THE GONG SHOW
The Gong Show was a television variety show spoof broadcast on NBC's daytime schedule from June 14, 1976 through July 21, 1978 and in first-run syndication in the U.S. from 1976 to 1980. The NBC incarnation and the later years of the syndicated version were emceed by Chuck Barris, who also produced. Gary Owens (of Laugh-In fame) hosted the first syndicated season.
Each show presented a contest between amateur performers of often dubious talent, with a panel of three celebrity judges. The program's frequent judges included Jaye P. Morgan, Arte Johnson, Rip Taylor, Jamie Farr, and Anson Williams. If any one of the judges considered an act to be particularly bad, he or she could strike a large gong, thus forcing the performer to stop. Most of the disappointed performers took the gong with sheepish good grace, but there were exceptions.
Originally, panelists had to wait 20 seconds before they could gong an act; this was later extended to 30, and finally 45. Knowing this, some savvy contestants deliberately stopped performing just before the 45-second rule kicked in, but Barris would overrule this gambit and disqualify them. On other occasions, an act would be gonged before its minimum time was up; Barris would overrule the gong, and the hapless act would be obliged to continue with the full knowledge that their doom was sealed. The laughter and anticipation built as the judges patiently waited to deliver the coup de grace: they would stand up slowly and heft their mallets deliberately, like baseball players in the on-deck circle, letting everyone (including the contestant) know what was coming. Sometimes, pantomimed disputes would erupt between judges, as one celebrity would attempt to physically obstruct another celebrity from gonging the act. The camera would cut back and forth between the performers onstage, and the mock struggle over their fate.
If the act survived without being gonged, he/she/they were given a score by each of the three judges on a scale of 1-10, for a maximum score of 30. On the NBC run, the contestant with the highest combined score earned a prize of $516.32 (reportedly the Screen Actors Guild's minimum pay for a day's work). On the subsequent syndicated run, the prize was $712.05. In the event of a tie, three different tiebreakers were used in at various times during the show's run; at first, the studio audience decided the winner by their applause; later, the producers chose the winner; later still, the celebrities chose the winner. When Barris announced the final score, a midget in formal wear (former Munchkin Jerry Maren) would run onstage, throwing confetti.
Click here for more.
So I mentioned a couple of days ago when eulogizing Charles Nelson Reilly that my favorite game show is Match Game. That's not entirely true. My favorite game show of all time is the Gong Show. Of course, the Gong Show was only technically a game show in that performers competed against each other for a day's wages, so I don't really think of it as being part of the same genre. Really, the Gong Show was all about bizarre performance, the weirder the better. Indeed, "bad," instead of "weird," is the word that would have probably been used by most of the audience at the time, but I think that, even though people really liked the show, they didn't quite understand what it was they liked about it. Sure, it was incredibly funny, but, in its best moments, many of these "bad" acts, very much like the Residents who I posted on last Friday, literally challenged the senses, taking viewers into a state of utter surrealism, and provoking the studio audience into frenzies of hissing and boos. You can't call performances that inspire such intense reaction "bad."
Years later, I've come to realize that the Gong Show heavily influenced me, and probably got me a couple of low grades when I was studying television production at the University of Texas. I mean, this isn't such a strange phenomenon: it's the same thing that makes people love Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space, long described by serious film reviewers as one of the worst movies of all time. I guess some people still don't get it, but I'm pretty much of the opinion these days that there's great power in "bad" performance. Really, as long as it's interesting it's going to be good--that's clearly why some of the worst episodes of the original Star Trek series are also among the best episodes of the series.
Anyway, here's a Gong Show feast for you.
Two seventeen-year-olds eating Popsicles:
Recurring performer, Gene Gene the Dancing Machine:
Weird singer Judith Anne:
A guy with pies:
An overweight go-go dancer:
A performer that I'm not really sure how to describe:
And finally, singer Miss Peggy Guy:
This show was just brilliant.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
THE GONG SHOW
Posted by Ron at 3:40 AM
WHY DIDN'T ANYONE EVER CLUE ME IN?
OINGO BOINGO IN THE 70s WAS FUCKING GREAT!
From Wikipedia's entry for 80s new wave band Oingo Boingo:
The Mystic Knights years (1972-1980)
The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, formed in late 1972 by Richard Elfman, was a musical theatre troupe in the tradition of Spike Jones and Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention, performing an eclectic repertoire ranging from Cab Calloway covers to instrumentals in the style of Balinese Gamelan and Russian ballet music. The name was inspired by a fictional secret society on the Amos 'n' Andy TV series called "The Mystic Knights of the Sea." Most of the members performed in whiteface and clown makeup; a typical show would contain music ranging from the 1890s to the 1950s, in addition to original material. This version of the band employed as many as fifteen musicians at any given time, playing over thirty instruments, including some instruments built by band members.
Few recordings from this period exist, although they did produce a novelty record about kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst, "You've Got Your Baby Back."
As Richard's interest shifted to filmmaking, he passed leadership of the band to younger brother Danny Elfman, who had recently returned from spending time in Africa playing violin and studying percussion music. They gained a following in Los Angeles, and appeared as contestants on The Gong Show in 1976, winning the episode they appeared on with 24 points out of a possible 30 (and without getting gonged.)
So I've only ever been a lukewarm Oingo Boingo fan at best, but I did get some heavy exposure to their music when I was in college. Some of my best pals were just ga-ga over the weird new wavers, and I learned to appreciate some good songs like "Nasty Habits," "Only A Lad," and "Nothing Bad Ever Happens to Me," but it just wasn't enough to get me to shell out some dollars for any of their CDs. I even came to appreciate some of band leader Danny Elfman's soundtrack stuff, although I'm lately faulting it for sounding too much alike from film to film. I will say this about Elfman's compositions: the score for Pee Wee's Big Adventure is some of the best music I've ever heard anywhere ever. And that's a good segue into my main point. Elfman's Pee Wee stuff harkens back to Boingo's pre-new wave years, described in the excerpt above. It's wild and zany, heavily inspired by the Berlin cabaret scene in the years between the two World Wars. Great stuff. Very theatrical, which is very appropriate because Boingo in the 70s was all of that and more.
I only figured this out by inadvertently bumping into the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo on YouTube from when they played the Gong Show back in 1976. Here, check it out; it's fucking great. And while you're at it, here's a clip of the same incarnation a few years later in the film Forbidden Zone, via VideoSift.
Why didn't my buddies ever let me know about this? It's totally up my aesthetic alley!
Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo on the Gong Show
Posted by Ron at 2:45 AM
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Supreme Court OKs Gender Discrimination
Despite this, and contrary to the judgment of the EEOC, the Court by a bare 5-4 majority threw out the discrimination claim she brought under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Court--in an opinion, natch, written by its arch-reactionary newest member--argued that Ledbetter failed to challenge the initial discriminatory pay decision within the required 180 days, and the ongoing pay discrimination did not constitute an "unlawful employment practice." As Ginsburg points out, this reading of the statute makes little sense; unlike with a firing, both because an employee may not be aware of the discriminatory nature of their pay until much later, and moreover it is illogical to hold that only an initial decision to discriminate but not the discriminatory pay itself constitutes an unlawful practice. The effect of the case is to insulate employers from wage discrimination claims as long as they can hid the evidence from the employee being discriminated against for 180 days, a result contrary to the purpose of the statute that is in no way compelled by its language.
Okay, we're in Kafka territory now, and I'm afraid we're here to stay until I'm an old man. Clearly this decision runs counter to not only the intent of the law, but also its plain language. Alito and his nefarious pals on the bench had to dig deep inside their assholes to come up with this big turd. And these guys are supposedly opposed to "judicial activism." What a fucking laugh. The Civil Rights Act is supposed to prevent discrimination, not legalize it, but somehow that's what these black-robed good old boys managed to make it mean. Like the headline says, gender discrimination is now the law of the land. I mean, sure, there's a law that says it's illegal, but this Alice-in-Wonderland legal logic makes it such that it is impossible to enforce.
I seriously believe that we can look forward to the same kind of crap when it comes to African-Americans drinking out of the same water fountains as whites. The genie's out of the bottle; we're moving backward in time.
Posted by Ron at 2:54 AM
Lawyer: Cheney Visitor Logs Not Recorded
From the AP via the Huffington Post courtesy of AlterNet:
A lawyer for Vice President Dick Cheney told the Secret Service in September to eliminate data on who visited Cheney at his official residence, a newly disclosed letter states. The Sept. 13, 2006, letter from Cheney's lawyer says logs for Cheney's residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory are subject to the Presidential Records Act.
Such a designation prevents the public from learning who visited the vice president.
The Justice Department filed the letter Friday in a lawsuit by a private group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, seeking the identities of conservative religious leaders who visited Cheney at his official residence.
The newly disclosed letter about visitors to Cheney's residence is accompanied by an 18-page Secret Service document revealing the agency's long-standing practice has been to destroy printed daily access lists of visitors to the residence.
Click here for more.
"Long-standing practice"? Exactly how "long-standing"? Does that mean for as long as Bush has been in office, or does it go back to, what, Truman or something? No matter. When coupled with the thousands of deleted White House emails, recently discovered by the Congressional investigation of the Justice Department prosecutor firings, it becomes pretty damned clear that the White House isn't slightly in violation of the Presidential Records Act; they're in full-blown defiance of it.
I wonder if the massive scale of this rises to the level of "high crime" needed for an impeachment. I bet these fuckers could rape little boys on prime time television and the Democrats would still think it politically unwise to throw them out of office.
I'm disgusted. What about you?
Posted by Ron at 2:43 AM
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
ROSIE SPEAKS - STILL DOESN'T GET IT
From the New York Post courtesy of the Huffington Post:
SIPPING beer from a bottle, a glum Rosie O'Donnell spoke publicly for the first time over the weekend about her angry explosion last week and leaving "The View."
In a rambling video posted on her well-trafficked Web site, the beleaguered comedian complained that:
* She was made to feel like a "foster child" during her stormy, nine-month stint on the show.
* The split-screen image of her hammering at co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck was the final straw for her.
* And Hasselbeck had phoned her after the fight but O'Donnell wouldn't speak to her "and I probably won't" ever again.
The video, which runs about 13 minutes, is full of bruised feelings and blunt talk about her spectacular blow up (Rosie calls it "nuclear Wednesday" on the tape) that precipitated the second unscheduled departure from "The View" in less than a year.
I hate Rosie O'Donnell.
Actually, to be fair, I hate her television persona--she could be a totally wonderful person in the flesh for all I know, but all I have to understand what she's about is what I see on TV, and I absolutely loathe what I see. She's not even fun to hate, unlike her right-wing Irish-American counterpart Bill O'Reilly. No, Rosie just sucks. I particularly hate her because she does to liberalism what Madelyn Murray O'Hair did to atheism. That is, she takes a perfectly reasonable philosophical point of view and makes it look awful because she's a big fucking bitch.
(BTW, what the hell is it with all these loudmouthed O'Irish personalities? Maybe I should bash an asshole WASP while I'm at it just to show I'm not trying to provoke the Irish-American community: those guys fight with leprechauns for Christ's sake!)
Again, to be fair, I certainly spew some bile and venom here at Real Art myself, but I always try to lighten things up in the overall context, or from post to post. I mean, I told an economist to go fuck herself in my video blog post from yesterday, but I was smiling within seconds of my attack. Why the hell can't Rosie do the same thing? Isn't she supposed to be funny? For some reason, I can't recall a single time she's made me laugh.
Really, she's the worst possible spokesman for left-wing politics I can possibly think of; it's no wonder the conservatives love her.
Posted by Ron at 3:53 AM
FAREWELL CHARLES NELSON REILLY
From Forbes courtesy of Eschaton:
Charles Nelson Reilly, the Tony Award winner who later became known for his ribald appearances on the "Tonight Show" and various game shows, has died. He was 76.
Reilly died Friday in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia, his partner, Patrick Hughes, told the New York Times.
Reilly's openly gay television persona was ahead of its time, and sometimes stood in his way. He recalled a network executive telling him "they don't let queers on television."
Click here for the rest.
Of course I have deep admiration for Reilly's being what essentially amounted to an out gay man in public life during a time when doing such a thing was fairly dangerous, to both life and career; this was a political act in itself. I also admire Reilly's acting: his late career appearance on The X-Files, as science fiction writer Jose Chung, is a tour de force in character work, well focused, spontaneous and in-the-moment, well thought out; I only hope I'm ever as good as he was. The man was on TV my whole life, going all the way back to Sid and Marty Kroft's Lidsville, but what I really know and appreciate him for was his long stint on my favorite game show, Match Game--it just couldn't have worked without him.
Click here for a YouTube clip to see what I'm talking about.
Farewell Charles Nelson Reilly.
Posted by Ron at 3:11 AM
Monday, May 28, 2007
THIS WEEK IN REAL ART
Okay, so I just bought a web cam which means I can start experimenting with an idea I've had for quite a while: video commentary. For now I'm simply going to be reading a couple of my favorite posts from the preceding week, but I may change that to only one, if only because I'm afraid that two might be too long and boring. TV should be rapid-fire. I also ought to add music and a dancing bear.
Anyway, here you go (NSFW-loud cussing):
God, I hate my hair right now.
Posted by Ron at 12:32 AM
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Not Your Father's Pay:
Why Wages Today Are Weaker
From the Wall Street Journal courtesy of AlterNet:
American men in their 30s today are worse off than their fathers' generation, a reversal from just a decade ago, when sons generally were better off than their fathers, a new study finds.
The study, the first in a series on economic mobility undertaken by several prominent think tanks, also says the typical American family's income has lagged far behind productivity growth since 2000, a departure from most of the post-World War II period.
Ms. Sawhill said she isn't sure why men's wages have stagnated. "It seems there's been some slowdown in economic growth, it's possible that the movement of women into the labor force has affected male earnings, and it's possible that men are not working as hard as they used to."
Ms. Sawhill said several factors could explain the divergence: a growing share of income going to the highest-paid workers, or to profits; an increased share of labor compensation going toward benefits such as health care; or a decline in the number of wage earners in the typical family.
Click here for the rest.
Sawhill, an economist with the Brookings Institute, seems to be hopelessly misguided on the decline in male wages, but pretty close to spot-on with her comment about the decline in family income. That is, it strikes me as utterly stupid, or at least overly simplistic, to blame lower wages for men on women when study after study continues to show that women make less than men for the same work--I suppose it's possible that women in the work force have depressed wages overall, but at the very least, such studies indicate that the picture is much more complicated than her assertion suggests. As for men in their thirties not working as hard as their predecessors, well, being 39 myself, I won't even dignify such speculation with a response.
Oh, what the hell, here's a response: go fuck yourself, Sawhill, you pompous fucking bitch.
As for her latter assertion, I've been saying pretty much the same thing here at Real Art for years myself. The business class has perfected the art of keeping profits to themselves; meanwhile non-discretionary expenses have skyrocketed. It's hell out here for working people. I'm a bit confused by that very last sentence, though. Families are indeed smaller than they used to be, but if all these women have entered the work force in such numbers that it's hurting male wages, how could there not be some kind of offsetting of the smaller family phenomenon?
Christ, economists have no idea what they're talking about sometimes.
Posted by Ron at 12:33 AM
Ex-Teamsters boss gets 6 1/2 years in federal prison
From the Houston Chronicle:
A federal judge today ordered that Chuck Crawley spend six and a half years in federal prison for his schemes to control Houston's largest Teamsters union and enrich himself.
The former Local 988 president was sentenced this morning by U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon.
Crawley, 57, was convicted in December of arranging a $20,000 kickback from a vendor and rigging the local's 2002 election.
The article goes on to observe that prosecutors estimated that he managed to squeeze over a million in dirty money.
As if the labor movement needed any help looking bad. I mean, of course, the Teamsters have a long history of corruption and mob involvement going back decades, so bad in fact, that some years ago the feds had to make themselves involved in their elections just to make sure they weren't being tampered with. I had hoped they were above this sort of thing these days. Damn. Working people in this country really need a resurgence of union power, especially now: old style union corruption only hurts the cause.
Beyond labor reputation, this is just lame. In some ways Crawley is much worse than the worst of the corporate scumbags who suck employees' blood for breakfast. At least we know what capitalists are all about. Crawley, however, was entrusted with leading an organization that's supposed to fight such vampirism. What a fucking dick.
Posted by Ron at 12:24 AM
Friday, May 25, 2007
THE RESIDENTS' "CONSTANTINOPLE"
The Residents are an avant garde music and visual arts group. They formed in 1972 and released their first record that year, a double-disc 45 RPM recording entitled Santa Dog. They have released nearly sixty albums, created numerous musical films, designed three CD-ROM projects, and undertaken six major world tours. They are still active and released a new CD-Internet project on June 13, 2006 entitled "The River Of Crime" which is said to be modeled after the radio dramas of the 1940s. A new full length CD ("Tweedles") was released on October 31, 2006 on Mute Records.
They are known for their secrecy, singular art, and embrace of new technology.
Due to the obscuranist nature of the band, it is difficult to get an accurate history of The Residents. What follows is information from unauthorized accounts which may or may not be entirely reliable.
The Residents supposedly hail from Shreveport, Louisiana, where they met in high school in the 1960s. In 1966, members headed west to San Francisco, California. After their truck broke down in San Mateo, they decided to remain there. Like all information, this is provided by The Cryptic Corporation and is likely false. Newer information indicates they are probably from Slidell, Louisiana, and picked Shreveport as the "place to be from" since it is the city in Louisiana that was furthest from Slidell.
Whilst attempting to eke out a living they experimented with tape machines, photography, and anything remotely to do with "art" that they could get their hands on.
Wow, I had no idea they're from Louisiana, but this is a pretty weird state so I guess that's not so surprising--California's just too mainstream to produce a group a group as bizarre the Residents; you gotta have swamp muck in your veins to be so out there. Anyway, what I've always liked about them is their ability to create realities so utterly strange that they literally challenge the senses. I mean, there's Pink Floyd weird, and then there's Residents weird. With Pink Floyd it's like, "Oh yeah, pretty weird, all those good drugs, yadda, yadda." With the Residents it's like "What the fuck? What the hell is going on here? No drug known to man could inspire this. Oh my god."
So, with that in mind, I recently found a Youtube clip, courtesy of VideoSift, for their song "Constantinople," originally released on their 1978 album Duck Stab/Buster & Glen. I've never heard it until now, but believe me, it's true to form. I have no idea what it's about or what any of the images mean. Just another one of those jaw-droppers.
Here check it out (CAUTION: it shows a cartoon pee-pee, so it's probably not safe for work, if you work at, say, a church):
Pretty weird, huh?
Posted by Ron at 11:13 PM
Paul McCartney Debuts Video on YouTube
From the AP via the Huffington Post courtesy of AlterNet:
Portman, 25, makes a cameo as a ghost in the video for "Dance Tonight," a track from McCartney's new studio album, "Memory Almost Full." The video had its world premiere Wednesday on YouTube.com.
"The connection with Natalie came from my daughter Stella, who makes non-leather shoes that Natalie buys, so I just thought, `Well, I'll ring her up and just see if she'll do it.' So I rang her up and said, `Hey, I'm Stella's dad!'" the 64-year-old former Beatle said in a statement posted on his Web site.
Portman, whose screen credits include "Closer" and "V for Vendetta," plays a "futurist electronic ghost" who is summoned by the sound of McCartney's mandolin.
Click here for the rest.
Okay, so of course I've checked this out, and, you know, it's not so bad. I mean, it's not his greatest work, obviously, but it's a good solid McCartney tune. He doesn't try to get too fancy or clever with it, sticks to the simple lyrics he does best, and it's all very rousing. Who knows? It might even end up being a hit. That happens sometimes: I'm still kind of amazed by "Take It Away" doing so well back in the early 80s, same with "Biker Like an Icon" in the early 90s. Maybe we'll all be humming "Dance Tonight" this summer.
Probably not, but check it out:
Posted by Ron at 12:31 AM
BIRD SHITS ON PRESIDENT
From Crooks and Liars:
As President Bush took a question Thursday in the White House Rose Garden about scandals involving his Attorney General, he remarked, "I've got confidence in Al Gonzales doin' the job."
Simultaneously, a sparrow flew overhead and left a splash on the President's sleeve, which Bush tried several times to wipe off.
Click here to watch the video.
Well, of course, there are no real political or intellectual ramifications for this. But it is most certainly worth noting. A real case of poetic justice. I mean, Bush is doing his usual defense of his heinous picks for important executive branch jobs and a bird comes along and shits on him. Then, like the redneck moron he is, the President smears the bird turd into his suit sleeve. Fucking great. You can't write fiction like this. I also love the fact that the video reruns the shit-and-wipe multiple times.
You know half the country wishes it could have been that bird.
Posted by Ron at 12:21 AM
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Amnesty: U.S. war on terror 'eroding human rights worldwide'
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
The United States is treating the globe like one giant battlefield for its war on terror, eroding rights worldwide, a leading human rights group said today.
Amnesty International's Secretary-General Irene Khan said the United States and its allies' behavior was setting a destructive example for other nations, and that countries across the world were using the war on terror as an excuse to violate human rights and stifle dissent.
"One of the biggest blows to human rights has been the attempt of Western democratic states to roll back some fundamental principles of human rights — like the prohibition of torture," Khan told The Associated Press, speaking before the launch of her organization's annual report on the global state of human rights.
The report condemned the United States' response to international terrorism, saying it had done little to reduce the threat, while deepening mistrust between Muslims and non-Muslims and undermining the rule of law. The Bush administration's policy of extraordinary rendition — the alleged practice of secretly flying terror suspects to countries where they could be tortured — came in for particularly scathing condemnation.
Click here for the rest.
For me the argument about using torture in the "war on terror," or under any other circumstance, is simple: torture is immoral; Americans don't do it. But what do you say to these people who disagree? I mean, the moral argument, to me, is pretty damned absolute, an automatic win, but there are a lot of rational people out there whose fears trump morality. Hurt one scumbag to save hundreds of others, a kind of relative moral calculus. John McCain and others have advanced another argument against torture that essentially says we shouldn't do it because it gives the green light for US enemies to torture our people. Quite true. But I think I like this Amnesty International argument better. American use of torture, as well as subcontracting it out to allies, causes torture to proliferate worldwide. We're not doing this in a vacuum. Other countries necessarily take our lead on such issues. If the US does it, then it must be okay. Obviously, that's bullshit, but it works well in terms of rationalization.
We've really got to stop this torture shit.
Posted by Ron at 3:00 AM
Prewar Assessment on Iraq Saw Chance of Strong Divisions
From the New York Times courtesy of Think Progress courtesy of Eschaton:
The same intelligence unit that produced a gloomy report in July about the prospect of growing instability in Iraq warned the Bush administration about the potential costly consequences of an American-led invasion two months before the war began, government officials said Monday.
The estimate came in two classified reports prepared for President Bush in January 2003 by the National Intelligence Council, an independent group that advises the director of central intelligence. The assessments predicted that an American-led invasion of Iraq would increase support for political Islam and would result in a deeply divided Iraqi society prone to violent internal conflict.
Click here for the rest.
So the above excerpted article first appeared in September of 2004 and I totally missed it. I mean, I knew that the kind of sectarian violence we've been seeing for some time now in Iraq was totally predicted, but I had no idea that Bush had been informed, by his own people, that it was going to happen. It is very interesting to note that all the "cakewalk" talk, and the "greeted as liberators" bullshit, had no room for such an assessment, which is no doubt why Bush kept the report under wraps.
Are you getting this? Bush knew there was a very good chance that post-invasion Iraq would turn into a bloodbath, but he refused to allow the information into the pre-war debate, and invaded anyway. So we already know how awful a president Bush is: now we know he's even worse.
Posted by Ron at 2:49 AM
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Gay flamingos pick up chick
From the AP via Yahoo courtesy of AlterNet:
A pair of gay flamingos have adopted an abandoned chick, becoming parents after being together for six years, a British conservation organisation said Monday.
Carlos and Fernando had been desperate to start a family, even chasing other flamingos from their nests to take over their eggs at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) in Slimbridge near Bristol.
But their egg-sitting prowess made them the top choice for taking an unhatched egg under their wings when one of the Greater Flamingo nests was abandoned.
Click here for the rest.
So who says homosexuality isn't natural? And not only is gay sex found in nature, there is also gay love, along with what amounts to gay marriage. The nature argument against homosexuals just doesn't fly. I also like the fact that these two gay birds are pink flamingos, probably the gayest animals in the world, whether they're homosexual or not. I also like the fact that they're named Carlos and Fernando. That's pretty gay, too.
Hooray for gay flamingos!
Posted by Ron at 12:37 AM
BP Shuts 100,000 Barrels of Alaska Oil
From the AP via the Huffington Post courtesy of AlterNet:
BP said Tuesday it will shut down 100,000 barrels, or one quarter, of its Alaskan oil production for a "few days" after discovering a water pipeline leak.
Analysts said the temporary loss of output at Prudhoe Bay should not have a dramatic impact on world oil markets, but with supplies already tight and crude futures trading near $66 a barrel, any snag in the industry tends to make energy traders jittery.
BP's Prudhoe Bay shutdown was disclosed late Monday by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who has been critical of the company's maintenance practices in Alaska, where two separate leaks occurred last year. BP confirmed the shutdown Tuesday morning.
Internal company documents released at a hearing chaired by Stupak last week suggested that budget cuts by BP had put pressure on managers to ignore corrosion prevention at the oil company's North Slope pipelines.
Hmmm. So the latest spike in gas prices has to do with what the industry calls "refinery problems." Now this. Like I said a couple of weeks ago, this is really reminding me of how the energy industry manipulated generator maintenance in order to cause the California electricity crisis six or seven years ago. Are these BP "budget cuts" for real, or simply a pretense?
Posted by Ron at 12:27 AM
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Bible drawn into sex publication controversy
From Reuters courtesy of Crooks and Liars:
A spokesperson for Hong Kong's Television and Entertainment Licensing authority (TELA) said it had received 838 complaints about the Bible by noon Wednesday.
The complaints follow the launch of an anonymous Web site -- www.truthbible.net -- which said the holy book "made one tremble" given its sexual and violent content, including rape and incest.
"If there is rape mentioned in the Bible, it doesn't mean it encourages those activities," said Reverend Wu Chi-wai.
Click here for the rest.
According to the article, there's actually a chance that the governing body in Hong Kong dealing with such issues may very well find the Bible to be obscene and make it unavailable to anyone under the age of eighteen. On the other hand, the good Reverend Wu Chi-wai is absolutely correct: the Bible depicts such activities explicitly for the purpose of condemning them. Actually, I'm only talking about the sex. As far as violence goes, these Hong Kong moralists make a pretty good point; as Noam Chomsky and others have observed, the Bible is the most violent and genocidal work in the Western literary canon. Especially the Old Testament. God's always smiting and destroying when he's not telling his chosen people to do it themselves. But that doesn't mean it's a good idea to restrict access to the Good Book. Even though I am not at all a Christian these days, I am a free speech absolutist, especially for speech with which I disagree.
Anyway, I'm really enjoying the irony on this one.
Posted by Ron at 1:00 AM
Pentagon Studies Long-Term Commitment in Iraq
From NPR courtesy of the Daily Kos:
The White House and Pentagon are under increasing pressure from Congress and the public to end U.S. military involvement in Iraq. But the Pentagon is considering maintaining a core group of forces in Iraq, possibly for decades.
A series of military installations could be maintained around Iraq, with a total of total of 30,000 to 40,000 U.S. troops, for a long period of time — maybe a few decades. There are currently about 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
The bases would be located in various strategic locations, ones that served by air landing strips, for instance. The bases would be sealed and U.S. forces wouldn't be on patrols as they are now.
Click here to read or listen to the rest.
I've had a really bad feeling about this for quite a while now.
News of several multi-billion dollar mega-bases under construction in Iraq broke a couple of years ago without much corporate media fanfare, but the obvious conclusion to make from that story is that such bases mean the US plans on being there for some twenty years or more. Now I know that withdrawal is all the rage with Democratic presidential contenders these days, but I seriously doubt the front runners, Obama and Clinton, would really be in a big huge hurry to hightail it out of Dodge in the way that, say, Gravel or Kucinich would, and let's face it, those two guys just aren't going to win. In other words, these "sealed" bases might very well be palatable to Hillary and Barak.
I'm really afraid that we really will be there forever.
Posted by Ron at 12:13 AM
Monday, May 21, 2007
Wal-Mart Violates Worker Rights, Fosters "Culture of
Fear" to Prevent Employees From Forming Unions
From Democracy Now!:
Wal-Mart says that workers have an opportunity at their stores to freely choose whether or not to organize and that they would be allowed to have a vote within the NLRB process, the National Labor Relations Board. That’s what they were referring to in their response. That is a very disingenuous response to our report, because, although perhaps workers could have a vote, what Wal-Mart does from the moment that it detects union activity at a store, is it responds with a hard-hitting and aggressive anti-union campaign. The company has a union hotline at headquarters that managers are required to call any time union activity is detected. The company sends in a labor relations team, which is a rapid reaction force that comes in from headquarters and starts to have meetings with the workers, telling them about the terrible consequences of union formation, showing them anti-union videos in which unions are depicted as antiquated organizations and union representatives are shown as aggressive and unsavory characters. And the company does not provide a meaningful opportunity for the union supporters and union representatives to respond. It’s not required to under US labor law, and it doesn’t. So workers are bombarded with Wal-Mart's anti-union mantra, repeatedly, over and over again. And that is what they hear. And that does not create a free and fair climate in which to have an election.
Let's put it in the political context. Let’s go back to the 2004 presidential campaign in the United States. What if George W. Bush had unlimited access to the airwaves, to radio, to television? He could have campaign rallies, at which the general public was strongly urged, almost required to attend. And on the flipside, John Kerry was only able to access the voting public by sending campaign workers door-to-door. That is the unbalanced campaign atmosphere of a union campaign at Wal-Mart stores. That is not a democratic process. That is not a fair process.
Click here to watch, read, or listen to the rest of the interview.
Of course, I've said many times here at Real Art that Wal-Mart sucks, and there are countless good reasons for saying so. But this is particularly serious. As corporate globalism continues to ship good white and blue collar jobs overseas in order to take advantage of lower wages, the vast majority of remaining jobs are in the service sector, which is largely unorganized in terms of unions. That means workers, and by "workers" I mean you and me, essentially have to take whatever crap our employers spew all over us, minimum wage, manipulating schedules to avoid overtime, firing arbitrarily, low or no safety standards, no benefits, no retirement, no health care, no raises. I suppose that all seems good from a business perspective, but most of us aren't businessmen--most of us never will be. The only way to get a fair shake from the massive corporations who depend on our labor is to organize, that is, create unions.
Look at it this way. No individual worker can ever negotiate a fair contract with an economic entity as large and powerful as Wal-Mart. It will always be on their terms, no matter what, and their terms will always favor their interests, not yours. But when you have tens of thousands of workers coming to the table as a unified front, these massive entities must take notice. And that's that.
Wal-Mart is well aware of the issues in play here, which is why they're so freakin' paranoid about unions. Right now, the low cost giant can get whatever it wants from workers, and obviously wants to keep it that way whether it's fair or not. Unionizing Wal-Mart is the decisive labor struggle of this era.
Posted by Ron at 3:05 AM
Michael Parenti on "The Culture Struggle"
From Democracy Now!:
MICHAEL PARENTI: I’ve found that culture is a highly contested area. There are immense and important struggles going on all over the world in regard to culture. And what we're taught is an enlightened view, that in reaction to cultural supremacism and cultural imperialism, we're taught that we shouldn't really judge cultures. And yet, every single culture, including our own, needs to be judged, because cultures are not neutral things. Some people benefit and other people can be victimized by culture.
AMY GOODMAN: You talk about the mass marketing of culture.
MICHAEL PARENTI: Yes, well, there we see that we create less and less of our culture. The little bits we do create we call “folk culture,” and even some of that is marketed.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?
MICHAEL PARENTI: Well, there's folksong, which means songs that are created by the folk, and yet a lot of that gets onto CDs and is put out there like any other music industry product. So more and more of our music, more and more of our storytelling, more and more of our experience is now media-produced, and we buy much of our culture, instead of just creating it now.
Click here to watch, read, or listen to the rest of the interview.
Yeah. Culture, which is art, music, film, stories, ritual, religion, and much more, essentially dictates how we think. Historically, culture has tended to bubble up from regular people, thus reflecting a sort of mass consciousness and reaction to human existence. To be sure, there have also been massive institutions throughout the centuries, like the Church, that have dictated culture to the people from the top down, but it is really only in the era of mass media that culture has become a product to be consumed, rather than a reflection of, and prescription for, the collective human experience. Increasingly, for most Americans, this mass product is the only kind of culture experienced.
What does it mean when culture, the way we understand ourselves, is designed, packaged, and distributed by corporate executives whose sole objective is to get people to buy things?
Short answer: as always, humans respond to their cultural environment; now that culture for most of us is about amassing trinkets, gadgets, and wealth, we have a society that is materialistic, vacuous, and sick in the soul. Fundamentalists and social conservatives become all the more adamant in their desire to bring society back to some idealized past which never really existed; liberals furrow their brows about exploitation, but do nothing. Most Americans, however, just lap it up, never even realizing that there's a problem, but deeply suffering all the same.
That's why my blog title includes the word "culture." That's why I left teaching in order to become a better actor and artist. We are in the midst of a dire crisis the likes of which humanity has never encountered. The era of mass communication mixed with corporate capitalism now threatens the very nature of who we are as human beings.
This is an extraordinarily exciting time to be an artist. I aim to fuck things up.
Posted by Ron at 2:34 AM
Sunday, May 20, 2007
RON PAUL: PRINCIPLED REPUBLICAN
From Hey Jenny Slater courtesy of my old pal Matt:
Killing the Infidel
Naturally, as a lefty Democrat, when I first heard about Ron Paul years ago I thought he was crazy as a loon. But over the years, as I got more and more exposed to just how fatuous the GOP's claims of being "the party of small government" were -- and as right-wingers like Pat Robertson and James Dobson showed me what crazy really was -- his positions started to make a lot more sense. I still don't agree with him on much, but I can at least respect him for his honesty and integrity and for walking the walk when it comes to his stated positions -- something I have no inclination to do toward any of the other nine GOP presidential candidates.
All this, of course, means that the "mainstream" Republican Party has to spike Ron Paul tout suite. Ever since the galvanizing May 15 Republican debate, in which Rudy Giuliani falsely accused Paul of saying the United States "invited" the 9/11 attacks, Andrew Sullivan has been tallying up the legions of mainstream "conservatives" campaigning to excommunicate Paul from the GOP. Hugh Hewitt and Bill Bennett both want Paul bounced from future GOP debates, as does the chair of the Michigan GOP; Hewitt's co-blogger, Dean Barnett, dismisses Paul as "cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs"; one of Paul's own former senior aides, current RedState blogger Eric Dondero, is threatening to challenge Paul for his House seat next year. Over at National Review, Larry Kudlow obediently chimed in with a judgment of Paul as a member of the "I hate America" camp. And all because Paul suggested that unchecked interventionism in the Middle East was a foreign policy that encouraged greater animosity toward the United States.
Click here for more.
Bill Maher stands up for Ron Paul [VIDEO]
Giuliani may have won over the partisan crowd in South Carolina and the viewers watching Fox News. But many others, like Bill Maher have stood up in Ron Paul's defense. The lone libertarian, anti-war candidate in the crowded GOP field, he at least deserves to be heard. It's unnerving how hawkish all these clowns are when you see their insanely misguided remarks back to back. You're looking at nine Bush clones intent on continuing failed policies of torture and preemptive war plus another who actually knows what he's talking about.
Click here for the video.
Like Doug over at Hey Jenny Slater, I've also got big problems with Ron Paul's ideology: Libertarians are obviously really great on civil liberties issues, but unfortunately don't recognize that government isn't the sole source of oppression in modern society--that is, corporate power in this day and age is at least as dire a threat to freedom as government power. But hey, at least old Paul's halfway on my side of the street, which is much more than I can say of most Republicans these days. But beyond that, I have to admit to having great respect for the man. In a time of mass right-wing delusion, Paul is a man of principle, utterly unafraid to declare that the Emperor's new clothes don't really exist. That the man would get up in front of a hostile GOP electorate and tell them that they're dead wrong takes both balls and integrity.
At this point, if we have to be ruled by a Republican, I'd be willing to settle for integrity. And balls; let's not forget balls.
Posted by Ron at 1:52 AM
Saturday, May 19, 2007
YOUR MASTER OF FINE ARTS COMMANDS YOU TO EXPERIENCE:
TENOR SAX PLAYER DEXTER GORDON
So now that I am a MASTER of Fine Arts, I can take some overblown pretentious pleasure in telling you what to enjoy in terms of the fine arts. Today, I command you to listen to my favorite tenor player, Dexter Gordon.
Many would characterise Gordon's sound as being 'large' and spacious (a feature partially owed to his physical stature), and his tendency to play behind the beat is discernible. One of his major influences was Lester Young. Gordon, in turn, was an early influence on John Coltrane during the 1940s and 1950s. Coltrane's playing, however, during his early period from the mid to late '50s or early '60s influenced Gordon's playing from then onward. Similarities in their styles include their clear, strong, metallic tones, their tendencies to bend up to high notes, and their abilities to single-tongue and still swing. One of Gordon's idiosyncrasies was to recite the lyrics of each ballad before playing it.
Here is a youtube fan video for my favorite Dexter Gordon song, "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Cry." The video's nice, a bunch of scenic nature shots from Japan, but doesn't really have much to do with Gordon; I'm really only linking it so you can hear the song.
You WILL listen to Dexter Gordon. Your MASTER of Fine Arts COMMANDS you! Now!
Posted by Ron at 1:42 AM
Friday, May 18, 2007
RON REEDER: MASTER OF FINE ARTS
Friday, I formally become a MASTER of Fine Arts. Heh. "Now I am the master." I suppose that makes me even more qualified to author a blog called Real Art, but whatever; anyone can be an artist. Anyway, it's time to re-run the commencement address I wrote for a mask assignment during my first year up here at LSU. Details on how the speech came to be here. I'm also embedding the Beatles video for "All You Need Is Love," which needs to play during the speech. Ideally, you should simply push play, and then read the text below.
SMITH'S COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS
President Griswold, members of the faculty, graduates and their families, ladies and gentlemen:
Let me begin by expressing my appreciation for the very deep honor which you have conferred upon me. As General de Gaulle occasionally acknowledges America to be the daughter of Europe, so I am pleased to come to Yale, the daughter of Harvard. It might be said now that I have the best of both worlds, a Harvard education and a Yale degree.
To be popular one must be a mediocrity.
It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.
There's nothing you can do that can't be done. Nothing you can sing that can't be sung. Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game. It's easy. There's nothing you can make that can't be made. No one you can save that can't be saved. Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be in time. It's easy. There's nothing you can know that isn't known. Nothing you can see that isn't shown. Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be. It would be very glamorous to be reincarnated as a great big ring on Liz Taylor's finger.
The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.
Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the ones who'll decide where to go. Life is too important to be taken seriously.
All you need is love.
From the book of Matthew:
"Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
But question authority. Disobedience, in the eyes of any one who has read history, is man's original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion. Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious. Take, say, the core of the established religions today: the Bible. It is basically polytheistic, with the warrior God demanding of his chosen people that they not worship the other Gods and destroy those who do -- in an extremely brutal way, in fact. It would be hard to find a more genocidal text in the literary canon, or a more violent and destructive character than the God who was to be worshipped.
Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing -- fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things.
The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible. And so I am a deeply superficial person.
From the book of Ecclesiastes:
"The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? It hath been already of old time, which was before us. There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit."
I have known them all already, known them all, have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons; I have measured out my life with coffee spoons. I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker, and I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker, and in short, I was afraid. I have dared disturb the universe. I have prayed to God, but God is dead. I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
This is the end. My only friend, the end, of our elaborate plans, the end, of everything that stands, the end, no safety or surprise, the end. I'll never look into your eyes...again. The end of laughter and soft lies. The end of nights we tried to die.
This is the end.
Hooray! I'm a Master of Fine Arts!
Time to re-start my life...
Posted by Ron at 2:27 AM
DOBSON WON'T VOTE IF GIULIANI GETS GOP NOMINATION
From CNN courtesy of AlterNet:
Dobson, 71, is the founder and chairman of Colorado-based Focus on the Family, but said he was writing as "a private citizen and not on behalf of any organization or party."
He endorsed President Bush in 2004, the first time he endorsed a presidential candidate.
Dobson's organization says his daily radio program is heard by as many as 220 million listeners over 3,500 stations in the United States. He's also seen on 80 television stations, and 10 Focus on the Family magazines have 2.3 million subscribers, the group says.
Dobson attacked Giuliani for publicly saying he hates abortion but supports a woman's right to have one. Giuliani had been criticized for being ambiguous on his abortion views, but firmly stated last week that he supports abortion rights.
James Dobson is as big of a psychopath as Jerry Falwell was. This possible flirtation with pulling out of politics is extraordinarily good news. The Republican marriage with fundamentalist Christians has been politically powerful, but always unstable. The true GOP power brokers never really took the religious right seriously, throwing them a bone every now and then, but never really willing to descend into the theocratic lunacy that leaders like Falwell wanted. Now that Republicans, as a party, are running scared, fundamentalist lunatics are something of a liability, and smart guys like Giuliani know it.
I really hope he gets the nomination. It could drive the religious nuts out of politics completely for years to come.
Posted by Ron at 2:16 AM
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Hitchens slams Falwell’s life
From CNN via Crooks and Liars:
HITCHENS: The whole consideration of this — of this horrible little person is offensive to very, very many of us who have some regard for truth and for morality, and who think that ethics do not require that lies be told to children by evil old men, that we're — we're not told that people who believe like Falwell will be snatched up into heaven, where I'm glad to see he skipped the rapture, was found on the floor of his office, while the rest of us go to hell.
How dare they talk to children like this? How dare they raise money from credulous people on their huckster-like "Elmer Gantry" radio stations, and fly around in private jets, as he did, giggling and sniggering all the time at what he was getting away with?
Do you get an idea now of what I mean to say?
COOPER: Yes, no, I think — I think you're making yourself very clear.
I mean, I…
HITCHENS: How dare he say, for example, that the Antichrist is already present amongst us and is an adult male Jew, while all the time, fawning on the worst elements in Israel, with his other hand pumping anti-Semitic innuendoes into American politics, along with his friends Robertson and Graham?
COOPER: And, yet, there are…
HITCHENS: … encouraging — encouraging — encouraging the most extreme theocratic fanatics and maniacs on the West Bank and in Gaza not to give an inch of what he thought of as holy land to the people who already live there, undercutting and ruining every Democrat and secularist in the Jewish state in the name of God?
Click here for the video.
Hitchens, a Trotskyite writer, went nuts after 9/11 and abandoned the left in order to support the neocon wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan. That made him not a very popular guy in liberal online circles. Of course, what pushed him in this baffling direction was his utter hatred of religion--apparently, he was extraordinarily rattled by the fatwa declared by Iranian clerics against his pal author Salman Rushdie back in 1989. Once the WTC was hit in 2001, I'm sure he was totally freaked out. So now he's a hawk without any real ideological allies.
But man, he's still stellar when bashing religion. Actually, his anti-religious zeal is probably what drives him more than anything these days. And man, he really lets Falwell have it. This video is well worth checking out, if only for its bile and venom.
He's also got a really kickass English accent. Go check it out.
Posted by Ron at 4:02 AM
ATRIOS ON ECONOMIST BIAS
The second is that early on it becomes hardwired in our young economist brains that it makes sense that if the pie is bigger there are more slices to pass around. You can have gains from a policy such as "free trade" and then redistribute the goodies later. But the redistribution doesn't happen.
All this leaves aside other issues, such as the fact that people, especially French people, don't just like goodies but also this mysterious thing called "leisure" which doesn't get counted in that GDP figure...
Click here for the rest.
Duncan Black, a.k.a. Atrios, is a trained economist who actually taught the subject at the university level before his blog became popular enough to support him. In my opinion, he's at his best as a blogger when taking on economic issues, explaining abstract concepts in concrete terms that average Americans can understand.
The above linked post is a good example. Of course, I totally agree with Atrios on this.
Back in the late 90s when the economy was booming, it was achingly obvious to me that vast segments of the population were being left behind. I often told my public speaking students that the economy was doing great...if you're rich. And after multiple Bush recessions, the now "recovering" economy appears to be doing the same thing. Indeed, it's become pretty obvious that the old ways of determining national economic health are no longer useful. A growing economy means nothing if you're not in the loop, and not in the loop is where more and more Americans are now finding themselves. Unemployment is down? Well, that would be really nice if all these new jobs weren't in the shitty service sector for low wages and no benefits. Consumer spending is up? That's just great for all the credit card companies holding the usurious levels of debt that more and more people find themselves servicing. The corporate sector has finally perfected the art of expanding the economy and pocketing the profits--part of that is owning politicians from both parties who've legalized the whole scam.
Things are fucked, and economists are oblivious.
Posted by Ron at 3:46 AM
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Falwell shepherded Christian right into the polls
From the Chicago Tribune courtesy of the Houston Chronicle:
Founder and pastor at Lynchburg's Thomas Road Baptist Church for more than 50 years, Falwell played a major role in taking evangelism from the revival tent to the television screen to a prominent seat at the table of national politics.
He achieved national stature — including the covers of Time and Newsweek — for spurring conservative Christians into political action beginning with his founding of the Moral Majority in 1979, a development that helped propel Ronald Reagan into the White House.
Engaging issues such as abortion, gay rights, pornography and bans on school prayer, Falwell told Christians it was their duty to jump into the political fray. And they did, millions of them registering and voting for the first time in 1980. At one point the Moral Majority claimed 6.5 million members.
"Jerry Falwell, more than anyone else, was responsible for galvanizing and spearheading the most important mass political movement of the last 30 years. His Moral Majority really catapulted the Republican Party to power," said Matthew Wilson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
He apologized, for example, after televised remarks suggesting that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks reflected God's judgment on a nation spiritually weakened by the American Civil Liberties Union, providers of abortion and supporters of gay rights, and after he called Muhammad a terrorist.
Click here for more.
I was working in the Swine Palace theater office today when I saw the news of Falwell's death online. I immediately announced it to all within earshot. Several of my fellow students, all raging liberals like me, immediately started cheering, clapping, and jumping up and down. Me too. I was really happy that the old asshole is gone. After a moment or two of this, our marketing director, who is a rightward moderate, a decent fellow who loves a good political argument, admonished us for our celebration, saying something to the effect of "a man is dead." I couldn't help but laugh and laugh, but my suddenly silent classmates made me think of the time my dad told me how businessmen at Standard Oil of Texas, where my mother worked in 1963, had done essentially the same thing when JFK was murdered.
Was I wrong to celebrate Falwell's end?
I thought about it for a bit. Falwell, more than any other individual, merged the Republican Party with fundamentalist Christianity, and almost singlehandedly started the so-called Culture War. There is no doubt in my mind that his actions caused the Reagan White House to drag its feet for over four years on the AIDS crisis simply because the victims were mostly gay--in the meantime people were dropping dead like flies. Indeed, Falwell's horrible legacy is all over the place. Stem cell research funding is in limbo while people degenerate and die from Parkinson's and other ailments. Anti-abortion propaganda has put countless young girls into a hell of self-doubt and self-hatred while dealing with unwanted pregnancies. Rhetorical gay-bashing has given encouragement and moral certitude to physical gay-bashers. Falwell's celebration of blind faith was fully in play as an overwhelming majority of Americans supported the White House lies that got us into Iraq.
Yeah, that's right, Falwell's rhetoric descends directly into the post 9/11 demagoguery that has killed hundreds of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He had blood on his hands. Lots of it. He was not a decent man. He was not a man of God; he was the exact opposite, pushing this great country toward evil. Certainly, he was no ruler like Stalin or Hitler or Pol Pot. He didn't have blood on his hands that way. But it is appropriate to compare him to, say, Goebbels or Eichmann, men who didn't personally order death, but facilitated it all the same.
Falwell was scum. It's right to be happy about his passing. I make no apologies for my celebration.
Posted by Ron at 3:42 AM
VICE PRESIDENT CAUGHT UP IN PROSTITUTION SCANDAL
Cheney and the DC Madam's Cookie Jar
"WMR has confirmed with extremely knowledgeable CIA and Pentagon sources that the former CEO who is on Deborah Jeane Palfrey's list is Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney was CEO of Halliburton during the time of his liaisons with the Pamela Martin & Associates escort firm. Palfrey's phone invoices extend back to 1996 and include calls to and from Cheney...while he was the CEO and maintained a residence off Chain Bridge Road in the Ballantrae neighborhood in McLean, Virginia, a few blocks from the headquarters of the CIA...."
"WMR" refers to the usually extremely accurate website run by investigative journalist Wayne Madsen. He gets good dirt and I'd be linking to him all the time except for the fact that his site doesn't link individual posts, which is damned frustrating. Anyway, this is totally believable. Cheney is a hard drinking, hard-core motherfucker. OF COURSE he was using hookers when he was in the private sector.
Now I have to admit that I've never really made up my mind about the ethics and morals of prostitution. I know that as the business is currently constructed, that is, as an illegal enterprise, it's really awful for the women involved; on the other hand, prostitutes working in the legal and regulated environment of Nevada appear to be less oppressed. Tough call, so I'm not scolding the Veep here simply for using prostitutes. What I am doing is calling him out for the standard GOP variety of hypocrisy that allows prominent right wing figures to rhetorically blast, say, drug users or freaky sex people, while doing the same thing themselves on the side. Think Rush Limbaugh or Ted Haggard.
And, oh yeah, using prostitutes is also breaking the law.
The real question here is if the corporate media picks up the story. ABC News has already declared that these phone records contain nothing of any real political interest, so it sounds like the whitewash is already underway. Lemme tell ya, the Dems would be fools not to ram this down the Republican elephant's throat.
Posted by Ron at 3:28 AM