Friday, February 27, 2009

Yikes! C'mon, Obama, I mean, seriously.

While I'm quickly tiring of the meme of the tone, "How could he?" in reference to various things the O-Administration has done with varying degrees of regressiveness, nefariousness, opacity, or incompetence -- simply because I think it was silly to expect him to be that different in the first place, and it is simultaneously too early to be decisively disappointed but not at all too early to push him with activism and indignation. "How could he?" is more shocked woah-is-me portrayals of personal betrayal, which I guess I share sometimes, but I really never thought O was more than, as J-Mom has said, "Perhaps the best you can get in terms of a mainstream politician" which means to me "Trust him as far as you can throw him... and then verify how far you've thrown him." A sense of personal betrayal, while noble in politics in that it means you felt a personal connection and promise form someone, also seems rather naive to me, and in any case, it's not the same as activism (though it can motivate action, so I shouldn't be so down on it.)

Anyway, point is, according to this story (which I must admit I somewhat trust but have not verified from other stories),
Alaska prosecutors do not dispute that advanced DNA testing could prove Osborne's innocence beyond any doubt. But for nearly a decade, they've refused to allow him to do this testing.
To my great disappointment, recent news reports indicate that the Obama Justice Department has decided not to reverse the Bush administration's decision to weigh in on Alaska's side in the case, District Attorney's Office for the Third Judicial District v. Osborne. As has been said many times, the Justice Department's mission is to do justice. It is not to seek a conviction—or to uphold one—at all costs.

Former FBI Director William Sessions continues in his Slate article, that
Alaska's primary argument is that testing is unnecessary because non-DNA evidence demonstrates Osborne's likely guilt... Alaska contends that evidence of innocence does not, by itself, matter once a person has been convicted, or if the trial was free of constitutional and other defects. That goes too far in elevating the principle of finality over basic justice.

Certainly this doesn't seem like the side O's Justice Dept. should be on. Am I wrong? Is Sessions wrong? Is this just a brain fart on the Administration's part? Is Darth Vader Osborne's father? Please, J-fans, let me know.

El primero presidente negro-indígeno de América del Norte?

Interesting piece forwarded by J-friend SY, here, about Mexico's first black president (you know, the one before their second black president, Juan Alvarez). After some digging (so you don't have to!), the main advocate of recognizing Vincente Guerrero the first black Mexican president (and Juan Alvarez the second) is Ted Vincent, apparently a former historian at UC Berkeley. He is apparently of sufficient scholarship and repute that his books have been published by both HarperCollins (a popular publisher) and University Press of Florida (the joint university press of the Florida university system, seemingly no slouch). I researched his "repute" because recognizing these two as black presidents seems to be something primarily championed by himself, and various independent outlets (like the Berkeley Daily Planet) that have reprinted his work. There's no indication that his analyses are incorrect, and indeed, his analysis has an explanation for why we've not heard this before in this manner:
[The Mexican] congress had made it near impossible to organize against racial injustice through their passage of Law No. 310 that, though ostensibly in the spirit of equality, prohibited mention of anyone’s race in any public document or in the records of the parish church. One consequence of this law has been that knowledge of the racial attitude of the elite toward Guerrero’s African roots are relegated to private letters and anonymous pamphlets against “the black,” and many a modern history identifies him merely as of “peasant”or “laboring-class” background.

I find all this interesting, because Vincent's piece is one of those that, like works from Chomsky and Zinn (for me, at least), seem to make history make much more sense, they put what I've already learned in a context that seems so much more internally consistent rather than a disjointed collection of facts, and are sufficiently challenging to the ideas of US centrality and supremacy that it makes sense that they're expunged from our history lessons as a matter of course, with no doubt reasonable-sounding protestations of their ancillary importance. While Mexico is certainly no racial haven, the greater degree of intermarriage/intermixing in their population over the years makes them having had a black president seem like a logical probability (according to Vincent, they've actually had 3 presidents with strong African heritage), and Guerrero's actions and abolition of slavery (and the popular support keeping this abolition in place even after Guerrero's execution and rescinding of many of his reforms) make the secession of Texas from Mexico make all the more sense. (Remember, Texas threatened war on the US if the US didn't make them part of the US. That's gumption. And by gumption, I mean... Texas, ho boy, Texas.)

So anyway, in the waning days of Black History Month, which I believe I usually do SOMETHING for on the J Continuum, read Vincent's article, and if the spirit moves you, also read about Paul Robeson, why don't you, cuz from what good J-friend KC and I can tell, he appears to have been one of the best people ever, and we don't hear SHIT about him. (You know, spoke 25 languages, third African American ever accepted at Rutgers, first accepted to Columbia Law School, I think, lettered in like 7 college sports*, black actor who broke the color line and was adored by many white fans before his radical politics came about, helped striking Detroit autoworkers get better pay AND helped black autoworkers get closer to pay parity, told the House Committee on Un-American Activities to go take a flying fuck at itself, not in so many words, etc. etc. I mean, 16,000 people or so tried to attend an event for his 46th birthday -- his 46th! Not even a milestone birthday. So go, seek, Google. And while you're at it, read about James Baldwin in last year's J-entry for Black History Month.


*He actually lettered in 15 varsity sports, apparently. In case you were wondering, J really would like to name his future son Robeson, should he ever have a son. Though there's some wiggle room, this is a potential deal breaker should the future J-significant other disagree on this point.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Viejito, pero bueno

A missive from Cuban ex-president Fidel Castro, from almost one year ago, hardly of the character we've been led to believe in:

(Disponible también aqui:

Subject: Message from the Commander in Chief

Message from the Commander in Chief

Dear compatriots:

Last Friday, February 15, I promised you that in my next reflection I would deal with an issue of interest to many compatriots. Thus, this now is rather a message.

The moment has come to nominate and elect the State Council, its President, its Vice-Presidents and Secretary.

For many years I have occupied the honorable position of President. On February 15, 1976 the Socialist Constitution was approved with the free, direct and secret vote of over 95% of the people with the right to cast a vote. The first National Assembly was established on December 2nd that same year; this elected the State Council and its presidency. Before that, I had been a Prime Minister for almost 18 years. I always had the necessary prerogatives to carry forward the revolutionary work with the support of the overwhelming majority of the people.

There were those overseas who, aware of my critical health condition, thought that my provisional resignation, on July 31, 2006, to the position of President of the State Council, which I left to First Vice-President Raul Castro Ruz, was final. But Raul, who is also minister of the Armed Forces on account of his own personal merits, and the other comrades of the Party and State leadership were unwilling to consider me out of public life despite my unstable health condition.

It was an uncomfortable situation for me vis-à-vis an adversary which had done everything possible to get rid of me, and I felt reluctant to comply.

Later, in my necessary retreat, I was able to recover the full command of my mind as well as the possibility for much reading and meditation. I had enough physical strength to write for many hours, which I shared with the corresponding rehabilitation and recovery programs. Basic common sense indicated that such activity was within my reach. On the other hand, when referring to my health I was extremely careful to avoid raising expectations since I felt that an adverse ending would bring traumatic news to our people in the midst of the battle. Thus, my first duty was to prepare our people both politically and psychologically for my absence after so many years of struggle. I kept saying that my recovery “was not without risks.”

My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That’s all I can offer.

To my dearest compatriots, who have recently honored me so much by electing me a member of the Parliament where so many agreements should be adopted of utmost importance to the destiny of our Revolution, I am saying that I will neither aspire to nor accept, I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief.

In short letters addressed to Randy Alonso, Director of the Round Table National TV Program, --letters which at my request were made public-- I discreetly introduced elements of this message I am writing today, when not even the addressee of such letters was aware of my intention. I trusted Randy, whom I knew very well from his days as a student of Journalism. In those days I met almost on a weekly basis with the main representatives of the University students from the provinces at the library of the large house in Kohly where they lived. Today, the entire country is an immense University.

Following are some paragraphs chosen from the letter addressed to Randy on December 17, 2007:

“I strongly believe that the answers to the current problems facing Cuban society, which has, as an average, a twelfth grade of education, almost a million university graduates, and a real possibility for all its citizens to become educated without their being in any way discriminated against, require more variables for each concrete problem than those contained in a chess game. We cannot ignore one single detail; this is not an easy path to take, if the intelligence of a human being in a revolutionary society is to prevail over instinct.

“My elemental duty is not to cling to positions, much less to stand in the way of younger persons, but rather to contribute my own experience and ideas whose modest value comes from the exceptional era that I had the privilege of living in.

“Like Niemeyer, I believe that one has to be consistent right up to the end.”
Letter from January 8, 2008:

“…I am a firm supporter of the united vote (a principle that preserves the unknown merits), which allowed us to avoid the tendency to copy what came to us from countries of the former socialist bloc, including the portrait of the one candidate, as singular as his solidarity towards Cuba. I deeply respect that first attempt at building socialism, thanks to which we were able to continue along the path we had chosen.”

And I reiterated in that letter that “…I never forget that ‘all of the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn.”

Therefore, it would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer. This I say devoid of all drama.

Fortunately, our Revolution can still count on cadres from the old guard and others who were very young in the early stages of the process. Some were very young, almost children, when they joined the fight on the mountains and later they have given glory to the country with their heroic performance and their internationalist missions. They have the authority and the experience to guarantee the replacement. There is also the intermediate generation which learned together with us the basics of the complex and almost unattainable art of organizing and leading a revolution.

The path will always be difficult and require from everyone’s intelligent effort. I distrust the seemingly easy path of apologetics or its antithesis the self-flagellation. We should always be prepared for the worst variable. The principle of being as prudent in success as steady in adversity cannot be forgotten. The adversary to be defeated is extremely strong; however, we have been able to keep it at bay for half a century.

This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas. I shall continue to write under the heading of ‘Reflections by comrade Fidel.’ It will be just another weapon you can count on. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I shall be careful.


Fidel Castro Ruz
February 18, 2008
5:30 p.m.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Obama DNI pick: Try not to leak on our torturers...

Nice article here by Ray McGovern on Consortium News, an indie news website founded journalist Robert Parry, "one of the reporters who helped expose the Iran-Contra scandal for the Associated Press in the mid-1980s."

McGovern speaks of how Obama nominees for CIA Director (Leon Panetta) and Director of National Intelligence (DNI; Dennis Blair) bend over backwards to accomadate Republican Senators, even to the point of eliding the truth and allowing several prevailing lies to continue ("everyone in the world thought there were WMDs in Iraq", for one), which was disproven by a report in the Senate itself, and now they seem more eager to prosecute potential leakers than torturers:
It is a measure of Washington that there is a bipartisan consensus on the need to prosecute leakers to set an example for others, but not to prosecute torturers.

[sigh] Oi vei.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Colbert's pithy defense of Affirmative Action (kinda)

Watching Colbert Report tonight, he was just discussing the recently-passed Lilly Ledbetter act. This act essentially provides for a return to the status quo in Equal Opportunity Employment and discrimination cases, where when an employee feels they may have been discriminated against, the statue of limitations on an anti-discrimination case starts from the moment of the last discriminatory act -- which in the case of pay inequality, would now be the last received paycheck. This is opposed to (and overturns) the Roberts' Supreme Court judgment finding that the statue of limitations begins at the *first* act of discrimination, i.e. the "first" discriminatory paycheck. (Oddly, supporters of the court's decision argued that this would reduce frivolous lawsuits -- whereas it seems this would have provided perverse incentive to sue ASAP in any POSSIBLE chance of discrimination, the all-feared frivolous lawsuits that Republicans are always tilting against.)

In any case, Colbert pointed out that because provides a corrective to potential discrimination against women, women therefore stood to gain more from it than men -- and it is therefore sexist! This is, of course, exactly the same theory apparently behind anti-Affirmative Action calls of discrimination/reverse discrimination, which I tend to think of as self-serving bunk or crazy-eyed delusion.

I'm illin' (in the literal sense) and gotta get to bed, so this is a link-free post, and I'm'a headin' off now. But remind me to tell y'all the anecdote from my Private Sector days about "discrimination" for those who have been discriminated against.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


Big gay touchdown that is. And by touchdown, I mean Prime Minister. And by big, I mean Icelandic. And by gay, I mean gay.

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir has, apparently, become the world's first openly gay head of government.*

Yay! It's a year -- um, or at least, a year-long period going back to last November -- of firsts.

*For pure confusionary fun, try to distinguish head of government and head of state. I keep reading the wiki entries, and the distinction keeps falling out of my head.