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Hallelujah, and Amen

At the time I am writing this, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court has been in contempt of a federal court for half an hour. As of 12:00am he carried his battle against the Establishment Clause to a new level, as he officially stood in defiance of a federal court order to remove his two-ton Ten Commandments monument from the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court. In the process, he has created a national media circus; he has become yet another embarassment for Alabama in the Yankee press; and his actions may end up costing the State Treasury at the tune of some $5,000 / day if U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson makes good on the fine that he says he has been mulling over. But, as someone who’s spent the majority of my life in Alabama, right now I can feel nothing but excitement as Moore makes his lawless stand.

Why is that, you ask? Well, for those who have not followed Moore over the past decade or so of his career, he has made a long career of confrontational theocratic politics, from the original battle over his display of the Ten Commandments and other conduct in his Etowah County Circuit Court, to his ascent to the position of Chief Justice, to his use of the position to issue virulently homophobic tirades masquerading as case law. He is, at best, a dangerous zealot who is willing to use the State’s power of the sword to further his own ends. At worst, he is a demagogue and a charlatan blasphemously using a confrontational form of fundamentalist Christianity to pull media stunts for his own political and financial advancement. My own suspicion is that he is both–that he honestly believes in a version of fundamentalist Christianity that is actually much closer to a form of Gnosticism, a modern-day Right-wing revivalism that legitimates the use of such confrontational tactics and phony martyrdom.

Whatever his real motivations are, his presence on the Supreme Court bench in the state of Alabama has been a terrible liability for the state, and the more blatantly lawless he becomes, the worse it gets. The reason I am so excited is that Moore has gone too far out on thin ice. Tomorrow, the Southern Poverty Law Center will file a motion for him to be found in contempt of court, and if we are lucky, it will land his sorry ass in jail. More to the point, however, the SPLC is also initiating an ethics complaint against Moore, since his defiance of a federal court order is in obvious violation of several sections of the Canon of Judicial Ethics of the Code of Alabama. Moore’s latest exercise in demagoguery has given our state a wonderful opportunity–that is, it has made it quite likely that he will be thrown out of the Supreme Court within a matter of weeks.

Those of you who know me know that I don’t very much like petty vengeance in politics. I don’t usually delight in the misfortunes of people that I disagree with, even politicians that I loathe. It doesn’t fill me with glee to see Roy Moore act in defiance of the Constitution and the federal courts, or to know that it may well result in trouble for him. What makes me happy, and excited, is the prospect of a threat removed–I’m glad that very soon Moore may no longer pose a threat to the judicial system of Alabama.

(N.B.: Watch this space for more on the morrow. I have some more to say about Moore, as well as the local and national media coverage of the fracas. But it can wait; tonight I just want to celebrate the very real possibility of Moore’s impending fall.)


OK, so I’ve been away for a while, as will be obvious to all three of my loyal readers. I’ve been visiting a lot with my friend L. from Detroit, and also celebrating my 21st birthday, which was yesterday (no alcohol was consumed, but I did have some very inordinately tasty bread pudding).

On Friday, I got to see a very fun, if spotty, production of Hamlet at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. The costuming was all over the place–doublets, late Victorian costumes, Norwegian commandos with AK-47s. And, I hate to be catty here, but the actor playing Laertes seemed like a terrible ham until I just realized that he has the misfortunate of this really weird, nasal voice that is really distracting. Max, who we saw at intermission, also pointed out that he disliked the direction of Polonius, who was being played completely buffo, without any of his underlying menace. All true. On the other hand, many of the actors were quite good — in particular, Hamlet (whiich is the important thing, of course), Horatio, Claudius, and Polonius (goofiness aside). And as always, the Shakespeare Festival is just a lovely place to go out for a night and see a play. Even if it were god-awful, I would have enjoyed the drive and sitting outside by the fountain. Yesterday we celebrated my birthday by going to see the fabulous film version of The Importance of Being Earnest at the Capri theatre and having dinner at the Warehouse Bistro in Opelika. And today, we are going to Cold Stone Creamery with Max to hang out and get some very tasty ice cream. All of this, I have to say, has been a lot more entertaining than, say, schlepping down to Bodega’s and giving myself alcohol poisoning with 21 shots.

Anyway, to come to the point of all of this reportage, another nice feature of my birthday weekend was that my mother returned home from Dallas bearing several cheaply-acquired computer goods (Office XP Professional for $60 — having relatives who work for M$ is very nice). So, for the next few days I’ll be working on hot-rodding my computer a bit. New wireless mouse and keyboard are already installed; I’ll be upgrading to Winders XP soon, and I’m going to go out shopping with some of my birthday money to pick up new gadgets to slap on to the system. It should be a pretty geektacular couple of days, so if I’m not around posting for a little while, that’s where I’ll be.

Hey, hey, DEA! How many patients have you jailed today?

OK, as promised, here’s the report from the past few days of cross-state rabble-rousing. The big event was a protest at the DEA offices in Montgomery, as part of a national day of direct action at about 60 DEA offices across the country, fighting back against the federal government’s nation-wide crackdown against medical marijuana dispensaries.

We drove up to Birmingham on Monday night to petition at the primary election polling places to get Dr. Jimmy Blake on the ballot as an independent candidate for Jefferson County Commission in the November general election. The sun was beating down on us all day, and the breeze couldn’t bother itself to blow for more than about five minutes. Nevertheless, the pay was good, and Vestavia Hills was a hopping place for getting signatures. One poll worker said she’d sign the petition because she supported Jimmy Blake, but she didn’t think we should be outside a primary polling place to petition. Well, OK, I thought, and I don’t think you all should be using state funds to subsidize the internal party business of the two major parties. I’d be glad to stop petitioning out front of primary polling places if Demopublicans actually had to go through the same shit to get on the ballot that independents do. But I held my tongue. A signature is a signature.

On Wednesday morning we drove down to Tuscaloosa and began to plan the big event for Thursday 6/6.

Thursday we met Floyd Shackleford in Wetumpka The Montgomery TV press had arrived thanks to the efforts of the media collective assisting ASA, and we got a chance for some great film of Floyd delivering our Cease & Desist order from 73% of the American people to the DEA. We held a banner (DEA: Stop Arresting Patients) and distributed the fake WANTED posters I put together for the event, while Floyd and I talked to the interviewers.

We had prepared Burma-Shave signs which we hoped to hold by the side of the road for passing motorists to see, but we arrived a bit late and all we had time to do was deliver the Cease & Desist order and talk to the press. We had also run off lots of copies of flyers to hand out to passing pedestrians, but the DEA building was off in a office building ghetto a bit off the main streets, so there was no foot traffic for handing out our flyers. I was a bit disappointed that it turned out to be more of a press conference than an actual demonstration. Nevertheless, the newsmedia coverage was a lot more sympathetic than I thought it would be, and it came together pretty well for something we had thrown together in less than a week of active planning. The day was beautiful, the drive home peaceful, and the remainder of the day restful.

Take action! Thanks to the publicity from participating in the national event, we are quickly gaining contacts around the state for future actions toward taking the high ground in the drug war. If you are in Alabama and would like to join the network we are developing of activists who are fighting to end the federal government’s assaults on states’ rights and compassionate care, get in touch and ask me to add you to the contact list.

Geekery Today gets favorable reviews in my absence

I have returned from three days trekking around the state–petitioning for an independent candidate in Birmingham, helping the UA Libertarians with a Operation: Politically Homeless in Tuscaloosa, and putting on a protest / press event at the DEA office in Montgomery. More on these events coming up soon.

In the meantime, however, check this out: the folks at The Weblog Review have been kind enough to review Geekery Today, and I received a 4 out of 5. According to my all-too-kind reviewer,

I learned a lot at Geekery Today, and with the amount of information available at this weblog, I could certainly see it turning into a magazine and hitting newstands everywhere.

Add some brain food to your daily dose of surfing and check this site out

Geeze, I think I’m going to blush.

End Sexual Misconduct in Alabama Prisons

I gave this speech on 28 February 2002 at the Alabama capitol building in Montgomery, as part of a press conference held by Amnesty International USA and Alabama state Representative Barbara Boyd (D-Anniston), in support of Boyd’s House Bill 136, which outlawed sexual conduct and harassment by guards in Alabama prisons.

In a society where men sexually assault one out of every five women, where rape and the threat of rape keep women in a state of fear, what can we do to defend the fundamental human rights of women and girls?

What can we do today, for women and girls who do not have time to wait for things to be fixed? What can we do right now for women’s human rights in Alabama?

Right now, the Alabama legislature has a choice to make. Right now, Alabama is one of only four states where there is no law protecting prison inmates from custodial sexual misconduct. Right now, there are over 1,700 female inmates in Alabama prisons. Most of them are guarded by male corrections officers in violation of international correctional standards. Because there are no legal protections against custodial sexual misconduct, women in Alabama prisons have been subjected to sexual extortion, rape, and other abuse by members of the correctional staff to whom they are entrusted.

Rape is a crime of power. It happens when the rapist wants power over his victim, and uses power to force sex. More than any other institution, the prison is a place in which the agents of the state are entrusted with power over other people. With that power must come responsibility.

Most people who are entrusted with this power do not abuse it. Most men would never even consider committing a sexual assault. But we must create an environment in which those who do abuse their power are held responsible. Without legal protections against custodial sexual misconduct, those few who do choose to abuse their power over inmates inflict suffering on their victims that can only be described as a form of torture.

Young people, students such as myself, have been taking the initiative all across Alabama to work against sexual violence. We have volunteered to support rape crisis centers and peer education groups to raise awareness and support the survivors of sexual violence. Through student government and activist groups, we have put our energies into improving safety on our own campuses. And now it is time for the legislature to take up the struggle with us. Last month, Representative Barbara Boyd introduced House Bill 136, which would finally enforce legal accountability for officers who abuse their power over inmates through sexual violence. We are one of only four states without such a law. For Alabama to fully protect the human rights of women, the legislature must approve this bill, as one more step in the fight against sexual violence, one more step in the struggle for women’s fundamental human rights.

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