Thursday, January 30, 2014

What American accent do you have?

Big shocker, I have a middle-American accent: You have a good voice for TV and radio.

For those who don't know, I am from Columbus, Ohio--so this is pretty accurate.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland
 
"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.
 
The West
 
The South
 
Boston
 
The Inland North
 
North Central
 
Philadelphia
 
The Northeast

Saying I have "no accent" though? Only in America; obviously, the Brits and the Australians hear one. :)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Green Party Livestream show during President Obama's 2014 State of the Union address

Radicals used to call it "the state of the onion"--since you can peel and peel and peeeeeeel it away, and still, you can never quite get to the heart of it. (sigh)

The Green Party will be live-blogging the State of the Union address tonight. (Facebook Green Party livestream here)










WASHINGTON, DC -- The Green Party invites the public to participate in an online chat during President Obama's 2014 State of the Union speech on Tuesday, Jan. 28, on the Green Party's Livestream channel (http://www.livestream.com/greenpartyus).

The State of the Union broadcast, which begins at 9:00 pm ET, will be aired on the Livestream page. A chat box for the discussion will be on the screen next to the live State of the Union video.

Among the guests on hand to comment on the President's speech:

Jill Stein, 2012 Green Party presidential nominee and co-founder of the Green Shadow Cabinet

Cheri Honkala, 2012 Green vice-presidential nominee, co-founder of the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign

Laura Wells, 2014 Green candidate for Controller of California.

More guests will be announced soon.

Viewers are encouraged to contribute questions for the guests, online by text chat or by phone. The guests will be on the Livestream broadcast via remote webcam on Skype. Craig Seeman and Starlene Rankin are producing the show. Mr. Seeman will host.


MORE INFORMATION

Green Party of the United States
202-319-7191

Medea Benjamin in Greenville

Peace activist Medea Benjamin, author and co-founder of CODE PINK, gave a presentation last evening at the Coffee Underground. This was in association with the Upstate Peace Network--with whom I am proudly affiliated.

An excellent discussion followed.

It was thrilling to meet her and grab a copy of her new book, DRONE WARFARE: Killing by remote control, which you should buy and commit to memory immediately.

~*~

Excerpt from the book:
Over fifty countries have the technology and many of them—including Israel, Russia, Turkey, China, India, Iran, the United Kingdom, and France—either have or are seeking weaponized drones.

Some of these countries do not just possess the technology; they are already using it.

During its 2008-2009 invasion of the Gaza Strip known as "Operation Cast Lead," the Israeli Defense Force repeatedly deployed unmanned aircraft to fire on suspected members of Hamas, the elected Palestinian government.

According to a leaked US State Department cable reported on by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in one incident an Israeli drone "shot at two Hamas fighters in front of the mosque and sixteen unintended casualties resulted inside the mosque due to an open door through which shrapnel entered during a time of prayer."[i] While the technology may be precise, fallible human beings are still the ones picking the targets and pulling the trigger.

Israel ostensibly ended its military occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005. But thanks to modern drone technology, it does not need boots on the ground to dominate—and extinguish—Palestinian life.

"For us, drones mean death," said Hamdi Shaqqura of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in an interview with the Washington Post. According to his group, Israeli drones killed at least 825 people between 2006 and 2011, the majority civilians. And that has affected almost every aspect of Palestinian life. According to one study, the majority of children living in Gaza suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the constant buzzing and bombing of Israeli death machines. Palestinians even have to take drones into account when trying to do something as benign and banal as fixing a broken-down car—you really don't want a group of people lingering around for long when there's a plane armed with missiles hovering overhead. "When you hear drones," Shaqqura explained, "you hear death."

"It's continuous, watching us, especially at night," said Nabil al-Amassi, a Gaza mechanic and father of eight. "You can't sleep. You can't watch television. It frightens the kids. When they hear it, they say, 'It is going to hit us.'"

Along with Israel and the United States, Britain is the only other country to have employed weaponized drones in war as of 2011. In the 1980s, the UK developed the Phoenix, a drone that was briefly used in the Kosovo War and then in Iraq in 2003. So many were lost or crashed that British troops nicknamed the aircraft the "Bugger Off," as the planes rarely returned from a sortie. For Afghanistan, the UK bought US-made Reapers and rented Israeli Hermes drones. This was part of a stopgap measure while developing their own Watchkeeper drone in a joint venture by Israeli and UK private companies that, after many delays, was supposed to be operational by 2012.
Like their US and Israeli counterparts, the British government sees unmanned aircraft as the way of the future, with the Guardian reporting that UK officials say "almost one third of the [Royal Air Force] could be made up of remotely controlled aircraft within 20 years."
In July 2011, British drone operators made a mistake that underscores the continued fallibility of modern weapons, killing four civilians in Afghanistan with missiles fired from Reaper drones that they were piloting out of a US air base in Nevada. (The Royal Air Force has been piloting Reapers from Creech Air Force base in Nevada since late 2007.) Lest anyone believe the incident exposed flaws with the increased reliance on the almighty drone, UK military officials were quick to explain the deaths were the result of intelligence failures on the ground rather than problems with the aircraft.

That fallible human element does not harm just those on the receiving end of the West's liberating Hellfire missiles. When Iraqis were actually able to see the unencrypted video feeds that the unmanned vehicles were broadcasting back to US troops, it gave them the chance to escape and evade assassination. In 2002, Iraqis were also able to use a Soviet-era MIG-25 to shoot down a US drone. In 2006, the Syrian air force reportedly shot down an Israeli spy drone flying on the Lebanese side of the border with Syria. And in a little-reported incident in February 2011, as Yemeni police were transporting a Predator drone that had crashed in southern Yemen, Al Qaeda gunmen attacked, running off with the downed aircraft.

But the perceived enemies of the US government are doing more than just hijacking and shooting down drones: they are using their own.

During its 2006 war on Lebanon, the Israeli Defense Force claimed to have shot down several surveillance drones that Hezbollah had received from Iran. In Iraq, US troops shot down a similar Iranian drone in March 2009.

Just as US drone technology is falling into the hands of less-than-friendly regimes, the technology—like the Hummer and other military equipment before it—is finding its way back to the homeland. In a September 27, 2011 presentation at the headquarters of the US Air Force on the future of "remotely piloted aircraft," the branch's chief scientist Mark T. Maybury pointed to "homeland security" as a key future use of drones, complete with maps of the United States intended to highlight the need for "Integrating [drones] in National Airspace."

The future is here.

In 2005 Congress authorized Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to buy unarmed Predators. By the end of 2011, CBP was flying eight Predator drones along the southwestern border with Mexico and along the northern Canadian border to search for illegal immigrants and smugglers. By 2016, CBP hopes to have two dozen drones in its possession, "giving the agency the ability to deploy a drone anywhere over the continental United States within three hours," according to the Washington Post. And beyond, it seems, as the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has deployed several drones in neighboring Mexico to spy on that country's powerful drug cartels.
In June 2011, the Post reported that CBP's drone fleet had "reached a milestone...having flown 10,000 hours." But they had little to show for it. The paper flatly noted that the 4,835 undocumented immigrants and 238 drug smugglers that the Department of Homeland Security claimed to have apprehended thanks to UAVs were "not very impressive" numbers. What is impressive is the cost: $7,054 for each undocumented immigrant or smuggler who was caught.

"Congress and the taxpayers ought to demand some kind of real cost-benefit analysis of drones," said Tom Barry of the Center for International Policy, a Washington think tank. "My sense is that they would conclude these aircraft aren't worth the money."
But politicians in Washington don't seem too concerned. CBP's Michael Kostelnik told the Post he has never been pressed by a lawmaker to justify his agency's use of drones. "Instead the question is: Why can't we have more of them in my district?"

Remainder of excerpt here.

One of the most disturbing and startling new realities shared by Benjamin: Local law enforcement can't wait to get their hands on drones. It sounds just like the movie Escape from New York--law enforcement will finally be able to physically abandon the inner-cities at last. Nobody needs to get their hands dirty or their shirts bloodied (or worse). That's the plan.

It will all be handled by remote control.

You really MUST buy the book... Medea Benjamin is doing a TEDtalk later in the week, and I will try to link that here as well.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Altruism and Angels



Above, from left to right: Rabbi Mark Wilson, Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Rev. Jerry Hill, Rev. Donna Stroud, and Jayce Tromsness (director of the upcoming ANGELS IN AMERICA at the Warehouse Theatre). As always, you can click the photos to enlarge.

It was really great to listen to ALL of their varied experiences!

~*~

A week ago today, on Martin Luther King day (January 20th), some of us from Occupy the Microphone radio show attended a Warehouse Theatre event, one of a series of community discussions/dialogues titled Altruism and Angels: A Community in Conversation. The one we attended was titled Religion: Blessing, Curse, Irrelevant? A Discussion of the Impact on the Spirit, Advocacy and Vision of the LGBT Community. (This special series of discussions is part of the larger "Year of Altruism" that will be a religious focus here in Greenville during 2014.)

It was one of those evenings that caught me off-guard... one of those things where I thought I knew everything already, but the discussion took me in surprising and unanticipated new directions. The discussion wasn't a modest one, with God-loves-everybody platitudes, but instead went right for the jugular. It wasn't just about the fundamentalists, everybody's favorite whipping-boy, but about the ongoing moral struggle now faced by the "mainstream" denominations, when they grapple with issues like gay marriage and adoption.

For that reason, I didn't know how to write about the event, since I had mixed feelings about it.

To wit: Is religion one of the main causes of pain and anguish in the lives of LGBT people? Listening to some of the stories, it sure sounded like that to me.

Is this fact due to some intrinsically-negative factor about religion/spirituality in and of itself, or a separate thing, religious dogma specifically?

Can we separate the spirituality/comfort of religion, from the dogma that provides its ultimate psychological wallop, as ultimate truth and metaphysical certainty?

Isn't the fact of unchanging dogma one of the things that comforts us when we need it? If not (and I've never found dogma by itself particularly comforting, but I realize others do), then what is it that we grasp for in times of spiritual need?

At left: Some of the discussion participants. It was a lively conversation.


These are the things we talked about. Very intense. I did not necessarily come to the conclusion that religion should be let off the hook, although I did come to the conclusion that it is probably not an unqualified good, which is something I have always believed on some level. Religion done properly, I would say, is a good thing. Done improperly, it's a bad thing.

I am now wondering if that truism (which I never fully realized I subscribed to in the first place!) is simply mythological. One of those just-so stories we tell ourselves so we can get along with all of our religious neighbors.

As I said, intense discussion. So intense, I could not fully deal with it until today, so thanks for hanging around while I try to figure things out.

~*~

I recently went on a bit of a screed over at Tumblr, ranting about the kids who won't do activism. (And like most kids, they shrug, roll their eyes, and go on about their bizness.) But seriously, I do realize this phenomenon is one big reason why people avoid activism... or start like gangbusters and then fade out over time:

People have cherished ideas they bring with them into their activism and then, BLAMMO, something happens (like this discussion) and we end up questioning what we think we know, what we tell ourselves we already believe. And stuff like this can sneak up on you and leave you too winded to deal with what is right in front of you. I probably should warn the kids about life-altering moments like this, if indeed they do ever decide to engage in some real activism.

Then again, nah. Let em all find out for themselves. ;)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Stop the violence

Photo collage at left by Traci Fant. I am behind Gregg in the upper right photo.





Thursday's radio show, with activist Traci Fant, was so intense, I honestly didn't know how to write about it.

I felt that we were finally doing the important work, telling the crucial stories that need to be told. I heartily recommend the show, which is downloadable at the link, above.

Our show was titled "Stopping Violence in upstate South Carolina" and I was deeply honored to be included. Our guests included anti-violence activists Al Harris and Taurice Bussey, as well as Karl Daniel of our local Empowerment Zone, which hosts the upstate's landmark Voices Against Violence event every year. As I said, very intense, very personal.

And today, we hear that another violent episode has happened, another school shooting in Roswell, NM. Middle school, this time.

I began today's radio show by asking, what is happening?

It seems to be the boys who have no role models, no one to care about them.

~*~

I would like to ask the Men's Rights Activists to stop fussing at feminists and posting their endless quarrels online, and put their money where their mouth is: find a young male without a role model and take him under your wing. Teach him what you know. Instead of MRAs getting all worked up over females, how about doing something for the males?

Obviously, they need you.

To the Christians: do as Karl Daniel is doing, and reach out to the youth who need a father-figure. Leave the politics alone, and worry about the boys instead.

Share your money, power and privilege. Try to make a difference in their lives.

To the Republicans: stop obsessing over guns, and instead, start obsessing over why these young men feel they need to act out in this way.

Do SOMETHING instead of blaming others.

~*~

PS: Shout out to our new sponsor YELLOW MAMA MUSIC! (Whilst shopping for musical instruments at Yellow Mama, you can also pick up a copy of radio-show guest author David Kouvek's book THE PENDULUM.)

*More photos of our participants at my Flickr page.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Chris Christie's press conference

Right now, I'm watching New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's press conference regarding the George Washington bridge fiasco. He is pissed alright. But he is confronting this head-on and showing his anger, for good or ill, and Obama might take some lessons from him. Most assuredly, he is not letting the whole scandal fester and get uglier and uglier by the hour.

Obama habitually waits for things to boil over and then frantically tries to cover up the saucepan after the whole stove is already a huge mess.

Christie is talking talking talking... how long is this press conference going to go on?

Larry McShane and Leslie Larson report in the New York Daily News:

An unusually contrite Gov. Christie emerged Thursday to offer an apology for the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal — and to fire a top aide, insisting he had no knowledge of her actions and was "blindsided" by the damning emails publicized Wednesday.

“I come out here today to apologize to the people of New Jersey,” said Christie. “I apologize to the people of Fort Lee. I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team.”

The governor then announced the immediate dismissal of Bridget Anne Kelly, the top aide linked directly to the bridge lane closures she boasted were retaliation against Fort Lee, N.J., Mayor Mark Sokolich, who failed to endorse the GOP incumbent last year in his re-election campaign.

“I terminated her employment because she lied to me,” Christie said bluntly.

Christie had since September insisted his staff was in no way involved in the traffic tie-ups and ridiculed questions about the “Bridgegate” scandal.

A media horde descended on the Statehouse in Trenton for Christie’s first public appearance since the scandal was linked to his administration.

The first reporters and camera crews arrived at 7 a.m., and the room was soon packed to capacity.

Just moments before the press briefing was slated the start at 11 a.m., sources told the New York Times the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, a post previously filled by Christie, will open an inquiry into the controversial lane closures.

RELATED: CHRISTIE’S WATERLOO

Kelly and a long-time Christie pal appointed by the governor to the Port Authority were caught in an Aug. 13 email exchange planning the roadway retribution against the mayor. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” read the email from Bridget Anne Kelly. “Got it,” responded David Wildstein, who went to high school with the governor — and was appointed by Christie to a $150,000-a-year position as Port Authority director of interstate capital projects.

The resulting shutdown of two traffic lanes from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge caused massive traffic tie-ups for four days in the small northern New Jersey town.

The gridlock also slowed emergency response times for local ambulances, including one responding to a Sept. 9 call for an unconscious 91-year-old woman — who later died.

Christie, speaking in a calm and direct fashion in his Thursday confessional, said Kelly had lied when directly confronted about the incident.

Kelly “betrayed my trust,” he said. “I would never have come out here four or five weeks ago and made a joke about these lane closures if I ever had an inkling that anyone on my staff would be so stupid to be involved and so deceitful.”

Christie, while insisting he was blindsided by the emails, said he took the blame for the whole incident: “Ultimately I am responsible for what happens under my watch, for good and for bad.”

RELATED: 'WORST EXAMPLE OF PETTY POLITICAL VENDETTA': SOKOLICH ON CHRISTIE GW BRIDGE CLOSINGS

He also promised a Thursday visit to Fort Lee to deliver a personal apology. Christie — who also announced that he told his former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, to withdraw his nomination as state GOP chairman — insisted he played no role in the shutdown. “I had no knowledge and involvement in this issue, in its planning and its execution,” the governor said at the end of his 20-minute statement. “And I am stunned at the abject stupidity that was shown here. ... This was handled in a callous way.”

Christie, known for his take-no-prisoners political style, also delivered a bit of self-defense.

“I am not a bully,” insisted Christie.

Christie, taking questions from reporters, said he accepted at face value the statements made by his staff and his appointee at the Port Authority.

“I was told it was a traffic study,” he said. “And there was no evidence to the contrary until yesterday.”

Christie acknowledged there was no denying the nefarious forces that caused four days of gridlock at the world’s busiest bridge.

RELATED: PRESIDENT CHRISTIE? CROSSING THAT BRIDGE

Wildstein and a second Christie-appointee to the Port Authority have already resigned over the punitive lane closings — bogusly billed in a cover-up as “a traffic study.”

“It’s clear now that in the minds of some people there were political overtones of political side deals in this,” he said.

Sokolich, the target of the political payback, was never even “on his radar” during last year’s gubernatorial campaign. “Until I saw his picture last night on television, I couldn't have picked him out of a lineup,” the governor said. Christie’s choice as P.A. chairman, David Samson, was also implicated in one of the emails as helping to “retaliate” when the lanes were finally reopened. Samson issued a statement denying any knowledge of the nasty plan until it was over. The Port Authority, along with the New Jersey Legislature, is probing the act of revenge.

New Jersey’s Democrats have lambasted the bully-boy governor, charging that Christie was either lying or hiring people who lied to him. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J), the former mayor of Newark, called the claims against Christie "deeply troubling."
He's still talking, and I've had two cups of coffee already.

I think this will be going on for awhile. The press conference AND the scandal itself.

Hear that sound? Its the sound of Governor Christie's presidential hopes crashing to the ground.

~*~

Biographical aside: As I briefly mentioned on the air when we covered this story yesterday on the radio show -- back in 1978, I was unceremoniously and rudely thrown off the George Washington bridge (no, not bodily!). We were hitchhiking at the bridge-entrance when cops told us to cease and desist, or else. My friend and I had to go all the way back to the bus depot and try to hustle a ride across.

"No hitchhiking in Joisey neithahh!" the New York City cop warned us.

Eventually, some of Tony Soprano's friends (jokey joke) offered us a ride across. They were very nice, but a bit scary to a Midwestern kid like me. Nonetheless, their East Coast-authenticity (and their very nice vehicle!) was exciting to me.

Seriously, every time I saw the beginning of the Sopranos, I thought about my ride across the bridge into Joisey, onto the NJ Turnpike... it was so similar; the sunshine, the scenery, and even the cigar. :)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Business cat


Most of us are currently in the deep freeze here in the USA. I am currently waiting for AAA to start my car, and its been hours. (sigh) So I needed a good laugh. I hope this cheers up the rest of you snowed-in folks!

Hope all is well with you.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

BJUnity on Occupy the Microphone

Yesterday's Occupy the Microphone radio show was especially awesome, as we interviewed Jeffrey Hoffman of BJUnity, the 'unofficial' organization for LGBT folks at Bob Jones University, past and present; including students, alumni, faculty and staff.

It was a great show, and you must go listen immediately.

Below: 1) Jeffrey talks about the cultish environment of Bob Jones University; 2) me interviewing Jeffrey; 3) Daisy, Jeffrey and fabulous co-host Double A, the rock and roll diehard.

Broadcasting every weekday from WOLI studios, McAlister Square, LIVE AT FIVE. (You can livestream us daily at 5pm HERE. Friday's show can be found here, here and here.)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Lynne Stewart released

Good news for the new year. Political prisoner Lynne Stewart has been freed on 'compassionate release' grounds.

We interviewed Lynne Stewart's spouse, Ralph Poynter, on our radio show back in July. At that time, she was very ill from late-stage cancer. It has taken months, but some activists believed she wouldn't get out at all.

From The Brooklyn Paper:
A former Park Slope lawyer convicted of helping a jailed terrorist communicate with his followers is coming home after a judge ordered her release from a Texas prison where she has been dying of cancer.

The federal-prison-bureau-requested release of Lynne Stewart, 74, ends four years of imprisonment, much of which Stewart spent suffering from breast cancer. She was known for representing poor, politically active, and sometimes deeply unpopular clients as a defense attorney before her 2007 disbarment and subsequent jailing for communicating on behalf of blind cleric Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, convicted of plotting to blow up the New York landmarks including the United Nations and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. Her family cheered the decision to allow her to return home, but lamented the circumstances.

“We were pretty surprised — it is very bittersweet,” said Stewart’s son and lawyer Geoffrey Stewart. “Freedom is the most important thing, and we still feel like she should have never been put through this in the first place.”

Stewart will arrive home on Jan. 1, according to the Justice for Lynne Stewart support website. The release ruling cuts short a 10-year sentence and follows a global outpouring of support for the firebrand advocate and an order from the Bureau of Prisons recommending her freeing. Backers argued that her conviction threatened the constitutional right to counsel, but multiple courts disagreed, finding that her transmission of messages from Rahman, nicknamed “the blind sheik,” to his supporters in Egypt’s “Islamic Group” was conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism. Judges overturned and quadrupled an initial 28-month sentence following a press conference where Stewart said she could do that time “standing on [her] head.”

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl granted the compassionate release appeal after denying the same bid in April because the federal Bureau of Prisons had not approved it. The prison bureau and the justice department recommended Stewart be freed on New Year’s Eve morning and the Koeltl signed off on Stewart’s release in the afternoon. In his decision, the judge pointed out that Stewart is near death and unlikely to commit further crimes.

The freed advocate will live in her son’s Flatbush home because a granddaughter lives in the Park Slope pad the agitator owns, a supporter said. She will be excited to check out Prospect Park’s new ice-skating rinks and to listen to jazz with her husband, her son said.

“I know she has a lot of people that she wants to thank, have private meetings with, and catch up with,” he said. “She will be amazed at all the changes in Brooklyn.”

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at mriesz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
More about Lynne Stewart's release:

Dying defense lawyer Lynne Stewart released from jail (CNN)

Dying Radical Lawyer Lynne Stewart Freed From Prison On "Compassionate Release" (Gothamist)

Civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart 'compassionately released' from prison by federal judge (Allvoices)

Lynne Stewart, Dying Ex-Lawyer Convicted In Terror Case, Released From Prison (Huffington Post)

Exclusive: Dying Lawyer Lynne Stewart’s Jubilant Return Home After Winning Compassionate Release (Democracy Now)