Sunday, October 31, 2004


Eminem is an arrogant, violent, misogynistic, homophobic, scrawny, foul-mouthed son of a bitch. While I acknowledge that he's a talented rapper, his music owes everything to a true hip-hop talent, Dr. Dre. Eminem is a hack. There's nobody I'd like to beat up more than Marshall Mathers.

Now having said all that about him, I want to praise his latest song and video, "Mosh." Here are a few words from ZNet about it:

Instead, he releases a rousing call to arms for the hip hop generation to take back the government that seeks to represent them. He even proclaims himself their leader. Surprise indeed.

With "Mosh," Eminem ... the most polarizing musician of our times ... takes on the most polarizing election of our times.

In the video, Eminem leads a mob fired up and politicized by four years of outrage and anger at the Bush administration. Clad in black hoodies, fists raised, the angry young men and women descend on a state building ... to vote.

Chunky black-and-white illustrated figures on a moody, sepia-toned landscape play out the frustration and angst of a generation. One young Iraq veteran returns home, to be met by his wife and children and a notice of reassignment; "Fuck Bush" is the accompanying lyric he spits out. Then he dons a black hoodie and joins the mob. A single mother comes home, groceries in hand, and opens an eviction notice while news of a tax cut for the rich plays on the television ... she dons a black hoodie and joins the mob.

Click here for the rest.

Indeed, this is one fucking great song, and the video is even greater. I'm glad that the white haired one has finally found some gainful employment.

Really, this is damned cool. And fortunately, it's online. Click here for the video link and director's notes. Check it out right now! No, really, go check it out NOW! This is one of the most rousing call-to-arms I've encountered in my entire life.

I can't believe I'm gushing about Slim Shady. But as Shakespeare said in The Tempest, "Misery accquaints a man with strange bedfellows." So true, so true. I guess I'll be wearing my black hoodie to the polls come Tuesday.

What a weird, weird world we live in.


Fear and Loathing, Campaign 2004

I've loved Hunter S. Thompson since I first read his seminal gonzo-book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas back when I was in college. Thompson is so cool, so great, that not only does Gary Trudeau's comic strip Doonesbury feature him as an ongoing character named Duke, but Monty Python alumnus Terry Gilliam turned Fear and Loathing into a feature film starring Johnny Depp back in 1998--it's quite a good film, too. Indeed, Dr. Thompson is no small inspiration to me in writing Real Art. Really, he's something of a god.

Anyway, I was checking out Rob Salkowitz's Emphasis Added the other day, and I saw that Thompson had a new rambling essay on presidential politics over at Salkowitz was shocked (and I was, too, to some extent) by Thompson's assertion that if Richard Nixon was running against Bush for president today, he would vote for him. However, it was this little blurb about my home town that really caught my attention:

Republicans have never approved of democracy, and they never will. It goes back to preindustrial America, when only white male property owners could vote.

Things haven't changed all that much where George W. Bush comes from. Houston is a cruel and crazy town on a filthy river in East Texas with no zoning laws and a culture of sex, money and violence. It's a shabby sprawling metropolis ruled by brazen women, crooked cops and super-rich pansexual cowboys who live by the code of the West -- which can mean just about anything you need it to mean, in a pinch.

Houston is also the unnatural home of two out of the last three presidents of the United States of America, for good or ill.

That is so, so true.

Thompson doesn't just bash Bush; he also talks about his relationship with John Kerry:

That was the year I first met him, at a riot on that elegant little street in front of the White House. He was yelling into a bullhorn and I was trying to throw a dead, bleeding rat over a black-spike fence and onto the president's lawn.

We were angry and righteous in those days, and there were millions of us. We kicked two chief executives out of the White House because they were stupid warmongers. We conquered Lyndon Johnson and we stomped on Richard Nixon -- which wise people said was impossible, but so what? It was fun. We were warriors then, and our tribe was strong like a river.

That river is still running. All we have to do is get out and vote, while it's still legal, and we will wash those crooked warmongers out of the White House.

Anyway, I don't really have any major points to make about Thompson's latest Fear and Loathing essay: just go read it; it's both funny and thought-provoking. Even more so than the early 70's, America needs journalistic perspectives like Thompson's today.

Click here for the rest.



An image from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown:

Now, that's a good Halloween memory!



When I was a child, there was one year that I voluntarily decided to not go trick or treating. Here's why.

From the Houston Chronicle:

'Candy Man' still haunting Halloween

The O'Bryan family had spent Halloween 1974 at a friend's home in Pasadena, where Ronald O'Bryan volunteered to escort the children on their candy-collecting rounds.

He later told police that someone at a darkened home, who only opened the door a crack, had handed him five Pixy Stix — oversized plastic tubes filled with candy powder — for the children in his group.

It was crucial to O'Bryan's plan, detectives said, that only his son eat the tainted treats. Back at the friend's house, investigators said, O'Bryan leaped over a coffee table to prevent his friend's 8-year-old son from eating one of the candies.

After returning to their home in Deer Park, O'Bryan told Timothy he could choose a single piece of candy before bedtime. Prosecutors said he urged his son to try the Pixy Stix.

The boy gulped down a mouthful of the powder, then went to bed after complaining that it tasted bitter. Minutes later, Timothy ran to the bathroom and began vomiting, police said. By the time he got to the hospital, he was dead.

Initially, O'Bryan was of little help to investigators. Accompanying police as they searched the Pasadena neighborhood, the 30-year-old father was unable to remember any details of the house where he got the poisoned candy or the person who gave it to him.

O'Bryan's story abruptly changed on his third trip with officers through the neighborhood. Detectives said he suddenly remembered the suspect was a white man and pointed out the home.

Investigators quickly cleared the homeowner, and O'Bryan's plot to reap a windfall from his son's death began to unravel.

This story was still in the news the next year:

The case horrified parents and helped usher in an era in which carefree costumed trick-or-treating has given way to X-rayed candy bags and tightly controlled Halloween parties and festivals.

I was six when this happened, seven a year later. I still don't really have an opinion as to whether it was a good parenting call, but my mom and dad told me about the murder and left it up to me to decide if trick or treating was a good idea. Of course, the story totally freaked me out, and, very sadly, I opted out of the annual door-to-door candy-gathering ritual for 1975. My older brother, braver than me, wanted his candy, and, if I recall correctly, scored big that year.

By Halloween of 1976, my fears had subsided, and I went trick or treating again, and did so every year until I was in fifth or sixth grade. But I'll never forget how the "candy man" murder scared the living shit out of me when I was seven. That bastard really messed with my head (which is not that big of a deal compared to what he did to his own son, but still, it pisses me off).

It's nice to know, however, that there's finally some good news about the whole poison candy meme:

The decades-old idea that depraved strangers are targeting children with tainted Halloween candy, however, is more fiction than fact, says a sociologist who has studied the phenomenon for 20 years. University of Delaware Professor Joel Best said he has yet to find a case in which a stranger deliberately poisoned trick-or-treaters.

"This is a contemporary legend that speaks to our anxiety about kids," Best said. "Most of us don't believe in ghosts and goblins anymore, but we believe in criminals."

Click here for the rest.

Actually, when you get right down to it, this isn't a comtemporary legend at all: this is Hansel and Gretel for the modern era. That's probably why I reacted so strongly to it when I was a little boy--murder for insurance money is a pretty abstract concept; monsters kidnapping and eating children, however, is an idea with which I was already very familiar.


'Dwarf' skeleton could
rewrite human evolution

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

In an astonishing discovery that could rewrite the history of human evolution, scientists say they have found the skeleton of a new human species, a dwarf, marooned for eons in a tropical Lost World while modern man rapidly colonized the rest of the planet.

The finding on a remote Indonesian island has stunned anthropologists like no other in recent memory. It is a fundamentally new creature that bears more of a resemblance to fictional, barefooted hobbits than modern humans.

Yet biologically speaking, it may have been closely related to us and perhaps even shared its caves with our ancestors.

The 3-foot-tall adult female skeleton found in a cave is believed 18,000 years old. It smashes the long-cherished scientific belief that our species, Homo sapiens, systematically crowded out other upright-walking human cousins beginning 160,000 years ago and that we've had Earth to ourselves for tens of thousands of years.

Instead, it suggests recent evolution was more complex than previously thought.

Click here for the rest.

I don't really know that there are any political ramifications for this story, but I do think it's pretty cool. One wonders about the cultural significance of such a finding, though. It adds quite a wrinkle to understanding legends of wee folk, leprechauns, gnomes, and the like.

Little bastards are always after me Lucky Charms...


Baylor steals Aggies' magic, wins 35-34 in OT

Hahaha! Bye-bye top 25 ranking, Aggies! From the Houston Chronicle:

A week ago, after Texas A&M came from behind to beat Colorado in overtime, coach Dennis Franchione talked about how a team needed to win a game or two like that if it wanted to have a magical season.

The magic is gone for the No. 16-ranked Aggies, but for one night the Baylor Bears were able to jump and hug and go crazy. The Bears scored their biggest win since the start of the Big 12 Conference in 1996, beating the Aggies 35-34 in overtime Saturday before 41, 283 at Floyd Casey Stadium.

Shortly after quarterback Shawn Bell hit Dominique Zeigler with a two-point conversion for the win, the Baylor fans raced on to the field. Quickly, they took down the goalpost at the south end zone, while scores of Aggie fans sat glumly in their seats.

It mattered little that Baylor beat A&M for the first time since 1985. More important to the Aggies (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) is that their long-awaited game against unbeaten Oklahoma next week at Kyle Field now has less significance.

Click here for the rest.

In case you didn't know, the Baylor Bears have been the whipping boy of the Big 12 South Division for close to a decade now; losing to them is quite an embarrassment to the Aggies. Also in case you didn't know, I'm a Longhorn man, and Longhorns love to laugh at Aggies. Just because they're funny. Ha!

They do have cool boots, though.


Saturday, October 30, 2004

A Pipeline directly from Eschaton

I finally got my Louisiana voter registration card in the mail earlier today. I was a bit worried because I had heard a rumor that the Louisiana registrar's office was purposely slowing down the processing of Democratic registrations--given everything I've been reading lately about widespread Republican sponsored attempts to either bog down the election process or simply subvert it to their advantage, it was not easy to dismiss such a rumor as paranoid. Fortunately, I'll be able to vote here in what could turn out to be the most important presidental election of my lifetime.

But I'm still worried: GOP election fraud is, indeed, widespread, and who the hell knows what's going on here? Louisiana will probably go to Bush, but it's not nearly as solid as Texas is; Kerry may very well have a slim chance here, which is why I'm glad I'm not voting absentee in my home state--maybe my vote can actually make a difference here. But I sure would hate to be robbed of that opportunity: perhaps the Republican men in black are here, too.

With that in mind, I'm presenting yet another post on Republican election chicanery, and, as usual, the giant among left-wing bloggers, Atrios over at Eschaton, has provided a wealth of material. So here goes.

First, a pretty startling, but happily ending, anatomy of an Ohio vote scam gone terribly wrong for the Republicans. From the Akron Beacon Journal:

Summit board rejects 976 voter challenges

When Catherine Herold received mail from the Ohio Republican Party earlier this year, she refused it.

The longtime Barberton Democrat wanted no part of the mailing and figured that by refusing it, the GOP would have to pay the return postage.

What she didn't count on was the returned mail being used to challenge the validity of her voter registration.

Herold,who is assistant to the senior vice president and provost at the University of Akron, was one of 976 Summit County voters whose registrations were challenged last week by local Republicans on behalf of the state party.

She went to the Board of Elections on Thursday morning to defend her right to vote and found herself among an angry mob -- people who had to take time off work to defend their right to vote.

After hearing some of the protests, the board voted unanimously to dismiss all 976 challenges.

Click here for the rest.

This one appears to be very similar to a scam (among several others) going on down in the original land of election fraud, Florida. Alas, the rednecks have much more control over things down there, and one can only hope that justice will prevail there.

You know, out of the numerous outrages perpetrated by the Republicans over the last four years, it's stuff like this that pisses me off the most. As I keep saying, this isn't about politics: the Republicans are fucking with the very heart and soul of who we are as a people, democracy itself.


Next, a transcript from and a link to a report from the addictive Public Radio International show This American Life that attempts to put together a comprehensive overview of this year's widespread Republican election scams:

This American Life Special Report: Vote Fraud

Nevada: Dan Burdish, former director of the state's Republican Party, filed a complaint to remove 17,000 voters from the rolls because they had failed to file a change of address card. State law doesn't require it and, in fact, allows you to vote after moving. When asked why he did it Burdish told the press, "I am looking to take Democrats off the voter rolls."

Florida: Senior citizens in Democratic precincts are calling their election boards by the hundreds reporting that strangers claiming to be from the elections office are offering to "hand deliver" their absentee ballots for them, even though there is no such program.

Wyoming: Secretary of State Joseph Meyer interpreted the statutes there to outlaw voter registration drives, like the kind where a group sets up a card table at a mall or library. One of Meyer's oldest friends, a classmate in both high school and college, is Dick Cheney.

Philadelphia: Three weeks before the election, a white Republican alderman named Matt Robb requested that 63 polling stations in African American neighborhoods be relocated, thereby making it more confusing for 37,000 Democrat leaning voters.

Florida: Once again, as in the 2000 election, the state compiled a list of felons to be barred from voting. Throughout this election year, Governor Jeb Bush's administration struggled to keep this list secret. After a lawsuit forced it into the open, people quickly saw that, while some 23,000 Democrat leaning black felons were barred from voting, almost the same number of hispanic felons in Florida, who tend to vote Republican, were somehow not on the list.

Ohio: Secretary of State Ken Blackwell has ruled that anyone showing up in the wrong precinct will not be able to vote there, even by provisional ballot. Immediately afterward, people begain to report odd phone calls telling voters that their voting place had changed, sending them to the wrong precinct.

Arizona: Students at Arizona State University were told by a reporter at Fox News and the Republican county vote registrar that registering students was a federal crime unless students planned to stay in Arizona "indefinitely" after graduation. The Supreme Court of the United States long ago ruled otherwise.

Click here for the rest of the transcript and a link to streaming audio of the show.

You really ought to check this one out if only because it does a good job of presenting the scale of what's going on. It also does a good job of putting the Republican countercharges of Democrat fraud into perspective; that is, compared to what the GOP is doing, the accusations against the Democrats look like jaywalking.

Finally, a pdf file "Election Protection Card" provided by the MoveOn Pac, suitable for printing and distribution to all your friends on election day. Here's an excerpt:


If someone interferes with your right to vote:


Write down exactly what happened and the names of the people involved.


Call 1-866-MYVOTE1 to leave a message about your problem.

• Fill out the problem form at

• Call 1-866-MYVOTE1 to leave a message about your problem.

• If you need immediate legal assistance, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE. This is the 911 of voter hotlines – only use it if there’s a serious problem.

Click here for the rest.

I don't really think this sort of thing is going overboard at all. I mean, there's some serious shit going down, and the fate of our nation, indeed, the world, hangs in the balance. This election is really important. Who knows what's going to happen?


Thursday, October 28, 2004

Report: 100,000 Iraqis may have died in war

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

A survey of deaths in Iraqi households estimates that as many as 100,000 more people may have died throughout the country in the 18 months after the U.S. invasion than would be expected based on the death rate before the war.

There is no official figure for the number of Iraqis killed since the conflict began, but some non-governmental estimates range from 10,000 to 30,000. As of Wednesday, 1,081 U.S. servicemen had been killed, according to the U.S. Defense Department.


The survey indicated violence accounted for most of the extra deaths seen since the invasion, and air strikes from coalition forces caused most of the violent deaths, the researchers wrote in the British-based journal.

"Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children," they said.

Click here for the rest.


Postal Experts Hunt for Missing Ballots in Florida

From Reuters courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe:

U.S. Postal Service investigators on Wednesday were trying to find thousands of absentee ballots that should have been delivered to voters in one of Florida's most populous counties, officials said.

The issue evoked memories of the polling problems that bedeviled the Florida election in 2000 and which the state has been trying to address before next Tuesday's presidential election, which is again expected to be a very tight race.

Broward deputy supervisor of elections Gisela Salas said 60,000 absentee ballots, accounting for just over 5 percent of the electorate in the county north of Miami, were sent out between Oct. 7 and Oct. 8 to voters who would not be in town on election day.


U.S. Postal Service Inspector Del Alvarez, whose federal agency is independent from the U.S. Postal Service, said it had yet to be determined if the ballots reached the post office.

"It's highly unlikely that 58,000 pieces of mail just disappeared," he said. "We're looking for it, we're trying to find it if in fact it was ever delivered to the postal service."

Click here for the rest.

Ummm...has anybody tried checking the offices of the Florida Republican Party? Just a thought.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Source: Unit had no orders to search munitions storage

Have you heard about the 380 tons of powerful Iraqi conventional explosives that US forces lost track of shortly after the invasion? Well, check this out (From the NY Times courtesy of Eschaton). Then come back and check this out from the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

A U.S. military unit that reached a munitions storage installation after the invasion of Iraq had no orders to search or secure the site, where officials say nearly 400 tons of explosives have vanished.

Looters were already throughout the Al-Qaqaa installation south of Baghdad when troops from the 101st Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade arrived at the site a day or so after other coalition troops seized the capital on April 9, 2003, Lt. Col. Fred Wellman, deputy public affairs officer for the unit, told The Associated Press.

The soldiers "secured the area they were in and looked in a limited amount of bunkers to ensure chemical weapons were not present in their area," Wellman wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "Bombs were found but not chemical weapons in that immediate area.

"Orders were not given from higher to search or to secure the facility or to search for HE type munitions, as they (high-explosive weapons) were everywhere in Iraq," he wrote.

Click here for more.

The point is that these explosives are, in all probablility, being used by the insurgency to kill both American soldiers and Iraqi citizens on a daily basis: we're still finding out how badly the Bush administration botched up--for god's sake, these soldiers just left all those explosives lying there, free for the taking.

I'm appalled that we even invaded in the first place, but I'm also continually shocked and amazed at how stupidly the war's been fought. I mean, the longer the fighting goes on, the more that people are needlessly dying.




From Video Vote Vigil courtesy of Eschaton, courtesy of the Daily Kos:

It's amazing what you can capture when your camera is turned on. This video shows what George Bush thinks of democracy. He was cuaght on video while governor of Texas.


Our sources confirm the video was taped at an Austin production facility during the later months of George W. Bush's term as governor of Texas.

Click here to see the video. It's pretty darned funny to see such a God-fearin', faith-based monkey flipping off the camera. Now let's see him fling some poo!


THE LUNAR ECLIPSE... pretty darned cool, don't you think? Here's some midi mood music to suit the occasion. Here's some info on the eclipse (currently in progress) from the Houston Chronicle.

And here's a picture of a past lunar eclipse:

This really is bringing out the primitive spirituality in me. Time for a blood sacrifice! Heh, heh, heh.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004


Dare I?

Dare I link to mutant porn star Ron Jeremy's blog? There doesn't seem to be any nudity or anything like that, just clothed pictures of lots of women Jeremy says he's done scenes with, and candid shots of the Hedgehog himself. The problem is that the text, while very funny, is also not at all family friendly (okay, I admit that's never stopped me before, but porn is something I've kept Real Art away from, and this comes awfully close). Here's a brief, almost tasteful sample:

Did a scene with this young lady last week. Took her a while to open up so I could cram myself into her $$$, but she finally opened. At least she didn't $$$$ all over my $$$$ like it happened today. Oy!

I mean, this all could be a joke; what do I know? But it seems to be on the level, and it's pretty darned funny...

Okay, I'll do it. I'll link to Ron Jeremy's blog.

Courtesy of Dr. Menlo, click here for the Hedgehog's nasty, but non-porn, site. If you dare.

UPDATE: It seems that some nudity, quite disgusting even to me, managed to appear on Jeremy's blog after I linked to it. Really, this makes me think that it's not Jeremy at all, just some wacky online prankster, but it's still pretty funny, so I'm keeping up the link. But I must warn you, it's not for the faint of heart. Go there at your own risk. I'm warning you...



From the BBC courtesy of Eschaton, courtesy of the Daily Kos, my favorite reporter Greg Palast on the latest round of dirty tricks down in Florida:

Two e-mails, prepared for the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign's national research director in Washington DC, contain a 15-page so-called "caging list".

It lists 1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas of Jacksonville, Florida.

An elections supervisor in Tallahassee, when shown the list, told Newsnight: "The only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voters on election day."


Mass challenges have never occurred in Florida. Indeed, says Mr Sancho, not one challenge has been made to a voter "in the 16 years I've been supervisor of elections."

"Quite frankly, this process can be used to slow down the voting process and cause chaos on election day; and discourage voters from voting."

Sancho calls it "intimidation." And it may be illegal.

In Washington, well-known civil rights attorney, Ralph Neas, noted that US federal law prohibits targeting challenges to voters, even if there is a basis for the challenge, if race is a factor in targeting the voters.

Click here for the rest.

Man, I keep reading this stuff and I'm too flabbergasted to really react to it. This is so dirty, so low-down, so against everything for which this country supposedly stands, that I'm simply slack-jawed. This is no longer about conservative versus liberal: the Republicans have crossed the line, not once, but many times; this is now about freedom versus tyranny.

I really don't think I'm overstating this.


Bush to Request $70 Billion More

From the Washington Post courtesy of Eschaton:

The Bush administration intends to seek about $70 billion in emergency funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan early next year, pushing total war costs close to $225 billion since the invasion of Iraq early last year, Pentagon and congressional officials said yesterday.


Bush has said for months that he would make an additional request for the war next year, but the new estimates are the first glimpse of its magnitude. A $70 billion request would be considerably larger than lawmakers had anticipated earlier this year. After the president unexpectedly submitted an $87 billion request for the Iraq and Afghanistan efforts last year, many Republicans angrily expressed sticker shock and implored the administration not to surprise them again.

This request would come on top of $25 billion in war spending allocated by Congress for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. The two bills combined suggest the cost of combat is escalating from the $65 billion spent by the military in 2004 and the $62.4 billion allocated in 2003, as U.S. troops face insurgencies that have proven far more lethal than expected at this point.

Obviously, the cost of the war in Iraq is going up to the tune of billions of dollars, and there's no end in sight. Perhaps, billions of dollars are difficult to imagine, which might diminish the sense of magnitude for what's going on here. I think this next excerpt puts it all in perspective:

Yale University economist William D. Nordhaus estimated that in inflation-adjusted terms, World War I cost just under $200 billion for the United States. The Vietnam War cost about $500 billion from 1964 to 1972, Nordhaus said. The cost of the Iraq war could reach nearly half that number by next fall, 2 1/2 years after it began.

Click here for the rest.

Yet another Iraq/Vietnam comparison, and this one is pretty concrete, in quantifiable terms, without any room for debate. The Vietnam War was the biggest single factor contributing to the stagflation and sluggish economy of the 1970s: even if you love war, by now you've got to be asking if this one is worth it.

We're committing economic suicide over there, really.


Monday, October 25, 2004

An Economics Lesson You Won't Get in School

An editorial from the New York Times courtesy of This Modern World:

The explanation for this abysmal record is one that politicians decline to discuss. The market functions wonderfully when we want to sell more cereals, cosmetics, cars, computers or any other consumer product. Unfortunately, it doesn't work in health care, where the goal should hardly be selling more heart bypass operations. Instead, the goal should be to prevent disease and illness. But the money is in the treatment - not prevention - so the market and good health care are at odds.


What's needed to control the costs and to provide basic health and hospitalization coverage for all Americans is an independent agency that would set national health care policy, collect medical fees, pay claims, reimburse doctors fairly and restrain runaway drug prices - a single-payer system that would eliminate the costly, inefficient bureaucracy generated by thousands of different plans. It's not such a radical idea; a single-payer system already exists for Medicare.

Such an agency would need to be free of politics and could be modeled on the Federal Reserve System, whose members are appointed to terms that do not coincide with the terms of either the president or the Senate. It could be financed through two taxes, a gross-receipts business tax and a flat tax, similar to Medicare, but on all individual income.

Under a single-payer system, never again would you be asked, when calling to make a medical appointment, "What type of insurance do you have?" Never again would doctors need bloated office staffs to track what is and is not covered under thousands of insurance plans. Never again would you have to worry about being bankrupted by a medical emergency. Never again would American business be saddled with the responsibility for providing health insurance.

Click here for the rest.

Health insurance was the biggest single factor that drove me into the hell of teaching public school. Millions of Americans, on a daily basis, make major life's decisions based on whether they can get adequate health care. Millions more are nervous, knowing that they just can't get health insurance one way or the other. This is no way to run a civilized society. It's pathetic in fact. Our nation certainly has the ability to provide quality health care to all citizens. The only thing stopping us is a weird, blind belief in "market forces" and how they're supposed to be good for everything. Alas, such a belief is like worshipping a volcano god who continually rains fire and brimstone down on his worshippers. I guess that's America in the 21st century: stupid and primitive.


Report: CIA transferred detainees without notice

From the Los Angeles Times via the Houston Chronicle:

A report that the CIA secretly transferred detainees out of Iraq for interrogation without notifying the Red Cross drew criticism Sunday from key members of Congress.

"The thing that separates us from the enemy is our respect for human rights," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on ABC's This Week.

McCain was responding to a report in Sunday's Washington Post that as many as a dozen detainees had been moved out of Iraq over the past six months, a possible violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The Post cited a draft Justice Department opinion, written in March, as saying that the CIA can take Iraqis from their country for interrogation for a "brief but not indefinite period." Intelligence officials have not disclosed the names or the locations of the detainees removed from Iraq.

Click here for the rest.

This article doesn't speculate, but I wonder if this falls into the category of detainees farmed out for torture. Ever since the Afghanistan invasion, there have been reports about prisoners of US forces being sent to Egypt or Saudi Arabia for interrogation precisely because those nations practice torture, and I don't mean of the Abu Ghraib variety: I'm talking about electrodes on genitals, that sort of thing. At any rate, this is yet more evidence of how the Bush administration says "what violation of the Geneva convention?" while giving a wink and a nod to soldiers in the field.

America may very well have better political values (on paper at any rate) than any other nation in the world; the problem is that our leaders seem to ignore them on a regular basis.


RICHIE BUSH in "Last Laugh"

Go check out this very funny flash animation by Peter Kuper courtesy of This Modern World.

It's quite amusing, especially if you're familiar with Richie Rich comics.


Sunday, October 24, 2004


First, a missive on how far the Democratic party has fallen:

You Can't Blame Nader for This

We are now witnessing the Democratic Party in very advanced decay. After the Clinton/DLC years, its street cred is conclusively shot. In formal political function the party is nothing much more than an ATM machine, spewing out torrents of cash, supplied by the unions and by corporations seeking favors, to the armies of consultants and operators who have lived off it for decades. Its right wing comprises people who could as easily be in the Republican Party, its center people incapable of standing on any principle. Its left, this season, is made up of the Anybody But Bush crowd, who last spring made the decision to let Kerry be Kerry, without a word of criticism, when he pledged a better war on Iraq and even a march on Tehran.

And if, against most current indications, Kerry wins? He has proffered almost nothing to look forward to, aside from a pledge, which can easily be aborted by a "crisis," to leave Social Security alone. With the Congress against him, he'll be mostly hogtied domestically. On the foreign front he's eagerly hogtied himself. No more compliant serf to the imperatives of Empire and to the government of Israel than Kerry has been visible this season. A November 3 movement, to pressure Kerry if he wins, rebuild if he loses? Many on the left have argued that. But how will they know which way to march, when they started this year with all the wrong maps?

Click here for the rest.

Really, when you get down to it, "we're not the Republicans" is a pretty lousy platform to run on. Sheesh! And people bitch at me for voting for Nader in 2000. What a screwy country we live in.

Next, a meditation on the mushy middle:

The Undecided Voter Examined

I suspect a lot of undecided voters are of this stripe: they know Bush is a miserable president, but they can't stand to admit they were wrong. So they refuse to make a decision.

The second class of undecided voter enjoys the attention. I mean look, nobody's going to invite me to sit in on one of these debates. I know where I stand, who cares about me? The media loves a good narrative, and to them undecided voters are catnip (or Amyl Nitrate). What could be better than a razor-thin margin between one candidate and the other, the outcome to be decided by a bunch of hand-wringing vacillators? Not that all of them wring their hands. Many of this group of undecided voters are grandstanding like John Phillips Souza, using the press to offer stern, contradictory advice to both candidates. Undecided voters get quoted in the newspapers, polled, invited to debates, analyzed, and exhorted to make various decisions. The more they don't decide, the more attention they get. My advice is to just ignore them. Maybe they'll go away. Or better yet, maybe they'll make a decision, and America can go back to sleep.

The final group of undecided voters, the largest and most blood-curdling demographic, is generally thought of as being in the exact middle, the very equator of public opinion, in this particular contest a kind of living representation of the Mason-Dixon line. This is a false idea, based on a mental picture of a horizontal line: the undecided voter falls precisely between left and right. Tripe. Picture a vertical line, with dolphins at the top, humans in the middle, and zooplankton almost at the bottom. The undecideds are just below that.

Click here for the rest.

After everything our country has gone through these past four years, I just don't see how people couldn't have yet made up their minds about the direction in which our nation needs to go. Undecided voters at this point are either fools or lunatics, and really ought not to be voting at all. The frightening thing is that they, more than any other group, are in reality going to be the people who decide the outcome of the election.




From the New York Times courtesy of Eschaton:

Republican Party officials in Ohio took formal steps yesterday to place thousands of recruits inside polling places on Election Day to challenge the qualifications of voters they suspect are not eligible to cast ballots.

Party officials say their effort is necessary to guard against fraud arising from aggressive moves by the Democrats to register tens of thousands of new voters in Ohio, seen as one of the most pivotal battlegrounds in the Nov. 2 elections.

Election officials in other swing states, from Arizona to Wisconsin and Florida, say they are bracing for similar efforts by Republicans to challenge new voters at polling places, reflecting months of disputes over voting procedures and the anticipation of an election as close as the one in 2000.

Ohio election officials said they had never seen so large a drive to prepare for Election Day challenges. They said they were scrambling yesterday to be ready for disruptions in the voting process as well as alarm and complaints among voters. Some officials said they worried that the challenges could discourage or even frighten others waiting to vote.

Click here for the rest.

As if widespread GOP-sponsored registration fraud wasn't enough.

This move is typical of how the Republicans have both come to and wielded power, through bullying and semi-legal chicanery. It is well understood by Republicans that a heavy voter turnout favors Democrats--after all, most people understand that the Grand Old Party, by tradition, works against, not for, the regular guy. Anything the Republicans can do to supress numbers at the polls will help them. Of course, such thinking is anti-democracy, and therefore, anti-American.

If you believe in democracy, vote for Kerry.


The World According to a Bush Voter

From AlterNet courtesy of This Modern World:

Do the supporters of President Bush really know their man or the policies of his administration?

Three out of 4 self-described supporters of President George W. Bush still believe that pre-war Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or active programs to produce them. According to a new survey published Thursday, the same number also believes that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein provided "substantial support" to al Qaeda.

But here is the truly astonishing part: as many or more Bush supporters hold those beliefs today than they did several months ago. In other words, more people believe the claims today –- after the publication of a series of well-publicized official government reports that debunked both notions.


Remarkably, when asked whether the U.S. should have gone to war without evidence of a WMD program or support to al Qaeda, 58 percent of Bush supporters said no. Moreover, 61 percent said they assumed that Bush would also not have gone to war under those circumstances.

"To support the president and to accept that he took the U.S. to war based on mistaken assumptions likely creates substantial cognitive dissonance and leads Bush supporters to suppress awareness of unsettling information about pre-war Iraq," Kull says.

He added that this "cognitive dissonance" could also help explain other remarkable findings in the survey. The poll also found a major gap between Bush's stated positions on a number of international issues and what his supporters believe Bush's position to be. A strong majority of Bush supporters believe, for example that the president supports a range of international treaties and institutions that the White House has vocally and publicly opposed.

Click here for the rest.

What this article doesn't state, I already know from experience: many of these deluded people are quite intelligent. That makes having some sort of rational discussion about Iraq and Bush nearly impossible--some of these Bush supporters are as good as political pundits at taking a bit of information wildly out of context, or giving them far more importance than they actually have, in order to "prove" their points.

I'm not sure what it means when so many Americans perceive themselves as living in a totally different reality, but I do know that this will probably come to no good end. I'm afraid that things are going to get much, much worse for our country before they get better. I mean, I'm really starting to fear some sort of civil war ten years or so down the road.


Saturday, October 23, 2004


Two more from Eschaton. First, from the St. Petersburg Times (in Florida):

Election chief warns of absentee scam

Pasco elections officials have a warning for the county's absentee voters: Don't give your ballot to a stranger claiming to be from the elections office.

They're not who they say they are.

"The people who are soliciting your ballots in this manner are not elections officials," Pasco Elections Supervisor Kurt Browning warned Thursday.

The warning came after a phone call from a west Pasco woman. Other Florida counties have gotten similar complaints.

"We've had a bunch of them - 100 at least," said Bob Sweat, elections supervisor for Manatee County. "It's probably going on all over the state of Florida."


Sweat said it appeared the collections were occurring in neighborhoods full of low-income, minority and elderly residents.

Click here for the rest.

Of course, low-income and minority usually means Democrat: if it's not the Republicans doing this, then I don't know who it could possibly be. Nader? Whatever.

Next, from Ohio's Columbia Dispatch:

Instructions to change polling place
don’t come from board of elections

Damschroder said there are two scams: The caller tells voters their precincts have changed or the caller offers to pick up an absentee-ballot application, deliver the ballot to the voter and return the completed ballot to the elections office.

By law, the elections board mails absentee ballots and the only deliveries are made to voters in nursing homes by both a Republican and Democratic elections worker. The only person who can return an absentee ballot, besides the voter, is an immediate family member.

"People are calling saying, ‘I got a call last night when I was watching Oprah from this group,’ " Damschroder said. "By law, the board of elections does not give anybody a ballot to deliver."

Click here for the rest.

This one in Ohio sounds very similar to what's going on in Florida. I wouldn't be surprised at all if this was a nationally coordinated attempt to throw the election. In retrospect, I wonder if this was going on in the 2000 election; given what we know about how things turned out in Florida, it's probable.


Thursday, October 21, 2004


First, from Editor and Publisher, yet another startling admission from one of those who wage war:

Ex-CIA Chief Tenet Calls Iraq War 'Wrong'

Addressing the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan Wednesday night, George Tenet, former director of central intelligence, called the war on Iraq "wrong," according to Clark's article today. Tenet added that while the Iraq war was "rightly being challenged," the CIA was making important strides toward success in the greater war on terrorism.

Tenet also said that while the CIA boasts "tremendously talented men and women," the agency "did not live up to our expectations as professionals" regarding the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the search for WMDs in Iraq, according to Clark.

"We had inconsistent information, and we did not inform others in the community of gaps in our intelligence," Tenet said, with surprising frankness, as recorded by reporter Clark.

Click here for the rest.

Next, from the Democratic Congressional Committee Campaign Weblog, the latest info on the scandals surrounding Tom DeLay:

Tom Delay Subpoenaed for Role in 2003 Texas Redistricting

Burnam's lawsuit alleges that the DPS destroyed documents regarding their efforts to apprehend the Legislators and that DPS had no lawful authority to arrest Democratic members who went to Ardmore. A number of high ranking DPS officials have given their depositions, as has Burnam in the case. An Austin Appeals Court recently held that Burnam's case on the open records issue could go forward.

"Questions have been raised about Majority Leader DeLay's role in directing both DPS and Homeland Security personnel in the use of the state and federal funds in the search for House Democrats. We believe these funds were improperly used for political gain and House Majority Leader DeLay should be required to testify about his role in the matter," said Fort Worth lawyer, Art Brender, who together with Austin lawyer Catherine Mauzy represents Burnam in the case.


Burnam claims DeLay continued a pattern of obstruction and abuse of power in avoiding service of the subpoena. Burnam had sought to subpoena DeLay at a major Republican fundraising event in Austin on the evening of October 1, 2004, but DeLay and his supporters secretly rescheduled the event to 7:00 a.m., thwarting Burnam's process server. Preventing execution of civil process is a misdemeanor under the Texas Penal Code.

Click here for the rest.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Like my buddy Matt told me when he sent me some links about this: unbelievable. From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Tucker Carlson and Jon Stewart still steaming after 'Crossfire'

Carlson on Monday fanned embers still hot from their Crossfire confrontation, saying Stewart looked ridiculous during his CNN appearance and was a sellout for publicly backing Democrat John Kerry for president.

Stewart, on the show Friday, angered Carlson by saying Crossfire is "partisan hackery" that does little to advance democracy. And that was the mild stuff.

"You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably," Stewart said.

Responded Carlson: "You need to get a job at a journalism school, I think."

"You need to go to one," Stewart shot back.

Click here for the rest of the article.

Here's what I told Matt when I replied to his email:

Wow. This is pretty damned incredible. I've never really been into Stewart even though numerous friends over the years have told me that I should be. Maybe I'll pay attention now. What's really amazing is the point that Stewart kept hinting at over and over: why must essential political truths come from comedians? It's like the role of the fool in Shakespearean tragedies; the jester is never taken seriously, so only he can verbalize the obvious without being beaten.

Then there's Bill Maher.

For a transcript of Stewart's appearance on Crossfire, click here. For streaming video of the event in all it's humorous glory, click here.

Thanks to my Buddy Matt for the transcript and video links.



Some friends back home are getting some cool notice with their new show. From the Houston Press:

Mac Wellman's swirling, dreamy
poetry gives Dracula a sharp bite

In the world of theater, the maxim "less is more" can be either the kiss of death or a life-affirming embrace. In a fascinating production of Mac Wellman's idiosyncratic adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mildred's Umbrella Theater Company takes us into its arms and smothers us with love of theater.

A flashlight held under the chin, a flickering chandelier, a blood-red column, three simple wooden chairs and a table (also blood-red), the use of shrieking seagulls to create the sound of demonic laughter, and a gothic arch-shaped doorway upstage -- these are all that's necessary to set a dreadful mood when everything else, especially the performers, are so in sync with Wellman's swirling, dreamy text.

And my pal Alan gets some kind words:

As Van Helsing, Alan Hall seems to relish his character's contradictions. The "alienist" specialist is gruff and comic, a man of science and a man of his times. "I employ scientific method and hope for the best," the character jokes in earnest. He confounds the other characters with his thick pronunciation of "wum-peer," or vampire.

My buddy Stephen (discovered as an actor-to-be by my wife Becky a few years ago for a production of Oedipus Rex I directed) seems to be doing well, too:

And as the insane-asylum assistant, Stephen Foulard steps right out of an English musical when he sings his explicitly ribald ditty about Mad Sally and what we all crave: "bonkers, bonker, bonk."

My friend Jennifer, who often comments here at Real Art, got some props for a smaller part (of course, there are no small parts, only small actors, and it sounds like Jennifer is proving the maxim true):

Dracula's brides (Karen Schlag, Shondra Marie, Jennifer Decker) are not wispy wraiths but real-life Victorian naughty postcards in corsets and bloomers who stomp about the stage in combat boots. At times, they vocalize wordlessly in unworldly tones. Other times, they sing in harmony, asking "Who Do You Suppose Is Going to Feed Him?" as they surround the next hapless victim.

Click here for the rest.

Ah! Like the dos chicas show I wrote about a few days ago, this kind of thing makes me miss Houston. A bit. I mean, it's dreary Houston, after all. Still, I'm glad my friends and colleagues are making some waves in the local theater scene. The real shame is that so few people go to the theater. They're missing out on some good stuff.

UPDATE: I just learned that the vampirettes are actually bigger roles than I had thought. Indeed, the show is pretty much supposed to be ensemble oriented; that is, most of the characters have a roughly equal amount of stage time. So, you get more bang for your entertainment buck. If you're in Houston, don't miss out.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Radical historian Howard Zinn on an alternative approach to combating violent Islamic militantism:

Our War on Terrorism

What is the appropriate way to respond to such awful acts? The answer so far, given by Bush, Sharon, and Putin, is military action. We have enough evidence now to tell us that this does not stop terrorism, may indeed provoke more terrorism, and at the same time leads to the deaths of hundreds, even thousands, of innocent people who happen to live in the vicinity of suspected terrorists.

What can account for the fact that these obviously ineffective, even counterproductive, responses have been supported by the people of Russia, Israel, the United States? It's not hard to figure that out. It is fear, a deep, paralyzing fear, a dread so profound that one's normal rational faculties are distorted, and so people rush to embrace policies that have only one thing in their favor: They make you feel that something is being done. In the absence of an alternative, in the presence of a policy vacuum, filling that vacuum with a decisive act becomes acceptable.


The CIA senior terrorism analyst who has written a book signed "Anonymous" has said bluntly that U.S. policies--supporting Sharon, making war on Afghanistan and Iraq--"are completing the radicalization of the Islamic world."

Unless we reexamine our policies--our quartering of soldiers in a hundred countries (the quartering of foreign soldiers, remember, was one of the grievances of the American revolutionaries), our support of the occupation of Palestinian lands, our insistence on controlling the oil of the Middle East--we will always live in fear. If we were to announce that we will reconsider those policies, and began to change them, we might start to dry up the huge reservoir of hatred where terrorists are hatched.

Click here for the rest.

As my buddy Jim once said, the best way to end terrorism is for the US to "stop pissing people off." Indeed, this is the only way accomplish that goal. The catch is that the wealthy elite who pull the government's strings depend on pissing people off in order to make more and more money. It is not likely that any presidential candidate could ever pass the so-called wealth primary (that is, being blessed with enough corporate cash in order to effectively compete in an election) by espousing such policies as Zinn advocates: Kerry, pockets overflowing with capitalist dollars, wants to keep pissing people off.

Expect the utterly ineffective "war on terrorism" to continue, perhaps for the rest of our lives. We're screwed.

Next, an ironic report from the Progressive's McCarthyism Watch:

Three Teachers Evicted from Bush Event for
Wearing "Protect Our Civil Liberties" T-Shirts

"A guy had Janet by the elbow and was leading her away," says Julian.
"And he said to us, 'Give us your tickets.' "

"We said, 'Why?' And I put the ticket behind my back, and one of the guys who had been following us ripped it out of my hands."

Seeing what happened to her sister's ticket, Tong put hers down her pants, she says.

Campaign officials then told all three women to leave.

"They said it was a private event, for invited guests," Tong recalls.

"We said we were invited because we were given tickets.

"One said, 'You don't have tickets anymore.'

"We said, 'We did until you ripped them out of our hands.'

"And we asked him, 'Are you offended by our shirts?'

"He said our shirts were 'obscene.' "

Tong and Julian say that about ten men, including Secret Service officers and sheriff's deputies, proceeded to surround them.

"They weren't letting us move anywhere," Tong says. Campaign officials told law enforcement, "These people need to leave," she recalls.

"We asked what would happen if we didn't, and the police said we'd be arrested for disorderly conduct," Tong says.

So the three teachers headed away.

Click here for the rest.

As the article later points out, this event was held on public property; these teachers had bought their tickets fair and square, and their t-shirts were utterly non-partisan.

As I've said before, at this point, voting for Bush is simply anti-American.


Experts: 'Get tough' programs for teens don't work

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

"'Scare tactics' don't work," the panel concluded in its report, released today. "Programs that seek to prevent violence through fear and tough treatment do not work."

Youth violence has declined from its peak a decade ago but violent crime rates are still high, the panel said.

Violence can be traced to a variety of troublesome conditions. Among possible causes: inconsistent or harsh parenting, poor peer relations, gang involvement, lack of connection to school and living in a violent neighborhood.

The trouble with boot camps, group detention centers and other "get tough" programs is they bring together young people who are inclined toward violence and teach each other how to commit more crime, the panel said: "The more sophisticated (teens) instruct the more naive in precisely the behaviors that the intervener wishes to prevent."

It also rejected programs that "consist largely of adults lecturing," like DARE.

One barrier to implementing effective programs, the report said, is resistance from people operating ineffective programs who depend of them for their jobs.

Click here for the rest.

This article really reminds me of what I've been saying is wrong with public education: authority and obedience, as a philosophy, are utterly counterproductive to a democratic society. Really, "get tough" and "zero tolerance" programs ultimately do nothing but create people who want to push other people around--after all, that's the behavior that such programs model for impressionable, young minds. It's pretty obvious when you think about it, but Americans seem to love this stuff. I guess that makes sense, given that pretty much everybody goes through the public school system. We've been heavily indoctrinated to believe that authority is the way.