December 2007 archive

Who Built Pakistan’s Bomb?

One might assume that that is a silly rhetorical question after all Pakistan built its nuclear weapons on their own didn’t they? Perhaps. But, where did the technical knowledge and equipment come from giving Pakistani scientists the ability to create the Islamic bomb. As they call it. A speech given by President Dwight D. Eisenhower deliver at the on December 8, 1953 called Atoms for Peace in which he laid a vision for the peaceful uses for atomic energy might be a good starting point as discussed in an article by Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz which appeared in the November 29, 2007 issue of the Asia Times.  

I am sick and tired of being sick and tired

No, those are not my words. This is not one of those essays where I declare my vast and eternal disenchantment with Blogtopia, the net roots, America, western civilization, the Democratic party, or french fries that aren’t crispy. When I need a break, I will take one. Until then, I need to engage in the tremulous task of saving my brain from impending calcification and trying to look for sources of inspiration.

No, those words were spoken by Fannie Lou Hamer, a brilliant, compassionate, and straight talking Black woman from Mississippi who was a grass roots civil rights activist and anti-poverty worker. She was born poor and she died that way. Americans all seem to want their political/historical struggles to have a happy ending, a conclusive convergence of harmony, perhaps so they can hang on to their myths.

A few other things Mrs.Hamer said:

Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.

There is one thing you have got to learn about our movement. Three people are better than no people.

With the people, for the people, by the people. I crack up when I hear it: I say with the handful, for the handful, by the handful, cause that’s what really happens.

If the white man gives you anything-just remember when he gets ready he will take it back. We have to take it for ourselves.


Here is a selection of biographical material about her if anybody is still intrigued after my inevitably inadequate introduction to her. Fascinating people just cannot be presented fairly in an essay.

Naturally there is no irony in the fact that Fannie Lou Hamer’s name was specifically attached along with Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King to the Voting Rights Reauthorization Bill thus recognized and canonized but was so poor right before she died that she could not afford a post mastectomy prosthesis that she had to stuff socks in her clothing. When she died she and her husband had no money friends had to raise money for the funeral. She chose to stay in Mississippi and continue as an anti-poverty crusader rather capitalize financially through being recognized. It seems we love agitators most when they are gone and we merely tolerate them or seek to mold them when they are with us. We wish to harness the raw power of those who step beyond the the accepted battle lines in order to push our won agenda and then they are often discarded. Many Black women played crucial roles in the civil rights movement. Lynne Olson, an author who looks at the significant role women played in that era notes that Rosa Parks was often depicted as being very deferential when she was actually a careful planner who had put much thought and effort into her actions. And further once the Montgomery bus boycott was initiated, and Martin Luther King was involved, Parks was not allowed to speak at the first mass meeting.She asked to speak, and one of the ministers there said he thought she had done enough. It was time for the men to drive the movement apparently.

Have You Noticed The Front Page?

After about 48 hours of food fights, pie fights, near and actual GBCW diaries and comments, and complaining to and about each other, this blog is still here.  And the stories on the front page are all really great.

I admit it. The past couple of days have been hell here. I missed most of yesterday’s events because of work.  I’m thankful for that.  And today there were plenty of very intense, often unpleasant exchanges, and at least two explicit treaties.  I thought about throwing myself and my keyboard through the window on a couple of occasions, and I also thought about leaving sans GBCW without turning the lights off.  I didn’t do those things. I wondered why I didn’t do them.  And then, all of a sudden, poof!! a front page that is precisely what imo makes this blog worth it.  That must’ve been why I stayed.

So, to all of you, thanks for sticking around, thanks for writing, reading, and commenting.  And especially, thanks for building such an incredible community.  And if you left and are reading this anyway, please consider coming back.


Discrimination is not a bad thing.

Discrimination (to distinguish or note differences, discernment) is useful. A finely tuned sense of discrimination can help you tell the difference between (for example) meaningful political discourse and a load of steaming inflammatory bullshit.

People will always make discriminations about characteristics that belong to some of the people around them and not others. Do you remember when you were a child? I remember quite well at the age of seven becoming aware that my friend’s black skin meant something more than its actual color to the adults around me.

The question is what people choose to do with the discriminations they make.

I tend to believe that racism, in the sense of appreciating the beauty of another whose beauty is unlike your own, is a discrimination that is part of being a sentient and esthetically aware human being.

Racism in the sense of exclusion and depriving of others of the best fruits of society on the basis of an arbitrary physical characteristic is a contingent result of history and economics. History cannot be changed, but economics can.

In American society, wealth (and the power that goes along with it) is the key factor to ending racism in the bad sense. The more steeply progressive the tax system, the more social and racial equality will result. GOP and libertarian low-tax schemes are inherently racist, in that they perpetuate the status quo.

The way to end racism is to eat the rich!!

What are you reading?

Just the usual list this week.  Suggestions for topics are welcome.

If you like to trade books, try BookMooch.

Just finished:

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett.  I had mostly forgotten this one, and it’s really

Continuing with

Causality by Judea Pearl.  Fascinating but deep.

Intro to Probability Theory by Hoel, Port, and Stone.  A good text.

The Elements of Statistical Learning by Trevor Hastie and Robert Tibshirani.  An in-depth look at a wide range of statistical techniques.  Beautifully produced.

The Politics of Congressional Elections by Gary Jacobson

Just started

Privacy in Peril by James Rule.  Oxford U. P. has been sending me books to review, and I am going to start with this one.  I am only 10 pages into it, but it looks very good indeed.  Well-reasoned and well-written.

Soul Music   “Music with Rocks In” comes to Discworld.  Features Death and his granddaughter Susan.

Pony Party! Gackt and Hyde! w/Poll!

So, here we are at the end of another somewhat cantankorous week at Docudharma!  Whew…what a ride!  On the other hand, here we are at the still existing Docudharma, which is a good thing, I’d wager, for most of us.  With that in mind, here’s some stuff which we can all agree is good and wholesome: Gackt and Hyde! 🙂

Of Guns and Civility

A preface: I don’t know any of the details of what is upsetting some members of this community lately, or leading some people to declare their intent to leave.  I don’t particularly care either.  This is not a statement about any of the reasons why any individual here is upset with any other individual here.  No one has asked me my opinion of those disputes, and I have no particular feelings about any of them.  This is about the relevance of civility to political discourse in general.

One thing that I try to make clear, when discussing politics with anyone, is that at the heart of any political idea is violence.  This notion is made clear by American history itself.  A ten cent increase of the tax on tea carries with it an implication that those who attempt to evade paying the increased tax can be attacked with violence by agents of the state.  Should the evader survive that attack, they will be incarcerated for a period of time in a penitentiary where they risk violence by other agents of the state, not to mention rape and murder by sharpened toothbrush from other inmates.

Every political notion we speak of here carries with it the same implied threat and justification of the accompanying violence.  You want to increase someone’s taxes?  Well, you are threatening them with violence if they don’t pay.  You want to have affirmative action?  Well, you are threatening anyone who doesn’t comply with violence.  Behind every government action, waiting in the wings, are the men with the guns.

Friday Night at 8: December 1

December 1 is my birthday.  It is the day of my mother’s funeral, back in 1992.  The day that Brown v. Board of education ended segregation in our nation’s school

It is also World AIDS day.

I moved to New York City in September of 1981.  My best friend and soulmate, Jeff, lived there and I was going to stay with him and his lover until I got my own apartment.

My first job was at a lawfirm, I remember a gay friend and co-worker telling me about the “gay cancer.”  I quickly forgot about it, knowing Tom was a terrible hypochondriac.

Jeff was a renaissance man in many ways.  He was always active, never idle.  He painted, worked hard as a photo retoucher, danced beautifully and went out constantly to the bars to party till the break of dawn.  His cooking was legendary.  His sense of humor was what bonded us the most — I loved to make him laugh.  He had no tact and often got in trouble with folks because of that, but would usually win them back by having them over for dinner.

His sexual exploits were also legendary and I was his confidante for many stories.

His temper was terrible as well and we often fought, though we always made up.

When I had my mental problems back in the late 70’s, Jeff would call my mother to comfort her (I only found this out several years later).  He wrote me a little picture book to cheer me up, a humerous biography with hand-made pop-out drawings of my plight.  I still have that book.

All block quotes are from And the Band Played On, by Randy Shilts (1987):

By October 2, 1985, the morning Rock Hudson died, the word was familiar to almost every household in the Western World.


Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome had seemed a comfortably distant threat to most of those who had heard of it before, the misfortune of people who fit into rather distinct classes of outcasts and social pariahs.  But suddenly, in the summer of 1985, when a movie star was diagnosed with the disease and the newspapers couldn’t stop talking about it, the AIDS epidemic became palpable and the threat loomed everywhere.

Suddenly there were children with AIDS who wanted to go to school, laborers with AIDS who wanted to work, and researchers who wanted funding, and there was a threat to the nation’s public health that could no longer be ignored.  Most significantly, there were the first glimmers of awareness that the future would always contain this strange new word.  AIDS would become a part of American culture and indelibly change the course of our lives.

The implications would not be fleshed out for another few years, but on that October day in 1985 the first awareness existed just the same.  Rock Hudson riveted America’s attention upon this deadly new threat for the first time, and his diagnosis became a demarcation that would separate the history of America before AIDS from the history that came after.

It’s Even Worse Than We Thought


When I first started blogging at dailykos nearly two years ago, I took a lot of grief (and I mean a lot of grief) for some of my assertions (not that there weren’t plenty of others making them), such as:

The US has fallen to a fascist coup.

The American military/political establishment has long been guilty of the most heinous crimes imaginable.

The war in Iraq was always about oil and empire and was planned far in advance of 9/11/2001.

The elections of 2000 and 2004 were stolen.

The so-called ‘War on Terrorism’ is bogus.

Failure to impeach will ensure the end of our democracy.

The Democrats have sold us out.

Bush and his cronies and everyone who supports them or enables them are all war criminals and traitors.

We are never leaving Iraq.

We are NOT a democracy.

We are not free.

I don’t make these assertions so often or so vigorously anymore – I don’t have to.  They are made daily by virtually everyone in the blogosphere.  My ‘wild-eyed’ hysteria is now common knowledge.  Reality has sunk in.  In fact, it’s far worse than even I imagined.

Something funny and community building!


Is what we need right now.

But I have had no sleep and am trying to deal with the blog blowing up AND preparing for my trip so I don’t become an undocumented blogger in Mexico.

I’ve got nuthin.

I also have no idea how much all of this has helped or hurt our community.

But remember this my friends…..if the blog dies, all the ponies will suffer. Is that what you big meanies want? Suffering Ponies?


No…I didn’t think so.

Friday Philosophy: Altruism

Maybe I was born this way.  Maybe it’s a genetic mutation.

Maybe it happened when I was sitting on the dock of the bay in my hippie youth.

Maybe it happened because once upon a time it became clear that my life and my needs didn’t matter to the progress of this thing we call human society and its relationship with and survival on this planet.

Which means maybe Poul Anderson is to blame.

Maybe it happened because I’ve lived so close to the edge of death by my own hand so many times.  That could have singed away any real motivation for the self-interest that I have been told recently is at the heart of every human being’s motivation and that virtue is only enlightened self-interest.

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