Sunday, December 19, 2010

I am usually not qualified to discuss this

h/t the exceedingly odd but always interesting Xeni Jardin at

When people are right, they're right, even if they're in a minority position on the Internet. The linked image (start of a rather lengthy cartoon commentary) is a reminder that the "default" online presence remains straight white male, due emphasis on male, even in 2010, and minority presence includes female.

Now I have to figure out how to share this further on my other social media feeds without startling the hell out of my more clean-cut contacts. Don't worry, they all know I'm black, I'm not that anonymous nor would I care to be. They also know I associate with certain brash, trash-mouthy folk of various ilk even if I don't personally bandy about "certain language." But in deference to my own sincere Christian relatives and friends, I usually don't put the coarser language a mere click away, I tone it down or buffer it a bit.

So go ahead, click through above. Be patient if it's slow-loading. Note for the record that certain text at the other end is NSFW.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Don't ask some black folk to be consistent. Don't tell them equality covers anyone but themselves.

UPDATE, Christmas Eve 2010: Since President Obama signed the bill repealing DADT earlier this week, it's been pretty quiet on the objection front. I assume it's because people in black churches everywhere are getting ready to welcome black LGBT folk with open arms this Sunday.

I usually make my comments on Don't Ask, Don't Tell elsewhere, because elsewhere is where I encounter most of the jarring statements, inconsistencies and cognitive dissonance. Some black folk, though they know discrimination first-hand and are quick to point it out, will gladly, smugly, gleefully continue discrimination against others-- now it's gays in the military, next time it will be someone else if we don't learn from our own history.

It's weird to have to argue that DADT was a mistake that should not have been enacted as military policy in the first place. The arguments in favor of it, never that strong in the face of military reality since the 1980s, have been overturned, most recently by a survey of people actually on active duty. But argue we must.

When DADT was enacted I was on active duty. Deep down, I knew from the outset it was wrong in concept, hard to comply with, and hard to enforce, but it was what we called a lawful order or regulation . It seemed a way to move on an issue that needed to be dealt with, or if you prefer, "dealt with." The late Reagan and early Bush years brought a heightened awareness of gay presence in the military to the ostensibly straight majority. More women filled non-traditional positions in the 1980s and that brought (inevitable?) accusations against them. The AIDS scourge, little understood at the time, made every male who got mysteriously ill a suspect. Sexual orientation was not a constant front-burner topic but somehow it got enough public attention to warrant action at the highest levels-- hence, DADT.

I should not claim I was born with a view of non-discrimination towards gays or the rest of the LGBT community, or was brought up with it, or entered the military with it. In my childhood, it was all about racial and religious equality in our household. (To my recollection, gender equality was never a topic. We pretended my dad was in charge.) Sexual orientation was never discussed directly.

In my case it took actual service with people who were obviously leading closeted lives. (They were doing so before, but my blinders are pretty darn good.) There was no epiphany, no singular event. But there was a point at which I realized I would never turn anyone in for being gay even if I knew it (as opposed to wondering, suspecting, or some other indefinite state). This point was a bit before DADT, so by the time the policy came into being my attitude had already hardened in favor of just leaving people alone.

DADT doesn't leave people alone. It's past time to get rid of it.

House approves repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell'

The 250-175 vote is aimed at putting new pressure on the Senate to end the policy banning gay troops from serving openly in the military.

By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau
December 15, 2010, 2:31 p.m.

Reporting from Washington — After stumbling last week, the effort to end the policy banning gay troops from serving openly in the military received a boost Wednesday, as the House approved a measure repealing the policy in an effort to force the Senate to do the same before lawmakers go home for the holidays.

The House vote on the "don't ask, don't tell" policy -- essentially a repeat of a similar vote in May -- puts fresh pressure on the Senate leaders to prioritize the repeal as they struggle to schedule votes on a handful of last-chance priorities for Democrats.

The final tally was 250 to 175, mostly along party lines.

Monday, December 13, 2010

To paraphrase politely, Haiti can't catch a darn break

Imagine living in Haiti. Now, imagine Sarah Palin showing up to see how you're doing.

Published: Dec. 13, 2010 at 9:29 AM

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Americans shouldn't forget about Haiti and the devastation remaining from a monster earthquake in January, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said.

Palin, her husband Todd and her daughter Bristol traveled to Haiti to view relief work led by Rev. Franklin Graham, leader of the non-profit Samaritan's Purse and son of evangelist Billy Graham, The Miami Herald reported Monday...

Next, imagine bipartisan U.S. support for withholding funding.

...Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., both voiced concerns about the Haitian election. Leahy last week urged Washington hold back funding to the Haitian government until officials ensure a "fair and democratic outcome" to the presidential vote.

h/t this Twitter Trail: Farai Chideya --> Kai Wright --> Mac McClelland --> Jonathan M. Katz

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Paul Farmer offers "5 lessons from Haiti's Disaster"

h/t Balloon Juice.

Paul Farmer of Partners in Health wrote a short article for Foreign Policy that could be a wake-up call for some deserving nation. Can't imagine which nation that would be. Said wake-up could be for how to consider treating Haiti in the future (like a sovereign nation?) or it could be for how to heal the deserving nation itself, as it is in a bit of trouble these days. I'll list just the five lessons, and you can read the details over there.
  1. Jobs are everything.
  2. Don't starve the government.
  3. Give them something to go home to.
  4. Waste not, want not.
  5. Relief is the easy part.

Friday, December 3, 2010

All the prisoners that will fit

Earlier this week, there was a flurry of articles about California's overcrowded prisons, and how that didn't bother Gov. Arnold (or, one presumes, many other Californians) one bit. The overcrowding has been in and out of the news over the past decade, but in the courts consistently. The case Schwarzenegger v. Plata has finally reached the Supreme Court, hence the current spate of articles.

The most influential jurist along the way has been Federal District Judge Thelton Henderson, an African American who is Google-worthy in his own right. In 2004 he threatened to take over the California corrections system, and in 2006 he got fed up and made good on it, putting prison health care into receivership. In 2007, the Supreme Court weighed in by saying California judges did not have enough discretion in sentencing. Since then, the state has made a show of adjusting sentencing laws and new prison construction, but Judge Henderson says they're foot-dragging and that he's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Here's one sample from this week. I like the Ifills, so this is from The Root:

In a case before the Supreme Court, California Gov. Schwarzenegger is arguing that judges have no right to tell states to reduce their prison populations.
By: Sherrilyn A. Ifill | Posted: November 29, 2010 at 6:05 PM

America's prisons, like many of our public schools, reflect our country's most shameful and profound failings. This week the U.S. Supreme Court takes on one aspect of our nation's love affair with incarceration.

In Schwarzenegger v. Plata, the state of California has challenged an order issued by a three-judge federal court under the Prison Reform Litigation Act, which requires the state to reduce its prison population to deal with overcrowding. The court found that overpopulation is directly responsible for the failure of the California system to provide inmates with adequate physical and mental health services. California argues that the prison reduction order issued by the three-judge court under the PRLA goes beyond the scope of the statute and infringes on the state's power.

This case is likely to play out before the court and in the media as a battle over states' rights -- in this case, the right of the state of California to manage its own prison system -- and against the encroachment of federal judges supplanting the judgment of elected leaders with their own version of appropriate public policy. Indeed, 18 states have joined in a brief supporting the state of California and making this very argument.

But there's much more at stake in this case than the age-old "state sovereignty versus federal courts" story. In fact, the federal court's prison reduction order in this case is something of a last resort -- imposed only after eight years in which the state of California, while conceding the unconstitutional overcrowding in its prison system, has failed to reduce its prison population. The Plata suit stems from an action filed back in 2001. The state conceded in 2002 that prison overcrowding threatened the constitutional rights of prisoners...

Much more at the link!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Shirley Chisholm: Acknowledge

Suspending curmudgeonly comments for a moment, Nov. 30 was Shirley Chisholm's birthday. Here are two items I saw in the past 24 hours that resonated:

(1) Avoice (one word) is a site about African Americans in Congress. Here is the Shirley Chisholm page at Avoice. Short but sweet.

(2) The Daily Kos has a nice multimedia tribute to Shirley Chisholm on Black Kos (Tuesday's Chile).