Okay, I'm moved, living in Houston, and continuing to get settled in. But I'm not quite ready to get back to the daily blogging grind because I'm doing my first stage play in four and a half years, and I want to focus on that. I'm also getting settled into a new job, so there's that, too. But I'll get back to this soon. Actually, I've got a lot of facebook action going on, so I'll be adapting a lot of that stuff. Soon!
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Okay, I'm moved, living in Houston, and continuing to get settled in. But I'm not quite ready to get back to the daily blogging grind because I'm doing my first stage play in four and a half years, and I want to focus on that. I'm also getting settled into a new job, so there's that, too. But I'll get back to this soon. Actually, I've got a lot of facebook action going on, so I'll be adapting a lot of that stuff. Soon!
Posted by Ron at 6:25 PM
Thursday, January 16, 2014
It's time to drop the curtain for a couple of weeks so I can concentrate on moving back to my hometown to be with the woman I love. I mean, I might pop back in if something earth-shattering comes up, but probably not. If you follow me on facebook, I will continue with short posts, of course, and some of them, or some of my longer comments, or both might end up being posted back here.
In the meantime, go read AlterNet, which is where I get most of my links. And here's the Real Art theme song. See y'all again in February!
Posted by Ron at 2:25 AM
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Juggalos Are Suing The Government With The ACLU
For Classifying ICP Fans As A Criminal Gang
The Juggalos, a subculture of fans devoted to the music group Insane Clown Posse, announced Wednesday that they are suing the government for violating their civil liberties.
Speaking at a press conference with the American Civil Liberties Union Wednesday in Detroit, the Juggalos said their constitutional rights to expression and association were violated when the federal government classified the entire Juggalo fan base as a gang. Four Juggalo members, along with ICP rappers Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope, have initiated the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
You know, I don't really like ICP. I mean, they're okay. There are some things about them I like. The clown makeup is cool because I like clowns. And they have kind of an interesting sound, albeit highly derivative, although there are lots of other highly derivative bands I like. But in the end, they just don't do it for me. Their lyrics are too violent for my tastes, and I think they're misogynistic. And typically, I greatly prefer music that relaxes me these days, while ICP rattles my nerves.
But so what? Different strokes for different folks. They're artists, and artists go places society doesn't want them to go, because that's what artists are supposed to do. And they've reached a huge number of people who get something important to them from ICP's music. So while I'm not a fan, I do believe this band, all bands, have a perfect right to be who they are, and to create the kind of art they want to create. A necessary corollary of such a belief is that people have a perfect right to listen to whatever kind of music they want, whether other people like it or not.
That's why the FBI classifying ICP's ENTIRE FAN BASE as a criminal gang deeply disturbs me.
Yes, you heard me correctly. The federal government has declared an entire group of people, over a million the feds say, to be associated with one another for the purposes of committing crimes. Just because of a band they like. Indeed, a former student of mine, highly intelligent, a good man, definitely NOT a criminal, is now registered as a gang member with the FBI simply because of a band he he's into. No, seriously, I'm not making this up. And this isn't simply some paperwork we're talking about. Being classified as a gang member makes life more difficult--getting a legitimate job becomes more difficult, for instance.
So okay, with a million fans, it's beyond likely that some of them have committed some crimes, which I assume is the FBI's justification for this action. I guess I should count myself as lucky that Charles Manson didn't get Beatles fans classified as gang members. Or that the Rolling Stones' usage of the Hell's Angels for security at their infamous 1969 Altamont concert, which resulted in one of the Angels stabbing a concert-goer to death, would get me into trouble with the law for owning a copy of Tattoo You. Yes, I'm being facetious, but that's how fucking stupid this is.
ICP is just a band. You can have your opinions about whether they're any good, but that doesn't change the fact that they're just entertainers. With a lot of fans. Declaring these fans, all in one fell swoop, to be part of a criminal enterprise is nothing short of Orwellian: YOU WILL LISTEN ONLY TO APPROVED MUSIC OR YOU WILL BE DECLARED AN ENEMY OF THE STATE. This is something that ought to frighten everybody. The government is telling you what music you can and cannot listen to, and there are significant consequences if you ignore their edict. This is totally fucked up.
And it's Obama's FBI. Some liberal he is.
Posted by Ron at 1:13 AM
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
I posted a brief status update on facebook a couple of days ago: "Denying that racism exists is the new racism." Well, a far-right friend of mine from high school showed up and started throwing bombs, kind of pissing off other friends of mine. I mean, it was just a quickie thing for me. I hadn't intended it to be a big huge thing. But it became a big huge thing. So I jumped in:
Okay, gotta wade in here.'Nuff said.
When the left and the right talk about racism, they're talking about two very different, but related, social phenomena. The right, as far as I can tell, generally sees race, racial relations, and racism as a matter between individuals. How do we treat each other in interpersonal relationships? What kind of language do we use to describe people from other races? Etc.
In contrast, when the left talks about race, they're talking about not only what I just described, but also the sum total of all those attitudes expressed in terms of economic and political power. So the left sees racism in interpersonal terms as well as overall social and institutional terms. That is, how are blacks, as a group, faring in this country relative to whites? How are blacks treated by government institutions such as schools, courts, and police departments relative to how whites are treated? How does the mass media portray different races? How much of the economy do various races control? What kind of access to capital and finance do blacks have relative to whites? Is there really equal opportunity in the US? And so on.
It is my firm belief that, while interpersonal racism certainly exists and works both ways, that is, there are definitely non-whites who are total dicks toward and about whites in this country, just as there are white race-assholes, in the end, this sort of racism is far less consequential, especially to whites, than the institutional racism which generally concerns the left.
This is not to say that whites, especially the white working class and the white poor, are not oppressed. They are. There are some very legitimate and serious grievances a lot of whites have in this country toward the power centers that run it, and such grievances must necessarily be taken seriously by the left, if we are to have any credibility at all.
(Quick digression: I have become increasingly concerned in recent years with how all these reality shows are portraying the white poor and working classes. From Honey Boo Boo to Duck Dynasty to The Jersey Shore, all these shows portray the white working class as a bunch of stupid fucking hicks, wallowing in their own bullshit like pigs in slop. Meanwhile, fat cat media investors on Wall Street are profiting handsomely from it, and they couldn't give a rat's ass that they're humiliating fellow Americans simply because they suffer from ongoing economic oppression. The more I think about it, the more it enrages me. And that's just one example among hundreds of how the white working class is oppressed in America. And really, this isn't even the worst.)
So yes, whites, a lot of them, suffer, too, and neither party in Washington appears to care too terribly much about it, Elizabeth Warren types notwithstanding. But here's the deal. Whites are NOT suffering because of anti-white racism. Conservatives can throw around Al Sharpton's name all day long, but it doesn't make one bit of difference. In spite of the stupid and crazy shit he and his ilk have asserted over the years, it hasn't oppressed a single white American. Sure, it's pissed some people off, hurt their feelings, but so what? It's like I say about the word "cracker": big fucking deal, in the end, whites still run everything; why should I care what stupid bullshit The New Black Panthers are saying? Screw 'em.
That is, yes, racism goes both ways, but the truly insidious variety, chronic institutional racism coming directly out of the US power structure makes non-whites suffer in intolerable ways that whites simply do not experience.
Don't believe me? For your consideration:
1. Whites receive relatively lax discipline in schools compared to blacks, which impedes educational opportunity, which necessarily impedes equal opportunity overall.
2. Blacks continue to be incarcerated at a MASSIVELY higher rate than whites, and this doesn't have much to do with who's committing the crimes because as far as actual criminal activity goes, whites are as bad or worse. Indeed, there are now more blacks in prison than before the end of segregation, which is why some observers refer to the issue as "The New Jim Crow." Needless to say, imprisoning a huge percentage of the black population plays total havoc with the notion of equal opportunity.
3. Blacks continue to be much poorer than whites, and always suffer more than whites during economic recessions.
4. Al Sharpton and Honey Boo Boo aside, the mass media in this country continue to profit from perpetuating anti-black stereotypes across the board. And that affects EVERYBODY, so it aggravates the interpersonal racism which concerns both the left and the right, as well as making it easier to get away with the institutional racism about which the left talks.
5. Hell, this country even has a massive double standard on smoking good old fashioned marijuana. If you're white, you can definitely get busted for this, but it's WAY less likely than if you're black.
I could go on like this all day. This is the evidence. This is the truth. And it's such a massive body of evidence, documented ceaselessly, over and over again, that one has to truly have his head buried in the sand in order to deny it.
Posted by Ron at 12:53 AM
Monday, January 13, 2014
...is enough to get me into a frame of mind such that blogging is virtually impossible. So no real post tonight. Friends from work were seeing me off because tonight was my last shift at the restaurant I've worked at for six years here in Metaire. It was fun; we talked about God, and LSD, and aliens, and ghosts. Actually, pretty soon, what with moving back to Houston, I'll have to go on yet another hiatus. But not just yet. Anyway, more blogging tomorrow.
Posted by Ron at 2:41 AM
Sunday, January 12, 2014
From The Nation:
Against fierce Palestinian resistance, one of the Middle East’s most vital and cosmopolitan cities was laid to ruin. Sharon’s forces flattened West Beirut with indiscriminate shelling, leaving streets strewn with unburied corpses. With each passing day, disease and famine spread at epidemic levels. In August, the day after the Israeli cabinet accepted US special envoy Philip Habib’s proposal for the evacuation of the PLO, Sharon’s forces bombarded Beirut for seven hours straight, leaving 300 dead, most of them civilians. The Israeli sociologist Baruch Kimmerling wrote that the raid “resembled the attack on Dresden by the Allies toward the end of World War II.” Sharon even requested an additional paratrooper brigade to obliterate the PLO forces besieged in the city, earning a rare rebuke from Begin, who worried that his defense minister would completely destroy Habib’s efforts to resolve the crisis.
PLO forces withdrew from Lebanon, according to Habib’s guidelines, but the worst was yet to come. Sharon had stymied a proposal for the introduction of multinational peacekeepers capable of preventing reprisals against the defenseless Palestinian refugees who had been left behind. Thus the stage was set for the most heinous massacre of the war. Following the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, the Christian warlord who was supposed to serve as Sharon’s handpicked puppet president, Israeli forces helped usher Christian Phalangist militias into the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Shatila, then surrounded by the Israeli military, providing them with intelligence and operational support. Sharon and many of his officers were well aware of the Phalangists’ intention to murder as many women and children as they could. After days of slaughter, as many as 2,000 civilians were dead, with countless others raped and brutalized.
Whatever your opinions about Israel's decades long and continuing occupation of the Palestinian territories, it cannot be denied that Ariel Sharon was a monster. He was a butcher as a military commander, just as he was a butcher while in government. He committed crimes against humanity on more than one occasion. He turned Palestinian lands into hopeless and desperate ghettos. He carefully and knowingly instigated at least one intifada, which he then used as an excuse to kill again. He probably did more than any other Israeli to push his nation, and ours, too, to some extent, toward its current inflexible and extremist attitude toward the Palestinians. His legacy of hate and violence will no doubt continue for decades to come.
I will not mourn a monster. The world is a much better place without Ariel Sharon. I'm glad he's gone.
Posted by Ron at 12:15 AM
Friday, January 10, 2014
Posted by Ron at 1:20 AM
Thursday, January 09, 2014
Oh, but you don't have it in your budget to tip your server?
Then it would seem that you, in fact, don't have the money to treat yourselves after all.
My friends, if you have 35 bucks to drop on a meal, but you don't have the 7 dollars to leave a 20 percent tip, then what are you doing in a restaurant in the first place? You need to hire a financial adviser (well, maybe see if you can get a free consult) because it's just plain unwise to blow your entire net worth on a couple of entrees at Applebee's. Save your 35 dollar nest egg, run to Walmart, buy a box of spaghetti for a dollar, and enjoy a home cooked meal.
Here's the deal. In the end, it is the restaurant industry which bears the lion's share of responsibility for this awful situation. Decades ago, they used lobbying muscle to get laws passed allowing them to pay servers well below minimum wage. Indeed, I almost never receive an actual paycheck. In theory, the $2.13/hr. I get is eaten up by payroll taxes, or so I'm told, resulting in no paycheck. I will grant that it is very kind of my employer to pay my fairly low taxes for me, but the bottom line, really, is that I am effectively NOT PAID by the business which ostensibly employs me. Instead, the customer pays me directly, not my "boss." The restaurant industry, through legalistic sleight-of-hand, and clever manipulation of American social custom, has effectively pulled off the ultimate capitalist coup: free, or virtually free, labor.
Good for them. I guess. But the enormous problem with this, I mean, apart from the fact that the restaurant industry somehow gets free front-of-house labor, which is appalling in itself, is that servers are, in essence, lowered to the level of the homeless street person who wipes your windshield at intersections. That is, we must grovel for these sinisterly euphemized handouts known as "tips." And it really is groveling sometimes. At any given moment, there is absolutely no guarantee that we will be paid for the work we do. A grumpy customer, a misunderstanding, ill prepared food, any one of a thousand different scenarios, all completely out of the server's control, might result in lost wages. So you've really got to be on the ball with your ass-kissing or you might not get the money you've rightfully earned. Needless to say, this is totally unjust, and it needs to change, the sooner the better.
But just because this is all mostly the restaurant industry's fault doesn't get the bad tipper off the hook. Even though stiffing your waiter is perfectly legal, and even though restaurants have created the situation making it all possible, when you leave a bad tip, or no tip at all, YOU ARE STEALING MY LABOR. No way around it. You're benefiting from my service without any financial compensation for me. It's larceny, albeit larceny for which you will never be prosecuted. But just because a crime is legal doesn't mean it's not a crime. You are stealing my labor. And that makes you a thief. A filthy piece of shit. Scum of the earth. And if you ever sit in my section again, I WILL REMEMBER WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO ME. And you will get the service you deserve.
Don't try to tell me my service was "bad." I'm really good at what I do, or I wouldn't have lasted in this field for as long as I have. That is, bad servers get fired. So talk to management, if you must. Get another server if you've ended up with one of those bad waiters on their way out the door. But don't concoct fantasies of how bad my service was in order to justify saving a few bucks. You're ripping me off. Plain and simple. I worked for you, and you're fucking me over. So fuck you. I promise, I swear, that your next experience with me really will be bad.
What comes around goes around, mother fucker.
Wednesday, January 08, 2014
From the NY Times, courtesy of a facebook friend:
It’s difficult to say definitively whether significant injuries over all are on the rise, and it doesn’t matter. They’re too prevalent, period. And the N.F.L. needs to go far beyond its efforts thus far to assess and reconsider anything that might be affecting player safety: what kind of equipment, head to toe, they wear; the give of the turf on which they play; the way they train in the off-season. Maybe there should be weight limits. There should certainly be more rest between games and there should probably be fewer of them, though there’s been talk of the league’s moving in the opposite direction.
Posted by Ron at 2:08 AM
Tuesday, January 07, 2014
From Phys.org courtesy of a facebook friend:
The bitter chill gripping North America is a result of Arctic air that has spilled southwards, and global warming may be a cause, an expert said on Monday.
Arctic air is normally penned in at the roof of the world by a powerful circular wind called the polar vortex, said Dim Coumou, a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) near Berlin.
When the vortex weakens, the air starts heading southwards, bringing exceptional snow and chill to middle latitudes.
The weather shift is also helped by changes in a high altitude wind called the jet stream.
What drives the polar vortex is the difference in temperature between the Arctic and mid latitudes, said Coumou.
Once sharp, this differential has blurred in recent years as the Arctic—where temperatures are rising at about twice the global average—warms up, he said.
"We've seen this type of cold spell more often lately in recent winters, in Europe but also in the US," Coumou said in a phone interview.
It's been holding steady here in Metairie at 28 degrees for the last few hours. Weather.com tells me it's going to bottom out at around 22 degrees somewhere around six in the morning. Needless to say, it's damned cold, a whole helluva lot colder than it usually is in these parts, even in the dead of winter as it is now. Another article I looked at said this is the coldest it's been in the US in twenty years. So, while such a cold snap is definitely within the scope of normal temperatures over the course of several decades, it appears that climatologists are blaming this blue Norther on global warming.
If you are in any way inclined to be confused by, or even dismissive of, the notion that extremely cold weather can be the result of our planet getting hotter, click through and read the article. It's a pretty simple explanation, really: more heat makes the weather do things we almost never see, and this includes temporary, geography-specific drops in temperature, which makes sense given that the atmosphere isn't much more than a bunch of big huge chemical reactions.
So global warming, climate change, whatever you want to call it, is no longer, and hasn't been for several years, something that will happen in the future. It's happening right now. And it's just going to get worse. And it's our fault. Well, okay, it's really capitalism's fault, but we, average ordinary people, participate, whether we want to do so or not. But you get my drift. Super storms, a rise in the number cat five hurricanes, catastrophic heat waves, gigantic cold waves, all this stuff is evidence of severe disruption of normal weather patterns catalyzed by the continual increase in average global temperatures.
And it's all just going to get worse. Capitalists, who are the most short-sighted class in the history of humanity, will do nothing, nothing at all, which might sacrifice quarterly earnings. And they've duped some thirty percent of the population into laughing about how cold weather disproves global warming. This was going to be hard to fix from the get-go, given how the entire economy is based on greenhouse gas emitting fossil fuels. But the obstinacy of the so-called "one percent," coupled with the knee-jerk denial of any and all science contradicting cherished conservative beliefs, makes it virtually impossible.
We're totally screwed. And I'm afraid it's too late.
Posted by Ron at 12:41 AM
Sunday, January 05, 2014
Friday, January 03, 2014
From the New York Times, Krugman blogs, courtesy of Eschaton:
Disinformation on Inequality
The point here, as on so many other economic issues, is that we are not having anything resembling a good-faith debate.
We could have a debate about whether rising inequality is a problem, and whether measures intended to curb it would do more harm than good. But we can’t have that kind of debate if the anti-populist side won’t acknowledge basic facts – and it won’t. In his piece Stephens trashes Obama, accusing him of making a factual error when he did no such thing; then proceeds to commit just about every statistical sin you can imagine in an attempt to minimize the rise in inequality. In the process he leaves his readers more ignorant than they were before. When this is what passes for argument, how can we have any kind of rational discussion?
You know, there are still decent arguments conservatives can make in support of conservatism. But they've got to drop some cherished conservative notions in order to do so. I mean, some of their most central and foundational concepts have been proven just plain wrong in recent years.
The financial implosion of 2008 demonstrated once and for all that markets don't self-regulate, which means that government MUST intervene in the economy in some ways. We've been cutting taxes on the rich for so many years now that economists have been able to study the effects, many times at this point, and these studies clearly show that tax cuts for the rich provide virtually no economic stimulus--of course, that also means we know for sure now that tax cuts do not create greater tax revenues, which is a silly thought in the first place, but there used to be what seemed like a reasonable argument supporting it, just not anymore. We've also learned in recent years that cutting government spending during a recession makes the recession worse, and cripples the economy's ability to grow. Okay, we already knew that, but conservatives, in their hysterical anti-deficit mania, have been ALL ABOUT cutting government spending, for years and years. But now we know, for sure, that this is incredibly foolish in a weak or shrinking economy. And so on.
So how have conservatives responded to all this recent information severely undermining their understanding of the way the world works? Did they get together and reevaluate? Did they make heartfelt attempts to formulate a new conservatism, one that is firmly rooted in the real world? No, of course not. Instead, they doubled down on their now obvious bullshit. And when you point out to them that they are expecting you to believe what is obvious bullshit, they get REALLY ANGRY. And that's their new game. That's how they've responded to a total collapse in what passes for conservative "philosophy." They just keep on believing fiction, anyway, and there's hell to pay if you don't respect their "beliefs." The press, of course, is totally useless in this area, accepting conservative bullshit as "the other side," lending it legitimacy for reasons about which I can only speculate.
As Krugman asks, "how can we have any kind of rational discussion" under these circumstances? Well, we can't. And throw in evolution and global warming, to boot, and the situation becomes even worse. You just can't do business with people who believe in fiction, and who expect you to believe in fiction, too. It's a pretty grim situation, actually, with the conservatives opting for fantasy instead of modifying their ideas to fit reality. I have no idea what to do about it.
But I do know one thing: it's damned rude to expect me to believe total and obvious bullshit; when conservatives treat me this way, I have absolutely no obligation to be polite or respectful when I respond.
Posted by Ron at 1:30 AM
Thursday, January 02, 2014
Advocates tend to argue that charter schools provide competition for floundering public schools and high-performing options for parents. However, national studies repeatedly have shown that charter schools produce about the same measurable outcomes as public schools while also demonstrating some disturbing consequences:
- Charter schools tend to segregate students by race and class.
- Charter schools under-serve special-needs students, English-language learners and the highest poverty students — all populations that require significant proportions of public school budgets.
- Charter schools contribute to student and teacher churn by creating revolving doors for students and teachers between charter schools and traditional public schools, which are under added pressure of always accepting students leaving those charter schools.
People don't really understand what charter schools are. If you listen to the cacophony of dogs chasing their own tails known as "the education debate," you probably imagine that they're some sort of administrative solution to our "failing" public schools, one that presumably "gets the government off the people's backs," harnessing the power of "competition" or some other nonsense, making it sound like the magic of capitalism comes into play somehow, and we do love our capitalism in the US, don't we. But, of course, that's completely ridiculous.
Charter schools are a grand series of educational experiments. The idea is to free schools up from traditional administrative rules, in hopes that some charter, somewhere, will be able to come up with ideas that we can then use in the public schools. That's all. Not a solution, just a bunch of experiments, pure field research in education. And really, by itself, the charter concept isn't such a bad idea. Just as long as we understand exactly what they are, and use them accordingly, instead of waving them around as demagogic rhetoric aimed at dismantling the public school system we already have.
Unfortunately, charter schools are FAR more successful as demagoguery in "the education debate" than they are as, you know, experiments in schooling. Because the reality is that charter schools generally perform as well or worse than their public counterparts. Actually, charters perform worse when you consider that they have the luxury of choosing their own students, unlike the public schools, which have to educate everybody who comes in the door. Any idiot can appear to be successful running a school if they get to pick and choose who they're going to be educating, and that's essentially what's going on with charter schools, for the most part. So, by and large, the charter movement, which has been around for at least a decade now, is a total failure.
The idea is to improve the public schools. But the best they can do is equal the public schools, and, at that, with advantages the public schools don't enjoy. Nonetheless, education "reformers" continue to offer them as a solution. And people believe them. I am now convinced, more than ever before, that, in spite of all the lip-service offered about how important learning is, nobody in this country really gives a shit about it. So we continue to blow millions and millions of dollars on a failed experiment, which is irrationally deemed "successful," all while condemning public schools as "failing," even though they do just as well with both hands tied behind their backs.
All of this, of course, coupled with total unwillingness to deal with education's REAL problem, the pathologies of poverty, will ultimately lead to a worse America. Actually, that's happening right now. But that's what we get for having our heads up our asses. We get the country we deserve.
Wednesday, January 01, 2014
Tuesday, December 31, 2013
From the Los Angeles Times courtesy of a facebook friend:
In 2009, a majority of Democrats and Republicans took the evolution side of the argument, with 64% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans agreeing. In the latest survey, Democratic belief in evolution was about the same, 67%, but Republican support had fallen to 43%. A 10-point gap between supporters of the two parties had grown to a 24-point gulf.
What’s most striking is that the growing partisan gap seems to reflect politics, itself, rather than other factors. While Republican ranks include a high percentage of evangelical Christians and Democrats attract many secular voters, those religious differences didn’t explain the gap between the two parties. Even when Pew researchers factored out race, ethnicity and a person’s level of religious commitment, partisan differences on evolution remained, they found.
Yet more evidence that American conservatism has now devolved into tribalism. That is, if religious attitudes cannot be blamed for such a stark difference in acceptance of evolution, then it MUST be partisan, which, of course, makes absolutely no sense at all.
The science has nothing to do with political ideology. It's either real, or it isn't; politics don't come into play. But that's what we have here with American conservatives. Reality itself is up for grabs, and choosing the correct reality has become a litmus test for inclusion in their tribe. A big huge chunk, a majority maybe, of people who self-identify as conservative are simply not rational. Instead, they're making decisions about how the world works based on deep emotion and identity. So deep, in fact, that they have, in their minds, separated themselves from the rest of the nation, seeing their tribe as unique and special, the only "real" Americans in America.
In short, if you want to hang with the right wing, it would behoove you to embrace evolution denial, which will open doors, put you on the fast track to success within the tribe, and mark you for sure as one of them. I would say this is ironic, given the right's longstanding grievance against "identity politics," but conservatives don't do irony, so I'd be wasting my breath.
Posted by Ron at 12:27 AM
Monday, December 30, 2013
From Media Matters for America:
A six-part series by New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick destroyed several myths about the September 11, 2012, attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, myths often propagated by conservative media and their allies in Congress to politicize the attack against the Obama administration.
Since the September 2012 attacks, right-wing media have seized upon various inaccurate, misleading, or just plain wrong talking points about Benghazi. Some of those talking points made their way into the mainstream, most notably onto CBS' 60 Minutes, earning the network the Media Matters' 2013 "Misinformer of the Year" title for its botched report.
Kirkpatrick's series, titled "A Deadly Mix In Benghazi," debunks a number of these right-wing talking points based on "months of investigation" and "extensive interviews" with those who had "direct knowledge of the attack." Among other points, Kirkpatrick deflates the claims that an anti-Islamic YouTube video played no role in motivating the attacks and that Al Qaeda was involved in the attack.
I'm pretty sure that pretty much all conservatives who care about the issue will simply say, "Well, oh, it's the New York Times, which is liberal. Move along. Nothing to see here," and go about believing whatever they want. As usual. Of course, the NYT is not liberal. It's conservative, in fact, but let's not quibble.
At any rate, this is QUITE delicious!
Posted by Ron at 2:44 AM
Sunday, December 29, 2013
Monday, December 23, 2013
Sunday, December 22, 2013
From Business Insider:
We Saw 'Wolf Of Wall Street' With A Bunch Of Wall Street Dudes And It Was Disturbing
There's a lot of talk about how Wall Street has "changed" since the financial crisis. Compliance is up, bonuses are down, the holiday parties are boring.
But you wouldn't necessarily know that from what these guys were cheering at.
When Belfort — a drug addict who later attempts to remain sober — rips up a couch cushion to get to his secret coke stash, there were cheers.
Then, intercut with Popeye eating spinach, Belfort is irrevocably high on Quaaludes (or "ludes," a muscle relaxer) and dumps coke into his nose to remedy the situation — more cheers.
The worst, though, mild spoiler alert ... At one point later in the movie, the feds get Belfort to wear a wire to implicate others at his firm. Meeting with his No. 2, Belfort slides over a piece of paper: "Don't incriminate yourself. I am wearing a wire."
And the crowd goes wild. Don't rat! Stand by your firm!
This brings back to me what ended up being a pretty significant moment in my ideological transformation from conservative to liberal. Back in 1988, I spent my summer break from college working at a stock brokerage firm in downtown Houston. Full of Reagan, God, and capitalism, I thought, at first, that the whole thing was pretty cool. By the end of the break, however, I was just grossed out by what I had experienced.
In short, I saw the heart of our economic system up close and personal, and all it did was make me feel dirty and sleazy.
Individually, many of the brokers for whom I was working came off as pretty nice guys, family men just trying to make a living. There were caricatures, of course, too, guys who were very likely high on coke all the time, guys who were arrogant a-holes lording over and cussing out anybody whose butt they weren't already kissing, but they seemed to be a minority. So far, so good. The problem, then, was that I eventually figured out that this minority actually embodied the overall values of the office. The brokers all called each other "Gekko," the investor-villain in Oliver Stone's 1987 film Wall Street, with delight, admiration, and smiling faces; what decent people condemned these brokers clearly believed to be right and good. They were the culture of Wall Street manifesting in my home town, and it didn't matter how nice any of these guys were on a one-to-one basis: collectively, they were the kind of people who would sell their own mothers if there was some money to be made.
No, seriously. Scum of the earth. Years later, when those tapes of Enron traders gloating about how they had shut down California's energy grid and made millions doing it came to light, it was absolutely no surprise to me. That's what these people are. Ruthless sleazy pieces of shit who couldn't care less if their ripping you off puts you into the street. And some of them are very nice people.
My experience at Oppenheimer hadn't quite congealed in my mind by the next November, when I voted Republican in my first presidential election. But by 1992, I was voting for Democrats, and I never looked back. Indeed, as the 90s progressed, and the Democrats, too, began to kneel before the masters of Wall Street, it became clear to me that the so-called liberal party was just as much a part of the problem as the Republicans. I continue to vote for Democrats from time to time to this day, but it's always like making a deal with the Devil for me. The culture of Wall Street has stained our entire body politic. Neither party is immune to its seduction and control. And our nation is on the brink of ruin because of it.
And that's what this writer experienced while watching Wolf of Wall Street with actual Wall Street wolves. The true face of what has sickened America. Greed and contempt. A black hole where the soul, compassion, and decency ought to reside. It's kind of like watching WWII movies and rooting for Hitler. But like I said about the Enron traders, this is in no way surprising to me. I already know what capitalism is about.
What gets me is how many Americans have been duped over the years into believing that what these people do is somehow good. They're all fools. And they would hate themselves if they truly understood the evil they support.
Posted by Ron at 1:43 AM
Friday, December 20, 2013
In other words: virtually all of this nation’s class-rigidity still remains in the U.S. South, even after the Civil War. New Dixie has replaced the aristocracy’s black slaves of Old Dixie, by the local (white) aristocracy’s institutionalized bigotry against poor people, now of all ethnic groups. What used to be their purely racist bigotry has, it seems, devolved into a crushing, pervasive, classist, bigotry in the South.
It might also be worth noting that, even today, the purely racist tendency of the aristocracy is so great that it often is strong enough to outweigh their greed—discrimination is practiced even when it's unprofitable. So: the traditional leftist "explanation" for conservatism (that it's purely based on greed) is false. The understanding that leftists have of rightists is basically the mirror-image of the way Fox News characterizes leftists.
To me, of course, this comes as absolutely no surprise. Conservative economics do nothing but run the economy into the ground. Consequently, in states where conservatives have total control, the economy has been run into the ground. And nowhere do they have more control than the South, America's third world nation within a nation. Needless to say, this bolsters the connection I've been trying to make for many months now between modern conservatism and old fashioned racism. While not directly connected in any sort of conscious ideological sense, they are, in the US, two sides of the same coin: there are masters, who do as they please, which is their God given right, and there are servants, who are to shut up, get in line, and do as they're told. In some of the most important ways, the new aristocracy isn't too terribly different from the old one.
The South has risen again. And it's coming to your town soon, if you're not living there already. It seems to be our inevitable fate: neo-feudalism.
Posted by Ron at 1:56 AM
Thursday, December 19, 2013
I don't rightly know, but here's what I said to one on facebook earlier tonight:
Matthew, it is completely clear to me that you are so deeply enmeshed in libertarian "philosophy" that it would take hours on end to even get you acknowledge that I might have a point. So I'm not even going to try. Instead, I've got a couple of simple observations.Excelsior!
The mythology you're espousing has been very popular for the last thirty years or so, by and large, because it fit very neatly several cultural and economic cross currents occurring after the sixties. Alienated Southern whites, whose Democratic Party had recently embraced civil rights, were picked up by the GOP, who were pushing the "welfare queen" mythology in order to appeal to pre-existing racist sentiment. Within a very short span of time, government assistance went from popular to unpopular once the symbolic face of welfare became black instead of white--all those lazy black people taking my tax money so they can eat steak and pick up their government checks while driving Cadillacs.
At around the same time, shipping products around the globe became really cost effective, which allowed manufacturers to shut down operations in the US, and open up in third world nations to take advantage of super-cheap labor. This resulted in the first of NUMEROUS waves of layoffs, which devastated the American working class, and broke the labor unions' backs. Without the unions, and without good jobs that could provide a middle class standard of living, American workers were increasingly, and literally, totally on their own. Struggling to pay the bills, maxing out credit cards, doing anything they could to stay afloat, and with virtually no help from the "liberal" Democrats, many white working class voters across the nation embraced the GOP's politics of racial resentment, learning to hate the "welfare queen" just as white Southern voters were doing--these were the so-called "Reagan Democrats."
So it all reached a critical mass in the 90s. Republican anti-welfare, pro-deregulation, pro-corporate rhetoric became a massive onslaught, capturing the imagination of the ruling elite, that is, the press, DC insiders, and both political parties. Clinton, an economically conservative Democrat, then colluded with the new GOP majority in both houses to "end welfare as we know it," while at the same time unleashing Wall Street to do, well, whatever it wanted. So we lived the myth for approximately a decade or so, as Washington became the libertarian's friend. Only the tech bubble, and then the housing and credit bubbles disguised the fact that they were running the nation into the ground. But reality has a way of catching up, and the financial collapse of 2007, from which we have not at all recovered, essentially destroyed whatever "intellectual" foundation on which all this libertarian mythology was based.
That is, markets are NOT self-regulating, and the government must necessarily intervene in the economy in various ways in order for it to function. This is a fact. 2007 proved it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of dead-enders hanging around who still want to party like it's 1999, in spite of all the real-world evidence proving how wrong they've been the entire time.
But here's the deal. Your myths no longer capture the public imagination in the way they used to do. You tell people to go get a job, and all that's there is McDonald's. You tell people to be responsible for themselves and it's obviously impossible. And the rich just keep getting richer. People aren't idiots. The country is falling apart. There are no opportunities for enormous sectors of the population. "Go get a job" is just insulting now. And people know it. Whether you like it or not, libertarianism is on the way out. It's a joke "philosophy" that never worked in the real world, and has brought our once prosperous nation to the brink of ruin.
It may not happen until I'm an old man, but your point of view WILL be swept into the dustbin of history. People don't believe the earth is flat anymore, either.
Posted by Ron at 1:07 AM
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Punched For Saying 'Happy Holidays'
The so-called "War On Christmas" is getting out of hand, as Salvation Army bell-ringer Kristina Vindiola found out recently in Phoenix, Ariz. She wished a woman "Happy Holidays" as she stood outside Wal-Mart collecting funds for the charity. The stranger responded, "Do you believe in God? You're supposed to say Merry Christmas," and punched her in the arm, reported ABC 15.
More here, with video.
Just bear with me for a moment; I'll come to the point quickly enough.
I love the American flag. Indeed, I love America. But in that short span between 9/11 and the US invasion of Iraq I found myself facing a dilemma. I don't know if this was actually the case, but all those American flags flying VIRTUALLY EVERYWHERE for months and months, on cars, in yards, at businesses, on suit coat lapels, as television bumper graphics, just everywhere, struck me as being far more about getting revenge for the terrorist attacks than about loving America. I mean, if you asked anyone at the time why they were flying the flag so often, he or she was very likely to say it was for love of country. But it was almost impossible for me to take it out of context: our national pride had been deeply wounded, and someone, lots of someones, actually, were going to PAY. And pay they did. They're still paying, in fact.
Here was my dilemma. Even though the omnipresent overflowing of stars and stripes was quite cool in its own way, reminding me, even, of the 1976 bicentennial celebration of my childhood and other good vibes, it was clear to me that this was about supporting wars I strongly opposed. And it kind of pissed me off that the symbol I love had been culturally twisted to mean something it does not mean--freedom and democracy, needless to say, are not the same thing as blood and revenge. My country had gone crazy, it seemed to me, re-branding itself as a nation of warriors hellbent on killing Muslims, any Muslims, because a very few Muslims had killed some Americans.
Sadly, I never resolved this dilemma. I just had to suck it. Insanity, grief, and national emasculation had stolen my treasured symbols of citizenship, making them mean their near opposite. Very fortunately, however, this ended up being a temporary state of affairs. As our revenge-fueled imperialistic wars on Muslim nations faltered and began to drag on and on, the flag-waving hysteria began to subside, and, finally, disappeared altogether. I could once again love the flag without worrying about how doing so might be misinterpreted.
So what the hell does this have to do with the fictional "War on Christmas"? Quite a bit, actually. I love Christmas, and I love saying "merry Christmas." But as this stupid "war" has dragged on and on over the years, it has become impossible for me to speak the phrase without thinking that, for a certain segment of the American population, I am somehow fighting in that "war" on their side. But there ARE no sides because there is no "war"! I mean, if I'm on a side at all, it's the side that says this is f'ing stupid. There's no freaking war on Christmas, and, for that matter, you can say whatever the hell you want, "happy holidays," "happy Chanukah," "season's greetings," whatever. It doesn't matter. No "war," and freedom of speech. Just enjoy Christmas however the hell you want.
It just pisses me off that I can't say or hear "merry Christmas" without feeling like I'm caught up in forces beyond my control, or like the phrase now means something totally counter to what I've always thought it meant. Because, really, for these "War on Christmas" people, "merry Christmas" is now an angry call to arms, not a celebration of peace on earth and good will toward men. It's almost exactly like my dilemma with the flag in the early 2000s. Angry, ill informed, totally misguided Americans are doing their damnedest to redefine something I love. I hate it.
Hopefully, as with the bloodthirsty flag-waving of a decade ago, this, too, shall pass, and I'll have Christmas back the way it was before. But right now, unfortunately, such a cease-fire in the "War on Christmas" doesn't seem likely. Not as long as Fox News believes it's good for ratings.
Posted by Ron at 2:14 AM
Monday, December 16, 2013
From the Houston Press:
Second Week of Museum of Dysfunction VI Features
Comedy, Romance and a Handshake That Never Ends
"Carpe Diem" is Latin for "Seize the Day", which could be the motif of Mildred's Umbrella Theatre Company, as it produces 20 short plays, each one to appear for just three evenings. These have been selected from more than 200 submissions, and divided into two separate evenings of ten plays each; the second set is now playing. The Wordsmyth Theatre Company assisted in the production.
The most sophisticated play is Epiphany by David MacGregor, as Ronald Reeder and Jennifer Decker portray a comfortably married couple, urbane and at ease - l'm sure they do the NY Times crossword puzzle in ink. The actors self-directed, and created an interesting vignette of a mid-life non-crisis, with a witty, revelatory twist at the end.
So, while it's a positive review, that is, one that said good things about me and the show overall, it's actually kind of a lousy review, in that it's yet another guy who doesn't really seem to know what a theater critic is supposed to do. Or what makes theater good or bad, for that matter. I do miss living in Austin, reading their alt tabloid weekly, the Austin Chronicle, which generally always did a nice job of hiring people with theater degrees to do their stuff.
Aaahh, I should stop my bitching--lame critics are apparently always going to be around. Jennifer and I got some VERY good notice on this, and the scene was, in fact, really good, even if I do say so myself. So, just like that, I'm on stage again, after four years, and doing well. It's good to be back in the saddle. And there's definitely more to come when I move to Houston next month.
I'm excited for the first time in a long while. Actually, a lot of it has to do with Jennifer.
Photo by Gentle Bear Photography
Ronald Reeder and Jennifer Decker as an urbane mid-life couple in
Museum of Dysfunction VI from Mildred's Umbrella Theatre Company
Posted by Ron at 11:42 PM
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Well, it's just an eight minute scene with my girlfriend Jennifer for her theater company's annual showcase of very short plays, but it is significant in that I haven't been on stage since 2009 or so. But I'm going to lay off the blogging until I get back on Monday.
If you're interested, and in Houston, here's some info on the show.
Tell me to "break a leg"!
Posted by Ron at 11:52 PM
From a New Orleans Times-Picayune editorial:
Gov. Bobby Jindal's decision to reject the expansion of Medicaid looks worse and worse. A new study by the Commonwealth Fund shows that Louisiana will lose out on $1.65 billion in federal dollars in 2022 alone. The federal government will be paying 90 percent of the cost of the Medicaid expansion that year. If the state agreed to the expansion, its share for the year would be $280 million.
The governor has said that Louisiana can't afford even that much. But the co-pay for Medicaid is a small fraction of the $2.2 billion Louisiana is projected to spend on incentives to attract private business in 2022, according the study.
Our governor's bogus explanations for rejecting the Medicaid expansion just don't add up: Louisiana has the money to do this, and it's chump change compared to the billions Jindal's government lavishes on private business--whatever happened to the "free market," anyway? No, this isn't about economics. It's about the man who named himself after a Brady Bunch character appealing to Tea Party sadists across the nation for when he finally gets around to running for President in the 2016 GOP primaries.
Yeah, that's right: Bobby Jindal is totally willing to kill poor Louisianans, to let them die because they don't have health care, in order to look more conservative to crazy right-wingers who don't even live here. That is, the guy's never been serious about being the governor. Baton Rouge has always been nothing but a stepping stone to greater glory, a carefully staged performance for the far-right voters he really wants to represent.
He's one sick, evil, narcissistic, twisted dude. Not only is he an embarrassment to the state, but he also makes his and my entire generation look bad, which is no small feat given how lame Gen X has turned out to be. Bobby Jindal totally sucks ass.
Posted by Ron at 12:43 AM
Monday, December 09, 2013
From UpWorthy via a facebook friend:
A Walmart-Friendly PR Firm Creates An Ad
So Full Of Propaganda It's Actually Hilarious
Now comes this interesting "ad" that hides behind the group name "Worker Center Watch." And, according to The Nation, the website in the ad ... wait for it ... is owned by the former head lobbyist for Walmart itself, Joseph Kefauver. So, like the ad says, don't worry about people trying to improve their lot in life. Just go buy stuff to feel better.
Click here to watch the video.
Oh, this cracks me up! Apparently, we shouldn't pay any attention to anti-Walmart protesters because they're dirty filthy hippies who get drunk and eat pizza for breakfast. Well, I guess that line of reasoning worked back in the 60s. But really, this could only be more clichéd if they dismissed the fair wage movement by telling us it's an African-American conspiracy to take away our white money. Actually, that one's still effective even today. Maybe Walmart should play the race card. What have they got to lose?
Posted by Ron at 1:08 AM
Saturday, December 07, 2013
From the Houston Chronicle via a friend on facebook:
Man pushing disabled vehicle dies after getting hit by car
A man died Thursday night when another driver hit him as he was pushing his disabled car along a road in east Harris County.
Arlin Keith Gulley was killed in the incident, which occurred about 6 p.m. on Miller Road No. 2 at Miller Road No. 1, according to the Harris County Sheriff's Office.
Arlin was there my first week teaching. He was a sophomore in my public speaking class. A sort of rebel and non-conformist, I liked and respected him immediately. And he liked and respected me, coming back the next year to take my theater arts one class. Of course, being a bit like James Dean when you're in high school isn't easy. That first year his mother made me late for the Bauhaus concert because she kept me after open house, in tears, and at her wit's end about her son's behavior. I wasn't sure what to say to her. Arlin was always extraordinarily well behaved in my class. I told her that she shouldn't worry about the long term: her son was obviously a good person, and highly intelligent, and he would do well with his life.
All that was over a decade ago, and, as teachers and students so often do, Arlin and I lost touch with each other after he graduated. But I never forgot him. We were kindred spirits, he and I, with a shared disdain for conventional norms, and a love for music and social criticism. I am saddened tonight to hear about his passing. The question I've asked myself everytime one of my students has died over the years, a question to which I will never have an answer, popped once again into my head: why do I get to live so much longer than these young people who have touched my life? It isn't right. The Arlin I remember was so full of life, and he made my life better for having known him.
This is why teaching is such dangerous work when you're doing it correctly. While society freaks out about standardized tests, bad unions, and "failing schools," teachers, if they're any good at all, continue doing what they've always done, reaching out and forging relationships with the kids who pass through their classrooms year after year, and all relationships necessarily come with risk. Of course, with risk comes reward.
I was privileged and honored to have taught Arlin Gulley. I affected his life, for the better, I think, just as he affected mine. He will not be forgotten.
Posted by Ron at 11:56 PM
Friday, December 06, 2013
Posted by Ron at 1:20 AM
Thursday, December 05, 2013
“On the one hand, government lavishes unprecedented economic and social privileges on its elites, taking an axe to programs benefiting those who fall behind. At the same time, the distinction between high and low artistic culture having been erased, the result has been a single standard for qualitative judgments derived from the commercial marketplace.”
It’s hard not to avoid making a connection, Halle writes. “[T]he decline of musical literacy and the large-scale forms which they make possible, the increasing demand for immediately catchy tunes, striking sonorities and flamboyant stage presentations pairs with the impatience of the elites classes” in “the demand for investments to show an immediate short-turn return. Elites have long since jettisoned the expectation for steady growth embodied in the now retired Goldman-Sachs slogan, ‘long-term greedy,’ having come to accept and even embrace … ‘the erosion of the planning function, and any rationality beyond the most crudely instrumental.’ ”
In the present era, austerity is taken as the panacea for both the economy and the arts. “The solution to a supposed ‘culture of poverty,’ ” Halle writes, “consists of work requirements and benefit reductions to break the ‘cycle of dependency’ and promote ‘self-reliance.’ The longstanding crisis in classical music is treated by the imposition of market discipline requiring institutions to devise ‘working business models.’ This means in practice supporting themselves predominantly by ticket sales, something which virtually no major orchestra or opera company in history has done successfully and which would require jettisoning most of the defining virtues of the medium.”
I've spent a lot of time over the years wondering how it was that, even though I grew up in a Republican and Southern Baptist home in a well-to-do Texas suburb, I ended up as a far-left bleeding heart liberal. Of course, everyone's lives are rich tapestries, but this one might be the straw that broke the camel's back for me, ideologically speaking. That is, while I was studying theater as an undergrad, I had a dawning realization that my understanding at that time of the way the world works rendered valueless that which I loved, and love, more than anything else in the world, the arts. From then on, my days as a conservative were numbered.
Neoliberalism, trickle-down, Reaganomics, supply-side economics, free market fundamentalism, conservative economics, whatever you want to call it, is awful for all sorts of reasons, but possibly the worst of them is that what is pushed ostensibly as being about money, taxation, business, the economy, and so on, is, in fact, a philosophy of life in disguise. It's a very simple philosophy, and embraced by not only our ruling establishment, but also millions of rank-and-file citizens: value is assigned only to that which can be bought and sold--conversely, if something cannot be bought or sold, then it has no value.
Personally, I think the horrific and self-destructive nature of such a philosophy is self-evident. But we're so far gone as a people in our embrace of this concept that you may not see it like I do. So think of it this way. If Mozart cannot fill the seats in an auditorium, while making a profit, then Mozart has no value, at least, none that the establishment, which lives by this philosophy, is willing to take seriously. Really? Mozart has no value? If you honestly think that, then you're a fool. You discard your own humanity and the humanity of every person you know. You have more in common with sheep, pigs, and cattle than you do with the human race. But this is how our society behaves. Or think of it this way. Jesus told the rich man to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. And now we have this filthy and heretical "prosperity gospel." There are no more sacred spaces. All that's left is dollars and cents. We might as well bathe in the sewers, we so devalue ourselves as a people.
As writer Chris Hedges has asserted, commerce cannot be society's sole concern. But I think I prefer how the character John Keating put it in Dead Poets Society: "We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for."
If we don't change course right now, if we don't reject this disgusting philosophy that reduces all things to their dollar value, there's just no point in continuing. Because we're not animals, not robots, not things. We have a right to live as human beings.
Posted by Ron at 2:22 AM