The mass movement I've described aims to supplant Enlightenment rationalism with what it calls the "Christian worldview." The phrase is based on the conviction that true Christianity must govern every aspect of public and private life, and that all -- government, science, history and culture -- must be understood according to the dictates of scripture. There are biblically correct positions on every issue, from gay marriage to income tax rates, and only those with the right worldview can discern them. This is Christianity as a total ideology -- I call it Christian nationalism. It's an ideology adhered to by millions of Americans, some of whom are very powerful. It's what drives a great many of the fights over religion, science, sex and pluralism now dividing communities all over the country.
I am not suggesting that religious tyranny is imminent in the United States. Our democracy is eroding and some of our rights are disappearing, but for most people, including those most opposed to the Christian nationalist agenda, life will most likely go on pretty much as normal for the foreseeable future. Thus for those who value secular society, apprehending the threat of Christian nationalism is tricky. It's like being a lobster in a pot, with the water heating up so slowly that you don't notice the moment at which it starts to kill you.
If current trends continue, we will see ever-increasing division and acrimony in our politics.
Click here for the rest.
I think this guy's got a good handle on the issue: we're not in danger of imminent theocracy, but we are in danger. The leaders of this fundamentalist movement have power and influence that dwarf the percentage of the population they lead, and they're not going to go away. Look, I have no problem with religion in and of itself. I have no problem with people believing any kooky thing they want to believe, from UFOs to ghosts to resurrection, and I definitely have no problem with people organizing in order to persuade others to adopt their beliefs. But these guys want to use the government to force adherence to their beliefs on our entire nation, whether we believe or not. That's not only a direct attack on the Constitution, and therefore unAmerican on its face, but it's also stupid and dangerous. I don't think it's necessary to rant about why a secular government and society are best for America. Suffice it to say, knowledge and understanding do not progress when tied down by unchanging dogma. The Renaissance, and then the Age of Enlightenment, could not begin without the Protestant Reformation happening first, which greatly shook up the Catholic dominated power structure in Europe during the Middle Ages, allowing free discussion and inquiry to flourish. These fundamentalists want to turn back the clock, and, thus, retard humanity greatly. They've got to be stopped.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Posted by Ron at 10:27 PM
Big Brother Bugs Portland
From the Nation:
Moreover, in April 2005, the City Council voted, along with the mayor--and with overwhelming support from the citizenry--to withdraw Portland's participation in the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force project.
Upon Portland's withdrawal from the task force, NPR's Larry Abramson noted, "Portlanders seem proud of their bluer-than-blue reputation, of the bumper stickers that proclaim 'Keep Portland Weird.' So maybe it was predictable that the city mocked as Little Beirut by conservatives is considering a symbolic declaration of independence." And tucked away in the Pacific Northwest, with no Jerry Garcia or Kurt Cobain to worship, Portland has made its commitment to progressive politics the city's calling card. The mayor's seat is officially nonpartisan, and where major policy is concerned, the mayor has little more power than anyone else on the four-member City Council. With a robust public referendum system that presents voters with potential tax proposals, constitutional amendments and bond issues, Portland's political system does Montesquieu proud.
By state law, police officers in Oregon are barred from investigating citizens based solely on their political, religious or social leanings, and Portlanders will be quick to point out that it was the Feds, and not local cops, who erroneously arrested local attorney Brandon Mayfield in connection to the 3/11 Madrid train bombings in May 2004. After the bogus fingerprint evidence used to arrest him fell through, the only credible "reason" behind the police action turned out to be Mayfield's religion, which happened to be Islam.
"In the absence of any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing," wrote Mayor Potter in an open letter to the city, "I believe the FBI's recent actions smack of 'Big Brother.' Spying on local government without justification or cause is not acceptable to me. I hope it is not acceptable to you, either."
Click here for the rest.
I had no idea that Portland was so liberal. Some place to think about moving to someday. At any rate, given the NSA domestic spying disclosures recently, this is no surprise, totally believable. It's also evidence that all this domestic spying isn't about terrorism: rather, it's obviously about using the massive security apparatus at the Oval Office's command to keep tabs on, intimidate, and generally harass the political opposition. Never mind, for only a moment, that such a thing is wildly illegal. This undermines democracy itself. You can't have democracy without, or with a handicapped, opposition; our very system of government absolutely depends on competitive viewpoints. Needless to say, this is an ominous sign, indeed.
Posted by Ron at 10:02 PM
Monday, May 29, 2006
Paul Krugman: Swift Boating the Planet
From the New York Times, via yet another cyber-renegade who farts on the Times' pay-per-view firewall around its opinion columnists, courtesy of BuzzFlash:
Leading the charge was Patrick Michaels, a professor at the University of Virginia who has received substantial financial support from the energy industry. In Senate testimony, and then in numerous presentations, Dr. Michaels claimed that the actual pace of global warming was falling far short of Dr. Hansen's predictions. As evidence, he presented a chart supposedly taken from a 1988 paper written by Dr. Hansen and others, which showed a curve of rising temperatures considerably steeper than the trend that has actually taken place.
In fact, the chart Dr. Michaels showed was a fraud... The original paper showed a range of possibilities, and the actual rise in temperature has fallen squarely in the middle of that range. So how did Dr. Michaels make it seem as if Dr. Hansen's prediction was wildly off? Why, he erased all the lower curves, leaving only the curve that the original paper described as being "on the high side of reality." ...
Dr. Hansen has been trying to correct the record for years. Yet the claim ... has remained in circulation, and has become a staple of climate change skeptics, from Michael Crichton to Robert Novak. There's a concise way to describe what happened to Dr. Hansen: he was Swift-boated.
Click here for the rest.
Last week when I was in Houston I got to hang out with a good friend of mine, an articulate and polite conservative, passionate about his beliefs, and a grand debater. He's also really intelligent, and reads more political stuff than I do; relative to me, he has a superior command of details and facts. Well, his "facts," anyway. Generally, in political debate, I tend to accept most of what he offers as facts, focusing instead on principles and overall themes. It's just too damned difficult to know if the numbers and whatnot that he rattles off are true or not. Besides, it's no fun to contest facts in a friendly little argument; discourse generally dissolves into "yeah it is" and "no it's not" contrarianism. Consequently, by challenging his underlying assumptions, I've managed to keep a guy who I've seen flabbergast an endless parade of liberal debaters on his toes. We love our arguments.
Unfortunately, for our most recent meeting, I found myself falling into that previously mentioned contrarianism. My conservative pal was offering "facts" that I just couldn't play with. "There is no scientific consensus that man is causing global warming," he said. Not being up to date on the latest right-wing quackery on this issue, I knew I was wading into a nasty bog when I told him that he was wrong, and had no idea what he was talking about. He referred to some study of a huge number of scientists that found that attitudes were mixed. I asked what kinds of scientists comprised the sample, to which he replied simply that it was scientists.
"Look, this is just a right-wing talking point," I said. "You can easily get together some sort of survey of scientists, say, chemists and biologists and physicists, but unless you're talking about the scientists who matter, climatologists, guys who study the atmosphere, it doesn't matter. Every two bit high school biology teacher in the Bible-Belt has his own pet theories about why evolution is flawed science, but they don't matter; they're not authorities in the field."
That got him, and he moved to a different tactic.
"It's basic chemistry: co2 and cfc's actually cool things, not warm them up."
"But it's not basic chemistry!" I retorted. "We're talking about massive climate systems that do, indeed, involve basic chemistry at their most rudimentary levels, but we're talking about the big picture here, which is wildly complex. To say it's all about basic chemistry is to insanely distort and simply the issue as to render it meaningless."
Fortunately for both of us the people in our company decided to move to a different topic, so we never resolved our disagreement. But I was left with a strong reminder of the way that conservative discussion of most issues isn't so much about winning the debate as it is about introducing flawed lines of reasoning to muddy the discourse such that...well, as Fox News likes to say, the viewer is left to decide. I don't think my buddy was trying to muddy the debate himself, he's simply reflecting what he's read, which is decidedly screwed up when you really dig into it.
There is an entire industry on the issue of global warming alone which tries to distort the debate. Check out this one group's page of crap, all assembled by a right-wing think tank on whose board Jack Abramoff served until recently: obviously, the money and power behind global warming skepticism come from lobbyists, which ought to say something in and of itself.
Krugman is absolutely right to compare the disinformation campaign about global warming to the Swift Boat Veterans' campaign to turn John Kerry from war hero to draft-dodging hippy. Except there's a lot more money on the line with global warming. How the hell can truth prevail here when so much power is in favor of lies?
Posted by Ron at 6:56 PM
MEMORIAL DAY, 2006
Deaths in Iraq of US military personnel, according to today's World News Tonight on ABC:
I would personally go so far as to say that these young men and women have been murdered by the Bush administration. You can quibble if you want, but, if you're a Christian, I refer you to King David's sin: he murdered Uriah by sending him to the front.
David, infatuated with the beautiful Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite, commits adultery with her. Bathsheba conceives, and David tries to cover up his sin. Uriah is brought home from the army in order to report to David. David then sends Uriah home, so that he might have sex with his wife and claims of adultery would never surface. However, Uriah refuses to go home, and sleeps with David's servants in the palace, as it would be unfair for him to enjoy the comforts of home when his comrades are still at war. David tries getting Uriah drunk the second night, but this ploy fails as well; Uriah still retires in the servant quarters of David's palace. Finally, David sends Uriah back to the front, with orders to the commanders that they should abandon him in the midst of the enemy. And so it is done, Uriah dies in battle, and David marries Bathsheba and has a son by her.
Click here for more about King David.
David, for his own personal gain, with secrecy and lies, knowingly sent a man to die in battle, which is exactly what the neo-con cabal in the White House has done to 2,467 US service men and women. As longtime Real Art readers know, I'm certainly no Christian, but I'd be a fool to assert that there is no wisdom in the Bible. It's one thing to defend the nation, and by that I mean really defend the nation, not this bullshit in Iraq where they say we're fighting for freedom even though it's all just a bunch of imperial gaming, but it's quite another to send troops into harm's way for crackpot theories about American dominance, glory, and oil. Let's not euphemize: the White House didn't make mistakes, they rolled the dice with some very special American lives and lost bigtime; further, they knew we were going to lose troops and did it anyway, all to advance American, and therefore their own, power. It doesn't matter that this is war. It doesn't matter that most Americans thought it would be a good idea at the time. It doesn't matter that Saddam Hussein was a ruthless dictator. 9/11 doesn't matter. Bush and his cronies are fucking murderers thousands of times over. The only thing that can save this country's soul after all this isn't just an impeachment, it's hardcore time in prison for the people who instigated it.
Murderers belong behind bars.
Posted by Ron at 6:17 PM
Sunday, May 28, 2006
ENRON CONVICTIONS: BUSINESS AS USUAL
From ZNet, an essay by my favorite journalist, Greg Palast:
Lay Convicted, Bush Walks
Lay, co-convict Jeff Skilling and Enron did not act alone. They connived with half a dozen other power companies and a dozen investment banks to manipulate both the stock market and the electricity market. And though their co-conspirators have now paid $3 billion to settle civil claims, the executives of these other corporations and banks get a walk on criminal charges.
Furthermore, to protect our President's boardroom buddies from any further discomforts, the Bush Justice Department, just days ago, indicted Milberg, Weiss, the law firm that nailed Enron's finance industry partners-in-crime. The timing of the bust of this, the top corporation-battling law firm, smacks of political prosecution -- and a signal to Big Business that it's business as usual.
Lay and Skilling have to pay up their ill-gotten gains to Enron's stockholders, but what about the $9-plus billion owe electricity consumers? The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Bush's electricity cops, have slapped Enron and its gang of power pirates on the wrist. Could that have something to do with the fact that Ken Lay, in secret chats with Dick Cheney, selected the Commission's chairmen?
Team Bush had to throw the public a bone -- so they threw us Lay and Skilling -- for the crime, note, not of ripping off the public, but ripping off stockholders, the owner class.
This limited conviction, and the announcement of only one more indictment -- of the crime-busters at Milberg-Weiss -- is Team Bush's "all clear!" signal for the sharks to jump back into the power pool.
Click here for the rest.
Great point. But then, that's what I love about Palast; he's able to cut through the bullshit right to an issue's true meaning. And in this case, he does that swimmingly: the Enron prosecution was never really about justice; instead it was about making sure that the corporate class could get back to business as usual. Enron's shareholders were indeed ripped off, and it's good that there are some consequences for that. But remember the rolling blackouts in
It is also important to observe that business as usual also means that the cutthroat capitalist conditions and culture that necessarily gave birth to Lay and Skilling's misdeeds still exist. There will definitely be more Enrons in the future. Maybe even right now.
Posted by Ron at 11:42 PM
'Ex-Gays' Seek a Say in Schools
From the LA Times courtesy of AlterNet:
Unable to stop it, they have turned to a new strategy: demanding equal time for their view in public schools and on college campuses.
Conservative Christians and Jews have teamed up with men and women who call themselves "ex-gay" to lobby — and even sue — for the right to tell teenagers that they can "heal" themselves of unwanted same-sex attractions.
They argue that schools have an obligation to balance gay-pride themes with the message that gay and lesbian students can go straight through "reparative therapy." In this view, homosexuality is not a fixed or inborn trait but a symptom of emotional distress — a disorder that can be cured.
Even the most ardent champions of ex-gay therapy acknowledge that it's not always possible to banish unwanted attractions. Nicolosi says only one-third of his patients are ever "cured" — and even then, "that doesn't mean they never have a homosexual thought or feeling again."
Embarrassing lapses have plagued the ex-gay movement: In the 1970s, two of the men who founded Exodus fell in love and left their wives to live together. In the 1980s, the founder of Homosexuals Anonymous was caught having sex with men who sought his help going straight. In 2000, a leading ex-gay speaker with Focus on the Family was photographed leaving a gay bar.
When Dr. Robert Spitzer, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, interviewed 200 people who had sought to change their sexual orientation, he concluded that many of them had succeeded and were happier for it. But many of his subjects for the 2001 study had been referred by — or worked for — ex-gay groups, and Spitzer relied entirely on their self-reporting of thoughts and desires. He now says that some of his subjects may have been deceiving themselves or lying to him.
Click here for the rest.
You know, I'm not particularly sure myself that homosexuality is some sort of inborn or genetic trait, like blue eyes or dark skin. To the best of my knowledge, the "evidence" for such a concept is pretty weak, and it strikes me that most of the research in this direction is driven by a need to prove to religious homophobes that homosexual behavior is not chosen, and therefore not a sin. On the other hand, I don't really know why there needs to be biological evidence that being gay is not a "lifestyle choice," or why intolerant religious people even need to be persuaded of that. Even in the 21st century, sex is still very mysterious. I think it's safe to say that no one, gay, straight, or bisexual, is able to explain why they like what they like. No one is able to say that what turns them on was freely chosen at some earlier point in their lives. Why do I like super-short hair on women? I have no idea. What is it about belly buttons that gets me wild? You got me. Why are some people into feet, or S and M? You get the idea. It's pretty obvious to me that gay people never chose what turns them on, just as nobody ever chooses what turns them on. Maybe there is some sort of genetic or biological component that makes people tend toward gayness, despite the lack of evidence, but it doesn't really matter. Gay people are gay, and that's that.
Consequently, this whole "ex-gay" therapy nonsense is very troubling. These people assert that they know all about what makes people gay, but, of course, they can't possibly know that because nobody knows that. It strikes me that claiming an ability to "cure" gay people is like claiming an ability to "cure" people who love the Beatles or fried chicken or James Bond movies. In other words, this whole thing is about suppression. That is, there is no such thing as curing a gay person of homosexual desire; the best they can do is help people to stop thinking about it. But then, that's the kind of thing that, demonstrably, leads to depression, anxiety, suicide, all sorts of pathology. Suppression of natural, healthy sexual desire, suppression of identity, because that's what we're ultimately talking about here, is a horrible thing.
And these motherfuckers are insisting on spreading their dangerous bullshit in the public schools, which are already the most homophobic environments in the country. I guess I shouldn't be surprised; they've been pushing for creationism for years. Creationism in science class is pretty awful, but the effects are more long-term and diffused: preaching bullshit about sexuality has an immediate negative payoff--teens are already confused and overly emotional; gay kids even more so. Ex-gay "philosophy" is already a bad idea. Putting it in the schools would be an atrocity.
Posted by Ron at 11:08 PM
Saturday, May 27, 2006
CORPORATE MEDIA AND TRUTH:
LIKE BELIEVING IN SANTA CLAUS
A nice long rant posted by one of the Media Matters people about the significance and blatant anti-liberal double standard of the New York Times' recent front page story on the Clintons' marriage is all the rage on the left side of the blogoshpere today. It's actually an interesting read, so go check it out if you want. On the other hand, it suffers from the chronic tendency of establishment liberals to go after the mountain of damning details, point-by-point, while staying the hell away from a more succinct and overall institutional criticism of the news media of the Noam Chomsky variety--generally, that's the problem with the liberal-left, as opposed to the progressive-left or far left; their mindset tends to value the institutions that make up the overall power establishment, and, consequently, are only able to criticize their actions, rather than their existence or how they are structured.
At any rate, one of Tom Tomorrow's blog team, Jonathan Schwarz, who cross posts at This Modern World the stuff he does at his own blog, A Tiny Revolution, immediately saw the deficiency of the Media Matters piece, and adds to it this golden nugget:
Of all the things that drive me crazy about my progressive compatriots, it’s this belief that you can change the corporate media with accurate criticism of it. They believe at some point the people within the media will realize they’re wrong, and their behavior will improve.
This is insane.
Click here for the rest.
That is so true. He briefly explains why such criticism is likely to have no effect, but the real punchline is in a piece to which he links that he wrote on his own blog last December:
There Is No Santa Claus
One thing I repeat is that the mainstream media does a FANTASTIC job. Day in and day out, they turn in an extraordinary performance—at what they exist to do. And that is to make as much money as possible.
Of course, in terms of helping people learn about the world, they are an eternal catastrophe. But why would we ever expect any different? The mainstream media is made up of gigantic corporations. Like all corporations, they manufacture a product, which is their audience. They sell this product to their customers, which are other huge corporations.
Informing people about the world is not just irrelevant to the purpose of making money, but in many ways actually HURTS a corporation's profitability. No business goes out of its way to piss off its owners and customers.
Now, obviously it's true you hear constantly about the media's Unending Fight For Truth. But you also hear constantly that a fat man wearing a red suit breaks into America's homes at the end of each year to distribute new X-boxes. Neither of these things is real.
Click here for the rest.
Again, that is so true. The corporate news media is simply not in the business of providing the news: they provide audiences for commercials and ads, and they attract those audiences by giving them programs and articles called "news," which may or may not actually have some correspondence to reality. For the life of me, I just can't figure out why liberals don't pound away on this concept 24/7 when criticizing the obvious rightward slant of the corporate news media; it seems like such a natural place to begin the debate. The only answer I have is what I mentioned above, that liberals favor the power establishment, and are utterly unwilling to really go after it in a way that might ultimately achieve the goals they say they want.
It's maddening, I know, but until American liberals, who far outnumber progressives, begin to realize that supporting the institutions of power which comprise the US establishment plays utterly into the hands of conservatives who, in the end, are the real ideological face of of American power, it's all going to be pointless debate. You can't have your cake and eat it, too. You can't be a part of the establishment and oppose it at the same time.
I learned that while I was teaching high school.
Posted by Ron at 8:25 PM
Enron Bosses--Guilty; George Bush--Guilty
From the Nation via AlterNet:
Lay, who President Bush affectionately referred to as "Kenny-boy" when the two forged an alliance in the 1990s to advance Bush's political ambitions and Lay's business prospects, contributed $122,500 to Bush's gubernatorial campaigns in Texas. Lay would later explain to a PBS "Frontline" interviewer that, though he had worked closely with former Texas Governor Ann Richards, the Democrat incumbent who Bush challenged in 1994, he backed the Republican because "I was very close to George W."
All told, it is estimated that, over the years prior the company's bankruptcy, Lay, his company and its employees contributed close to $2 million to fund George W. Bush's political rise.
As Waxman explained in a 2001 interview, "The fact of the matter is that Enron and Ken Lay, who was the Chief Executive Officer of Enron, had an extraordinary amount of influence and access to the Bush Administration. Lay was called a close friend by both the President and the Vice President. When the Vice President chaired an Energy Task Force, Ken Lay had an opportunity to meet privately with the Vice President and to have a great deal of influence in their recommendations."
Click here for the rest.
I had almost forgotten the now classic Bush statement a week or so after Enron's collapse in late 2001 that it was a business scandal, not a political scandal. And, after Bush distanced himself from "Kenny-boy" Lay by insisting repeatedly, and falsely, that they barely knew each other, after a few show-laws were passed by Congress to illustrate how the GOP frowns on corporate corruption, after the corporate news media happily took the bait, a business scandal is what Enron turned out to be. Of course, that's not really true--that's simply what became of public discussion on the matter. In an era where there seems to be very little practical difference between corporate America and American government, Enron was always a political scandal.
It is impossible to say what political favors Bush spooned from the Oval Office out to the convicted businessman before his company fell; after all, one of the first major and successful political battles waged by the administration was to keep secret the discussions and members of Cheney's energy task force. Remember that? However, judging from the way that business has been done in Washington in the Abramoff era, it's probably safe to say that Ken Lay got back much more than the two million he invested in Bush over the years. If we'd had a real Congress at the time of Enron's collapse, and I'm including the Democrats who had a slim one-vote majority in the Senate for the first two years of Bush's reign, there would have been Whitewater style investigations out the wazoo for months on end. Instead, there was a scramble to make sure that the popular-among-elites business establishment was able to continue uninterrupted. Pathetic.
Just think: if everyone had been doing their jobs, Bush might have felt penned in, might not have ever felt that he had the "political capital" for launching the ill-fated invasion of Iraq. Actually, a Congressional investigation of Bush and Lay's relationship might have also kept Bush from doing all sorts of stupid shit, like suppressing information about global warming and birth control, psychotic tax cuts for the rich, you name it. In the end, Enron is as much about the collapse of one corporation as it is about the collapse of our entire political system.
That's why it's all going to happen again, sooner or later.
Posted by Ron at 7:51 PM
REAL ART THEME
The Nairobi Trio
You know, at this point, I'm not one hundred percent sure how I first encountered jazz artist Dick Hyman's tune "Solfeggio," which I've been using for nearly three years as Real Art's theme song. I think that I first found it on the Ernie Kovacs tribute site from which I link the song here, or maybe I first heard it years ago in a history of radio and television class when we were covering Kovacs. I just don't recall. But that's not as important as why I picked the song: in addition to being cool, quirky, and just plain weird, it was originally performed on Kovacs' brilliant old TV shows by three people in gorilla suits, the Nairobi Trio.
The Nairobi Trio was a skit Ernie Kovacs performed several times for his TV shows. It combined many existing concepts and visuals in a new and novel way, and is probably the first comedy bit people think about when Kovacs' name is mentioned.
People in gorilla suits have always been a comedy staple. The notion of well-known or predictable music pieces gone awry has long been practiced by artists as diverse as Stan Freberg, Spike Jones or P.D.Q. Bach. The "slow burn" of one character annoying another resulting in eventual retaliation was not new. But the combination of all those ingredients, combined with impeccable timing, produced a very unique and memorable result.
It was a live-action version of a child's animatronic wind-up music box, performed to the tune "Solfeggio." Allegedly, when Kovacs first heard a recording of the tune, he immediately came up with a mental image of what would become The Nairobi Trio: three gorillas (wearing derby hats and long overcoats) mechanically miming to the music like wind-up toys. In the middle sat the "head gorilla," always played by Kovacs (with a cigar, of course), conducting with a baton or (sometimes) a banana. To the viewer's left another gorilla stood, holding two oversized timpani mallets. (The identity of this ape varied, but among Kovacs' celebrity friends both Jack Lemmon and Frank Sinatra are known to have performed in the skit.) And seated at screen right at a piano was a female simian (often Kovacs' wife, Edie Adams), robotically thumping up and down on the keys.
Click here for the rest.
As longtime Real Art readers know, I think gorilla suits are kickass, almost as funny as rubber chickens. Of course, I've explained most of this before. What makes this explanation different is that I managed to dig up some actual video of the Nairobi Trio doing their thing. And, yeah, it's pretty darned funny.
You'd really be a fool to not go check it out right now.
A Nairobi Trio screen-capture from the Ernie Kovacs show
Posted by Ron at 12:01 AM
Friday, May 26, 2006
FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING
Posted by Ron at 2:18 PM
Officials: Hastert "In the Mix" of
Congressional Bribery Investigation
From the ABC News blog the Blotter courtesy of Crooks and Liars:
Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, based on information from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.
Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.
The other tribes were represented by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff who reportedly has provided details of his dealings with Hastert as part of his plea agreement with the government.
Click here for the rest.
Okay, this is one weird story. Of course Hastert immediately denied that he's being investigated, and a DOJ spokesman agreed with him. But then, ABC decided to stick to its story, claiming that their law-enforcement source says it doesn't matter what the DOJ is saying, Hastert is being investigated. To further complicate matters, NPR today suggested that the whole spat has something to do with the weird Congressional furor over the FBI search of alleged bribe-taker Representative William Jefferson's office in the Capitol. This is really confusing. But then, that's no surprise at all when conservatives are concerned: they don't debate these days as much as try to muddy the argument--I think they learned a lot from President Clinton's definition-of-is style of sophistry.
Anyway, what's the deal with this? Is Hastert under investigation or not? As far as I can tell, both answers are technically true. Hastert does not appear to be an official target of the overall Abramoff lobbying investigation, but he is, as ABC's source says, part of the mix. That is, they're looking at him, but haven't yet decided to go balls-to-the-walls after him yet. My bet is that he's well aware of what's going on, and is consciously parsing the official/unofficial line, and bringing in the FBI thing, all for the purpose of confusing you and me, that is, the citizens of these United States.
So, in short, Hastert is under investigation; he's simply not yet a "target." And may never be a target if nothing damning comes up. But if I was a betting man, I'd definitely put money down on Hastert being targeted. He's a DeLay loyalist, after all, and all those guys are rotten to the core.
(Thanks to the Houston Chronicle's new editorial cartoonist Nick Anderson, and the new comment feature for his cartoons, for a couple of these links.)
Posted by Ron at 1:04 AM
ENRON JURORS FIND LAY, SKILLING GUILTY
From the Houston Chronicle:
A federal jury convicted former Enron chiefs Ken Lay on all counts and Jeff Skilling on most counts today, marking the climax of one of the most notorious corporate scandals in U.S. history and nearly ensuring prison time for two of Houston's best-known executives.
The jury heard 16 weeks of testimony and arguments and made its announcement early on its sixth day of deliberations. The eight-woman, four-man panel found Lay guilty of all six counts. They convicted Skilling on 19 of the 28 counts against him.
U.S. District Judge Sim Lake set a sentencing date of Sept. 11. The two men remain free on bond.
In Lay's separate personal banking fraud trial, Lake found Lay guilty on all four counts.
When asked whether he could admit that he had broken the law, Skilling replied, "No. I didn't.''
"We fought the good fight,'' Skilling said. "Some things work; some things don't.''
Shortly before 3 p.m., Lay also made a brief statement to the media outside the courthouse: "Despite what happened today, I'm still a very blessed man. At my left is this beautiful lady that's my wife. I have a very warm, loving family. And, most of all I believe God, in fact, is in control and that, indeed God works all things good for all who love the lord. We love our lord, all this will work for good."
Click here for the rest.
Well, I don't have much to say about this other than that I'm glad these two corporate scumbags are getting their comeuppance. But this is no victory for the common man. The conditions that created the context wherein Lay and Skilling's crimes took place still exist, by and large, because the Congressional and SEC reforms enacted in the wake of the wave of corporate and accounting scandals a few years ago essentially amounted to a band-aid over an open artery. That is, Lay and Skilling broke the law because of a business and political culture that rewards and respects vicious corporate behavior. The awful thing is that most white collar crimes like theirs are not even illegal because the cozy relationship between corporate America and Capitol Hill is such that corporations write the laws and staff the agencies that govern them--the Enron gang simply crossed a line, and, given the favorable climate, thought they could get away with it. Indeed, Lay and Skilling still believe that they did nothing wrong. This attitude, that it's not only okay but desirable to shaft rank and file Americans, continues to infect Washington, both the politicians and the law itself. This is definitely going to happen again because nothing has changed.
Posted by Ron at 12:33 AM
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Indiana Male, in a Dress, Barred From Prom
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
A male student who has worn women's clothes to school all year was turned away from his high school prom because he was wearing a dress.
Kevin Logan, 18, went to the West Side High School prom on Friday in a slinky fuchsia gown and heels. He believes officials discriminated against him by not allowing him inside.
"I have no formal pictures, no memories, nothing. You only have one prom," he said.
Click here for the rest.
Despite all my views about how the authoritarian nature of the public school system tends to undermine its ostensible mission to educate young Americans, I do believe in dress codes: I think students should wear clothes to school. Any restriction beyond that stifles creativity and personal expression, and in a society that increasingly insists that creativity is something to be consumed, at the mall or on television, rather than lived, self-adornment is currently the lone major bastion of artistic expression for most Americans. It is a moral crime to restrict the way that people dress--unless, of course, one is paid for such a restriction, that is, at work.
Anyway, it's obvious that the schools have no idea how to deal with cross-dressing students. The main objection, no doubt, to such behavior is that it causes disruption to the heavily regulated school environment, and that's completely true. But so what? The schools should just deal with it. Cross-dressing goes beyond simple artistic expression; it is an expression of the self, a statement of identitiy on an extraordinarily deep level. To insist that a student who desires to cross-dress refrain from doing so is every bit as destructive to the psyche as insisting that the non-cross-dresser take a walk on the wild side him or herself.
The article says this kid is considering a lawsuit. I hope he wins.
Posted by Ron at 9:37 PM
Pending Internet neutrality
legislation is vital to preserving
independent Web content and expression
From the Houston Chronicle editorial board:
Previously, Federal Communications Commission regulations required telecom companies to provide open access to the Internet. Last year, the FCC eliminated those restrictions. As a result, there are currently no laws to prevent providers from controlling their customers' Internet access.
Officials of some companies recently have suggested policies favoring some content providers over others and restricting users' ability to avail themselves of the full range of the Internet. Telephone companies have sought to prevent broadband customers from utilizing cheap, Internet-based long distance service.
In the face of these encroachments, congressional action is needed to preserve Internet competitiveness. Fortunately, there are several bills percolating in the House of Representatives that could fill the regulatory vacuum.
Click here for the rest.
I'm no tech-head, but the way I understand the situation, internet access providers now have the legal ability to cut lucrative deals with certain bigtime websites, like the Time-Warner owned AOL stuff, which allow those sites to be loaded by you and me, consumers, at a normal speed, while greatly slowing down the load times for all other websites. In other words, this could conceivably spell the end of the free-wheeling free speech oriented nature of the internet for good. And that's a very bad thing. Decades ago when radio technology first hit the scene, and then later with television, there was, at first, the promise of technology revolutionizing communications for the better in America. At that point, free speech had the potential to really take off in this country, making our historically weak democracy much stronger, allowing rank and file citizens to truly have a voice in national affairs. Obviously, that didn't happen. Big businesses, such as General Electric, stepped in, and using their many government contacts, stifled the whole thing before it had a chance to get going. We are in great danger of repeating history. If that happens, the promise of some real democracy will once again be broken.
I don't think I've ever recommended writing your congressman here at Real Art, generally because I don't think it does much good: this has the potential to be a rather desperate situation; write your congressman on this.
Posted by Ron at 9:07 PM
OLD SCHOOL CORRUPTION
Jefferson: Raid ‘outrageous’
From the Baton Rouge Advocate:
Jefferson’s appearance was the first since a search warrant affidavit was released Sunday that contends Jefferson was captured on camera accepting a $100,000 bribe. The money was planted by an FBI informant from northern Virginia who also recorded bribe conversations with Jefferson, the affidavit said.
Jefferson said Monday he would answer the allegations and added that he intends to seek re-election in November. “There are two sides to every story,” Jefferson said. “I plan to carry out my responsibilities here as I have since the time I’ve been here.”
Two men already have pleaded guilty to bribing Jefferson or abetting in a bribe. Jefferson has not been charged with a crime and has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
The affidavit states that the informant planted the $100,000 with Jefferson on July 30. On Aug. 3, agents raided Jefferson’s Washington and New Orleans homes and found $90,000 in $100 bills wrapped in aluminum foil in a freezer, the document says.
Click here for the rest.
Ninety grand in the freezer? This certainly is old school corruption, almost Simpsons-like in its brazenness, not at all the complicated, underground, major lobbying conspiracy infecting the GOP, but just as illegal, just as fucked up. There are, indeed, two sides to every story as the Democratic Representative from New Orleans has observed. But he's going to have one hell of a time explaining how he was caught on tape accepting a whole lot of money in exchange for legislative favors. I look forward to his marvelous story. Maybe it involves fairies or leprechauns; I sure hope so. At any rate, this is bullshit, despite the fact that he's dealing with chump change relative to the K Street gang. This guy needs to go down hard and fast. Fuck him.
Damned Democrats are just as money-grubbing as the Republicans. They're just not as good at it.
Posted by Ron at 12:06 AM
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Some Iraq war vets go homeless after return to US
From Reuters courtesy of Eschaton:
When the single mother was discharged in April, after her second tour in Iraq, she was 24 and had little money and no place to live. She slept in her son's day-care center.
Gamboa is part of a small but growing trend among U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- homelessness.
On any given night the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) helps 200 to 250 of them, and more go uncounted. They are among nearly 200,000 homeless veterans in America, largely from the Vietnam War.
Advocates say the number of homeless veterans is certain to grow, just as it did in the years following the Vietnam and Gulf wars, as a consequence of the stresses of war and inadequate job training.
Click here for the rest.
Obviously, this is inexcusable. As somebody quoted in the article observes, it's not a lack of money that's behind this: we're spending billions a week over in Iraq; it would take only a tiny fraction of that money to make sure vets are taken care of. I don't think I really need to go into a lengthy explanation as to why the government owes these people. In short, they've put their lives on the line for this country and deserve special status. Period. You know, I just don't understand how the GOP and their supporters can go on and on about how everybody should "support the troops," and then turn around and allow this to happen. How does it support the troops to continue slashing VA budgets? Clearly, "support the troops" is just a political slogan that amounts to a bunch of bullshit.
And why the hell are there 200,000 homeless vets from the Vietnam War?!?
Posted by Ron at 11:52 PM
NAGIN WINS IT
From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Nine months after Hurricane Katrina swamped his city and transformed him from virtual shoo-in to ripe target, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin surged to a second term Saturday, besting Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu to maintain leadership of a city still languishing in ruin.
Nagin, a former cable television executive who ran as a political outsider four years ago, overcame withering criticism of his performance in the months since the Aug. 29 storm. Acknowledging that the effort to restore basic municipal services has been painfully slow, Nagin blamed the lack of progress on a failure of state and federal government to come to the aid of a city reeling from the worst urban natural disaster in American history.
With his victory, Nagin kept alive a 60-year win streak for incumbents and continued the era of African-American leadership in the mayor's office, which began when Landrieu's father, Moon Landrieu, left office in 1978.
Nagin's re-election means he will remain at the helm of a daunting recovery effort through 2010, removing an air of uncertainty that even he admitted during the campaign has slowed the rebuilding process.
Click here for the rest.
Strangely, this election wasn't about politics. Well, okay, it was about politics, but not about political issues. As the article observes, Landrieu's and Nagin's policy positions were identical, so voters weren't choosing between different visions of how New Orleans ought to be reconstructed. Instead, as the conventional wisdom goes, this was a referendum on Nagin. Indeed, the Big Easy's Mayor had come under heavy criticism concerning the way he handled the Katrina crisis, before, during, and after. Apparently, he got enough New Orleanians to believe that he did, at least, an okay job, despite the months of mouthing.
And that's kind of my take on it, too. Certainly, what happened with Katrina was a massive, system-wide failure, and Nagin most definitely made mistakes. But I think that Houston's clusterfuck of an evacuation when category 5 Rita was headed in their direction made it obvious to all that evacuating a major city is a problematic concept at best--really, what all cities need is much better oversight and coordination from the Feds, but then, I'm just an actor, so what do I know? The bottom line for most voters in regard to this "referendum," I think, is that Nagin was on the ground during the entire Katrina story, right in the middle of things, all by himself doing his best to kick ass. Landrieu wasn't there. Blanco wasn't there. And Bush just kind of did a fly-by. I think that's how Ray Nagin re-earned his position.
Overshadowing all of this, however, is race. The final analysis is still out, but, in the end, the Picayune seems to think that between the primary and runoff Nagin managed to get enough white votes, twenty percent, to do the trick. Consequently, the election wasn't decided along a strict white-black line. That's a great thing because it will make governing the city that much easier. But it's also great, to me, because I'm of the opinion that only an African-American mayor can assure that New Orleans' enormous black population will get, at least, a shot at a fair shake. Landrieu is a Democrat, yes, but he's also a product of the old and entrenched Louisiana white power structure. As liberal as Democrats seem to be, white Democrats have a tendency, like all white Americans, to overlook and underemphasize the problems facing black Americans. And white Democrats, in the South anyway, usually look to the problems of white citizens first, blacks later. Sometimes much much later. Or never. Let's face it: most black New Orleanians have yet to return because they can't. Their neighborhoods still lie in ruins. Many of these African-Americans, because they are poor and politically powerless, do not have the lobbying resources that whites have. Even with Nagin on the job, I still fear that the needs of whites will be met first, leaving blacks to pick up the scraps dropped from the table. But with Nagin on the job, I am less fearful.
Congrats Mayor Nagin.
Posted by Ron at 12:22 AM
Monday, May 22, 2006
FDA: High levels of benzene found in some drinks
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
The companies that make the drinks have been alerted and either have reformulated their products or plan to do so, the FDA said. Government health officials maintain there is no safety concern, an opinion not shared by at least one environmental group.
The five drinks listed by the government were Safeway Select Diet Orange, Crush Pineapple, AquaCal Strawberry Flavored Water Beverage, Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange and Giant Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail. The high levels of benzene were found in specific production lots of the drinks, the FDA said.
Benzene, a chemical linked to leukemia, can form in soft drinks containing two ingredients: Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, and either of the two preservatives: sodium benzoate and potassium benzoate.
Click here for the rest.
I think it's safe to conclude that things are probably worse than the FDA is indicating. After all, it's fairly well known that Federal agencies under the Bush White House have been extraordinarily friendly to the industries they are supposed to regulate, and have, in numerous documented instances, kept important information from public scrutiny, for everything from global warming to pollution levels to stem cell research. I'm betting that the drinks listed in the above excerpt are simply the worst of the worst. It's nice and all that I don't drink the worst of the worst, but I've got to ask: what's really safe and what's not? That's actually a major problem. Americans today have no way of knowing to which toxic substances they are being exposed. Really, the federal government is the only entity with the resources to figure this shit out, but, under Bush, that's just not happening.
Just another thing to worry about.
Posted by Ron at 11:31 PM
Saturday, May 20, 2006
NOT IF I CAN HELP IT!
Since I have not started my cross-country trip I will post a little something. It will have neither the wit nor sparkle that Ron usually gives us, but it will keep RealArt from going dark for too long. Here goes something:
Revisiting Allen Ginsburg's 'Howl' at 50
from NPR (where else)
The resulting rush of violent, desperate words, starting with the well-known opening lines "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness," created major ripples in the literary world.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti was at the Six Gallery to hear the 29-year-old Allen Ginsberg read "Howl" for the first time. Ferlinghetti owned City Lights, a bookstore and publishing house in San Francisco. He asked Ginsberg if he could publish "Howl," and the first edition appeared in the fall of 1956. "'Howl' knocked the sides out of things," Ferlinghetti later said.
The poem gave voice to an undercurrent of dissatisfaction and alienation in Eisenhower's America. "Howl" became an anthem for the nascent counterculture.
Click here for the rest (and for a lovely listen).
Rereading this today for the first time in a long while was awe-inspiring (I use that term because I can think of nothing else). Ginsburg wasn't much older than I was when he wrote it. It hurts to read it, but it feels so good too. It has some of the same qualities that my favorite songs do-- it confuses my emotions and my reactions. I want to cry and simultaneously scream from the roof tops. It makes me want to howl. It moves, it has rhythm. It is amazing what still stings after 50 years. It makes me wish I had been around to see that first reading-- to feel the room. It got me thinking about modern poetry (and lord knows I have no right to be discussing poetry-- novice is a compliment)... where are the poets who move people? I know they must exist. Why don't they get attention? Where are the artists putting into words and thoughts and pictures our generation's frustration? Does my generation even feel frustration? Yipes! Reread Howl if you haven't in awhile. It'll make you think or not.
Posted by TZA at 8:53 PM
REAL ART GOES DARK TIL MONDAY
We're headed to Houston to take care of some business for the next couple of nights, so I won't be posting until late Monday evening. Unless, of course, Miles or Tara find a little cyber-inspiration and put a little something up. Actually, I think Tara is in the midst of a long road trip from her home on the Atlantic to Boulder for work in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, so it's unlikely that we'll be hearing from her. But Miles, I'm pretty sure, is done with his finals at UT, and probably hasn't found a summer job yet, or started summer classes, or whatever he's doing, and most likely has oodles of time for blogging. You hear that, Miles? C'mon, man, you're a journalism student! Get to it, then!
See ya'll Monday.
Posted by Ron at 2:56 AM
Senate Votes English as 'National Language'
From the Washington Post courtesy of the Daily Kos:
After an emotional debate fraught with symbolism, the Senate yesterday voted to make English the "national language" of the United States, declaring that no one has a right to federal communications or services in a language other than English except for those already guaranteed by law.
The measure, approved 63 to 34, directs the government to "preserve and enhance" the role of English, without altering current laws that require some government documents and services be provided in other languages. Opponents, however, said it could negate executive orders, regulations, civil service guidances and other multilingual ordinances not officially sanctioned by acts of Congress.
But its author, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), made two last-minute changes that some opponents said would reduce its effect significantly. By stipulating that the English-only mandates could not negate existing laws, Inhofe spared current ordinances that allow bilingual education or multilingual ballots. By changing the amendment to label English the "national language" rather than the "official language" of the country, Inhofe may have lessened its symbolic power.
Further complicating the picture, moments after approving the Inhofe amendment, the Senate voted 58 to 39 to approve a competing amendment by Salazar. It declared English the "common unifying language of the United States," but mandated that nothing in that declaration "shall diminish or expand any existing rights" regarding multilingual services.
Senators said the conflict will have to be worked out in negotiations with the House.
Click here for the rest.
This is one weird bill. It doesn't declare English to be the official language; instead, it makes English the "national language." Whatever the hell that means, and, as far as what this article says is actually in the bill, there are apparently no clues there. From what I can tell, I think that "national language" means that it is now patriotically correct to praise English as being better for America than other languages, and that no new programs or laws mandating the use of other languages will be enacted in the future. I think. Frankly, it sounds like the Senate was for English-as-official-language before they were against it. That is, this bill is obviously something of a patchwork quilt, designed to throw bones to as many factions of the GOP as possible, including, of course, both the right-wing xenophobes who are scared shitless of brown people, and the right-wing capitalists who want to exploit the hell out of brown people.
We may very well be watching the disintegration of the Republican Party on this issue.
You know, I've never understood why people seem to be so threatened by Spanish. I mean, I've heard some reasonable people talk about cultural unity, but such arguments seem so abstract as to be uncompelling. I've also heard people talk about how much it costs to print ballots and whatnot in multiple languages, but, again, all budgets considered, we're only talking about a drop in the bucket, which makes this argument uncompelling, too. What we're left with, then, is irrational fear of the unknown, which is just stupid. In Texas, I've had a great deal of interaction with people who speak Spanish as a first language. It's just no big deal. Even interacting with people who don't speak English at all is no big deal. We just stumble through whatever we need to get done with some improvised Spanglish and it all works out. I just don't get why people are so terrified of what, to me, is quite a lengua bonita.
We really do live in a culture of fear.
By the way, over at Emphasis Added rascally Rob Salkowitz has some wise things to say about this issue. Check it out.
Posted by Ron at 2:05 AM
Friday, May 19, 2006
FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING
Frankie and Sammy
Posted by Ron at 12:30 PM
Marines killed Iraqis ‘in cold blood’
From MSNBC courtesy of This Modern World:
Murtha, a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq, said at a news conference Wednesday that sources within the military have told him that an internal investigation will show that "there was no firefight, there was no IED (improvised explosive device) that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them, and they killed innocent civilians in cold blood."
Military officials say Marine Corp photos taken immediately after the incident show many of the victims were shot at close range, in the head and chest, execution-style. One photo shows a mother and young child bent over on the floor as if in prayer, shot dead, said the officials, who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity because the investigation hasn't been completed.
One military official says it appears the civilians were deliberately killed by the Marines, who were outraged at the death of their fellow Marine.
“This one is ugly," one official told NBC News.
Click here for the rest.
It's just like Vietnam all over again, right down to the initial coverup. Murtha's got it completely right: the marines who did this were in all probablity not murderous when they first arrived in Iraq, but the insanity of a long and drawn out unwinnable quagmire is obviously taking it's toll; it's turning good soldiers into evil men. This is probably the issue that makes my heart hurt the most. It's terrible, of course, what's happened to Iraq, all the needless death and destruction brought on by American action--we really are responsible for all this. But the thought that young guys, boys really, who could have been me twenty years ago are being twisted by Bush's psychotic war into violent sick fuckers who will probably never recover just makes me sad.
As Colonel Kurtz said, "the horror..."
Posted by Ron at 1:02 AM
JAMES T. KIRK IS BORN
From the AP via the Fairbanks News-Miner courtesy of This Modern World:
Like all parents, Marcus Weldy and his wife Rebecca McInnes Weldy of Nikiski are hoping their newborn baby will live long and prosper, but they went a step further to ensure their son's future.
"We decided to name him James Tiberius Kirk Weldy," said Rebecca in regard to the newest family member who, according to the Captain's Log, was added to the family fleet at 4:31 a.m. on Friday, April 21, 2006.
For those not in the know, James T. Kirk - played by William Shatner - was the commander of the starship Enterprise in the 1960s science fiction series "Star Trek."
Rebecca said she is not a convention-going "trekkie,"as "Star Trek" fans are called, but is a longtime fan of the show.
Click here for the rest.
Riiiight. She's not a "trekkie." Sure. I believe that.
Anyway, people can name their kids whatever they want, I say. And James Tiberius Kirk actually is a pretty cool name, Star Trek or no. You know, this reminds me of some of my own family's culture. Years ago when my younger brother Steve was four or five, he made his first trip to a mother's-day-out program at a nearby church. Apparently, so our family lore goes, when the teacher asked him what his name is he replied, "I'm Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise." The teacher thought it was so funny she told our mother about it when she came back from her "day out." We've been laughing about it now for over thirty years. I think even Steve gets a kick out of it.
I wish I'd thought to do that.
Anyway, here's a pic of the bouncing baby Kirk:
Looks like a tough guy.
Posted by Ron at 12:49 AM
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
BILL O'REILLY FLIRTS WITH RACISM
Defends white power structure in America
From Media Matters for America courtesy of Eschaton, some of the Butthole's "Talking Points Memo":
O'REILLY: Now in 1986, President Reagan thought he could solve the [immigration] problem by granting about 3 million illegal aliens amnesty. The New York Times was in heaven, editorializing back then, quote, "The new law won't work miracles but it will induce most employers to pay attention, to turn off the magnets, to slow the tide." Of course, just the opposite happened. But the Times hasn't learned a thing. That's because the newspaper and many far-left thinkers believe the white power structure that controls America is bad, so a drastic change is needed.
According to the lefty zealots, the white Christians who hold power must be swept out by a new multicultural tide, a rainbow coalition, if you will. This can only happen if demographics change in America.
An open-border policy and the legalization of millions of Hispanic illegal aliens would deeply affect the political landscape in America. That's what The New York Times and many others on the left want. They might get it. And that's the "Memo."
Click here for the rest.
I think it's safe to say that the right wing, flirting with racism since Nixon began his "Southern strategy," and picking up after 9/11, has finally been pushed over the edge by the whole illegal immigrant flap. I mean, Ann Coulter's desire to profile "swarthy men," and Michelle Malkin's defense of the Japanese internment camps in the US during WWII were dismissable by me as the ravings of idiot pundits. Of course, O'Reilly's an idiot, too, but never have I heard him essentially supporting American white supremacy. Indeed, the whole immigrant debate has brought out some of the worst racism in public discourse I've heard my whole life--thank god I'm too young to remember some of the bullshit from the 60s; I mean, I know it's been worse before, just not in my lifetime. Anyway, it's amazing to me how the most mainstream of conservative pundits are now sounding more like David Duke than William Buckley. And the corporate media are letting these freaks get away with it.
You know, I think I'm stealing some of these ideas from David Neiwert over at Orcinus: he's written at great length about how the far-right extremist fringe has become lately a sort of testing ground for intolerance; that is, the far far right is now where the far right appears to be getting its ideas. What was unthinkable ten years ago is now part of the overall debate. You really should go over to Neiwert's site and check out the links in the left margin to some of his trademark essays. He's a pretty brilliant guy.
Posted by Ron at 11:55 PM
GET READY FOR INFLATION HELL
Either that, or insanely high interest rates
From Knight-Ridder via the Houston Chronicle:
It all adds up to pressure on the Fed to keep raising interest rates. Its mission is to control inflation — the increase in prices across the economy — and its main tool is the federal funds rate, the rate banks charge each other for overnight loans, which serves as a benchmark for commercial bank lending rates to consumers and businesses alike.
On May 10, the Fed's Open Market Committee raised the funds rates to 5 percent, the highest level in five years and the 16th consecutive increase since June 2004. Many hoped that the Fed wouldn't raise it again at the next meeting, June 28-29.
But Wednesday's numbers make another quarter-point increase seem probable.
For many Americans, the inflation data confirm what they're feeling in the wallet: A dollar isn't stretching as far. From April 2005 to April 2006, inflation ran at an annualized rate of 3.5 percent, while core inflation was at 2.3 percent. Energy-price inflation during that period was 17.8 percent.
On top of that, businesses' costs are soaring for energy, copper, other metals and other raw materials. With the economy growing rapidly in recent months, executives find they can pass more of these costs to consumers.
Click here for the rest.
Obviously, a lot of these inflationary pressures are because of oil: oil lubes everything in the economy, and, consequently, when oil prices rise steeply, all prices rise. But I wonder if it's just the oil. I posted recently about how federal deficit spending stands to trigger inflation which would surely result in higher interest rates in order to combat it. I'm still not sure if deficits have become high enough to start the downward inflationary spiral yet, but it seems to me that it's only a matter of time. The terrible stagflation of the 1970s was caused by, to the best of my knowledge, a very similar situation to what we have today. That is, massive spending on the Vietnam War coupled with an expansion in domestic spending crashed headlong into the oil crisis early in the decade. The result was self-sustaining inflation paired with recession: only a steep rise in interest rates along with some clever supply-side economic policy was able to pull us out. Unfortunately, the cure was a bitter economic pill for millions of working Americans who never really recovered from it. Today, we haven't expanded domestic spending as far as I know, but the psychotic tax cuts for the rich that Bush just signed into permanency amount to the same thing. In other words, we may very well be in for some deep shit, and, frankly, I don't think Bush and his advisors are really willing to do what it takes to head this off at the pass.
Posted by Ron at 11:35 PM
CRAZY PEOPLE CAN SAY ANY CRAZY
THING THEY WANT ON THE INTERNET
I posted late Sunday night a link to an article originating on the truthout site that Karl Rove had already been indicted, although it has not yet been announced, and that the White House gossip is that he's essentially telling staffers there about it. The ever wise Rob Salkowitz of Emphasis Added dropped by to splash a little cold water on my face.
From Real Art comments:
This would be great if true. Rove has denied it, the mainstream press is utterly silent about it, and even some on the left are wondering how this reporter managed to scoop everyone on such an important story. I'm keeping my hopes low at this point, so I can only be pleasantly suprised and not disappointed.My response:
Well, of course, this is speculative, based on what appears to be gossip. But you're right to keep your expectations low--I guess DeLay's resignation, which would have been completely unbelievable to me in 2003, has got me in an optimistic mood these days.Turns out that there's more smoke here than even Rob knew about, maybe even some fire. This story is, indeed, a bit fishy.
From Salon courtesy of Eschaton:
Karl Rove, Jason Leopold and the hunt for the truth
We contacted Leopold again this week when Rove's spokesman denied his most recent story in interviews with the New York Sun and Byron York of the National Review. We asked Leopold the following questions:
* Are you standing by the story? And by "the story," I don't mean that Rove's indictment is imminent, but rather the story that you reported: that Rove has already been indicted, that Fitzgerald met with Luskin for "about 15 hours" Friday, that Fitzgerald "served" Rove's attorneys with a copy of an indictment, and that Fitzgerald told Luskin that Rove had "24 hours" to get his affairs in order.
* If you're standing by the story, can you shed any light on why your report is so different than the characterization Rove's spokesman is offering?
* TalkLeft says you claim to have spoken four times with Rove spokesman Mark Corallo over the weekend. Corallo tells TalkLeft that he's never spoken to anyone who identified himself as "Jason Leopold." Corallo seems to be suggesting that you may have identified yourself as someone named "Joel" from the Sunday Times of London. Can you explain?
Leopold didn't answer any of the questions. This is what he said instead:
"Call anyone else besides Corallo, Luskin? Have you ever tried to go beyond the spokesman for a story? Did you call [Fitzgerald spokesman Randall] Samborn? Have you tried to find out where Rove was Friday? Did you call the White House? Did you do any digging? No, you didn't. Call the White House. Find out where Rove was.
Click here for the rest (you'll have to click through an annoying ad to get there, though).
The Salon article also notes that this truthout reporter, Leopold, has played fast and loose with the truth before, lifting text from other people's articles, and presenting as facts events that cannot be verified. At any rate, this now sounds, to me at least, like the same sort of reporter fibbing that has plagued bigtime news outlets like USA Today and the New York Times. It's a bit surprising because the bigtime reporters are, well, bigtime, and Leopold is strictly smalltime internet potatoes. I guess every pond has a scramble to see who's going to be the big fish.
Not that the report is necessarily wrong. But given this guy's troubled past, given how he's responded to criticism, and given the fact that pretty much no other paper has picked up on the story, my skepticism has gone way up on whether Rove has actually already been indicted. Sorry to lead you astray. It's just that the story was so damned believable.
Anyway, I hope to have a more proper celebration if and when the indictment really does come down.
Posted by Ron at 12:09 AM