Wednesday, March 31, 2004


A couple of good links from the Homepage of J. Orlin Grabbe.

Net music piracy 'does not harm record sales'

From New Scientist:

Oberholzer-Gee and Strumpf monitored 680 albums, chosen from a range of musical genres, downloaded over 17 weeks in the second half of 2002. They used computer programs to automatically monitor downloads and compared this data to changes in album sales over the same period to see if a link could be established.

The most heavily downloaded songs showed no decrease in CD sales as a result of increasing downloads. In fact, albums that sold more than 600,000 copies during this period appeared to sell better when downloaded more heavily.

For these albums each increase of 150 downloads corresponded to another legitimate album sale. The study showed only a slight decline in sales as a result of online trading for the least popular music.

"From a statistical point of view, what this means is that there is no effect between downloading and sales," say Oberholzer-Gee and Strumpf.

This is quite interesting. I've been reading that the music industry has been suffering from some other sale-depressing woes such as competition from low priced DVDs and consumers becoming bored with corporate crafted crap-pop and high gloss shit-hop; to discover that illegal downloads may very well increase a record's hype and therefore its sales could be one of the great ironies of our era.

Click here for more.

(Quick diversion--a quote from Frank Zappa's "Tinsel Town Rebellion" from 1981:

The Tinsel Town aficionados
Come to see and not to hear
But then again this system works
As perfect as a dream
It works for all of those
Record company pricks
Who come to skim the

Finally, it sounds like "this system" is not "as perfect as a dream." Ha, ha!)


From the New York Press:

Eric Alterman

WHAT LIBERAL DICKWAD? Milhouse is all grown up: He has a goatee, a PhD from Stanford and an online diary where he proclaims his love for Jackson Browne. Liberal bloggers are holding it up like the fucking Alamo, but his run-in with Dennis Miller last month left Alterman looking like he was about to get his head dunked in the toilet for the third time. Even if you agree with him about Ann Coulter and Alexander Cockburn, it's hard not to root against this smirking, center-left prick who likes his dinner dates rich and famous and his fois gras seared. "He constantly wants to remind you that he's Eric Alterman," one of his interns revealed in a rumor-confirming Village Voice hatchet-job, "[and] that he knows a lot of important people, and that you're a lowly intern." Dear future self-respecting Alterman interns: If this creepy Bruce Springsteen groupie ever cops an attitude, just take a breath, start laughing and print out some of his "Alter-Reviews" at random. If you're lucky, you'll hit a Jackson Browne box set.


James Lipton
Dean of the Actors Studio

IT'S NOT JUST that his sycophantic interviewing technique has transcended butt-kissing to become all-out analingus, or that he's sullied the stage where Pacino performed Mamet with paeans to Ben Affleck. It's not the fey cadence and maddening British affect. It's that Lipton has become so obsessed with full-penetration starfucking that he's allowed the Actors Studio to deteriorate into a fifth-rate factory whose graduates aren't prepared for a two-liner on Law & Order. In the days of Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg, the Actors Studio was considered more important than the Yale School of Drama; today it competes with continuing education classes at the Learning Annex. Memo to Lipton: Taking it from Jay Leno and Ethan Hawke isn't doing much for your students. And you look ridiculous.


Howard Stern
Disc Jockey

WE NEVER CARED for Howard's mooky blatherings, but we support him in his 11th-hour conversion to free-speech champion. Too bad the jackass waited so long to take a stand?a more chickenshit millionaire you'd be hard-pressed to find. He choked when he ran for governor, helping instead to elect the biggest tax-and-spend Republican in New York history (who gave us two of the biggest subway fare hikes in history). With his money and fan base, Stern could've taken on the criminals at the FCC a long time ago, but as always, the smut jock went ostrich, burying his face in a pair of fake tits while the Constitution got crumpled. Come to think of it, scratch the opening line. We hope Ashcroft locks him away for 10 to 20.

Given New York's traditional dominance of both popular and high-brow culture, this is a must-read, even for non New Yorkers. I must admit that reading this list gave me the same kind of catty glee that a room full of savage, evil queens must get when watching Joan Rivers (who made the list at #30) host the Oscars pre-show on ETV. It's nice to see how the other half lives...

Click here for the rest of the list.


Tuesday, March 30, 2004


From WorkingForChange:

Bush puts a 'cancer on the presidency'

"Worse Than Watergate," the title of a new book by John Dean, Richard Nixon's White House counsel, is a depressingly accurate measure of the chicanery of the Bush/Cheney cabal. According to Dean, who began his political life at the age of 29 as the Republican counsel on the House Judiciary Committee before being recruited by Nixon, "This administration is truly scary and, given the times we live in, frighteningly dangerous." And when it comes to lies and cover-up, the Bush crowd makes the Nixon administration look like amateurs. As Dean writes, they "have created the most secretive presidency of my lifetime ... far worse than during Watergate."

Dean knows what he's talking about. He was the one who dared tell Nixon in 1973 that the web of lies surrounding the Watergate break-in of the Democratic Party headquarters had formed "a cancer on the presidency." When Dean went public about that conversation, the Nixon White House smeared him as a liar. Fortunately, the conversation had been taped, and Dean was vindicated.

The dark side of the current White House was on full display last week when top officials of the Bush administration took to the airwaves to destroy the credibility of a man who had honorably served presidents Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes.

The character assassination of Richard Clarke...

Click here for more.

And the new Paul Krugman essay:

This Isn't America

That's why the administration responded to Mr. Clarke the way it responds to anyone who reveals inconvenient facts: with a campaign of character assassination.

Some journalists seem, finally, to have caught on. Last week an Associated Press news analysis noted that such personal attacks were "standard operating procedure" for this administration and cited "a behind-the-scenes campaign to discredit Richard Foster," the Medicare actuary who revealed how the administration had deceived Congress about the cost of its prescription drug bill.

But other journalists apparently remain ready to be used. On CNN, Wolf Blitzer told his viewers that unnamed officials were saying that Mr. Clarke "wants to make a few bucks, and that [in] his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well."

This administration's reliance on smear tactics is unprecedented in modern U.S. politics — even compared with Nixon's. Even more disturbing is its readiness to abuse power — to use its control of the government to intimidate potential critics.

Click here for more.


Monday, March 29, 2004


Condi's Credibility Gap

Hey Condi, I know that you're really hesitant to testify before the 9/11 commission publicly. You've said that the Constitution bars you from testifying and that no national security advisor has ever testified before Congress. Of course, today on NPR, Nixon "enemies list" listee and legendary journalist, Daniel Schorr, made some interesting observations: you have no problem flapping your gums all over TV; the 9/11 commission isn't Congress; other national security advisors have, indeed, testified before congress. So, it seems to me that your excuses for avoiding giving testimony under oath aren't very good. Furthermore, there are some contradictory pieces of information floating around that only you have the ability to clear up:

CLAIM: "I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." - National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, 5/16/02

FACT: On August 6, 2001, the President personally "received a one-and-a-half page briefing advising him that Osama bin Laden was capable of a major strike against the US, and that the plot could include the hijacking of an American airplane." In July 2001, the Administration was also told that terrorists had explored using airplanes as missiles. [Source: NBC, 9/10/02; LA Times, 9/27/01]

CLAIM: In May 2002, Rice held a press conference to defend the Administration from new revelations that the President had been explicitly warned about an al Qaeda threat to airlines in August 2001. She "suggested that Bush had requested the briefing because of his keen concern about elevated terrorist threat levels that summer." [Source: Washington Post, 3/25/04]

FACT: According to the CIA, the briefing "was not requested by President Bush." As commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste disclosed, "the CIA informed the panel that the author of the briefing does not recall such a request from Bush and that the idea to compile the briefing came from within the CIA." [Source: Washington Post, 3/25/04]

This list goes on. Condi, you owe us some answers.

Click here for more of Condi's contradictions.

The Christian Taliban

But even as President George W. Bush denounced the brutal Islamic fundamentalist regime in Kabul, he was quietly laying the foundations for his own fundamentalist regime at home. For the first time far right Christian fundamentalists had one of their own in the White House and the opportunity to begin rolling back decades of health and family planning programs they saw as un-Christian, if not downright sinful.

Since 2001 dozens of far-right Christian fundamentalists have been quietly installed in key positions within the Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Drug Administration and on commissions and advisory committees where they have made serious progress. Three years later this administration has established one of the most rigid sexual health agendas in the Western world.

I've written about "abstinence based" sex education and the social dangers it presents numerous times here at Real Art: this is only part of an overall, far-reaching, fundamentalist assault against sexual freedoms that Americans have taken for granted for decades. This article gets a bit creepy at points when one realizes just how puritanical these people are, and how much political power they have already amassed.

Click here for the rest.


My Audition in San Francisco

For part one of this three part series, click here.

San Francisco was disappointing. Not the city itself, mind you, although I was so absorbed by my impending audition for the California Institute of the Arts graduate acting program, that I kind of walked around the city in a daze for much of the time I was there—I did note, however, that San Francisco is quite beautiful, and that the Castro is not any more gay than Houston’s Montrose or New Orleans’ French Quarter or New York’s Greenwich Village. No, I was disappointed by my audition.

It was at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel which is a rather ritzy joint, with bellhops dressed in sixteenth century English regalia. I arrived a half hour before the auditions began, and filled out some paperwork—I was so nervous that I had forgotten the name of one of the characters that I play in my two monologues; I even called my parents long-distance to get them to do a Google search which helped not one bit. Anyway, I completed my forms to the best of my ability, and then went into an orientation with about 20 or 30 other aspiring actors, both undergraduate and graduate, to get the goods on the school.

I learned some interesting stuff. CalArts has spent the last decade or so raiding elite acting faculties across the country, trying to put together an intense and elite staff. Two faculty members were there: one had taught voice and diction at the prestigious Julliard School and the other had been an acting teacher at both Yale and New York University. I knew CalArts was great, but I didn’t know until then just how great it probably is, at least in terms of faculty pedigree. I also found out that they, as a training program, are extraordinarily interested in infiltrating the industry. That is, to paraphrase their words, the old theory, that it was enough to simply train great actors and then unleash them on Hollywood and Broadway, no longer works. In their view, it is now necessary to also create networks within the industry: CalArts’ acting faculty continues to work and maintain strong contacts within both the film and professional theater industries—ideally, this means that CalArts MFAs have a pipeline into acting professionally that MFAs from other schools don’t have.

“Cool,” I thought. “I hope I get in.”

Then we were sent out into a lobby area and we waited until we were called in to do our thing. I guess I waited for a couple of hours or so until it was my turn. I ran through my monologues in my head, tried to relax, and paced. A lot. There were numerous other actors standing around waiting, too, but I didn’t really talk that much—I was doing a pretty good job of maintaining my focus.

Finally, they called me in.

The woman said, “hello.”

“Hi,” I said back.

“So, you’re Ron,” the man said.

“Yes,” I replied.

“How are you today?” he asked.

“Fine. A bit nervous, actually.”

The man kind of dropped his head and touched his face. “Just be sure to go slowly,” he sighed. Lots of actors get nervous in these situations which makes them rocket through their performances—I imagine seeing so many actors play their monologues at break-neck speed gets to be frustrating. Fortunately for me, I had worked on my monologues last fall with a top notch acting professor who had taught me at the University of Texas years ago: he told me that I was going too slowly. Rate of delivery became a big aspect of my rehearsal process after that, so I wasn’t worried about going too quickly.

“You graduated from UT in…1991?” the man asked while looking at my paperwork.

“Yes,” I replied.

“And you’re doing…uh…Love’s Labour’s Lost...and...The Author’s Voice?”

“That’s correct.”

And that was the extent of the interview I was expecting to have. When he told me to go ahead and run my monologues, I assumed they would ask me more questions when I was done, giving me the chance to dazzle them with my sparkling personality.

So I showed them my chops. I think I was a bit stiff on my Shakespeare piece, but it was a solid performance. However, I really managed to groove into my contemporary piece, not my absolute best work, but pretty damned good.

“Okay...good,” the man said flatly, “well, that’s all, Ron, thanks.”

That was just about it. My inability to read their reaction coupled with the lack of interview left me feeling like I had blown it somehow. I started to say goodbye when the woman asked me if I had any questions. Of course, my mind was a total blank at this point: my buddy, Lex, a professional actor in New York, later said of this, “Yeah, I’ve got a question for you. DO I GET IN?!?” Heh. Indeed. All I could think of to say was that I had scrutinized their website, and that their orientation was good. Then I left.

I honestly can’t remember the next few hours after that. I was sure that they hated me. I think I watched TV in my hotel room for the rest of the afternoon. That night, my wife and I spent a couple of hours in a residential area, shivering, trying to find the Castro neighborhood—our cab driver had dropped us off in the wrong part of town. When we finally got there, we were too cold and tired to really enjoy ourselves, and I was further disappointed to not see any leather men in chaps wandering around. We went back to our room.

I left San Francisco feeling very let down. Months of preparation, stress, and anxiety had seemingly been for naught. Big drag.

Of course, that was weeks ago. Hindsight has made me feel better about my audition—my work was good, and it was probably intentional that I couldn’t read my auditors. Poker faces, no doubt, come in handy in such situations. And, hey, in the wide world of acting, anybody’s got a shot. As my younger brother later told me, “You can’t win the lottery if you don’t got a ticket.”

I still haven’t heard anything. They say that the longer it takes for these things, the better...

Coming soon: Baton Rouge.


Sunday, March 28, 2004

GOP seeks to declassify Clarke testimony

From the New York Times via the Houston Chronicle:

Referring to Clarke's six-hour appearance in 2002 before the joint congressional inquiry -- when Clarke was still on the White House staff -- Frist said Clarke was then "effusive in his praise for the actions of the Bush administration," a sharp contrast to his appearance this week before the independent commission in which he testified that the White House had failed to treat the terror threat with the urgency it deserved.

Frist accused Clarke of "profiteering" with his book, which has jumped to the top of best seller lists, and branded as "theatrical" the apology Clarke offered this week to relatives of Sept. 11 victims for failing to stop the attacks. He said that to "apologize on behalf of the nation was not his right, his privilege or his responsibility."

Frist did not act alone. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., who has long warned that the work of the independent commission could become a "political football" in the midst of the presidential campaign, said on Friday that he had joined in the request to have the testimony declassified.

"We need to lean forward in making as much information available to the public as possible, without compromising the national security interests of the nation," Hastert said in a statement.

Congressional Democrats who were involved in the joint committee's investigation said their recollection of Clarke's testimony was different, and that they knew of no contradiction between what Clarke said then and what he was saying now.

Click here for more.

It is important to note, as has been observed by many others at this point, that the Bush administration isn't really responding to Clarke's allegations. I mean, they have said something to the effect that they think Clarke is wrong, but they've offered nothing more substantial than that. Tom Tomorrow and Atrios have also noted that it is entirely possible that Clarke was, indeed, lying during his 2002 testimony, but that he was being a good soldier and lying for his commander-in-chief. In fact, I just now saw Clarke himself on Fox News during testimony before the 9/11 comission saying something to that effect--he testified that he was asked to highlight positive aspects of Bush's counterterrorism programs, and that he had issued similar statements for every president for whom he had worked in the past. Clearly, this wacky declassification scheme is just another day on the job for the Republican slime machine.

So, Clarke's not lying, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is. From MSNBC courtesy of Eschaton:

"Mr. Clarke has told two entirely different stories under oath," Frist said in a speech from the Senate floor, alleging that Clarke said in 2002 that the Bush administration actively sought to address the threat posed by al-Qaida before the attacks.

Frist later retreated from directly accusing Clarke of perjury, telling reporters that he personally had no knowledge that there were any discrepancies between Clarke's two appearances. But he said, "Until you have him under oath both times, you don't know."

Click here for the rest of the article.

Well, Bill, which one is it? Is Clarke a perjurer or not? Better be careful, Bill. All that GOP slime can get to be a bit sticky when you're in it up to your neck. Better hope you don't end up with all that slime over your head...


Saturday, March 27, 2004

How "Bush's Brain" hijacked
Washington DC and politics-as-usual

From Bush Wars courtesy of This Modern World:

It’s said one quality that sets Rove apart is his ability to see the whole playing field in politics. So let’s talk about the playing field that Rove seems to see.

Start with the people: They are tired, overworked, and scared--about their own livelihoods and threats from without. More important, they are woefully ignorant, and easily worn down, concerning the details of any political subject. They are acclimated to political races in which the main differences revolve around personality, and comfortable making almost entirely emotional decisions about candidates. This is an overgeneralization, but to date a viable one. Presidential elections are mass-culture phenomena, and the majority of voters in any election know very little of substance about the candidates or issues involved.

The media: On a mass basis, the medium that matters most by far is television. According to a 2003 Pew Research Center study, over 80 percent of Americans claim to get most of their news from TV. And if you take the further step of looking at TV news viewership numbers, you will find them pretty underwhelming. The only sensible conclusion is that a great many Americans consume political news in sporadic, sidelong fashion if at all. Many others try to follow events, but lack the time for anything but a few minutes of cable news and glance at their newspaper’s front page.

Two things follow. First, the relative impact of political ads versus news coverage is much greater than a casual observer might think. Second, and more important, if you can keep bad news off the front page and off TV news, most people will never even know it happened. There are only a handful of media organizations in charge of what Americans see on the national TV news, and they are always looking over their shoulders at each other. They’re not just pack animals; they’re an exceptionally small and manageable pack. Give them interesting things to take pictures of, toss them an emotionally charged sideshow like gay marriage occasionally, and they will show the public whatever you want them to see.

The political opposition: Please. They were pathetic to start with, and September 11 paralyzed them completely. The Democrats have been chasing Republicans’ fumes since Reagan. For the past generation they have not disagreed with the GOP in principle on any of the important points of empire, capital’s prerogatives, or economic austerity at home; they just fuss more and go slower. To them, elections have been battles over market share more than the direction of things. In the process, the Democratic party has gone soft. It’s politically unserious, no longer capable of putting up a sustained fight. This is nothing new. Republicans got away with Iran/contra in the ‘80s, and Bill Clinton was nearly booted from office for illicit blowjobs. George Bush I got little flack for pardoning Iran/contra conspirators on his way out of office; Bill Clinton let a sleazy financier named Marc Rich off the hook, and Republicans kept the issue in play for weeks.

Let's face it, Karl Rove isn't some two-bit Rasputin: he's the little devil sitting on our President's shoulder, whispering evil in his ear. And Rove's a pretty damned brilliant devil, at that. The Democrats have no close analogue in this area. That's one of the main reasons that he's so dangerous; liberals still seem to not have any idea what's going on, continuing to bring knives to the proverbial gun fight even though Rove is armed for bear. Or donkey as the case may be.

Click here for the rest.


The 9/11 Bog

The Nation's David Corn on the 9/11 investigation hearings:

But for Breitweiser and Van Auken there was reason to be upset beyond Rice's no-show. They were infuriated that much of the questioning of the Clinton and Bush officials who did testify--the list included Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Defense Secretary William Cohen, CIA chief George Tenet, and former national security adviser Sandy Berger--was disjointed, lame or off-point. Much of it concerned Clarke's book, with Republican members of the commission--especially former Illinois Governor James Thompson--helping the White House by seeking to discredit Clarke. "We fought to have serious hearings about the issues of 9/11," Breitweiser said. "Instead we got a book review. This has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with why my husband and 3,000 people are not on this Earth. I can't explain how hurtful this is." Van Auken added, "The occasional fact seeped out--a little bit of the truth. But we want to replace these hearings with hearings on 9/11. This is not a game."

Click here for more.




Congratulations to my buddy, Matt, who is getting married today! And it only took him some 35 years to reel one in...

Good work, Matt!


Thursday, March 25, 2004

Python film to challenge Passion

From the BBC courtesy of my buddy Kevin:

Distributor Rainbow said it hoped the film would "serve as an antidote to all the hysteria about Mel's movie".

"The Life of Brian" follows a Jewish character from Nazareth who is worshipped as the Messiah then crucified by Romans.

It was condemned as blasphemous before its original release, although Monty Python said it was intended as a spoof on Bible films and intolerance rather than Christianity.

Well, maybe I'll go see this, instead. I mean, why quibble about Jesus films?

Click here for the rest.

Brian forces a holy man to break his code of silence


Rising Oil Prices and a Weak Dollar
could Shatter the Global Economy

From the London Guardian via legendary Texas progressive activist Jim Hightower's blog:

How will the weaker dollar affect oil prices? Philip K Verleger, the dean of US oil market analysts and a visiting fellow at the Institute for International Economics, suggests that "oil-exporting countries may decide to adjust their price band to reflect the falling value of the dollar". If the dollar continues to slide, he warns, we could see oil prices rising from the current $38.18 a barrel to a record high of $40 by midsummer.

There are other dark clouds on the horizon. US crude oil inventories are at the lowest point since the mid 70s, and the retail gasoline market is operating with little reserve margin as we move into the summer months, where more travel will increase demand. The dwindling oil reserves are made worse by the White House decision to replenish the strategic petroleum reserve, further reducing the amount of gasoline available.

Verleger says gasoline could climb as high as $3.50 a gallon before leveling off at $2 by the autumn. How high prices eventually soar could depend on still other factors, including potential oil disruptions in Venezuela and the Middle East. There is also the prospect that one or two major refineries might fail during peak demand this summer - not that unusual when increased consumer pressure forces refineries to produce at peak capacity without taking the time for proper maintenance.

Here is where events potentially begin to feed off each other, creating the conditions for the perfect storm for the economy. If the price of oil increases to $40 a barrel with an accompanying rise in gasoline prices, the already weak economic recovery could stall.

Click here for more.

Oil, of course, courses through almost every aspect of the economy, like blood. High oil prices can stall a strong economy, but they can devastate a weak economy such as the one we are experiencing now. Just ask anybody who dealt with the infamous OPEC embargo of the early 1970s. They'll tell you.


Wednesday, March 24, 2004


The fallout continues from former anti-terrorism czar Richard Clarke's devastating statements in both his book and his 60 Minutes interview about the Bush administration's retarded approach to eradicating terrorism.

A letter sent out to members:

Spread 9/11 and Iraq Revelations

In his own words, here are some of Clarke's revelations:

Clarke repeatedly warned the Bush Administration about attacks from al Qaeda, starting in the first days of Bush's term. "But on January 24th, 2001, I wrote a memo to Condoleezza Rice asking for, urgently -- underlined urgently -- a Cabinet-level meeting to deal with the impending al Qaeda attack. And that urgent memo-- wasn't acted on."8 According to another Bush administration security official, Clarke "was the guy pushing hardest, saying again and again that something big was going to happen, including possibly here in the U.S." The official added that Clarke was likely sidelined because he had served in the previous (Clinton) administration.9

In face-to-face meetings, CIA Director George Tenet warned President Bush repeatedly in the months before 9/11 that an attack was coming. According to Clarke, Tenet told the President that "A major al-Qaeda attack is going to happen against the United States somewhere in the world in the weeks and months ahead."10

On September 12, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld pushed to bomb Iraq even though they knew that al Qaeda was in Afghanistan. "Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq," Clarke said. "And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.'"11

Also on September 12, 2001, President Bush personally pushed Clarke to find evidence that Iraq was behind the attacks. From the New York Times: "'I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything,' Mr. Clarke writes that Mr. Bush told him. 'See if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way.' When Mr. Clarke protested that the culprit was Al Qaeda, not Iraq, Mr. Bush testily ordered him, he writes, to 'look into Iraq, Saddam,' and then left the room."12

The Bush Administration knew from the beginning that there was no connection between Iraq and 9/11, but created the misperception in order to push their policy goals. "[Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush] did know better. They did know better. They did know better. We told them, the CIA told them, the FBI told them. They did know better. And the tragedy here is that Americans went to their death in Iraq thinking that they were avenging September 11th, when Iraq had nothing to do with September 11th. I think for a commander-in-chief and a vice president to allow that to happen is unconscionable."13

The war on Iraq has increased the danger of terrorism. In his book, he writes that shifting from al Qaeda to Iraq "launched an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq that strengthened the fundamentalist, radical Islamic terrorist movement worldwide."14

For the rest of the statement and its footnotes, click here.

And from Seattle journalist David Neiwert's blog, Orcinus:

Clarke, Clinton and terrorism

The point is that Bush's actions beforehand indicated a very poor grasp of the nature of terrorism -- and his actions afterward have continued to demonstrate that serious lack of judgment.

What especially demonstrates this incapacity is Bush's insistence on an almost obsessively military orientation of the "war on terrorism," which has led us into the clearly diversionary Iraq war. This orientation, as I've discussed recently, has many side consequences, not the least of which is that while we can make real logistical inroads against groups like al Qaeda (and we have), at the same time we substantively contribute to the environment that breeds future terrorism.

Moreover, Bush has simultaneously de-emphasized efforts to confront domestic terrorism, which as OKC established is fully capable of inflicting serious harm as well, and which in a 9/11 environment is capable of even more egregious harm in the way that it piggybacks off of international terrorism (see, e.g., the anthrax attacks). That Bush has done so indicates the extent to which the "war on terrorism" waged by Bush is actually, as previously noted, a political public-relations campaign.

In this regard, perhaps the most amusing of the ad hominem attacks on Clarke are those that accuse him of publishing his book, and taking his criticism of Bush public, for "political" reasons: [Snivel snivel] "He's bringing this up in the heat of a presidential campaign!"

This reminds me of the way Bush supporters smeared the families of 9/11 victims by suggesting they were just playing "partisan politics."

Click here for the rest.

Thanks to Sadly, No! for the 60 Minutes transcript link. Thanks to Tom Tomorrow for the Sadly, No! link.


Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Drug War Update: Nothing Succeeds Like Failure

From ZNet:

We are presently in the third decade of what has come to be called the "war on drugs." It continues to dominate the headlines everywhere, as millions of individuals are consistently rounded up, convicted and incarcerated in the nation's prison system on drug charges. About half of the growth in the prison system during the past couple of decades can be directly attributed to drug convictions. Most of those arrested, convicted and sentenced to prison are blacks and Latinos. It is time for an update and assessment on this "war."

Click here for the update. It's pretty grim.


Floor Statement of Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle
on the Administration Attacking Good People for Telling the Truth

Around the same time Bush Administration officials were endangering Ambassador Wilson's wife, they appear to have been threatening another federal employee for trying to do his job. In recent weeks Richard Foster, an actuary for the Department of Health and Human Services, has revealed that he was told he would be fired if he told Congress and the American people the real costs of last year's Medicare bill.

Mr. Foster, in an e-mail he wrote on June 26 of last year, said the whole episode had been "pretty nightmarish." He wrote: "I'm no longer in grave danger of being fired, but there remains a strong likelihood that I will have to resign in protest of the withholding of important technical information from key policymakers for political purposes."

Think about those words. He would lose his job if he did his job. If he provided the information the Congress and the American people deserved and were entitled to, he would lose his job. When did this become the standard for our government? When did we become a government of intimidation?

And now, in today's newspapers, we see the latest example of how the people around the President react when faced with facts they want to avoid.

The White House's former lead counter-terrorism advisor, Richard Clarke, is under fierce attack for questioning the White House's record on combating terrorism.

Click here for more.

Thanks to Eschaton for the link.


Monday, March 22, 2004

Scalia's ducking of recusal injures court

From the Houston Chronicle's political columnist Cragg Hines:

In January, Scalia went duck hunting in Louisiana with Vice President Dick Cheney at the camp of an oil-service executive. Now, Scalia has formally refused, after a litigant's challenge, to recuse himself in a civil case stemming from Cheney's leadership of a task force to formulate the Bush administration's energy policy.

Scalia's decision runs counter to both the judicial code (especially the canon that calls for judges to regulate out-of-court activities "to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial duties") and federal law (a judge "shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned").

Scalia was stung enough by the controversy that followed his and Cheney's bayou merriment that he issued a 21-page memorandum Thursday denying the Sierra Club's petition asking that he not participate in the case.

In effect, Scalia says that, yes, he'd like to do right, but, no, that would be too easy and wrong -- not to mention wholly unnecessary.

The civil case in question, of course, is the environmentalist Sierra Club's attempt to get Cheney to reveal the participants of the task force that met early in the Bush administration in order to formulate US energy policy--this policy eventually turned out to be a virtual wish list in tax breaks and deregulation for the energy industry: the Sierra Club assumes, and they're probably right, that these mysterious participants were simply representatives from oil and electricity companies. There's a lot on the line in this case. It seems that Scalia, widely known as the Supreme Court's most conservative Justice, is bound and determined to see that the White House gets the ruling it wants.

Truly, Scalia's antics reveal the Republicans in power as, in the words of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, "the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen."

Click here for the rest.


Cheney's Low Blows

From the Progressive:

Said Cheney: "We have a right to know what he is saying to foreign leaders that makes them so supportive of his candidacy. American voters are the ones charged with determining the outcome of this election-not unnamed foreign leaders," Cheney added.

And Cheney made clear that he believes Kerry is consorting with foreign leaders who are unfriendly to the United States. Said Cheney: Kerry "speaks as if only those who oppose America's objectives have a chance of earning his respect."

Note the clever way Cheney said America's objectives, and not the Bush Administration's objectives.

Because for Cheney, there is no difference. And anyone who criticizes the Bush Administration, by this logic, is criticizing America.

Given that Cheney and Bush have done a great deal to piss off most of the world, I don't think it's too weird at all that foreign leaders want the chimp out--the lies, attacks, and distortions that Bush has always used at election time (or anytime, for that matter) are back, slimier than ever.

Click here for more.


Sunday, March 21, 2004

A Few Words About Auditions

In the theater there are three kinds of auditions. First, and most disgusting, is the “cattle call.” The “cattle call” is most often used for professional work, usually when a play is already cast, in order to satisfy contract requirements with Actors’ Equity (a major actors’ labor union). This kind of audition consists of simply herding a large group of actors onto a stage and taking a look at them. Those who have the right look, whatever that is, are called back later for another audition—almost always, this next level is a “cold reading.”

The “cold reading,” probably the most fair, and the kind of audition I like the most, is simply running through a scene with script in hand. The “cold” part refers to the fact that, generally, one uses a script that he’s never seen before.

The third kind of audition is the prepared monologue: the actor chooses an extended piece of text from a play (typically, it’s simply a very long line) which he then performs as if he were on stage with other actors, even though he is actually alone. This one drives me crazy, because, while it is a kind of acting, it’s not really acting. That is, the best inspiration for great acting is other actors: as John Wayne once said, “I don’t act; I react.” Never mind the fact that the Duke was quite a bad actor; he really nailed a good truism about acting—it’s not really a scene unless you have human beings interacting together in the same space. The prepared monologue, then, is something of a bastardization of acting. You’re out there all alone, with only yourself and your imagination for inspiration. It is, needless to say, very difficult to create believable stage relationships with imaginary people.

Granted, I understand that determining who gets the part is not an easy task, especially when casting directors are looking at buttloads of actors. So the “cattle call” and the prepared monologue auditions serve as a useful short-cut for weeding out undesirables. Useful, but inherently unfair.

Anyway, my point is not to rail away against the mounds of bullshit with which actors must contend, although if you encourage me enough, I will rail away. Rather, my point is to give some important background information for understanding how my auditions for graduate acting school went.

Coming Soon: my audition in San Francisco.


Protesters worldwide want U.S. out of Iraq

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Protesters filled more than a dozen police-lined blocks in Manhattan, calling on President Bush to bring home U.S. troops serving in Iraq. Mayor Michael Bloomberg estimated the crowd at about 30,000, but organizers said later that number had grown to more than 100,000.

"It is time to bring our children home and declare this war was unnecessary," the Rev. Herbert Daughtry, a New York activist, told a rally in Manhattan.

The roughly 250 protests scheduled around the country by United for Peace and Justice ranged from solemn to brash.

In Montpelier, Vt., hundreds of silent protesters placed a pair of shoes on the Statehouse steps for each of the more than 560 U.S. soldiers killed in the war. In Los Angeles, one of thousands of protesters held photographs of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney with the words "Forget Janet Jackson's -- expose the real boobs."

I keep trying to forget Janet Jackson's " -- " but I just can't seem to shake the image...

Click here for the rest.


Zombies dethrone 'Passion' at box office

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Audiences feasted on zombies as the fright flick Dawn of the Dead ruled the box office, debuting with $27.3 million and bumping The Passion of the Christ from the top spot.

Mel Gibson's The Passion took in $19.2 million, slipping to second place after three straight weekends on top, according to studio estimates today.

Ahhhh...what's the difference?

Click here for more.


Bush `ignored terrorism' in early days, official says

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

He accuses Bush of doing "a terrible job on the war against terrorism."

Clarke, who is expected to testify Tuesday before a federal panel reviewing the attacks, writes in a new book, Against All Enemies, going on sale Monday, that Bush and his Cabinet were preoccupied during the early months of his presidency with some of the Cold War issues that had faced his father's administration.

"It was as though they were preserved in amber from when they left office eight years earlier," Clarke told CBS for an interview to air today on its 60 Minutes program.

Of course, if you've been reading Real Art (and lots of other sources like the Nation, or Eschaton, for instance), you already know this: now it's going to be read into the Congressional record. 'Bout time!

Click here for the rest.



And that's why I didn't post last night...bastards!


Friday, March 19, 2004

Who, exactly, is destroying America’s values?

From the New York Press, courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe:

How hilarious was it when Republicans were shocked–shocked!–after John Kerry called them a "crooked" and "lying" bunch? Imagine–a Democrat actually standing up to them and calling it like it is. Most of it is feigned outrage on the Republicans’ part, of course, but hearing Kerry making these statements must have been just a bit jarring, too, simply because Republicans and the conservative media have effectively bludgeoned Democrats into submission for years.

They tried to do it again last week, though Kerry wasn’t having any of it–even if his Democratic colleagues mostly remained silent while the Republican "attack squad," as he called it, went after him.

The essay, which is well worth reading, then goes on to point out how ethically challenged President Bush has turned out to be, and illustrates some of the more heralded moral lapses of his family. Like this choice little nugget:

Last May, actor Ashton Kutcher told Rolling Stone how he found the Bush twins in an upstairs bedroom during a party at his house in L.A.–while the secret service were waiting outside.

"And then I go upstairs to see another friend, and I can smell the green (marijuana) wafting out under his door," Kutcher said, in a quote that got a flurry of attention and a "no comment" from the White House. "I open the door, and there he is, smoking out the Bush twins on his hookah."

What will I tell my young and impressionable students when they ask me about this? How can I tell them that it's wrong to smoke "reefer" when the President allows his daughters to "toke up?" Well? Well? WELL?!?

Click here for the rest.



A new Paul Krugman essay courtesy of Eschaton:

A year ago, President Bush, who had a global mandate to pursue the terrorists responsible for 9/11, went after someone else instead. Most Americans, I suspect, still don't realize how badly this apparent exploitation of the world's good will — and the subsequent failure to find weapons of mass destruction — damaged our credibility. They imagine that only the dastardly French, and now maybe the cowardly Spaniards, doubt our word. But yesterday, according to Agence France-Presse, the president of Poland — which has roughly 2,500 soldiers in Iraq — had this to say: "That they deceived us about the weapons of mass destruction, that's true. We were taken for a ride."

This is the context for last weekend's election upset in Spain, where the Aznar government had taken the country into Iraq against the wishes of 90 percent of the public. Spanish voters weren't intimidated by the terrorist bombings — they turned on a ruling party they didn't trust. When the government rushed to blame the wrong people for the attack, tried to suppress growing evidence to the contrary and used its control over state television and radio both to push its false accusation and to play down antigovernment protests, it reminded people of the broader lies about the war.

By voting for a new government, in other words, the Spaniards were enforcing the accountability that is the essence of democracy. But in the world according to Mr. Bush's supporters, anyone who demands accountability is on the side of the evildoers. According to Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House, the Spanish people "had a huge terrorist attack within their country and they chose to change their government and to, in a sense, appease terrorists."

Click here for more.



The United States invaded Iraq. It did so under utterly false pretenses, in total violation of recognized international law. Thousands of Iraqis and hundreds of US soldiers have died needlessly, and the killing continues. As a result, radical Islamic terrorism is now much more probable than before, as the citizens of Madrid can attest. American relations with other nations are at an all time low. Oil prices are reaching record highs. Osama bin Laden is still at large, presumably coordinating al Qaeda activities.

With the undeniable fact that Iraq was not a threat now obvious for all to see, things seem slightly more sane than they were a year ago, but weird hyper-patriotic dementia still looms as a threat: President Bush and his controllers not only continue to roam free, but also to rule with impunity; this ain't over yet.

About the only satisfaction that I have about all this is the blank look that I sometimes get from war supporters when I repeat, "Yeah, but there were no weapons of mass destruction!" Some satisfaction.



From Mother Jones:

Kwiatkowski, 43, a now-retired Air Force officer who served in the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia (NESA) unit in the year before the invasion of Iraq, observed how the Pentagon's Iraq war-planning unit manufactured scare stories about Iraq's weapons and ties to terrorists. "It wasn't intelligence‚ -- it was propaganda," she says. "They'd take a little bit of intelligence, cherry-pick it, make it sound much more exciting, usually by taking it out of context, often by juxtaposition of two pieces of information that don't belong together." It was by turning such bogus intelligence into talking points for U.S. officials‚ -- including ominous lines in speeches by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell's testimony at the U.N. Security Council last February‚ -- that the administration pushed American public opinion into supporting an unnecessary war.

Until now, the story of how the Bush administration produced its wildly exaggerated estimates of the threat posed by Iraq has never been revealed in full. But, for the first time, a detailed investigation by Mother Jones, based on dozens of interviews‚ -- some on the record, some with officials who insisted on anonymity‚ -- exposes the workings of a secret Pentagon intelligence unit and of the Defense Department's war-planning task force, the Office of Special Plans. It's the story of a close-knit team of ideologues who spent a decade or more hammering out plans for an attack on Iraq and who used the events of September 11, 2001, to set it into motion.

This is the same alternative intelligence office that I mentioned a few days ago. As I've said before, these guys were much more about putting together a case for invading Iraq than they were about actually learning the truth about the "threat" posed by Saddam. There was no "intelligence failure:" this was an elaborate lie from the get-go.

Click here for the rest.


Thursday, March 18, 2004

Bush: I'm God's Delivery Boy

From the Progressive:

Bush's messianic militarism was on full display on March 11, when he addressed, via satellite, the National Association of Evangelicals Convention in Colorado Springs.

First, acting as pastor in chief, he said, "You're doing God's work with conviction and kindness, and, on behalf of our country, I thank you."

Separation of church and state, anyone?

Bush charged right through that wall, citing religion as his basis for opposing stem-cell research, abortion, and same-sex marriage.

He also ignored the wall when he returned to his favorite, post 9/11 theme: that God is calling America to free the world, and Bush himself is heeding that call.

"America is a nation with a mission," Bush said, not afraid, in this crowd, to connote the crusade he is on.

Click here for more.


Wednesday, March 17, 2004


This is from a Pakistani news source that picked up on the story from an American scandal-monger of whom I've never heard, so take it with a grain of salt. It is, however, very interesting, indeed:

According to a stunning report posted by a retired Navy Lt Commander and 28-year veteran of the Defense Department (DoD), the Bush administration’s assurance about finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was based on a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plan to “plant” WMDs inside the country. Nelda Rogers, the Pentagon whistleblower, claims the plan failed when the secret mission was mistakenly taken out by “friendly fire”, the Environmentalists Against War report.

Nelda Rogers is a 28-year veteran debriefer for the DoD. She has become so concerned for her safety that she decided to tell the story about this latest CIA-military fiasco in Iraq. According to Al Martin, “Ms Rogers is number two in the chain of command within this DoD special intelligence office. This is a ten-person debriefing unit within the central debriefing office for the Department of Defense.”

If this is true, it wouldn't surprise me at all. Click here for the rest.

Thanks to J. Orlin Grabbe for the link.


al Qaeda sez: WE WANT BUSH TO WIN

Apparently, this is not a joke. From Reuters via Yahoo courtesy of Eschaton:

The statement said it supported President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."

In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:

"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."

"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm sure as hell not voting for the al Qaeda candidate!

Click here for more.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004


USO road tales by the author of Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them from Mother Jones courtesy of Eschaton:

So, we had a Rednecks vs. the New York Jews dynamic set up. Which meant constant good-natured shit flying back and forth. With me, there was my brother, Owen, who was the trip's photographer; former Saturday Night Live writer Andy Breckman, who was writing the comedy portions of the show with me; and Steve Kurtz, manager of No Illusion, a three-gal "urban" singing group who are beautiful and sing like angels. They're young—19, 20, and 22—and given my rule that I don't allow myself to be sexually attracted to women younger than my daughter, I behaved paternalistically toward No Illusion. That was not entirely true with the two Washington Redskins cheerleaders. No USO Tour is complete without NFL cheerleaders, and the Redskins sent two, Kelley and Katie Cornwell, whom the troops seemed happier to see than me. As I told the soldiers, "I don't know how you guys do it for nine months. I've been over here a week, and the first thing I'm going to do when I get home is have sex with my wife—while thinking about the cheerleaders. Not so different from you guys, except I won't be alone."

Click here for more.


Charlie Brown Economics

From the UPI courtesy of Eschaton:

It's clear that we're not going to get the 3.8 million new jobs in 2004 absurdly promised by Bush in January's Economic Report of the President, far from it. But the interesting question (intellectually, if you're not hoping to be one of the 3.8 million) is: why not?

Employment patterns are not following those of a normal economic recovery (even the "jobless recovery" of 1991-93 had created millions of jobs two years after the low point) for one very simple reason: this is far from a normal recovery.


At this point, with both tax cuts and monetary laxity about played out as stimuli to the economy, the central contradiction in the economic picture will begin to take effect. The United States, far from being the economic dynamo that its admirers like to paint, has been living hugely beyond its means since 1995, and now faces severe problems of budget deficit, balance of payments deficit and capital overhang.

Capital overhang sounds arcane but isn't; it is the syndrome, first diagnosed by John Maynard Keynes in the 1930s, which occurs when a country has through a stock market or real estate boom over-indulged in capital investment, and faces a prolonged period of low returns, over-capacity and low investment in new facilities. It occurred in the United States in 1929, in Japan in 1990 and in the U.S. in 2000. The Greenspan/Bush policies of throwing money and tax cuts at the problem have certainly mitigated its immediate effects, as did Japan's low interest rates and budget deficits in the 1990s, but in the long run the price of depressed capital markets, low returns and low investment must be paid. By now, there is over-investment in housing as well as in capital equipment, and a correspondingly greater drag on the economy to be faced.

Let's face it: the boom economy of the 90s was a shell game that made a few people rich but left most of us holding the bag. Bush and his cronies have absolutely no idea how to get us out of this mess. That's assuming, of course, that they want to.

Click here for the rest.


Monday, March 15, 2004


I looked at my last WMD FAIRIES entry last night and it didn’t appear to make as much sense as I’d like. To clarify:

1. Last week, during Congressional hearings, some “new” information was revealed that a special intelligence unit inside the Pentagon was briefing the White House during the run up to the Iraq invasion about the defenseless but evil nation’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. Tenet claimed that this revelation came as a surprise.

2. It seems strange to me that this surprised Tenet. I’ve personally known about at least one alternative intelligence gathering operation inside the Pentagon since last summer, as the Common Dreams article from last May shows. If I knew because of this article, then Tenet obviously knew what was going on himself.

3. Why wouldn’t Tenet have automatically blamed this other intelligence operation (which was reporting that Iraq had WMDs even while the CIA was reporting that it didn’t) the moment he came under fire for the intelligence failure?

4. ANSWER: Tenet is clearly trying to keep his job. He knows that the “intelligence failure” wasn’t his fault. The CIA reported the truth last spring, that Iraq was not a threat. Because this isn’t what Rumsfeld and Cheney wanted to hear, the White House chastised the CIA and relied on “intelligence” from this other operation inside the Pentagon. Now, they’re trying to make Tenet take the fall for their own duplicity, and no one’s mentioning this other office. Tenet obviously realizes that if he is too quick to blame the Bush administration for its own folly, he’ll face the wrath of Rove or Rumsfeld or whatever other Darth Vader figures inhabit the White House these days. He also knows that if he allows himself to be their sacrificial lamb, Congress and the press will roast him on a spit.

So there you have it. Tenet pretends to be surprised at what he already knows because of some sort of high-stakes power-poker game being played out while all we can do is watch. I don’t blame Tenet for playing fast and loose with the truth—I think that if I were in his position, I’d do the same thing. The thing that really gets me, however, is that this kind of Machiavellian maneuvering shows just how ineffective our democracy really is these days. America is controlled by power brokers.

And that really sucks.



From the San Francisco Gate via Eschaton:

Kerry refuses Republican demands that he
apologize for calling GOP critics 'crooked, lying'

Drawing more attention, however, was reaction to his offhand remark while campaigning Wednesday in Chicago. Republicans quickly demanded he apologize for a remark they said was unbecoming for a presidential candidate.

"I have no intention whatsoever of apologizing for my remarks," Kerry said during a news conference on the Senate side of the Capitol. "I think the Republicans need to start talking about the real issues before the country."

And this is really funny:

Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said Kerry's remark gave Americans "a little glimpse of the real John Kerry, and he's not even tired yet."

Of course, Tom DeLay is as crooked as they come, and I really can't think of a bigger liar than him. You gotta love him lecturing anybody on ethics and morals.

Click here for the rest.

And from the Nation:

Kennedy's Other Speech

Senator Ted Kennedy that is.

"Progressives cannot continue to play defense in the battle of ideas. The stakes are too high. Nor can we allow ourselves to be cast as mere defenders of the status quo. We must make the debate between our vision of the future versus theirs. In reality, it is the Republican Right which is wedded to the ideas of the distant past, 19th century ideas which America rejected in the early years of the last century. We should portray them for what they are, Neanderthal merchants of outmoded ideas recycled from long ago."

I totally agree. Click here for more.



I'm back, and I do have a few things to say about my trip into Cajun country--I know I promised a post about my trip to San Francisco: probably this weekend I'll provide a sort of compare and contrast essay. It'll probably be interesting.



Thursday, March 11, 2004


Close to New Orleans...(Go! Go, Ronnie, go!)

Baton Rouge, to be precise. I'm off to my second and final audition for grad school, this time at LSU. I'm not quite as nervous as I was for my CalArts audition (LSU is good but they're not an elite program, and it's nice to already have one of these auditions under my belt), but I am nervous. So, wish me luck, or tell me to "break a leg" as we say in the theater. My audition will be at 10am on Saturday, so, like last time, send out your good vibes or prayers or whatever. Every little bit helps.

Anyway, no blogging until Monday most likely, just like last time. For fun, I'm re-posting my statement of purpose, but with an alternate ending, just for LSU. Enjoy:

A Statement of Purpose

Acting teacher Sanford Meisner used to say, “it takes twenty years to become an actor.” This makes a lot of sense to me: twenty years ago, as a high school freshman, I started taking myself seriously as an actor. When I was a child, seeing Neil Simon’s The Goodbye Girl started a process that would eventually result in my investing much personal identity in a romanticized concept of “actor.” It wasn’t until my first high school play, however, that I encountered others who focused more on the work than on themselves. That was when I first began to understand that acting is about creating great shows, rather than self-aggrandizement. Indeed, this sense artistry in theater, of professionalism, is what now drives me to seek a Master of Fine Arts in acting.

A few years ago, while watching a television series on the history of jazz, I had a realization. Trumpeter Miles Davis was attempting a comeback in the late 1950s following personal troubles that had sidelined him for a while. During this time, he saw Joe Louis box: Louis’ no-nonsense, professional approach to boxing greatly impressed Davis—this experience inspired him to treat his own career as a musician in the same way. That is, Davis was revitalized, achieving greater artistic heights, because he focused thoroughly on the work, no distractions, no fooling around. Davis’ newfound philosophy of consummate professionalism rekindled my excitement about acting: seeing his resuscitation gave me the wherewithal to overcome the cold feet that had steered me away from pursuing an acting career when I was younger. It made me want to be a professional actor.

I’ve always loved acting. I’ve spent my years since college finding ways to be on stage, working with the theater people I love. In situations with untrained actors, I’ve tried to use my own training to set an example. Indeed, I’ve been fortunate enough to work recently with two other trained actors in a local amateur company; the three of us have set a standard of artistry that has helped to improve the company’s work overall. I have also been teaching high school theater for the last five years. The job has provided unexpected rewards: gradually, I have gained a firm intellectual mastery of acting basics that I first learned when I was getting my BFA—developing and using multiple strategies to explain such fundamentals has forced me to ponder these ideas in ways that I would not have otherwise.

Twenty years after my first high school play, I have come full circle. That is, as a student, I first began to explore the artistry of acting; as a teacher, I continue that exploration. However, I think I’ve learned as much as I can in that realm: now I want to go to graduate school.

Indeed, LSU’s MFA acting program offers learning opportunities that could result in my becoming a great actor. I am excited by the chance to extend both the voice lessons of Berry, Linklater, and Skinner, and the stylistic repertory work that I began as an undergraduate. I am also excited by LSU’s professional focus: internship experience and an audition portfolio are invaluable to a working actor. Furthermore, I have also studied television production and film criticism: exploring on-screen acting offers the chance to extend my understanding of those media. Beyond the benefits of a top-notch training program, LSU would be a really nice place to study. I love Louisiana—my wife and I have spent a great deal of time vacationing in New Orleans, and Baton Rouge is always a nice place to linger on the way. I also love Louisiana food and culture—the fact that my favorite music, jazz, was born there is also compelling. In short, LSU can give me the environment, skills, and knowledge to prepare me to attain what I so very much want, to be a professional actor.

Okay, so it's only the final paragraph that changed--I'm just self-involved and wanted to see my statement in cyberspace again. Think of it as a remix. I did work my ass off on it...

Cue the Real Art theme song: "Solfeggio" go.



From the Los Angeles Times via the Houston Chronicle:

Special Pentagon unit left CIA out of the loop

A special intelligence unit at the Pentagon privately briefed senior officials at the White House on alleged ties between Iraq and al-Qaida without the knowledge of CIA Director George Tenet, according to new information presented at a Senate hearing Tuesday.

The disclosure suggests that the controversial Pentagon office played a greater role than previously understood in shaping the administration's views on Iraq's alleged ties to the terrorist network behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and bypassed usual channels to make a case that conflicted with the conclusions of CIA analysts.

Click here for the rest.

It's hard to imagine that Tenet didn't know what was going on. I've known about this end-run around the CIA since last summer--I thought I had even posted about it, but I went hunting through the Real Art archives and failed to find it; I must have read the article and left it at that. At any rate, this alternative intelligence operation, which, as far as I can tell, was more about selling the Iraq invasion than it was about trying to ascertain the truth about WMDs, has been in the public discourse since May at the very least.

From the New Yorker via Common Dreams:

Selective Intelligence
Donald Rumsfeld Has His Own
Special Sources. Are They Reliable?

The hostility goes both ways. A Pentagon official who works for Luti told me, “I did a job when the intelligence community wasn’t doing theirs. We recognized the fact that they hadn’t done the analysis. We were providing information to Wolfowitz that he hadn’t seen before. The intelligence community is still looking for a mission like they had in the Cold War, when they spoon-fed the policymakers.”

A Pentagon adviser who has worked with Special Plans dismissed any criticism of the operation as little more than bureaucratic whining. “Shulsky and Luti won the policy debate,” the adviser said. “They beat ’em—they cleaned up against State and the C.I.A. There’s no mystery why they won—because they were more effective in making their argument. Luti is smarter than the opposition. Wolfowitz is smarter. They out-argued them. It was a fair fight. They persuaded the President of the need to make a new security policy. Those who lose are so good at trying to undercut those who won.” He added, “I’d love to be the historian who writes the story of how this small group of eight or nine people made the case and won.”

According to the Pentagon adviser, Special Plans was created in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believed to be true—that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States.

Click here for more.

This whole blame-it-on-Tenet thing is just crazy, anyway. If anyone can recall, Rumsfeld and company heavily criticized the CIA in the run up to the war because their intelligence was indicating that Saddam was not a major threat. Never mind the fact that the corporate news media is, as usual, totally failing to do its job here: why isn't Tenet, himself, reminding everybody of what really happened last year? It's clear that Tenet is trying to dance a delicate dance in a metaphoric mine field--the poor guy doesn't want to lose his job. If he is too quick to take the blame for the WMD fiasco, he gets fired and burned in effigy. If he puts the blame where it belongs, on the White House, he gets fired and burned in effigy.

This makes my brain hurt.


Wednesday, March 10, 2004


From the Nation:

A Big Fat Fraud

The reality is that Bush has transformed 9/11 into an all-purpose excuse to enact his radical rightwing agenda. The White House cited 9/11 as a reason to pass a so-called stimulus bill that included $254 million in retroactive tax rebates for Enron, just before the company collapsed. Bush scorned shared sacrifice as he championed tax cuts for the wealthiest. The erosion of civil liberties through the Patriot Act and the increasing criminalizing of dissent--two longterm rightwing goals--have also been justified in the name of 9/11. And the invasion of Iraq itself, another longtime neo-con obsession, was justified, in part with cherry-picked intelligence allegedly linking Saddam to Al-Qaeda

Click here.

And from the Center for American Progress via This Modern World:

9/11: Setting the Record Straight

In recent weeks, President Bush has touted his record on national security issues, while criticizing others for supposedly weakening U.S. homeland defense. But with the President refusing to meet with the 9/11 commission for longer than one hour, concerns are being raised about the whether the Bush Administration has something to hide about it's pre-9/11 behavior. As columnist Richard Cohen notes, "If the President wants to own Sept. 11" for his political gain "he's entitled. But it does not come alone. Sept. 10 is his, too." While Vice President Cheney has derided questioning of the Administration's pre-9/11 behavior as "thoroughly irresponsible and totally unworthy of national leaders in a time of war," serious questions remain about whether the White House grossly neglected counter-terrorism in the lead-up to 9/11. As a 5/27/02 Newsweek cover story noted, before 9/11 "the Bushies had an ideological agenda of their own": one that subordinated – and in many cases tried to reduce funding for – counter-terrorism efforts. As the NYT reported on 2/28/02, the shift was so dramatic that senior intelligence agents feared it would mean "that counterterrorism would be downgraded" over the long run and that there was a "lack of focus on fighting terrorism." What follows is an analysis of what the Administration knew before 9/11, and what it did – and did not do - with that information...

Click here.

Now to deviate from the 9/11 theme and finish on a humorous note: click here to learn the truth about Where Dubya Really Went in 1972.


Tuesday, March 09, 2004

If You're a Waiter, the Future Is Rosy

From the New York Times via This Modern World:

But some economists point to those same federal forecasts to poke holes in the argument that the key to job creation is more sophisticated education and knowledge. Yes, the greatest increase is expected to be for registered nurses (an increase of 623,000 jobs) and college and university teachers (an increase of 603,000).

But according to forecasts issued last month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7 of the 10 occupations with the greatest growth through 2012 will be in low-wage, service fields requiring little education: retail salesperson, customer service representative, food-service worker, cashier, janitor, waiter and nursing aide and hospital orderly. Many of these jobs pay less than $18,000 a year. Forecasting an increase of 21 million jobs from 2002 to 2012, the bureau predicted 596,000 more retail sales jobs, 454,000 more food-service jobs and 454,000 more cashier positions.

Forecasts like these raise fears that many Americans will end up disappointed after spending years and hundreds of thousands of dollars on college degrees. "The education-and-training solution, while it sounds good, is simply too facile," said Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research group. He noted that the number of Americans with college degrees who are unemployed for more than six months has quadrupled in three years.

Click here for the rest (and grumble about the annoying NYT registration procedure).

For some years now my standard response to people who say to me that the unemployed should just go to college to improve their job prospects is this: imagine that everybody who wanted a job went out and got a degree; we'd still have the same kinds of unemployment issues--there simply aren't enough good paying jobs to go around, and it has very little to do with going to college. It looks like this scenario is quickly becoming reality.



"I think of America as a pagan country, and the gods and goddesses are the Hollywood stars."

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

He worked in underground theater in Manhattan, eventually co-founding the Wooster Group in 1979. There, he wrote an autobiographical trilogy of plays about life in Rhode Island.

His first monologue was "Sex and Death to the Age 14," mingling events like the bombing of Hiroshima with the death of childhood pets. Gray was hailed as a new brand of performance artist, working alone on a minimalist set.

In 1983, Gray won the role of an American ambassador's aide in The Killing Fields, the story of the bond between a New York Times reporter and a Cambodian photographer.

The resulting monologue, "Swimming to Cambodia," was widely hailed, with Washington Post reviewer David Richards observing, "Talking about himself -- with candor, humor, imagination and the unfailingly bizarre image -- he ends up talking about all of us."

Click here for more.

Here is a mid 1990s interview with Spalding Gray.

Here is a picture of Gray.

I think I'm particularly thankful to Gray for essentially inventing a form of theater that has great possibilities for my own work as an artist: his style of performance art offers me the chance to eventually combine all my artistic, political, and cultural interests into one big bag--someday I hope to create a one man show, based on my years as a teacher, that kind of ties together all my artistic selves while, at the same time, gets across many of the ideas that I've been writing about here at Real Art for the past year or so. I probably wouldn't have thought of this if it weren't for my seeing "Swimming to Cambodia" some years ago.

I also think that Jello Biafra wouldn't have been so successful with his spoken word work without Gray blazing a trail beforehand.

His apparent suicide is one big drag.


Monday, March 08, 2004

Stress interrupts American dream

Aint that the truth. From the Houston Chronicle:

By practically every objective measure, American life has been getting better for decades.

Standards of living keep rising, with the typical house now more than twice as large as a generation ago; middle-class income keeps rising, although more slowly than income at the very top; more Americans graduate from college every year; longevity keeps rising; almost all forms of disease, including most cancers, are in decline; crime has dropped spectacularly; pollution, except for greenhouse gases, are in long-term decline; discrimination is down substantially. Yet despite all these positive indicators, the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as "happy" has not increased since the early 1950s, while incidence of depression keeps rising -- and was doing so long before the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

This is the progress paradox: Life gets better while people feel worse.

Click here for the rest.

Good essay. I would add to it that people are also stressed about work (either finding a job or losing the job one already has) and health care. At least that's what stresses me.


"The Mighty Wurlitzer"

From the American Prospect:

With all that ideological money, institutional heft, coordination, and credentialing, the right has perfected what the CIA used to call a "mighty Wurlitzer" -- a propaganda machine that can hone a fact or a lie, broadcast it, and have it echoed and recycled in Fox News commentary, in Washington Times news stories, in Wall Street Journal editorials, by myriad right-wing pundits, by Heritage seminars and briefing papers, and in congressional hearings and speeches. Privatization of Social Security, vouchers for school, Vince Foster's supposed murder, Hillary's secret sex life, you name it -- the right's mighty Wurlitzer can ensure that a message is broadcast across the county, echoed in national and local news, and reverberated in the speeches of respectable academics as well as rabid politicians.

Click here for the rest.

Thanks to Orcinus for the link.


Sunday, March 07, 2004


From the Los Angeles Times courtesy of Michael

But the hard work comes at a price, and the company's relentless efforts to cut costs hang over just about every worker.

Sales agents in Countrywide's Rosemead office are suing the company, saying they regularly put in overtime without pay. Other Countrywide workers in California have been warned that their jobs are likely to be transferred to states with laws less favorable to employees.

Countrywide also is accelerating plans to move operations offshore. By the end of next year, it will have 250 employees at a call center in India, each of whom will represent a savings of $35,000 over a U.S. worker.

Multiply Countrywide's example by thousands of hungry companies, and an explanation emerges for the nation's tremendous productivity gains in the last two years — as well as the toll on workers.

Employee productivity rose 4.2% in 2003, a jump Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan labeled "stunning." That was on top of a 4.9% gain in 2002. Together they marked the best back-to-back growth in worker output in five decades. The gains stoked corporate profits, which rose 10.3% in the second quarter of 2003 and 9.9% in the third.

Yet average wages barely budged. Many workers say they're pushed to put in additional hours without proper compensation. Some are retaliating in court.

For the rest, click here (and brave the LA Times annoying registration procedure--it's short and worth it).

The lawsuit angle is novel, but the really interesting thing about the article is the in depth look at how corporate productivity gains are coming, quite literally, at the expense of employees. Everyone already knows that it sucks to be unemployed: increasingly, it sucks to be employed, too.


Gibson's act of interreligious aggression

Generally, I hate the neo-conservative syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer: he is the very epitome of the arrogant, elitist, pro-corporate, pro-pentagon, establishment pundit goon. O'Reilly and Limbaugh simply make me angry. Krauthammer fills me with contempt--he's even lower than Dan Rather. Anyway, today, I like what he has to say.

From the Houston Chronicle:

The blood libel that this story had affixed upon the Jewish people had resulted in countless Christian massacres of Jews, and prepared Europe for the ultimate massacre -- 6 million Jews systematically murdered within six years -- in the heart, alas, of a Christian continent. It is no accident that Vatican II occurred just two decades after the Holocaust, indeed in its very shadow.

Which is what makes Mel Gibson's Passion such a singular act of interreligious aggression. He openly rejects the Vatican II teaching and, using every possible technique of cinematic exaggeration, gives us the pre-Vatican II story of the villainous Jews.

His Leni Riefenstahl defense -- I had other intentions -- does not wash. Of course he had other intentions: evangelical, devotional, commercial. But when you retell a story in which the role of the Jews is central, and take great care to give it the most invidious, pre-Vatican II treatment possible, you can hardly claim, "I didn't mean it."

Click here for the rest.

It's beginning to look like I really ought to watch this movie, if only from a film studies point of view. I mean, I watched Triumph of the Will, after all; I watched Birth of a Nation. Gibson's film has really turned into a pretty fascinating cultural controversy.

So, pass the Pepto Bismol; I'm off to see the mother of all slasher flicks.


Saturday, March 06, 2004

Critics take heat for their 'Passion' reviews

From the Houston Chronicle:

By contrast, Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel said The Passion is "bringing out intolerance."

In his review, Moore described Gibson as "inspired" but said The Passion's violence is like "a horror film" and its Jewish characters are "hissing caricatures." Moore said he's received about 100 e-mails so far, most of them negative.

"I have more people praying for me now than I ever thought possible," he said, "and I still have a cold somehow."

Moore said readers have mistakenly perceived his review as "attacking their religion instead of the movie. They can't seem to separate the two. This has been the worst (response) since I attacked Black Hawk Down for its pro-military spin on history."

Click here for more.

I am reminded of an interaction I had with one of my students a few years ago. We were working on an emotional memory exercise in the theater arts class that I teach. The exercise calls for the actor to recount an emotional episode in his or her life out loud for the rest of the class: the idea is that the actor will manage to experience the specified emotion under controlled circumstances by vividly recalling a time when he actually felt that emotion in real life. Once the actor gets the emotion going, he jumps into performing a previously learned monologue--ideally, we get to see some very honest work. Of course, I've had success and failure with this one, with varying degrees in between. But it's important to teach it because, in many ways, it represents the heart and soul of American acting, the so-called "method."

One student in particular gave me some problems. She got up in front of the class and told us about the time she had to deal with the death of her beloved uncle. She got to the end of her tale, but it was clear that she was feeling nothing. I tried to help her out by asking her some questions, prompting her to recall specific sensory details from her memory. Nothing. And she was starting to get mad at me. The more I coached her, the angrier she became. Finally, I'm like, "why are you mad at me? I'm just trying to help you out, you know, teach drama."

Her answer was concise. It was something to the effect of, "You're shitting on this painful memory of mine; you're telling me it's not good enough."

Well, there may be a good nucleus of an argument in that statement--perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, it is somehow immoral to dig into one's own psyche in this way simply for entertaining people. But I think that the real point was that she thought that I was judging her personal experience. The reality is that I was far more interested in how that memory was able to evoke emotion on stage for performance, rather than the quality or importance of the memory itself.

I reminded her that she chose this memory on her own, and was free to work with another memory, and even a more uplifting emotion if she chose, but she was unfazed. She was convinced that I was personally attacking her instead of trying to get her to be a better actor.

I'm beginning to realize that a lot of the Christians who see Gibson's movie are reacting the same way. Because of the profound attachment of their identities to the image of Christ, objectivity about The Passion as a film or as an ideological statement is dead on arrival. To these people, criticizing the film is tantamount to criticizing Jesus or God. It's like trying to argue abortion with a hard core pro-lifer or pro-choicer: emotion clouds logic.

Of course, if we had a public school system that was worth half a damn, Americans would be well trained in the field of critical analysis, and such misunderstandings would rarely happen...

...oops! Sorry, I was visiting fantasy land again.