Archive | November, 2012

Hero of the Week Award: November 30, Thomas Ricks

30 Nov

Hero of the Week

It is a real pleasure to celebrate a journalist who stands up for truth and integrity in the media. Thomas Ricks is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and expert on defense issues. He has written a number of books on military history and strategy; as he tours with his most recent book, many news programs have asked him on to comment about the attack on the Benghazi consulate.

Earlier this week he appeared on FAUX news and was asked about the attacks on U.N. ambassador Susan Rice for her comments about Benghazi right after it happened. He replied, “I think that Benghazi generally was hyped by this network especially.” The stunned anchor asked him how he could consider four deaths hype, and got a strong reply.

How many security contractors died in Iraq, do you know? … No, nobody does, because nobody cared. We know that several hundred died, but there was never an official count done, of security contractors dead in Iraq. So when I see this focus on what was essentially a small fire fight, I think number one, I’ve covered a lot of fire fights, it’s impossible to figure out what happens in them sometimes. And second, I think that the emphasis on Benghazi has been extremely political partly because Fox was operating as a wing of the Republican party.

With that last line, the anchor suddenly thanked and dismissed Ricks, less than halfway into the interview’s allotted time. Poor old sad old Fox doesn’t like to hear the truth. What’s more, their VP in charge of news, Michael Clemente, immediately told the Hollywood Reporter that Ricks apologized for his comments. Not so fast! says Ricks.

Clemente is making it up, and it is sloppy of Hollywood Reporter to not ask him for specifics (what exactly am I alleged to have said?) and also to seek a response from me. Why is Fox doing this? Because their MO is that when the facts aren’t on their side, they attack the person.

Nothing could be more true. Thanks for standing up for truth and calling out media bias, Mr. Ricks.

Honorable mention goes to progressive talk radio host Stephanie Miller for admitting and correcting her own error. Wanting to raise money for the needy over the holidays, Miller partnered with an organization for her listeners to donate to. Sadly, she didn’t do her research and chose the homophobic horrors at the Salvation Army. When her listeners called her on the mistake, she quickly fixed it. She devoted a segment of her show to describe the SA’s bigotry, cancelled the partnership, and set up a more progressive donation site for the rest of the season. More than that, she matched the $1500 already given with a donation to the Trevor Project out of her own pocket. Nicely done!

Bigot of the Week Award: November 30, U.S. House Leadership

30 Nov

Bigots of the Week

Rumor has it that elephants never forget. It seems like the lumbering mastodon of the GOP never learns. In this month’s historic elections, American voters sent the most diverse group to Congress ever. Record numbers of women, African Americans, Latinos, LGB Americans, and other minorities are represented. So what did Speaker Boehner (R – is for Racist) do? He appointed all white men to be chairs of the House committees.

That’s right, there isn’t a minority heading even a small committee. You’d think an overgrown, tearful Oompaloompa like Boehner would be more sensitive, but apparently not.

Now, to be fair, there just aren’t that many minorities in the Republican House caucus, so the choices are limited (and usually creepy). After an election where the GOP got slapped down for its misogyny, racism, and homophobia, however, you’d think they would have made an effort. Maybe they could have borrowed one of Mitt Romney’s binders to find someone.

I can only think of one explanation. Since Romneybot 2012 cost the party the White House, maybe they are compensating by displaying their own white House. What do you think?

A dishonorable mention goes to Dr. Oz for thinking that it is acceptable to offer “reparative therapy” tips on his show.  Shame on you Dr. Oz!

Last chance to elect Romney!

28 Nov

Sheryl Nuxoll, brewing some bitter tea!

Yep, you read that headline right. The most toxic elements of the teabag loon parade have finally admitted that they really (no, REALLY) don’t care  about democracy. They just really (no, REALLY) want their guy to win. So what if he’s a hypocritical, vacillating windbag with no morals or ideals of his own, at least he called himself a Republican and tried hard to hate gays, women, and brown people on a regular basis. A wearisome wave of wingnuts have hatched a plan to stop that nasty Kenyan Socialist President in his tracks…THE 12th AMENDMENT. Oy ist mir! I have such a headache!

The idea (if it can be given such a noble label) has been floating around for a few days, but it took a state senator from Idaho to really crystalize things. Starting with a tweet (140 characters may be all she knows), Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, pushed an article on how to keep Obama from getting a second term. It boils down to having at least 17 of the 24 states that gave Romney electoral votes refuse to participate in the electoral process. That would eliminate a 2/3 majority of the states and (according to Nuxoll) throw things to the Republican-controlled U.S. House.

One teensy little problem with this plan. It won’t work. The majority required only matters in the House itself, after the Electoral College meets. If electors don’t show up, their votes don’t count, and the President wins by a >ahem< wider margin — oops. Reading is a pesky business. The right wing really only likes selected parts of the Constitution (or the Bible, for that matter), so perhaps we can forgive Sen. Nuxoll for her somewhat — shall we say — overenthusiastic efforts.

What’s more disgusting about this blatantly hopeless nonsense is what it says about the Republican mindset. Before the election we had Repbulican officials in Pennsylvania and Florida admitting that the only reason they were trying to stop “voter fraud” was to keep Democrats from voting and give Romney an edge. When that didn’t work (at all, given that both states went for Obama again), the whining babies of Lossville admit that they don’t care about the process, just the win. Who cares if the people voted for a President? We can use dirty tricks to steal the election! That mindset really says all we need to know.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker

26 Nov

On this date in 1832 a true American hero and pioneer was born. Mary Edwards Walker was born in the town of Oswego, NY, the youngest of five daughters in a farming family. While working on the farm, she refused to wear women’s clothes, finding them too cumbersome and restrictive, beginning a lifelong spirit of dress reform. She attended a local school then became a teacher until she had earned enough money to go to medical school. The only woman in her class, she graduated as a medical doctor in 1855–TSM readers might remember me celebrating Elizabeth Blackwell, the very first female doctor.

Her initial medical practice was not successful, as women doctors were looked upon with suspicion and distrust–a consequence of confronting a dominant discourse. She left upstate New York for Iowa in 1860 and briefly returned to school; this ended abruptly when the college suspended her for refusing to quit the debate team, which was historically all male–I guess only men know how to debate (?)

Soon after this the U.S. Civil War began and Walker volunteered for the medical corps. She was only offered employment as a nurse but often worked unpaid as a field surgeon at the front lines. Finally, in 1863, she became the first woman employed by the U.S. Army as a surgeon. In April 1864 she stayed behind after a battle to help a Confederate doctor perform an amputation; captured by the Confederate army (how’s that for gratitude?), she was held as a prisoner of war for four months, after which she returned to her duties.

When the war was over, Walker was recommended for the Medal of Honor by General William Tecumseh Sherman. President Johnson signed the bill approving the award. Walker is one of only eight civilians and the only woman ever to receive this honor.

Building on this accolade — and sadly acknowledging that outside of the battlefield she was unlikely to succeed in medical practice — she became renowned as a lecturer. She spoke and wrote frequently on health care. A staunch abolitionist before the war, she also spoke on civil rights, expanding into suffrage and other early feminist issues. She was also a dress reform pioneer, finding men’s clothing more comfortable and convenient. She was arrested a number of times for “impersonating a man” solely because of her attire.

Sadly, as with many of her peers, she died before suffrage passed in the U.S., on February 21, 1919. She had a simple funeral but was honored with the military tradition of a flag-draped casket. She was also buried in her favorite man’s dress suit. Dr. Walker has been honored with many posthumous accolades, including the use of her name for medical facilities. The Whitman-Walker clinic in Washington, DC is named for her and for fellow civil war medic,  and one of my personal heroes, Walt Whitman, who served as a nurse.

Call For Nominations: Hero and Bigot of the Year.

23 Nov

Hero and Bigot of 2011

As we grow near to the end of the calendar year, TSM is getting ready to post the Hero of the Year Award and the Bigot of the Year Award.  As usual, we are calling for nominations.

Our Hero is a person that has fought for civil rights and social justice and has demonstrated a great amount of courage over the course of this past year, such as Elizabeth Warren who earned last year’s Hero of the Year Award. The person nominated for this honor should be someone who stands in solidarity with marginalized communities and stands up for the rights of the LGBT community, for women, and for people of color.

Our Bigot is the person who has consistently demonstrated behavior that works against civil rights and social justice. This person actively practices homophobia, misogyny, and classism.  John Boehner certainly earned this dishonorable award last year as he abused his power in the house and led the team of obstructionists.

Sadly, we have had a year chock full of bigots–an embarrassment of riches, so to speak.

TSM readers, chime in and let us know if you are willing to be thanked publicly for your nomination.

Warm regards and I stand in solidarity with marginalized populations,

Michael

Thanksgiving 2012: A Collective Amnesia

22 Nov

Last night we inadvertently caught about 5 minutes of the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving episode, just enough to hear Linus declare: “… We thank God for the opportunity to create the New World for freedom and justice.”  Irony much? What an extraordinarily white perspective that does not align with reality. Freedom and Justice for whom?

I often wonder, do we collectively, as Americans, conveniently choose to forget the genocide of the native peoples living in North America–the use of bio-warfare?  Yes, multi-generations of white folk have benefitted from the slaughtering of indigenous populations in North America and stealing land. It is ironic that the early survival of the Plymouth colony depended so heavily on the agricultural and fishing advice of the Wampanoag.

The whole idea of a “first Thanksgiving” is historically murky at best, with both religious and civil harvest festivals easily traceable to the Spanish in St. Augustine and British colonies in Jamestown and Plymouth. The native populations also had histories of harvest festivals, thus rendering a colonizer’s claim of “first” another in a series of misappropriations. Regular Thanksgiving celebrations as fixed civil events became common much later, dating to the 1660s.

As with so much of early colonial American history, most of what we “remember” is filtered through centuries of creative reconstruction: bucolic paintings, myths of noble savages and honest oppressed British outcasts, grade school songs and pageants. It is understandable that we prefer not to dwell on our collective responsibility for the decimation of whole populations, but it is an important part of our nation’s history. The colonizers’ relationship with the native populations was complex (and occassionally grateful) but seldom benefitted the natives and almost certainly did not involve everybody sharing a lovely meal around a table in peace.

Let us not forget this was no mere land grab but a decimation of Holocaust proportions. Our mistreatment of the indigenous peoples in North America went on well into the 20th Century with the Termination Act, Allotment, and the creation of Boarding Schools where white people thought their job was to “kill the Indian to save the man.”

The root idea of Thanksgiving — shared by the Europeans and the indigenous peoples — as a celebration is a good one. Be thankful for what you have; celebrate the cherished loved ones in your life; take time to remember what is good and bountiful with no expectations of gain other than shared love and thanks. Let us move forward as a nation, correctly learning, remembering, and growing from our history. Let us work hard to return to this spirit of Thanksgiving. It need not be buried in any trivia: upcoming shopping orgies (conspicuous consumption), 437 sporting events, overindulgence for its own sake, or cute “historical” imagery that overlooks a complex history.

We all have people and events in our lives worthy of celebration; that is what we should use today to be truly thankful for. I hope everyone reading this blog will be able to spend time with cherished loved ones, be it families of origin or families and communities we create.  TSM wishes everyone much peace and to be surrounded by love today.

Boycott Black Friday

21 Nov

In the wake of an impressively progressive election season, let’s carry the concept of human rights into the massive holiday shopping season. The constant advertising and promotion for us to shop on Black Friday is enough to make me spit up! Making all those deals happen involves horrific and abusive employment practices.

Workers are being exploited like never before.  Walmarts around the country will be open 24 hours and are holding holiday sales on Thanksgiving itself for the first time.  The situation is so bad that Walmart employees are mounting unprecedented protests and the retail giant is pulling out every dirty trick to try to stop them.  Have you no decency Walmart?

Please consider some simple facts before you surge into the shopping madness this weekend.

  • For you to shop at 2 o’clock, someone has to be there at 1:00 to set up the store; or stay after closing the night before so all the special advertising material isn’t shown before the sale begins.
  • The stores and malls that offer shockingly “great” deals for earlybirds have to be staffed by people, people who should have lives of their own.
  • Most of those retail staff are underpaid; many try to support families on wages below poverty without benefits.
  • Before you shout “But they’ll earn great commissions!” please realize that most retailers drastically reduce commission levels (if they offer them at all) starting on the day after Thanksgiving because it’s “too easy” to earn the extra money being run off your feet by extra hoards of shoppers fighting over the last Tickle Me Bieber–I think I just made myself spit up a little with that one.
  • Many of those workers rely on public transportation, which doesn’t operate during the hours it takes to get to the workplace to staff these special sales. So even if they get commissions or overtime (or just extra work hours), those minimal wages get eaten up with cab fare or parking fees paid while they deprive the rest of the family of the one vehicle they own.
  • You don’t need a bargain so badly that it’s worth going to the store at 4a.m., and an extra 5% off the latest Wii isn’t worth your sleep or your time with your family. Really.

So please join me in saying “NO” to abusive sales practices. If you have any other local choices, stay away from Walmart. While you’re at it, avoid JCPenney, which promised to skip Black Friday back in February but has reneged on that oath.

Times are hard, so shop smart and save where you can. But please remember the thousands of people it takes to get that bargain ready for you, and treat them with human kindness this holiday season.

Healing Homophobia Through Native American Traditions

19 Nov

I need to thank my friends Mileka, Lori, and Deb for their enormous efforts in helping with the research for this article.  Prior to colonization, Native Americans across the country embraced Two Spirit people, or what we would refer to as people in the LGBT community.  The indigenous peoples of North America operated from the perspective: “We don’t throw our people away.” Unlike our divided nation today — which feels it is okay to discard people and marginalize certain populations — most Native tribes embraced all of their people and their differences.

Two-Spirt people were often revered because they contain both feminine and masculine qualities, thus allowing us to see the world with a uniquely balanced perspective.  Often times, Two-Spirt folk would be in charge of Naming Ceremonies for children.  Two-Spirit people were also revered as a type of shaman, and often used as “nannies” caring for children.

With the advent of colonization and interference from the Catholic Church, we saw misogyny and homophobia eat away at Native American traditions.  Sadly, many Native American tribes are struggling with homophobia and the suicide rates for Native teens who are two spirit.

The good news is that many tribes that are working hard to fight homophobia by embracing pre-colonization traditions.  In fact, the local NAYA center here in Portland is working hard to combat homophobia.  For example, when young people throw around the word “gay” as a pejorative, they are reminded that is not consistent with Traditional Native American values, which is quite wonderful as there is an increasing population of Native youth that are wanting to return to their traditions.

We can learn a great deal from our Native American brothers and sisters and their traditions.  Wouldn’t it be nice to work to stop misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and to stop marginalizing people who don’t fit into the neat little boxes we seem to want to assign to people?

Hero of the Week Award: November 16, United Parcel Service (UPS)

16 Nov

Hero of the Week

It’s a delight to honor another company doing the right thing and standing up for equality. This week United Parcel Service — the carrier known as UPS — ended all corporate funding of the Boy Scouts of America. The reason? The Boy Scouts’ steadfast refusal to stop discriminating against the LGBT community. This announcement appeared on the company’s website on Monday.

The UPS Foundation seeks to support organizations that are in alignment with our focus areas, guidelines, and non-discrimination policy. UPS and The UPS Foundation do not discriminate against any person or organization with regard to categories protected by applicable law, as well as other categories protected by UPS and The UPS Foundation in our own policies. These include, but are not limited to race, gender, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran or military status, pregnancy, age and religion.

UPS has been one of the top ten donors to the Scouts in the past. This action is in direct response to a campaign by Zach Wahls and GLAAD to put pressure on the Scouts to change their ways. Intel, the largest donor in 2010, agreed earlier this year to withdraw their support.

Both Intel and UPS score well in the updated Corporate Equality Index just released by the Human Rights Campaign. Intel scores a 96 (lacking some peripheral benefits for domestic partners) and UPS a 90 (losing points for a lack of fully transgender inclusive health insurance). The Index this year includes a record 688 companies. An amazing 252 of those score a perfect 100, up significantly from last year’s 189. Businesses are increasingly aware of the need to be responsible stewards and friendly workplaces.

It is nice to see progress being made towards inclusivity and fighting marginalization, unless you are a Boy Scout or Republican.

Bigot of the Week Award: November 16, Mitt Romney (again?!?)

16 Nov

Bigot of the Week

Just like the legendary bad penny (okay, BILLIONS of bad pennies), poor old sad old Mitt just won’t go away. Losing the election wasn’t enough; he had to earn BWA just one more time before he (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE) fades away forever. Romneybot 13.2 held a conference call with donors and fundraisers this week — he’s still most comfortable talking to money rather than people, after all. Of course one topic that came up is why he managed to lose so badly.

(HINT to Mitt — You should have noted that you are a barely human, out-of-touch elitist with serious racist, and misogynist overtones who subscribes to homophobic agendas and supports a platform that makes David Duke wince. But of course you didn’t.)

Why did he lose, according to him? Sluts and lazy kids and brown people (especially illegal ones), because Obama gave ’em stuff.

With regards to the young people, for instance, forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift. Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. […] You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge. Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.

So much for disavowing his infamous 47% comments and tacking toward the center. This is as close to the real Romney as we will ever see…and it sure ain’t pretty.

Dishonorable mention this week goes to Megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress of Texas. Why don’t we let him show you why with this lovely quote:

I want you to hear me tonight, I am not saying that President Obama is the Antichrist, I am not saying that at all. One reason I know he’s not the Antichrist is the Antichrist is going to have much higher poll numbers when he comes. President Obama is not the Antichrist. But what I am saying is this: the course he is choosing to lead our nation is paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist.

Hmmm — care and compassion for all or elitist oppression. How would Jesus vote? Seems like our Rev. Jeffress is a wee bit confused about his scripture.

Sadly, another dishonorable mention goes to the Grumpy Old Man, yelling “get off my lawn,” John McCain, who rather than attending a committee meeting called his own press conference to kvetch about what was going on in the meeting that he missed. Benghazi, schmengazi — where’s my barcalounger?

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