Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More (unbelievable) War Shit, part III

Of all the 3,161 brave souls to lose their life in Iraq, Airman Carl Ware Jr. is the one that stands out for me. I guess seeing a neighbor lying in a casket and hearing the sobs of his family mourning will do that.

His tragic death last summer made him the 44th casualty from New Jersey and to make matters worse, Carl's family didn't even have a chance to grieve before the questions surrounding his death began to swirl around the community. In relatively short order it bacame clear that this was an avoidable tragedy. And now after eight long months of wondering, the answers are finally beginning to emerge.

Air Force Times:
Airman 1st Class Carl J. Ware Jr. was to return from his six-month deployment to Iraq in time — if barely — for the birth of their second daughter in January. Instead, Carl Ware came home months early in a flag-draped casket, the victim of an alleged fratricide July 1 at the hands of his roommate, friend and squadron-mate at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq.
Of couse the story took a gut-wrenching turn. And just when you think this tale couldn't get any more twisted, this little nugget emerged from the military grand jury hearing to determine whether to charge fellow Airman Kyle Dalton with murder:
What is clear from documents released by the Air Force is that there were at least two, and possibly three, separate incidents during a one-month period in which Dalton allegedly brandished a firearm toward Ware. The first and second, for which Dalton has been charged with assault, occurred around June 1 and June 30, according to Air Force documents. Christine Ware, who said she just recently learned of those incidents, told Air Force Times that Dalton allegedly pointed a loaded firearm at the feet of (her husband) and another airman. Christine Ware, who said she just recently learned of those incidents, told Air Force Times.
Sounds like some red flag should have been raised to avoid the inevitable. “I have, like, 18 different stories on how it happened,” Christine Ware said, “but not so much why it happened.”

Carl Ware's sister alleged that Airman Dalton was only allowed into the military after the standards were lowered to maintain war-time recruiting goals. I'll take her at her word that she believes that wholeheartedly, but of couse I have no way to substantiate such an assertion at this point. But these are the types of details that will surely reveal themselves at the Dalton's trial next month. In conviceted, Dalton "will face life in prison, a dishonorable discharge and forfeiture of all pay and allowances."

All in all a heartbreating tragedy that has turned two families -- and communities -- upside down.

And all the while, the war in Iraq rages on.

(Pic: One of South Jersey's bravest, Carl Ware Jr. with his eldest daughter in happier times -- just look at that proud grin on his face -- courtest of the Ware family.)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Equal Pay for Women at Wimbledon

This year's Wimbledon lady champ will earn the same payday as her male counterpart, breaking a ~120 year tradition of inequality for women. It's about time.

I wrote about this topic after last summer's tournament when the women's finale proved infinitely more dramatic and exciting than the men's. The way I figured, it's 2007 already. As a matter of principle, equal pay is just a no brainer.

(Photo of last year's champ, Amelie Mauresmo of France, courtesy of

Monday, February 19, 2007

MOnday New Jersey Roundup

  • It's all Civil Unions all the time in New Jersey media this morning. It's a good thing. So to all the couples who tied the knot last night: congrats and WE LOVE YOU!

  • Let's talk a little about New Jersey pride. What makes you most proud to be a New Jerseyan? Personally, I love it here and I can't imagine living anywhere else in the world.

  • Happy Chinese New Year everyone, it's the Year of the Pig, an animal associated with fertility and chivalry!! Chinese tradition suggests it's a time for renewal. So let's get out there and make some babies and treat each other with chivalry!

  • Changing gears a bit, there's an interesting piece about Rep. Chris Smith in today's Courier Post. Check it out and see how NJ's longest serving Congressman is managing in the new Democratic Congress.

  • Atlantic City casinos are worried that their revenues are headed in the wrong direction. Maybe the gambling industry will look at that trend and transform the AC landscape to an envoronment that more people will want to take part in. For so long and the state faces competetion from neighbors AND the atmosphere in a casino feels like an art deco internment camp, this trend should continue.

  • Could Admiral William Fallon's South Jersey pedigree help him lead the US to victory in Iraq? He seems to think so. As the commander of US forces in the Mid East, he sure has his work cut out for him.

  • Thanks to Congressman Donald Payne, Chairman of the Africa SubCommittee, the movement to divest in Sudan is gathering momentum. Just remember folks, GENOCIDE IS FOREVER.

  • What's going through your mind this morning, folks? Did I overlook something? It's an open thread, so bring it on!!!

    Sunday, February 18, 2007

    The Littlest Lassiters

    My mom has been giving me some fever about having a picture of my nephew Chase here on my blog, but none of my niece, Brooke. So in the interest of impartiality and equal rights for (little) women, here's Brooke (aka "the littlest Lassiter.")
    Both shots were taken recently in beautiful Seattle, Washington. In fact, in the first pic (of me and Chase) you can even see Puget Sound there in the distance. That's me, Greg and Brooke there in the second shot. (Click to enlarge)

    Saturday, February 17, 2007

    You can't polish a Turd

    Watching the Iraq war debate play out in the Congress has been bittersweet. Sure it's nice to see the President's expensive and deadly failures pointed out for the world to see. He took the gamble in Iraq and it has not paid any dividends whatsoever.

    But just the same it was painful watching so many republican Congressmen take the lectern and shill for Bush's failures. Here's a nugget from the Seattle Times which sums up Bush better than I could:
    By sending more soldiers, the U.S. government could "help the Iraqis secure the capital." This, in turn, could provide "political breathing space" for Iraqi politicians to do the work of "reconciliation." Those were (Bush's) words. The quivering lip, the just-woke-up manner, the movement of the eyes, were saying something different. Here was a man who knew that the great gamble of his life had not paid off. He knew the people watching him knew it. He was proposing another roll of the dice at odds none too good, but that postponed admitting a major mistake.
    I've boiled the debate down to one talking point to answer the critcs of the resolution: this debate was about stopping the presdident's ill-advised escalation, NOT about turning turds into diamomds, as the Bush apologists would like the world to believe.

    Friday, February 16, 2007

    Gay in the NBA, part II

    (I reported about the coming out of NBA player John Amaechi and since then the shit has really hit the fan. Pam from the House Blend has the call)--
    Former NBA center John Amaechi, who is the first basketball player to come out of the closet showed class and focus when asked to respond to the mind-blowing comments of fellow former player Tim "I hate gay people" Hardaway.
    "His words pollute the atmosphere. 'It creates an atmosphere that allows young gays and lesbians to be harassed in school, creates an atmosphere where in 33 states you can lose your job, and where anti-gay and lesbian issues are used for political gain. It's an atmosphere that hurts all of us, not just gay people."
    Amaechi's response on Sporting Life:
    "Finally, someone who is honest. It is ridiculous, absurd, petty, bigoted and shows a lack of empathy that is gargantuan and unfathomable. "But it is honest. And it illustrates the problem better than any of the fuzzy language other people have used so far."
    A great report with Hardaway's outrageous, ignorant original statement, was covered on ESPN's Outside the Lines yesterday (see below), including coverage of the NBA's decision to drop him from public appearances. It also features an interview with Dan Le Batard, the radio host who sat in disbelief as Hardaway spewed the bile in the interview, and reactions and comments from Amaechi about Hardaway's remarks.

    No doubt this debate is just heating up. So stay tuned.

    Monday, February 12, 2007

    News Roundup

  • Congressman Rob Andrews has added his voice to the growing chorus warning against the drumbeat of war against Iran. More and more it seems inevitable that Bush is gonna take us down that road again....just listen to the rhetoric.

  • One Atlantic City casino worker likened the smoking demi-ban which allows cigarette smoking in 1/4 of casino floors to "being told you can only pee in the shallow end of the pool."

  • Did you know that the only politician in the state prohibited from "double dipping" is Governor Corzine? As it stands 19 legislators in Trenton have another government job such as mayor, freeholder or superindentent.

  • From the WTF/OMG files (via the Press of AC):
    The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing the plan to dispose of the low-level radioactive rocks and dust by burying it and capping it with dirt, grass and stone. If approved in October 2008, it would become the first official nuclear waste dump in New Jersey.
    How are those solar panels looking right about now?

  • Tomorrow night progresives will come together in Marlton for a school board meeting to discuss the teaching tolerance of gays in NJ public schools. So long as my homo tax dollars are good enough for state coffers, then teaching diversity to students is an imperative, IMHO. Won't you join us tomorrow at 8pm? (DeMasi Middle School, 199 Evesboro-Medford Road in Marlton.)

  • And finally, a breath of fresh air from BurlCo. for gays and lesbians looking to go to the middle of the bus. Newly minted Burlington County Surrogate George Kotch wants same-sex couples to know he will do the (civil union) honors. “Call me at the Surrogate's Office and, quite frankly, I would perform them wherever they want,” Kotch said. “It's part of offering a public service to the people of Burlington County.”
  • Saturday, February 10, 2007

    Gay in the NBA

    We have a very diverse league. The question at the NBA is always 'Have you got game?' That's it, end of inquiry.--NBA Commissioner David Stern on gays in pro ball

    The small, exclusive club of openly gay professional male athletes has a new member. Former NBA center John Amaechi, who spent five seasons with four teams, on Wednesday became the first NBA player to publicly come out. Amaechi details his life in his autobiography Man in the Middle, which will be released Feb. 14.
    Hey, baby steps still mean progress. So bravo to Amaechi for coming out.

    Martina Navratilova, the most visible gay athlete in history, applauded Amaechi's courage suggesting that gay youth need roll models. "It's hugely important for the (gay) kids so they don't feel alone in the world. We're role models," she said. "He will definitely help a lot of kids growing up to feel better about themselves."

    Reaction from the NBA was encouraging. I'lll share a few quotes here in order from least- to most enlightened.

  • Philly 76ers center Steven Hunter uttered this gem:
    "For real? He's gay for real? Nowadays it's proven that people can live double lives. I watch a lot of TV, so I see a lot of sick perverted stuff about married men running around with gay guys and all types of foolishness."
    Then an olive branch perhaps:
    "As long as he don't make any advances toward me I'm fine with it. As long as he came to play basketball like a man and conducted himself like a good person, I'd be fine with it."
    That's the nastiest comment i could find surrounding Amaechi's coming out. So if Hunter's remarks represent the the most inherently homophobic sentiments in the NBA, then we are in pretty good shape in the big picture.

  • Hunter's Philly teammate Shavlik Randolph weighs in as well:
    "As long as you don't bring your gayness on me I'm fine," Randolph said. "As far as business-wise, I'm sure I could play with him. But I think it would create a little awkwardness in the locker room."
  • Cleveland Star LeBron James offered this asssement:
    "With teammates you have to be trustworthy, and if you're gay and you're not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy," James said. "So that's like the No. 1 thing as teammates -- we all trust each other. You've heard of the in-room, locker room code. What happens in the locker room stays in there. It's a trust factor, honestly. A big trust factor."
    Keep in mind, LeBron is widely considered the future on the NBA, Jordan's heir aparent. Sounds like his criticism is valid. Living in the closet does create trust issues.

  • To that end, Orlando star Grant Hill quips, "The fact that John has done this, maybe it will give others the comfort or confidence to come out as well, whether they are playing or retiring."

  • Miami superstar Shaquille O'Neal got right to the point: "If he was on my team," noted Shaq, "I guess I would have to protect him from the outsiders."

  • Finally, Amaechi's former coach, Doc Rivers nails it. "He's better than a good kid; he's a fantastic kid. John Amaechi, when I was coaching him, was a great kid. He did as much charity work as anybody in our city, and he's still doing it. That's what I wish we focused on. Unfortunately, we're talking about his sexual orientation, which I couldn't care a flying flip about."

  • Sooner or later, gays in sports (or in politics, government, the military, etc.) will be a non-issue. But in the meantime, I'll remind folks (as nicely as possible) that WE'RE HERE, WE'RE QUEER, WE'RE NOT GONNA DISAPPEAR.

    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    Cheney's Dyke Daughter's Baby

    Surely you've heard by now that Vice President (and notorious homophobe) Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter is preggers. Nowadays it's hardly news that gay people are having kids, starting families. But then the mamma dyke in question is the daughter of George Bush's Vice Prez does it become a "thang."

    And according to the New York times, Mary Cheney does not believe that she needs to answer to anyone -- including the right wing goofballs in her party -- for her choices. Or her fitness to be a mom.

    Mary Cheney: "This is a baby. This is a blessing from God. It is not a political statement. It is not a prop to be used in a debate, on either side of a political issue. It is my child.”

    "Nice try Mary," scolds Dan Savage who's known for scathing social commentary from a gay perspective.

    He goes on:
    The fitness of same-sex couples to parent is very much part of the political debate thanks to the GOP and the Christian bigots that make up its lunatic “base.” You’re a Republican, Mary, you worked on both of your father’s campaigns, and you kept your mouth clamped shut while Karl Rove and George Bush ran around the country attacking gay people, gay parents, and our children in 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006. It’s a little late to declare the private choices of gays and lesbians unfit for public debate, Mary.

    And so long as your party insists on making the fitness of homosexuals to marry or parent—or, hell, exist—a subject of public debate, Mary, your decision to become a parent is germane and very much fit for public discussion and debate. The GOP’s selective embrace of some pregnant dykes—only knocked-up lesbians with powerful connections will be treated with respect—is a disconnect that demands answers. From you, from your father, from your venomous mother, from the idiot president you helped elect. Is that fair? Maybe not. Want to blame someone? Go look in the mirror—and then come out swinging, Mary—for yourself, your partner, and your child.
    Sounds about right to me. Anyway, thanks to Dan Savage for his pitch perfect analysis of this issue.

    In conclusion I wanna add that I part of me is really happy for the VP's daughter. Sure, she's a hypocrit and a radical right winger. But as a lesbian, Mary is still my 'sister-in-struggle' and she deserves to be happy as much as the rest of us. So I wish her the best during her pregnancy. I hope she has a healthy baby.

    I also hope that the kid grows up to be a liberal democrat. That would be ironic, poetic justice at its finest.

    Sunday, February 04, 2007

    Dispatches from the Washington ("Hinckley") Hilton

    It won't be long before we know which two candidates will square off in the 2008 presidental election. This past weekend was the first step towards deciding who will represent the Democratic Party. And I was there.

    (My Blue Jersey blog brother JRB reports, via dKos)--
    Over at Blue Jersey, we shot nearly two dozen short videos at the 2007 DNC Winter Meeting. We talked to a lot of presidential candidates, a few strategists, and some members from New Jersey. Bloggers' Row was set up right in the middle of the lobby, which was noisy, but fun. We enjoyed meeting everybody. The best part of Bloggers' Row's placement was that random people came over and chatted us up. We met delegates, College Democrats, Young Democrats, guests and other people from Florida, California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, and more.

    Of the headliners, we didn't get to talk to everybody, but we really appreciated those who made time for us. In order of appearance, we had:

    Of the strategists we were able to talk to, we ran into Virginia's Dave "Mudcat" Saunders early Friday morning. He wanted to give us his two cents on Rutgers football, the Scarlet Knights. Towards the end of Friday, Donna Brazile was gracious enough to send a brief message, too. She talked about making Bloggers' Row its own room in the future, but what we had seemed pretty good.

    All in all, we had a great time. Many thanks go to Tracy Russo for setting it all up.

    So who do you like for president?

    Thursday, February 01, 2007

    Black Histoy, Green Grass

    February is Black History Month, that once-a-year opportunity for white people to remind ourselves just how culturally sensitive we can be. So this year I wanted to avoid another culture-bound, Euro-centric tribute to Black America. And since Afro-American History seems offered up mostly for Caucasian consumption, I wanted to share a sliver of black culture that would actually give Black folks something (new) to contemplate, as well. As a tennis junkie, it wasn't hard to come up with the perfect example.

    Did you know that Black Americans have triumphed on the lily-white lawns of Wimbledon sixteen times? Yes, that Wimbledon, a place so seeped in vanilla tradition that a white-clothing-only rule is still strictly enforced!

    Althea Gibson won the first of her five titles in 1957. (see photo) Her achievement was all the more remarkable as she was the first player of either sex to to shatter the color barrier in international tennis. But it wasn't easy. According to,

    She was the first black to play in the national indoor tournament in 1950 and finished second, which should have won her an invitation to the U. S. Nationals. No invitation came until after a letter from former champ Alice Marble appeared in the July issue of Tennis magazine. "If Althea Gibson represents a challenge to the present crop of players, then it's only fair that they meet this challenge on the courts," she said.

    She would go on the with the U.S. Open and become the #1 player in the world.

    In 1975 Arthur Ashe reigned supreme at Wimbledon , along the way thumping world #1 Jimmy Connors who at the time was at the height of his lofty powers. To date, Arthur is the only black man to hoist the Wimbledon trophy. He is also the only Wimbledon champ ever to sport a (mini) Afro. After Arthur's death from AIDS complications in 1993, scholar and writer William Rhoden offered this tribute,
    First and foremost Arthur Ashe was an activist. His vision was that athletes, especially African American athletes, would play a pivotal role in shaping a society in which they command an increasingly visible presence on the global landscape.
    Much like baseball's Jackie Robinson, Gibson and Ashe will likely be remembered more for breaking barriers than for athletic accomplishments. Fast forward 20 years and things have definitely changed.
    Venus and Serena Williams have dominated at Wimbledon for the past decade. Both Williams sisters clearly benefited from their predecessors Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson who struggled for just for acceptance.

    Venus and Serena not obliged to fit in. Not when they can stand out instead. And their record is astonishing: 10 Wimbledons, 3 Olympic gold medals, and over $3o million in prize money between the pair. Add to that the $4o million Venus (pictured here after taking last year's title) was paid to wear Reebok and Serena's $30 million deal with Nike and it's clear that their stranglehold on women's tennis has earned them top dollar in the sports marketing world, too.

    The Williams' influence extends beyond Center Court and Madison Avenue, however. All over American little black girls are taking up the sport. According to Tina Tharpe, Coordinator of the Arthur Ashe Tennis Academy in Philadelphia (and my former boss) girls comprise 70% of the Academy's enrollment. I reckon it'll be another dozen years before be know the legacy of the Williams Sisters. For now, they're still adding to their trophy case! At 25 (Serena) and 26, the sisters still should have time to add to their legacy--both on and off the court.

    Sports has always been a good medium for advancing social causes. And when you consider that Black athletic progress has long been a step or two ahead of Black social progress, I think we can look at the successes of the Williams Sisters at Wimbledon and be kinda hopeful.
    (Picture: Serena checkin' out the hardware)

    Photos courtesy of the Wimbledon website.