Westboro Baptist Church PWND by High School Students and Other Tales

This photo diary at Daily Kos is sure to warm the hearts of all those who love to see Fred Phelps’ Band of Frothing Fuckwits get their due:

Fred Phelps, known for his protests at the funerals of AIDS victims, and now extremely popular for his bizarre protests at the funerals of fallen soldiers, decided to grace Prairie Village, Kansas with the presence of his minions. The target for the picketers was Shawnee Mission East High School, a large suburban school in the Kansas City Metro area.

Westboro Church is located in Topeka, Kansas, which is why Kansas City often gets blessed with their ministries. Shawnee Mission East’s crime is an active gay/straight alliance group, and the nominating of an openly gay classmate for Homecoming King in 2007. I don’t know why they waited until now to tell the students that God hates them and they are burning in hell, but they did. An impressive 12 of them. Wow. And at least two children, which is sweet.

But they were met with at least 300 counter-protesters, a large number of them Shawnee Mission East students. The kids organized and with the support of the school administration were able to shout down the Westboro orcs with signs calling out love, compassion and tolerance.

This is what gives me hope that I’ll grow old in a slightly less dysfunctional country. The generation coming after us seems to have a fairly large proportion of people with their heads screwed on straight.

Perhaps we should take them on a field trip to explain law, civics, and basic reading comprehension to certain dunces:

Let’s briefly recap a story we’ve been following. Earlier this week, the American Center for Law and Justice, a right-wing legal group formed by TV preacher Pat Robertson, said the stimulus bill includes a provision that would prohibit “religious groups and organizations from using” buildings on college campuses. Soon after, religious right groups and right-wing blogs were up in arms, demanding that lawmakers fix the “anti-Christian” language of the bill. Fox News and the Christian Broadcasting Network helped get the word out to the far-right base about the nefarious measure.

But there was one small problem: there was no such measure. The ACLJ doesn’t know how to read legislation, and didn’t realize that the standard language in the bill simply blocks spending for on-campus buildings that are used primarily for religion (like a chapel, for example). This same language has been part of education spending bills for 46 years. It’s just the law, and it’s never been controversial.

And if it were just some random yahoos screaming about a non-existent threat, this would merely be annoying. But right-wing whining about the imaginary attack came to the attention of Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who actually tried to remove the legal language from the bill. Consider just how truly ridiculous his remarks were on the Senate floor yesterday:

This is a provision “that would make sure students could never talk openly and honestly about their faith … what this means is that students can’t meet together in their dorms if that dorm has been repaired with federal money and have a prayer group or a Bible study. They can’t get together in their student centers. They can’t have a commencement service where a speaker talks about their personal faith.” … Student groups would be banned and “classes on world religions and religious history, academic studies of religious texts could be banned … Someone is so hostile to religion that they are willing to stand in the schoolhouse door, like the infamous George Wallace, to deny people of faith from entering into any campus building renovated by this bill. This cannot stand!”

Please remember, every sentence — literally, every single sentence — in that paragraph is wrong. Indeed, everything DeMint said was the polar opposite of reality, driven entirely by a reading-comprehension mistake made by someone at Pat Robertson’s legal group.

Believe it or not, the situation only deteriorates from there. Click if you dare. Then click back to Reepicheep’s photo diary to help ease the pain.

Westboro Baptist Church PWND by High School Students and Other Tales

End of Week One: Sea Change

I’ll be honest with you: the night before Obama became the 44th President of the United States, I was preparing myself for pain. He’d tacked a bit too far center for my taste. There were disturbing signs he’d pander to Cons in the name of bipartisanship. And I fully expected most of those glorious campaign promises to go unfulfilled.

Day One, I thought, would see a sharp pulling back. I figured he’d use the economy as an excuse to sweep the thorny problems of Guantanamo and torture under the rug. Transparency would give way to opacity. And the expanded powers of the presidency bequeathed by Cheney and his minion Bush would prove too tempting to discard. We’d see a few empty gestures, and some decent work on economic issues, but not much else.

Well, this is one of those times when I’ve been thrilled to be wrong. Utterly, completely, gloriously wrong.

I can’t even keep up with him. If he keeps up this pace, all of the abuses of the Bush years will be rolled back by next week, all of the major issues resolved by next year, and who the fuck knows what he’ll find to do with the remaining three in his first term?

Yes, that’s hyperbole. But after this week, perhaps I can be forgiven a little exaggeration. Let’s just take a quick gander at some of the many highlights.

Ending the Ill-Conceived War on Terror

On his first day, Obama had a draft executive order circulating to close Guantanamo and called a halt to kangaroo trials. By Thursday, he’d taken a wrecking ball to Bush’s blunders:

With a few strokes of a pen Thursday, President Obama undid years of policy that was the cornerstone of George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” He ordered the prison at Guantánamo to be shut down within a year, the detainees moved to other countries or to regular U.S. courts; forced the CIA to stop torturing people, to close secret “black sites” around the world and to follow the Army Field Manual rules on interrogations; and told the entire government to stop relying on legal opinions issued by the Bush administration to justify policies that were never justifiable except in the eyes of the people who hatched them up.

He’d also ordered the Red Cross have access to any and all detainees held by the U.S. government. And he’d signed an order ending extraordinary rendition. He’s not stopping at rolling back Bush’s abuses, but fixing Clinton’s mistakes as well.

If anyone was looking for a clean break with the past, this is it.

Reproductive Rights and Global Health

Most politicians pussyfoot around Roe vs. Wade. Not Obama:

“On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose.

While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.

On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere.”

It’s the first time in my life I’ve heard a president come out this strongly for my rights. And at WhiteHouse.gov, it becomes even more clear he knows and understands the issues women face.

The day after Roe’s anniversary, he lifted the global gag rule. The world will be a far healthier place for it.

White House Ethics and Transparency

On his first full day in office, Obama tightened ethics rules and froze pay* for those White House staffers making more than $100,000 a year.

But that stuff wasn’t as breathtaking as the sweeping changes in transparency. You know it’s serious when the White House press are the ones wanting to withhold information while the government wants to release it. Can we say sea change?

The most important thing Obama did was overturn Bush’s records secrecy order. Talk about night and day:

Under Bush’s order, former presidents had broad ability to claim executive privilege and could designate others including family members who survive them to exercise executive privilege on their behalf.

Obama’s new order gives ex-presidents less leeway to withhold records, Aftergood said, and takes away the ability of presidents’ survivors to designate that privilege.

Separately, an Obama memorandum issued Wednesday also appears to effectively rescind a 2001 memo by President Bush’s then-Attorney Gen. John Ashcroft giving agencies broad legal cover to reject public disclosure requests.

“For a long time now, there’s been too much secrecy in this city. This administration stands on the side not of those who seek to withhold information but with those who seek it to be known,” Obama said before a gathering that included his senior staff. “The mere fact that you have the legal power to keep something secret does not mean you should always use it. Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

Under Obama, the Freedom of Information Act will mean that information is free:

According to Obama’s memo: “All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.”


“The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and down by their Government. Disclosure should be timely.”

And as if this isn’t awesome enough, WhiteHouse.gov is now actually a site worth visiting. There’s even a blog.

Science and Environment

The long war on science is finally over, and America is filled with happy scientists:

After some very frustrating years, it seems the scientific community finally has reason to celebrate. The New York Times reported today that many scientists are “exuberant” about Barack Obama becoming president, and staff members throughout the government’s scientific agencies “reported being teary-eyed with joy.”

“If you look at the science world, you see a lot of happy faces,” said Frank Press, a former president of the National Academy of Sciences and former science adviser to President Jimmy Carter. “It’s not just getting money. It’s his recognition of what science can do to bring this country back in an innovative way.”

When a politician can make scientists cry for joy, you know science is going to do all right.

And, glory be, despite all the nattering about clean coal, Obama’s EPA has already put the kibbosh on new coal plants, demanding they meet stringent standards before they’re approved.

There’s even scientific claims that Obama makes you smarter. The study’s methods seem a little questionable, but that does not prevent me from enjoying its conclusions thoroughly.

Peace In Our Time

In his first moments in office, Obama rang up “the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to talk about next steps for peace.” In his next few moments, he appointed George Mitchell to take care of bidness. I’ll have more on this man later. For now, the key facts are that he’s so even-handed that the extreme right-wing allies of Israel are in a blind panic, and he helped bring peace to Northern Ireland. I do believe Obama’s serious about getting this peace thing right.

“No More Fake Optimism”

Naomi Wolf, reflecting on Obama’s inauguration speech, captured the essence:

The great leaders in the US weren’t the cheerleaders who promised ­morning in America. They were the ones that forced us to look in the mirror. Since Reagan there has been this tradition, which has become a cliche, of promising morning in America, this fake optimism, we’re the best, the city on the hill.

In fact the great American task is self-scrutiny. Abraham Lincoln gave speeches about the civil war in which he said, in essence, “We’ve brought this on ourselves by enslaving Americans.” Obama’s speech was a diagnosis: “We have to take steps to rebuild our nation.” I’m not saying, “Hooray, he offered a tough, dark recognition of our reality.” I’m saying “Hooray” because he has recognised that the only way to save America is to confront it.

I think we can safely say he’s doing just that. No more fake optimism. This is the real deal.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go lie down. The pace of change has been absolutely dizzying.

*I know, I know. But one waiver does not destroy the implications. I’ll feel differently if this becomes a habit.

End of Week One: Sea Change

Exponential Change

A friend stopped by my desk on his way home and asked what the news was. How’s President Obama doing on his first day?

I had to point him to the intertoobz. Obama did so much on his first day in office that I couldn’t keep up. Luckily, Joan Walsh has a snapshot for us:

By noon on his first day in office, Obama had called the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to talk about next steps for peace; asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to halt Guantánamo trials and circulated a draft executive order to close the prison within the year; and attended a prayer service that included the first-ever sermon by a woman minister and the prayers of a Muslim imam.

In the afternoon he signed two executive orders and three presidential memoranda, tightening ethics rules for his staff, strengthening the Freedom of Information Act and giving the public greater access to presidential records. “Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency,” he said as he signed the documents. Then he watched Vice President Joe Biden swear in his senior staff, and stayed to shake hands or embrace every one of them. After that he met with senior economic advisors and top military staff to discuss plans for the economy and Iraq; later, he hosted an open house for the American people, a new symbol of his commitment to access and transparency.

All of this, and retaking the Oath of Office, too.

As for those wondering if the abuses of power so recently enjoyed by the Bush regime will continue, I think we have got our answer:

It’s encouraging, then, to know who’ll be sitting in John Yoo’s office for the foreseeable future.

A Georgetown source forwards over an email from that school’s administration, reporting that Professor Marty Lederman’s class will be canceled — because he’s joining the Obama administration.

Lederman, another former Clinton Office of Legal Counsel lawyer, is perhaps the most prominent of several high-profile opponents of the Bush Administration’s executive power claims joining Obama, a mark that he intends not just to change but to aggressively reverse Bush’s moves on subjects like torture. With hires like Barron, Johnen, and Lederman, Obama is not just going back to Democratic lawyers: These are anti-Bush lawyers.

Damn straight. Lederman has been a leading opponent of Bush’s torture policies, and the legal reasoning behind them. He’s even suggested that the former administration officials committed crimes in this area. Now, thankfully, Lederman is headed to the OLC.

And what an OLC it will be. The Lederman announcement came shortly after David Barron was named Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the OLC. Barron has been a staunch opponent of Bush’s executive-branch power-grabs and war-time legal arguments.

Both Barron and Lederman will, of course, join Dawn Johnsen, who’ll head the OLC, and whose record on these issues is sterling.

President Obama’s not going to be 100% perfect. No one ever is. But it looks like I’m going to have to struggle hard to come up with more than quibbles with the job he’s doing, and when I have the low-hanging fruit of right-wing idiocy to pluck, it’s hard to muster the energy for more than a rousing shout of “Huzzah, an adult in office at last!

Update: You can thank Obama for hitting the ground at Mach Three here.

Exponential Change

President Obama: "This Is the Journey We Continue Today"

Ladies and gentlemen, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama:

Photo courtesy New York Times

I’ve been struggling all day with some strange sensations. They’ve been hard to identify, it’s been so long since I felt them in connection with a president. There’s a sense of something eager, as if tomorrow is going to be even better than today… my goodness, it’s optimism. And this glorious, feel-I-could-fly lightness in my chest… I do believe it’s hope.

Like Hilzoy, I don’t know how to put this into words. Thankfully, Natalie Walker does:

Pinch me
Is this real
This feeling of release

That’s how today has been. I kept wanting to ask people to pinch me. And I felt a little ridiculous, feeling this way over the inauguration of a president. I wasn’t going to admit this to you, but I kept randomly weeping. I’d see something like this:

Less than twelve hours after assuming office, President Obama ordered a 120-day halt of the trials at Gitmo. At about 11 p.m., Keith Olbermann reported that Reuters had the story.

This story was posted on the website of the Canadian Press at about the same time:

The new administration of U.S. President Barack Obama has verbally ordered the prosecution to seek a 120-day adjournment in war-crimes cases at Guantanamo Bay.

A commissions spokesman says the order was made through Secretary of Defence Robert Gates. The prosecution has filed a motion with the military commission in the case of Canadian Omar Khadr and those of the men accused of plotting the 9-11 attacks.

Source ~ Canadian Press

and I’d tear up again. I wanted to jump up, punch the air, shout “Yes he did! That’s change we can believe in, bitches!” but I was at work, and so I had to refrain.

Photo courtesy Seattle P.I.

Just when I’d gain control over my emotions and return to being the calm, collected tech support rep, I’d click over to Daily Kos in between calls and see something like this:

Science is one of those rare instances where economic stimulus, unity, jobs, social benefits beyond compare, national security, pride, and even a bit of inspiration and hope, all converge. Today, finally, the one missing, essential ingredient lacking in that potent mix — grand vision and wise leadership from a President that gets it — is at last officially added to Whitehouse.gov:

Restore Scientific Integrity to the White House: Restore the basic principle that government decisions should be based on the best-available, scientifically-valid evidence and not on ideological predispositions. … Invest in the Sciences: Double federal funding for basic research over ten years, changing the posture of our federal government to one that embraces science and technology. … Invest in Climate-Friendly Energy Development and Deployment: Invest $150 billion over the next ten years to enable American engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure …

Welcome to the pages of history, Mr. President.

and I’d be blinking back the tears once again.

So why am I destroying what little reputation I had left as a hardcore political snarkmeister by admitting that I blubbered like a little girl? It’s because I’m not the only one:

I wept. No matter how you feel politically, I can’t imagine how anyone could fail to be moved by what we just witnessed. I am a cynic, but I wept. The common misconception is that cynics are merely cold and negative, people who always find the worst rather than the good, but the truth is that every cynic is a frustrated idealist. Only someone who holds an ideal in mind can be bothered when they see that ideal undermined and ignored.

I wept because Obama spoke so eloquently about the importance of those principles and ideals that animate this nation. The only form of patriotism that has ever mattered is allegiance to those powerful ideas expressed with equal eloquence by Thomas Jefferson 233 years ago in the Declaration of Independence, however imperfectly he and the other founders may have applied them.


There will be plenty of time for second guessing, for criticism and for pointing out hypocrisies and failures. But for today, let us all embrace the spirit of this moment. And let us weep.

If Ed Brayton, who’s a Libertarian, not one of us far-left liberals, invites us to weep over Obama’s inauguration, then by all means, let us weep.

Photo courtesy Daily Kos

We now have a President of the United States of America we can be proud of, who is determined to take this country down a different path, who hasn’t wasted a second before he’s started undoing the abuses of the past administration, who is a tremendous human being and can speak in complete English sentences to boot. All of that would be awesome enough. But there’s something a little extra-special for the atheists here, because he’s serious about this inclusion stuff (h/t):

By several small choices of word or phrase, Obama made big leaps of inclusivity.

“We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers.”

Mentioning Muslims and Hindus is a small act of courage. But what other recent president-elect or presidential candidate would have gone out of his way to acknowledge the agnostics and atheists?

Certainly not the one we just waved good riddance to. All of this together tells me that Obama is truly different. We made the right choice.

Image courtesy Seattle P.I.

Obama has swept us all up in this journey. He’s thrown the doors to our own government open wide and invited us to walk in, brought us together and encouraged us to work together for a finer world. I was afraid to believe, but now I’ve seen enough evidence to stop fearing and start believing: the next four years are going to be an extraordinary journey. There will be times when we get lost and argue over whether to ask for directions or try to get the GPS working. We’ll get hungry, thirsty, tired and bored. We’ll bicker and argue and then stop speaking for a few hours. But those will just be the typical, minor irritations, swept away by the wonders we see on the way.

We can do wonderful things. We’ve done it before, and now that we’ve got the right man in the driver’s seat, we can do it again. Yes, we can.

Senator Diane Feinstein said it just right as she got us underway:

In a world where political strife is too often settled with violence, we come here every four years to bestow the power of the Presidency upon our democratically elected leader. Those who doubt the supremacy of the ballot over the bullet can never diminish the power engendered by nonviolent struggles for justice and equality like the one that made this day possible. No triumph tainted by brutality could ever match the sweet victory of this hour and what it means to those who marched, and died, to make it a reality.

Our work is not yet finished. But future generations will mark this morning as the turning point for real and necessary change in this nation. They will look back and remember that this was the moment when the Dream that once echoed across history from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial finally reached the walls of the White House. In that spirit, we today not only inaugurate a new Administration; we pledge ourselves to the hope, the vision, the unity, and the renewed call to greatness inspired by the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.

And I’m sure you’ve heard what our President said, but just in case you missed it, here you go:

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted – for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things – some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today.

In our travels, my darlings, it may be a good idea to remember a Taoist proverb, just so we remember to enjoy ourselves along the way: The journey is the reward.

I can already tell it’s going to be the trip of a lifetime.

President Obama: "This Is the Journey We Continue Today"

One More Night

Nightwish best expresses my sentiments tonight:

One more night to bear this nightmare.
What more do I have to say?

Ocean Soul – Nightwish

You know what nightmare I’m talking about.

Let no locked doors thwart George W. Bush as he gets the hell out of our White House. In fact, let’s make sure there’s doorkeepers standing by, just in case.

Thank you, President Obama, for ending the nightmare. Come on in.

You can laugh a lot
And bring out that smile

For now we’re hanging in
Even though we’re blessed with sin
You make my heart…
You make my tired heart sing

Tender Trip on Earth – Tristania

As ridiculous as it sounds, you do indeed make my tired heart sing. And judging from the evidence, I’m not the only one.

One More Night

Dream Come True

Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 19th, 2009

Dr. King,

Tomorrow, America swears in its first African-American president. He is the fruit of your labor, the fulfillment of your dream. Because of your work, your passion, and your determination, he was judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.

Tomorrow, we will watch Barack Obama take the Oath of Office. He will lead this nation as you once led a movement.

Tomorrow, we will celebrate him.

Today, Dr. King, we celebrate your life and work.

From a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955;

To a March on Washington and a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial;

From a letter from a Birmingham jail;

To the steps of the capitol in Montgomery, Alabama;

From injustice to justice, from segregation to freedom, Dr. King, you led us to a finer world.

No thanks are ever enough. Regardless: muchas gracias, Dr. King.

“I Have a Dream”

delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mis
sissippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Yes, we did.

Dream Come True

Bugger This. I Want A Better World.

Just past the winter solstice, on the cusp of a New Year, my thoughts inevitably begin to play the retrospection game. I hate it. All of those end-of-year “Best of/Worst of” lists drive me crazy, my New Year’s resolutions are always the same, and it’s not like things magically change on January 1st. Every year I am firm in my determination not to indulge in the sillyness.

This year, the failure doesn’t sting. Gazing backward leaves my jaw agape. Just a few highlights: we found water ice on Mars. We learned that America’s government approved torture at the very highest levels. The world’s economy imploded with horrific speed. Barack Obama became America’s first African American president, and gave us all something to look forward to in 2009: a future.

And I became a blogger, joined forces with other brilliant bloggers, and started Carnival of the Elitist Bastards. This is of a piece with voting for Obama. I did all three things for one simple reason: I want a better world.

We can make that happen.

Several years ago, I read a graphic novel series called The Authority. You all know about Spiderman’s schtick – “with great power comes great responsibility.” Well, Jenny Sparks, leader of The Authority, takes that to its logical conclusion. If you have the power to change the world for the better, that’s what you do. No whining, no excuses. Do the job. Fix the world.

Together, we can do that.

We all have our special talents, areas of interest and expertise. We’ve put them to good use in these last many sailings, battling ignorance, expanding knowledge. We’re taking back the word “elitist” and making it respectable again. And it’s working. Have you seen the Elitist Bastards Obama’s stocked his Cabinet with? There’s a Nobel Laureate in there, for the first time ever.

Okay, so maybe we can’t quite claim responsibility for that. Not completely. But every one of us who voted for him has played a part in bringing wisdom back to Washington. I claim this year in the name of Elitist Bastard.

We have a chance now to make this a better world. Time we seize it with both hands.

This year, we shall make it our business to spread the love of learning. We shall ensure that the word “elitist” is once again a mark of distinction rather than a cry of derision. We will continue to beat down ignorance wherever it raises its dribbling head.

But we can go further.

Are you fed up with poverty? Act. Support the politicians who are working to eradicate it, volunteer, donate, train people for new and better jobs.

Fed up with ignorance? Act. Watch what your school board does. Push for better education standards in your country. Promote childhood literacy. Educate.

Fed up with war? Act. Push politicians to reach for diplomacy before they turn to armies. Get involved with programs that attempt to bring enemies together. Make people all too aware of the cost of war.

Fed up with global warming? Act. Get the facts out there. Support environmental groups. Plant a tree, green up your house, protest pollution. Roll up your sleeves and clean up a neighborhood.

We can do much more than we think, just by taking action. Signing a petition may not seem like much, but it adds one more voice, turning a murmur into a shout. Donating a few dollars may not seem like enough, but as we saw with Obama’s campaign, enough small donations add up to plenty of money for change. A few hours of your time may not seem like much, but a few hours may be all that’s needed to change someone’s life. Don’t hold back just because you can’t do much. Become a snowflake, as my character Ishaarda Telsuun recommends:

“The answer is leverage. Place a thousand snowflakes in precisely the right places, and you cause a thousand avalanches…. A thousand snowflakes can reach half the world.”

Ghandi said we must be the change we wish to see in the world. We don’t even have to become fabulously rich or powerful or prestigious to do it. All we have to do is add our snowflake’s worth of weight to the scales: enough of us together will make them tilt.

And then we change the world for the better.

Bugger This. I Want A Better World.

Despite Warren, Obama's Still On Track

All right. So his taste in pastors* is teh suck, but you have to admit, his taste in Secretaries of Labor is fantastic:

President-elect Barack Obama has reportedly completed his Cabinet with the selection of Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) as Secretary of Labor. Solis, a five-term representative from East Los Angeles, is a progressive leader in the fight for green jobs, as both a “stalwart friend of the unions” and the author of the first environmental justice law in the nation. At this summer’s National Clean Energy Summit, convened by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), Solis spoke about her commitment to solving global warming through a clean energy economy for all:

Our nation is at a crossroads right now. We can choose to transition to a clean energy economy that secures our energy supply and combats climate change or we can continue down the same old path of uncertainty and insecurity that we’re currently in. Current economic conditions, particularly for under-served, under-represented minority communities underscore the need to transition to clean energy technology.

The liberal blogosphere, I have to tell you, is in a swoon. Sounds like she’s an excellent choice.

There’s also this music to my ears:

It’s unclear exactly what will take immediate priority on Barack Obama’s to-do list after his inauguration, but it seems clear that Americans won’t have to wait too long before seeing progress on issues relating to science, health, and reproductive rights.

This includes undoing Bush’s “right of conscience” regulation, which has not yet been finalized, but it goes further. The Wall Street Journal reports that Obama is closely reviewing reproductive-health issues, identifying Bush measures in need of reversals.

On abortion and related matters, action is expected early on executive, regulatory, budgetary and legislative fronts.

Decisions that the new administration will weigh include: whether to cut funding for sexual abstinence programs; whether to increase funding for comprehensive sex education programs that include discussion of birth control; whether to allow federal health plans to pay for abortions; and whether to overturn regulations such as one that makes fetuses eligible for health-care coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Women’s health advocates are also pushing for a change in rules that would lower the cost of birth control at college health clinics.

The reversal on research using embryonic stem cells should come fairly quickly in the new administration, and expect early action on dropping the “global gag rule” and restoring federal funding for family planning to the United Nations Population Fund (which is way overdue).

You betcha.

It’s good to see Obama’s still pretty much viewing things in terms of, “Was it Bush’s idea? Well, then, we already know it’s bad – how do we reverse it?” I love that.

Even more delightful, he chose an actual scientist as his science advisor:

Strong indications are that President-elect Barack Obama has picked physicist John Holdren to be the president’s science adviser.


Holdren is well known for his work on energy, climate change, and nuclear proliferation. Trained in fluid dynamics and plasma physics, Holdren branched out into policy early in his career. He has led the Woods Hole Research Center for the past 3 years and served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceInsider) in 2006.

And, holy shit, an actual marine biologist to head up NOAA:

President-elect Barack Obama has tapped Oregon State University professor Jane Lubchenco, one of the nation’s most prominent marine biologists, to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lubchenco, a conservationist who has devoted much of her career to encouraging scientists to become more engaged in public policy debates, is also a vocal proponent of curbing greenhouse gases linked to global warming.


Andrew Rosenberg, who served as deputy director of NOAA’s Fisheries Service under Clinton and is now University of New Hampshire professor of natural resources and the environment, praised Lubchenco as an “absolutely world class scientist.”

“When has NOAA been headed by a member of the National Academy and a fellow of the Royal Society?” he said, referring to America and Britain’s most prestigious scientific societies. “That’s exactly the right signal. It establishes NOAA as one of those key scientific agencies.”

I have to keep rubbing my eyes and pinching myself. After eight years of Bush bumbling, it’s hard to believe we have a President-Elect who’s so intent on getting brilliant scientists into the government. Oh, and if you’ve noticed a definite global warming theme to Obama’s picks, you’re not wrong. That sends a pretty clear signal he intends to solve the problem.


And Robert Gates, despite the worries of some on the left, seems to be leaping in the air, clicking his heels together, shouting “Yippee!” while scrambling to do great things:

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who will continue to serve under Obama, disputed Cheney’s skepticism. While Gates admitted that shutting down Guantanamo would be difficult, he said that all the potential problems are “solvable.” “I would like to see it closed,” said Gates. “And I think it will be a high priority for the new administration.”

He thinks because mayhap it’s a high priority for him, too?

In his first weeks as Bush’s defense secretary, Gates also argued that Guantanamo needed to be shut down.
According to the New York Times, Gates “urged that trials of terrorism suspects be moved to the United States, both to make them more credible and because Guantánamo’s continued existence hampered the broader war effort, administration officials said.” However, he was overruled by Cheney and then-attorney general Alberto Gonzales. (CAP’s Ken Gude has put together a plan on how to safely close Guantanamo and transfer the detainees.)


Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said that Gates has already ordered aides to put in place a plan for closing Guantanamo.

Is it me, or does Gates seem a little giddy?

On the whole, Obama’s picks have been superb, he hasn’t backed down from his most important campaign promises in the slightest, and even when he annoys me with some boneheaded stunt (like picking Rick Warren to flap his yap at important ceremonies), he still doesn’t leave me shaking with outrage and revulsion, unlike a certain assclown still parading around the Oval Office.

I’ll take petty irritations served with a heaping helping of good news over never-ending bullshit any day.

*No, that wasn’t a dig at Reverend Wright. I actually liked Wright before he made an utter arse of himself prancing around in front of cameras. No, I was merely getting in one last good swat about Warren.

Despite Warren, Obama's Still On Track

Science Returns to Washington

I do believe science has finally found a friend:

It’s been pointed out dozens of times that it’s pretty cool to have an adult coming in as president, and today’s Obama press conference — now underway — is a case in point.

At the presser, Obama made his “green team” official: Steven Chu, a physics Nobel laureate, is his new energy secretary. Carol Browner, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is the head of a new policy council to coordinate climate, environment and energy issues. And Lisa Jackson, the chief of staff for New Jersey’s governor, is head of the EPA.

“My administration will value science,” Obama said, in what sounded like a pointed reference to his predecessor. “We will make decisions based on facts.”

After eight years in a wasteland, I feel as though I’ve finally reached the oasis and been handed a tall glass of cool, fresh water.

Science and facts.


Science Returns to Washington

No Fucking Comparison

President-Elect Obama once again reduces me to tears of joy:

President-elect Barack Obama’s reported selection of Dr. Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy is a bold stroke to set the nation on the path to a clean energy economy. Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, is the sixth director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a Department of Energy-funded basic science research institution managed by the University of California. After moving to Berkeley Lab from Stanford University in 2004, Chu “has emerged internationally to champion science as society’s best defense against climate catastrophe.” As director, Chu has steered the direction of Berkeley Lab to addressing the climate crisis, pushing for breakthrough research in energy efficiency, solar energy, and biofuels technology.

At Berkeley Lab, Chu has won broad praise as an effective and inspirational leader. “When he was first here, he started giving talks about energy and production of energy,” Bob Jacobsen, a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2007. “He didn’t just present a problem. He told us what we could do. It was an energizing thing to see. He’s not a manager, he’s a leader.” In an interview with the Wonk Room, David Roland-Holst, an economist at the Center for Energy, Resources and Economic Sustainability at UC Berkeley, described Chu as a “very distinguished researcher” and “an extremely effective manager of cutting edge technology initiatives.” Roland-Holst praised Chu’s work at Lawrence Berkeley, saying “he has succeeded in reconfiguring it for a new generation of sustainable technology R&D, combining world class mainstream science with the latest initiatives in renewable energy and climate adaptation.”


It’s hard to decide if the selection of Dr. Chu is more remarkable for who he is — a Nobel laureate physicist and experienced public-sector administrator — or for who is not. Unlike previous secretaries of energy, he is neither a politician, oil man, military officer, lawyer, nor utility executive. His corporate ties are not to major industrial polluters but to advanced technology corporations like AT&T (where he began his Nobel-winning research) and Silicon Valley innovator Nvidia (where he sits on the board of directors). Chu is a man for the moment, and will be a singular addition to Obama’s Cabinet.

Phenomenal. And he’s not the only excellent choice – Obama’s putting together a Green Dream Team that’s showing in no uncertain terms that he’s serious about getting global warming under control and transitioning us to a green economy. Carol Browner, who may be heading up a new National Energy Council and will definitely be part of the Administration, sees environmental regulations as market opportunities. Lisa Jackson, who may head up the EPA and is co-chair of the energy and natural resources transition team, is more of a mixed bag, coming highly recommended by some environmentalists and condemned by others, but New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has no doubts she’s be awesome. Alas, I know nothing much at all about the women he’s chosen to become Secretary of Energy and the chair of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, but the fact that the Chamber of Commerce is screaming bloody murder tells me we’re probably looking at emerald green choices:

“What you’ve got are people who are committed to moving forward with regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, which we believe is a huge mistake,” William Kovacs, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in an interview.

Yup. Definitely on the right track.

So, we’ve got a Nobel Laureate and several people who are dead-serious about making green a go. They’re the real deal.

Contrast this with Bush’s buffoonery, and you’ll see there’s no fucking comparison:

Currently, representatives from 190 countries are meeting in Poznan, Poland for an international climate change conference to work on the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which President Bush refused to ratify in 2001.

In an interview with AFP in Poznan, Paula Dobriansky, the chief U.S. delegate, said that she has no regrets on the Bush administration’s climate change record. If she could change anything, Dobriansky said a better job could have been done in articulating Bush’s “message”:

I think this issue (climate change) is important, we care about it greatly. Looking back, if there was anything that maybe I would have hoped, it’s that we could have done a more effective job in getting our message out, in other words, (in) public diplomacy.

Spin couldn’t have saved Bush’s record on climate change. In fact, according to the annual Climate Change Performance Index published today, the U.S. is ranked as having the third worst record of 60 countries in tackling greenhouse gas emissions.


It is shameful — but not surprising — that the U.S.’s chief climate representative believes that Bush’s biggest mistake on climate change is bad PR.

Somehow, methinks Obama’s Green Team is going to be a lot less talk and a lot more action. Finally, America will be ready to lead the way on containing climate change and taking care of this gorgeous planet.


No Fucking Comparison