Archive for the politics Category

What happened to change? What happened to ‘Yes We Can’?

Posted in current events, politics, rant with tags , , on July 17, 2010 by themisse

I love my country. I couldn’t tell you if America is the “best” nation in the world but I know it is my home. I love my country and I believe the principles we were founded on – establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity – are some of the most noble principles ever set down in the history of human government.

But I think it is safe to say we have strayed from these principles. All around our country, the poor are forgotten and the number of our citizens that are disenfranchised in some way; socially, economically, what-have-you, grows by the minute.

I don’t care who you voted for. I don’t care your party affiliation. I don’t care how much money you make, what color you skin is, who you fuck, what you believe happens to us when we die – all of us live here. All of us are Americans. Different or similar, these are your countrymen! How can we, as a nation, sit back and let the gulf coast remain in shambles 5 years after Hurricane Katrina? How can we let our government steal our tax dollars to bail out their cronies and not demand reform? How can we let anyone be discriminated against anywhere in this country?

The defining chant during the Obama campaign was “Yes We Can”. And that is the only thing that he has said that I agree with. YES, we can change our country. Obama wasn’t elected by divine intervention. The American people did that. Just like you vote for an American Idol, you vote for change in the American government.

Like most people I know, I’ve been feeling disenfranchised. Since I was 18, I have only ever missed 3 elections since I was eligible to vote and they have all been recently. And I don’t mean presidential or congressional elections. I mean everything from city and town elections on up. But recently, I have been feeling like my vote doesn’t matter. I didn’t vote because I didn’t think it would make a difference.

But that is a lie. From the meanest bum to the richest executive, we have our votes and our voices and that is what gives us power. What keeps us from becoming a Plutocracy is our votes. The richest 1% can have more money than the bottom 95% put together. But we still have 99% of the vote and they have 1%. Don’t let the “your vote doesn’t matter” lie wear you down. I am as guilty of it as anyone. But it IS a lie. Your vote ALWAYS matters. If every single person in this country spoke up and voted tonight – not for the lesser of two evils but who they truly believe would do the best job – we would have a better country tomorrow. And if everyone took action in between the elections to ensure that our government is doing what it promises us, we’d have a country that we didn’t just love… but one that loved us back.

That is the secret. That not just voting but taking action between elections makes a difference. Contacting your congresspeople, making your voice heard, telling them to do the right thing or you WON’T vote for them next time – that makes change. These bastards don’t care about the common good anymore. They care about being reelected. So if you tell them that they will only get your vote if they start taking action for the common good, they will do it out of self-preservation if they have no morality.

I have done a lot of volunteer work in my life and I know, first hand, that it makes a difference. It’s a lot of little raindrops that make a storm. There are so many ways to get involved. If you have a cause you are passionate about, write to your congressional representatives about it. Call the White House. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Get involved in a non-profit that fights for your point of view. This is OUR country and OUR government. By the people, for the people.

And, yes, I mean this even if you will be fighting for something I vehemently disagree with. Because this is your home, as much as mine, and you have just as much of a right as I do to get your voice heard and contribute to the shape of our home. Hell, this applies to everyone. No matter what country you live in or your status as a citizen, if that is where you call home and the place that you love, fight for it.

Don’t just fight to make your situation better – fight for everyone. Sure, I could say I don’t care about what happens to illegal Mexican immigrants in this country since I’m not one… but I am a human and so are they. I could say I don’t give a rats ass about the abuses of migrant laborers in China or the HIV epidemic in Africa. But I can’t call myself a humanitarian if I am only fighting for people like me.

One person can’t solve all of the world’s problems. But instead of getting bogged down by everything that is wrong, let that inspire you to fight for what is right. Even the smallest of motions, be it signing a petition online or even just getting educated and spreading that education, is a step in the right direction.

I have a lot blogs about activism a lot but I’ve been slacking recently. I’ve been taking pictures of my dinner and my shoes. I am as guilty as anyone of burying my head in the sand and trying to ignore the problems of my country and my world because I feel so powerless. But that is a lie and I know it is a lie! I am not powerless to change this world and ignoring real problems doesn’t make them go away. So I am renewing my commitment to my country, my world, and my causes. If you have felt disenfranchised and stopped fighting – or, even better, if you never started – now is the time to stand up and fight. No one – not the government, not a celebrity, not Superman – will do it for you. You must fight for yourself and for all of us.

No matter what you believe in, work for it. Because “Yes We Can” might be the truest statement ever uttered by a modern politician. Yes, we can change this country. Yes, we can take it back. Yes, we can make the world a better place. But it takes work. Whatever you believe, wherever you live, don’t feel disenfranchised. If you feel powerless or abandoned by your government, remember that you have the power to speak out, to stand up, to fight back.

Don’t just wish for peace – work for peace.

The Facebook privacy mess – keep it private, keep it safe

Posted in current events, politics, rant with tags , on May 16, 2010 by themisse

Most people who read this know me from social media. I love social media. I would take it out behind the school gym at prom and get it pregnant  then stick around to support the kid – that’s how much I love social media. I have pretty much always put myself “out there” on the web, even before social media existed. I have always had a website to share pictures and thoughts. Now I just use social media so I don’t have to code. There are very few parts of my life that are private.

Right now, what lovers (or just users) of social media choose to keep private is becoming the center of a messy controversy. With all the recent changes Facebook has made (again) to it’s privacy policy, the level of butthurt amongst its user base is skyrocketing. But with reason? I don’t know.

Personally, what I don’t want online, I don’t put online. I don’t put up scandalous pictures that I don’t want out there. I don’t discuss my dating life (because there isn’t one to discuss but shut up). I don’t discuss ex-friends. I don’t post (or take) n00dz. This has always worked fine in keeping me out of big privacy problems like having pics of my vajay leaked all over the net after a nasty breakup. Hell, I had a HUGE fight with my best friend where we didn’t speak for 8 months that every single person who was my real friend knew about and was never, ever mentioned online anywhere. What I want private doesn’t go online… usually.

But there are a few things that I do want to share with my friends via social media that I don’t want to share with the rest of the world. For example, I have an application that tracks my xbox gamertag and most recent achievements. My gamertag is not something I give out to anyone who isn’t a friend. But I keep getting randoms trying to add me or sending me crazy messages and I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out how the FUCK they had gotten my gamertag.

But then I looked at my Facebook.

Now, I set up my facebook in the way yonder, when I didn’t know much about it. I thought it would be like MySpace; you put in your real name then pick an alias. So I inputted all my shit, gave it my usual domain name and moved on. Then I found out it locked you into displaying your full name and freaked out. I set everything to private and decided to keep it friend’s only, especially since Facebook made you fill out a 20 question application to be someone’s friend and wouldn’t let you add randoms, unlike MySpace. Now it is the only private social network I have – the irony of which is that everything I post to it is from my twitter so there is nothing on there that the public can’t see. Its actually my public facebook that gets the unique updates. But the privacy is nice to have a few things that I share between my friends and myself.

Which brings me back to my gamertags (and my WOW character names, for that matter). I work for a video game website. Most of my friends are gamers. As such, we like to compete or at least talk about our games. I totally drop in on my friend’s profiles to check out their XBox app and see what they are playing, maybe drop them a comment to quit playing MW2 or congratulate them on an achievement. I like having the box up there for new friends that are gamers or old friends that become gamers to check me out. And for the WOW box… well, its all to rep my Guild. (Number 1 on our server!) But I had to remove those boxes from my profile because with Facebook’s constantly shifting privacy policy, I’d have them set to private one minute then they’d be public the next. And once something is public knowledge, there is no “universal mind delete” button.

To have a fully private profile, the NYT made this great infographic breakdown of what a pain in the ass it is.

In short, you have to “navigate through 50 settings, more than 170 options, and a policy that’s 1,287 words longer than the United States Constitution — all just to keep info that was once private from being exposed to the world.” And this is my problem with the policy – not that is has shifted but that it is constantly shifting. Despite how I try to hide it, my information keeps getting exposed. I set everything to “friend’s only” only to find out that two months later Facebook has changed their policy AGAIN and now if I want to have the same privacy level as before, I have to go reset everything to the newly created “we mean it this time, it’ll only be your friends who can see this” setting.

So I went back to social media abstinence. Like with sex, the only way to be totally protected in the social media world is not to participate. But if you and some consenting adults (or minors, depending on the social network’s TOS about user age) want to have some nice, consensual social media interaction then you are relying on the site’s privacy policy and settings to be your condom. Unless you’re on something like BeBo or Orkut, which are more of a spermicidal foam, or MySpace, which is more of a pill you forgot to take. Right now, Facebook’s privacy controls are like using the rhythm method. With the constant changes and increasingly labyrinthine settings menus, you’ll think you’re 100% private like you were the month before and BAM! Stalkermail on your XBox. “Motherfucker!” you will yell, if you’re me and prone to yelling. “I just want to play Left4Dead! I don’t care that you think I’m a bitch. I know I am. My picture is on Wikipedia!”

And that is the frustration. I am a very public person. 98% of my life is online for all and sundry to look at and I like that. But that 2% of privacy I don’t want to have to fight to keep. I want to be able to have a few things that I share with my friends via social networks to stay private, not get constantly exposed by the receding tide of Facebook’s privacy settings.

Facebook set itself up as the closed-network, friends-only, don’t-add-randoms antithesis to MySpace. And it’s userbase expects that. When you all but force someone to give a DNA sample and passport to add a friend, it becomes an essential demand of the users. I never, ever, EVER shared personal info on MySpace because it wasn’t set up for that initially. Even after they made their “one-click-to-no-one-can-see-shit” privacy filter, I never shared private details. Ever. That wasn’t how it was set up and wasn’t how I used it.

If it was MySpace doing all this Open Graph, connect to everything using your account shit, I’d be stoked. Despite my level of social media presence, who I am online and who I am at home on the couch in my pjs are different people. Because Facebook was founded on and forced you into “these are your friends, you can only socialize with them” closed-network privacy, that account is more like myself. I don’t know if I want to log into Best Buy and have some aggregator pull info from my comments like when I posted “I masturbate to DVD sales” on a friend’s wall while I’m buying new headphones.

And that is another thing. Most of my “keep it private” refers to my friends. I may be fine posting updates on every little thing I do but a lot of them are very private. They are also often very far away; either in other states or countries, traveling, working, whatever. One of the absolute best things about social media is the ability to stay in touch with your friends all around the world – to join in conversations, to start rants, to talk about pictures or moments, and just generally be a part of their lives when you aren’t together. But my privacy settings shouldn’t affect what randoms or businesses can know about my friends and vice versa. Facebook finally put in a filter for this but that never should have been an issue to begin with.

My problem with the privacy policy boils down to how Facebook set itself up. If you are going to demand closed-network, friend’s-only exclusivity then you can’t suddenly be the champion of open information. And if you are going to make such a radical transition, you cannot make the process so difficult on your user base that its impossible for them to keep up. And yes, Facebook, I see through your tralalaing and granularity motherfuckery. You are hoping to swamp users with options so they give up trying to make stuff private and you can sell their info to the highest bidder. And that’s cool, man. I get trying to make a profit from a free service. But don’t tell your users you are doing it for them.

But if you’re a user, quit your fucking bitching. Its been well publicized that Facebook is changing its policies. Having cyber protests isn’t going to help. (And we’re never getting a Dislike button so shut up and move on.) To go back to my sex metaphor, if you know the rhythm method of privacy control Facebook is now forcing us to use isn’t going to protect your information, either don’t share it or deal with the consequences. If you don’t want companies to have access to your data, don’t use Facebook. No one make you use it, no one makes you share it. And yes, I get that not having social media in this day and age is weird and everyone should be able to participate and blah blah.

Yes, its weird to not have a user picture. But if you are SO uncomfortable with random people or companies seeing a single, solitary picture of you then maybe you should consider therapy. Afraid a company is going to fire (or not hire) you based on something you put on Facebook? Don’t put it on Facebook. Don’t play hookey from work then Foursquare into a concert and Flickr pictures. If you do, you deserve to be fired for being a colossal moron. And, for me, if I want to share my gamertag and all of that with my friends, I have to know that there is a potential for it to leak. So I can either only share it with my friends by giving it to them in person or I can put it on Facebook and remember that XBox has a block button just like every other site. We have to police ourselves instead of scapegoating social media for not having enough privacy filters in place.

A lot of the concern is about companies knowing what you like. You know what? If book publishers take the sparkle back out of vampires and a video game studio puts out a game where you get to be Jeffrey Dalhmer based on my facebook profile, I want a fucking MEDAL. I will not be bitching to Facebook. If letting Best Buy know I like Dexter is what keeps Facebook free and my DVDs on sale, hurrah. I really, really, REALLY like DVD sales.

Seriously, the internet is for sharing information – especially social media. The entire point of Foursquare is to check in to businesses. Businesses would be stupid not to use that publicly accessible and user-generated information. I have certainly gotten ideas for content for my companies social media outlets based on things my friends (or our users) have posted. Is this an invasion of privacy or a better way to listen and react to real user demands? When someone tweets “I love MW2. I want to watch some videos of gameplay,” is it an invasion of privacy if I tweet them to check out Respawn or is it a company that is actively looking to engage and expand the community? If 25% of our Facebook user base joins the group “I love Hello Kitty Island Adventure”, are we in the wrong to try to bring them content from that game since we wouldn’t have otherwise known it was to their tastes?

Facebook is changing because they realized that their initial business model – “keep it secret, keep it safe” – doesn’t work when you need to make money. So they opened up like all the other social media sites… but they didn’t communicate well with their users and they’ve made it too hard for users to maintain previous privacy settings. Where as before, a few buttons made the whole shebang invisible to anyone outside your network, the constant addition of new “tighter” privacy controls automatically pops that info to “everyone” so you have to refresh the privacy controls page like an eBay auction 30 seconds from ending.

As I said before, if MySpace did this, I’d be psyched. Twitter? Awesome. Google? Well, no, because they’d leak your private emails and call it GoogleBuzz. But Facebook saying Privacy is Dead is like Metallica saying Don’t Illegally Download. They are both right but you can’t have the champions of the Bootlegging Pass and the Exclusive Network try to head up that fight. And that is where a lot of this sentiment comes from. We, as users, don’t want our Facebook experience to change. There is an argument for having that exclusive group where you can socialize online with a spread out circle of friends.

But there is also the argument that Facebook is the world’s largest social media site. Not only do they need to pay their bills to keep the experience good for their users, they need to throw their weight around. If having Facebook link in to all these businesses means they get to go up against assholes like Walmart in shaping market trends, I’m all for it. If me just Liking “equal marriage rights for all” means that somewhere, someone is getting a notification there is another American who believes in this, terrific. Yeah, its kind of creepy that businesses have access to this information but I choose to put it out there. No one makes me. Its far less invasive than RFIDs that can track us anywhere on the planet.

So, Facebook, I get it. I don’t really like it but I get it. As a user, I’m asking you for better communication of what you are doing in the future. As someone who works in social media professionally, I know this isn’t always possible. As someone who has very little privacy left, I’d ask you to find a way to keep privacy preferences intact from old settings to new. As a technical professional, I know that is a more daunting task than it sounds.  As someone with not a lot of free-time, I’d like a streamlined set of controls for privacy. As someone who has designed by committee, I know that may not be in the plan. As an app and website designer, I appreciate the steps forward you are making for all of us. As a person, I don’t.

Happy Cinco de Mayo from Robert Rodriguez and Machete!

Posted in funny, movies, politics with tags , on May 5, 2010 by themisse

This is seriously disgusting

Posted in current events, politics with tags , , on November 7, 2009 by themisse

This behavior is juvenile. No one, no matter what party or what issue, should do this. This is no how government works! Fuck both parties and this whole corrupt system.

Help end discrimination against gays! The fight is not lost!

Posted in current events, politics with tags , , , , , , , on November 5, 2009 by themisse

I think a lot of people, myself included, who are pro same sex marriage are very disheartened after the election results in Maine. But if we all give up and stop fighting then we have truly lost the war. As I have said many times, this is a long battle that we will win. Tolerance won out for women and for racial minorities in the 20th century and it will win out again in the 21st century for the LGBT community. I truly believe this and that is why I fight every day to bring that day closer.

The fight for marriage equality is possibly the most visible battle for gay rights. (Sidenote: I always jump back and forth between calling it “gay rights” and “LGBT rights” because I feel like some people may not know what LGBT means and I want to make sure I’m attracting the attention and passion of anyone and everyone who wants to support equality. For those that may not know, LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender and is the PC way to say “gay rights” so you’re not leaving out any of the groups that can fall under that umbrella.)

Ahem… The fight for marriage equality is possibly the most visible battle for gay rights but there are many other fights where the LGBT community needs our help! In fact, the Senate is holding a hearing on the fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and the House could hold its first important vote on ENDA in the coming weeks. This bill would end a bitter injustice in our country: In 29 states, it’s legal to fire someone because they’re lesbian, gay, or bisexual; in 38 states, it’s legal to fire someone for being transgender. Passing ENDA would put a stop to this absolutely horrible and discriminatory policy on a federal level.

We NEED this bill to be passed! Just like it should be illegal to fire someone based on gender, race, or religion so should it be illegal to fire someone based on sexual preference. Please tell your representatives to pass ENDA now and end workplace discrimination against LGBT people. Pass this along to all of your friends and family and get them to write to their congressmen and women as well. Every single voice raised to support ENDA is a reason for our representatives to do what is right. They will not do it without their constituents telling them that is what they want. Don’t let us lose this based on silence. Take a minute to send them an email expressing your support of ENDA.

All of the people who took action to encourage their congressmen and women to pass the Matthew Shepard hate crime legislation were effective last month as the bill as finally been signed into law. This can be achieved with ENDA right now so please act and spread the word!

Going back to the same sex marriage fight, there are many things that can be done to bring about equal treatment for same sex couples. Maine was just one state and, as we sadly learned in California, even a victory can be taken away. So let’s take this “victory” for discrimination away from the anti-LBGT bigots and work to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA is the law that rejects same sex marriage on a federal level. There is a bill before the House RIGHT NOW called the Respect For Marriage Act that would repeal DOMA and recognize same sex marriage. So please make sure you sign the Million for Marriage petition and tell you congressmen and women to repeal DOMA now!

President Obama has repeatedly promised to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” which prevents LGBT people from serving openly in the military. He repeated this promise last month so lets make him make good on it. Go to whitehouse.gov and tell President Obama to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell like he has been promising. You can also tell your representatives to do the same. Not only is this policy flat wrong, just like any policy that allows for discrimination, but it actually hurts our military. According to Historian Nathaniel Frank the military has discharged “11,000 capable service members under the policy, including over 300 linguists, 49 nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare specialists, 90 nuclear power engineers, 52 missile guidance and control operators, 150 rocket, missile and other artillery specialists, and 340 infantrymen.” Why the FUCK are we firing Arabic translators when we are having a massive crisis having enough people to translate terror chatter???? According to our military, its actually leading to terrorist threats slipping through the cracks! We need to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell not only because it is discriminatory and wrong but also for the safety of our nation!

There are many, many other issues the face the LGBT community. I list these three simply because there are bills in congress RIGHT NOW that address them that need our help. You can always get involved with the HRC, America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. I work for them and I love them. Please get involved by joining, by signing their petitions, by donating, and by staying active. You don’t have to be rich or old to change the face of politics. Getting involved with the HRC can help change things for the better. Even if you aren’t old enough to vote, you can always spread information and contact your representatives.

I also want to take a second to address those who are anti-LGBT equality. It would be easy to say “fuck you” and be done with it but I want to encourage everyone to never take that tact in any debate for any reason. Refusing to respect the other side and engage with our opponents with respect is what has led to this nation been a polarized mess that can’t accomplish a goddamn thing because no one is willing to listen. So, to all of those people who are against the issues above (or to anyone who talks to someone who is against the above), I want us all to take a step back and listen to each other. So here is my side of the debate as it addresses the religious aspect.

I understand that the argument against same sex marriage is that God intended marriage to be between a man and a woman. And that may or may not be so – it is your right to believe whatever you want. However, this is not an issue of religion. It is an issue of law. No one will ever go into a church and force them to marry a gay couple. Marriage, as it is being argued here, it purely a legal institution. It gives married couples 1138 federal protections and many more state ones that are denied to same sex couples. I think that we can all agree that any law that gives rights to one group and denies them to another is discriminatory. If Jewish married couples had 1138 federal rights that Christian couples were denied, it is discrimination. If whites were allowed to marry when blacks were not, that is discrimination. Discrimination is discrimination no matter what hat you put on it.

I completely understand the religious aspect but, again, no one will every force a church to marry a gay couple. Just like Christians support the right for Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and all other faiths to get married despite that fact that they go against the First and Second (depending on your faith) Commandments, so too should everyone support the right of gays to marry. This is a legal issue and we are not a Christian nation. Our very first amendment, the very one that will ensure churches will never have to marry gay couples, ensures that the laws of any religion are not the laws of this nation. To make a legal argument, one must look at the law of the land not the law of the Lord. Otherwise, what is to say that Muslims could not outlaw pork or Catholics could not outlaw the practice of any faith but their own? If you want the freedom to practice your faith, you must be willing to put aside that faith when it intersects with the law. If you only preserve the laws that protect yourself then you are wronging everyone else.

When we leave the realm of marriage, I find absolutely no religious argument that can account for the legalized discrimination of LGBT people in the workplace or military. If you would not discriminate against someone of another race, religion, or gender then why is it acceptable to discriminate against someone of a different sexuality? We have sexual harassment laws and rape laws in this country so if anything untoward does happen, you have the same legal protection as someone who is harassed or violated by a heterosexual partner. And since women and gay men are much more likely to be sexually harassed and raped BY a straight man than do either TO a straight man, using this as an argument to fire LGBT citizens from the workplace or the military is totally illogical. And, as I said above, firing gays has hurt our nations security not helped it. I am much more afraid of terrorist committing something worse than 9/11 than I am of the threat of openly gay soldiers sodomizing unwilling partners with impunity.

Going back to LGBT supporters, please, please, PLEASE get involved as I linked above and PLEASE pass this information along. If we give up, we have no one to blame but ourselves for losing this battle. TAKE ACTION! We need you now!

Barack Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize for 2009. Nominated for 2010: Kanye West

Posted in current events, politics with tags , on October 10, 2009 by themisse

When I woke up this morning, I thought it was April Fool’s Day. Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. For what? Wishful thinking? The man has all the good intentions (and speeches) in the world but the plain fact of the matter is, he has barely begun to bring about more peace in the world. Is he capable of it? Absolutely. But the Nobel should not be given out on the basis of “what we hope can be accomplished” but rather on the merit of “what has already been accomplished.”

The Nobel Committee had this to say about the choosing of President Obama:

“It’s important for the committee to recognize people who are struggling and idealistic but we cannot do that every year. We must from time to time go into the realm of realpolitik. It is always a mix of idealism and realpolitik that can change the world.”

Yeah, that worked REAL well in 1994 when the Nobel was “split” in thirds between Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin. Yup, Israel and Palestine stopped fighting that day and are getting along like two lambs in a meadow filled with rainbows and sunshine and fairies.

Wait. No. Sorry. What ACTUALLY happened is that the death toll in the region climbed in 1994 over previous years and continues to climb to this day. The peace process fell apart and both sides argued vehemently that the Nobel was ill-deserved by the other. Though it may have made for a great photo op, the intentions of the Nobel committee to politicize the award blew up in their faces and became yet another thing to bicker over while innocents died on both sides.

And don’t get me started about when Al Gore won the Nobel in 2007 for his work on Climate Change… don’t get me wrong, fighting to save our planet (or at least our species) from environmental ruin is important work. But the Nobel PEACE prize should go to people or organizations that made great strides for peace. Al Gore is a great man who does great work and should be awarded. But with the appropriate awards – otherwise the award is cheapened.

The Nobel shouldn’t be used as a political tool because it is not capable of being effective. Just look at all the furor around Obama’s award. Not only is his opposition in the States (and many people who are pro-Obama or on the fence, even former Nobel Peace Prize winners) criticizing the selection as premature but the very people that the Nobel committee hopes this award will enable us to forge a greater peace with, the Taliban and other anti-US factions in the Muslim world, are livid that this award was given. “Well, who cares about the Taliban or the Muslim world?” some are saying. Well, the Nobel committee, for one. If their stated intent is to give the award to President Obama in order to help him engage the Muslim world in a peaceful manner then the Taliban reaction and the reaction of the rest of the Muslim world who doesn’t already support us should be the most important to us.

Sure, regional leaders that we are already in bed with dropped some congratulatory soundbytes. But the opinions of the anti-US factions and, most importantly, the innocent people in these countries has remained cool, to say the least. When Obama was elected, we had a surge of approval from the Muslim world (or at least anyone within it who was not 100% committed to hating the United States no matter what we do). But that approval has long passed and people are jaded again because our policies have not greatly changed, despite speeches and soundbytes to to contrary.

We elected a president with a partially Muslim background (and let me be clear because people are going to harp on this – Obama is NOT a Muslim, not that it should matter if he was because we are supposed to practice religious tolerance in the US so anyone of ANY religious background should be able to be president. However, his father and step-father were Muslim though they were not particularly religious. He also attended both Muslim and Christian schools, though none of the schools were very strictly religious. They were just the only types of schools in the region. Okay? So Obama isn’t a Muslim but he is familiar with the religion and culture – which should be GREAT considering we are trying to make peace with the Muslim world! So shut up and get over it.)

Ahem… we elected a president with a partially Muslim background, which encouraged the Muslim world to believe the United States would take a much more unbiased and diplomatic stance towards international problems regarding them. Despite President Obama’s wonderful speech in Cairo that addressed many concerns held by Muslims, it has only been lip service and no actual action has been taken to further the promises made in that speech. The US’s pro-Isreali stance has continued unchanged. Obama backed down from the demand that Israeli halt all settlement activity on territory conquered in 1967. In fact, last week, the US government leaned on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to stop action by the UN Security Council to act on a UN report that accused Israel (and Hamas) of committing war crimes during this January’s outbreak of fighting in Gaza.

Obama has made a lot of speeches and overtures to the Muslim world, which is great and should be both applauded and continued. But he has very little to show for it so far – and with good reason! It is still very, very early in the process and not even a superhero could have accomplished much more than President Obama in such a short span of time. However, that being said, I want to state again that the Nobel should be given as an affirmation of progress made, not as a ‘quarter thrown into a wishing well’ for progress only just begun. Obama has made some strides, to be sure, but the fact remains that Israel is openly resisting the President’s attempts to restart final-status peace talks. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that his government “won’t negotiate” about key issues, such as the fate of Palestinian refugees, the borders of a Palestinian state, the sharing of Jerusalem. Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said this week that no peace is possible in the coming years and that the focus should instead be on managing the conflict. Giving the award to Obama is eerily reminiscent of the 1994 Nobel, with similar ramifications. How can the Nobel committee give an award for peace when no hope for peace is in sight?

Then there is the fishy timing of the nominations. The deadline for Nobel nominations for 2009 was February 1st – Obama had been in office for less that two weeks. As Josef Joffe said, “not a lot of time for saving world peace”. He has called it Europe’s revenge for George W Bush and that may be a fair assessment. But my concern is what this award may do to further fuel the flames of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world. My concern is for peace – in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and in every other nation where we are engaged in or may become engaged in a conflict. If President Obama was as concerned for peace as I am, he would return the award and say that he is humbled but he has not yet accomplished all of his goals towards peace. It would give him all the acclaim of having won a prize and go a long way towards addressing his “cult-of-personality problem” in the media both at home and abroad. Hell, Le Duc Tho did it in 1973 when he and Henry Kissenger were awarded the Nobel for “ending” the Vietnam War. (Proving that the Nobel committee does have a sense of humor, by the way.) Le Duc Tho rejected the award, stating “peace has not yet been established.” Kissenger himself offered to return the award two years later (but was rejected), when Communist forces toppled Saigon, and donated all of the money to charity. If that snake can do it, so can Obama.

And then there is the big, big, BIG issue that is at the heart of why people are so fucking pissed Obama got the Peace prize. He is in the middle of trying to push for an expanded war in Afghanistan. Now, there are good arguments on either side for expanding or reducing that conflict – but that isn’t the issue at hand. The crux of the matter is giving the Nobel PEACE prize to a man trying to expand a war. That is at the heart of why so many Muslims are so incredibly pissed about this award and why getting it is likely to blow up in Obama’s face. Just this past week, US airstrikes killed more civilians in Afghanistan which only serves to further inflame those we are fighting against and even the innocent people in the country who we are ostensibly fighting for. Giving Obama the Nobel now is like giving Bush the Nobel peace prize for the troop surge in Iraq. It may have been what was necessary to eventually end the conflict in the region (I won’t even argue the pros and cons of that) but it was still a broadening of the war. And unless we are in 1984 where ‘War is Peace’ then I’d think that would be antithetical to receiving an award for peace. In fact, giving this award to Obama is anthetical to what was stated in Alfred Nobel’s will; the prize should be awarded “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Afghanistan is certainly an inherited conflict that Obama has the potential to end but he should get the Nobel on the if and when he does end the war, not on the day he expands it.

The list of nominees is sealed for 50 years but there are a few known and supposed contenders who lost to Obama. Some are:

  • The Cluster Munitions Coalition for playing a central role in getting nearly 100 countries to sign a treaty last year in Oslo banning cluster bombs
  • Dr. Mukwege in the Congo,  who is under constant personal threat because he is saving the lives of women every day who have been violently raped.
  • Hu Jia, a Chinese human rights activist and an outspoken critic (some say dissident) of the Chinese government, who was sentenced last year to 3 1/2 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.”
  • Piedad Córdoba, who freed 16 poltical prisoners in Columbia and is working to end the internal conflict in her country.
  • Dr. Sima Samar, the Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and, since 2005, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan.
  • Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Morgan Tsvangirai who has been threatened and imprisoned while trying to bring peace to his nation.
  • Ingrid Betancourt, a hostage who consistently goes into war-torn areas seeking to promote peace.

All of these people and organizations have made tangible strides towards peace. And by giving any of these people the Nobel, it would help push the issues that they are fighting for into the forefront of international politics. Obama has made overtures but, so far, nothing concrete has materialized. Despite his language about ending torture practices, in reality the message has been muddled and government-sanctioned torture is still occurring. The January 22nd closing date for Guantanamo is approaching but it is looking like it will not be closed by then. Is it WONDERFUL that Obama has decreed that Guantanamo gets closed and that he is trying to end US-practiced torture? ABSOLUTELY! But GitMo still remains open and the US is still committing human rights abuses to this day and it is premature to praise Obama for something that may or may not ever get done. He should be praised for taking the first steps but instead of cheering, we should continue to put pressure on him to follow through with this action to ensure it actually occurs. Same with his promises in Cairo. Hell, same with other campaign promises like repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or getting our troops out of Iraq by 2010. Even his climate change policies are coming under attack this week, as the climate change negotiations in Bangkok are being derailed by the United States and the Obama administration. These are all things he can and hopefully will do. But, despite ‘Hope’ being his campaign slogan, we need to push for action.

As I have argued before, Hope is not enough. I can hope until I’m blue in the face that I’ll have be a millionaire by the end of the year. I can tell all my friends I’m going to be a millionaire. I can even go out and get a high paying job. But if I’m late to work because I’m too busy getting drunk to celebrate money I haven’t yet made, don’t do my duties, and end up getting fired then no one should applaud me for being a millionaire because all of that praise went to my head and I didn’t do what it was I set out to accomplish.

Its the same thing with politicians – more so, because perception is reality in our society. If we all perceive Obama promising to bring peace as actually bringing peace, why would he bother doing the hard thing and actually bringing peace at all?

We must, must, MUST pressure ALL of our politicians to make good on their promises and actually affect change. From the White House to Congress to the lowliest town clerk, these people are there to work FOR us. But if we keep giving them praises for work only just barely begun, we will never see change. We need MORE out of this president! He is absolutely capable of giving us more, of being the great leader we need. But we must insist that he lead. If he only takes one step yet we give him the prize as if he finished the race, the race itself will never be run.

Someone said to me that Obama should be praised for winning a historic election and becoming our first minority president. He should not be praised for that – THE PEOPLE WHO VOTED FOR HIM SHOULD BE! He did not elect himself! The people who campaigned for him, who voted for him – those are the people who deserve that praise. And no amount of barrier breaking excuses him from doing work. He needs to earn the trust that all those who gave him their vote placed in him. He needs to earn the trust and acclaim of all those who did not.

I want us to have a president who is worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. I want the rest of the world to look to us proudly and say “America is a beacon of hope. They take good care of their citizens and bring peace and prosperity to their neighbors in this world. They are fair and just.” Obama can be that man. But he is not that man yet. Whether or not he should return the award is really secondary. What he should do – what he MUST do – is earn it.

William Shatner Reads The Sarah Palin Farewell Speech!

Posted in current events, funny, politics with tags , , , , on July 28, 2009 by themisse

To further prove why he might just be the coolest dude on the planet, William Shatner read Sarah Palin’s rambling, non-sensical speech on Conan last night as only he can. Observe!

Hilarity ensues!

Massachusetts is 1st state to sue feds over marriage law

Posted in current events, politics on July 9, 2009 by themisse

from here

BOSTON – Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, sued the U.S. government Wednesday over a federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act interferes with the right of Massachusetts to define and regulate marriage as it sees fit, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said. The 1996 law denies federal recognition of gay marriage and gives states the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Massachusetts is the first state to challenge the federal law. Its lawsuit, filed in federal court in Boston, argues the act “constitutes an overreaching and discriminatory federal law.” It says the approximately 16,000 same-sex couples who have married in Massachusetts since the state began performing gay marriages in 2004 are being unfairly denied federal benefits given to heterosexual couples.

“They are entitled to equal treatment under the laws regardless of whether they are gay or straight,” Coakley said at a news conference.

Besides Massachusetts, five other states — Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Iowa — have legalized gay marriage. Gay marriage opponents in Maine said Wednesday that they had collected enough signatures to put the state’s pending law on the November ballot for a possible override.

The lawsuit focuses on the section of the law that creates a federal definition of marriage as “a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

Before the law was passed, Coakley said, the federal government recognized that defining marital status was the “exclusive prerogative of the states.” Now, because of the U.S. law’s definition of marriage, same-sex couples are denied access to benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including federal income tax credits, employment benefits, retirement benefits, health insurance coverage and Social Security payments, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also argues that the federal law requires the state to violate the constitutional rights of its citizens by treating married heterosexual couples and married same-sex couples differently when determining eligibility for Medicaid benefits and when determining whether the spouse of a veteran can be buried in a Massachusetts veterans’ cemetery.

“In enacting DOMA, Congress overstepped its authority, undermined states’ efforts to recognize marriages between same-sex couples, and codified an animus towards gay and lesbian people,” the lawsuit states.

The defendants named in the suit include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the federal government.

Brian Camenker, leader of MassResistance, a group opposed to gay marriage, criticized Coakley for challenging the federal law.

“The federal government has a perfectly legal right to define marriage,” he said.

The Defense of Marriage Act was enacted when it appeared Hawaii would soon legalize same-sex marriages and opponents worried that other states would be forced to recognize them.

President Barack Obama has pledged to work to repeal the law, although gay rights activists criticized the administration last month after Justice Department lawyers defended it in a court brief. White House aides said they were doing their jobs to support a law that is on the books.

Charles Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, declined comment on the lawsuit itself, saying the department plans to review it. He noted Obama “supports legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act because it prevents (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) couples from being granted equal rights and benefits.”

Supporters of gay marriage predicted that other states where same-sex marriage is legal will also challenge the federal law.

“Every state has the right to determine who it will allow to marry, and the federal government always respects those decisions by states … except in this case,” said Arline Isaacson, co-chair of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus.

“(Coakley) is going right for that vulnerability in the law,” she said.

This is the second lawsuit filed in Massachusetts challenging the law.

In March, the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders claimed the law discriminates against gay couples and is unconstitutional because it denies them access to federal benefits that other married couples receive, such as health insurance and pensions.

In Maine, the Stand for Marriage Maine coalition said it took only four weeks to gather more than the 55,087 signatures necessary to put gay marriage to a vote.

The Maine law to legalize gay marriage had been scheduled to go into effect Sept. 12. It will be put on hold after the signatures are submitted and certified by the secretary of state’s office. Voters will then decide in November whether the law should stand.

Gay, Straight, Black, White! Marriage is a Civil Right!

Posted in politics with tags , , , on May 26, 2009 by themisse

While it is not shocking that the California Supreme Court upheld the Prop 8 ruling, it is still disappointing. However, we MUST NOT give in to despair. Change is a long time coming. Martin Luther King died in 1968. It took 40 years for America to elect a black president but that day came and went. Do not lose hope and do not stop fighting. Equality will always win out and there are a LOT of ways you can continue the fight.

Most people familiar with my blog will know I am an outspoken member and volunteer for the HRC and the ACLU. The HRC is the nation’s largest GLBT organization and fights for GLBT rights all across the country. The ACLU fights for civil liberties of all types and probably takes the place as my favorite organization. Both organizations have a laundry list of ways to fight for equality both in California and nationally.

Additionally, RightsAgainIn2010.com is leading the charge to get a ballot initiative repealing Prop 8’s hateful and discriminatory law on the 2010 ballot. Please be aware that this ballot may be signed by CALIFORNIA RESIDENTS ONLY! However, there is a fund that anyone from anywhere in the world can donate to to help these efforts. All Californians PLEASE sign this petition and pass it on.

And remember, you have to VOTE in order to make a change. Part of the failing of the anti-prop 8 push was that many people thought that such a historic presidential election that made such a great stance for equality meant that the push for GLBT equality was a foregone conclusion. Rights are never a certainty and freedom cannot protect itself. Please, please, PLEASE register to vote, get educated about all the ballot issues and candidates and vote in every election. Voting is not once every four years. More things change during mid-term elections and in local arenas than does during a presidential election. To defeat the money and hate dedicated to keeping equality a dream, we need EVERY PERSON OF VOTING AGE to register and get out to vote!

California is NOT the only state in this nation that is engaged in this battle and the USA is not the only place where GLBT persons face discrimination. In may countries, being gay is a death sentence. Please check out Amnesty International’s GLBT page for information on the fights around the world and what you can do to help. If you are wondering about the status of GLBT rights in your area or around the world, wikipedia has a HUGE article listing current laws in every region of earth.

Do not give up. It is a long road to change. Here in California, it is unlikely we will see any change until 2010. In fact, we may lose again then. But we must never, ever stop fighting because we do make strides forward every battle. Equality and social change will not come in a day. Please get involved with the HRC and the ACLU and others to help make marriage equality a reality in not just California but EVERY state in this nation and every country on this earth.

RIGHTS AGAIN IN 2012!!!!!

Posted in politics with tags , , , , , on May 26, 2009 by themisse

http://www.rightsagainin2010.com/

http://www.rightsagainin2010.com/

http://www.rightsagainin2010.com/

http://www.rightsagainin2010.com/

HELP GLBT CITIZENS IN CALIFORNIA GET EQUAL RIGHTS!!! SIGN THE PETITION TO GET A NEW BALLOT INITIATIVE PUT IN THE 2010 BALLOT!!!!! NO ONE SHOULD BE A SECOND CLASS CITIZEN! EQUAL RIGHTS FOR ALL!

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION AND REPOST!!!

http://www.rightsagainin2010.com/

http://www.rightsagainin2010.com/

http://www.rightsagainin2010.com/

http://www.rightsagainin2010.com/

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