Looking Up

I saw this last night because the sky was very clear, it should be even better for the last eve of 2008.

A delightful display of planets and the moon will occur on New Year’s Eve for anyone wishing to step outside and look up just after sunset.
Venus, brighter than all other planets and stars, will dangle just below the thin crescent moon in the southwestern sky. It’ll be visible — impossible to miss, in fact — just as the sun goes down, assuming skies are cloud-free.

I’ll kiss my hand to the moon and pray for peace in the Holy Land. Military experts can argue the strategy, but one thing is clear — launching a bomb into a city is a crime. Whether you are claiming to be a freedom fighter or claiming to defend a nation, innocent people are on the front lines.

Through the long decades of war, people of good will have been working for reconciliation. Against all odds, they live nonviolence. Let this be their year.


On my Cox homepage the headline says that Gov.Carcieri is planning a hiring blitz. Huh? Wasn’t there just a firing blitz? Didn’t he aim to eliminate 1,000 state jobs?

Carcieri Administration Plans Hiring Blitz
12-30-2008 4:05 AM

(Providence, RI) — The governor’s office is working to fill dozens of state vacancies. (link)

There was a surge in retirements. Maybe caused by his inviting state workers to not let the door hit them on the way out.

I don’t know. Some of you Kmareka readers are pretty wise to local politics. Any opinions? I gotta go to work. Glad I have a job.

GOP Ticks Off Another Musician

You might call Peter Yarrow, of Peter, Paul and Mary, an entertainer. But Mr. Yarrow is better at political discourse than the Republican Party is at entertainment.

Yarrow, and Lenny Lipton wrote ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ a children’s song from the ‘60’s. Here’s an excerpt from Mr. Yarrow’s response to the unwelcome use of his lyrics-

What might have been wearily accepted as “the way it was” in the campaign, is now unacceptable. Obama is not a candidate. He is the President-Elect, and this song insults the office of the Presidency, the people who voted for him, as well as those who did not — and taking a children’s song and twisting it in such vulgar, mean-spirited way, is a slur to our entire country and our common agreement to move beyond racism.

Read it all, here. It’s worth it.

Moveon.org Advocacy Training in Cranston

A friend and fellow mental health professional, Susan Wright, will be facilitating a training for all of us interested in learning how to advocate for the causes we believe in. Here are the details:

When: Sunday, January 11, 2009, 2:00 to 3:30 pm

Where: Church of the Ascension, 390 Pontiac Avenue, Cranston

What: MoveOn.org is providing the training materials and we will all learn to effectively advocate with our legislators for causes that we are passionate about.

You can RSVP to this event on Facebook by clicking here.

This will be a great opportunity to meet neighbors and members of the community who want to move our state and country in a healthier direction. I am planning to attend and hope to see you there.

Central Falls in the New York Times

Very worth reading. This is an in-depth look at the economic impact of the Wyatt Detention Center on the City of Central Falls, and the social effects of the crackdown on illegal immigration.

In this mostly Latino city, hardly anyone had realized that in addition to detaining the accused drug dealers and mobsters everyone heard about, the jail held hundreds of people charged with no crime — people caught in the nation’s crackdown on illegal immigration. Fewer still knew that Wyatt was a portal into an expanding network of other jails, bigger and more remote, all propelling detainees toward deportation with little chance to protest.

The article cites several cases of people being ‘disappeared’ without even one phone call to their relatives, and transferred to a prison in Texas without warning.

Wyatt offers a rare look into the fastest-growing, least-examined type of incarceration in America, an industry that detains half a million people a year, up from a few thousand just 15 years ago. The system operates without the rules that protect criminal suspects, and has grown up with little oversight, often in the backyards of communities desperate for any source of money and work.

“Without the rules that protect criminal suspects.� The prison was supposed to be an industry for a depressed city, and a benefit for society–keeping dangerous criminals confined. Central Falls would get good jobs and steady revenue.

But at least in Central Falls, the incarceration economy was not delivering on its promise.

In late June, Mayor Moreau, a big man with a florid face and a police siren in his car, offered up a budget that laid off firefighters — and told angry city employees to get used to it.

“We’re at the end of the financial rope for Central Falls,� he told the City Council, citing more than 200 boarded-up homes, foreclosures at the rate of 25 a week, and cuts in state and federal aid that required a 4 percent property tax increase and an 8 percent spending cut in the new $17.4 million budget.

Outside, past the defunct factory where Hasbro once made G. I. Joe, beyond the rusty hulk of the downsized Sylvania plant, the summer twilight gleamed on Wyatt’s new facade.

What had happened to the windfall of money and jobs it had offered?

The jail’s annual revenue had almost doubled in a year, to $21 million, mainly from increasing immigration detention. But the city budget projected revenue of only $525,000 from Wyatt, which is exempt from taxes.

That was not even enough to cover its share of city services, according to an estimate by the city’s finance department.

I imagine deals were made with fast-talking entrepreneurs, and contracts signed, and citizens hustled into voting yes. How much of the drain of people and resources from Central Falls is due to the immigration crackdown? And how far do we want to go in constructing a category of people without rights and prisons to confine them?

The article is long and detailed. You can read it here.

Winning the Black Vote

President-elect Obama is coming into office with record high approval levels:

In a new USA Today/Gallup Poll, a sample of 1,008 Americans picked President-elect Barack Obama as the man they admire most. No president-elect has topped the poll since war hero Dwight Eisenhower 56 years ago.

So, showing the leadership that we’ve come to expect in the last eight years, a major player in the Republican Party decides to pull a stunt like this…

(CNN) — A candidate for the Republican National Committee chairmanship said Friday the CD he sent committee members for Christmas — which included a song titled “Barack the Magic Negro” — was clearly intended as a joke.

The title of the song about President-elect Barack Obama was drawn from a Los Angeles Times column.

“I think most people recognize political satire when they see it,” Tennessee Republican Chip Saltsman told CNN. “I think RNC members understand that.”

The song, set to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon,” was first played on conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh’s radio show in 2007.

Its title was drawn from a Los Angeles Times column that suggested President-elect Barack Obama appealed to those who feel guilty about the nation’s history of mistreatment of African-Americans. Saltsman said the song, penned by his longtime friend Paul Shanklin, should be easily recognized as satire directed at the Times.

The CD sent to RNC members, first reported by The Hill on Friday, is titled “We Hate the USA” and also includes songs referencing former presidential candidate John Edwards and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, among other targets.

According to The Hill, other song titles, some of which were in bold font, were: “John Edwards’ Poverty Tour,” “Wright place, wrong pastor,” “Love Client #9,” “Ivory and Ebony” and “The Star Spanglish Banner.”

Saltsman was national campaign manager for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s presidential bid in 2007 and 2008. Before that, he held a variety of posts, including a number of positions under former Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee.

Bill Frist?! Keep your cats indoors.

I like to listen to Michel Martin’s radio show, ‘Tell Me More’ which gives air time to issues of interest to black women. One day before the election she was interviewing African-American Republican women. Although I disagreed with their point of view, the women made their case in thoughtful, civil terms. They didn’t slam the Democrats, they praised the Republicans. They talked about values and self-reliance. They often had to defend their politics to their friends, both black and white. After this ‘thank you’ from the Party I imagine they have a lot of explaining to do. But at least they are not alone. They can ask their Hispanic Republican friends how they like “The Star Spanglish Banner.” Wouldn’t want to miss any demographic.

Playing the racist card is the kind of politics that made lifelong Republicans vote for Obama. It makes the Democrats, who have so often failed and taken for granted black voters, look very good by comparison.

If the population projections are true, we are on track to become a more multi-racial nation. The dinosaur strategy of race-baiting is going to end up in the tar pits where it belongs. Of course, for some, gay is the new black. President Elect Obama chose Rick Warren to do the Invocation. I regret all the gifted clergy he didn’t choose, from churches that are Welcoming and Affirming, and no less Christian for not being Mega. Reaching across the lines has its hazards and limitations. But I’d rather take the risks and the bruises than cozy up with the Republican Regular Guys, preaching to a shrinking congregation of the converted.

It’s Not Too Late to Repent

I mostly ducked out of the Christmas shopping frenzy. I let the season pass over like the Ghost of Christmas Ennui and tried to stay cool. I had good family time, which is the best gift of all, and I’ve got the weekend off–life is good.

This year I didn’t do my usual seasonal conversion to Judaism, instead I looked to Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping.

But now Americans are suddenly wise to Santa. We are rejecting this notion that Christmas comes from the FedEx jet, or Santa’s sleigh – from the outside. Our images of happiness are becoming self-made again, coming from within our loving relationships. Our dreams, memories and our imaginations are still independent from the grasping control of the marketing departments. This is the delightful and surprising world that is opened to us at the Stop Shopping church when we look at our email each morning. People report that they themselves are a fountain of dances, of paintings and song. They are making new memory fill-in games, promises of future journeys – we even hear of whole plays, dark comic musicals! In a word, we are awarding each other new experiences. This kind of gift is concocted from the funny adjustments that family members make over time to each other – those eccentric private arrangements that only we have, that no company could possibly mass produce.

Rev. Billy, you are an inspiration. Next time you see Jesus, ask him for that loaves and fishes recipe. We’re going to need it.