February 2012 Archives

Why to Stop the Tar Sands Projects


Educate yourself.

Toevah Does Not Mean Abomination


Another example of harm caused by loss in translation.

Does the Bible Really Call Homosexuality an "Abomination"?

This word, used for centuries to justify an anti-gay posture, has been badly translated and even more poorly understood.

By Jay Michaelson

Homosexuality is abomination. The Christian Right says so all the time, and non-religious LGBT activists say it too, to relegate religion to humanity's dustheap. After all, isn't that what it says in the Bible?

No--and progressive religionists should not use the word. It's a mistranslation and a misconception, doing harm to LGBT people and religious people alike.

The word "abomination" is found, of course, in the King James translation of Leviticus 18:22, a translation which reads, "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomination." Yet this is a thoroughly misleading rendition of the word toevah, which, while we may not know exactly what it means, definitely does not mean "abomination." An "abomination" conjures up images of things which should not exist on the face of the earth: three-legged babies, oceans choked with oil, or Cheez-Whiz. And indeed, this is how many religious people regard gays and lesbians. It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Homosexuality is unnatural, a perversion, a disease, an abomination.

Yet a close reading of the term toevah suggests an entirely different meaning: something permitted to one group, and forbidden to another. Though there is (probably) no etymological relationship, toevah means taboo.

The term toevah (and its plural, toevot) occurs 103 times in the Hebrew Bible, and almost always has the connotation of a non-Israelite cultic practice. In the Torah, the primary toevah is avodah zara, foreign forms of worship, and most other toevot flow from it. The Israelites are instructed not to commit toevah because other nations do so. Deuteronomy 18:9-12 makes this quite clear:

When you come into the land that YHVH your God gives you, do not learn to do the toevot of those nations. Do not find among you one who passes his son or daughter through the fire; or a magician; or a fortune teller, charmer, or witch... because all who do these things are toevah to YHVH and because of these toevot YHVH your God is driving them out before you.

Elsewhere, Deuteronomy 7:25-26 commands:

[Y]ou shall burn the statues of their gods in fire. Do not desire the silver and gold on them and take it onto yourself, else you be snared by it, for it is a toevah to YHVH your God. And you shall not bring toevah to your home

Deut. 12:31, 13:14, 17:4, 27:15, and 32:16 further identify idolatry, child sacrifice, witchcraft, and other "foreign" practices as toevah, and Deut. 20:18 says that avoiding toevah justifies the genocide of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanaites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. So, toevah is serious, but it is serious as a particular class of cultic offense: a transgression of national boundary. It is certainly not "abomination."

Toevah is used four times in Leviticus 18--once to refer to male homosexual acts, and then three times as an umbrella term. As in Deuteronomy, the signal feature of toevot is that the other nations of the Land of Israel do them: "You shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit these toevot... because the people who were in the land before you did these toevot and made the land impure (tameh)" (Lev. 18:26-27; see also Lev. 18:29). The term is repeated with reference to homosexual activity in Lev. 20:13.

Similarly, the Books of Kings and Chronicles use toevah nine times to refer to acts that other nations did in the Land of Israel:
1 Kings 14:24 (general);
2 Kings 16:3 (child sacrifice);
2 Kings 21:2 and 2 Kings 21:11 (idolatry);
2 Chron. 28:3 (child sacrifice);
2 Chron. 33:2 (idolatry);
2 Chron. 34:33, 36:8, and 36:14 (general). (Ezra 9:1, 9:11, and 9:14 use the word in exactly the same way.)

In all these cases, toevah refers to a foreign cultic behavior wrongly practiced by Israelites and Israelite kings.

And likewise, the prophet Ezekiel uses the term toevah a record-setting 39 times to refer to idolatry (Ez. 5:11, 6:9, 6:11, 7:20, 14:6, 20:7-8, 22:2, 44:6-7, 44:13), usury (Ez. 18:13), haughtiness and pride (Ez. 16:47-50; the "Sin of Sodom"--more on that in a future article), heterosexual adultery (Ez. 22:11, 33:26), and violence (Ez. 33:26), as well as a general term for foreign acts (Ez. 16:51) or transgression, often in a cultic context (Ez. 5:9, 7:3-4, 7:8-9, 9:4, 11:18, 11:21, 12:16, 16:2, 16:43, 18:24, 20:4, 33:29, 36:31).

In one extended passage (Ez. 8:1-18), Ezekiel is taken on a visionary tour of toevot, all of which have to do with idolatry and each, Ezekiel says, is worse than the previous one, beginning with an image on the door of the gate of Jerusalem, to idols and imagery in a house of worship, to women weeping for the god Tammuz,* to men worshipping the sun within the Temple itself. This extended passage, with six mentions of toevah, links the term in every instance with avodah zara, or idolatry.

In five instances, Ezekiel mentions toevah together with both idolatry and zimah or znut, "whoredom" (Ez. 16:22, 16:36, 16:58, 23:26, 43:8), strongly suggesting that the nature of sexual toevah is not mere lewdness, and certainly not loving intimate expression, but sexuality in a cultic context.

Detestable Because it is Foreign, or Foreign Because it is Detestable?

Maddow Awarded the Steinberg


Part 1 of 5

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

All Hail the Theocrat


Santorum's religious insanity has finally been outted by his own recent declarations wherein he calls the pursuit of a college education elitist and the principle of separation of church and state absolutely unacceptable. Most of us with any eye for detail knew already the man is a religious nut and completely unworthy of even being considered for the presidency, but now the rest of the country seems to be waking up to the level of danger the man represents.


Santorum in the Extreme

By Eugene Robinson

For all his supposed authenticity, Rick Santorum is not what he seems. Beneath that sweater vest beats the heart of a calculating and increasingly desperate politician who has gone beyond pandering all the way to shameless demagoguery.

That's the charitable view. The uncharitable take on Santorum's incendiary rhetoric is that he actually believes this stuff. Either way, it's time for Republican voters to end his little electoral adventure and send him back to the cosseted life of a Washington influence-peddler.

The image of aw-shucks earnestness that improbably landed Santorum in the Republican Party's Final Four was beginning to fade. Mitt Romney, who is nothing if not relentless, was beginning to climb back up in the polls, and Santorum risked becoming nothing more than the latest of a series of anti-Romneys to bite the dust. Something had to change--so, in recent days, Santorum's avuncular smile has become a nasty sneer.

On Saturday, he attacked President Obama for advocating higher education. Yes, you read that right: Santorum came out against going to college.

"President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college," Santorum said in Michigan. "What a snob."

Huh? Santorum elaborated: "There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard every day, and put their skills to test, that aren't taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them. Oh, I understand why he (Obama) wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image."

Ridiculous? Offensive? Hypocritical? Manifestly, all of the above.

Only a fool or a liar is unaware that higher education is all but a prerequisite for success in the post-industrial economy; the unemployment rate for college graduates is just 4.4 percent, compared to 9.5 percent for high-school graduates. The idea that encouraging young people to go to college is really an attempt to lure them into indoctrination camps, or campuses, would be grossly insulting if it were not so comically paranoid.

But of course Rick Santorum doesn't practice what he preaches. He went to college and holds both a law degree and an MBA. He's sending his own children to college; his two eldest, Elizabeth and John, are interrupting their studies to help their father in his campaign.

Santorum told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday that "there are a lot of people in this country that have no desire or no aspiration to go to college, because they have a different set of skills and desires and dreams that don't include college." Yet he makes sure his sons and daughters are not among them.

Hypocrisy and illusion are nothing new for Santorum. He plays up his alleged blue-collar roots, contrasting himself with the snooty Romney. But his father, Aldo Santorum, was a clinical psychologist who held graduate degrees, including a Ph.D., and worked for the Veterans Administration. His mother was an administrative nurse.

Wait, there's more. Stephanopoulos also asked Santorum about something even more ridiculous that he said last October: that he "almost threw up" when he read John F. Kennedy's famous 1960 speech about the separation of church and state.

That landmark speech was credited with reassuring voters who might have feared that Kennedy, a Catholic, would somehow take orders from the Vatican if he were elected president. "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute," Kennedy said.

Santorum's view is the polar opposite. "I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute," he said. He claims Kennedy was proposing that "only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case"--which is not even remotely what Kennedy said. The speech was a celebration of religious pluralism, not an argument against faith.

I have to assume that Santorum knows what Kennedy meant--that when he says "the idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country," he's just trying to appeal to religious conservatives. If Santorum is serious, his views are not just misguided but dangerous.

Progressives have an obvious interest in seeing the Republican Party choose a weak nominee, but they shouldn't hope for Santorum. He would be the most extreme candidate since Barry Goldwater--and probably would suffer the same fate. But the nation can't afford to take that chance.

100 Years in 10 minutes


hat tip to callmeishmael

How to Start WWIII


Hacktavists techniques get picked up by nation states and control systems which are used to keep weapons systems under control get pirated and run out of control.

Why 2012 will be cybercrime's 'hell year'

Neal Ungerleider

For online security professionals, 2012 is turning out to be a banner year. Prominent hacks are taking place nearly every week. Credit card fraud and piracy on the Internet are booming. Hacktivist attacks against government computers and private companies are occurring almost daily. Big-name government agencies and businesses everywhere are shelling out for security assistance ... but for everyday Internet users, it's a giant headache with unclear risks.

The one thing no one is really able to explain is why cybercrime's booming. According to a recent Norton study, cybercrime cost the global economy (in both direct damage and lost productivity time) $388 billion in 2011 -- significantly more than the global black market for marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security have reported exponentially increasing demand for cybercrime assistance--something confirmed by this reporter in anecdotal discussions with online security experts.

Every single expert has a different theory. Some say it's due to a global economy that's putting programmers out of work and turning them rogue. Others say it's the easy availability of computers in poor regions of the world where job prospects are few. Then others say it's simply that scripts and DDoS attacks have democratized cybercrime.

DDoS attacks -- and their first cousins, botnets -- are one of the biggest culprits. Most DDoS attacks are amazingly simplistic; they are denial-of-service attacks frequently made via software that requires no programming or IT knowledge. Botnets are impromptu networks of Internet-connected computers turned rogue via malware. Once a computer is compromised, they can be used for everything from financial fraud to knocking websites offline. Reached by email, Carl Herberger ofthe security firm Radware put much of the blame on hacktivists such as Anonymous.

"The motive for attacks has changed and this new motive brought with it new tools and attack techniques," Herberger tells Fast Company. "These new motives -- frequently called 'Hacktivism' -- are in a new category which will go down in the record books as one of the most active periods of cyberattacks in the history of information security. Given the current efficacy of ideologically based multi-vulnerability attacks such as WikiLeaks revenge attacks of 2010 and the Sony attacks of 2011, we believe this will only serve to encourage even more actors to enter the picture and spawn a vicious cycle of future malicious activity."

While the idea that politicized groups such as Anonymous are malicious and/or criminals is controversial, many security experts agree with Herberger. At the recent Kaspersky Lab Cyber Conference in Cancun, CEO Eugene Kaspersky compared hacktivists to radicals who plant car bombs and commit arsons in the name of ideology. Similar alarms were raised in an end-of-year letter from risk management firm Stroz Friedberg, which largely conflated hacktivism with threats like state-sponsored data theft and zero-day exploits.

Governor TransVaginal Probe


How to destroy your chances to be VP.

Dancing with the Inevitable


Maryland lawmakers pass bill to allow gay marriage

State senators approved a gay marriage bill 25-22 Thursday, moving Maryland closer to becoming the eighth state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriages.

Gay marriage opponents in the Senate unsuccessfully attempted to attach amendments to the House bill, which could have effectively killed it, WBALTV reported.

The House of Delegates approved the bill by a narrow 72-67 vote last week, WBAL reported.

Gov. Martin O'Malley worked closely with House Democratic leaders to secure the votes needed for passage, The Baltimore Sun reported.

O'Malley released a statement Thursday, thanking Senate President Mike Miller for his efforts in getting the bill passed. "All children deserve the opportunity to live in a loving, caring committed, and stable home, protected equally by the law," the statement said.

Opponents have vowed to bring the measure to referendum in November. They will need to gather at least 55,726 valid signatures of Maryland voters to put it on the ballot and can begin collecting names now that the bill has passed both chambers, the Associated Press reports.

Recent polls have shown that Marylanders are evenly split on the issue, the Sun reported.

Last week, the Washington governor signed a gay marriage bill into law. That law could also be challenged in a November referendum if opponents gather enough signatures.

Also last week, the New Jersey legislature approved a same-sex marriage bill, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the measure.

Ever had a screaming boss?


Every once in a while we get to see karma and the cosmic wheels of justice work right in front of us. Check this out and tell me you are not cheered by this encounter.

Horrified 'Undercover Boss' shuts down restaurant

By Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

On CBS's reality show "Undercover Boss," one boss was pushed so far by the horrible behavior of a restaurant manager that he came out from undercover, revealed his identity, and shut the whole restaurant down.

It's a moment of sweet revenge that any employee who has ever had a bad boss would love to experience. Rick Silva, CEO of Checkers & Rally's fast-food chain, was pretending to be a regular employee at a Florida Checkers location on the Feb. 17 episode.

After he witnessed the location's new general manager repeatedly abusing staff, he tried to talk to the man.

"I came into this company just like you," the manager told the undercover CEO. "Wanting to be nice, low tone ... it doesn't work. If I don't scream at them, they don't listen to me."

The manager demanded to know Silva's credentials for telling him what to do, saying he wasn't going to let him continue to tell him he was disrespecting the employees.

"Have you been in the fast-food business before?" the manager asked Silva curtly.

After at first trying to protect his secret identity, the CEO came clean.

"I have been in the restaurant business for over 20 years. And I've been in the fast food business for over 20 years," Silva admitted. "I'm CEO for this company. I know exactly what it takes to run a restaurant like this, and guess what? I know the right way to do it, and I know the wrong way to do it. ... Right here, right now, we're going to shut the restaurant down."

Silva later told Nation's Restaurant News, "We closed the unit down during that Sunday night shift temporarily. The next morning, it reopened with a new manager, and it's been running fantastic since then."

Watch Silva reveal himself to the manager in the video below.

The Physical Basis of Belief in Gods


How monkeys handle moral outrage


Morality Without Religion

Alan Boyle

When Occupy Wall Street and similar protests played out over the past year, the phenomenon looked familiar to Emory University primatologist Frans de Waal: He's seen similar moral outrage over economic inequity expressed by monkeys and chimps. And he thinks we could learn a lesson or two from our fellow primates.

"The role of inequity in society is grossly underestimated," he told reporters today, on the final day of this year's meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver, Canada. "Inequity is not good for your health, basically."

Based on primate studies, that goes for the haves as well as the have-nots. Far from being a uniquely human quality, a sense of fairness is something biologists have seen in studies of primates as well as crows and dogs. Even elephants may have an appreciation of inequity, although de Waal said he and his colleagues haven't done such a study with that species because "you don't want to piss off an elephant."

Dark Matter Microbes


Scientists map the world's microbes

By Alan Boyle

microbial.jpgMicrobiologists are starting to make sense of tens of thousands of samples they've collected from around the world, undoubtedly containing legions upon legions of different kinds of microorganisms. How many kinds? That's just the point: Nobody knows.

The microbial world is "Earth's dark matter," says Janet Jansson, a senior staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. By that, Jansson means that the varieties of bacteria and other microorganisms are as mysterious as the unseen stuff that makes up 85 percent of the matter in the universe.

Jansson held up a spoon of soil during a news conference Friday at annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, held in Vancouver, Canada -- and noted that there were more organisms in that spoonful than there were stars in the Milky Way galaxy (100 billion).

Talk about big numbers: Scientists estimate that there are 10 trillion microbes in every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of soil on Earth. Our planet is home about a nonillion cells (that's a 1 with 30 zeroes after it). Most of those are microbes. Each human body is thought to consist of 10 trillion cells, harboring microbial communities that amount to 100 trillion cells. From a microbe's point of view, we're all just lumps of flesh that are convenient places to hang out, said Jack Gilbert, a microbiologist at Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago.

"Without them, you'd be dead," he told reporters at an AAAS meeting. "Without us, they'd just move onto something else."

Earth Microbiome Project

The problem is that far less than 10 percent of the world's varieties of microbes have ever been cultivated in the lab. The rest are out there in the world, beyond the reach of the traditional methods for categorizing and analyzing life forms. That's where the Earth Microbiome Project is aiming to make a big difference.

FDR on Republicans


Weekends Have Never Been So Enlightening


Two hours of Chris Hayes immediately followed by two hours Melissa Harris-Perry...a heavenly arrangement for the rationality hungry nerd in me.

At the core of the entire conservative anti-abortion, anti-contraceptive, anti-women's rights is the ugly concept of forcing women to bring every pregnancy to term no matter what. It's still all about patriarchal, authoritarian control of women and keeping them in their place as second class citizens no matter what rationalizations with which the atavistic male chauvinists try to obscure that fact. It's still all daddy knows best crap...and what's really psychotic is that Virginia is passing legislation that will allow daddy to rape his daughters with a probe if she misbehaves. Think about it.

Michigan's Tyranny in Benton harbor


The key word these days for the conservative world view is intransigence.

One thing the Obama presidency has afforded us is the demonstration of just how incredibly petty and mean spirited the Republican party has become and how far they have wandered from the American sense of fair play and good will. They clothe themselves in Christian piety and patriotic fervor while their actions again and again prove exactly the opposite motives.

Atheists Plan National Picnic


Atheists bill big names for 'coming out' party in Capitol


By Kari Huus

The National Mall in Washington has hosted its share of rallies -- some massive and iconic, like the famed civil rights march of 1963, which featured Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Nonetheless, a scrappy coalition of atheists say they will make history on the Mall next month by pulling together what they say is the first nationwide celebration of secular values -- what one of the organizers called a "Woodstock for non-belief."

"The intent is to unify, energize and embolden secular people nationwide, while dispelling the negative opinions held by so much of American society ... and having a damn good time doing it!" according to the website for the March 24 Reason Rally, sponsored by "free thinkers" organizations.

Headliner for the Reason Rally is Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist and author who has been an especially scathing critic of creationism and the "intelligent design" theory embraced by some Christians.

Other speakers scheduled to appear include Taslima Nasrin-- a physician, writer and secular humanist who has tangled with Islamic extremists in her home country of Bangladesh -- and Jessica Ahlquist, the 16-year-old in Rhode Island who led the successful crusade against a prayer banner in her high school.

But the "damn good time" promised on the Reason Rally site surely refers to entertainers billed for the event -- including "MythBusters" co-host Adam Savage, known for his propensity for blowing up various things, including conventional wisdom, on the weekly Discovery Channel program.

Also billed as appearing is musician-comedian Tim Minchin, a self-described atheist and skeptic, and Bad Religion, a punk rock band that has been performing since the 1980s and is known for their "Crossbuster" logo, created by band members when they were still teens practicing in a garage.

Just how many atheists will make the trek to the DC rally is unclear since it doesn't require any registration.

"There's electricity in our movement," said Dan Barker, co-president of the Madison, Wis.-based non-profit Freedom from Religion Foundation, a principal sponsor of the Reason Rally. "From what we feel... there's going to be a huge turnout, but who knows?"

Easier to quantify is the growing number of Americans who say they do not identify with any god-centric religion -- people who call themselves a lot of different things, including atheists, agnostics, religious skeptics and secular humanists.

The American Religious Identification Survey, carried out by researchers at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, showed growth in this "no-religion" portion of the population since 1990. The so-called "nones" made up 15 percent of the U.S. population in 2008, up from 8 percent in 1990, according to the survey. The survey showed the "nones" skew young, with about 30 percent between 18 and 30 years of age.

"Non-religion is the fastest-growing 'religion,' while Christianity is shrinking," said Barker, once a Protestant minister. "There is something happening. The Reason Rally seems to be riding that wave."

One of the goals of the gathering is "to encourage attendees ... to come out of the closet as secular Americans, or supporters of secular equality," according to the website.

To that end, organizers have arranged for a video address by Rep. Peter Stark, the only member of Congress who has declared himself a "nontheist." Last year, Stark introduced a resolution calling for the designation of Feb. 12 as Darwin Day to honor evolutionary science pioneer Charles Darwin.

Flying in China


Chinese Scenes from BASE-Book - Matt Gerdes on Vimeo.

hat tip to pal Peter



That's about the nicest way you can put the the good ol boy patriarchs latest blunders on women's heath care rights. Sometimes is difficult to appreciate just how broad the conservative universe of obtuse is.

No Inalienable Rights for Chris Christie


Republicans Finally Flip Out Completely

| | Comments (1)

Virginia Republicans have a bill to require doctors to unnecessarily probe women's vaginas for sonograms if they have the temerity to seek an abortion.. Neither the doctor nor the patient have any say in the forced procedure. There is no medical reason for the procedure, it is nothing more than a "punishment" for seeking an abortion.

My Fav Bumper Sticker



hat tip to callmeishmael

Stop the Killing



Another Black Hero of the Civil War


Robert Smalls

smalls-30.jpg1839 - 1915

Years of working on ships around Charleston, South Carolina paid off for Robert Smalls and twelve other enslaved people. On May 13, 1862, Smalls, his wife and two children, and twelve other slaves took over the Planter, a steamboat built to haul cotton.

Dressed as the captain, Smalls used the signals he knew would allow passage by Fort Sumter. He then steered the ship towards the Union Navy, which was currently blockading the port. Hoisting the white flag of surrender, Smalls offered the boat to the Union forces.

Not only had he won freedom for himself, his family, and twelve others, but Smalls had also given the Union a ship, weapons, and important information about the Confederates' defenses. President Lincoln authorized a bill giving Smalls $1500 for his actions. He was named captain of the Planter, and took part in seventeen engagements (events during the Civil War) on behalf of the Union.

When the war was over, Smalls lectured throughout New York. He bought the Beaufort, South Carolina, home where he and his mother had been enslaved; he lived there for the rest of his life. Smalls served terms in the South Carolina Senate and House of Representatives before being elected to the U.S. Congress for five years.



We just got this news from Politico Pro that Senate Republicans have officially put forward an amendment to the transportation bill to try and reverse President Obama's Keystone XL rejection and revive the pipeline zombie. Here's the report:

Senate Republicans officially filed an amendment Monday afternoon to the transportation bill that would authorize the Keystone XL pipeline. The amendment is sponsored by Sens. John Hoeven, Mitch McConnell, Richard Lugar, David Vitter, Mike Johanns and Orrin Hatch.

"Congressional approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not acceptable," said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, the International Program Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council." It will create a bad process rushing approval on a tar sands pipeline while the route for the pipeline hasn't even been determined yet and the environmental review process remains incomplete."

The next 24 hours are going to be a crucial time to show that the American people are sick and tired of this Senate circus and want Congress to stand with President Obama and kill the pipeline zombie once and for all.

Click here to add your name to our growing movement wide petition to stop Keystone XL -- there are over 300,000 signatures and counting: 350.org/kxl

How Humans Are Creating a Larger Entity


I distinctly remember having conversations in the 80's that were exactly like this TED talk from 1994.

Talks that dealt with the nature of the ever increasing acceleration of change in technology and how it correspondingly mapped onto evolution as it appears in the natural world and we as products of evolution are generating a new larger organism of which we have little real understanding.

Your Lollipop Moments and Everyday Leadership


We have all changed someone's life -- usually without even realizing it. In this funny talk from TEDxToronto, Drew Dudley calls on all of us to celebrate leadership as the everyday act of improving each other's lives.

Drew Dudley believes leadership is not a characteristic reserved for the extraordinary. He works to help people discover the leader within themselves.

No Flogging for Ratigan & Friends...Yet


Why Eric Cantor needs to be tar and feathered.

UP Segment on the Contraceptive Argument


I love this show for it's intelligence and balance.

Honoring White House Construction Slaves


Raising the question, "On whose backs was this country built?"

Rep.asks Obama to honor slaves who built White House

By Kunbi Tinuoye

A U.S. congressman is urging President Obama to recognize the work of enslaved African-Americans who helped build the White House.

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) has written a letter to the president asking for the role of slave labor to be recognized by displaying an appropriate acknowledgement in a public area of the White House.

"Slaves helped dig the foundation for the White House," Ackerman wrote in correspondence to the White House Thursday. "They quarried stone that would be used for the walls, dug up clay for thousands of bricks, cut timber, sawed lumber, and performed carpentry inside the White House.

"Even after White House construction was completed, slaves continued to support White House operations. Slaves served in White House domestic staff from 1800 through the Civil War."

It was just two years ago that slaves who helped build the U.S. Capitol were honored with commemorative plaques inside the Capitol, following a study by a congressional task force led by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)

"It was a shameful omission that visitors to the Capitol could tour the building to learn its history but not learn that slave labor was used in its construction," argued Ackerman in a statement released Thursday. "I'm proud Congress took action to correct this failure and I now urge the White House follow suit."

Ackerman said he was inspired to investigate the role of slave labor at the White House by one of his constituents, Mandingo Tshaka, an activist from Queens, N.Y., whom Ackerman credited with enlightening people about slaves' experiences on Capitol Hill.

"From the U.S. Capitol Building to the White House, our national symbols that represent freedom to so many of us, were built by people who were anything but free," Ackerman wrote.

"While the larger injustice of slavery can never be adequately corrected, the continuing failure of properly informing visitors to Washington of the history of slaves building our national structures -- including the White House -- should be remedied."

Ackerman''s push for the White House to recognize the vital role of slaves, comes as the country celebrates African-American contributions and heroes during Black History Month.

Historians have discovered that slaves worked round the clock, six days a week, on the construction of the Capitol. The federal government rented the slaves from local slave owners at a rate of $5 per person per month. The slaves were not paid.

Parental Revenge: Priceless

| | Comments (4)

A Washington State Legislator's Ephiphany


The honesty is stunning and admirable.

Shaun Parkes


Wanna meet a really great actor?
Check out the show-reel segment on his site.
He's also presently appearing in Spielberg's "The River" on Hulu.


How Politicians Think


Something must be done.
This is something.
Therefore, this must be done.

If Women Could Be Catholic Priests

| | Comments (1)

The fake piety circulating of late from the church and opportunistic GOP politicians is a male control thing. In fact, the whole assault on women's health issues over the last couple of years is nothing but the good ol' boys of yesteryear patriarchy trying a resurgent last hurrah. The argument that the Catholic church as employers shouldn't have to pay insurance coverage for birth control of their non-Catholic employees working in Catholic owned, but otherwise secular institutions such as hospitals and universities, is not only audacious patriarchal stupidity, but is counter to the already existent laws of 27 states that enforce exactly the same rules the church and GOP politicians are whining that the Federal government is trying to impose. As I said, it's all fake piety from weak minded men wrapped in the cloaks of their institutions.

To wit:

"An obvious starting point is with the 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women who, just like other American women, have exercised their own consciences and availed themselves of birth control at some point during their reproductive lives. So it's important to be clear that the conscientious objection to the regulation comes from an institution rather than from those whose consciences it purports to represent. (Catholic women actually have a higher rate of abortion than other American women, but I'll stick to birth control for now.) While most Catholics dissent in the privacy of their bedrooms from the church's position, some are pushing back in public. The organization Catholics for Choice, whose magazine is pointedly entitled Conscience, is calling on its supporters to "tell our local media that the bishops are out of touch with the lived reality of the Catholic people" and "do not speak for us on this decision."" - Linda Greenhouse

Tales From the Kitchen Table

By Gail Collins

This is a really old story, but let me tell you anyway.

When I was first married, my mother-in-law sat down at her kitchen table and told me about the day she went to confession and told the priest that she and her husband were using birth control. She had several young children, times were difficult -- really, she could have produced a list of reasons longer than your arm.

"You're no better than a whore on the street," said the priest.

This was, as I said, a long time ago. It's just an explanation of why the bishops are not the only Roman Catholics who are touchy about the issue of contraception.

These days, parish priests tend to be much less judgmental about parishioners who are on the pill -- the military was not the first institution in this country to make use of the "don't ask, don't tell" system. "In most parishes in the United States, we don't find them preaching about contraception," said Jon O'Brien of Catholics for Choice. "And it's not as though in the Mass you have a question-and-answer period."

You have heard, I'm sure, that the Catholic bishops are in an uproar over an Obama administration rule that would require Catholic universities and hospitals to cover contraceptives in their health care plans. The Republican presidential candidates are roaring right behind. Mitt Romney claimed the White House was trying to "impose a secular vision on Americans who believe that they should not have their religious freedom taken away."

Let's try to work this out in a calm, measured manner. (Easy for me to say. I already got my mother-in-law story off my chest.)

Catholic doctrine prohibits women from using pills, condoms or any other form of artificial contraception. A much-quoted study by the Guttmacher Institute found that virtually all sexually active Catholic women of childbearing age have violated the rule at one point or another, and that more than two-thirds do so consistently.

Here is the bishops' response to that factoid: "If a survey found that 98 percent of people had lied, cheated on their taxes, or had sex outside of marriage, would the government claim it can force everyone to do so?"

O.K. Moving right along.

The church is not a democracy and majority opinion really doesn't matter. Catholic dogma holds that artificial contraception is against the law of God. The bishops have the right -- a right guaranteed under the First Amendment -- to preach that doctrine to the faithful. They have a right to preach it to everybody. Take out ads. Pass out leaflets. Put up billboards in the front yard.

The problem here is that they're trying to get the government to do their work for them. They've lost the war at home, and they're now demanding help from the outside.

And they don't seem in the mood to compromise. Church leaders told The National Catholic Register that they regarded any deal that would allow them to avoid paying for contraceptives while directing their employees to other places where they could find the coverage as a nonstarter.

This new rule on contraceptive coverage is part of the health care reform law, which was designed to finally turn the United States into a country where everyone has basic health coverage. In a sane world, the government would be running the whole health care plan, the employers would be off the hook entirely and we would not be having this fight at all. But members of Congress -- including many of the very same people who are howling and rending their garments over the bishops' plight -- deemed the current patchwork system untouchable.

The churches themselves don't have to provide contraceptive coverage. Neither do organizations that are closely tied to a religion's doctrinal mission. We are talking about places like hospitals and universities that rely heavily on government money and hire people from outside the faith.

We are arguing about whether women who do not agree with the church position, or who are often not even Catholic, should be denied health care coverage that everyone else gets because their employer has a religious objection to it. If so, what happens if an employer belongs to a religion that forbids certain types of blood transfusions? Or disapproves of any medical intervention to interfere with the working of God on the human body?

Organized religion thrives in this country, so the system we've worked out seems to be serving it pretty well. Religions don't get to force their particular dogma on the larger public. The government, in return, protects the right of every religion to make its case heard.

The bishops should have at it. I wouldn't try the argument that the priest used on my mother-in-law, but there's always a billboard on the front lawn.

Will Wonders Never Cease?


Welcome to the bacon flavored milkshake.

Why Women Should Run the World


Well, at least the smart ones and not the zomboids like Palin or Bachmann.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

And why does Newt Gingrich hate him? Or does he?

How do Conservatives and Liberals See the World? from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

A Tale of Two Ads


The Republicans are sooooo screwed. As the clown car careens toward the cliff on thread bare wheels of failed policies, hysterical history re-writes and just plain steaming plates of foot in mouth mis-speak, along comes a couple of ads to cut the brake lines, one from the TeaParty heart of darkness racism and the other from a favorite son seemingly patting Obama's policies on the back. Check it out.

Tupac Shakur on Shining


Malcolm X: Beyond the Cultural Icon


It's a shame that most Americans, of any racial designation, know very little about one of America's most important orators and heroes. Just as MLK has his celebrated Day, I believe that Malcolm X is no less deserving.

Malcolm X - By Any Means Necessary

June 1964

College student uncovers tape of forgotten Malcolm X speech

Recording of 1961 Brown University address sat in a box of mementos for decades

The recording was forgotten, and so, too, was the odd twist of history that brought together Malcolm X and a bespectacled Brown University Ivy Leaguer fated to become one of America's top diplomats.

The audiotape of Malcolm X's 1961 address in Providence might never have surfaced at all if 22-year-old Brown University student Malcolm Burnley hadn't stumbled across a reference to it in an old student newspaper. He found the recording of the little-remembered visit gathering dust in the university archives.

"No one had listened to this in 50 years," Burnley told The Associated Press. "There aren't many recordings of him before 1962. And this is a unique speech -- it's not like others he had given before."

In the May 11, 1961 speech delivered to a mostly white audience of students and some residents, Malcolm X combines blistering humor and reason to argue that blacks should not look to integrate into white society but instead must forge their own identities and culture.

'A dead people'

At the time, Malcolm X, 35, was a loyal supporter of the Nation of Islam, a black separatist movement. He would be assassinated four years later after leaving the group and crafting his own more global, spiritual ideology.

The legacy of slavery and racism, he told the crowd of 800, "has made the 20 million black people in this country a dead people. Dead economically, dead mentally, dead spiritually. Dead morally and otherwise. Integration will not bring a man back from the grave."

Malcolm X was prompted to come to Brown by an article about the growing Black Muslim movement published in the Brown Daily Herald and shown in an image on the NPR website. The article by Katharine Pierce, a young student at Pembroke College, then the women's college at Brown, was first written for a religious studies class. It caught the eye of the student paper's editor, Richard Holbrooke.

Holbrooke would become a leading American diplomat, serving as U.S. Ambassador to Germany soon after that nation's reunification, ambassador to the United Nations and President Obama's special adviser on Pakistan and Afghanistan before his death in 2010 at age 69.

But in 1961 Holbrooke was 20, and eager to use the student newspaper to examine race relations -- an unusual interest on an elite Ivy League campus with only a handful of black students.

Tumor Treating Fields


Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are the best-known methods for treating cancer. At TEDMED, Bill Doyle presents a new approach, called Tumor Treating Fields, which uses electric fields to interrupt cancer cell division. Still in its infancy -- and approved for only certain types of cancer -- the treatment comes with one big benefit: quality of life.

Only in America


A friend of mine said: Only in America can you be pro-death penalty, pro-war, pro-guns, pro-torture, and still call yourself "pro-life."

Dilip - Chicago

North Korean Escape


Even in North Korea the beat that always goes on cannot be completely repressed.
Who knew they could groove?

The Warehouse as Parallel Computer


We make millions of online purchases daily, but who (or what) actually puts our items into packages? At TEDxBoston, Mick Mountz weaves a fascinating tale out of a seemingly boring subject: online ordering, its challenges -- and the surprisingly high-tech solutions.

Soul Train Legend Leaves the Station


Cornelius remembered in NYC as inspiring, generous


Fans of "Soul Train" boogied down Broadway wearing afro wigs and bell bottoms on Saturday while others recounted their favorite episodes at a Harlem meeting hall in tribute to the show's late creator, Don Cornelius.

About 100 dancers descended on Times Square in a "flash mob" organized through the Internet. As startled tourists looked on, they recreated one of the show's "Soul Train lines" in which people would take turns dancing toward a TV camera while showing off their most outrageous moves.

"Don Cornelius was a big influence in my life, and I just wanted to pay tribute," said disc jockey Jon Quick, as he held up a speaker blasting disco grooves. "He was playing the music that nobody else wanted to play. He was an amazing man."

The Top 10 Soul Train Videos on YouTube

One of my favorite things about watching Soul Train was getting to watch the audience strut their stuff:

What Does Being Liberal mean?



Basic Black and Pearls of Wisdom

| | Comments (1)

Black History Month:
Debunking the 10 biggest myths about black history

By David A. Love the Grio


February is here, which means that it's Black History Month. Black history is an integral part of U.S. history, with African Americans making important contributions to the lifeblood of this country in all fields of endeavor. But there are many misconceptions and mischaracterizations when it comes to the public's general understanding of black history. They say that the truth will make you free. Well, here at theGrio, we thought we'd kick off February the right way by debunking the 10 biggest myths about black history.

1. The Civil War was not fought over slavery

If you want to know whether the Civil War was fought over slavery, just read the words of Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederate States of America in 1861:

The prevailing ideas entertained by...most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically.... Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error...Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery -- subordination to the superior race -- is his natural and normal condition.

Most historians agree that slavery was one of the primary issues leading to the Civil War. South Carolina seceded from the Union because of the clash between slave states and free states over the expansion of slavery. The Republican Party, then a new political party, made the fight against slavery in U.S. territories a key issue.

Historical revisionists have tried to whitewash history and improve the image of the Old South by eliminating slavery from the mix. And groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans insist the war was fought over self-governance and states' rights. The war was about states' rights, the right of Southern states to own black people.

2. The civil rights movement was inherently Communist

Martin Luther King's inspiration for his philosophy of nonviolence and strategy of civil disobedience came from Mahatma Gandhi. The civil rights movement was not inspired by Communist beliefs or rhetoric, but the two biggest foes of the civil rights movement -- FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover and the Klu Klux Klan -- were fervently anti-Communist and characterized the civil rights workers as such.

It was the middle of the Cold War, and Hoover investigated any group that adopted the similar positions on civil liberties, racism, economic and peace as the Communist Party. Hoover thought the movement was a target of Communist infiltration, which is why his COINTELPRO program went after so-called subversive causes deemed Communist or socialist -- including the NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Black Panther Party and others.

3. The modern Democratic Party is still the party of the Klu Klux Klan

During the era of Jim Crow segregation, the Democratic Party ruled the South, and their reign of terror was made successful thanks to groups like the Klan, which provided the muscle that kept black people down, subordinated and 'in their place'. As historian Eric Foner noted in Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, "In effect, the Klan was a military force serving the interests of the Democratic party, the planter class, and all those who desired restoration of white supremacy."

Meanwhile, the Republican Party was a diverse party, a true "big tent" with liberals and moderates in their ranks. Following the Civil War during Reconstruction, blacks were overwhelmingly Republican. Even President Eisenhower received 39 percent of the black vote in 1956, while Nixon won 32 percent of the black vote in his loss against Kennedy. Moreover, greater majorities of Republican lawmakers voted for the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, the landmark civil rights legislation of 1964 and 1965. In fact, Democrats and Republicans outside of the South approved the bills in the face of a filibuster from Southern Democrats.

Things began to change in the 1960s, when Barry Goldwater ran for president in 1964, and Southern conservatives began to take over the GOP by appealing to white Southern resentment over civil rights. As a result of a Southern Strategy based on states' rights, white Democrats flocked to the Republicans. In today's South, the Republican Party is a mostly white conservative party, and the Democratic Party is disproportionately African-American. The parties switched places.

4. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican, and would today be aligned with conservatives

Conservatives point to Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech -- in which he said he wanted his four children to be judged not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character -- as proof that King opposed affirmative action and was a conservative Republican. But that is wishful thinking. First of all, the Republican Party of King's days was quite different from the party of today. Although King's father was a lifelong Republican, which made sense since the Democrats supported segregation, this does not mean the son was a Republican. Second, as PolitiFact notes, Dr. King was not a Republican, and historians and Martin Luther King III agree there is no proof of it.

In fact King spoke out passionately in opposition to conservative GOP 1964 nominee for the presidency, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. King said of Goldwater:

While I had followed a policy of not endorsing political candidates, I felt that the prospect of Senator Goldwater being President of the United States so threatened the health, morality, and survival of our nation, that I could not in good conscience fail to take a stand against what he represented.

King also wanted to spend billions of dollars to fight poverty and was vilified for his stance against the Vietnam War. And he fought with striking Memphis sanitation workers when he was assassinated. He also said that America "must undergo a radical revolution of values" and "must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person-oriented' society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered." That doesn't sound very conservative. Today's conservatives would likely brand him a socialist.

Beatbox Cello


What's not to love?

This is a piece called Julie-O by Mark Summer. I took it and made a celloboxing arrangement!
- Kevin Olusola

Kevin Olusola performing Ridin Solo on cello, this man's skills with a cello are uncomparable to anything youve seen before!

Also, check out his participation with PENTATONIX

Did I mention he plays saxophone and speaks five languages?

iPhone Slaves Here and There


If you put an iPhone next to your ear and listen really closely you can hear the moans of the Chinese Foxconn workers who assembled it working under really brutal conditions.

Online petition asks Apple for 'ethical' iPhone

By Suzanne Choney

An online petition asking Apple to "address dangerous conditions in factories" making the next iPhone has gotten 35,000 signatures in the first 24 hours of the effort.

"I use an iPhone myself. I love it, but I don't love having to support sweatshops, and neither do millions of other Apple consumers," said Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, executive director of the group behind the petition, SumOfUs.

The working conditions at Apple factories in China were detailed in a recent New York Times article. In the article, a former Apple executive is quoted as saying, "We've known about labor abuses in some factories for four years, and they're still going on...Why? Because the system works for us."

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2012 is the previous archive.

March 2012 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.