Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Great Indecency Hoax

A Liberty Forum post that breaks down the workings of the right-wing "morals" flak machine, courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe:

But there's another, more insidious game being played as well. The F.C.C. and the family values crusaders alike are cooking their numbers. The first empirical evidence was provided this month by Jeff Jarvis, a former TV Guide critic turned blogger. He had the ingenious idea of filing a Freedom of Information Act request to see the actual viewer complaints that drove the F.C.C. to threaten Fox and its affiliates with the largest indecency fine to date - $1.2 million for the sins of a now-defunct reality program called "Married by America." Though the F.C.C. had cited 159 public complaints in its legal case against Fox, the documents obtained by Mr. Jarvis showed that there were actually only 90 complaints, written by 23 individuals. Of those 23, all but 2 were identical repetitions of a form letter posted by the Parents Television Council. In other words, the total of actual, discrete complaints about "Married by America" was 3.

Such letter-writing factories as the American Family Association's OneMillionMoms.com also exaggerate their clout in intimidating advertisers. They brag, for instance, that the retail chain Lowe's dropped its commercials on "Desperate Housewives" in response to their protests. But Lowe's was not an advertiser on the show; the advertiser who actually bought the commercial was Whirlpool, which plugged Lowe's as a retail outlet for its products under a co-branding arrangement. Another advertiser that the family-values mafia takes credit for chasing away, Tyson Foods, had only bought in for one episode of "Desperate Housewives" in the first place. It had long since been replaced by such Fortune 500 advertisers as Ford and McDonald's, each clamoring to pay three times as much for a 30-second spot ($450,000) as those early advertisers who bought time before the show had its debut and became an instant smash.

Click here for the rest.

This makes a lot of sense. I don't really know anybody, Christian or athiest, who has had anything to say about the so-called rash of indecency on radio and television--virtually everything I've heard about the issue comes from the news media. It appears that this crisis has been made up in it's entirety, which is no surprise at all.

Like I said nearly a year ago about Janet Jackson, who really cares?

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THUG WATCH: Soliciting Nothing

From Eschaton, a personal report of a major violation of the freedom of speech:

We explained that we were promoting NOTHING. They told us that we were soliciting "something" and would have to leave the mall premises. We asked the head of the mall's security to clarify exactly what we were soliciting, to which he replied, "You are soliciting a reaction from people." (One year, during a different Buy Nothing Action, we were accused of no less than "soliciting ideas.")

The standard conversation about soliciting ensued and the state police were once again called in to help deal with the situation. This year, a small army of mall security and state police told us that we were not allowed to even carry the shopping bags that said "FREE SAMPLES NOTHING" on them or we would be arrested. Only the t-shirts and Santa hats were permissible. While we felt that the order was completely ridiculous, we also had not come to the mall that day to be arrested, so we agreed to take the bags out of the mall.

Cut forward

Just as we were walking through the parking lot in front of one of entrances to JCPenny's (but still far from our car), a police van swerved around in front of us and another in back of us. We were surrounded by policemen who told us we were under arrest for failing to obey their orders to leave the mall. We tried to explain that that was what we were trying to do, but they were already putting metal handcuffs on us and warning us not to resist arrest.

Click here for the rest.

This post goes on to say something to the effect that laws vary from state to state as far as free speech in malls goes, even though I seem to remember hearing something about a Supreme Court case a few years back that made free speech in shopping malls the law of the land: apparently, I was wrong about this.

This is pretty lame. Admittedly, I'm a free speech zealot, but given that malls essentially serve the same purpose as a public square (from back in more civilized, pre-freeway days), it strikes me as screwy that people can't protest consumersim at the scene of the crime. But, hey, I'm no lawyer.

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Monday, November 29, 2004

America--Not a Christian Nation

From the Freedom From Religion Foundation, courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe:

What can we conclude about the religious views of these 10 American founders? First, eight were Deists and two were Unitarians. Second, all were advocates of religious tolerance and freedom of conscience. Third, ironically, most were themselves targets of religious bigots. Fourth, none was an orthodox Christian. And fifth, none was even remotely close to the modern day fundamentalists who attempt to expropriate these men for partisan political purposes.

Deism was a religious philosophy popular among educated people living in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was referred to as a natural religion, meaning that it was based entirely on reason, explicitly rejecting all forms of revelation.


Deists believed in God as a celestial explanatory mechanism or first cause, but disaffirmed all claims of divine authority, including the deity of Christ. Yet, Deists endorsed the ethical teachings of Jesus, as well as those of other religious prophets. Deists also denounced all religious dogma and creeds and were strong supporters of religious liberty. Concerning belief in God, it should be remembered that this was before the advent of Darwinian evolution and modern cosmological theories.

The modern equivalent of Deism is Unitarianism, a secular religion committed to the principles of freedom, reason, tolerance, science, and democracy.

Unitarianism is a noncreedal religion aligned with the philosophy of naturalistic humanism that welcomes all people of good will, nonbelievers, as well as believers. If the ten prominent founders were alive today, they would most certainly embrace the philosophy of naturalistic Humanism and they would properly be called Unitarians or Humanists.


Click here for the rest.

Seeing as how Unitarianism and Humanism are much more American as far as religion goes, it seems only natural for Real Art to provide links to their websites:

Unitarian Universalist Association

American Humanist Association

By the way, the fundamentalists really hate both of these groups, especially the Humanists. Why don't you give those sadistic Bible-pounders the equivalent of a cyber-finger by checking these Godless organizations out? I mean, if they're good enough for George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, they're good enough for you. Right?

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WAIT, I WAS ALL WRONG ABOUT EVOLUTION

My old buddy Matt, responding to
this post I think, hit the internet to find the truth about creationism. As he said, "Well, that clears THAT up." Indeed, it does:





To find out why, and to finish this exciting real life story, click here.

Okay, I'm just kidding. This didn't change my understanding of evolution at all. Pretty funny though, huh? The frightening thing is that I've actually been a part of such conversations, albeit long ago. Quite a few Americans buy into this horse crap, and even though this comic tract is pretty goofy, I think it's spot-on with its portrayal of how fundamentalists talk and think, that is, simplistically, anti-intectually.

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Guest Blogger Miles

Mandate
-or-
Man Date

AP WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Monday sidestepped a dispute over gay marriages, rejecting a challenge to the nation's only law sanctioning such unions.

Justices had been asked by conservative groups to overturn the year-old decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage. They declined, without comment.

In the past year, at least 3,000 gay Massachusetts couples have wed, although voters may have a chance next year to change the state constitution to permit civil union benefits to same-sex couples, but not the institution of marriage.

Critics of the November 2003 ruling by the highest court in Massachusetts argue that it violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of a republican form of government in each state. They lost at the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

Their attorney, Mathew Staver, said in a Supreme Court filing that the Constitution should "protect the citizens of Massachusetts from their own state supreme court's usurpation of power." Federal courts, he said, should defend people's right "to live in a republican form of government free from tyranny, whether that comes at the barrel of a gun or by the decree of a court."

Merita Hopkins, a city attorney in Boston, had told justices in court papers that the people who filed the suit have not shown they suffered an injury and could not bring a challenge to the Supreme Court. "Deeply felt interest in the outcome of a case does not constitute an actual injury," she said.

Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly told justices that voters can overrule the Supreme Court by adopting a constitutional amendment.

Score one for civil rights. I don't find it coincidental that all this is going on in the state overseen by Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. However, I think this will be a short-lived victory. With Bush's "mandate" against man dates, you can be sure we'll see plenty of the Democrats' progress taken away.

Ron's take on gay marriage and the right wing agenda

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Saturday, November 27, 2004

Guest Blogger Miles

Bush's mandate calls for teen pregnancies

AP - WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush's re-election insures that more federal money will flow to abstinence education that precludes discussion of birth control, even as the administration awaits evidence that the approach gets kids to refrain from sex.

Congress last weekend included more than $131 million for abstinence programs in a $388 billion spending bill, an increase of $30 million but about $100 million less than Bush requested. Meanwhile, a national evaluation of abstinence programs has been delayed, with a final report not expected until 2006.

Ten state evaluations, compiled by a group that opposes abstinence-only education, showed little change in teens' behavior since the start of abstinence programs in 1997.

The president has been a strong proponent of school-based sexual education that focuses on abstinence, but does not include instruction on safe sex.

"We don't need a study, if I remember my biology correctly, to show us that those people who are sexually abstinent have a zero chance of becoming pregnant or getting someone pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted disease," said Wade Horn, the assistant secretary of Health and Human Services in charge of federal abstinence funding.

Those who say schools also should be teaching youths how to use contraceptives say Horn's argument ignores reality. Surveys indicate that roughly 50 percent of teens say they have sex before they leave high school. While the nation's teenage pregnancy rate is declining, young people 15 to 24 account for about half the new cases of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States each year.

We've already had de facto abstinence-based sex ed in our schools (at least here in the buckle of the Bible belt that is Texas), but I guess Bush is finally making a push for de jure abstinence-based programs. "Condom" is a bad word.

Ron's comments on this a while back

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Friday, November 26, 2004

NEW ORLEANS

Mood music.

Becky and I are taking advantage of our new nearness to New Orleans (it's only about an hour's drive away) starting tomorrow; we're spending a couple of nights in the French Quarter. So Real Art is going dark until at least Sunday evening, maybe Monday if I'm dead tired. If anyone cares, we're leaving early enough for me to watch the UT/Texas A&M game on TV in our hotel room. Hook 'em 'Horns!

Anyway, see you in a few days.



Statue of Andrew Jackson in the
French Quarter's Jackson Square

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REAL ART FUNDAMENTALIST TWOFER

First, Seattle Journalist David Neiwert over at Orcinus looks at creeping creationism as an organized, well funded political movement, which is now using "intelligent design theory" as a stealth concept to push a literalist interpretation of the Genesis creation story:

Intelligence on their designs

Science and fundamentalism are natural enemies, because they represent diametrically opposite models for understanding the world.

Fundamentalism begins with articles of faith, gleaned from Scripture, for which it then goes in search of evidence as support -- ignoring, along the way, all contravening evidence.

Science begins with the gathering of evidence and data, which are then assembled into an explanatory model through a combintation of hypothesis and further testing. This model must take into account all available facts, including contradictory evidence.

They are, in other words, 180 degrees removed from each other in how they affect our understanding of the world. One is based in logic, the other in faith. As methodologies go, they are simply irreconcilable.

Moreover, it's clear that the fundamentalists who are rapidly gaining complete control of the American government's reins of power fully recognize this natural emnity -- and intend to use their rising power to curtail the influence of science on society: in government, in the schools, and in the media.

Click here for the rest.

Next, from the Daily Kos courtesy of Eschaton, a quick primer on arguing with fundamentalists:

How to Use the Bible in Your Political Arguments

So here's what you need to remember in a nutshell: there is a difference between claiming that a text is authoritative, and saying that it is foundational.

The former is the fundies' home turf, and you will not win on it. The latter might seem like more work initially, but it may also bear greater fruit.

Why aren't you going to win on the "authoritative" turf? Because that's where the fundamentalists have been playing for the past hundred years. Long story short, a group of conservative Christians reacted against liberal readings of the Bible early in the 20th century by publishing a series of pamphlets on the "Fundamentals" of Christian belief. Those fundamentals had the by now familiar ring to them: the Bible is the sole, sufficient, authoritative guide to Christian life.


It's a rule book, in other words. You go to the instruction manual, it tells you what to do, butta-bing, butta-boom! You're done.


And who ever reads an instruction manual from start to finish? You read the parts you need, and ignore the parts you don't. And trust me, these folks have way more "instructions" memorized than most of us. So if you go into an argument on social policy armed with a shaky knowledge of the Beatitudes and Christ's injunctions to care for the poor, you're going to get slaughtered. It's like arguing precedent with a lawyer: if you don't know what you're talking about, it's generally a good idea to stay out of the conversation.


Otherwise, you're just going to prove yourself to be an ignoramus. More to the point, you're going to demonstrate that you don't "really" believe this stuff.


Click here for more.

I don't entirely agree with everything this essay advocates. One can go toe to toe with fundamentalists, using the Bible as the final authority. For me, the key is using the concept of literal interpretation against them. That is, noting how often they don't interpret the Bible literally, and using this as a wedge issue. For instance, the Bible calls homosexuality an abomination, and that homosexuals should be put to death, but it also says that adultery and dishonoring one's parents are also worthy of death--that's what it says; if you really want to interpret the Scriptures literally, you need to be calling for the death penalty for adulterers and dope smoking teenagers. Of course, nobody's going to advocate that kind of brutality, which generally leaves rank and file fudamentalists flapping their gums and stammering. It's very amusing.

Of course, I was raised as a Southern Baptist, and paid more attention than most of my peers in Bible study classes, so most of the time I know the Bible better than the average evangelical schmuck: maybe it's easier for me to argue on their "home turf" and win. At any rate, this essay offers a different strategy from mine that appears to be effective, especially for people who don't know the Bible that well. Whatever works.

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Thursday, November 25, 2004

REAL THANKSGIVING?





Yeah, right.

But pass the turkey, anyway. Mmmm. Turkey.

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REAL ART COUNTERPOINT
Yes, Miles, The Democrats Are Dead

Well, dead for liberals, anyway.

Part of what is appealing about having my former student Miles as a guest blogger is that, ideally, it gives me a night off from time to time. Of course, that's impossible when Miles makes a post that simply demands a response from me. So no free day today for me.

In order to follow the debate, make sure that you've read my post "WHY THE DEMOCRATS SUCK" from a couple of days ago, and then read Miles' response to it immediately below this post. Then scroll back here and continue reading:

For starters, Miles, I was actually talking about a buddy of mine from high school, Kevin, but you've expressed similar sentiments, and you are, indeed, intelligent and liberal, so I could see how you would think I was talking about you. But that's okay. I'll argue with you instead.

You say that the Democrats have no place to go but the center, but you forget what's been happening for the last couple of decades: the Democrats have already moved toward the center, and beyond, on more than one occasion, and it has gained them very little. You also forget that "the center" ain't at all what it used to be. Today's "liberals" are yesterday's moderates; today's "conservatives" are yesterday's right-wing extremists. The Conservative Movement has done a very good job of legitimizing political points of view that were almost unthinkable a very short time ago. In doing this, and in gaining political success, the right wing has handily dragged the entire political spectrum towards itself, and Democratic power brokers have been more than happy to help. Call it what you want, "the center" is quite conservative these days.

I just don't follow the logic that says that in order to beat the conservatives, we must support conservatism--I mean, if we support conservatism, then we've already lost.

Look, I'll grant you that Clinton was somewhat successful as a conservative Democrat. Michael Moore called him the best Republican President we've ever had. But I think he was only able to pull it off because he's probably the most gifted American politician of the last fifty years. Guys like him don't come along too often. But Clinton's success is also problematic. Under his and the conservative Democratic Leadership Council's leadership, both houses of Congress were lost to the Republicans, and the twenty year long process of dismantling New Deal reforms picked up speed. It's also arguable that Clinton actually aided the advance of the conservative cause by championing watered-down versions of right-wing policy initiatives. Indeed, further Democratic center-shifts (that is, conservative-shifts) will do nothing but aid the Republicans by adding to the overall air of rightist rhetoric in which we are currently drowning, which also serves to stifle and crowd out liberal voices. The bottom line is that eight years of Clinton set the stage for eight years of Bush. That's what previous Democrat attempts to play to the center have brought us: a simian president.

Ultimately, no one is capable of beating the Republicans on their own turf. It's their ideology, after all. Republican Lite is a losing strategy in both the short term and the long run.

You said, "The key now is just to regain control. Things can move farther to the left from there." That didn't happen under Clinton, and it won't happen in the future, even assuming that they ever do regain control--such a strategy would be considered to be successful by the robots who run the party, and, like lemmings running over the cliff, they would do everything they could to continue it. Really, Miles, what makes you think that conservative Democrats would ever shift to the left once they gained power? Hell, Clinton even moved to the right once he was in office! Things just don't work that way.

The Republicans got where they are because conservatives made a long term commitment back in 1964 (after Barry Goldwater lost to LBJ) to aggressively push a strong, right-wing ideology--believe it or not, there actually used to be some liberal Republicans back in the day; they're all in gulags now. This ideological propagandizing eventually allowed conservatives to overtake the GOP during the Reagan era. From there, they seemed unbeatable. This ground-up approach created a cultural context in which the "Republican Revolution" was inevitable, because there was nothing like it on the liberal side. By the time Newt Gingrich took power in the House, the Democrats felt blindsided, and, indeed, they were. And still are. The Democrats have been floundering ever since. They're pathetic wafflers, standing for only that which they believe will get them votes, perceived as losers by the public, actual losers at the polls.

Turning toward "the center" is simply collaboration with the enemy. What we have now are Vichy Democrats, and the only way that they'll ever have my support again is if they can show that progressive ideals are welcome. Until then, I'm an outsider. And I'm not holding my breath.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Guest Blogger Miles

Democrats not dead yet

From Ron a couple days ago:
A close friend of mine, very intelligent and almost as far to the left as I am, has strongly urged me to stick with the Democrats because, unlike the Green Party, they actually have enough political power to get important legislation passed, or to soften conservative legislation. That's all well and good, but this latest donkey turn toward the right kind of makes that point moot. Democrats do, indeed, have a great deal of power relative to the Greens: it now appears, however, that they are unwilling to support liberal causes. Liberal Americans may still be welcome in the Democratic Party; their ideas, on the other hand, are not.

I'm not sure if Ron was talking about another friend or if that quote was about me (if that's the case, thanks for the compliments), but I'm going to assume the role of the object of his little speech.

The Democrats are obviously in a tough spot right now. At this point, strategically, there's nowhere to go except for the center. For most far-left Greens, such as Ron, centrism is looked on as treason against one's own beliefs. Obviously, most people don't want to be near the center; they want to stick to their own side, hence the left and right. However, the Democrats no longer have a choice. They went with a candidate that was considered too far to the left (I'd strongly disagree), and swing voters were somewhat turned off by Kerry's record of protest, the Swift Boat Vets, his windsurfing, and his wife that dared to speak her mind.

The key now is just to regain control. Things can move farther to the left from there. But now, the goal has to be to get more seats in the House and Senate. If Democrats can't get a good grassroots effort started immediately, then the idea of moving back to the left where they belong is, as Ron said, a "moot point".

Ron, don't be so hard on the Democrats. Wasn't the entire Civil Rights movement of the 60's spearheaded by Democrats? Wasn't universal healthcare proposed by Democrats? Now is not the time to let the GOP walk all over our civil rights and economy because we're bitter over a Democrat or two befriending a Republican or two. This is a pivotal point in American politics, and if more people decide to join Ron and defect from the Democratic party, there will be no real threat to the GOP push for absolute power.

EDIT: Hey Ron, while we're talking about corruption in funding, tell Ralph to give back all that GOP cash.

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Guest Blogger Miles

PAC's spending favored GOP over Dems 10:1

AP - The top-giving corporate political action committees didn't hedge their bets in the fall elections despite the narrow division between the GOP and Democrats in Congress. They favored Republican candidates 10-to-1. Of 268 corporate PACs that donated $100,000 or more to presidential and congressional candidates from January 2003 through the middle of last month, 245 gave the majority of their contributions to GOP hopefuls, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Political Money Line campaign finance tracking service. Twenty-three corporate PACs made more than half their donations to Democratic candidates, according to the study, based on the most recent campaign finance reports available.
Corporate PACs are financed with limited donations from company employees, who can each give up to $5,000 per year. In turn, the PACs can donate up to $5,000 for a primary and another $5,000 for the general election to each federal candidate they support.


It's no secret that PAC's buy votes in Congress. Now there's no denying that PAC's can effectively buy seats, too.


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Tuesday, November 23, 2004

TALES OF THE LIZARD KING:
Watch Tom DeLay Ooze

One morning he awoke in a green hotel
With a strange creature groaning beside him.
Sweat oozed from its shiny skin.

Is everybody in?
The ceremony is about to begin.

From "
The Celebration of the Lizard," by Jim Morrison.

The possible indictment of House GOP Majority Leader Tom DeLay is causing his fellow Republicans in Congress to squirm like worms while trying to protect him. It's quite entertaining, I must say. The last two days have been particularly amusing.

Check out this latest episode. From CBS News:

DeLay Appears To Be Off The Hook

A review of documents made public through civil litigation indicate DeLay was kept aware of the fundraising activities that were taking place. (DeLay’s daughter was a paid consultant to two fund-raising committees that pumped money into the races.)

Nevertheless, the official familiar with investigation said investigators would have to establish that DeLay "acted to promote" the illegal activity, and that such evidence had not been forthcoming.

"To indict and prosecute someone, we have to be able to show not just that they were aware of something," the official explained. "We have to show that they engaged in enough conduct to make them party to the offense."

There were also jurisdictional hurdles, the official said.

"For a penal code offense [such as money laundering] we would have to find something done in Travis County, Texas, to be able to indict," the officials said. "And [DeLay] wasn’t here very often."

Click
here for more.

I wonder if this mysterious "official" used by CBS as a source is a Republican. Why? Well, in addition to the fact that it's hard to throw a rock in Texas without hitting one of those scalawags, there's this from the Houston Chronicle:

None 'off the hook' in probe

A Travis County prosecutor Monday said no one is "off the hook" in the investigation of a political committee founded by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land.

Assistant District Attorney Gregg Cox, who is leading the investigation, said all individuals associated with Texans for a Republican Majority are still potential suspects in the case. But Cox said no further grand jury investigation or potential indictments will occur before January.


"No one has ever named Tom DeLay or any other individual as a target in this investigation. Nor have we ever said that anyone is off the hook," Cox said.

Cox said District Attorney Ronnie Earle "has repeatedly said that anybody who committed a crime is a target in this investigation. And this investigation is ongoing."

Cox reacted to a CBS News report that said DeLay is unlikely to be indicted in the case by saying, "It would be premature to talk about who may or may not be indicted at this point."

Click
here for the rest.

Clearly, this "off the hook" thing is an attempt, as Eric Alterman might say, to work the refs. That is, it's all about spin and public perception of the scandal, which could become extremely important if DeLay is ultimately indicted. If the idea that DeLay is "off the hook" becomes firmly planted in the public consciousness, "common knowledge" among journalists, it makes dismissing a possible indictment as being politically motivated even easier for Republicans, which allows them to continue worshipping their Lizard King, nuzzling at his slimy, scaly teat.

Of course the Republicans are already trying to minimize the impact of the scandal by dismissing the investigation of DeLay as being politically motivated. That was the rationale behind the recent House GOP rule change that would allow DeLay to continue as Majority Leader even if indicted. And the whole thing's got the guy who's leading the investigation hopping mad. From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Earle lashes out over DeLay support

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who is leading an investigation into possible illegal campaign spending, lashed out at congressional Republicans today, chastising their decision to change their rules in order to protect U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Last week, congressional Republicans voted to change a rule that requires an indicted leader to relinquish his position, which would allow DeLay to maintain his power if indicted in the ongoing investigation.


"Politicians in Congress are responsible for the leaders they choose. Their choices reflect their moral values," Earle wrote in an opinion piece published in The New York Times. "The cynical destruction of moral values at the top makes it hard for law enforcement to do its job
."

Click
here for more.

This just keeps getting better. I can't wait for the next episode: if I understand correctly, William Shatner, dressed in a torn shirt, will fight Tom DeLay to the death on a rocky, desert planet using only primitive weapons. Will DeLay's superior reptilian strength prevail? Or will Shatner's human ingenuity and Canadian chutzpa win out?

Wait, I'm imagining things again.

Separated at birth?




Probably.

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WANNA SEE THE PRESIDENT
WITH HIS ZIPPER DOWN?

No, not Clinton, I mean the current guy.

Click here for mirth.

This is courtesy of Atrios over at Eschaton, and, as he says, "Someone left the barn door open..." Ain't that the truth. This is now my favorite picture of Bush; it really captures his essence.

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Monday, November 22, 2004

WHY THE DEMOCRATS SUCK
Two from ZNet

First, an essay on how the Democrats appear to be trying, yet again, to combat the Republicans by moving to the right:

Democrats Commit Suicide

The saga began to unfold following Democratic Senate minority leader Tom Daschle’s horrific defeat to Republican John Thume in the South Dakotan Senate race on November 2. After Daschle’s loss, Democratic National Committee chair, Terry McAuliffe, was on the phone rallying support behind one of his favorite Senators -- Nevada’s own, Harry Reid.

Reid, an admitted friend of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, was being tapped for the position well before Daschle’s defeat, and quickly gained enough support to assure his appointment and upcoming confirmation. A conservative Mormon, Reid, who was born and raised in Nevada, could just as well have ran as a Republican when he chose to do so in 1982.


His positions on trade, abortion, war, civil liberties, and health-care mirror the Republicans almost identically.


In fact, his adversaries adore him for his conservative propensities. Fellow Mormon and right-wing Senator Orrin Hatch, a high-ranking Republican from Utah, says, “We all respect Senator Reid. He is one of the moderate voices around here who tries to get things to work.”


Reid’s politics, like that of George W. Bush, are greatly influenced by his religious philosophy. His opposition to gay-marriage and abortion are certainly prejudiced by his rigid Mormon principles. Reid, a gospel teacher at his local church-ward in Washington DC, will become the highest elected Mormon in US history. And he is sure to make the Latter Day Saints’ community quite proud.


Click here for the rest.

A close friend of mine, very intelligent and almost as far to the left as I am, has strongly urged me to stick with the Democrats because, unlike the Green Party, they actually have enough political power to get important legislation passed, or to soften conservative legislation. That's all well and good, but this latest donkey turn toward the right kind of makes that point moot. Democrats do, indeed, have a great deal of power relative to the Greens: it now appears, however, that they are unwilling to support liberal causes. Liberal Americans may still be welcome in the Democratic Party; their ideas, on the other hand, are not.

And just to drive that home, here's an essay on what the Democrats should be doing, but aren't:

Stand Up For Moral Value Of Economic Justice

When issues of economic justice disappear from moral consideration, what's left of "values" is personal behavior alone. The religious right has played its role in the class wars of the last 30 years by giving the corporate agenda what passes for moral cover while reinforcing its extreme individualism. The values debate, defined by the right, has aided the rise of corporate power and the decline of labor's strength.

Reviving workers' living standards requires direct challenges to out-of-control corporate greed and unrestricted market power. To be effective, these challenges must involve a resurrection of the language of economic justice and mutual responsibility for our human community and natural environment. All progressive policy reforms and limits to corporate power flow from these essential values.

Democrats make a mistake to couch their programs solely in terms of the immediate interests of voters without placing those interests in their moral context. People rightly wish to advocate moral values and can be willing to sacrifice some material comfort for them. Polls have repeatedly shown that most Americans say they are willing to pay somewhat higher taxes if they can be sure the money will be put to social good. When Democrats speak only of "interests," they play into the corporate ethos of stark individualism, reinforce the agenda of the right and cede the moral high ground to the Republican agenda.

Click here for more.

Why, the Democrats play the class card so ineptly, it almost seems as if their power structure doesn't want there to be any economic justice for working Americans. And, whadayaknow, the Democratic power structure, in fact, is dominated by corporate and wealthy interests who, it just so happens, do not want there to be any economic justice for working Americans. Democratic progressivism ultimately amounts to simple rhetoric, designed to attract liberal voters, but little more. Face it, these guys are either total losers or stealth Republicans. Either way, liberals are fools to continue supporting them.

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Sunday, November 21, 2004

Warming's effects start to be more noticeable

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The effects, from rising water levels along coastal areas to behavioral changes in animals and plants, are becoming more noticeable to Americans, said biologist Camille Parmesan of Austin.

More than 40 global warming studies reviewed by the scientist at the University of Texas at Austin and researchers at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change found more than half show strong evidence of a direct link between man-made global warming in the United States and changes in plants and animal behavior.

Click here for the rest.

And one wonders, does this change in animal behavior caused by man-made global warming have anything to do with this next story? Again from the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Swarms of locusts descend on southern Israel

Swarms of locusts devoured lawns and palm trees today in southern Israel, panicking farmers and leaving others worried about biblical plagues.

The pests swept up from Egypt, working their way north on a path that could take them to the West Bank town of Jericho, where Secretary of State Colin Powell was slated to meet Palestinian officials Monday.


The red locusts originated in West Africa and traveled over Libya and Egypt. The insects are present every year in Africa, but this year's swarms are especially large due to prolonged periods of heavy rainfall, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

Click here for more.

If I were a fundamentalist, I would have to say that Israel's policies toward the Palestinians have brought down the wrath of God. But then, I'm no fundamentalist, so that's just a bunch of hooey. However, I think it's very likely that changing climate patterns due to global warming have brought the locusts to the land of milk and honey. God's wrath, Mother Nature's fury, it's all the same. I think we're all in big trouble.

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Republican Ethics

From
AlterNet, uber-Texan Molly Ivins fills us in on the GOP House rule change that will allow Tom DeLay to retain his post as Majority Leader even if indicted:

The rule was passed in 1993, when Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, was being investigated for ethics violations. And who helped lead the floor fight to force him to resign his powerful position? Why, Tom DeLay, of course. (Actually, it's sort of a funny story. The D's already had a caucus rule that you had to resign from any leadership position if indicted. The R's changed their rules to match the D's, except they deliberately did not make their rule retroactive, so the highly indicted Rep. Joseph McDade, senior Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, could, unlike Rostenkowski, retain his seat.)

DeLay has already been admonished by the House Ethics Committee three times on separate violations of ethics rules. Please note, that is the Republican-dominated Ethics Committee. The hilarious rationale offered by the R's for the new rule to exempt DeLay is that no one can accuse them of taking the moral low road here because, "That line of reasoning accepts that exercise of the prosecutor in Texas is legitimate."

Uh, that would be Ronnie Earle of Austin, who is a known Democrat. On the other hand, Earle is quite noted for having indicted more Democratic officeholders than Republicans, so it's a little hard to argue that this is a partisan political probe. Or it would be, if facts made any difference these days to talk-show screamers.

Click
here for the rest.

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Creeping Creationism

From the Nation:

Some days it feels like 1925--when William Jennings Bryan defended the merits of creationism in the Scopes Monkey trial--all over again.

I've written before about how the Right wants to dismantle the achievements of the 20th century--the New Deal, environmentalism, civil rights and civil liberties. But now rightwing social conservatives, our home-grown fundamentalists, are seeking to unravel the scaffolding of science and reason, and this battle deserves attention from humanists of all stripes. One of the most virulent expressions of the rightwing assault on modernity is the war against evolution being waged in America's classrooms and courtrooms, parks and civic institutions.


Slipping creationism into civic discussions picked up steam in the 1990s. That's when
Kansas issued new state science guidelines in which "evolution" was replaced with the phrase "change over time," and Illinois made a similar change.

In Oklahoma and Alabama, creationists inserted disclaimers into biology textbooks which cast doubt on evolution. In 1999, school boards in Arizona, Alabama, Illinois, New Mexico, Texas and Nebraska tried to modify the teaching of evolution, in some cases trying to have it excised from the state standards.

Now, we're into the 21st century, Bush is in the White House for another four years, and creationists feel emboldened to impose their beliefs on secular America. From schools to parks, creationists are moving aggressively.

Click here for the rest.

Back when I was teaching high school in Texas, I got an email from one of my students who wanted to know what I thought about evolution. So I told him: evolution is a scientific fact. You don't have to agree with it, but understand that if you don't, you're up against the consensus of the scientific community. Even if you fall for all that nonsense that "evolution is just a theory, and cannot be proven in the same way we can demonstrate that sodium and chlorine become salt," you can't deny that humans and chimpanzees differ from each other by only 2% on a genetic level. That silly "theory" argument betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how science works: electricty, atoms, relativity, these are all theories as well, and if you start bashing evolution for being a theory, you might as well start bashing electricity, too. You can easily argue that evolution was God's divine plan (what the hell do scientists know about God's will?), but you're moving outside of the realm of science if you take the position that evolution didn't happen at all. Again, you don't have to believe me, but you must understand that this is what science says.

A few days later, I was called to the principal's office and questioned about my email. Straight up, I told him what I wrote--after all, it's the twenty first century; why should I feel nervous or guilty about defending science? I made sure to stress that I didn't tell the kid that he had to believe in evolution, just that he had to understand it in order to understand biology, to understand science. My principal told me to watch what I told my students. Apparently, his parents had gotten pretty angry. It is important to note that this student was eighteen years old at the time, a senior in the last couple of months of the school year, essentially an adult. I wasn't messing with some fourteen year-old's impressionable mind here; I was trying to have a scaled down intellectual discussion with a grown-up.

The point to this little rant is not that fundamentalists are lunatics, which is obvious. Rather, my point is to show just how far along this whole creationist thing has come: I was admonished by my boss for defending science even though I made a special effort to stress to my student that he didn't have to believe in evolution at all!!! For some reason, out of countless outrages perpetrated by the fundamentalists, creationism in the schools really gets under my skin. Maybe it's because attacking evolution is a direct attack on logic and rationality itself. I'm not sure, but these people just make my blood boil.

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THE 100 GREATEST TV THEME SONGS

A list compiled by the weirdos at retroCRUSH:

I'm a super TV theme song junkie and have always appreciated a good tune to set the mood of the show. Over the next few weeks we'll be paying tribute to The 100 Greatest TV Theme Songs. We've used over 2 years of reader feedback, and expert research to come up with a list that you're sure to love with many of your favorites guaranteed to be included. So keep coming back each day for more as we count 'em down to #1! You'll learn about the people behind the songs, and we'll be spreading the retro love and linking up a lot of cool sites that love these songs and shows as much as we do!

And here are some of the highlights thus far (as of this writing they've only counted down to number 78):

#99 CBS SPECIAL THEME

#94 THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN

#90 UNDERDOG

#87 HONG KONG PHOOEY

#82 SQUARE PEGS

#80 DARK SHADOWS

#78 THREE'S COMPANY

Click here for the rest.

I have to mention that my personal favorite of the list thus far is the CBS Special theme, often played before Peanuts and other holiday shows in the early 70s. Here's a direct link to streaming audio of the coolest six second song I've ever heard.

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Saturday, November 20, 2004

REAL ART GIVES THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT
Most Votes For A Chimp In A Political Campaign

Friday was another one of those weird days when Real Art gets an upsurge in hits from searches, and as usual, it was quite by accident. The search phrase that helped constitute Friday's 66 hit total, which is more than three times the daily average, was "chimp received over 400,000 mayoral election votes." Indeed, I've used the word "chimp" many times to refer to our simian President, and I'm sure I've used the words, "mayoral," "election," and "votes" a number of times as well, but I can't say when I've used the number "400,000."

Anyway, the people are apparently demanding to know about the chimp who ran for mayor, and Real Art always listens to the people. From the Guinness World Records site:

In the 1988 mayoral elections campaign in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the anti-establishment "Brazilian Banana Party" presented a chimpanzee called Tião as their candidate. The name Tião means "Big Uncle" in Portuguese, and the moody monkey (well, ape, to be exact) had the campaign slogan "Vote monkey - get monkey".

Click here for the rest of the article as well as a picture of famed movie chimp and Ronald Reagan co-star, Bonzo, giving a political stump speech. Seriously, check it out. I'm not monkeying around here.

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The stench in change that helps DeLay smells fishy

An angry essay by the Washington Post's E. J. Dionne on the recent House GOP rule change that would allow Tom DeLay to continue as Majority Leader even if he's indicted, via the Houston Chronicle:

Recall how Republicans dismissed any and all who charged that the investigations of President Bill Clinton by special prosecutor Ken Starr were politically motivated. Ah, but those were investigations of a shady Democrat by a distinguished Republican. When a Democrat is investigating a Republican, it can only be about politics. Is that clear?

Rep. Henry Bonilla, the Texas Republican who sponsored the resolution to protect DeLay, said it was designed to protect against "crackpot" prosecutors whose indictments might get in the way of the ability of House Republicans to choose their own leaders. Can't let a little thing like an indictment get in the way of the sovereignty of House Republicans, can we?

"Attorneys tell me you can be indicted for just about anything in this country," said Bonilla. Remember the old days during the Clinton impeachment when Republicans went on and on about the importance of "the rule of law?" Oh, well.

DeLay's response to the whole thing came, almost word for word, from Clinton's old talking points. "We must stop the politics of personal destruction," Clinton said in December 1998 after the House impeachment vote that DeLay had rammed through. On Wednesday, DeLay said that Democrats "announced years ago that they were going to engage in the politics of personal destruction and had me as a target." Maybe it's time for Bill and Tom to sit down at that big new library in Little Rock for a friendly drink.

Click here for the rest.

Of course, what Dionne leaves out is that Clinton was impeached for lying about a private sexual encounter, while DeLay is under investigation for violating campaign finance laws and racketeering. Call me old fashioned, but I do think there's a wee bit of difference: Kenneth Starr's investigation was, indeed, politically motivated; Travis County DA Ronnie Earle's investigation is not--of the fifteen politicians Earle has prosecuted throughout his career, eleven of them were Democrats, and I think that statistic speaks for itself.

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Thursday, November 18, 2004

THE BUSH ECONOMY
Key economic gauge suggests slowdown

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The Index of Leading Economic Indicators, a widely watched gauge of future economic activity, fell in October for the fifth straight month, suggesting that the economy may be slowing, a private research group reported today.

The Conference Board said that its main indicator of future economic growth fell 0.3 percent in October, following declines of the same size in September and August. The October decline was steeper than the fall of 0.1 percent that economists had been expecting.

Ken Goldstein, an economist at the New York-based research group, called the latest decline in the index "a clear signal that the economy is losing steam." He also said that "worries about where the economy is headed may cause some strategic plans to be put on hold."

Click
here for the rest.

I guess this means tax cuts for the rich aren't working. I'm sure that the Republican response will be something to the effect that the tax cuts weren't big enough so we need more. It's kind of like the old Saturday Night Live skit where Steve Martin plays a medieval doctor who so strongly believes in the archaic medical practice of bloodletting that his patient bleeds to death. That's what the Republicans are doing now, bleeding us to death. My god, what was half the country thinking when they voted for Bush?

Republican Economic Policy

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WAL-MART SUCKS: THE MOVIE

I watched a bit of a fantastic PBS Frontline documentary on Wal-Mart a couple of days ago. Here's an excerpt from the online introduction:

In Circleville, Ohio, population 13,000, the local RCA television-manufacturing plant was once a source of good jobs with good pay and benefits. But in late 2003, RCA's owner, Thomson Consumer Electronics, lost a sizeable portion of its production orders and six months later shut the plant down, throwing 1,000 people out of work.

Thomson's jobs have moved to China, where cheap labor manufactures what the American consumer desires -- from clothing to electronics -- and can buy at "everyday low prices" at the local Wal-Mart.

FRONTLINE explores the relationship between U.S. job losses and the American consumer's insatiable desire for bargains in "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" Through interviews with retail executives, product manufacturers, economists, and trade experts, correspondent Hedrick Smith examines the growing controversy over the Wal-Mart way of doing business and asks whether a single retail giant has changed the American economy.

"Wal-Mart's power and influence are awesome," Smith says. "By figuring out how to exploit
two powerful forces that converged in the 1990s -- the rise of information technology and the explosion of the global economy -- Wal-Mart has dramatically changed the balance of power in the world of business. Retailers are now more powerful than manufacturers, and they are forcing the decision to move production offshore."

"Wal-Mart has reversed a hundred-year history that had the retailer dependent on the manufacturer," explains Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara. "Now the retailer is the center, the power, and the manufacturer becomes the serf, the vassal, the underling who has to do the bidding of the retailer. That's a new thing."

Click here for the online companion to Is Wal-Mart Good for America?, which also contains a video link (active starting Friday) if you want to watch the entire show. I know I'm going to.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

THE PRIVILEGE OF POWER
Rule change to protect DeLay approved

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

House Republicans approved a party rules change today that could allow Majority leader Tom DeLay to retain his leadership post if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury on state political corruption charges.

By a voice vote, and with a handful of lawmakers voicing opposition, the House Republican Conference decided that a party committee of several dozen members would review any felony indictment of a party leader and recommend at that time whether the leader should step aside.


The current party rule in this area requires House Republican leaders and the heads of the various committees to relinquish their positions if indicted for a crime that could bring a prison term of at least two years. It makes no distinction between a federal and state indictment. Three of DeLay's political associates already have been indicted by that Texas grand jury.


Click here for the rest.

I'm sure that if there actually ends up being an indictment against DeLay, that this new party committee will find that it has no merit whether that's true or not. Kinda makes me wonder if DeLay ended up being convicted, would they again change the rules to allow him to continue as House Majority Leader from prison?

I bet they'd try.

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ECONOMIC CATASTROPHE
The Coming Currency Shock

And you can blame this one on both the Democrats and the Republicans. From CounterPunch courtesy of J. Orlin Grabbe, economist Paul Craig Roberts on the high potential for a massive collapse of the dollar, and its catastrophic consequences:

As a reserve currency fulfills world needs in addition to the functions of a domestic currency, the favored country can hemorrhage debt for a protracted period on a scale that would promptly wreck any other country's currency.

This advantage is a two-edged sword, because it permits the reserve country to behave irresponsibly by running large trade and budget deficits. When the tide turns against the reserve currency, its exchange value collapses.

The reason for the collapse is the huge stock of reserve currency held by foreigners. When other countries conclude that their hoards of dollars represent claims that the US cannot meet, dollar dumping begins. Financing for US debt dries up; interest rates rise; imported goods become unaffordable and living standards fall.

Flight from the dollar is already underway.

And this could get much, much worse very quickly, because China, which has recently surpassed Japan as being the nation with whom the US has its largest trade deficit, has pegged it's currency value to the dollar:

Sooner or later the peg will come to an end--perhaps when China fulfills its WTO obligation to let its currency float. When the peg ends, it will deliver a severe shock to US living standards. Suddenly, Chinese manufactured goods--including advanced technology products--on which the US is now dependent will cost much more. Overnight, shopping at Wal-Mart will be like shopping in high-end department stores.

Click here for the rest (and be sure to scroll down past the fundraising message to get to the story).

The article also talks about how outsourcing has also contributed to this potential disaster: sending virtually all US manufacturing overseas is the same thing as sending virtually all real value overseas. That is, the dollar only holds international value because it is perceived as being valuable. Once that perception vanishes and the dollar is seen as basically worthless, the US would have no real assets on which to fall back; the corporations have moved them elsewhere. We're in big fucking trouble, and as Roberts points out:

Overcome by hubris and superpower delusion, US policymakers are unaware of America's peril. Economists and pundits are equally in the dark.

Like I said, big fucking trouble. No one in power will even understand what's happening until it's too late.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

AMERICAN ZEITGEIST, 2004

From Merriam-Webster Online:

zeitgeist : the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era

And I would say that the reigning sense of zeitgeist at this very moment is gay anxiety. Check this story out from the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Texas school district nixes 'cross-dressing day'

A parent's concerns prompted the district 150 miles northeast of Houston to scrap its annual "TWIRP Day" -- when boys dress like girls and girls dress like boys-- in favor of "Camo Day."

TWIRP stands for "The Woman Is Requested to Pay," and for years Spurger schools hosted the day during Homecoming Week to give boys and girls a chance to reverse social roles and let older girls invite boys on dates, open doors and pay for sodas.


Plano-based Liberty Legal Institute issued a news release Tuesday reporting that it "came to the aid of a concerned parent requesting an excused absence for her children on official cross-dressing day in her children's elementary school."

"It is outrageous that a school in a small town in East Texas would encourage their 4-year-olds to be cross-dressers," Liberty Legal Institute attorney Hiram Sasser said in the release.

Click here for the rest.

It is important to note that this "TWIRP Day" sounds a whole lot less like some glam-rock, bisexual, androgeny thing and a whole lot more like Milton Berle or Flip Wilson dolling themselves up for cheap laughs. Indeed, the high school "powder puff football game," where cheerleaders and drill team girls take to the gridiron for four quarters of manly head bashing while the real football players cross-dress and do cheer routines on the sidelines, is a time honored tradition in the great state of Texas--the awful drag is generally pretty funny.

Of course, it's now 2004, and everybody's scared shitless of being or being perceived as gay: if you dress like a girl, you damn well better mean it.

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RESISTING THE STEALTH DRAFT

From the New York Times courtesy of Eschaton:

The Army has encountered resistance from more than 2,000 former soldiers it has ordered back to military work, complicating its efforts to fill gaps in the regular troops.

Many of these former soldiers - some of whom say they have not trained, held a gun, worn a uniform or even gone for a jog in years - object to being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan now, after they thought they were through with life on active duty.

They are seeking exemptions, filing court cases or simply failing to report for duty, moves that will be watched closely by approximately 110,000 other members of the Individual Ready Reserve, a corps of soldiers who are no longer on active duty but still are eligible for call-up.

In the last few months, the Army has sent notices to more than 4,000 former soldiers informing them that they must return to active duty, but more than 1,800 of them have already requested exemptions or delays, many of which are still being considered.

And, of about 2,500 who were due to arrive on military bases for refresher training by Nov. 7, 733 had not shown up.


Click here for the rest.

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OUTRAGE
News video shows Marine
shooting wounded prisoner

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

A U.S. Marine shot and killed a wounded and apparently unarmed Iraqi prisoner in a mosque in the former insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, according to dramatic pool television pictures broadcast Monday. A Marine spokesman in Washington said the shooting was under investigation. The shooting Saturday was videotaped by pool correspondent Kevin Sites of NBC television, who said three other previously wounded prisoners in the mosque apparently also had been shot again by the Marines inside the mosque.

Click here for the rest.

How many more "isolated incidents" do there need to be before we admit there's a problem? War corrupts, and it sounds like this war is no different from any other. I keep saying that the longer we're there, the more atrocities like this we'll see. This is just horrible, but I expect that it's only an accident that we know about it at all. Bush's war is making murderers out of young Americans.

This is exactly the kind of thing that Chomsky is talking about in the post below.

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Monday, November 15, 2004

NOAM CHOMSKY ON A POTENTIAL DRAFT

From
Democracy Now:

So I was very much involved in the resistance, but I was never against the draft. I disagreed with a lot of my friends and associates on that, for a very good reason, I think at least as nobody seems to agree. In my view, if there's going to be an army, I think it ought to be a citizen's army. Now, here I do agree with some people, the top brass, they don't want a citizen's army. They want a mercenary army, what we call a volunteer army. A mercenary army of the disadvantaged. And in fact, in the Vietnam war, the U.S. military realized, they had made a very bad mistake. I mean, for the first time I think ever in the history of European imperialism, including us, they had used a citizen's army to fight a vicious, brutal, colonial war, and civilians just cannot do that kind of a thing. For that, you need the French foreign legion, the Gurkhas or something like that. Every predecessor has used mercenaries, often drawn from the country that they're attacking like England ran India with Indian mercenaries. You take them from one place and send them to kill people in the other place. That's the standard way to run imperial wars. They're just too brutal and violent and murderous. Civilians are not going to be able to do it for very long.

Click
here for the rest (and you can either read a transcript of the speech, listen to it, or watch a video of it).

Chomsky raises a very good point about the draft: the only possible moderating influence on the military is the citizen soldier. However, at this point in my life, even though I'm too old to be drafted, I couldn't see myself actually going off to fight in the oil wars: I think I'd move to Canada or something. I also don't think I could stop myself from advising my friends and acquaintances of draft age to resist as well. This is probably irrational, but sometimes it's hard to argue with gut instinct.

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On 'Moral Values,' It's Blue in a Landslide

From the New York Times courtesy of
This Modern World:

There's only one problem with the storyline proclaiming that the country swung to the right on cultural issues in 2004. Like so many other narratives that immediately calcify into our 24/7 media's conventional wisdom, it is fiction. Everything about the election results - and about American culture itself - confirms an inescapable reality: John Kerry's defeat notwithstanding, it's blue America, not red, that is inexorably winning the culture war, and by a landslide. Kerry voters who have been flagellating themselves since Election Day with a vengeance worthy of "The Passion of the Christ" should wake up and smell the Chardonnay.

The blue ascendancy is nearly as strong among Republicans as it is among Democrats. Those whose "moral values" are invested in cultural heroes like the accused loofah fetishist Bill O'Reilly and the self-gratifying drug consumer Rush Limbaugh are surely joking when they turn apoplectic over MTV. William Bennett's name is now as synonymous with Las Vegas as silicone. The Democrats' Ashton Kutcher is trumped by the Republicans' Britney Spears. Excess and vulgarity, as always, enjoy a vast, bipartisan constituency, and in a democracy no political party will ever stamp them out.

If anyone is laughing all the way to the bank this election year, it must be the undisputed king of the red cultural elite, Rupert Murdoch. Fox News is a rising profit center within his News Corporation, and each red-state dollar that it makes can be plowed back into the rest of Fox's very blue entertainment portfolio. The Murdoch cultural stable includes recent books like Jenna Jameson's "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star" and the Vivid Girls' "How to Have a XXX Sex Life," which have both been synergistically, even joyously, promoted on Fox News by willing hosts like Rita Cosby and, needless to say, Mr. O'Reilly. There are "real fun parts and exciting parts," said Ms. Cosby to Ms. Jameson on Fox News's "Big Story Weekend," an encounter broadcast on Saturday at 9 p.m., assuring its maximum exposure to unsupervised kids.

Click
here for the rest.

Well, that's actually a refreshing thought: America likes to sin, conservative and liberal alike. Despite the right-wing hypocrisy on this issue, however, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight to all the annoying rhetoric. Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who has a history with prostitutes and sleazy motels, recently threatened from his pulpit right here in Baton Rouge to kill any homosexual who looks at him as potential marriage material. Even though it's hard to take a man like Swaggart seriously, many do, and such statements serve to egg on individuals already predisposed toward violence against homosexuals. It's nice to know that "moral values" aren't that big of a deal for most Americans, but this whole crusade is still a problem that isn't going away soon.


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