Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Lassiter Space Stocktips

I usually don't give stock tips, but just this once I'll make an exception. My money is on Britain's GW Pharmaceuticals, whose new marajuana-based drug for obesity (!) is slated to begin clinical trials this week.

Cannabis is commonly associated with stimulating hunger. GW Pharma, however, says it has derived a treatment from cannabis itself that could help suppress hunger.
"The cannabis (pot) plant has 70 different cannabinoids in it, and each has a different affect on the body. (Amen!) Some can stimulate your appetite, and some in the same plant can suppress your appetite. It is amazing both scientifically and commercially." GW Managing Director Justin Gover told Reuters.

GW Pharma (whose marijuana plants are grown indoors in a secret location in Southern England) previously developed another pot-based drug: an under-the-tongue spray that diminishes some effects of multiple sclerosis.

Thank God this is only intended to be a stock tip (and not a social commentary) so I can spare you my opinions about medical marijuana or the so called "war on drugs."

So what are you waiting for? Call your broker!

(Next Tuesday, we'll return to the usual format discussing beauty tips and celebrity gossip.)

Monday, January 29, 2007

NJ Politics News Roundup, monday Jan 29

  • If it happens at all, propTax relief may only be temporary. Additionally, the state's mayors feel left out of the process which means we have a lot of bruised egos on our hands too. I am so sick of writing about PropTaxes I could puke. One day I hop the time comes when this topic won't dominate my morning roundups and we can get back to more important topics like beauty tips and celebrity gossip.

  • Here's some analysis about the Burlington County Dems and the "up and down" month they've been having. Any BurlCo peeps are encouraged to comment with some local perspective.

  • Sen. prez (and former Governor) Dick Codey will be immortalized today at the statehouse as his portrait is unveiled in Trenton. Hopefully while posing for the painting, Codey didn't wear a suit that will make my propTaxes look fatter that they already are.

  • On the topic of health care, Rep. Frank Pallone vows to make the uninsured a priority in Congress. As chairman of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Pallone gets the "first shot at health care legislation and oversight over the State Children's Health Insurance Program, called SCHIP, Medicaid and other programs."

  • And finally, they call us the Garden State for a reason and one South Jersey farmstead has capitalized on the ever-growing ethnic foods market. Says Bill Sciarappa, a Rutgers agricultural extension agent, "Today's niche market is the future mainstream market," refering to the farm's bounty which includes Chinese eggplant, bok choy, cilantro and edamame beans.
  • Friday, January 26, 2007

    Ted Kennedy on Republicans and Minimum wage

    This is why I am a liberal.


    This needs no words.
    hat tip Pam

    Thursday, January 25, 2007

    NJ Newsroundup

  • The Philly Inquirer says N.J. Democrats, GOP both carry vulnerabilities and that "handling of tax cuts could sway voters; loyalties pull them back." Are your state reps vunerable? Why or why not?

  • Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt issues his "state of the township" address. Nothing from his speech really rocked my world (he didn't say anything new about propTaxes) but he said all the right things otherwise. Cherry Hill is an awesome place to live, I hope Mayor Platt does his part to keep it that way. Incidently, Mayor Platt has previously said on record that he's happy performing civil unions as a matter of course. Shouldn't be long now?

  • Here's the latest about that Kearny HS teacher with a a radical worldview and a big mouth. Remember him?

  • Also the latest about the Atlantic City smoking (non?) ban situation. The main argument is that a ban would put AC gambling joints at a competative disadvantage to casinos in neighboring states where smoking is allowed. Funny thing is, it won't be long until smoking is banned in those states too.

  • The Jersey Journal reports that Bayonne's Dems are in some deep (and expensive) kudzu.

    So that's the latest in New Jersey. If I missed sometime (or if you have some good gossip) please share!

    Open thread and blogwhore away!
  • Tuesday, January 23, 2007

    Statement of our Union

    So how's American doing from your perspective?
    Image courtesy of Bill Schorr

    Sunday, January 21, 2007

    Me me media

    It's not everyday that you wake up to yourself on the cover of the newspaper. (click pic to enlarge) This morning's cover story in the Courier Post -- which serves South Jersey -- was about yours truly, Jay Lassiter, blogger. You can read the story by writer Kevin Riordan here.

    A snippet:
    Lassiter taps the keys in a sleekly tasteful home office, where a vintage Grundig console stereo sits against one wall and a row of windows offers a view of the woods. His desktop is clear, except for an ashtray. "I call this the South Jersey Desk of the Progressive Blogosphere," he says.

    You gotta love a reporter who says nice things about your blog and your house.

    Now all the flattery to my ego not withstanding, this story does say a lot about the emerging blog phenomenon. One thing is clear: the blogoshere is growing all the time. Citizen journalism is alive and kicking.

    Friday, January 19, 2007

    Major Changes for South Jersey Catholics

    Looks like my "Hail Marys" have finally been answered.

    I read this article about some changes afoot for the Camden Archdiocese and it took some time for me to grasp the magnatude of what's being suggested by Bishop Cardinale.

    Courier post:
    Demographic shifts and a shortage of priests are causing Catholic dioceses around the United States to consolidate or close parishes and schools. In the Camden Diocese, Galante is asking parishioners to study the problem and come up with solutions. Planning committees stocked with lay people and priests have already been formed in each of the diocese's parishes and in 12 clusters of the diocese's elementary schools.

    I am not an apologist for the Roman Catholic Church, but i do happen to be Catholic and I have always held out hope that the church would gravitate away from the Vatican towards the sensibilities the laypeople. It always seemed to me like that was the best chance the Church had to recover from its scandals and get back to ministering to the people. And that's exactly what seems to be happening at the Camden Archdiocese. And since I happen to live in Camden County, this is a huge deal for me personally.
    For those of you who don't believe the interworkings of the Catholic Church matter to you I say this: the Catholics have stood shoulder to shoulder with liberal activists like me on issues like the death penalty moritorium and poverty and AIDS. Bishop Galante has personally been a leader on both issues and after hurricane Katrina, he was one of the first Catholic leaders to dispatch money and boots on the ground for disaster recovery and relief.

    So yeah, the Catholic Chruch has its problems. In fact, the position they're in right now closing parrishes and schools is mostly their own fault. But whenever the steps made to right the ship are so progressive and monumental as these, it's worth a mention.

    Wednesday, January 17, 2007

    Monday, January 15, 2007

    MLK jr. Monday News Roundup

  • A voice for Blue Jerseyans. According to the Philly Inquirer, "in just 16 months, blogger Juan Melli and his Web site, bluejersey.com, have become a galvanizing force for New Jersey liberals and an increasingly influential must-read for the politically inclined."

  • Camden residents are disenfranchised. And they know it. So they took their message of revitalization to Trentonia. Hopefully the Governor was listening.

  • You heard about the 150 (or so) NJ National Gurad troops whose tours were extended. Guess how they found out about their hitches getting supersized? From their superiors? Nope. They heard it from their families, sometimes via INSTANT MESSAGE! How messed up is that? The batallion in question is based in Vineland, in South Jersey and naturally, the community is having a tough time digesting the news.

  • Students around the state are celebrating the memory or Dr. Martin Luther King in song, words and pictures. Personally, to honor Dr. King's legacy, I have recommitted myself to resist the forces of oppression. Intimes like these, it's also worth remembering Dr. King's anti-war resistance.

  • Finally, stay tuned for an updated list of Committee assignments on the Hill. This week we should finally learn where the entire New Jersey delegation ends up, as well as who's heading up what committee. My prediction? Garden State Congressmen pick up two more chairmanships: Rep. Andrews on the Workforce and Pensions Committee and Rep. Payne on the Africa and Human Rights Subcommittee. Stay tuned. You'll probably find out here first.

    So it's a long weekend. How cool it that?

  • Thursday, January 11, 2007

    New Jersey tidbits

  • The House of Representatives voted to raise the minimum wage. Democratic State Senator Steve Sweeney thinks it should be even higher here in the state. Says Sweeny, "realistically, the minimum wage should be $9 or $10 an hour, not $7.25."

  • NJ Congressmen respond to Bush's speech. Sigh. Cringe.

  • Clergy not required to perform civil unions in NJ. Stay tuned.

  • No more building child care centers toxic dump sites, as "Kiddie Kollege" bill becomes law. Corzine:
    “This bill will help identify and remediate educational facilities and child care centers located on environmentally high risk sites,” Governor Corzine said. “This puts New Jersey at the forefront of states nationally in protecting children from environmental contaminants while at child care facilities and schools.”
  • I saved this one for last because it's the impression I want you to take away from today's (mid-day) News Roundup. Looks like "New Jersey Army National Guard troops currently stationed in Iraq will see their tours extended by 120 days as a result of President Bush's policy to add to the war effort, according to an official with knowledge of the plans. " So 159 soldier (and their families) will have to put off their end date by another 180 days.

    Now ask yourself, gentle reader, what can you personally do to ensure a speedy end to the mess in Iraq. What are you doing with your mandate?

    (Open thread and blogwhore away)

  • Wednesday, January 10, 2007

    Tuesday, January 09, 2007

    My chat with the President of Ireland

    Do you care about human rights? Do you care about issues in Africa such as AIDS and Darfur? Yeah me too. That's why I am waiting anxiously for the official announcement that Rep. Donald Payne will become chairman of the Africa/Human Rights House Committee. I am convinced that Congressman Payne is up to the task and ready to make human rights a real priority in the new Congress. And so does former Irish president (and head of the UN Human Rights Commission) Mary Robinson.

    I got a chance to chat with President Robinson on an NPR call in show this morning. I was curious to hear her thoughts about the Democratic takeover of Congress and whether the new majority will signal a shift in priorities towards Africa. Click here for the mp3 of our little chat. It goes on about 2 minutes.

    It's a lucky coincidence that my very last post here on the blog was about Irish pride, as celebrated each new year in Philly-style at the mummer's parade. Accordingly, speaking to the former Irish president was a real treat.

    Sunday, January 07, 2007

    Mummer Memories, Philly '07

    Yesterday's Mummer's Parade in Philly was the best time I have had in I can't remember how long. For those of you who don't know, Mummer's Day is a venerable Philly tradition, dating back to 1901. It's a lot like Mardi Gras or Carnivale, only instead of Creoles and Latins, it's Irish, Italian and Polish Americans dressed up in semi-drag, parading around on floats and in formation. Imagine if you will a "bizarro world Paris is Burning!!!"(for a little Mummer's 101, click here.)

    In the top pic, I am standing with one of the youngest Mummers, brandishing an Irish flag. I love that Mummer's Day is a chance for Irish American's like myself to celebrate our shared culture and lineage.

    And speaking of Irish heratige, the Guiness was indeedflowing liberally. Nothing is funner that watching five or six guys dressed in silly satin dresses relieveing their bladders against a wall in an ally, shoulder to shoulder. Did I mention that they were wearing dresses?

    Mummer's Day is usually January 1st, but yesterday was the rain delay day. And my oh my what a day it was. Usually, it's too cold to stay all day at the parade, but yesterday was a creepily balmy 75 degrees in Philadelphia.

    In the second pic, you can see more of the merrimaking. I had stepped into a (gay) bar to pee and instead of the ususal pre-happy hour alcoholic old troll crowd, I found the bar to be filled with cute young straight guys hanging out and carrying on. (Note again the presence of the Irish flag.) For one day at least, the kinship of our heratige trumps the gay-straight thing. It's a beautiful thing.

    The Mummers are just another feature that make the cultural fabric of Philadelphia so very colorful. And yesterday it was a thrill and privledge to share in the joy and hope that come around each new year.

    Saturday, January 06, 2007

    My Congressman's wacky agenda for the 110th Congress

    I see that my voice in Congress, Jim Saxton, has taken a break from his busy happyhour schedule to take on a seriously radical posture on a broad range of issues like minimum wages and Iran.

    Let's take a look first at his thoughts on the income gap. From Rush Limbaugh's website. (subscription required):
    "A lot has been said about income inequality, but the fact is that it hasn't changed much in recent years," Saxton said Thursday. "Congress should consider this fact before acting on the assumption that income inequality is surging."
    That term 'surging' sure has a lot of currency in Washington these days. So in case you're keeping score on the surge meme, the thinking among most GOP pols in Washington is such: surge of income inequality? Phooey hooey. Surge of troops into Iraq? Go for it.

    Saxton goes on this time in Yogi Berra-esque fashion: "There is often good reason not to work, such as retirement or disability, but obviously households without earners will lack earnings. Income is not necessarily the best measure of economic well being."

    (If you want to read the article with your own eyes without subscribing to Rush's site, click here.)

    On Iran, Jim Saxton seems to be really peeved. He penned this op-ed slamming the UN and laying the philosophical groundwork for an attack on Iran. Saxton:
    It amazes me that our Defense Department can spend billions of dollars in the fight against terrorism, but our diplomatic arm is unable to spend capital on making the United Nations confront states, like Iran, that support terrorism.
    Keep in mind that the "diplomatic arm" he cites is none other than Condoleeza Inc.

    So what to do about Iran, Jimbo?
    First, it should create a missile defense architecture in the Gulf. This will have the twin benefit of weakening Iran’s influence in the region and preventing Arab states—particularly Saudi Arabia—from becoming the next nuclear proliferators.
    That sounds expensive. Maybe China will lend us the money for that. So what next?
    Having the Gulf states exercise with the U.S. Navy will not only give them the technical know-how of completing maritime interdiction and proliferation prevention operations, but it will also shore up military to military relationships in the event Tehran blocks the Strait of Hormuz.
    Is worth noting that the new Commander of Central Command in Iraq is a Navy man. Should the US go totally apeshit and attack Iran, it would be a naval incursion. So given that context, Saxton's bleating kinda sends chills up my spine.

    But he's not done yet. Saxton:
    I believe we must begin preparing to confront Iranian terrorism. While everyone wants diplomacy to work, it is clear that when it is the only instrument of national power being used, it works against our interests. Diplomatic success, rather, will only emerge when we pursue initiatives outside the context of diplomacy.
    This last statement seemingly contradicts the earlier quote where Saxton was critical of the "diplomatic arm" confrontion threats (real and perceived) in the Middle East.

    So given Jim Saxton's flurry of activity in Washington, one can only assume that his republican party is taking great pains to point out that the United States should foucus less on bridging the gay between rich and poor and more on a battle plan to invade Iran.

    God help us.

    Friday, January 05, 2007

    NJ Blogger of the Year

    There are still a few days to vote for the Screaming Carrot Award, which is given each year to the best liberal blog in New Jersey. I got nominated which is a thrill, as you might imagine. So head on over to Blue Jersey and vote for blogger of the year. I would suggest voting for me and my blog ("Lassiter Space.")

    I would say that it's enough just to be nominated alongside such a talented pool of garden state liberals. But that would be a lie. I want to win. And I need your vote.

    Since this is a New Jersey based contest, naturally the rules are fluid. At best. Blue Jersey:

  • You don't have to live in New Jersey to vote.
  • We don't care if you live anywhere. Dead people are people, too.
  • Vote as often as you'd like, or have surrogates pay others to do it for you.
  • Unless you're not white - we hear the cops are monitoring the vote and arresting people.
  • We spent all our money on our new high tech voting system that doesn't keep track of the tally, so if you can hack in and rig the vote, you win - and nobody will ever know or care. Plus, we're all out of money, so it's better for everyone if we just pretend the problem doesn't exist.
  • Shameless self-promotion and mean-spirited mocking of opponents is encouraged and expected. Lawnmowers optional.

  • So go vote. For me. If your vote can be bought, then leave your demands in the comments section.

    Everything I Know About the Death Penalty, I Learned from Pope John Paul II

    I am against capital punishment and I feel it should be abolished. But that hasn't always been the case. Until a few years ago, I believed the state reserved the right to impose the death penalty on offenders who commit the most henious types of crimes. It wasn't until about three years ago when I heard a speech made by the late Pontiff John Paul II, that I began to re-evaluate my own position on this compicated matter.

    At the time the Pope weighed in, I was skeptical that there would be much common ground between a liberal queer activist like me and the leader of the Catholic Church. I should note that I was raised Catholic and I always took a dim view of their rigid dogma, particularly concerning issues of sexuality. But when I heard Pope John Paul II discuss the death penalty in the context of forgiveness and vengance, I was moved to revisit the issue (and my own ideas of forgiveness.)

    The Pope mentioned that support for the death penalty is generally rooted in desire for revenge. He acknowlegded the legitimate urge for justice, but suggested that justice can never be achieved through vengance. He admonished those who cite Biblical scripture to justify a pro-death penalty stance. According the the Pope, the oft-repeated proverb "an eye for an eye...." (Lev. 24:20) was not a recipe for vengance, rather to meant to serve as a cautionary tale against the escalation of violence in general. The Pope also pointed out that Jesus' position on the death penalty was clear: rather that reltaliation, we should "turn the other cheek" and extend our hand in healing, blessing, and forgiveness. (Matthew 5:38-55)

    Rather that relying on a second-hand account of stuff I heard John Paul II say three years ago, I wanted to find some actual quotes from the Pope which support the values I've just described. It wasn't difficult. A Google search on the words "Pope John Paul + death penalty" turns up 641,ooo hits. The Vatican has its own website complete with an archive of transcripts from many Papal speeches and masses. (Who knew?) From paragraph 56 of Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life) Pope John Paul II states:
    It's clear that for punishment to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought to not go to the extreme of executing the offender except when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, such cases are practically non-existent.
    The Pope advanced the argument that when a prisoner (who poses no threat to society) is executed, it sends the message that life is worthless, thus we can view the death penalty as an injustice to the sanctity of life. I share the Pope's belief that execution does not end with the death of the criminal, but affects each and every one of us living in a society which justifies capital punishment. I admit it's instinctively pleasing to jugde those who commit henoius crimes as worthless or "less-than" but we should resist this temptation. If we convince ourselves that some among us deserve death, then we forget that all of us deserve forgiveness and the grace to ammend our lives. Fighting violence with violence for the sake of vengance does not serve a useful role in this country. Nor does it allow society to cultivate less vengeful methods of dealing with violent crime.

    A 1994 piece entitled Confronting a Culture of Corruption: A Catholic Framework for Action the American Conference of Catholic Bishops states:
    Increasingly, our society looks to violent measures to deal with some of our most difficult social problems...including increased reliance on the death penalty to deal with crime. Violence is not the solution; is it the most clear sign of our failures. We can not teach that killing is wrong by killing.
    As I mentioned, I spent a long time believing that capital punishment is justified in some cases. My change of heart occured when I heard the Pope issue a pretty bold and compelling statement condeming the death penalty. He basically suggested that those who take a pro-death penalty stance are generally folks who suffer from issues related to forgiveness. The fact is, at the time I was an angry young man with no ability to forgive others (or myself) for anything. Not that there were all these things to forgive, but I tended to err on the side of vengance whenever I felt threatened or slighted. In my case, the Pope was right: when I addressed my inablitiy to forgive, my feelings regarding the death penalty simply changed. I believe there is a strong correlation there.

    Thinking back, I'm surprised I didn't respond defensively to the Pope's assertion, instead somehow managed to take his words to heart. I said earlier that my relationship with the Catholic Church is hardly a cozy one. That might have made it easy to dismiss the Pope out of hand. Instead, I had a "teachable moment" which has led me to a greater understanding of my own values.

    ~~~ ~~~

    I had a chance to interview Kirk Bloodsworth who happens to be the first American ever to be completely exonerated from death row with DNA evidence. Any lingering doubt about capital punishment are put rest by Kirk's story which proves that it's surely possible to actually execute an innocent person. Listen to the podcast of that interview here.

    Thursday, January 04, 2007

    Another GOP red herring

    Why is the New Jersey GOP so desperate to reactivate the death penalty in this state? Just the other day, republican state legislators responded to the death penalty study panel's recommendations by bleating some nonsense about pedophiles and cop killers.

    Today republican state Senator Gerald Cardinale took the bloodlust up a few notches when he made the suggestion that New Jersey's death penalty would be more effective if we followed the Iraqi model.

    Courier Post
    "I was very impressed with the death penalty in Iraq being implemented in a very short time after it was imposed," Cardinale said, referring to the swift hanging of Saddam Hussein less than a week after his appeals were denied.

    I'll let that sink in for a second.

    All the news this week about the death penalty being repealed in this state has been heart warming. I mean, not only is it morally disgusting to execute anyone, but as a matter of public policy, capital punishment is completely ineffective. Not to mention costly. And most people seem to think it may soon be a thing of the past here in NJ. New Jersey would be the first state to abolish the death penalty legislatively since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.

    According to the bio on his campaign website, Sen. Cardinale is a proud member of the Knights of Columbus. Which makes him Catholic. Which makes him a hypocrite. After all the Catholic Church is clear in its opposition to capital punishment.

    So why is the NJGOP so hellbent on taking such a hardcore posture on this issue? I mean, where does this fit into the republican's much-vaunted "culture of life?"

    Hypocritical and hysterical. It's the sad, sorry story of the New Jersey Republican party.

    Monday, January 01, 2007

    happy '07

    Image courtesy Steve Breen

    New Year's News Roundup

  • Many newspapers are doing retrospectives of the year that was. No surprise who got top billing from the Ocean County Observer: Lt. Laurel Hester. I wonder if she knew just how powerful her legacy would be one year later.

  • In addition to helping countless sufferers of disease like diabetes or Alzheimers, the new stem cell research center also has much local promise as well. The stemcell research center (to be named for the late actor and activist Chris Reeve) suggests bigtime progress for Camden, as well.

  • As many of you know, the country lost it's 3oooth soul in Iraq over the holiday weekend. Peace activists from New Jersey and beyond will be hitting the streets of Washington later this month. On the 27th, we will take our mandate to the capital's Mall. On the 29th, we'll be on Capital Hill doing direct lobbying of legislators to end this senseless war. So who's in? I'll be headed down and I hope many of my peace loving brothers and sisters will be joining me from the Garden State.

  • Some previously red township councils that flipped blue last November will be swearing in new progressives today. Likewise the GOP is floundering in Washington Township.

    You all know about the big party in New Brusnwick later this week, right?
    Resolutions anyone? Leave 'em in the comments, please!!