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Showing posts from May, 2009

Cruel and Unusual

Did you ever make a mistake when you were 13 years old? Hang around with the wrong people? Go to the wrong places? Take risks with your behavior?

Well, imagine that in addition, you're a black or brown 13 year old who has lived a lifetime with neglect, abuse, poverty, crime, and drug abuse. Imagine the kinds of "mistakes" you might make.

Do you deserve to spend the rest of your life in prison?



Well, in this United States of America, that's exactly what has happened to 73 children who were sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for crimes that were committed when they were 13 or 14 years of age. All of this according to a report by the Equal Justice Initiative.

Here's just one of their stories from an article in NYU's Office of Public Affairs:

Antonio Nunez was 14 when, in April 2001, he left a party in California with two men nearly twice his age. One of the men later claimed to be a kidnapping victim. When police chased their car and shots were…

Sotomayor/Alito comparison exposes privilege

This week Glenn Greenwald did us all a huge favor by breaking the story about how Alito's "empathy" for his own roots exposes the hypocrisy of the right's attacks on Sotomayor for saying essentially the same thing. After all, why is it that Alito can draw on the experience of his immigrant grandparents, but when Sotomayor talks about drawing on her experience as a Latina, she's labelled an "activist judge?"

There is a one-word answer to that question...privilege.

For too long, the experience of people like Alito has been assumed to be THE experience. So it doesn't really need to be understood or named, it just IS. But when Sotomayor's experience is different, it becomes problematic. It's not that she brings something additional to the judicial process. It's that we are not used to talking about the fact that he does too.

This is how white people obtain privilege in this country. Our world view is assumed to be the norm by which all things a…

On the cycle of fear and brutality

As we all know, the fear-mongering from Republicans about the possibility of Gitmo prisoners being transferred to federal prisons in the U.S. worked to convince all but 6 Democrats (Durbin, Harkin, Leahy, Levin, Reed, Whitehouse) to vote against funding for shutting it down. Apparently, Harry Reid was so completely terrorized at the prospect that he had trouble explaining himself clearly without the help of reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) declared in a press conference today, “We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States.” In several tense back and forths with reporters, Reid said he opposes imprisoning detainees on U.S. soil, saying flatly, “We don’t want them around the United States”:

And now, just in time to play on that fear, we get the story of four Muslims who were arrested in New York for trying to blow up synagogues and shoot down airplanes.

The men, all of whom live in Newburgh, about 60 miles north of New York City, were arrested a…

The Divide

I think Obama summed up the reason why so many in the progressive blogosphere are having trouble with his administration in his Saturday video address this week.

I have always believed that it is better to talk than not to talk; that it is far more productive to reach over a divide than to shake your fist across it. This has been an alien notion in Washington for far too long, but we are seeing that the ways of Washington are beginning to change. For the calling of this moment is too loud and too urgent to ignore. Our success as a nation – the future of our children and grandchildren – depends upon our willingness to cast aside old arguments, overcome stubborn divisions, and march forward as one people and one nation.



Since its inception a few years ago, the role of the progressive blogosphere has been to "shake our fist across the divide." That was certainly what initially drew me to these kinds of conversations back in 2003/04. First of all, it helped us not feel so alone in…

Mothers in the Shadows

Mother's Day is usually not a big deal for me. I don't have children and let's just say that my mother and I have managed to put together the best superficial relationship that is possible, given what we have to work with.

But this Mother's Day, I'm thinking of the thousands of mothers I've come to know over the years who are battling the odds, usually in the shadows, to do the best they can to heal broken lives (including their own).



For example, there's someone I'll call "Nora." I don't know much about her childhood, except that I expect she didn't grow up dreaming of becoming a prostitute and drug addict. But that's what happened. Along the way she had three children who were physically abused and sexually assaulted by the myriads of men who came in and out of their lives.

I met Nora shortly after she got out of prison and was reunited with her children. Its hard to describe the woman I saw without sounding hyperbolic. She was a f…

A feminist revolution

The other day I stumbled on a Kid Oakland diary titled for a women's century that I had initially read almost 2 1/2 years ago, but has even more relevance to me today.

Here's a few highlights.

...I think the feminist values of context, consensus and community will form the crux of how feminism will help move our society from one based, essentially, on war and greed...those twin obsessions of the the militarized state...to one based on sustainability and mutuality, on democratic community and interdependence on all levels. As we can see from around the globe, the current wave of feminism is very much about "fact-based" and "reality-based" pragmatism; the world powers must see that and understand it. This is a project as bold and necessary as any yet undertaken in our short history on this planet, even if, at the end of the day, it won't look like 'revolutions' past.

Men throughout our history have priveleged a kind of rhetoric for change that is ess…