you not even know what a passport looks like, let alone have one? Is the only Stan you're familiar with the guy that runs the service station down the road? And do directions to your home involve the phrase "turn off the paved road"?

Well, congratulations, my friend. You're in luck.

The U.S. Department of State wants you!

Apparently, doing background checks on people who have actually left the country takes too long, and thus even if they're hired, they don't get to work! Thus, farmboys and farmgirls, now is your chance to make it big. Represent the best of America by being the official face of your country abroad.

But act fast! The more you travel, the harder you are to hire.

24 August 2009

No apology necessary: An open letter to Norway

Dear Norway:

We haven't met, but I hear your country is both beautiful and obscenely expensive. The individual Norwegians I've met along the way have been impressive, so I'm gonna chalk that up to your overall character.

Now, down to business. Last week, one of your brilliant diplomats in New York wrote a brilliant confidential memo to the folks in Oslo about how UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is basically a waste of carbon-based molecules. That memo leaked, and of course was immediately posted to every corner of the internet. Now your foreign minister is apologizing for the whole deal.

Frankly, I think no apologies are necessary. Ambassador Mona Juul, the memo's author, was merely speaking the truth (and speaking it well, I might add). For that, she needs a promotion, and you don't need to apologize.

Remember, Norway, to always speak truth to power (remember your brilliant overthrow of the Swedes?), even if it's just puppet power.

Most respectfully,


23 August 2009

Brilliant blogging by others causes writer's block

I came across this post this evening about the release of the Lockerbie bomber and the politics of the UN Security Council and how its evolution has helped alter the international legal environment.

I've sat here for a good little bit now, trying to think of something to add to this discussion. But mostly, I just think it thought provoking, so enjoy, and analyze for yourself.

It's not like anyone is paying me to do this. ;)

09 August 2009

Give your leaders each a gun and then let them fight it out themselves

I just saw this video (below), of Radiohead's tribute to Harry Patch, the last surviving British soldier who fought in World War I. I don't know much about him, but it seems as though he ended up being a rather anti-war individual as a result of his experiences.

Anyway, you can probably tell my favorite quote from the piece by the title of this post. And I've added his autobiography to my wishlist.

Hat tip: Armchair Generalist.

17 July 2009

For those wondering why I refuse to work in government

Stephen Walt today points out The Ten Commandments for Ambitious Policy Wonks, which basically sum up why I have no interest in working in the U.S. foreign policy community. Of the 10, I can only safely obey number 2 and 8. Thus, I'll stick to liberal hippie peacenik stuff, thank you very much. Sure, I may never make much money, but at least I'll have values.

16 April 2009

Bass ackwards ways to fight piracy

Friends, today President I Wanna Hold Your Hand's secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, announced the brand spanking new plan for the U.S. government to beat those pirates off the coast of Somalia. Cue shouts of jubilation and nationalistic chants of "3 Amer'kan bullets, 3 dead pirates!"

Here I thought that the Obama administration was doing the right thing by cooling the national jets on this War on Terrrrrrr business, but it looks like they weren't banking on there being terr'ists on boats.

In case you haven't yet figured it out by the tone of this post so far, I think their plan sucks. Just like most of the world's terrorists, these pirates are being driven by economic interests much more so than any sort of ideology, anti-Western vendettas, etc. After nearly 20 years of anarchy, Somalia is an absurdly poor nation, the subject of neglect from would be patrons both foreign and domestic. Food is hard to come by, and it's gotten harder to come by in coastal villages by the mysterious appearance of foreign fishing vessels along a coastline with no organized military force to protect it. That same unprotected coast has also been home to mysterious dumps of nuclear waste. This has made even subsistence fishing a real chore along the coast, which only makes Somalis more dependent on foreign aid, which only continues to exacerbate the alleged lack of local capacity for self rule. Perhaps if all these do-gooder international types really had Somali best interests at heart, they would save some Somali fish for some actual Somalis. Plus, shooting pirates causes the locals to (rightly) resent international intervention even more. Don't think that only Americans get pissed off when their countrymen die in attacks.

I don't want to paint the pirates as heros or freedom fighters, because they're not. They do, however, have a legitimate greivance (or, at least the first lot did -- of course some folks have just joined in for the fun) that perhaps needs to be addressed. The U.S. is right to send representatives to the next donor conference, but donor conferences are silly things that often only amount to grandiose declarations about shit that will be done, rather than, you know, actually doing shit.

Much of the developed world's policy towards Somalia (and Somaliland therein) needs a serious rethink, and just shooting pirates simply won't be part of the real solution.

15 April 2009

Stupid things other people said

This is probably wholly inappropriate, but I'm gonna say it anyway. I've been in the midst of a big long brouhaha over whether or not my day job should be a bit more activist in promoting peace and social justice. A compromise was reached, which is pretty watered down from initial proposals, but is progress nonetheless.

Then I get wind of a follow-up conversation where one individual reported that she didn't care for the word "justice." I mean, justice is really a horrible thing to be for, no? Anyway, my response: "ever since women got the vote, they just complain all the time."

Classy? No. Appropriate? Probably not that either. Snarky? Certainly.

Who knew that social justice was such a threatening concept to my fellow members of the near-loony left. And how is it that people can't understand that peace and justice are mutually dependent concepts with coterminous ends?

15 March 2009

More news on trans inmates in DC

Following up on my last two posts on this subject, yesterday the Blade ran an op-ed by the DC Trans Coalition (penned by a great friend and yours truly) on the recent developments regarding DC's new policy on housing trans folks in the DC jail.

Be sure to check it out, and remember, holding your government accountable is fun!

09 March 2009

Open letter to Prince Gomolvilas: You corrupted me

(As emailed to the above named recipient.)

Dear Mr. Gomolvilas (if that's your real name):

This evening, I found myself glued to my computer for approximately 96 minutes while watching the entirety of one High School Musical. This is your fault, and I blame you totally. Your little teenage obsession finally wiggled its way into my otherwise respectable head.

This afternoon, I was sitting in the National Cathedral soaking in beautifully illuminated rose windows while listening to works commemorating the life of Abraham Lincoln composed by some of the greatest American music geniuses of the last century. Sam Waterston narrated one piece. Sam Fucking Waterston. These works were gorgeous. The culminating piece was Hindemith's setting of Walt Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd." A poem inspired by Lincoln's death set to music driven by the death of FDR and millions in the Holocaust. The baritone soloist was Asian, for God's sake, so you would be proud.

And where did I end up this evening? Watching High School Musical with Zac Fucking Efron. Zac Fucking Efron. I was casually searching for a movie to watch online, as this afternoon's entertainment had been a touch... heavy... and doing more reading on nonviolence theory just wasn't appealing to me, even though I need to get it done so that I can continue my God-given mission of changing this fucking shithole planet into something more bearable for us all. And what popped up under musicals, but High School Musical. High. School. Fucking. Musical.

And I watched it. And maybe I even liked it a little. And maybe I got a little bit misty at one part, and perhaps might have shed a single fucking tear. And maybe the gay one was a little endearing, with his cute shirts and all. All while my rabbit mocked me. See?!?! I was mocked by an animal whose brain is the size of a shelled pecan. And it's your fault. It's all your fault. And worse yet, there are still still two fucking more of these fucking endearing little fucking Disney gems left. And I'll probably watch them. And I blame you for corrupting me.

By now, you're probably sitting at your little desk laughing your ass off with your big beast of a cat. You're probably even wanting to repost this on your silly little blog. But I won't let you have the best of me, mon Prince. You may have corrupted me, but you shall not take my dignity.

Yours sincerely,

Jason A. Terry, M.A.

P.S. Watch this, you perv.

07 March 2009

Trip to the Arboretum

I took a field trip to the Arboretum yesterday! It was my first time venturing there. Not a lot was in bloom, but I checked out the Asian collection, as well as the dwarf conifers (I could totally dork out over dwarf conifers if given the chance). It also seemed like a good place to practice riding my rarely used bike that my better half so lovingly assembled for me. Anyway, a few photos, to prove that I'm alive. These include shots of the old Capitol columns, a couple of random things, and a (broken, of course) fire hydrant in its native habitat.

P.S. Sorry for, you know, skipping February. Late January/early February got consumed with moving to a new physical headquarters for this here blog, and getting things set up, and unpacking my library, and Ikea runs, and all that. I've sung this song before, but I'm gonna try to do better. :)

06 March 2009

In re: my LGBT life related post of November 2008

Progress, comrades!

Read here, and here, and stay tuned for updates.

20 January 2009

Another day, another president

This morning I joined the throng on the Mall to see the Inauguration. So glad I went! I left the apartment at about 8:45 and headed south down 16th Street. At New Hampshire, I cut over to 17th and took that to Farragut Square, at which point the crowds started getting exceptionally heavy. As I made to to H Street, I looked east and saw a huge mass of people that spanned several blocks. We shuffled over to 18th and continued south towards the Mall. Once there, I noticed plenty of space on the hill around the Washington Monument, so I bee-lined it over there. Everything was relatively painless, except that the way the port-a-potties were arrayed caused the flow of people to bottleneck in places.

I attempted to get to the east side of the monument, so I could at least see the Capitol, even if I couldn't tell what was going on there. The crowd was too dense though, so I moved back to the north side from whence I came, and adopted a jumbotron.

My adopted jumbotron

At that point (about 9:30 or so), crowds were already stretching to the Lincoln Memorial, and all the space east of the monument looked totally full (which, apparently, it was). Once in my selected spot, I began to slowly freeze, but at least the folks around me were entertaining. Everyone was in exceptionally good spirits, and there were people from all walks of life. I heard at least 4 or 5 different languages spoken, and saw prim ladies in mink coats chatting it up with random folks in sweat pants. And, though I may be the only person in the blogosphere to say this, I thought the pieces by the San Francisco Boys and Girls Choruses were very good (yay choir kids!). Then all the dignitaries started being seated. It was funny because you could pick up little bits of their conversations over the loudspeaker -- must've been some very hot mics on that platform. Ted Kennedy, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, and the Clintons all got big cheers. George Bush's last official greeting from the American people, however, was a two-million-person boo.

As an aside, if you've never heard two million people clapping, it sounds kind of like a dinosaur walking around.

Then it was time for the stars of the show. Big cheers for Malia and Sasha! And Michelle Obama looked absolutely regal! And when Barack Obama walked on, imagine the sound of several really hungry dinosaurs running after the only chicken this side of the Mississippi. You could probably hear it from space.

Dianne Feinstein gave good remarks, I thought. The Rick Warren thing wasn't so much offensive as it was awkward, with some folks around me reminding him that the compassionate God he invoked really was loving and compassionate towards all people (plus, Sasha apparently equals "Mufasa, Mufasa, Mufasa!"). Aretha Franklin was stunning, of course, and I'm in love with her hat, which DCist described as "Sporting the Queen of Bows on the Queen of all Hats" Joe from Scranton was then duly sworn in, followed by that John Williams number that I simply must get a recording of.

Then there was, of course, Obama's swearing in, complete with fumbled oath of office, thanks to the Chief Justice.

And then there was the speech. An incredible, pitch-perfect speech. Well played, sir.

The crowded disappated quickly after the speech was over, but I stuck around (though was knocked a few feet back), and chatted with a cute slightly older couple decked out in matching bright neon British police jackets. These gentlemen had taken it upon themselves to stand over a rather massive hole in the ground for most of the morning, to prevent others from falling in it. They were hilarious. We got to hear the upbeat and perhaps quasi-ridiculous benediction, and then I started the long trek home.

And yes, it was a trek. I hung around for a bit snapping a few more bad photos, and then proceeded toward the port-a-potty bottleneck once more. Apparently, some brilliant planner decided to bring in all the military folks for the parade via bus down Consitution Avenue right as the main shindig was ending. The crowd I was in decided we should cut off the Air Force, and so it was. There was then the slow shuffle back up 18th Street to I Street, where I finally was able to break free from the herd. I was fortunate enough to find a warm bus headed towards my place, so that concluded the mission, successfully accomplished.

A final word on Obama's economic stimulus plans: T-shirt, button, and other swag makers the world over are making a killing off this event. I'm fully expecting to see Barack Obama's face on every flat surface in town when I head to work in the morning.

And, because I'm a dirty hippie, I leave you with this photo of the signs some of my fellow speech watchers were carrying. Peace out.

EDIT: I forgot to add that as part of my dorkiness, I checked out the new WhiteHouse.gov page. I was surprised by the good stuff found on the civil rights page, and I welcome the new blog.

EDIT x2: I also forgot to mention that I was walking off the Mall as Bush's helicopter took off. I shouted up "Go back to Texas and don't ever come back!" and some lady behind me shouted some sort of general agreement, and then we had a good hearty chuckle.

19 January 2009

Sponsor an executive today... You'll be saving a lifestyle

This was just too good not to pass on.

Goes along with my earlier rants about bailouts quite nicely, I think.

Hat tip: Armchair Generalist.

17 January 2009

Required Reading Alert

As those of us in the United States prepare for a long weekend that marks a national day of service, the commemoration of a fallen civil rights leader, and the inauguration of a new president, I encourage you to take five minutes to read this piece, no matter what country you hail from. The author was killed, very much in the way he described, just a few days before it was published.

Hat tip: wronging rights.

Inauguration questions: A little help, please?

So I've been reading up on security stuff (here, here, here and here) for ObamaCon 2K9, and, because this stuff was written by security types, and not actual people, I'm now more confused that I was before.

The boy and I are planning to walk to the Mall and plant ourselves before a jumbotron. We don't have tickets, and have no interest in the parade. We just want to be among the throng for a bit. I've even plotted out a path that goes completely around the security perimeter. Yet, as far as I can gather, the uber-long list of prohibited items found in all those places above seems to only apply to the Sunday concert, the seating area for the ceremony and the parade route. Is this correct? Cuz I'd really like to take more snacks than can be fit into a shaving kit sized bag.

So, my questions:
  • Will there be security screening along the part of the Mall opened to the general public?
  • Can I bring a bag slightly larger than my shaving kit? Nothing huge, mind you, just something with room for some sandwiches and extra water, and maybe my little fleece blanket (airplane sized).
  • It would appear that there is a preference for clear, plastic bottles, since glass bottles and thermoses are banned. Does this also preclude the boy from bringing his non-thermal yet metal water bottle?
If anybody, anybody, has a clue about what's going on with this mess, I'd appreciate it. God save the Queen, and all that.

Wait, wrong country. Uh... Hail to the Chief?

EDIT: As someone commented on the WaPo page linked to above, the NYT does in fact have better information, including in today's edition. Link is here.

14 January 2009

Sometimes mockery creates itself

So I was reading this little gem about this young gay boy who was buddies with Barbara Bush the Younger and used to get invited to party with Shrub the Younger after Barbara the Younger decided not to put her college education to use for a good number of years. He does the obligatory mention of how all his other homo friends thought he was an idiot for accepting so many invitations from the would-be murderer of all notions of civil rights, and frankly I think his friends should've knocked him over the head a few times. I'm all for being civil with those whom I disagree, but I will not tolerate their dogs' farts.

Shocker of shockers, this boy starts to question his country's leadership after 9/11, Iraq, the roughshod dismantling of the Constitution, etc. And, his little veil of being a poor working boy who just happened to graduate from Yale is of course blown by the fact that his parents are disappointed that he has failed to join the country club. I find it impossible to believe that his net worth ever existed solely in the cup holder of his beaten up Jeep. (And, etiquette note here: if you are invited to the White House and your car is literally falling apart, please dear lord either rent one or show up on foot).

Anyway, in spite of this boy's semi-cuteness yet blatant idiocy, I submit the following observation of why he's a yutz who gets no sympathy from me: he's a homo boy wearing too many dark colors for one outfit, a button-down collar, and pleated forest green pants. Fashion fail.

See, I told you I'd get back to blogging about things I know. :)

Hat tip: Wonkette.

And Sidebar: I'm exceptionally happy that Tennessee Democrats are savvier than their national counterparts. Way to play the game.

11 January 2009

A word on Gaza

I make no pretenses about knowing anything at all about the Middle East. I find that the conflicts there are both ridiculously intractable and feel that they probably get more than their fair share of airtime vis-a-vis other nasty, brutal conflicts going on in the world at any given time. This infuriates me. While I believe that Israel has a right to exist and defend itself, I often believe that particular tactics employed by the IDF are simply indefensible, and sometimes constitute breaches of international humanitarian law. Fighting rocks with helicopter gunships or rockets with infantry invasions blows any concept of proportionality to pieces. That said, certain Palestinian actors also need to learn/realize that violence clearly gets them nowhere except bombed back into the stone age. Should either side ever demonstrate the possession of a lick of common sense, I'll pay closer attention. This concludes my oversimplification.

Over the past day or so, I've read a few items that have put the conflict in perspective.
  • This post argues that this particular conflict has greater geopolitical implications for the region that will most likely require some sort of new dialogue between the United States and Iran. Worth reading.
  • Here we see the idea advanced that Israel's political leaders may lack the brainpower necessary to execute an effective strategy, and may not even have a strategy. They continue to count tactical advances as victories, when is a pretty low threshold of success.
  • Then, the IDF's narrative about how/why the UN school in Gaza was bombed earlier this week continues to shift, and in highly dubious ways.
  • And finally, let's bear in mind that Gaza has a higher population density than Los Angeles. We need to recognize that an all-out ground and air war is taking place is what is effectively one big city where the inhabitants are forbidden from leaving.
I'm now going to return to things I know a bit more about.

10 January 2009

Choose Your Own Peacebuilding Adventure

Over on the Peace and Collaborative Development Network, Craig Zelizer posted 10 Actions for Peace in 2009. In general, I think his list is a bit... academic. Nonetheless, his item number 10 was, basically, create your own, so here goes.

Assuming we're talking about positive peace, with its implicit reduction/absence of structural violence, and bearing in mind that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," we can start to think of promoting peace in much more activist terms. Regardless of where we are in the world, most of us can probably walk down the street or drive down the road and see signs of injustice right around us. Those could include the shoddy state of schools in poor areas, veterans panhandling on the street, prisons full of men of color, referenda held on the rights of particular groups, watching the news and seeing civilians being killed by advanced armies, or companies where white men take the offices while women and people of color fill the cubicles and the production lines. So what, then, can we do?

Though this blog and my own interests remained focused largely on international issues of peace and justice, we should be mindful not to ignore the injustices we encounter in our own backyards. As Martin Luther King pointed out throughout his career, we cannot have peace locally, nationally, or globally, when unjust structures and systems are holding somebody -- anybody -- down. If we sit and think about it for a moment, that makes the absence of peace in this world seem massive, and it is, but rather than be daunted by that, we must instead rise to the challenge it presents.

In my day job, we discuss and promote the international exchange of students and scholars, and I believe strongly that promoting the international exchange of ideas is important to promoting international peace and understanding. Yet at the same time, discussing national policies and their international impacts seems a bit stratospheric. It's sometimes hard to feel connected to the effects of your work when you're merely a ripple in an ocean. Thus over the summer I started to get involved in activist work to ensure that the DC government complies with and enforces its own human rights law, which is one of the most progressive in the nation. My particular efforts, with many friends and seasoned activists young and old, have been around ensuring that the law is respected as it applies to transgender inmates in the DC jail. This issue is leaps and bounds away from my day job, but it's important. It's an "injustice anywhere" kind of issue, and it matters to world peace, even if you can't immediately see the connection (and I assure you, it's hard to make the mental jump).

Over the holiday, I read Lisa Schirch's Little Book of Strategic Peacebuilding (an even shorter introduction to her concepts can be found here), which was a helpful reminder of how big building peace really is. In the book, she describes the concept of justpeace, which assumes that peace cannot exist without justice, and that if justice is pursued through violent means, it undermines peace. She goes on to describe how maximize resources and foster collaboration to ensure a successful peacebuilding process.

I've often thought of building peace as being similar to building a house. You draw a plan, prepare the land, lay the foundation and work up from there. It's not a small undertaking, and it can't be done singlehandedly, but each of us can find a way to help a friend build a house, just as we can each find a way to build peace in the world. The size of the task is sometimes incomprehensible, but collectively, we have the means to finish the job.

03 January 2009

Big dreams brought to you by The Little Man with Big Dreams

The above moniker was bestowed to me by a relative when I was a kid, and deployed whenever I'd get wistful about leaving our dinky little town to save the world, or at least be able to teach a really awesome high school history class. Given that I'm a towering 5'7", it's still basically appropriate. I'm still a big dreamer, but lately I've felt I'm getting a little distracted by life's minutiae, and not focusing on big things. Call it ennui, if you must. Call it "time for change," if you've consumed too much of the Obama kool-aid.

Anywho, when I read Prince's call for us all to dream big, I decided to ponder it for a bit, and then take him up on it. These aren't resolutions, per se, and if things don't go off in the calendar year of 2009, so be it, but I do like the idea of having some big life goals and a few measurables to work from. The big dreams, in no particular order:
  • Be more theoretically informed about the world around me. At the very tail end of 2008, I discovered something called the Africa Reading Challenge, wherein participants agreed to read any 6 books by African authors or about African issues over the course of the year. Since I missed that boat, I would like to expand it to African issues and authors plus works on conflict resolution, peace studies, and the like. My goal for this year: 10 books.
  • Be more dedicated to getting my thoughts out into the world. I tend to blog in spurts, and my friends' and my endeavor over at Practical Peaceniks seems to be hitting a quiet patch. I would like to revitalize this blog, perhaps including more non-international and local content, with a goal of 10 posts per month. I know it doesn't sound like much, but it's something. Also, as I start to think about graduate study again, I would like to pursue getting at least one piece -- even if it's just a book review -- selected for publication.
  • Be more engaged with my community. This year I started getting involved in the work of the DC Trans Coalition, and that has been incredibly rewarding after a too long lull in my activist adventures. I would like to continue that work, as well as find volunteer opportunities related to engaging local youth in international affairs and/or promoting peace and social justice issues.
  • Dramatically improve my level of personal and professional fulfillment. I think doing all of the above will help with that tremendously. More generally speaking, I need to stay on top of new opportunities as they develop, and I need to be more intentional about making sure my needs are met. Apathy is not a virtue, and I'm not going to get over my recent slump by sitting on my duff. I am, by nature, an optimistic and active person, with no particular fondness for sleeping too much (ok, sometimes). I need to get back in touch with that, daily.
Sounds modest enough, right? Let's see how it plans out. Perhaps I should file monthly reports with myself. :)