Happy ending

Jim Alesi is a state senator from my area who was almost universally well-liked until he filed an idiotic law suit a few months ago. Bad publicity from the suit has effectively ended his political career, I don’t think he can get re-elected at this point.

He’s going out on top as the first New York State Senate Republican to vote for marriage equality in New York State, perhaps a far, far better thing than he has ever done.

A Win (of Sorts) for Truth, Justice & the American Way

I try to avoid joining the Parade of the Front-Pagers, where everyone feels required to chip in on some crucial national issue like a congresspod’s twitpics, but the collapse of the government’s prosecution against whistleblower Thomas Drake seems like a big fvcking deal:

A former official with the National Security Agency who faced felony counts of mishandling classified documents pleaded guilty Friday to a misdemeanor in a deal with prosecutors. The deal avoided a trial that could have created political problems for the Obama administration and sent the official to prison for the rest of his life.
Thomas Drake’s plea pleased civil-liberties advocates who are generally sympathetic to Obama, but is a setback for the administration’s effort to crack down on leakers. The administration is pursuing charges against four other accused government leakers under the Act, regarded by some lawyers as vague and overbroad…
The government claimed in its indictment that he had secretly passed information from the documents to an unnamed reporter for a national newspaper. Court documents identified the reporter as Siobhan Gorman, who published a series of articles detailing management malpractice and dubious legal activities by the NSA in The Baltimore Sun in 2006 and 2007.
The government never disclosed the contents of the highly-classified documents they accused Drake of leaking. But they are thought to be related to the NSA’s internal debate over TrailBlazer, an ill-fated project launched in 2002 to overhaul the agency’s vast computer systems that capture and screen information flooding into the agency’s computers from around the world.
Drake and a small group of internal critics regarded Trailblazer as a billion-dollar boondoggle that benefitted defense contractors, and lost a struggle to get the NSA to adopt an internally-designed system called ThinThread at a fraction of the cost. Some of those critics claim that ThinThread might have alerted the U.S. to the 9/11 plot…

The difference between the NYTimes report John quoted earlier and the Washington Post story I’m quoting here is that the WaPo, in its role as the paper of record for the DC company town’s local industry, understands that such prosecutions involve not just some abstract vision of good government practice but the daily workdays of a significant chunk of its readers:

James Bamford, the author of “The Shadow Factory” and two other books on the NSA, says it is the country’s largest, costliest and most secretive spying organization. “And it’s arguably the most influential,” he said.
He sat in on Friday’s hearing and said defense attorneys had asked him to testify in the trial as an expert witness. As far he knows, Drake was the first NSA official accused of leaking to the press.
Bamford called the Drake prosecution “a very important case” because it set a precedent for the four similar Espionage Act trials to follow.

If you have any interest at all in civil liberties, much less this particular case, Jane Mayer’s NYorker article “The Secret Sharer” is an excellent weekend read:

… One afternoon in January, Drake met with me, giving his first public interview about this case. He is tall, with thinning sandy hair framing a domed forehead, and he has the erect bearing of a member of the Air Force, where he served before joining the N.S.A., in 2001. Obsessive, dramatic, and emotional, he has an unwavering belief in his own rectitude. Sitting at a Formica table at the Tastee Diner, in Bethesda, Drake—who is a registered Republican—groaned and thrust his head into his hands. “I actually had hopes for Obama,” he said. He had not only expected the President to roll back the prosecutions launched by the Bush Administration; he had thought that Bush Administration officials would be investigated for overstepping the law in the “war on terror.”
“But power is incredibly destructive,” Drake said. “It’s a weird, pathological thing. I also think the intelligence community coöpted Obama, because he’s rather naïve about national security. He’s accepted the fear and secrecy. We’re in a scary space in this country.”…
Read more

My friend Natasha Wang is a kickass National Championship-winning pole dancer [Updated]

Pole Cricket Reigns Supreme

Last month, one of my BFFs4Lyfe1 won the United States Pole Dancing Federation pole-off. (Dance-off? I don’t know. She’s number one and that’s all that matters. ::raises foam finger::)

As a result she’s been thrust into the spotlight. She was featured in Huffington Post (which I won’t link because bite me, Arianna; but if you use the Googlez, you can find it quickly enough); she’s been contacted by TMZ, she’s going to perform on The View*** next week (I’m going to try to convince her to slip some Colon Blow in to Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s coffee — she’d never do it though. She plays by the rules); and this past Monday she performed on Good Day LA.

I have seen Natasha perform at competitions a bunch of times and I have never seen her fall, nor have I been nervous that she might fall. So when my neighbor Rio texted me “Your friend is on Good Day LA. She fell but she played it off really well…Would have seemed like less but the stupid news casters rushed over and were like “r u ok” a billion times..idiots” I thought, “Oh noes!”

I rushed to turn on the TV, but of course, I missed the performance and only caught the tail end of her trying to convince the newscasters that she was fine. I then rushed to call her and she was, as she had reiterated to the newscasters, totally fine. A bit embarrassed, but fine. I told her she looks hot on TV. I don’t think that really helped at the moment.

I wanted to blog about this yesterday, including a funny picture that she took in the Green Room [after the jump] which demonstrates that she has an awesome sense of humor about her “so not a big deal” fall, but I was too nervous to watch the Good Day LA video. What if it was a total face plant? Like one of those “Greg Louganis hits his head on the diving board” moments that will replay in my mind FO-EVAH. (I’m not kidding about ol’ Louganis. He went from “hot” to “damn, he busted his head” in two seconds flat — two seconds of video that would be replayed ad nauseum during the 1980-whatever Olympics. LEAVE LOUGANIS ALOOOOOONE!!)

Read more

Cancer is Toast, and Other Horrible Metaphors

[Please help my dear friend Lily raise money for this triathlon! Do it now! Do it for me!  Do it for yourselves. Do it for Johnny! It’s safe to say that if not for Lily, there would be no ABLC. She taught me almost everything that I know about WordPress and blogging, and kept me sane while we served as co-editors-in-chief at my former blog. If not for a year spent working with her (and the others) I wouldn’t exist — metaphorically speaking. [I know this bumps Lily up to the number one spot on The Permanently Aggrieveds’ Shitlist, and that is duly noted and need not be mentioned.] And for the rest of you, couldja help a sister’s sister out? -ABLxx]

I’ve lost more than my fair share of awesome people to various types of cancers, and I know many equally awesome others who have survived or are still struggling with it. The way I see it, cancer is…uh…a cancer, its own metaphor—a blight of suck on the bush of awesome (which was, incidentally, Angry Black Lady’s nickname in college (just “The Bush of Awesome”…not the suck-blight part)), and I’m done with it. I’ve hit the righteous indignation phase of my anger and I’m ready to rid the world of this plague pox cancer. Unfortunately, I’m also tired—tired but enthusiastic, and that beats energetic yet complacent any day, right? Work with me here.

So what can a person with a burning desire yet sluggish metabolism do to help cure cancer? Well, I’ll be honest here. It won’t involve running in a marathon, or a triathlon, or even running to the end of the block for a doughnut. I have to go with my strengths, and I happen to know that my strength is not my strength—nor is running, swimming or cycling long distances (granted, I procure a damned fine doughnut…if I pace myself), and while it might seem like I suck at most gerunds, I am pretty decent at volunteering and panhandling, which brings me to the point of all this.

My fabulous co-workers and friends who are good at those verbish nouns I listed before (I’d type them again, but I’d need a nap) have agreed to team up with Team In Training to participate in The Nation’s Triathlon to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Since they have agreed to do the sweating while I laugh at how they look in spandex, I’ve agreed to help them fundraise by forming what I call “Team Un-Training,” which mainly involves things like drinking beer, playing video games and poker, eating stuff (mainly food), and begging people like you. This way I can help cure cancer while maintaining the generous proportions of my ass and avoiding the unpleasantness of dehydration, muscle cramps and putting my face in the Potomac. Read more

Maddie James Foundation Raises 920K for Memorial Seaside Learning Center

The invariable mark of a dream is to see it come true.

A few months ago, I posted about Maddie James, my friend’s friend’s daughter, who was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in January.

The Ocean Institute in Dana Point, California was one of Maddie’s favorite places, so to memorialize her life, her parents created a Foundation with the goal of raising one million dollars to fund the Maddie James Seaside Learning Center. (You can view plans for the Ocean Institute expansion project here). At the time, raising that much money seemed like a pipe dream for the James family.

Sadly, a mere two weeks after I originally posted about the Foundation, Maddie passed away peacefully in her sleep. But, her spirit and dream lives on — the Maddie James Foundation held a gala and silent auction tonight, and I just read on Facebook that the Foundation was able to raise $920,000. Combined with personal donations (including donations from many Balloon Juicers and Angry Black Readers), the one million goal has been reached (as of a half hour ago.)

Thank you to those who donated, my heart goes out to the James family, and I congratulate those who worked tirelessly to make the Maddie James Seaside Learning Center a reality.

It’s quite an achievement. Read more

Keep asking and ye shall keep receiving

I reviewed last night’s thread and while the gallery was not intended to be exhaustive, I certainly overlooked some obvious black beauties. Accordingly, here’s the last and final part. I’m sure there are still plenty o’ hot broads that were not considered, but if I spend any more time staring at pictures of black beauties, I’m going to have an eyegasm.

It’s all for fun y’all. Sometimes you just wantsta look at some purty pictures. I’ll post something for the hetero/bi-ladies and gays. I promise.

I have blue eyes

This Jane Elliot documentary seems to me to have a lot of useful things to say about racism – although here within the context of UK society – although, as will become apparent if you watch, the things it has to say are sometimes confused or even contradictory.

It is, however, a wonderful illustration of the process whereby white people such as me, and perhaps you, who don’t want to be racist and certainly don’t try to act in a racist manner, can fall into the trap of not recognizing racism or inequality when it happens, or of discounting the reactions of people of other races when they identify something as racist, simply because we exist in a different frame and have not experienced theirs.

At one point, the wonderful and articulate* black woman participant who is interviewed throughout the program summarizes it as:

You can be in a situation where [racism] goes completely over your head because it doesn’t affect you, and because it doesn’t affect you, it doesn’t exist.

There are moments here which are genuinely shocking to me. A blond teacher, who has spent the entire day denying that she needs to learn anything about racism, and who I would quite happily strangle, notes how one of her black students was injured and she was surprised that her skin was pink underneath the graze.

I would be horrified to think that I might react the same way, but self aware enough to recognize that I might unwittingly do so.

As the little old lady says towards the end:

I’m learning.

* Yes, I know “articulate” is a loaded word, but as one who is in love with words, the thing that struck me most powerfully about her was how beautifully she composed what she said.

Please ignore the comments on the Youtube, including those of the racist arse who uploaded the video.