Monday, June 30, 2003


U.N. draft report: No link between Iraqis, al-Qaida

"Nothing has come to our notice that would indicate links between Iraq and al-Qaida," said Michael Chandler, the committee's chief investigator.

The committee first heard of alleged ties during Secretary of State Colin Powell's February presentation to the Security Council ahead of the Iraq war.

"It had never come to our knowledge before Powell's speech and we never received any information from the United States for us to even follow-up on," said Abaza Hassan, a committee investigator.

Click here.

Bush Misled US Into Iraq War--An Official Finding?

On June 25, during the House debate on the intelligence authorization bill, Harman delivered an informal progress report on her committee's inquiry. Her remarks received, as far as I can tell, little media attention. But they are dramatic in that these comments are the first quasi-findings from an official outlet confirming that Bush deployed dishonest rhetoric in guiding the United States to invasion and occupation in Iraq. This is not an op-ed judgment; this is an evaluation from a member of the intelligence committee who claims to be basing her statements on the investigative work of the committee.

Click here.

As I have said continuously for months now, President Bush and his puppet-masters have lied to the American people, have manipulated our 9/11 sympathies and sense of patriotism, in order to aggressively invade an essentially defenseless nation. Not only does the President need to be impeached and thrown out of office, he also needs to be behind bars. His crimes are enormous, practically beyond belief: America does not want to believe, but we can hide our heads in the sand only for so long.


Sunday, June 29, 2003

A Few Thoughts from a Layman on
the Lawrence and Garner v Texas Case


Of course, this is about the Supreme Court decision, handed down last Thursday, that overturned 1986's Bowers v Hardwick decision and ruled anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional. Why examine the dissenting opinion instead of the majority opinion? It’s not too far fetched to imagine that Scalia’s views represent the intellectual apex of conservative thinking on the issue of homosexuality and the law in the United States. His dissent, most likely, will form the philosophical basis for any and all future challenges to the new “law of the land” concerning gay sex. Or maybe I’m writing this just because I like to kick an arrogant conservative when he’s down. Either way, his opinion is worthy of analysis.

Before I go any further, I have to state that, for me, while considering Scalia’s opinion, the Bush v Gore case looms largely in the background. That is to say, despite Scalia’s self-described “originalist” judicial philosophy (in other words, deciding cases according to the plain language of the Constitution, or according to the framers’ “original intent”), despite others (including the President) describing him as a “strict constructionist” (a term originally coined by William Rehnquist to mean a judge who “in constitutional matters will generally not be favorably inclined toward claims of either criminal defendants or civil rights plaintiffs”), Scalia is, in fact, a judicial activist when he feels like it.

For those of you who don’t know, “judicial activism,” as far as I can tell, refers to judges going above and beyond the absolute letter of the law when deciding cases. Most of the landmark civil rights decisions of the 20th century were made by a couple of US Supreme Courts filled with activist judges: school desegregation, Miranda warnings, abortion rights, access to contraception, the exclusionary rule, and a host of other civil rights that Americans now take for granted were created by the Supreme Court. Generally, the term “judicial activism” has been a conservative battle cry. Liberals rarely, if ever, seem to have a problem with activist judges. One wonders if “strict constructionists” or “originalists” are as concerned with judicial philosophy as they are with the dominance of conservative views. As Thomas Sowell, senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, has observed, the distinction between “judicial activism” and “judicial restraint” is murky, at best, in the public discourse:

Like many catchwords, "judicial activism" has acquired so many different meanings as to obscure more than it reveals. Yet it is not a term that can simply be ignored as intellectually "void for vagueness" for at the heart of it are concerns about the very meaning and survival of law. Abandonment of the term not being a viable option, clarification becomes imperative.

"Judicial activism" and "judicial restraint" raise logically obvious but often ignored questions: Activism toward what? Restraint toward what? Are judges deemed to be activist or restrained toward (1) the current popular majority, (2) the legislature representing the current popular majority, (3) the statutes passed by present or past legislatures, (4) the acts of current of past executive or administrative agencies, (5) the meaning of the words in the Constitution, (6) the principles or purposes of those who wrote the Constitution, or (7) the legal precedents established by previous judicial interpretations of the Constitution?

Activism or restraint toward one of these does not imply the same toward all the others, and may in some instances imply the opposite toward some other or others.

Of course, Sowell, a conservative, goes on to bash activism on the bench, but his point that concepts of judicial philosophy are easily twisted by popular rhetoric is unassailable. The truth is that not a single sitting US Supreme Court Justice is literally a “strict constructionist” or an “originalist.” All of them have ruled in ways that go beyond the plain, clear language of the Constitution: every time the citizen “rights” of corporations, originally granted by the Supreme Court in the 1886 Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific case, are upheld by the Court, the justices (including the so-called “strict constructionists”) are engaging in “judicial activism;” the incomprehensible, party-line decision for 2000’s Bush v Gore case is a clear-cut abandonment of the framer’s “original intent.”

It is my belief, therefore, that Scalia is generally a “strict constructionist” when considering issues that are traditionally liberal; however, when considering traditionally conservative issues, “judicial activism” isn’t so bad. This kind of conservative hypocrisy is certainly not a rarity. For instance, “state’s rights” usually means “state’s rights” to do what conservatives want them to do, not what states may actually want to do themselves. Another example is how quickly the free market fundamentalists will move to bail out a massive corporation in trouble. Basically, it appears that conservatives adhere to the old adage, “do as I say, not as I do.”

Keep that thought in mind as you read my meditations on Scalia’s dissent.


From the LAW.COM Dictionary:

stare decisis
: (stah-ree duh-sigh-sis) n. Latin for "to stand by a decision," the doctrine that a trial court is bound by appellate court decisions (precedents) on a legal question which is raised in the lower court. Reliance on such precedents is required of trial courts until such time as an appellate court changes the rule, for the trial court cannot ignore the precedent (even when the trial judge believes it is "bad law").

For the Supreme Court, stare decisis means that current decisions are bound by past Supreme Court decisions--the Court can only overrule its own past decisions under very specific circumstances. Scalia asserts that, in the Lawrence case, the Court has thrown precedent to the wind. In order to illustrate the majority’s inconsistent use of the principle of stare decisis, Scalia tries to show that the standards used by the Court’s majority to overturn the Bowers decision can also potentially be used as standards for overturning 1973’s abortion-legalizing Roe v Wade decision.

According to Scalia, these are the standards:

1. The precedent has been eroded by subsequent cases.
2. There has been substantial criticism of the original decision.
3. The original decision hasn’t induced “individual or social reliance” that counsels against overturning.

Not being a lawyer, I’ll have to take Scalia’s word that the first point is true: abortion rights have also been eroded by subsequent cases (he cites Casey v Planned Parenthood as an example). I agree with him on the second point—both Bowers and Roe have been heavily criticized for years.

The third point is where Scalia gets a bit wacky. To him, there is no “individual or social reliance” on abortion rights. He asserts that banning abortion would only be a return of the status quo; women could still cross state lines to get abortions. On the other hand, Scalia believes that because sodomy crimes are still prosecuted, there is a “social reliance” on the anti-sodomy laws.

However, American women DO rely on abortion rights—traveling great distances is no obstacle to a man of Scalia’s means, but most women cannot so easily hop a flight or a bus to a more civilized state. His assertion that banning abortion would cause no social disruption is absurd (leave it to a man to always know what’s best for women). Perhaps Scalia is right about the courts and prosecutors relying on anti-sodomy laws, but “reliance” here is used in a perplexing way, especially because Scalia, himself, notes that there are not many sodomy prosecutions. At the very least, Scalia shows a possible reliance of the judicial system on anti-sodomy laws, but certainly not a social reliance. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that gay people engaging in sodomy inside their homes cause absolutely no social disruption at all. Furthermore, given that there is no demonstrable social harm caused by sodomy whatsoever, it seems to follow that anti-sodomy laws do nothing but waste the court’s time, energy, and money. That is, the courts, in fact, do not rely on anti-sodomy laws; rather, the laws are a legal hindrance.

Saying that overturning the anti-sodomy laws would disrupt the legal system is like saying that ending crime would disrupt the legal system. It makes no sense at all. Reading between the lines shows that Scalia is far more concerned with tradition (that is, conservative values) than justice.

On “Fundamental Rights”

Because I’m not a lawyer, I’m a bit out of my element on this one, but I wanted to make a brief comment. Scalia states that the right to engage in sodomy has not been established as a “fundamental right,” and, therefore, cannot be considered in terms of due process rights.

Well, okay.

A “fundamental right” is, by precedent, a right that is “deeply rooted in the history and tradition” of the United States.

I think that I agree that sodomy is not a right that is “deeply rooted in the history and tradition of the United States.” However, it ought to be. That the American Psychology Association long ago determined that homosexuality (and therefore gay sodomy) is perfectly normal and healthy human behavior, is something that some human beings do without harm to themselves or others, appears to be irrelevant to the law, or, at least, Scalia’s view of the law. It also appears to be irrelevant to Scalia that the single most influential social force in American life, television, for some years now, has been representing homosexuality in a favorable light: public attitudes, in fact, have changed radically since Bowers. I think it is fair to say that homosexuality (and by extension, sodomy) is now deeply rooted in, at the very least, the tradition of the United States, if not its history.

But what do I know? I’m no lawyer.

Perhaps we need a Constitutional amendment to guarantee our privacy rights, what with guys like Scalia out to harpoon them from the bench. Then again, Scalia isn’t really a “strict constructionist” all the time; maybe, one day, he’ll use a little “judicial activism” to strengthen our rights.


On “Rational Basis Review”

Rational basis review, that is, weighing the interests of the individual versus the interests of the state, is the standard that the Supreme Court uses to decide the Constitutionality of laws that do not infringe on “fundamental rights.”

(Aside: here, Scalia claims to not know what “acting in private” means—this is very troubling and suggests that he has absolute contempt for the concept of privacy rights.)

In order to show that Texas’ anti-sodomy law survives rational basis review, Scalia compares gay sex to other actions that, even though sexual in nature, are not gay sex: prostitution, adult incest, adultery, obscenity, child pornography, and bestiality (echoing Republican Senator Rick Santorum’s “man on dog” scenario fears). In other words, the state has an interest in its citizens’ morality. Scalia ignores that there are some perfectly good reasons that are not moral in nature for prohibiting most of his example behaviors. For instance, prostitution is often very harmful to the women involved, both physically and emotionally (although it seems that there is a better argument to be made for legalizing and regulating prostitution, but I digress); incest can result in offspring with severe birth defects; child pornography is child abuse; bestiality is animal abuse. Never does Scalia demonstrate a state’s actual need for anti-sodomy laws; he simply implies that such laws may provide a sense of moral comfort for people who don’t like homosexuals—all Scalia really establishes is that the state regulates some sexual activities.

Well, duh.

Scalia’s defense of government’s ability to regulate its citizens’ morality evokes a troubling question: what morals should the state embrace? I’m sure that Scalia’s personal opinions are fairly obvious; it is clear that he prefers traditional morals—that is to say, Christian morals. Indeed, Christian morals are the traditional default choice of American morality legislation, of American politics. For instance, it has long been known that a candidate who does not declare that he is a Christian cannot be elected President—once he’s in the Oval Office, he must then publicly show his adherence and devotion to Christian morals, or there can be dire consequences. Most politicians feel the same pressure. The result is that the vast majority of US politicians give, at the very least, lip service to Christian values. Legislation and policy implementation reflect this political-Christian imperative. That’s why most of the time, morality legislation in America has a decidedly Christian slant. The net effect is that forcing Christian morals on citizens is ultimately the same thing as forcing religious values on citizens, a clear violation of the First Amendment in spirit, if not actually in law.

On Equal Protection

Basically, Scalia rejects Justice O’Connor’s widely held view that homosexuals are a distinct category of citizens. He compares gay sexual behavior to the behavior of nudists—nudists, as a class of people, are also discriminated against, in their case by public decency laws; it is Constitutionally permissible to discriminate against some groups of people.

However, Scalia displays either absolute ignorance of or absolute contempt for contemporary psychological views on homosexuality: sexual orientation is not simply a choice of lifestyle; denial of one’s own sexual orientation often results in severe emotional and psychological consequences. Nudism is clearly a choice made by people who, if they wanted to do so, could easily don clothes and fully interact with and participate in mainstream society. For gays, this is not so easy—sexual orientation is intertwined deeply with human identity; passing as heterosexual, being accepted by straight society is not as simple as putting on a suit (or black judicial robes, for that matter).

This nudist thing is just an awful comparison in any case. A better comparison is to imagine nudity in the home being outlawed. Of course, that’s ridiculous, just as outlawing in-home sodomy is ridiculous. But then Scalia claims to not understand the concept of “acting in private.” Simply put, Scalia thinks of homosexuality as something other than what it actually is—for him, gayness is simply something some people like to do, rather than an integral part of some people’s identities. He is at odds, again, with reality.

However, I must say that I believe he is quite right about the ramifications here for gay marriage: if gays are now Constitutionally recognized as a special group worthy of equal protection under the law, then they MUST be allowed to marry. O’Connor’s statement that the decision is not to be taken as a legalization of gay marriage contradicts her own reasoning. As Scalia puts it later in his conclusion:

…the Court says that the present case "does not involve whether the government must give formal recognition to any relationship that homosexual persons seek to enter." Do not believe it. More illuminating than this bald, unreasoned disclaimer is the progression of thought displayed by an earlier passage in the Court's opinion, which notes the constitutional protections afforded to "personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education," and then declares that "[p]ersons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexual persons do." (emphasis added). Today's opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned. If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is "no legitimate state interest" for purposes of proscribing that conduct; and if, as the Court coos (casting aside all pretense of neutrality), "[w]hen sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring,"; what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising "[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution"? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry. This case "does not involve" the issue of homosexual marriage only if one entertains the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court. Many will hope that, as the Court comfortingly assures us, this is so.

Way to go, Sandra!

On Scalia’s Soapbox

Scalia’s conclusion shows his true point of view:

It is clear from this that the Court has taken sides in the culture war, departing from its role of assuring, as neutral observer, that the democratic rules of engagement are observed.

That is to say, medical and scientific opinion is, to Scalia, simply “culture,” a big load of propaganda supporting the “so-called homosexual agenda.” Again, Scalia denies the real world and asserts his own sense of intellectual purity as a “strict constructionist.”

Of course, Bush v Gore echoes here loudly, once again.

It is arguable as to whether “judicial restraint” or “originalism” or whatever you want to call it serves justice better than does “judicial activism.” However, one thing is clear: Scalia does not really adhere to his own stated judicial philosophy—he is only an “originalist” when it comes to considering liberal views; conservative causes, such as getting Bush into the Oval Office, get a more activist approach. It’s kind of funny, actually. The debate about “activism” versus “restraint” has been going on since the 1960s; it now appears that “restraint,” as a philosophy, has prevailed. The irony is that nobody actually seems to believe in it.


Friday, June 27, 2003


God's Wrath

So, are all the new and weird global weather patterns we've been experiencing lately the result of global warming? Hell, no! Not for Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network "news" division. They think the more reasonable explanation is that God is angry about the "Road Map" to peace in Israel:

Since its modern establishment, the state of Israel has been a hotbed of controversy. Jews and Palestinians have long battled over who should rightfully inhabit the land of Israel, a land promised to the Jews 4,000 years ago. In the Bible, the book of Genesis details the covenant God made with the descendants of Abraham.

"On that day, the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, 'to your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river of Euphrates.'" - Genesis 15:18.


On April 30, 2003, America was positioned as the catalyst to jump-start the so-called "solution" to the Middle East crisis. As U.S.-backed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was sworn in, the "Road Map" peace plan was set in motion.

The very next day began the worst month of tornadoes in American history, more than 500 in a single month. Normally, 1,000 tornadoes hit the United States each year, but this year, in just eight days in May, 375 twisters ripped across the heartland of America.

What a bunch of total loons!

Click here.

Wait a minute...isn't the Euphrates in Iraq? Does this mean that, at some point in the future, radical Zionists and Christian fundamentalists will be demanding a Greater Israel that extends from the middle of Egypt to the middle of Iraq? I mean, that's what the Bible says, right?

Damned crazy fundamentalists...


From the Dean of Men at Pat Robertson's Liberty University:
Dress Code - "The Liberty Way"

You may wear casual or athletic clothes and sneakers after 4:30 pm in academic buildings except classes. You must be in class dress for class even if it is scheduled after 4:30 pm. You may wear casual or athletic clothes and sneakers to the dining hall, however you may not wear shorts or sweats at anytime in any building other than dorm rooms or athletic facilities.

With pics! Click here.

Thanks to FARK for the links.


Israeli Army decides to close file on death of U.S. peace activist

My buddy, Brian, sent me this link and asks, "Anyone seen this in the US media?" Then he states, "Disgusting and infuriating."


And I have not seen this in the US media...

According to the activist, Corrie was wearing a bright jacket and climbed onto the bulldozer shovel-plow and began shouting at the driver.

"There's no way he didn't see her, since she was practically looking into the cabin. At one stage, he turned around toward the building. The bulldozer kept moving, and she slipped and fell off the plow. But the bulldozer kept moving, the shovel above her. I guess it was about 10 or 15 meters that it dragged her and for some reason didn't stop. We shouted like crazy to the driver through loudspeakers that he should stop, but he just kept going and didn't lift the shovel. Then it stopped and backed up. We ran to Rachel. She was still breathing."

Click here.



Or is it sodomy on Scalia? I'm not sure...I'm a bit bleary-eyed after reading his dissenting opinion in Lawrence et al. v. Texas. Anyway, I had planned to try to find some cracks in his reasoning and write about them during my usual late-night blogging session tonight, but I was too ambitious. It took over an hour of close reading and note taking and I'm just too drained to make any comments yet. So that's on tap for tomorrow: I do have a few comments from a layman's point of view that I want to make--Scalia is extraordinarily rational and doesn't hide behind weird legal terminology, but he does make some assumptions that seem to be more from the stance of a conservative's world view, rather than from that of a disinterested judge; I'm going after his assumptions.

I will say this. My ex-lawyer buddy, Alan, has stated that, while he doesn't always agree with Scalia's decisions (Alan, I think, prides himself on being neither liberal nor conservative), Scalia does write the clearest opinions coming out of the Supreme Court. I think Alan's right. Scalia's opinion, while mentally taxing to read, was actually pretty enjoyable in as much as following his arguments are concerned.

Here are the opinions, if you want to read them yourself. Tomorrow, I'll have some commentary on Scalia's dissent (Thomas also wrote a dissenting opinion, but, as usual, it is pretty short and without much substance).

In the meantime, I'm going to post a couple of links for the interim. See above.


Thursday, June 26, 2003

Appropriate Michael Savage's Name For Your Own Purposes

Uber blogger Neal Pollack writes:

Radio-talk-show and weekend MSNBC host Michael Weiner, otherwise known to his half-dozen viewers and listeners as "Michael Savage," has filed a lawsuit against three websites to punish them for making critical comments about him. According to Savage's lawsuit, the sites, Take Back The Media, Michael Savage Sucks, and Savage Stupidity, have appropriated his name without his permission for commercial purposes, among other alleged crimes. This, of course, is nonsense.


We need to fight back, as a community, in defense of these three websites. That's why I'm proposing an Appropriate Michael Savage's Name For Your Own Purposes day on Thursday, June 26.

That's right. On Thursday, June 26, any of you with a website should appropriate Michael Savage's name for your own purposes. Flood The Zone, as the Republicans like to say. Savage won't be able to sue all of us. If he tries, he'll look like a bigger idiot than he already does.

For more, click here.

As a patriotic blogger, myself, I must participate. So here goes:

Supreme Court strikes down
Texas' ban on Michael Savage sex

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court struck down Texas' ban on Michael Savage sex today, ruling that the arrest of two Houston-area men having Michael Savage sex in their bedroom was an unconstitutional violation of privacy.

The 6-3 ruling reverses course from a ruling 17 years ago that states could punish homosexuals for what such laws historically called deviant Michael Savage sex.

Laws forbidding Michael Savage sex, once universal, now are rare. Those on the books are rarely enforced but underpin other kinds of discrimination, lawyers for the two men had argued to the court.

Click here.

So, in the state of Texas, and in all of the United States, it is now, by law, a right for people of the same gender to participate in Michael Savage sex. This has been a long time in coming. The general American culture has come a long way since the last time the Supreme Court ruled on this topic back in 1986.

I'm sure that agit-prop Nazi radio bastard, Michael Savage, will be very happy now that he can engage in his own brand of love making.

More on this decision from me later.



Jacob's Ladder (Not in My Name)

By Chumbawamba

Jacob's ladder
Like the Sermon on the mountain says dumber got dumb
Hellfire and brimstone swapped for oil and guns
When we're pushing up daisies we all look the same
In the name of the Father, maybe, but not in my name
On this Jacob's ladder, the only way up is down
One step from disaster, two to make the higher ground
Jacob's ladder
And they sent him to the wars to be slain, to be slain
And they sent him to the wars to be slain
A million lifetimes left dying in the sun
In the streets down in Whitehall, dogs pickin' at the bones
Nine eleven got branded, nine eleven got sold
And there'll be no one left to water all the seeds you sowed
On this Jacob's ladder, the only way up is down
One step from disaster, two to make the higher ground
Jacob's ladder
And they sent him to the wars to be slain, to be slain
And they sent him to the wars to be slain
And they sent him to the wars to be slain, to be slain
And they sent him to the wars to be slain
On this Jacob's ladder, the only way up is down
One step from disaster, two to make the higher ground
On this Jacob's ladder, the only way up is down
One step from disaster, two to make the higher ground
Jacob's ladder
Puppy dog leader sooner or later
We'll dig up your cellar and try you for murder

For mp3 download, click here.

Thanks to Future World Funk for the link.


Artists against imperialism

THESE programmes played a vital role in the anti-war movement. First they allowed creative people to express themselves physically against the war. They rose above the condition of being mere spectators helplessly watching on television the savage attacks on Iraqi cities. Second, while the war was bound to pass - and it has done so even sooner than expected - the expression of the artists will remain as an indictment of the U.S.-led aggression just as Picasso's indictment of the Nazis and General Franco has survived the Second World War, Hitler's Germany and Franco's Spain. In fact, while Francisco Goya's anti-war works still attract hundreds of viewers, Chitta Prasad's anti-imperialist art has a museum dedicated to it in Prague surviving long after British colonialism in India died.

Contemporary art is not only effective as a condemnation of acts of inhumanity whenever they are committed; it is part of the ongoing struggle against it. Each such work of art represents a strategic attack in the battle to defend humanity and culture, while the genre as a whole has a powerful role to play in speaking out the truth and in exposing the real interests behind imperialist wars and the massive barbarism involved in carrying their mean designs forward.

Click here.

To see Picasso's Guernica, click here.

Thanks to ZNet.


For Iraqi Thespians
The Show Must Go On

Like most things in Iraq, the Iraqi theater is in disarray. The al-Rashid was looted and torched in the wake of the battle of Baghdad. It sits next door to the blackened ruin of Iraq's former Information Ministry. Of the building's nine floors, only one theater hall and a few small rooms escaped the vandals.

Sami Qaftan, one of Iraq's most prominent actors and playwrights, took it upon himself to salvage what he could of the theater, one of 12 in the Iraqi capital. "We managed to protect one hall. The stage and seats are intact. Luckily, the sound and lighting systems were not damaged," he said. Qaftan and others take heart that they're part of a budding revival of Iraq's once rich arts and culture scene.

Click here.


Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Rejecting Consumerism's Twisted Answers

I read a NY Times article syndicated in the Houston Chronicle yesterday that kind of made me cringe:

Straight, hip and moisturized, metrosexuals making a mark

By his own admission, 30-year-old Karru Martinson is not what you'd call a manly man. He uses a $40 face cream, wears Bruno Magli shoes and custom-tailored shirts. His hair is always just so, thanks to three brands of shampoo and the precise application of three hair grooming products: Textureline Smoothing Serum, got2b styling glue and Suave Rave hairspray. Martinson likes wine bars and enjoys shopping with his gal pals, who have come to trust his eye for color, his knack for seeing when a bag clashes with an outfit, and his understanding of why some women have 47 pairs of black shoes. ("Because they can!" he said.) He said his guy friends have long thought his consumer and grooming habits a little ... different. But Martinson, who lives in Manhattan and works in finance, said he's not that different.

"From a personal perspective, there was never any doubt what my sexual orientation was," he said. "I'm straight as an arrow."

So it was with a mixture of relief and mild embarrassment that Martinson was recently asked by a friend in marketing to be part of a focus group of "metrosexuals" -- straight urban men willing, even eager, to embrace their feminine sides. Convinced that these open-minded young men hold the secrets of tomorrow's consumer trends, the advertising giant Euro RSCG, with 233 offices worldwide, wanted to better understand their buying habits.

For more Madison Avenue vomit, click here.

My first gut response to this blatant piece of fashion industry info-tainment disguised as news was something like, "I prefer it the way it was back in the day, when gay was gay, straight was straight, and everybody with a good sense about such things was pretty sure who was who." Of course, I don't really care one way or the other--there have always been hyper-masculine men and there have always been effeminate men: humanity is all the more interesting for including both kinds, along with all the different nuances between the two extremes. No, I kind of like the concept of the dandy. After all, I'm an actor, and what actor doesn't appreciate a sense of style?

What actually disturbs me about this article is that it reminds me of a depressing trend that has been gradually worming its way into American culture for some years now: feminist writer Susan Faludi has demonstrated in her book Stiffed that masculinity in America, traditionally defined in terms of social utility, is slowly being replaced by what she calls "ornamental masuclinity," irrelevant gender characteristics for irrelevant people. Faludi doesn't observe this trend only in terms of mall-hopping dandies: the macho yang causing suffering in tandem with the effeminate yin is seen in the endless Hollywood parade of pointless bad boy role models such as Howard Stern, Eminem, and Vin Diesel--to Faludi, it doesn't matter if it's refined style or badass attitude; masculinity is becoming, quite literally, a simple put-on.

Probably the best way to understand how this redefining of masculinity functions is to consider the central premise of Betty Friedan's classic work of feminist literature, The Feminine Mystique. In short, Friedan shows how middle class women in the 50s and 60s lived rather pointless lives, without jobs or a sense of participation in society--women of that era were seen by men as mothers and sex objects: gotta look good for my man, gotta go shopping, gotta go to the salon, gotta get dinner ready, gotta change the diapers. This drab existence as housemaids and objects of beauty is what gives the book its ironic title. There was no "mystique" for women in those days. For women, life sucked, and was without meaning. The passtimes and pursuits in which the mass media encouraged women to engage were hollow, shallow, and ultimately sad. Depression is the only logical outcome for any rational human being in such a situation. Fortunately, the women's liberation movement soon arose and offered meaning and a satisfying way of life to millions, many of whom had no idea beforehand how miserable they were.

Is this situation starting to sound a bit familiar?

Neo-liberal economics, which have been used for over twenty years as the justification for both enriching the already wealthy and squeezeing the middle class and the poor, has been pushing vast numbers of American men into irrelevancy. "Downsizing" has become such a common occurance in the US by now that most people don't even seem to think about the long-term psychological effects of forced uselessness on a couple of generations of American men. "The Feminine Mystique" is now the masculine mystique. Corporate America sees financial opportunity: fill the void with the same kind of phony images and consumer fixes that were successfully thrust upon American women decades ago.

Here's how Faludi puts it:

In a culture of ornament, manhood is defined by appearance, by youth and attractiveness, by money and aggression, by posture and swagger and props, by the curled lip and flexed biceps, by the glamour of the cover boy and by the market-bartered individuality that sets one astronaut or athlete or gangster above another. These are the same traits that have long been designated as the essence of feminine vanity--the objectification and mirror-gazing that women have denounced as trivializing and humiliating qualities imposed on them by a misogynist culture. No wonder men are in such agony. At the close of the century, men find themselves in an unfamiliar world where male worth is measured only by participation in a celebrity-driven consumer culture and awarded by lady luck.

The more I consider what men have lost--a useful role in public life, a way of earning a decent living, respectful treatment in the culture-- the more it seems that men are falling into a status oddly similar to that of women at midcentury. The '50s housewife, stripped of her connections to a wider world and invited to fill the void with shopping and the ornamental display of her ultrafemininity, could be said to have morphed into the '90s man, stripped of his connections to a wider world and invited to fill the void with consumption and a gym-bred display of his ultramasculinity. The empty compensations of a feminine mystique are transforming into the empty compensations of a masculine mystique, with a gentlemen's cigar club no more satisfying than a ladies' bake-off.

Be a real man; kick some ass. Look good; the ladies just love a stylin' guy. See me in my EXTREME gas-guzzling off-road vehicle? Aren't I cool? Aren't I a real man? Look at my gym-sculpted abs; aren't I hot? Look! I wear the same underwear as Michael Jordan--I'm as manly as him!

It's so pathetic. I'm disgusted by it all.

Sadly, Faludi points out how most American men have absolutely no understanding of what is happening to them (in fact, it seems to me that many men, subconsciously feeling a need to prove their manhood, have been attracted to the more manly, badass Republican Party, which, ironically, is the key facilitator of the American man's slide into irrelevancy)--confusion complicates the misery. The only way out of this gender hell is a nationwide uprising against the neo-liberal reforms that have turned American labor, and, therefore, American men into so much waste. Alas, I don't see that happening any time soon.

That's why it is so very important that the relatively few Americans who are able to see this stealthy rise of the new masculine mystique scream like freaks about it whenever they get the chance: "metrosexuals" are not the latest hip, urban trend; the concept is simply a consumerist ploy designed to make a lot of cash off of the suffering of American men.

For that matter, Eminem sucks, too.




R T Rankin's "We Don't Care" from 1985:

MP3 download OR streaming audio.

And Now

My former student Lance's band, Forever Failing, performing their song "Intentions." Click here for MP3 download.


Tuesday, June 24, 2003

University admissions can use race, court rules

Click here.

A sharply divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that universities can give minority students a boost in admissions, saying affirmative action still is needed to ensure that future leaders are culled from a pool of "talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity."

But the high court made clear that racial quotas remain unconstitutional and said race cannot be the determining factor in who gets into college.

I don't really think that affirmative action was ever supposed to be about quotas in the first place--this was simply an over-reaction born of a fear of lawsuits. This decision, as far as I can tell, allows colleges and universities to continue considering race, but does away with the widespread urge to make it one of the absolutely most important factors in admissions. That should hush for a while the whiney white men who falsely believe that they've been getting the shaft. Not a bad day's work for the increasingly conservative Supreme Court...

For more of my thoughts on affirmative action, click here.



A ZNet post by Andre Gunder Frank nicely tying together the theft of the White House, the attack on civil liberties, American empire, and the news media:

Be wary of conspiracy theories, beware of real conspiracies, and be aware of a grab of power. It has happened in Washington and its instigators are pursuing a policy of faits accomplis that attracts ever more people to jump on the band wagon. Pat Buchanan, however, says that it has already offended much of the American public. The Bush administration has made a real Coup d'Etat and achieved its apparently unknowing acceptance by America and the World. Even Hitler and Mussolini came to power by electoral routes and Stalin and Latin American dictators had to resort to violence to make their coups d'etat. Bush and his small coterie required none of these to get to the seat of power. Since then, he has repeatedly and grossly violated his oath of office to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

For more tales of American Nazification, click here.



My previous post about the possible Inca system of binary style writing brought back some childhood memories. In the 1970s, before the concepts were swallowed up by the all-inclusive "new age" movement, para-normal events and activities were all the rage: the Bermuda Triangle, UFOs, psychic phenomena, the Yeti, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and, of course, alien influence on ancient civilazations such as Atlantis, Egypt, the Mayans, and the Incas. God, how I loved Leonard Nimoy's "In Search Of," which, I believe, once did a pretty cool episode on the Inca civilization. The speculation about alien involvement with the Incas is the same kind that you get when UFOlogists ponder Egypt: how did this ancient people accomplish all these great feats? In addition to the Incas' extraordinary system of roads and their advanced mathematics, this binary style alphabet will only add fuel to the X-Files fan fire.

Of course, even though I love it, such speculation is entirely bullshit. The ancients were able to accomplish great things because they were smart--the Greeks, for instance, managed to figure out that the world was round long before Columbus, and calculated the circumference of the Earth within a margin of error that was less than 10%. Furthermore, while I believe that there is probably extraterrestrial life that is more technologically advanced than humankind, why the hell would they want to come here, kidnap people, and examine their genitals? It makes no sense...

Perhaps that's why Frank Zappa, always the rationalist, wrote this satirical song in the mid 70s:

Inca Roads

(from the album One Size Fits All)

Did a vehicle
Come from somewhere out there
Just to land in the Andes?
Was it round
And did it have
A motor
Or was it
Did a vehicle
Did a vehicle
Did a vehicle
Fly along the mountains
And find a place to park itself
Or did someone
Build a place
To leave a space
For such a vehicle to land
Did a vehicle
Come from somewhere out there
Did a vehicle
Come from somewhere out there
Did the indians, first on the bill
Carve up the hill
Did a booger-bear
Come from somewhere out there
Just to land in the Andes?
Was she round
And did she have a motor
Or was she something different
Guacamole Queen
Guacamole Queen
Guacamole Queen
Guacamole Queen
At the Armadillo in Austin Texas, her aura,
Or did someone build a place
Or leave a space for Chester's Thing to land
(Chester's Thing... on Ruth)
Did a booger-beer
Come from somewhere out there
Did a booger-bear
Come from somewhere out there
Did the Indians, first on the bill
Carve up her hill
On Ruth
On Ruth
That's Ruth

(A couple of lyrical references: 1. The Armadillo was a live music venue for many years, a kind of Fillmore of the southwest--Zappa, and many other legendary musicians, played there numerous times. 2. "Chester's Thing" has got to be a reference to the fantastic drummer who plays on the song, Chester Thompson.)

Here is The Ed Palermo Big Band's pretty darned good rendition of "Inca Roads" for your listening pleasure.



Monday, June 23, 2003


Inca may have used knot computer code to bind empire

They ran the biggest empire of their age, with a vast network of roads, granaries, warehouses and a complex system of government. Yet the Inca, founded in about AD1200 by Manco Capac, were unique for such a significant civilisation: they had no written language. This has been the conventional view of the Inca, whose dominions at their height covered almost all of the Andean region, from Colombia to Chile, until they were defeated in the Spanish conquest of 1532.

But a leading scholar of South American antiquity believes the Inca did have a form of non-verbal communication written in an encoded language similar to the binary code of today's computers. Gary Urton, professor of anthropology at Harvard University, has re-analysed the complicated knotted strings of the Inca - decorative objects called khipu - and found they contain a seven-bit binary code capable of conveying more than 1,500 separate units of information.

In the search for definitive proof of his discovery, which will be detailed in a book, Professor Urton believes he is close to finding the "Rosetta stone" of South America, a khipu story that was translated into Spanish more than 400 years ago.

Indiana Jones fans, click here.

Political Theater Returns to the London Stage

But I'm sure as hell not holding my breath waiting for Broadway to follow suit...

For Michael Boyd, it is no coincidence that both the major national theatre companies are using Shakespeare as a vehicle for comment on modern times. He and Hytner have spoken about their joint responsibilities to their audiences in a way that their predecessors never would have, and both want to encourage new playwrights to write provocative political pieces for them rather than for small venues with already committed audiences.

"We want new work that tackles these issues on the larger stage - the stage that is on the cusp of high culture and popular culture," he said.

"There are undoubted resonances between the society for which Shakespeare was writing and that of today - both are deeply divided on fundamental issues. All theatre companies, whether they are the RSC and the National or smaller companies such as Chicken Shed, should want to find ways of addressing those issues."

For more, click here.

Looters Stole 6,000 Artifacts
Number Expected to Rise as Officials Take Inventory in Iraq

U.S. and Iraqi officials have confirmed the theft of at least 6,000 artifacts from Iraq's National Museum of Antiquities during a prolonged looting spree as U.S. forces entered Baghdad two months ago, a leading archaeologist said yesterday.

University of Chicago archaeologist McGuire Gibson said the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement told him June 13 that the official count of missing items had reached 6,000 and was climbing as museum and Customs investigators proceeded with an inventory of three looted storerooms.

The June 13 total was double the number of stolen items reported by Customs a week earlier, and Gibson suggested the final tally could be "far, far worse." Customs could not immediately obtain an updated report, a spokesman said.

The mid-June count was the latest in a confusing chain of seemingly contradictory estimates of losses at the museum, the principal repository of artifacts from thousands of Iraqi archaeological sites documenting human history from the dawn of civilization 7,000 years ago to the pinnacle of medieval Islam. it's not as bad as was first reported, but it now appears that it's far worse than the correction might have implied. Click here.

Thanks to This Modern World for the final link.


Sunday, June 22, 2003


I'm starting to get the hang of linking to my own posts. I guess I'm going a bit crazy with it. Just read the last three posts.

And while I'm at it, here's some more self-reference.

Thanks to my buddy, Kevin, at the all new and improved Fatnoise Farms, for the pic of me and my wife, Becky.



What does this scandal have to do with this other scandal?


For DeLay, the Westar donation to Texans for a Republican Majority was part of a $1.5 million campaign to help the GOP gain a majority in the Texas House of Representatives. DeLay's ultimate plan, still unfolding, is for that new Republican state House to draw Texas congressional districts that would solidify the GOP hold on the U.S. House.

At DeLay's urging, Gov. Rick Perry has called a June 30 special legislative session on congressional redistricting, a session that could cost Texas taxpayers as much as $1.7 million.

The Westar contribution was part of at least $433,000 that Texans for a Republican Majority raised from out-of-state corporations, lobbyists and federal contractors who stood to gain from friendly relations with the powerful majority leader.

For more on Republican Machiavellian machinations, click here.


Rumsfeld lobbies locals to celebrate the invasion of Iraq

His staffers have been phoning city officials, including some in Orange County, and strongly urging them to structure Fourth of July celebrations around the war in Iraq.

"I got the impression that they had a list of every city in the nation that had applied for a pyrotechnics permit, and were calling them to persuade them to be part of the program," said one OC city official.


The project even has a name: Operation Tribute to Freedom, putatively overseen by Air Force general Richard B. Myer. Check out the website at Therein, it is claimed that Pentagon officials had been "inundated" with requests from communities asking how they could show support for the troops. Another press release remarks on the "spontaneous" displays of support for the military. And there doubtless have been many.

So why, then, does the Department of Defense deem it necessary to cold-call cities to sell them on a military salute?

Click here.

As if the staged for TV Jessica Lynch rescue wasn't enough.

Thanks to Eschaton.


Cops Again Shoot Innocent Dog While Owner Watches

Remember the cops in Tennessee who shot a family dog while the owners watched and freaked out last January? Well, I certainly do, and it really pisses me off that it's happened again, this time in Milwaukee:

At the time of the shooting, she and her dog were in the backyard around 2 a.m. Saturday waiting for police, but when squad cars arrived, Sprite bounded toward the officers.

Seconds later, the 6-year-old, 38-pound Sprite was shot in the head.

"He fell over and flinched,'' said Mueller, who was standing about 10 feet behind the dog when the officer fired. "To see him fall over flinching and die right there, it's just hard to explain.''

The incident happened when police responded to the 911 call reporting a man contemplating suicide. By the time officers arrived, the man, Mueller's friend, had calmed down.

"I told them, 'The dog is harmless, don't hurt the dog,''' said Dave Williams, another friend of Mueller who witnessed the shooting. "Three seconds later, they shot the dog."

For more, click here.

All I can do is repeat some of what I said about the dog killing back in January:

I now realize that when I read about police brutality toward humans (that is, as opposed to dogs) I get angrier in my head than I do in my heart. I suppose the image of uniformed men with guns blowing away a family pet while the helpless family freaks out is, at the very least, difficult to digest. But what about the countless individuals, human beings, most of them ethnic minorities, that have been brutalized, harassed, and beaten by the police? Things are much, much worse than the sadistic killing of a dog might suggest. I ought to be angrier in my heart.

Increasingly, I am.

American police culture is out of control. (I say “culture” because I believe that there are lots of well-meaning, good individuals that are cops. But many of those “good cops” end up doing bad things or remaining silent when they witness acts of corruption and brutality performed by their less well-meaning cop brothers.) Newspapers report HUNDREDS of instances of police misconduct every year but miss the big story: THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF KNOWN INSTANCES OF POLICE MISCONDUCT EVERY YEAR! How many Richard Jewells and David Koreshes must it take? How many murdered dogs? When will mainstream (that is, white) America wake up and realize that it is no longer such a gross, radical exaggeration to say that we’re not too far from Nazi Germany? (That is to say, Arayans equal whites; Jews equal non-whites...hey, there really is a comparison there!) The only thing out of the ordinary about the killing of the Smoak family dog is that the Smoaks are white. People of color know the score but lack enough clout and power to address the injustices. Whites, for the most part, live in ignorant bliss—when a white American gets screwed by the cops it is viewed as an “isolated incident” that is not representative of the overall situation.

Of course, that’s a lie. Authoritarianism and violence are simply a big part of what cops are. I hate cops. Because, you see, cops really are pigs.

'Nuff said. (for my full post on cops from January, click here.)

Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe for the link.


Saturday, June 21, 2003


I happened on a cool art site earlier today: WebMuseum, Paris. I don't know much about the site, yet, but I do know that I'm going to be linking to it a lot in the coming weeks and months. Why? Because they have a pretty incredible collection of great paintings in web form. My blog is called "Real Art," after all. So, why not offer a link to a cool painting every few days?

It's my blog, and I can do whatever the hell I want; so shut up, wise asses!

On to today's painting:

La Musique by Henri Matisse, 1939.



Media Obsession with Presidential Sex

The long time AP White House reporter (who recently declared Bush to be the "worst President ever") is a columnist these days:

Why didn't you write about President Kennedy's love affairs?

I have been asked that question countless times in the years since JFK was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. The question usually implies that reporters were covering up for a popular president.

As a White House wire service reporter back then, my response typically varied from saying that I had only heard rumors, to "dead men can't defend themselves."

In those days unless the personal activities affected the official responsibilities and duties of a public figure, such gossip was usually considered off limits by the mainstream press. It simply wasn't pursued.

But times have changed. Now, the lives of public officials and celebrities are an open book and considered fair game by the news media. The sanctity of personal privacy no longer exists. Everyone is wired and on camera.

For more, click here.

Unless it's rape or wantonly spreading AIDS or something, Presidential sex is irrelevant. Period. But try telling that to a nation who's head is in a fog of sexual extremism from both exploitative capitalists and Puritanical fundamentalists. It's maddening...


The Screwing of Cynthia McKinney

The only member of Congress to question the Bush administration in the dark days following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 was duly punished for her sins:

The New York Times’ Lynette Clemetson revealed her comments went even further over the edge: “Ms. McKinney suggest[ed] that President Bush might have known about the September 11 attacks but did nothing so his supporters could make money in a war.”

That’s loony, all right. As an editor of the highly respected Atlanta Journal Constitution told NPR, McKinney’s “practically accused the President of murder!”

Problem is, McKinney never said it.

That’s right. The “quote” from McKinney is a complete fabrication. A whopper, a fabulous fib, a fake, a flim-flam. Just freakin’ made up.

Click here.

Another kickass expose by the journalist that's so good that he has to work in England, Greg Palast.

Thanks, again, to my buddy, Matt.


Let the People Speak Early PAC, the progressive online political organization, has turned the political system on its head by rapidly launching an online grassroots political primary long before the political establishment has weighed in on the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.

When MoveOn surveyed its members, 96.3 percent of the 186,000 respondents said they were eager to jump into the process early.

The 1.4 million MoveOn members and new joiners are eligible to vote for one candidate from the field of nine in the primary scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday. MoveOn announced that the top tier of contenders, according to a straw poll of its members, are Dennis Kucinich, Howard Dean and John Kerry. In response to members' interest in the three, MoveOn is giving them an assist with a special focus email.

Arguing that "the real choices in the presidential sweepstakes are made long before the real primaries," MoveOn hopes to give insurgent candidacies like Kucinich and Dean a chance to be competitive with the more established, well-funded and media anointed candidacies of John Kerry and John Edwards.

Click here.

One of the most depressing things to me about American Presidential politics is the so called "wealth primary." That is, months before the actual and irrelevant primaries, presidential candidates must grovel at the feet of the wealthy in order to fill the all important campaign "war chests." This is the stage of an election run that actually determines who has a fighting chance at winning: without the blessings of wealth, no candidate can even fantasize about taking the Oval Office. The ultimate effect is to render meaningless the voting process--the ruling elite decides on a short menu of candidates who are acceptable (that is, candidates who reflect the views of the super rich), and presents this menu to America as some kind of "democratic" choice. In the 2000 elections, McCain, Bush, Gore, and Bradley were all deemed pro-corporate enough to make it into the final four, the joke primaries. Either one of them would have worked from the point of view of the wealthy, but because there were four candidates, most Americans actually felt like voting for one of them constituted "democracy." In reality, presidential elections just don't matter, anymore, as far as issues that are important to rank and file Americans are concerned.

Remember the dozens of times that Gore and Bush agreed with each other during the "debates?"

That's one of the big reasons I voted for Nader: because both parties are now willing slaves to wealth and the corporate system, there is now "not a dime's worth of difference" between them, to quote Texan progressive, Jim Hightower. This MoveOn tactic sounds like a good gambit for circumventing the "wealth primary" and, perhaps, making the actual, irrelevant primary more fair, less rigged. I've heard recently that the Greens are not going to run a Presidential candidate this year in order to throw progressive support behind some, as yet, unknown Democrat that could conceivably unseat Bush.

I guess it's time for me to start looking at Democrats, again...

Thanks to my old pal, Matt, for the link.


Friday, June 20, 2003

The Media Politics Of Impeachment

From ZNet:

As a political weapon, impeachment will be used to the extent that the president's foes believe they can get away with it. While the Constitution speaks of "high crimes and misdemeanors," that provision offers scant clarity about standards for impeachment. In recent decades, we have seen it utilized as an appropriate tool (against Nixon) and as an instrument of political overkill (against Bill Clinton). In both instances, the media climate determined the possibilities and impacts of impeachment.

In general, the punditocracy is averse to the option of impeachment and reflexively dismisses any such suggestion. Misuses of presidential power -- and outright mendacity in the service of policy objectives -- are political realities, accepted or even avidly supported as long as they remain within vaguely customary limits. Few editorial writers or other commentators want to risk seeming too far ahead of the media curve by suggesting that the latest presidential deceptions might rise to the level of impeachable offenses.

In other words, the corporate media probably won't be leading the charge toward removing our thief-in-chief; in fact, they'll probably be quite condemning of any serious impeachment movement that might arise. This isn't too hard to belive: the essay also points out that numerous Reagan administration officials, including our current President's daddy, got away almost scot-free with the Iran-Contra scandal back in the 80s. Removing from office and jailing Bush and company will not be an easy task.

Click here.


Democrats ask Justice Department to look
into Westar donations to GOP

In Missouri, Democratic Party spokesman Michael Kelley suggested that one reason Ashcroft is reluctant to proceed with the case is because of his long ties to Koupal, who now heads a Topeka bank.

Democrats said Koupal's ties to Ashcroft extend to 1976, when Koupal managed Ashcroft's successful campaign for Missouri attorney general.

Koupal also managed Ashcroft's winning campaign for governor in 1984, served as Ashcroft's transition director and worked in Ashcroft's Cabinet as the state's director of economic development.

"The reason John Ashcroft refuses to do anything is because (Koupal) is an old crony of his and he doesn't want to put his buddy in harm's way," Kelley said. "He wants to protect his friend."

Click here.

Thanks to Eschaton.


New battle brews over redistricting

Gov. Rick Perry reignited a partisan fire Wednesday by calling a June 30 special legislative session on congressional redistricting, an issue killed by Democrats last month when they staged a walkout that shut down the statehouse for four days.

If Republicans win the high-stakes political battle in special session, the balance of power could slip away from the Democrats in the Texas congressional delegation and help the GOP lock control of the U.S. House after next year's elections.

White House political adviser Karl Rove contacted at least one state senator this week and told him passage of the Republican redistricting plan "could be important to the president."

Not only are Republicans evil, they also have no sense of fair play. The bastards may very well pull this one off. Click here.


Thursday, June 19, 2003

DeLay makes Texas Monthly's worst legislators list

And he's not even a Texas legislator...

Under the heading "Pest," DeLay is criticized for pushing the Texas Legislature to take up a congressional redistricting bill late in the 140 day, biennial session. The bill prompted state Democratic representatives to head to Ardmore, Okla. for nearly a week and an ensuing manhunt that involved a federal anti-terrorism agency.

"He's a member of the House of Representatives, all right, but it's the one in Congress, not the one on Congress Avenue," Texas Monthly wrote. The Texas Capitol is on Congress Avenue in Austin.

DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella declined comment today.

Heeheehee. Click here.



From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

150 troopers called to help quell riots in Michigan city

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- State police sent 150 troopers into this city Wednesday after two nights of rioting touched off by a deadly police chase in this community, plagued for years by poverty, high unemployment and racial tensions.

City officials also said they would aggressively enforce an overnight curfew already on the books for those 16 and younger, saying those are the ones causing the trouble.


Residents complained that they have long been harassed by the 25-member police force.

However, Harris said Wednesday on ABC's Good Morning America: "We're basically predominantly a black community. Many of our police officers are white, but I seldom have complaints of the racial nature."

Benton Harbor, a city of 12,000 people situated on Lake Michigan about 100 miles east of Chicago, is 92 percent black, according to the 2000 census. Boarded-up buildings dot the community, and the unemployment rate last year was 25 percent.

For the full story, click here.

While I'm sure that race is probably the major cause of this riot, the sense of extreme poverty (which is associated with race, anyway) as a contributing factor made me think about my favorite musical, The Threepenny Opera, by playwright Bertolt Brecht and composer, Kurt Weill. I had never really heard of Brecht until I studied theater history in college. I loved him almost immediately. Here's why (taken from the Brecht bio link above):

Brecht experimented with dada and expressionism in his early plays, but soon developed a unique style suited to his own vision. He detested the "Aristotelian" drama and the manner in which it made the audience identify with the hero to the point of self-oblivion. The resulting feelings of terror and pity he felt led to an emotional catharsis that prevented the audience from thinking. Determined to destroy the theatrical illusion, Brecht was able to make his dreams realities when he took over the Berliner Ensemble.

The Berliner Ensemble came to represent what is today called "epic theater". Epic theater breaks with the Aristotelian concepts of a linear story line, a suspension of disbelief, and progressive character development. In their place, epic theater uses episodic plot structure, contains little cause and effect between scenes, and has cumulative character development. The goal is one of estrangement, or "Verfremdung", with an emphasis on reason and objectivity rather than emotion, or a type of critical detachment. This form of theater forces the audience to distance itself from the stage and contemplate on the action taking place. To accomplish this, Brecht focused on cruel action, harsh and realistic scenes, and a linear plot with no climax and denouement. By making each scene complete within itself Brecht sought to prevent illusion. A Brecht play is meant to provoke the audience into not only thinking about the play, but into reforming society by challenging common ideologies. Following in the footsteps of Pirandello, he blurs the distinction between life and theatre so that the audience is left with an ending that requires social action.

Brecht wanted audiences to think, rather than to be simply entertained. In other words, he wanted theater to count, to be relevant to society. Until the point when I discovered Brecht, theater and acting had been, to me, a fun thing to do to make people experience emotion, to purge sadness, or to uplift and make happy. Even though these are noble pursuits, the strong political aspect of my identity had not yet found an artistic voice in the theater--for me, at that point, politics had only been a part of my songwriting; Bob Dylan's influence had made that a certainty. Truly, Brecht and The Threepenny Opera opened my eyes: all the arts could be, should be political; without a social dimension, the arts are simply diversion. Brecht allowed several aspects of my identity to merge; as I grew older and further to the left, Brecht's love of Marxism excited me all the more (while I am not a communist, Marxist criticisms of capitalism are still quite poignantly valid today). Brecht created theater to provoke thought: more importantly, Brecht created theater to change society.

That brings me back to the issue of the Benton Harbor riots. The town's sense of total indigence is striking. That such impoverishment is allowed to exist in a nation as wealthy as the United States is utterly appalling. Poverty should be ended because it is just to do so, and the US has the ability to do it. However, to go beyond considering the simple moral dimension of allowing the existence of abject squalor, society has an interest in ending poverty because it is a good idea for keeping the peace. Sociologists have known for decades that there is a clear, undeniable, statistical link between poverty and crime. But anyone with half a brain and an ability to see through the "conventional wisdom" could tell you that. In fact, The Threepenny Opera, by and large, examines this relationship between crime and poverty--the play was written and performed in 1928, while sociology was in its embryonic stages.

Here's an example:

What Keeps Mankind Alive?

You gentlemen who think you have a mission
To purge us of the seven deadly sins
Should first sort out the basic food position
Then start your preaching, that’s where it begins

You lot who preach restraint and watch your waist as well
Should learn, for once, the way the world is run
However much you twist or whatever lies that you tell
Food is the first thing, morals follow on

So first make sure that those who are now starving
Get proper helpings when we all start carving
What keeps mankind alive?

What keeps mankind alive?
The fact that millions are daily tortured
Stifled, punished, silenced and oppressed
Mankind can keep alive thanks to its brilliance
In keeping its humanity repressed
And for once you must try not to shirk the facts
Mankind is kept alive by bestial acts

True words.

But you've gotta hear it. Here is some streaming audio of Tom Waits singing my favorite version of "What Keeps Mankind Alive." To get the best effect, imagine you're in a smoke filled caberet in Weimar Berlin while you listen.

UPDATE: Well, I woke up this afternoon and found that the Tom Waits link wasn't working--the website hosting the audio claimed too much traffic. Instead I found this segment of the song. It's not as good as the Tom Waits version, but it gives a pretty good idea of what the Brecht/Weill sound is all about...

Also, did you realize that Brecht and Weill wrote "Mack the Knife" (performed by everyone from Louis Armstrong to Bobby Darrin to McDonald's commercials) and "Moon of Alabama" (performed by the Doors on their first album)?

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: The Tom Waits link is back up. Go check it out.


Wednesday, June 18, 2003


Washington Post via Eschaton:

In a series of interviews, Beers, 60, critiqued Bush's war on terrorism. He is a man in transition, alternately reluctant about and empowered by his criticism of the government. After 35 years of issuing measured statements from inside intelligence circles, he speaks more like a public servant than a public figure. Much of what he knows is classified and cannot be discussed. Nevertheless, Beers will say that the administration is "underestimating the enemy." It has failed to address the root causes of terror, he said. "The difficult, long-term issues both at home and abroad have been avoided, neglected or shortchanged and generally underfunded."

The focus on Iraq has robbed domestic security of manpower, brainpower and money, he said. The Iraq war created fissures in the United States' counterterrorism alliances, he said, and could breed a new generation of al Qaeda recruits. Many of his government colleagues, he said, thought Iraq was an "ill-conceived and poorly executed strategy."

"I continue to be puzzled by it," said Beers, who did not oppose the war but thought it should have been fought with a broader coalition. "Why was it such a policy priority?" The official rationale was the search for weapons of mass destruction, he said, "although the evidence was pretty qualified, if you listened carefully."

He thinks the war in Afghanistan was a job begun, then abandoned. Rather than destroying al Qaeda terrorists, the fighting only dispersed them. The flow of aid has been slow and the U.S. military presence is too small, he said. "Terrorists move around the country with ease. We don't even know what's going on. Osama bin Laden could be almost anywhere in Afghanistan," he said.

As for the Saudis, he said, the administration has not pushed them hard enough to address their own problem with terrorism. Even last September, he said, "attacks in Saudi Arabia sounded like they were going to happen imminently."

Within U.S. borders, homeland security is suffering from "policy constipation. Nothing gets done," Beers said. "Fixing an agency management problem doesn't make headlines or produce voter support. So if you're looking at things from a political perspective, it's easier to go to war."

Click here.

In addition to probable illegal connections to the energy industry, election fraud, and killing thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of Americans in a bogus war, the President should also be impeached for ordinary incompetence. He really is as big of a dimwit as he seems. For all we know, he could simply be the dupe of his daddy's former thugs, a Forest Gump gone horribly wrong.

I wonder which is more dangerous, Bush the stupid manipulated good guy, or Bush the stupid evil killer? It's hard to say...



and other lunatic beliefs of the American people

A third of the American public believes U.S. forces found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, according to a recent poll. And 22 percent said Iraq actually used chemical or biological weapons in the war. Before the war, half of those polled in a survey said Iraqis were among the 19 hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001.

The facts:

- Such weapons have not been found in Iraq, and were never used.

- Most of the Sept. 11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. None was Iraqi.

Click here for signs of American brain damage.

Yet another one from This Modern World.



Just moments after posting my comparison of Bush and Nixon below, I found this:

On March 21, 1973, at a meeting in the Oval Office, John Dean warned President Richard M. Nixon, "We have a cancer close to the presidency that's growing."

Dean's warning went unheeded and Nixon's presidency was consumed in scandal. For his own role in the Watergate cover-up, Dean, Nixon's White House counsel, spent four months in prison. Three decades later, Dean says Americans are witnessing "the first potential scandal that could make Watergate pale by comparison."

Writing for the Internet publication FindLaw, Dean says President George W. Bush must answer for launching a war against Iraq on the basis of numerous un equivocal statements that Saddam Hus sein harbored weapons of mass destruc tion when, in fact, no such weapons have been found.

Click here.

The truth is that there has been a cancer on the this current presidency from the very beginning, when Jeb Bush stole the election for his brother down in Florida, back in 2000. Either way, the President needs to be behind bars.

Thanks again to This Modern World.


Bush Blasts 'Revisionist Historians' on Iraq

ELIZABETH, N.J. (Reuters) - President Bush countered those questioning his justification for the invasion of Iraq on Monday, dismissing "revisionist historians" and saying Washington acted to counter a persistent threat.

"Now there are some who would like to rewrite history; revisionist historians is what I like to call them," Bush said in a speech to New Jersey business leaders.

Click here.

The President seems to be starting to feel the heat. An interesting parallel springs to mind here: Richard Nixon's demeanor during speeches and press conferences became gradually more defensive as the Watergate scandal slowly unfolded in the early 1970s. Is Bush starting to privately freak out about the missing WMDs?

I wonder...

Thanks to This Modern World.


REAL MUSIC (about politics and culture)

A rejection of my indoctrination.

All the Jesus Freaks in Texas

Down in Texas, they tell me that I'm going to Hell,
'Cause I no longer think that the Bible is the word of the Lord.
I don't bow my head anymore.
I'm not a Christian anymore.
I'm completely pro-abortion, and they don't like that.

Down in Texas, they tell me I'm away from the Lord.
'Cause I quit being such a good little Southern Baptist boy.
I don't go to church anymore.
I don't "witness" anymore.
I'm completely pro-evolution, and they don't like that.

All the Jesus freaks in Texas, they all love me, so I'm told.
All the Jesus freaks in Texas, will torment me 'til I'm old.
All the Jesus freaks in Texas, want me to buy their pot of gold.
All the Jesus freaks in Texas, won't bring me back into the fold.

Down in Texas, they tell me that I'm such a big sinner
Because I'd rather smoke dope and play rock and roll music.
I don't feel guilty anymore.
I don't pass judgment anymore.
I'm completely pro-fornication, and they don't like that.

Down in Texas, they tell me that the Lord is my shepherd
'Cause if I follow him, you know, I won't have to worry 'bout my own life.
But I'm not a sheep anymore,
And I'm not in the "Army of the Lord."
I'm completely pro-self determination, and they don't like that.

All the Jesus freaks in Texas, they all love me, so I'm told.
All the Jesus freaks in Texas, will torment me 'til I'm old.
All the Jesus freaks in Texas, want me to buy their pot of gold.
All the Jesus freaks in Texas, won't bring me back into the fold.

Written by myself in the early mid 90s. I still feel pretty much the same way. Click here for MP3 download, or here for streaming audio (which takes a moment or two to load).


Tuesday, June 17, 2003


I pledge allegiance
to the wars
of the United States of America,
and to the lies
that make us proud:
one nation,
under the wrathful God,
with fear and loathing for all.

From an idea by Jello Biafra with a bit of help from my wife, Becky, and spiritual guidance from gun nut, Hunter S. Thompson.


Wholesale prices decline again

The back-to-back declines in wholesale prices come in the aftermath of recent warnings by Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and his colleagues about the possibility of the country facing deflation.

Although Fed policy-makers say the chance of that happening is remote, the Fed still must be alert for deflation because of its potential to wreck the economy, they said. While the country experienced limited bouts of falling prices at the end of the 1940s and in the mid-1950s, its last serious case of deflation was during the Great Depression.

In a bad case of deflation, prices fall for goods, services, stocks and real estate. Businesses, watching incomes and profits shrivel, lay off workers and cut salaries of those who have jobs. Individuals and businesses find it harder to pay off debt. Bankruptcies rise.

Click here



Leah, member of the new Team Eschaton, helping out the vacationing uber blogger, Atrios, while he's in Europe, makes a fantastic post meditating on the gradual decline of university influence on American politics and culture, and the how the now pervasive influence of right-wing think tanks helped to cause that decline in the first place. This is a pretty informative essay, probably the best thing posted on Eschaton since Atrios slowed down his input.

You should read it. Click here.


DPS Documents: More Questions About Killer-D Manhunt

What may have been the quickest police document purge on record was apparently not entirely successful, although what's left is not exactly riveting. The DPS has thus far posted 38 groups of documents, but most are bureaucratic and repetitive legislative rosters or bland internal communications (including those ordering the original document destruction). There are lists of the missing legislators, complete with aliases: "James E. 'Pete' Laney." There are copies of the formal questionnaire provided to troopers who visited legislators' offices in search of the fugitives. "Do you know where Representative Canales is?" asks one. Sergeant Palenque duly noted the staffer's response: "No idea."


The DPS postings substantiate what DPS officers have said: They were taking orders from Republican officials, who were nowhere near as "hands off" as Craddick and Perry have claimed. Even more alarming are the materials suggesting that other, as yet unidentified, personnel were also involved in the search: According to notes provided to the DPS by Austin Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, a couple of legislators' spouses were apparently followed or watched by plainclothes operatives of whom the DPS claims no knowledge.

The fallout from the Texas House Democrat walkout continues. Click here.

Thanks to Eschaton.


Monday, June 16, 2003


The Nation's National Affairs Correspondent, William Greider writes about looming deflation:

Basically, what's under way is a brutal unwinding of the delusional optimism that reigned during the 1990s--excesses like the hyperinflation in financial assets and the swollen ambitions that led investors and companies to wildly overvalue their prospects for future returns. The stock-market bubble was the most obvious expression of excess, but not the most serious dimension. In an era of Internet fantasies and collective self-delusion, business sectors (and their financiers) overinvested on a grand scale and generally used borrowed money to do so. That is, they built too many factories, shopping centers and office buildings--creating more productive capacity than the marketplace could possibly absorb. Consumers indulged in their own version of wishful thinking, borrowing heavily to keep on buying, hoping the "good times" would last long enough to bail them out.


That's why there is so little new investment. What company is foolish enough to build new plants when so many existing ones are shuttered? And who would lend them the capital? If consumers run out of capacity to borrow more or can no longer refinance home mortgages, the collapse of aggregate demand will become far worse.


If this negative cycle worsens to extremes, only the federal government can interrupt it and push the economy in a positive direction. The basic task, as John Maynard Keynes explained in the thirties, is to get the money moving again. The government does this by borrowing idle wealth from the private sector and spending it or distributing it to taxpayers who will--thus putting the money to economic uses and stimulating business activity. Federal deficits, in other words, are an essential element in the solution--very large deficits if you intend to jump-start a $10.7 trillion economy. Yes, borrow-and-spend therapy increases the national debt, but the renewal of economic growth will handle that. (The alternative--doing nothing--means allowing events to take their own course toward destruction and multiplying failures. "Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate," Andrew Mellon advised Herbert Hoover after the 1929 crash. "It will purge the rottenness out of the system.")

Click here.

If Milton Friedman is the Darth Vader of economists, then John Maynard Keynes is the Obi-Wan Kenobi. His was the advice used by FDR in formulating the “New Deal” programs designed to lift America out of the Great Depression in the 1930s; for many years Keynes’ theories dominated the field of economics: in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, the free, industrialized world enjoyed slow, stable growth.

That all started to change in the 1970s, as the Vietnam War, Arab oil embargos, and other factors combined to create the perplexing “stagflation” (inflation coupled with economic recession, an unprecedented situation) plaguing America, and, therefore, the rest of the free world. Economists did not clearly see the roots of the problem, and, like the lemmings they are, turned away from Keynes. This created the opportunity of a lifetime for the slick-talking economic sophist, Friedman. The Nobel Prize winning huckster had recently managed to subject Chile to neo-liberal reform—under Pinochet’s bloody rule, everything seemed to be doing well (alas for Friedman, Chile’s economy eventually got to be so bad that Pinochet had to use some old fashioned Keynesian economics to rescue the country—of course, that wasn’t really reported on in the US; Reagan was just too damned popular). Milton Friedman’s wacky philosophy was just the thing the disillusioned Keynesians were looking for. The flock of sheepconomists…um…I mean the field of economics once again followed their old shepherd, now in the garb of neo-liberalism, the tenets of laissez faire.

Today, Keynesianism is very unpopular as economic theory because it flies in the face of free market fundamentalism: inherent in Keynes’ views is the notion of market interference; that is to say, government should seek to regulate and stabilize the boom and bust cycle of the economy.

The so called “neo-liberal” point of view advanced by Friedman, of course, states that government should stay the hell out of the economy, that government should only provide a military, roads, and defend against monopoly, the less money cycled through the government, the better: business, left alone, will thrive. For over two decades now, neo-liberalism has provided the philosophical justification for Washington’s overly business-friendly climate. Dangerous deregulation of industry, banking and finance, and the service sector are the fruit of this shift in economic theory—“deregulation will stimulate business and create jobs.” Neo-liberalism has also justified billions of dollars of corporate welfare and tax cuts for the rich—again, the cry of “more jobs” is always heard. Neo-liberalism has all but destroyed labor as a force in the American economy.

Of course, neo-liberalism, or “Reaganomics” as I quaintly prefer to call it, is a total failure in the US, just as it was eventually in Chile.

It now appears that stimulating business itself, or supply-side economics, a sort of sub-theory advanced by Friedman, can create, in fact, some short-term economic gains. That’s pretty easy to believe: give companies money and, ideally, they will expand, which, ideally, creates more jobs, and, therefore, more demand, which, ideally, stimulates business further. Wall Street, of course, loves this because finance is so narrowly focused on quarterly earnings—government investment in the business sector taking the form of tax breaks, corporate welfare, and money saving deregulation just keeps on coming in; this drives up stock values. Business is always, in the short term, looking better.

Unfortunately, the long term has now caught up with us.

Keynes theorized decades ago what is now heresy, that capitalism, left alone, is unsustainable. The problem is overproduction and misuse of assets. Greed and high expectation of profits cause capital to flow in ever more risky directions. Even Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, was cautioning against the “irrational exuberance” of investors on Wall Street during the late 1990s. Money, left to it’s own devices, often becomes pretty stupid. For example, Noam Chomsky has pointed out that, before Richard Nixon abandoned the Bretton Woods system of global banking and finance, “about 90% of capital in international exchanges was for investment and trade, 10% for speculation. By 1990, those figures had reversed, and a 1993 estimate is that only 5% is related to ‘real economic transactions.’” That means that most of the world’s money supply isn’t even being used to produce anything or create jobs: gamblers control 95% of the world’s wealth and they’ve been on a betting spree for over twenty years—the casino is about to close, and it's time to turn in the chips.

Keynes believed that a big part of the solution to the economic downturns caused by capitalism's inherent tendency toward self-destruction was to stimulate consumer demand. Alas, American consumer demand isn't in such great shape these days. These long years of pro-business, pro-greed, anti-labor, anti-regulation rhetoric have slowly resulted in an overall degrading of consumers' ability to continue purchasing. The credit industry has managed to artificially extend consumer demand, but that cannot last. In other words, the hopes created by the short term economic gains of neo-liberal reforms have always been false: neo-liberal reforms, in the long run, bleed rank and file Americans dry; without masses of able consumers to create economic demand, the economy must collapse, as it is doing slowly now.

Neo-liberalism is like cocaine. It feels good for a time, but after a while, you’re willing to sell you own mother just to get a few more lines. Once you do, you quickly snort it all up. Feeling like shit when it’s gone, desperately craving more, you look for somebody else’s mother to sell.

Things are going to get much worse before they get better. America is snowblind, and, for now, cannot even conceive of of such antiquated notions as "stimulating demand," or "public works;" it defies the “conventional wisdom.” Economic pain will have to become so intense that our rich leaders feel threatened—by the time that happens, everybody I know will be hurting.

I hope I’m wrong, but I’m pretty much afraid that I’m right. I know the awful truth: wealth cannot be trusted to police itself; left alone, it always turns cannibalistic and eats the nation. We’re in the stew pot right now, waiting for the water to boil...

...what we need is the lost-to-history Jedi economist, Master Keynes, coming to the rescue, battling the dark side economists, in an economic light saber duel with Milton Friedman, Dark Lord of the Sith...

...just indulge me, here...