Why Bush Needs Osama and Saddam
American foreign policy seems to be founded on the bogeyman fallacy. All we have to do is get rid of the evildoers--Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Fedayeen, Yasser Arafat--and everything will be OK. It's not the modern history of the Middle East, during which the great powers redrew national boundaries and toppled popular regimes to suit their own economic and political purposes, that's causing our problems--it's Saddam Hussein. It's not the barbaric treatment of the Palestinians, glossed over so that we could assuage our consciences about the holocaust, or the grinding hopelessness of everyday life in the occupied territories that destabilize the region--it's Yasser Arafat. It's not the decade of sanctions, the bumbling stupidity of our occupation, and our knee-jerk dependence upon indiscriminate firepower that causes Iraqis to hate and kill American soldiers--it's those sore losers, the Saddam loyalists.
And one certainly will not get the real picture by watching the evening news or taking a high school government class...
Click here for more.
Sunday, November 30, 2003
Why Bush Needs Osama and Saddam
Posted by Ron at 9:07 PM
A ZNet post on the historical circumstances of the Thanksgiving myth:
Three hundred thousand Indians were murdered in New England over the next few years. It is important to note: The ordinary Englishmen did not want this war and often, very often, refused to fight. Some European intellectuals like Roger Williams spoke out against it. And some erstwhile colonists joined the Indians and even took up arms against the invaders from England. It was the Puritan elite who wanted the war, a war for land, for gold, for power. And, in the end, the Indian population of 10 million that was in North America when Columbus came was reduced to less than one million.
The way the different Indian peoples lived -- communally, consensually, making decisions through tribal councils, each tribe having different sexual/marriage relationships, where many different sexualities were practiced as the norm -- contrasted dramatically with the Puritan's Christian fundamentalist values. For the Puritans, men decided everything, whereas in the Iroquois federation of what is now New York state women chose the men who represented the clans at village and tribal councils; it was the women who were responsible for deciding on whether or not to go to war. The Christian idea of male dominance and female subordination was conspicuously absent in Iroquois society.
There were many other cultural differences: The Iroquois did not use harsh punishment on children. They did not insist on early weaning or early toilet training, but gradually allowed the child to learn to care for themselves. And, they did not believe in ownership of land; they utilized the land, lived on it. The idea of ownership was ridiculous, absurd. The European Christians, on the other hand, in the spirit of the emerging capitalism, wanted to own and control everything -- even children and other human beings. The pastor of the Pilgrim colony, John Robinson, thus advised his parishioners: "And surely there is in all children a stubbornness, and stoutness of mind arising from natural pride, which must, in the first place, be broken and beaten down; that so the foundation of their education being laid in humility and tractableness, other virtues may, in their time, be built thereon." That idea sunk in.
That ought to make us all choke on our leftover turkey sandwiches. Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 8:57 PM
BRITNEY SPEARS SUCKS
As if I needed to tell you. However, I've been meaning to take a shot at America's favorite skank ever since she and Madonna hooked up at MTV's Video Music Awards a while back: two good anti-Britney articles have come my way, so the time is now.
First up, a good Britney hater article from the Washington Post via the Houston Chronicle:
Britney moving up on the hate parade
Girls, especially pre-pubescent girls, want desperately to grow up. Britney gave them a way to do that. At the tender ages of 8, 9 and 10 they became thong feminists singing that they would do whatever it takes to snag a man. This drove older, pantsuit feminists crazy.
Did we work our way into America's boardrooms for this, the pantsuits asked.
Every quote that came out of Britney's mouth confirmed their impression that she was a lightweight.
"I like lighthearted, girl-flick, love-story movies," she told the Associated Press. "It's easy to watch, not that deep."
Newsweek quotes Britney saying she's "been into a lot of Indian spiritual religions." Is Hinduism one of them? She replies: "What's that? Is it like kabbalah?"
Click here for more.
Next, a scathingly satirical review of Skanky's new album In the Zone from the San Francisco Gate via J. Orlin Grabbe:
There's more to Britney than the porn persona
Still, it's great to hear Britney tossing aside all that "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman" nonsense and just getting on with her sexuality. Maybe if Paul McCartney did that during the heyday of the Beatles they wouldn't have put out terrible drug records like "Sgt. Pepper's" and made something more intense, like "Touch of My Hand," Britney's totally intense tribute to masturbation, where she goes, "I love myself/ It's not a sin/ I can't control what's happenin' ... I'm going to teach myself to fly!" There won't be a pair of dry Levi's in the house when that video comes out.
Click here for the rest.
Both articles give great reasons for thinking that Spears sucks. In fact, you ought to read them and then post some unflattering comments about her in the Real Art comment section below. But I want to explain why I hate Britney.
I could hate her for being an anti-feminist icon. I could hate her for being an awful role model for young women and girls. I could hate her just because she's a trashy skank, and a insincere one at that--I personally prefer my porn to be straight up and honest. I could hate her because she brings new heights (or depths) to the word "stupid." I could hate her for her insipidly bland and unmemorable music which I couldn't recall if I had a gun to my head. Actually, I do hate her for all those reasons. But the reason for which I hate her the most is that she's the perfect personification of what the corporate entertainment industry has been ramming down our throats for many years now: plastic, recycled crap-as-art that appeals only to humanity's basest instincts. In short, I hate Britney Spears because she is a blow-up doll with a Muzak feed wired through its mouth, utterly unsatisfying, ultimately annoying.
God, how I miss Rick Springfield.
Posted by Ron at 2:50 AM
Saturday, November 29, 2003
The Political and the Personal
Seattle journalist David Neiwert on the new political incivility:
In a way, I think this is a large part of what is happening to our national body politic: People in key positions of media and conservative ideological prominence (Coulter, Limbaugh, even Bill O'Reilly) exhibit multiple symptoms of being pathological sociopaths, either antisocial or narcissistic, or a combination of both. And not only their fellow participants in the conservative movement, but mainstream centrists and even liberals are unable to figure out that there is something seriously wrong with these people because they are projecting their own normalcy onto them. They cannot perceive because they cannot believe -- that, above all, these people are not operating within a framework guided by the boundaries of basic decency that restrain most of us.
They are political muggers out of control -- and as their rhetoric encourages both the figurative and physical elimination of liberals, they become ever more likely to actually tread into regions of real violence.
This is why all the talk about liberal incivility is such a joke. For the past decade liberals have been increasingly subjected to a brand of conservative ridicule that has explicitly blamed them for every one of society's ills, and it has come relentlessly and from every quarter of the increasingly politically dominant conservative sphere. Now that rhetoric is reaching a violent pitch -- and if Oklahoma City should have taught us anything, it was the consequences of spreading this kind of hate. Much as conservatives like to argue that liberals are guilty of the same thing, there really is no parallel to this on the left, at least not since the early 1970s.
It's a damned good read. Click here.
Posted by Ron at 1:42 AM
Thursday, November 27, 2003
The false balance of Hannity & Colmes
The dissimilar circumstances under which the two hosts came to Fox News are revealing. Recruited from Atlanta's talk radio scene by Roger Ailes, Hannity was hired so far in advance of a decision about a co-host that Fox staffers referred to the show as "Hannity & Liberal To Be Determined," or "LTBD." Finally, after auditioning prospective left hosts, Colmes won the job--after Hannity expressed his preference for the mild-mannered New York radio host (Newsday, 10/20/98).
The result is a debate show that doesn't add up to a fair fight, say many critics, because Colmes' wishy-washy views and low-key delivery just can't stand up to the relentlessly ideological and combative Sean Hannity. It's a widely held view outside Fox studios.
At Fox, real liberals need not apply: real liberals might argue unfairly and damage the self-esteem of Fox's heavyweight intellectuals like Bill O'Reilly and Oliver North. Bunch of wussies, if you ask me...
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 10:49 PM
WHAT DID THE PRESIDENT KNOW
AND WHEN DID HE KNOW IT?
The 9/11 Cover-up
From Nation editor David Corn via AlterNet:
The White House had refused to turn over this material to the House and Senate intelligence committees when they were conducting a joint investigation of 9/11, and Bush took the same position with the 9/11 commission. But when the commission – headed by former New Jersey governor Thomas Kean, a moderate Republican appointed to the panel by Bush – raised the prospect of subpoenaing the documents, the Bush team worked out a compromise. It is permitting the 10-member commission limited access to these intelligence reports, known as the President's Daily Brief (PDB). (It helped that family members of people killed on 9/11 had protested the White House's lack of cooperation.) The arrangement was unprecedented; this is the sort of stuff administrations fight to the death to keep secret, but 9/11 is different. Two Democratic commissioners (former Senator Max Cleland and former Representative Timothy Roemer) and the Family Steering Committee, an association of 9/11 relatives blasted the agreement for imposing tight restrictions on how the commission can use information and, most importantly, on what it can tell the public about the material it is allowed to see.
The accord was a partial victory for a Bush White House that has been trying hard to conceal a key slice of the 9/11 tale: what Bush knew of the pre-9/11 intelligence warnings that al Qaeda was planning a strike against the United States, and what Bush did (or did not do) in response to these warnings. The White House's deal with the commission could well enable the administration to maintain this stonewalling.
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 10:37 PM
Thanksgiving, as taught in elementary school and understood by most Americans, is something of a myth. The Puritans preferred to see the heathen natives die, rather than have them as dinner guests. However, I agree, in principle, with the concept of giving thanks for what we have. After all, by world standards, most Americans are quite rich.
(This last statement is not to be understood as an endorsement of Bush economic policy--the distribution of wealth in the US is clearly unjust.)
Last night, my Southern Baptist mother told me over the phone that she was trying to find an appropriate Bible verse to write on small cards that she plans to give to the family with our feast. I told her to do a keyword search at Bible Gateway, a much used reference for me, but it was clear after a moment of trying to explain how to do this that it would be easier to do the search myself. I found a good one:
And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
This verse is, of course, from the passage where Jesus feeds the masses. It is important to note that Jesus did not tell them to get a job or that it was their fault for being hungry.
Posted by Ron at 3:21 AM
OH, SO IT WAS 8% INSTEAD OF 7?
BFD! THE ECONOMY STILL SUCKS
From the Nation:
The real "bottom line," taking into account the 3.4 percent gain in population since March 2001, shows that the economy is 6.9 million jobs short of where it would be if payroll levels had remained steady. And, according to Treasury Secretary John Snow's own projection, Bush will end his term with the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover in the Great Depression.
"The economic policies of the Bush Administration," economist Jeff Madrick , observes, "have been about as crude and destructive a cocktail of stimulants-- lavish income and estate tax cuts for upper-income Americans, elimination of taxes on dividends, stepped-up military and homeland security spending--as we have ever seen. The result is short-term growth and long-term damage...the administration's policies will weaken the economy over time, fall particularly harshly on its working middle and low-income citizens, and fail to prepare the nation for a century of far more intense global competition."
Which is what I've been saying for some months now: neo-liberalism, indeed, can provide a short term bump for business, but it's unsustainable; the only thing that can make an economy healthy is strong consumer demand. For that we need lots and lots of good jobs. Sadly, all that neo-liberalism can provide in the long run is lots and lots of jobs at Wal-Mart and McDonald's. This economic celebration will be short lived.
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 3:04 AM
A HAUNTED HOUSE FULL OF GAYS,
RAVE PARTIES, AND INTERNET ROMANCE
retroCRUSH reviews Hell House, a documentary film about a fundamentalist Halloween attraction:
Chick comics, those obnoxious tracts that warn you of the evils of homosexuality, devil worship and Harry Potter books, represent a frightening portion of our populace. As inane and laughable as these little gems are there is an international army of believers who make sure they find their way into the hands of impressionable youths and disabled adults the world over. And once in those hands they too often have the desired affect. The reader becomes a new convert, orders a pile of tracts so he himself may participate in the saving of souls.
A group of like minded, Jesus fearing folks in Texas have created the ultimate experience for fans of Chick tracts and of Born Again culture in general. Imagine being able to enter a Chick tract; where devils entice pregnant teens to take the abortion pill, resulting in a bloody mess of regret and redemption; where the date rape drug makes some voyeuristic demons giddy as a candy girl falls victim to chicken hawk; where homosexuals burn for all eternity; and where Jesus rules full of love and amazing grace. Sound like your kind of surreal experience? Or is it a bit too much?
Stuff like this makes it all too clear that the fundamentalist understanding of reality is quite cartoonish. Pretty sad, pretty dangerous if they convert enough fools. At least the guys at retroCRUSH can get some redeeming value out of it. That is to say, it's less depressing if we point and laugh.
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 2:49 AM
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
REAL ART (AND POLITICS)
Howard Zinn Meets Radiohead
A weird interview with radical historian Howard Zinn and Radiohead's Thom Yorke from ZNet:
Yorke: This goes back to what should be causing extreme alarm. If there are political programs on TV, yet it takes an artist to actually energize political debate, that tells you something really quite frightening about the level of the political debate happening on mainstream channels-right-wing-biased mothers. One of the interesting things here is that the people who should be shaping the future are politicians. But the political framework itself is so dead and closed that people look to other sources, like artists, because art and music allow people a certain freedom. Obviously, the duty of artists is there, but it's more an indictment of the political system that someone like Zinn views artists as the seers, idealizing them as the people responsible [for inspiring] change. I think that would be great, but the reason people think like that is because there is no other element of participation anywhere.
Zinn: True, the political power is controlled by the corporate elite, and the arts are the locale for a kind of guerilla warfare, in the sense that guerrillas in a totalitarian situation look for apertures and opportunities where they can have an effect. When tyrannies are overthrown-as, for instance, in fascist Spain or the Soviet Union-it starts in the culture, which is the only area where people can have some freedom. It starts with literature and poetry and music, because those don't represent direct threats to the establishment. They're subtle and indirect, so the establishment gambles that they won't lead to anything threatening, but often they lose that gamble.
Posted by Ron at 2:24 AM
DOWN IN BUSH COUNTRY
The Air's Not Just Stinky...It'll Kill You
An op-ed piece from the Houston Chronicle:
While avoiding installation of new pollution control devices might save the petrochemical industry billions of dollars, their savings would not necessarily improve the U.S. economy. A study released from the Office of Management and Budget, which assists the president in the development and execution of policies and programs, reveals that enforcing the clean air rules administered by the Environmental Protection Agency would actually produce annual benefits to the economy of between $101 billion and $119 billion measured in terms of fewer premature deaths, hospitalizations, emergency room visits and lost work. The cost for industry to comply with these rules would be less than $9 billion.
Time and again the national, state and local government officials who are expected to protect our health and safety seem much more interested in protecting the profits of the petrochemical industry. This needs to change. I believe our environment is in crisis and our health is in jeopardy, especially in Houston. I hear from mothers and grandmothers living near the Houston Ship Channel whose children are suffering with rare forms of brain cancer. I know about the rising rates of childhood asthma here and across our nation, and increased admissions to hospitals for children having asthma attacks. More and more of us are suffering from chronic coughs and allergies aggravated by the dirty air.
For more, click here.
Posted by Ron at 2:18 AM
Monday, November 24, 2003
F.B.I. Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies
From the NY Times via Common Dreams:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.
The memorandum, which the bureau sent to local law enforcement agencies last month in advance of antiwar demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco, detailed how protesters have sometimes used "training camps" to rehearse for demonstrations, the Internet to raise money and gas masks to defend against tear gas. The memorandum analyzed lawful activities like recruiting demonstrators, as well as illegal activities like using fake documentation to get into a secured site.
F.B.I. officials said in interviews that the intelligence-gathering effort was aimed at identifying anarchists and "extremist elements" plotting violence, not at monitoring the political speech of law-abiding protesters.
This is depressing.
The reality is not that protesters are some sort of threat; rather, our authority driven culture is simply not comfortable with the most basic expression of democracy known to man, the street demonstration. And those most uncomfortable with demonstrations are the authorities themselves. This is bad news, but it's not surprising: we don't really live in a democracy--any sign that we might is met with hostility.
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 11:29 PM
Wealthy push retail market
From the Houston Chronicle:
"The stars are aligned for the wealthy," said Howard Davidowitz, president of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail consulting firm in New York. "Who's gained most from capital gains tax cuts? The wealthy. Whose houses have gone up the most? The wealthy. The wealthy are a lot wealthier. Why not buy an $8,000 TV? No problem."
And it's partly because of the strength of the luxury market that retail analysts predict a 4 percent to 5 percent increase in overall holiday spending. Even the average consumer is expected to spend a bit more per gift this year compared to last year.
Magaly Fuentes is certainly doing her part to bring up the holiday sales numbers.
On Thursday, she picked up a few things at Zadok Jewelers: a $17,700 white gold and diamond Cartier watch and a diamond necklace, totaling 24.5 carats, which cost much more. She bought them "just for fun."
"I made too much money in the last months," explained Fuentes, whose family owns oil and real estate businesses in Mexico and the United States.
Even though this very mainstream article seemingly tries to sugarcoat the depressing reality by throwing in a statement or two to the effect that "the average consumer" is also spending more, the truth comes through loud and clear: thanks to Bush's love-the-rich economic policies, the only people buying things in a big way right now are the wealthy. This is not good news. A healthy economy cannot be driven by upscale purchases only.
In fact, this report makes the central problem of neo-liberalism glaringly obvious. The idea behind "trickle down" theory is that the government should adopt policies that favor business and the rich--the assumption is that they will take their welfare payments and invest them in things that will make the economy grow. To be sure, some of the giveaway money goes in that direction. As the above quoted article demonstrates, however, a great deal of that free money goes toward the purchase of crap.
"Crap" is also a good word to describe neo-liberalism. Consequently, it's also a good word to describe Bush's economy.
For the rest of the article, click here.
Posted by Ron at 11:19 PM
Sunday, November 23, 2003
US FOREIGN POLICY RESEMBLES
ENRON CORPORATE POLICY
In a sense, this is the appeal of men like Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Richard Cheney and Treasury Secretary John Snow. They do not allow ambiguities, temporary reversals, or naysayers to throw them off course. Like those dynamic entrepreneurs of the 1990s who blazed corporate trails, creating new global business structures in the process, these men do not view themselves as simple keepers of the status quo. They exude a faith-based fervor in their market-driven conviction that they have been almost divinely anointed to usher us into a new world, one guided by new styles of management and sanctified by the accumulation of wealth. They believe in the divine providence of the market, take the gospel of the "long boom" as their religious text, and have an unalloyed confidence that, under their tutelage, the commonweal can only move onward and upward. Their seminaries are the great business schools of the country to which the best and the brightest of a generation flocked to become acolytes of this new commercial cloth, the chosen people of a marketized world.
Such men feel no compunction about operating in the public sphere just as they did in the private one. Indeed, like the Calvinist businessmen analyzed in Max Weber's treatise, "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism," they view success and wealth as God's way of sanctioning their industrious ministries. They also believe that they have every right to use up whatever resources are at hand to further their goals.
However, the fates of so many of their corporate comrades in the private sector hint at where their new course at home and abroad -- whether in the resource-rich American West or resource-rich Iraq -- may end up. So many of their cohorts of the 1990s, motivated by a similar near-millenarian mind-set, crashed and burned as the dot.com bubble imploded, leaving behind a Ground Zero of collapsed companies, criminal activity, depressed stock values, mega-debt, bankruptcies, legions of unemployed workers, and phalanxes of defrocked CEOs. This speaks not just to the over-weaning arrogance and self-deception with which they went about their neo-liberal revolution, but to the direction similar attitudes may be leading the Bush administration.
Just another thought to keep us up at night worrying.
For more, click here.
GAY MARRIAGE DECISION FIREWORKS PREVIEW
From Houston Chronicle editorial writer Cragg Hines:
Politicians really don't know what to make of homosexuals, a point that will become intensely clear as the states and nation deal with the Massachusetts court decision striking down a law against gay marriage. Reactions and rhetoric in the debate will range from sincerely supportive or merely patronizing, principally on the Democratic side, to tetchy, denunciatory or damning, the specialty of many Republicans.
On virtually no issue are politicians more schizo than on homosexuality. While some politicians would contend that some of their best friends (not to mention staff members) are gay men or lesbians, with polls showing 60 percent of Americans opposed to gay marriage, this is not an issue that a host of mainstream politicians are going readily to embrace. Just sift through the predictable equivocations of the major Democratic presidential candidates on the Massachusetts ruling.
One prediction that should prove fairly reliable is that at few turns, especially when votes are being cast, will the issue be treated as the simple civil rights question that it has become.
Indeed. Click here.
GET BACK: Bare-bones Beatles
As Phil Spector enters a "not guilty" plea for murder, the surviving Beatles remove all signs of his presence on their album Let It Be. Coincidence? Probably. But this move should have happened years ago, anyway.
From the Plain Dealer via the Houston Chronicle:
A handful of "de-Spectorized" tunes yield particularly dramatic results, akin to seeing a painting's true colors after stripping off layers of varnish.
Devoid of Spector's 36-piece orchestra and 14-piece choir, "The Long and Winding Road" sounds like a demo, with the emphasis on McCartney's bittersweet vocal and eloquent piano.
Lennon's "Across the Universe" is a revelation, too, with tom-tom, a droning tamboura and an acoustic guitar providing the only accompaniment. George Harrison's "I Me Mine" and McCartney's title track also benefit from less-is-more upgrades.
Click here for the rest of the review.
The Beatles' original intention was to create an album called Get Back that would return them to their raw roots as a live rock and roll band. They essentially recorded the album live in the studio. That is, they tried to play as a group, without the overdubs and studio trickery that had become their trademark by 1969, the year they recorded the album. As stupid as Paul McCartney seems to come off these days, you gotta hand it to him: it was his idea, and a brilliant idea it was. I long ago realized just how great these songs in the rough were when I saw the depressing Let It Be documentary film when I was a teenager--the film is so depressing because you get to see just how much the Beatles hated each other at that point. Their infighting is what killed the project.
They shelved the tapes of the recording sessions seemingly for good. The group managed to reunite without bickering to record Abbey Road and that was it. The Beatles never recorded together again (unless you count the John Lennon demos they sweetened in the early 90's sans John). Enter legendary producer Phil Spector to take a crack at the Get Back tapes. Spector previously had turned some simple songs into well received bubblegum symphonic hits: he was responsible for the Ronettes' "Be My Baby," and the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." By the late 60s, however, his career was floundering, and the Beatles offered a chance for him to revitalize his reputation.
What Spector came up with for the Get Back tapes wasn't really all that bad; it just wasn't what was originally envisioned. In fact, John Lennon once praised Spector's work on the album that eventually was entitled Let It Be, calling the original masters "the shittiest pile of shit," and expressing amazement that they were ultimately worth releasing. The thing is that Spector typically used numerous layers of music to augment the underlying songs that he produced. His "wall of sound" usually improved greatly the simple tunes with which he had been associated: the Beatles, however, were geniuses; their bare-bones songs were about a billion times better than anything Spector had ever worked with. Consequently, his production work on Let It Be was something akin to putting arms on the Venus de Milo. That is, the album works, but it's unsatisfying.
I'm really looking forward to hearing Let It Be ... Naked. I've always thought that a stripped down version could be great under the right circumstances with the right re-mastering. Here's hoping they did it right.
It damned well better be in my stocking come Christmas morning.
Posted by Ron at 2:22 AM
Saturday, November 22, 2003
MUTUAL FUND RIP OFF
The New York Times' Paul Krugman via the Houston Chronicle:
You're selling your house, and your real estate agent claims that he's representing your interests. But he sells the property at less than fair value to a friend, who resells it at a substantial profit, on which the agent receives a kickback. You complain to the county attorney. But he gets big campaign contributions from the agent, so he pays no attention.
That, in essence, is the story of the growing mutual fund scandal. On any given day, the losses to each individual investor were small -- and that is why the scandal took so long to become visible. But if you steal a little bit of money every day from 95 million investors, the sums add up. Arthur Levitt, the former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman, calls the mutual fund story "the worst scandal we've seen in 50 years" -- and no, he's not excluding Enron and WorldCom. Meanwhile, federal regulators, having allowed the scandal to fester, are doing their best to let the villains get off lightly.
I should think that "don't trust the rich and powerful with your money" is a truism by now. But, then, a lot of people have their heads up their asses, too.
Posted by Ron at 12:21 AM
Sexism still exists
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Women's income is lower on average than for men in part because they generally work less and leave the labor force for longer periods, a study found.
But even after adjustments are made for those factors, women still earned 20.3 percent less than men in 2000, investigators said Thursday.
The General Accounting Office conducted the earnings study for Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney of New York and John Dingell of Michigan.
The 20 percent gap has been relatively unchanged in the past two decades. The difference was 19.6 percent in 1983.
These are hard numbers that irrefutably show that discrimination against women still exists, still has tangible negative effects, and still keeps women in both an economic and a social position of inferiority. White male bitching about "reverse-discrimination" is bullshit. Feminism needs a shot in the arm.
Click here for more on the study.
Posted by Ron at 12:10 AM
Thursday, November 20, 2003
BLUES ALONG THE GREAT WHITE WAY
This Crop of Broadway Shows Is
Finding Dog Days in the Fall
From the NY Times via Eschaton:
All across Broadway, producers, landlords and investors are suffering through one of the bumpiest fall seasons in recent memory, a snake-bit period that has seen one show close in previews ("Bobbi Boland"), another close in rehearsal ("Harmony") and a Stephen Sondheim show ("Bounce") close out of town.
Several other big-name, big-budget efforts, including "Taboo," a $10 million musical produced by Rosie O'Donnell, which opened to less-than-rapturous reviews last week, will face uphill battles to survive, let alone earn back their investments. Still other Broadway productions have been battered by unpredictables like sick stars and dropouts.
All of which means that an industry that has survived Sept. 11, a slump in tourism, a sluggish economy and last spring's musicians' strike is suddenly facing a far more pernicious enemy: a string of clunkers, money-losers and mediocrities.
For their part, industry officials seem to place the blame squarely on those very people whose job it is to place the blame: critics.
"The reviews seem to have been tougher across the board," said Jed Bernstein, president of the League of American Theaters and Producers. "So far the rose petals have been handed out very sparingly, and that's made it very hard on everybody."
I can tell you what's wrong with Broadway. Much like it's twisted sister to the west, Hollywood, big time New York theater is suffering from the same problems that the cinematic blockbuster is causing the film industry. That is, these massive musicals cost too damned much.
Look at it this way. New York theater producers seek massive profits from massive shows, which, hopefully, command premium ticket prices and sales at the box office--that's why producers bleed cash while creating their star-studded extravaganzas. These huge investments, which are now fairly common for most Broadway shows, mean a bigger financial risk for producers. This, in turn, creates a desire to lessen that risk in other ways, chiefly at an artistic level. Reducing artistic risk means blander theater. Blander theater eventually results in lower ticket sales (and harsher reviews, for that matter). New York producers should concentrate on creating good, solid theater, rather than the elephantine craptaculars that they love so much now.
It's all so obvious. Sigh.
Posted by Ron at 10:52 PM
War critics astonished as US hawk
admits invasion was illegal
From the London Guardian via Eschaton:
International lawyers and anti-war campaigners reacted with astonishment yesterday after the influential Pentagon hawk Richard Perle conceded that the invasion of Iraq had been illegal.
In a startling break with the official White House and Downing Street lines, Mr Perle told an audience in London: "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing."
President George Bush has consistently argued that the war was legal either because of existing UN security council resolutions on Iraq - also the British government's publicly stated view - or as an act of self-defence permitted by international law.
But Mr Perle, a key member of the defence policy board, which advises the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said that "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone", and this would have been morally unacceptable.
Of course, we already knew that the invasion was illegal, didn't we? And that the invasion, rather than leaving "Saddam Hussein alone," was what was actually "morally unacceptable." Click here for more. Man, those neo-cons sure love to run their mouths...
Posted by Ron at 10:25 PM
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
...like the poop he is. From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Authorities are investigating whether Rush Limbaugh illegally funneled money to buy prescription painkillers, a law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity said today.
In his third day back on the air after rehab, Limbaugh responded with a blanket denial of the allegations first reported Tuesday by ABC News.
"I was not laundering money. I was withdrawing money for crying out loud," Limbaugh said in his three-hour broadcast.
Hmm. "I was not taking drugs. I had a 'problem' for crying out loud!" Or, "I was not being racist. I was attacking the liberal media for crying out loud!" Or, "I'm not a big fat idiot. I'm 'special' and have a glandular problem for crying out loud!"
How long before the conservatives have to sacrifice this big turd to preserve their appearance of dignity?
Click here for more.
SAVE MEDICARE BY DESTROYING IT
From a Houston Chronicle op-ed piece by Craig Hines:
To begin with, a Republican-driven bill to "improve" Medicare is impossible. Republicans, especially the conservative wing of the party in power, are historically opposed to Medicare.
"This is not a complex story," said Theodore R. Marmor, a professor of public policy and political science at Yale University, who has, in fact, written the book on Medicare. At Medicare's inception, in 1965, "the simple truth is that it was a fight between basic fundamental Republican and Democratic beliefs about the role of government." That has not changed much, but because Republicans now do not want to attack the program directly, they adopt what Marmor calls "the My Lai answer: We have to save Medicare by destroying it as we know it." The idea that a good solution will be half way between Tom DeLay and Ted Kennedy is, Marmor said, "a recipe for stupidity."
That raises a pretty good question: how can a political party that believes, as conservative idiot-god Ronald Reagan once said, that “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” be trusted to do anything but tear down the government?
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 10:58 PM
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
NEW ENGLAND GOES GAY!
Mass. gay marriage ban ruled unconstitutional
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
In the nation's most far-reaching decision of its kind, Massachusetts' highest court declared today that the state constitution guarantees gay couples the right to marry -- a ruling celebrated with a popping of champagne corks and the planning of spring weddings.
"Without a doubt, this is the happiest day of our lives," said Gloria Bailey, who with her partner of 32 years was among the seven gay couples who had sued the state in 2001 for refusing to issue them marriage licenses.
In its 4-3 decision, the Supreme Judicial Court gave the Legislature six months to rewrite the state's marriage laws for the benefit of gay couples.
Oh, I just can't wait for the fireworks to strart flying about this one! Heh, heh. Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 10:47 PM
THREE VIA BUZZFLASH
An op-ed essay from the NY Times:
Your Doctor's Drug Problem
To renew their licenses, doctors in almost all states are required to enroll in continuing medical education programs, and these are now largely subsidized, directly or indirectly, by the pharmaceutical industry. There are official guidelines for keeping these programs free of commercial bias, but they are voluntary. Most of these educational programs are presented by industry-friendly experts who are selected and paid by the companies selling the drugs being discussed, and most of their talks emphasize the medical benefits of those drugs. Some of this information is useful, but much of it is simply marketing disguised as education.
An op-ed essay from the Houston Chronicle:
A president should read a newspaper
During his recent travels abroad, the president confessed amazement after learning that a couple of billion Asians and Europeans and Muslims throughout the world resent his foreign policies and are beginning to think less of the United States. Condi must have forgotten to tell him.
Bush complains that the press is overly focused on grim tidings from Iraq, but how would he know? He doesn't read press reports and therefore has no means of comparing what his aides tell him with what reporters and editors take to be reality.
Since Bush doesn't read a daily newspaper, Americans must assume he is ignorant of much that one contains. Without a newspaper, he can't even know the name of his latest campaign contributor to be indicted.
Does an aide tell him the price of milk, or whether socks are on sale? Does someone have to brief him on the World Series box scores, or does a wartime president have the leisure to watch every play? Apparently Bush has never read a profile of a family thrown out of work, bankrupted by illness or burnt out of house and home.
A news story from the Boston Globe:
Bias taxes brain, research finds
According to the findings, the more biased people are, the more their brain power is taxed by contact with someone of another race, as they struggle not to say or do anything offensive. The effect is so strong, the team found, that even a five-minute conversation with a black person left some of the white subjects unable to perform well on a test of cognitive ability.
"Just having a prejudice makes you stupider," said John Gabrieli, a professor of psychology at Stanford University who was not involved in the research. "It is really interesting."
Posted by Ron at 10:44 PM
Monday, November 17, 2003
WORKING AT WAL-MART SUCKS
Dispatches from the front lines
Last spring, I did a little amateur research that illustrated how Wal-Mart's wages can fail to provide for even a rock-bottom living standard – even at Wal-Mart prices. Email responses arrived over the next few days. Among the many colorful "I hate Wal-Mart" messages were notes from some critics who maintained, via arguments worthy of Dr. Pangloss, that the company's wages are just about right, because otherwise no one would work there.
As the article made the rounds of the Internet and some local newspapers, I started receiving emails from Wal-Mart employees. There was a steady stream of messages over the following months, with some arriving as recently as late October.
In relating their stories, past and present employees (er, "associates") sliced right through the abstract talk about supply-and-demand and wage inflation, and offered a good look behind the big yellow Wal-Mart happy face.
Click here for more.
Open letter to GIs
Dear American serviceperson in Iraq,
I am a retired veteran of the army, and my own son is among you, a paratrooper like I was. The changes that are happening to every one of you--some more extreme than others--are changes I know very well. So I'm going to say some things to you straight up in the language to which you are accustomed.
In 1970, I was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, then based in northern Binh Dinh Province in what was then the Republic of Vietnam. When I went there, I had my head full of shit: shit from the news media, shit from movies, shit about what it supposedly mean to be a man, and shit from a lot of my know-nothing neighbors who would tell you plenty about Vietnam even though they'd never been there, or to war at all.
The essence of all this shit was that we had to "stay the course in Vietnam," and that we were on some mission to save good Vietnamese from bad Vietnamese, and to keep the bad Vietnamese from hitting beachheads outside of Oakland. We stayed the course until 58,000 Americans were dead and lots more maimed for life, and 3,000,000 Southeast Asians were dead. Ex-military people and even many on active duty played a big part in finally bringing that crime to a halt.
When I started hearing about weapons of mass destruction that threatened the United States from Iraq, a shattered country that had endured almost a decade of trench war followed by an invasion and twelve years of sanctions, my first question was how in the hell can anyone believe that this suffering country presents a threat to the United States? But then I remembered how many people had believed Vietnam threatened the United States. Including me.
This is a pretty powerful essay. Click here for the rest.
Posted by Ron at 10:08 PM
Sunday, November 16, 2003
NEW CHOMSKY ESSAY
The Iraq War and Contempt for Democracy
Establishment critics of the war on Iraq restricted their comments regarding the attack to the administration arguments they took to be seriously intended: disarmament, deterrence, and links to terrorism.
They scarcely made reference to liberation, democratization of the Middle East, and other matters that would render irrelevant the weapons inspections and indeed everything that took place at the Security Council or within governmental domains.
The reason, perhaps, is that they recognized that lofty rhetoric is the obligatory accompaniment of virtually any resort to force and therefore carries no information. The rhetoric is doubly hard to take seriously in the light of the display of contempt for democracy that accompanied it, not to speak of the past record and current practices.
For more, click here.
Posted by Ron at 7:37 PM
CIA Finds No Evidence Hussein
Sought to Arm Terrorists
Just in case you still haven't figured it out yet. From the Washington Post via Eschaton:
The CIA's search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has found no evidence that former president Saddam Hussein tried to transfer chemical or biological technology or weapons to terrorists, according to a military and intelligence expert.
Anthony Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, provided new details about the weapons search and Iraqi insurgency in a report released Friday. It was based on briefings over the past two weeks in Iraq from David Kay, the CIA representative who is directing the search for unconventional weapons in Iraq; L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. civil administrator there; and military officials.
"No evidence of any Iraqi effort to transfer weapons of mass destruction or weapons to terrorists," Cordesman wrote of Kay's briefing. "Only possibility was Saddam's Fedayeen [his son's irregular terrorist force] and talk only."
So...even if there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in the run up to the invasion (and there weren't), Hussein wasn't trying to arm terrorists with them. As I've said many times here at Real Art on this issue, we've been had.
Posted by Ron at 7:32 PM
From the Progressive:
The Bush economy is not likely to sustain itself. Nor does the uptick compensate, in any significant way, for the destruction Bush's policies have wreaked on U.S. workers over the last three years.
The high rate of growth "is great as far as it goes," says Max Sawicky, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. "But you shouldn't gloss over all the damage that's already been done: the bankruptcies, the mortgage foreclosures, people going without health insurance, evictions, repos-all the things that happen when you run out of money."
The amazing thing about the growth in the third quarter is that it took this long for the economy to get moving. Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve Board has been holding interest rates down at historically low levels. Bush has been spending money on the military like he was Ronald Reagan, and his summer tax cuts--as lopsided as they were in favor of the rich--still shoveled $100 billion of disposable income into the economy.
Neo-liberalism, or "voodoo economics," as I now prefer and our President's father once preferred to call it, just doesn't work. The theory essentially asserts that aiding business and investment rather than consumers is the best approach to improving the economy--consumers will benefit in the long run because there will be more jobs and, therefore, more money for them to spend. This is, of course, foolish.
It's like buying high grade motor oil for your car and believing that it no longer needs gas--all that great oil will make the tank refill magically. Alas, the car will run more efficiently for a while, giving some credence to the magic tank theory, but reality interferes and it will eventually run out of gas. Neo-liberal reforms can provide, in fact, some short term economic boost which makes neo-liberalism seem to be grounded in reality. However, if that boost comes at too much of an expense to consumers, recession ensues. We are currently seeing that scenario in play.
Good economic policy serves both business AND consumers. Sadly, from politicians, to economists, to businessmen, almost everybody in power is quite taken by neo-liberal views. The magic tank theory is believed to be true to life. That's why our economy, despite the recent seven percent growth spurt, has tanked.
Posted by Ron at 3:19 AM
IRAQ WAR QUAGMIRE HELL
Midair helicopter crash kills 17 in Iraq
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
MOSUL, Iraq -- Two Black Hawk helicopters collided and crashed Saturday night, killing 17 American soldiers in the U.S. military's worst single loss of life since the Iraq war began.
Five soldiers were injured and one was missing, the military said. One helicopter smashed into the roof of a house, witnesses said, and there were reports one of the aircraft was shot down.
Click here for more.
These stories are starting to piss me off. I don't blame the Iraqis; I blame the White House. This hostile reaction was forseeen: the Army Chief of Staff predicted that the US would need "several hundred thousand troops" in Iraq back in March, but Rumsfeld and his neo-con cronies poo-pooed the idea. Not that I think we should send in more troops; rather, I think we should get the hell out of there right now. We cannot win this. It's wrong to even try.
Of course, it was wrong to invade in the first place, but that's another story...
Posted by Ron at 2:45 AM
Saturday, November 15, 2003
WAL-MART SUCKS AND SUCKS
From the Register:
Have you ever wondered what it's like to buy lipstick while in a petri dish?
Consumers in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma know this experience all too well. They were part of a real-world RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) experiment conducted earlier this year by Wal-Mart and Proctor & Gamble. The two U.S. giants placed hidden RFID tags inside of Max Factor Lipfinity lipstick with little mention of the affair to consumers, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
A disgruntled P&G employee informed the paper of the study, which is one of the first of its kind in the U.S.
Needless to say, such technology strikes me as being easily abused, and any evil, prehensile entity like Sam Walton's foul offspring that routinely peddles its corporate home-spun image as being somehow benign is not to be trusted. I, for one, do not want Wal-Mart spying on me through an electronic device embedded in a wad of Charmin during my quality time in the bathroom.
Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe for the link.
Posted by Ron at 1:51 AM
WALL STREET SCAM
An Object Lesson in Investing
An AlterNet essay on how the stock market favors the big boys at the expense of average investor guys:
The moral, of course, is that free markets be damned, if people can make off with your money, you can be damn sure that they will – unless someone stops them. We have the best regulators in the world, of course. The NYSE checks the listings; the SEC monitors the company filings; independent auditors keep tabs on the books; and a board elected by the shareholders scrutinizes the company strategy. All of these men and women, each dedicated to a single end: the welfare of the shareholders. Right?
Let's see. The National Association of Securities Dealers keeps most of its judgments against its member's secret, so you have no idea if the nice broker trying to sell you a parcel of Enron has a "record." The New York Stock Exchange is part of the problem and not the solution, as its new chairman John Reed has tacitly admitted.
As I have said many times, wealth cannot be trusted to police itself. It seems like riches are a highly addictive drug; one can never have enough: if I have to bludgeon my grandmother to get some more hop, I'm damned sure gonna do it! There's a good reason Jesus said that the rich cannot "inherit the kingdom of Heaven." There's also a good reason that so many American Christians don't give a damn about Jesus' teachings in this realm. They're jonsing for more hop.
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 1:30 AM
Thursday, November 13, 2003
UBER TEXAN MOLLY IVINS
Call Me a Bush-Hater
From the Progressive:
"The puzzle is where this depth of feeling comes from," mused the ineffable Mr. Krauthammer. Gosh, what a puzzle that is. How could anyone not be just crazy about George W. Bush? "Whence the anger?" asks Krauthammer. "It begins of course with the 'stolen' election of 2000 and the perception of Bush's illegitimacy." I'd say so myself, yes, I would. I was in Florida during that chilling post-election fight, and am fully persuaded to this good day that Al Gore actually won Florida, not to mention getting 550,000 more votes than Bush overall. But I also remember thinking, as the scene became eerier and eerier, "Jeez, maybe we should just let them have this one, because Republican wing-nuts are so crazy, their bitterness would poison Gore's whole Presidency." The night Gore conceded the race in one of the most graceful and honorable speeches I have ever heard, I was in a ballroom full of Republican Party flacks who booed and jeered through every word of it.
One thing I acknowledge about the right is that they're much better haters than liberals are. Your basic liberal--milk of human kindness flowing through every vein, and heart bleeding over everyone from the milk-shy Hottentot to the glandular obese--is pretty much a strikeout on the hatred front. Maybe further out on the left you can hit some good righteous anger, but liberals, and I am one, are generally real wusses. Guys like Rush Limbaugh figured that out a long time ago--attack a liberal and the first thing he says is, "You may have a point there."
Call me a Bush-hater, too! I hate him! He sucks! And blows! (Apologies to Bart Simpson...)
Click here for the rest.
Thanks to my old buddy, Chris, for the link.
Posted by Ron at 11:32 PM
TWO GOOD ONES FROM THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Believe it or not...
Underlying Durst acquittal, a contrast in justice
For most criminal defendants facing years in prison or even a possible death sentence, the ability to put on a top-shelf defense is often out of reach. The courts provide the poorest defendants with an attorney at no charge, and judges, at their discretion, sometimes allow a certain amount of money to be spent on expert testimony and additional forensic testing.
But no indigent suspect -- even those facing the death penalty -- will have access to the substantial resources that prosecutors have at their disposal, including crime investigators, expert witnesses, DNA and other scientific evidence testing, along with knowledgeable analysts to explain results to jurors.
What's more, defendants' rights advocates complain that appointed attorneys often urge defendants to plead guilty to reduced charges -- regardless of actual guilt or innocence -- in exchange for a lighter sentence rather than go to trial. That helps the judges on whom they depend for appointments keep a current trial docket.
Something weird is going on when the local daily from "The Death Penalty Capital of the World" starts bashing the courts. But then, these guys have been bashing favorite son George W. Bush for some weeks now, too, so maybe it's not so weird.
Click here for the rest.
Living American Dream or `just getting by'?
This one's actually from the NY Times, syndicated to the Chronicle, but the point is that they're running it.
It's interesting that so much attention is being paid to the modest job creation numbers for October, and so little is being given to a much more significant issue that Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is homing in on.
Over the past couple of decades, Edwards said last week, "the American Dream of building something better" has been replaced by the reality of "just getting by."
It has become increasingly difficult to get into -- or stay in -- the middle class. In speeches, reports and interviews, Edwards has been pointing out that despite income gains, most families have been unable to save money and are dangerously vulnerable to setbacks like job losses and illnesses.
I wonder if anybody in Houston's actually reading this stuff. From where I sit, people are still pretty damned conservative here. Oh well...
Posted by Ron at 11:27 PM
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
THREE FROM ZNET
Toledo Blade Report on Vietnam War
"Tiger Force" Atrocity Is Only the Beginning
The Toledo Blade articles represent some of the best reporting on a Vietnam War crime by any newspaper, during or since the end of the conflict. Unfortunately, the articles tell a story that was all too common. As a historian writing his dissertation on U.S. war crimes and atrocities during the Vietnam War, I have been immersed in just the sort of archival materials the Toledo Blade used in its pieces, but not simply for one incident but hundreds if not thousands of analogous events. I can safely, and sadly, say that the "Tiger Force" atrocities are merely the tip of the iceberg in regard to U.S.-perpetrated war crimes in Vietnam. However, much of the mainstream historical literature dealing with Vietnam War atrocities (and accompanying cover-ups and/or sham investigations), has been marginalized to a great extent -- aside from obligatory remarks concerning the My Lai massacre, which is, itself, often treated as an isolated event. Unfortunately, the otherwise excellent reporting of the Toledo Blade draws upon and feeds off this exceptionalist argument to a certain extent. As such, the true scope of U.S.-perpetrated atrocities is never fully addressed in the articles. The men of the "Tiger Force" are labeled as "Rogue GIs" and the authors simply mention the that Army "conducted 242 war-crimes investigations in Vietnam, [that] a third were substantiated, leading to 21 convictions... according to a review of records at the National Archives" – facts of dubious value that obscure the scope and number of war crimes perpetrated in Vietnam and feed the exceptionalist argument.
Bring the Troops Home Now
An interview with anti-war activist Stan Goff:
One of the main anti-war slogans is "Support the troops-Bring them home now". What do you think about the fact that the growing criticism of the war and occupation has to do not with the fact that the US is doing something wrong, immoral, and harmful for the world, but because our soldiers are getting killed in doing it?
That's the key to building a movement. The vast majority of people are not motivated by abstractions. They are motivated by what they can feel on their skin. The entry point for this movement into the consciousness of new people is not through morality. The ruling class has the best stage, the best sound, the best lighting, the best scriptwriters, the best actors, and the best broadcast ability to construct morality. Naturally, we fight them tooth and nail on every single lie, but even the content of our message is often lost, because of the WAYS that people process messages, which has also been constructed by the ruling class. The freshest stratum in any movement are those who are there through trauma and fear. Soldiers getting killed is a very serious thing, because these are our families. Our experience in the Bring Them Home Now campaign is that in fighting to bring troops home, this fresh group is exposed to a lot of new ideas, and because they are in a painful space they are in a teachable space. It doesn't take long for them, once they begin to question the first motive to question all the motives. It's not as long a step as people think from asking the first question to questioning imperialism itself. I know. The truly surprising thing is how incredibly thin the whole fabric of mystification is once it's exposed to a little critique. Americans don't know how to critique, and they are threatened by it. That's why the first step has to be something more fundamental than analysis, like revulsion, fear, and pain.
Click here for the rest.
The Silence Of Writers
That the menace of great and violent power in our own times is apparently accepted by celebrated writers, and by many of those who guard the gates of literary criticism, is uncontroversial. Not for them the impossibility of writing and promoting literature bereft of politics. Not for them the responsibility to speak out - a responsibility felt by even the unpolitical Ernest Hemingway.
Today, realism is declared obsolete; an ironic hauteur is affected; false symbolism is all. As for the readers, their political imagination is to be pacified, not primed; after all, what do they care? Martin Amis expressed this well in Visiting Mrs Nabokov: "The dominance of the self is not a flaw, it is an evolutionary characteristic; it is just how things are."
So it is "evolution". We have evolved to the apolitical self; to the introspection and squabbles of individuals divorced from any notion that their self-obsession is less important and less interesting than an engagement with how things really are for the rest of us.
Posted by Ron at 9:28 PM
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
TWO FROM COUNTERPUNCH
First, essayist and activist Tim Wise on the "persecution" of American Christians:
Claims of Christian Victimization Ring Hollow
Persecution is having a teacher tell you that the faith of your family is illegitimate and that you are going to spend eternity in a lake of fire surrounded by demons, and being told that all of your family who have died heretofore are already there preparing a space for you. Been there, done that.
Persecution is being corralled into an assembly in your public school and being forced to listen to a proselytizing representative of a Christian youth group call the students to proclaim their devotion to Jesus, and to imply that those who won't do so are lost souls. Been there, done that.
Persecution is writing an eighth grade term paper in that same public school, in which you examine both sides of the school prayer issue evenhandedly, but are graded down because the title you chose, "Our Father Who Art in Homeroom?" is deemed sacrilegious by your fundamentalist teacher. Been there, done that.
Persecution is having a teacher place anti-abortion pamphlets on every desk in his room, which not only call for an end to the procedure but do so in explicitly Christian terms, insisting that all who disagree are de facto baby-killers and agents of Satan. Been there, done that too.
Fundamentalists obviously have some sort of weird persecution complex. They hold more political and economic power in this country than at any other time in history, yet they still whine about how the liberals are out to get them. To be honest, I must admit that on many levels I am out to get them. Of course, I have no real power (except maybe over the high school students I teach but they're protected from my Satanism by the very pro-religious establishment of the community where I work) so I'm no threat. The reality is that liberals are menaced by fundamentalists--go figure. The Bible Nazis are crazy.
Click here for more.
Next, my teaching hero, University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jenson, opines on politics in the classroom:
Illusions of Neutrality
These illusions of neutrality only confuse students about the nature of inquiry into human society and behavior. All such teaching has a political dimension, and we shouldn't fear that. The question isn't whether professors should leave their politics at the door -- they can't -- but whether professors are responsible in the way they present their politics.
Every decision a professor makes -- choice of topics, textbook selection, how material is presented -- has a politics. If the professor's views are safely within the conventional wisdom of the dominant sectors of society, it might appear the class is apolitical. Only when professors challenge that conventional wisdom do we hear talk about "politicized" classrooms.
The classroom always is politicized in courses that deal with how we organize ourselves politically, economically, and socially. But because there's a politics to teaching doesn't mean teaching is nothing but politics; professors shouldn't proselytize for their positions. Instead, when it's appropriate -- and in the courses I teach, it often is -- professors should highlight the inevitable political judgments that underlie teaching. Students -- especially those who disagree with a professor's views -- will come to see that the professor has opinions, which is a good thing. Professors should be modeling how to present and defend an argument with evidence and logic.
As a high school teacher, I wholeheartedly agree. That's why I'm quitting my job in the indoctrinational institution known as "public school" at the end of the spring semester. I'm pretty sick of parsing my words.
Monday, November 10, 2003
THE INTELLIGENCE WARS CONTINUE
Two from the London Independent via J. Orlin Grabbe:
Case for war confected, say top US officials
As the former CIA analyst Ray McGovern argues with particular force, the traditional role of the CIA has been to act as a scrupulously accurate source of information and analysis for presidents pondering grave international decisions. That role, he said, had now been "prostituted" and the CIA may never be the same. "Where is Bush going to turn to now? Where is his reliable source of information now Iraq is spinning out of control? He's frittered that away," Mr McGovern said. "And the profound indignity is that he probably doesn't even realise it."
Click here for the rest.
'No President has lied so baldly and
so often and so demonstrably'
Mr McGovern accuses Mr Bush of an extraordinary act of chutzpah - taking advantage of his authority as President of the United States to make people believe there must be something to his insistent allegations that Iraq possessed potentially devastating weaponry.
"Many of us felt there had to be something there ... If this had been another country, one would have written a convincing analysis that this guy is lying through his teeth, that there are no weapons in Iraq. But people thought, the President can't say he knows something if he doesn't. That was persuasive, in a way.
"Now we know that no other President of the United States has ever lied so baldly and so often and so demonstrably ... The presumption now has to be that he's lying any time that he's saying anything."
For more, click here.
Posted by Ron at 8:58 PM
Shock Troops of the Right Wing
These are heady times for the right. In quick succession they have demonstrated their ability to censor movies they oppose, prevent implementation of court decisions they resist, even halt the construction of a building that would house an organization they dislike.
We can expect the right, intoxicated by such successes, to redouble their efforts. Are we ready?
For more, click here.
Posted by Ron at 8:54 PM
Sunday, November 09, 2003
DO NOT REJOICE, BUSH LOVERS!
The GDP might be growing now, but
the Chimp is making sure it tanks later
The Economist on Bush's federal spending deficits:
The combination of a sharp economic slowdown, tax cuts and higher spending has transformed America's budget. When Mr Bush ran for office, the fiscal surplus was 2.4% of GDP, one of the highest among big rich countries. By fiscal 2003, the budget deficit had reached 3.5% of GDP. Next year, by official forecasts, it is expected to reach 4.3%.
According to the Bush folk, this shift is unfortunate but hardly worrying. America, they claim, was hit by an unprecedented combination of economic slowdown, terrorist attacks and stockmarket collapse. But now, boosted by tax cuts,buoyant growth coupled with disciplined spending will soon stem the red ink.
Not everyone shares this nonchalance. A poll by ABC News and the Washington Post, published on November 2nd, showed that 53% of respondents disapproved of Mr Bush's tax policy. The large cast of Democratic presidential hopefuls claim Mr Bush's tax cuts have been a giveaway to the rich, wrecking the economy and mortgaging the future for America's children.
Add these factors together, and America's budget outlook is far worse than the official forecasts suggest. Among Washington's independent budget experts, the consensus is that the official figures understate the cumulative deficit by about $5 trillion. Rather than a budget that returns to surplus by 2012, America is more likely to see deficits that average 3% of GDP over the next decade.
All these projections assume a healthy average rate of real GDP growth, at 3% a year. Faster growth would improve the outlook, but would not eliminate the spectre of deficits. Contrary to the Bush team's rhetoric, America does not have a small, temporary fiscal problem. It has a large and growing one.
The economic consequences are indisputably negative. Big budget deficits reduce America's already abysmally low saving rate. As the economy's slack is worked off, Uncle Sam's demand for dollars is likely to crowd out private investment and reduce long-term economic growth. Even if the global capital market helps out, America is already enormously reliant on foreigners to fund its spending: the current-account deficit, the measure of annual borrowing from foreigners, is at an historic high of 5.1% of GDP. Big budget deficits will aggravate these external imbalances and so raise the risk of financial volatility, even a dollar crisis. Over the next few years, that is perhaps the biggest risk that Mr Bush's fiscal policies pose for the world economy.
We really are in big trouble. Click here.
Thanks to Eschaton for the link.
Posted by Ron at 10:25 PM
WAL-MART SUCKS: THE CONTINUING STORY
Poverty-level labor (legal and otherwise)
supports Wal-Mart's low-price slogan
Oakland theologian and activist Byron Williams via WorkingForChange:
Companies convicted of knowingly hiring undocumented individuals face fines of up to $10,000 per worker. This scarcely seems like a deterrent. The cynic in me believes some bean counter tucked away at the Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas determined that the profit generated from using cheap labor would substantially offset the $10,000 per individual fines if convicted.
Assuming that Wal-Mart was found guilty in all 300 cases, the fine would total $3 million, hardly an exorbitant amount for a company that boast half of Forbes Magazine's ten richest Americans.
The cleaning crews under investigation did not receive health insurance and were paid below minimum wage. Wal-Mart is known for precision in the retailing industry, from which items sell best in each region of the country to the most efficient manner of organizing sale items in order to maximize store profits. Are we really meant to believe that it has no idea that some of its workers are being paid what amounts to slave wages?
Click here for still more evidence of the fact that Wal-Mart sucks.
GUN TOTING PIGS SHAKE DOWN
SOUTH CAROLINA HIGH SCHOOL
More evidence of our public schools' totalitarian leanings from KSAT TV in San Antonio via Eschaton:
Surveillance video from Stratford High School in Goose Creek shows 14 officers, some with guns drawn, ordering students to lie the ground as police searched for marijuana. Students who didn't comply with the orders quickly enough were reportedly handcuffed.
Police didn't find any criminals in the armed sweep, but they say search dogs smelled drugs on a dozen backpacks.
Click here for more, and be sure to watch the intense video clip of the cops partying down at the expense of innocent children.
Posted by Ron at 12:51 AM
BUSH POLICY ON IRAQ DOOMED TO FAIL
This Can't Go On
From good guy economist Paul Krugman:
But whether or not you think troop losses are important, there's growing evidence that our Iraq strategy is unsustainable. The immediate issue is manpower. Some politicians are calling for a bigger force in Iraq — but even our current force levels can't be maintained.
In September the Congressional Budget Office analyzed how many U.S. soldiers could be kept in Iraq without extending tours beyond one year. The conclusion was that force levels would have to start dropping rapidly about five months from now, and that the forces in Iraq and Kuwait would eventually have to shrink by almost two-thirds. As the report explains, the Pentagon can use various expedients to maintain a larger force in Iraq, but all of these expedients would threaten to undermine our military readiness.
At a broader level, the accelerating pace at which Americans are being killed and wounded and the strains of occupation duties clearly pose difficulties for recruitment in a volunteer military. And at a still broader level, public support for this war — whose original rationale has turned out to be a mirage, if not a deliberate deception — will wilt if losses go on at this rate, no matter how tough the president talks.
For more, click here.
Posted by Ron at 12:34 AM
How many body bags?
Some pundits and politicians, even those who may have been skeptical about the war to begin with, now argue that we must "finish the job," even if it means increasing our commitment of troops or ruling Iraq indefinitely. This is, however, exactly the kind of stubborn and mushy thinking that led us into the hell of the Vietnam War and the deaths of 58,000 Americans and more than 2 million Vietnamese and Cambodians.
The occupation of Iraq is not working and will not work. For Iraqis, our culture is offensive and our tactics heavy-handed. As none other than the American-sponsored Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi put it after the latest guerrilla attacks: "The Americans, their methods, their operations and their procedures are singularly unsuited to deal with this kind of problem."
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 12:30 AM
THANKS TO DOCTOR LOBSTER
Without whom I would not have gotten the second best Real Art daily hit total of 38! I must admit that some of the drunken brawling was fun, but I hope this doesn't become a regular thing: lowbrow conservative nitpicking-as-intellectuality is ultimately tiresome and diversionary; if I responded to every bit of slurred speech coming out of his pie-eyed mouth, I'd be wasting a lot of time and space--only a drunk can win an argument with a drunk, and I'm too damned sober. But I am thankful for the hits...
Posted by Ron at 12:16 AM
Saturday, November 08, 2003
REAL ART YEAR TWO BEGINS
From Real Art comments:
Visit my website.....you might learn something.
dp | Homepage | 11.07.03 - 12:41 am |
It appears that some drunken conservative asshole stumbled through the Real Art threshold and crashed my party. I checked out his blog and found the typical confused, sloshed, angry version of reality: Butthole O'Reilly styled "common sense" lectures about the "way things are" and how you're an idiot if you disagree with him. What do you say to a guy who can't see beyond the computer chip embedded in his skull? Here's what I posted in response:
"Shut up, you American! You Americans, all you do is talk, and talk, and say "let me tell you something" and "I just wanna say." Well, you're dead now, so shut up!"
The Grim Reaper
from Monty Python's Meaning of Life
Ron | Email | Homepage | 11.07.03 - 9:30 pm |
Nothing like a little tit-for-tat absurdity to avenge that spit-upon feeling that I get from smarter-than-thou conservatives these days.
I'm reminded of an argument I once had with my older brother who often verges on this kind of right-wing arrogance (we don't argue any more; my views tend to piss him off more often than not, and I prefer to be on good terms with him). I don't even remember what the argument was about, but what stuck in my mind was him stopping the conversation thread in frustrated exasperation and hissing through his clenched teeth, "haven't you ever taken an economics course?!?" The argument ended soon after his outburst. What else could he say? Not only have I taken economics at the college level, I've been rather obsessed with the subject since high school. I understand quite well where the conservatives are coming from, and I reject their false, harsh version of reality anyway.
Conservative or neo-liberal views of economics are based on unfounded assumptions that simply do not work in the real world the way that they do on paper. Furthermore, these views tend to promote a sort of social Darwinism that savages the poor: conservatives, who are utterly without any sense of irony, simply cannot understand that neo-liberalism, as a philosophy, both impoverishes vast numbers of human beings while establishing a belief system that blames the poor for their poverty. "Compassionate conservatism" is a sick joke. It is impossible for a conservative to be compassionate--conservatism is, by definition, a stark and painful understanding of human existence: better take care of yourself, because you're on your own! I pledge allegiance to ME!
This brings up another great irony at the heart of conservatism that conservatives have no ability to appreciate: neo-liberalism is anti-Christian. Again, I don't say this because I have no knowledge of Christianity; rather, I know this because I used to be a fundamentalist: I was an insider and know their point of view, but I reject it anyway. If the Gospels are to be taken as a fair record of Jesus' teachings, the philosophy that seemed to guide his life is anathema to neo-liberalism: Jesus was anti-materialism and wealth, and pro-love and charity. I like Jesus. Fundamentalists, however, clearly reject the example set by their Lord, warping and twisting it into the stark, selfish, unforgiving view that they prefer. This dark version of Christ, this "Anti-Christ" if you will, has made it easy for fundamentalists to change "love your enemy" to "kill your enemy." It is no accident that the Southern Baptists were some of the most bloodthirsty supporters of the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq.
Because so many Americans have the concept of Christianity so deeply embedded in their identities, conservatives have been able to play havoc with our nation's sense of morality. The conservatives have convinced many that good Americans are also good Christians, and conservatives work hard to define the concept of "good Christian." Conservative appeals to basic human herd mentality through such cherished concepts, symbols, and ideas have been wildly successful. If anyone doubts this, consider the current American love of authority--Old Testament patriarchal notions of obedience, God's wrath, and punishment run rampant in the United States. At the same time we're supposed to worship democracy and individual freedoms--the contradictions in our society are maddening, and conservatives use them to great advantage.
Here is the greatest advantage: wealthy elites, not the people, rule America. The amount of money infesting the political process, American worship of wealth, pro-corporate news media, and other factors make our nation not a democracy, but a wealth driven oligarchy. America: the land of the slaves and the home of the scared. The fact that our democracy is functionally dead has allowed a chimpanzee frat-boy to illegally seize the White House. The fact that our president is a moronic chimp has allowed the Machiavellian opportunists known as neo-conservatives to pull his strings. Our country is really fucked up!
That brings me back to the drunken, conservative lout who tracked up the Real Art carpets with his muddy, webbed feet. As my blog begins its second year, I realize that I'm not really writing for people like him. His people have already decided that they understand "the way things are," thank you, and please don't confuse them with the facts. Their minds are closed--their worldview is intertwined with their sense of identity; doubting conservatism is, for them, to doubt themselves. They cannot change their minds without a great deal of pain and turmoil. I doubt that even a two-by-four to the forehead would make much of a difference. Instead, I write to support and strengthen the wills of those who agree with me, and to attempt to persuade those who disagree with me, but are open minded and willing to listen.
This goal is, after all, the American way: honest debate and dialogue will provide the best course for our great nation to follow. This is what democracy is all about. This is what I hope my blog, in its own small way, can help restore to America.
Happy birthday Real Art!
Update: it appears that my own little inebriated freeper troll has also been poking his nose through the Real Art cabinets and drawers and sniffing my underwear. After scanning my BUTTLOADS OF MICHAEL MOORE post below, he staggered into the comments section and tried to start a drunken argument. I'm amazed this kid hasn't passed out yet.
Posted by Ron at 1:46 AM
Thursday, November 06, 2003
MORE ON THE 7% SURGE
Manipulating the GNP
The GNP is a false measure of a phony prosperity and an irrelevant indicator of America's future. People who care about the future need to look beyond the GNP statistic and ask hard questions about job loss and trade and budget deficits, about increasing economic disparity as the rich get richer, the poor face crises of housing and health care, and middle-income Americans pile up credit card debt; about environmental issues like global warming that are going to cause expensive and socially wrenching dislocation as tides rise and the climate changes.
For more on the misleading economic news, click here.
Posted by Ron at 11:24 PM
ANOTHER BIG ONE ON
THE INTELLIGENCE WARS
By Seymour Hersh from the New Yorker via Eschaton:
A retired C.I.A. officer described for me some of the questions that would normally arise in vetting: “Does dramatic information turned up by an overseas spy square with his access, or does it exceed his plausible reach? How does the agent behave? Is he on time for meetings?” The vetting process is especially important when one is dealing with foreign-agent reports—sensitive intelligence that can trigger profound policy decisions. In theory, no request for action should be taken directly to higher authorities—a process known as “stovepiping”—without the information on which it is based having been subjected to rigorous scrutiny.
The point is not that the President and his senior aides were consciously lying. What was taking place was much more systematic—and potentially just as troublesome. Kenneth Pollack, a former National Security Council expert on Iraq, whose book “The Threatening Storm” generally supported the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein, told me that what the Bush people did was “dismantle the existing filtering process that for fifty years had been preventing the policymakers from getting bad information. They created stovepipes to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership. Their position is that the professional bureaucracy is deliberately and maliciously keeping information from them.
Click here for more.
Posted by Ron at 11:09 PM