TWO BY UBER-TEXAN MOLLY IVINS
I just love columnist Molly Ivins. She first came to my attention when I learned that she was the speechwriter for then Texas Governor Anne Richards who came up with this line referring to our President's daddy back in 1992: "Poor George. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth." Heh. The same can be said for George W. today. Indeed, Molly's still at it, using her poison pen twice weekly to blast conservative nutjobs with the kind of Texas flair that would no doubt be more widespread in the state if there weren't so many conservative nutjobs around.
Anyway, I've got a couple of her latest.
First, from AlterNet, Ivins casts the blame for right-wing steal-from-the-poor policies squarely on the shoulders of the Democrats:
Dumb Dems Let GOP Run Wild
The unholy combination of theocracy and plutocracy that now rules this country is, in fact, enabled by dumb liberals. Many a weary liberal on the Internet and elsewhere has been involved in the tedious study of the entrails from the last election, trying to figure out where Democrats went wrong. I don't have a dog in that fight, but I can guarantee you where they're going wrong for the next election: 73 Democratic House members and 18 Democratic senators voted for that hideous bankruptcy "reform" bill that absolutely screws regular people.
And it's not just consumers who were screwed by the lobbyist-written bill. The Wall Street Journal shows small businesses are also getting the shaft, as the finance industry charges them higher and higher transaction fees. If Democrats aren't going to stand up for regular people, to hell with them.
Click here for the rest.
And from WorkingForChange, Ivins goes after the President's love of stem cells:
Bush supports culture of life; not in Iraq, of course
"Catapulting the propaganda" would explain his performance at the press opportunity that same day at which he appeared surrounded by babies born from frozen embryos. He used the phrase "culture of life" at least 27 dozen times (I think I exaggerate, but maybe not). "The use of federal dollars to destroy life is something I simply do not support," he said to the press the following day.
Meanwhile, back in Baghdad, federal dollars are being used to destroy life at pretty good clip because Bush decided to wage an entirely elective war against a country that presented little or no threat to us. And according to the Downing Street memo, he damn well knew it, too.
Click here for the rest.
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
TWO BY UBER-TEXAN MOLLY IVINS
Posted by Ron at 2:22 AM
Monday, May 30, 2005
Former pastor, congregants face child-sex and satanic accusations
From the New York times via the Houston Chronicle:
But by two years ago, when the church finally closed after a ferocious falling-out between the late pastor's son and successor, Louis Lamonica Jr., and his family, the congregation that once neared 1,000 had dwindled to 10 or 15 troubled souls from a handful of families.
And now, many of them, including the former pastor and a deputy sheriff who once lived on the church grounds, are behind bars, accused by the police of a litany of ungodly offenses, including sexual abuse of perhaps two dozen children and the mutilations of cats for satanic rituals.
Eddie Robinson, assistant pastor at the 5,000-member Harvest World Outreach Ministries in nearby Hammond — to which many Hosanna members migrated — says what happened is clear. He told congregants Sunday that a prophecy of "witchcraft" problems had been revealed to the church leadership in recent weeks.
Click here for the rest.
My general opinion is that there really aren't any Satanists at all: the few people I've met who claim to have dabbled in Satanism were, without exception, disaffected and socially inept teenagers who listen to heavy metal. Who in their right mind would worship Satan? I mean, whether you believe in Lucifer or not, he is Western civilization's most identifiable icon for evil. Usually, people who really are evil, even Hitler, fool themselves into thinking that what they do is somehow good. Nobody worships Satan. Remember all those Satanic ritual child abuse cases in day care centers from the 1980s that were freaking people out? They all turned out to be bullshit. Satanism is a big joke.
But the case mentioned above is interesting. This is a fundamentalist church, and these people not only believe in the Dark One's existence, they belive he is a living presence on Earth, struggling with God's angels in order to gain the upper hand in influencing our individual choices and behavior. If anybody in Western culture has the potential to become a Satanist for real, it is a fundamentalist, because fundamentalists already have a world view that makes such an absurd concept possible.
I'm very curious as to how this turns out. These are probably false allegations, readily believed by small town hysterical religious nuts. But I could be wrong. If I am, I have to wonder. Could the emotionally driven, supernaturally irrational ranks of Christian fundamentalism become spawing vats for some new weird Satanic movement? Ten years ago, I would have never entertained such a notion, but things are pretty weird these days. Anything could happen.
Posted by Ron at 1:37 AM
"WAR HERO" AND NFL STAR
Killing Their Own Poster Boy
I want to know how the hate mongers and internet thugs feel now, knowing that they were duped about the real circumstances of Tillman's death. Yes, once again the American people discover they have been lied to. Lied to by the same people who told us that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9-11, and that the US occupation was 'liberating" the people of Iraq by bombing their country to pieces and stealing their oil.
I can also only wonder if those so protective of Pat Tillman's memory will exhibit a fraction of the bravery being shown by Pat's parents Patrick and Mary. The divorced couple has decided to go public with their fury at a government that profaned the body of their dead son.
Patrick and Mary now know that Pat did not die at the hands of the Taliban while charging up a hill, but was shot by his own troops in an instance of what they call 'fratricide.' Patrick and Mary now know that Tillman's men realized they had gunned him down 'within moments.' They know that the soldiers - in an effort to cover up the killing of the All American 'poster boy' - burned Tillman's uniform and body armor.
They know that over the next 10 days, top-ranking Army officials, including the all too appropriately titled 'theater commander,' Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, hid the truth of Tillman's death, while Pentagon script writers conjured a Hollywood ending.
Click here for the rest.
Yep, just as I thought, it's the Jessica Lynch show all over again. Only this time, the Pentagon was using a dead man, royally screwing over his family, as the star of their made-for-TV reality program. Obviously, this is extraordinarily offensive. But the real issue here is that the US is losing in both Afghanistan and Iraq: instead of bringing our troops home, out of harm's way, the Pentagon is clearly trying to keep important information about the war from the public; worse, they're simply making shit up in order to make it all seem better. I think it's safe to say at this point that nothing that the military says can be believed. They're fucking liars.
Posted by Ron at 1:23 AM
Sunday, May 29, 2005
WORK IN PROGRESS
I'm reworking my links over to the left to try to make them a bit more user friendly. Unfortunately, it may take me several days to do it as I struggle with the html code, so please bear with the unsightliness of it all. When I'm done, it ought to be...more cool.
UPDATE: That didn't take me nearly as long as I thought it would. Essentially, the links are the same as they were before; I've just categorized them to make it easier to know what they'll take you to. However, I probably will be adding some stuff to the REAL ART'S GREATEST HITS section pretty soon. I've also moved the link to the Real Art Theme Song over to the upper right corner.
I think it looks prettier this way. Don't you?
Posted by Ron at 9:42 PM
UNDERGROUND THEATER COMES TO BATON ROUGE
Renegade Shakespeare Company's Twelfth Night
For years now in both Austin and Houston, there have been numerous theater companies that I like to call "underground." They're not professional companies like the Alley in Houston, but they're not really community theater groups, either. Underground companies, like community theater groups, generally are unpaid, performing because they love it. However, underground theater is far more concerned with theater-as-art. That is, they typically deal with material that is more challenging and edgy, for both performers and audiences, than the typical murder mystery or Rodgers and Hammerstein fare one finds in a community "little theater." Furthermore, underground theater seems to have less money than the community theater, so venues are typically non-standard. I've performed, myself, in bars, above bars, in dilapidated warehouses, an old movie theater, and a junkyard/artist's commune. I'm sure you get the idea. The flexibility of performance space makes underground theater less stuffy, more fun--generally, audiences can drink and smoke during underground theater performances. It really is, when done well, theater for the common man.
Personally, I'm of the opinion that the underground theater is quite likely the future of the theater as an institution, if there is any future at all for the four thousand year old art form.
That's why I'm so happy to report that Baton Rouge now has a new underground company. Actually, as far as I can tell, it's the only underground company in town. A great big round of applause for the Renegade Shakespeare Company. From their website:
We Do What We Want
Renegade Shakespeare Company is a new performing arts group formed in spring 2005 whose mission is to develop a core of young professional actors who work as a family to produce quality live productions. These productions are driven by quality of the performances, not spectacle or expense. We strive to promote an understanding and love of Shakespeare by training company actors, area high school students, and other community members in the techniques and traditions of Shakespearean performance. Through productions and workshops we aim to provide area performers and audiences with more opportunities for participation in professionally organized and run theatrical performances.
See? Theater for the common man. Kickass.
The great thing is that they live up to their mission statement. The production of Twelfth Night I saw earlier this evening was pretty darned good. Of course, it was in a bar, so I had a couple of beers while I watched--that's always pleasing to an audience, and really much more Shakespearean than what one ordinarily encounters in theaters. But it's not just the beers: these guys are good. Well, they're all undergraduate theater students at LSU, so they'd better be, at the very least, okay. But they were much better than that. They approached the show very simply, virtually no set, no pre-recorded sound effects or music, just a few lights, a small platform as stage and some costumes. Simplicity was also the the rule of thumb when it came to the actors' performances: they didn't try to force anything; they just let the text do all the work, and I was rewarded with a very clear and understandable telling of the story. Furthermore, their mastery of language was impressive. I'm not terribly familiar with Twelfth Night but thanks to the actors, the vast majority of the poetry had its intended impact.
The show closed tonight, but the Renegades have more in store: they're planning to do a show a month with Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile in June, the Jesus-rock musical Godspell in July, and back to Shakespeare with Romeo and Juliet in August. I hope they can keep up the pace: the biggest impediment to underground theater is burnout. Remember, there's no money in this, so everybody generally has to have a day job in order to survive--it's pretty easy to get tired of all the insanity. I've seen at least a couple of great companies die because of overwork. I also fear that the company, composed of students, will eventually die when their key members graduate and move on with their lives. Here's hoping they can get something of a fraternity approach going: recruit and haze new freshmen each year, and groom them to replace outgoing senior members when the time comes.
We'll see where this leads.
For now, however, things are pretty cool. Ideally, this new company has thrown down a gauntlet at the entire community. They're setting a new artistic standard in town, and, if successful, could inspire others to take their lead. Hell, the run-of-the-mill community theaters in Austin were forced to improve as the underground theater scene arose there in the late 80s. The same thing could happen here, if Baton Rouge is lucky. We'll see what happens.
Renegade Shakespeare Company as the Velvet Underground
Posted by Ron at 2:10 AM
Nine Inch Nails drops MTV show over Bush backdrop
From Reuters via Yahoo News courtesy of Eschaton courtesy of Blah3:
"We were set to perform 'The Hand That Feeds' with an unmolested, straightforward image of George W. Bush as the backdrop. Apparently, the image of our president is as offensive to MTV as it is to me," Nine Inch Nails' leader Trent Reznor said in a statement posted on the band's Web site.
MTV said in a statement: "While we respect Nine Inch Nails' point of view, we were uncomfortable with their performance being built around a partisan political statement. When we discussed our discomfort with the band, their choice was to unfortunately pull out of the Movie Awards."
Click here for the rest.
Clearly this is censorship. I'd be outraged if it wasn't so commonplace in the music industry as a whole. Indeed, the political music of the 60s and early 70s was something of an historical anomaly for American pop music. Generally, the conventional wisdom among what Frank Zappa once called "those sleazy record company pricks" is that the more non-controversial, the better. The last thing those corporate buttholes want to do is alienate part of their bland mass audience with icky politics or, even worse, invite Washingon's scrutiny. Over-the-top sexist imagery, violence, all that stuff's okay as long as there aren't any special interest groups bugging Congress, as happened in the mid 1980s--that was also an historical anomaly; generally sexism and violence in music are deemed to be okay by the recording industry. Really, the only reason those old politically themed records were allowed through the gatekeepers at all is because it was understood that they would sell well given the cultural context of the time. Unfortunately, the anti-establisment culture of today hasn't yet hit the critical mass that it did in the 60s, so sleazy music executives aren't willing to take any risks. Actually, they're not willing to take any risks at all, which is why everything on the radio sounds the same these days.
Good for Nine Inch Nails taking their football and going home. MTV sucks, anyway, and it has for nearly twenty years now.
Posted by Ron at 1:40 AM
Friday, May 27, 2005
IT'S OFFICIAL: THEY'RE WAR CRIMINALS
I was reading this essay on ZNet earlier today, and I was absolutely amazed by what the mainstream press didn't say about the recent Amnesty International annual report on human rights abuses. So I did some Googling and found the report itself on their website.
Check this out:
It is a failure of leadership to prosecute only enlisted soldiers and a few officers while protecting those who designed a deliberate government policy of torture and authorized interrogation techniques that constitute torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The government’s investigation must climb all the way to the top of the military and civilian chain of command.
If the US government continues to shirk its responsibility, Amnesty International calls on foreign governments to uphold their obligations under international law by investigating all senior US officials involved in the torture scandal. And if those investigations support prosecution, the governments should arrest any official who enters their territory and begin legal proceedings against them. The apparent high-level architects of torture should think twice before planning their next vacation to places like Acapulco or the French Riviera because they may find themselves under arrest as Augusto Pinochet famously did in London in 1998.
Foreign governments that are party to the Geneva Conventions and/or the Convention against Torture—and that is some 190 countries—and countries that have national legislation that authorizes prosecution—and that is at least 125 countries—have a legally binding obligation to exercise what is known as universal jurisdiction over people accused of grave breaches of the Conventions. Governments are required to investigate suspects and, if warranted, to prosecute them or to extradite them to a country that will. Crimes such as torture are so serious that they amount to an offense against all of humanity and require governments to investigate and prosecute people responsible for those crimes—no matter where the crime was committed.
Click here for the rest (emphasis mine).
Two points to consider.
First, Amnesty International, who seems to still have a firm grasp on reality despite the prevailing insanity within the United States, believes that the torture being practiced by the US military is so horrible, so awful, that American commanders and civilian planners (see the report for a list of names) should be arrested and prosecuted anywhere in the world!!! Our government is committing crimes against humanity. You know, like the Nazis did. Actually, my buddy Mike Switzer of This is not a compliment made exactly that point a couple of days ago when I last wrote about torture in Real Art comments:
Not to invoke Godwin's law or anything but, "I keep telling myself that these are the actions of the government and the corporations who run it, not of the American people." How many Germans do you think were saying the same kinds of things in 1938? 1940? 41? 42? We gotta make the decision to run or fight soon...
(By the way, "Godwin's Law" is something to the effect that, in a UseNet discussion, the first person to make a comparison to the Nazis is probably wrong or is the most likely to lose the argument. Something like that.)
The point is that this is fucking serious.
Secondly, these AI statements are pretty inflammatory; why didn't the media report them? I could go into a long treatise about how the routines and corporate structure of the media make it likely that news coverage will slant towards favoring a goverment and corporate outlook on issues, but I've done that before, so I'll leave it with this: the media didn't report this because it would make the White House look bad. Essentially it was self-censored, and that's almost as outrageous as the torture itself. Almost.
Posted by Ron at 11:30 PM
FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING
Together at Last:
Phil, Frankie, Paz
Posted by Ron at 7:28 PM
One Hundred Names You Won't Hear This Memorial Day
From the Daily Kos courtesy of Eschaton:
It is precisely because Memorial Day brings home to us the uniqueness and value of every life that one group of war dead will be conspicuous by their absence from all our commemorations: and that is the many thousands of Iraqis we have killed since March 2003. Because who really wants to be reminded that at least 20,000 and perhaps as many as 100,000 Iraqis - people just like us - are dead today because of a war we should never have started?
Their names will never be engraved on the Mall, and their faces will never warrant a spread in the Washington Post, but I will commemorate here 100 or so of those Iraqis who, thanks to us, made the "ultimate sacrifice" whether they wished it or not.
Click here for the rest (warning: graphic images).
It's very important to point out that many, if not most, of that 20,000-100,000 were civilians. Civilians for god's sake! It is an understatement to say that these Iraqis are most decidedly not better off without Saddam Hussein. Remember also that each and every one of these dead Iraqis had families and friends who have to go on without them. How can they not hate the United States? How can they not be tempted to become terrorists and bring the fight here to us? This damned war is the worst thing that's happened in my lifetime.
Posted by Ron at 2:21 AM
Judge rules against DeLay PAC
over reporting of corporate cash
From the Houston Chronicle:
A state district judge ruled today that a political committee founded by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was legally required to report more than $500,000 in corporate cash to state authorities because the money was raised to influence Texas elections.
"I find that the contributions were used in connection with a campaign for elective office. Therefore, they were political contributions or campaign contributions within the meaning of ... the Election Code," visiting District Judge Joe Hart said in his ruling.
While Hart did not rule specifically on whether Texans for a Republican Majority raised and spent the money legally, he said TRMPAC violated state law by not reporting the money to the Texas Ethics Commission.
"The ruling nowhere mentions Tom DeLay, and that confirms what we've been saying all along - that the dispute really has little if anything to do with Tom DeLay,'' Burchfield said.
Click here for the rest.
However, an analyst on NPR's All Things Considered Thursday stated that this has everything to do with Tom DeLay: he speculates that Austin District Attorney Ronnie Earle may very well use this ruling as evidence in order to add DeLay as a defendant to the TRMPAC criminal case Earle is prosecuting. If that happens, DeLay loses his position as House Majority Leader because no one under indictment can serve in that position according to the off-again-on-again House ethics rules. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Posted by Ron at 2:07 AM
Thursday, May 26, 2005
THE UNITED STATES NOW TORTURES PEOPLE
Actually, the US has always tortured people, but America has never seemed so proud and or blasé about it until now. Have you been reading the endless stream of headlines about this? Have you had any conversations with White House fans who either unashamedly explain that things are "different" after 9/11, or who try to rationalize what's going on as simply a collection of "isolated incidents?" Well, I have, and it's making me constantly pinch myself in order to understand that this isn't some sort of bad dream: in the reality in which I thought I was living, torture is considered to be barbaric, straight-up evil. What the hell is going on? I just don't understand why this doesn't seem to be freaking out significant portions of the population. Everybody seems to be so ho-hum about it all. I just don't get it.
The leading international human rights advocacy organization doesn't seem to get it either. From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Amnesty International assails Guantanamo as 'gulag'
Amnesty International branded the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a human rights failure today, releasing a 308-page report that offers stinging criticism of the United States and its detention centers around the world.
"Guantanamo has become the gulag of our time," Amnesty Secretary General Irene Khan said as the London-based group launched its annual report. Amnesty International called for the camp to be closed.
The annual report accused the United States of shirking its responsibility to set the bar for human rights protections and said Washington has instead created a new lexicon for abuse and torture.
"Attempts to dilute the absolute ban on torture through new policies and quasi-management speak, such as 'environmental manipulation, stress positions and sensory manipulation,' was one of the most damaging assaults on global values."
Click here for the rest.
In the meantime, while the pundits and talking heads argue about whether Newsweek is responsible for rioting in Afghanistan, which conveniently takes the heat off the Pentagon and White House about their torture policies, still more evidence comes to light about the Koran being dumped in the toilet. From Reuters via Yahoo courtesy of the Daily Kos:
FBI memo reports Guantanamo guards flushing Koran
An FBI agent wrote in a 2002 document made public on Wednesday that a detainee held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had accused American jailers there of flushing the Koran down a toilet.
The release of the declassified document came the week after the Bush administration denounced as wrong a May 9 Newsweek article that stated U.S. interrogators at Guantanamo had flushed a Koran down a toilet to try to make detainees talk.
The magazine retracted the article, which had triggered protests in Afghanistan in which 16 people died.
The newly released document, dated Aug. 1, 2002, contained a summary of statements made days earlier by a detainee, whose name was redacted, in two interviews with an FBI special agent, whose name also was withheld, at the Guantanamo prison for foreign terrorism suspects.
Click here for the rest.
Look, this toilet flushing thing definitely happened, but for some odd reason Newsweek felt it had to retract the story. Public discourse is at the point such that it is virtually impossible to tell the truth without being dog-piled by the criminals who run this country. And the torture continues.
Talking about this isn't some intellectual exercise, isn't some pussified plea for compassion: the POWs our military is abusing are victims, of course, but this slide into national evil will take its toll on us, too.
As the revelations of brutal torture by the victors were first spilling from conquered Iraq, Hersh was contacted by a family member of a young American woman who had served in a unit policing Abu Ghraib, the Guardian reports. The young soldier had "come back a different person," the relative said: distraught and angry, turning her back on her family.
The relative retrieved a computer she'd lent the soldier to use in Iraq and found there a file crammed with torture porn: photo after photo of a naked Iraqi prisoner writhing before the onslaught of fierce police dogs. One of the pictures was later published worldwide and became an emblem of the dehumanizing brutality of the American occupation.
The young soldier thought she'd been sent to fight for democracy and freedom, the relative told Hersh, but it was a lie. Instead she found herself in Hell, committing crimes, violating her own nature, her sense of duty perverted by leaders who twisted it into a weapon to serve aggressive war. Since her return, said the relative, the young soldier keeps getting black tattoos, more and more of them, slowly covering her entire body trying literally to change her skin.
The fate of this soul-broken, tormented daughter of America embodies the nation itself under the malevolent reign of George W. Bush. The whole country is changing its skin, trying to cloak its shame and complicity by a wilful disfigurement.
Click here for the rest.
I have to ask myself, at what point do I decide that the country I love is no longer the country I love? I keep telling myself that these are the actions of the government and the corporations who run it, not of the American people. But why isn't there a searing wail of anguish and anger coming up from the people?
Why doesn't anybody seem to care?
Posted by Ron at 12:35 AM
Wednesday, May 25, 2005
THE SIGNS OF THE FRENCH QUARTER
As I've mentioned here before, Becky and I went to New Orleans last weekend using the money we got back from the IRS. And I took the digital camera my parents gave me last Christmas, which I've finally figured out how to operate. I went a bit wild. I ended up with lots of pictures, and, for some reason, I seemed to be into taking shots of the billions of signs in the French Quarter.
Like this one:
The Lamothe House is where we've stayed quite a few times. It's old, going back to the 19th century, I think. It's also really cool, with beaucoup old furniture, weird old paintings, cool carpets and draperies. You get the idea. But that's not where we stayed this time around. Lamothe House was full, so we had to stay here, instead:
Really, the Marigny Guest House ended up being a much better deal. Actually, it was more expensive than a room at Lamothe House across the street, but the room was HUGE, with a full kitchen and bigger bathroom. And because it's run by Lamothe House, it has the same lavish furnishings. Strangely, there was also an autobiography by Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead sitting on the dresser in the bedroom, which I didn't read, but it was nice to know it was there.
Just around the corner from our room is a really fabulous restaurant/bar/live music venue/laundromat:
Igor's Check Point Charlie is really one of the coolest places I've ever been. They have some of the best cheeseburgers in the world, which come in handy when drunkenly stumbling home at four in the morning after drinking since around ten the night before. There also seem to be many more weird French Quarter locals there than what you'll find on Bourbon, and believe me, there are some weird people there, especially at four in the morning. We didn't see anybody play there this time around, but in the past I've seen some cool stuff: once I saw what appeared to be a pick-up band composed of mostly guys in their 20's, but fronted by an old hippie dude who played guitar like a cross between Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman. They played for hours on end, and I'd never heard any of the songs before; it was remarkable.
Speaking of cool restaurants near Lamothe House, there's Coop's Place down on Decatur Street:
Unlike Check Point Charlie, Coop's offers an array of cool Cajun dishes, and, even though they're not open all night, they're open pretty late if you want something besides greasy. They've got pretty good gumbo, but not the best I've ever had. That honor goes to this place:
Yes, that's right, Galatoire's.
From Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire:
STELLA: Oh Stan! (She jumps up and kisses him which he accepts with lordly composure) I'm taking Blanche to Galatoire's for supper and then to a show, because it's your poker night.
STANLEY: How about my supper, huh? I'm not going to Galatoire's for no supper!
STELLA: I put you a cold plate on ice.
STANLEY: Well, isn't that just dandy!
Galatoire's, on Bourbon Street, is a truly classy place, harkening back, really, to quite another era. Men have to wear jackets, and entering the place is like walking into a Tennessee Williams play. But it's not just the ambience that makes it such a great place. The food is out of this world. Expensive, but well worth it. If you're ever in the Big Easy, you've got to eat there. Of course, the great irony about Galatoire's sense of old Southern class is that pretty much on the same block is some of the most marvelous sleaze you'll ever encounter anywhere. For instance, there are more topless bars in one location than I've ever seen:
These three pics are just a small sampling. There are many more bars for the viewing of boobs. Naughty lingerie stores, too. Hustler actually has two clubs on Bourbon Street, but I just settled for the one picture. "Barely Legal." That term really cracks me up.
Here's another amusing sign from Bourbon Street's typical weekend frenzy:
Just in case you can't make it out, the sign says "HUGE ASS BEERS TO GO." One of the groovy, sleazy things about New Orleans is that there are no open container laws: you can just walk around drinking to your heart's content, as long as it's not out of a glass bottle. Nothing like swilling cheap beer as you walk with the drunken tourists. Speaking of drunk tourists, this stenciled notice on a crack in the sidewalk made me giggle:
"DRUNKS BEWARE TRIP HAZARD." God, I love this town! And while I'm still talking about Bourbon Street, I should probably post this pic, as well:
It says "When New Orleans was the Capitol of the Spanish Province of Louisiana 1762-1803 This Street Had the Name CALLE BOURBON." Apparently, the French essentially gave Louisiana to Spain in order to keep it from the British, who had just defeated France in the Seven Year's war (or, as it is more popularly known in the United States, the French and Indian War). Then Napoleon conquered Spain in 1801 and regained Louisiana, but then turned right around and sold it to the US in order to pay for his wars in Europe. It's so weird, the history just oozing out of every crack of the French Quarter. At least, I think it's history. It might just be vomit. It smells like vomit, anyway. Which reminds me, here's one last sign I photographed on Bourbon Street. A Krewe of Bacchus emblem posted within the Royal Sonesta Hotel complex:
In case you don't know, "krewe" is the word used to refer to the organizations that put together the numerous parades at Mardi Gras time. This krewe was established in 1968, the year I was born, which is why I took the picture. Okay, I like Bacchus, too.
To close on a political note, which is entirely appropriate for Real Art, it was nice to find that, despite the fact that New Orleans is a Southern city, and Louisiana is very much one of those "red states," progressivism is alive and well here:
I got this shot at the intersection between Esplanade and Bourbon Street. Democracy Now is, of course, the very left-wing radio/television show from which I often quote here at Real Art. Seeing this flyer so unexpectedly was nice. I also found this cool statement on a sidewalk along Royal Street near Esplanade:
Obviously, Royal Street isn't Love Street, so I have no idea what's going on here. But I dig the peace symbol, and I love the Doors song "Love Street," so something's working for me. Anyway, that's all for now. More rambling photoblogging on New Orleans to come. Like I said, I went a bit wild with my new camera.
Ah, just click on this link here.
Posted by Ron at 12:19 AM
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
SENATE FILIBUSTER COMPROMISE
ENDS JUST AS SOON AS IT BEGINS
From Think Progress courtesy of Eschaton:
But Congress Daily PM reports that Frist has other ideas for later in the week:
Senate Majority Leader Frist will file for cloture on President Bush’s nomination of William Myers to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later this week, according to sources on and off Capitol Hill, wasting no time in testing the resolve of 14 Republican and Democratic senators who forced at least a temporary halt to the battle over Democratic filibusters of President Bush’s judicial picks.That didn’t take long.
Click here for the rest.
Okay, I have to admit that I don't really understand how this "compromise" is supposed to work--I'm consoled somewhat, however, by the fact that none of the talking heads on television today seem to understand it any better than I do. It's a pretty vague agreement. On the other hand, I feel pretty certain that part of the deal was that Democrats are suppsed to be allowed to continue the filibuster on the nomination of Meyers. Frist said that he was going to abide by the agreement, but then he pops off with this business. So what's going on here?
It's like I said yesterday: "compromise" means giving the Republicans whatever they want. Are the Democrats going to allow Frist to get away with this or are they going to force him to threaten the "nuclear option" once again? If the recent history is any indicator, the GOP is going to get what they want.
And people bitch at me for badmouthing the Democrats.
Posted by Ron at 11:55 PM
Deal averts filibuster showdown in Senate
From the Houston Chronicle:
Averting a major showdown today that would have dramatically changed the way the Senate operates, a group of swing lawmakers Monday agreed to a compromise on filibusters to block judicial nominees.
The agreement will ensure that three judicial nominees blocked by Democrats, including Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, will no longer be filibustered. A vote on Owen was expected today.
At the same time, the Democrats did not commit to end the filibustering of two other appellate court nominees and will retain the ability to block future judicial nominees, including a Supreme Court pick, but only under extraordinary circumstances.
Click here for the rest.
My initial reaction to this is that the Democrats lost: some "compromise," the Republicans get to have their up-or-down vote on the three extremist judges whose nominations forced this standoff in the first place. In other words, the GOP threatened to go "nuclear," and, as usual, the Democrats backed down. Bunch of pussies. Besides, if nominating extreme right-wing ideologues to the Federal bench doesn't constitute "extraordinary circumstances," what does?
This is the same old and tired bullshit. "Compromise" means giving the right wing what they want. This will never end. The Democrats are still trying to play it nice, trying to be civil, but what they don't understand is that the Conservative Movement will not rest until it has utterly destroyed liberalism as a relevant concept in American politics. Congressional Democrats are playing by the old rules while the Republicans have completely rewritten the entire game. We haven't "won" anything at all; I'm glad that this compromise has seemingly managed to keep the filibuster as a legislative tool, but that's simply maintaining the status quo: the left continues fight a rear guard action, as it has for over a decade now.
On the other hand, the Republicans seem to be much more broken up about this than their opponents. Right-wing evangelist James Dobson is apparently livid. Strangely, getting what they said they wanted is a loss to them. Of course, from my point of view that their real goal is to wipe out liberalism, what they really want is to pack the courts with as many right-wing crazies as they can find--the continued existence of the filibuster stands in the way of that. This kind of reminds me of football fans being pissed off that their team only won by thirty points instead of fifty. Go figure.
What I really want to know is the meaning of "extraordinary circumstances." This ain't over yet.
Posted by Ron at 2:22 AM
Let's Talk About Race
I'm calling on my black brothers and sisters to rise above the "vile epithet" and realize that the problem rests not in us but those who feel it necessary to try to demean us.
I'm also calling on the guardians of P.C. to do likewise. Don't destroy the reputation of people because of their idiotic faux pas. A person who says “nigger” doesn't tell you anything about the person who said it, and it's not the time to come to blows or feel terminally offended. Even the redneck cops in law enforcement agencies, who try to bait you into a confrontation by calling you nigger (I've had this happen to me too, and played it as cool as a master poker player) are dumbfounded when you let it run off your back. But these same coppers wouldn't hesitate to go into a burning building to rescue some black children. Things are infinitely more complex than the P.C. police would have us believe.
Trying to initiate a brutally honest conversation about race among blacks and whites is like trying to pull an elephant up a hill with a string. Standard reactions include "Can we talk about something else?," "I'm not prejudiced" and that time-worn phrase "Some of my best friends are black."
It's all bullshit. We've all been tainted by prejudice, and it influences us all, in small and large ways.
Click here for the rest.
Over the last few years, especially as voting becomes more and more irrelevant to the political process, I've often thought that the single most lasting legacy of the civil rights era is that white Americans think they're no longer racist if they stop using the "N" word, and they feel deeply insulted if you tell them they're racist anyway. Look, we, that is, white Americans, have been brought up in a culture full of racist stereotypes, a culture that consciously turns a blind eye to chronic poverty in the African American community, that continually locks blacks out of upper level management and public office. How could we not be influenced by that? How could we not carry at least some racist attitudes within us, whether we choose to acknowledge them or not?
Tainted water means tainted fish, and our culture is tainted, just as we are.
We really do need to have that "brutally honest conversation" about race, but in order to do so, whites must first be honest with themselves: the whole racism-happened-in-the-past attitude, the whole racism-is-something-only-bad-people-do concept has got to go. If we can't even admit that the problem exists, things will remain the same. And that's fucked up.
Posted by Ron at 1:56 AM
Monday, May 23, 2005
THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER ROAD
Instead of hopping on I-10 for an hour or so for our drive to New Orleans, Becky suggested that we take the winding River Road instead. The road, which goes from Baton Rouge to the Crescent City, essentially parallels the Mississippi River levee, and runs through some really beautiful country. There are also many weird things to see, and, occasionally, it was like going back in time.
Of course, I brought my camera.
There are tons of old, cool churches. This one above seems to be no longer in use, but it still stands. Really, that's one of the coolest things about this state: there are lots of old buildings. It seems like in Texas, they just can't wait to tear old buildings down and replace them with strip malls and suburbs.
Here's another cool and old church building:
We also saw a lot of these:
Yeah, that's right. A crawfish mound. They were all over the place at certain points, but, then, that makes sense--we are in Louisiana.
We also encountered an engineering marvel of which I had never heard, the Bonnet Carre' Spillway. As you may or may not know, New Orleans is below sea level, shaped like a bowl, in fact. Really, like Las Vegas, New Orleans ought not to even exist as far as nature is concerned. It's slowly sinking into the Gulf of Mexico, but leave it to the Army Corps of Engineers to figure out a stop-gap solution. I'm not quite sure how the whole thing works, but I know it has something to do with releasing Missisippi River flood waters when pressure on the levees becomes too great. At any rate, it's an impressive sight:
Of course, what would a five hour drive through the Louisiana countryside be without a trip to a plantation? This was a pretty weird experience, too, because we were accompanied by about six German tourists who were constantly yakking away in German, wearing their shorts too tightly as is the European style, decked out in backpacks and photograpy equipment. Germans always bring some surrealism to the table. Anyway, the name of the place we toured is the Destrehan Plantation. Here's a shot of the big house:
You can see one of the weird Germans in the lower right corner. Becky took these next two shots while we were there. On the front balcony:
A very old tree:
Here's a detail from the big house.
Somewhere along the line, as this bizarre old woman dressed in 19th century costume told us how the rich white people ate, slept, and had parties, it dawned on me that she was telling us almost nothing about slave life on the plantation. In addition to what I already know about the barbarity of Southern slavery, I learned from a display there that the big house was the site of a hardcore tribunal for the sentencing of participants in a slave rebellion in 1811.
From Lest We Forget:
1811 LOUISIANA SLAVERY REBELLION
In St. Charles Parish, the tribunal was composed of Jean Noel Destrehan, Alexandre Labranche, Cabaret, Adelard Fortier and Edmond Fortier, along with Pierre Bauchet St. Martin, acting as judge. Beginning at 4 P. M. on January 13, through January 15, they issued death warrants for a 21 [enslaved persons] for the crime of insurrection. These men were sentenced be shot by a militia detachment, each one in front of the residence to which he belonged. The tribunal decided that the heads of those executed would be cut off and put up on the end of a pike, at the place of execution, (“with the goal of making a terrible example”] for all who might in the future seek to win their freedom by force of arms.
Click here for the rest (emphasis added by me).
But not a word about any of this from our Granny "The South Will Rise Again" tour guide. Really, ignoring the plight of slaves here was quite conspicuous given the slave "cabins," that is, shacks, on the premises:
But then, why am I so surprised when the gift shop, first and last stops on the tour, was selling this crap:
To be fair, not all plantation tours are like this. There's a place here in Baton Rouge, about a three minute drive from where we live called the Magnolia Mound Plantation, that Becky tells me has quite a bit of info about slavery. I've got to go check it out someday.
Anyway, that's all for now. I'll try to post some New Orleans pics sometime soon.
Posted by Ron at 2:10 AM
AMERICAN FASCISM WILL COME "CARRYING
CROSSES AND CHANTING THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE"
This Modern World excerpts from an article in the current Harper's Magazine (unavailable online, unfortunately) written by religion writer Chris Hedges (who was interviewed by Democracy Now only a few weeks ago):
I can't help but recall the words of my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School, Dr. James Luther Adams, who told us that when we were his age, and he was then close to eighty, we would all be fighting the "Christian fascists."
He gave us that warning twenty-five years ago, when Pat Robertson and other prominent evangelists began speaking of a new political religion that would direct its efforts at taking control of all major American institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government, so as to transform the United States into a global Christian empire. At the time, it was hard to take such fantastic rhetoric seriously. But fascism, Adams warned, would not return wearing swastikas and brown shirts. Its ideological inheritors would cloak themselves in the language of the Bible; they would come carrying crosses and chanting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Adams had watched American intellectuals and industrialists flirt with fascism in the 1930s.
Click here for the rest.
This is all starting to come together. It's not that I'm angry with the religious right because of their warped view of, well, everything, and I am angry with them: it's that these people are dangerous, the first real threat that this country has encountered from within since the Civil War. Actually, in many ways, this whole thing very much comes down from the Civil War, stupid, racist, violent, homophobic, anti-sex Southern attitudes on the cusp of regaining legitimacy. I remember years ago telling an intellectual New Yorker friend of mine that the fundamentalists are a major threat to America. He told me that these people are just nutjobs on the fringes of society, no threat at all. Well, they're pretty much in charge now, and it looks like they're starting to make some serious power plays. Are we in real trouble yet? I just don't know.
Posted by Ron at 1:35 AM
Thursday, May 19, 2005
GOING TO NEW ORLEANS
Real Art goes dark until Sunday
That's right, Becky and I are going to spend a few nights in Sodom-and-Gomorrah-on-the-Mississip--we're blowing our IRS refund on some well deserved R and R. So no posts until Sunday, unless young Miles decides to pop his head up. Alas, that means no cat pictures on Friday, but what can you do?
Anyway, roll the Real Art theme song.
Posted by Ron at 1:55 AM
THE NEWSWEEK KORAN-IN-THE-TOILET FLAP
Great essay on the whole thing from that MSNBC guy Keith Olbermann, courtesy of Eschaton:
The resignation of Scott McClellan
Whenever I hear this White House talking about ‘doing to damage to our image abroad’ and how ‘people have lost lives,’ I strain to remember who it was who went traipsing into Iraq looking for WMD that will apparently turn up just after the Holy Grail will — and at what human cost.
Newsweek’s version of this story has varied from the others over the last two years — ones in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Post, and British and Russian news organizations — only in that it quoted a government source who now says he didn’t have firsthand knowledge of whether or not the investigation took place (oops, sorry, shoulda mentioned that, buh-bye). All of its other government connections — the ones past which it ran the story — have gone from saying nothing like ‘don’t print this, it ain’t true’ or ‘don’t print this, it may be true but it’ll start riots,’ to looking slightly confused and symbolically saying ‘Newsweek? Newsweek who?’
Whatever I smell comes from this odd sequence of events: Newsweek gets blasted by the White House, apologizes over the weekend but doesn't retract its story. Then McClellan offers his Journalism 101 outdoor seminar and blasts the magazine further. Finally, just before 5 p.m. Monday, the Dan Rather drama replaying itself in its collective corporate mind, Newsweek retracts.
Click here for the rest.
Yeah, this whole thing stinks, and it's a total drag that Newsweek retracted the story: as Olbermann points out, this is an old and unchallenged piece of news. At any rate, this essay is a delightfully wicked read, ending with the conclusion that White House press secretary Scott McClellan will have to resign for fumbling the whole response. Go check it out.
Posted by Ron at 1:46 AM
QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES
Means "Who Polices the Police?"
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Austin detective indicted on child porn charges
An Austin Police Department detective has been indicted on child pornography charges, federal prosecutors announced today.
The indictment handed up by a grand jury alleges Lance Boyce McConnell knowingly downloaded to his home computer in October and December images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
McConnell faces multiple counts of receiving, possessing and transporting child pornography, with punishments ranging up to 20 years in prison.
Click here for the rest.
Disturbing. Anything I have to say would be glib. So I'll just keep my mouth shut.
Here's an update on a story I linked to back in March. From the Houston Chronicle:
2 officers fired in camera-phone incident
Two Houston police officers accused of involvement in the downloading of nude photographs from a DWI suspect's camera phone have been fired, police officials confirmed Wednesday.
Chief Harold Hurtt indefinitely suspended officers Christopher Green and George Miller late last week after a four-month investigation, a Houston Police Department spokesman said. Indefinite suspension is tantamount to firing in HPD.
Click here for the rest.
What is it with these pervy cops? Does a badge make one think he can get away with anything?
Posted by Ron at 1:33 AM
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
REAL ART’S CRITICAL PRINCIPLES
I recently pissed off an old friend inadvertently. He’s just finishing up his first year teaching, is very fired up about what he’s doing, and, like all teachers, is working his ass off. He’s been reading Real Art rather faithfully from the beginning, so he’s well aware of my radical criticisms of public education, but I guess that actually entering the field and dealing with the extraordinary day-to-day pressures that teachers endure made my wild statements become just too much for him. He started taking what I was saying personally, and decided that the best thing for our friendship was to just stop reading Real Art, which is a big drag for me.
I suppose it’s all for the best, but it got me thinking about how I and other people conceptualize important issues. That is, I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job explaining my views on education and other issues, but I think that sometimes my conclusions are seemingly so outrageous that they are difficult for people to swallow, no matter how well I’ve argued my point. In other words, despite the fact that it’s pretty darned clear that public education is so utterly inundated with authoritarianism that as an institution it is irreparable, my conclusion that the schools should be shut down and paved over so we can start over with a clean slate seems to shock the senses, especially with liberals, who cherish education mythology more than conservatives or moderates.
What I’m getting at is that “conventional wisdom” or “common sense” is probably a much stronger force than I had realized, and I already knew that it was powerful. For instance, I recall a Michael Ventura column that ran in the Austin Chronicle some ten years ago called “Forrest Gump, Why?” The essay essentially blasted the hit movie because of its hidden ideology: all the real solutions to life’s problems are simple—“Momma always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.” Of course, this ideology is straight-up false. Life is complicated. Sometimes simple solutions work; most of the time they don’t. Forrest Gump’s hidden ideology plays right into the hands of America’s traditional anti-intellectualism, and teaches people a false reality. However, Ventura’s column seemed to create a firestorm of irate reader response. The next week’s letters-to-the-editor section was chock full of messages from people who loved Forrest Gump, many of them blasting Ventura’s essay because the film was “just a movie” that made people happy. How dare Ventura tarnish such a fine film with his outlandish bullshit? The response was so overwhelming that his next column was entitled “Forrest Gump, Why Not?” In it, he bolstered his opinion, backing down not one bit. The one statement I remember from this second column is that “there’s no such thing as ‘just a movie.’”
Of course, I had recently gotten my degree in Radio, Television, and Film (RTF) from the University of Texas, and I was well aware that there’s no such thing as “just a movie.” Almost every social, cultural, political, and economic institution and artifact in the world has some sort of ideology embedded within it. But most people haven’t studied communications, and it’s probably much more difficult for them to not take cherished cultural artifacts at face value. Consequently, these Austin Chronicle readers were pissed off when challenged, and Ventura’s carefully crafted arguments made no difference: all that mattered to them was his seemingly outlandish conclusion.
Here’s another good example. Noam Chomsky has observed that the Bible is the most genocidal work in the Western literary canon. This is demonstrably true. Just go read the Old Testament. But the statement, on its face, is completely insane because the Bible is “the good book.” Try running around, say, the South, telling people that the Bible is genocidal and that you can prove it. How long will it take before some zealot shows you God’s love by kicking the shit out of you? People aren’t interested in your reasoning if you’re attacking something in which they strongly believe.
But I digress. The point to this essay is to try to shed some light on how I approach issues and ideas such that my conclusions don’t seem so wacky. I mentioned above that I studied RTF at Texas years ago. This is where I got my first heavy dose of criticism as a concept. We read what seemed like hundreds of critical essays, some of them bullshit, but most of them eye-opening. What really turned me on, however, were the Marxist and feminist essays. It’s not that I’m particularly into Marx or feminism, although I am to some extent; it’s that the way these writers approached their subjects opened up an entirely new strain of thought to me—it is important to note that many feminist writers, especially those writing in the 1970s, were strongly influenced by Marxist critical principles. So really, it all comes down to Karl Marx.
From the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism:
Marx and Engels viewed the capitalist mode of production as one highly adept at securing its legitimation through the habitual patterns of thought encouraged by the social structures it fostered, such as the division of labor peculiar to the factory system but replicated throughout bourgeois social institutions. "Ideology" would refer to the sum total of the writings, speeches, teachings, pronouncements, beliefs, and opinions that assert the naturalness and desirability of such structures and social practices. Marx and Engels first set forth their concept of ideology in The German Ideology (1845), a polemical work aimed at the neo-Hegelian philosophical school. In it, they attributed the "ruling ideas" of any given historical period to that age's dominant class, but their explanation of the workings of ideology moved beyond simplistic assertions of cause-and-effect relationships between power and ideas, or some one-to-one correspondence between economic forces and cultural trends.
Marx and Engels inherited the Napoleonic sense of ideology as confusion or distraction from the practical realities of everyday life, as opposed to the later use of "ideologies" (still common today) to refer to specific political views or agendas. In The German Ideology they began to transform the meaning of "ideology" more toward the sense of "false consciousness," a way of misunderstanding the world and our place in it. What is most important, they suggest the inescapable nature of ideology, that is, that it refers to that which we just do not see, comprehend, or anticipate as we confront the world.
Click here for more.
Don’t let all the big words fool you. I haven’t read any Hegel that I know of, and, for that matter, I’ve only read a tiny bit of Marx’s stuff. But all these people I was reading in school have read Marx, and his influence, I think, carried through to me. For me, the point is that there is meaning in virtually everything, and that meaning is not always apparent. Furthermore, it is extraordinarily important to understand this because nine times out of ten, the face value meaning of a given cultural, political, or economic artifact tends to serve those in power. If one is in the business of subverting power, one must expose such illusions; often, this exposure can be jarring, even pissing people off while they adamantly refuse to acknowledge how their attacker came to understand that a cherished point of view is a load of crap.
I think that’s how I upset my teacher friend. Fortunately, the two of us have agreed that we disagree, and are leaving it at that. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Americans out there who are not so tolerant of dissenting views. Should I worry about pissing them off? It seems that no matter how polite I am, I’m bound to step on some toes here and there simply because of the content of my statements. My personal instinct is to say “tough shit.” I really believe that I have a responsibility to use my mind and the wonderful education I’ve gotten to try to make people understand the world a bit better. If that is annoying to some, so be it.
In summary, I found a nice little piece on Marxist literary criticism that succinctly states some of the critical ideas that tend to guide me when I’m writing and thinking about, well, everything. The essay is specifically aimed at literature students, but also pretty easily generalized to include real art, and politics, and culture.
From The Literary Criticism Web:
Below is concise summary of some particular Marxist assumptions about social relations that can often provide useful entries into an analysis of literature:
* Individuals do not have an existence independent of society. Individuals are creatures of social history.
* Society is dynamic, constantly in flux. Social change results from a dialectic of opposing forces out of which a new synthesis of society is constantly emerging--a new set of social relationships, standards and ideals. History is a record of this dialectic of social forces.
* The forces fueling this social dialectic are essentially economic in nature, and they are dramatized in tensions within and between social classes. These forces set the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in opposition to one another.
* All literature is ideological. That is, all literature reflects the social dialectic of history and directly or indirectly declares an allegiance or hostility to these forces. All literature, then, is polemical.
* Good literature is consciously polemical. It is itself a force of change, fostering a dialectical consciousness in readers. The good writer is conscious of the dialectic of social forces reflected in the literary subject and seeks to make the reader aware of the dialectical predicament of society and its member-individuals.
Click here for the rest.
Just for the record, I am not, nor have I ever been a member of the Communist Party. I'm just a sympathizer.
Hasta la vista, comrades.
Posted by Ron at 1:57 AM
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Staying What Course?
A new Paul Krugman essay from the New York Times:
Why did the administration want to invade Iraq, when, as the memo noted, "the case was thin" and Saddam's "W.M.D. capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran"? Iraq was perceived as a soft target; a quick victory there, its domestic political advantages aside, could serve as a demonstration of American military might, one that would shock and awe the world.
But the Iraq war has, instead, demonstrated the limits of American power, and emboldened our potential enemies. Why should Kim Jong Il fear us, when we can't even secure the road from Baghdad to the airport?
At this point, the echoes of Vietnam are unmistakable. Reports from the recent offensive near the Syrian border sound just like those from a 1960's search-and-destroy mission, body count and all. Stories filed by reporters actually with the troops suggest that the insurgents, forewarned, mostly melted away, accepting battle only where and when they chose.
Meanwhile, America's strategic position is steadily deteriorating.
Click here for the rest.
For speculation on what's really going on with these search-and-destroy missions, see the post below. (Although Krugman's point makes my Star Wars comparison less appropriate; US forces are less like Darth Vader and more like Dark Helmet from Spaceballs.)
The real power behind America's military might.
Posted by Ron at 1:53 AM
Looking for Battle, Marines Find That Foes Have Fled
From the Washington Post courtesy of Eschaton:
The Marines were in the middle of Operation Matador, an assault designed to flush out and capture or kill foreign fighters who had come to Iraq to join the insurgency against the U.S. military and the Iraqi government that it supports. Severing the insurgents' network north of the Euphrates River, commanders said, would cut off the supply of guerrillas, guns and money that was moving from Syria into northwestern Iraq and being passed along for attacks in Baghdad and other cities.
But from the outset, as Marines swept west in what would be a week-long operation, scores of foreign fighters had fled ahead of them, residents of towns farther east told the Marine commanders.
"Where the [expletive] are these guys?" Maj. Kei Braun exclaimed in frustration.
It was noon Friday. The Marines had swept Arabi and found only frightened Iraqi families hiding in their homes. They had found more bombs in the roads, but no enemy to fight.
Marines said many of the foreign fighters fled west into Syria or to Husaybah, a lawless Iraqi border town where foreign fighters and local tribesmen have battled each other this month for control, shooting it out in the streets with AK-47s and mortars, American officials say. But the Marines lack the manpower to go into Husaybah.
Click here for the rest.
As New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh observed in his recent interview with Democracy Now, the Iraqi insurgents don't fight on the battlefield; they use bombs, assassinations, and stealth: these weird operations undertaken by the US military are not likely to find them, and the top brass most likely knows that. So just what are these raids about? Who, exactly, are the "insurgents" comprising the body counts that the Pentagon reports to the press? Hersh doesn't mince words. He believes that the bodies, for the most part, belong to innocent Iraqis caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that these raids are much more about making Iraqi citizens afraid of American power than they are about actually capturing and killing rebels. In other words, America is behaving like the Sith dominated Empire of the Star Wars films:
TARKIN: The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I've just received word that the Emperor has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away.
TAGGE: That's impossible! How will the Emperor maintain control without the bureaucracy?
TARKIN: The regional governors now have direct control over territories. Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station.
I never thought I'd see the day.
The spirit of American freedom and democracy.
Posted by Ron at 1:31 AM
Monday, May 16, 2005
PRESIDENT KOO KOO BANANAS
Or is it "Cuckoo Bananas?" I'm not sure. From the season finale episode of the Simpsons earlier this evening:
HOMER: And if you get kicked out of that one you're going straight in the Army, where you'll be sent straight to America's latest military quagmire. Where will it be? North Korea? Iran? Anything's possible with Commander Koo Koo Bananas in charge!
I really cracked up about this one. By the way, has anyone noticed that the Simpsons has been getting kind of weird lately?
UPDATE: courtesy of Agitprop, a downloadable video clip of this instant comedy classic (be careful to not delete the file; this is a weird set up).
UPDATE TWO: The link above seems to be dead now, but here's another, courtesy of OverSpun.
Posted by Ron at 2:20 AM