11 November 2010

Celebrate 8 years of your favorite activist couple!

Elijah and I are celebrating our 8th anniversary in November 2010, and we decided to celebrate in a big way.  There shall be a party (comment/email if you want details), and you can bring us presents help us support a noble cause!  We're working with a bunch of awesome people to support the first transgender/gender non-conforming needs assessment study in DC in over a decade.  It's a major undertaking, and such things aren't cheap!  So as we celebrate our many, many, many years together, we hope you'll join us in supporting a cause that's near and dear to our little world-changing hearts.  Please donate as little or as much as you can using the handy tool below!


P.S.  We're handing over the cash to Latin@s en Accion, the fiscal sponsor for the study.  They're one of those 501(c)3 things, and so we can get you a receipt for a tax-deductible donation if you really want it.

P.P.S  If you're mean and don't like queer people, you can give us money to buy a KitchenAid.  We'll take one in either Pear, Ice or Green Apple.

03 October 2010

Sunday news: red edition

It's Sunday again!  There's a nice fall breeze in the air, and you know what that means:  a surge of evil left wingers are plotting the disastrous overthrow of life, liberty, and capitalism.  At least that's how the story goes.  Join us as we explore the downfall of humanity, subtly disguised as being nice to poor people.
  • In Britain, the out-of-power Labour Party has a new leader, Red Ed Miliband, aka Miliband the Not-As-Cute.  He says that if in government, his party wouldn't dramatically slash the national budget deficit in one fell swoop, as the ORLY coalition is doing now, and thus would attempt to avoid wide-scale economic upheaval.  Clearly Ed is a commie, and should be vilified by the Daily Mail immediately.  Oh, wait.
  • Yesterday in Washington, a rally endorsed by over 400 organizations called for more jobs, real justice, and genuine improvements in education.  Your humble blogger was in the midst of the fray, and can confirm that no marginalized groups were demonized even once during the festivities.  Obscenely wealthy corporate overlords didn't fair so well though.  Clearly these people are commies, and should be vilified by Glenn Beck immediately.  Oh, wait.
  • Also here in Washington, our recent primary election has led to the likely downfall of our very own Tyrant Education Queen, Michelle Rhee.  This reality has made affluent, largely white, "concerned citizens" who in many cases don't actually have kids in DC schools piss their pants with fear.  This reality may also diminish the chance that the largely poor parents of children in DC schools will be talked to as though they were the peers of their children.  Clearly these parents are commies, and should be vilified by the Washington Post editorial board immediately.  Oh, wait.
  • This Supreme Court opens its new term this week, and it's full of girls.  They'll probably want to rule on things.  They may even want their faces in a museum.  Clearly these lady justices are commies, and the ever-oppressed man should vilify them immediately.  Oh, wait.
So there you have it.  Go out and be a-feared, or something.  Oh, wait...

14 September 2010

Decision time for the DC primary: my picks and armchair analysis

For those few lucky DC residents just returning from a summer's long hibernation at Rehoboth Beach, you may not have noticed that we're engaged in a heated election battle for truth, justice, and stuff.  I've been following along closely, going to candidates forums, listening to radio debates, following tweets, reading interviews, dissecting candidate questionnaires, tracking endorsements, soaking up blog posts, and, of course, perusing candidates' websites.

There have been times when I've truly enjoyed this campaign season.  There were some real high points, good quotes, and fine attempts at outreach.  The conversation has, of course, been dominated by the mayoral campaign, which certainly isn't lacking in heat or energy.  However, it's also been trying.  After awhile it's just the same old crap recycled over and over and over and over and over and over again.  I'd really rather hear genuine debates between adults than the persistent "neener, neener, neener" we've been getting since August sometime. 

But let's get to why you're really here:  the choices!  (As though anyone in the universe gives a live-long day about my political opinions!)  And if, at any point you get bored in reading this, just get up and go vote already. 

24 August 2010

Diving into deep waters in re: millenials and IR

Yesterday Daniel Drezner raised the question of how millenials (meaning folks in their 20s like me) think about international relations.  There are some really thoughtful responses in the comments, mentioning things like the interconnectedness of our current world, the massive sea of information in which we swim, how a huge growth economy that precipitously tanked on us impacts our lives, and how we see a role for the United States to play in the world without necessarily resorting to hyper nationalist imperialist misadventures. 

I want to respond to the piece, but I want to do so by altering the premise a bit.  Like one, if not more, of the commenters, I was a student of both history and political science.  But then, influenced by a Quaker educational setting and my own personal struggles for social justice, chose to pursue graduate work in international conflict resolution, rather than straight up international relations.  Because jobs in conflict resolution are just a wee bit scarce, I've ended up working in international education, while continuing to do very local level activism at the same time.  And in these past few years, an insight that sparked as an undergrad has become a core belief:  we cannot separate the local from the global.  Or, in other terms, the distinction between domestic policy and foreign policy is purely academic.  As I see it, such a division doesn't actually exist.

This insight first came to me, somewhat unexpectedly, while writing my senior project for my history major oh so long ago.  Through a someone circuitous path, I ended up writing on the domestic political constraints that impacted U.S. decision-making in the Korean War -- a war that could have ended two years sooner had Truman not been afraid of appearing soft on communism at home.  Today, we see that a faulty immigration system impacts our relations with our immediate neighbors.  Our unwillingness to provide healthcare to our citizens evokes scorn from some of our allies.  Because we have a massive array of ill-conceived farm subsidies, we dump unneeded foodstuffs in foreign markets and crush local farmers' livelihoods, all the while calling it aid.  We can't actually cut the bloated military budget because people need the jobs.  The United States lectures the world on human rights, and yet contains fully a quarter of the world's prison population -- jails filled predominantly with young black men serving time for petty crimes in an attempt to keep our longstanding racist history going full steam, but with less overt fanfare.

As I see it, the lesson for my peers is that we must recognize that our domestic politics have impacts on our foreign relations -- beyond the obvious choices in fighting wars, managing economic crises, or cleaning up oil spills.  It is arrogant and hypocritical to claim to be a shining city on a hill so long as children are going hungry, the elderly can't afford their medicine, and it is legal in about 30 states to deny employment and housing to people just for being gay or transgender.  We have enduring cycles of poverty and repression in this country, based on racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism and all manner of xenophobia's other children that we consistently fail to address.  My family came to this country 400 years ago, and yet I was the first of the line to get a college degree.  It wasn't until my grandfather's generation that my someone in family was even able to earn a steady paycheck, and yet my father has been unemployed for at least two years.  It's still far too likely that if you're born poor in this country, you'll die poor.  In our society, you either have privilege or you don't.  And if you don't, getting it takes work.  And that's an understatement.

In my mind, politics should be about the pursuit of justice.  We have a moral obligation to pursue it domestically and abroad, concurrently.  I don't just mean justice in a legalistic sense.  I mean justice in its fullest context -- social, cultural, economic, political, legal, and everything else.  But that isn't happening in our national politics.  Turn on cable television any night of the week and you'll find blabbering dunderheads of both the left and the right nannering on in a language that isn't the least bit powered by a brain.  Rather than focusing on issues that actually matter, politicians and commentators have spent fully two weeks debating where exactly one single mosque ought to go.  Stephen Walt points out that this kind of blubbering reminds him of the political discourse of the Weimar Republic -- not exactly high praise given what happened next.  If this is the kind of leadership my forbears want to demonstrate to people of my generation, then I'm afraid I must protest.  

Thus it is my sincere hope that my generation embraces a politics -- domestic and international -- rooted in justice that honors our fundamental humanity.  It is incumbent upon us to act where our predecessors have failed, namely to address some of the huge systemic problems we face.  I don't have any grand illusions about what can or might be achieved before my eventual demise, but I do know that we have to do better.  That we have to march on.  That we have to realize that justice is peace and that peace is justice.  And finally, I know this:  we damn sure better get to work. 

22 August 2010

Sunday news: let's embrace our trashy side edition

Are you looking for something more?  Are you looking for something less?  Are you looking for anything at all?   Join me in today's somewhat-weekly exploration of things that make the world tick.
Well now, that's that.  Don't you feel enlightened?  Ladies, don't go nuke anything.

19 August 2010

My question for the final DC mayoral debate

The Washington Post, WAMU and NBC 4 are hosting the final debate for the DC mayor's race at high noon on Wednesday, September 1.  Because I'm a nerd, I managed to get a ticket to the event before they were all gone.  Even better is that members of the public can submit questions in advance by email.

As you know, I do some grassroots organizing work with members of DC's trans community.  As an activist, I've always been into fighting for rights and justice, and I'm usually drawn to struggles that don't always get the attention they should.  I've written several times before that the fights over gay marriage or Don't Ask Don't Tell have never animated me, for a variety of reasons.  There are much more basic rights that are denied every day to LGBT people who are poor, rural, trans, youth, people of color, to name a few.  Those categories don't necessarily apply to me, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't join the fight against such discrimination, and I frankly believe that you should too.

I know I've got a snowball's chance of getting this answered in what's sure to be a madhouse event with a packed agenda, but nonetheless, my question: 
Mayor Fenty:  In 2008, your administration tried to exempt District custodial agencies from complying with the gender identity and expression provisions of the Human Rights Act.  Your administration failed to report hate crimes against transgender people and failed to include the same population in your recent LGBT health report.  Your Office of Human Rights persistently refuses to enforce laws allowing transgender people to safely access public accommodations.  Overly aggressive enforcement of prostitution free zones has led to rampant and blatant profiling of transgender people as sex workers.  And in 2009, a year in which a transgender woman was brutally murdered in broad daylight, your LGBT affairs director refused to attend the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance because he had hockey tickets.  Is there a particular reason your administration is targeting an already extremely disenfranchised part of the population for additional abuse?  For both Mayor Fenty and Chairman Gray, how do you intend to rectify these problems, including addressing persistent unemployment in the transgender community and the growth of hate violence against transgender people of color?
I'm sure you'll be hearing from me again on September 1 to see whether or not it gets answered.  

You should submit a question too!   Blog it, tweet it, facebook it.  Too often people have said that the race between Fenty and Gray is about style, not substance.  But in this, and in other areas, there are real substantive problems that need to be addressed. Let's make sure those problems see the light of day before this race is over. 

17 August 2010

Perish this particular thought

Via teh facebooks, I saw an article from Sunday's Post inquiring as to the future of the home library.  Allow me to say, unequivocally, that this assault on culture and learnedness shall not stand.  

At least not in my house. 

You see, anyone who knows me well can attest that I love my books.  I love their look, their smell, and even the words printed in them.  I catalog them and gently arrange them according to my own bizarre sense of logic.  I bought an old fashioned rocking chair so I could sit around and read them for hours while gently relaxing.  And yes, I have a room of my house dedicated to my books, and I'm out of shelf space.  I particularly cherish older editions of great works.  Of course, there are a few that go unread, that I keep for purely quirky value, like that 900 page beast on what the U.S. should do about the Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall, published about a month before the Soviet Union ceased to be.  I picked that one up at a used book store in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and bought it out of sympathy for the poor schmuck who did all that work.  

Then there are others.  The books inscribed with love by my English teacher from high school, who is one of my personal heroes.  A random assortment of titles about the U.S. Civil War, shelves dedicated to my weird fascinations with Queen Elizabeth I and Eleanor Roosevelt, inspirational pieces from activists of yore, and heavily used books from grad school all have their place.  

I spend far too much time in used book stores, looking for something unique to jump out at me, or hoping to find treasures by favorite authors that may have since gone out of print (I found one just last week).  

I'm not going to be so bold as to say I'll never have some tacky electronic book reader.  I (sort of) see their merits.  But to think that I'll ever be willing to give up that visceral connection you make with a text you hold in your hands and flip through with care seems preposterous.  So I'm keeping my books.  And trying to figure out where to put them all. 

16 August 2010

Happy Monday, office drones!

And, uh, to all the passive aggressive micromanaging manwhores out there.  Enjoy the following.


Don't you feel better now?  I know I do.

14 August 2010

Your guide to registering to vote in DC. Deadline is Monday!

Do you live in the District of Columbia?  If you don't live in DC, or otherwise can't vote in DC (you're a foreign national, you're registered elsewhere, you ignore everything I ever write) then feel free to ignore this.  But otherwise, please pay attention to the following:

September 14 is primary election day in DC.  If you're not yet familiar with District politics, you should know that many races, including the mayor's race, are usually decided in the primary (especially the Democratic primary).  Yet, to vote in that primary, you need to register!

The deadline for pre-registration for the primary election is Monday, August 16.  You can still register after that date, including on-site on election day, but will only be allowed to vote on a provisional ballot that may or may not be actually counted.  Thus it's still important to register to vote by Monday.  You should also note that Monday is the last day to change your party affiliation  (the options are Democratic, Republican, Statehood Green, or independent). 

Who should register (or change their registration)?  Anyone who is a new resident of DC or anyone who has moved within DC since the last election. 

How do you register?  Visit www.dcboee.org and click Register to Vote in DC or Update your Registration Info in the Voter box.   You'll be walked through some question and at the end will be presented with a nicely filled out form for you to print and mail (postmarked by Monday) or deliver in person to the DC BOEE, 441 4th St NW, WDC 20001.  You'll need to include proof of residency at the address you put down on the registration form.  This can be a pay stub, government check stub, utility bill, lease or copy of a DC driver's license/ID card.

What if I don't know if I'm registered?
  That's easy!  At the DC BOEE website, click Check Your Registration Status in the Voter box.  Just enter your name, address, and date of birth and you can find out. 

Thanks for your attention to this really important stuff.  Happy voting!

ETA:  I've received a few questions from folks asking for additional clarifying details.  Here you go:

I checked my registration status, and it says INACTIVE.  What do I do?  Your name was removed from the voter roll for one reason or another.  You need to register again.

I'm registered as a member of the Statehood Green Party.  Can I vote in the Democratic primary?  No, you can only vote in the primary for the party of which you are a registered member.  If you're not registered for the party for which you would like to cast a primary ballot, you MUST change your party affiliation by August 16 to vote in your preferred primary.  You CANNOT change party affiliation after that date.

11 August 2010

A particularly peaceful podcast

Warning:  this here post is about 7.2 million years late for the blogging world, but you're getting it anyway.  :)

I recently was tipped off by a friend that NPR's Speaking of Faith had done a very good show related to peacebuilding.  Turns out, it featured none other than legendary peacemaker John Paul Lederach.  Legendary, that is, if you've been to peace school.  

Anyway, you should listen to the show when you get a chance.  It's incredibly insightful, and even spirit-warming.  And it will help you to understand just how peace can be made, and what a beautiful process it can be.  If you have the time, listen to the unedited interview for extra tidbits of fun.

10 August 2010

Boldly going back to my life

I have a confession.  Sometime last year, my illustrious partner started watching a few Star Trek episodes online.  He doesn't watch old shows in any particular order, but eventually he (sometimes joined by me) knocked out both The Next Generation and Voyager.  However, unlike me, he generally saved this supreme nerdiness for sick days, rainy days, and the like. 

Not me.  No, no, no, no, no.  When I bite a bullet, I want to taste powder.  So I set about watching the entire Voyager series, in order.  All seven seasons, 26 episodes each.  That's some big number my little head can't compute.  But then I switched to Deep Space Nine, with its huge story arcs and that whole being a seven-year long allegory thing.  The boy abandoned me at that point.  This ridiculous feat was all mine.  Besides, I'd watched parts of both series on my mom's couch while I was in high school (mostly before I got involved with the artist formerly known as Bunny).

And this past weekend, I finished it.  Good finally conquered evil, and there was even an exceedingly awkward farewell montage.  (Sadly, this montage did not include any hot lesbian make-out sessions.)  

Now I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a burning desire to go watch The Next Generation from start to finish.  But, no, it's time to stop.  I've spent too much time on Memory Alpha researching bits of nuance about cultures and technologies that don't actually exist.  I'm ridiculously fascinated by Borg, and that has to stop.  I think.  

Anyway, look for more blogging, more socializing, more world saving, etc., now that I've successfully completed this mission of exploration and defense of liberal enlightenment. 

Just don't forget the prime directive.

09 August 2010

The battle for conflict resolution: graduate training vs. the real world

A new report by the U.S. Institute of Peace helps explain a lot of my recent(?) career woes.  The results are from a study commissioned to examine the correlations between graduate study and actual careers in the international peace and conflict work.  The results, however, are a little grim.  The first summary bullet really gets you:
Graduate-level academic institutions are not adequately preparing students for careers in international peace and conflict management. Curricula need to incorporate more applied skills, cross-sectoral coursework, and field-experience opportunities.
The report goes on to outline the crucial differences between academics' views of what their graduates should know compared to employers' views of what their staff should be capable of doing.  Let's just say these two things don't match up terribly well.  Part of the problem, according to the authors, is that the international conflict resolution field is relatively new, and that the primarily development oriented agencies and funders that are doing this work don't necessarily understand how conflict resolution works or what its underpinnings are and how it changes their long-established games.  

But there are some core issues here too, primarily (in my view) the lack of adequate field training/experience building that students need to get jobs in the profession.  I was actually lucky enough to get some brief field experience, and even so, you can't exactly say I roll in the conflict resolution world at my current job.  Here's your money quote:  
Students face a perpetual Catch-22. Employers want applicants with field experience, but if all employers want this, how are students to get their first experience? Although all programs provide some opportunities for field experience, in general, opportunities are few and far between for people to gain experience abroad, especially hands-on work in conflict areas, whether focused on development practice or directly on conflict resolution practice, and also whether through their academic program, other institutions, or on their own. A significant related obstacle for most students is the lack of funding to enable their travel abroad, especially for unpaid work.
That, to me, is a much bigger issue than whether or not someone can actually comprehend USAID created gobbledygook-speak, which one can probably (if not grudgingly) learn on one's own.  Like I said, I managed to get some field experience while in grad school, and several of my classmates got loads of it.  But we were still relatively young, and at the end, many of us struggled to find work even remotely related to what we studied.  

This raises another, essential question that the USIP report does not address:  What is the demand for an international conflict resolution graduate student?  Is the supply of conflict-sensitive people currently larger than the demand?  There's some hint of that in the report, but it's not really explored.  Or, alternatively, are the senior decision makers that allocate resources and set staffing not yet adequately aware of the need for/value of having conflict sensitive people on their teams (this is alluded to much more fully in the report).  I guess for me, as a young professional, I want to see people with crazy little peacenik grad degrees get jobs in our field, or at least quite close to it, within a reasonable amount of time after graduating.  As it stands, it seems that there are several catch-22s that get in the way.

ETA:  Inside Higher Ed has coverage of the report, and additional perspectives, here.  

30 July 2010

Your undecided voter's report on last night's Ward 1 candidates forum

For those of you not the least bit interested in ridiculous minutiae of DC local politics, feel free to read on.  Or, better still, if you religiously followed my live tweets last night, you can at least skip to the end.  I must say that the City Paper's account of what went down seems hugely distorted.  The event wasn't a victory for incumbent Jim Graham by any stretch.  

There were four candidates present, including Graham, along with Jeff Smith (who lives in my current neighborhood), Bryan Weaver (hailing from Adams Morgan, my former home) and Marc Morgan, the Republican running in the November general election (the first three are Democrats battling in the primary).  There were large turnouts by supporters of at least the three democratic candidates, but I walked in truly undecided.  Graham has been helpful in some of my activist projects, and I appreciate that (even if it has required my serving as a presentable sexual object on behalf of my justice league pals, including knowing when to coyly grin).  But Jeff Smith chatted me up at the bus stop one morning, and had good things to say.  And Bryan Weaver had that catchy youtube video.  (And, let's face it, will I vote for a republican?  Not so much.)  And in spite of progress, our ward has faced it's share of idiocy.  Unemployment is still in the double digits.  Affordable housing stock is quickly being replaced with new (and ugly) condos for affluent people.  It's taken well over 5 years and repeated ripping up and repaving of 14th and Irving Streets to get Columbia Heights to where it is now.  Georgia Avenue is still woefully neglected, and there's the wee debacle over the closing/demolition of my neighborhood school (latest status update here).  I'm not saying that in 12 years in office, Jim Graham should have hung the moon squarely in Ward 1, but his accomplishments are not without critique.

That's where Smith and Weaver come in.  Last night was clearly a debate for nerds, and the biggest nerds were probably the ones sitting at the table.  Weaver's biggest strength is clearly in housing issues.  Smith's expertise in education.  Both these have impacts on jobs, so they're both strong there.  Morgan seemed like a nice guy, and definitely a DC Republican (focusing on green jobs, etc.), but public-private partnerships can't possibly be the answer to every question.  Then there was Graham himself, who seemed firmly entrenched in defending the past, and spent nary a second saying what specifically he'd do in the future.  In short, it was what DCist once dubbed Grahamstanding, and the performance wasn't terribly impressive.  He basically came across as an old crank, and that was disappointing.  

So again, I'm stuck on Smith and Weaver.  I like them.  Both.  A lot.  I think either would be an excellent legislator.  But I couldn't really distinguish much between them.  They seemed to agree on the substantive issues at hand (and, admittedly, the pre-selected questions were a bit odd), even whispering back and forth at the table.  There was definitely a style difference.  Weaver seemed slightly stronger in the rhetoric department, but Smith had his handy dandy charts, graphs and photos. A friend had a follow-up conversation with Weaver at the end, and he said most of the difference, in his opinion, was in process.  Not what the problems are, or even what the solutions should be, but how to get there.  See why this was a debate for nerds?

While I've made up my mind on most of the DC races, this one still leaves me puzzled.  I clearly can't merge Smith and Weaver together to form one ultra-wonky superlegislator, so I guess that means more research and more forums.  Stay tuned!

18 July 2010

Sunday news: here's your sign edition

Ah, Sunday, that joyous day when we celebrate all that is special to us.  When we relax in a hammock sipping lemonade.  When the air temperature is hot enough to melt the skin off a tomato.  Here's how we shall mark this splendid occasion.  
  • Health insurance companies:  the root of all that is evil.  And I should know, my mother works for one.
  • Oil companies:  the back-up plan for the root of all that is evil.  Are we noticing the #capitalismfail yet?
  • The U.S. Senate:  where evil goes to lay its eggs.  And, ya know, starve people in the name of grandstanding.
  • The United States continues to pretend that the government of Somalia exists in some meaningful way, and that poorly trained and equipped peacekeepers can help this imaginary government.  Meanwhile, people suffer.  Perhaps it's time to end the ruse, no?
  • DC was struck by a minor earthquake on Friday, and will continue to write news articles about it for at least two weeks.  Panic?  What panic?
  • And, finally, Hillary Clinton:  "the godmother of 21st-century statecraft."  Orly?
 There you have it, kids. 

11 July 2010

Sunday news: out of character edition

There's been much to report on lately, and I'll freely confess to being largely absent.  This, in part, has been due to not really feeling the need to add to the din lately, and also due to my being in the thick of things.  I'll have a few reflections on those things later.  Meanwhile, a few snippets of interest.
  • I rarely find myself in agreement with Our Lord and Savior the Kristof, but in this case, I agree that you must go see the film Budrus, about the nonviolent struggle against the boundary fence in a small Palestinian village.  I have faith that a nationwide nonviolent movement is possible in Palestine (and don't necessarily think it means lining up all the women).  And, I had the pleasure of seeing this film at the Capitol a few weeks ago, followed by a panel featuring Ayad Morrar and Reps. Keith Ellison and Brian Baird.  See the film when it's in your town.  You will be moved.
  • A Kansas City barber (nice town, btw) sums up Obama's image:  "That man has a hell of a workload, and Bush left a hell of a mess. I like what he's doing. But I can't feel it." 
  • Maybe it's summer fluff, but I still suspect that Sonia Sotomayor will be my favorite justice.
  • In spite of all the myriad issues that people have on their minds, I'm increasingly convinced the DC mayor's race is going to come down to education.  Here's the WaPo's take on Gray's plan.  I generally support the age 4-24 approach to education that Gray backs, but share concerns over how to pay for it.
  • And while we're at it, what's the role of literature in the fight for justice?  One opinion on To Kill a Mockingbird.
Finally, I want to plug two events this week at the DC Council (Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW):
  • Monday, 4pm, room 500:  Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary hearing on ICE's Secure Communities Program.  The Council has already unanimously blocked MPD's planned participation through emergency legislation.  Come here advocates speak about why that rejection should become permanent.  DC would be the first jurisdiction to reject participating in the program, which requires mandatory immigration checks.  More details are here.
  • Wednesday, 2pm, room 123:  Committee on Aging and Community Affairs roundtable on DC's recent LGBT health report, which notably failed to include information on transgender folks in the District.  My fellow members of the DC Trans Coalition raised a stink over this last week, and a hearing was scheduled 48 hours later.  How's that's for effective advocacy?  Details are here

08 June 2010

Money can't buy you class

I'm just back from a 12 day jaunt through Missouri for work (with a little fun tossed in), and am still going through reams of emails.  However, let this entertain you in the meantime. 

26 May 2010

Government for the racists, by the racists... wait...

I would like to take just a brief moment to thank the president for continuing to govern as though he has no spine.  In an act of blatant pandering, he has decided to send 6,000 National Guard troops to the states that share a border with Mexico, half of whom will be sent to Arizona.  

Just so we're clear, we need immigration reform, not an immigration army.  This does nothing to fix our extremely convoluted immigration system.  Not one thing.  (But this would.)  It simply lets hypocritical racists who view immigrants as aliens and not people get a victory in an election year. 

23 May 2010

Sunday news: there's a tear in my beer edition

I'm trying to spend the bulk of the weekend working on a long-overdue project that I owe to some of my crazy activist pals.  But one should always take a few moments to soak in the radiant rays of sunshine that are Sunday newspapers.  Here's a few kickers for you.
  • Dear Europe:  This is the point where you develop an affinity for sad country songs.  Save the last dance for me.
  • I'm reconsidering the issue of spawn.  Here's your one chance Fancy, don't let me down.
  • Perhaps if I weren't so cynical, I'd believe all these lines about Obama/Bush differences.  Waitin' for the love of a travelin' soldier.
  • Dear Graduates:  "entry-level" is now defined as somebody who's 35 and has an MBA.  One of these days.
And that's all she wrote.  You don't have to say you love me.  

18 May 2010

In the big rock candy mountain

Last week we took an adventure to the Jones Mountain Cabin, in celebration of my turning 27 years old.  We took the long way in, from Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.  From there, we had to hike about 6 miles, crossing three mountains (up, down, up, down, up, down), and changing elevation from roughly 3800 feet where we started the trail to about 1500 feet at the cabin.  It took about three hours to get out there, but closer to 4 (for me) getting back.  We had to leave kinda early on Tuesday in order to avoid getting totally drenched, though it did rain pretty heavily (a cold ass rain too) the last mile or so.  

Because I assume you're bored and have nothing better do to, I present you with a few humble photos.  The trail was gorgeous the whole way, and we only saw one other person along the AT shortly after we got started.  After that, it was just us and the critters.  

 Some big rocks on the way in.  They reminded me of balls.
 
Elijah got to the cabin before me, and this was the scene upon my arrival.

Here's a front view.  This place was built by a moonshiner in 1908.

Looking down onto the fireplace from the upstairs loft.

 The view from Bear Rock Church on the hike back.

Nothing but untouched mountains. :)
Oh, and for those wondering about the outhouse, lack of running water, no electricity thing.  Yes, this delicate flower survived it fine.  Of course, I also avoided the outhouse since Elijah went in and came out with two ticks.  Delicate comes in handy sometimes.

17 May 2010

Filed under: things I don't understand

As the scandal around the repulsive George Rekers continues to swirl, Sean Bugg over at MetroWeekly raises a question that I share myself:  why is it that in these scandals, the powerful man who falls from grace ends up relatively unscathed, while the sex worker involved gets the short shrift? 

I don't seem to understand why people can't see sex work as legitimate work (ignoring, for a moment, that it's illegal in most places in the U.S.).  Some people do indeed choose this line of work as their preferred means to support themselves, while others find that economic hardship and systemic discrimination have limited their employment opportunities elsewhere.  Clearly there is a demand for people to do this work, and clearly there are dangers associated with partaking in it -- much moreso for the sex worker than the client.  Why can't we focus on making the work safer instead of ostracizing those who engage in it.  Moreover, why can't we do more to end the systemic discrimination issues (towards, say, transgender women of color), that make sex work the only option some folks have?

Obviously I have no answers here.  In the meantime, support groups like these friendly people.

16 May 2010

Sunday news: competence gap edition

We're here, we're queer, and...  wait, wrong speech.  This week we find ourselves, as usual, surrounded by individuals of less than stellar mental prowess.  And they run the world.  Of course...
  • How many overpaid idiots does it take to to stop a volley of crude oil shooting into the ocean?  Zero.  They're all too damn stupid to do it right, and they probably won't pay to clean up their mess.
  • Why is it that Democrats seem both spineless in governing and spineless in campaigning?  “I just think I bought the sizzle, not the steak.”  [ed. note:  I'm about as wackadoo a liberal as they come... oh, for a decent left-wing party in these United States...]
  • Do you wear lots of dress shirts and think it would be wicked kewl to design your own?  Well now you can! (Though you may want to visit the site in question when 40 million other people who just read the same article aren't there.)
  • Did you know that the WaPo is sort of stupid about the DC budget?  How about we stop shoveling money into gentrification projects (like the 5-year long "streetscape enhancement" around Columbia Heights metro and that damned stadium and the damned bougie street cars) and stop doing generally stupid things (like tearing down a school, sending the kids to a rat infested temporary school that's a hundred years old, and then spending money on "intermediate use" of the bulldozed school site because nobody ever bothered to issue an RFP for a new building or properly renovate the temporary building, like what happened to Bruce-Monroe).  Oh, and DC has the same tax rate for everyone making over $40,000/year.  How's that for progressive? 
And after all that, I got fed up and quit reading.  :)

09 May 2010

Sunday news: motherly love edition

Last Sunday happened to also be my mother's birthday, and, of course, today is a special Hallmark Holiday aimed at making mothers feel special.  I see it more as a plot by a one person to get two cards in a week.  So, here you go:  a motherload of Sunday tales to keep us all reproducing (ya know, if you want... totally cool if you don't).  

02 May 2010

Sunday news: pesky kids edition

Every now and again there's a month of Sundays (or two) wherein I don't read the news religiously, because other things are going on that require my attention.  Sometimes that's my bunny, sometimes my garden, sometimes some sort of community event/thingy, and sometimes it's just my bed.  In any event, here are some of the stories that benefited from my attention this morning.
  • Texas politics:  still weirdly entertaining.
  • Burma:  We're not tyrants anymore cuz we totally changed our clothes!
  • Annoying little twits who make less money than me party at bougie places I can't afford.  Oh, and they work at the White House, so they'll be powerful annoying little twits their whole lives (and they probably went to fancy schools and are bankrolled by their daddies).  Oh, and they wear pleated pants.
  • A friend tells me there's lots of space for a wind farm in central Illinois, and the white noise might help him sleep better.  But why do that when overconsuming fossil fuels is so much more fun?
  • Somebody please glue me to the BBC on Thursday.
And that's that.

21 April 2010

Check out that basket! A hung parliament?

Yeah, yeah, sorry for the title, but I can't help myself.  It's just too good.  

As many of you know, I'm a total dork for British politics, and it's election time there, and for the first time, one of the two dominant parties may not get a clear majority, thus creating a hot hung parliament.  This is causing all sorts of nerds everywhere to nerd out over the possibilities.  

Frankly, I think David Cameron of the Tories is a blooming idiot, so another Gordon Brown premiership is probably the best option.  I'm also rooting for my old boss Jeremy Corbyn (Twitter | Facebook) in London's Islington North constituency, who is decidedly Old Labour and definitely deserving of being returned to his seat.  Jeremy taught me boatloads about politics, human rights advocacy, and just being an all around principled person, so if you live in Islington, return him to his seat, please.  :)

In any event, this is going to be a fun election to watch.  This year even featured the first ever televised debate among the party leaders.  May 6th is going to be a very fun day.

06 April 2010

Why the ultra-conservatives will lose the culture war, if I have to single-handedly defeat each of them myself

So I'm sitting here, going about my life, totally thinking about blogging on other things, when I stumbled across this.  For the sake of emphasis, let's repost the full headline:
That's right, the "well-meaning" and "loving" and "concerned" parents of Fulton, Mississippi rented a country club to hold a prom for their duly selected outcasts, while their presumably totally upstanding young Christian virginal children who are totes free from sin had their own prom elsewhere.  

To them I say this:  I hope your merciful God gets Old Testament on your ass. 

Now I've quietly followed the Southern Prom Saga of 2010 for awhile, and I can relate to these kids.  I didn't go to my own high school's prom for fear of being pumped full of redneck lead.  (That's right, I said it, I was scared those whole 4 years.  Savor the belated victory.)  Fortunately, my then-boyfriend went to a much more welcoming school, and I went to the senior prom with him.  We danced with the principal.  Talk about being on another planet a mere 15 miles from your home.  But I digress.

On the one hand, this is a pretty small issue.  One kid (well, two) in one dinky little town was denied access to her prom, on a pretty silly basis.  She rejected that decision, and the school just canceled the whole prom.  Lucky for her, a Reagan-appointed activist judge ruled that her rights were denied, but didn't force the school go forward, on account of the parent-created prom that was to serve as a stand-in for the school sponsored event.  

On the other hand, this whole incident (and the related incident taking place near Macon, Georgia) is indicative of a far greater problem:  Many, many, many, many, many, many, many American schools (particulary middle schools and high schools) are unsafe for LGBTQ youth.  Here's another tidbit from my past you didn't know:  right after my rather forced outing in 10th grade, I was at one of many meetings with the guidance counselor for my grade (nice lady), who assessed the situation I was facing.  Lots of teachers -- including several I'd never known -- were reporting an obscenely large number of hateful language being directed my way, even without me in the room.  That counselor said to me, in blunt terms, "I don't think you're safe here, and I don't think my bosses [the principal and assistant principals] will protect you.  Here's a transfer form.  Pick your school if you want."

Fortunately for me, I come from a long line of exceedingly stubborn mountain people.  To her, I said "I refuse to let them win," and walked out.  The next 3 years sucked monkey balls.  Sure, I avoided physical harm (though I also avoided being alone anywhere), and I walked around just as cocky and arrogant as all the other teenage boys, but inside I was scared out of my brain.  So much so that when I got a viewbook in the mail for a little dinky college that had a picture of kids drawing a pink triangle on sidewalk chalk, I was on them like like a gay man on an antique store (oh... wait...).  I needed an escape.  

Why?  Because at 18, I felt worn down.  I felt old.  I was declared cynical before my time by coworkers twice my age.  And that, friends, is the experience of a gay kid in a small town high school with a penchant towards conservatism.  

I don't want to suggest that all small towns are as teeming with vile, nasty, brutish people as the folks of Fulton who perpetuated this immature affront.  Nor to I have any interest in breathing any life into the myth that only Southern rural locales are unsafe for LGBTQ folks --  the cities and suburbs can be hateful too. 

But as I've told queer kids when I've done trainings and presentations about advocating for their rights:  "Take all that negative energy and use it to make a better world."  You see, over 10 years later, I for one still refuse to be defeated.  And you know what? 

I've got this on my side:  
Blessed are you when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.
The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter 5, Verses 11-12

30 March 2010

Problem solved?

This weekend I attended a two day training on problem solving workshops, an ancient (and by that, I mean over 30 years old) conflict resolution method usually utilized while a given conflict is still ongoing (like in Cyprus or Israel/Palestine, etc).  It's a method that was discussed frequently in grad school, but we never actually got training on how to do it.  I'm certainly not going to run out tomorrow and conduct one of these workshops, but it's always good to get additional skills in the old tool belt.  Aside from a few quibbles with the simulation part of the training, on the whole it was good to be able to meet new people and learn new things.  I'm really hoping to advance professionally and get the opportunity to get more hands-on experience soon, so it's good to be ready.  

On another level, it was healthy for me to finally get exposed to this method.  I've almost always focused on post-conflict work -- topics like reconciliation and establishing the rule of law.  I had also been a little turned off by the term "problem solving," as it goes against my almost instinctive (yeah, you're surprised) bias toward more positive language.  Of course, ye olde looming question remains:  in order to succeed in my field, do I need to pursue yet more education?  Time will tell.

I've rambled enough.  Yay! for new things. 

26 March 2010

Read me elsewhere and read me now!

I've got a post up on the American Evaluation Association's AEA365 blog.  Check it out:  challenges in evaluating peacebuilding activities.

Thank you, dear reader, for your continued support.

25 March 2010

I almost maybe sort of agree with Dan Choi

I was reading this interview with Dan Choi about his recent escapades in bondage...  er, civil disobedience, and I find myself unsure what to make of it.  Of course, the denial of his basic rights after being arrested is regrettable, but given DC's issues with these kinds of things, sadly isn't surprising.  But DADT is just not an issue I've ever been terribly jazzed about.  On the one hand, it's a blatant employment discrimination issue, and it needs to be remedied.  On the other hand, such a remedy would expand the reach of a bloated and corrupted military system that is used to pad the wallets of lawmakers and corporate executives while being simultaneously targeted against groups of largely defenseless and largely innocent people in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.  Identifying the lesser of those two evils is thus pretty tricky for a relatively pacifistic individual like me.  Thus I wish Choi success in his chosen struggle, while also hoping that the organization in which he rightfully should included is put out of business over time. 

That aside, he's quite right in pointing out how severely out of touch the uber-wealthy homonormative drones at the HRC are.  As I've ranted on too many occasions to link to, many of the mainline national LGBT organizations are doing diddly squat for poor folks, people of color, youth, trans folks,  small town/rural folks, queer people of faith, and on and on and on, and I'm glad someone with Choi's visibility is now making that point (and vainly hope that many both within and outside our community will listen to him there).  I also agree with Pam Spaulding and others that queer politicos should stop equating Democrats with allies, especially given their stunning accomplishments on our issues.  And I certainly have no issue with the use of nonviolent protest to make the case for justice.  

I guess my concern with Choi's actions boils down to two things:
  1. What's the grand strategy for equality here?  What battles do Choi and his new organization hope to fight, and when, and in what order?  Nonviolent resistance is a powerful tool, but it's not especially effective if not driven by a coherent strategy with articulated goals.  Yes, having Kathy Griffin headline a rally is a pretty stupid thing.  But so is going to get arrested as a one-off event.  The goal of both events seems more like grabbing media spotlights and donations more than changing anything. 
  2. Using nonviolence/civil disobedience to advocate for the right to serve in an organization that is inherently violent seems to require some mental and moral leaps that I don't know that I can make, as evidenced above.  I believe that as activists, we must walk firmly on the side of justice.  Yet the military (whether it does so willingly or not) actively perpetuates injustice both at home and abroad.  At home, it recruits from poor and downtrodden communities and runs these recruits through a few wars before letting them out with the scholarship money they joined to get (yes, that's a huge generalization).  In the field, situations like Abu Ghraib aside, we have to remember that modern warfare results in civilians making up roughly 90% of total casualties.  Prior to the 20th century, that proportion was reversed.  Using civil disobedience to prop up that kind of injustice seems to belittle the sanctity of nonviolent resistance.  
This little mental exercise you've just sat through hasn't really clarified much for me, so I doubt it has for anyone else.  It's just something I'm paying attention to, and it makes me uneasy.  I think I'll just continue to sit quietly on the sidelines of the DADT debate, and focus on some of the other social justice issues we're facing that aren't quite so morally muddled. 

24 March 2010

Let's make David Miliband feel better

So here I sit, reading the news o' the world, and suddenly I learn that David Miliband is sad.  And perhaps a little angry.  And that's bad.

Why?  Well, of course it sucks that Israel went and forged British passports.  That's all sorts of illegal, especially when said passports were used to ferry around assassins.  Then again, this is the government of Benjamin Netanyahu we're talking about here, so being belligerent and nasty little trolls is basically all they know how to do.  Anyway, why is sad David Miliband a bad thing?

Because he's the world's cutest foreign minister, obviously.  I mean, just look at the sad face picture.  Don't you just want to hug him?  And he's grown that little sprig of gray since taking the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs gig.  So let's all fly to London and give David Miliband a hug.  I mean, he's got to deal with mean Israelis and and upcoming election that could have some pretty big implications for his future career.  He clearly needs a hug or three.  :)

23 March 2010

Quick take: social conservatism in South Africa

Sean Jacobs over at Africa is a Country links to this piece on social conservatism in South Africa and how it threatens the nation's uber-liberal constitution.  Well worth a once over.  One can pretty easily see how similar trends could affect the implementation of rights guaranteed by a slightly less all-inclusive document, like the U.S. constitution. 

22 March 2010

A little housekeeping

Dear lone gavel reader,

Apologies for the sudden quiet spell.  Just when I was getting back into the swing of blogging regularly, I got sick, the bunny got sick, and basically all hell broke lose on all possible fronts.  Don't worry, we're all better now!

I've done a little bit of housekeeping work on this here blog that I've been meaning to do for awhile.  I've imported my posts from the now defunct Practical Peaceniks and Buduburam and Beyond, and have identified those posts with equivalent tags.  I've also switched over from manually updated blog rolls to something more dynamic, based on real time posting.  Blog more, y'all! 

Enjoy the rest of the show.

07 March 2010

Sunday news: useless NYT edition

Nothing really jumped out at me today in the NYT, except for one magazine piece.  Somehow I'm just disinterested in the Iraqi election or the latest gossip on healthcare reform.  Anyway, here goes.
  • In said magazine piece, a discussion on the importance of teachers in educating students, and how to make those teachers teach better, as apparently it's teaching is the most essential ingredient in education, and not necessarily funding or testing.  Who'da thunk?
  • DC mayor Adrian Fenty is a corrupt little whiny-pants who funnels huge sums of government money to his friends.  At least Marion Barry was corrupt but personable.  This is why you should vote for Buster, who is currently preparing his mayoral campaign. 
  • It amuses me to no end that an article on political buffoonery features a photo of Michael Steele.
  • A piece on how Toyotas aren't inherently death traps, which is why I still hope to buy another one in the next year or so, if I can raise ye olde cash.   
See, the news is much more fun when you ignore the things that people are panicking over. 

04 March 2010

A positive direction for foreign policy?

It looks as though the State Department is gonna look into the state of LGBT rights in Africa.  This is an important step, and it's essential that international human rights law and norms be abided by.  However, I think it's also important that State not move so fast in this area (not likely, really) so that the United States ends up appearing hypocritical.  As I commented at Africa is a Country the other day, the poor and working class experience for LGBT South Africans -- the only country on the continent with progressive laws related to LGBT rights -- isn't necessarily dissimilar from the poor and working class experience for LGBT Americans, and the United States, frankly, has fewer legal protections for LGBT folks than South Africa does.  Thus while I welcome holding other nations accountable for their disregard of human rights, it's concurrently equally important that the same level of accountability be required at home. 

03 March 2010

Meanwhile, the rest of the world wants assimilationist gay figure skaters

Since I've already raised the subject in another post, I thought I'd point you to this informative video about Johnny Weir, whom I've recently decided I adore (and, frankly, would boink).  


Again with that whole systemic discrimination thingy.

02 March 2010

February's ridiculous search term!

I know you were all just dying with suspense for this month's installment of Ridiculous Search Terms to Find the Gavel in Your Pants.  Without keeping you waiting a moment longer, here is the winner for February 2010:

pluggo pants

I have no idea what pluggo pants are.  Do you?

28 February 2010

Sunday news: not a lot happened edition

It's Sunday morning!  A glorious time when all red-blooded Amer'kins sit around and read their local rag(s), immediately before or just after returning from their massively hypocritical suburban megachurch.  Looks like I do it too, just without the church bit (listen, I make it to a Friends meeting about once a year...).  

Anyway, aside from the latest greatest earthquake (hope everyone you know is ok!), it doesn't look like there's a lot going on this week.  Here's a recap:
  • Absolute tenure corrupts absolutely, but maybe it makes for decent art?  (Seriously, how is that article so long?)
  • There's trouble on Mt. Olympus, as the gods may well be idiots.
  • Nurses:  Is your home entirely surrounded by two feet of snow and you can't for the life of you figure out how to get to work?  Well, fine, be inconsiderate like that, and WHC (across the street from your humble blogger) will fire your ass
  • I still contend that belated justice is better than none at all. 
  • A curious (to put it mildly) development in historic preservation.
  • Time to make another trip to the National Gallery.
  • The U.S. Senate is still dysfunctional.
  • Race is still a major factor in southern politics.  Really?

26 February 2010

Sold exclusively to Tennesseans

How much y'all wanna bet at least one of my relatives will buy this contraption the very second they learn about it? After all, one always needs a shotgun in arms reach of one's bed. There's a terrorist homosexual communist home invader around every corner.



Thanks to Prince Gomolvilas for the tip.

25 February 2010

How did I miss this?

In light of today's pathetic little rumble between our dear president and his nearly departed former adversary, which of course is as meaningless as it is unentertaining, I stumbled upon a little gem while doing my daily homage to my google reader, which had me in hysterics. I realize it came out in September, but I guess I missed it. Anyway, enjoy The World's Most Unruly Parliaments (as discovered on another Passport post about another unruly parliament).

23 February 2010

The NYT loves assimilationist gay theater

Or, one of the stupidest reviews I've ever read.

Apparently, some of the new gay-themed plays this opening this year in New York are somehow "liberated" (and thus better) because they're not overtly political, and nobody dies of AIDS.

What an effing moron.

First, contrary to what one may believe, gay politics consist of much more than marriage, adoption, and being legally allowed to serve as cannon fodder in imperialist wars. It's called systemic discrimination you idiot, and just because a particular playwright didn't beat you over the head with it, it's still there.

Secondly (et quelle surprise), not all gay people have AIDS. Really! I know lots of them! Also, we are perfectly capable of having conflict in our romantic relationships that doesn't center around one of us dying some unspeakable, dreary, slow, agonizing death, like an opera on steroids.

Apparently, these plays are to be applauded for showing gay couples as "just like everybody else." And, in a sense (though not totally -- myriad issues arise that are a product of said systemic discrimination), gay couples are just that. But don't laud the success of stupid political efforts and ridiculously bigoted assumptions about our health by going out and throwing a big party because somebody wrote a play that didn't involve those things.

I'm not a writer or an artist of any kind, but maybe evaluate these gay-themed plays on their artistic merits, rather than their depictions of "normalcy."

Oh, wait, systemic discrimination...

22 February 2010

Just an asteroid miner's daughter

I do just love it with ethics, international law, and totally ridiculous schemes for outer space coalesce to form a nice little nerd loaf. Take, for instance, this discussion on the ethics of mining asteroids. On the one hand, there's enough metal in those things to build star ships. That's right, star ships! Warp speed and what not.

On the other hand, the glut of materials on earth's raw materials market would basically shutter the economies of entire nations, including some pretty big ones. Is warp speed worth mass starvation? Depends on the particular brand of nasty capitalist you speak to.

Still, mining in space... pretty cool. And the legal discussion around it will also give IR people a nice distraction for the next 150 odd years.

21 February 2010

Sunday news: we're all gonna die edition

It's Sunday! That means there's a decent chance I've read the morning papers (as emailed to me). What do I find today? Death, mayhem, poverty, destruction, and no hope of anything ever getting better, ever. And these newspapers wonder why they're losing business.

Here's a recap:
Well now, this was kinda fun. Maybe I'll do it again sometime. ;)

20 February 2010

Nerd worlds colliding



I used to watch the A Team when I'd get home from high school, and now I watch more Star Trek than is healthy. Hope you enjoyed.

Hat tip: Armchair Generalist.

11 February 2010

Y'all be careful saving Darfur and what not

I just read a review of what appears to be a fascinating book on the Darfur conflict, Rob Crilley's Saving Darfur: Everyone's Favourite African War. In it, he apparently takes to task the "save" Darfur movement for wandering around with blinders that prevent them from 1) failing to fully comprehend the complexity of the conflict and 2) thereby thwart efforts to end the conflict. I've added the book to my wish list, and I look forward to your ordering it for me so that I can read it. ;)

Back when I was a starving grad student, I once turned down an internship offer from one of these Darfur "saving" organizations, on the grounds that the organization was led by someone a year younger than me (this is important for someone who is the baby of their grad class). I later kicked myself for that for a bit, as the internship I did take ended up being less than fruitful. However, having since come to realize the deeper implications of what the wonderful ladies at Wronging Rights refer to as "raising awareness" without doing much else, I'm now rather glad to not have been associated with the whole thing.

Hat tip: Texas in Africa.

10 February 2010

Julia Child created life on earth

And she filmed it and put it in the Smithsonian. It included use of a Scientific Pinch Machine. Watch and learn.


09 February 2010

Hilarity alert: The Real World -- African Autocrats

A curious script for a reality TV show if I've ever seen one.

Hat tip: Scarlett Lion.

Are you French enough for the French?

Chances are, the answer is no. And with the lovely new patriotism inspiring, French identity protecting "Prove your Frenchness, you nasty immigrants!" gauntlet that the ever enlightened French government has laid out, your new answer is "really, no."

Way to be oppressive, racist bastards, French government. I assure you that no amount of headscarves will ever threaten your national security or your precious and clearly fragile identity. Besides, isn't religious freedom somewhere in all those French law codes? I'm personally no fan of religious or cultural subjugation myself, but it seems that it'd be more logical and better for all concerns to have a robust legal structure that protects a person's right to wear or not wear religious/cultural clothing. Demanding conformity seems destined to backfire, particularly when it affects populations that are already disgruntled at the severe levels of discrimination they face.

Besides, making school kids sing the national anthem every morning just makes them hate singing it for the rest of their lives. Just ask the Canadians.

08 February 2010

News of the sleaze: televangelists and ethnicity-based elections

You may remember our dear friend Pat "Hurricanes, Tornadoes and Meteor Showers" Robertson, from his recent idiocy related to a certain Haitian pact with Satan (it sort of rhymes!). Now, at the war crimes trial for Charles Taylor -- that's right, the war crimes trial -- it has come out that the good reverend offered to lobby U.S. officials on the venerable Mr. Taylor's behalf. Now which is worse? A national pact with Satan to overthrow systemic slavery (which somehow included paying reparations to the enslaving party), or a personal pact between a real, live, actively-slaughtering-innocent-people war criminal and one of Amer'ca's finest lobbyvangelists?

In other news, the NYT has a decent run-down of the complexities of holding an election in Cote d'Ivoire, wherein one must be a bona fide Ivorian to vote. Of course, determining who is what is clearly a tumultuous and easily corrupted process, quite possible leading to a powder keg.

Hat tip to Chris Blattman for the first piece.

Obligatory DC snowgasm post, live from Park View!

Yesterday I went out and did some shoveling/took some pictures of the end of the world, live and already in progress! It very much felt like digging trenches. Here are a few select shots.

That's knee deep, friends.

Park Place.

Out of boredom, I dug a trench from yonder bush to the corner.

And finally, the snow bunny Elijah made out front.

Finally, for some perspective on the snow, Kent at the Park View blog has some footage of the Knickerbocker Storm of 1922, which of course destroyed the Knickerbocker Theater in my old neighborhood.