Sunday, September 30, 2007

Strange days have found us

Five amazing ladies took me to the Body Mind Spirit Expo (BMSExpo) in Asheville, North Carolina, this weekend. Predictably, it was rather strange*, but I enjoyed it. We also managed to hit one of my favorite stores (Instant Karma), and chowed down at the Mellow Mushroom.

My aura was photographed, and it was white. This is considered pretty good! Dr Bluehawks Stec announced I was an "empathic" after inspecting my palms and pointing to the isosceles triangles in place of my lifelines (always did wonder about those). He pronounced these pyramids instead of mere isosceles triangles...and then said, rather strangely, that I was "from somewhere else."** I probably should have asked him if he meant another galaxy, planet or possibly just reincarnated from afar, but I was too freaked out. I'm from somewhere else? Well, this explains a lot!

Adding to this, was the reaction of the five aforementioned amazing ladies: "This is news? We already knew that!"

My chakras are balanced, too, but I have "low physical energy." Again, stop the presses! Still, it was undeniably fascinating. I didn't see anyone else get a white aura! (((Church lady superior dance)))

Some of the participants at the expo, whom I particularly enjoyed:

Natural Options Aromatherapy was a fun place to stop and sniff during the expo, as was the aromatic Young Living, which provides high-quality essential oils and soaps.

LifeWorks School of Coaching features one Farra Allen: “I am a Coach for Personal Growth, Business and Life Transitions. I have developed a tried and true method over time, The Passion Design System™” Why this involves the use of so many capitals, is anyone’s guess.

Turquoise Temple offers crystals and other stones, as well as Himalayan salt lamps and bath salts.

Life Bliss Foundation is a "worldwide movement for meditation and healing. With 1000 centres in 33 countries and 30 Nithyananda Meditation Academies (NMAs) around the globe, the Nithyananda mission offers myriad meditation programs. It works towards transformation of humanity and global peace through transformation of the individual."

There were several spiritual counselors/psychic readers in attendance, including: Sunny Wang, Darlene Liedig, hypnotherapist Sharie Karrinne Camren, and Florida spiritual healer Ellen Wachs.

A few other therapies, which I didn't check out: Dr Cheri Holloway, a practitioner of “Energy Medicine,” and Barry Helm, a practitioner of Resurrection Therapy™. There was also an unfamiliar (to me) body-work offered to BMSExpo participants by practitioners from the Ascending Hall Taoist Temple. Apparently, this was Tao dance, a manifestation of "Taoist Inner Alchemy" as described in the book Spiritual Anatomy: Your Journey Through Nehemiah's Dreamgates by Master Tao Haung. The body-work involved twisting a prone individual into a variety of pretzel-positions, freeing the spirit. Several of these positions made me grimace, although the subjects appeared to be very serene and relaxed.

Several publishers were also present, including Magic Mountain press, Oracle 20-20 magazine (particularly fun reading), Innerchange magazine and of course, the folks everyone should be paying royalties to, the Christian Science Publishing Society

Most of these folks are on the New Age circuit, but there were also a few (more or less) local folks exhibiting: Teahouse Atlanta, Asheville Healing Arts (acupuncture and herbs) and the Bella Haven spiritual retreat, which is right next door in Spartanburg, SC.

Everybody has to draw the line somewhere, and I draw mine at the Gnomes. Dr. Christian von Lahr***, medium and author, was there to talk about the gnomes, and how to be their friends. He has written several gnome books, one of which was "...channeled directly from the Gnomes, Elves, Fairies and Leprechauns themselves" and, needless to say, has been "the #1 seller on the New Age Expo circuit, and has received wide aclaim (sic) in the media." One of his books (helpfully titled Seeing and Sensing Gnomes) explains how to find the gnomes, which he claims are among us.

Now, tell me, if they ARE among us, do you really want to talk to them?****

*cue Doors, Strange Days
**cue Doors, People are Strange
***cue Electric Light Orchestra, Strange Magic
****cue Cream, Strange Brew

September 30, 1955

Photo from The Picture Showman

i saw the sign
it read fairmount
lookin for a deadman
a dead heroes haunt

found the stone
people chiseled away
take what you want
it's the american way

you son of a bitch
you tombstone snake
james dean is dead
what else can you take

you dug up dirt
left holes in the ground
in the dark of night
like a baskerville hound

i know why you came
why you take like you do
come like a parasite
steal home some cool

james dean is dead
i walked through his home
gave his aunt some flowers
talked for hours alone

i left his stone
some flowers and a card
two cigarettes and some matches
and a restless feelin to guard

been back many times
don't know quite why
nothin but a young cat
all heroes die

here's to the young cat
whose voice was once mine
to that mixed up..messed up
strange friend in time

james dean..still ever so cool

©2007 Rain

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Jail death protest in Fountain Inn

Graphic from

Yes, I'll be there.

Jail death protest in Fountain Inn
New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church in Laurens County leading protest

By Nathaniel Cary
STAFF WRITER, Greenville News
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2007 - 11:38 am

A local human rights group plans to protest outside of Fountain Inn's Police Department tonight.

The group, Schimuranga, led by Rev. David Kennedy, will hold a demonstration in connection with the death of a black Fountain Inn man at the Fountain Inn jail July 29.

The protest is the latest in a string of demonstrations over the death of Richard Javis Johnson, 25, who died at the jail when he was found hanged by his long sleeved T-shirt 30-40 minutes after he was booked on a crack cocaine charge.

Johnson's family members said they didn't think he would have hanged himself, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson toured the jail last week and said he'd seen photos that looked like Johnson had been beaten to death.

Fountain Inn police have declined to discuss specifics of the case, but said they will be cleared of any wrongdoing after the investigation. The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating and has said it won't release details for up to five more months.

The demonstration will be held 6-8 p.m. in downtown Fountain Inn, said Councilwoman Wanza Bates.

Schimuranga, a group started out of Kennedy's church, New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church in Laurens County, was organized to protest injustice to the black community, Kennedy said.

"We are holding this demonstration to expose institutionalized racism in the city of Fountain Inn," Kennedy said
And before anyone criticizes Jesse for ambulance-chasing, being a glory-hound, etc, it's important to add that he is FROM GREENVILLE and comes to South Carolina frequently to visit his mother and extended family.

And a good thing, too:

Jesse Jackson Comments On Inmate's Death

UPDATED: 9:03 am EDT September 18, 2007
FOUNTAIN INN, S.C. -- Rev. Jesse Jackson was in the Upstate Monday, and commented on a controversy over the death of an inmate found hanged in his cell.

Jackson and members of the Rainbow Push Coalition toured the Fountain Inn jail this morning. The visit comes after the hanging death of inmate Richard Johnson in July. Officials have said that Johnson hanged himself, but some family members and supporters have said that officers were responsible for his death.

After Monday's tour, Jackson told reporters that he thinks that the dimensions of the cell would not make it possible for Johnson to hang himself.

Johnson's mother, Anita Johnson, said that the coroner's officer refused to let her see her son's body.

"I was denied to see his body at the hospital," Johnson said. "The hospital said I couldn't see him, the coroner said I couldn't see him, and the Fountain Inn Police Department said me and my family could not see my son."

Fountain Inn Police Chief Keith Morton said that he and other officers tried to call Johnson after her son's death, but could not reach her. Morton said they also drove around to different places trying to track her down. By the time they were able to reach her, they said Johnson's body had been turned over to the coroner.

Greenville County Deputy Coroner Ken Coppins said, "....because it was an in-custody death, our protocol was to seal the body bag and nobody opens it until autopsy so that evidence that needs to be collected is collected that morning at autopsy."

Coppins said that he gave his number to Anita Johnson, but because she did not have a phone, she called three times but never left a number.

Less than 24 hours after Johnson's death, his body was turned over to the Fletcher Mortuary in Fountain Inn. Coppins said he can't explain why Anita Johnson then waited until three days later to see her son there.

Jackson said, "You need to see for yourself to see how impossible it would have been to tie something around your neck and drop three inches and be suicide."

He said it appeared to him that Johnson was beaten to death, based on markings on the body. But the coroner's officer said it is common for doctors to remove pieces of skin during the autopsy.

Morton said, "Mr. Jackson is welcome to his opinion, but once again, all the information was collected by independent agencies and they'll make the determination on the cause of death."

City Official Solicits Complaints From Citizens

City Councilwoman Wanza Bates is soliciting complaints from the citizens of Fountain Inn regarding the police and is passing them on to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division.

Bates said. "People feel that they're being inappropriately treated and we need to do something about that. The city of Fountain Inn needs to do something about that."

She said, "I'm hoping that we have the appropriate policies, regulations, procedures in the city of Fountain Inn so that citizens feel safe so that when a police officer stops them, that they are appropriately stopping them, that they are not harassing them, that they are not physically abusing them. These are the natures of the stories I've been told."

News 4 has learned that SLED confirms receiving something of this nature, but there is no official investigation.

Later Monday, Jackson went to Clemson, encouraging people to register to vote. Jackson was in Simpsonville on Sunday night pushing the vote.

He and the Rainbow Push Coalition visited Bethlehem Baptist Church as part of Jackson's 12-city voter education tour across the state.
The Greenville NAACP is also investigating the death of Richard Javis 'Jabo' Johnson while in police custody in Fountain Inn.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

To know know know him, is to love love love him

Hung jury. Mistrial. Five months down the toilet. A woman's life doesn't mean shit, if you can successfully trash her reputation and present her as a depressed, poverty-stricken floozy.

If you have millions, you can buy justice in the USA, if there was ever any doubt.

I guess I already knew that, but I had a few hopes left. No more. Those hopes are gone.

I hope Lana Clarkson's family takes the rest of Phil's money in the civil suit.

That is all.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I found the story of the women known as "the Lesbian 7" (now the New Jersey 4) rather hard to believe... I mean you know, "rampaging lesbians"? The last ones I remember seeing were in the movie THE WARRIORS.

Nonetheless, that is how the prosecution presented these women, and the tabloids obediently went apeshit, complete with unflattering, spazzy photos and purple-prose descriptions of "the seething, Sapphic septet" (who writes this stuff? John O'Hara? Raymond Chandler?) --bringing to mind the attack of the nymphos in SHOCK CORRIDOR.

A bit of a sexual thrill, then, yes? Is it also sexually titillating to put these uppity, physically-capable gals in their place?

All of the above?

By Laura Italiano, NY Post

June 15, 2007 -- The pint-sized ring leader of a gang of seven rampaging lesbians collapsed shrieking in a Manhattan courtroom yesterday as a judge sentenced her to 11 years in prison for the brutal beat-down and stabbing of a man who promised to turn them "straight" in Greenwich Village last summer.

"Noooo!" 4-foot-11, 95-pound Patreese Johnson wailed after learning her startling sentence - the highest several defense lawyers had ever heard of for a nonfatal stabbing.

"No!" she sobbed. "Please! Nooooo!"

Johnson, 20, fell to the courtroom floor and was carried out kicking and screaming.
She and her three co-defendants, who were also sentenced yesterday, were convicted of second-degree gang assault during a sensational trial in April.

Renata Hill, 25, was sentenced to eight years in prison; Venice Brown, 19, got five; Terraine Dandridge, 20, got 31/2.

The gang's remaining three women are serving six-month prison terms after pleading guilty to lesser charges in the attack on Queens filmmaker Dwayne Buckle, 29.

Johnson had been additionally convicted of first-degree gang assault for stabbing Buckle in the gut, and could have received anywhere from five to 25 years.

The women claimed they attacked Buckle in self-defense after he lunged at them during an argument in which he allegedly said sex with him would turn them straight.
Surveillance video belies that story, the prosecutor said in court.

It shows at a brief lull in the brawl - and then the seething, Sapphic septet striking anew.

"They didn't run away," Assistant District Attorney Sharon Laveson told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Edward McLaughlin. "They didn't call the police. They were not fearful. They were emboldened."

Buckle claimed on the witness stand he merely said hello to Johnson, who he told jurors was "the slightly pretty one" in the group.

The women took the stand to counter that Buckle actually said, "I want some of that," as he pointed to Johnson's crotch.

Whatever Buckle may have said doesn't matter, the judge said.

"Insulting words, stupid words . . . don't justify criminal conduct, don't justify hurting a human being, don't justify group assaultive conduct," he said.

Not quite.

Here we have another account, from One People's Project:

Written by One People's Project
Sunday, 29 April 2007

Oh, this is just flat out wrong. A few years ago in Newark, NJ, a 15-year-old girl named Sakia Gunn was killed by a man trying to hit on her and her friend. He got pissed when she said she was a lesbian. Last year the same thing happened again, and although the four girls in this case were also from Newark, this time they were in Greenwich Village in New York City when they were approached by another man who attacked them when the lesbians spurned him. The difference was they kicked his ass. It should have ended there, but instead of the man, Dwayne Buckle going someplace to lick his wounds and learning a lesson from all of this, it is four of the women who are going to pay. A few weeks ago, they were convicted of gang assault and are looking at 25 years. For defending themselves. It was insanity in the courtroom when the verdict was read, and needless to say there are a lot of angry people. These women need support, and they need to go back home. They don't deserve to be treated as if they were the villians in this case. The only villian here is Buckle, who if his Internet Movie Database profile is of any indication is going to go on with his career as if nothing wrong. Nope, sorry. We are going to be on this one. Like one of their lawyers said, this is not over.

Four young women from Newark were convicted of gang assault April18 in the beating and stabbing of an independent filmmaker in Greenwich Village last summer, the jury rejecting their contention that they were defending themselves against an anti-lesbian attack.

But one of the women, Patreese Johnson, 19, was acquitted of attempted murder, the most serious charge in the case. Prosecutors said she had stabbed the filmmaker, Dwayne Buckle, in the abdomen with a steak knife that she carried in her purse. Ms. Johnson contended that she had only tried to cut Mr. Buckle’s arm to keep him from choking two of her friends.

Along with gang assault, the jury found Ms. Johnson, who is 4-foot-11 and weighs less than 100 pounds, guilty of first-degree assault, which carries the same penalty of 5 to 25 years in prison as the attempted murder charge.

The young women sobbed and wailed “No-oo!” “Mommy!” and “I didn’t do it!” as Justice Edward J. McLaughlin of State Supreme Court in Manhattan ordered them jailed until their sentencing next month, but it was almost impossible to tell who was saying what as they were led away in handcuffs by court officers.

Ms. Johnson, who worked as a night cashier at Wal-Mart, turned and mouthed “I love you” to a sister, brother and cousin in the spectator seats.

The trial attracted attention because both sides, though in opposite ways, framed the case as a bias attack involving lesbians and a straight man. The other three defendants, Renata Hill, 25; Terrain Dandridge, 20; and Venice Brown, 19, were convicted of second-degree gang assault and face 3 ½ to 15 years in prison.

Mr. Buckle, 29, of Queens said he was sitting on a fire hydrant and handing out DVDs of one of his films outside the Independent Film Center at Avenue of the Americas and West Third Street just before 2 a.m. on Aug. 18 when the women walked by him and he made a flirtatious remark.

He testified that they then attacked him without any physical provocation on his part. While recovering at St. Vincent’s Hospital Manhattan, he told The New York Post that he had been “the victim of a hate crime against a straight man.”
The defense scoffed at the idea that Mr. Buckle was just sitting on the street trying to promote his films.

The women contended that Mr. Buckle made crude sexual advances, and when they told him they were not interested because they were lesbians, he spat at them, threw a cigarette and tried to choke two of them.

Ms. Johnson’s lawyer, Alan Lippel, said the jury appeared to believe at least some of her testimony. “I think they were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that she intended to kill the guy,” Mr. Lippel said.

Susan V. Tipograph, who, along with Laurie Cohen, represented Ms. Hill, said after the verdict, “We’re disappointed.” She said that although “nobody takes any satisfaction in what happened,” the four women had come to New York to have a good time and never anticipated anything like what happened.

Ms. Tipograph’s presence on the defense team was, perhaps, one indication of the passions stirred by the case. Although she often defends obscure indigent defendants, her clients have also included former Black Panthers and Lynne F. Stewart, the leftist lawyer convicted in 2005 of aiding terrorism by smuggling messages out of prison for a client, Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman.

Ms. Tipograph said she had volunteered to defend Ms. Hill pro bono after learning through the National Lawyers Guild that the young woman was seeking a lawyer. “It was pitched as it is,” Ms. Tipograph said. “She was one of a number of women who had gotten harassed on the street.”

But she added: “I certainly didn’t get involved in this as part of a cause. She was a decent young woman in a jam, calling out for some help.”

Many of the defendants’ female supporters in the courtroom wore long robes and head scarves, and Mr. Lippel said that his client’s sister was a practicing Muslim.
“It’s not over,” said Kevin G. Roe, a lawyer for Ms. Dandridge, saying the defense would appeal.

The jury of 10 women — many of them not too much older than the defendants — and two men, reached its verdict after only about five hours of deliberations.

The defense contended that a mysterious man in a pink shirt, shown in a surveillance videotape joining the brawl, had actually stabbed Mr. Buckle.

The police searched for the man in the pink shirt but never found him, a police officer testified.

And finally, some political background from Imani Henry:
On Aug. 16, 2006, seven young, African-American, lesbian-identified friends
were walking in the West Village. The Village is a historic center for
lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) communities, and is seen as a safe haven
for working-class LGBT youth, especially youth of color.

As they passed the Independent Film Cinema, 29-year-old Dwayne Buckle, an
African-American vendor selling DVDs, sexually propositioned one of the
women. They rebuffed his advances and kept walking.

“I’ll f— you straight, sweetheart!” Buckle shouted. A video camera from a
nearby store shows the women walking away. He followed them, all the while
hurling anti-lesbian slurs, grabbing his genitals and making explicitly
obscene remarks. The women finally stopped and confronted him. A heated
argument ensued. Buckle spat in the face of one of the women and threw his
lit cigarette at them, escalating the verbal attack into a physical one.
Buckle is seen on the video grabbing and pulling out large patches of hair
from one of the young women. When Buckle ended up on top of one of the
women, choking her, Johnson pulled a small steak knife out of her purse. She
aimed for his arm to stop him from killing her friend.

The video captures two men finally running over to help the women and
beating Buckle. At some point he was stabbed in the abdomen. The women were
already walking away across the street by the time the police arrived.
Buckle was hospitalized for five days after surgery for a lacerated liver
and stomach. When asked at the hospital, he responded at least twice that
men had attacked him.

There was no evidence that Johnson’s kitchen knife was the weapon that
penetrated his abdomen, nor was there any blood visible on it. In fact,
there was never any forensics testing done on her knife. On the night they
were arrested, the police told the women that there would be a search by the
New York Police Department for the two men—which to date has not happened.
After almost a year of trial, four of the seven were convicted in April.
Johnson was sentenced to 11 years on June 14.

Even with Buckle’s admission and the video footage proving that he
instigated this anti-gay attack, the women were relentlessly demonized in
the press, had trumped-up felony charges levied against them, and were
subsequently given long sentences in order to send a clear resounding
message—that self-defense is a crime and no one should dare to fight back.

Imani asks the pertinent question, which was on my mind: Why were these young women used as an example?

At stake are the billions of
dollars in tourism and real estate development involved in the continued
gentrification of the West Village. This particular incident happened near
the Washington Square area—home of New York University, one of most
expensive private colleges in the country and one of the biggest employers
and landlords in New York City. The New York Times reported that Justice
Edward J. McLaughlin used his sentencing speech to comment on “how New York
welcomes tourists.” (June 17)

The Village is also the home of the Stonewall Rebellion, the three-day
street battle against the NYPD that, along with the Compton Cafeteria
“Riots” in California, helped launch the modern-day LGBT liberation movement
in 1969. The Manhattan LGBT Pride march, one of the biggest demonstrations
of LGBT peoples in the world, ends near the Christopher Street Piers in the
Village, which have been the historical “hangout” and home for working-class
trans and LGBT youth in New York City for decades.

Because of growing gentrification in recent years, young people of color,
homeless and transgender communities, LGBT and straight, have faced curfews
and brutality by police sanctioned by the West Village community board and
politicians. On Oct. 31, 2006, police officers from the NYPD’s 6th Precinct
indiscriminately beat and arrested several people of color in sweeps on
Christopher Street after the Halloween parade.

Since the 1980s there has been a steady increase in anti-LGBT violence in
the area, with bashers going there with that purpose in mind.
For trans people and LGBT youth of color, who statistically experience
higher amounts of bigoted violence, the impact of the gentrification has
been severe. As their once-safe haven is encroached on by real estate
developers, the new white and majority heterosexual residents of the West
Village then call in the state to brutalize them.

And then there is the sensationalist matter of the so-called "hate crime" against a straight, professional man--a moviemaker, no less--the sort of upper-crust, artist-type fellow they WANT in the Village these days:

According to court observers, McLaughlin stated throughout the trial that he had no sympathy for these women. The jury, although they were all women,
were all white. All witnesses for the district attorney were white men,
except for one Black male who had several felony charges.

Court observers report that the defense attorneys had to put enormous effort
into simply convincing the jury that they were “average women” who had
planned to just hang out together that night. Some jurists asked why they
were in the Village if they were from New Jersey. The DA brought up whether
they could afford to hang out there—raising the issue of who has the right
to be there in the first place.

The Daily News reporting was relentless in its racist anti-lesbian misogyny,
portraying Buckle as a “filmmaker” and “sound engineer” preyed upon by a
“lesbian wolf pack” (April 19) and a “gang of angry lesbians.” (April 13)
Everyone has been socialized by cultural archetypes of what it means to be a
“man” or “masculine” and “woman” or “feminine.” Gender identity/expression
is the way each individual chooses or not to express gender in their everyday
lives, including how they dress, walk, talk, etc. Transgender people and
other gender non-conforming people face oppression based on their gender

The only pictures shown in the Daily News were of the more
masculine-appearing women. One of the most despiciable headlines in the
Daily News, “‘I’m a man!’ lesbian growled during fight,” (April 13) was
targeted against Renata Hill, who was taunted by Buckle because of her

Ironically, Johnson, who was singled out by the judge as the “ringleader,”
is the more feminine of the four. According to the New York Times, in his
sentencing remarks, “Justice McLaughlin scoffed at the assertion made by …
Johnson, that she carried a knife because she was just 4-foot-11 and 95
pounds, worked nights and lived in a dangerous neighborhood.” He quoted the
nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never
hurt me.” (June 15)

All of the seven women knew and went to school with Sakia Gunn, a
19-year-old butch lesbian who was stabbed to death in Newark, N.J., in May
2003. Paralleling the present case, Gunn was out with three of her friends
when a man made sexual advances to one of the women. When she replied that
she was a lesbian and not interested, he attacked them. Gunn fought back and
was stabbed to death.

For more information, and to send messages or other support to the women, please see FIERCENYC, an organization fighting to keep this case in the public eye and dedicated to achieving real justice for these 4 women.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I got cat class and I got cat style

At left is the award-winning Chantilly Lace Groucho Marks, who belongs to my super-duper cat-groomer lady, Danelle at the Catty Shack.

Mark is the only beauty-queen I've ever met personally!

I am trying to get Grand Old Man to the Catty Shack, before he barfs himself sick.

I typically have him shaved about 3-4 times a year, in what is called a "lion cut." (He never goes outside and never has, so body temp is not an issue.) He has such severe hairballs, I am sure that is how he has lived to be 13 or 14, however old he is. Whenever I let his hair grow unchecked, as I have lately, he is racked with intestinal problems and vomits hairballs daily. All the king's horses and all the king's men; all the hairball Rx solutions and hairball food-formulas by Science Diet, blah blah, do not help. If he'd eat flax seed or fenugreek, like a person, of course I could cure this. But he shows no interest in voluntarily eating these items, and I treasure my skin too much to attempt to force these on him!

Speaking of which, his claws, which he apparently never learned to sharpen correctly (maybe because he prefers mere furniture to the far superior scratching post?) are as long as hypodermics, and as comfortable, when he relaxes on your lap... When my thighs are dotted with scabs, I figure the time to get him groomed has arrived.

I inherited my beloved GOM from some neighbors who were all set to take him to the pound. A half-breed Persian/Russian Blue, I got furious that their full-bred Himalayan and Persian cats had been chosen to stay, while the half-breed kitty got the boot. Of course, I now realize the inability to train him not to scratch furniture (and by the time I got him at age 6, all hope was forever lost) was part of their antipathy, as well as his unseemly habit of frequent hairball-puking. In any event, my daughter rescued him from the feline-elitist neighbors and summarily deposited him with me--the best Christmas present I ever got.

His hair is like that now-legendary spun-fiberglass angel hair on the old Christmas trees of my childhood... all tangled-wispy and fine, a 7-pound ball of fluff. In the hair sweepstakes, there is no mistaking he takes after his Persian mama, but has the beautiful winsome face (and coloring) of the Russian Blue. He has a sweet, musical purr, and he has always preferred me to everyone else. (He knows I am the one who kept him out of the pound!)

And so, this week, unbeknownst to him, he gets another close shave! Mreeow.

Who are you to wave your finger, you musta been out your head...

Left: Provided by the witty atheists at

From Head-On radio and the New Orleans Times-Picayune comes this interesting story:

Vitter earmarked federal money for creationist group

Posted by Bill Walsh, Washington bureau
September 22, 2007 9:10PM

WASHINGTON -- Sen. David Vitter, R-La., earmarked $100,000 in a spending bill for a Louisiana Christian group that has challenged the teaching of Darwinian evolution in the public school system and to which he has political ties.

The money is included in the labor, health and education financing bill for fiscal 2008 and specifies payment to the Louisiana Family Forum "to develop a plan to promote better science education."

The earmark appears to be the latest salvo in a decades-long battle over science education in Louisiana, in which some Christian groups have opposed the teaching of evolution and, more recently, have pushed to have it prominently labeled as a theory with other alternatives presented. Educators and others have decried the movement as a backdoor effort to inject religious teachings into the classroom.

The nonprofit Louisiana Family Forum, launched in Baton Rouge in 1999 by former state Rep. Tony Perkins, has in recent years taken the lead in promoting "origins science," which includes the possibility of divine intervention in the creation of the universe.

The group's stated mission is to "persuasively present biblical principles in the centers of influence on issues affecting the family through research, communication and networking." Until recently, its Web site contained a "battle plan to combat evolution," which called the theory a "dangerous" concept that "has no place in the classroom." The document was removed after a reporter's inquiry.
But hey, sports fans, here is the really good part:
The group's tax-exempt status prohibits the Louisiana Family Forum from political activity, but Vitter has close ties to the group. Dan Richey, the group's grass-roots coordinator, was paid $17,250 as a consultant in Vitter's 2004 Senate race. Records also show that Vitter's campaign employed Beryl Amedee, the education resource council chairwoman for the Louisiana Family Forum.

The group has been an advocate for the senator, who was elected as a strong supporter of conservative social issues. When Vitter's use of a Washington, D.C., call-girl service drew comparisons last month to the arrest of Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, in what an undercover officer said was a solicitation for sex in an airport men's room, Family Forum Executive Director Gene Mills came to Vitter's defense.
Do these guys have some fucking temerity or what? Where do these hypocritical Republicans COME FROM?????
In a video clip the group posted on the Internet site YouTube, Mills said the two senators' situations are far different. "Craig is denying the allegations," he said. "Vitter has repented of the allegations. He sought forgiveness, reconciliation and counseling."

Vitter's office said it is not surprising that people he employed would also do work for Louisiana Family Forum, which shares his philosophical outlook. He said the education earmark was meant to offer a broad array of views in the public schools.

"This program helps supplement and support educators and school systems that would like to offer all of the explanations in the study of controversial science topics such as global warming and the life sciences," Vitter said in a written statement.

The money in the earmark will pay for a report suggesting "improvements" in science education in Louisiana, the development and distribution of educational materials and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Ouachita Parish School Board's 2006 policy that opened the door to biblically inspired teachings in science classes.

"I believe it is an important program," Vitter said.

Critics said taxpayer money should not go to support a religion-based program.

"This is a misappropriation of public funds," said Charles Kincade, a civil rights lawyer in Monroe who has been involved in church-state cases. "It's a backdoor attempt to push a religious agenda in the public school system."
And you knew Santorum would show up in this story somewhere, dincha?
Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., a Christian conservative defeated for re-election in 2004, attempted to open the door for such money when he inserted language into a report accompanying the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act enabling teachers to offer "the full range of scientific views" when "topics that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution)" are taught.

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a Louisiana law that would have required schools to teach creationist theories, which hold that God created the universe, whenever evolution was taught. In 2002, the Louisiana Family Forum unsuccessfully sought to persuade the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to insert a five-paragraph disclaimer in all of its science texts challenging the natural science view that life came about by accident and has evolved through the process of natural selection.

The group notched a victory last year when the Ouachita School Board adopted a policy that, without mentioning the Bible or creationism, gave teachers leeway to introduce other views besides those contained in traditional science texts.

"Many of our educators feel inadequate to address the controversies," said Mills, executive director of the Louisiana Family Forum.

Mills said that his group didn't request the money in the 2008 appropriations bill, and that Vitter's proposal "was a bit of a surprise."

Mills said his group is not attempting to push the teaching of evolution out of the schools, but wants to supplement it. Yet, some of the material posted on the Louisiana Family Forum's Web site suggests a more radical view.
It just gets better, their "fact-sheet" was penned by another convict-hypocrite:
Among other things, a "Louisiana Family Forum Fact Sheet" at one point included "A Battle Plan -- Practical Steps to Combat Evolution" by Kent Hovind, a controversial evangelist who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for tax offenses and obstruction of justice.

Hovind's paper stated, "Evolution is not a harmless theory but a dangerous religious belief" that underpinned the atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

The group's "Evolution Addendum for Public Schools," also posted on the Web site, offers a flavor of its concerns. The document rejects the evolutionary connection between apes and humans, questions the standard explanation of fossil formation and seeks to undercut the prevailing scientific view that life emerged from a series of chemical reactions.

"Under ideal conditions, the odds of that many amino acids coming together in the right order are approximately the same as winning the Power Ball Lotto every week for the next 640 years," it states. "How could this have happened accidentally?"
I think it would be optimal (academically, as well as a way to increase awareness and tolerance) to teach all the major creation stories: Adam and Eve, Nataraj dancing the universe into creation (my personal favorite), Spider-Woman weaving the earth into existence (second favorite), and so on. But these stories are not science. They are culture and myth; religion and belief. Those should be courses in public schools. The reason they currently can't be is because religious fanatics keep them out; they don't want ALL religions taught equally, they only want theirs taught. Rather than compromise with other faiths to get their particular version out there, the fanatics totally close down and won't let the Muslim and Jainist and other creation-accounts into public school, either.

Also, of course, they think this IS science.
Kincade, the Monroe lawyer, said Vitter's and Louisiana Family Forum's motives are not benign.

"What you have to do is look below the surface," said Kincade, who holds an undergraduate degree in physics and has been active in legal cases in which religious groups challenge science instruction. "It frames the issue in a way that appeals to America's sense of fair play. The problem is, except for fringe people, evolution is an accepted fact of science. It is not a hotly contested issue. The general concept of natural selection and evolution is settled and beyond dispute. To suggest otherwise is misleading. They are trying to backdoor creationism."

Vitter's appropriation was contained in a database compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonprofit group seeking to reduce the number of earmarks in federal legislation. Earlier this year, Congress agreed for the first time to begin linking specially requested earmarks to the names of their sponsors. Taxpayers for Common Sense has compiled thousands of them into searchable databases.

Vitter said the financing request was submitted earlier this year and "was evaluated on its merit." But Steve Ellis, of the taxpayers' group, said most earmarks are not vetted by anyone except the member requesting it.

"Using an earmark to dictate that the Louisiana Family Forum receive the funding to develop a science education program ironically ignores a hallmark of scientific research, making decisions on the basis of competitive, empirical research," Ellis said.

The appropriations bill is awaiting Senate action.
As my late mother would have said: Hoo boy!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Soft-core memories of the Drive-In

Left: THE STEWARDESSES which of course you know is the highest-grossing 3-D movie of all time!

In my post yesterday, I mentioned soft-core porn. In reading it back, I wondered if such a thing even exists now? What was called soft-core in my youth, could now be broadcast on regular network TV with no trouble and no censorship. And certainly, a movie like Midnight Cowboy, (which, believe it or not, was rated X when it first came out), barely qualifies for an R these days.

But what I loved... ah!... were the soft-core movies at the Drive-In! These movies had occupational names like The Stewardesses and Private Duty Nurses. (This was one reason early punk bands sometimes chose names like The Waitresses.) The women in these movies were often in semi-formal competitions with each other, to see who could bed the most guys, and alas, one would always fall in love and have to quit the competition. It was sweet!

The dialogue was weird, as it was usually written by men. Thus, it was the kind of sexual talk men assume women do outside of their presence. (Check out the fabulous song GIRLS TALK by Elvis Costello; at least Elvis knew he didn't have a clue, which just made him more nervous.) These B-movie girls sounded like guys in a locker room, not surprisingly. What's interesting is that they always seemed to be enjoying the dirty dialogue and performed their sex scenes with aplomb. In one of these (and I regret to say I cannot remember the title, as they all tend to run together in my mind), one woman reached over and turned a lamp on during sex, and smiled the dirtiest smile I've ever seen, before or since. Like the guy in Citizen Kane who remembered the girl with the parasol once a month for the rest of his life... I have always remembered that wicked B-movie smile.

I saw these movies at that transcendent and resplendent place called THE DRIVE IN... I miss drive-ins so much, at times, I fear I will scream when I see photos of them, and particularly (((shrieks!)) if I see a photo of one I actually went to, like this one.

The Drive-Ins showed old movies, second run, B-movies, foreign, whatever. The screens were so enormous, you could see them a mile away. Outside one restaurant parking lot (with an excellent view of a drive-in screen), several of us as teenagers would collect randomly to watch the movies with no sound--and it was in this manner I saw several bad movies (LINDA LOVELACE FOR PRESIDENT), as well as movies that required no sound to enjoy (A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS).

Working-class couples used to take their kids to the drive-in; as children, we'd all be asleep by the time the dirty movies (second feature, usually) came on. Taking the kids in a car meant no babysitting costs; it was a cheap way to have a good time. As kids, we would go in our pajamas and run around like crazy before the movie started, then at nightfall we would be suitably exhausted and fall asleep right after the cartoons, even before the opening credits. The adults might take some beer and some eats, maybe invite the cousins or neighbors--I can recall a "line" of cars that was my stepfather's family--two of his brothers, their wives and children. Lots of people would "meet" other cars at the drive-in and then move from car-to-car--as you might recall from the movie Grease.

If your mother had forbidden you to see a certain boy, you dated his friend, and when you all showed up at the drive-in, you could change places. :) Likewise, pot-smokers, gay folks, and people having extramarital affairs, all found fun stuff to do at the drive-in, and everyone was very discreet.

At the drive-in, leaving your car at night (to go to the bathroom, buy some sodapop or whatever), and moving amongst the microphone-stands, was a thoroughly magical and hallucinatory experience. The microphones, hundreds of them inside cars or outside on their stands, broadcast the movie in unison. This created an amazing, haunting stereophonic echo: drive-in polyphony, as beautiful in our memories as a medieval choir.

I can still remember going to get some 7-Up and hearing the most fantastic noise of my life, and I turned transfixed to see a 50-foot-high, white-fringed Roger Daltrey on the screen in front of me, which was as incredible as if Jesus Christ had come back to earth. Holy shit!--I thought. I stood there in the dark, hypnotized by the huge screen (beautifully surrounded by trees and crisp Midwestern summer night), as those hundreds of microphones brought to me the sound of the greatest rock band in the history of the world. (No, that is not open to debate. Not for nothing is my email "Who fan"!) And I can remember the sound of the film WOODSTOCK at the drive-in, as The Who, Paul Butterfield, Alvin Lee, and so many others radiated rhythm from all of those little microphones...

My wish for everyone is that they should have such a wonderful memory.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Girls on Film

Graphic from Radical Women

I attempted to participate in a thread over at Women's Space/Margins, only to have my comments censored. Heart does not tolerate any dissent from any feminists at her site. (Instead of "women's space"--perhaps it should be called "women who agree with Heart's space.") Thus, I will continue here.

Heart, at Margins, writes:

This is the first of a series of posts I plan to do illustrating the intentions of, and reasons for, pornography.
To assume that all pornographers have the same intentions and reasons, is a little silly, doncha think?

If you mean analyze the sexism and misogyny in porn, that's something else again. Interestingly, I saw none of this in your post, just a blanket condemnation of all porn as "rape"--which any 14-year-old kid with internet access knows is simply not accurate.
I get thousands and thousands of spam comments day in, day out, almost all of them advertisements for porn. Right now there are something like 4,000-plus ”comments” — links to pornography, primarily – in my spam queue. Most of it is as vile as can be imagined.
"Vile"--meaning what, exactly? Vile is in the eye of the beholder. Do you mean violent? Say that, then, and be specific. Or is all porn "vile" to you, as I suspect? In which case, you are not in a place to discern which porn is "vile" and which is not.
I’m tired of talking to pro-pornography, pro-prostitution people, male or female, about pornography. I think I’m done with doing that.
When have you had any comprehensive discussion of this kind? I have seen no discussion. TALKING TO, as in, you expect to preach like the fundamentalist you are, and have everyone LISTEN? As you should know, that leads nowhere. People do not appreciate or learn from preaching; they learn from interactive discussion. And this is something I have NEVER seen you engage in.

I am a radical feminist, profoundly skeptical of porn and prostitution, and you even censor me. Therefore, I doubt you've been able to have any kind of civil political discussion with people who are diametrically opposed to you, including women who are currently employed as sex workers.

Thus, when you say "pro-pornography, pro-prostitution"--you actually mean the women employed in these businesses. You have placed yourself above them, and have no interest in discussing the reality of their lives and reasons for their employment with THEM. You prefer to talk over their head, as a preacher discusses the sinners that must be converted.

Their opinion, and whether they WANT to be converted, is of no concern to you.
Discussions with those who are vested in this stuff — who make a living by way of it, who use it all the time, who sell it, who perform in it — remind me of discussions I used to have in my old world with religious fundamentalists who could not be separated from their ideological fixations, obsessions and dogmas by love, money, cogent debate, force, or any combination of the above.
Funny you should say this, since I think you sound exactly like a fundie preacher, and IT'S NO ACCIDENT THE FUNDIES ALL AGREE WITH YOU 100% ABOUT THIS ISSUE.

The fundamentalists are too good to talk to the whores, and you are too. Like them, you simply believe you are smarter and morally superior to the women who actually do this work, and you don't have any reason to listen to anything THEY tell you. When they tell you what THEY believe would make their lives easier, you don't care. You know better than they do. You consider yourself superior in every way.

Otherwise, why not listen? Why not dialog? Why not grant these women the respect you grant the women on your site?
They stood ready to defend their beliefs — and that’s about it.
"Beliefs" are not tantamount to challenging someone's livelihood/job and ability to earn a living. You are the one who counsels sex workers that they should stop earning money this way, yet you propose no solutions for them. And that's about it.
They were pretty much incapable of even considering the possibility that they might have missed something, might not be seeing something, let alone that they might be wrong.
FTR, I think sex work sounds terrible. I would not want to do it, or have my daughter do it. I would also not want to pick grapes or soybeans out in the fields, or work on an assembly line, as my father did. However, I do want the migrant workers and factory employees to have rights and unionization, whether I think they are exploited or not--in fact, PRIMARILY and PRECISELY for this reason--to prevent FURTHER exploitation.

Do you in fact agree that workers need unions and rights? Why are you making an exception for WOMEN, in this case? Why have you bought into the MALE definition of sex work as SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS rather than a business transaction?

It's men who fantasize about the sex-work-scenarios being "real"--surely you realize they are not? They are part of the job, just as a car salesman laughs at our dumb jokes in hopes we will buy one of his cars. But you seem to have a totally different standard for judging women's work, in this instance, and what has historically been men's work. Men's work is respected by you, and women's is not, unless it's sewing, childcare, knitting or canning fruit.

Unless sanctioned by the Church, in other words.
I always find it perplexing, the way the pro-porn side invokes the spectre of fundamentalism in its arguments or diatribes or propaganda. My experience is, if there are fundamentalists in this debate, they are on the pro-porn side.
As I said, I agree with you that the business is nasty and exploitative to women. I agree it perpetrates misogyny. What I don't agree with is how you want to judge and punish women for their own oppression, therefore blaming the victim. You want to deny them all rights, reinforce their marginal legal status and you approve of the system that legally penalizes them.

You won't even listen to a radical feminist who disagrees with you, like me.

Umm, you can easily see why the "spectre of fundamentalism" is invoked, since you agree with the fundamentalists 100% about throwing hookers in the pokey? Don't you?

Aren't you the one who agrees with the fundamentalists that these women do not deserve Social Security benefits, Worker's comp, retirement, health insurance, and the other valuable rights gained by collective bargaining?

Aren't you the one who thinks these women aren't good enough to qualify for these rights, yet you are?

How is that different from a fundamentalist?
The 11 words at the top of the page tell us what pornography is about. It is about men forcing their bodies inside of and onto the bodies of women.
So, the women being paid for this, are in all cases being forced? No.

Again, you prove by this statement that you do not listen to the words of sex workers. You proudly and arrogantly ignore what THEY SAY, and you place yourself above them. You know more than they do, like a good Church elder.
It is about men forcing women to do things they do not want to do.
Even when they are paid and willingly want to enter this business?
Especially, the words communicate the interest men have in watching women being raped.
It isn't actual rape, Heart. It's a fantasy story about rape, that some men enjoy. (There are also porn-fantasies involving the rape of men by women and other men, you realize?) Sex workers make money off of men's fantasies; that is in large part what sex work involves. But their fantasies are not real. Why are you endorsing male definitions of porn as "reality"?
We all know a woman is depicted in the film those 11 words advertise, but she is a dehumanized woman. She has no name; she is a generic “blonde,” a generic “whore.”
Umm, you mean as in your previous paragraph: "those who are vested in this stuff — who make a living by way of it, who use it all the time, who sell it, who perform in it"--I see no names in that sentence, either. You invoke a generic sex worker, a generic whore.

If I am mistaken, how about you name some names of actual women? Or do you even know the names of any real-life sex workers you claim to care so much about?

Didn't think so.
The understanding and agreement between the maker and advertiser and the consumer of pornography is that nobody cares about the names, identities or lives of “blondes” or “whores” or any other woman being raped by men in pornography and nobody wants to know any of that.
And when these sex workers attempt dialog and actually try to comment on your site, you won't allow it. You won't even allow a feminist who disagrees with you, on your don't want to know any of that, either, since it contradicts your world-view.
The agreement is that the porn consumer should be free to order up a constellation of body parts and the pornographer should stand ready to provide them.
Where is this "agreement" you speak of?
The agreement is the pornographer will provide images of rape and violence which humiliate and degrade already-dehumanized women whose names we do not know.
Again, where is this "agreement" you speak of? Certainly, you HAVE seen soft-core porn with kisses, hugs and fervent I-love-you's interspersed with copulation? Why are you saying here that all porn is about humiliation, when anyone can turn on cable TV and see otherwise?

Do you think these disingenuous statements help your argument? How?
The agreement, especially, is that this will be sexually titillating and exciting to the consumer.
Again, where is this "agreement"? What are you talking about?
This is what real men want to see: “blondes” and “whores” being raped. Available for cash, at the click of a link.

Comments, as always will be moderated. Men and women may comment, so long as they are anti-pornography. At some point, as anti-pornography activists, we are going to have to work to provide some sort of public counterbalance to the weight of the pornographic garbage passing for “discussion” and “debate” which we, and millions of others, find suffocating and deadly.
Really? Because I have never seen you do this even once. Gotta link to a real discussion? You are a very influential feminist, and I have found many of your discussions all over the web; I have seen you fulminate, proclaim, preach, huff-and-puff-and-blow-the-house-down, but never DISCUSS in good faith.

In fact, this whole post of yours strikes me as one long MASTURBATORY exercise for you--proving that everyone has various ways of getting off, and this is yours, isn't it?

Ashes to ashes, funk to funky, we know Major Tom's a junkie...

Perhaps it's because I turned 50, but it's certainly been an interesting week. Thanks to my friends S. and B., my life has had a dreamlike quality these past few days, filled with surprises, gifts and tarot readings... As a result, I've been thinking of this song and video.

The song lives deep inside me, and has for nearly three decades; the accompanying phantasmagorical images a reminder that magic is real, and lives in the imagination.


Ashes to Ashes - David Bowie

Thursday, September 20, 2007

What really happened to Pfc. LaVena Johnson?

Left: Pfc. LaVena Johnson, photo from Essence

From the blog BEAUTIFUL, ALSO, ARE THE SOULS OF MY BLACK SISTERS comes a case that I have heard NOTHING about, which is pretty amazing, news-hound that I am.

Thus, the fact that I didn't know, makes me instantly suspicious.

Private First Class LaVena Johnson, died near Balad, Iraq, on July 19, 2005. The first woman soldier from Missouri to die while serving in Iraq, she was only nineteen years old.

Dr. John Johnson, Lavena’s father, was initially told by an Army representative, that his daughter “died of self-inflicted, noncombat injuries,” but initially added that it was not a suicide. The subsequent Army investigation reversed this finding and declared LaVena’s death a suicide, a finding refuted by the soldier’s family. In an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dr. Johnson pointed to indications that his daughter had endured a physical struggle before she died - two loose front teeth, a “busted lip” that had to be reconstructed by the funeral home - suggesting that “someone might have punched her in the mouth.”
KMOV (St Louis) eventually aired a story which revealed details not previously made public: Parents question their daughter’s mysterious death in Iraq.

News 4’s Matt Sczesny took a close look at the evidence gathered by the military and asks the question, “was it murder or suicide?”

Among the thousands of graves at Jefferson Barracks cemetery there are stories of bravery, heroism, and proud service.

Among the thousands is the grave of Private Lavena Johnson, whose story is clouded in mystery and according to her parents, marred by murder and cover-up.

Lavena’s father, Dr. John Johnson, has waged his own personal crusade to find out what really happened to his daughter in Iraq on July 19, 2005.

The army ruled her death a suicide, the victim of a gunshot wound to the head.

In documents and autopsy photos obtained by the Johnson family and shared with News 4, more questions are raised than answered.

One strange fact was that Lavena was apparently abused, physically, and the autopsy didn’t address the physical trauma to her body.

Military documents also show no apparent indication of suicide, her company commander wrote that Johnson was clearly happy and healthy physically and emotionally, something her mother knew by a phone conversation the day before she died.

Johnson’s parents also question how their daughter at 5’1”, could handle a 40 inch M-16 to kill herself while sitting.

In fact, a military laboratory even concluded that based on a gunshot residue test, Johnson may not have even handled the weapon.

Additionally, Johnson’s military debit card was never found, even though she used it two hours before her death to buy candy.

No bullet was ever found where she died, and a trail of blood is seen in photos outside the tent. Even stranger, it appears as if someone tried to set her body on fire.

So if it wasn’t a suicide as the Army maintains, then how did Lavena Johnson die?

Based on the autopsy photos, her father believes that she was raped.

The military is unconvinced and consider the case closed.

A Pentagon spokesman says that the case was investigated thoroughly and that there is no evidence to reopen.

News 4 tried for weeks to get the Army to say more about the death of Private Johnson, but they’re only response is that the investigation is closed.

Certainly the documents military investigators have gathered seem to say a lot more.

Johnson’s father is now trying to have her body exhumed at Jefferson Barracks to have an independent autopsy performed.”


[Official]documents provided elements of another scenario altogether:

* Indications of physical abuse that went unremarked by the autopsy
* The absence of psychological indicators of suicidal thoughts; indeed, testimony that LaVena was happy and healthy prior to her death
* Indications, via residue tests, that LaVena may not even have handled the weapon that killed her
* A blood trail outside the tent where Lavena’s body was found
* Indications that someone attempted to set LaVena’s body on fire

The Army has resisted calls by Dr. Johnson and by KMOV to reopen its investigation.

THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! Why haven't we heard about LaVena?

... it takes moral outrage, family vocalization, and community involvement to the government, to bring to bear upon the Army to find the truth, to tell the truth, to honor the men and women who put on the uniform to serve their country, says alot about the callousness of this country which saw fit to send these young women and men into a war with a country which has done no aggression against America. No huge outcry has yet come to bear in the case of LaVena. There are no loud chorus of voices demanding that the military be held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof in the mishandling of this young woman’s case. Anyone, and everyone, can and should, speak for her. It may seem that the comparision between the cases of LaVena Johnson and Pat Tillman may seem unrelated, but both cases are the same. In both cases, the death of a young soldier in a dangerous place, in an unjustly declared rogue war, was not explained to the families they left behind, the families that gave them up to go halfway around the world to fight a war for oil, to put their lives on the line for those of us here in America. The Army should not be so cold and heartless in how it disregards its soldiers. It is not too much to ask that the Army take into consideration all evidence of this young woman’s death. (The attempt to set her body on fire; the trail of blood found outside of her living area.) That her family has many unanswered questions surrounding her death, and the inept handling of Lavena’s case (judging by the evidence left at the scene of her death )by the military, speaks volumes to military injustice in how it treats, or rather, mistreats its soldiers.

Please do not let this young soldier’s death be in vain. She took it upon herself to serve her country, with honor. Let her be honored by not letting her story fall into silence.

1. Sign the online petition to the Armed Services Committees in Congress asking them to direct the Army to reinvestigate the death of LaVena Johnson.

2. Find your Senator or Representative on the Armed Services Committees list and contact them directly about LaVena. (Thanks to the blogsite, for outstanding work to keep Lavena in the public’s mind.)

3. For background on Lavena Johnson, please view the KMOV-TV news report from 02.21.07.

Please do your part, and again, thanks so much to BEAUTIFUL, ALSO, ARE THE SOULS OF MY BLACK SISTERS for truth-telling in this matter!


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

He hit me and it felt like a kiss

Yes, after a week went by, I knew. I grit my teeth; I cursed. I bayed at the moon. But I knew. And today, we found out for sure. The jury in the Phil Spector murder trial is at an impasse:

Jurors deadlocked in Phil Spector murder trial

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Jurors in the murder trial of legendary music producer Phil Spector said Tuesday they were deadlocked, raising the possibility of a mistrial after a five-month-long court-room battle.

In a dramatic development at a packed Los Angeles Superior Court, jurors mulling murder charges against Spector said that after four ballots they were split 7-5, with no prospect of a breakthrough.

"At this time we don't believe that anything else will change the positions of the jurors based on the facts of the case," the jury foreman told Judge Larry Paul Fidler on the seventh day of deliberations.

Fidler later dismissed the jury for the day. They will return on Wednesday at 10:00 am after three members of the nine-man three-woman panel requested further instructions.

One woman juror said she wanted clarification on the difference between "doubt" and "reasonable doubt," although Fidler said later he doubted further instruction would help.

In a surprise development, Fidler said jurors may be asked to consider convicting Spector on involuntary manslaughter charges. He had earlier ruled that jurors would only be able to consider a second degree murder charge.

Fidler also dismissed a defense motion for the case to be declared a mistrial.

Spector, 67, who pioneered the "Wall of Sound" recording technique during the 1960s and is regarded as one of the most influential figures in rock-pop music history, is accused of gunning down B-movie actress Lana Clarkson at his castle-like home in February 2003.

Prosecutors allege that the reclusive Spector shot Clarkson in the head as she attempted to leave his home after meeting him for the first time only a few hours before in the Hollywood nightclub where she worked.

District attorney Alan Jackson said during the trial Spector had a "rich history of violence" against women, often flying into drunken, gun-toting rages whenever they tried to leave his company.

No fewer than five women acquaintances of Spector testified that the genius behind 1960s hits such as "Da Doo Ron Ron" and "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" threatened them with guns in incidents dating back to the 1970s.

Spector's former chauffeur also provided damaging evidence, telling jurors that on the night of the shooting his employer had emerged from a doorway clutching a pistol in a bloodied hand to say: "I think I killed somebody."

Defense lawyers argued however that Clarkson, famous for her role in Roger Corman's 1985 cult classic "The Barbarian Queen" but whose career had stalled at the time of her death, killed herself.

Kim at The Darwin Exception asks:

Well, we were kind of expecting this at this point, weren’t we?
Yes, I suppose so, but I am nonetheless sick over it.

Kim continues:

The judge says that he has been reviewing case law, and despite both sides agreement that this is an all or nothing case, he has found case law to support the fact that the judge has a sua sponte responsibility to instruct on manslaughter. He gives the attorneys the specific case cite “People Vs. Lee” 20 Cal 4th 47,and says that if the attorneys can’t convince him that he doesn’t have this sua sponte responsibility, then he will re-open arguments and instruct the jury on this charge.

The Lee case is a case wherein a husband shot his wife, and forensic examination showed it was a contact wound to the head, but no one witnessed the shooting. This case held that brandishing the weapon was an included and lesser offense, and that the judge had a sua sponte responsibility to instruct on the lesser.

The judge says that he wants both sides to look at this case and argue to him why or why not the judge should have a responsibility to re-open the case for argument wherein each side will argue the manslaughter charge to the jury. Voluntary manslaughter is “in the heat of the moment” or “in the heat of passion:” - that doesn’t fit this case at all. Involuntary manslaughter is killing without intent or malice - which, while both sides agreed that this didn’t apply, the judge is now reconsidering. Involuntary Manslaughter in California carries anywhere from a 3 -6 year sentence, and then there is the gun enhancement in this case, which would be additional time.

And then we get to the heart of so many jury problems these days:

[Juror] #9 says that it would be nice to know the difference between reasonable doubt and just doubt.

I am tempted to say: it is the difference between being an idiot, or not.

Is it really true, then, that in America, justice can be bought? Or at least postponed.

Mood: glum.

Gator in the bushes

A bit extreme, wouldn't you say? Watch out for them Gators!

Student Arrested, Tasered at Kerry Event

By TRAVIS REED, Associated Press
AOL News Posted: 2007-09-18 14:32:56

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - A University of Florida student with a history of taping his own practical jokes was Tasered by campus police and arrested after loudly and repeatedly trying to ask U.S. Sen. John Kerry questions during a campus forum.

Andrew Meyer, 21, spent a night in jail before his release from jail Tuesday morning on his own recognizance. He had no comment when he left. His attorney, Robert Griscti, did not return messages seeking comment.

Videos of the Monday night incident, posted on several Web sites and played repeatedly on television news, show officers pulling Meyer away from the microphone after he asks Kerry about impeaching President Bush and whether he and Bush were both members of the secret society Skull and Bones at Yale University.

University spokesman Steve Orlando said Meyer was asked to leave the microphone after his allotted time was up. Meyer can be seen refusing to walk away and getting upset that the microphone was cut off.

As two officers take Meyer by the arms, Kerry, D-Mass., can be heard saying, "That's all right, let me answer his question."

Audience members applaud, and Meyer struggles for several seconds as up to four officers try to remove him from the room. Meyer screams for help and tries to break away from officers with his arms flailing at them, then is forced to the ground and officers order him to stop resisting.

As Kerry tells the audience he will answer the student's "very important question," Meyer yells at the officers to release him, crying out, "Don't Tase me, bro," just before he is shocked by the Taser. He is then led from the room, screaming, "What did I do?"

Meyer was arrested on charges of resisting an officer and disturbing the peace, according to Alachua County jail records, but the State Attorney's Office had yet to make the formal charging decision. Police recommended charges of resisting arrest with violence, a felony, and disturbing the peace and interfering with school administrative functions, a misdemeanor.

University President J. Bernard Machen issued a statement Tuesday saying he requested the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the arrest. Officials said it would determine whether the officers used an appropriate level of force.

Machen called the situation "regretful" in an afternoon news conference and said two officers involved in the incident were placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the probe.

"We're absolutely committed to having a safe environment for our faculty and our students so that a free exchange of ideas can occur," Machen said.

Kerry said Tuesday he regretted that a healthy discussion was interrupted and that he never had a dialogue end that way in 37 years of public appearances. He also said he hoped neither the student nor police were injured.

"Whatever happened, the police had a reason, had made their decision that there was something they needed to do. That was a law enforcement issue, not mine," he told The Associated Press in Washington.

Meyer has his own Web site and it contains several "comedy" videos that he appears in. In one, he stands in a street with a sign that says "Harry Dies" after the latest Harry Potter book was released. In another, he acts like a drunk while trying to pick up a woman in a bar.

The site also has what is called a "disorganized diatribe" attributed to Meyer that criticizes the Iraq war, the news media for not covering the conflict enough and the American public for paying too much attention to celebrity news.

Associated Press writer Andrew Miga in Washington contributed to this report.
Does anyone know any more about this incident?

Update: Media Matters has written on this incident, and links to right-wing Michael Savage, who decided to pile on by calling one of the law enforcement officers a "bull-dyke fascist" on his website.

Monday, September 17, 2007

You say it's your birthday

It's my half-century mark! Whoever thought I would live so long? I'm just as surprised as everyone else!

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek--and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”-- Jalal ad-Din Rumi

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Church with David Johansen: All is well

The Mormons have taken a public beating this week, what with the trial of Warren Jeffs and the stories of his droogs all over the media, so I'd like to personally extend an olive branch and say: peace! (((holds up two fingers, trad peace sign))) Time for an LDS hymn!

If you saw the fascinating documentary New York Doll (2005), about Arthur 'Killer' Kane (1949-2004), bassist of the New York Dolls, you know that he converted to Mormonism and died shortly after the Dolls reunion that he had wanted so much. Also, after making amends with Johansen, with whom he had feuded.

I confess, that making up with old enemies and then promptly dying, is one of those weird fantasies of probably comes from the frequent joke one hears upon leaving the confessional: If you died right now, you'd be a saint! (Thus, I have always been fascinated by any church that declares they already ARE saints.)

And of course, this means there are only two of the original Dolls left, David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain.

At the end of the documentary, Johansen sung a lovely version of LDS Hymn #30 "Come Come Ye Saints", in tribute to Arthur Kane.

Stand for the hymn--there is only one verse here, so no excuses!

Everyone have a lovely sabbath!

Friday, September 14, 2007

OJ Simpson committed a robbery??

Left: Yes, you know who it is.

I wish I had more info, but hey, I am just a COURT TV junkie like everyone else:

O.J. Simpson a suspect in Vegas hotel theft

By Ari B. Bloomekatz,
Los Angeles Times
10:32 AM PDT, September 14, 2007

O.J. Simpson is a suspect in a theft of sports memorabilia from a hotel room at Palace Station Hotel and Casino, police in Las Vegas said today.

"The investigation is ongoing, and O.J. Simpson is alleged to be the suspect," Las Vegas Police Sgt. John Loretto said by telephone.

The former football star was questioned and released, Loretto said. He was not arrested.

Yale L. Galanter, a Florida-based attorney for Simpson, did not return repeated calls this morning for comment.

The memorabilia were in a hotel room in the casino Thursday night, police spokesman Jose Montoya said. Loretto would not describe the memorabilia, including what sport was involved.

"When they talked to him, Simpson made the comment that he believed the memorabilia was his," the Associated Press quoted Montoya as saying. "We're getting conflicting stories from the two sides."

Police said "associates of Simpson" were also questioned, according to the AP.

Simpson's turmoil comes a day after the family of Ron Goldman published a book about the slayings of Goldman and Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. The two were killed in 1994 and Simpson was acquitted of criminal murder charges. He was found liable for their deaths in civil lawsuits.

The book was written by Simpson and originally titled "If I Did It," but after his publishing deals fell through, the Goldman family bought the rights to the book and subsequently published it under the new title "If I Did It: The Confessions of the Killer."

Simpson lives in Florida.

Las Vegas police scheduled a news conference for later today.

Watching that press conference now...OJ is cooperating. They have surveillance tapes and photos, but won't show them to us.

Stay tuned, sports fans!

Should polygamy be illegal?

Left: The cast of BIG LOVE, photo from HBO

Yes, yes, you are thinking Daisy has lost her mind, or at least misplaced her feminism. Nope, actually, I am watching the trial of sleazy Warren Jeffs, and considering his defense that this is a case of religious persecution. Is it? Well, duh, I'd say so, if polygamy is a tenet of his faith, and he is regarded as The Prophet. Polygamy is an undeniable, integral article of faith for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. However, this is also about a minor girl marrying her cousin, under Jeffs' direction, without her consent. That is to say, this case is about rape.

If there were no abuses of minors, no coercion (and it's unclear how we might enforce this, of course), what exactly would be the problem? I would be rabid about the government NOT supporting all of these children, as in the case of Tom Green, who should have gone to jail for welfare fraud, in addition to his crime of marrying children.

But say the guy could afford it? Many can, particularly if the women start working also, as some apparently do. And let's say that everyone is of consenting age? What is the harm, exactly?

If we believe in separation of church and state, why are we legislating rules out of the Bible?

Let me make it clear that I think Jeffs is a scumbag, and no charmer like Bill Paxton on the popular HBO series about a polygamous family, BIG LOVE. However, polyamory in general has always interested me. What about a woman who wants several husbands? It could happen!

What about group marriages of several men and women (or gay/lesbian group marriage), as the legendary Kerista Commune attempted in the 70s and 80s? When we make equality of women a prerequisite, as the Keristans attempted to do (whether they were completely successful in this endeavor is another matter), polyamory (Keristans preferred the term polyfidelity, which I like better) might actually be an equalizer of men and women.

In the end, I just don't think the government should be telling people what to do in their personal lives, period. If they want 80 wives, not my call. If one of them is 14, well then, it is.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gay-bashing neanderthals on the loose in Long Island

Left: Josie Smith-Malave, from New York Magazine

I'm no gourmet cook, so I can't explain the fact that I am a huge TOP CHEF fan. I was therefore very upset to hear of the following:

Former 'Top Chef' contestant Josie Smith-Malave beaten by anti-gay attackers on Long Island

Sept. 12, 2007, 8:13AM
Associated Press

SEA CLIFF, N.Y. — A former contestant on Bravo's Top Chef was beaten by attackers yelling anti-gay slurs, her lawyer said.

Josie Smith-Malave, who was featured on the second season of the reality show, was among a small group of women who were asked to leave a Sea Cliff bar over Labor Day weekend, lawyer Yetta Kurland said Tuesday.

About 10 young people followed the women and began screaming anti-gay epithets, spitting on them and then beating them, Kurland said.

Smith-Malave, who is in her early 30s, is openly gay, Kurland said.

Nassau County police said they were investigating, but declined to provide details of the incident.

Smith-Malave, a Miami native, is a former sous-chef for Marlow and Sons restaurant in Brooklyn. She has played for the New York Sharks of the Independent Women's Football League.

From the Head-On Radio Network.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lies, Inc.

Left: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, photo from PBS.

From Sue at Head On Radio:

Lottirj sent along this link to a 9 page GQ article featuring Colin Powell. I’m not going to give any of it away here. Just go here and read it all for yourself. I honestly think Powell is the key to impeachment. The one thing he constantly denies though is that the pre-war intell was all lies. He admits to it being wrong, but not fabricated. Maybe he should see the fact cooking and cherry picking evidence we’ve all seen.
This is an incredible document. Read it and weep.

For example, Powell is asked: Are you sorry you didn’t question things more forcefully?
At the time, when I felt the president might not have focused on all the potential consequences, I said I needed to see him. I went to the White House and had a private session with him. I told him that we could knock over Saddam’s regime but he needed to understand what we would be faced with once we had done that. It was my “When you break it, you own it” speech. I said that this invasion would tie up the better part of 40 percent of our army for an indefinite period of time. It will be hugely expensive. You will be dealing with this for a long time to come. I said, “Take it to the U.N. See if we can get something from the U.N. that might allow us to avoid this war.” He said, “Let’s share this with the others.” And a few days later, we had a discussion with everyone, some by videoconference. They eventually agreed that we should take it to the U.N., some more willingly than others. Dick [Cheney] didn’t think it would work, and Don [Rumsfeld] I was not sure about, because you couldn’t always tell his opinion. Had I done my duty? I think so.

Do you feel responsible for giving the U.N. flawed intelligence?

I didn’t know it was flawed. Everybody was using it. The CIA was saying the same thing for two years. I gave perhaps the most accurate presentation of the intelligence as we knew it—without any of the “Mushroom clouds are going to show up tomorrow morning” and all the rest of that stuff. But the fact of the matter is that a good part of it was wrong, and I am sorry that it was wrong.

Read the whole mealy-mouthed interview at GQ.