Several weeks ago, Levar Jones, a black motorist, was shot by a white South Carolina state trooper named Sean M. Groubert while complying with the latter's request that he present his drivers license for inspection. This unwarranted and unnecessary use of violence by Groubert was recorded on video. He was fired from The South Carolina State Police and subsequently arrested.

In the United States, the black body is so imperiled and used to being the object of white racial terrorism and violence that Levar Jones, an innocent man, apologized to Sean Groubert after being shot.

If there was not a dashboard camera, Groubert would have concocted one of the typical lies told by police officers--the "criminal" was reaching for a gun; he lunged at me in a "threatening" manner"; it was a "clean" shot because I was in "reasonable fear" of my safety--and been given a commendation and left free to walk the streets where he (or she) would continue to harass and murder other innocent members of the public.

The news media has responded to the video recording of Sean Groubert shooting Levar Jones with surprise. Headlines read that the recording is "shocking" or "unbelievable". The largely white commentariat on TV and elsewhere seem genuinely dismayed at Groubert's actions.

I would suggest there is nothing shocking, amazing, or surprising about Sean Groubert's shooting of Levar Jones in South Carolina. Perhaps, this is a function of my blues sensibilityand the common sense life skills that I as a black man have had to develop in order to navigate the color line in the United States?

However well-intentioned and sincere the concern and surprise by the (white) American public (and some in the chattering classes) towards the events in Ferguson, the shooting of Jones by Groubert, or the panoply of unarmed black men by the police ever 28 hours in America may be, their response is still colored by white privilege.

Black and brown Americans have been complaining about, organizing in response to, and publicly discussing police brutality and extra-judicial violence against their communities for several hundred years. Those concerns have largely been ignored by the white public.

The white racial frame deems that those life experiences must be invalidated as somehow exaggerations, lies, or a function of the "natural" irrationality of those who are not white--as compared to the natural "reason" and capacity for "critical thinking", "objectivity" and "rigor" which supposedly comes with being white and male.

It is also important to highlight the raw truth: many members of the white public are invested in white on black and brown police brutality and violence because of both their implicit, as well as overt biases against people of color.

Moreover, even when "habeas corpus" is, quite literally in these instances, in effect, where an unarmed or otherwise innocent black or brown person has been killed by the police or other white identified street vigilantes, and the events are recorded, white racial paranoia still finds a way to twist those events into a bizarre lie of a scenario in which the victim somehow provoked their own murder or abuse.

Eric Garner was killed by police and it was recorded on video. John Crawford III was killed by the police on video. Levar Jones was shot by police on video. And we can forget the recent recordings of a police officer beating a black woman MMA style on the side of the highway, throwing pregnant women on the ground, attacking street vendors, and the many other examples of police thuggery against unarmed, innocent people.

To be surprised by these events, given the history of the United States, and the many times that African-Americans and others have publicly protested police racism and violence requires cultivated racial naivete, willful ignorance, and the almost unique ability to ignore and dismiss the life experiences of the Other that comes with being a member of a privileged group in a given society.

Life in a white supremacist society exacts a high cost on the mental well-being, sanity, and overall health of non-whites. In such a culture, one of the most exhausting experiences is when white folks "discover" a truth that people of color have long known and communicated.

When white folks are surprised or shocked by anti-black and brown racism, I nod my head in acknowledgement of their discovery. I then respond, "did you previously think that black people were crazy? Were we lying all these years? Insane? Mad? Was there some concerted effort and conspiracy for us to lie about police brutality and racism more generally?"

The temporary disruption to white innocence and naivete by the "shocking" discovery that police kill and abuse unarmed people of color is a temporary emotional and cognitive state. Whiteness and white privilege are nothing if not a highly refined type of cultural and social amnesia.

By contrast, the white public and media's shock, surprise, and dismay at the murder of unarmed black men and women by police is a continual state of being for Black America.

White folks are just tourists in this world; we have to live in it.

In honor of the 2014 incarnation of the event known as The Gathering, I've given an interview with Jay Michaelson, writing for the Daily Beast, on what Michaelson has chosen to call The $1-Billion-a-Year Right-Wing Conspiracy You Haven't Heard Of. The interview covers the results of my ongoing research, as Director of The Center Against Religious Extremism (a project, to trace the sources of funding for the ongoing culture wars and the spread of dominionism, creationism, and anti-LGBT hatred both in the U.S. but also internationally. The source of much of that money appears to be The Gathering, the annual meeting of multimillionaire and billionaire hard-right wing evangelical funders whose foundations dole out upwards of $1 billion a year. This year, David Brooks of the New York Times and Michael Gerson of the Washington Post are scheduled to speak at The Gathering 2014, which is being held at the Orlando, Florida Ritz Carlton Hotel. As Michaelson introduces the Daily Beastinterview,
"Have you heard of the $1,750-per-person “Gathering,” which starts Thursday in Orlando, Florida? Probably not. But if you’re female, gay, non-Christian, or otherwise interested in the separation of church and state, your life has been affected by it. The Gathering is a conference of hard-right Christian organizations and, perhaps more important, funders. Most of them are not household names, at least if your household isn’t evangelical. But that’s the point: The Gathering is a hub of Christian Right organizing, and the people in attendance have led the campaigns to privatize public schools, redefine “religious liberty” (as in the Hobby Lobby case), fight same-sex marriage, fight evolution, and, well, you know the rest. They’re probably behind that, too. Featured speakers have included many of the usual suspects: Alliance Defending Freedom President and CEO Alan Sears (2013), Focus on the Family President Jim Daly (2011), and Family Research Council head Tony Perkins (2006). This year, however, they are joined by David Brooks of The New York Times and Michael Gerson of The Washington Post. What’s going on? Has The Gathering gone mainstream? Hardly, says Bruce Wilson, director of the advocacy group Truth Wins Out’s Center Against Religious Extremism and a leading researcher on The Gathering. The selection of this year’s speakers, he says, is just the latest in a long line of misdirections and canards... ...The Gathering is as close to a “vast right-wing conspiracy” as you’re likely to find. So with this year’s conference about to get under way, Wilson gave The Daily Beast an exclusive interview over email—heavily redacted here—about this shadowy, powerful network of hard-right funders.
Read my interview with the Daily Beast's Jay Michaelson Here is a collection of the ongoing series related to The Gathering and the National Christian Foundation:

NYT’s David Brooks, WaPo’s Michael Gerson to Speak at Top Antigay Funding Confab Index #1: From Russia To Uganda, the War on Gay Rights Leads to The Gathering (2014)

The Secret Antigay U.S. Money Behind The WCF and the Global Evangelical War on LGBT Rights

The National Christian Foundation Anti-LGBT Funding Encyclopedia

The Gathering: The Religious Right’s Cash Cow

Transcript, The Gathering 1997: “The Homosexual Agenda”

Chick-Fil-A Vice President on Board of “Biggest Anti-LGBT Funder In America

American Evangelical Anti-LGBT Push in Ukraine Tied To National Prayer Breakfast Affiliate ‘The Gathering’

Hobby Lobby Case Linked To Secretive National Prayer Breakfast Group, “The Family”

The Hobby Lobby Case and The Alliance Defending Freedom’s Ties To Christian Reconstructionism

Becoming Evil: The Ex-Gay Industry As a Handmaiden To Genocide ?

How Antigay American Fundamentalists Indoctrinated Russia’s School Children, 1992-1997

Wednesday morning, several progressives groups including the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and People for the American Way published an open letter in the Washington Post and The Hill which called out the Republican Party for its allegiance to anti-gay groups such as the Family Research Council and for the decision of several Republicans to attend that organization's upcoming Values Voter Summit.

Later that night, in a show of unbelievable stupidity, the Family Research Council took the bait by answering the letter via email with a bit of bravado and a lot of lies:

What annual event has the Left so worried that they are spending tens of thousands in advertising dollars to stop? You guessed it; the Values Voters Summit. In today's Washington Post, leftwing groups including GLAAD, (known for its failed campaign to fire Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson,) the anti-Christian Southern Poverty Law Center, and the George Soros-funded "Faithful America," signed onto a three-quarters page ad demanding that speakers "not attend the Values Voter Summit."

The lies came about when FRC attacked the Southern Poverty Law Center, which it has a special dislike of ever since SPLC declared it an anti-gay hate group in 2010:

Last year, the FBI dumped the SPLC as a website resource and the U.S. Army distanced themselves from the SPLC. A federal court ruled against the SPLC in a harassment lawsuit it brought against a pro-family group. Even the SPLC's own supporters are growing increasingly uncomfortable with the SPLC's attacks on free speech. It is odd that some people feel the need to attack those who are merely defending religious liberty and affirming the importance of the type o f relationship which naturally provides children with a mother and a father. There will continue to be disagreement on how marriage should be defined, but reasonable people can approach this subject respectfully, thoughtfully and passionately. If you are in the D.C. area this weekend, please join us at the Values Voter Summit as we exercise our First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly.

Don't be fooled by FRC's various claims.

Allow me to break it down.

1. Did the FBI dump SPLC as a resource?

No. According to the site Equality Matters:

As Good As You’s Jeremy Hooper noted, the FBI continues to list SPLC as a partner in the fight against hate crimes on its website.

The right-wing narrative is also contradicted by an official statement from the FBI. In a statement to The Daily Caller, and FBI spokesperson said:

“Upon review, the Civil Rights program only provides links to resources within the federal government,” an FBI spokesman told The Daily Caller. “While we appreciate the tremendous support we receive from a variety of organizations, we have elected not to identify those groups on the civil rights page.”

2. Did the US Army distance themselves from the Southern Poverty Law Center?

No. FRC exaggerated on the incident. Last year, an SPLC briefing was held at Camp Shelby in Mississippi. In this briefing, certain SPLC-designated hate groups were listed, including the American Family Association. Conservatives and religious right spokespeople - such as Fox News personality Todd Starnes - falsely claimed that SPLC was attacking AFA for its religious values, when in actuality AFA was listed as a hate group because of the false and slanderous things it says about the lgbt community. These folks caused so much of a stink that future briefings were halted.

3. Are former supporters of SPLC turning their backs on the organization?

No. The link FRC provided as proof of this is a column from a conservative site,, by an African-American woman named Catherine Davis. While she rails against SPLC, at no time did she ever indicate that she was ever a supporter of the organization.  Nor was her column about SPLC's supposed attack on free speech. It was criticizing the lgbt community. Davis was allowing the predominantly white conservative establishment to use her in order to exploit the supposed gay vs. black divide.

4. What was the lawsuit SPLC "lost" against a pro-family group?

Even that claim by FRC isn't totally true.  SPLC had sued an anti-gay group, Public Advocate (which is another SPLC-designated hate group), on the behalf of a gay couple whose personal photos the organization digitally altered and used for anti-gay campaign ads. The judge in the case only dismissed part of the lawsuit.

According to LGBTQNation:

U.S. District Court Judge Wiley Daniel agreed the photo’s use was noncommercial and a matter of legitimate public concern. However, he also ruled the couple and their photographer have a possible copyright infringement claim.

In June, the photographer, Kristina Hill, won a judgement of $2501 against Public Advocate for copyright infringement.

Let's be real about something - none of the organizations who signed that letter are so naive as to think they could stop the Values Voter Summit from taking place nor could they keep Republicans from attending.

And certainly the purpose of the letter wasn't to stifle speech.

The purpose of the letter was mainly strategic. Its goal was to educate the public and continue debate about the real face of the Family Research Council and other groups who claim to stand for morality and Christianity.

Remember this passage in the letter:

These groups engage in repeated, groundless demonization of LGBT people — portraying them as sick, vile, incestuous, violent, perverted, and a danger to the nation.

The Family Research Council, the summit’s host, is vigorously opposed to extending equal rights to the LGBT community. Its president, Tony Perkins, has repeatedly claimed that pedophilia is a “homosexual problem.” He has called the “It Gets Better” campaign — designed to give LGBT students hope for a better tomorrow — “disgusting” and a “concerted effort” to “recruit” children into the gay “lifestyle.”4 He has condemned the National Republican Congressional Committee for supporting three openly gay candidates.

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, a summit sponsor, has said the U.S. needs to “be more like Russia,” which enacted a law criminalizing the distribution of LGBT “propaganda.” He also has said, “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine, and six million dead Jews.”

Similarly, Mat Staver of the Liberty Counsel, another summit sponsor, has compared those who do not denounce same-sex marriage to those who remained silent during the Holocaust. Marriage equality, he has said, is the “beginning of the end of Western civilization.”

And thanks to FRC's absolutely stupid decision to answer the letter, particularly with lies about SPLC, the groups who signed the letter succeeded in their purpose.

FRC's behavior reminds me of the fable of the vicious dog who bit so many people that a bell was hung around its neck so as to warn folks when it was coming.  The dog, totally ignorant, took the bell as sign of distinction and rang it constantly.

Imagine how stupid it felt when an older dog said, "what you mistake for a mark of fame and honor is actually a reminder of how much of a disgrace you are."

Feel free to ring your bell anytime you want by responding to the claims that you are a hate group, FRC. No matter how much you lie, we know the truth.

And what you really are - a bad dog without a leash nipping at the heels of every lgbt you can find.

Four years after the publication of my memoir/history, Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, I found myself sitting in the front row of an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency hearing in southern Illinois. It was a historic evening in Harrisburg, only a few miles from where Peabody Energy sank its first coal mine in 1895, and a few blocks from where I had sat on the front porch as a kid and listened to the stories of my grandfather and other coal miners about union battles for justice. For the first time in decades, residents in coal country were shining the spotlight on issues of civil rights, environmental ruin and a spiraling health crisis from a poorly regulated coal mining rush.

The total destruction of my family’s nearby Eagle Creek community from strip-mining was held up as their cautionary tale. The takeaway: Strip-mining more than stripped the land; it stripped the traces of any human contact.

“We have lost population, we have lost homes and we have lost roads,” testified Judy Kellen, a resident facing an expanded strip mine in Rocky Branch. “We have lost history. We have to endure dust, noise levels to the pitch you wanted to scream because you couldn’t get any rest or sleep, earth tremors, home damages, complete isolation of any type of view to the north, health issues, a sadness in your heart that puts a dread on your face every day, and an unrest in the spirit that we knew nothing of.”

A lot has changed in these four years—much of it troubling, and much of it inspiring.

After traveling to coal mining communities around the U.S. and the world, I have learned that my own private reckoning with coal in the great Shawnee forests surrounding Eagle Creek was only a prologue to our greater climate reckoning for my children.But first, the inspiring part: Faced with losing their homes, farms, health—and sheer sanity—from the blasting and non-stop war-zone traffic of coal operators within 300 feet of their living rooms—southern Illinois residents with deep coal mining roots in Harrisburg were taking a courageous stand for climate and coalfield justice. Meanwhile, former coal mining areas from central Appalachia to Germany to Scotland have begun the process of transitioning to clean energy economies.

Here’s the troubling part: Four years after the publication of Reckoning at Eagle Creek, Illinois is in the throes of a coal-mining rush not seen in nearly a century, recognized as the fastest-growing coal region in the nation. Since 2009, the state’s mining production has increased by more than 60 percent.


In that same time period, my kids—the 9th generation of our family to be born in Illinois—and I have watched coal barges ease down the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers in a fivefold increase in coal exports, en route to CO2-spewing coal-fired plants abroad. The wake-up call: Illinois has experienced record drought and flooding, as climate scientists determined our planet had reached the alarming 400 parts-per-million milestone of CO2 emissions for the first time in millions of years.

Coal miners remain the canaries in the coal mine: Black lung disease among coal miners, an issue dear to my heart and to anyone who has watched their loved ones and friends suffer needlessly, is at record levels in 2014.

And communities not far from my beloved Eagle Creek, including members of my own displaced family, have once again found themselves on the front lines of mining destruction. As part of an “all-of-the’above” energy policy touted by President Barack Obama and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn—a Sierra Club-supported Democrat who once led anti-strip-mining campaigns and swept into office on promises of regulatory reform—the heartland has undergone a series of mind-boggling machinations in favor of coal mining and hydraulic fracking.

Even as states start the long process of responding to the proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations to cut CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants by 30 percent, coal industry lobbyists and their political sycophants continue to roll out the wildly inaccurate “war on the coal” slogans with fervor, and double down on their denial of climate change.

It begins with our kids: Despite a campaign by former coal miner Sam Stearns to halt the state’s cringe-worthy “coal education” program, Illinois continues to push coal industry propaganda and climate denial into our schools.

It extends into our farm communities, like Hillsboro in central Illinois, where elderly farmers are fighting to protect their fertile land and watersheds from longwall mining and coal slurry pollution.

In these last four years, we have witnessed the cycles of hype and indifference over our coal mining disasters, coal slurry, coal ash and coal-related chemical spills, most notably in West Virginia last spring, which contaminated the drinking water for 300,000 residents near Charleston.And we have seen a stunning disregard for law enforcement by government agencies. An Associated Press investigation made a startling discovery this year of a coal industry run amok:

“…[A] review of federal environmental enforcement records shows that nearly three-quarters of the 1,727 coal mines listed haven’t been inspected in the past five years to see  if they are obeying water pollution laws. Also, 13 percent of the fossil-fuel fired power plants  are not complying with the Clean Water Act.”

Nowhere has such recklessness been so evident than in my own southern Illinois.

I have learned two things from the loss of Eagle Creek and the treatment of coal miners like my grandfather and residents in today’s coal mining communities; in a nation that prioritizes coal industry profits over workplace and residential safety, people are as disposable as our natural resources in openly accepted national sacrifice zones. And secondly, all coal mining safety laws have been written in miners’ blood; the same is true for innocent citizens afflicted by clean water violations by coal and chemical companies.

This disregard for basic health and civil rights doesn’t end here, though.  The fallout over increasing climate disturbances brings a harrowing message: We all live in the coalfields now. Extreme energy extraction and fossil fuel burning, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently warned, is leading us to “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.”With the exigency of action on climate change, and the mounting death toll and costs from coal mining, the heartland—like our nation—has reached a crossroads in our energy policy: It’s time to fashion a just transition toward a more sustainable and diversified economy, including clean energy development, especially for those in historical coal mining communities–not just urban centers like Chicago that are connected to political power and pay-offs.

We need a plan for regeneration, not simply more unenforced EPA regulations.

How can we keep the carbon in the ground? By ensuring that our people and our ingenuity are considered our greatest natural resources.After shouldering the massive health and environmental costs of powering our nation’s industrial rise to fortune over the past century, impoverished communities on the front lines of extraction should be in the forefront of clean energy investment and jobs. We need a regeneration fund for retraining and initiatives to jump-start reforestation and abandoned mine projects, along with start-up funds for solar and wind energy manufacturing and energy-efficiency campaigns.

Reckoning at Eagle Creek is my attempt to not only restore and “re-story” Eagle Creek and its place in history, but also plant the seeds to regenerate its unique contributions to our future American story.

To ask Abraham Lincoln’s question in our own times: “It is not ‘can any of us imagine better?’ but, ‘can we all do better?’ The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise—with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

This essay was adapted from the new Foreword to the paperback edition of Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, released this week by Southern Illinois University Press.




Asinine anti-Semitic comments aside – the man has on numerous occasions voiced openly racist, bigoted sentiments – the record clearly shows that Robertson has no right to speak of toughness in the armed forces.

Indeed, voluminous allegations corroborate a scenario showing that Robertson deserves an honorary medal for being a Class A Coward of the highest rank...

Pat Robertson doesn’t seem to like me very much. Normally, none of us with more brains than a toothbrush should give a damn as to why that’s the case, but times are hardly normal these days. Therefore it does matter, so please let me fill you in. First, a little backstory here:

One would think that as Americans, most of us can agree on certain core foundational values that have made our nation great; freedom of speech and the freedom to worship (or not) as we see fit stand out as two shining examples. However, the enjoyment of these freedoms means that we must also witness the heinous words and deeds of those who don Ku Klux Klan hoods, wear swastika armbands, and call for modern-day inquisitions against perceived “enemies of the faith.” Indeed, some have amassed fortunes and built veritable “evil empires” by peddling twisted, violent ideologies like fundamentalist Christianity, to cite one example. Foremost among these evil opportunists and parasitic jackasses is the Reverend Pat Robertson.

Robertson recently flew off the handle when the U.S. Air Force (USAF) was forced to make the Constitutionally correct decision to end the mandatory requirement that USAF airmen recite “So Help Me God” in their official reenlistment and commissioning oaths. This blatantly unconstitutional religious test came to the world’s attention after an airman at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada learned that unless he performed the sectarian oath, his days as an airman would be through. Shamefully reprehensible, isn’t it?
Eventually, the Air Force and the Pentagon “saw the light” of Constitutional fidelity, with no small amount of pressure from organizations like the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF, the organization I head), the American Humanist Association, and other valiant allies. It was, after all, a no-brainer from a legal perspective. As I said in my last Op-Ed, “The case law is so universally settled in this precise area that even actors who play lawyers on TV or in the movies could win this one in court. 

Well, no sooner was the law upheld before the bitter juice from sour grapes began flowing in rivers from the pulpits of arch-hypocrites like Robertson and his wretched ilk, who condemned the decision as “crazy.” Continuing, Robertson took specific aim at yours truly, stating:

“There’s a left-wing radical named Mikey Weinstein, who has got a group about people against religion or whatever he calls it, and he has just terrorized the armed forces… You think you’re supposed to be tough, you’re supposed to defend us, and you got one little Jewish radical who is scaring the pants off of you… You want these guys flying the airplanes to defend us when you got one little guy terrorizing them? ... That’s what it amounts to. … How can [USAF] fly the bombers to defend us if they cave to one little guy?”

“Little Jewish radical,” eh? Got anti-Semitism, Pat? Perhaps Robertson forgets that he apparently claims to worship another "little Jewish radical” who is said to have “terrorized” the authorities of his day? Anyway, his asinine anti-Semitic comments aside – the man has on numerous occasions voiced openly racist, bigoted sentiments – the record clearly shows that Robertson has no right to speak of toughness in the armed forces.
Indeed, voluminous allegations corroborate a scenario showing that Robertson deserves an honorary medal for being a Class A Coward of the highest rank. This vile specimen is to human dignity and sanity and integrity and character what dog shit is on the menu of a fine French restaurant.

Let me explain. In his 1972 autobiography, Shout it From the Housetops, Robertson boasted about his outstanding service as a “Marine combat officer in Korea.” The only problem with the claim is that many of his former comrades allege that never once did he ever see battle. Robertson filed a libel suit against McCloskey, only to be unceremoniously dropped later on. Contradicting Robertson’s claims, war hero and former seven-term Congressman Paul “Pete” McCloskey alleged that the “Marine combat officer” may have used his privileged family ties as the son of a Virginia Senator to pull the strings and skirt his combat duties. Apparently, the order from General Lemuel Shepherd was to "Take good care of him; his Daddy is Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Appropriations Committee." 

Therefore, the future televangelist (and saber-rattling warmonger) was reassigned from combat duty to the far less heroic undertaking of keeping the barracks watering hole stocked with liquor. As numerous fellow marines claimed, throughout the Korean War the “Marine combat officer” was known as the Masan Liquor Officer. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being a ‘liquor officer.’ However, speaking as a former Air Force officer and Air Force Academy honor graduate, whose two sons, daughter-in-law, and son-in-law are all, likewise, Air Force Academy graduates as well as either current or former proud members of the U.S. Air Force, I am positively pissed that such a putrid example of cowardly cretinism in the ignoble person of Pat Robertson would have the gall to question the bravery of our USAF airmen. Every American, every service member, should know well to ignore the attention-hungry ravings of this false prophet and posturing poseur of the first order.

But don’t take it from me; take it from the late Corporal U.S.M.C. Leo T. Cronin, who participated in the first-wave amphibious assault by Marines who fought tooth and nail in the Battle of Inchon, Korea. Commenting in a Letter to the Editor penned amidst Robertson’s failed Presidential run in 1988, Cronin didn’t mince any words:

There is a person who calls himself a combat Marine. He is not. His name is Pat Robertson. I saw him often in the division headquarters where he was clean-shaven and clothed and showered. He was in charge of making sure that the officers' booze ration was handed out and re-supplied. He was a lieutenant. He was in my battalion. The line company marines I saw smelled badly, looked poorly. For months at a time they were cold, eating C-rations. Trying to stay warm and dry was a constant battle. These line-company men were the combat Marines of the First Marine Division. Neither Pat Robertson nor I could carry their gear. He is trying to get elected by standing on those frozen bodies I saw, by putting himself in the company of those seven Marines who repulsed the enemy. Imagine a person who aspires to be President being so loose with the truth, so lacking in grace and so dishonorable. He says God talks to him. I'd like to hear what God says to him about this.

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is up against well-funded extremist religious organizations. Your donations allow us to continue our fight in the courts and in the media to fight for separation of church and state in the U.S. military. Please make a fully tax-deductible donation today at Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, Esq. is founder and president of the six-time Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), an honor graduate of the Air Force Academy, and a former J.A.G. in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a White House counsel in the Reagan Administration and as the Committee Management Officer of the “Iran-Contra” Investigation. He is also the former General Counsel to H. Ross Perot and Perot Systems Corporation. His two sons, daughter-in-law, son-in law, and brother-in-law are also graduates of USAFA. In December 2012, Defense News named Mikey one of the 100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense. He is the author of “With God On Our Side” (2006, St. Martin’s Press) and “No Snowflake in an Avalanche” (2012, Vireo).

In the aftermath of Darren Wilson's shooting of Michael Brown several weeks ago, an almost all white police department engaged in a riot against the black citizens of Ferguson, Missouri.

During those days of civil disturbance, police were recorded using racial slurs, threatening innocent people with violence and death, violating the Constitutional rights of journalists and others who attempted to monitor their street brigandry and hooliganism, and in all, treated the black community of Ferguson as though they were terrorists and insurgents—with the police conducting a mission of counterinsurgency and mayhem.

The Ferguson police are not ashamed of their horrible behavior.

Darren Wilson has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his successful bounty and head-hunting campaign against an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown.

Anti-black Homicidal ideation and racism drive Wilson’s supporters; they yearn to participate in a 21st century lynching party by proxy.

Ultimately, Darren Wilson is a protected man, receiving paychecks while the prosecutor and his home police department orchestrate a cover-up of his cowardly killing of Michael Brown.

It would seem that despite overwhelming evidence that Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown in an execution and vigilante style murder, that the latter, young Mr. Michael Brown, will receive no justice by the local authorities.

The police in Ferguson are emboldened by these events.

In fact, as reported by MSNBC and other media outlets, they are apparently so encouraged by a culture which enables, protects, and encourages white supremacist violence by the police and other white identified street vigilantes against people of color in the United States, that some members of the Ferguson police department have begun wearing wristbands which say “I am Darren Wilson”.

The symbolic politics of the “I am Darren Wilson” wristband makes clear what the black residents of Ferguson—and other communities in the United States—have known for decades and centuries. The police do not “serve and protect” black and brown communities, specifically, and the working classes and poor, more generally.

As descendants of the slave patrollers of the American slaveocracy, police are on the front lines of maintaining the hierarchies of race, white privilege, and white supremacy in the United States.

The “I am Darren Wilson” wristband evokes the demons of white racial terrorism against black Americans.

The wristband naturally leads to an existential question: what does it mean for a police officer (or one of their supporters) to say that “I am Darren Wilson”?

Darren Wilson repeatedly shot an unarmed black teenager who had surrendered to him.

It follows that:

“I am Darren Wilson” means that you idolize a killer.

“I am Darren Wilson” means that you support the killing of unarmed black people.

“I am Darren Wilson” means that you support white supremacy.

“I am Darren Wilson” means that you are a racial paranoiac so drunk on authoritarianism and racial animus that you can rationalize, in the face of the preponderance of the available evidence, the execution of an unarmed person for the crime of being black, breathing, and walking down the street.

“I am Darren Wilson” means that your ethics are so twisted and distorted by the white racial frame and white supremacy that you sympathize and empathize more with the white cop who killed an unarmed black teenager than you do with the person who was shot dead and left in the street for hours like garbage.

“I am Darren Wilson” means that your moral framework has been corrupted and ruined by white privilege and white racism.

The “I am Darren Wilson” wristband is not a minor accouterment or detail that is coincidental to a given police officer’s uniform: it is a major statement of power, politics, attitudes, and values.

The website Police One details the importance of a police officer’s dress and comportment:

The uniform of a police officer conveys the power and authority of the person wearing it. Clothing, including the police uniform, has been found to have a powerful psychological impact on those who view it. When humans contact other humans they subconsciously search for clues about the other person so that they can understand the context of the encounter. The police uniform is a powerful clue as to the wearer's authority, capabilities, and status.

Research has revealed that the uniform has a subconscious psychological influence on people, based on the person's preconceived feelings about police officers. When a person wears the police uniform, citizens tend to be more cooperative with his or her requests. People also tend to curb their illegal or deviant behaviors when a police uniform is visible in the area.

Research has revealed that alterations to the traditional, paramilitary police uniform can result in changes in perceptions by the public. The style of the clothes, the type of hat worn, the color of the material, and even the condition of the clothes and equipment have an influence on how citizens perceive the officer. For these reasons police administrators need to take their uniform policies seriously. The selection of a uniform style, regulations on the proper wear of the uniform, how well uniforms are maintained, and policies on when officers may wear plain clothes should all be taken very seriously.

The police uniform should be considered an important tool for every patrol officer.

In the context of the over-militarization of America’s police departments, the vicious violence of the police riot against the people of Ferguson, and the overt and covert racial animus that black folks in Ferguson and elsewhere have experienced at the hands of the police and other elements of the criminal justice system, “I am Darren Wilson” is an announcement that even in the post civil rights era that “we, the police, can, will, and have killed black and brown people with relative impunity…and will do so again”.

There is continuity to history. It proceeds with fits and starts, progress moving forward in the face and despite the best efforts of reactionaries and conservatives to derail and hold it back. History is also beset by a dualism where the habits of the past coexist with the present and the future.

White supremacy, as one of the most powerful ideologies in recent human history, follows those contours.

A black man is President of the United States in a moment of continual anti-black and brown violence by the police and the criminal justice system. There is obvious racial progress in many areas of American life. Yet, the country remains hyper-segregated, the job market still discriminates against people of color, and white privilege still over-determines and advantages the life chances of whites as compared to non-whites.

The intimidation and violence of the police uniform and the “I am Darren Wilson” wristband is a statement of white racist thuggery and intimidation against both the black body and the black community en masse.

The “I am Darren Wilson” wristband has ugly historical precedents: its ancestors include the white Ku Klux Klan uniform and the Nazi Swastika. All three are symbols of white supremacy, terror, and intimidation against people of color and those marked as the Other.

The KKK chose white robes as their uniform in order to intimidate free blacks by pretending to be the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers.

The swastika was adopted by the Nazi Party as a way of harassing, threatening, and intimidating Jews (as well as other groups) who were targeted for destruction.

The “I am Darren Wilson” wristband is a claim to the right of preemptive and prejudicial violence by the police against African-Americans: it is a signal that that they too, could on a police officer's whim, be made into the next Michael Brown.

If there is any doubt that the killing of Michael Brown was influenced by racial animus within a broader cultural, as well as local context of white supremacy—and an utter contempt towards black and brown people’s lives—a person need only to look at the behavior of the Ferguson police department and Darren Wilson’s defenders and apologists.

The black residents of Ferguson are treated as less than full members of the polity, forced into a life of “custodial citizenship” by a police and local government which lords over their community.

For the white folks who support Darren Wilson, and the cops who wear “I am Darren Wilson” wristbands, this is the natural order of things--one that they are dedicated to protecting.

Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Warren Blumenfeld

"Only after the last tree has been cut down,
only after the last river has been poisoned,
only after the last fish has been caught,
only then will you learn that you cannot eat money
-- Cree Proverb

The White House recently released its National Climate Assessment that reported our global climate is, in fact, changing, and this is due primarily to human activity, in particular, the burning of fossil fuels. The Assessment investigated approximately 12,000 professional scientific journal papers on the topic of global climate change, and discovered that in the articles expressing a position on global warming, 97 percent fully authenticated both the reality of global warming and the certainty that humans are the cause.

Additional studies released since the White House report signaled the beginning of the depletion and ultimate total collapse of glaciers in Antarctica, which can continue to raise worldwide sea levels an additional 4 feet. This depletion is now irreversible.

What seems clear to the scientific community seems like science fiction to many key politicians, including Lamar Smith (R-TX), paradoxically the Chair of the U.S. House of Representative's Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, who has been a perennial skeptic of human-produced climate change. He stated on the floor of the House:

"We now know that prominent scientists were so determined to advance the idea of human-made global warming that they worked together to hide contradictory temperature data."

He quoted no sources, and his accusations were later proven false.

Previous Chair of the Committee, Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) asserted that he does not have concerns about global warming, but, rather, he is "really more fearful of freezing," even though, he mentioned, "I don't have any science to prove that." He went even further by stating that he did not "think we can control what God controls."

Many on the anti-science political and theocratic Right (mis)quote scripture to justify human exploitation of the planet. For example, Republican presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum, questioned Barack Obama's "theology" in an Ohio campaign stop on February 18, 2012 by asserting that Obama believes in "some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology."

The next day, when asked to explain his remarks on the CBS news program "Face the Nation" by moderator Bob Schieffer, Santorum responded that he was referring to "the radical environmentalists," and by implication, placed Obama in this category. Santorum attacked the notion that "man is here to serve the Earth," which he argued "is a phony ideal." Santorum countered that idea, stating "We're not here to serve the Earth. The Earth is not the objective. Man is the objective. I think a lot of radical environmentalists have it upside-down."

In yet another ill-conceived and executed Christian crusade, Santorum, with his publicly expressed literal biblical perspective, conjures up such passages as Genesis 1:26, which states:

"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'"

Also, Genesis 1:28: "God blessed [humans] and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.'"

And, Genesis 9: "Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.'"

And Santorum is certainly not alone among his Republican colleagues and electorate. A 2008 study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, "A Deeper Partisan Divide over Global Warming," found that 58 percent of respondents who identified as Democrats and 50 percent of Independents believed that global warming is mostly caused by human activity, while only 27 percent of Republicans believed this.

Among Democrats, those with higher educational levels - 75 percent with college degrees compared with 52 percent with less education - expressed the view that solid evidence has shown human activity largely as the cause of global warming. Opposed to the Democrats, however, educational levels of Republicans resulted in an inverse relationship in trusting the scientific evidence with only 19 percent of Republican college graduates compared with 31 percent with less education believing in the human connection to climate change.

Pew's updated report in 2013 found that overall 67 percent of U.S. residents believe global warming is happening, but only 25 percent of Tea Party Republicans believe this.

How many more British Petroleum and Exxon Valdez oil spills, polluted and poisoned waterways and skies, dead lakes, clear cut forests, mine disasters, mutilated and scorched Earth, nuclear power plant accidents and meltdowns, toxic dumps and landfills, trash littered landscapes, extinct animal and plant species, encroachments on land masses by increasingly rising oceans and seas, and how many more unprecedented global climatic fluctuations will it take for the anti-science Republican party to put the health of the planet, and by extension the health of all Earth's inhabitants, on the front burner, if you will, of policy priorities over the unquenchable lust for profits by corporate executives?

For a party claiming to stand as "pro-family," what kind of legacy and what kind of future are they really bequeathing to our youth? For a party that claims to promote political conservatism and "traditional values," what is more traditional and valuable than conserving and thus sustaining the Earth's resources responsibly and equitably?

While differing marginally on specific issues, many Republicans march in lock-step to the drummer of conservative political and corporate dogma centering on a market-driven approach to economic and social policy, including such tenets as reducing the size of the national government and granting more control to state and local governments; severely reducing or ending governmental regulation over the private sector; privatizing governmental services, industries, and institutions including education, health care, and social welfare; permanently incorporating across-the-board non-progressive marginal federal and state tax rates; and possibly most importantly, advancing market driven and unfettered "free market" economics.

I ask, though, how "free" are we now as mining, oil, and lumber companies lobby to exploit the land, and as legislators grant corporations enormous tax breaks and subsidies? How "free" will we be if conservative Republicans succeed in abolishing the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Protection Agency, the US Department of Education, the US Department of Commerce, and other governmental agencies? How "free" will we be if conservative Republicans succeed in the US Congress with their threats to privatize our national parks, and to loosen environmental and consumer protections of all kinds?

In truth, the conservative Republican battle cry, seemingly coined by Sarah Palin, of "drill baby drill," unfortunately is what the Obama administration has forwarded, resulting in significantly more domestic oil production than under the George W. Bush administration. This, however, is simply unsustainable since the US currently consumes approximately 20-25 percent of the oil produced worldwide, though we hold in the range of only 2 percent of planetary oil reserves.

Webster's dictionary defines "Oppression" as a noun meaning "the unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power" on the individual/interpersonal, institutional, and larger societal levels. Human treatment of the environment certainly falls under this definition. As opposed to "oppression," I define "social justice" as the concept that local, national, and global communities functioningwhere everyone has equal access to and equitable distribution of the rights, benefits, privileges, and resources, and where everyone can live freely unencumbered by social constructions of hierarchical positions of domination and subordination."

This concluding phrase is of prime importance, for when humans place themselves into "hierarchical positions of domination and subordination," environmental degradation inevitably results. This is no different in a US context from other hierarchies of power and privilege: White people over People of Color, men over women, rich over working class and poor, heterosexuals over homosexuals and bisexuals, cisgender people over transgender people, able-bodied people over people with disabilities, native-born English speakers over immigrant linguistic minorities, adults of a certain age over youth and over seniors, Christians over members of all other religious and spiritual communities as well as over non-believers, and the spokes on the oppression wheel continue to trample over people and over our environment.

A non-regulated privatized so-called "free-market" economic system lacking in environmental protections is tantamount to a social system deficient of civil and human rights protections for minorities.

If people wish to quote scripture, they would do well to heed biblical warnings, such as Isaiah 24: 4-6:

"The earth dries up and withers, the world languished and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth lies under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statues, and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt."


Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is author of Warren's Words: Smart Commentary on Social Justice (Purple Press); co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (Routledge) and Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States (Sense); editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price (Beacon Press), and co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life (Beacon Press).

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Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Warren Blumenfeld

A few years ago toward the end of July when I was serving as Associate Professor in the School of Education at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, members of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, led by their "pastor," Fred Phelps, mounted protest rallies in three sites in Iowa: Waukee's Jewish Historical Society, the Iowa State University Campus in Ames, and at the Marshalltown Community Theater, which was performing the play "The Laramie Project" profiling the life and murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard.

Phelps (before his recent death) and his followers travel around the country protesting funerals of fallen soldiers (most of whom are apparently heterosexual). They claim that these deaths are God's punishment against a country that tolerates homosexuality. Phelps is also notorious for his 1998 protest of the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a college student from the University of Wyoming in Laramie murdered in a brutal homophobic assault.

On their websites &, Phelps and company directed their Iowa protests against "...the Jews...[who] arrested, falsely accused, prosecuted and then sentenced [Jesus] to death..." and protested Iowa because "God hates Iowa" for being "the first to begin giving $ to little [homosexual] perverts for no other reason than they brag about being little perverts."

I wrote an editorial critical of Phelps and his followers in our local newspaper. Apparently, Shirley Phelps-Roper, Phelps's daughter, read my piece, and she wrote me an email message before arriving in our town:

Hello Professor.

Glad to see we got your attention with our upcoming good fig hunt in Iowa. You approached the issue with a veil on your heart, blind eyes, a hard heart, stopped up ears, and full of guile - because that's how you - and all the rest of the apostate, reprobate Jews - roll. God did that. His righteous judgments are wonderful!

PS: Shall we put you down as one of the naughty figs? You are definitely not sounding or acting like a good fig. I'm just sayin'.

Shirley Phelps-Roper

And in her editorial, which she submitted to our local newspaper and the editor rejected, Phelps-Roper in part ranted:

The reason Jews belong in the same category as homosexuals is because they're both vile sinners before God - period. See for the facts. There is not a group of people more sodomy-enabling in this world than the apostate reprobate Jews.

Note: Phelp-Roper defined "Good Fig" in her editorial as the estimated "144,000 righteous Jews left, to be called and sanctified. They will mourn him whom they pierced, repent and obey."

Issues of common decency and respect for human dignity suffered a serious setback on March 26, 2010 when the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that Albert Synder of York, Pennsylvania was unjustified in suing Fred Phelps and his followers for picketing the 2006 funeral of Synder's son, 20-year-old Marine Lance Corporal Matthew Synder, who was killed in a vehicle rollover accident in Iraq. The court also ordered Synder to cover Phelps's court costs in the amount of $16,510.

Before this ruling, Synder successfully won a lawsuit against Phelps. At the lower court trial, the jury awarded Synder $11 million, which the court later reduced to $5 million.

Synder has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which has agreed to consider whether the protestors' actions are within the scope of protected speech covered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, or are circumscribed by issues of privacy and religious rights of the mourners.

Phelps and company, on their website and in their actions, in their own distorted way, continued the centuries-old linkage of the many clear and stunning connections between historical stereotypical representations and oppression against Jewish people and lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans* people (LGBTs). In my research, I have discovered that throughout history, many dominant groups have depicted or represented minority groups in a variety of negative ways in order to maintain control or mastery. I divided these historical interconnections into five primary categories:

1. Religious Condemnations: Throughout the ages, people have cited certain biblical passages to justify persecution and denial of legal protections of LGBT people and Jews, even though there is great disagreement among religious scholars over the interpretations of these passages.

2. Immature Developmental Stage: Jews and LGBT people have been represented as constituting an immature developmental stage: Judaism as an intermediate or immature religious stage on the way to Christianity - the advanced, mature faith - and the Hebrew Bible as only a prelude to the eventual coming as Jesus. And homosexuality and homosexuals as constituting immature human/sexuality development.

3. Immutable Biological Types: By the late nineteenth century, both Judaism and homosexuality had come to be viewed by the "scientific" community as distinct "racial types," with immutable biological characteristics - a trend that increased markedly into the twentieth century of the Common Era.

4. Abuse and Recruitment of Children: A crucial point in the psychology of scapegoating is the representation of minorities as subhuman forms that "recruit," molest, and kill children of the majority, and accordingly, both Jews and LGBT people have long been accused of being dangerous predators of children.

5. Domination and Destruction of "Civilized" Society: While the dominant society has frequently been concerned that Jews and people attracted to others of their sex can "pass" without detection into the mainstream, they have also historically portrayed these groups as rich and powerful conspirators whose aim is to control, manipulate, and eventually destroy societies.

Beliefs are one's rights to hold. However, the expression of those beliefs onto an individual or group of individuals I argue constitutes a form of oppression, especially when intended to deny anyone or any group their human and civil rights. By so doing, they are exerting power and control by attempting to define the "other," with the intent of depriving people of their agency and subjectivity. They are attempting to control people's bodies and their minds.

With religious rights come responsibilities, and with actions come reactions. Whenever clergy pronounce and preach their conservative dogma against any one group, they must take responsibility for the bullying, harassment, violence and suicides of those against whom they preach.

I am again struck by the ways in which the numerous forms of oppression - including racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, classism, ableism, ageism, ethnic and religious oppression, and all the other forms - while oppressing members of minority groups, on many levels also hurt members of dominant groups. Although the effects of oppression differ quantitatively for specific minority groups and dominant groups, and though it cannot be denied that oppression serves the vested interests of some, in the final analysis, most people lose.

The meaning, therefore, is quite clear. When any group of people is stereotyped and scapegoated, it is ultimately everyone's concern. We all, therefore, have a self interest in actively working to dismantle all the many forms of oppression.

Therefore, we have a right, no, an obligation to counter this destructive and, yes, oppressive discourse with all the voices, the energy, the unity, the intelligence, and all the love of which we are capable. And people throughout the country have been consistently speaking out and standing up to the Westboro Baptist Church.

At Matthew Shepard's funeral service, his good family and friends, outfitted in angel costumes, joined side-by-side in a line and lifted their outstretched wings separating and blocking the view of protesters from mourners. And at Iowa State University, students organized a counter demonstration to thwart the hatred and the oppression.

In countering Westboro, people are practicing the Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam - transforming, healing, and repairing the world so that it becomes a more just, peaceful, nurturing, and perfect place.

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It has been ten years since a "hunter-terrorist" ruined deer season in Wisconsin. In the fall of 2004, instead of shooting deer, Chai Vang, a Hmong immigrant from Laos, shot and killed hunters. Eight hunters were shot in northern Wisconsin, six of whom died including a father and son. No clear motive for the murders became apparent but Vang, a hunting enthusiast, was tried, convicted and sentenced to six consecutive life terms plus seventy years.


Vang's rampage was especially disturbing because Wisconsin was just pulling out of an epidemic of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in its deer and elk, a fatal disease similar to Mad Cow. State officials assured residents they couldn't get the fatal human brain disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) if they avoided the deer's "brain, eyeballs, spinal cord, spleen or lymph nodes" and if they wore latex gloves. But there were two medical reports that suggested otherwise: A 2002 CDC report titled "Fatal Degenerative Neurologic Illnesses in Men Who Participated in Wild Game Feasts--Wisconsin, 2002." And an Archives of Neurology report called "Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease In Unusually Young Patients Who Consumed Venison."


As headless deer waited in trailers in Wisconsin to be tested for CWD before people would eat them, the traditional venison burgers given out on the first day of deer hunting season became problematical. Even if a hunter's own deer was disease free, "if the hunter has the deer processed, does that processor sterilize its equipment after each deer is cut up so cross contamination does not occur?" asked one Wisconsin deer hunter the Capital Times. When his buck turned out to be positive for CWD, another hunter wanted to know about the risks to his wife who had washed his hunting clothes and from blood which had gotten on his steering wheel.


The CWD scare also caused a PR problem for hunters and hunter groups who did not want to eat what they killed. Some food pantries refused deer meat. Others gave homeless and hungry patrons informed consent fliers which told them the meat was probably fine but there was a slight chance it would kill them. Suddenly hunter "generosity" looked malevolent. And killing animals without eating them looked gratuitous and cruel.


Even if this year's deer are fine to eat (though the CWD incubation period is decades) many young hunters are saying "no thanks" to the sport of their fathers and grandfathers.  Web-based activities are much more fun and a better way to meet girls, they say. But DNR officials worry about the loss of their primary funding--hunters. State exhortations to "thin the herd" are belied by the hundreds of state-registered deer breeding operations. "Overpopulation" is good for business--why else would states like Wisconsin support deer breeding and fight a disease that thins the herd?


The number of US hunters is dropping about 10 percent a year.  Hunting groups are especially concerned about the dip in young hunters, aged 16 to 24, whose numbers fell by 300,000 from 1996 to 2006, according to the Wildlife Service.


"For every 100 hunters who retire, only 62 take up the sport," warned former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell at the Pitcairn-Monroeville Rod and Gun Club in Allegheny County a few years ago. "If this trend continues, our ability to manage wildlife will be severely affected and Pennsylvania's economy will suffer." Maybe manage should be in quotes.


"The single biggest challenge facing our two wildlife agencies in Pennsylvania is money. Or lack thereof," agreed Dale Machesic, outdoors reporter in a column for the Philadelphia suburban paper, the Intelligencer. "The single biggest obligation to all fishing and hunting enthusiasts is to get kids involved."


Wisconsin lost 45,000 hunters from just 2000 to 2007, during its battle with CWD and Vang's sniping and afterwards. How many will take to the fields this year? And how many will eat their deer?


Crossposted from Tikkun Daily by Nicholas Boeving

Icon. We throw the word around, but do we really know what it means? It found its way into the English language from the original Greek word used for likeness or image (eikṓn). In other words, icons are reflections of what a given group of people hold to be sacred. Given the recent passage of Joan Rivers, and the bewailment of her death as the loss of a great gay icon, I think it's time to have a frank discussion of just what it is we DO hold sacred in the gay community...and why. We do not ask ourselves this question often enough.

Some have expressed bewilderment as to why Joan Rivers even attained the status of "icon" in the gay community in the first place. To understand this, you must first understand, psychologically speaking, some of the purpose(s) humor serves. Both Plato and Aristotle (yes, they did agree on some things) say that we laugh at the wretched, the fat, the miserable and poor because it asserts our own superiority. Sound familiar? Thought so. Going further, psychiatrist George Eman Vaillant categorized humor as a specialized defense mechanism; in other words, some things are too painful to confront or too terrible to talk about so we just deflect against them.

But let us ask ourselves: just what is it that we're defending against?

Alan Downs Ph.D., author of The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World, has diagnosed with surgical precision the origin of this cancerous condition in the gay community and largely attributes it to early childhood experiences of overwhelming shame. As a natural counterpoint to this toxic shame, gay men move into a second stage of overcompensation: The disease of More: More money, more muscles, more labels, more cars... multiplied ad infinitum.

Gay men stuck in the ugly adolescence of self-loathing and fear defend against feeling this way at all costs. Instead, they project their own raging insecurities outward. In the process of doing so, they construct false identities of superiority and holier-than-thouness to defend against a raging internal tempest that is the result of their own paralyzing fear of being utterly unlovable. What is the characteristic flavor of this stage's humor? Cattiness, bitchiness, and just plain meanness. Nowhere has this unholy trinity of inner-hatred-turned-outward been more powerfully and tragically expressed than in the comedic legacy of Joan Rivers.

You don't have to be hateful to be funny. Carol Burnett and Lucile Ball never stooped to the level of vituperative shtick to demean, dehumanize, or degrade the human condition. Quite the opposite: They ennobled it. Joan Rivers unfurled her fame and secured her fortune by doing exactly the opposite.

Gay icons of yesteryear like Judy Garland were icons in the original sense of the word; Garland reflected and expressed with a trembling vulnerability and raw strength the beating, broken heart of the community, which is why she was - and will forever remain - the greatest icon of them all, having ignited with her passage the gay liberation movement. Now that's a legacy that matters.

Newer icons such as Madonna and Lady Gaga slashed their way to the top of the charts and into the heart and soul of the gay community with their fierce, unflinching commitment to their art and their messages of manumission (freedom from bondage; whatever those fetters may be.) These grande dames earned their enthronement in the pantheon of figureheads by empowerment, not by hate, and embody ideals to aspire to, whether you like their music or not.

Was Rivers a sarcastic savant? Yes. Was she a fierce fashionista? That's debatable. But was her Gospel of the Low Blow what we in our community really wish to continue living our lives by? I, for one, do not.

Deaths - whether literal or figurative - are always times of transition and transitions can go either way. Joan Rivers may have been a legend, but she's no icon that I wish to aspire to. So in our own community's time of transition I think it's vital to take a serious moment of pause to ask ourselves, what is the image that we wish to project? What is the community we wish to build? And who are the people we wish to become?

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