Thursday, December 29, 2005

Ed Rendell Screws the Pooch

I worked to get Ed Rendell elected Governor of Pennslyvania in 2oo2. I lived in Philly for a few years while he was mayor and I was quick to volunteer for his Gubernatorial campaign. Three years into his tenure as Governor, Rendell has been underwhelming. Instead of the progressive idealist he campaigned to be, he has proved himself an unreliable, not-very-hardworking disappiontent. Good thing i now live in South Jersey where Rendell's nincompoopery is someone else's problem. Well, that is until today.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has just reported that Gov. Rendell is threatening to close the high-speed transit rail system (the PATCO "Speedline") if New Jersey politicans don't go along with his plan to dredge an extra 45 feet along 120 miles of the Deleware River to accommodate extra shipping traffic. Rendell contends that such a move would allow for more shipping traffic capacity and would make the region more competitive with ports like New York and Newark. New Jersey officials counter that dredging the river could cause extensive environmental damage and that the price tag for the project (Rendell's office claims it'll run ~$3oo,ooo,ooo) is too modest and more likely will be twice that much. This is Philly after all where such estimates tend to be wildly off the mark. I might add it's bitterly ironic that this is the same Ed Rendell who skewered Septa transit workers whose recent strike shut down Philly's subway system for a week. Surely he remembers the argument that he made at the time against shutting down mass transit. Now he wants to shut down mass transit? Hypocrit?

So far, NJ Governor-elect Jon Corzine (another progressive I helped to put into the Governor's mansion) is conspicuously mum on the subject. His office has refused to comment on whether he was involved in any negotiations. Corzine's office did say that his transition team is studying the proposed project. Whatever that means. I'd be nice if Corzine would clarify his stance, but this isn't about Corzine. This is about Ed Rendell making mean-spirited threats to his neigbors, and the ill-will that kind of behavior breeds.

Now I really don't believe Ed Rendell would do something so stupid as to close the commuter link between Philly and South Jersey. Surely he must know that such a move would be a logistical and public relations fiasco for the city of Philadelphia. After all, every day the Speedline ferries some 3o,ooo folks from South Jersey who use the train to get to Philly to work or to shop. This includes my partner Greg who uses the Speedline everyday to go downtown to his job at Urban Outfitters corporate headquarters. In fact, a lot of Greg's colleagues at Urban take Speedline downtown to work, as well. Now if Rendell follows through with his ridiculous threat, then who's gonna design all the cool hip stuff that Urban Outfitters' customers have come to demand?? On top of all his other missteps, can Rendell really afford to piss off the 18-25 cool and disaffected constituency? (wink)

But seriously folks, we all can agree that no one likes to be threated and that's what Pennsylvania's governor is doing. So maybe Gov. Rendell has got me feeling a little defensive. But for him to shut down the Speedline commuter rail because he doesn't get his way is just another political temper tantrum that would have serious consequences for the rest of us.
It's not my intention to debate the merits for or against this dredging scheme. It very well may be a sound idea. If this is how Governor Rendell chooses to play political hardball by threatening his neighbors, then he should be ready to take the p.r. hit.
But you can learn a lot about a man by how he treats his neighbors.

Draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Liberals at Midnight Mass (A Christmas Miracle)

I just got home to Jersey from Wisconsin where my partner's family lives. I even went to midnight mass with my partner's Catholic clam on Christmas night. Now call me crazy, but afterwards as I recalled the salient points of the service, I was surprised how much common ground there is between at least one Catholic priest and myself, a liberal queer activist.

During the sermon, Father Ed voiced his concerns with poverty and homelessness, the death penalty, war, and HIV/AIDS. He also stressed the need to love one another ("....now more than ever......") and of finding common ground. The tenor of the service was pragmatic, not at all the rigid dogma I expected.

In short, Catholic mass was a refreshing and joyous celebration of my own progressive values. I went begrudgly to the mass in the first place, and to be honest, I was grateful a thunderbolt did not go off when I walked inside, sodomite that I am. (wink)

Knowing about the generally misogynist and homophobic attitude the Vatican espouses, I feared the Catholic experience would be completely inconsistant with my values. For one mass' worth, i was wrong.
GO FIGURE!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Modest Milestone, My 1,499th Hit!

When I sat down a month ago to write my first blog entry, I wondered to myself how much traffic the site would get. I specifically remember thinking 1ooo hits in 30 days sounds like a nice round number. I admit that number felt ambitious at the time, but hey, dare to dream right? Well, I'm happy to say that as of midnight I've had exactly 1,499 hits on my site. So much for nice round numbers? Hey, I'll take it!

One of the cool features of this site is that you can track, geographically, where the hits come in from. (Check out my world map here) Now, I totally dig maps, so I love being able to see where the traffic is coming in from this manner. The vast majority of the site traffic is coming from the American northeast and the westcoast, which isn't surprising. But to see hits coming from far away places like Costa Rica, New Zealand, Moscow and New Dehli was especially sweet. I am not gonna lie, my ego is relieved that folks 'round the world are interested in what I have to say. So why am I so ambivilant that someone is checking me out from Iran of all places?

With all the talk of government overrreach and intrusions into the lives of Americans, I can not help but think that getting a hit on my site from Iran might somehow get me on Dick Cheney's shitlist. Like I said, having global reach with this Blog is pretty exciting for me, but i can not escape the feeling that my choices of self-expression, peace activism, or political dissent is somehow being duly noted somewhere in the Department of Homeland security.

Recent media reports that the govenment engages in secret domestic spying (by Whitehouse decree, no less) is the latest evidence that the Bush Administration does not see itself as bound by the law. So why does the president even care is the so-called Patriot Act expires? By the way, I always thought the term "patriot act" sounded a little curious. I am not sure what I would rename it. Probably something German. But that's not for here.

Meanwhile we have a president who never met a civil liberty he wouldn't crush in the name of the "war on terror" and he's worried about his powers somehow being curtailed because the US Senate wants to do their job and exercise some oversite on our Commander-in-Chief. Which gets me back to why I am a little ambivalent about getting hits from Iran. Let's face it, the content of this site asks serious questions of the government. According the shadowy Bush calculus, someone from the axis-of-evil clicks onto my site and "takes comfort" because not every American is in lock step with our president.

Is this enough to get me on Dick Cheney's shitlist? Or am I just being self-absorbed?
p.s. I should note that i have nothing personal against iran or the germans.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Police State


FROM YESTERDAY'S NEW YORK TIMES
To the Editor:
We have a government that engages in secret domestic spying by presidential decree; monitors personal library use; maintains secret prisons for unidentified prisoners held without recourse; engages in abusive treatment (if not torture) of prisoners; plants propaganda articles in domestic and foreign media; and formulates its domestic agenda based upon fundamentalist religious principles. It sounds more like governments that we are seeking to reform, and not the ideal we purport to represent.
Donald M. Millinger
Philadelphia, Dec. 19, 2005

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I happen to know the guy who wrote this in yesterday's Times. I'm not sure I could say it better, so in this case, I'll just paraphrase. (Thanks Don!) And thanks to fellow peace activist Monique Fruglier for the eerie photograph taken earlier this month at the Bush-outta-Philly rally.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005

Tall, Skinny, Decaf, Hypocritical Latte, Please!

The following email exchange is between myself and the district manager of Starbucks. I originally emailed her because I wanted to suggest they take steps to leave less trash on the sidewalk at the end of every shift. I actually thought they would be receptive to my message and that I could count on them to encourage the township to initiate a more robust recycling program. I was wrong.
-----Original Message-----
From:
jay lassiter
Sent: Tuesday, December 06, 2005 11:07 AM
To:
Delma W.
Subject: customer feedback
> I have always believed that you can tell a lot about a cafe by the way they make a single cappuccino. Sure, i love a gigante mocha as much as the next guy, but the one-shot cap is still the best indicator of what kind of of overall experience you're going to have at the coffeeshop, in my opinion. Usually the drinks and the staff is great. It is for this reason, that i choose to spend $4 on a cup of coffee at Starbucks in Haddonfield. Unfortunately, on a recent "trash day", the staff put a dozen clear plastic trashbags on the sidewalk which were full of recyclables that were destined for a landfill. This is the 3rd time i have noticed this.
Seeing the store's disregard for the environment offended my sensibilities. For Starbucks to ignore its PROGRESSIVE policies in such a visible way, right on the sidewalk is a drag. It also contradicts the Starbucks mission statement which, according to your business card, seeks to contribute "positively to community and environment." Whatever the reasons you are not recycling, I suggest that you revisit them. At present, the store is ill-equipped and the staff is not trained to properly dispose of its trash. Throwing everything out together on the sidewalk in clear plastic bags is unacceptable.
As neighbors, we share this burden. I am eager to help with a solution. I would be happy to come into the store and spend time with the managers teaching them how to process the store's waste in a greener manner.
> I look forward to your reply and i appreciate you making yourself available for feedback. Jay Lassiter
~~~~~Her reply follows...~~~~~~
Delma Wells wrote:
After speaking with the store manager he has informed me that the Township will not pick up the recyclable from Kings Highway because it interferes with traffic flow in the A.M... I will continue to work with the town to find an answer. I hope to resolve this ASAP, and will keep you posted.
Thanks again
Delma W.
District Manager~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~My reply follows...~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2005 14:49:56 -0800 (PST)
From:"jay lassiter"
Yahoo! DomainKeys has confirmed that this message was sent by yahoo.com.
Subject: RE: customer feedback in NJ
To:"Delma W"
:
Miss W:
I am not surprised that you're having some issues with the township. Unfortunately, we can't rely on them to "do the right thing" and therefore it is us, the businesses and the citizens to STEP up. I believe that being a good corporate citizen requires initiative and some creative thinking to overcome the obstacle of lack of complaince on the part of the township. This is why I invited you to work with me personally. As an activist with the right intentions, I sometimes lack the "muscle" with the bureaucratic machine that is Haddonfield township, which is why I took this grievance to you directly. If starbucks were to take the initiative by working with concerned local residents and activists for a sustainable solution to the waste management issues , then you are honoring your committment of a positive contribution to the community and the environment. We can not wait for Haddonfield to get its act together and make it easy for us!! anything short of this is falling short of the mission statement. sometimes a positive contribution comes in the form of a good example. who knows, maybe a huge change begins with US?? After dealing with Borrow Hall, you and i both know that doing the right thing isn't easy. Maybe if we are able to show the township how this CAN work, then they will respond and make it easier for all businesses in Haddonfield who want to recycle but have no idea what to do!!!
I am not just talking about milk jugs either. i am talking about bottles and cans, newspapers, cardboard, as well as compostable refuge such as coffeegrounds which the city would LOVE to take off your hands for compost! if the That is why, Ms. Wells, I again invite you to have the management of the store contact me to move forward with my suggestion. Then we can develop a strategy to get greener. If the township sees citizens and businesses making recycling a priority, their policies will fall in line. I am sure of it.
jay lassiter
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
That email exchange happened 2 weeks ago. I heard nothing more from the Starbacks district manager since. I was hoping they might help me out in my attempts to jump starting local recycling programs. If Starbucks can be consciencious of the plight of some far-off indigenous coffee farmer, then they can surely stop shitting all over their own neighborhood!

Friday, December 16, 2005

A Bird in the Hand is Worth TWO in the Bush Administration


Thanks to Clay Bennett and Christian Science Moniter for this editorial. Damn, I wish I could draw!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Takin' it to Congress/NJ's Saxton Gets Tag Teamed!!













Yesterday NJ Congressman Jim Saxton got an earful. Make that two earsful. When I arrived at Mr. Saxton's district office in Mount Holly for a noontime petition-drive yesterday it was shockingly cold. I heard the phrase "February weather" mentioned more than once. Also shocking was the sight of the Grinch (!) in a Santa suit no less, right there on Saxton's front doorstep! Turns out the petition-drive, organized by citizen activists and MOVEON was not the only progressive-minded outfit with a sensible message for our Congressman. The Grinch was actually representing NJ Citizen Action, a statewide watchdog organization committed to economic, social, racial and political justice. And who better than the Grinch who stole Christmas to highlight how Congress' recent budget cuts stole vital social programs from the neediest? As organizer Michael Olender remarked at the rally, "The last thing we should be doing this holiday season is jeopardizing help for the most vulnerable people in our State!!" Amen to that.

My coalition of citizen activists and MoveOn members took our message (complete with a petition signed by almost 1,ooo voters from Saxton's 3rd district constituency ) to the Congressman first. In a nutshell, our message was this: to encourage the government to begin persuing a sensible exit stragety from Iraq.

It's unfortunate that the Bush Administration's repeated gaffs have left us with very few good options in the Mid East. With today's parlaiment elections in Iraq marking an important milestone (hopefully) the time has come for our legislators to turn their attention towards a viable exit stragety. This was our message and we delivered it perfectly. In fact, there was a reporter on the scene who recorded the entire at Saxton's office. When I heard the playback, i almost felt sorry for the staffers who fielded our passionate greivances. We went through 'em (and their specious "stay the course" argument) like a hot knife through butter. Ours was an easy argument to make, really. We support our troops by fighting to bring them home. And in one piece. Most Americans agree with us, it's not just the 9oo+ folks on out petition. While we were inside, the NJ CitizenAction gang held court downstairs, holding up placards with our message to "Bring 'EM HOME!" We retuned the favor when they went inside aftewards , keeping their message visible. (see photo {that' s me!!} above)

All in all it went very well. The anti-war message is gathering momentum across the country. And that our sensible message was well-complimented by that of our bothers and sisters at at NJCA was a huge bonus!! It leaves me feeling somewhat encouraged. And that's important for me, since I'm in it for the long haul.
p.s. thanks to my friend Peter Lien for the snappy photo

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

JOLLY OLD DICK CHENEY CLAUS!!!!










I am a huge fan of editorial comic humor. This gem is the handiwork of Bill Mitchell.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Police Thuggery at Philly Anti-Bush Rally/UPDATE

I posted an entry yesterday about the cops running roughshod on the crowd that assembled to protest Bush's speech in Philadelphia. It appears that the incident got more coverage in the Deleware press than it did here locally. Here is another link to a bit-piece that appeared in today's Inquirer http://www.philly.com/... It turns out that witnesses to incident were a-plenty, and the media even got some pics of the dust-up. I was also contacted my the lawyers guild in Philly and I am assisting their efforts to work out a legal solution for the family involved.

Now having said that, I can not shake the image of a helpless mother's face, watching in horror as her sons got beat up by the cops. I think about what I'd feel like if my mom had to bear witness as my brother and I were senselessly beaten by the police. Seriously folks, it almost makes me want to cry. I always fancied myself a thick-skinned, seasoned, battle-hardened activist but this incident has reminded me this it's my hyper-sensitivity to social justice that serves as my primary moral compass.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Philly Peace Protest Turns Violent as Police Lose Their Cool (again)

When George Bush's motorcade rolled into Center City Philadelphia today the President was greeted with a loud and sustained chorus of boos and whistles from the crowd of protesters that assembled outside the president's hotel. Bush was in town to deliver a speech about the latest in Iraq. (transcripts of Bush's speech) This was the 3rd in a series of four events staged by the White House to respond to critcs of Bush's Iraq policy. Later across town, Pennslyvania Congressman John Murtha, the hawkish democrat and war veteran whose recent challenge to end the war effectively reframed the Iraq debate, responded to the president's latest Iraq assessment charging that the continued US presence in Iraq undermines any political progress. "The Iraqis are not against democracy!" Murtha said, "they are against our occupation."

It was towards the end of today's protest that things turned decidedly nasty as police charged the crowd, clubs in hand, wrestling a number of protesters to the ground. What had been a peaceful and pleasent demonstration quickly disovled into mayham and confusion as Philly's finest essentially turned "attack dog" on the crowd. It was not immediately clear what kind of threat the cops perceived when they began their assult on the crowd, but they arrested two (black) men who had joined today's rally with their family. Just a few minutes before the altercation, I actually spoke to the two men involved. When they were initailly approched by the plain-clothed policeman none of us had any idea that this guy was a cop. He seemed like a goon to me, out to cause trouble. While the plain-clothes policeman was wrestling one of the men to the ground, his shirt was raised, exposing his badge and gun. Almost immediately, a half dozen more cops (all in uniform) descended on the scene. I believe their aggressive response just made things worse, basically scaring the shit out of everyone at the scene. All the while the crowd chanted out "the world is watching!!" and "SHAME!!" I should note that the fracas was also witnesses by the young sons and the grandmother of the victims who looked on in horror while police brought all the force they had to bear on the two men. No one had any idea at the time what could have possibly provoked the police to act out on the crowd like that.


Local media later reported that police had concerns that one of the men involved was carrying a dangerous object, which turned out to actually be a glass of hot cider. Harmless enough, if you ask me, afterall it was freezing outside. I also later learned from a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter that one of the men involved was taken to the hospital and released. The other is in lockup at the 9th Police District, charged with assult on a police officer. Bitterly ironic.

While I am tempted to vent my frustration at what i saw towards the police, that would be too simplistic of a target. I think what i witnessed today is a byproduct of the politics of fear, a fear that is so prevelant in this country nowadays, as methodically employed and cafefully cultivated by the Bush Administration. In this post-9/11 world, the government seems to have masterfully exploited our sense of fear by inundating us with scarey, color-coded, mostly abstract messages that eat away at our peace of mind. Has it gotten to the point where everyone in the country is so "on edge" that a simple thermos of cider can set the cops into an asswhippin' frenzy?? After what I witnessed today, my answer is an emphatic YES.

Photo credits to Bob Herbert and the Deleware NewsJournal.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Nationwide Drive to Bring the Troops HOME!

Next Wednesday, December 14, citizens of NJ's 3rd Congressional District will be presenting a petition to our very own voice on Capital Hill, Congressman Jim Saxton at his Mt. Holly office urging him to support a more sensible Iraq-war policy. To this point, Mr. Saxton's position regarding Iraq is very much consistent with that of the White House. It seems pretty clear that the current stragety in Iraq is a bad one, and it's time to take that message to our leaders in Congress.

There is a lot of frustration in my community about the direction of the war. The government's current stragety inspires very little confidence and it's essential that we give our legistlators a wakeup call next Wednesday. And we won't be the only ones! Citizen activists nationwide will also be delivering petitions in their own districts.

Isn't fighting to bring the troops home the same as supporting them? JOIN IN THE FIGHT NEXT WEDNESDAY!!!!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Corzine Taps Menendez for US Senate

Looks like NJ Governor-elect Jon Corzine chose Bob Menendez as his replacement in the Senate. Corzine's choice is an historic one. Menendez will be the first Hispanic (Latino?)to represent NJ as a Senator.
Personally I would have prefered State Senator (and sistah) Nia Gill. Gills appointment would have made her the 2nd black in the Senate (besides Barack Obama. ) As it stands, blacks comprise a mere 1% of senate. Even less if you consider Obama is 1/2 white!
Anyway, the appointment of Menendez is still very much a nod to pregressive sensibilities. Like women and blacks, Latino/as are woefully underrepresented in the upper house of Congress.
As a resident of Cherry Hill NJ, I keep my fingers crossed. I don't necessarily see Menendez-as-Senator as a bad thing, yet somehow i can not escape the feeling that this business of political appointments seems dubious, at best.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Yo Corzine, Who's It Gonna BE???????

Now that NJ Senator Jon Corzine has won the governorship, we in Jersey are quivering with anticipation to find out who'll be taking Cornize's place in the Senate. On the short list: Reps. Bob Menendez, Rob Andrews, Rush Holt, Frank Pallone and State Senator Nia Gill. The announcement should come at any time. Hopefully not before I finish this blog!

Menendez comes from NYC 'burbs with a HUGE campaign warchest. Now i don't want to make too much of the size of a man's warchest, but remember, whoever gets the call has to run for re-election in less than a year against a popular GOP candidate, Tom Kaine Jr. Menenendez would be the first Hispanic Senator from NJ so a pick for him is definitely a nod to liberal sensiblilities. Cons for Rep. Menendez are his right-wing attitude regarding Cuba and his penchant for amourous and political nincompoopery.

Another possible first would be the appointment of Nia Gill. She's a state Senator and aparently a crackerjack lawyer and orater. She'd be the first black woman to represent NJ in the Senate, so just like Menendez, this would be an historic pick. At this point she's my sentimental choice, even if she's not the odds-on favorite. It's shocking and shameful that Barack Obama is the only Afro-American in the Senate. Picking Nia Gill almost seems like a moral imperative to me.

Like Menendez, Rep. Rob Andrews has not been shy about telling us why he's 'the man.' I like Andrews, who is from nearby Haddon Township. Andrews was quite vocal in the fight to stave off Bush's Social Security privatization schemes and is generally a reliable progressive. But as much as I would love a to have a neighbor become Senator, I just do not see this happening.

By Jersey standards, both Holt and Pallone have a squeeky-clean image. Neither can match Menendez's campaign endownment, so it kinda feels like a waste of time to talk about either of these two getting a promition any time soon.

The announcement can not come soon enough for yours truly. Don't get me wrong, the anticipation is titilating and stuff, but THE SOONER THE BETTER!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

AIDS in Africa (top pic) vs. AIDS in USA. Any questions?



Thanks to USNews and World Report for the top pic. And thanks to my boyfriend Greg who took the bottom picture of me this past summer. I think these images together highlight a chilling and shameful disparity. Seems pretty black and white to me.

World AIDS day.

I am HIV positive. Thirteen years.

Each and everyone of us knows and loves someone with HIV/AIDS. Something like 60,000,000 people in the world are infected which sounds an awful lot like a statistic, if you ask me. If you lined the HIVers up head to toe, they might stretch from here to the moon or something. (are there any fact checkers out there??)

But seriously, as I sit here writing this i realize I am one of the lucky ones. I have an undectable viral load, 1000 T cells, am in great shape, and by all outward appearances, have a totally normal life. Does anyone out there ever wonder how much my HIV meds cost, retail, peryear? something like $18,000. Folks, that is like one dollar 18,000 tiimes!!!! (yuck, yuck)

Again, i stress, as an American I am clearly one of the lucky ones. HIV transmissions are highest wherever poverty is rife : Africa, Southeast Asia, the former Soviet bloc. In these regions the price of HIV meds is upwards of 10 and 20 times what people make in a whole year. Scarey huh? People who are socially, politically, culturally or economically marginalized will ALWAYS suffer greater degrees of EVERYTHING that is bad, HIV transmission rates not withstanding.

Twenty years on and we still have a helluva fight on our hands. maybe it has been too long since we have witnessed people getting skinny and (literally) dying before our eyes, but the fact remains, THIS PANDEMIC IS STILL REAL!