Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Haley Watch: Why won't Democrats attack the governor?

South Carolina's progressives continue to twist slowly, slowly, in the wind. The official state Democratic Party seems to be ... well, where are they?

There are plenty of actual rank-and-file Democratic voters, but the state party leadership seems to be too timid to actually present these voters with any real options. (It might, you know, appear RUDE or something.)

It is therefore up to conservative libertarians like Will Folks, to attack Governor Nikki Haley for being corrupt. The conservatives are left to do the work of criticizing Republicans?!?

Yesterday, FITSNews reported:
S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley says she will openly defy a two-decade-old state law which prohibits elected officials from using taxpayer resources to conduct political campaigning.

Haley has been busted violating this law on numerous occasions in the past – most notably during the aftermath of a previously undisclosed car crash that followed a campaign event in North Carolina (news of this crash was reported exclusively by FITS).

Prior to that Haley has come under fire for racking up exorbitant security costs on political trips – including fundraising trips. The governor reimbursed some (but not all) of those costs.

Now she won’t have to pay any of them.
Check out the whole thing. Read it and weep.

And while you're at it, weep over the fact that Will is 100% correct. His CONSERVATIVE blog, FITSNews, exclusively reported Haley's North Carolina car crash that occurred on our dime. No Democrats have used this incident to go after Haley hammer and tongs, as they should. Instead, we get the usual tepid, perfunctory and meek "response" quotes; the sort of half-baked, apologetic political bullshit always offered for standard publication.

In the above post, for example, we read the following boring-ass quote from SC Democratic Party spokeswoman Kristin Sosanie:
Rather than following South Carolina’s laws and behaving ethically, Nikki Haley just writes herself a new set of rules so she can continue to campaign on the taxpayer dime.
Wow, ya think?!?

Will's post has more chutzpah in one sentence, than THE REAL DEMOCRATS can muster in all of their silly, inconsequential canned-media mewling.

How about something like this: "This irresponsible, lazy, narcissistic and inexperienced LIAR is thieving from the people of South Carolina to fund her pricey, designer-clothes wardrobe; her trips to France and Germany; crashes of unauthorized cars in North Carolina; and now... she is going to use our money to keep her job for another four years. Meanwhile, the Department of Revenue is hacked, while she takes another vacation. She needs to GO. She is destroying the state."

THAT is how it's done, people.

Hey Dems, if you need me to help you out, contact my radio show. I'll be glad to write you some applause lines. Or maybe you can call Will?

Apparently, the Republicans and Green Party people are more effective at being Democrats than the Democrats are.


The Democrats have launched no genuine, full-throttle, hard-hitting ATTACKS on this ethically-challenged, opportunistic political-nightmare, who is spending our money like it is going out of style, all while advertising herself as a fiscal conservative. Voters on both sides of the political spectrum are thoroughly FED UP with her.

Where are the Democrats and why are they not taking full advantage of this sordid situation? Same place they've always been: asleep at the switch. As always. As usual.

In this state, Democrats are too defeatist to even BEGIN. They are too cowed to realize when they actually have the upper hand, as they do with corrupt Governor Haley. They are so accustomed to losing, they practically announce their losses before election season. They expect the worst, and therefore try to behave and blend in, basically apologizing for existing.

Democratic slogan in South Carolina: "We're sorry for being the opposition! It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it!"

But see, they DON'T do it, is the problem. They are a collection of empty suits.

This is the party that nominated an unelectable man with a prison record to run for the 3rd District congressional seat, rather than dynamic Jeanne van den Hurk, who would have run a vital, energetic and very capable campaign against awful Tea Partier Jeff Duncan. This is the party repeatedly presenting us with the well-behaved snoozefest known as Vincent Sheheen (no offense, Vince, but facts are facts) to run against Governor Haley, an up-and-coming, razzle-dazzle neocon star (and Vogue model) with oodles of Tea Party money at her disposal. This is the party that gave us the disaster known as Alvin Greene to run against the formidable Jim DeMint. This is the party that did VERY LITTLE to help my friend Deb Morrow, in her congressional run against the 4th District's terrible Trey Gowdy.

Why are they so incompetent? WHAT ARE THEY DOING?

Why are they so comatose and complacent in the face of total disaster?

(((Daisy goes off to gnash teeth, pull out hair, and howl at the moon.)))

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lou Reed 1942-2013

After hearing the news today, I find I am still not able to rationally discuss the impact of Lou Reed on my life.

I remember someone once remarked that the Velvet Underground only had about 200 fans, "but every one of them, started a band." And so, the legend was born; Lou was a legend to other legends. It is hard to describe the impact his work had on those of us who felt marginalized, those of us on the outside.

In so many ways, you had to be there.

I got a tattoo inspired by Lou. Early in recovery, I decided I did not want to be that heartless junkie in the middle-section of Street Hassle, who declares he won't wear his heart on his sleeve, will not become emotional when faced with the death of a stranger.

I knew that I did want to be that person, and that desire, that hope, is what prompted me to save my own life, to search for something better.

I do want to wear my heart on my sleeve. And so I got tattoo of a heart there, to remind me.

Goodbye dear friend. It hurts so much to lose you.


Some people got no choice
and they can never find a voice
To talk with, that they can even call their own
So the first thing that they see
That allows them the right to be
Well, they follow it.

You know, its called
Bad luck.

(from Street Hassle by Lou Reed)


We will be discussing Lou Reed's life and work on the radio show tomorrow.

And I hope to play this:

Rock and Roll - Velvet Underground

You know her life was saved by rock and roll.


Edit and Correction, from the New York Times, it was Brian Eno who said it, and here is their direct quote:

The composer Brian Eno, in an often-quoted interview from 1982, suggested that if the [The Velvet Underground]’s first record sold only 30,000 records during its first five years — a figure probably lower than the reality — “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”


EDIT AGAIN 10/28/2013: I was really surprised to find this on YouTube, because, well, it just defies description. It's an 8-minute (spoken) story, and ... to say more is to ruin it. (Just one thing: if you start listening, please continue to the end.)

However, I don't mind telling you, I know the whole thing by heart and can recite it verbatim from memory: "Waldo Jeffers had reached his limit..."

I have never before admitted that out loud. But there it is.

The Gift - Velvet Underground

PS: Happy Halloween! ;)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Radio Updates and some music too

At left, Occupy the Microphone in progress, yesterday. We interviewed Jasmine Lowrance about her anti-violence program in schools, Inspirational Wisdom. (Photo by Traci Fant.)

Today, we talked about the Michael Skakel verdict being overturned, and interviewed Yolanda Johnson about her local business, REFLECTIONS.

Mary Olsen of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service also joined us to talk about the recent (May of this year) and alarming leak at the Catawba Nuclear Station, which has leaked more than 100 gallons of water with traces of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen.

Now there is a second leak, reported yesterday. From the Aiken Standard:
LAKE WYLIE (AP) — Water with traces of a radioactive hydrogen isotope has again leaked at a South Carolina nuclear power plant, but the spill hasn’t made nearby drinking water unsafe, according to federal regulators. According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, more than 100 gallons of water containing tritium leaked over the weekend during maintenance at the Catawba Nuclear Station in York County. Water was being pumped from the main condenser to a site collection pump, and the water in the pond overflowed, officials said.
Duke Energy's continuing negligence is going to be the ruin of us.


Currently watching BLACKFISH, the searing (and long-overdue) CNN documentary about the treatment of "killer whales" (orcas) by SEA WORLD. Quite honestly, I am watching intermittently. When it gets to be too much, I switch over to something tolerable.

CNN takes a bit of a risk in showing this, but to make up for it, they give a whole webpage over to allowing SEA WORLD to defend itself, as well as booking a non-official SEA WORLD apologist for Crossfire.

The documentary has sparked a whole new debate about taking kids to animal parks, about which I have always been ambivalent. As an animal rights-advocate, the practice makes me almost hyperventilate. And yet, I know how important it is for children to SEE animals, the better to appreciate the habitats and creatures we want them to preserve, protect, and possibly save from extinction. We want them to love the animals, and we hope this experience will nurture that love.

But... what about the animals?

Please don't miss BLACKFISH, even if you have to skip over the violence/abuse/neglect every ten minutes or so. It is worth knowing and remembering.


Music Time! This is one of the best instrumentals of the 70s, I was glad to finally locate it.

Black Pit - Steppenwolf (1971)


George Clinton's Mothership has been acquired by the Smithsonian! That's the best news I've heard in awhile.

Meanwhile, I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the Universe.

Contains sublime guitar work by Eddie Hazel; one the greatest solos ever.

Maggot Brain - Funkadelic (1971)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Confederate Memorial

We went down to Springwood Cemetery, because Mr Daisy discovered that one of his favorite mystery authors was buried there, John Dickson Carr.

And so, while we were there, we had a look around. It was cloudy and overcast, giving off a perfect Halloween vibe. We saw some interesting tombstones, many very old.

This statue was on a toddler-aged child's tombstone, very poignant:

This being the South, lots of references to heaven:

Springwood Cemetery is well-known as a famous Confederate resting place. There are countless tombstones accompanied by the historic CSA (Confederate States of America) marker. Many are unmarked stones. It is a popular site for genealogical researchers, as well as history buffs.

Memorial to General Robert E Lee:

Interestingly, it is now known as Main Street, and hasn't been called "Dixie Highway" since I have lived here.

And there is a Confederate Memorial with some sobering words on the side. I knew as soon as I read it, I had to share it here.

The monument reads:

All lost, but by the graves
Where martyred heroes rest
He wins the most who honor saves
Success is not the test
The world shall yet decide
In Truth's clear far-off light
that the soldiers
who wore the Gray and died
with Lee, were in the right.

Obviously, speaking from 2013, Truth's clear far-off light has decided the opposite. But see, how utterly certain they were? As certain as today's war-partisans are.

And I often wonder, how will history judge us?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The AA ballad of Hugo Schwyzer

My enduring silence on this past summer's Hugo Schwyzer debacle, has been wholly deliberate. For those who need the background, check it out HERE, HERE and HERE. (Warnings out the wazoo, as we say here in the South.)

One of those primary "recovery rules" is that you do not judge another addict, or doubt that they are sober.

Just look at the fallout here when I (correctly) called the cause of Brittany Murphy's death before it was official. I was considered ableist and out of line. (And when I was proven right, none of these people apologized to me either.) I learned from that, and decided I would be more circumspect the next time.

And so initially, I did not plan on saying anything at all about Hugo's now-famous, bizarre meltdown. But since then, folks have pointedly asked me for my opinion, since I mentioned him in my post about my own AA anniversary... and so I have now decided to comment at length.


At some point, I think after I read the famous jizz piece, I decided feminist-professor Hugo was using and/or drinking again.

The problem was (see Brittany Murphy, Michael Jackson, et al), these were undoubtedly perfectly-legal, professionally-vetted, prescribed meds that he had started abusing again... and this is one reason hard-core Alcoholics Anonymous people like my sponsor were so categorically anti-drug. Prescription drugs are still drugs. Of course there are always "good reasons" for them; I got a million Rxs in my life, with no trouble. Had good reasons for them all. Primary among these reasons: I was an addict, I wanted them, and I knew how to get them.

The onslaught of anti-depressants, sleeping aids and anti-anxiety meds for recovering addicts/alcoholics, has been an unmitigated disaster. Its also an old feud within AA and NA (Narcotics Anonymous), as well as within other recovery circles. The concept is that people were "self-medicating" with alcohol (and so what else is new) and so they just needed the "correct" meds and ... then they somehow magically won't want those naughty "bad" drugs anymore. This is self-serving, narcissistic, addict-apologist bullshit. Always has been. Thing is, those of us who clung to this uncool, supposedly-outmoded view (that it's bullshit), invariably lost the war. Drugs flooded into recovery circles like the proverbial tidal wave. (NOTE: I have been alcohol-free for 32 years, and I refer to the advent of Prozac and similar drugs in the early 90s.)

At one point, I refused to sponsor people who were using prescription drugs to 'cushion their fall' into reality. And I learned (to my alarm) that I could spot them fairly easily. They didn't LEARN anything. They retained many/most of their negative personality-issues and character defects. They didn't "work on themselves"--and I think it's because, frankly, they didn't feel enough pain to find it necessary to change. Pain is instructional. Depression is instructional. Guilt and shame are instructional. When you do not allow yourself to FEEL these emotions/states of mind (self-medicating, the reason you drank in the first place), you do not learn the REASONS for them, which are usually: personality disorders, erroneous views of reality, childhood traumas left to fester and infect the psyche, self-esteem in the toilet, PTSD run amok, a puritanical/punitive world-view, etc. Drugs are a band-aid solution. As soon as I would get close to any of these issues in a sponsoree, they would have a meltdown (much like Hugo's!) and then go robotic; that particular, tell-tale type of robotic-reaction that is made possible by the psychological BUFFER OF CHEMICALS that is DRUGS.

No work could get done.

"I think I have PTSD," says the recovering person.

"Let's work on it," I'd say.

(((HYSTERIA))) followed by the robotic, predictably drugged-up countenance.

Like clockwork.

I would finally cut them loose, and I'd say, get another sponsor or come back to me when you cut out the drugs. I don't care if Sigmund fucking Freud himself gave them to you, NO. I will not work with people who are buffering the world with drugs. WON'T DO IT. And most of these people would hang around awhile, then leave. This has become known as the "revolving door of recovery"--because it just happens over and over and these people never learn to DO WITHOUT SUBSTANCES. TOTALLY.

At this point, readers are thinking/saying, "You are not a professional! Danger, Will Robinson, danger!" And they are right. I am not. That is how AA works, and how it worked for me. I do not go to professionals, I do not BELIEVE in bullshit elitist, over-educated professionals, who have over-prescribed drugs to the point that we now have multiple-epidemics of junkies on the level we have never before had in history. PROFESSIONALS ARE PART OF THE FUCKING PROBLEM. I believe in peers, I believe in equality, I believe in people who have been through what I have been through, I believe in the power of regular human beings connecting with each other. That is what worked for me, and I still believe in it. Professionals pretty much destroyed AA, as did the courts forcing people to attend meetings after being arrested for drunken driving or drug possession (in direct violation of the 11th Tradition, which originally stated that AA membership should be based on "attraction rather than promotion"). The overarching resentment of these court-ordered maybe-alcoholics just smoldered, and their anger was palpable in many meetings, destroying the cozy family-atmosphere we once enjoyed. Meanwhile, the professionals brought in all kinds of psychobabble and Dr Feelgood jargon, correcting the scruffy street-people and (ever so politely!) reinterpreting their experience for them with big words and medical concepts, alienating them even further.

As I said, unmitigated disaster.

In short, old style AA might have helped Hugo. The moment I learned he was still "on meds" (which I'm sure were duly prescribed by one of the all-holy and infallible professionals) --I knew the implosion was just a matter of time. I just waited for it, wincing, because I figured it would be a flame-out of Biblical proportions. (I have also been waiting for something like this from Glenn Beck, and he has disappointed me so far, unless he has been able to keep it out of the media.) I have seen countless of these in AA. It usually manifests in these kinds of people (Hugo and Glenn Beck), who make "recovery" part of their identity. It's okay to do this for awhile, even necessary at first. (e.g. I once saw myself as party animal, so it was necessary at first to see myself as recovery animal; I had to put something IN ITS PLACE as a substitution.) But eventually, the idea should be that we MOVE ON. (I have not been to an AA meeting in about a dozen years now.) After a decent length of time has passed, we should even be able to figure out if indeed a certain drug might be helpful and/or good for us. I am old, and my joints are falling apart; there ARE good drugs, and I fully understand that now. Similarly, a toke at the bluegrass concert, did not hurt me. I have learned the MIDDLE PATH at long last, but only because I made learning that a priority. I did not want to be dependent on AA (or drugs) my whole life. I know the important thing: my drug of choice, alcohol, and highly addictive drugs (Valium, sleeping pills, Oxys, opiates, meth, questionable "appetite suppressants" such as the now-disgraced Preludin, which I ate like candy) are totally off limits for me. I avoid them like the plague. I do not take any psych meds daily, since I believe they interfere with my judgement and make it more likely that I will forget this personal boundary and break this rule. I have managed to maintain my sobriety, although sometimes tenuous, through remembering my triggers: bad temper, familial stress (and attendant co-dependency; trying to run other people's lives to my specifications), feelings of inadequacy, hypochondria... and more importantly, I know where all of these traits came from and how they originated in my life (meaning: I no longer hate myself for them).


Hugo didn't. So he doesn't.

One of his triggers: WOMEN. He should have been forbidden from any and all relationships for a period of time, until his sponsor told him it was safe, and then the sponsor should have properly vetted the relationship. No sex; celibacy until you figure out what sex is doing to your life and why you compulsively seek it out. (This is true for MEN AND WOMEN regarding what is called "sex addiction" --which often goes hand-in-hand with other addictions, just as co-dependency and eating disorders do.) I know, this sounds cultish, but THAT IS WHAT I MEAN: Hugo went to the new, improved (snark), Rxs-for-everybody AA, not the cold-showers-and-root-canal version I went to in 1982. When I entered AA, NOT cooperating was really not an option if you wanted to hang around for an extended length of time. The Alcoholics Anonymous I went to was categorical: No serious decisions for a year. This rule includes jobs (if you are employed, do not change jobs or quit your job; if unemployed, try to stretch this out as long as you can), relationships (no changing them, no divorces, no "falling in love", no fucking around), and living arrangements, unless you are in an emergency situation (and many addicts are). Every stress-making decision was talked over carefully first, in meetings or with your sponsor. Everything you did and thought was thoroughly interrogated and examined, first by yourself, and if you still weren't sure, you brought it to "group conscience." [When I was faced with attending my grandmother's wake in Indiana, after only six slim months of sobriety, I fully realized this would be a rowdy and hyper-emotional occasion in MY hard-drinking family. The group counseled me, en masse, do not stay with a family member, stay in a motel instead. Wow, I said, isn't that RUDE? Someone replied, "Is getting howling drunk and fucking everything up rude?" Hmm, good point. I stayed in the motel. I managed. It was okay. I got through it, and the group's collective wisdom was the reason why.]

It was a hard-ass approach, but it is the one I think is necessary, because ADDICTS LIE TO THEMSELVES EVEN MORE THAN THEY DO TO EVERYONE ELSE.

And that way of life now seems extinct. I mourn its loss. It might have saved Hugo.

This is why I did not initially comment on Hugo's flame-out, because I knew I would have to say all of this. I think recovery itself FAILED HUGO, because it got soft.

In fact, let me be clear: the new and improved (snark again) recovery was TAILOR MADE for attention-whores like him. He then could use the fact of recovery to become a star and pump up his self-importance and toxic ego even more. For some of us, particularly down here in the working classes, addiction and alcoholism are still stigmatized; even admitting it is in your past, is still stigmatized. I often do not tell people, unless they finally ask me if there is a reason I never drink.

We don't have "stars" in the working classes (who do not eventually become recovery professionals themselves)... you have to be an academic or writer or media-figure to be a "recovery star"--and Hugo was. He used this fact about himself to boost his star-appeal, which tells me that he still hadn't worked on one of his major personality defects: attention-whoredom.

This has been difficult to write. In AA circles, what I have just done is called "taking Hugo's inventory" and is considered really bad form. I apologize, but felt it was necessary after I was asked the 6th or 7th time, and by people I deeply respect. I "defended" Hugo the last time (actually I just said he needed to be able to write honestly about what had happened--although interestingly, I don't). After his most recent flip-out, a couple of people got nasty with me and asked me if I had rescinded that post. No, I haven't--but then, I was writing it about someone I thought was actually recovering. (Notably: I had not seen the infamous jizz piece at that time.)

I would issue a warning, just in general: If you see people leave AA and then take up with some hard-core religion? Warning. DANGER. This person needs rules and boundaries, and they feel they are not getting them. So, they/we go where there are rules, lots and lots of rules. I did, my sponsor did, Glenn Beck did, and I notice, Hugo did. It is NEVER a good sign. It can work for some of us, as a sort of "transition out" of AA, a halfway-house into the regular world. But for others, it just means CARTE BLANCHE and gives them a whole new playground to play in. Aha, they think, I just needed GOD! I was never an alcoholic, I just needed JEEZUS! (And since we know that now, why not have a drink to celebrate?)

Watch out. As the Grateful Dead song said, trouble ahead, trouble behind. Hugo easily found the trouble, and took a nice long bath in it.

If AA had stayed true to itself, the revolving door of recovery would not exist, and the revolving door into the Church/Synagogue/Mosque/Ashram wouldn't either. As it is, we have all been betrayed, and Big Pharm bears a lot of the blame. But we have also lost our way, we have also declined the rougher, more unpleasant aspects of recovery, such as taking a big, bold look at ourselves as we really and truly are, putting all those pesky psychic-dramas under the microscope for close inspection. We have not wanted to look at the damage we have done--at least I never did. This means people like Hugo can write dramatic accounts of almost-murder/suicides and make them sound like Movies-of-the-Week, instead of the horrific, desperate acts they actually are (if his dramatic tale is true at all, of course. I have come to doubt it, or at least, wonder what parts of the story were edited/left out/trumped up, etc.)

I hope this is a satisfactory reply to the people who have asked me to comment on Hugo. I did not mean it to be so long... but then again, that is why I didn't want to write about him in the first place. I do see Hugo as a casualty of his own hubris... but the difference is, in the old days, he couldn't have used recovery as an excuse to GET WORSE. And now, it seems to be a rather common phenomenon.

I weep for those of us who will never recover. I hope Hugo can. But first, he needs to shut up, and for a good long time, too. Attention is his enemy. Although for some, it is a balm, since they were often totally ignored and relegated to the back of the room. That's the thing: One size does not fit all.

And once upon a time, AA knew that and counseled us accordingly.

I miss those days.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Local autistic student suspended for drawing of a bomb

At left: Rhett Parham, student suspended from Hillcrest Middle School.

On our radio show today, we interviewed Amy Parham, mother of 13-year-old Rhett Parham, who has been suspended from Hillcrest Middle School in Simpsonville, SC, for drawing a picture of a bomb.

Rhett has autism and greatly enjoys drawing pictures. His picture is based on one of his favorite video games, Bomberman 64, a Nintendo game from the 90s. He watches it on YouTube and likes to draw what he sees. Amy told us, "I am not fully believing that this is actually happening." Certainly, she isn't the only one, and supporters all over upstate South Carolina have come to Rhett's defense. She and Rhett have been interviewed by WSPA, FoxCarolina, and several other radio shows besides ours.

Apparently, Rhett told other students he "had a bomb"--when he was referring to the picture. People with autism are often very "literal-minded" and to Rhett, having the picture and "having a bomb" are synonymous, said his mother.

WSPA reports:
Rhett, who has autism, got suspended from Hillcrest Middle School in Simpsonville on Monday for telling people he had a bomb and showing them a drawing based on the video game.

“I said, 'Are you kidding me?'" said his mother Amy Parham.

Parham said her son poses no threat and is not capable of actually making a bomb.

“I don't really think he understands the brevity of this whole situation because of his disability.”

Greenville County Schools denied 7 On Your Side’s request for an on-camera interview, but sent us a statement that reads in part: “This investigation began when threatening comments were made, resulting in the responsible removal of the student from the school to ensure everyone's safety while the incident and intent were assessed.”

"Principals are in a very difficult spot with this. They have a lot of interests that they're trying to juggle," said Janet Stein, Director of the South Carolina Education Association's member advocacy program.

Stein used to do crisis prevention training for North Carolina schools.

She said Hillcrest Middle's Principal did what he had to do in order to protect the school and its students.

“If he had not done what he did and had decided that student didn't mean it, it doesn't mean anything -- if something had happened, the district would have been accountable for that," said Stein.

Parham said she's looking into whether she should transfer her son to a different school, but Rhett said he wants to stay at Hillcrest Middle.
Tomorrow there will be a "manifestation hearing" to determine if Rhett's behavior was caused by his disability. If the school decides that it was not, Rhett can face disciplinary action and the suspension may be permanent.

And here is the bomb drawing (below), which looks like one of the many bombs thrown by Wile E. Coyote in the cartoons:

If you would like to help out, contact Greenville County Schools superintendent W. Burke Royster and let him know how you feel.
Telephone: 864-355-8860
e-mail: wroyster@greenville.k12.sc.us

Amy Parham is now using the bomb-picture as her Facebook profile picture, as are many of her supporters.


EDIT AND UPDATE 10/16/2013: Rhett Parham's suspension has been lifted and his absences excused by the county. GREAT NEWS! What I have learned from this: how crucial it is for parents of disabled students to have a support network in place before these types of incidents occur. Amy was able to get the word out quickly to activists like Traci Fant ((waves at Traci!)) who was on our show today.

We are glad we were able to help out, and thanks to everyone else who participated, reblogged, gave us a +1 on Google and all of that stuff. (((hugs)))

It really does take a village.

Tuesday links with Crazy Horse

At left: Mac Arnold and Plate Full O Blues at Fall for Greenville... he totally burned the place down! AWESOMENESS! I got more photos on my Flickr page, so be sure to check out my photos of Mac and his famous gas-can guitar.



:: My favorite reading of the week is Thomas Frank's TED TALKS ARE LYING TO YOU, which is just so right-on. An excerpt:
Those who urge us to “think different,” in other words, almost never do so themselves. Year after year, new installments in this unchanging genre are produced and consumed. Creativity, they all tell us, is too important to be left to the creative. Our prosperity depends on it. And by dint of careful study and the hardest science — by, say, sliding a jazz pianist’s head into an MRI machine — we can crack the code of creativity and unleash its moneymaking power.

That was the ultimate lesson. That’s where the music, the theology, the physics and the ethereal water lilies were meant to direct us. Our correspondent could think of no books that tried to work the equation the other way around — holding up the invention of air conditioning or Velcro as a model for a jazz trumpeter trying to work out his solo.

And why was this worth noticing? Well, for one thing, because we’re talking about the literature of creativity, for Pete’s sake. If there is a non-fiction genre from which you have a right to expect clever prose and uncanny insight, it should be this one. So why is it so utterly consumed by formula and repetition?
Read it all! The next time you hear the word "creativity" spoken from a calm NPR-sounding voice (and my radio consigliere, Gregg Jocoy, can do a bang-up NPR-announcer impersonation!) --you should keep this essay in mind.

In fact, I may never watch a TED talk again! (Jimi Hendrix reference: "You'll never hear surf music again")


:: A nasty Georgia Tech frat-boy email has recently gone viral, since it's title--"Luring Your Rapebait"--was guaranteed to get attention. It's offensive, and appears to be one of those GAME things (more about which in due course) that plague the internet like winter head-colds.

Danny, who is no feminist, politely takes it on in his ever-graceful fashion. His post is titled Open Letter to a Frat Brother on the view of masculinity:
I can understand that sex is a desirable thing but I worry that you, just like many others, place too much priority on having sex with women as being a necessary part of masculinity.

Have you considered what affects this pressure can have on guys, namely guys who are in a position where they need to gain the approval of others? Don't you think that pressure can lead to them doing things that range from immoral to illegal in order to gain favor and approval?

Yes, you can say that "They choose to do that stuff." That would be true. But why do you exert such pressure in the first place? Why expect those pledges to be on such a vigilant lookout for sex partners? Why not just let nature take care itself and just throw a party and if people want to get together they get together on their own rather because they might get tossed out of the party and shamed for not looking for women?
Why, indeed?

Maybe because "looking for women" is the very DEFINITION of manhood, for these sorts of guys. The idea of NOT looking for women?!? Well, what ELSE would they do?

These men are conditioned from an early age, that this is "what men do." They don't know how to have a good time and just BE. The female equivalent are the Sex and The City gals who spend most of their evenings fussing over their appearance, and won't dance or get rowdy because they might sweat or mess up their hair.

Quite possibly, they deserve each other. I just wish they wouldn't clutter up the parties and fun spaces for everyone else.


:: If you need something to explain the government shutdown to you, have a look on my Tumblr, where I quoted from a great article on No More Mister Nice Blog, titled The Punishers Want To Run The Country or We Are All Tipped Waitstaff Now.

Check it out, it's a gem. It explains so much. (And if you are now/ever were a restaurant server, required reading.)


:: There has been LOTS of arguing in cyberspace over the "Pick Up Artist" (PUA) movement, men who claim to know all the evo-psych rules of just exactly what makes those stubborn, mysterious sexy ladies put out. It's called GAME, and they endlessly talk about it on their many forums and blogs (warning: those link are gross, but fairly typical). Like most evo-psych fans, they make everything that happens fit into their concept of GAME, which is damned annoying. (It's exactly the same way very religious people will inevitably see everything that happens as being an answer to a prayer.) This is why you can't argue with them using facts; they will simply claim that your facts prove --GAME is CORRECT!--right after they tweak them a few times, or twenty.

It gets old, so I stopped bothering some time ago... or even reading. If I see a male blogger refer to GAME, I reach for my mouse, clickety-click, gone, GONE WITH THE WIND.

But Echidne recently found an intrinsic contradiction in the statement of Roosh, one of the BIGGEST of the BIG GAME THEORISTS. Roosh went to Denmark (he writes books about how to apply GAME in every country; getting-laid travel guides for men), where apparently, he says GAME doesn't work:
Roosh calls [his book about Denmark] the “most angry book” he’s ever written. “This book is a warning of how bad things can get for a single man looking for beautiful, feminine, sexy women.”

What’s blocking the pussy flow in Denmark? The country’s excellent social welfare services. Really.


Danish women “won’t defer to your masculinity,” he writes. “They can fuck you, but no more. What they do have are pussies and opinions you don’t really care about hearing. That’s it.” Advocates of Nordic social democracy should be thrilled to discover a perk of gender-equalizing work-family reconciliation policies: they combat skeeviness.

Roosh comes to the conclusion that women who aren’t as dependent on men for financial support are not susceptible to the narcissistic salesmanship that constitutes phase one: “attraction.” That’s why Roosh fails to advance to the second level—”trust”—without being creepy. Thus “seduction” is almost always out of the question.
Wow, during this awful government shutdown, we see STILL ANOTHER great reason for the welfare state! Then again, haven't anti-feminist conservatives like George Gilder always argued that welfare services for women and children would inexorably lead to women becoming far more picky about who they, um, spend their time with?

The reality of WELFARE means women won't experience the material desperation men have always depended on, to make their case.

Echidne is all over it:
But that refutes his evo-psycho theories about what women want! If women were hard-wired to go for the dominant growling alpha monkey, then women would do that even in Denmark. That they do not suggests that dating rules and what appeals to people is also culture-dependent and affected by economic realities.
Whatever happened to Neil Young's "Welfare Mothers make better lovers?"

I guess the official PUA verdict is in: No they don't.


Speaking of which, I used to wonder if that was a sexist song or not. During the time *I* was a welfare mother, I remember feeling like persona non grata, not like I was considered a better lover or any kind of bargain. In fact, it seemed to me that this one fact about me would easily scare people away in droves, potential lovers and friends alike. (Maybe they were afraid I would ask them for money?)

I used to listen to the song ruefully and wonder JUST WHO he was talking about, hoping that maybe I was getting some good press in the bargain. But I was pretty sure I wasn't... hard to believe that love is free, now.

But whatever else, it sure does ROCK.

Welfare Mothers - Neil Young and Crazy Horse

Monday, October 14, 2013

Billie: How we've changed, continued

Old movie time! As I've said before, some movies instruct us in great detail about how far we've come as women, since they almost seem like they came from another planet. One such movie is BILLIE (1965), starring a major DEAD AIR heroine, Oscar winner and former union president, wonderful Patty Duke.

I grew up with Patty, adore her without reservations, read her book (needless to say) and watched a bushel of her movies and various TV-guest appearances, including the bad ones like MARCUS WELBY. (Marcus Welby?!?!?--say the kids in one voice. Who?) And as the list here makes clear, THAT IS A WHOLE LOTTA VIEWING, MY FRIENDS!

Young folks mostly know Duke (if they know her at all) as the mother of Lord of the Rings actor Sean Astin or from the camp classic, Valley of the Dolls, wherein she ferociously chewed the scenery as Neely O'Hara, a character too-obviously based on Judy Garland. (Everybody in the film chewed the scenery, okay? Not just Patty! PS: I loved the pulpy novel too!) The film is widely regarded as one of the worst ever made, and therefore terribly watchable... and it also went down in 60s pop-history because one of the lead actresses was subsequently butchered by the Manson family.

I first saw Patty when I was a wee thing, on BEN CASEY (another TV-doctor you never heard of) and I followed her faithfully forever after. Her weekly sitcom was essential viewing for us Barbie-obsessed little baby-boomer girls. (Although I now know she was miserable through it all, she never seemed unhappy.) We watched Patty's show and then excitedly talked about it the next day, all day long, sometimes acting out favorite scenes. She played a dual-role (Patty and her cousin Cathy), and there were lots of people who didn't even realize she was playing both roles. Patty was the American id, all emotions on the surface and totally unguarded (the TV-theme song explained: "Patty loves to rock 'n' roll, a hot dog makes her lose control!"), while Cathy was her "identical cousin"--the polite, ladylike British girl who knew how to behave. It was the internal drama then being fought by ALL OF US! We all wanted to be demure, sweet Cathy, and yet (at least in my working class neighborhood), we knew we were really extroverted, often-scheming Patty ... and hot dogs made us lose control. (Patty gobbled food, Cathy ate delicately and left some on her plate.)

As a child (age 12), Patty blew everyone away playing Helen Keller on Broadway in The Miracle Worker, and then again in the film version, for which she became (at the time) the youngest person to win an Oscar at age 16. The Broadway play ran for two years, which she wrote about in depth in her book, Call me Anna. She and Anne Bancroft (who played Annie Sullivan) actually became furious at each other. It was riveting; they had an extended, violent scene together (Annie Sullivan fighting hard to subdue Helen, who is having none of it) and they had to repeat this raucous physical battle every night on the stage. They started actually hurting each other, "getting even" with each other during the same scene the next night. It is amazing to read, and so very human. (Bancroft actually knocked one of Duke's teeth loose.) Duke finally went full circle, later in her life playing the Annie Sullivan role in the 1979 TV-version of The Miracle Worker, with Melissa Gilbert playing Keller. Duke had always wanted to play Sullivan, the "adult" in the story, and I just love the "recovery" aspect of that choice! Since the 80s, Duke has been a mental-health advocate, which has made me so happy. My grandmother used to sneer at her for going on talk shows and babbling like "a crazy bitch", and I would get so upset, I would cry about it. Leave Patty alone!!!

Later, we had words for that behavior: bi-polar disorder. But at the time? Everybody just talked about how crazy she was... and yes, she would meet people and marry them after partying with them for a week. (I repeatedly defended her as a tortured artist, but privately worried she was popping amphetamines, like my mother.) After learning of her diagnosis, I was very relieved that Patty would be staying with us for a long time. I had long worried she would jump off a bridge, take too much LSD or something. Of course I read all about her tumultuous personal life in the cast-off movie-magazines I discovered in the magical room at the paper-mill (mentioned in #14 here). I sent her autobiography to my AA sponsor and she was the subject of a whole nother round of discussions. So, I learned from Patty as a girl and as a grown-up.

And now, I learn from her yet again, as I dissect her old movie BILLIE.


I saw BILLIE as a kid, and remembered it as being about a tomboy trying to femme it up for a boy she develops a crush on. And yes, it surely IS, but it now seems far more insidious and awful in its mid-60s har-har-har misogyny than I ever remembered. (I sometimes wonder what it did to me, mindlessly ingesting this kind of thing during my formative years. Yighhhh! Terrifying to contemplate.)

BILLIE is FAR WORSE than the nice girl/hell-raiser dichotomy we ate up on weekly installments of THE PATTY DUKE SHOW. For example, one line intended to be funny, Billie/Patty whines, "I wish I was a boy!" and Jim Backus, her dad, barks back, "Well, so do I, but you're not!"--something like that. Just awful. The movie is about Jim Backus (whom you know as the voice of Mr Magoo or the redoubtable Thurston Howell the III) running for mayor of Anywhere, USA, and he has assured the town conservatives that females should never compete with males... and then the track team coach asks super-fast Billie (at left) to be on the team. (It is understood that this means THE BOYS TEAM, since at that time, there WERE no girls teams.) HORRORS! This might cost her dad the election (!) and Jim Backus/Thurston Howell tries to make her quit the team.

It goes without saying that Billie falls in love with a boy on the team, who is not as fast as SHE is... and the feminist good news is, by the end of the movie, our young prince doesn't mind that Billie can beat him at sports. But it is only since she has properly feminized herself (finally all dolled up in high-school-dance drag, wearing a short dress and heels) and has also given him her HEART, that this is so. An interesting, and very lucidly-presented message about heterosexual romance TAMING the dangerous demon that is women careening about on sports teams and so forth: As long as they are fuckable, cute and know their place, it's okay. Even if she is a famous television star!

There is actually a short blog on the movie, called Billie's got the Beat. It would appear this is ALSO a cult movie now. (shudders)

Long live Patty! We love you!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Random worries over the future of online social justice

VINTAGE CAR OF THE MONTH! Any guesses on the year? I will take a wild guess and say 1975. (Can Volkswagens last that long?)

I took this shot at Greenville County Square on Saturday, right before the March Against Monsanto.


My wee Tumblr blog doesn't get much attention... not sure why I started it, except that now I can officially "like" other people's entries. Still no comments allowed though! Such a weird system; I still find the 'nesting' thoroughly confusing and I frequently can't decipher who has said what.

I recently posted THIS on Tumblr... to me, some of the most shocking content I could ever have posted. (Then again, that statement probably just shows my age.) It's a photo I took at the Fort Sumter museum in Charleston, of a slave tag. Lots of people don't realize that enslaved African-Americans wore identifying tags (like animals), so I thought I would share the photo. I also included a slavery-era poster warning northern blacks (in Boston) against approaching police, who were then-empowered as bounty hunters (aka "slave catchers"). These two displays in aforesaid museum had the cumulative effect of shooting me right through the heart. I may even have shed some tears. But on Tumblr? Not a big deal--I got one "like" and one reblog. And that's it.

History is bunk, as Henry Ford schooled us.

I recently read a Wiki about a Tumblr blogger I have been following for some time. I consider this individual little more than an amusing hysteric/abusive psycho-nuisance, but when she has emotional meltdowns (often, as psycho-nuisances usually do), she unwittingly provides us with some first-class comedy relief. I was startled to read that this person is regarded as "serious social-justice" (is "social-justice" now a noun for a certain type of radical poseur on Tumblr?). And I am wondering--how is that possible? Serious social-justice?!? Saints preserve us.

This person has done nothing but vent endlessly (several times a day, usually) in a self-righteous, pseudo-political fashion, using all the trendy lefty buzzwords of the day. She has never done ANY political organizing or actual community-work in real life. At least, if she has, she has never mentioned it. And since every single wayward hypochondriacal symptom and every meal eaten and every DVD viewed is carefully cataloged and shared with her legions of fans, I think we would have heard all about any ACTUAL SOCIAL JUSTICE work by now. In excruciating detail.

And yet, this person is considered "serious social-justice"; its enough to make you want to tear your hair out.

This might go a long way towards explaining why this current generation faces endless wars (plural) they seem disinclined to stop, much less actually protest against. After all, it's been left to their poor and immigrant peers (along with computers and drones) to actually fight these wars, so what is the harm? They have far bigger fish to fry, like picking apart other bloggers for using the wrong trendy words and/or having the wrong opinions. (And even though they loooove to see racism and ethnic bias under every rock, they don't see their blatant disregard for the people their country is bombing, as racism and/or xenophobia, as it certainly is.) This explains why there are all these "social justice warriors" on Tumblr, and yet they have had no impact at all, ZERO INFLUENCE, in the public square. None. Zip. Tumblr is like a fantasy-land, a computer game, and "social justice" is one of the colorful environments chosen as background, just like choices of locations in Farmville.

Very, very few Tumblrites have even commented on the current government shutdown, so it seems obvious none are receiving WIC (as I once did, which I mentioned on the air last week) or utilizing HEAD START or are immediately affected by government in any other way. In fact, very few mentioned the long-awaited roll-out of Obamacare. I have not seen any of them discuss the pros and cons of Obamacare... in fact, its all fulminating, with little mention of real life events or the ramifications of various political policies.

It's disheartening, even frightening. I hope this is not the future. If it's only one FRAGMENT of the future, I can handle it. But I hope this is not what "social justice" eventually devolves to: SOCIAL JUSTICE FARMVILLE! GET COOL CARTOON IMPLEMENTS FOR VIRTUAL COMPOSTING! BUY CHICKENS THAT LAY ONLY FREE RANGE VIRTUAL EGGS! And don't forget to put down the people with the ordinary chickens for not being cool. Otherwise, where's the fun in that?

(War? What war?)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

World Food Day March Against Monsanto

At left: We had our second March Against Monsanto today in Falls Park. It was much smaller than our first march in May, but still pretty well-attended for Greenville.

We marched through our annual autumn downtown festival, Fall for Greenville, which is an excellent PR opportunity. We passed out leaflets, talked to interested onlookers and (hopefully) drew lots of attention. Today's demonstration has been organized globally around World Food Day.

Me and Mr Daisy are currently arguing over GMOs as I post this. (GMO = Genetically Modified Organism) Yes, we both hate Monsanto on principle, but Mr Daisy believes GMOs are safe and fills up my inbox with scientific studies.

If they are safe, why doesn't Monsanto want to label them? I personally believe GMOs are magnifying allergens in food, but I realize this is a hard assertion to prove. (Why do all these kids have peanut allergies these days? NO ONE I grew up with had peanut allergies. NO. ONE. And now? It's fairly common.)

I trust Monsanto as far as I can throw them.

And the argument continues!


Above, photos from today: 1) Save the bees! 2) protester shirt 3) part of our group masses in Falls Park.

As always, you can click all photos to enlarge. (More photos HERE.)


Radio updates:

As we reported on our show yesterday, South Carolina has granted ‘Stand Your Ground’ legal immunity to a man who shot at a car full of teen girls and instead killed an innocent 17-year-old black male bystander.

This is the first case of its kind. Apparently, Stand Your Ground now applies to innocent bystanders who may accidentally get shot. Rania Khalek (above link) reports:
That the victim was an innocent bystander rather than one of the alleged “aggressors” sets a new precedent for the application of Stand Your Ground, which can now shield people who are bad shots and accidentally shoot a bystander, from prosecution.

As 5th Circuit Assistant Solicitor April Sampson warned over the summer, a decision in favor of Scott marks “the first time any state in this Union” has awarded Stand Your Ground immunity in the killing of an innocent bystander.
The shooting happened on April 18, 2010. Shannon Anthony Scott (33), was arrested for the murder of 17-year-old unarmed Darrell Andre Niles, shot to death in his car. From Khalek's piece:
Richland County Judge Maite Murphy has thrown out those charges, ruling on Wednesday that Scott reasonably believed his life was in danger and is therefore immune from prosecution by the state’s 2006 Protection of Persons and Property ACT, South Carolina’s version of “Stand Your Ground”, a law that gives private citizens the right to use deadly force whenever and wherever they feel threatened.
We will be talking more about this story on the air in the next week, so stay tuned.


Thursday's show was about Raleigh (NC) police spying on NAACP Moral Monday planning meetings. The show included an informative interview with Kevin Gosztola, so CHECK US OUT.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

US adults dumber than average, and other news

Monarch butterfly on Goldenrod. So proud of this photo! ((preen)) I got as close as I could without disrupting her lunch.

As always, you can click all photos to enlarge.

Stuff to check out--

US adults are dumber than the average human, says the New York Post:
In math, reading and problem-solving using technology – all skills considered critical for global competitiveness and economic strength – American adults scored below the international average on a global test, according to results released Tuesday.

Adults in Japan, Canada, Australia, Finland and multiple other countries scored significantly higher than the United States in all three areas on the test. Beyond basic reading and math, respondents were tested on activities such as calculating mileage reimbursement due to a salesman, sorting email and comparing food expiration dates on grocery store tags.

Not only did Americans score poorly compared to many international competitors, the findings reinforced just how large the gap is between the nation’s high- and low-skilled workers and how hard it is to move ahead when your parents haven’t.

In both reading and math, for example, those with college-educated parents did better than those whose parents did not complete high school.

The study, called the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, found that it was easier on average to overcome this and other barriers to literacy overseas than in the United States.
Are you surprised?


Above: Clematis flowers gone to seed on the vine (Swamp Rabbit Trail). Clematis are ordinarily fluffy white wildflowers, so when I saw these swirly blossoms, I had no idea what they were. Thanks to my Facebook friends who knew the answer! I think I actually prefer the "gone to seed" version to regular robust Clematis.

First photo is close-up, the second one is from about four feet away.


What's it like when an unflattering "fat picture" goes viral? Caitlin Seida found out the hard way, and shares her experience with us:
“What a waste of space,” read one [comment on her photo]. Another: “Heifers like her should be put down.” Yet another said I should just kill myself “and spare everyone’s eyes.” Hundreds of hateful messages, most of them saying that I was a worthless human being and shaming me for having the audacity to go in public dressed as a sexy video game character. How dare I dress up and have a good time!

We all know the awful humiliation of a person laughing at you. But that feeling increases tenfold when it seems like everyone is laughing at you. Scrolling through the comments, the world imploded — and took my heart with it.
What is the purpose of these vicious pile-ons and why do they happen? (I have had it happen several times, but with my words, not my photos... I described my first such experience and the attendant blow-back in this post. Another such incident here.)

The internet has seriously shaken my faith in humans, which was already rather tenuous. Is it anonymity that brings out the venom? But this means the venom is undeniably THERE to begin with. That's the depressing thing; internet anonymity has simply UNLEASHED torrents of nastiness that were once inhibited, and in fact, are STILL inhibited when your name is attached to them.

In Seida's case, she fought back. And she stopped viewing such photos herself:
In the months since, my attitude toward these throwaway images of mockery on the Internet has changed. I no longer find them funny. Each one of those people is a real human being, a real person whose world imploded the day they found themselves to be a punch line on a giant stage. I speak up whenever a friend gets a cheap laugh from one of these sites. I ask one simple question: “Why do you think this is funny?” Very few have a good answer. Mostly they just say, “I don’t know.” Reminding people of our shared humanity hasn’t exactly made me popular, but it feels like the right thing to do. I know what it’s like to be the person in that horrible photograph. I can’t inflict such pain on someone else.

Hm, looks like the ongoing government shutdown is not helping the party who initially started all the trouble. Today, a Gallup poll reports Republican Party Favorability Sinks to Record Low:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With the Republican-controlled House of Representatives engaged in a tense, government-shuttering budgetary standoff against a Democratic president and Senate, the Republican Party is now viewed favorably by 28% of Americans, down from 38% in September. This is the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992.
Get a clue, Repubs.

Its popularly known as shooting yourself in the foot.


Huffington Post reports that Marital Satisfaction May Be Controlled By Gene, Says Study:
The study found that variations in the serotonin-regulating gene 5-HTTLPR correlated with study participants’ relationship fulfillment. Each of our parents pass us a copy of the gene, which can either be short or long. Participants with two short 5-HTTLPR were most unhappy in their marriages in the face of negative emotion, like contempt, but also happiest when positive emotions like humor were present. On the other end of the spectrum, participants with two long copies were satisfied with their marriages regardless of the emotional atmosphere.

“Individuals with two short alleles of the gene variant may be like hothouse flowers, blossoming in a marriage when the emotional climate is good and withering when it is bad,” lead study author Claudia M. Haase said. “Conversely, people with one or two long alleles are less sensitive to the emotional climate.”

This study may be the first linking genetics, emotions and marital satisfaction.
Oh dear, I hope that isn't true. If so, I am doomed. My mother collected husbands as if they were Fabergé Eggs or Beanie Babies.

And I have been married almost 26 years, so let me remind everyone that genetics isn't everything.


My post title demands the ONLY possible song under the circumstances:

Dumb - Nirvana

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday update: got skunks?

GIRLS PLAYING MUSIC--Woot! At left: Underhill Rose at the Albino Skunk Music Festival this weekend.

It was fabulous ALBINO SKUNK weekend, which I have covered before, here and here... as I have complained before, I just keep doing the same things over and over and probably bore everyone to death. Apologies! For this reason, I decided not to blog a buncha festie photos (again), but just link to a couple of good ones on my Flickr page. And I certainly can't forget the greatest antique hippie bus in creation, parked at the festival and used by the kids to play in. Its so beautiful, it can make you cry with nostalgia.

My new Facebook selfie-photo comes from the festival; and I am looking fairly mellow, if glistening with sweat. (Good Lord, why are we STILL BAKING in October? I have also written about the autumn-weather-fakeout I experience every year in the South.) I have noticed when I take photos of myself at special events, my expression inevitably mirrors the emotions of those events. For instance, HERE at Occupy, I look all defiant and pissed, and HERE at the radio station, I look ready to take on all the Republicans you can throw at me... but the radio station Daisy looks nothing like the Daisy at the Spartanburg Music and Arts Festival last month (not a selfie), once again mellow and filled with all kindsa goodvibes.

And in this one, I think you can see how thrilled I am with my granddaughter. We look a great deal alike, so I thought a mirror-image might be fun.

She asked me to braid her hair, to make it look like mine. :)


At left: After Thursday's stellar Occupy the Microphone radio show! You gotta listen! (downloads are always on the radio show blog)

Left to Right -- Efia Nwangaza (Malcolm X Center for Self Determination), Liz Smith Anderson (York County, SC Green Party), Daisy and Double A at WOLI studios, McAlister Square.

Some of our topics:

:: The shutdown of Silk Road website, and the bust of infamous entrepreneur Ross William Ulbricht:
The Silk Road was the Deep Web’s version of an unregulated bazaar, a market for anything deemed unsavory or illegal by the traditional world. There were virtually no restrictions on sales (firearms were allowed for a short period, but later banned), and virtually no check on distribution. A seller from Australia might accept Bitcoins for a shipment of LSD to, say, Brazil. Another might accept a similar shipment as barter for work hacking a specified Facebook account. It was Ulbricht’s dream come to life: a truly free market, one unfettered by the governments whose regulations he so despised. And give him credit, since Ulbricht’s venture reportedly earned him roughly $80 million in commissions, using current Bitcoin values. By the same measure, the Silk Road was the site of more than a billion dollars in illegal transactions, and all shipments went through the conventional mail system.
:: Herman Wallace of the Angola 3 was released after 42 years in solitary confinement. This is thought to be the longest period of continuous solitary confinement on record in the USA. Wallace had cancer and his release was therefore regarded as a "compassionate release".

He passed away three days later.

Efia reported on the campaign for "compassionate release" of Lynne Stewart, who is also suffering from late-stage cancer.

:: We also discussed the continuing government shutdown at some length, and the political compromises/machinations necessary for Obamacare to get passed. And now those very compromises are used by the Republicans who forced them, as reasons to shut down the government.

Bumper sticker: To err is human, to really screw things up, takes a politician.

Our show today included an interview with the legendary John Sinclair. It was great to talk to him, and I want to be sure to link his online radio also.


On the air today, I also mentioned the nasty hit-piece by "60 Minutes", aired last night, attacking disability benefits and presenting right-wing Senator Tom Coburn as a freedom fighter for the people. Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times dissects the propaganda very well, starting with the most obvious fact--they didn't talk to a single person receiving benefits, or a single disability advocate:
Is it possible for a major news organization to produce a story about the Social Security disability program without interviewing a single disabled person or disability advocate?

That's the experiment "60 Minutes" conducted Sunday. The result was predictably ghastly.

The news program's theme was that disability recipients are ripping off the taxpayer. Anchor Steve Kroft called the program "a secret welfare system... ravaged by waste and fraud." His chief source was Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican with a documented hostility to Social Security. Coburn has a report on the disability program's purported flaws due out Monday. Good of "60 Minutes" to give him some free publicity.

Together Kroft and Coburn displayed a rank ignorance about the disability program: how it works, who the beneficiaries are, why it has grown. This is especially shocking because after a similarly overwrought and inaccurate "investigation" of disability aired on National Public Radio in March, numerous experts came forth to set the record straight. They included eight former Social Security commissioners, experienced analysts of the program, even the Social Security Administration's chief actuary, Steve Goss.

"60 Minutes" apparently talked to none of them.

At the top of the segment, Kroft observed that disability now serves "nearly 12 million Americans," up by about 20% in the last six years. Coburn asked, "Where'd all those disabled people come from?"

To begin with, 12 million people aren't collecting disability payments. The number as of the end of 2012 was 10.9 million, comprising 8.8 million disabled workers and about 2 million of their family members, mostly children.

The rolls have grown consistently since 1980, but even though Coburn professes to be dumbfounded why, there's no mystery. As Goss laid out the factors, they include a 41% increase in the total population aged 20-64. Then there's the demographic aging of America, which has increased the prevalence of disability by 38%. (In case Coburn, a physician, hasn't noticed, the older you get, the more vulnerable you are to injury and illness.) Then there's the entry of women into the workforce in large numbers, which has brought many of them under Social Security coverage for the first time.

Finally, there's the economy. When jobs are scarce, more people land on the disability rolls, but that's not about people treating it as an alternative welfare or unemployment program, as "60 Minutes" would have it.

The relationship between disability and unemployment is much more nuanced. As we explained in April, disabled people always have more difficulty finding jobs than others; when desk jobs disappear and all that's left are laborers' positions, the opportunities for the physically and mentally challenged shrink. A good economy allows more disabled persons to find gainful employment and stay off the rolls; in a bad economy that path isn't open.
One thing that unfortunately rings true (highlighted in the piece), is how many disability-lawyers advertise on TV, guaranteeing a positive outcome. I have long noticed that the gist of these commercials is that you have been shafted and you deserve justice, whereas Steve Kroft and (presumably) Senator Coburn just hear these commercials as "Stop working! Get a check!" (Maybe we are watching different commercials?)

One of the interesting things I learned from the piece, is that some doctors are doing quickie exams right in lawyer's offices. And some judges are very friendly with certain of these lawyers, and virtually always rule in their favor. Nah, you don't say?!? The county profiled was in West Virginia; we are to seriously believe that the Old-Bubba-network suddenly surprises Coburn? Its the same system that elected him.

More from Hiltzik:
The most pernicious lie told about the disability program is that it's easy to obtain benefits. "60 Minutes" repeated that lie. The truth is that disability standards are stringent, and they're applied stringently. Two-thirds of all applicants are initially denied, though 10% or so of all applicants win benefits on appeal. All in all, 41% of all applicants end up with checks. Sound easy to you?

"60 Minutes" interviewed two Social Security disability judges, Marilyn Zahm and Randall Frye, who seemed to say that standards are so loose almost anyone can score. That's curious. When they were interviewed in 2009 by Zahm's hometown newspaper, The Buffalo News, they said that standards were too tight -- "Every month, most judges see a case that should have been paid at the first level," Frye said then. (It would be interesting to see the "60 Minutes" outtakes.)

Much of the "60 Minutes" piece was devoted to exposing garden variety scams supposedly perpetrated by shyster disability lawyers, which apparently is Coburn's hobbyhorse. But that's not the true story of Social Security disability. This is a program that serves needy, aging and injured members of the workforce, paying a princely average of $1,130 a month.

The tragedy is that the disability program is underfunded, facing the exhaustion of its resources as soon as 2016. In the past, Congress has routinely remedied this funding crisis by transferring funds from Social Security's old-age program. But it has never acted to properly support the disability fund.

Stories like the "60 minutes" and NPR pieces perpetuate the false image of disability recipients as the undeserving poor, slackers and frauds. That will make it easier for wealthy lawmakers like Coburn to hack away at the program in its time of need.

"60 Minutes" used to stand for rigorous, honest reporting. What's happened to it?
I've been wondering that myself.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Judicial Impropriety in 'Baby Veronica' case?

At left: Baby Veronica with the Capobiancos, graphic from Split Feathers.

We have been regularly covering the "Baby Veronica" case on our radio show, Occupy the Microphone on WOLI (which you should be listening to EVERY SINGLE DAY, LIVE AT FIVE!), so I haven't been covering it here. The legal twists and turns are hard to chronicle properly, and I am not sure I fully understand them myself. But there has been a new, disturbing development, with a blogger (go bloggers!) at the heart of it. I shall try to go back to the beginning and tell the story halfway intelligently. Wish me luck.

NOTE: If you prefer reading the legal minutiae and endless step-by-step court-wranglings, go to the SCOTUS blog about the case. More here.

The story begins with the child called "Baby Veronica"--who was adopted in Charleston without the knowledge or consent of her (unmarried) father, Dusten Brown. This is not, by itself, against the law here in South Carolina (although it is in some states), and this is a major reason such adoptions are popular here. The situation was complicated considerably when it was discovered that Brown is a member of the Cherokee Nation, which is legally regarded as a sovereign nation within US borders. This fact can trump state law, invoking the Indian Child Welfare Act. The adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Copabianco, fought back hard. They have money and connections, and set up several websites (some asking for money) claiming, for instance, that Veronica is only "1% Cherokee"--which is a weird claim, considering that her father is Cherokee. This appeal to bloodlines eventually turned fairly nasty and racist, not surprisingly. (I won't link to the worst of the nastiness, but will leave it to your imaginations.)

Predictably, adoptees and adoptive parents lined up on both sides of the issue. Native American activists came forward to demonstrate and agitate. One of our shows on Baby Veronica got tons of downloads, which surprised us. That's when we learned just how incendiary this case is.

In the end, Veronica was returned to her adoptive parents. Native American activists regarded this as a dangerous precedent, while the states of Oklahoma and SC both moved to punish Brown for the crime of trying to hold on to his daughter; Governor Haley finally dropped the extradition order against Brown only hours ago.

And now, a blogger comes forward claiming judicial impropriety in the case. JL Hardee deleted his original post (right as we went on the air! doncha love that timing!?! Thanks JL!) claiming he was receiving death threats over it. Scotty Reid, our online producer, summed it up on our radio blog:
Yesterday a blogger and author by the name of J. L. Hardee published a post alleging that the Judge Daniel E Martin, Jr. of Charleston, SC is under investigation for not disclosing a possible prior relationship with Melanie Duncan Capobianco and her father, leading to possible bias in his ruling awarding custody to the Capobiancos over the child’s biological father Dusten Brown who is a member of Cherokee Nation. The post has been removed but another post by J. L Hardee says he has been getting death threats over his reports and he has removed all posts related to the adoption case but stands by his report.
Hardee claims he will follow up, but I am doubtful. (I know the few times *I* have been threatened as a blogger, I am certainly not eager to repeat the experience.)

But if it is indeed true that Judge Martin knew the Capobiancos IN ANY WAY? This is an outrage and requires a full investigation. Will we get one? Do we ever? They don't call this state "Bubbastan" for nothing... Bubba runs the laws, and Bubba gets his way. If Bubba wants an investigation, there will be one. However, in this instance, Bubba doesn't--so I don't see it happening.

Let me also add: I find the timing of Governor Haley's decision to drop the extradition, very interesting in light of this accusation.

I will be following up as best I can. I hope this story doesn't simply die, as so many stories in this state do.


EDIT 10/5/2013: An astute reader sends me the following link and information:
I know you are a careful researcher, so I suspect you already have run across the story of Jan Hunt a family counselor who wrote a letter in support of the Capobianco's re the adoption of Baby Veronica and later realized that she had been seriously misled. But in case you haven't seen it here's a link.
THANK YOU! I did not have Hunt's name, and since I didn't, all of my searches brought up every other aspect of this case but what I was looking for. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the link!

Greenville-headquartered Nightlight Christian Adoptions (the adoption agency responsible for this particular debacle) has also been under attack lately in connection with a five-part Reuters investigation about the practice of "private re-homing" adoptions. They are also well-known for their so-called "snowflake" adoptions of unused embryos (originally intended for IVF implantation), that would otherwise be destroyed.