Saturday, December 30, 2006

Stopping the War, and other resolutions

With an eye on 2007, many of us are have 'resolutions' on our minds. I know what I will be committed to in 'o7: taking our new progressive mandate to the streets. Afterall, the Democrats won on election day so the days of George Bush having free reign are over.

As luck would have it, there is a mega march on Washington on January 27 to stop the war ASAP. I've been working for peace since the very first day of this Iraq mess and unlike protests past, now I am no longer perceived as some counterculture hippie when I hit the streets to protest. Nope, pretty much most Americans are against the war now, not just the far left of the political spectrum. If the March in DC is half as cool as the massive protest in NYC last spring, I'll be happy. But just the same, I hope it's twice as big.

So I close with two questions for you: 1) what is your New Year's Resolution and 2) What can you do PERSONALLY to fight for peace?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

More (unbelievable) war shit

A few months ago, a young Airman from New Jersey, Carl Ware Jr. was shot and killed in Iraq. Around the time of his  funeral questions began to emerge about the exact nature of his death.  A week ago, I was enjoying a rainy day off at home, drinking some Earl Grey and surfing the net.  Out of the blue I get an instant message from "Justdunno."  It was an unfamiliar screenname.


"You wrote about my brother."


Long, awkward, pregnant pause.


"Carl Ware." 


Keep in mind, I recognized the name of course, but it had been a while since Airman Ware's death, so it wasn't exactly fresh in my mind what I wrote about him. 


"I hope I didn't write anything that offended you," I typed. 


"Not at all," she replied.  She seemed grateful that we seemed willing to ask the tough questions, so she reached out.


I have one of those screennames that you can derive from my email address which you can find on this site.  I'm not too hard to track down.  But I was curious why did she reach out to me.  Did she need a friend or was she just trying to keep her big brother's story alive?


"Both," she said.
Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

(pic of carl and his kid sister, as youngins.  I am not using her name because she doesn't wanna be google-able)


Little sister told me -- as per the jag lawyer prosecuting this case -- that Carl died in Iraq because he was shot in the chest by a fellow American soldier, a guy who is now being detained in Kuwait awaiting trial. She pointed out that her brother's (alleged) killer had some mental issues and was admitted to the service at a time when recruiters were bending their standards and accepting just about anyone with a pulse. Anyway, the trial is coming in the spring, probably in March.



We chatted for about an hour that first time.  We could have gone on longer, but she is reeeally pregnant and needed to get some rest.  She lamented that Carl would never know his niece or nephew.  And if that weren't sad enough, Carl's wife is also pregnant with their second child.


Anyway, in case you're wondering why I am sharing all this it's to remind each and every one of you that there is an expensive and increasingly deadly war raging in Iraq.  To say nothing of Afghanistan, the mess in Iraq is really out of countrol. I know we all know the Iraq war is happening.  Of course we are sensitive to the war.  We are progressives after all. 


But when I hear stories like Carl Ware's and I think to myself "for every Carl Ware there are like thousands of cases just like his or worse."  And the thought sickens me.  And that's when I have a gut check and ask myself what am I doing to fight for peace.


Carl's sister asks me "why did my brother have to die?" 


If Carl Ware's story can inspire us to work to end this war, then in some small way we could say that he died for peace.


We've tackled a lot of weighty issues here in the liberal blogosphere.  Can we now brainstorm a little about ending this war?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Peace on Earth, version 2.007

Click to enlarge. Image courtesy of R.J. Matson

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas day News in New Jersey


  • Labels matter. So does symbolism. Now that the civil union law is a done deal, we can start to anticipate what the blowback will mean in more subtle ways then we may have previously considered. For example, how to intorduce your partner at a Christmas party?

  • New Jersey's GOP wants to honor former President Reagan by naming something after him. Personally I have plenty of suggestions, but it's Christmas so I'll be kind. Just this once.

  • Our state's newest Representative, Albio Sires (NJ-13) will serve on the Financial Services Committee in the upcoming Congress. Rep. Sires wants a spot on the International Relations Committee as well. We'll know soon enough. Cuban-born Sires represents some much-needed diversity in the NJ delegation. Just how much do you know about Albio Sires, anyway? Get a little primer here.

  • Governor Cozine takes a retrospective on 2006, the year that was. Find out what grade he gave himself for his first year in the Governor's mansion . Here's a hint: it's not a B-minus. In an unrelated sign of what might be in the horizon in '07, Corzine seems to be softening his position just a bit on video lottery terminals in some places. Oy.

  • Some good holiday reading for political junkies and history buffs alike, this piece takes a look at New Jersey's robust roll during the Revolutionary War. Did you know that NJ was the site of more battles for our nation's independence than any other state? Make sure you check out the slideshow as well!


  • Finally, a sweet piece about a Rutgers grad who works to make sure that Santa finds some of New Jersey's neediest. A perfect heartwarmer for the holidays. What can I say, I am a sentimental guy.

    Merry Christmas folks!! Hope it's a good one!
  • Sunday, December 24, 2006

    David Sedaris, a fruitcake worse than fruitcake

    I hate David Sedaris. With a passion.

    Don't get me wrong, when I first read one of his books (don't remember which one) I was reasonably amused. It made for good travel reading. But now that he's reached this superstatus of America's witty literary hipster, I've had enough.

    With titles like Dress Your Family in Corderoy and Denim and Holidays on Ice and many others, Sedaris is certainly quite prolific. But I hate him. Now with Christman rolling around I am forced to suffer yet another reading on Public Radio of Sedaris' diaries as an elf working at Macy's in Manhattan. At first blush the diaries are funny. The second time they are silly. The third time they are just downright stupid.

    Maybe it's sour grapes. Afterall, David Sedaris is a rich and famous writer, and I am just a hack blogger. But I suspect my distaste for all things David Sedaris is rooted in the notion that I am no longer a crystal meth addict. When I was hopped up on speedballs and hadn't slept in a week, I found Sedaris' stuff to be pure genius. But then again, when I was speeding along, I had lots of delusions about what was/wasn't genius.

    Now I am sober and now I hate David Sedaris.

    Oh, and by the way, if you're looking for a literary recommendation this holiday season, why not check out Agustin Burroughs instead. He's witty without being trifiling, snarky without being gratuitously bitchy and most of all (unlike David Sedaris) Agustin Burroughs is substantative and cerebral.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    A very westcoast Christmas

    Greg and I leave for Washington State today to spend the holidays with my brother Adam and his family. Mother will be there too. Hopefully by the time we get there, the power outtages that have plagued the Northwest will be long over and I will be able to blog from time to time. We'll see.

    That pic is (from left) my nephew Chase, me, my brother Adam.

    Monday, December 18, 2006

    New Jersey News roundup

  • Much like the infamous pork project such as the "bridge to nowhere," a fourth tunnel between NJ and Manhattan will not receive federal funding and will become a non-starter this political season. The reason? Too much pork. Aparently, with the GOP hemorrhaging money out of the federal treasury, the ecomomy is suddenly in the toilet. Go figure. So no pork -- and no bridge into NYC -- for now. Sen. Lautenberg says give it a year and let's try again to get that bridge tunnel.

  • One hundred and one homocides in Newark. And counting. One more murder in the state's largest city and it will be a new record.

  • How much time will Democratic powerbroker John Lynch serve in the clink? Maybe a little, maybe a lot. We'll know soon.

  • Whoever says the Labor Movement is loosing its way must have missed the big rally in Trenton last week. According to the NYTimes, that rally -- which drew 15,000 people -- was bigtime national news. It was also a warning to legislators: "Come November, we remember."

  • If you think homelessness is an inner-city thing, think again. The Philly Inky has a good piece about being homeless in the NJ 'burbs.

  • The Courier Post warns that democratic infighting threatens to jeopardize the progress being made torwards propTax reform. This came as a surprise to me since I was sure that nothing was being done.

  • With gays and lesbians in PA facing a more hostile political climate, might we see more of them fleeing Philly en masse to repopulate hamlets in South Jersey like Collingswood and Haddonfield? Steven Goldstein: "My organization is going to be marketing New Jersey as a place for gay and lesbian couples in Philadelphia to move because out laws are so much better." For my sake, let's home some of the gay vote comes to nj-3 as well, it would surely be a good omen to flip this district blue in 'o8. Rich Sexton are you listening?

  • The fabric of South Jersey politics is decidedly less colorful with the passing of Kenny Gewertz. This is the guy who is widely credited with transforming wide swathes of Gloucester from a sleepy rural area into a thriving suburb. You may also remember the story a few years back when he hired a chopper to buzz a GOP picnic event in South Jersey. Aparently with papercups and provisions flying all over the place, the republicans were running to and fro convinced that an invasion was at hand. Hey, I told you he was a colorful type!
  • Thursday, December 14, 2006

    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush (administration)

    Look at what Travis found in today's lifestyles section. Brilliant!

    DEAR ABBY: My problem is an interesting one. I am the president of a country I’ll call “The Untitled Tapes of Harmonica.” Our troops are currently fighting a war in another country, called “Iran.” Things aren’t going so well right now but, like most Harmonicans, my administration wants to succeed in Iran because we understand success in Iran would help protect the Untitled Tapes in the long run. Our goal is clear: a democratic and peaceful Iran that represents all Iranis.

    But my real problem is with my father, who used to be president of the Untitled Tapes and also served as commander-in-chief during a previous war in Iran. For most of my presidency, my father has been very supportive of me and has treated me like an adult – and I appreciate that. Recently, however, he has begun telling me how I should run the war in Iran, among other things. He even went so far as to tell some of his friends to issue this report with all sorts of recommendations about the war, which I found very embarrassing. They even suggested that I withdraw the troops!

    Abby, I don’t feel this should be my dad’s or his friends’ decision to make. They’ve already had their chance to have a war in Iran, and now I’m the president. They would not listen to me if the tables were turned, believe me. I am doubly upset because now the media thinks I should take their advice. I am a grown man, and I feel I should tell my father and his friends nicely, “I appreciate your advice, but please realize this is still my decision to make.”

    Am I being unreasonable? I’m afraid that if I do what they say, my father and his friends will be a constant interference. — DISRESPECTED IN D.C.

    Need a second to absorb? Read on for Abby's thoughtful, gentle reply.

    DEAR DISRESPECTED: I have no doubt that you sincerely hope your war turns out to be a success. But from your letter, I’m not sure that you’ve developed a clear understanding of what it is you hope to achieve during this war. For example, success isn’t really a goal; it’s something you’ve earned when you accomplish a goal. You say your goal is a democratic and peaceful Iran, but you haven’t said how you intend to reach reach either benchmark. The end of a war is often accompanied by peace, but peace is not a military objective – no matter how much we may wish otherwise.

    You sound like a very bright young man, and I can certainly relate to your fears of being overshadowed by a famous parent who happens to be in the same line of work. However, sometimes it’s helpful to listen to the advice of older people, who may have accumulated valuable experience before you were even born. They usually have your best interests at heart, even if you don’t understand now.

    You might also consider input from the Irani people or a majority of Harmonicans when making your decision, if you feel uncomfortable following the advice of your father and his friends.

    When the subject matter is the president and his war follies, sometimes parody works better than anything to make a scathing social commentary.

    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    Sunday, December 10, 2006

    Google me timbers!

    It's amazing what folks try to find with Google. It's even more amazing what some folks try to find on the net, only to find me instead. Here's a sampling of the latest search engine gems, according to my site meter:
    • Danish+Male+escorts
    • Bigmany in New Jersey
    • Dirty bookstores in New Jersey
    • Free+Lady+piss
    • Toy+Soldier+lawn ornament
    • "Do black people have achilles tendons?" and finally.....
    • "Let peace begin with me"
    Hey, whatever floats your boat!

    Saturday, December 09, 2006

    Congressman Donald Payne, the Darfur Interview

    I had the opportunity to interview New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne, who's next in line to chair the subcommittee on Africa and Human Rights in the new Democratic Congress.

    For the millions of people in the Darfur region of Sudan, Congressman Payne's chairmanship can't come soon enough. As you know, all hell is broken loose in Darfur. It's a full-blown genocide, a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Donald Payne promises to make the genocide in Darfur a top priority. He has some bold ideas to end the dying as well as the smarts (and the foreign policy chops) to address the Darfur issue head on. And pretty soon, he'll (hopefully) have the clout as well. So check out the interview and see for yourself why Congressman Payne is out last best hope to break the current cycle of genocide.



    Jay Lassiter:
    Thank you for you hospitality Congressman Payne. It's nice to be in Newark again. I actually had a really nice walk over to your office to the train station. The city really is looking great. So maybe to start you could tell us a little about your city and your district, and maybe for those out there who do not know you, maybe a little background on yourself?
    Donald Payne:
    Well first of all the 10th Congressional District encompasses about twenty or so towns or parts of towns. I am in three counties, the largest being in Essex County. I have a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious district. Quite a bit of my district is also in Union County and in Hudson County I have parts of Jersey City and Bayonne. So that makes up my district. It's a lot of blue collar workers, a lot of minority black and Hispanic persons, some of upper income communities as well.

    Anyhow, I was elected in 1988, going into my tenth term in the 110th Congress. It's really a pleasure to serve the district. Prior to being elected to Congress, I served as a member of the Essex Co. board of Freeholders for a couple of terms.

    JL:
    Twenty years in Congress. Wow and congratulations....
    DP:
    Eighteen going on nineteen and it'll be twenty when I finish this term.
    JL:
    You've been proactive in African issues your entire career. Could you give us a little back ground on your perspective?
    DP:
    I became keenly interested in Africa during my college years. I was active in the Civil Rights movement in the United States but parallel to that, there was a lot of movement for independence (from the colonial powers) in Africa. In 1957 Ghana got its independence and that was a big thing...I was teaching at Malcolm X Shabazz High School at the time and we had a celebration at what was going on because there was so little attention given to Africa in this country.

    I watched the parallel between the Civil Rights movement in the US and the pro-independence movement in Africa. I don't know if one fed onto the other, but they just happed to occur simultaneously. In fact, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went to the inaugural program in Ghana that year.

    As a matter of fact, the 50th anniversary celebration of the independence on Ghana is being celebrated next year in 'o7 and we look forward to participating in that celebration next year. So my interest came at that time and I think the big issue that happened in that era was the Patrice Lumumba case. Lumumba, who was the president of Congo allegedly was murdered by the Belgians with the tacit approval of the Americans, leaving control to (strongman) Joseph Mubutu. (The aversion of Western powers towards communism influenced their decision to finance Mobutu's quest to maintain "order" in the new state by neutralizing --and later murdering -- Lumumba in a proxy coup.)

    I became president of the YMCA of America -- actually the first black person to ever be elected to that post -- in 1970. I got to Africa for the first time in 1972 (in the capacity of the YMCA leader.) It was a great opportunity because I became a member of the world YMCA board and later became a member of the Y's world refugee committee.

    So not only was the interest in Africa there, but I also had the opportunity -- at a pretty young age --to be in a really responsible position as related to Africa and what was happening there.
    JL:
    Given the breadth of you experience dealing with African affairs it seems like you're uniquely qualified to give us a little primer about the unfortunate situation that's going on in Darfur right now.
    DP:
    Darfur is a real tragedy. You would think that genocide couldn't possibly happen again. But it's happening again. In 1916 there was a genocide in Armenia, the Turks tried to exterminate a whole group of people and no one did anything. I realize that was a long time ago, but to think that such problems persist. If we had applied what we learned in Armenia, perhaps the Holocaust might have been prevented? Then we've seen the others: in Rwanda and Cambodia and we thought there was a resolve for "never again."

    Secondly, when we did get a Darfur genocide resolution passed it was the first time in Congress that a genocide was declared while it was going on. I was encouraged -- just elated -- that the vote was 422- to 0 and went through the day before we adjourned for last summer's recess. Then we went to the Senate and they took on the resolution and without any dissent, they passed it too. So we really thought this was going to mean progress in Sudan. But now I am totally disappointed that there has been 100,000 dead since we declared genocide. So I have a real empty feeling that I have let these people down because we were all so elated. When I drew the (Darfur) resolution up people said the bill was a long shot. So when it went through, there was elation that we finally had a tool to move forward and have the whole world acknowledge the genocide and then stomp it out. As you know, genocide is an attempt to eliminate a race by various means such as violence and we've been frustrated that there has not really been a proper response.

    Jan Egeland's term at the UN is expiring at the end of the month and once again the Sudanese government resented Egeland’s honesty and has made it clear that they do not want him reappointed, so he'll be gone soon. It's really a sad state of affairs.

    Resolution 1706 was passed by the United Nations stating the need for 17,300 peacekeeper troops in Darfur, Sudan. In Addis Abiba, Ethiopia last week, there was a call for an even larger force, about 27,000 UN and African Union troops, and then the day after the so called agreement, the government of Sudan changes their tune and said "we didn't agree to that. We are not going to let the UN in."

    Since that time several more villages have been attacked by the Sudanese government. The Janjaweed in Darfur, they attacked another town....brand new incursions, Janjaweed came into town killed several families, stole their cattle, and burned down the village.
    JL:
    This morning I heard something on public radio and the Sudanese president Omar al Bashir is firm. He indicated that he regarded the presence of UN peacekeepers on Sudanese soil as a return to colonialism. Does his government in Khartoum actually support the genocide? Is that crazy to suggest?
    DP:
    It's not crazy at all. It is a matter of fact that Khartoum not only supports it, but they are the perpetrators of it. And they are using this neo-colonialism as a way to try to get African countries to say "we should not have foreigners return to Africa."

    That's hogwash! That's ridiculous. But Al Bashir has been able to continually have people intimidated by these outlandish statements of colonialization. Al Bashir knows that the governments of Africa are timid about entangling themselves with the government of Sudan. And so we do not see the will of the African countries imposing themselves strongly on the Sudanese government. Sudan is one of the stronger African countries, now they have oil wealth and they are just continuing to intimidate the African Union.
    JL:
    Nicolas Kristoph suggests in today's New York Times that the Janjaweed's attacks are beginning to spread into neighboring countries such as Chad and the Central African Republic. (see map) Umm, that's kind of similar to what happened with the Uganda crisis some years back, it was almost, um sort of
    a proxy war between these militias. What on earth can we do?
    DP:
    It's terrible; you had finally at one point almost a mini-world war in Africa with the Ugandans and the Rwandans going into the Congo. And Zimbabwe and Angola and others get pulled in as well. Now the Janjaweed is trying to destabilize the government of Chad and I know because I have spoken to the president of Chad on several occasions. Also the water tables in northern Chad have always been historically low and they are almost being depleted and so it created tensions between the (Sudanese refugees) and the people living in Chad already. The Central African Republic has a weak government in the first place, and one another government falls you have even more refugees. It's going to become almost impossible to reach people, to feed people.

    The fact that so many people are in flight is why it's so difficult to get an accurate number of deaths in this conflict. On the low end, there are estimates of 200,000 victims of the Darfur genocide, other estimates go as high at 450,000. They die from a lot of different reasons -- malnutrition -- the physical killing is about 50% of the total death toll. It's the malnutrition and disease (associated with war and refugee crises) which push the number so high.
    JL:
    This is depressing. I was kind of hoping you'd tell me that I am overly pessimistic about this stuff. But looking at the reality, it's hard to not get down. Is there a glimmer of hope for Darfur with the recent Democratic victories in the Congress? Is there a hint of a possibility that there will be a change?
    DP:
    We still have to get the Bush Administration to act.

    You know, we find ourselves in this unfortunate situation. If this crisis was pre-Iraq, really I think we would have been able to really I think organize the world community and send some of our troops in -- we would only need a limited number -- to do support and so forth. But because of the Iraq situation, and following Somalia, there has been some timidity about Africa anyway. But I think the proportions to which is has risen it would have been some affirmative action by now had it now been for the debacle in Iraq. Many of us can support Afghanistan, that is where Osama bin Laden was. We should have committed ourselves to go after him, but as you know we went to Iraq instead. So it's been very difficult to get anyone in the administration to talk about any kind of real action on the part of our military.

    I still believe that a UN force should be gathered, that we should have the UN and NATO prepare to assist, that we should provide armored vehicles, which we do not have in Darfur now, and that the biggest weapon, that would be the drones. I say we should have a no fly zone. And you can make your messages known very clearly without putting one single American troop in harm's way. I am not a military guy, so I don't know exactly how they work, but I know that unmanned drones are able to detect and destroy. And if this (genocide) continues, I think we have an obligation to do something to stop it.

    I think the first step should actually be the deploying of some reconnaissance-type planes to get a lay of the land, deploy some drone to identify aggressive troops from the government of Sudan who are perusing innocent people and we should destroy them with the technology we have at our disposal. I think if a couple of those (drone missions) were to occur, you might see a change of opinion of the part of the government of Sudan. Umm, it seems kind of far-reaching, but someone has to stop this genocide and we have to do something to show them enough is enough. At some point, enough will have to be enough.

    I strongly support taking on....We could destroy some of those (janjaweed) battalions which could be done simply by pushing a button. It's just that simple.
    JL:
    With the Democratic takeover of Congress and the Senate I am keeping my fingers crossed that Darfur will become a bigger priority. Do you think it's possible that perhaps you might assume a leadership position as one of your committee assignments?
    DP:
    Yes it's quite possible. None of us can say for certain where we will be in the next Congress -- it goes through the process with elections -- and so I can not say for certain where I will be -- but I think it's a good possibility that I will be in a leadership position on the subcommittee that deals with Africa and global human rights. I have been to Africa several times to meet with the Secretary General Kofi Annan and it will certainly be a priority in the new Congress, so far as I am concerned, if I am in a position of leadership on that committee.

    With Kofi Annan leaving, Jan Egeland leaving, I just worry about a future that does not look encouraging. But we are going to have to step up to the plate and encourage our European allies that they too have to become more engaged as well. It's surprising the lack of resolve on the part of the NATO countries (regarding the genocide in Darfur.)
    JL:
    If I am not mistaken, Jan Egeland is the UN Commissioner of human rights who was recently kicked out of Darfur for sharing in a blog , accounting the atrocities that were happening. And as a last resort he was so desperate that he put aside the usual diplomatic protocols and started blogging about what he was seeing in Darfur. So he's gone. Kofi Annan is going to go write his memoirs as well pretty soon so I guess the democratic takeover of Congress is the only glimmer of hope that some of us have. So I know we can't be sure of the committee assignments, but don't you think that before you even get out of the gates, having a black person as the Africa subcommittee chairman is symbolically very important?
    DP:
    Oh, there's no question about it. Only for a short time with Congressman Dix back in the 70's was that the case (that a black person led this committee.) But like I said, the issue of Darfur is as big as any we're facing right now, like North Korea or Iran or Iraq, this is right there at the top.

    But we have lost so much of our moral leadership. We were once a beacon of hope, when the going got tough the United States was willing to find solutions and answers. That's been our legacy since the birth of this nation. So it's really a shame that we have sort of relegated ourselves to where we are today.
    JL:
    Do you think that possibly assuming the lead on Sudan would be a really great way for the United States to possibly restore some of our moral high ground?
    DP:
    No question. Let me tell you something: the people in this country are really anxious to see something happen in Darfur. For example there's a group of high school kids right here from Milburn, NJ that I spoke with about a year ago. These kids raised over $100,000 for Darfur relief! Just last week those same students came to an event at Essex County College where African students and these (high school) youngsters from suburban Essex came together for a film showing and discussion where I also spoke.

    In Washington DC just yesterday some students from Northern Virginia had a press conference urging their local Congressmen Wolfe and Moran that they want to get their state of Virginia to divest in Sudan! We had that done here, my brother (Assemblyman) William Payne had a bill in NJ and now the state's pension monies are all out of Sudan, just that quickly. It just shows what can be done in about 6 or 7 states now. Trade policy is a federal issue, but we are moving against Sudan with the divestment.

    I had my colleagues from the Congressional Black Caucus and we met with the ambassador of the People's Republic if China and we told him under no uncertain terms that we were outraged by their continued support of the government of Sudan and that their objections to strong resolutions (on the UN Security Council) and that we are not willing to accept this anymore. We also had a meeting with the Arab League and we are totally disappointed in their response and we expect them to come up with some solutions as well. So we are going to keep the pressure on, this is the Congressional Black Caucus whose membership has taken on Sudan as its number one issue
    .JL:
    That was one of my questions, about China and Russia and maybe some of the other Arab and Muslim countries like Egypt. Don't they have a vested interest in this working out peacefully?
    DP:
    Absolutely. Egypt has more influence on Sudan and could actually act on (Sudan president) Bashir. They were actually one country for a period of time and Egypt has really been making excuses for their Sudan roll through the years, usually downplaying what is really going on. So we'll let the Egyptian president know that the 2 billion dollars his country gets every year at the first of the year (in US aid)....he's got to get his act together and stop making excuses for the Sudanese government.

    This crisis also has racial overtones. The people getting killed in Sudan are allowed to die because they are black.
    JL:
    You speak to the racial component of this crisis and that's really the 10,ooo pound elephant in the room, but no one ever wants to acknowledge that it was the Jews in Europe, it was the Asians in Cambodia, it was the Muslims in I guess Bosnia and now it's the black people in Africa. I mean is this a pattern or is this just a huge coincidence?
    DP:
    It looks like a pattern. It seems like we are regressing backwards. No one ever thought in the new Millennium we would be talking about people being killed because they are black. It's unconscionable. And the denial of the part of the Sudanese government that this is even happening....and it's happening before our very eyes.

    But the people in America are eager for a solution. They want to know what they can do to help. They are frustrated.
    JL:
    I think I share a lot of people's frustration. Why the hell doesn't the government do something?

    I read an op-ed in the Washington Post by John Prendergast who was the director of African affairs for the National Security Council during the Clinton Administration. Umm, he suggests the American government's inaction is rooted in a deepening intelligence sharing arrangement that Washington has with Khartoum which basically blunts any US response to the violence. Basically he says that our human rights principles are clashing with our post-911 intelligence gathering priorities.
    DP:
    Absolutely no question about it. The head of Sudan's intelligence agency was brought here and they brought him here to talk about the sharing of intelligence and Sudan offered the US information about Al-Qaeda. Of course, this is the same regime that arranged for Osama bin Laden to be there (in Sudan) from 1991-96. So if the Bush administration thinks that their government is leveling with us about Al-Qaeda, they have another thought coming.

    But we are so desperate, so weak in intelligence, that we are willing to really go for anything it seems like. And so it's a bad cop-good cop thing. The Congress is making resolutions, and then the Bush Administration follows up with a wink and a nod. And that's exactly what is happening. When our government has to wallow in the gutter with criminals and murderers with blood dripping off their hands, it's a sad day for the United States of America.
    JL:
    Well why don't we just admit that there is no viable solution that's palatable to both sides of this crisis and just give up?
    DP:
    Oh we can't give up. We are going to keep fighting and we are going to win. And we will win.
    JL:
    Congressman is there anything that might inspire some hope moving forward?
    DP:
    I believe that when the Congress reconvenes were are going to put together a team of good people to address the Darfur Crisis. To have a roundtable, then hold official meetings to see what ideas are on the table. Then we are going to take the best ideas forth because we are not going to allow people to be killed and murdered simply because their skin is black
    .JL: I feel so ashamed that I don't even know what to say.

    ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
    For more about Darfur:
    Sudan Freedon March
    High School students speak out against Genocide

    (Image courtesy Mike Lane)

    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    Still thinking equality in New Jersey

    Think Equal Ad #2:

    Today we lobby the legislators in Trenton for full marraige equality. I'll be there with a camera and a mic and will post an update tonite. In the meantime, enjoy the second ad from Blue Jersey that highlights why civil unions are not an acceptable substitute for marraige.

    Tuesday, December 05, 2006

    marriage equality in NJ

    Check out this groovy ad produced by Blue Jersey, which happens to be my other (bigger) blog. Kudos to my blogbrothers Juan and Jack for making this happen.

    We got a lousy ruling from our Supreme Court that basically punted on the issue of gay marriage. So the fight goes on. Besides, if you aren't willing to fight for your own civil rights, you might as well get used to that spot at the back of the bus.

    naughty or nice

    Click to enlarge. Image courtesy of Larry Wright.

    Friday, December 01, 2006

    Tired of watching my friends die of AIDS

    The reason I write about AIDS (and my 13 years living HIV+) is because I want every one who reads this blog to know someone with HIV. The more I can personalize the disease , the more folks seem to become emotionally engaged in the fight against AIDS.

    On World AIDS Day, there is a lot of reflection going on; The whole how far we've come/how far we have to go kinda thing.

    I just heard something on NPR which moved me to tears about one of the doctors who figured prominently at the dawn of the AIDS crisis. As a young doc out of med school, he went to work for the Centers for Disease Control and went on to become a pioneer of AIDS research. Listening to him describe how his faith enables him to continute to fight the good fight was very moving indeed. Like I said it got me a little misty.

    Sentimentality quickly gives way to rage when I contemplate just how short-sighted President Bush's AIDS policy has been. His whole abstinence-till-marriage routing is so seeped in judgemental religious ideology that it is doomed to fail as a policy, which means of course that more people will die of AIDS in the meantime. The fact that the Bush is exporting these "values" abroad makes it all the more contemptable.

    Bush is also staunchly against needle exchange suggesting that providing clean needles "sends the wrong message." I debunk that myth here. Anyway, the message Bush is really sending is that he doesn't care about faggots and niggers and junkies. Sorry for the harsh language, but this is what the President's behavior says to me personally. And since gays, black and drug users are the ones getting the disease in highest numbers, AIDS (unlike the bird flu for example) will lag far beyone Bush's real priorities.

    Anyway, if you're reading this, then you know at least one person with HIV. I don't wanna die of AIDS. I 'm tired of my friends dying of AIDS. So many are dead that I am an elderstatesman (of 34) and archivist of the fight, which is a miracle in itself. You can imagine when first diagnosed, the last thing I was thinking was I'd ever be the long-term archivist of anything. For this much I remain grateful.

    Which is a perfect note to end on.

    Thursday, November 30, 2006

    Red ribbons are worthless

    Wanna do something meaningful for World AIDS Day?

    GO GET TESTED!

    Seriously folks, I understand the anxiety associated with an HIV test. One of my first thoughts when I found out I was positive was "at least I never have to take another one of these awful HIV tests!" Trust me, I get it!

    But I also know the empowerment that comes with knowing your status. Nowadays you can get a rapid result test and know the dealio within 20 minutes.

    Most folks who fret about the test may have had an encounter that was a bit risky. No judgement here, I've been there. But that's still a lame excuse for not finding out.

    Wearing red ribbons is a nice gesture. But at the end of the day, it doesn't mean a hill of beans. Getting tested on the other hand means knowing your status. And whatever the result, knowledge is power.

    An HIV diary

    I am HIV positive and on the eve of World AIDS Day I find myself relecting on my dozen-year battle.

    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, we 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 HIV meds cost, retail, peryear? something like $18,000 which makes me pretty lucky that I have prescription drug benefits.

    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.

    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!

    Wednesday, November 29, 2006

    One Year Blog-0-versary

    Looks like a milestone was passed during my time of relative hibernation from the blog. Lassiter Space passed the one year mark the day before yesterday. It's pretty cool if you think about it, the ride has been a good one. Being a part of the blogosphere here and over on BlueJersey has not only helped me find my voice, it's also amplified it considerably.

    I started my blog at a tough point in my life, after a second achilles rupture. The recovery was mind-numbingly slow. So there I was, incapacitated with lots of time on my hands and voila the blog was born. Hard to believe it's been a whole year.

    Also hard to believe I would be interviewing Senators and Congressmen but, yeah, that happened too. Probably the coolest scoop I got was with Kirk Bloodsworth, who was the first American to ever be exonerated from death row with DNA evidence. I have been fighting for an abolishment to the death penalty for as long as I can remember, and this guys story of strength and forgiveness is very special indeed.

    It just feel good to have a cozy space in the blogoshere, especially as the blogs take on increasing importance in the political landscape.

    Monday, November 27, 2006

    Eye candy

    What are you asking Santa for this Christmas?
    (Image courtesy Mike Lane)

    Thursday, November 23, 2006

    Grattytude

    (that's how we say it here in Jersey)

    Tuesday, November 21, 2006

    NJ Nets seek GILFs

    ...for their unique new cheerleading squad. 


    From the NBA's website:

    The Nets held open auditions for their first-ever senior dance team yesterday.


    The Nets senior dance team will be comprised of men and women who are at least 60 years of age. The senior dancers will perform during at least six games this season and will have their ages on the backs of their uniforms.


    Hopefully the shorty shorty won't be too terribly bootyliscious.


    Said  Petra Pope, the Nets Senior Director of Entertainment and Event Marketing, "We are looking for seniors who can demonstrate some dancing ability and coordination and be able to learn and perform various routines.  The dancers will have a lot of fun and will surely receive overwhelming support by our crowds."


    Vincent Curatola, AKA "Johnny Sack" of Sopranos Sopranos was one of the audition judges.


    The Nets are also looking for hoops fans to help name the new oldie-squad and are taking suggestions for a new moniker at ppope@njnets.com.  The prize? Nets tix, of course.

    Sunday, November 19, 2006

    Darfuf Dilemma

    With the election of the Democratic party into power in Congress and Senate, there is a glimer of hope that the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan will become a greater priority in Washington.

    For those of you keeping score, over 450,000 have perished in Sudan in the last few years and the international community has largely been silent.

    Tomorrow I am headed up the Garden State Parkway to Newark to interview Congressman Donald Payne who's in line to chair the Congressional subcommittee on African affairs. We'll be chatting about the genocide in Darfur and WTF we can do to take some initiative to stop the dying.

    Rep. Payne has long taken a leadership roll on African issues, for example he was one of the first politicans to sound alarm bells about the famine in Ethiopia in the mid-1980's. So the idea of him taking on the chairmanship of the Africa committee in a positive delevopment for those Africans in harm's way in Darfur. I'm certainly keeping my fingers crosses anyway.

    If you have any suggestions about what to ask Rep. Payne, I am all ears. I am not an Africa expert so if you have some insight that could help me ask more probing questions about this escalating humanatarian crisis, then by all means share your thoughts in the comment section!

    I regret to say that the United States always seems to turn a blind eye to genocide so long as it's "other kinds of people" dying: jews during WWII; Muslims in Bosnia on Pres. Clinton's watch; and black Africans in Rwanda, Uganda and now Darfur.

    What a sad, stinging indictment of our proported values, wouldn't you say?

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    Saturday, November 11, 2006

    My Favorite Vet

    The peace activist in me took root early on, probably during my youth. For those of you who don't know, I grew up on one military base or another, the son of a Marine. It's safe to say my entire childhood took place in the shadow of war.

    My dad was a teenager when he headed over the to fight in Viet Nam (click pic to enlarge. This was dad with cousins Kathy, Susan and Dianne on the way to Saigon.) By the time I was born in 1972 my dad was twenty-four, but the war was still raging and wouldn't end for another few years, in 1975.

    By the time my father retired from the Marine Corps in 1986, the specter of Viet Nam still loomed largely over the country. (*click second pic of the retirement ceremony to enlarge.) The only time we ever really discussed Viet Nam was on Veteran's Day.

    The fact is, I wasn't old or sophisticated enough to understand war and ask the right questions. Alternately, my dad never brought it up either. I can hardly blame him, if i spent my last years as a teenager getting shot at in some godforsaken jungle I'd want to forget that too. But that doesn't mean I wasn't curious.

    Fast forward to 2006 and another war is raging. In fact, the Iraq mess is making a lot of folks revisit the ghost of Viet Nan. My mom and I were chatting about this a few months ago and she declared to me that Iraq reminds her more and more of Viet Nam every day.

    "And we all know how that turned out," she noted.

    I guess one lesson from Viet Nam was not lost on the American public. No one is willing to blame the troops this time around. And that a blessing. A quick peek at last week's election results is proof that we are more willing to take the government -- and not the GI's -- to task for their warmongering. After the shitty treatment my dad and his fellow vets took upon their return, I am glad that we learned at least that much from the Viet Nam war.

    In conclusion I say this: war offends each and everyone of my sensibilities. I hate it. And for as long as I am alive, I will fight for peace. But just the same, my pride and respect for my father grows with time. Every Veteran's day I get a little more perspective on that, and for that I am grateful. Many sons of Vets were not so lucky as I am. In spite of his post-traumatic stress (and all the issues that stem from that) my dad was always able to be a good dad. Check that, a FANTASTIC dad. My brother and I turned out pretty well, we both adore our dad for doing such a great job inspite of all his war demons. But for every story that turns out like ours, there are dozens of families that weren't so fortunate.

    Anyway, that's just a little something to ponder as we enjoy a long (Veteran's Day) weekend.

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    Veteran's Day Plans to Honor Vets, end the War

    I'll never forget the first time I learned about the Toy Soldier project while listening to NPR one morning before work.

    Chicago Public Radio:
    And now a story about an unusual anti-war protest. Tiny green plastic soldiers are showing up all over Chicago. A sticker on each figure pleads, `Bring me home.' NPR's Jason DeRose found the woman who's leaving those soldiers in bookstores and cafes....

    This protest idea stopped me dead in my tracks. I went straight to the dollar store, picked up a few bags-o-plastic toys & a Sharpie and I was off to the races.

    What I'm trying to say is this: there are no original ideas, just good or bad ones. Some ideas are so good that they're worth emulating and passing on. This is one of them.

    Since I first picked up on this idea last spring, nearly 20 bloggers have taken up the call and turned this idea into a bona fide movement. My buddy Kvatch at Blognnomous even gave the toy soldiers their own blog:
    The Kommandos Project started when Kvatch decided to go national with the idea in order celebrate his own blog's one year anniversary. That was in May. Since then, dozens of bloggers all over the nation have deployed thousands of these little guys, with major protests being held on Memorial Day and Independence Day.
    And now we're going to show our support for the troops and for an end to the Iraq War with a Veteran's Day Protest.

    (picture is of me in front of Philly's Liberty Bell last spring. Do I look pissed? You bet it do!)

    Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    Menendez Thanks the Bloggers

    Some nice words from Senator Menendez to New Jersey bloggers. This victory was satisfying, and to be called "the conscience of the campaign" by our Senator is especially sweet.


    Yes! Arizona first state to reject marriage amendment

    This is the first state to say no to enshrining bigotry in its constitution.

    (Pam from the Houseblend reports)--
    After an evening of watching seven other states -- Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin decided to prevent gay and lesbian couples from marrying (some banning civil unions or legal arrangements approximating similar rights to marriage), one state got it.

    And Arizona gay grassroots activists are letting everyone know that they did it by themselves.
    The big national gay organizations have been notably absent there, and the campaigns have been smart about attracting voters from both conservative Phoenix and liberal Tucson with targeted messages and tactics. "We did this with no national help," says Jordan, "this grassroot's effort was local."
    See the complete results here.

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    Democrat Rich Sexton is my choice for Congress in NJ-3

    It was a busy Sunday in NJ-3 yesterday as the Rich Sexton juggernaut took its message to the streets in a "Bus for change" whistlestop tour of the district. Nothing beats boots on the ground and the bus tour provided the Sexton campaign with a terrific opportunity to connect with district voters.

    Our first stop was a pancake breakfast in Willingboro that was a who's who of NJ progressive politics. Senator Menendez was there (see pic of the Senator with Rich and his team. that's me in the tan vest and the grin. click to enlarge) and so were Congressman Andrews and Assemblyman Herb Conaway. They were pressing their message to the party faithful to get out an vote. Judging from the response, the politicians were hitting all the right notes.


    From there, the bus tour headed up route 130 and hit every strip mall we could find. I must confess our efforts were aided in large part to the Eagles having a bye week. Folks were not clammoring to get home to watch the game, rather they were out shopping with their families and enjoying a sunny, mild fall afternoon. Anyway, the Eagles' week off was our gain and we made the most of the opprotunity by connecting with hundreds of voters in the area. (Hopefully the Eagles will make the most of thier time off too, as they look to regroup from a mediocre start.)


    I know first hand the benefits of such campaigning. I personally passed out about 150 pieces of literature and was delighted how eager folks were to chat politics. Folks are sick of the lousy economy, sick of Iraq, sick of the GOP. In short, we are ready for change and many regard Rich Sexton is just the man for the job.


    I couldn't agree more and I am not the only one. Ocean County Observer observed that Rich is "the most impressive congressional hopeful we have seen in years. We enthusiastically support Rich Sexton." Click the link to read the entire ringing endorsement which also give the nod to Senator Menendez and Carol Gay.

    (image courtesy of Asbury Park activist Kathy Maher)

    Saturday, November 04, 2006

    New Jersey Voters have a critical choice

    Why Vote? Here in New Jersey we have a crystal clear choice for United States Senate, between democrat Bob Menendez and rupublican Tom Kean jr. If the Iraq War is an important issue to you heading to the polls on Tuesday, then this video clip is worth your attention. Besides, it's a really great tune.

    Watch and weep. Or hurl. In fact, you might end up doing both. Still not sure who to vote to? Check out this interview I did with Senator Menendez where we discussed Iraq and its consequences.

    In the time it takes to vote, another Iraqi civilian will die

    Image courtesy of NJ's own M.e. Cohen

    Military newspapers say it's time for Rumsfeld to go

    It's gonna be hard for the Bush juggernaut to pin this one on the "liberal" media. CNN:
    An editorial to be published in independent publications that serve the U.S. military will call for President Bush to replace Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
    A snippet from the piece (out Monday) in Army Times, Air Force Times, Navy Times and Marine Corps Times:
    Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war's planning, execution and dimming prospects for success.

    ...Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

    This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

    Donald Rumsfeld must go.
    In other words, this war is a disaster which is putting Americans in peril. The President and his war cabinet are solely responsible, to the American public, the Iraqi people and (frankly) to God. Would you want to meet your maker with that much blood on your hands? Yeah, me neither.
    (Hat tip: Pam)

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    STOP THE HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA. a mild polemic

    This is sick! More and more republicans are emerging (though not willingly) from the closet. It seems like the GOP is crawling with 'em. As an out gay man I am vexed when I learn about this kinda stuff. Mostly I pity them. As the video points out, "closets are just bedrooms...with no self esteem." Fact is, the same folks who are legislating folks like me into the dark ages are the same goons who are paying gay hookers for sex. So, now that I think about it, I don't pity them as much as I resent them.

    Mega-church leader denies 'sexual business relationship' with male escort

    [UPDATE: The escort also says Haggard used meth in his presence. What would Jesus Do?]

    [UPDATE 2: the escort says he'll take a lie detector test and that he has voicemails and a letter from Haggard to back up his story. Ooops.]

    (Pam Reports)--
    Oh my. Why on earth would something like this happen to Ted Haggard, the head of a huge church and president of the National Association of Evangelicals? A male sex worker says Ted was a regular customer for three years. (Denver Post):
    Haggard, the founder and senior leader of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs and president of the multimillion- member National Association of Evangelicals, denied the accusations raised by the prostitute to KUSA- Channel 9. But the pastor said he is prepared for his own church to investigate the claims.

    Male escort Mike Jones of Denver started talking to 9 Wants to Know two months ago, making claims that he has had a three-year sexual business relationship with Haggard, the station reported.

    Jones went public about their alleged relationship Wednesday morning on talk radio.

    "People may look at me and think what I've done is immoral, but I think I had to do the moral thing in my mind and that is expose someone who is preaching one thing and doing the opposite behind everybody's back," Jones told 9News.
    Haggard, who is married with five kids, denied the allegation and said the accusation may be connected to his support of Colorado's marriage amendment:
    "I've never had a gay relationship with anybody. ... I am steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife. I don't know if this is election-year politics or if this has to do with the marriage amendment or what it is," Haggard said.
    More proof that people who have problems with other people's sexuality usually have something hiding in their own closet.

    (Also: Blogenfreude points to a great Ted entry over at Little Green Fascists.)

    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    Why marriage equality matters, part 2

    All ready for Halloween, but with an important message, this little guy came all the way from South Jersey to stand up for his family. No word whether he or his moms found that missing glove. In case you wonder why gay marriage is a big deal, this should answer any lingering doubts.

    In any event, I was talking with my partner this evening about all this and we are totally cool living in sin, for now. But down the road, the marriage option is important, especially should we decide to have kids. Fact is, civil unions are not the same and the legal rights we'd still lack simply relegate me (an American) to second class citizenship. So long as marriage is the only currency of committment that truly matters, we will fight on until we prevail.

    And we will prevail.

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    Why marriage equality matters


    In case you wonder why gay marriage is a big deal, this should answer any lingering doubts.

    In any event, I was talking with my partner this evening and we are totally cool living in sin, for now. But down the road, the marriage option is important, especially should we decide to have kids. Fact is, civil unions are not the same and the legal rights we'd still lack simply relegate us (an American) to second class citizenship. So long as marriage is the only currency of committment that truly matters, we will fight on until we prevail. And we will prevail.

    NJ Supreme Court rules Vermont Style

    Gays in New Jersey can go to the, umm, middle of the bus. Today's ruling on gay marriage equality was a split vercit. A draw. The dreaded sister kiss. (Not sure if that last metaphor flies in this context, but you get the point.)

    My other blog, blue jersey reports in detail:

    The NJ Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in the marriage equality case, finding that New Jersey's State Constitution requires equal rights for all - but, left it to the legislature to decide what to call it.

    You can read the NJ Supreme Court's entire decision here (well, once the site traffic dies down), but the short version is: New Jersey has become the 4th state in the nation to recognize that same-sex couples are entitled to all the same rights of marriage (joining Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut), but has come short (so far) of becoming the 2nd state (after Massachusetts) to recognize full marriage equality. That decision is in the hands of the legislature.

    The decision had been eagerly awaited by gay rights groups and progressive supporters of equality, many of whom will be (sortof) celebrating tonight at 7p in Montclair at the Unitarian Church of Montclair, 67 Church St., Montclair, NJ.

    Some good news in the fight for equality - it's about time - but still a ways to go!


    So there you have it. The fight rages on. We will not lose. This is the single biggest civil rights issue of this generation and we will grind out the victory no matter what it takes.

    Tuesday, October 24, 2006

    Lassiter Space's latest Congressional Podcast

    I sat down with NJ Congressman (and fellow south Jersey homeboy) Rob Andrews the other day to try to make sense of the election day tea leaves. During our podcast-able interview, the Congressman and I hit a lot of topics including an Iraq war teaser (note to peaceniks: Andrews is calling for a radical new course in Iraq), his thoughts on blogs and alternative media, Camden county poll numbers, George Norcross, and even rollplaying Tom Kean Junior without a trustfund. And yeah, we talked a lot about the election, too. I decided to leave this interview largely unedited because I found that polishing it up took out all the best (and most releavling) moments.

    Listen here!

    My lasting impression of Rob Andrews is that he'd make a fantastic New Jersey Senator one day. I have a few reasons why I say that, but I'll share just one with you here: the way he spoke of his wife and two daughters. The guy is clearly smitten with the ladies in his life, and it has turned him into a feminist. And any man who's a bona fide feminist has a tremendous lot of ego strengh which to me is a big deal. Just my two cents. Now go make yourself a cup of tea (or hot chocolate) and listen for yourself.

    NJ Marriage Decision TOMORROW!!!

    Stop the press!!!!

    The New Jersey Supreme Court will hand down its ruling in the marriage equality case TOMORROW Wednesday, October 25, 2006 at 3:00 pm. You can check out the NJ Court's website at 3pm for the verdict!

    I'll be in Trenton all afternoon with updates and feedback and reaction, including pictures. So say a prayer for equality and get ready for the big announcement!!!!

    Gay Marriage in NJ, an up-to-the-minute update

    This note arrived in my email box, an update on the NJ gay marriage ruling from Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality:
    The New Jersey Supreme Court will be handing down its marriage-equality decision after Chief Justice Poritz's last day on the Court -- her last day being tomorrow, Wednesday, October 25th.

    Conventional wisdom has been that the decision would have to come down by the last day before the Chief Justice's retirement. But according to the Court's spokespeople, and as some news organizations have now reported, the Court can hand down rulings after a particular justice's last day without nullifying her participation or vote.

    In fact, the Court even allows a retired justice to continue participating in deliberations in a particular case, so long as she had sat on the bench in that case, after her retirement.

    So this much is clear:

    1. There is no deadline for the Court to hand down its decision.

    2. There is no correlation between the time it takes a Court to deliver a decision and the outcome of a decision. Our brothers and sisters in Massachusetts went through a similar situation with their marriage equality case. Throughout 2003, the year their case was argued before the court, conventional wisdom had been that the decision would come down by a certain date. The decision came down afterward.

    3. It is far from unprecedented for the New Jersey Supreme Court to hand down rulings this long after oral arguments. In fact, the Court is announcing today, Tuesday, October 24th, a decision in a death-penalty case in which the Court heard oral arguments on November 29, 2005.

    So that's the latest. One thing is clear: NJ activists are prepared for any outcome. We want a win, of course, but we are prepared for anything. Hey, that's what forward-thinking activists have to do!

    Monday, October 23, 2006

    New Jersey News and Notes

  • New Jersey welcomed some heavy hitters from the US Senate to campaign on behalf of their respective party's Senate candidate here in the state: John McCain for Junior and Hillary Rodham Clinton for Bob Menendez. Clinton and McCain are widely viewed as favorites for their party's presidental nomination in 2008. Stay tuned for that.

  • With all that's riding on the outcome of the Senate race, it's disconcerting that NJ's the voting system is under scrutiny. Aparently there are a whole host of concerns ranging from less-than-competent poll workers, potential voter intimidation and (of course) the paperless electronic voting machines.

  • Speaking of the Senate campaign, the NY Times ran a piece this AM about Junior's relative lack of real world experience. It was once said that Junior "had never demonstrated any leadership skills beyond organizing a canoe trip down the length of the Danube River after graduating from Dartmouth." Judging from Baby Kean's paltry legislative record in Trenton, that statement is still operative.

  • Switching to the House races, Viola Thomas-Hughes faces long odds to overcome incumbent Frank LoBiondo, but she insists she's in it to win it. Besides said Viola, "Just because someone has served for a long time doesn't mean that person is unbeatable. While my opponent has been in Congress, we've seen tax breaks for the wealthy and no change in the minimum wage at the same time members of Congress are giving themselves a raise... . The poor and the working class are getting left behind."

    I should add that Congressman Rob Andrews had nothing but kind words for Thomas-Hughes when I interviewed him for a podcast (available later today) noting that she has an articulate and progressive vision for her district. No word yet if that endorsement from Andrews comes with finanical help, but Andrews is a team player and indicated his willingness to possibly assist Viola's campaign (and Rich Sexton's, as well) when we chatted on Friday.

  • On that front, Congressman Frank Pallone has the second biggest campaign warchest in the entire House of Representatives, a jaw dropping $3.1 million. If my math is correct, Rep. Pallone could donate $100,000 each to candidates Stender, Gay, Sexton, Hughes, Wyka and Aronsohn and he's still be just about the biggest endowed Congressman in Washington. The mind reels, I'm sure. Anyway, here's what's at stake for New Jeresy if Congress turns blue.

  • Switching gears, election season also means flu season. Have you gotten your flu shot yet? The last thing we need it a bunch of democrats getting sick on election day, so get protected.
  • Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    Gay Marriage in the Garden State, an update

    The New Jersey Supreme Court session is winding down. Fast. In fact, on Oct 26th our esteemed Chief Justice, the Honorable Doborah T. Poritz turns seventy. Judges here in the Garden State retire at 70. So sometime between now and, ummm, Tuesday all the cases in the hopper will be decided. This includes the Gay Marriage ruling. Hard to believe that after all this time waiting the decision is upon us any minute now. You've been warned.

    Arguments were heard back in February. (I was there, read here)

    It's also hard to believe that I may have the right to marry at any time. Or maybe not, who knows. Living in sin is cool too, so long as it's a choice. All I know is this: one way or another, we'll get word real soon.

    For the whirlwind of events surrounding the ruling, check out Garden State Equality's website!

    Brokeback Congress

    I am so busy with life and the upcoming election. It's too bad that as the campaign season hits its highest gear, I am in perpertual motion every waking hour and have no time to blog. But I'm not complaining. I am right where I want to be. But I do miss posting (nearly) every day here on Lassiter Space, and I especially miss interacting with the readers. ho hum. Come November 8th, I'll be back in business. Full time. Hopefully that will be the first day of a new Democratic majority in Congress.


    Looks like the rest of the blogosphere is carrying on okay in my absence. Lots of good stuff all over the place. First of all, there's my buddy Mike Rogers whose made a career out of exposing secretly gay republican lawmakers. I'm gay so naturally I have no problem with gay Congressmen, but when they spend their days trying to strip me of my civil rights, only to have gay sex by night then it's a problem. The latest closet case to be exposed was Idaho republican Congressman Larry Craig. So much for the party of family values. Just ask Congressman Craig's wife, poor dear. Speaking of which, I hope this pervert didn't bring any nasty diseases home to the little lady.

    Kudos to Mike for busting this guys balls before he could do any more damage. Let's face it, living a lie makes it hard to play fair and be honest. If a Congressman sees homophobia as being politically expediant, well that's on them. But to turn around and pay male escorts for sex and it's clear that it's hypocracy run amok in Washington.

    Monday, October 16, 2006

    Can you hear me now?

    With apologies to Charlie Brown....Image courtesy of Daryl Cagle

    Sunday, October 15, 2006

    Why I fight for Peace

    If we "stay the course" much longer, we'll be memorializing the 3,000th American soldier killed in action in Iraq before we know it. I shudder to think.

    As it stands, we are at 2,763 KIA including forty-seven from my homestate of New Jersey, including the most recent casualty, 23-year-old Marine Lance Cpl. Christopher Cosgrove III who was laid to rest with full military honors St. Vincent Martyr Church in Madison this passed Wednesday. (click pic to enlarge.)

    (Image courtesy Morris Daily Record)

    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    GOP got Osama, we got Obama!

    Before I tell you all about my lunchtime trip to Trenton, let me make one thing clear: Sen. Barack Obama is a rockstar.

    So what brought me to Trenton from Cherry Hill you ask? Well, it was the chance to experience for myself that je ne sais quoi that makes Sen. Obama so special to many in our progressive community and well beyond. Senator Obama was in the Garden State to lend his support to our own Sen. Bob Menendez. After a morning visit to Camden, where Sen. Menendez received the warm support from black clergymen at the Kaighn Baptist Church, the Obama/Menendez juggernaut headed northbound to Trenton for a noontime rally with NJ's labor movement near the Statehouse.

    And what a rally it was! First of all, the venue was an iconic one: Trenton's Masonic Temple. When I arrived, I heard the musical stylings of Fleetwood Mac thumping through the sound system.

    "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow," Stevie Nicks reminded the crowd, "Don't stop! It'll soon be here, better than before! Yesterday's gone, yesterday's gone!"

    I should note that Menendez and Obama were joined at the event by Governor Corzine and NJ's senior Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Senator Lautenberg spoke first, noting that Senators Menendez and Obama are new to the Senate but both immeadiately showed poise and leadership in their positions. Sen. Lautenberg also expressed pride in his two Senate colleagues and his fondness for them -- personally and professionally -- was aparent. For me, it's great to see Senator Lautnberg looking so sprye and fit, still so full of piss and vineger. I'd be proud to have him as my voice in Washington for years to come. But that's another election.....

    Governor Corzine was next, and he expressed his confidence in Menendez' leadership and vision in the Senate. Afterall, as we all know, the Corzine tapped Menendez to finish out his Senate term after he won the Governorship. Clearly Corzine has no misgivings about that choice in retrospect. After a year as a Menendez constituent, I'm sure Corzine made the right choice too.

    Sen. Obama followed the Governor at the mic, and he was treated to a prolonged ovation from the crowd of students, union folks and statehouse workers on their lunch break. Trust me, folks, this Obama guy is The Deal. I'll stop gushing and just say that hearing him talk (and connect) it was pretty clear that I was listening to someone really special. Future president? You betcha.

    Obama's opening line: "I need Menendez back in the Senate, or I'll just have Lautenberg teasing me, calling me 'Junior' all the time!"

    Obama then noted that he's been on quite a stump this campaign season. He rattled off places like Philly and Miami and Missouri and a half dozen other locales he's visited to lend support to candidates as the Democrats try to reclaim the House and Senate from the GOP on election day. The Democrats are lucky to have such a good teamplayer In Obama and he clearly relished the roll.

    "I won't lie, my wife's not happy" about his extended campaign tour, "but the reason I am working so hard is because we are at a crossroads right now. Besides," he continued, "we are in it together. We have a stake in one another and that ideal is what makes us strong." At that point he singled out our own Governor Corzine, who was born in Obama's homestate of Illinois.

    "Your Governor," Obama told the crowd, "did more to help me get elected in 2000 than anyone outside of Illinois." So on top of everything else, Obama is loyal.

    Then Sen. Obama adressed our hosts, the Labor Movement. He reminded them how together with Senator Menendez, he plans to undo damages that BushCo. has done to the average worker's pay and heathcare.

    "Folks have had enough, but we need to close the deal" on election day and work hard "knocking on doors, writing a check, getting on the phones" for democratic candidates. He's right of course. If our Union brothers and sisters rock the vote and flex their election day muscles, then Senator Menendez will be sitting pretty on November 8th.

    It was a tough act to follow, but Senator Menendez took the podium to deliver his pitch. You guys know the drill by now: Menendez is everything Bush and Junior are not. If the Democrats want to take the Senate back, we have got his hold on to Menendez' seat.

    So what are you waiting for? Get to work!

    Wednesday, October 11, 2006

    GOPerv Foley gives alcohol a bad name

    Give it up, ladies and gents, for the comedic stylings of Miss Wanda Sykes! Listen to Sistermama tell it like it is on the Tonight Show.

    You're either in or you're out!

    I got home from the lousiest day on the job in ages and there was a message from my partner Greg on my cell phone.

    "Check your email" he told me, "It'll cheer you up."

    He was right. There was a note with a few pics of Greg and Jay Mc Carroll, the winning designer from Project Runway's first season. I don't know about you guys, but I love Project Runway and I had Jay pegged to win the big finale (and the $100,000 first prize) from the first show. He didn't disappoint. By the way, I am obsessed with this TV show.

    Greg is a designer as well, and he keeps himself busy creating all the oppressively hip and cool housewares stuff that you see at Urban Outfitters. Jay was in town meeting with some of Greg's colleagues doing whatever it is creative people do. Sometimes i see how immersed I have become in the NJ political scene (and it is a scene) that I lament that I didn't follow a more creative path. If I had a choice to hang out with witty fashionistas or, say, the Governor it would be a pretty easy decision.

    I guess Greg and I have some professional commonground at least. With fashion--much like politics-- one day you're in, and the next you're out.

    P.s. does anyone know if tonite is Project Runway's (third) season finale? or is it next week?