Sunday, July 24, 2011
A poll posted on World Net Daily asked the following question:
Do you think more Islamic terrorism of the kind that hit Norway today will visit U.S.?
No, this is an aberration and not reflective of true Islam
No, terrorists are afraid of attacking the U.S. because of Obama's superior Homeland Security approach
No, they will not hit America as long as Obama is in power because he is perceived as conciliatory
No, Obama put the fear of God in them by assassinating Bin Laden
No, I don't believe this was an Islamic attack. It was a false flag operation
Yes, this war has raged in the heart of Islam for 1,300 years. It's not over
Yes, the U.S. is the Great Satan. We need to be ready
Yes, this is a foretaste of what is coming and the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 is near
Yes, this is a monster that must be destroyed not appeased or fed
Yes, the U.S. must be eternally vigilant against its No. 1 foreign enemy
The answers listed above are nothing more than an anti-Obama, anti-Muslim, pro-war indcotrination piece. The owner and editor-in-chief if WND is Joseph Farrah, whose claim to fame is demanding to see Obama's Long-Form birth certificate (a limelight stolen, briefly, by Donald Combover Trump.)
Sadly, World Net Daily was not alone in this pseudo-journalism. An article in today's London Telegraph about the bombing and shooting included the following paragraph:
"British security forces were immediately placed on alert amid fears that Norway’s worst terrorist outrage might be the first in a series of attacks on the West. The carnage followed repeated warnings that al-Qaeda was planning a Mumbai-style attack on countries involved in the war in Afghanistan, where Norway has about 500 troops."
(how many more references to the Islamic world could they have made in one paragraph of insinuation?)
Pamela Geller, publisher of the website Atlas Shrugs and executive director of Stop Islamization of America, wrote on her site: "You can ignore jihad, but you cannot avoid the consequences of ignoring jihad"
There is no doubt that the horror visited upon Norway yesterday was the work not of Muslims or al qaeda, but of Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing, neo-nazi, anti-immigrant, Christo-fascist who called for a new Crusade to wipe Muslims from Europe.
By joining in an anti-Muslim hysteria, World Net Daily and right-wing politicians and "journalists" have, in effect, joined the horrific campaign that Mr. Brevik initiated yesterday in Norway.
Shame on them, their allies, and supporters.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
In promoting the letter, GM4NY chose to repeat and highlight a particularly offensive passage from the letter:
Hear this, straight people: Maybe it's convenient for you to get married over the weekend, or maybe you just like the novelty factor of tying the knot on a historic day. But the opportunity means a hell of a lot more for gay couples. Every spot in the lottery occupied by one of you means a gay couple misses out on an experience with much deeper personal significance."
Within an hour, 113 comments had been lodged on the Facebook site, with only two individuals supporting GM4NY's posting of the letter. All others took the organization to task. A representative sample of comments:
Chelle Panzica: I dont think its fair to ask heteros not to get married on the 24, weddings typically are planned way ahead of time and to even ask that is kind of rude. and im gay! and from ny
Denise Gibaldi: equality means EVERYONE should be able get married!
Shannon McNeece: You are just as ignorant as you claim "straight people" are. "Listen up straight people"? Really?
Todd Joseph: agreed, it is a day to celebrate EQUALity- for everyone, we must act within the constraints of what we demanded. lets the state rejoice together
Andrew Arslan: Kinda wrong...if they want to get married that same day let 'em. Without their support we wouldn't even have that day.
Penni Blizzard- McGrath: Seriously? "Listen?" We've been listening and we applaud equal rights - don't ask for "special" rights now. THAT attitude is why so many are clueless.
James Carter Giardina Jr.: I'm gonna have to agree, I do not feel comfortable asking (demanding) the right to marry, and than turning around and asking other couples not too. That date could have a very specific and special meaning to a heterosexual couple just as it will to gay ones. The day will mean no less, if it is shared with heterosexual couples. If anything it will mean so much more.
Alyssa Andrew: Rude, rude, RUDE.
Danny-Timothy Patrick Tyrell: Someone, please contact NYMag and let them know this is a big mistake to print. Gay Marriage for NY. I can't believe you even reposted this. Bad Form, very Bad Form.
Brittany Cable: I'm going to agree with everyone else -- straight people have just as much of a right to get married on that day as we do. To ask them not to because the day is somehow "more special" to us is rather rude and insensitive of us.
Matthew Mackey: I do not agree with this article one bit. Asking for straight ppl to wait to get married is exactly OPPOSITE of what we were fighting for. PPL who are fighting against our rights and equality are going to use this article against us. Their marriages are just as important as ours are.
As the hits came coming, GM4NY attempted to distance themselves from the letter with the excuse that they only were posting it "for discussion purposes." However, they never asked for discussion, comment, opinion, or input: instead, they simply quoted and posted the pointed paragraph above.
Let's be frank: GM4NY is not a 'discussion group' - it is an advocacy organization with over 140,000 followers that has used social media to pursue specific political agendas. Someone thought a bit too highly of themselves and chose to pursue an offensive agenda that is not supported by the GLBT community, and then found themselves backtracking and excuse-making.
In blunt terms: this is a freaking stupid-ass campaign. Who the hell at GM4NY thought that this idiocy was a good idea? Straight couples and legislators were our allies throughout the Marriage Equality process, and 'reserving' a date just for same-sex marriages is insulting and asinine. We ALL deserve to tie the knot if we want to - thats what Marriage Equality was all about! We argued we wanted Equality; our opponents argued that we wanted "special rights." Any effort to reserve a date as 'special' for gay marriages alone validates our opponents arguments that we wanted 'special rights.'
What we want is Equality, not special treatment. Someone at Gay Marriage for NY needs a swift kick in the ass for this...and for digging in its heels and refusing to accept the criticism of the vast majority of its followers - many of whom worked tirelessly for Marriage Equality - who were insulted, upset, and horrified by their position.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
It reminded me of an incident a number of years ago, where some local Bears planned a fundraiser for a local New Hampshire AIDS Service agency. Drawing on their own natural interests, they began putting together a pool party at a local hotel, complete with a burgers-and-beer cookout. Unfortunately, some in the Agency immediately insisted on having their Drag friends do an Esther-Williams-styled, in-the-water Drag Show at the BBQ…and the entire event fell apart before it was held.
This brings me to the central (and controversial) question of this blog post:
“Has the GLBT community ignored its own members by having gone overboard in its obsession with Drag?”
I want to make it clear from the start that I appreciate a good Drag performer, especially one that actually sings rather than simply lip-synchs. I admit that Ru Paul’s Drag Show is a guilty pleasure of mine, and I’ve gone to Boston to see Jujube, Raven, and Pandora Boxx. For Mother’s Day, my sister, brother-in-law, and boyfriend took my mother to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert on Broadway. Attending the annual Invasion of the Pines is on my personal bucket list. I have no objection to, and in fact enjoy, good Drag.
Having said that, there *is* such a thing as too much of a good thing, especially when that ‘good thing’ begins to become socially ‘required,’ ‘expected’ and ‘normative’ of the entire community.
The gay male community has a seemingly reflexive ‘need’ to use Drag Queens as their ‘symbols and spokespersons.’ The result is that it conveys an image to the world, that Drag is, in fact, what all gay men are all about. As a younger man struggling with the coming out process, I told myself many times that I couldn’t possibly be gay, ‘because I’m not like that – I don’t want to dress up like that.” And unfortunately, I have discovered dozens upon dozens of men who were closeted for much of their lives because they felt the same conflict; in essence, the gay male community did not ‘communicate’ its muscle-bear-and-leather masculine role models to the general public the way it did with its Drag Performers.
Even in retelling the history of the Stonewall Riots, we have created a mythology surrounding Drag Queens: it is almost accepted without question in gay circles that the Stonewall Riots were begun by the Fierce Queens who took off their stiletto heels and began fighting back against the police. The objective reality is that the riots began when a lesbian, hit on the head with a billy club after complaining that the handcuffs they slapped on her were too tight, turned to the crowd and shouted, “Why aren’t you guys doing something?!” The crowd – largely anti-authority young people, hippies, and gay males (but not Queens) – erupted into the “riot.” The Stonewall was not full of Drag Queens – in fact, official Stonewall Policy was to limit the number of transvestites allowed to enter to less than a handful each night. But our Drag mythology remains…
It seems to me that there is a parallel between the Drag Art Form and the Black Minstrel Art Form of a century earlier.
In the late 1800s, many white performers donned black face and appeared in shows that lampooned black people. Using extreme forms of caricature and stereotype, blacks were characterized as simple, childish, lazy, and superstitious. It was, by its nature, "over the top" for its silliness. Eventually, the most successful minstrel artists were black performers themselves, who perfected this niche entertainment market: Billy Kersands, James A. Bland, Sam Lucas, and Wallace King became greater performers than whites in blackface.
The problem with the success of minstrel, of course, is that it perpetuated a stereotype of the entire black community: the art form that gave these men a voice and a safe place to make their way against all odds, also served to cement, in the public’s mind, a certain ‘image’ of Americans of African descent.
In much the same way, Drag has been the same type of double-edged sword. It has allowed talented performers to engage in outrageous caricatures, with seven-inch heels, four-foot hairdos, five pounds of make-up, three-inch lashes, sequined dresses and super bitchy, self-indulgent attitudes that elicit smiles and laughs from an entertained audience…and often, in its earliest days, it was performed in clubs where gay men could be considered relatively ‘safe.’
But, like minstrel, it also perpetuates the stereotype that gay men are effeminate, female-wannabes among the general heterosexual public. And the more I speak with gay men, the more I hear frustration and even resentment that GLBT community leaders continue to push the notion of the Drag Queen as the highest form of ‘community spokespersons.’
Most if us – quite frankly, more than 95% of us – are simply not personally into drag. But it is continually thrust upon us, and its adoration ‘required’ of us.
At last month’s Mariage Equality rally in Albany, NY, several hundred people – straight allies, lesbians, gay men – gathered to press for legislation in the Capital West Plaza. Among this crowd – which looked like it could have been any crowd at any political event – there was a single outrageously dressed Drag Queen. We watched a news reporter show up to get a scoop on the day’s events...and, as could have been predicted, she headed straight for the Drag Queen, conducted her interview, and filed her story.
There it was: 250-300 of your most average looking neighbors supporting marriage equality, and when the news hit the public airwaves, the public was left with the suggestion that we're all about cross-dressing queens.
And the Waterworks Pub still insists on its weekly drag nights, rather than listen to patrons who suggest it's not what they really want...
Thursday, July 07, 2011
The Bass's front yard was torn up after replacing a sewer line, and after the work was completed Julie Bass decided to grow a vegetable garden, planting basil, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers in five raised beds and bringing down the wrath of the city's central planners.
Julie Bass said, “We thought we’re minding our own business, doing something not ostentatious and certainly not obnoxious or nothing that is a blight on the neighborhood, so we didn’t think people would care very much.”
In another day, the Basses would have been considered 'patriots' for planting a 'victory garden.' But some obnoxious neighbor complained about the aesthetics of cucumber blossoms, and called the city. The city then sent out code enforcement.
“They warned us at first that we had to move the vegetables from the front, that no vegetables were allowed in the front yard. We didn’t move them because we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong, even according to city code we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong. So they ticketed us and charged me with a misdemeanor,” Bass responded.
The Oak Park City code says that all unpaved portions of the site shall be planted with grass or ground cover or shrubbery or "other suitable live plant material." The code was clearly meant to insure vegetated ground cover, as opposed to expanses of bare, eroded dirt. But apparently, a power-triping city Planning and Technology Director Kevin Rulkowski has insisted that peppers are not suitable. He said, “If you look at the dictionary, suitable means common. You can look all throughout the city and you’ll never find another vegetable garden that consumes the entire front yard.”
Excuse me? I checked five dictionaries, and not one equated "suitable" with "common." Sounds like a petty official caught shooting his mouth off and now scrambling to defend himself.
He continued, "...if you look around and you look in any other community, what’s common to a front yard is a nice, grass yard with beautiful trees and bushes and flowers.”
Really? "Beautiful" trees and bushes? Just what is the legal criteria for deciding what is "beautiful?" Is a Weeping Willow beautiful, or a mess? Are a field of Black-Eyed Susans 'beautiful flowers,' or 'overgrown weeds?' Are bushes with red flowers preferable to bushes with small white ones?
As "The Agitator" reported, "God forbid your yard doesn’t include beautiful trees, bushes and flowers. It’s your job, Oak Park citizens, to give Kevin Rulkowski pretty things to look at."
Furthermore, Mr. Rulkowski is dead wrong: I have seen plenty of yards in multiple states in the Northeast that have planted vegetables in the front yard...and I myself, as I write, have green peppers, chives, and oregano planted in the front, alongside tall, grassy field daisies.
The city prosecutor intends on going all the way through a jury trial for this awful insult to the community...meaning 93 days in jail if he wins. What a waste of city money...what a waste of resources...what an abuse of the power to jail.
In a time when we are experiencing 10%+ unemployment - with Michigan at the top of the nations' jobless basket cases - discouraging anyone from growing vegetables because they are not 'pretty' enough is indefensible idiocy, and, quite frankly, neither the neighbors nor the city's business.
Oak Park wins our first "Authority Running Amock" Award. We hope that Bass's neighbors start planting beautiful flowering chives and flowering squash in their front yards, so that by becoming 'common,' they will also become 'suitable.'
Or, better yet, just ignore this stupid law altogether and ask the city to find Mr. Rulkowski something worthwhile to do.
Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Good Morning and Happy Birthday to the United States of America. This 4th of July has an extra special meaning as justice was recently served with the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Though his death does not bring back the victims it helps us to close the door on a horrible chapter of our nations history.
My name is Jeff Ballard and I am a combat medic in the Army National Guard. Last year I left my full time job as an RN in the Emergency Department at Wentworth Douglass Hospital to deploy to Afghanistan in hopes of using my medical skills wherever needed.
I would like to thank you all for joining us today. I'd like to thank Mayor T-J Jean, Joel Plante the New Hampshire State Deputy of the Knights of Columbus and all of the groups which comprise the Rochester Veterans Council who are with us today.
As I stand here in front of you this morning, I am deeply aware that I am just one of many in a long line, both men and women, that have been involved in defending our country against our enemies...We have always valued freedom and defended others around the world, as well as our families here at home ...hoping that peace and democracy can be brought to all of the people of the world.
We are Americans and we honor all that have made this country so great.
As we celebrate with our friends and family I ask that you remember those who are still in harms way fighting to ensure that America gets to celebrate another 235 birthdays.
With us today are my wife, Stephanie and son Tyler and I would like to publicly thank them and recognize the sacrifice that they made to keep our family running smoothly while I was away. For Stephanie this included us buying a new house and moving in by herself, her company moving from Wolfeboro to Pembroke which made her commute increase from 20 minutes to an hour and a half and her running my successful campaign for State Representative, though the other guy got more votes, so now we are waiting for 2012.
Let me start of by saying that my statements today are in no way endorsed by the Department of Defense. They are all my own independent thoughts based on my unique personal experiences.
I am happy to say that while in Afghanistan I had more positive experiences than negative ones. My company, Charlie Company 3/172 Infantry brought all of our soldiers home and only had one soldier who needed to be evacuated out of country due to a gun shot wound. Our soldiers did suffer a significant number of head injuries and concussions due to IED and mortar attacks. Many of these soldiers are still dealing with the effects of those injuries today.
Sadly our battalion did lose two soldiers who were killed in combat. Sgt's Tristan Southworth and Steven Deluzio were killed in action on Aug 22, 2010 in the Jaji district of Paktia Province. They will always be remembered and honored.
We served in a mountainous region of Afghanistan called Paktia Province which is 3800 square miles or about a third the size of New Hampshire. The elevation ranged from 7000 to 8500 feet. The climate was very arid with average temperatures being in the 70's during the summer months.
Paktia province has a historical value both in ancient history as well as more recently as it is the area of the country where Osama Bin Laden planned the 9/11 attacks and later escaped to Pakistan from.
Our journey to Afghanistan started in Oct 2009 with several months of training and supplying with thousands of dollars of new gear and flame resistant uniforms.
When the time came for us to leave the US in the first week of March we flew out of Louisiana in the middle of the night. Our first stop was in Bangor, Maine. We arrived around 6am in the morning and the Freeport Flag Ladies were all ready there to greet us. This is an amazing group of volunteers who partners with our own Pease Greeters to ensure every flight returning or departing is greeted. A lot of people have bumper stickers that say we support our troops, but very few people can say they do like these two groups.
Life in Afghanistan for us was surprisingly comfortable most of the time. We lived in B huts and almost all of us had private rooms which were about 8 by 8 and we were free to customize them however we wanted to based on the materials we could secure. There were some very creative rooms to say the least.
I quickly got to know a lot of the locals who worked on our base. I enjoyed the Afghans and their sense of humor. They joke around much like us and enjoy pulling pranks on one another. They are also the most generous people I have ever met. These people live in severe poverty, but they don't think twice of sharing anything they have, even with us Americans who make more in a day than most of them do in a year. With this years budget in Concord and the hits on the poor and mentally ill I think the legislatures in Concord could learn a lot from the Afghans. Frankly I believe most Afghans would be embarrassed by our budget and our lack of generosity for the less fortunate.
The first half of my tour I spent acting as a medic for a Military Police platoon. With them we worked closely with the Afghan Uniformed Police. We would conduct duel patrols and raids based on intel gathered by the AUP. Most of these raids would end with us finding small weapons caches which were more likely for self defense than attacking us, but it showed our presence and that we knew what was going on in the villages.
My very first mission in country was to conduct a cordon and search of a village suspected of harboring the Taliban. It had the potential of being a very dangerous raid as no Americans had been there for 4 years and the long road there was suspected of being heavily IED'd. Due to the hillside location of the village they would see us coming from miles away and would have time to place ambushes for us.
Luckily our large convoy of 30 or so trucks made it to the village with no IED's going off and once we started searching a few friendly villagers quickly gave up the location of the large caches. We found RPG's, Mortars, AK-47's, Machine Guns as well as hundreds of pounds of IED making materials. By taking these out of the enemies hands we saved countless lives that day without suffering a single injury.
My next major mission was a large combined Air Assault mission which was the largest since Operation Anaconda at the beginning of the war and also took place in some of the same villages. This mission ended up being a bust as the village we searched no longer appeared to be a safe haven for the Taliban as we had feared. None the less it was an exciting experience and one I will always remember.
After I returned from leave I was transferred to Zormat to be with 3rd Platoon Charlie Company 3/172. This was an exciting move for me as the majority of fighting had taken place in Zormat.
My first mission was to move to a village called Raymen Kheyl to help secure it while a new American combat outpost was being built. The Taliban had been launching daily mortar attacks at the new base from the village so we were there to stop them. It was an enjoyable two weeks as our daily routine involved getting to know the local children, sleeping in if you were not on guard duty and enjoying the Afghan summer. Of course we had no running water, no hot food, only had basic shelter which we built ourselves, but we were able to grow beards so we enjoyed it none the less.
It was here that I saw for the first time the effect of children growing up with war in their back yards. About a half a kilometer away a civilian vehicle hit an IED and exploded. The explosion was followed by AK-47 firing from a nearby AUP unit (they often shoot indiscriminately at the sound of any explosion). Despite an explosion close enough to feel the shock wave and automatic rifle fire the children did not miss a beat in the game they were playing. Sadly it has become that much of their everyday life.
Despite what you hear one the news we are doing a great job in Afghanistan and winning the people over. I feel the problem is in our approach. We are trying to do a top down recovery, trickle down, if you will. The people at the top are hoarding the money and moving off to places like Dubai while the work that is being down is shoddy at best since the money intended for the projects is not being spent on them. If we started a bottom up approach where Company Commanders went to the villagers and asked them what they needed and then provided it to them it would give them a reason to stop fighting us.
A lot of Taliban fighters have nothing against America, they just have no other way to provide for their families. While it would do little to stop the hard core fighters, providing real jobs would take away the fighters who fight because they have no other way to feed their families.
I enjoyed teaching the Afghan medics what I could. Their basic diet consists of almost everything being cooked in animal fat so indigestion is a common problem. Once they discovered Zantac I quickly became a hero as I always carried a bottle with 1000 pills so I could dispense a week or two's worth to every Afghan. I would always try to supply the medics with an extra supply of Zantac too.
Sadly we got to treat many children with injuries. Burns are very common since their food is boiled in animal fat over an open fire. It was rewarding to ease their pain and provide proper care to them to prevent infection and minimize scarring.
I had negative experiences too. I saw things done to a human body that no one should have to see. I had one Afghan Soldier so severely injured there was no way I thought he could be alive. He was literally a ball of flesh, yet somehow he managed to live for nearly an hour. We did what we could to keep him comfortable and to provide him dignity.
I'll end with sharing my personal story. When I arrived home I was not able to get the psychological help I needed right away due to some physical injuries that took precedent. It became much too easy to resort to alcohol instead. If you are a veteran suffering from PTSD I urge you to go to the Vet Center or any other resource to help you. In just a few visits I was able to identify my problems, and I was given coping mechanisms so now I can have a drink when I want one, but I never NEED one.
Thank you for giving me the chance to share my story today, as many of the vets here know there can be healing in opening up and sharing your experiences. I would encourage you to also share your story when you are ready and begin your own healing processes if you haven't already.
Sunday, July 03, 2011
What follows are the list of reasons contained in the American Declaration of Independence which compelled us to engage in revolution. One can only wonder where that fiery, rebellious spirit has gone:
"...He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands…
(Like the refusal of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform…and Arizona’s and Alabama’s requirements that immigrants show ‘papers’ in order to travel)
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers…
(Like removing terrorism trials from Judicial Review by calling them ‘military tribunals’)
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance...
(Need I start listing government regulations, offices, and rules?)
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures...
(Like a vague “war on terror” as a pretense for increased militarization and global adventures, and the use of our National Guard as an overseas military force)
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power...
(Like asking the Generals how they feel about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rather than telling them what to do)
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation…
(Like the World Trade Organization…)
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us: For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States…
(Like arresting citizens for videotaping police brutality incidents on their cell phones)
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world…
(Like embargoes on Cuba and Iran)
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent…
(Like Imputed Income Tax on same-sex spouses covered by health insurance)
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury…
(Like confiscation of property in tax and drug cases prior to trial)
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences…
(Like Guantanamo Bay)
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies…
(Like replacing Common Law remedies at law with statutory penalties)
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments…
(Like suspending Writs of Habaeus corpus under The Patriot Act, and eliminating the need for a warrant to search cars, library records, and bank accounts)
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
(Like gerrymandering districts to insure the outcomes of elections, making it almost impossible for third parties to get on the ballot, and passing laws against victimless crimes and regulating our private lives).
What will YOU do this year to continue the Spirit of the American Revolution?