BUSH TAKES "PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY"
FOR NIGER URANIUM CLAIM
From the Washington Post:
Bush's aides have been struggling since July 7 to explain why he declared in his Jan. 28 address to Congress that Hussein "recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa" despite earlier CIA warnings to avoid the claim. Bush since then had deflected questions about whether he took responsibility for the claim, which administration officials have alternately described as wrong and unsubstantiated.
The president amended his answer yesterday. "I take personal responsibility for everything I say, of course," Bush said. He then shifted to the broader defense of the war he had previously made. "I also take responsibility for making decisions on war and peace," he said. "I analyzed a thorough body of intelligence, good, solid, sound intelligence that led me to come to the conclusion that it was necessary to remove Saddam Hussein from power."
For the full story, click here.
What a pathetic, sniveling, dodge of an admission. What exactly does he mean when he says that he takes "personal responsibility?" There are still some big questions that he needs to answer; somehow, I don't think that he will be talking anytime soon. Does he mean that he's still taking the "bad intelligence" line, but that the buck stops with him? Or is he admitting that he knew the statement was false, but said it anyway?
If he didn't know, then he's utterly incompetent, because it seemed like everyone else in the White House did know--National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, who's job is to brief the President on intelligence, knew it; she's already admitted as much. The Secretary of State knew it, too. My best guess is that Rumsfeld also knew it.
Either the President is unfit to lead because he's an idiot, or he straight-up lied. In either case, he needs to be thrown out of office. Here's an essay from the Nation magazine from July 15th, before the President's taking of "personal responsibility" for the affair, that, assuming Bush knew and lied, makes yet another good case for impeachment.
One more thing from the Washington Post story:
When a CBS News correspondent attempted a follow-up question on the sensitive subject of the Iraq weapons intelligence, Bush dispatched the questioner by saying, "I'm kind of finding my feet." When the correspondent tried again, Bush cut him off with a curt "you're through." Discussing "frustration" in the media about a lack of results in Iraq, Bush said in an aside to an NBC News correspondent: "You don't look frustrated to me at all."
It is beginning to appear that Bush is the frusterated one, and it's making him start to adopt Rumsfeld's butthole attitude. This attitude apparently goes far beyond simply snapping at journalists. Check this out, again from the Nation:
Did senior Bush officials blow the cover of a US intelligence officer working covertly in a field of vital importance to national security--and break the law--in order to strike at a Bush administration critic and intimidate others?
It sure looks that way, if conservative journalist Bob Novak can be trusted.
The "Bush administration critic" is former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, the guy who went to Niger for the CIA back in 2002 and found out that the uranium story was bogus. This retaliation against him is pretty hard core. If it's true, it adds fuel to the impeachment fire.
Thursday, July 31, 2003
BUSH TAKES "PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY"
Posted by Ron at 3:19 AM
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
HISTORIAN WHO PREDICTED
DOWNFALL OF USSR
NEARLY THIRTY YEARS AGO
NOW PREDICTS DOWNFALL OF US
I remember when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, my old friend, Matt, told me about an economist he had heard of who had predicted not only the fall of communism, but also of capitalism. The jury is still out on capitalism, but in the same predictive vein, I offer this link, courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe:
A rift has been developing, slowly at first and then more quickly, between the US and their various geo-political areas of interest. During the early 1970's a deficit in the balance of trade began to open. The US assumed the role of consumer and the rest of the world took on the role of producer, in this increasingly unbalanced global process. The balance of trade went from a deficit of $100 billion in 1990 to $500 billion annually at present. This deficit has been financed through capital flowing into the US. Eventually the same effect experienced by the Spanish in 16th and 17th centuries will come to bear. As gold from the New World flooded in, the Spanish succumbed to decreasing productivity. They consumed and dissipated, lived high and beyond their means and fell into economic and technological arrears.
Oh yeah, did I say that this is a French historian? No? Well, he is. Hee hee. Click here.
Posted by Ron at 1:54 AM
AMERICANISM AS RELIGION
When I consider how the US public so faithfully believed the Bush administration's badly constructed lies about Iraq's WMDs and connections to al-Qaeda, I think of our country's nationalism as a kind of religion. However, this sense of America-as-religion goes much deeper than the bloodthirsty fervor unleashed for the Iraq war when you carefully decode all the political rhetoric. British writer, George Monbiot, examines this notion (courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe):
Are we really expected to believe that the members of the US security services are the only people who cannot see that many Iraqis wish to rid themselves of the US army as fervently as they wished to rid themselves of Saddam Hussein? What is lacking in the Pentagon and the White House is not intelligence (or not, at any rate, of the kind we are considering here), but receptivity. Theirs is not a failure of information, but a failure of ideology.
To understand why this failure persists, we must first grasp a reality which has seldom been discussed in print. The United States is no longer just a nation. It is now a religion. Its soldiers have entered Iraq to liberate its people not only from their dictator, their oil and their sovereignty, but also from their darkness. As George Bush told his troops on the day he announced victory, "wherever you go, you carry a message of hope - a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "To the captives, 'come out,' and to those in darkness, 'be free.'"
So American soldiers are no longer merely terrestrial combatants; they have become missionaries. They are no longer simply killing enemies; they are casting out demons.
For more, click here.
Also, here is some appropriate REAL ART for your perusal:
The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Bruegel, 1562.
Posted by Ron at 1:39 AM
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
IN TEXAS IT'S THE GOP WAY OR THE HIGHWAY
Texas Democrats on the run again
This time it's the state senate:
Eleven Democratic state senators got the jump on Gov. Rick Perry Monday, bolting from the state Capitol and flying to Albuquerque, N.M., shortly before the governor ordered a second special legislative session on congressional redistricting.
The Republicans are apparently going to keep trying until they get the result that they want. Clearly, these are strong-arm tactics, utterly scornful of democracy. What's at stake here? Read on:
Van de Putte, chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said the dissidents were prepared to remain in Albuquerque for the duration of the new, 30-day session because the redistricting effort threatened minority voting rights.
"When the congressional districts of those Democrats targeted by Republicans are eliminated, over 1.4 million minority Texans will have no advocates because their homes will be drawn into districts in which they will have no voice in choosing their member of Congress," she said.
As if squeezing out minority voters wasn't bad enough, the Republicans are willing to cheat in order to win:
Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said the Democrats had no choice but to flee since Dewhurst already had announced that during a second special session he would bypass a traditional Senate rule requiring a two-thirds vote to debate legislation.
That two-thirds requirement had allowed Senate Democrats to block redistricting during the first special session, which was to have automatically ended today but was adjourned on Monday.
And the Republican spin is already on:
Perry, who ordered the new session to convene less than two hours after the Democrats had fled, accused the missing senators of killing other legislation that could have generated an additional $800 million for health and human services and other state needs.
Bullshit. This is all about increasing GOP numbers in the US House of Representatives--that's why they're being so intense about it; the GOP is never maniacal about health and human services--Perry's spin on this is pretty laughable, but so are the one-liners coming from his buddies in the White House these days. It's even funnier if you consider the fact that redistricting would decrease minority voting strength: they would screw minorities on the one hand but help minorities on the other.
One wonders if these hard core political strategies are a taste of what is to come at the national level. After all, at this point, everyone knows that former bug man and US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has his hands all over this redistricting scheme. It's even more frightening when you factor in the GOP takover of the most powerful political force in Washington, the lobbyists--pretty soon, it won't matter what the Democrats think or say if things keep going the way they're going now.
At any rate, this is the reality now in Texas, and will be for the foreseeable future:
There are 29 more days remaining in this new special session, however, and Perry can call an unlimited number of special sessions, if he chooses, after this one.
God, this is getting pretty creepy.
For the entire article, click here.
Posted by Ron at 2:39 AM
Monday, July 28, 2003
Forty Hits Today!
Something weird and cool related to my blog has been going on out there in cyberspace that has resulted in my getting forty hits today. I think that's a record. Very cool. Thank you, digital elves, for cobbling my electronic shoes.
Posted by Ron at 11:56 PM
MORE CORPORATE SLEAZE FROM WORLDCOM
MCI accused of decade of misconduct
AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Federal prosecutors are delving into nearly a decade of alleged misconduct by MCI to determine if the telephone company defrauded competitors by disguising long-distance calls as local ones, lawyers and others familiar with the probe say.
The investigation involves MCI's alleged avoidance of charges it is supposed to pay local phone companies.
Democrat or Republican, it doesn't matter. As long as money rules American politics, the fox is guarding the henhouse. If politicians have such close ties with and dependencies on big ass corporations, how the hell can government ever possibly be trusted to police business?
Answer: they can't.
Click here for the entire MCI sleaze story.
Posted by Ron at 11:43 PM
GOOD BYE BOB HOPE
Houston Chronicle obit.
The Bob Hope Show Theme Song:
"Thanks For The Memory"
Written by Ralph Rainger and Leo Robin, adapted by Bob Hope
Originally aired in the film "Big Broadcast" (1938)
Thanks for the memory
Of things I can't forget, journeys on a jet
Our wond'rous week in Martinique and Vegas and roulette
How lucky I was
And thanks for the memory
Of summers by the sea, dawn in Waikiki
We had a pad in London but we didn't stop for tea
How cozy it was
Now since our breakup I wake up
Alone on a gray morning-after
I long for the sound of your laughter
And then I see the laugh's on me
But, thanks for the memory
Of every touch a thrill, I've been through the mill
I've lived a lot and learned a lot, you loved me not and still
I miss you so much
Thanks for the memory
Of how we used to jog even in a fog
That barbecue in Malibu, away from all the smog
How rainy it was
Thanks for the memory
Of letters I destroyed, books that we enjoyed
Tonight the way things look, I need a book by Sigmund Freud
How brainy he was
Gone are those evenings on Broadway
Together we'd go to a great show
But now I begin with the Late Show
And wish that you were watching, too
I know it's a fallacy
That grown men never cry, baby, that's a lie
We had our bed of roses, but forgot that roses die
And thank you so much
Here's what I wrote two months ago when Bob Hope turned 100.
Thanks for the memory, Bob.
Posted by Ron at 5:14 PM
HARD TIMES IN THE NEO-LIBERAL ECONOMY
Study: 1 in 5 laid off in recent recession
From the AP via this morning's Houston Chronicle:
"There's neither private sector nor government support that's going to most people," said Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, which conducted the study.
Barely one-fourth of those surveyed said their employer extended their health benefits after they were laid off, and less than one-fifth said they received help finding a job, career counseling or skills training.
Businesses continue to announce thousands of layoffs. The national unemployment rate hit a nine-year high of 6.4 percent in June, and many economists think it could hit 6.6 percent before starting to decline, which probably won't be until at least the end of this year.
Or so economists hope. As Principal Skinner once said on the Simpsons, "Welcome to Dick Cheney's America."
Click here for more woes of the working class.
Posted by Ron at 7:46 AM
9/11 REPORT Q AND A
Veteran Journalist Michael Isikoff's Online Session
A few of the more interesting moments:
Chicago, IL: Is Iraq mentioned in the report at all?
Michael Isikoff: Barely. There's one sentence in 900 pages, quoting some earlier testimony from Tenet saying that Mohammed Atta "may" have met with an Iraq intelligence agent in Prague--and that the CIA was working to corroborate this. My sense is that Tenet mentioned this in the first place for political reasons because nobody in the FBI and CIA takes that report seriously anymore--and not a scrap of evidence has surfaced to support the idea that the meeting took place.
Brussels, Belgium: How is it that Bush wants to protect the only foreign country which the CIA had found to have direct links with Al Qaeda whereas he singled out Iraq as the culprit in spite of a CIA report concluding that Iraq had not been involved in terrorist activity in the last 10 years? Is the CIA of any use to this president?
Michael Isikoff: The CIA has been enormously useful to the president. Tenet has helped the Bush White House on many fronts; it was he who would have made the ultimate calls about what could, or could not, have been declassified for this report. My sense is that the CIA has always been skeptical about too strong an Iraq-Al Qaeda connection and only went along with what Powell said to the U.N. after being very careful about the actual wording. (more was implied about this connection than was actually said, if you read the words closely.)
Houston, TX: National-security people came to Crawford, Texas, to brief the president on or about Aug. 6, 2001. Was that standard procedure, and was it about a threat of attack and what was the president's response? Do you know anything about this? Will we people ever know?
Michael Isikoff: Yes, we have learned a lot more about that briefing thanks to the report. It had previously been acknowledged by Condi Rice that the briefing covered the matter of Al Qaeda using airplanes as weapons. When Condi Rice briefed the press on this last year, she dismissed the significance of the briefing, saying it was "very vague" and mostly "historical" and did not constitute a warning for the president. In fact, we now learn, the briefing was much more detailed--and alarming. Bush was told that members of Al Qaeda had come to and resided in the United States "for years" and that the "group apparently maintained a support structure here." It also included recent intelligence that bin Laden supporters were "planning attacks in the United States with explosives." None of this was disclosed by the White House before.
So there you have it. The connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq was, at best, minimal; the CIA was skeptical, but felt pressured into following the Bush administration line. Even more damning: Bush knew more about the potential for bin Laden attacks than he was ever willing to admit for months after they actually happened.
We've all been had in many more ways than one. Of course, I, and many others, have been saying this for a looooong time now...
For more of Isikoff's question and answer session, click here.
Thanks to Eschaton for the link.
Posted by Ron at 1:30 AM
Sunday, July 27, 2003
NADER DOING WHAT HE DOES BEST
Socking It to the Credit Card Industry
Via the Houston Chronicle:
Robert Manning, author of "Credit Card Nation," who monitors the credit card industry closely, says that the companies market the subprime borrowers because they are more likely to keep high balances on their accounts month after month, often paying only the minimum finance charges. In contrast, wealthier cardholders pay off the balances each month and, as a result, pay the least in interest charges and fees.
In the back rooms of credit card companies, Manning says these more affluent quick-paying cardholders are referred to ironically as "deadbeats."
As a result, the banks and credit card companies are demanding that Congress change the bankruptcy laws, remove consumer protections and make certain that they will be able to collect every dime from the people they have pushed into bankruptcy. In effect, consumers would be placed in a virtual debtors prison and left with no chance to resume their lives as productive citizens. The bankruptcy courts would be converted into glorified debt-collection agencies.
Here's some friendly advice: if you have credit cards, cut them up; if you don't have credit cards, don't even think of getting them--they're a total scam. I've seen many people over the years run up massive levels of debt with their plastic. In reality, the credit card scam is simply legal loan sharking, only without the shark skin suits and Vito Corleone accents. Yet another way that corporations are out to ruin your life.
For more Ralph Nader on the credit industry, click here.
Thanks to Fatnoise Farms for the link.
Posted by Ron at 10:06 PM
HOLY FLIM-FLAM MAN
"Faith Healer" Benny Hinn Steals
Money, Hopes and Dreams of Millions
Critics keep a record of the claims Hinn makes at crusades and on television -- that Fidel Castro would die in the mid-1990s; that all gays would be killed by fire by 1995; that Jesus would appear on the platform with Hinn at one of his crusades.
Hinn lashes out against such criticism. He once said, "Sometimes I wish God would give me a Holy Ghost machine gun. I'd blow your head off!"
That's really Christ-like, let me tell you. You just gotta love that Nehru jacket, though. Click here.
Posted by Ron at 12:59 PM
Saturday, July 26, 2003
ART IS NEVER NEUTRAL
Off and on, for many years now, I have enjoyed the observations of writer Micheal Ventura in his Letters at 3AM column in the Austin Chronicle. A couple of Ventura columns in particular that I read hot off the heels of my stint as an RTF student reinforced a belief in which I had strongly come to believe: there's no such thing as "just a movie." (Unfortunately, both of these columns seem to be unavailable online.) The first column, "Forest Gump Why?" blasted the wildly popular film on the grounds that it is anti-thought, that it glorifies the uniquely American notion that true wisdom is simple, and that intellectual notions cannot be trusted. The second column, "Forest Gump Why Not?" attempted to answer all the critical hate mail that the first column generated--in this second essay, Ventura presented his case for making critical analyses of film. He illustrated that, like it or not, all films present ideological messages; entertainment and art are never neutral, no matter how much we may love a particular film. Indeed, one of my favorite films, Gone with the Wind, is full of negative ideological concepts--slaves are portrayed as happy and stupid; the Klan is portrayed as heroic. Despite my love for the film, it would be dishonest and wrong to ignore its destructive messages.
Some years later, when I was getting my teacher's certification at the University of Houston Downtown, I was able to take a cool cultural rhetoric course. I was asked to write an analysis on the film Sneakers, and, riffing on Ventura, I decided to go for the jugular. I figured that, given my last post, "WHY 'REAL ART?'" I would let you in on how I tend to understand films these days. One note, the essay discusses radical violence to some extent: this is not to be understood as an endorsement of violence in any way; my own philosophy is decidedly non-violent. Also, in spite of my criticism, I really do like the film.
“DON’T YOU KNOW THAT YOU CAN COUNT ME OUT (IN)”
While writing the Beatles’ song, “Revolution,” John Lennon was facing a personal dilemma. Should he embrace the more radical elements of the 1960’s youth revolution or advocate a slower, more peaceful road to societal change? Lennon hated violence but people were being oppressed and murdered by establishment forces worldwide.
His struggle with the issue manifested itself in the song’s lyrics. The Beatles actually released two recordings of the song, a heavy guitar version as the b-side for “Hey Jude” and a slower, more relaxed version on their double l.p. nicknamed The White Album. The guitar version has the lines, “when you talk about destruction/ don’t you know that you can count me out,” but the slower version changes the second line by adding the word “in” immediately after the word “out.” Lennon was sitting on an ideological fence.
Using thirty years of hindsight, the Hollywood film, Sneakers, attempts to resolve this dilemma for aging baby-boomers everywhere. The film presents an ideology that dictates the preferred method of social change in the United States. According to this ideology, radicalism is bad, dangerous, and leads not only to personal destruction but also to potential destruction of the world. On the other hand, social change, if it is really even needed, should be peaceful, incremental, and, by and large, accomplished through the established institutions of society.
The two views are embodied by the actions of the film’s two central characters played by Robert Redford and Ben Kingsley. Kingsley is the bad guy and ideologically represents what is to the movie’s producers the wrong way to change society. Firstly, Kingsley’s character is clearly a radical, but he is also a cold-blooded killer working for organized crime: in Sneakers, radicalism is murderous; its often-noble goals are equated with the self-serving aims of the Mafia. Secondly, as a criminal, Kingsley leads a life of danger with bullets flying and risk of incarceration--radicalism is a dangerous thing; just ask Patty Hearst. Finally, Kingsley loses in the end; he fails to achieve his twisted dream of Nirvana overnight and, if I recall correctly, faces trial for his actions. On the other hand, if he had succeeded, the world as we know it would have ended, replaced by some dark vision. For Sneakers, radicalism, if successful, destroys the world, if unsuccessful, destroys the self.
Redford’s character, on the other hand, is the good guy and ideologically represents the right way to change society, if such a thing is needed at all. Indeed, according to the movie, Redford spends most of his life doing absolutely nothing to change society; he devotes himself to individual concerns, starting a business, leading his life. In Sneakers, societal change is rarely needed: the good citizen should be concerned mostly with his or her own personal business.
Further, Redford is peaceful, only encountering violence when he becomes again involved with Kingsley, the radical. When Redford finally does attempt to change society, even though he acts in a seemingly radical manner, he does it by influencing society’s established institutions such that change is slow and incremental rather than immediate. For Sneakers, good Americans embrace the establishment and seek only slow, non-violent change.
This ideology presented by Sneakers, however, is factually incorrect and even undermines itself through contradiction. To begin, even though radicalism is often associated with violence, it has, in fact, worked quite well numerous times and accomplished numerous worthy goals.
The U.S. labor movement of the 1920’s and 1930’s was, at times, extremely violent, seeking immediate societal change; however, it gained many rights that Americans today take for granted. Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution of the late 1950’s was also violent, changing Cuba virtually overnight. It is arguable how beneficial the revolution was to the people of Cuba, but, by many personal accounts, two great accomplishments were made: Cubans have food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care; the average citizen has a sense of dignity and self-efficacy that he or she did not have before. The African National Congress of South Africa also has a violent history of seeking radical change: Apartheid has ended; white minority rule is a thing of the past. Despite Sneakers’ messages to the contrary, radicalism not only works, but many times it has worked quite well.
Furthermore, the model of peaceful, incremental change offered by Sneakers is undermined by its own narrative elements. Redford’s institutional influence is, in the great scheme of things, inconsequential. He bankrupts the Republican Party; this action implies that the Democrats are the party of good. This notion is almost laughable.
First, one can easily imagine how quickly a raging flood of corporate donations would repair the damage to the Republicans. Second, the Democrats are arguably as money-driven and corporate controlled as the Republicans. It is business as usual one way or the other.
Redford then redistributes the money to Amnesty International and the United Negro College Fund. Both are fine organizations that have accomplished many good things. Despite years of activism, however, the United States still executes prisoners and supports repressive foreign governments; college is still, for the most part, mostly white (and with the dismantling of affirmative action, increasingly white). Redford’s use of established institutions to change society is, in all likelihood, doomed to fail. Therefore, as a close, critical reading of Sneakers suggests, incremental change within the status quo is probably not even worth trying. Just stay at home and watch a video.
John Lennon eventually embraced certain elements of radicalism and wrote some great revolutionary songs such as “Power to the People” and “Woman Is the Nigger of the World.” It is interesting to note, however, that when he withdrew from public life in 1975, he also seems to have withdrawn from radical politics, as did many other baby-boomers. Lennon was murdered in 1980; many of his contemporaries became soccer moms and stockbrokers, absolute symbols of the establishment.
Perhaps Sneakers is a corporate crafted absolution for the guilty conscience of a generation; perhaps it is just a movie. There is one thing, however, that this disillusioned, leftist Gen X-er knows: there is no better punishment for the turncoat hippies of yesteryear than to be condemned to the bourgeois lifestyle that they once despised.
Posted by Ron at 7:50 PM
Friday, July 25, 2003
WHY “REAL ART?”
To be honest, I first used the name “Real Art” as a sort of gag title for a music-dance video project I produced and directed years ago for a television production class when I was studying radio, television, and film at the University of Texas. I had been taking some critical film theory courses that were heavily examining the concept of meaning in film and television, and I wanted to make a video that seemed to have numerous levels of meaning, but actually meant nothing. Riffing on old Ronco style commercials, I thought that “Real Art” (Don’t accept anything but REAL art!) would be a nice little joke that I could laugh at privately.
The project worked well: all my fellow students seemed to love it and the grad students who taught our class read all kinds of unintended messages into the images I created and I got an “A.” For a brief moment, I was the belle of the ball—the next semester, however, I was taught by an arrogant, evil Carl Reiner type, a former professional from the field whose dictatorial, belittling approach to education single handedly drove me away from TV forever; that’s another story.
Maybe someday I’ll get the video online for all to see; it’s quite fun, albeit a bit rough edged, and my father says it reminds him of Ernie Kovacs.
I later used “Real Art” as a theater company name when I wrote, produced, and directed a one-act play for a play festival in Austin. I managed to talk my old friend, Matt, who sometimes contributes to this blog, out of his retirement from acting to star in the play. Sadly, we lost, but it was a good, solid show.
Somewhere along the line, I decided that “Real Art” would be used as an umbrella moniker for any future projects over which I have complete control. So when my former student, Lance, set me up with a blog, I already had a title.
So, if the name of my blog is “Real Art,” why do I devote the majority of my writings to politics and culture?
In order to answer that question, I must undertake a brief discussion concerning the nature of art. Janet Staiger, a professor I had for a couple of classes back during my previously mentioned RTF days, once said something to the effect that she does not believe in art. That is, the question of what constitutes art becomes, ultimately, so problematic that it is impossible to definitively answer. She raised an extremely good point; however, I must admit that I love the concept of art, as problematic as it is—the romantic notions and images it conjures forth, such as poets in coffee houses, idealism, passionate lovers, beauty, truth, all these things and more give me reason to live. So, for my own purposes, as both an artist and a writer, I offer this working definition of art: it is an individual’s reactions, emotional and intellectual, to his or her observations of reality, manifested in a way that cannot be stated in plain, every day language—this includes poetry, prose, theater, music, dance, film, video, painting, sculpture, and anything else along these lines that I’ve forgotten to mention…sometimes even standup comedy can rise to the level of art.
Because much of what we call “reality,” especially for the artist, is both debatable and subjective, art can be used to further both good and bad ends. Indeed, many artists favor liberal causes, but others have gone in the opposite direction: Rudyard Kipling employed his writing skills to glorify and ideologically promote the brutal British Empire; Leni Riefenstahl used her film genius to deify Adolph Hitler and the Nazis; the Rambo and Missing in Action films of the 1980s helped to make America forget the valuable lessons of Vietnam, and to glorify US military power and war in general. Art is never neutral. There is always an ideological component, even if the message is simply “relax” or “don’t worry; it’s okay” or anything else of that sort—often, “entertainment” serves the powerful by diverting attention away from their actions.
I am reminded of an impromptu discussion about the social and artistic responsibilities of actors that we had in my acting class during my senior year in the UT drama department. I don’t remember many of the details, but I do recall that I was in the minority that strongly advocated a social responsibility and political awareness for actors that is above and beyond any entertainment function. I wasn’t as liberal then as I am now, but I think that I was beginning to see that art (which by default includes many forms of “entertainment”) is a powerful ideological tool. Several years later, I discovered the all but forgotten great actor, singer, and socialist activist for justice, Paul Robeson, who once said, “The artist must elect to fight for freedom or for slavery. I have made my choice.” He became my immediate hero and role model.
For me, art, politics, and culture are tightly intertwined and nearly indistinguishable—Janet Staiger is probably right to refrain from any arguments about what constitutes art, but the problematic issue of defining art ultimately makes me take myself all the more seriously as an artist: art is serious business.
Indeed, the same wealthy corporate forces that drive our repressive and militaristic government also control the popular arts. PBS’s Frontline documentary “The Monster That Ate Hollywood” shows how the mega financial success of Jaws in the mid 1970s made massive corporations realize that there could be big, big profits in film, so they started buying studios like crazy; within a few years, Hollywood had changed for the worse: today’s endless parade of craptacular blockbusters are the end result. Musician and songwriter, Todd Rundgren, has made similar statements about how the multi-platinum success of Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive” set in motion a very similar chain of events within the recording industry—now we must endure boy bands, shit-hop idiots, Britney Spears, and shrill, no-talent “divas.” Corporate control of the entertainment industry today has taken artists further away from the production process than at any other point in American pop culture history.
Music stars are corporate goons; film stars are corporate goons. Long ago, I wanted to be a rock star or a movie star, myself, but not anymore. I’d be serving the bad guys; I refuse to do that.
That brings me all the way back to where I started this essay, the title of my blog. Here at Real Art, I’m trying to illuminate what I believe are the concepts with which artists ought to concern themselves for the most part—at the very least, I’m trying to show what concerns me as an artist. I believe that art should serve humanity, not the bad guys. Anything else is, at best, meaningless, and, at worst, evil. In short, Real Art is an ongoing argument for what constitutes real art.
Posted by Ron at 3:22 AM
Thursday, July 24, 2003
RETURN OF THE MISSING REAL ART ARCHIVES
You probably didn't notice it, but the archives for my blog posts from March 9 through March 22 have been missing since about...well...they seemingly were never archived at all for some mysterious reason. This has been a bit of a drag for me because not only was this the period just before and just after the start of Bush's Iraq war and, therefore, includes some interesting links, but also because I wrote a few essays of which I am rather fond. Whatever the archiving problem was, Blogger seems to have cleared it up when they switched over to a new system a few weeks ago. So, now all that stuff is back!
Why not go and read or reread a bit? You can peruse my words on Bush's State of the Union Address, "ANNEX THE SUDETENLAND," or my report from a Houston anti-war demonstration, or my explanation of why Bush's Iraq war is evil, or my statement on the occasion of the start of the war, "MARS COMES IN MARCH," which comes complete with mood music. But if you don't want to read any of those, I beg you to scan my favorite essay from that period about the upward spiral of violence that we seem to be experiencing now, "HARRY CALLAHAN'S DILEMMA."
Or simply scroll through the archive for March and hit what looks good. Or don't. Hey, I'm easy...
Posted by Ron at 4:18 AM
Fans flock to 'Big Lebowski' festival
A convention, of sorts, celebrating my favorite Coen brothers film, featuring "the Real Dude;" check it out:
Russell and Shuffitt, lifelong friends, first conceived the notion of the Lebowski Fest while running a T-shirt and sticker booth at a tattoo convention. The pair found a small, affordable bowling alley, printed up $30 worth of flyers and waited to see what would happen. Russell is a Web developer and Shuffitt designs T-shirts and concert posters.
What happened was about 150 people showed up for the inaugural Lebowski Fest last year. Fans of the movie gathered in a tiny bowling alley to bowl, sip white Russians -- The Dude's adult beverage of choice -- and wear the costumes of their favorite Lebowski characters.
Word of mouth and other Lebowski fan sites touting the festival spurred this year's massive turnout.
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 3:54 AM
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Farmer Ron's Real Art World
My old friend, Kevin, over at Fatnoise Farms, has set up an entire cyber-realm for the display of my own artistic and pseudo-intellectual self-indulgences. This new digital dimension has: Links to all of my online songs! My paintshop pro doodles! And a couple of other surprises!
Click here for Farmer Ron's Real Art World!
I would be honored if you checked it out...and while you're at it, check out Kevin's nifty and weird site if you haven't already; it's pretty offbeat and cool.
Posted by Ron at 5:13 PM
"ONE NATION, UNDER THE DOLLAR,
WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR NONE" II
The New Spoils System
Hillary's "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy" Really Exists
There is much, much more to the dollar's rule over Washington than might have been suggested by yesterday's Real Art post that linked to the AP's simple illustration of how incredibly wealthy campaign donors usually get the legislation that they want. Believe it or not, the situation is even more disturbing: the Republicans, quite literally, are taking control of the corporate lobbyists, thereby squeezing the Democrats out of the law-making process altogether. The forces of darkness are effectively shooting for one-party rule.
From this month's Washington Monthly magazine, via Eschaton:
If today's GOP leaders put as much energy into shaping K Street as their predecessors did into selecting judges and executive-branch nominees, it's because lobbying jobs have become the foundation of a powerful new force in Washington politics: a Republican political machine. Like the urban Democratic machines of yore, this one is built upon patronage, contracts, and one-party rule. But unlike legendary Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, who rewarded party functionaries with jobs in the municipal bureaucracy, the GOP is building its machine outside government, among Washington's thousands of trade associations and corporate offices, their tens of thousands of employees, and the hundreds of millions of dollars in political money at their disposal.
At first blush, K Street might not seem like the best place to build a well-oiled political operation. For most of its existence, after all, the influence industry has usually been the primary obstacle to aggressive, ambitious policy-making in Washington. But over the last few years, Republicans have brought about a revolutionary change: They've begun to capture and, consequently, discipline K Street. Through efforts like Santorum's--and a House version run by the majority whip, Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)--K Street is becoming solidly Republican. The corporate lobbyists who once ran the show, loyal only to the parochial interests of their employer, are being replaced by party activists who are loyal first and foremost to the GOP. Through them, Republican leaders can now marshal armies of lobbyists, lawyers, and public relations experts--not to mention enormous amounts of money--to meet the party's goals. Ten years ago, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the political donations of 19 key industry sectors--including accounting, pharmaceuticals, defense, and commercial banks--were split about evenly between the parties. Today, the GOP holds a two-to-one advantage in corporate cash.
That shift in large part explains conservatives' extraordinary legislative record over the last few years. Democrats, along with the press, have watched in mounting disbelief as President Bush, lacking either broad majorities in Congress or a strong mandate from voters, has enacted startlingly bold domestic policies--from two major tax cuts for the rich, to a rollback of workplace safety and environmental standards, to media ownership rules that favor large conglomerates. The secret to Bush's surprising legislative success is the GOP's increasing control of Beltway influence-peddlers. K Street used to be a barrier to sweeping change in Washington. The GOP has turned it into a weapon.
Much of this shift in Republican strategy has been unreported by most of the mainstream news media so far. It is frighteningly reminiscent of Senator Palpatine's behind the scenes political maneuverings and secret invokings of the dark side of the Force in the new crop of Star Wars films--life imitates art.
How are the Republicans pulling this off? According to the article, the GOP is essentially saying to lobbying firms and trade organizations that if they want to get their wish-list of bills passed, they'd better hire only hand-picked Republican operatives, or else--of course, purging Democrats from the lobbyist rolls is also a requirement for inclusion in this new Republican game. Corporations are falling over themselves to accommodate this arm-twisting; in some ways they see it as a win-win situation.
The GOP stands to reap massive rewards from this new arrangement. Again from the Washington Monthly article:
Day-to-day, the most trusted lobbyists--like those who attend Santorum's meetings--serve as commissars, providing the leadership with eyes and ears as well as valuable advice and feedback. And generally, placing party surrogates atop trade associations makes them more responsive to the party's needs. However, the K Street strategy also provides the GOP with a number of specific advantages. From a machine perspective, such jobs are far more useful than appointive positions in the executive branch. Private sector work has none of government's downside. Political machines thrive on closed-door decision-making; on K Street, there's no other kind. Neither are trade associations subject to inspector generals or congressional oversight; there are no rules against whom you can meet with, no reporters armed with FOIAs. These jobs also make for better patronage. Whereas a deputy undersecretary might earn $140,000, a top oil lobbyist can make $400,000. Controlling K Street also helps Republicans accumulate political talent. Many ex-Clintonites who might have wanted top lobbying positions couldn't get them, and so left Washington for posts at universities, corporations, and foundations elsewhere. But the GOP, able to dole out the most desirable jobs, has kept more of its best people in Washington, where they can be hauled out for government or campaign work like clubs in a golf bag.
But jobs and campaign contributions are just the tip of the iceberg. Control a trade association, and you control the considerable resources at its disposal. Beginning in the 1990s, Washington's corporate offices and trade associations began to resemble miniature campaign committees, replete with pollsters and message consultants. To supplement PAC giving, which is limited by federal election laws, corporations vastly increased their advocacy budgets, with trade organizations spending millions of dollars in soft money on issue ad campaigns in congressional districts. And thanks to the growing number of associations whose executives are beholden to DeLay or Santorum, these campaigns are increasingly put in the service of GOP candidates and causes. Efforts like the one PhRMA made on behalf of Bush's Medicare plan have accompanied every major administration initiative. Many of them have been run out of the offices of top Republican lobbyists such as Ed Gillespie, whose recent elevation to chairman of the Republican National Committee epitomizes the new unity between party and K Street. Such is the GOP's influence that it has been able to marshal on behalf of party objectives not just corporate lobbyists, but the corporations themselves. During the Iraq war, for instance, the media conglomerate Clear Channel Communications Inc. had its stations sponsor pro-war rallies nationwide and even banned the Dixie Chicks, who had criticized White House policy, from its national play list. Likewise, last spring Norquist and the White House convinced a number of corporations and financial services firms to lobby customers to support Bush's dividends tax cut. Firms like General Motors and Verizon included flyers touting the plan with dividends checks mailed to stockholders; Morgan Stanley included a letter from its CEO with the annual report it mailed to millions of customers.
The Republicans are going for the ultimate power grab, all the marbles. Most people have absolutely no idea of what is happening. I strongly urge you, dear readers, to read the rest of this article; it's a bit long, which is why I have posted longer quotes here, but it is well worth the read. The stakes involved are extraordinarily high.
"Alarmism in defense of liberty is not a vice."
Posted by Ron at 5:47 AM
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
"ONE NATION, UNDER THE DOLLAR,
WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR NONE"
Survey: House votes linked to donations
From the Associated Press via the Houston Chronicle:
The Associated Press looked at six measures in the House -- medical malpractice, class-action lawsuits, bankruptcy laws, the energy bill, gun manufacturer lawsuits and overtime pay -- and compared lawmakers' votes with the financial backing they received from interest groups supporting or opposing the legislation. The House passed five of the six bills and defeated an amendment that would have stopped the Bush administration from rewriting the rules for overtime pay.
In the majority of cases, the biggest recipients of interest group money voted the way their donors wanted, according to the AP's computer-assisted analysis of campaign finance data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Groups that outspent opponents got the bills they wanted in five of the six cases examined.
Click here for more of the disgusting truth.
And people wonder why I voted for a presidential candidate who was bound to lose.
Even though there are a very few notable exceptions, it is almost unassailable fact that whatever sense of democracy that once may or may not have existed in the United States is now gone. Voting, at the state and national levels, and increasingly at the local level is now, by and large, simply a ritual without substance. Certainly, "one man, one vote" still exists, but it ultimately means nothing. Money rules this country, not its citizens.
Sadly, most people seem to be content with the ritual, the myth. As Fox Mulder used to say on the late, lamented X-Files television show, "the truth is out there," for anyone that cares to open up their eyes and look. The above linked story is only one of thousands of essays, books, documentaries, and news reports that reveal the usurpation of our precious democracy. I understand how the multifaceted propaganda and thought control system that plagues our nation functions, but I still have a great deal of difficulty accepting how absolutely successful and dominant that system seems to be.
All Americans have studied the concept and value of democracy in school. Why do I feel like I am one of but a few who remember those lessons?
Thomas Jefferson is weeping in his grave.
Posted by Ron at 4:58 AM
Monday, July 21, 2003
OKAY, I'M BACK
Okay, I'm back.
There's probably no need to bore you with the details of why Real Art has been on a forced hiatus since last Tuesday except for the fact that I'm pretty angry about it and so I'm gonna rant for a bit. AOL sucks. People have been telling me that for years, but were always a bit vague about how and why AOL sucks. I now have good, specific reasons to believe that AOL sucks. (Quick digression: Frank Zappa talks about how Warner Brothers sucks in the FZ concert movie, Baby Snakes; now that AOL and Time Warner are one and the same, I can feel like I have FZ's wrath on my side here.)
I lost internet access late last Tuesday night. It was either because of Hurricane Claudette or because AOL screwed up my billing when I moved. Or both. One thing is for sure, AOL screwed up my billing big time: my wife and I have been overbilled, but, somehow, AOL figured that I owed them even more money and cut my access at around the same time that some Houston server or network went down because of the storm. Compounding the problem was the fact that the AOL tech support people had been instructed, apparently, to not be entirely forthright about what was going on. I figured that little tidbit out because I ended up talking to 15 or 16 of their technicians--they gave me inconsistent answers; one of their guys accidentally told me the truth, that some third company (not my cable company and not AOL) was the owner of this network or server and so they didn't know how long it would take to fix. Yet another guy told me that the truth teller wasn't supposed to say that and had gone too far...
Confused yet? I sure was.
Anyway, by the time the mysterious network or server problem had been repaired, I still had no access, which stymied the latest of the seemingly endless stream of tech support personnel. Finally the tech guy checked my billing status and said that a block had been put on my account, which was both annoying and strange given that I thought that I had cleared that up earlier in the week (and given that I thought that I had cleared that up right after I moved over a month ago). My wife is the bill person in our house, so she dealt with AOL billing: she found out that we had been overbilled for the month of June to the tune of about fifty bucks. For some reason this wasn't good enough for AOL because they still needed a credit card number and weren't taking mine even though the damned card is good through the end of the month...I still don't know if we're going to get our fifty bucks back!
Warner Brothers sucks; AOL sucks. Corporations suck. Period. Maybe it's time to go to Road Runner, which is still part of Time Warner, which sucks.
Aaaaaugh! The corporate bastards own us all.
And without internet service, I've had to rely on the corporate news media, which suck, all week long. It's been wall-to-wall Kobe Bryant, the new and better pointless diversion to replace Scott Peterson as the sensationalistic and lurid diversion du jour to make us forget about the missing WMDs, the ever rising US soldier death toll in Iraq, Bush's push to destroy our economy while enriching his friends and campaign donors, and just about every other important news story that's not "sexy." In fact, at one point on Friday afternoon (approximately 5:30 p.m. central time), ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, MSNBC, CNN, and CNBC were all reporting on the Kobe Bryant rape story. Even NPR covered the story that day.
Let's all say "O. J." together...
I did catch wind of two rather interesting and weird stories sandwiched between the layers of Kobe orgy: the apparent suicide of British weapons inspector, David Kelley, and the bizarre ruckus that took place in a House Ways and Means Committee meeting about pensions. I'm not totally up on these stories so I refer you to some links provided by the ever knowledgable Eschaton blog.
Click here for the David Kelley story and here for the ruckus story.
God, what a week.
Posted by Ron at 3:52 AM
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
O'REILLY NOW BELIEVES IT WAS ABOUT OIL
I don't believe my ears...
It's amazing how propaganda is shouted loudly and repeatedly, while the truth is sometimes casually mentioned only once or twice, without fanfare. Earlier this evening on Fox's O'Reilly blowhard show, I witnessed an exchange that amazed me.
The big butthole's guest was a former CIA case officer turned author named James Baer. Baer wrote an interesting article that I read in May's Atlantic Monthly about how the decades old US devotion to the oil controlled by the very corrupt Saudi regime has resulted in a rather schizophrenic foreign policy in the Middle East (the Atlantic website hasn't posted the article, but they do have this neat interview); of course, I'm very interested in Baer's views because they, by and large, validate my own views on the subject.
Here's the amazing part.
Both Baer and O'Reilly dismissed the importance of the enriched uranium scandal currently blazing in Washington. That's not so surprising. What was surprising is that both of them then agreed that the real reason that the US needed to invade Iraq was because, as Baer said, Hussein is "crazy" and stood in the way of the need for America to get out of Saudi Arabia due to the rise of Islamic extremists in that nation. O'Reilly then went on to say that because of the oil flow in the Persian Gulf region, there needs to be an "American presence there." Therefore, we needed to invade Iraq.
Silly me, I thought that the pro-war crowd was always saying that it wasn't about the oil, that it was about terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. In fact, O'Reilly was seemingly so damned certain that it was about WMDs that he offered to publicly apologize if none were found. Remember that?
Amazing hypocricy. I usually can't stomach O'Reilly's show but sometimes one discovers astonishing things when diving into the sewage. As the sleazy publisher of Hustler Magazine, Larry Flynt, said in response to being called a "bottom feeder" by deposed House Speaker Bob Livingston, "Yeah, but look what I found on the bottom." That's a pretty nifty coincidence: whenever I think of O'Reilly, I always think of bottoms. That is to say, buttholes.
Posted by Ron at 9:13 PM
EIGHT GOOD REASONS
WHY CAPITALISM AND HEALTH CARE DON'T MIX
Two weeks ago both the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times ran front page articles about accussations against Medco, a subsidiary of Merck & Co. over false statements and claims to the government. This is in addition to investigations of Medco over violations of anti-trust, consumer-protection and pharmacy-licensing laws by at least 25 state attorney generals. Chief federal prosecutor in Philadelphia, Patrick Meehan said: these allegations suggest that, somewhere along the line, the focus became the profit instead of the patient. (FT, June 24, 2003)
Somewhere along the line a capitalist corporation chose profit over the patient? Stop the presses. This is scandalous. A for-profit corporation, Medco, is accused of throwing ethics out the window to focus on increasing its return on investment.
Should we be surprised that much of medicine is driven by much the same interest as the rest of our profit driven economy? If we are, it is only because we project our values that medicine is about healing and nurturing onto the medical industry. We forget that the only reason today's medical establishment appears even slightly humane is as a result of struggles by ordinary people for regulations of medical practices. We overlook the fact that the medical industry, like capitalist enterprise in general, is structured to make a buck no matter the human, social or ecological costs.
For the eight reasons, click here.
Capitalism has no heart.
Simply put, the money-making imperative of capitalism and the care-giving imperative of medicine contradict one another. As the Hippocratic Oath says, "I will prescribe regimen for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgement and never do harm to anyone." The insurance companies would have doctors add the clause "as long as there is a lot of money to be made."
Posted by Ron at 3:39 AM
Monday, July 14, 2003
THE DEFINITION OF "IS"
Administration: Bush uranium statement accurate
Although I'm certainly not the first person to make this observation today, it's difficult to keep my mouth shut about it.
In August of 1998, almost five years ago, President Bill Clinton was very, very nervous. He was testifying before a grand jury about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. According to the BBC, Clinton's "defence against the accusations [of perjury] relied on elaborate definitions of certain words." This is when Clinton made the now infamous utterance, "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If 'is' means 'is and never has been' that's one thing - if it means 'there is none', that was a completely true statement."
Poor Bill must have felt like he'd been sent to the principal's office for making out in a broom closet: ever the honors student, he imagined futilely that he could wiggle out of his jam with snakey logic.
We all know how the story ended. Clinton, in fact, did commit perjury. Instead of the slap on the wrist with a ruler that he deserved, however, the Republican Congressional majority went mad with self-righteous blood lust and dragged the entire nation through bullshit impeachment proceedings. Fortunately, sanity prevailed in the Senate, but Clinton had learned a valuble lesson: presidents do not lie to the American people without dire consequences.
Or do they?
Flash forward to today:
In the speech, Bush said: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
"It is ludicrous to suggest that the president of the United States went to war on the question of whether Saddam Hussein sought uranium from Africa," [national security advisor Condoleezza] Rice said on "Fox News Sunday." "This was a part of a very broad case that the president laid out in the State of the Union and other places.
"But the statement that he made was indeed accurate. The British government did say that. Not only was the statement accurate, there were statements of this kind in the National Intelligence Estimate," a classified document compiled by U.S. agencies, she said.
So...Rice is saying that Bush's statement was correct because he was...what? Simply quoting the Brits? Condi would have us believe that the content of the statement is irrelevant--Bush gets a pass on this one because of a weaseling technicality.
This easily outdoes Clinton at his sleaziest best.
Granted, this was not a president perjuring himself before a grand jury about oral sex. It is a far more serious situation. The President was trying to literally scare up public support for his imminent unprovoked war against a relatively weak Iraq. The "major combat phase" (whatever the hell that means) is now over, but the war rages on. Our soldiers keep dying. Bush is responsible.
His lies convinced the American people that it would be worth it.
Unlike Clinton's perjury, Bush's lies, in fact, are "high crimes" against the nation. The President's trangressions truly call for his impeachment, conviction, and, ultimately, imprisonment. Anything less would be a gross miscarriage of justice. We do still believe in justice, don't we?
The man who pledged to "restore honor" to the Oval Office has wholly failed to do so. Indeed, he has made the presidency a thousand times more dishonorable. He must pay for his crimes.
Posted by Ron at 3:35 AM
BASH ME NOW
Okay, I seem to have Haloscan up and working; I just need to test this thing out. The boot time is waaaaay faster than the one I tried out Saturday...so maybe I can get some discussion going.
Bash at will.
Posted by Ron at 1:05 AM
Sunday, July 13, 2003
Ouch! It was taking nearly a minute at some points for my page to boot up...so bye-bye commenting. For now. I just found out that the system that Eschaton uses is now accepting new users once again, so I'm going to go for that. More later.
On an up note, today is my and my wife's second anniversary.
Posted by Ron at 5:49 PM
Saturday, July 12, 2003
YOU MAY NOW BASH ME
I now introduce...commenting! Hopefully this will encourage people to drop their own thoughts here on Real Art, both positive and negative, and maybe some ideas that figure somewhere between those two extremes! I believe that it may take a moment or two longer for my page to boot up, but I think it's worth the few extra seconds. Anyway, this all should prove to be interesting...
Please begin bashing.
Posted by Ron at 10:01 PM
Flawed intelligence? Bullshit.
CIA Director George Tenet is taking the blame for Bush's "mistake" in the January State of the Union Address concerning Iraq's supposed attempts to buy enriched uranium from Niger. So what? Tenet is saying that it was his responsibility to keep the line (or lie, if you prefer) out of the speech, but what was he going to do? Tackle the President to the floor? From MSNBC via Eschaton:
...U.S. officials told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell that Tenet himself advised Rice’s top deputy, Steven Hadley, to remove a reference to the uranium report from a speech Bush delivered Oct. 7 in Cincinnati, establishing that the nation’s top intelligence officials suspected that the allegation was false more than three months before they approved Bush’s repeating it in his nationally televised address on Jan. 28.
Click here for the full story.
Combine this story with the with the CBS story I linked to yesterday, and there is only one conclusion that a rational person can make: Bush lied to the American people; thousands have died as a result. Now he's trying to cover it up.
I must admit that the news media and politician dogpile that was going on all day Friday put me into quite a good mood. This is really the first major political hit that the Bush administration has suffered. I'm relishing it. I still think it's a bit too early to be hoping for impeachment, but as the old adage goes, "it's not the crime, but the cover-up..." Presidential candidate Howard Dean makes this observation on CNN.com:
"It's beginning to sound a little like Watergate...It's very clear that it may be George Tenet's responsibility, but that information also existed in the State Department and it also existed in the vice president's office, so they will not get away with simply throwing George Tenet over the side."
I really do hope that this goes Watergate, but the ball is now in the media's court, and they don't have a good track record criticizing Bush these past few years. But who knows? The Democrats seem to have grown some balls lately; if they keep pounding away at this, the media really have no choice but to report it--these things can snowball sometimes; remember the Clinton impeachment? And Bush's approval ratings continue to slip. Maybe this will turn into something big.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed...
Posted by Ron at 5:02 AM
QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES
5 HPD officers charged in bribery racket
Allegedly got protection money from bars
This is some real Serpico stuff:
Five Houston police officers were arrested and jailed Friday, accused of shaking down cantina owners for protection money and giving warnings of upcoming raids for prostitution and other illegal activities.
The incident is the latest controversy for a police department rocked by shoddy DNA testing in its crime lab, which has called into question hundreds of convictions; the indictment and acquittal of the police chief on a perjury charge; and the mass arrests of 278 people on trespassing charges that were later dismissed.
Click here for more evidence that American police culture is out of control.
Posted by Ron at 4:19 AM
ON BUSH'S TAX CUT
From Friday's Houston Chronicle letters to the editor section:
Half a pizza for tax cut
I send my heartfelt thanks to President [George W.] Bush and our beloved Congress for the tax cut. With our extra income of $1.50 per week ($6.50 per month), my wife and I are now able to go out once a month and order half of a medium pizza. Wow! Thanks to the president and Congress for making this exciting monthly outing possible.
A.J. Hons, Rosenberg
Who says that Republicans don't care about the little guy?
Thanks to my buddy, Kevin, for sending this my way.
Posted by Ron at 3:27 AM
Friday, July 11, 2003
TEAM ESCHATON IS KICKING ASS AND TAKING NAMES
Damning Bush and His Masters: Lots 'o Links
Bush Knew Iraq Info Was False
CIA officials warned members of the President’s National Security Council staff the intelligence was not good enough to make the flat statement Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa.
The White House officials responded that a paper issued by the British government contained the unequivocal assertion: “Iraq has ... sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” As long as the statement was attributed to British Intelligence, the White House officials argued, it would be factually accurate. The CIA officials dropped their objections and that’s how it was delivered.
Franks Tells Congress He Is Unsure How Long Troops Will Be in Iraq
In his testimony, Franks warned that the number of U.S. troops in Iraq probably won't decline significantly from the current 148,000 until sometime next year and that the kinds of hit-and-run attacks that killed two American soldiers Wednesday will continue.
"We need to not develop an expectation that all of these difficulties will go away in one month or two months or three months,'' Franks told the House Armed Services Committee.
"I anticipate we'll be involved in Iraq in the future,'' Franks added later. "Whether that means two years or four years, I don't know.''
Here (NY Times registration procedure, grumble grumble...).
US Soldier Suicides in Iraq
The military also reported that a soldier died Wednesday in what it described as a non-hostile gunshot incident. The military gave no more details. The names of the dead and wounded were withheld pending notification of next of kin.
An American soldier attached to the 101st Airborne Division died Monday in another non-hostile gunshot incident near Balad, 55 miles north of the capital. Soldiers at an air base near Balad said on condition of anonymity that the soldier had taken his own life.
"Non-hostile gunshot incident." That's a chilling euphemism. The above quote is buried in this article.
Poll: U.S. Losing Control in Iraq
With U.S. troops continuing to take casualties in Iraq, less than half of Americans now believe the U.S. is in control of the situation there -- a dramatic decline from April, when 71 percent thought it was.
Less than half now say Iraq was a threat that required immediate action. And while 54 percent still believe that removing Saddam Hussein from power was worth the costs of war, that figure, too, has declined from 65 percent in May.
A majority still believes the U.S. will eventually turn up weapons of mass destruction, but fewer are confident of this today than they were last month, and the public divides on whether the war will have been worth it if no weapons of mass destruction are found. For the first time a majority now says the Bush administration overestimated the extent of the Iraqis’ weapons.
U.S. report on 9/11 to be 'explosive'
John Lehman, a member of the independent commission, said at a hearing Wednesday: "There's little doubt that much of the funding of terrorist groups -- whether intentional or unintentional -- is coming from Saudi sources.''
The report will show that top Bush administration officials were warned in the summer of 2001 that the al Qaeda terrorist network had plans to hijack aircraft and launch a "spectacular attack.''
All links courtesy of Eschaton, of course.
Posted by Ron at 3:48 AM
Thursday, July 10, 2003
GREG PALAST'S NEW WEBLOG
You may recall my oooing and aaahing about Greg Palast when, back in May, I made my post about Bush's theft of the presidential election in Florida. Well, the uber-reporter has now decided to enter the so-called blogosphere:
It’s getting mighty expensive replacing every television I throw through the window when Mr. O’Reilly appears. And ripping up the New York Times leaves me without the news I need to pick up after Pluto, my retriever. There’s only one thing to do: write the darn news myself. I am, I’ve heard, a journalist – but it’s only a rumor in the USA where my reports for BBC Television and the Guardian papers are stopped by the electronic Berlin Wall. So this missive today inaugurates Greg Palast’s Radio Free America, a web log of samizdat rants, raves and most important, hard-core must-know facts from my investigative stories appearing abroad. Three times a week at www.gregpalast.com you’ll find the news not in your news.
This ought to be pretty cool. The more I hear about Palast, the more I like him--in fact, I found out recently that Palast managed to infiltrate evil neo-liberal economist Milton Friedman's "Chicago Boys" as an undercover investigator for labor unions in the early 1970s--Palast was an eyewitness to the genesis of all the hell that our country is going through today! (For some more info on neo-liberalism and Milton Friedman, click here, then scroll down past the italics.)
Personally, I am looking forward to the thrice weekly wisdom of one of the world's sanest men. His first post is promising; here's a sample:
President Top Gun: Affirmatively Missing in Action
Here’s what you won’t see on US TV: Years back I got my hands on a copy of a document languishing in Justice Department files in Austin, Texas. In it, a tipster fingers two political friends of Bush Senior who, the source claimed, made the call to get young Bush out of the war and into the cockpit at the Air Guard. But the Feds could not act without corroboration. Now we have it. To the BBC crew, one of those named confessed to making the call – at Bush Senior’s request – to help George W dodge the draft. (I’ve posted the letter at http://www.gregpalast.com/ulf/documents/draftdodgeblanked.jpg).
Look, I don’t care if President Bush cowered and ran from Vietnam. I sure as hell didn’t volunteer … but then, my daddy didn’t send someone else in my place. And I don’t march around with parachute clips around my gonads talking about war and sacrifice.
For the entire post, click here.
What I really like about Palast is that he asks the tough questions that the American news media is afraid to ask, and he backs up his seemingly wild claims with hard evidence. Palast, an American reporter in exile, puts all other US reporters to shame. You should check his site frequently for updates.
Posted by Ron at 2:56 AM
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
The Great Wal-Mart Wars
From the San Francisco Chronicle via AlterNet:
Wal-Mart has announced its intention to open 40 new supercenter stores – each the size of four football fields – in such fast-growing California suburban areas as Contra Costa County.
But Contra Costa County has fought back. A year ago, Martinez prevented a traditional Wal-Mart store from expanding into a supercenter that could sell groceries. On June 3, the county Board of Supervisors voted to ban such supercenter stores from unincorporated areas of the county.
In making its decision, the board cited a study done by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association (SDCTA), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. It found that an influx of big-box stores into San Diego would result in an annual decline in wages and benefits between $105 million and $221 million, and an increase of $9 million in public health costs. SDCTA also estimated that the region would lose pensions and retirement benefits valued between $89 million and $170 million per year and that even increased sales and property tax revenues would not cover the extra costs of necessary public services. "Good jobs, good pay, and good benefits should be the goal of an economy," SDCTA concluded, "and supercenters are not consistent with that objective."
In addition to the economic havoc that Wal-Mart brings to communities, the mega-store corporation also attempts to enforce its own brand of "family values." CDs with the dreaded "Parental Advisory" stamp, and videos and DVDs with content that is objectionable to the corporation for whatever reasons are banned from their shelves. Beavis and Butthead merchandise were banned during their mid-90s heyday. Gangster rap is banned due to its violent content despite the fact that one can buy a gun in Wal-Mart's sporting goods department. Because Wal-Mart is often the only retailer of such cultural products in many, many towns and communities, their in-store ban creates a de facto complete ban.
Indeed, Wal-Mart sucks. Here's a song I wrote about their suckiness:
Don't buy your records at Wal-Mart.
They bleep dirty words at Wal-Mart.
Won't let you hear about sex, hear about dope.
I guess Sam Walton wants to be the Pope.
Don't buy your records at Wal-Mart.
They ban naughty covers at Wal-Mart.
You know they trash rock and roll, bash rock and roll.
I guess Sam Walton wants to save your soul.
Wal-Mart sucks. It's a family values store.
Wal-Mart sucks. I won't go there any more.
Wal-Mart sucks. With it's corporate homespun shit,
Wal-Mart sucks. What a pit.
Don't buy your records at Wal-Mart.
They ban gangster rap at Wal-Mart.
A parental advisory means "no sale."
Sam Walton wants to keep us all out of jail.
Don't buy your records at Wal-Mart.
No Beavis and Butthead at Wal-Mart.
You know they treat us like children, treat us like fools.
Sam Walton wants to make up all the rules.
Wal-Mart sucks. It's a family values store.
Wal-Mart sucks. I won't go there any more.
Wal-Mart sucks. With it's corporate homespun shit,
Wal-Mart sucks. What a pit.
Click here for mp3 download or here for streaming audio.
Posted by Ron at 12:05 AM
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
MORE EVIDENCE THAT
MADISON AVENUE IS TAKING OVER
From The Economist:
This new target market is “metrosexual”, a term coined a few years ago to identify straight urban men who enjoy such things as shopping and using beauty products. It is sometimes described in lad mags as being “just gay enough” to get the babes.
Mr Beckham, says Ms Salzman, is a classic metrosexual. So too is Bill Clinton, she insists—especially as he has apologised and now carries Hillary's autobiographies for her to sign.
Ms Salzman has tested the market and concludes that 30-35% of young men in America have metrosexual tendencies: tell-tale signs include buying skin-care cream and fragrances. Also popular is having non-leg body hair removed, via a so-called “back, crack and sack” waxing. Celebrities such as Mr Beckham make it all right for straight men to do such odd things.
Earlier posts on Real Art about "metrosexuals" here and here.
Posted by Ron at 1:08 AM
What do Americans know? Not very much
From the editor of the Web site Mediachannel.org and author of EMBEDDED: Weapons of Mass Deception, How the Media Failed to Cover the War on Iraq, Danny Schechter:
The general absence of comprehensive, thorough reporting is particularly regrettable with Washington under the control of an administration that has taken public relations into the realm of "perception management."
Its corporate-trained communications specialists have perfected a 24-hour spin machine while co-ordinating every official utterance. They've coined and tested repeatable catch-phrases to mobilise opinion. They want to ensure that we regurgitate their simplified phrases, and salute their patriotic stands. In their world, propaganda is passed off as marketing.
Add the indoctrinational nature of the public schools into the mix and the result is an American population that is easily manipulated by those in power. The manipulated are not very docile about their manufactured beliefs, either: telling them that they're dead wrong may result in being on the receiving end of a punch in the mouth.
Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe.
Posted by Ron at 12:49 AM
Monday, July 07, 2003
MONDAY MORNING LINKS
Abuse of intelligence process dangerous to nation
From today's usually conservative Houston Chronicle editorial staff:
Failure to locate or learn the fate of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction lends credence to the notion that military intelligence is a contradiction in terms. More troubling, however, are reports leaking from congressional staff members that administration officials pressured U.S. intelligence officials to trim their analyses to conform to administration expectations.
If Saddam had chemical or biological weapons ready to assemble and use, those weapons or their ingredients already could be in terrorist hands. If he did not, either U.S. intelligence agencies got it terribly wrong, or administration officials misunderstood or distorted intelligence reports and misrepresented them to the American people.
It's a pretty damned good sign when the conservative newspaper from right smack dab in the middle of Bush country starts talking sense. Here's hoping we get some more good sense in the days and weeks to come.
Click here for the rest.
Ten Appalling Lies We Were Told About Iraq
Today, more than three months after Bush's stirring declaration of war and nearly two months since he declared victory, no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons have been found, nor any documentation of their existence, nor any sign they were deployed in the field.
The mainstream press, after an astonishing two years of cowardice, is belatedly drawing attention to the unconscionable level of administrative deception. They seem surprised to find that when it comes to Iraq, the Bush administration isn't prone to the occasional lie of expediency but, in fact, almost never told the truth.
What follows are just the most outrageous and significant of the dozens of outright lies uttered by Bush and his top officials over the past year in what amounts to a systematic campaign to scare the bejeezus out of everybody.
This may very well be the most important top ten list you'll ever read. Click here.
Wall of Separation Between Church and State
Counterpunch's Lenni Brenner meditates on my favorite founding father's views on religion and government:
Jefferson believed there was a God. However he was learned in the history of religious fanaticism and separated church and state because he believed connecting them was corrupting for both. Thanks to him and Madison, if America wasn't perfect in this regard, it was the best there was. But he never tried to convert anyone to his religious skepticism and it never took root among the people. They didn't read Greek and Latin or study law. They knew little science. Most were barely literate. Once separation was established, religion flourished. Eventually the two 'Jeffersonian' parties became bywords for corruption, and pandering to religious voters became normal. "In God we trust" got onto our money, "under God" into the school Pledge of Allegiance, and now the US simultaneously militarily protects Islamic fundamentalist Saudi Arabia and Israel, an Orthodox Jewish state.
Posted by Ron at 4:51 AM
Sunday, July 06, 2003
Global Warming Heats Up
ZNet posts this UK Independent Editorial:
In an astonishing announcement on global warming and extreme weather, the World Meteorological Organisation signalled last night that the world's weather is going haywire.
In a startling report, the WMO, which normally produces detailed scientific reports and staid statistics at the year's end, highlighted record extremes in weather and climate occurring all over the world in recent weeks, from Switzerland's hottest-ever June to a record month for tornadoes in the United States - and linked them to climate change.
The unprecedented warning takes its force and significance from the fact that it is not coming from Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, but from an impeccably respected UN organisation that is not given to hyperbole (though environmentalists will seize on it to claim that the direst warnings of climate change are being borne out).
The Geneva-based body, to which the weather services of 185 countries contribute, takes the view that events this year in Europe, America and Asia are so remarkable that the world needs to be made aware of it immediately.
Even though I have been sympathetic for many years, I am not historically an environmentalist. The issues that made me angry enough to abandon the do-nothing Democrats were more economic and cultural than anything else. Ralph Nader's anti-corporate stance is what made me turn Green. That made something funny happen: I saw the connection. The same heartless, greedy bastards that have usurped our democracy, that have been pushing good, hard-working Americans into nervous poverty are the same heartless, greedy bastards that are raping the planet. The Bush wars (and Clinton's military legacy, as well), the root causes of global terrorism, the pro-rich policies, the anti-poor policies, global warming, toxic contamination of food, air, and water, all these things and more are coming from the same source. To be pro-democracy, to favor economic justice, to be against corporate domination of everything is to be fighting in the same war that the environmentalists have been waging for decades.
I guess that makes me a "tree hugger" now. So be it.
Posted by Ron at 3:23 AM
Saturday, July 05, 2003
Friday, July 04, 2003
My big problem in adult life is that I take our nation’s sacred principles seriously.
Long ago, when I was eight, America celebrated its bicentennial. The entire year was festive. Neighborhoods painted fire hydrants to look like minutemen. The stars and stripes were everywhere, on hats, shirts, cars, billboards, and banners. The presidential election race was in full swing. They showed us Johnny Tremain movies at school. Television was particularly patriotic that year: the “Bicentennial Minute” seemed to always be on, giving viewers quick blurb American history lessons. “Schoolhouse Rock” taught me to sing about both the Preamble to the Constitution and the legislative process—“I’m just a bill…and I’m sittin’ here on Capitol Hill.” Captain Kirk loudly revealed, on a rerun of the Star Trek episode, “The Omega Glory,” that “we the people” means “EVERYONE!” (You’ve just got to download this audio file!)
1976 was the year that I first developed a concept of what it means to be an American. I learned that we are the people of freedom. I learned that we are the people of justice. I learned that we are the people of democracy. I guess I’ve never really gotten over the glorification of the simple precepts for which our country supposedly stands. I still believe what I learned twenty-seven years ago: America is great because of its values.
Since then, it seems like so many of my countrymen have been trying to convince me that, even though we are, indeed, the people of freedom, justice, and democracy (God bless America, and all that, you know), these principles do not really mean what I originally believed them to mean:
“Oh yeah, we’re free, but those weirdos just can’t run around doing blah, blah, blah.”
“Well, I’m for justice, but we really can’t let all these criminals keep using their rights to yadda, yadda, yadda.”
“Sure, this is a democracy, but most people just don’t understand what’s best for the country, and blather, blather, blather.”
“I just don’t want to be killed by terrorists; I don’t want to die.”
In 2003, freedom, justice, and democracy seem to be hollow platitudes to which Americans simply give lip service. Today, freedom means the right to choose Coke or Pepsi. Justice means revenge and war. Democracy means…I’m not sure what democracy means today—I do know that it does not mean “government by the people.”
Today, I will try to forget, if only for a few hours, the forces that are trying to eradicate the great principles upon which our nation was founded. Today, I will try to imagine America as it should be, as it was intended to be. Today, I will celebrate America, the idea, as I understand it, the America that I love. Today, I will celebrate the real America.
And tomorrow? Well, I think that President Lincoln best described what Americans must do tomorrow and every day in his 1863 Gettysburg Address:
“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Happy Independence Day.
Thanks to Star Trek in Sound and Vision
Posted by Ron at 4:29 AM