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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
Number of posts: 43,942

About Me

Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

As I lay dying


I am dying, literally, at my home in Hollywood, of metastatic breast cancer, the only kind of breast cancer that kills. For six years I've known I was going to die. I just didn't know when.

Then, a couple of weeks before Christmas, a new, deadly diagnosis gave me a deadline. No doctor would promise me I'd make it to 2015.

Promise me, I told my friends and family, that you'll never say that I died after “fighting a courageous battle with breast cancer.” This tired, trite line dishonors the dead and the dying by suggesting that we, the victims, are responsible for our deaths or that the fight we were in was ever fair.

Promise me you'll never wear a pink ribbon in my name or drop a dollar into a bucket that goes to breast cancer “awareness” for “early detection for a cure,” the mantra of fund-raising juggernaut Susan G. Komen, which has propagated a distorted message about breast cancer and how to “cure” it.



Laurie Becklund, a former LA Times staff writer, died Feb. 8. She wrote this over the last few months.


Weekend Toon Roundup






Toon- The Incomplete Guide to American Extremists

85-year-old Republican grandmom leads charge to legalize marijuana in Texas

She has been called the perfect weapon for legalization activists. Ann Lee, an 85-year-old Republican activist and grandmother, is crusading for the legalization of marijuana in Texas.

Lee had previously been opposed to legalization until her son was in an accident and required medical marijuana for treatment. “We realized marijuana wasn’t the weed of the devil which I had been known to say,” she explained.

After Lee began to turn her activism toward legalization efforts, she said she noticed people responded to her more strongly than ever before. “I don’t know whether it’s my age, the white hair, what is it, but it does seem to strike a chord. I’ve been an activist for many years, but I’ve never had the response that I’m now getting” Lee said.


Video shows Brandon Tate-Brown running away when shot by Police

BRANDON TATE-BROWN was running - not reaching into his car for a gun - when he was fatally shot by a Philadelphia police officer in December, a lawyer representing Tate-Brown's family told the Daily News last night.

Attorney Brian Mildenberg said he and Tanya Brown-Dickerson on Thursday viewed surveillance footage of Tate-Brown's encounter with two patrol cops during a traffic stop on Frankford Avenue near Magee in Mayfair on Dec. 15.

The footage, recorded by four different cameras at nearby businesses, is imperfect - grainy images that are sometimes obstructed or washed out by the police cruiser's flashing domelights.

But what's clear, Mildenberg said, is that Tate-Brown's shooting didn't mirror police accounts of the incident.

The Police Department has repeatedly said Tate-Brown had knocked one officer to the ground after a violent struggle, and was fatally wounded by the other officer as he reached into the front passenger side of his 2014 Dodge Charger for a stolen, loaded handgun that was near the center console.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150222_Lawyer__Video_of_police_shooting_differs_from_official_account.html#OTALxFj7To3CzQEJ.99

Why so many Americans still deny racism exists when the evidence is everywhere

In 1944, Swedish sociologist Gunnar Myrdal, in his famous study An American Dilemma, unpacked the hypocrisy of Jim Crow segregation in a society based on liberty and equality.

The new PBS documentary American Denial picks up this decades-old question and asks it again: how in the world can a country that claims to cherish freedom and fairness treat black people so terribly?

Using Myrdal's work as an entry point, director Llewellyn ("Llew") Smith and producers Christine Herbes-Sommers and Kelly Thomson offer a new answer that's based on a modern, research-grounded understanding of how oppression works. The film makes the case that everything from the racialized police-involved violence that has captured the country's attention in recent months, to educational inequalities, economic disparities, and the incarceration crisis all have a common root: unconscious racism, also known as implicit bias. They pin the blame on a belief — so deeply entrenched that many of us aren't aware that we hold it — that white is better than black.

I had a conversation recently with Herbes-Sommers and Smith, who worked on the film for more than 5 years, about how the topic of unconscious racism has become even more timely since they began the project, and why it's so urgent that all Americans ask themselves two key questions: "Why do I think this?" and "What are the consequences"?

more with video


If We Put an End to Corporate Welfare, College Tuition Could Be Free

Since 2008, 48 states have cut funding from public colleges--some by as much as 40%. State lawmakers couch their decisions as the unavoidable consequence of the Great Recession and budget deficits. What they fail to mention is that while they’re gutting higher education, they’re giving corporations tens of billions in tax breaks and incentives.

State, local, and county governments provide corporations with $80 billion in tax breaks annually, or $9 million/hour, according to an investigation by the New York Times. To put that number into perspective, total tuition at public colleges in 2012 was just under $60 billion, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

Tuition at four-year public colleges--which educate about 76 percent of American undergrads--has been rising for the past 25 years. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), tuition has increased 28 percent since 2007. There are several factors why college tuition is soaring, but the main culprit is declining support from states, which translates into higher out-of-pocket costs for students.



Charles P Pierce- Drums Along The Potomac: How This Country Never Learns Anything

Quite frankly, this has been one of the more depressing weeks we have seen in a very long time. The country seems to be sliding down some very familiar tracks into a military engagement in the Middle East -- an engagement that, at the moment, seems to be cloudy in its objectives, vague in its outlines, and obscure on the simple fact of what we are supposedly fighting for, and who we will be fighting with. Can we fight the Islamic State generally without help from (gasp!) Iran? Can we fight the Islamic State in Syria without a de facto alliance with Hafez al-Assad, who was Hitler only a year or so ago? And the most recent polling seems to indicate that all the institutions that are supposed to act as a brake on war powers within a self-governing republic are working in reverse again. The Congress is going to debate how much leeway it should give the president to make war, not whether he should be allowed to do it at all. The elite media, having scared Americans to death by giving the barbarians and their slaughter porn the international platform the barbarians so desired, is jumping on board with both feet. (To cite only one example, Chris Matthews is suiting up again.) The country has been prepared to give its children up again. At the very least, public opinion on what we should do is a muddle, which means that any plan that looks "bold" likely will carry the country with it, unintended consequences be damned.With the intelligence all pointing toward bin Laden, Rumsfeld ordered the military to begin working on strike plans.

Amid more executions by the militant group ISIS, Americans increasingly see the group as a threat to the U.S. Now, 65 percent of Americans view ISIS as a major threat - up from 58 percent in October - while another 18 percent view it as a minor threat. Majorities of Republicans (86 percent), Democrats (61 percent) and independents (57 percent) view ISIS as a major threat. Support for sending U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS has risen among all partisans, but particularly among Democrats and independents. Back in October, 56 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents disapproved of using ground troops - now 50 percent of Democrats approve and 53 percent of independents favor using ground troops.

You can see the logical canyon, can you not? The Islamic State is no more an actual threat to the United States than it was in October. But there have been more garish executions and more events elsewhere, so the perceived threat -- real or not -- has begun to work its dark magic on the national imagination, the way that aluminum tubes and mushroom clouds once did. The more bellicose of our leaders are openly shilling for a general engagement on the ground; the inevitable John McCain inevitably has called for a "mere" 10,000 ground troops, and he wants those troops to help fight against both the Islamic State and Assad. Because...do something!

You develop a strategy and elements of the strategy are American boots on the ground and not the 82nd Airborne, the president keeps setting up these straw man saying we want to send in masses of American troops, we don't, but we need to have American..air controllers, special forces, many others. I'm talking about about ten thousand in Iraq. Then we need to say our objective is to eliminate Bashar Assad as well as ISIS in Syria and we recruit a other Arab nations with Americans but not too many to fight against ISIS and Bashar Assad in Syria and coordinate those movements with air power guided by air controllers.

So the mission already is creeping; hell, Congressman Ed Royce, who only chairs the House Foreign Relations Committee, wants the proposed authorization for the use of military force to include Iran. And god only knows what happens if the Islamic State grabs a couple of those 10,000 American ground troops and uses them for another snuff film.



Charles P Pierce- Scott Walker Doesn't Care

By his works shall ye know him, and by his budget shall ye know Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, and current frontrunner in the Premature Nonsense Primary portion of the 2016 Republican nominating process. Where it is not actively hostile to the interests of anyone except his state's plutocrats and out-of-state mining interests, there is in the budget a low-running contempt for the concept of the government's obligation to do much of anything except protect the wealth of the wealthy and throw the right people in jail. His idea of "going big and bold" is to be petty and small-minded. His budget is a melange of childish vandalism, cut-rate empire building, and the construction of a Potemkin record for the consumption of oligarchical moneybags and hayshaking god-botherers in Iowa and elsewhere.

For example, he seeks to replace the state's independent oversight boards in areas like environmental management, reducing their roles to that merely of "advisory" bodies. Also, he proposes to place in his office the responsibility for local environmental issues that heretofore was the responsibility of local citizens. And he also has decided that the state's Department of Natural Resouces need not have an educational function any more.

In addition, as has been the case with taxophobe governors for decades now -- Hi, Governor Mitt Romney! -- Walker proposes to raise all kinds of fees, including vehicle fees and season passes to Wisconsin's state parks. He is still tinkering clumsily with education, rewarding the rural areas that voted for him, and punishing the urban areas -- coughblackpeoplecough -- that did not. (He's arranging for urban school boards to have less influence over charter schools, while rural districts get more money.) He's starving local governments of revenue, and he's making it harder for them to pass referenda regarding possible property tax increases. He's merging away the body that regulates banks in the state, and loosening the regulations on for-profit colleges. And he's cutting the cojones off the state's Building Commission.



Our Wars, Our Victims

by Charles Simic

Jon Stewart: “Right now, the Middle East is spiraling out of control. What should America do about this?”
Bassem Youssef, Egyptian comedian and satirist: “Well, how about… nothing.”
—The Daily Show, February 9, 2015

Since we rarely see real images of our wars today and have to fall back on simulated ones in Hollywood movies that make us look good, I wonder what Americans would say if they were shown graphic footage of the results of US drone attacks, some of the many wedding parties or funerals we mistook for gatherings of terrorists and reduced to “bug splats,” in the parlance of those dispatching our missiles. The idea that wiping out a bunch of innocents along with a few bad guys will make us safer at home and not make us more enemies everywhere is nuts, and so is the argument that the atrocities we find appalling in others are acceptable when perpetrated by us.

All this ought to be obvious to our leaders in Washington, but apparently it isn’t. President Obama’s new request for war authorization, now pending before Congress, to fight ISIS over the next three years with further airstrikes and “limited” combat operations, despite the complete failure of all our previous attempts in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen to do any good, may make our wars legal, but no less foolish.

What Czeslaw Milosz said of the last century is unfortunately already true of this one: Woe to those who think they can save themselves without taking part in a tragedy. Millions of Americans certainly continue to think so, even after September 11 and all the wars we have fought since and are still fighting. Television footage and newspaper photographs do not convey the scale of destruction and death in New York City on that day. One needed to have stood at least once under the twin towers to grasp their immense height and magnitude. Although I did, it took me days and months to comprehend fully what had occurred. Even after the second airliner struck the towers, it didn’t cross my mind that they might collapse. When they did, my mind had trouble accepting what my eyes were seeing. It was like a movie, people said afterward. We’d exit the dark movie theater with a shudder and go back to our lives. I thought Americans would finally begin to understand what being bombed is like.

What has always amazed me about countries at war is the way the killing of the innocent in foreign lands is ignored. People who wouldn’t step on an ant at home have no interest in finding out what horrors their country is perpetrating abroad. This heartless attitude becomes even more offensive when one thinks back to those terrified people in New York running through fire and smoke from the collapsing towers. In the days after the attacks, our pundits and politicians clamored for a quick and brutal retaliation that would not be overly concerned with distinguishing the innocent from the guilty. In other words, let’s just start bombing the bastards and not worry about who gets killed—or about the likelihood that the bombed might want to have their own revenge one day.


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