Monday, October 29, 2007



Okay, I think I'm ready to start blogging again. But before I get back into the regular grind, I want to spend maybe a week or so working my way into it. That is, I'm still quite overwhelmed by the unexpected death of my mother, and want to devote some space here for a while to trying to sort out my thoughts and feelings.

Generally, I don't blog about my personal life unless I'm able to contextualize my own circumstances into the bigger picture. So, while losing my mom is extraordinarily personal, it is a deeply human experience that most of us either have endured or will do so someday. What bigger picture is there than life and death? What bigger picture is there than life-long love?

Indeed, the week I spent back in Houston with my father and brothers, as well as what seemed a cast of hundreds from earlier periods of my own life, seemed more mythological than anything else. Well, in addition to mythological, it was also surreal, dreamlike. But that's the point: both dreams and mythology are far beyond typical human experience, but also at the center of all human experience.

It's all been marvelous and horrible. Like going to Olympus and meeting the gods.

Anyway, I'll be back, maybe tomorrow or Thursday, to write about day one, when I got the call, and how I reacted, and what I did before leaving for Houston.

My mom and dad in their late teens, circa 1957.


Monday, October 15, 2007


I just learned that my mother died this afternoon. They think it was a heart attack. She was only 67, and still living a vital and energetic life. I'm totally devastated. I'm returning to Houston, probably tomorrow, for at least a week. Consequently, Real Art will be on hiatus for a while. Actually, at the moment, I couldn't care less about blogging, the world, or anything. I'm so sad.


Southern Baptists Seek Laws Making 'Will Of Christ' Supreme

From AlterNet:

Land denies that Southern Baptists want a government that gets involved in religion, but his own words seem to belie that claim.

"When we preach that Gospel," he writes, "and God has blessed it and people's hearts and minds have been changed, then they have the right as citizens to come forth in the public arena and say, 'This is wrong, and we want it stopped.'"

"For example," he continued, "abortion is the murder of babies, and we want laws to change it. When we convince a majority of Americans that we are right, that's not called a theocracy, that's called the democratic process."

Land then insists that all he seeks is "a level playing field."

"Does that mean," asks Land, "that false religions have the same rights to express their opinions and their beliefs as we do? Sure. Let them come. I never saw Elijah backing away from a confrontation with the prophets of Baal. He just showed them the power of the One True God!"

Joseph L. Conn, director of communications for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, notes that Land's example might not be the best one.

"According to the scriptures, after Elijah won the contest over whose God was the true one, he had all the false priests of Baal slain. (I Kings 18:40)," wrote Conn. "Somehow, I'm not feeling the ecumenical love."

More here.

So the overall article from which the above bit is excerpted is about how the Southern Baptist Convention is bankrolling a massive lobbying firm in D.C. aimed at getting bills passed that would reshape the US in their vision, while at the same time trying to turn the 16 million strong denomination into an effective "political machine." I'd be worried, but I'm starting to believe that fundamentalist political power is beginning to wane, and such an over-the-top effort is likely to alienate the rank and file. That is, fundamentalists are slowly coming to the conclusion that all politicians ever do is use them, and it's best to simply stay out of the fray.

Really, all these divisive politics are doing is destroying Christianity.

Beyond that, I continue to not understand what these people think they're doing. The whole thrust of the fundy world view is saving souls, which they believe can only happen when an individual repents and "invites Jesus into his heart," whatever that means. The Bible says "do not boast of works, lest ye be judged." Apparently, good "works" come as a result of having Jesus in one's heart, rather than "works" creating a state of grace. That means following the rules, without Christian conversion, means nothing. No souls are "saved." It doesn't matter to the fundamentalists how virtuous an individual is; he goes to hell if he's not "saved." Why, then, are these people so obsessed with making people follow rules that only matter if you're one of them?

I'll tell you why: they want power over your life. I think it's finally safe to say that, even though these people call themselves Christians, they have absolutely nothing to do with Christ, or even their own distorted rhetoric about him. That is, they're not really Christians, and should be treated like the con-artist assholes they are.


Ex-Phone Chief Says N.S.A. Sought Data Earlier

From the New York times courtesy of AlterNet:

The phone company Qwest Communications refused a proposal from the National Security Agency that the company’s lawyers considered illegal in February 2001, nearly seven months before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, the former head of the company contends in newly unsealed court filings.

The executive, Joseph P. Nacchio, also asserts in the filings that the agency retaliated by depriving Qwest of lucrative outsourcing contracts.


In support of Mr. Nacchio’s accusations, his lawyers quoted from one of several lawsuits filed against telecommunications companies, accusing them of violating their customers’ privacy. That lawsuit, filed last year against several companies, asserts that seven months before the Sept. 11 attacks, at about the time of Mr. Nacchio’s meeting at the N.S.A., another phone company, AT&T, “began development of a center for monitoring long distance calls and Internet transmissions and other digital information for the exclusive use of the N.S.A.”

The lawsuit contends that the center would “give the N.S.A. direct, unlimited, unrestricted and unfettered access” to phone call information and Internet traffic on AT&T’s network.

More here.

So what this tells us, if it's true, and I have absolutely no reason to believe otherwise, is that the Bush administration came into office with a grand power-amassing agenda. They were going after our civil liberties whether 9/11 happened or not. Of course, this is no surprise. It's fully in keeping with what we've heard about Dick Cheney's "unitary executive" theories, as well as his stated goal of reclaiming the Presidential power he believes was lost in the wake of Watergate. Apparently, 9/11 was a gift to them from on high, jump-starting a process that would have been a very tough sell without all those terrorists hiding under the bed.

Bottom line: the Bush administration is full of some very bad people who ought to be behind bars, rather than ruling us. But we already knew that.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Kentucky topples top-ranked LSU in third overtime

From the AP via ESPN:

As a blue stream of Kentucky fans poured from the stands to celebrate the Wildcats' biggest victory in decades, Andre' Woodson was in the middle of the party calmly talking about taking down No. 1 LSU.

"It proved we're a team that obviously earns a lot more respect now," Woodson said after No. 17 Kentucky upset the Tigers 43-37 in triple overtime Saturday. "We've come a long way from being a doormat in the SEC to competing with the best teams in the SEC and getting some wins."

More here.


So my fellow Longhorn fan Matt couldn't wait to email me after the Tigers' stunning defeat:

Uh oh...

Better switch bandwagons pronto!
Again, ouch.

Needless to say, supporting the LSU Tigers can in no way be considered a "bandwagon" thing for me because, as with my love of Texas Longhorn football, I actually attended LSU. They're my second team, come rain or shine. Just for the record, I don't support teams with which I have nothing to do simply because they're winning--I'd be an LSU fan if they couldn't muster a single win, same with UT.

But I will say this. I know I love Texas most because it hurts much more when they lose big games. LSU's loss was a drag, but most of the season watching the 'Horns has been just downright painful. So now we have Texas bouncing back to salvage their season while the Tigers take a kick to the crotch.

I'm actually in a decent mood.

Anyway, other than the fact that Kentucky is good this year, and it was an SEC road game, I'm not sure why LSU lost. My best guess is that they got sloppy after their big one against Florida--six dropped passes is just not something I've seen the Tigers do this year. Focus, focus, focus. All SEC games are big ones.

Well, we've still got a shot at the conference. And maybe then we can start talking about the national championship again. Maybe. This is a good year for losing while staying in the hunt.


Texas ends Big 12 skid, sends Iowa St. to worst loss since '97

From the AP via ESPN:

Colt McCoy threw four touchdown passes and ran for another as No. 23 Texas bounced back from its first 0-2 conference start in 51 years with a 56-3 victory over Iowa State on Saturday.


McCoy followed up a strong performance last week's 28-21 loss to Oklahoma with an even sharper game, setting the tone for the Longhorns (5-2, 1-2 Big 12) by tossing a 58-yard touchdown pass on their first play.

Just as important, Texas played a turnover-free game after coughing up the ball twice against Oklahoma and four times in a 41-21 loss at home to Kansas State.

"This week in practice, coach said we're starting a new season," McCoy said. "We didn't feel like we played at the standard we could play at. If we can build on that, we'll have a great second half of the season."

Click here for the rest.

So here's the deal: the Longhorns are playing better. I noticed it last week when they fell to Oklahoma--they lost, but if they had been playing like they had in their previous wins, it would have been a blowout; indeed, the 'Horns only lost to OU by seven. It's not likely that we'll win the conference because it's very unlikely that the Sooners are going to lose anymore Big 12 games, but we've got a very good shot of winning out the rest of the season, which means beating the damnable Aggies, and then going on to a decent second tier bowl game.

Okay, the Longhorns are back in business!

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy throws a pass during the second half of a football game against Iowa State
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) (via ESPN)


Legal or Not, Abortion Rates Compare

From the New York Times courtesy of AlterNet:

A comprehensive global study of abortion has concluded that abortion rates are similar in countries where it is legal and those where it is not, suggesting that outlawing the procedure does little to deter women seeking it.

Moreover, the researchers found that abortion was safe in countries where it was legal, but dangerous in countries where it was outlawed and performed clandestinely. Globally, abortion accounts for 13 percent of women’s deaths during pregnancy and childbirth, and there are 31 abortions for every 100 live births, the study said.


The data also suggested that the best way to reduce abortion rates was not to make abortion illegal but to make contraception more widely available, said Sharon Camp, chief executive of the Guttmacher Institute.


The study indicated that about 20 million abortions that would be considered unsafe are performed each year and that 67,000 women die as a result of complications from those abortions, most in countries where abortion is illegal.

Click here for the rest.

Just to spell this out a bit further, there is now solid quantitative evidence that much of the women's movement rhetoric on abortion these past three decades has been absolutely correct. Outlawing abortion will not end abortion: indeed, all that abortion bans do is kill women. That last clause bears repeating: abortion bans kill 67,000 women a year. These are real, live, grownup human beings, with lives, hopes, dreams, desires, and loved ones. They are not fetuses, which have the potential to become and have all that, but are not yet that. That is, these real lives are definitely more important than the potential and theoretical lives that abortion opponents seek to save.

"Pro-life." That moniker is now a much bigger joke than it has ever been. A sick joke. Abortion opponents want to raise that 67,000 to a remarkably higher number. "Pro-life" means pro-death. As the study notes, if abortion opponents were actually serious about reducing abortions, they'd get on the safe sex bandwagon and ride it to the barn. But no. They think that promotes sex, which is what they really oppose.

And they're willing to kill to get what they want.


Friday, October 12, 2007




Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging!


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cato, Trade and Outsourcing

From CounterPunch, an essay on outsourcing mythology by Reagan administration economist Paul Craig Roberts:

Few economists have bothered to think about the issue of offshoring, preferring to dismiss concerns about it as manifestations of the old protectionist fallacy. They learned in graduate school that free trade is always mutually beneficial and ceased to think when they passed their exams. This is especially true of "free market economists" who believe that economic freedom, which they identify with the freedom of capital, is always good. Thus, most economists mistakenly believe that offshoring is protected under the authority of free trade doctrine.

However, free trade doctrine is based on the assumption that domestic capital seeks its comparative advantage in its home economy, specializing where its comparative advantage is best and, thereby, increasing the general welfare in the home economy. David Ricardo, who explicated the case for free trade, rules out an economy's capital seeking absolute advantage abroad instead of comparative advantage at home.

Jobs offshoring is not only a problem for displaced US manufacturing employees--displacement that Princeton economist and former Federal Reserve vice chairman Alan Blinder says will also impact 30 to 40 million high-end US service sector jobs as well-- but also a problem for economic theory.

Economic theory assumes that capitalists pursuing their individual interests are led to benefit the general welfare of their society by an indivisible hand. But offshoring, or the pursuit of absolute advantage, breaks the connection between the profit motive and the general welfare. The beneficiaries of offshoring are the corporations' shareholders and top executives and the foreign country, the GDP of which rises when its labor is substituted for the corporations' home labor. Every time a corporation offshores its production, it converts domestic GDP into imports. The home economy loses GDP to the foreign country which gains it.

Recently, Ralph Gomory, co-author with William Baumol, of
Global Trade and Conflicting National Interests, the most important work in trade theory in 200 years, pointed out that traditional trade theory has broken down because companies are no longer bound to the interests of their home countries. Offshoring has de-coupled the link between a company's motivation for profit and a nation's desire to improve the wealth of its citizens. "Most economists," Gomory observed, "have not acknowledged this fundamental change and its implications for economic theory."

Click here for the rest.

I wrote this recently: "They've outsourced everything that's not nailed down, allowing our manufacturing infrastructure, which creates real stuff as opposed to the abstract ideas generally referred to as "finance," to languish, which has also dealt the US consumer market a deadly blow, as class stratification proceeds to make America look like a lop-sided hourglass, with a small bubble of wealth at the top, a big bubble of poverty at the bottom, and almost nothing in the middle class range."

It's always a bit daunting to take on economic orthodoxy, especially with something as slippery as the issue of outsourcing, or "offshoring" as Roberts calls it. Intelligent and well informed individuals with whom I have spoken about my fears are usually quick to poo-poo my point of view. As far as I can tell, the response to my fear of a "free trade" global structure breakdown leaving us without the ability to manufacture or import important things, and therefore in a really shitty situation, is usually along the lines of "that'll never happen." While I'd like to have some specifics on why that'll never happen, I'll admit that dire predictions of worldwide economic disaster are not the best way to approach conversation with people who strongly believe in our economic system.

More troubling to me, however, are the vague responses I've gotten about how outsourcing is destroying the American consumer. "No, no, free trade helps the American consumer by getting him cheaper products; it also increases economic activity, which creates more jobs." Well, I'll grant the cheaper products and more jobs. However, when I follow up with something along the lines of "the new jobs are shitty, and cheap products mean nothing if you can't buy them," the responses are so vague that I don't even remember them. Something along the lines of "It'll work out."

Well, it's not working out, and I see nothing on the horizon indicating the reverse. I really do think Roberts is right when he attributes such a puzzling defense of free trade to economic orthodoxy: people just haven't thought this through. It is undeniable that outsourcing good jobs to other countries, in the long run, is a losing proposition for the vast majority of Americans. But deny they do, offering their vague and optimistic support for "free trade," looking weirdly at anybody who dissents.

I predict that, as the economic situation here in the US continues to deteriorate, there will be a revolution within the field of economics. New hot-shit blood will rise up and point out the obvious, winning awards, advancing their careers. Alas, things are most likely going to get really, really, really bad before this happens.


Turkey pulls ambassador over U.S. genocide bill

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Turkey ordered its ambassador in Washington to return to Turkey for consultations over a U.S. House panel's approval of a bill describing the World War I-era mass killings of Armenians as genocide, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said today.

The ambassador would stay in Turkey for about a week or 10 days for discussions about the measure, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Bilman.

"We are not withdrawing our ambassador. We have asked him to come to Turkey for some consultations," he said. "The ambassador was given instructions to return and will come at his earliest convenience."

State Department spokesman Tom Casey, said he was unaware of Turkey's decision, but said the United States wants to continue to have good relations with Turkey.

More here.

Now, now, there, there, what's all this infighting about?

Surely, the Turks can let Congress have its little old genocide bill. I mean, the Turkish genocide against the Armenians happened a very long time ago, and Congress isn't saying a single word about Turkey's much more recent attempted genocide against the Kurds. Indeed, the US is big pals with Turkey when it comes to killing Kurds there:
we helped to pay for it. Okay yeah, some of the killing was legitimate because Turkish Kurds were mounting a pretty hardcore insurrection during the 90s, but that hardly excuses the ethnic-cleansing response from the Turkish government. But hey, President Bill was just fine with all of that. He upped the arms aid massively, fully knowing how innocent Kurds were going to be massacred as a result.

See? We're all buddies here. What's the fuss? What's a little genocide between friends?


Wednesday, October 10, 2007


From Wikipedia:

The title track "You Are What You Is" is an up-tempo pop rock style song that was released as a music video in 1984. Although the film clip used advanced colour graphics on normal dance and singing type footage, its circulation was restricted due to parts of it where an actor, who was made to look like Ronald Reagan, was sitting in what looked like an electric chair whilst applying hair creme and singing. The song also contained the word ni$$er, which likely also had an effect on its broadcast.

More here.

I've only ever seen this as a couple of short segments on an episode of Beavis and Butthead. MTV would barely touch the thing, which pissed off FZ to no end; I mean the quirky and artsy nature of the video would have fit right into the era with ease. Maybe the music video channel didn't want their viewers thinking about race issues, seeing as how the only black artist they were playing at the time was Michael Jackson.

At any rate, this is a great song. Yes, it's very politically incorrect, as was exceedingly common with Zappa, but the overall message is a good one: it's okay to be comfortable in your own skin. One of many reasons I think of FZ as having been a practitioner of Real Art.

Here's the video:


Here are the lyrics:

Do you know what you are?
You are what you is
You is what you am
(A cow don't make ham...)
You ain't what you're not
So see what you got
You are what you is
An' that's all it 'tis

A foolish young man
From a middle class fam'ly
Started singin' the blues
'Cause he thought it was manly
Now he talks like the Kingfish
From Amos 'n Andy
("Holy mack'l dere...Holy mack'l
He tells you that chitlins...
Well, they taste just like candy
He thinks that he's got
De whole thang down
From the Nivea Lotion
To de Royal Crown

Do you know what you are?
You are what you is
You is what you am
(A cow don't make ham...)
You ain't what you're not
So see what you got
You are what you is
An' that's all it 'tis

A foolish young man
Of the Negro Persuasion
Devoted his life
To become a caucasian
He stopped eating pork
He stopped eating greens
He traded his dashiki
For some Jordache Jeans
He learned to play golf
An' he got a good score
Now he says to himself
("I ain't no ni$$er no more...HEY! HEY! HEY!"

And that's all it is.



Well, it's looking like Hillary's going to be the one. She's steadily creeping away from Obama, and once she's won the primary, I'm betting that the general election will simply be a formality. So get ready for another term of pro-corporate Democrat rule.

To honor our president apparent, I'm embedding one of my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons, the one where he makes playthings out of two Arkansas hillbillies:


I'm particularly fond of the square dance sequence, featuring Bugs as the caller, making his victims abuse each other as dance moves.

It's so amusing, in fact, it's worth posting what he calls:

Promenade across the floor, sashay right on out the door; out the door and into the glade, and everybody promenade. Step right up you're doin' fine, I'll pull your beard you pull mine; yank it again like you did before, break it up with a tug of war. Now into the creek and fish for the trout, dive right in and splash about; trout trout pretty little trout, one more splash and come right out. Shake like a hound dog shake again, wallow around in the old pig pen; wallow some more you all know how, roll around like an old fat sow. Allemande left with your left hand, follow through with a right and left grand; now lead your partner the dirty old thing, follow through with an elbow swing. Grab a fencepost hold it tight, whomp your partner with all your might; hit him in the shin hit him in the head, hit him again the critter ain't dead. Whop him low and whop him high, stick your finger in his eye; purty little rhythm purty little sound, bang your heads against the ground. Promenade all around the room, promenade like a bride and groom; open up the door and step right in, close the door and into a spin. Whirl whirl twist and twirl, jump all around like a flying squirrel; now don't you cuss and don't you swear, just come right out and form a square. Now right hand over and left hand under, both join hands and run like thunder; over the hill and over the dale, duck your head and lift your tail. Don't you stray and don't you roam, turn around and promenade home; corn in the crib and wheat in the sack, turn your partner promenade back.

Most humor, for me, really does go back to those old Warner Brothers cartoons.


Tuesday, October 09, 2007


From Think Progress courtesy of AlterNet:

Rohrabacher: Blackwater CEO Is ‘An American Hero Just Like Ollie North Was’

Following the September 16 shootout in Baghdad’s Nisour Square that left 17 Iraqis dead, private security firm Blackwater USA has come under intense scrutiny and criticism. The Iraqi government wants them out of the country, the FBI is investigating them, and CEO Erik Prince was forced to defend the company before Congress last week.

But not everyone is jumping on the anti-Blackwater bandwagon. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), for whom Prince once interned, is so supportive of the company that he believes Prince “is on his way to being an American hero just like Ollie North was“

Click here for more.

In case you don't realize, Rohrabacher was inadvertently telling the truth because Oliver North, rather than being a hero, was a traitorous criminal, who ultimately got a way with his crimes because of the foolish immunity deal given him by stupid Congressional Democrats back in the 80s. So, sure, Prince is indeed an American hero just like North, which is to say, not a hero at all. Of course, the right-wing nut jobs really do see North as a hero, so that's obviously not what Rohrabacher was trying to say.

You know, I was a youthful Republican myself back when the whole Iran-Contra thing went down, and I kind of bought into the "American hero" meme, too, although looking back on it, I just can't understand why. I mean, sure, North furthered a conservative goal, helping out the anti-Communist Contras in Nicaragua, but Congress, who had realized how brutal the Contra death squads were, had passed legislation banning all US aid to the insurgent group, and just to add insult to injury, North aided Iran, an official enemy at the time, a traitorous action.

Man, that right-wing Kool-Aid is powerful stuff.


Mellencamp song about Jena, La. gets mayor
upset; calls song's video inflammatory

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

A video in which rapper-actor Mos Def asked students around the country to walk out Oct. 1 to support the "Jena Six" escaped comment by this town's mayor. But when John Mellencamp sang, "Jena, take your nooses down," he took issue.

"The town of Jena has for months been mischaracterized in the media and portrayed as the epicenter of hatred, racism and a place where justice is denied," Jena Mayor Murphy R. McMillin wrote in a statement on town letterhead faxed on Friday to The Associated Press.

He said he had previously stayed quiet, hoping that the town's courtesy to people who have visited over the past year would speak for itself. "However, the Mellencamp video is so inflammatory, so defamatory, that a line has been crossed and enough is enough."

More here.

Well, no surprise here, especially considering that Jena's white mayor is definitely a racist. And it's no surprise that he let the Mos Def song go without protest, but freaks out on John Cougar's entry into the fray: if there's one thing white racists hate more than black people, it's the mythical "race traitor." I guess ol' Mayor Murph just can't understand why all the good white folk aren't coming to his defense on this.

Anyway, Cougar's song isn't half bad. I mean, it's not "Pink Houses" or anything, but it's kind of catchy, and definitely timely--kudos to him for getting it out while the story's still in the press, almost as cool as CSN&Y getting "Ohio" out within a few weeks of the Kent State shootings.

Here, check it out (careful, contains some intense historic footage of actual lynchings):


Monday, October 08, 2007

EU Finance Ministers to Talk Over Worries
That Slowing US Economy Will Drag Down EU

From the AP via Yahoo courtesy of AlterNet:

European Union finance ministers open two days of talks Monday to discuss the United States' slowing economy, feeble dollar and massive current account deficit as major problems for the EU and the rest of the world.

Europe is starting to feel the bite as the U.S. dollar plummets, making French wine, Italian fashion and German cars expensive purchases for the EU's main export market in the U.S.

Click here for the rest.

What a fine irony it is when socialist Europe fears capitalist America dragging it down into the crapper.

Throwing aside for a moment all debate about the European-styled welfare state versus the brutal but successful-by-reputation American "free market" system, it's pretty damned clear that the US government and American business leaders have been extraordinarily irresponsible for these past few years. They've outsourced everything that's not nailed down, allowing our manufacturing infrastructure, which creates real stuff as opposed to the abstract ideas generally referred to as "finance," to languish, which has also dealt the US consumer market a deadly blow, as class stratification proceeds to make America look like a lop-sided hourglass, with a small bubble of wealth at the top, a big bubble of poverty at the bottom, and almost nothing in the middle class range. They've not only ignored, but vigorously denied, global warming, which is now beginning to have devastating economic impacts worldwide. They've poured hundreds of billions, trillions really, into the black hole known as health care administration, while claiming that it's all good for the economy. And they've wasted even more on the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The list of economic irresponsibility just goes on and on.

It's very funny how the socialists are kicking our capitalist ass.


Means "Who Polices the Police?"

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Wisconsin deputy killed after slaying 6 in rampage

An off-duty sheriff's deputy went on a shooting rampage early Sunday at a home where seven young people had gathered for pizza and movies, killing six and critically injuring the other before authorities fatally shot him, officials said.

The gunman, Tyler Peterson, was 20 years old and worked full-time as a Forest County deputy sheriff and part-time as a Crandon police officer, said Police Chief John Dennee.


Her husband, David Franz, 36, said it was hard to accept that someone in law enforcement committed such an act.

"The first statement we said to each other was, how did he get through the system?" David Franz said. "How do they know somebody's background, especially that young? It is disturbing, to say the least."

More here.

When I was a kid in the 70s I remember a moment in a Batman comic book when a criminal and a cop were having something of a standoff. The criminal was taunting the cop, telling him that they weren't so different from one another, asserting that the typical psychological profiles for cops and criminals are amazingly similar, violent, possessing a sense of superiority, as well as a disdain for rules and authority. I've never really looked that up to see if it's true, but I've heard it repeated by people here and there over the years.

Even if it's not the case it makes sense.

This shooting isn't the typical police corruption or brutality story that I usually post about. Obviously, this killer falls much more into the crazy nut-job category. But that's kind of the point. He was attracted to the culture of law enforcement. He wanted to be a part of the hyper-masculine uniformed gun-toting elite. He wanted to be a big man. He wanted to exercise power over other people. This kid, Peterson, probably would have cracked up whether he was a cop or not, but the fact that somebody like him wanted to be a police officer says reams about the cop culture that he found to be so attractive.

Like I keep saying, my gripe with the police isn't about how "cops are bad" or anything along those lines: it's about how police culture consistently creates a social context such that some cops are encouraged to do bad things, and other cops are encouraged to look the other way when that happens.

Humanizing police culture wouldn't have stopped Peterson's rampage, but it would make for a more just and humane society overall. And a more just and humane society could very well change murderous nut-jobs into just nut-jobs.

One hopes.


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sam's Club pulls beef patties after E. coli illnesses

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle

The Sam's Club warehouse chain has pulled a brand of ground beef patties from its shelves nationwide after four children who ate the food, produced by Cargill Inc., developed E. coli illness.

Cargill asked customers to return any remaining patties purchased after Aug. 26 to the store or destroy them.

The children became ill between Sept. 10 and Sept. 20 after eating ground beef patties that were bought frozen under the name American Chef's Selection Angus Beef Patties from three Sam's Club stores in the Twin Cities area.


The Cargill recall comes on the heels of Elizabeth, N.J.-based Topps Meat Co.'s recall of 21.7 million pounds of ground beef amid E. coli concerns. The recall — the second-largest beef recall in U.S. history — caused Topps on Friday to announce that it's going out of business.

The source of the E. coli contamination at Topps is still being investigated, but USDA spokeswoman Sharon Randle said Saturday that the Cargill and Topps cases are not related.

Click here for the rest.

Okay, so I learned about the in's and out's of E. coli contaminated beef a few years back when I read Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation. We didn't have this kind of problem before the late 80s or so: the meat packing industry, in the process of de-unionizing, started using very inexperienced butchers, while at the same time, speeding up the packing process in order to increase profits with heavier volume. The removal of cattle digestive systems, previously performed more slowly and carefully by union butchers, became prone to "spillage" once the union was gone. That is, cow shit, filled with E. coli germs, splattered all over meat destined to be packaged and sold to consumers. Mass marketing of hamburger meat made things worse. Before meatpacking became big, big business, most hamburger meat was ground from a single source by your local butcher; today, however, they do all that in the plant, which means that a single piece of contaminated beef could be combined with countless pieces of uncontaminated meat, thereby spreading the germs widely.

The meat packing industry's solution was to recommend that consumers never eat hamburger meat that hasn't been cooked to at least a medium temperature. Consequently, there is a very good chance that we've all eaten cow shit with our hamburgers, albeit healthy cow shit with dead E. coli germs.

Anyway, all these periodic E. coli outbreaks are avoidable, and people are getting sick and dying because of capitalist greed, ideological disdain, and a compliant and pointless governmental regulation system. I guess tens of thousands of innocent Americans are going to have to die, in mass, before anything is done to fix this.


A fair crack

From the Houston Chronicle editorial board:

The rationale for this 100-to-1 disparity in crack vs. powder sentencing was that crack supposedly was a far more dangerous drug. Crack was thought to be instantly addictive, more likely to cause violence in users and more dangerous to unborn children. Studies show none of this is true.

Crack and powder cocaine are pharmacologically identical, and they cause the same effects on the body and brain, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

No one who is pregnant should use drugs, but the epidemic of crack babies that was supposed to cause an explosion of dire social consequences never materialized. If there is more violence associated with crack, it's because it is a drug more likely to be dealt and consumed on the streets in communities already plagued by crime and poverty.

Far harsher sentences for crack were imposed as a means to nab large-scale dealers, but this also hasn't happened. Those caught in the crack sentencing dragnet overwhelmingly have been addicts and petty sellers.

More here.

As the editorial goes on to observe, because crack is consumed in high crime and low income areas, poor African-Americans have borne the brunt of the sentencing disparity. This makes the effect of crack and cocaine laws to be utterly racist, as is most of the drug war itself, which generally finds most of its success targeting street dealers and users. Having known a few cocaine addicts here and there over the years, I'm very hesitant to call for legalizing it, but addressing the inherent racism involved in drug enforcement is definitely a move in the right direction. On the other hand, addiction is a disease, and it is only a crime by virtue of the fact that our political system continues to ignore the hard science showing that drug abuse has much less to do with morality than it does with biology. We should legalize, as well as regulate, cocaine, and channel the billions of dollars we now spend on drug enforcement into public health campaigns aimed at prevention and treatment.

We have to face the fact that the drug war has not stopped drug abuse. Further, it has destroyed countless lives while wasting untold amounts of money. Alcohol prohibition was a joke, and the nation knew it: why don't we know now what we knew then?


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Risk-taking LSU reaps reward with comeback win over Gators

From the AP via ESPN:

Gambling at every opportunity, LSU managed to hold on to its No. 1 ranking.

Florida's hopes of another national title appear to be over after a remarkable Saturday night in Death Valley.

The Tigers barely converted a pair of fourth-down runs before Jacob Hester powered over from the 2-yard line with 1:09 remaining, completing a stunning comeback that gave LSU a 28-24 victory over the No. 9 Gators.

Tim Tebow shredded the nation's top-ranked defense for three quarters, giving Florida a 24-14 lead with 15 minutes remaining. He threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another.

But LSU kept rolling the dice and coming up with winners. The Tigers scored two touchdowns on fourth-down plays and another after pulling off a fake field goal. Then, on the game's decisive drive, they finally hit the jackpot.

Hester bulled his way into the end zone for LSU's first lead of the game. When the Tigers knocked down Tebow's final long pass in the end zone, the record crowd of 92,910 let out its biggest roar of all.

The Tigers are still No. 1. And, with second-ranked Southern California losing, there's no doubt about it.

Click here for the rest.

Wow. I don't think I've watched a game this exciting since Texas won the national championship a couple of years ago. I don't even know where to start babbling about this. Jacob Hester's performance was nothing short of amazing, picking up yardage old-school style, fighting for every inch, and, when the Tigers needed it most, he busted through the goal line for LSU's go-ahead touchdown. I didn't know he's that good. I'm also amazed with the Tigers' tenacity: they were behind for nearly fifty nine minutes, but just kept slugging it out. My biggest kudos, however, go to Coach Les Miles. Of course, he couldn't have done it without all that great talent, but he fucking outcoached Urban Meyer. I'm tempted to call it a chess match, but in the end, it was more like a poker game, and Miles was betting like a pro, going five for five with fourth down conversions.

If this doesn't shut up the Louisiana radio sports-talk idiots, nothing will. Miles has proven himself. He's the man.

In the end, LSU's going to number one in the AP poll and then beating the defending national champion all in the same week is a very good omen. On the other hand, the rest of the SEC awaits their opportunity to beat the Tigers. I'm sure the hatred will be at an all-time high. Of course, Miles has a very one-game-at-a-time attitude, which has done well so far this season.

Geaux Tigers!

LSU running back Jacob Hester (18) dives into the end zone with the winning touchdown against Florida late in the fourth quarter -of their college football action in Baton Rouge, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2007. Trying for the stop is Florida A.J. Jones (16) and Brandon Spikes (51). (AP Photo/Bill Haber)(via ESPN)


Bradford's steady play steers Sooners past Horns

From the AP via ESPN:

Facing a tough foe in a hostile setting, Bradford looked as comfortable as he did in his record-setting first few games against overmatched opponents, throwing for three touchdowns and hardly making a mistake while steering the No. 10 Sooners past the No. 19 Longhorns 28-21 in their annual grudge match Saturday.


It didn't have to happen. Texas had four possessions after Bradford's go-ahead pass to Kelly, but Colt McCoy only got the Longhorns across midfield on two plays. He threw an interception on one, then never even got off the second because of a false start.

"We just couldn't finish," said Jermichael Finley, who had four catches for 149 yards, the most ever for a Texas tight end. He had gains of 55 and 58 yards that set up Texas' first two touchdowns, the first going to Jordan Shipley and the second TD to Finley, putting the Longhorns ahead 14-7.

"We've just got to look over this and keep on going, keep on rolling," Finley said.

McCoy, who showed signs of a concussion while getting battered last weekend, played with his throwing arm bandaged from mid-forearm to biceps. While his body held up and his stats were pretty good (19-of-26 for 324 yards) this just wasn't his day.

More here.

Okay, of course I would have preferred a win, but all in all, the 'Horns played better than I expected. They were definitely in it for almost the entire game, and if two or three plays had gone differently, they might have actually won it. Like I said, a win would have been nice, but this is the best I've seen Texas play this year--the Longhorn nation always gets fired up for OU.

Anyway, if Texas can keep up this kind of intensity for the rest of the season, maybe we'll play in the Outback Bowl or something. Maybe we'll beat the Aggies. That'd be nice.



From the New York Times op-ed section, newly reopened for free perusal, courtesy of Eschaton, Paul Krugman on the right wing's strange and vicious sense of humor:

Conservatives Are Such Jokers

Today’s leading conservatives are Reagan’s heirs. If you’re poor, if you don’t have health insurance, if you’re sick — well, they don’t think it’s a serious issue. In fact, they think it’s funny.

On Wednesday, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded S-chip, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing health insurance to an estimated 3.8 million children who would otherwise lack coverage.

In anticipation of the veto, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had this to say: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.” Heh-heh-heh.

Most conservatives are more careful than Mr. Kristol. They try to preserve the appearance that they really do care about those less fortunate than themselves. But the truth is that they aren’t bothered by the fact that almost nine million children in America lack health insurance. They don’t think it’s a problem.

Click here for the rest.

Right. I think I first started understanding the right wing's utter contempt for the downtrodden one day back in the early 90s when I was listening to the criminal conservative hero Oliver North's radio show. It was a "humorous" segment that consisted of a fake liberal calling in to insist that conservatives need to show compassion. Ollie just mocked the guy for some ten minutes straight, totally dismissing compassion as an important human principle. In that moment I started to understand that all the contemporary conservative rhetoric about using "market solutions" for dealing with social problems was a bunch of bullshit. Conservatives simply don't care about anybody but themselves and their immediate circles, which makes complete sense when you consider how utterly selfish their on-your-own, pull-up-your-bootstraps, fuck-everybody principles actually are. There is no room for compassion within a me, me, me philosophy.

And for some reason these assholes think it's funny to trash people who are suffering. I suppose that's a sort of psychological survival mechanism, you know, something that allows them to look in the mirror without crying.

Damn, it's good to have free Krugman again!


Friday, October 05, 2007


Sammy and Frankie

Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging!


Thursday, October 04, 2007

White House denies memos authorized torture

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The memos were disclosed in today's editions of the The New York Times, which reported that the 2005 legal opinion authorized the use of simulated drownings and freezing temperatures while interrogating terror suspects, and was issued shortly after then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales took over the Justice Department.

That secret opinion, which explicitly allowed using the painful methods in combination, came months after a 2004 opinion in which the Justice Department publicly declared torture "abhorrent" and the administration seemed to back away from claiming authority for such practices.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino denied that the 2005 opinion cleared the way for the return of painful interrogation tactics or superseded U.S. anti-torture law. "This country does not torture," she told reporters. "It is a policy of the United States that we do not torture and we do not."

Perino did confirm existence of the Feb. 5, 2005, classified opinion, however. But she would not comment on whether it authorized specific practices, such as head-slapping and simulated drowning, and said the 2005 opinion did not reinterpret the law.

Additionally, Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the 2004 opinion remains in effect and that "neither Attorney General Gonzales nor anyone else within the department modified or withdrew that opinion."

"Accordingly, any advice that the department would have provided in this area would rely upon, and be fully consistent with, the legal standards articulated in the December 2004 memorandum," Roehrkasse said in a statement.

The dispute may come down to how the Bush administration defines torture, or whether it allowed U.S. interrogators to interpret anti-torture laws beyond legal limits. CIA spokesman George Little said the agency sought guidance from the Bush administration and Congress to make sure its program to detain and interrogate terror suspects followed U.S. law.

More here.

Oh god, this shit again?

Well, if these secret documents do indeed legally authorize torture, despite DoJ opinions to the contrary, it wouldn't at all be outside the realm of VP Cheney's theories of the "unitary executive." That is, it's been White House policy for six years to do whatever it wants, violating laws and previous executive orders arbitrarily and at will. And we already know how much they love torture.

Hell, it's hard to even know what they're talking about when they're using the word. Their definition allows a great deal of what I and many other Americans would call torture without a moment's hesitation. Further, the White House lied about it repeatedly when they got caught; it's fair to say that the onus is now on them to show that they're not lying about it now.

I really hope the Democrats push this one. More than anything else, Bush's torture regime makes me ashamed to be an American.



From Democracy Now, in a discussion about American opposition to the Bush wars, progressive writer Norman Solomon well articulates one of the main points I've been trying to make on this blog for nearly five years:

NORMAN SOLOMON: The opposition is registered in opinion polls, but largely quiescent, and if we look at the progression of the Vietnam War, year after year, from the late ’60s through the first years of the ’70s, opinion polls show that most Americans were opposed to the war, even felt it was immoral. You fast-forward to this decade, for years now most polls have shown most people are opposed. But what does that mean? Our political culture encourages us to be passive, not to get out in the streets, not to blockade the government war-making offices, not to go into the congressional offices and not leave, not to raise our voices in impolite or disruptive ways. We have to become enemies of the warfare state, not in a rhetorical way, but in a way that speaks to the American people in terms of where our humane values are and should be.


AMY GOODMAN: You take on the pundits on a regular basis. Why Thomas Friedman now?

NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, he’s very outspoken in terms of criticizing the Bush administration about this war now, although he supported it at the time. We’re told he’s the most influential pundit in the United States. And yet, you scratch the surface, and there is an acceptance of the enormous expenditures for military power. He has written that to have McDonald's around the world, you need McDonnell Douglas, the military contractor subsidized by the US government. Just yesterday in his New York Times column, Thomas Friedman waxed nostalgic for what he called pre-9/11. And this is part of the mythos that, well, our problems with militarism began with 9/11 or began with the George W. Bush administration.

As my book,
Made Love, Got War, goes into in detail, we have lived, we have been incubated by a warfare state for five, six decades. And the effects of that are terribly pernicious. Martin Luther King talked about the “spiritual death” -- his phrase, the “spiritual death” -- that accompanies a society which year after year spends more on military defense than on social uplift. That was forty years ago. What are the effects then of that spiritual death? And so, we have a chance to counteract those sort of dangerous, horrible trends with such terrible results, but we need to activate ourselves to do that.

Click here to read, watch, or listen to the rest.

Back in early July when I was visiting Austin, I met a soldier out of Fort Hood in Killeen who was back home from Iraq for a while. We didn't discuss the war, but at some point I told him the name of my blog.

"You write a blog about three things that don't have anything to do with each other?" he seriously asked.

"Sure," I told him, not wanting to give him an unwanted lecture about how it's all so hopelessly intertwined, "but those are the three things I like the most."

Here's an abbreviated version of what I might have said to him. We all like to think we're making rational, informed decisions about all aspects of our lives. We like to think that we know when we're deviating from rationality, for instance, "I know it's crazy, but I love her, man!" We like to think that we apply logic, not passion, to our understanding of how our civilization works, of how our political system works, of how everything works.

Not so. There is a much bigger game being played off the board that affects every move we make. That game is called "culture." And culture encompasses everything from clothing styles, church, popular music, and high art to television, sports teams, cool cars, and on and on. Culture is how we feel about things.

When we make our seemingly rational decisions about how we consider the way the world works, we almost automatically dismiss culture as part of the equation. When terrorists took down the World Trade Center and the US population very quickly agreed with the White House that war was the best way to solve the problem, virtually nobody took into account the fact that we've all been watching and digging war movies all our lives; nobody took into account that maybe our cultural glorification of violent, manly heroes might be influencing our "rational" decisions. We give lip service to peace, but there are very few peaceful heroes glorified by our culture. Peace and negotiation are not American values, not really part of our culture.

Nobody seems to consider this. Nobody seems to see the bigger off-board game.

Okay, so I say "nobody," but when I do that I'm really only referring to the general population. There are lots of Americans who are keenly aware of the the off-board culture game: political consultants, advertising agencies, evangelists, film scholars, etc. And many of them are deeply involved in the hidden game. You think Bush's now infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech, which included his flying a jet onto an aircraft carrier while dressed in military garb, was simply political theater? Well, it was indeed political theater, but there was nothing simple about it. The imagery tapped into the social conditioning of a thousand war movies, from Midway to Top Gun. Americans subconsciously know the myth, and, at the time, placed Bush right into the middle of it, as the warrior-leader who will protect us from evil.

As Solomon observes in the above linked interview, "we have lived, we have been incubated by a warfare state for five, six decades." One could just as easily say something similar of our "free trade" state, as well.

The bottom line is that culture matters, and is probably more important, in the long run, than politics itself. Actually, I would go so far as to say that politics is simply a massive manifestation of culture. And if you can manipulate culture, you can manipulate politics.

So what does it mean that most culture today in the US is manufactured for mass consumption by wealthy corporations that are in bed with the military-industrial complex? The answer isn't very comforting.


Artist builds secret apartment in mall's parking garage

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The leader of an artists' cooperative has been sentenced to probation for setting up a secret apartment inside a shopping mall's parking garage as part of a project on mall life.

Michael Townsend, 36, said he and seven other artists built the 750-square-foot apartment beginning in 2003 and lived there for up to three weeks at a time.

The artists built a cinderblock wall and nondescript utility door to keep the loft hidden from the outside world.


So, I've been under the mistaken impression for several years now that, as virtual public spaces, shopping malls have to respect free speech rights.
Not so, unless you're in one of a handful of states that have stronger free speech protections that what's guaranteed by the US Constitution. Nonetheless, even if you don't think it's good art, this apartment project is indeed art, free expression, free speech. Rhode Island isn't really an arch-conservative state: I think these guys should have fashioned their defense along free speech lines, hoping for a sympathetic jury, or maybe even some kind of groundbreaking ruling from the bench. I mean, free speech is very American, after all.

Oh well. Too late now.




And, you know, that's one of the best Chekov pictures I've ever seen.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007


The right wing has been going on for a couple of decades about how "the government is the problem," about how horrible "big government" is, and whenever they have the opportunity, that is, whenever they're in office, they do everything they can to make the government smaller. Actually, that's not entirely true. In actual practice Republicans tend to only shrink the parts of government they don't like, usually in favor of large campaign donors, and grow the parts they like, usually in favor of large campaign donors, or of programs that they believe help them in campaigns, like the military.

But years of their "small government" rhetoric have their effect. The conventional wisdom is that the federal government is generally bloated, wasteful, and a huge hindrance to regular people like you and me.

Here are a couple of case studies in why "big government," when applied in very specific ways, is not only helpful, but absolutely necessary.

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Agency knew of Utah mine's problems years before disaster

Bureau of Land Management inspectors noted serious structural problems at Utah's Crandall Canyon Mine at least three years before two roof collapses killed nine people in August, Congress was told today.

Yet the government's mine safety agency in another agency — the Labor Department — didn't know of the concerns about Crandall Canyon until after the accident, Kevin Stricklin, a coal mine safety and health administrator for Labor, told a Senate hearing on the accident.

The Labor Department had approved a plan to mine there.

"This is like the CIA not getting information from the FBI when we're getting attacked by terrorists," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., whose committee also is investigating the oversight by the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration of the mine and the accident response.

More here.

As liberal as Kennedy is, bless his corrupt little black heart, he's still mired in old school thinking: this wasn't simply a miscommunication. BLM has been under Republican control since Bush stole the White House in 2001. Since then, he's gone a very long way toward taking apart regulation enforcement--that is, the laws mandating the exposing of such unsafe conditions are still on the books; Bush just doesn't enforce them, presumably because this kind of "big government" interference is bad for business, that is, bad for his wealthy campaign donors.

But make no mistake about it. Nine men are dead, too poor to donate to the GOP, and Bush's White House could have prevented it.

And again from the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Accidents rise at labs handling deadliest germs

Likewise, the number of labs approved by the government to handle the deadliest substances has nearly doubled to 409 since 2004, and there are now 15 of the highest-security labs. Labs are routinely inspected by federal regulators just once every three years, but accidents trigger interim inspections.

In a new report by congressional investigators, the Government Accountability Office said little is known about labs that aren't federally funded or don't work with any of 72 dangerous substances the government monitors most closely.

"No single federal agency ... has the mission to track the overall number of these labs in the United States," said the GAO's report, expected to be released later this week. "Consequently, no agency is responsible for determining the risks associated with the proliferation of these labs."

More here.

Right, but any of these agencies could become responsible with a stroke from the President's pen, an executive order. But inspections are "bad for business," imposing on the profits of wealthy campaign donors. See? "Big government" is bad. It hurts the economy. On the other hand, large epidemics of weird science fiction bugs hurt the economy, too. Not to mention all the death.

In the end, the whole big/small government debate is bullshit. We have a big country, with a big economy, and we deal with big issues: of course, we need "big government." The real debate ought to be about wasteful spending, whether regulations actually do what they're supposed to do, whether they really do impose too much on the economy, and about where and how we need more government regulation. That's how it all was, actually, before conservatives started all this "big government" nonsense back in the late 70s.

It's time to end the bogus and pointless debate about vague governmental size issues and return to the hard work of balancing the needs of individual citizens with the overall needs of the nation and its economy. Not easy, but vital.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Sheriff Harry Lee dead at 75

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

It was his clashes with black leaders as sheriff of the mostly white New Orleans suburb that often made news during his nearly three decades as sheriff.

The most recent such disagreement came after Hurricane Katrina devastated the region on Aug. 29, 2005. Lee's agency faced an upsurge in crime, blamed largely on the illegal drug business that had been dislodged from neighboring New Orleans.

Lee prompted outrage by suggesting his deputies could randomly question young black men in high-crime areas. Lee later abandoned the plan, but made no apologies for it.

In 1987, he was blamed by many for putting up temporary barricades between mostly black New Orleans and mostly white Jefferson Parish. The barricades were actually ordered up by the Jefferson Parish Council, according to news reports. However, Lee was quoted as saying at the time that the controversy might help his re-election bid that year.

In another incident, following a rash of robberies in white neighborhoods, he ordered his deputies to arbitrarily stop "young blacks in rinky-dink cars" driving in white neighborhoods. He later backed off.

Click here for the rest.

So Harry Lee was my sheriff these brief few weeks I've been living in Jefferson Parrish, and while I don't yet know much about the notoriously wild, weird, and woolly politics down here in the Big Easy's metropolitan area, his obit serves as an opening primer. I've written recently about racial attitudes here in Louisiana, more specifically about Jena, which included my surprise at how a number of whites here in the New Orleans area took what I see as a racist position on the nooses-in-the-whiteboy-tree scandal. In short, despite the fact that we are now decades past the civil rights era, racism appears to bubble and seethe beneath a calm veneer of civility here in the Deep South. You just know such a situation factors heavily into local politics.

I don't think Lee was a racist per se, especially because as a minority himself, a Chinese-American, he might have had some sensitivity on the subject--of course, bigotry is not exclusive to any ethnicity, so who really knows? But it is utterly clear that he used racist attitudes to his political advantage. Metairie, the community in which I now live, takes up a large part of Jefferson Parrish: it is a white flight community, largely populated by individuals who left New Orleans because of desegregation, and their offspring. That is, many of my community's families moved here because they were or are now racist. It is interesting to note that Lee seemed to always back down from his legally questionable stances against African-Americans. Okay, fine. In the end he did the right thing. But only after he sent the good white folk of Jefferson Parrish the unambiguous message that he was on their side.

Politics. It's almost as though he pulled a page from the Republican Party's "Southern Strategy" play book. It's all about sending coded racist messages to white racist voters who understand that you can't just come out and say we ought to put all the black people in jail. It's all about "I'm no racist, but..."

So he was beloved by the people of Jefferson Parrish. I think I now know why.


LSU takes top spot from USC

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

LSU, which recovered from its own first-half malaise to beat Tulane 34-9 on Saturday, received 33 first-place votes from the media panel and 1,593 points. USC got 32 first-place votes, 11 fewer than last week, and 1,591 points.

LSU coach Les Miles suggested the voters didn't get up early enough to watch the first half of the Tigers' victory against Tulane, when they led 10-9 at the break.

"They kind of slept in and got kind of caught up on the score later in the day," he said Sunday. "We can't afford to play like that anymore for any length of time, whether it is a half or whatever. We played without the focus or intensity we are capable of."

Click here for the rest.

"We played without the focus or intensity we are capable of."

Indeed. But that may very well be why AP voters turned to LSU. USC beat a team they were supposed to beat, but only barely, and it came down to the wire. LSU, like USC, struggled against its unranked opponent but managed to pull it together and totally dominate during the second half. I'm speculating that this ability to re-focus and take care of business is what wooed the poll toward the Tigers.

Then again, I'm probably full of shit: Washington, despite its unranked status, is a much better team than Tulane. Who the fuck knows why these guys vote the way they do? At least they've got it right now. LSU is, and has been for weeks, the best college football team in the country.

Now bring on Florida.

Meanwhile, back in Austin, my undergraduate school's team drops to nineteenth. For me, that's a good thing. They probably are nineteenth best in the country, and it's a lot easier to watch them as underdogs, or scrappy contenders, whatever, than as the team that won the national championship only two years ago hoping for a repeat. As irrational as it may seem, they're much more forgivable now. And I think the pressure's off the Longhorns, as well. Now they can focus and play football. Stop partying so much. This loss to K-State may end up being quite a good thing.

And when they beat the Sooners and the Aggies, it'll be all the more sweet.


Alan Greenspan and the Myth of the True Believer

From AlterNet, Naomi Klein meditates on whether the free market fundamentalists really believe their own bullshit:

Yet what is most interesting about Greenspan's story is what it reveals about the ambiguous role of ideas in the free-market crusade. Given that Greenspan is perhaps the world's most powerful living free-market ideologue, it is significant that his commitment to ideology seems rather thin and perfunctory -- less zealous belief, more convenient cover story.

Much of the debate around Greenspan's legacy has revolved around the matter of hypocrisy, of a man preaching laissez faire who repeatedly intervened in the market to save the wealthiest players. The economy that is Greenspan's legacy hardly fits the definition of a libertarian market but looks very much like another phenomenon described in his book: "When a government's leaders routinely seek out private-sector individuals or businesses and, in exchange for political support, bestow favors on them, the society is said to be in the grip of 'crony capitalism.'"

He was talking about Indonesia under Suharto, but my mind went straight to Iraq under Halliburton. Greenspan is currently warning the world about a dangerous looming backlash against capitalism. Apparently, this has nothing at all to do with the policies of negligent deregulation that were his trademark.

More here.

Klein later asserts that she doesn't buy Greenspan's true believer status, but it's hard to agree with her. Even though these free market cheerleaders contradict themselves pretty much all the time, it cannot be taken as evidence that they're conscious of what they're doing. Sure, the whole laissez faire conceptual framework really only exists to rhetorically justify vast social injustices, and I would venture to guess that on some level these people know it, but they have to believe. If they don't believe, they're bad people, and nobody wants to be a bad person.

I'm an actor. From my many years of playing roles on stage, I've become aware of how easy it is to believe things that aren't true. I mean, that's what actors do: we try to behave as honestly as possible under imaginary circumstances; ideally, if you can give yourself over to the fiction, you give a good, realistic, emotionally honest performance. This isn't some freak ability that only actors have. This is a human ability. When we feel we need to believe something, we'll believe it. That's why so many people believe in God, despite the fact that there is absolutely no evidence for doing so--people need the reassurance that there is some conscious sense to the universe, that we are being looked over by the cosmic Alpha Male, thereby satisfying the powerful genetic desires we share with other primates.

In short, it is not only possible that people both believe and disbelieve certain propositions at the same time, it's downright commonplace. It's human nature. In short, we are not rational beings. Yet another reason everything's going to pot.