Monday, December 12, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dayton Names Joyce Sutphen as Minnesota's Laureate


Joyce Sutphen is a very readable, very likable poet who will make an irresistible ambassador for Minnesotans. She will put the lariate to laureate.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

YouTube - ‪A Great One, by Mike Finley‬&rlm

A Great One ... it was anything that was great ... that gives you a thrill .. that lifts you out of your shoes ... you will recognize these pictures

YouTube - ‪Summer's End‬&rlm

I created this frame for a piece I wrote about the end of summer ... but I liked the frame so much I threw away the picture.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Kinks - Tired of Waiting

An analysis of the military perspective

Who called Koch robbin

The reason why

The Doors Yes, The River Knows

Jr Walker & Allstars - Shotgun

China newspaper says Charlie Sheen has embarrassed his president father

Charlie Sheen is not filial

  • Source: Global Times
  • [10:34 March 07 2011]
  • Comments

By Hao Leifeng

Actor Charlie Sheen is a classic example of the difference in Western and Eastern values and norms.

Ignoring public pleas from his father, Sheen has continued a weeklong media blitz, exhibiting obvious signs of mania. With no firm hand to guide them, Western media has deliberately goaded him into making increasingly delusional statements, more concerned about "winning" higher ratings than Sheen's own sense of pride, or the negative example his brash public admissions about his private sex life and unverifiable international conspiracies could be setting for society.

How many young people have been led astray by Sheen's boasts about his substance abuse and freewheeling sex life? And that was when he was in character on national television, as a randy bachelor in Two and a Half Men.

Sheen attracted 1 million Twitter followers in just 24 hours, yet more evidence that microblogs spread the most unhealthy contagions in society like a disease. Chinese family, coworkers, or the authorities would have taken firm steps to make sure someone like Sheen did not make a public spectacle of himself.

Take Edison Chen, who humbly apologized and slipped away to Canada. Or Li Gang's father, who wept as he sought forgiveness on his son's behalf.

The fact that Sheen continues to embarrass himself unabated, becoming even a hero to many, points to the vast differences in cultures.

His employers are unhappy that he was distracted with prostitutes and drugs, and didn't show up to work on time. Why not take a tip from the Chinese business community, and make visits to a KTV parlor part of Sheen's workday?

And instead of epic parties at his home with porn stars, why not keep Sheen occupied with business banquets?

Sheen goes on television and boasts that he has two girlfriends, who both sleep in the same bedroom. Is he too poor to set up his wives and mistresses in different houses?

In Chinese society, these problems are dealt with delicately and privately. Sheen is like a typical Westerner throwing fuel on the fire with each interview and tweet. It is almost as if he feels no shame and is loving the attention.

Racism, spousal abuse, addiction, politics, mental illness, boasting about mistresses, - these are all subjects best dealt with behind closed doors.

As much as Sheen has lived a life most Chinese men can only fantasize about, our admiration of him can only go so far. He has not only lost face with his public rants, but also crossed a cultural barrier no Chinese can abide.

He ignored his own father's advice to keep quiet, who was once the president of the US. Sheen is a disgrace, unfilial to his father and his fatherland.

Martin Sheen should at once go on television and tearfully apologize on behalf of his son for his inability to keep up appearances and keep his mouth shut.

Monday, March 7, 2011

If there is a God

Lives - The Tire Iron and the Tamale

Each time, when these things happened, I was disgusted with the way people didn’t bother to help. I was stuck on the side of the freeway hoping my friend’s roadside service would show, just watching tow trucks cruise past me. The people at the gas stations where I asked for a gas can told me that they couldn’t lend them out “for safety reasons,” but that I could buy a really crappy one-gallon can, with no cap, for $15. It was enough to make me say stuff like “this country is going to hell in a handbasket,” which I actually said.

But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke any English.

One of those guys stopped to help me with the blowout even though he had his whole family of four in tow. I was on the side of the road for close to three hours with my friend’s big Jeep. I put signs in the windows, big signs that said, “NEED A JACK,” and offered money. Nothing. Right as I was about to give up and start hitching, a van pulled over, and the guy bounded out.

He sized up the situation and called for his daughter, who spoke English. He conveyed through her that he had a jack but that it was too small for the Jeep, so we would need to brace it. Then he got a saw from the van and cut a section out of a big log on the side of the road. We rolled it over, put his jack on top and we were in business.

I started taking the wheel off, and then, if you can believe it, I broke his tire iron. It was one of those collapsible ones, and I wasn’t careful, and I snapped the head clean off. Damn.

No worries: he ran to the van and handed it to his wife, and she was gone in a flash down the road to buy a new tire iron. She was back in 15 minutes. We finished the job with a little sweat and cussing (the log started to give), and I was a very happy man.

The two of us were filthy and sweaty. His wife produced a large water jug for us to wash our hands in. I tried to put a 20 in the man’s hand, but he wouldn’t take it, so instead I went up to the van and gave it to his wife as quietly as I could. I thanked them up one side and down the other. I asked the little girl where they lived, thinking maybe I’d send them a gift for being so awesome. She said they lived in Mexico. They were in Oregon so Mommy and Daddy could pick cherries for the next few weeks. Then they were going to pick peaches, then go back home.

After I said my goodbyes and started walking back to the Jeep, the girl called out and asked if I’d had lunch. When I told her no, she ran up and handed me a tamale.

This family, undoubtedly poorer than just about everyone else on that stretch of highway, working on a seasonal basis where time is money, took a couple of hours out of their day to help a strange guy on the side of the road while people in tow trucks were just passing him by.

But we weren’t done yet. I thanked them again and walked back to my car and opened the foil on the tamale (I was starving by this point), and what did I find inside? My $20 bill! I whirled around and ran to the van and the guy rolled down his window. He saw the $20 in my hand and just started shaking his head no. All I could think to say was, “Por favor, por favor, por favor,” with my hands out. The guy just smiled and, with what looked like great concentration, said in English: “Today you, tomorrow me.”

Then he rolled up his window and drove away, with his daughter waving to me from the back. I sat in my car eating the best tamale I’ve ever had, and I just started to cry. It had been a rough year; nothing seemed to break my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn’t handle it.

In the several months since then I’ve changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and once drove 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport. I won’t accept money. But every time I’m able to help, I feel as if I’m putting something in the bank.

Justin Horner is a graphic designer living in Portland, Ore. This essay was adapted from a message-board posting on


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Op-Classic, 1992 - Homophobia and the Bible

Every week, the Opinion section presents an essay from The Times's archive by a columnist or contributor that we hope sheds light on current news or provides a window on the past.

This week, we highlight an Op-Ed written by Peter J. Gomes, a Harvard University minister and theologian who died this week at the age of 68.  You can read his obituary here.

August 17, 1992

Homophobic? Re-Read Your Bible


Peter J. Gomes, an American Baptist minister, is professor of Christian morals at Harvard.


Opposition to gays' civil rights has become one of the most visible symbols of American civic conflict this year, and religion has become the weapon of choice. The army of the discontented, eager for clear villains and simple solutions and ready for a crusade in which political self-interest and social anxiety can be cloaked in morality, has found hatred of homosexuality to be the last respectable prejudice of the century.

Ballot initiatives in Oregon and Maine would deny homosexuals the protection of civil rights laws. The Pentagon has steadfastly refused to allow gays into the armed forces. Vice President Dan Quayle is crusading for "traditional family values." And Pat Buchanan, who is scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention this evening, regards homosexuality as a litmus test of moral purity.

Nothing has illuminated this crusade more effectively than a work of fiction, "The Drowning of Stephan Jones," by Bette Greene. Preparing for her novel, Ms. Greene interviewed more than 400 young men incarcerated for gay-bashing, and scrutinized their case studies. In an interview published in The Boston Globe this spring, she said she found that the gay-bashers generally saw nothing wrong in what they did, and, more often than not, said their religious leaders and traditions sanctioned their behavior. One convicted teen-age gay-basher told her that the pastor of his church had said, "Homosexuals represent the devil, Satan," and that the Rev. Jerry Falwell had echoed that charge.

Christians opposed to political and social equality for homosexuals nearly always appeal to the moral injunctions of the Bible, claiming that Scripture is very clear on the matter and citing verses that support their opinion. They accuse others of perverting and distorting texts contrary to their "clear" meaning. They do not, however, necessarily see quite as clear a meaning in biblical passages on economic conduct, the burdens of wealth and the sin of greed.

Nine biblical citations are customarily invoked as relating to homosexuality. Four (Deuteronomy 23:17, I Kings 14:24, I Kings 22:46 and II Kings 23:7) simply forbid prostitution, by men and women.

Two others (Leviticus 18:19-23 and Leviticus 20:10-16) are part of what biblical scholars call the Holiness Code. The code explicitly bans homosexual acts. But it also prohibits eating raw meat, planting two different kinds of seed in the same field and wearing garments with two different kinds of yarn. Tattoos, adultery and sexual intercourse during a woman's menstrual period are similarly outlawed.

There is no mention of homosexuality in the four Gospels of the New Testament. The moral teachings of Jesus are not concerned with the subject.

Three references from St. Paul are frequently cited (Romans 1:26-2:1, I Corinthians 6:9-11 and I Timothy 1:10). But St. Paul was concerned with homosexuality only because in Greco-Roman culture it represented a secular sensuality that was contrary to his Jewish-Christian spiritual idealism. He was against lust and sensuality in anyone, including heterosexuals. To say that homosexuality is bad because homosexuals are tempted to do morally doubtful things is to say that heterosexuality is bad because heterosexuals are likewise tempted. For St. Paul, anyone who puts his or her interest ahead of God's is condemned, a verdict that falls equally upon everyone.

And lest we forget Sodom and Gomorrah, recall that the story is not about sexual perversion and homosexual practice. It is about inhospitality, according to Luke 10:10-13, and failure to care for the poor, according to Ezekiel 16:49-50: "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." To suggest that Sodom and Gomorrah is about homosexual sex is an analysis of about as much worth as suggesting that the story of Jonah and the whale is a treatise on fishing.

The Bobby Fischer Defense by Garry Kasparov | The New York Review of Books

Smashing 'Demon Government' - JSOnline


John Gurda is a Wisconsin historian who inspired me, when I was living in Milwaukee in 1983, to junk PR and write books on my own.

Home Again, Home Again by Marilyn Taylor : American Life in Poetry

Check out this website I found at

This'll get your day off to good start

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why would John Edwards make a sex tape? I'm beginning to wonder about his judgment.

Ugh ugh ugh

Homage to Randy Newman


Kurt Elling & Klüvers Big Band - Norwegian Wood HQ (Sweden '11)

some singing

Dreamland - Caetano Veloso

Andy Pratt - Can't Stop My Love

The Beach Boys - Funky Pretty

Morning Bus-Riding Thoughts

A good one by Mary Ellen Shaw

Klecko called out nationally for worst tattoo...EVER

Post a Comment

I don't really understand the Reagan phenomenon. I think he was an actor, and he portrayed men behaving with courage and decent and humility, and it seeped into his political personality. But as to who he really was -- no one has a very clear picture of that. I am an admirer of Jimmy Carter, whom Reagan pretty much butt-raped. I see depth and genuineness and troubledness in Carter, where with Reagan, it is hard to get past the great image. I am aided by this that I lived in California during his tenure -- he was much more a redneck in California than he was as president.

Miss Dionne Warwick - Don't Make Me Over (Year 1967)

Balloons, by Mike Finley

Instructions for Falling, by Mike Finley

Brennan Vance Cinema Reel on Vimeo

Confronting the father with video

Writers No One Reads

General Monk and His Wife

« James I. | Main | Philip and Mary »

General Monk and His Wife

FROM the same MS. collection of Sir Thomas Browne, I shall rescue another anecdote, which has a tendency to show that it is not advisable to permit ladies to remain at home, when political plots are to be secretly discussed. And while it displays the treachery of Monk’s wife, it will also appear that, like other great revolutionists, it was ambition that first induced him to become the reformer he pretended to be.

“Monk gave fair promises to the Rump, but last agreed with the French ambassador to take the government on himself; by whom he had a promise from Mazarin of assistance from France. This bargain was struck late at night; but not so secretly but that Monk’s wife, who had posted herself conveniently behind the hangings, finding what was resolved upon, sent her brother Charles away immediately with notice of it to Sir A. A. She had promised to watch her husband, and inform Sir A. how matters went. Sir A. caused the Council of State, whereof he was a member, to be summoned, and charged Monk that he was playing false. The general insisted that he was true to his principles, and firm to what he had promised, and that he was ready to give them all satisfaction. Sir A. told him if he were sincere he might remove all scruples, and should instantly take away their commissions from such and such men in his army, and appoint others, and that before he left the room. Monk consented; a great part of the commissions of his officers were changed, and Sir Edward Harley, a member of the council, and then present, was made governor of Dunkirk, in the room of Sir William Lockhart; the army ceased to be at Monk’s devotion; the ambassador was recalled, and broke his heart.”

Such were the effects of the infidelity of the wife of General Monk!

Posted by misteraitch at July 8, 2005 09:30 AM

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The wikipedia article on George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle (1608-70), doesn’t mention this incident. The Duchess of Albemarle’s name was Ann, née Clarges, a woman of ‘low extraction,’ reckoned by Samuel Pepys to be ‘ever a plain homely dowdy.’

Posted by: misteraitch at July 8, 2005 09:15 AM

¶ This article is repeated almost verbatim from its original in early (1790s) editions of the Curiosities.

Posted by: misteraitch at June 29, 2006 09:53 PM

Monk gave fair promises to the Rump

Your Man For Fun In Rapidan: Richard Riggins, Grade Four: Revisited

The story of a young boy who misses his father. Good, albeit sad, work. Peace to young Richard Riggins!

If you have missed the fiction and essays of Brad Zellar you have a great treat in store for you. he has one of the surest writing voices I know.

Last American Baker: Kobe Bryant, Private Suites and Year of the Rabbit


Mike and sometimes Rachel said...

Rachel is a rabbit, you know, so I am familiar with the quirks of that group.

People born in the Year of the Rabbit are articulate, talented, and ambitious. You are virtuous, reserved, and have excellent taste. You are typically admired, trusted, and are often financially lucky. You are fond of gossip but tactful about it and too kind to be destructive. Rabbit people seldom fly off the handle. You are clever at business and being conscientious, you would never back out of a contract! You would make good gamblers for they have the uncanny gift of choosing the right thing. Nevertheless, you don't gamble often, as you are by nature conservative and discreet. Rabbits have been known to lie with woolly Sheep, wise Pigs, and tiny Dogs.

March 3, 2011 3:56 AM

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A Rabbit Reflects

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hats off to the Duke

His death was announced by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In the 1950s, the golden age of New York baseball, the World Series almost always meant red, white and blue bunting at Ebbets Field, Yankee Stadium or the Polo Grounds. October afternoons provided a national showcase for baseball’s premier center fielders — Snider of the Dodgers, Mickey Mantle of the Yankees and Willie Mays of the Giants.

“They used to run a box in the New York papers comparing me to Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays,” Snider recalled on the eve of his 1980 induction into the Hall of Fame. “It was a great time for baseball.”

Snider starred at the plate and in the field on teams that won six National League pennants — and finished second on the final day twice — in his 11 seasons with Brooklyn. He also hit the last home run at Ebbets Field before the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles after the 1957 season.

But he could be moody when unable to achieve the perfection he expected of himself.

“I had to learn that every day wasn’t a bed of roses, and that took some time,” he said. “I would sulk. I’d have a pity party for myself.”

As pitcher Carl Erskine, his Dodgers roommate, recalled in “Bums” (Putnam, 1984) by Peter Golenbock: “Every place he went, no matter how good he was, they’d say, ‘His potential is so great, he can do even better.’ And this was a real frustration for Duke. He saw himself as not measuring up.”

Usually the only left-handed batter and the prime slugger in a lineup also boasting Gil Hodges, Roy Campanella and Jackie Robinson, the silver-haired Snider propelled deliveries from all those right-handed pitchers high over the right-field screen at Ebbets Field and onto Bedford Avenue.

Snider hit at least 40 homers in five consecutive seasons, 1953 to 1957, matching a National League record held by Ralph Kiner. He was the only player to hit four homers twice in a World Series — against the Yankees in 1952 and in 1955, when Brooklyn won its only World Series championship. And he captured the National League home run title in 1956, hitting 43 homers.

Playing for 18 seasons, he had 407 home runs, 2,116 hits, batted at least .300 seven times, had a lifetime batting average of .295 and was generally among the league leaders in runs batted in and runs scored.

Snider shined in center field, although Ebbets Field denied him the outfield expanse enjoyed by Mays at the Polo Grounds and Mantle at Yankee Stadium. He moved back on the ball brilliantly, unleashed powerful throws and never — to his recollection — collided with right fielder Carl Furillo.

Edwin Donald Snider was born on Sept. 19, 1926, in Los Angeles and was brought up in nearby Compton. His father, Ward, seeing him return proudly from his first day at school, at age 5, called him the Duke.

Snider signed with the Dodgers’ minor league system out of Compton Junior College in 1944 for a $750 bonus and debuted in Brooklyn on opening day 1947 with a pinch-hit single against the Boston Braves. But his arrival was hardly noticed. That was the day Robinson broke the major league color barrier.

Snider was envisioned as the successor in center field to Pete Reiser, but he was overanxious at the plate and frustrated by the curveball. Branch Rickey, the Dodgers’ general manager, and his aide George Sisler, once a great hitter with the St. Louis Browns, worked with Snider in spring training in 1948 to teach him the strike zone. Snider credited Rickey’s guidance for making him a Hall of Famer.

Snider flourished in 1949, his first full season with the Dodgers, when he batted .292 with 23 home runs and 92 R.B.I. The following year, a Duke Snider Fan Club was born.

But Snider’s moodiness affected his relationship with the fans. When he was booed by Dodgers fans in midsummer 1955 after a prolonged slump, he fumed. As he recalled in “The Duke of Flatbush” (Zebra Books, 1988), written with Bill Gilbert, he told the sportswriters: “The Brooklyn fans are the worst in the league. They don’t deserve a pennant.” The complaint made headlines.

Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers’ captain and Hall of Fame shortstop, teased Snider over his outbursts, and Snider later reflected how “Pee Wee taught me to control my emotions more.”

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Going ... going ... gone?

While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment and declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance.

So what we get in this democracy of ours are astounding and increasingly obscene tax breaks and other windfall benefits for the wealthiest, while the bought-and-paid-for politicians hack away at essential public services and the social safety net, saying we can’t afford them. One state after another is reporting that it cannot pay its bills. Public employees across the country are walking the plank by the tens of thousands. Camden, N.J., a stricken city with a serious crime problem, laid off nearly half of its police force. Medicaid, the program that provides health benefits to the poor, is under savage assault from nearly all quarters.

The poor, who are suffering from an all-out depression, are never heard from. In terms of their clout, they might as well not exist. The Obama forces reportedly want to raise a billion dollars or more for the president’s re-election bid. Politicians in search of that kind of cash won’t be talking much about the wants and needs of the poor. They’ll be genuflecting before the very rich.

In an Op-Ed article in The Times at the end of January, Senator John Kerry said that the Egyptian people “have made clear they will settle for nothing less than greater democracy and more economic opportunities.” Americans are being asked to swallow exactly the opposite. In the mad rush to privatization over the past few decades, democracy itself was put up for sale, and the rich were the only ones who could afford it.

The corporate and financial elites threw astounding sums of money into campaign contributions and high-priced lobbyists and think tanks and media buys and anything else they could think of. They wined and dined powerful leaders of both parties. They flew them on private jets and wooed them with golf outings and lavish vacations and gave them high-paying jobs as lobbyists the moment they left the government. All that money was well spent. The investments paid off big time.

As Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson wrote in their book, “Winner-Take-All Politics”: “Step by step and debate by debate, America’s public officials have rewritten the rules of American politics and the American economy in ways that have benefited the few at the expense of the many.”

As if the corporate stranglehold on American democracy were not tight enough, the Supreme Court strengthened it immeasurably with its Citizens United decision, which greatly enhanced the already overwhelming power of corporate money in politics. Ordinary Americans have no real access to the corridors of power, but you can bet your last Lotto ticket that your elected officials are listening when the corporate money speaks.

When the game is rigged in your favor, you win. So despite the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the big corporations are sitting on mountains of cash, the stock markets are up and all is well among the plutocrats. The endlessly egregious Koch brothers, David and Charles, are worth an estimated $35 billion. Yet they seem to feel as though society has treated them unfairly.

As Jane Mayer pointed out in her celebrated New Yorker article, “The Kochs are longtime libertarians who believe in drastically lower personal and corporate taxes, minimal social services for the needy, and much less oversight of industry — especially environmental regulation.” (A good hard look at their air-pollution record would make you sick.)

It’s a perversion of democracy, indeed, when individuals like the Kochs have so much clout while the many millions of ordinary Americans have so little. What the Kochs want is coming to pass. Extend the tax cuts for the rich? No problem. Cut services to the poor, the sick, the young and the disabled? Check. Can we get you anything else, gentlemen?

The Egyptians want to establish a viable democracy, and that’s a long, hard road. Americans are in the mind-bogglingly self-destructive process of letting a real democracy slip away.

I had lunch with the historian Howard Zinn just a few weeks before he died in January 2010. He was chagrined about the state of affairs in the U.S. but not at all daunted. “If there is going to be change,” he said, “real change, it will have to work its way from the bottom up, from the people themselves.”

I thought of that as I watched the coverage of the ecstatic celebrations in the streets of Cairo.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I feel such grief for this boy's parents

Perhaps not since the full-on throes of the Civil Rights era has a single state been so beset by crisis, conflict, and now catastrophe. Chronicling Arizona politics has been a trying and tiresome experience on many levels, with few points of optimism at hand to buffet the constant blows of injustice and brutality. The open persecution of people of color at the level of both bodies and minds; the outright hijacking of the state's politics by far-right figures with white supremacist ties; the bankrupting of the economy while private interests gain tax breaks and write favorable laws for themselves; the decimation of the public infrastructure including the education and health care systems -- all of this and more has been front and center for beleaguered Arizonans in recent years.

Today, with the tragic shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a Federal Judge who had previously been the target of anti-immigrant protesters, among perhaps a dozen other victims, we have before us a sobering reminder of the political "climate of fear" that has been fostered by certain demagogic elements here in Arizona. While I remain committed to the challenge of finding the positive news in the daily cycle, reality nonetheless intrudes and at times demands our attention. This is one of those instances, and if there is any justice to be found in this madness, perhaps it will finally provide the impetus for us all to move beyond the politics of fear and rage. As Matt Bai has opined in the New York Times, "the question is whether Saturday's shooting marks the logical end point of such a moment [of rhetorical recklessness] -- or rather the beginning of a terrifying new one."

Time will tell, but if recent events are any indication, it will be an uphill struggle that is not merely confined to Arizona. "Even before the shooting of a U.S. congresswoman on Saturday, the state of Arizona was in the throes of a convulsive political year that had come to symbolize a bitter partisan divide across much of America," writes David Schwartz for Reuters. "I feel huge sorrow, that's just been building in southern Arizona for some time, this hate, hate, fear, somewhat around SB 1070, somewhat around health care reform. It definitely heated up when President Obama was elected," said Molly McKasson Morgan, 63, who participated in Tucson politics and knew Giffords. "It's never been this angry, it's never been this divisive," said Alfredo Gutierrez, a former state lawmaker.

These trends of divisiveness and open hostility have been manifesting for some time here. Following the passage of SB 1070 and approaching its date of implementation last July, I observed the growing tendency toward violence and its unabashed cultivation:

"One of the unspoken tragedies and implicit intentions of Arizona's anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, is the promotion of a climate of fear among certain segments of the population. This fear-mongering strategy has been cooked up by the bill's leading proponents and most likely beneficiaries: the governor, rightwing state legislators, and an unscrupulous sheriff who shall remain nameless.... Fostering an environment of racialized violence is the harsh reality of Arizona's drive toward legislated intolerance. For those who might feel saturated by the incessant news about immigration, or who wonder 'what's the big deal?' about SB 1070 and the like, this is a reminder of the stakes involved. Will there be a climate of escalating fear, hatred, and violence that takes over, or will this be a tipping point toward social justice and human dignity instead? Politics and legalities aside, this is the basic question that the Arizona dilemma is posing to the nation...."

Whether or not it turns out that the gunman in the Giffords shooting was politically motivated, the overall climate in which it occurred cannot be dismissed, and a recitation of some of the key background details is essential for a fuller understanding. For one, John M. Roll, the federal judge killed in the shooting, had been at the center of the state's complicated political battle over immigration. In February 2009, he received hundreds of threats after he allowed a lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against a rancher to go forward. "They cursed him out, threatened to kill his family, said they'd come and take care of him. They really wanted him dead," a law enforcement official told The Washington Post in May 2009. While there is no indication at this point that Roll was the gunman's main target, it is telling that he was in proximity on the fateful day and that he himself had previously been harassed for a perceived pro-immigrant bent.

The suspect in the shootings has been identified as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner of Tucson. He had an apparent preoccupation with "literacy" rates (which could be a veiled reference to ethnicity), and in online profiles listed among his favorite books Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto. In a recent YouTube video, Loughner described himself as a U.S. military recruit who had recently filled out an application to join the Army. In a message posted on his MySpace account, titled "Goodbye friends," he said: "Dear friends ... please don't be mad at me. The literacy rate is below 5%. I haven't talked to one person who is literate." In a rambling YouTube message referring to a new currency, Loughner stated: "I know who's listening: Government Officials, and the People. Nearly all the people, who don't know this accurate information of a new currency, aren't aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn't have happened." There are conflicting reports about whether he acted alone, although Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has noted that investigators are "not convinced" that he did, according to a report by the New York Post. Dupnik says that Loughner may have come to the parking lot with another person who was "in some way involved," and poignantly lamented that Arizona has "become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry."

Giffords' Tucson office was vandalized last March after she voted in favor of President Obama's controversial healthcare bill. She had been named as a campaign target for conservatives in last November's elections by Sarah Palin for her strong support of Obama's initiatives. Palin infamously published a "target map" on her website using images of gun sights to identify 20 House Democrats, including Giffords, for backing the health care law. The map used actual target markers on locations where these Democrats lived, and listed their names. "We're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action," Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC last March. "We've had hundreds and hundreds of protesters over the course of the last couple of months," she said. "Our office corner has really become an area where the Tea Party movement congregates and the rhetoric is really heated. Not just the calls but the e-mails, the slurs."

At an event in 2009, which was similar to the one Giffords was holding at the time of the shooting, a protester was removed by police when his pistol fell to the supermarket floor. Giffords' Republican opponent in the November 2010 congressional race, Tea Party candidate Jesse Kelly, was criticized for a campaign event he held at a shooting range, advertised with the words "Get on Target for Victory in November," "Help remove Gabriel Giffords from office," and "Shoot a fully automatic M16." Giffords narrowly won reelection to her third term in the House of Representatives -- and during the course of the campaign it was revealed that she was one of three Democrats in the nation to receive contributions from MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, resulting in the newscaster's temporary suspension from the network.

After the shooting, Giffords' father told the New York Post, when asked if his daughter had enemies, "Yeah, the whole Tea Party." He added that politicians constantly face danger. "They always get threatened," he said, sobbing. According to a report by The Hill, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips condemned the attacks, but warned supporters that the Tea Party movement would be blamed by political opponents. "While we need to take a moment to extend our sympathies to the families of those who died, we cannot allow the hard left to do what it tried to do in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing," he said. The Tucson Citizen's "Three Sonorans" blog further reports that the building housing the Mexican-American Studies program at the University of Arizona was vandalized at almost the same time as the shootings occurred, and that Judge Roll had recently been assigned to hear the lawsuit challenging Arizona's new law (HB 2281) banning Ethnic Studies. Authorities were also called later that evening to Giffords' office as vigilers assembled there, when a suspicious package was removed and secured by the bomb squad, according to an Associated Press report.

For her part, Giffords has been a strong proponent of solar energy, and has generally been known as a moderate to conservative Democrat among Arizona's Republican-dominated congressional delegation. Giffords was first sworn in as a Representative on January 3, 2007, and is the first Jewish woman and third woman overall in Arizona's history to be elected to serve in Congress. In her first month in office, Giffords voted to support increased federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, raise the minimum wage, endorse the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, and adopt new rules for the House of Representatives targeting ethical issues. Giffords also voted to repeal subsidies to big oil companies and invest the savings in renewable energy. She is a member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus and has been noted as "a strong supporter of gay rights." She also advocated for the repeal of $14 billion in subsidies to oil companies in favor of renewable energy subsidies and the establishment of a Strategic Renewable Energy Reserve to increase research in clean energy, develop greater efficiency, and improve conservation. Giffords has supported stronger border enforcement and comprehensive immigration reform as well. She is the only member of Congress whose spouse, astronaut Mark E. Kelly, is an active duty member of the military.

"I am a third generation southern Arizonan and I went off to school, was working for Price Waterhouse in New York City, and was asked to come home to run my family's tire and automotive business," said Giffords in a 2007 C-SPAN interview. "I first got involved with politics frankly because I was frustrated when I was opening up my newspaper every single morning and seeing my great state of Arizona continuing to be at the bottom, whether it be poor-people funding, or mental health funding, or making sure that we could preserve our beautiful open spaces -- and in life you can either complain about something or you can try to fix it so I decided to run for political office...."

Details about this situation continue to unfold, but some things are eminently clear. We can continue in this downward spiral of vitriol, fear, and hatred, or we can turn the corner and begin working toward values of community, inclusivity, and equality. On the one hand lies our imminent destruction; on the other our potential salvation. If this tragedy is to have meaning in this moment of utter senselessness, then we must opt for the latter -- not just in Arizona, or even merely America, but for all the peoples of the world. For today, though, I simply want to express my deepest condolences to all of the families affected by this heartbreaking episode, and likewise to all Arizonans struggling to find cause for hope in these times of ongoing despair.


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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mike at Trotter's Café, jan 26, 7 PM

Wed, 01/26/2011 - 7:00pm - 8:00pm


Mike Finley

Join us the last Wednesday of the month for a reading of new work by writers. Participants live in the neighborhood and share their work with us. Come for dinner and a glass of wine; stay for the reading.