Monthly Archives: December, 2011

Speaking Ill

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald does a Mother Theresa on Christopher Hitchens.

To allow significant political figures to be heralded with purely one-sided requiems — enforced by misguided (even if well-intentioned) notions of private etiquette that bar discussions of their bad acts — is not a matter of politeness; it’s deceitful and propagandistic. To exploit the sentiments of sympathy produced by death to enshrine a political figure as Great and Noble is to sanction, or at best minimize, their sins. Misapplying private death etiquette to public figures creates false history and glorifies the ignoble.

Good point– that private and public are not the same. I sympathize with Christopher Hitchens’ wife and children, who lost a father too soon. Perhaps the center of this issue is the need not to bury the history of the Iraq War with the declaration of its end, because the suffering caused here and in Iraq will not be undone in our lifetimes.

Making Trouble Elsewhere

I am not well read on Christopher Hitchens, and I find his support of the Iraq War inexplicable, but on the other hand he had the nerve to take on Mother Theresa.

Are they sipping tea together somewhere on the edge of eternity, or is there a space large enough in collective memory that spirits can rest, or unrest?

He suffered a terrible final illness with grace and without self-pity. Not so unusual, but a fine example to leave us. He was a passionate and compulsive writer– of his many vices, most of all addicted to the word.

Here’s a link to my minister
, who posted one of Christopher Hitchens’ bravest moments, on the waterboard.

BBC has a nice eulogy.

Nomi posted a nice link to one of Christopher Hitchens’ best sayings, on the difference between dogs and cats.

Story Behind the Story

I’m linking to Xavier Onassis, EMT because once again we see in the news that a fire department stood by while a house burned.

This is the second incident of this kind from Obion County, Tennessee.

When I blogged about this the first time, Xavier responded with a passionate and informed comment in defense of the firefighters, who have seen their resources stretched to the breaking point. As so often is the case, this may be good workers and citizens caught in a failing system.

He challenges Progresives…

A very popular position among progressives:

The firefighters who responded and did not control the fire are immoral cowards, motivated by Tea Party or Libertarian ideology;
they are so petty that they think it serves that woman right to lose her home because she did not pay $75;
they are too stupid and incapable of independent decision making to know when to break the rules.

From this position, the guilty parties are the first responders on scene and the mayor of South Fulton, Tennessee. Blame is placed at the very bottom of the chain of command, for not refusing to follow departmental guidelines when someone is in need. Support for these firefighters is viewed as immoral under this breakdown.

The rest of his post outlines the damage, starting with Reaganomics, to the essential foundations of a working community. Go visit Medic 343 for another view than what you will see in the headlines.

And thanks to friend, Sekanblogger, at Kansas Mediocrity, for help finding the link.

Newt Would Understand

When I see a story like this I always say a little prayer, ‘Please God, let it not be a Democrat.’ More often than not, my prayers are answered.

An anti-gay, religious conservative Republican politician who ran for Governor of Alabama on a morality platform has expressed family values in a new and unexpected way. Pam, at
Pam’s House Blend
put the link on Facebook. Pam has been accused of trying to re-invent marriage because she and her wife want legal equality even though they are interracial in the South. And they’re a same-sex couple.

But Bill Johnson’s approach to fatherhood, arguably, is far less traditional than two ladies setting up housekeeping. He seems to think he was working on a nice surprise for his wife, but she is not taking it well. I would not blame her if she takes it to a lawyer’s office, but that’s her decision.

Dear friends, take this as a reminder that when someone uses vague phrases like ‘family values’, you cannot take that to the bank, because it’s totally open to interpretation what those values are.

Bill Johnson doesn’t meet Kmareka’s standards of deportment, so I’ll post the link, straight outta Alabama, here.

I heard that Newt Gingrich is promising not to commit any more adultery. That’s nice. He would have broken promises to two women who married him, but those marriages were annulled so it doesn’t count.

Expecting politicians to have integrity in all areas of life is like trusting a dog to guard your lunch. I long ago learned to settle for ‘good enough’. But when a politician attacks his or her opponents on moral grounds, and then flamboyantly breaks rules and hearts as well– it’s just too hard to resist a few snarky words. Sorry.

Urban Skywatching

Good view of the moon last night. It was pale gold, wreathed in smoky clouds, very big over Thayer Street. Here’s from Mother Nature Network.

Dec. 10, 9:36 a.m. EST
Full moon
The full Moon of December is usually called the Oak Moon.
In Algonquian it is called Cold Moon. Other names are Frost Moon, Winter Moon, Long Night’s Moon and Moon Before Yule. In Hindi it is known as Margashirsha Poornima. Its Sinhala (Buddhist) name is Unduvap Poya. The full moon rises around sunset and sets around sunrise, the only night in the month when the moon is in the sky all night long. The rest of the month, the moon spends at least some time in the daytime sky.

Occupy Evening Shift

Bearing Witness

Mr. Green and I stopped by this morning and heard that help would be needed to keep a peaceful presence at Burnside Park, when the Occupation would move to the State House.

What with one thing and another, I didn’t get Downtown until about 6pm, after the demonstration, and I decided to stay at the Park and find some useful thing to do.

Sometimes that useful thing is simply being there, which I’m good at so that’s what I did.

I stationed myself at the plywood booth and kept people company. I spent a long time talking to a woman who, in my nursing opinion, urgently needs preventive care and education now. She is one of the many underinsured. She pays a lot for catastrophic insurance but has a heavy co-pay for the medications and tests she needs, which sometimes makes that care unaffordable.

I felt a little like a mechanic, trying to convince someone that their engine will fail down the line if they don’t get their oil changed. And knowing that the driver is using every penny to fill the gas tank to drive to work. To earn the money to keep the car. The difference is that a car is replaceable and a human life is not.

So next time I stop by with coffee I’ll bring some information about health care options for that percent of the 99% that has no health care security.

What stays with me is the good cheer of the Occupiers even in biting cold and facing each day without any idea what the next 24 hours will bring.

People stopped by the booth, some Occupiers, (including one guy in a wheelchair who has been putting in effort that endurance athletes would respect), old people, young people, donators and hungry people.

A young couple showed up with a tin tray of felafel and hummus. We put them out and explained to people what those fried chick pea balls were and recommending the hummus if you wanted to really appreciate them. I came away with part of a large bag of spinach there was no way to cook in the Park, so I’ll have to invent an Occupy Rustic Urban Greens recipe.

Someone stopped by with gloves, much appreciated.

This week there was another report of a fire department that refused to put out a fire because the the homeowners had failed to pay a fee. I posted on this once before, and got a refutation from a firefighter who said he knew the details of the case, and who said that my post set off his PTSD. Is it possible that our Nation has fallen into such confusion that we are breaking the hearts of the most brave and dedicated of our citizens?

What is the American spirit? Is it the spirit of the bucket brigade, the barn raising, the men and women filling sandbags when the levees break? Or is it the spirit fear and scarcity? The politician who gets elected on promises of tax cuts? The politician who fuels resentment against the poor? Is it the spirit of the gated community–raising the walls and narrowing the gates, believing that resources are valuable and humans are cheap?

I was sitting in Burnside Park, and did not get to hear the Native American drum ceremony that was performed at the State House. The history of the Narragansetts has much to teach us about change, accommodation, justice and injustice. Who has the right to Occupy what is debatable.

We are here now, under a full moon in an unnatural December when the weather has just turned from a prolonged mild fall to winter.

In the cold, in tents, We the People are petitioning for justice. It’s hard to pin this down, without leader or slogan. 99% is a lot. This is the tipping point where the economic pain affects so many people that a cry for justice cannot be ignored.

It’s amazing that Occupy Providence prevails. What the Occupiers are doing is being there. Like Gandhi’s fasts, it gets to you. Day after day– they are there. They are there for all of us.

Joe Gordon–Wrath of the King

This story from the Toronto Star should alarm free speakers everywhere, especially those who publish books, blogs, tweets and various utterances that might displease the King. Joe Gordon, born Lerpong Wichaikhammat in Thailand, is doing time for offending His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej…

BANGKOK—An American who translated a banned biography of Thailand’s king and posted the content online while living in Colorado was sentenced to two and a half years in a Thai prison Thursday for defaming the country’s royal family.

Gordon posted links to the banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej several years ago while living in the U.S. state of Colorado, and his case has raised questions about the applicability of Thai law to acts committed by foreigners outside Thailand.

Speaking after the verdict, Gordon said, “I am an American citizen, and what happened was in America.”

The rise of the Internet in recent years has given Thai authorities many more targets to pursue. Last month, Information Minister Anudith Nakornthap said Facebook users who “share” or “like” content that insults the Thai monarchy are committing a crime. Anudith said Thai authorities asked Facebook to remove 86,000 pages between August and November because of alleged lese majeste content.

Gordon, a former car salesman, is accused of having translated excerpts from the unauthorized biography “The King Never Smiles,” published by Yale University Press, into the Thai language and publishing them in a blog. He also provided links to the translation to other two Web forums, prosecutors say.

In the banned book, author Paul M. Handley retraces the king’s life, alleging that he has been a major stumbling block to the progress of democracy in Thailand as he consolidated royal power over his long reign.

An American in prison in Thailand for publishing an internet translation of a Yale University Press book– you’d think that would get a rise out of the Free Internet people, but I had to go to the back pages of Google News to find more on this story– an indication that it’s not getting attention here. The following is from The Nation– not the venerable liberal magazine, but a Thai multimedia news site…

The Nation December 10, 2011 1:00 am
US Ambassador Kristie Kenney’s tweets are usually of a laid-back nature. But that wasn’t the case yesterday, when her special “chat” with tweeple landed her in the middle of Thailand’s hottest political topics.

She was asked about Thai-American lese majeste convict Joe Gordon, as well as about Article 112, Thaksin Shinawatra, and freedom of expression in Thailand in general. Credited with bringing a new approach to diplomacy, this time the ambassador had to rely on tried-and-trusted diplomatic answers to prevent the one-hour session from becoming too incendiary.

On Gordon, she said the US Embassy would continue to assist him in every possible way, including continually raising his case with Thai authorities. Asked for her opinions on Article 112, she replied that she had high respect for the Thai monarchy, but was “troubled by prosecutions inconsistent with international standards”. Thaksin’s future, she said, was up to Thailand to decide.

Well, that’s why they call them diplomats. Some among the Thai people are courageously taking a public stand for free speech. More from The Nation…

About 100 opponents of the lese-majeste law donned black clothes and held a vigil in front of the Criminal Court yesterday to demand the abolition of the law and freedom for prisoners of conscience, including 61-year-old Amphon Tangnoppakul, better known as Akong, the subject of a recent high-profile prosecution.

Protesters wore paper masks of Akong and many held torches, symbolising the death of justice in cases of freedom of expression regarding the institution of the monarchy.

Kwanravee Wangudom, coordinator of a campaign to raise awareness about Article 112 of the penal code, which concerns lese-majeste offences, said that from January to October this year, 122 lese-majeste cases came before the Court of First Instance, with eight pending in the Appeals Court and three with the Supreme Court.

Kwanravee was among the protesters who stood vigil for 112 minutes. She said the lese-majeste law blurred the line between defamation and honest criticism of the institution of the monarchy.

One striking difference in the political landscape of today is the presence of instant communication. Censors are fighting a losing battle when everyone with a cell phone may be the media, in color and in real time. Kings and Presidents take notice– the whole world is watching.

My Fellow Kmarekians

I’m putting in long days at work and have less time to get into trouble, so fewer posts lately.

But I read the news and they keep messing with me, so I’ll get back to it this weekend.

Some things I wish I had time to blog about:

Last Saturday Beneficent Church spread Christmas spirit by having a lunch and inviting Downtown, special invitation to Crossroads and Occupy Providence. About 200 attended, minus volunteers we figure about 170 guests. Live music and a warm welcome were included.

The Toronto Star reports that an American has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison in Thailand for insulting the king. He was convicted of translating an unflattering biography of the king and posting it on his blog. I’ll get more on this important under the radar story.

NPR was reporting last night that despite ballot box stuffing, Vladimir Putin’s party did not got over 50% in the recent election. Is a Russian Spring on the way?

Occupy Providence continues to bear witness to the commitment of the people representing the 99%, and the strength of their supporters.

Gotta go now, catch you on Saturday.

Occupy Providence

I stopped by after work, and the tents are still there, people staffing the information booth and people in the park. It didn’t seem quite as cold there as I expected after feeling the chill all day.

Dave said it was pretty intense getting through the rainstorm last night but morale is holding up.

Occupy Providence website is here.

Their Facebook page is here.

And live, in real time, they are camping out in Burnside Park tonight.

Smart Charity

A woman who lives on a limited income and relies on food pantries to get through the month told me she likes a particular church, “they let you pick out what you need. I’m on a special diet and I can’t eat a lot of foods.”

I like the food pantry at First Unitarian. They group the cans and bags by type and let people pick a few from each group. It’s very practical to do it that way. A food pantry exists to feed people, not randomly dispense groceries.

Matt Yglesias in Money has a provocative post on why it is better to write a check, Can the Cans–Why Food Drives are a Terrible Idea

All across America, charitable organizations and the food industry have set up mechanisms through which emergency food providers can get their hands on surplus food for a nominal handling charge. Katherina Rosqueta, executive director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania, explains that food providers can get what they need for “pennies on the dollar.” She estimates that they pay about 10 cents a pound for food that would cost you $2 per pound retail. You’d be doing dramatically more good, in basic dollars and cents terms, by eating that tuna yourself and forking over a check for half the price of a single can of Chicken of the Sea.

Plenty of cans get distributed and it’s all well meant and does some good, but if you’re really getting into a particular charity it makes sense to find out what they need the most.


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