Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Defiant Gardners

A story I heard on NPR the other day has been tugging at my heartstrings and laying heavy on my mind since i heard first heard it. (NPR)--
From the Western Front trenches of World War I to the deserts of Iraq, soldiers have found comfort in the simple act of gardening.
Kenneth Helphand, writes about war gardens -- not just victory gardens, grown in time of scarcity, but those planted on hostile fronts, including Poland's ghettos and the Japanese-American internment camps of WWII in his cool new book.

Helphand calls such gardens an act of defiance.

(NPR)--
Helphand's fascination with what he now calls "defiant gardens" began with this undated World War I photograph (click to enlarge) of soldiers in the French trenches flanked by their planting beds. Notice the use of twigs as ornamental borders delineating each soldier's plot. Helphand had this picture on his bookshelf for several years before deciding to pursue the meaning of gardens in such extreme circumstances, beyond their obvious use for food.


From World War II, there were graphic and emotional accounts of subsistance plots in Nazi ghettos (see pics, above) as well as rock garden taupiaries in the Japanese internment camps in the American west (see pic below.)

The Polish ghettos created by the Nazi during World War II were "urban prisons," writes Helphand, "set up to deliver their residents, ultimately, to extermination." (NPR)--
Those residents, Polish Jews, were walled or fenced in to restricted areas, as they were in the Glubokoye ghetto, pictured above. Here, residents are working in a plant nursery in what might have been a moment of respite, at least distraction. From this community of 6,000, about 60 are thought to have survived. Gardens in the ghetto were literally carved out of dust and rubble, as shown here in this picture from the Lodz Ghetto.
Note the star of David on the scarecrow. Chilling, indeed.

Worlds away from the ghetto, in a landscape unimaginable to Polish Jews, another community was corralled involuntarily: Americans who were Japanese. This Stonehenge-like arrangement is actually the mess hall garden created at the Manzanar Internment Camp, from rocks and boulders dug out of the surrounding California desert.

The American soldiers in the Perian Gulf have also lent their green thumb to otherwise bleak surroundings. (see pics)

Left photo: U.S. Army Warrant Officer Brook Turner trims his grass with scissors in a camp north of Baghdad in July 2004. He missed the green of Hawaii, where he lives, and of his native Oregon. His wife sent him grass seed, but ants ate it. Undeterred, he acquired sod.

Right image:Stationed outside Tikrit, Iraq, Army Sgts. Justin Wanzek (left) and Carl Quam Jr. (featured in our story) borrowed Iraqi irrigation and planting techniques and grew bumper crops of food: corn, cauliflower, cucumbers and peas. Their battalion ate particularly well, but that was only part of Quam's motivation. Gardening was a way to connect to his home in North Dakota: "It helped me cope with missing them."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

HIV/AIDS turns 25

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-five 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!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sunday, May 28, 2006

What a Dick


Actual caption: Underclass Navy midshipmen rest their eyes as they listen to the commencement address delivered by Vice President Dick Cheney during the graduation ceremony of the 2006 class of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., Friday, May 26, 2006. (AP Photo/Chris Gardner)

Got a better caption? Feel free to share it here!
Hat tip to my ailing friend/blogger Pam in North Carolina.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Honoring the fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

First off, a proper musical backdrop while contemplating the real costs of war.


With Philly's Constitution Hall (see pic) providing an iconic back drop, A Memorial Day visual/vigel was set up to honor the men and women in uniform who have died in war. A broad coalition of peace activits from across the Deleware Valley gathered this morning to set up a stunning and evocative tribute in the form of several thousand wooden "tombstones" in honor of the Iraq War dead.

I had the privledge of being a steward of the New Jersey section of the memorial.
In the second picture (click to enlarge) I kneel next to the memorial to Army Specialist Marlon P. Jackson of Jersey City who died much too young at 25, the victim of a roadside bomb in Iraq.

AP:
Spc. Marlon P. Jackson was a quiet young man of simple pleasures: basketball, Chinese food and Caribbean music. From Iraq, he asked family to send music magazines and sports clippings. And he never forgot to say thank you. "He always thanked me for everything I did. He was so appreciative," said Vanessa Selby, his self-described stepmother. He was stationed in Vilseck, Germany. He is survived by his mother, Lois La Grenade, and father, Leighton Jackson. Before joining the Army in 1999, Jamaica-born Jackson attended community college. He had become a big brother to Selby's son Khabir, 22, and tutored him in his free time. "He was just becoming a young man, trying to be responsible," Selby said.
I was also touched by the tombstome dedicated to Marine Major John C. Spahr who's from my hometown of Cherry Hill. (see last pic) Needless to say it's sad and moving to consider the toll the Iraq War has taken on the great state of New Jersey.

Isn't 43 too many already?

Freedom isn't free....but it isn't dom, either.

Click here to hear TAPS. It is a suitable backdrop while contemplating what Memorial Day is really all about.
This holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who died in military service for their country.

What will you be doing to commerate the day?

Here in the Philly area, we have an amazing tribute to soldiers who have given their lives in war. And while the casusalies of Vietman, WWII, Korea, et al will be on our minds and in our hearts, it's the Iraq War dead who will be the focus of our efforts this weekend. We will be assembling tombstones (see pic from last year's event) on the Constitution Center lawn, right across from the Liberty Bell. One for each of the Iraq War fallen.


This MEMORIAL DAY weekend, the unfortunate mathematics indicate we will be approaching 2,500 Killed in Action. Our Mission is to help folks realize these are 2,500 friends, neighbors, EMT workers, teachers, relatives, cops, teamsters, co-workers, loved ones, etc...

In other words, 2,500 is a lot more than just a number.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I get the scoop from Democratic Congressional Candidate Rich Sexton

Through the course of the campaign, I have gotten to know Rich Sexton a bit and more and more I like what I see. He's articulate, passionate and razor sharp. And I would be proud to have him representing me in Washington.

My favorite line from the new Rich Sexton Podcast:
"Jim Saxton gets a lot of credit for keeping those bases (Mc Guire and Ft. Dix) open, but the people who are keeping the bases open are the people in uniform"
Click to play:








My other favorite line from the new Rich Sexton Podcast:
When the Democrats take back Congress in November 2006 and are sworn in in January 2007, we've got a lot of work to do."
So here's the deal, click over to the new Rich Sexton Podcast and have a listen. It's full of good nuggets from our Democratic candidate!

And while the podcast is downloading consider this: I have lived in Cherry Hill NJ for three years and I deserve a more honorable voice in Congress than a Bush lapdog like Jim Saxton.

Bush in Philly today

Looks like George Bush will be in the area all day today. Yay, lucky me!

First the Prez will tour a nuclear power plant in suburban Philly and try to tell us how if we don't accept his radioactive ideas then the terrorists will have won. Oy!

Later on, the Bush motorcade will head downtown to raise money for Congressmen Gerlach and Fitzpatrick at the Sheraton City Center. I wasn't invited but that's okay, I don't wanna pay $1ooo just to raise money for two incompetent Republican Congressmen or to see our incompetent president. (Naturally I'll be outside protesting loudly. Wanna join me? Be at Love Park (see pic) at 16th and JFK Blvd. at 4pm! Map)

The silver lining is this: Bush's timing couldn't be better. For Democrats, I mean.

Here's the deal. We all know Bush travels with a huge motorade which includes his massive security detail, media, local law enforcement, assistants, et al. Now, this practically guarentees traffic tie ups all over town for the entire duration of today's rushhour. And local voters will be pissed. I believe that most folks are more sensitive to being caught on Interstate 95 in a nasty traffic jam than they are to say, the Iraq War. Sad but true.

Anyway, imagine being on your way home from work and traffic is elbow-to-asshole all the way home. Thanks to the President and the Republican Comgressmen he's pimping, your commute home was a nightmare. And you're reminded of this fact every 10 minutes on the traffic report.
I reckon folks who might still be "on the fence" with Bush and his lapdog congress will have a chance to contemplate their feelings about Bush Co. while STUCK IN A TRAFFIC JAM!.

It's a perfect metaphor.

A Safer Fix in NJ

In todays NJ Courier Post there is my editorial about the need for a needle exchange program here in the state right next to a letter entitled "Liberal thinking will be the undoing of America!"

Isn't irony a bitch? Hey, at least my story gets top billing with a headline "Life saving policy" while the "Liberal thinking" nonsense was relegated to the bottom of the page with no fanfare.

Anyway, for those of you who don't know this about me yet, I know first hand (as a retired crystal meth junkie) just how important having access to clean needles is to the long-term health of drug users who are still out there using.

At first I was embarassed to discuss the meth days openly like this. Let's face it, there is still a lot of shame and pain associated with the topic for me, and for most ex-addicts for that matter. But the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that getting off crystal meth was probably the hardest and most important thing i will ever do. In fact, the more people know about the nature of the drug, the more folks actually seem to respect me for my past and what I have been able to overcome. I never would have known this by keeping my story of recovery to myself.

Perhaps the lesson here is this: people respect honesty and openness. My willingness to discuss something so delicate, personal, and downright icky as the need for clean needles for addicts in this state has been rewarded with many kind and sympathetic sentiments from around New Jersey.

And that feels damn good.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Tuesday giggler

A comic is worth a thousand words.
(Image courtesy Daryl Cagle)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Toy Soldiers aren't just for playtime....anymore!

Surely you all remember that toy-soldier protest I launched here in New Jersey (and the blog-o-sphere) to register my discontent with the Iraq War. Hard to believe that was the 2nd story I ever posted on this site! (No idea what I am talking about? read here!)

It all started out with a story I heard on NPR about a peace activist who has taken to leaving plastic toy soldiers behind everywhere she went. On the base of the plastic toy was a small label with a powerful and deliberately provocative message: "BRING ME HOME!" After hearing about ths, I went straight to the dollar store and picked up several bags of toy Army men. Then I blogged about it and dared others to follow suit.
It was not long before the power of the blogoshere took over. First a blogger from California took up the challenge. Then another from Massachusetts. Then another and another and another.

In fact, this little toy soldier thing now has its own website!! And believe it or not, A MUSIC VIDEO as well!!

Are we a movement yet? You tell me!
Sick of george Bush's war and wanna join up? Click here!
(Bottom image: a plastic soldier stakes out the White House lawn.)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Karl Rove; witchdoctor, turdblossom

Nothing fires up the radical right like homophobia and racism. Could this be the root of immigration debate 2006?
Image Sandy Huffaker

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Das Anarchy in Hamburg

Shoplifters of the world, unite and take over!
--Morrissey
(indymedia.org UK reports)--
A GANG of anarchist Robin Hood-style thieves, who dress as superheroes (see pic) to steal expensive food from exclusive restaurants and delicatessens to give to the poor, are being hunted by police in the German city of Hamburg.

The gang members seemingly take delight in injecting humour into their raids, which rely on sheer numbers and the confusion caused by their presence. After they plundered Kobe beef fillets, champagne and smoked salmon from a gourmet store on the exclusive Elbastrasse, they presented the cashier with a bouquet of flowers before making their getaway. The latest robbery is part of a pattern over several months, suggesting that the thieves deliberately set out to highlight what they perceive as the inequality inherent in German society.
Die Polizei is not amused. Hamburg police spokesman Bodo Franz was quoted, "They get off feeling they are just like Robin Hood. There are about 30 in the group. But whatever their motives, they are thieves, plain and simple."

Sounds like sourgrapes to me. Naturally the German cops are pissed as their efforts to apprehend the "superheros" has been fruitless thus far.

Indy Media UK:
Carsten Sievers, the manager of a luxury supermarket in the wealthy Blankenese area of Hamburg, recently watched the robbers run off with trolleys full of expensive foodstuffs, including Kobe beef which, at more than $175 a pound, is always on their illicit shopping list. (see pic of their impressive stash)

In another recent swoop, the gang emptied a buffet table in a top restaurant into sacks, while one of their number held up a sign saying. "The fat years are over!"

In internet statements, the gang have made a point of saying their booty is distributed to Hartz IV recipients - the poorest of Germany's poorest.

When the gang robbed the gourmet store in April - triggering a massive police investigation that cost $37,000 in taxpayers' money without an arrest being made - they left a note behind saying: "Without the abilities of the superheroes to help them, it would be impossible for ordinary people to survive in the city of the millionaires."

Police say they are concentrating their investigation on a loose collective of anarchists and malcontents called "Hamburg in Vain", to which they believe the superheroes belong. But they admit there is a certain panache and skill about their robberies. indicating a strong criminal element as well.

The gang are also behind black market cinema tickets which they distribute free to the poor, and they have printed leaflets telling passengers how to dodge ticket inspectors on the city's underground and buses.
I love it, what can I say?

Borderline schiziophrenic, an East German approach

The Iraq war raging, but George W. Bush has more pressing issues on his mind like immigration. Hey, if I were George Bush I'd probably want to change the subject too. Make no mistake, the immigration debate is an important one. But there are too many other discussions ( gas prices, healthcare, et al) that should be a bigger priority. Besides, the republican party doesn't really give a rats ass about border security (either in Mexico or Canada.) This is really about republican politicians appealing to the racist attitudes of their consituents to bring out the vote in November. Nothing energizes the republican base like racism. Some things never change.

I have to admit this immigration thing was not even on my radar screen 6 months ago yet here we are in the thick of a national debate. Personally, I'm more concerned with my lack of health insurance. Or the war which continues without an end in site.

But George Bush would rather pimp his plans to militarize the southern border in this country. Many of Bush's fellow republicans want to erect a concrete wall along the entire Mexican frontier as well! Senate president Bill Frist was quoted today, "a wall won't be enough!" Wonder what else he has in mind. Ah, the mind reels.

At 700 miles, the Tex-Mex Wall would be an astonishing seventy times longer than the infamous Berlin Wall from the old Cold war days. I know it was nearly 20 years ago, but I challenge you to try and recall the hostility and emotion that the Berlin Wall invoked for generations. (See pics of GI's on patrol in West Berlin, circa 1967, for inspiration)

It worth remembering that since 1994, 4,000 undocumented immigrants are estimated to have died while attempting to cross into the United States. And the death toll is rising fast--in 1995, the Border Patrol reported 473 deaths. One suspects this number will skyrocket with the addition of 6,ooo armed soldiers. It's worth nothing that the Berlin Wall deathtoll was relatively low: 237. (see pic of the Wall's first casualty, 1962)

Bush's primetime immigration speech also featured other hyped-up border control measures mainly a doubling of border-control guards, unmanned patrol drones, and plans for a so-called tamper-proof ID card for immigrant workers--at an added cost of $2 billion, on top of an already bloated $7.3 billion annual border control budget. Clearly these types of numbers reflect a terrible return on the taxpayer's investment in border security. There's an idea, let's just throw money at the problem! Isn't this was the democrats used to get criticized for?

Can we start talking about the Iraq War again now, please?
(Images courtesy Stars & Stripes)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Birthday, party down

I turn a very grown-up sounding 34 today. Thank God it's not one of those milestone years like thirty or forty which tend be be awash in melancholia. If it weren't for the fact that I keep rupturing Achilles tendons, getting older is great. I woudn't trade the wrinkles and peace of mind of today for the fearlessness of youth at this point. Ask me again at fifty.

Also turning a year older on this day: fellow Hoosier Janet Jackson (Miss Jackson if you're nasty....), tennis starlet Gabriela Sabatini and the late, great Henry Fonda.

Today is also primary election day is many places including the commonwealth of Pennslyvania which lies 7 miles away (as the crow flies) across the Deleware River. If you live in PA, for pete's sake go vote!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Venus Envy and Hoosier Nepotism

I'm in Sports Illustrated again this week writing about (what else?) women's tennis. Looks like they put me at the top of the page too. It's best to be at the very top or at the end. That way you're either framing the discussion or providing the last impression. I swear, if not for tennis and liberal politics, i'd have nothing to write about!

The tennis beat at SI is covered by Jon Wertheim who hails Evansville, Indiana which happens to also be the city of my birth. I hate to think that it's my tennis analysis and writing skills (and not Hoosier nepotism) that gets me into Sports Illustrated.

A Pink Social Conscince?

Pop star (and Philly homegirl) Pink has something to say about George Bush and it seems to be resonating with the young voter set. I've never followed Pink's career, but I have seen her on billboards throughout Philadelphia urging young people to "KNOW YOUR HIV STATUS!" which suggests she really does have something substantative to say about social issues. Anyway, the link below is a withering denunciation of President Bush AND his policies. Pink reminds us of the consequences of George Bush's actions in this acoustic rendetion of her song "Mister President." Have a listen and tell me what you think.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Bring the troops home!

As I type away--snug in the comfort of my Cherry Hill NJ home--I'm troubled that with all this talk about baseball and Iran and gas prices Americans seem to be forgetting that our soldiers are dying with incresing frequency in Iraq. One project I am tending to this weekend is a little war protest that I hope others will become excited about, too. I am taking little plastic army men and writing the words "BRING ME HOME" on a little piece of masking tape then sticking it onto the little plastic soldier's base.

I have about a dozen plastic soldiers in my coat pocket at all times and place them about randomly wherever I go: one in the produce at the grocery, another on the shelves at the videostore, the restroom at the gas station or a restaurant, and so forth. This seems like a mild but mindful form of protest, but I have to admit I get a bit of a high from doing it. I hope that people will find these small toys with their message, and they'll get to thinking about the Iraq war. That's really the modest goal of this for me. (And of course the wildly subversive feeling that such behavior gives me is a bonus!)

I bought several 100-toy bags of army men at the dollarstore and my friends Andrea, Peter, Brian (as well as my boy Greg) have helped me out a great deal by taking a few dozen and spreading them 'round a bit. My mother was excited to help too. She took 50 because she says this war reminds her of vietman. We all know how that turned out.
The war in Iraq is costing American taxpayers 3 billion dollars a day.
For the families of the 2439 dead American soldiers--and for the 17,896 wounded Vets-- the sacrifice is infinitely more.

I should note that this is a totally unoriginal idea. I heard a story on NRP about a retired lady in Chicago who took to doing this because she wanted to do something to register her discontent. here is a link to her story.
(Image courtesy of Keith Hodan)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Navratilova to un-defect?

Martina Navratilova is probably one of the most talented athletes to ever pick up a tennis racket. Impressive as her career achievements are, it's her longevity as a champion which I believe will ensure that Martina will go down in history as The Best. Ever.

Most of us can recall the 1980's era Martina: the butch Czechoslovakian dyke who was beathing the hell out of American's sweetie pie Chris Evert all the time. (see pic)

Martina retired from singles competition in 1994 but still plays pro doubles. In fact, as recently as a year ago she was ranked #6 in the world! (She's now ranked #22, still not bad considering she's pushing fifty.) But one look at Martina2006 (see pic) and it's obvious she's in fantastic shape. Thats her next to the totally bootylicious Serena Williams!

Navratilova defected from the former Czechoslovakia in 1975 and became a U.S. citizen in 1981. She had a chance to visit her former homeland for last week's Prague Open. ESPN:
Twenty years on, Martina Navratilova made a winning return to the Czech Republic on Tuesday, winning her first match in her homeland since she played for the United States in the 1986 Fed Cup final. Navratilova, who holds 58 Grand Slam titles, teamed up with Czech Barbara Strycova to win their first round doubles match 6-2 6-3 against Czech Olga Blahotova and American Asha Rolle at the Challenger Series Prague Open tennis tournament.
After Arnold Schwarzenegger (another naturalized American of humble Euro-orgins) became Governor of California, Martina expressed an interest in politics. A long-time progressive activist, she was quoted at the time, "If Arnold can run for governor in California, who knows? I have the muscles! I will be involved, especially with the way things are going right now. The conservative party is too strong."

No argument from me.

I would love to see Governor Navratilova someday but it probably won't happen. Aparently Martina is considering emmigrating back to the Czech Republic after being overwhelmed by the country's progressive post-Communist changes and public's embrace of her.

"I can breathe here much better now," she said in Tuesday's edition of the daily Lidove Noviny. Navratilova, who turns 50 in October, added she may even settle in the Czech Republic.

In a sentiment dripping with irony (and truth) Martina earlier noted, "The most absurd part of my escape from the unjust (Czechoslovakian) system is that I have exchanged one system that suppresses free opinion for another. The Republicans in the U.S. manipulate public opinion and sweep controversial issues under the table. It's depressing. Decisions in America are based solely on the question of how much money will come out of it and not on the questions of how much health, morals or environment suffer as a result."

I understand if she goes, but I hope she stays. It's people like Martina Navratilova who make me proud me be an American.

Friday, May 12, 2006

May 16th fast approaching

Next Tuesday May 16th is my birthday*. Yup, after 17,870,400 minutes on planet earth (most of them running my mouth...) I'll turn 34. That doesn't sound too old does it? Thankfully I am still way too young for President Bush's Medicare part D Drug plan for seniors.


Speaking of which, the deadline to enroll for drug benefits is also May 16. So while I'm blowing out candles on my strawberry shortcake, many folks will be fretting over picking a new drug plan.

You can tell a lot about a society by how they treat their elders. Our president should be ashamed. Don't believe me? Ask your grandmother. Would it be so bad to live in a country that gave free perscriptions medication to everyone over say, I dunno, sixty? Don't you think society would be better with those types of priorities?
~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~
* wanna make my birthday extra special? Wondering what to get the blogger who has everything? How about a donation to the democratic candidate for Congress here in my district? His name is Rich Sexton and I would be proud if he were my voice in Washington. I've set up a donation page that makes givin' easy.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

New Jersey loses forty-third soul in Iraq

Over the weekend, New Jersey lost another brave soul in Iraq. The Pentagon's website reports:
USMC Sgt. Matthew J. Fenton, 24, of Little Ferry, N.J., died May 6 at National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md., from wounds received while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar province, Iraq on April 26.
He was injured when a bomb exploded near his Humvee outside Fallijah. Shrapnel tore into his head and he was later airlifted to the U.S., where he died over the weekend.


This brings New Jersey's Iraq casualty count to forty-three. As of May 10th, 2428 American soldiers have given their lives in Bush's Iraq war. Nearly 18,ooo have been severely injured.

Said Little Ferry Council President Mauro Raguseo, "In the coming days, the citizens of the borough and the surrounding communities will come together to honor Sgt. Fenton and bid him farewell. He made the ultimate sacrifice to save others. For this, Sgt. Fenton is a hero, and his return to Little Ferry warrants a respectful, somber and dignified hero's welcome."

Star Ledger:

The body of the 24-year-old Marine will lie in repose in the Little Ferry Council Chambers at Borough Hall tomorrow and Friday as a Marine Corps honor guard stands watch. A funeral procession will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday along Liberty Street, from Borough Hall to St. Margaret's of Cortona Church. Fenton's family as well as the mayor and members of the borough council will walk behind the hearse.
As a peace activist, it's tough to write about this without launching into a commentary about the Iraq War. But I am also the son of a decorated Vietnam vet who learned some tough and painful lessons about the costs of war first hand.


May God rest Matthew Fenton's soul and bless and keep his family.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Bush picking a fight with CIA director choice?

Since I am busy manning the phones at pledge central at WHYY this week, I don't have a chance to do the usual early morning blog feeding. Which makes me sad. But it's for a good cause. I am volunteering for public radio's pledgedrive and that's a good reason to neglect the blog a little bit I guess. (Can you tell I feel sheepish about not "feeding the beast?")

In the meantime, read all about Bush's appointment to head the CIA. After that, ask yourself if you feel safer today than you did five years ago.
(Image courtesy of Jimmy Margulies)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Sex, Drugs, and NRP

Catchy title, huh?

I always thought "Sex Drugs & NPR" would be a great name for someone's memoirs. The title might accurately describe chapter 8 of my autobiography, but certainly not the whole book. But I digress.

I am an NRP junkie. (For the uninitiated, that's National Public Radio.) I have NPR on every radio in every room of my house. You might call me a bona fide NPR-geek. I've heard worse.

Tomorrow is the pledgedrive for my local station (WHYY) and I signed up to answer the phones for the duration of pledgeweek. I'll be a pimp among pimps. And I can't wait.

Terry Gross' venerable interview show "FreshAir" is produced out of WHYY in Philly. I should note that FreshAir is the most popular non-news NPR show on the radio, heard by many millions each day. More popular than Car Talk? Youbetcha. American Idol? Sorry, Terry (see pic.) Anyway, for NRP freaks like myself, Terry Gross is a big celebrity. Simply put, I ADORE HER!

While I am down at the WHYY this week, I'll have my recording gear. Naturally I'm hoping Terry and other WHYY talent will walzt through "pledge-central" where all of the volunters will (hopefully) be dutifully answering phones. My fantasy is to get a quote from Terry Gross for the blog.

"Terry, for WHYY members pledging at a 1,000,000 level, would you be willing to go to their homes and clean while wearing a French maid's outfit?" Let me know if you can think of a better question.

I also hope that they'll say "Blogger Jay from Lassiter Space" on the air. I'm a sassy media whore, I'm guessing it'll happen. Hey, why not?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Friday, May 05, 2006

Needle Exchange: an ex-junkie's 2 cents

From yesterdays Courier Post opinion page:
Forward-looking legislators, including Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, D-Camden, have long pushed for this program to stem the spread of the AIDS virus. In New Jersey, particularly in hard-hit areas such as Camden, needles infected with the AIDS virus are one of the most common ways this disease is spread. One out of 91 African Americans in Camden is infected with HIV, up from one in 101 African Americans last year. Further delaying this life-saving program is unconscionable.

...Roberts is principled enough to understand that it is indefensible to ignore the needs of New Jerseyans who already are sick with HIV or those who could become infected. Contrary to the unfounded objections by state Sen. Ron Rice, D-Newark, needle exchanges do not promote drug use. In the 48 other states that have such programs, drug use has not gone up. Instead, the spread of HIV through shared needles has decreased.

To show support, I called up Sen Roberts to tell him that he's fighting for people like me. I also submitted a letter to the editor:

My story of recovery proves beyond any doubt why the Courier Post's position on needle exchange is the right one.

I have been clean for nearly three years. My drug of choice was crystal meth and towards the end of my addiction, I was taking the drugs with needles most of the time.

I did a lot of stupid things when I was abusing drugs: lost my job and ruined my credit, devastated my family, became homeless, etc. In the worst days of my addiction, it seems clear that there were a lot of things working against me. But there was one advantage I had which, in retrospect, probably saved my life.

When I was a junky, I lived in Pennsylvania and I could get clean needles. There is no doubt in my mind that without a needle exchange program in PA, I would've acquired HIV and Hepatitis. I believe that my recovery from IV-drug use is the hardest thing I will ever do. Which is why it's painful for me to contemplate what recovery might be like if I were battling AIDS or hepatitis at the same time.

Since HIV transmission rates in Newark are among the nation's highest, it is bitterly ironic that Newark Sen. Ron Rice Sr. repeatedly objects to a needle exchange program in this state. His arugment that needle exchange promotes drug use or sends the wrong message is wildly off the mark.

When a person is suffering from an overdose, we rush him to a hospital to get the best medical care we can. Imagine the doctor saying to the drug user's mother: “Sorry, I can't give your son medical care because that would send the wrong message.”

I am grateful to Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts of Camden for showing leadership and political courage to fight for needle exchange in this state. As politically unpopular as needle exchange is in Trenton, we need leaders like Roberts who have the ability to strip away all judgements in the name of sound public policy.

Jay Lassiter
cherry Hill NJ

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Divided States of America

I reluctant to espouse my fantasies on here, but when I saw this comic, I knew it belonged on the blog.
I hate the how polarized this country has become in the last 5 years. Honestly, the idea of the United States disolving along red and blue lines seems an increasingly more likely (and savory) outcome.

Would I be sentimental if states likeMississippi and South Dakota were no longer a part of my homeland? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

And if you think about it, the notrthern liberal blue states would stand to gain economically by the new arrangement I describe. After all, the blue states put a lot more money into the federal treasury than they take out. In fact, for every dollar my liberal state of New Jersey puts into the federal treasury, we get sixty cents back from Washington. Alabama and Tennessee for example put in a dollar and get back nearly double that. Let's face it, liberals are bankrolling the backward policies of the red states.

People in conservative red states hate us and resent our values. I can't say I feel any differenly about them.

So why not make it official and get a divorce already?
(Image courtesy of Ed Stein)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

NJ Gov. Corzine urges young activists to "Take a Stand" against genocide

Gov. Corzine was in South Jersey yesterday speaking to students about genocide in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Haddonfield High senior and activist Sean Spencer invited the Governor to address the S.T.A.N.D.(students taking action now, Darfur) chapter at Haddonfield High School. And the Governor obliged, engaging with the students for several hours, which included a lenthy question and answer session.

Said Corzine, "It's so important to understand that doing nothing is wrong. Keep raising Cain with folks like me."

Courier Post:

The governor conceded it was tough for New Jersey to have a foreign policy, but the Garden State is among the leaders of a nationwide effort to divest from companies doing business in the central African nation.

The state has divested $500 million worth of investments in companies doing business there so far and expects to be completely divested in three years if ethnic strife continues in Sudan, Corzine said.

Spencer said he reached the governor through a friend and worked for five months to bring him to town to talk about Darfur.

The group built a makeshift shelter out of sticks and plastic grocery bags on the front lawn of the school to dramatize the plight of Sudanese refugees. (click photo to enlarge)

Sean Spencer: "Darfur is so far away, you can only see pictures and video and it's really hard to get a sense of what's going on... That's why we built it, so we can see what people have to live in. It's a lot more powerful that way."

Indeed. I drove the 2 miles to the school to see the sticks-n-bag hut the students had cobbled together and I must say that it was rather evocative. Especially compared to it's tony surroundings. Let's face it, Haddonfield is about the cutest damn township in the world and to see an 8 foot tall Sudanese hut right in the middle of the schoolyard made for quite the quxtaposition.

The bad news is that the killing in the Sudan continues. The good news is that there is a fresh new breed of young activists cutting their teeth while fighting genocide. The bad news is that the killing in the Sudan continues.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Limbaugh and Lassiter, bedfellows

Overheard on the train:"I used to be hooked on crystal, now I'm hooked on crystal lite!"
Now that I think about it, Rush Limbaugh and I really do have a lot in common. We share a love of country. We have big mouths and egos. And we are both recovering drug addicts.

While Rush was running 'round doctor shopping and popping pills like they're Tic Tacs, I was doing everything humanly possible to score another bag of meth. I am sure I speak for Rush when I say "It was ugly."

Would you believe that Rush and I were actually in rehab at the same time back in 2003? Early on (right about the time I stopped grinding my jaw. I am guessing day 4) the scandal broke that Rush got busted and sent to some luxury treatment center in the southwest. In fact, Rush's stint in drug rehab set off quite a heated philosophical debate in my recovery gang. Aparently Rush was being weaned off OxyContin with this fancy new fangled method where he was in a kind of medically induced half-coma while the drug works it self out of the system.

When I learned about this I was jealous.

"If you could do it that way, would you?" My drug councelor Craig asked my group of recovering junkies.

"YES!!" we shouted back. Coming down off of crystal meth is a lot like re-entering the earth's atmosphere: You're travelling at the speed of sound while desperately hoping to not burst into flames. Would I want to basically detox in the comfort of my own comfy coma? Hell Yeah!

But it was the wrong answer. Naturally, that method--painless as it is--would have not bode well for my long-term recovery. Nope, staying clean would require more work than that.

Keeping myself on the straight and narrow also required me to start taking responsibility for my actions. I couldn't continue to blame my childhood or the liberal media for my problems.

It's weird being inextricably linked to ol' Rush. When I heard about his latest drug-related legal problems, it brought back some interesting memories. One thing's for sure after nearly three years off crystal, I'm glad I did it the hard way.
(Image courtesy www.cagle.com)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Monday Morning funny pages

I remain committed to sharing all the best stuff I can find from the funny pages. Many of you respond well to the gems of editorial humor that you find here at Lassiter Space.

This one here( by Jeff Stahler of the Columbus Dispatch) is of course a less-than-affectionate spoof on President Bush's recent comments defending his embattled Defense Secretary, Donald (chickenhawk) Rumsfeld.

"I am," Bush declared emphatically, "the decider! And I decide what's best and what's best is having Don Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense."

But getting back to the gist of this comic, I laugh because of all the goofy things President Bush has muttered in the past, the "decider" quip was--to my mind-- actually quite endearing. But this is not to suggest that I am not looking towards election day(when the Republican stragety for America will end) with eager anticipation.

On that day, fellow Americans we'll decide.

The Bush Administration is driving America into the ground. The republican Congress is driving the economy into the tank.

Personally, I've already decided.