blarg? blort? brap?
My old friend, S. Hunter, has some questions for me about my blogging:
Okay, explain this to me if you would. Are these essays of yours? Is this a page on a larger site? (I presume so...) Do you really stay up that late? How did you get hip to this and how many of the Waynetouched are involved?
ON THE ACT OF BLOGGING
Much of the writing here is, of course, my own. Much of it, however, usually italicized, consists of quotes and passages from other people's writings. Generally I try to give a bit of a tease from whatever article I'm posting in order to get people to follow the link and read the whole story. Typically, the regular font represents my own voice and thoughts. So the basic formula here (that I pretty much ripped off from the Eschaton and This Modern World blogs) is some sort of headline that I either cut and paste from somewhere else or make up on my own, a tease from an article or essay, then a comment or two from me, then a link to the article, then the dollar signs. Every week or two, I tend to post a longer essay that's mostly my own stuff. Lately, I've been hybridizing the approaches to a small extent.
Some of the music, by the way, is mine, and some is not.
WHO'S DOMAIN IS IT ANYWAY?
Real Art is part of Blogger and you can go there by following the link posted in the upper right corner of this page. But this blog and its archives are really pretty much on their own, as far as I can tell. Maybe I'll get my own domain some day, but not today. Or for a while.
UP ALL NIGHT
Sometimes, weekends mostly, I am up very late. It's my way. I probably stay up later on week nights than most people who get up at six in the morning because I tend to take afternoon naps after my hectic days of teaching America's young. So, yes, I really am up that late.
GENESIS OF REAL ART
How did I get hip to this? A cool student I had this past year, Lance, noticed that I was reading a blog on my computer at school and we started talking. He showed me his blog and I was impressed; I told him I'd like to blog myself, someday and he immediately set me up on Blogger. The next thing I knew, I was ranting and raving in cyberspace. For free.
ON THE WAYNETOUCHED
Waynetouched? I'll have to write about the enigmatic Wayne (dis)organization here on Real Art someday for everybody who doesn't know the truth about Wayne (although I will tell you now that my official Wayne title is "Supreme Advocate, Judge of Everything"). But I will say this: two of the waynetouched have already made statements on this blog, Kevin (a.k.a. "FATNOISE"), and Brian (you'll have to scroll down to my May 18th post to read his). Rick may know, but I'm not sure. Lex also reads it sometimes.
But, by all means, S. Hunter, spread the word to Wayne.
Thanks for the vote of "fascinating."
(S. Hunter is an even bigger Star Trek fan than I am--"fascinating" is quite the compliment.)
Saturday, May 31, 2003
blarg? blort? brap?
Posted by Ron at 3:14 AM
EVIDENCE OF WMDs FOUND
By Marvel Comics Super Hero
In a recent issue of Marvel's Thunderbolts, sometimes hero, sometimes villian, Techno, finds and steals a canister of Pym particles (a chemical discovered by founding Avenger, Dr. Henry Pym, a.k.a. Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath, and Yellow Jacket) from an Iraqi chemical weapons stash.
(Oh yeah, I forget. Comics are fiction, and not particularly sophisticated fiction, at that. Sometimes I get reality and comic books a bit confused. Sorry if I mislead you--the whole "war on terrorism" is so comic-like, it's an easy mistake for me to make.)
Posted by Ron at 2:31 AM
WOLFOWITZ'S BIG MOUTH
Downplay of WMDs Infuriates Europe
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz cited bureaucratic reasons for focusing on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, and said a "huge" result of the war was to enable Washington to withdraw its troops from Saudi Arabia.
"The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason," Wolfowitz was quoted as saying in a Pentagon transcript of an interview with Vanity Fair.
Click here (and deal with an annoying, but brief registration procedure--damned NY Times).
One of the few things these days that keeps me from becoming infuriated, myself, is keeping my mind occupied wondering how Americans are able to take in stride these gradual revelations of Bush's Iraq war lies. No Iraqi links to al-Qaeda have been found. No WMDs have been found. The Private Lynch rescue was staged. There was no bunker where U.S. planes targeted Saddam at the beginning of the war. Dick Cheney's company, Halliburton, has raked in the reconstruction cash from no-bid sweetheart deals with the Pentagon. The oil companies have earned massive windfall profits due to war jitters driving up the price of oil. All of these facts have made it onto the front pages of most US newspapers. Yet, the American people collectively yawn. No outrage (except from a few Democratic politicians; bully for them). No calls for investigations of the White House. Nothing.
I'm really starting to believe what I've been saying about television and air conditioning induced mass hypnosis. What else can explain it?
One of these links came from J. Orlin Grabbe.
Posted by Ron at 2:04 AM
Thursday, May 29, 2003
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOB HOPE
Hope has topped the bills of five major showbiz mediums -- vaudeville, stage, movies, radio, TV. He's done all that. And so much more.
It's a big day in the large, comfortable house in Toluca Lake, Calif., that he and wife Dolores, who turned 94 just two days ago, have called home for 66 years. They've been married 69.
This morning, the famous corner of Hollywood and Vine becomes Bob Hope Square. This afternoon, Hope's office staff is throwing him a party. Tonight's the family celebration and birthday cake. "One hundred candles, and a fireman standing by," says Dolores.
What can I say about Bob Hope? He's the first comedian that held my interest as a child--I think the movie Paleface, or one of his TV specials in the early 1970s is the first time I saw him. Hope made me want to be funny, too. Years later, I developed a taste for the more sophisticated (but still silly) comedy of Monty Python, Saturday Night Live, George Carlin, Richard Pryor and others, but I never stopped loving Bob Hope. What has made him so funny for so long? How could he be both the buffoon and the straight man, sometimes in rapid succession? I suppose I could pull out some of my old acting school vocabulary and provide a comedic analysis, but analyzing humor always takes some of the funny away. Instead, here is a little photo gallery I've assembled that might get the idea across visually (but make no mistake, Hope is also a master of the one-liner; in fact, here's an audio download of a Bob Hope radio show from the 1930s to listen to while you look at the pics):
Bob, Nixon, and Ah-nald.
Hope sips champagne from a glass held by Argonne's master-slave manipulators, on display at the 1957 Paris Fair.
Looking silly in Vietnam.
Hope for President!
Silly with babes at an airforce base.
Bob with a pith helmet at a US airbase in the south Pacific during WWII.
Bob with the Suntones.
Bob giving the eye to evil General Westmoreland in Vietnam.
Bob with a ghost.
Bob in a baseball uniform harassing Superman.
Bob Hope with the Wright Brothers Band.
Bob Hope at Mardi Gras, early 1970s.
Bob ogles a babe in Vietnam at a USO show.
Silly face on radio.
Bob Hope golf cart.
Simpsons Bob (not Sideshow).
And finally, my favorite Bob Hope picture.
I know that this has been said by probably everybody saying something about Bob Hope's birthday, but after looking at all these pictures, I've gotta say it, too: Bob Hope has made himself not only fit into every era of the last eighty years or so, he has made himself an important part every time. Bob Hope is a huge part of twentieth century America; if you don't like him, you're evil.
Posted by Ron at 11:15 PM
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
BARD GOES BLING-BLING
400 Years Later, Play Goes Hip-Hop
A group of rap artists, break-dancers, an underground disk jockey and a grand-opera director have transformed that 1938 toe-tapping Broadway show into a thumping jive British version that brings the musical tradition of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart bracingly into the 21st century.
This updating of "The Boys from Syracuse," itself a bawdy reworking of Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors," is at the Theater Royal, Stratford East in the London borough with the highest number of young people and the greatest ethnic diversity of any in Britain.
A pioneering theater, the Stratford East has had a penchant for stirring up the London stage with productions like Joan Littlewood's 1963 satire "Oh, What a Lovely War!," a vaudeville-style treatment of World War I. Now it is doing so again with this ethnic overhaul. A booming sound system and two large video screens have been installed onstage, the strutting singers all carry hand microphones, the doors stay open to let people wander and the seats have been removed from the ground floor level so the audience can do some swaying of its own to the insistent rhythms of rap.
This could be great; it could be terrible. That it is British gives me hope.
I still have a really bad taste in my mouth from that gang-banger Romeo and Juliet film a few years ago...
Posted by Ron at 10:38 PM
STUDY REVEALS WHAT ANYBODY
WITH HALF A BRAIN ALREADY KNOWS
Condoms Don't Increase Teen Sex
Teenagers at high schools where condoms were available were no more likely to have sex than other teens, a study says.
The study published Wednesday backs earlier research on the programs developed in the 1990s to stem the spread of HIV and reduce teen pregnancy. It says that students in high schools with condom programs were more likely to use condoms, while students in other high schools were more likely to use other forms of birth control.
The notion that making condoms available to teens influences them to have more sex is absurd. The steady tidal wave of sexual images, sounds, and irresponsibility rammed down America's throat by the mass media on a daily basis surely has more to do with teen promiscuity than school sex education and health programs: to imagine that, somehow, the quiet, subtle, whisper of sexuality implied by high school condom availability is able to cut through the cacophonous din of hoochy TV, film, and music polluting the airwaves is truly irrational.
Why do we need a study to tell us that?
Posted by Ron at 10:32 PM
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
I got listed on Blogeur! According to this site, I had one of the more interesting blogs on May 27th (probably for my economics essay; scroll down and read it if you haven't already). So, thank you Blogeur.
What's Blogeur? Read:
Ladies, Gentlemen, distinguished guests, bemused perusers of all shapes and sizes... it is my pleasure to be your host at my website, le Blogeur. But I forget myself-- my name is Relton DuPiniot, and I am a blogeur. I enjoy spending all of my time spying on various weblogs and seeing what they're up to-- o, the pleasure I get from viewing well-formed HTML surrounding interesting, pithy commentary related to the finest, freshest links imaginable!
The weblog is today's highest form of writing, as it connects our world to the metaworld, and back again one-thousand fold. To the left are the best weblogs in the world, for that particular day at least. If you would like your weblog to be noticed, please place a link to my site from yours, and I shall visit and hopefully, one day, I shall link your weblog, completing the circle of life. Don't forget to browse the archives below, they contain the best of the weblogs for the past few years. Your Humble Servant, Relton...
Interesting, huh? Go check it out. Click here.
Posted by Ron at 11:47 PM
CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST LUNACY
Bush, the Bible, and Iraq
In foreign lands, it's a short leap from such thinking to the conclusion that Bush is the religion-crazed bad guy in the Iraq crisis. If you accept that view, the determination of Israel's Likud Party to expand Israeli settlements means the Jews are returning to Judea and Samaria, the territory God promised Abraham. And now, with the U.N. balking at Bush's wishes, even some among America's allies worry that the Christian right -- and maybe even the President himself -- see the U.N. as the vehicle for the Antichrist's world order.
The only thing remaining to complete John Darby's prophecy is the war. It's no surprise that in a Feb. 26 debate in the British Parliament, George Galloway, a Labor Party backbencher from Scotland, declared that "that born-again, right-wing, Bible-belting, fundamentalist Republican Administration in the United States want war."
That sentiment is no doubt a reaction to the words created for Bush by his chief speech writer, Michael Gerson, an evangelical Christian. Historian Boyer notes that when Bush said in his State of the Union address that Saddam Hussein could unleash "a day of horror like none we have ever known," the President not only played on memories of September 11 but also invoked "a powerful and ancient apocalyptic vocabulary that for millions of [Christian] prophecy believers conveys a specific and thrilling message of an approaching end -- not just of Saddam, but of human history as we know it" -- complete with the return of Jesus to lead a much-expanded flock.
Remember, I come from fundamentalist roots, so I know: fundamentalist Christians, as a political force, are dangerous. During the brief Afghanistan war, I liked to joke that the conflict was actually the Islamic fundamentalists versus the Christian fundamentalists. Laughing wild amid severest woe. Sadly, this is no joke. I disagree with this article's author's assertion that "few of Bush's aides share his particular brand of faith," and that the White House is not as insane as it might seem (Rumsfeld and his staff have daily prayer meetings, for god's sake). In addition to the oil imperative and the empire imperative, millennialist philosophy is clearly a factor in Oval Office decision making--it is self-evident in the irrationality of Bush's Israel policy, at the very least. It is clear, however, that one way or the other, whether deeply religious or not, the Bush administration behaves in a fundamentalist way that is scaring the hell out of the rest of the world.
For an update on the Bush administration's fundamentalist lunacy, click here.
Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe.
Posted by Ron at 9:44 PM
TEXAS HOUSE WALKOUT UPDATE
Malfunction blamed for gap on DPS tape
As part of the probe, Bailey had asked DPS to turn over Capitol security tapes for the hallway outside of House Speaker Tom Craddick's office. A DPS command post was set up May 12 in Craddick's reception room, and Bailey said he wants to know who went in and out of that room.
Bailey said the DPS provided his staff with copies of the security tapes late Friday. As the staff watched them over the weekend, the entire week was available except for the afternoon of May 12. He said the tape stopped at 12:47 p.m. and did not begin again until 6 p.m.
"It's odd that it was the day and time that we wanted," Bailey said. "It's fine all week, except for that one period."
Malfunction? Tape gap? I'm beginning to think that my recent evoking of Watergate (scroll down to the REAL POWER post below) while musing about this DPS/Republican scandal wasn't just hyperbole. It is worth noting that even though this is, as Atrios says, "a somewhat below the radar developing story," so, too, was Watergate before it broke into the headlines. I'm not holding my breath, though. The missing WMDs and conspicous lack of any Iraq/al-Qaeda link ought to have broken into the headlines by now, but haven't.
There is that pissed-off-capitalist wild card still in the deck that has yet to be played, however...
Posted by Ron at 8:53 PM
Monday, May 26, 2003
ECONOMICS: PSEUDO-SCIENCE YOU’D BETTER UNDERSTAND
My senior year in high school, I was a hot shot extemporaneous speaker on the Houston high school speech tournament circuit. If you’re not in the know, extemporaneous speaking is a major National Forensic League speaking event (“forensic” meaning competitive public speaking, not dead bodies): students draw a topic dealing with either domestic or foreign issues, then write and memorize a speech on that topic in thirty minutes; the speeches are delivered in front of a judge. My area of expertise was cold war diplomacy, history, and strategy. By the time I was a senior, however, I was becoming increasingly interested in economics, specifically “Reaganomics,” also known as “supply-side economics,” or just plain “voodoo economics” (a term coined by our current President’s father back in saner days).
Reaganomics was all the intellectual rage in conservative circles. Most people didn’t seem to understand yet—it just didn’t make sense to most Americans; how could Reagan massively raise the defense budget and then claim to be able to cut taxes in order to gain more tax revenue? But I just knew that there had to be something to it. If you trusted the Gipper, as I then did, Reaganomics had the allure of forbidden knowledge: as the 1980s conservative bumper sticker said, “vote Democrat; it’s easier than thinking.” I became as expert on the topic as a high school kid could. My knowledge of supply-side economics made me feel superior to liberals. An extemporaneous speech I gave at a tournament on the topic got me a first place trophy and launched me to the national speech tournament where I eventually ranked fifteenth in the nation. Those were the days…
Of course, Reaganomics, now known as neo-liberalism, is complete bullshit.
Even then, conservative as I was, I was starting to realize it. That same year, my buddy, Matt and I had been invited to attend a weekend seminar that we understood was to help us prepare for winning scholarship money in a speaking contest hosted by the Rotarians over what they called “The Ten Pillars of Economic Wisdom,” which is something of an ideologically loaded document to begin with. It turned out that this was no public speaking seminar. It was practically a cult-like indoctrination into the fundamentalism of the free market, a weekend of neo-liberalism, complete with real, live, right wing economists spouting their cruel nonsense.
At first, I loved associating myself with the grownup supply-siders—that made me cool like them. After a while, however, some warning bells started ringing in the back of my head that were increasingly difficult to ignore. The first, quiet ding-dings happened during a conversation with one of the right wing economists: he advocated doing away with the minimum wage in order to make the labor force more like a labor market, a “market” of people. I wanted to believe him. After all, he was a cool supply-sider who knew about such things, and sharing his beliefs would make me more like him, more Reagan-cool. But I just couldn’t. I didn’t have enough of an intellect at the time to explain why. I only had my feelings. Doing away with the minimum wage seemed heartless—of course, it is heartless; in fact, it needs to be raised today by two or three bucks.
Sixteen years later, I think that I now have the intellect to explain just what was so alarming about this “market” of people concept. Economics, as an academic field, obscures the difference between its theories and real life. Americans who think they know a thing or two about the field tend to forget or minimize the real world consequences of the conventional economic wisdom. Economics reduces people’s lives to ideas and numbers; compassion and justice are not the concerns of economics: this “science” is not only morally bankrupt, but also wildly inaccurate oftentimes.
Indeed, economics is rife with biases and unfounded assumptions. Most economists now days have a fierce belief in the correctness of the “free market”: the reality is that there can NEVER be a free market as long as government exists as a powerful entity and as long as wealth is allowed to accumulate so much that it can monopolize and interfere with the market. (Neo-lib guru Milton Friedman’s solution is to reduce government to a bare minimum, but to also have government police against monopoly. A weak government cannot affect powerful economic forces; Friedman’s goals are contradictory, and, therefore, impossible.) Most economists now days assert that all nations should embrace “free trade” in order to share in the bounty that has blessed America: the reality is that free trade does nothing but hurt developing economies; US industries didn’t develop without protective tariffs—this is universal: no economy will develop without protective tariffs. Most economists now days use the Gross Domestic Product as an indicator of our nation’s economic health: in reality, GDP, due to bias and gross omission inherent in its calculation, gives a wildly distorted view of the economy.
One of the biggest biases of the pseudo-science known as economics is that economists serve everyone. This is simply not true. Economics serves the powerful—it serves the government, business, and the wealthy. Economics rarely considers the little guy, people like you and me, except as labor or as consumers.
These biases and faulty assumptions are replicated at high schools and colleges throughout the land. Students who are not so bored that they don’t even care (which is how most people react) accept and embrace what they are taught, based on “scientific” authority alone, not really understanding, not really questioning the numerous holes in economic reasoning. These students ultimately become voters and then transmute their faulty views into faulty political reality at the ballot box.
The confusion, the authority of “science,” the dogma all make economics very useful as a tool of political propaganda. In other words, economics has status as a virtual religion, the more contemplative brother to Mammon. As Harvard law professor, Allen Dershowitz, has said, “the Bible can be used to prove almost anything,” so, too, with economics in the American political landscape. Politicians cite economic studies with almost religious authority. Politicians always clamor about the need to help the economy, to worship our god. Greenspan and others are the priests, shamans, and oracles, dispensing predictions, warnings, and wisdom. Even though economics, as an academic field, has it uses, the idea of “economics” is taken at face value, on faith, as a factual description of reality by people who don’t really understand it or the consequences of its prescriptions.
All in all, this is a pretty sad state of affairs. Economics, beyond the quasi-religious dimension, is extremely important: it is about power; it is about who wins and loses.
EXAMPLE: Neo-liberalism requires huge numbers of losers in order to properly function. Full employment creates a very tight labor market that causes an upward pressure on wages. In order to have big profits, labor must be cheap. Otherwise, there is less incentive to be a capitalist.
EXAMPLE: Socialized medicine could really be no worse than HMOs, but, at least, the government would have some responsibility to it citizens under a socialized system. HMOs are beholden only to quarterly profits. Under HMOs, the capitalists are the winners; most Americans are the losers.
EXAMPLE: (And this is probably the biggest one.) People cannot be elected to public office without the blessings of moneyed interests via campaign financing. Before the political primaries, presidential candidates must first pass through the “wealth primary.” Along with the millions spent on political lobbying by corporations and the wealthy, dirty campaign money makes US politics the realm of extraordinary corruption. Economic might, not the American people, rules the United States.
Winners, losers, and power: that is what economics is ultimately about.
Unfortunately, most secondary students are required to take only a single semester of the subject. Most college students don’t take it at all. Unfortunately, most economic news is confined to the business pages that most people don’t read, and journalists do an awful job of connecting the dots to show how economics and politics are hopelessly intertwined. Unfortunately, both the press and the schools disseminate a dry and boring understanding of the subject, almost as though they want people to be disinterested. Unfortunately, even if an American can wade through the morass of impediment to economic understanding, there are still the biases and faulty assumptions inherent in the discipline—rarely do people develop a critical view of economics.
The economic wizards of Wall Street command us not to look at the man behind the curtain, and we obey.
We must not obey. That’s why I’ve been making more of an effort lately to link to and comment on economic news stories. They’ve always been in the background here at Real Art, because economics really does affect almost every aspect of life, but I think I need to be more upfront and straightforward just because it really is a big, huge deal.
Besides, I think I need to make up for championing the cause of neo-liberalism in my youth. This is my penance. Every time Real Art gets a hit, I’ll think of it as a ritual flogging.
Aren’t I clever?
Posted by Ron at 7:10 PM
BACK IN THE USSR
McCartney Plays Red Square
Fans paid up to $2400 for tickets to the concert - an event that would never have happened when Back in the USSR was released in 1968. Then President Leonid Brezhnev made it near-impossible to hear Beatles' music, which was considered "the belch of Western culture". But yesterday Mr Putin told Sir Paul his work was "very popular, more than popular".
I might as well post this, too:
Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC
Didn't get to bed last night
On the way the paper bag was on my knee
Man I had a dreadful flight
I'm back in the U.S.S.R.
You don't know how lucky you are boy
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Been away so long I hardly knew the place
Gee it's good to be back home
Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
Honey disconnect the phone
I'm back in the U.S.S.R.
You don't know how lucky you are boy
Back in the U.S., back in the U.S.
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out
They leave the West behind
And Moscow girls make me sing and shout
That Georgia's always on my mind
I'm back in the U.S.S.R.
You don't know how lucky you are boy
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Show me round your snow peaked mountains way down
Take me to your daddy's farm
Let me hear your balalaika's ringing out
Come and keep your comrade warm
I'm back in the U.S.S.R.
You don't know how lucky you are boy
Back in the U.S., back in the U.S.
Back in the U.S.S.R.
And thanks to FARK, by the way.
Posted by Ron at 6:25 AM
DIVERSION TRUMPS PROPAGANDA
Never mind that the U.S. economy is in a shambles; the Bush regime is gearing up for possible war with North Korea, Cuba, Iran, and Syria; that U.S.-European relations have never been so bad since the GOP walked away from the League of Nations after World War I; that relations with Canada and Mexico, our closest neighbors, are in a state of chill; and that Americans are fretting over possible attacks from Al Qaeda on their own soil. No, millions of Americans wanted to know if Ruben Studdard or Clay Aiken were going to become the new American Idol.
I've written several times about how the US news media, by and large, tends to serve a propaganda role favoring the government and corporations, rather than an objective informational role benefitting American citizens. Of course, one piece of missing information here is that most Americans simply pay no attention to the news. Most Americans don't even vote, for that matter. This majority of Americans does not need to be propagandized: they need to be distracted. The prices of televisions, DVD players, and video game systems are at an all time low. We have an ever increasing number of cable channels to watch, and Americans are still parked in front of their sets for hours a day.
Politics? Don't bother me; "Friends" is about to come on...
The United States is literally amusing itself to death. The comfortable, air-conditioned complacency of American citizens has allowed all manner of injustice to take place. At the same time, this pleasant, overconsuming existence is fed by both the corporate rape of the Earth and its peoples, and by the violent military aggression that makes that raping possible. While we're watching "Anna Nicole" or "Ex-treme Dating" everything is just fine.
Hey, let's order a pizza...
Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe.
Posted by Ron at 5:58 AM
A THIRD PROMINENT BUSH GUY SAYS BYE
General Tommy Franks to Retire
Franks made no announcement, but Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a brief statement Thursday saying that Franks had informed him "of his desire to step down as the commander of the U.S. Central Command in the weeks immediately ahead" and that Franks plans to retire from the Army this summer.
Franks, along with press secretary Ari Fleischer, and EPA chief Christie Whitman, completes a trio of high profile government officials under Bush who are all bugging out to "spend more time with family." Again, I ask, what's going on here? Franks' disagreements with Rumsfeld are fairly well known at this point. I cautiously speculate that some members of the Bush junta are starting to get sick of the bullshit. Is Powell next?
The sad thing is that Bush and his handlers, no doubt, will easily find replacements who are totally eager to deal with the endless stream of awkward lies and absurdities that are continually soaking the White House lawn: Fleischer's, Whitman's, and Franks' departures may indicate that they have some sense of conscience; the new guys probably won't be so enlightened.
Posted by Ron at 5:30 AM
Saturday, May 24, 2003
Dangers of Deflation
Though talk of deflation fills the air, most of that talk is subtly but significantly off point. The immediate danger isn't deflation per se; it's the risk that the world's major economies will find themselves trapped in an economic quagmire. Deflation can be both a symptom of an economy sinking into the muck, and a reason why it sinks even deeper, but it's usually a lagging indicator. The crucial question is whether we'll stumble into the swamp in the first place — and the risks look uncomfortably high.
The particular type of quagmire to worry about has a name: liquidity trap. As the I.M.F. report explains, the most important reason to fear deflation is that it can push an economy into a liquidity trap, or deepen the distress of an economy already caught in the trap.
Here's how it works, in theory. Ordinarily, deflation — a general fall in the level of prices — is easy to fight. All the central bank (in our case, the Federal Reserve) has to do is print more money, and put it in the hands of banks. With more cash in hand, banks make more loans, interest rates fall, the economy perks up and the price level stops falling.
But what if the economy is in such a deep malaise that pushing interest rates all the way to zero isn't enough to get the economy back to full employment? Then you're in a liquidity trap: additional cash pumped into the economy — added liquidity — sits idle, because there's no point in lending money out if you don't receive any reward. And monetary policy loses its effectiveness.
For New York Times Paul Krugman essay on Bush's ecomomy, click here (includes a harmless, but annoying registration procedure).
Thanks to Eschaton.
George W. Bush has the worst economic record of any president since Herbert Hoover
Likewise, no one holds Bush accountable for the dot-com bust or the shock of September 11. His problems are that he's enacted and proposed nothing that would arrest the current slide, and that his policies have actually worsened it.
More precisely, his policy has actually worsened it. For it is the distinctive feature of the Bush presidency that there is but one economic policy come boom or bust, fire or flood. That, of course, is tax cuts, preponderantly for the rich. As a candidate in 2000, Bush argued for tax cuts because the government was actually running a surplus, and it was a more productive use of funds to return that money to taxpayers. Then the bubble burst, the surplus turned to deficit and those same tax cuts were repackaged as an economic stimulus. The $1.6 trillion tax cut of 2001 was so advertised, though it didn't really kick in for the better part of the decade, and most of it was targeted to the wealthy—the class of Americans least likely to spend it. Since it was enacted, it has stimulated the economy to the tune of 1.7 million jobs lost.
Thanks to This Modern World.
Posted by Ron at 9:06 PM
BILL O'REILLY IS A BIG BUTTHOLE
On April 22 Bill said
"if weapons of mass destruction aren't found,... I will have to apologize because I bought into it... All right, a month from today, we'll do this story again"
On March 18 Bill said
"if the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush Administration again"
Of course, May 22 came and went without an apology from the butthole or even a mention that he owed one. Is anyone surprised?
Thanks to Eschaton.
Posted by Ron at 4:01 AM
THIS SHOULD BE FRONT PAGE NEWS
But it's not...
Cheered on by the Bush Administration and powerful media conglomerates, Federal Communications Commission chair Michael Powell is pushing ahead with a June 2 vote to gut longstanding rules designed to prevent the growth of media monopolies. If successful, Powell's push could, in the words of dissident commissioner Michael Copps, "dramatically [alter] our nation's media landscape without the kind of debate and analysis that these issues clearly merit."
Even though I have a degree in communications, I've really kind of avoided writing about this topic because all I seem to be able to do is shake my head. Dumbfounded. As anti-deregulation media mogul Ted Turner puts it in the above linked Nation article, "There's really five companies that control 90 percent of what we read, see and hear. It's not healthy." Indeed. That's the current situation (a situation that Ted Turner helped to create) before this new round of FCC deregulation. Things are absolutely awful right now. It's just about to get worse and I have great difficulty imaging anything worse than now. The media is little more than diversion for the overworked masses and propaganda for everybody else. How can things be getting worse?
But I will force myself to say these brief words and post these couple of links. After all, the failure of the US news media is one of the reasons that I've become so vocal and opinionated in my old age. The failure of the media is a major motivation for my blogging. Media consolidation and corporatization have been the silent but powerful partner to the rise of American conservativism. Even if media monopoly is a preordained conclusion, protest must be made.
Who knows? The movement against deregulation has grown quickly and gained some powerful players. Maybe deregulation will be halted, but what is really needed is a government enforced breakup of the current media oligopoly. Alas, I don't see that brewing.
One last thought. Eschaton points out that Bob Harris over at This Modern World has shown that conservative views about media deregulation prove that there is no such thing as a liberal media. Or something to that effect.
Posted by Ron at 3:49 AM
Pentagon insulted by claims about Lynch rescue
Pentagon spokesman Marine Lt. Col. Dave Lapan said it was "ludicrous and insulting" for the BBC to suggest the rescue was staged and hyped up.
"The thing that is most insulting is the suggestion that we would put U.S. service members at risk to stage such an event. This was a real rescue under a combat situation," Lapan told Reuters. "In addition, the war was not going badly."
This is interesting not because the Pentagon is refuting the story (this was to be expected), but for a couple of other reasons.
First, it is surprising that the Pentagon is finally responding more than a week after the story first broke. Given the high level of propaganda and media manipulation coming from Washington these days, I would have bet that the Pentagon could have been able to put some pro-America spin on the story immediately--this is not unreasonable to expect; the Clinton administration turned rapid-response spin into a high art, and the Bush administration has emulated many of their tricks. The Pentagon's delay in responding suggests confusion. Maybe they were waiting to see if the story would simply die off by itself--it didn't. Perhaps they're being honest when they deny the story: this is out of character, however; the military has been quite effective for the last decade or so at presenting a cool, professional appearance to the media. I think what happened is that the story, in fact, is true, and the Pentagon simply thought that they weren't going to get caught. They're getting cocky.
Second, it's pretty amazing that the Lynch show story has broken into the headlines of the US press at all. The media have been routinely ignoring most anti-Bush stories for months now. That the looting tales, the Rumsfeld/Pentagon schism, and the Lynch show have all made it through the gatekeepers is news in and of itself. What's going on here? Perhaps the media have finally started getting bored with Bush the warrior king. Perhaps it's a bit more sinister: maybe the capitalists really are angry with Bush (see the REAL POWER post, below), and they have allowed the press more freedom to report news that could discredit the White House.
The truly maddening thing about all this is that Americans are left to speculate about the motivations of two extremely powerful American institutions, the Pentagon and the press. If we were living in anything even remotely resembling a democracy, there would be little need for this.
In a democracy, powerful institutions are transparent.
Posted by Ron at 2:57 AM
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Noam Chomsky, in the collection of interviews with him, Understanding Power, asserts that the Watergate impeachment hearings that forced President Richard Nixon to resign were but a show. That is, when seen relative to Nixon's more horrifying crimes (with which he got away scott free) such as the secret bombings of Cambodia, or the assasination of Black Panther members, the petty botched burglary coverup scandal known as Watergate is a very unlikely catalyst for the downfall of the leader of the free world. The true cause of his downfall, says Chomsky, was his abandonment of the Bretton Woods global banking and finance agreement. Even though Nixon did this as a strategy to deal with the runaway inflation caused by LBJ's Great Society programs and the Vietnam War, the world finance community was furious--lots of powerful people were screwed. Suddenly, Nixon lost a lot of political protection and boom: the House is drawing up impeachment papers for a relatively minor crime. For Chomsky, this is a good illustration of how real power actually works.
Keep this in mind while reading the next two links:
Empire and the Capitalists
The world has been in a "great disinflation [marvelous euphemism] from 1982 to 2002" - a salutary appraisal so different from the usual crowing about the strength of the U.S. economic position in the world-economy. "And now the unwinding of a new disequilibrium is at hand - the rebalancing of a U.S.-centric world." Why? First of all because of the "ever-widening disparities in the world's external accounts." He says that "as the United States squanders its already depleted national saving" and "as the rest of the world remains on a subpar consumption path," the situation can only get worse.
Finally, the conclusion: "Can a saving-short US economy continue to finance an ever-widening expansion of its military superiority? My answer is a resounding 'no.'" What will therefore happen? The "prices of dollar-denominated assets compared to those of non-dollar-denominated assets" must fall, and fall drastically soon
But doesn't the Bush regime give these capitalists everything they want - for example, enormous tax rebates? But do they really want them? Not Warren Buffett, not George Soros, not Bill Gates (speaking through his father). They want a stable capitalist system, and Bush is not giving them that. Sooner or later, they will translate their discontent into action. They may already be doing this.
QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES
Ridge says Texas search under 'potentially criminal investigation'
WASHINGTON - Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said today that a "potentially criminal investigation" is under way into efforts to involve his agency in last week's search for Democrats who shut down the state House of Representatives.
The three commissioners who oversee the DPS were appointed by Bush when he was governor and have other political connections to Bush and his family.
Commissioner Bobby Holt of Midland was political finance chairman for Bush's father, the former president. Commissioner Jim Francis was chairman of the Bush Pioneers, individuals who raised more than $100,000 for the current president's 2000 election campaign. Francis also has close ties to senior presidential adviser Karl Rove.
I'm sure that nothing will come of it.
But, given Chomsky's analysis of real power relationships, the conditions are ripe for Bush's downfall. Bush may very well be pissing off a sizable number of capitalists. Furthermore, there are, no doubt, hundreds of crimes routinely committed by the Bush administration (one could have said this of Clinton, too) that could easily serve as pretext for a scandal. Bush's enemies could use such a scandal to either force his outright removal via impeachment or simply force an election defeat in 2004 via ruined reputation. Capitalists could then return to business as usual: slowly and stably squeezing the blood out of the people of the world.
It could get worse; the Bush wars could continue.
Posted by Ron at 4:46 PM
ONE THOUSAND HITS
Well, I passed the thousand mark early yesterday. Hooray!
And thank you to everybody who's making my crazed ravings seem like they actually amount to something. Please keep on reading and try to force others to read Real Art, as well. It is very important that you force them. So force 'em good.
I'll celebrate again at 2,500 hits. That should take a bit.
Posted by Ron at 12:08 AM
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
INSIDE THE BRAIN OF ARI FLEISCHER
The Houston Chronicle's Craig Hines speculates on how outgoing press secretary and amusing comedian, Ari Fleischer, develops his material for presidential press conferences and nightclub performances (as if there was a difference):
Fleischer liked to picture himself as a free-roaming agent who wandered in the Oval Office as needed to determine presidential thinking on any topic. But he more often has appeared to be an automaton wound up every morning and sent forth to spew out whatever line of the day had been decided on by a hidden information apparatchik. For instance, in late March, as the attack on Iraq progressed, Fleischer repeatedly attempted to sell the president's tax cut on the dubious basis that it was needed to create jobs for returning service personnel. If he thought it up by himself, why didn't someone else in the administration stop him?
For more insight into a very funny brain, click here.
Posted by Ron at 9:47 PM
QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES: POLITICAL BIGTIME
A Texas Legislature Walkout Update
While under heavy criticism for the way troopers were conducting their hunt for House Democrats on the lam, the Texas Department of Public Safety ordered all records related to the search destroyed.
The state police today defended its actions as being required under federal privacy laws.
By May 13, Democrats involved in the walkout were complaining that DPS' investigation involved the harassment of their families.
Congressional Democrats also raised questions May 14 about whether the DPS misused a federal Homeland Security Department agency in searching for former Speaker Pete Laney's airplane the day of the walkout.
A DPS officer had called the Air and Marine Interdiction Coordination Center asking for help locating Laney's aircraft.
So, privacy laws or no, the DPS already knew that they may have broken laws in their "investigation" and that such records would probably, at some point, constitute evidence. Destroying evidence is a crime. So is obstruction of justice.
Just another day at work for our state police force.
Posted by Ron at 9:10 PM
EPA chief Whitman resigns
With Whitman's departure as EPA administrator, Bush loses one of the most prominent women in his Cabinet -- a moderate former New Jersey governor selected by the president to help soften his image as a political conservative, particularly on environmental issues.
Whitman had a history of clashing with the White House, starting with the president's abrupt decision to withdraw from the Kyoto global warming treaty.
But in an interview on CNN today, she said, "I'm not leaving because of clashes with the administration. In fact, I haven't had any. He's (Bush) always asked me to give him my best unadultered advice and I have done that."
Critics said that in the name of attracting businesses, she compromised water pollution protections and cut spending for state offices that prosecute environmental abuses by industry. Whitman, an avid mountain biker and skier, insisted she retained needed protections while eliminating red tape.
When the Bush administration took office, Whitman had only the briefest honeymoon. Within the first three months, she had upset industry executives and conservationists, disappointed moderates who like her and angered conservatives who don't.
"Christie Whitman must feel like her own long national nightmare is over," said Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, an advocacy group. "No EPA administrator has ever been so consistently and publicly humiliated by the White House."
Yet another member of the Bush administration charged with making the irrational seem rational bails out to "spend more time with the family." Is there something going on here? Probably not, but this possible trend is worth seriously thinking about, especially because the British press secretary also announced his resignation on Monday within hours of ours, America's favorite standup comedian, Ari Fleischer.
I wonder if Bush is going to try to replace Whitman as EPA chief with another soft conservative, a Republican who doesn't seem so anti-Earth, or if his long string of high profile presidential successes will make him confident enough to replace her with someone like this.
I sure hope not.
Posted by Ron at 8:48 PM
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Well, I heard Madonna's new album, American Life, over the weekend, and, as the reviews suggest, it sucks. It is appropriate that it was my old buddy, Lex, who brought the album over and played it for me. Lex and I have been both friends and Madonna fans since we were in high school together back in the early and mid 1980s. We've seen two Madonna concerts togther, the "Who's That Girl?" show, and the "Blonde Ambition" show. It was Lex's father's copy of Madonna's failed work of "erotic" photo-literature crap, Sex, that kicked off my current period of Madonna skepticism. Lex described the new album perfectly: it sounds like it was recorded by a high school girl with buttloads of money. Indeed. American Life's simple yet uncatchy melodies backed with utterly predictable, stripped down arrangements (by lack of vision rather than artistry) are clearly the product of Madonna's increased dominance of both the songwriting and producing responsibilities on her albums. She's a performer, not an idea man.
Here's a brief, forgettable example of her latest belching fit entitled, appropriately enough, "I'm So Stupid."
Thanks to Lex for both bringing the album over for me to hear, and for his "high school girl" criticism. Isn't he great? Lex really does know about these things, and he should. He's spent a lot of time living in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood--in Chelsea, I imagine, Madonna is high culture.
This calls for a song.
Here is my ode to Lex, "Alexis from Texas."
Unlike Madonna, I don't have buttloads of money--I barely have any money, in fact, and that's probably for the best. I do hope, however, that I am able to outdo Madonna in the realm of sincerity.
Who am I kidding?
At this point, sincerity, like creativity, is something that Madonna seems to be sorely lacking. Outdoing her sincerity ought to be pretty easy.
Posted by Ron at 9:23 PM
DISPELLING FUNDAMENTALIST SEX ED MYTHS
Still, the Kaiser survey spotlights areas of concern: Four in 10 sexually active teenagers have taken a pregnancy test or had a partner who did so. A significant minority of young people -- about one in six -- say having sex without a condom occasionally is not a big deal. And one in five say they have had unprotected sex after drinking or using drugs.
Other surveys have found that nearly two in three teens will have had sex by the time they graduate from high school. The Kaiser survey shows that many have intimate relationships before that, with more than half of 15-to-17-year-olds saying they have been with someone in a sexual way. Among teens who have not yet had sex, nearly a third say they have been "intimate" with a partner.
"Abstinence based" sex education aims to keep teenagers from having sex until they are married. Of course, this goal is completely doomed to failure: "two in three teens will have had sex by the time they graduate from high school." Attempting to get teens to abstain is simply wishful thinking. The genie is out of the bottle. We live in a sexualized society--most Americans now have no problem behaving and speaking in an openly sexual way when they desire; psychologists understand that this is completely healthy. Furthermore, mass media corporations are making too much money to ever give up the exploitation of sexual imagery. The abstinence crowd is up against impossible odds; they seek to re-engineer society from the classroom, but don't seem to realize that they can't. Caught in the dangerous crossfire are America's youth, who want to have sex, and will have sex, but have no idea how to approach it intelligently, ethically, or safely. This hopeless ideological battle waged by the Christian right cannot achieve its goals, but it does cause teen pregnancy and STDs to be far more likely among teens.
Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe.
Posted by Ron at 8:49 PM
Woody Allen Writes and Directs for the Stage
On the one hand, this is a little disappointing. After all, you'd hope that directing in a new medium would tap something new in his artistry. On the other hand, that artistry is pretty considerable, so why kick up a fuss?
All of which is to say that connoisseurs of, and happy wallowers in, Allen's movies will be comforted by all the familiar signals emanating from the stage at the Atlantic Theater Company, where Writer's Block opened Thursday night. The projected title of each playlet, Riverside Drive and Old Saybrook, is in the white-on-black typeface that Allen always uses for his film credits.
In other words, Writer's Block sits dead center in the Woody Allen universe, a New York City-centric place where beautiful young women are unaccountably attracted to much older men, and where relatively affluent people grapple comically and paranoiacally with serious questions of love and lust, artistic and financial achievement, and the possibility of happiness given the inevitability of death.
Well, I'd like to see it. Click here for review.
Posted by Ron at 12:13 AM
Monday, May 19, 2003
AMERICA'S FAVORITE STANDUP
COMEDIAN LOOKS FOR A NEW GIG
The 42-year-old Fleischer, who was recently married, cited the desire to spend more time with his wife and to work outside the public sector for the first time in more than two decades.
"I want to do something more relaxing, like dismantle live nuclear weapons," Fleischer joked as he discussed his surprise announcement with reporters at his morning briefing.
The stress of the White House job in an era of 24-hour cable television and proliferating political Web sites clearly has shortened the tenure of the press secretary. More than a decade ago, Marlin Fitzwater served six years through the Reagan and elder Bush administrations.
Ah, yes. The good old "spend more time" with the family routine. It served Jeff Skilling well for a few weeks, if I recall correctly. In all seriousness, I would say that, while round the clock news TV has probably done a lot over the years to up the stress level of press secretaries, President Bush's wild and weird statements and actions are the bigger stressor. In fact, trying to make sense out of White House antics is what has made old Ari America's favorite standup comedian. I wonder if the next guy will be as entertaining.
Posted by Ron at 11:54 PM
My favorite conservative,
William F. Buckley,
on William J. Bennett
Buckley, ever conservative, ever wise, pronounces Bill Bennett politically dead. WFB does it sadly, but well, better articulating arguments I've already heard elsewhere. For the most part, I agree with his analysis, even of Bennett's critics. There is one section, though, that I want to comment on:
At root is a protest against the very credentials of virtue. And that isn't something being done by libertarians, it is the creeping vine of philosophical libertinism. There are people out there who don't want to say they are opposed to virtues, but who don't really want other people around to postulate the need for virtue. John Adams said 200 years ago that the American experiment would not succeed unless the people cultivated virtue. To say such a thing in modern times is privately disdained as officious piety. To have engaged in the practice of praising virtue and to have profited from the commercial returns of doing so is deemed doubly offensive.
I think that Buckley is right (no pun intended, of course) about "the creeping vine of philosophical libertinism." That is, I think that outside religion, in US mainstream culture, the concept of aspiring to a greater morality or greater justice is often scoffed at cynically; inside religion, virtue is often only paid lip service. The decades of materialistic, consumeristic, me-first philosophy propagandized toward the American people by massive corporations has left its indelible mark on the US psyche. Today, many, if not most, Americans, religious and secular alike, see morality as something that stands in the way of getting what they want, as inconvenient rules--"How can I invade Iraq and make it look justified?" or "How can I lay off all these workers and still sleep at night?" or "How can I humiliate my rival without looking bad?" It seems that much philosophical energy in America these days is directed at making the immoral become somehow moral. I stand with Buckley in support of virtue.
I also agree that there is probably a strain of this "philosophical libertinism" directed at Bennett. There has been some glee at his destruction. It is unfair and incorrect, however, to simply dismiss all of Bennett's critics in this way. Many who have criticized Bennett, including myself, do so from a position that supports and seeks a greater morality for America. Democracy Now's Amy Goodman, for example, is clearly driven by a passion for justice and good. Katha Pollitt's devotion to justice goes back many years. Uber-blogger, Atrios, over at Eschaton pounded away at the Bennett story, but I know from Atrios' writings that his attacks are from a principled, righteous point of view. (By the way, I now know that Atrios is a "he;" he has referred, in passing, to a "Mrs. Atrios"--that's one mystery down...) Libertinism and morality exist side by side on both the left and the right. Buckley does himself a disservice by forgetting that devotion to that which is good knows no ideological boundaries.
I think that the problem is that the left and the right often tend to disagree on exactly what a virtue is--this disagreement is usually recast as an accusation that the other side is somehow amoral. It's okay to disagree: it's wrong to hurl unfounded accusations. I think that the entire political spectrum in the US needs to figure that out.
Link via Eschaton via The Rittenhouse Review.
Posted by Ron at 9:04 PM
9/11 QUESTIONS AREN'T GOING AWAY
Just two days after the catastrophe, on Sept. 13, Gen. Myers was confirmed as the new chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On that day, he told the Senate Armed Forces Committee that no Air Force jets got into the air until after the attack on the Pentagon.
On Sept. 15, The Boston Globe reported on a strange contradiction. The Globe quoted NORAD spokesman Snyder, who insisted that "the command did not immediately scramble any fighters even though it was alerted to a hijacking 10 minutes before the first plane ... slammed into the World Trade Center." He said the fighters remained on the ground until after the Pentagon was hit at 9:40 a.m. But The Globe also expressed puzzlement over the new official story that had just emerged. Now Americans were being told that fighter jets roared up from Cape Cod and from Virginia, but just didn't make it in time.
Furthermore, no explanation was ever offered for the bizarre fact that Andrews Air Force base, whose job it is to defend the U.S. capital just 19 kilometres away, had no fighter jets ready to go into action — despite the months of serious warnings of impending terrorist attacks.
So, why didn't the Air Force intercept the hijacked planes? This is a reasonable question to which we have not been given an answer. I'm not suggesting a conspiracy, I'm just saying that the Bush administration isn't talking. Why? There are many more questions. Why have they moved to reclassify documents that are already part of the Congressional record? Why have they moved to classify the now famous "Phoenix Memo?" Why were the many warnings ignored? What's with the secrecy? Americans deserve answers.
Repeat loudly and continually: George Bush is not the President.
Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe.
Posted by Ron at 4:37 PM
U.N. watchdog fears nuclear contamination in Iraq
He said he was especially worried "about the potential radiological safety and security implications of nuclear and radiological materials that may no longer be under control."
He said the reports the IAEA has received described uranium being emptied on the ground from containers then taken for domestic use and radioactive sources being stolen and removed from their shielding.
"We have a moral responsibility to establish the facts without delay and take urgent remedial action," ElBaradei said.
The U.N. agency has warned that stolen radioactive material could wind up in the hands of terrorists who could use it to make dirty bombs.
So...our war to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists seems to have created a situation where it is very likely that nuclear materials have fallen into the hands of terrorists...
Repeat loudly and continually: George Bush is not the President.
Posted by Ron at 4:15 PM
Sunday, May 18, 2003
REAL ART GUEST BLOGGER:
On Looting and the Occupation
My old friend, Brian, emails from L.A.:
So you know, I do keep up with your blog and enjoy reading it. I've got a minor challenge for you on the site, at least in regards to the Baghdad museum looting. There have been a good half dozen stories in the past 10 days that (thankfully) the looting from the Iraqi Museum wasn't nearly as bad as had been recently reported. I saw the first report when I accidentally caught some of Scarborough Country on MSNBC (ever catch that Muppet Head? A sorry, poor man's version of Brian Mitchell who ain't that hot himself although he grows on me). He was railing on the liberal media (so he lost me right away) but had some BBC guy stationed in Baghdad who was saying that the AP reporter responsible for the story exaggerated the loss for the story's drama. Now, in 2 articles in 2 days afterwards the LA Times (a toe-the-country-line paper that strays occasionally) has reported that, in fact, the musuem wasn't hit as hard as originally thought.....
So, since you always cite fairness, etc. I think it only fair that you run the update in the same way you ran the original story. Don't bury the Page 1 story fix on page 12 ala the NY Times....... :)
Fair enough, Brian. Consider your comments and links a Real Art update on the looting situation. The truth about not yet commenting myself is laziness. I just hadn't gotten round to it...
Brian further writes:
I saw another piece on the news the other night, and the situation over there is finally becoming clear, at least why everything has turned into a farce. The unreported story that no one wants to print is this: Rumsfeld's plan of lighter, leaner forces doesn't win the war. It wins the battles, but leaves insufficient strength to win the peace. With 300,000 troops over there how can you police the country? If you figure every troop works a 12 hour shift, that leaves only 150,000 over the entire country. The numbers are there, but no one wants to call out Rumsfeld, or they'll never get called on again at his sessions. Pathetic.
Resources are finite, and if they don't make good decisions, they're f*cked. And it looks like we really are....
I ask myself, how do we go into there, and then allow nuclear sites to be looted? Thus, eliminating the most cogent element of any pro-war stance: control of the bad stuff, wherever it is. We're short handed and bloated in military bureaucracy: the piece I saw last night followed a squad of soldiers as they received their orders for the day: a stolen electric generator is sitting in a part of Baghdad. Proof of it being stolen? A letter from some official in Kurdistan. Good enough for the US military. They arrive to confiscate it, but the neighborhood shows up and says 'this generator's been here for 5 years, it isn't stolen.' Orders being orders, the GIs argue with the residents (Iraqi cops are there too) but take it anyways, leaving a neighborhood in Baghdad in the dark...So. We're short handed and making bone headed decisions on the street. Maybe the generator was stolen 10 years ago? Who knows, but even after it all went down the captain said it best 'We certainly didn't need to go and do that.' But - he still followed orders. Wish I could remember which of the stations I saw it on, cuz I'd like to send you a link on that. I think it was CBS, but they got nothing on their site.
Sadly, five minutes of Googling didn't turn up anything--I don't think everything that runs on air is always posted, anyway. It does sound believable, though, and I've read about similar events. Anybody out there have a link to this story? Send it in.
Anyway, thanks for your comments, Brian. You're always welcome at Real Art (unless you become a neo-Nazi or something, which isn't likely).
Posted by Ron at 11:15 PM
THE NEW JIM CROW: FLORIDA ELECTION DEBACLE 2000
Racism and Election Fraud Go High Tech
The Year That Democracy Died
For the two or so years since the Supreme Court's incomprehensible decision that gave Bush the Oval Office, I've tried to keep an open mind. After all, I voted for Nader, and really kind of liked the fact that the Democrats received a well-deserved kick in the crotch for ignoring their left base. Don't get me wrong; I think that Bush is a clueles idiot, a puppet controlled by some very evil thugs, the worst president ever (as said by Helen Thomas), but the whole Florida affair was, I must admit, very confusing and not at all well covered by the US news media. I am still not entirely clear on how the whole thing happened or exactly why.
However, I am now entirely convinced of one thing about the 2000 election: George W. Bush knowingly and illegally stole it--because of that, he is a criminal of the highest order and should be removed from office immediately.
Why? My reading list. I just read the first chapter of Greg Palast's book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (you, too, can read that chapter, online, in pdf format; click here) which deals with the election. I have also recently read Eric Alterman's study of how the media covered the election in his book What Liberal Media, and Michael Moore's comments in Stupid White Men, too.
The long and the short of my newfound certainty of election rigging in Florida is like this. Forget the chads. Forget the recounts. Forget Nader. Forget overvotes and undervotes. Forget the Supreme Court. Forget absentee ballots. Forget military ballots. Forget Gore losing Tennessee. Forget it all (for now, at least).
Remember this: it is now (as far as I can tell) undisputed fact that tens of thousands of African-American voters in Florida who wanted to vote, and had every right to vote were flagrantly and knowingly denied their right to do so. Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, has even admitted that it happened in an email to Greg Palast (even though she refuses to take the blame). The private firm that purged the Florida voter rolls of "felons" also has admitted it (they won't take the blame either, but I suspect that they were just doing as they were told).
I had been hearing about this, black voters in Florida being wrongly branded as felons without voting rights, in 2000, for a while. Both Alterman and Moore piqued my curiosity about this issue, but didn't provide many details. Fortunately, my next purchase was the Palast book. Palast is a pretty interesting guy. Here is a passage from the "about the author" section of his book:
An internationally recognized expert on the control of corporate power, before picking up pen and camera Palast worked with labor unions and consumer groups in the United States, South America and Europe investigating corporate corruption. In America, among his more noted cases, he directed government investigations and prosecution of racketeering by nuclear plant builders and, for the Chugach natives of Alaska, probed charges of fraud by oil companies in the grounding of the Exxon Valdez.
In other words, Palast, an American from Los Angeles, doesn't come from the field of news, and approaches investigative journalism more like a combination of an academic researcher and a private eye--he seems to be free of most of the biases that are inherent in journalism as a discipline, free of the herd mentality. Unfortunately, this makes him unemployable at American newspapers, despite his well-deserved reputation as an expert. Palast works out of London; mainstream US politicians and reporters absolutely hate him. Gore could have used his help (Palast was reporting about the disenfranchisement even during the recounts, before the US Supreme Court intervened), but wouldn't touch Palast's reports with a ten foot pole. Too bad for Prince Albert; too bad for America. Too bad for the world.
Here's what happened.
In 1998, the Florida governor's office contracted out to a private firm (against Florida state law) the responsibility to find and verify the existence of felons who had lost their voting rights, but were still registered. This seemed to be a sweetheart deal: the contract went to the highest bidder, a company called ChoicePoint DBT, for millions of dollars more than the next highest bidder. DBT was then ordered by the governer's office to cast as wide of a net as possible in their search--for instance, a known convicted felon named, say, John J. Smith who is black, could get John Q. Smith who is also black named to the purge list, even though John Q. Smith has no criminal record and still has the right to vote. This wide-net directive resulted in tens of thousands of innocent black voters being named to this purge list of felons without voting rights. Even though the contract with DBT called for verification of the list in addition to compiling it, the governor's office ordered DBT to not verify the list.
Palast is dubious of the existence of conspiracy when the project began. However, he speculates that when Katharine Harris and the rest of the Jeb Bush gang in Florida saw the first, unverified purge list, and saw that the vast majority of these "felons" were black and probably Democrats, the temptation to meddle with the process became overwhelming--suddenly, these Republicans realized that they had the ability to strongly tip the Florida voter balance in their own direction if they simply used the first draft purge list. This is, of course, only speculation, but it is now documented fact that Republican state officials meddled with the purge process for whatever reasons. Even though it might have been some "accident" or "oversight," the faulty purge list resulted in the "election" of George W. Bush. It also resulted in a massive and racist miscarriage of justice.
George Bush, the thief in chief.
Don't take my word for it.
from Salon on December 4, 2000:
Florida's flawed "voter-cleansing" program - Salon.com's politics story of the year
If Vice President Al Gore is wondering where his Florida votes went, rather than sift through a pile of chad, he might want to look at a "scrub list" of 173,000 names targeted to be knocked off the Florida voter registry by a division of the office of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. A close examination suggests thousands of voters may have lost their right to vote based on a flaw-ridden list that included purported "felons" provided by a private firm with tight Republican ties.
from the Observer on December 10, 2000:
A Blacklist Burning For Bush
Hey, Al, take a look at this. Every time I cut open another alligator, I find the bones of more Gore voters. This week, I was hacking my way through the Florida swampland known as the Office of Secretary of State Katherine Harris and found a couple thousand more names of voters electronically 'disappeared' from the vote rolls. About half of those named are African-Americans. They had the right to vote, but they never made it to the balloting booths.
from the Nation February 5, 2001:
Florida's 'Disappeared Voters': Disfranchised by the GOP
In Latin America they might have called them votantes desaparecidos, "disappeared voters." On November 7 tens of thousands of eligible Florida voters were wrongly prevented from casting their ballots--some purged from the voter registries and others blocked from registering in the first instance. Nearly all were Democrats, nearly half of them African-American. The systematic program that disfranchised these legal voters, directed by the offices of Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris, was so quiet, subtle and intricate that if not for George W. Bush's 500-vote eyelash margin of victory, certified by Harris, the chance of the purge's discovery would have been vanishingly small.
Click here. (By the way, the three articles just linked are also printed, in full, in Palast's first chapter, which is linked above.)
Finally, here's some streaming BBC video of a Palast report on the overall debacle for those with short attention spans; it's in the style of, but better than, 60 Minutes.
So here's the situation. An absolutely unbelievable, but completely true criminal enterprise literally stole the 2000 US Presidential election in Florida, and therefore, the nation, for George W. Bush. Given his familial and professional relationships with the agents of subversion who engineered the theft, Bush was, in all probability, aware of their actions. That makes George W. Bush is a criminal. Under this criminal's leadership, the US has suffered greater pollution, greater corporate influence over government, greater lack of access to health care, greater unemployment, greater poverty, greater riches for the wealthy, greater influence of fundamentalist Christians over government, greater intolerance of dissident views and of other ethnicities, loss of civil rights, loss of international respect and trust, and loss of international sympathy for the terrorist attacks of 9/11 (which Bush may have known about and been able to prevent). The US has invaded and occupied two countries. The US has killed hundreds of thousands of people. The US public is unaware of the massive deception and eagerly supports the "President's" actions. The world is afraid of America; America is afraid of the world. This is probably the worst crisis our nation has ever faced, our darkest hour.
America the surreal.
George W. Bush is not the president.
Repeat it loudly and continually to anyone and everyone who won't punch you in the face.
Posted by Ron at 8:19 PM
Saturday, May 17, 2003
BLOGGER'S BEING WEIRD TODAY
Blogger's being really weird today. Real Art just doesn't seem to want to display itself in an appropriate manner. Hopefully, they'll clear up the problem soon.
Posted by Ron at 3:34 PM
REAL MUSIC (about politics and culture):
"Midnight Confessions of Emperor G. W. Bush"
Houston blogger Dominion has put together a very amusing flash animation to accompany a song by the band called the Compassionate Conservatives. I laughed out loud...
Click here for his intro and link.
Posted by Ron at 3:24 PM
SUPER-BITCH: ALL ABOUT ANN COULTER
Sharing a table at a New York bar with Coulter, watching the heads turn, you're seized by the urge to test her. Is she for real? Is she making this stuff up, like a comedian doing a shtick? How far will she go? "What if the free market offered Muslim-free air travel?" I venture, by way of bait. Would that be a smart move? "This is my idea," she says brightly, competitive as a child. "I'm way ahead of you. I think airlines ought to start advertising: 'We have the most civil rights lawsuits brought against us by Arabs.' "
And how would Muslims travel? "They could use flying carpets," she says, a grinning picture of charm. But worry not: lots of other swarthy ethnic groups would be subject to the Coulter plan for selective security. "You'd be searching a lot of Italians, Greeks and Jews." Intensively frisking just 20% of travellers would make flying quicker for everyone, she says. "Have you seen these lines for getting through? Everyone suffers equally. Which presumably is the dream of the Guardian: modelled after their beloved Soviet Union."
This is what talking to Ann Coulter is like: she flits from one rightwing prejudice to another, taking not so much as a gasp for oxygen. In a couple of sentences, she can play with overt racism, soften it with a line so provocative she could only be kidding, then round off the performance with a sweeping smear of the liberal enemy. Coulter has turned riffs like that into an art form.
Even if you can't bring yourself to be an enthusiast, Coulter is worth noticing. For she represents something rather larger than herself and her skill in carving out a starred career. She is the culmination of a trend that has been building on the American right for several years: the sense that they are somehow a beleaguered minority battling a state controlled and run by the left. That will sound like science fiction to non-Americans, who see the US as a land in the grip of corporations, tobacco giants, arms manufacturers and Christian fundamentalists. But the airwaves of talk radio have long crackled with the buzz of a group that sees itself not as America's governing majority but as a besieged, underground movement of dissent - with the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Watergate felon-turned-broadcaster G Gordon Liddy raging against the powers that be. Coulter's book shared its perch on the bestsellers' lists with another by ex-CBS correspondent Bernard Goldberg called simply Bias. Both set out to prove that the US is dominated by a liberal elite that shuts out mainstream, regular, conservative Americans like them.
For years now the concept known as "politically correct" has been under fire by conservatives--at first glance, this makes partisan, sour-grapes sense; conservative views are among the most politically incorrect (apologies to Bill Maher) on college campuses. These conservative critics, however, have raised some very good points. Right-wing views among university professors are rare (excluding, of course, business schools and economics departments). Some universities, indeed, are hotbeds of liberal activism and identity politics. I have personally seen at least one conservative speaker shouted down at a college lecture, and have read about many other such instances. I remember when I was in college hearing about a friend of a friend who an anti-apartheid protester called a racist because he disagreed with some point about university divesture. There have also been some celebrated campus drives to supress right-wing extremist speech--Holocaust deniers come to mind here. It really does appear that, in some cases, left-leaning dogma and rigid ideology have much more power and influence on campus than in mainstream society. Many of these college activists need to settle down and try to get some victories via fair and honest debate--this could only enhance the left's credibility among the general public.
Even though conservatives raise good points about p.c. supression, it is clear that they care about the issue only in so much as it supresses conservative views. Supression of liberal views in this way, however, is another matter, entirely.
Ann Coulter embodies the new wave of high-tech, right-wing, mass media "politically correct" ideologues. She is utterly self-righteous. She shouts down her opponents. She characterizes any opposing view as either stupid or evil. She has stolen the tactics of the zealous left and gone Hollywood with them, beating snotty liberals at their own game, but on a much larger playing field. Coulter takes reverse p.c. to the big time.
She is very attractive, though.
And she has a gun.
Posted by Ron at 3:58 AM
Friday, May 16, 2003
IRAQ WAR TURNS SURREAL
The truth about Jessica Lynch
From the Guardian:
The doctors told us that the day before the special forces swooped on the hospital the Iraqi military had fled. Hassam Hamoud, a waiter at a local restaurant, said he saw the American advance party land in the town. He said the team's Arabic interpreter asked him where the hospital was. "He asked: 'Are there any Fedayeen over there?' and I said, 'No'." All the same, the next day "America's finest warriors" descended on the building.
"We heard the noise of helicopters," says Dr Anmar Uday. He says that they must have known there would be no resistance. "We were surprised. Why do this? There was no military, there were no soldiers in the hospital.
"It was like a Hollywood film. They cried, 'Go, go, go', with guns and blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show - an action movie like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan, with jumping and shouting, breaking down doors." All the time with the camera rolling. The Americans took no chances, restraining doctors and a patient who was handcuffed to a bed frame.
Back in 2001, the man behind Black Hawk Down, Jerry Bruckheimer, had visited the Pentagon to pitch an idea. Bruckheimer and fellow producer Bertram van Munster, who masterminded the reality show Cops, suggested Profiles from the Front Line, a primetime television series following US forces in Afghanistan. They were after human stories told through the eyes of the soldiers. Van Munster's aim was to get close and personal. He said: "You can only get accepted by these people through chemistry. You have to have a bond with somebody. Only then will they let you in. What these guys are doing out there, these men and women, is just extraordinary. If you're a cheerleader of our point of view - that we deserve peace and that we deal with human dignity - then these guys are really going out on a limb and risking their own lives."
It was perfect reality TV, made with the active cooperation of Donald Rumsfeld and aired just before the Iraqi war. The Pentagon liked what it saw. "What Profiles does is given another in depth look at what forces are doing from the ground," says Whitman. "It provides a very human look at challenges that are presented when you are dealing in these very difficult situations." That approached was taken on and developed on the field of battle in Iraq.
Just when I'm starting to feel like the Bush administration can no longer shock me, out comes this. It appears that the daring rescue of Jessica Lynch was, by and large, staged. Amazing. That Rumsfeld and Bush are fond of cheap propaganda is already well known. After all, they brought us the whiz-bang aircraft carrier show only a short time ago. That they would stoop to such extraordinarily trashy lows with their cheap propaganda is simply overkill. If I understand this correctly, the whole thing was like an episode of Cops--virtually the entire event was simply a television show. What amazes me is that they even felt like they needed to do it. Were they worried that the peace movement was going to put an end to the war? God, c'mon! It's maddening!
(To add insult to injury, they chose to emulate a Fox show. Too bad they didn't pick Married with Children.)
Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe.
Posted by Ron at 12:31 AM
Thursday, May 15, 2003
HOUSE WALKOUT SUCCEEDS
Texas House adjourns early, letting redestricting die
AUSTIN -- Speaker Tom Craddick adjourned the Texas House today until 9 a.m. Friday, allowing a group of errant Democrats to defeat a Republican proposal to redraw congressional district boundaries.
The redistricting bill will automatically die at midnight. The 50-plus Democrats, most whom have spent four days in Ardmore, Okla., to break a House quorum, planned to return to the Capitol on Friday.
Posted by Ron at 8:43 PM
WHY I'M NOT WRITING
ABOUT THE NEW YORK TIMES
JAYSON BLAIR AFFAIR
Here are the details of the New York Times Jayson Blair affair. That is, if you really feel like wading through all ten pages of it. I only read the first page before I decided that the story just isn't worth my time.
Explaining why it's not worth my time, however, is worth my time.
Every now and then I have a moment of realization. One of those moments was when I was watching the movie Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. The movie is both a sort of biography of Noam Chomsky and a good explanation of his and Edward Hermann's propaganda model of the US news media. In order to visually represent the New York Times' imbalance of coverage between genocide in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge (official US enemies) versus genocide in East Timor by Indonesia (official US allies), two rolls of toilet paper, each symbolizing inches of newspaper column space devoted to each story are unrolled side by side: the Indonesia toilet paper runs out after a couple of feet; the Khmer Rouge toilet paper seemingly unrolls into infinity. That's when I realized that the New York Times is full of shit.
The Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting site, in fact, has an entire page full of links to reports of inaccuracy, bias, and outright lies and propaganda found in the Times. Story titles are "New York Times on Iraq Sanctions: A case of journalistic malpractice," "Only 'Elegant' Victims Need Apply," "Doublethink on the Editorial Page: Editorials Preach Compassion, Push Austerity," "Sweatshops are the Workers' Friend: And Labor Activists Their Enemies--According to the New York Times," "Holes in Ozone Coverage," and the like. The New York Times blows it seemingly every day.
That's why their editorial board's hemorrhaging about the multiple misdeeds of a lowly cub reporter is about as absurd as President Bush calling Ariel Sharon a "man of peace." I am reminded of the one-bad-apple understanding of the wave of corporate accounting scandals last year that criticized the corporate felons who were caught, but not the system that allowed them to get away with it. The Times' reaction to the misdeeds of Jayson Blair is truly Orwellian, truly weird "doublethink." Certainly, Blair has no business practicing journalism, but then neither do his bosses, and their crimes are far, far worse.
Firing Blair is a big show, designed to make the New York Times look like it actually has integrity. Blair is not the real story; he's simply a diversion. The consistency of the lies, distortions, and pro-government, pro-corporate propaganda vomited out by the Times on a daily basis is the real story.
I'm not expecting to see that headline anytime soon.
Posted by Ron at 7:38 PM