REAL ART RERUN
WHAT THE HELL IS A NEO-CONSERVATIVE, ANYWAY?
This Real Art Rerun was first posted on August 11, 2003.
After my post, "NEO-CONSERVATIVE SPAWNING POOL," a few days ago, it occurred to me that many of Real Art's loyal readers might not know much about the neo-cons--after all, I don't really know that much about them, myself, and, compounding confusion, I have thrown around a similar term, "neo-liberal," quite a bit, as well. Sometimes I wonder if these weird labels are confusing by devious design. However, it really is important to know what these guys are all about. They're running the country now...into the ground.
For starters, "neo-liberal" is a term that refers to an economic point of view. This view is strongly committed to the concept of laissez-faire, or "a doctrine opposing governmental interference in economic affairs beyond the minimum necessary for the maintenance of peace and property rights" as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Neo-liberalism, as a modern philosophy, was, by and large, first articulated by economist Milton Friedman during the early 1970s. Even though this is a very conservative point of view, in many ways dating back to Adam Smith's treatise The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, adherents to this philosophy call themselves "neo," meaning "new," and "liberal," meaning "open-minded, desiring change." Why? The strange explanation I was given years ago by my neo-lib economics professor in college is something to the effect that because governmental economic interference is, in reality, a conservative philosophy (the monarchs and nobility of old often interfered with business and trade), keeping government out of the economy has always been the true liberal philosophy.
Whatever. Crap, by any other name, still smells as bad. The neo-liberals are just plain conservatives with a fancy name.
"Neo-conservatives," on the other hand, are somewhat related to neo-liberals, but not quite the same thing. Both points of view seem to be associated with the University of Chicago, as my above mentioned post notes. However, the neo-cons have some very different emphases in their philosophy. From an essay in the Straits Times:
The first neo-cons were intellectuals, mostly Jewish, who began as leftists but migrated rightwards in the 1950s and 1960s, in disgust over the Soviet Union's suppression of Eastern Europe and what they took to be the weakness of the West's response. As Irving Kristol, a founder of the movement, put it once, a neo-conservative is a 'liberal who has been mugged by reality'.
They didn't give up their liberalism in the process, though. If anything, neo-cons might be called muscular neo-liberals, or liberals with boots.
They believe fervently in the supremacy of Western civilisation - in particular its American variation, liberal capitalism plus Jeffersonian democracy - and are possessed by a messianic zeal to spread its virtues throughout the world.
This idealistic strain is most evident in the next generation of neo-cons - the Wolfowitzs, Perles and Kagans. They all cut their teeth fighting a supreme realist, Dr Kissinger, opposing what they believed was his amoral 'balance of power' conception of foreign policy.
Detente was for them appeasement, containment of the Soviet Union a form of defeatism, nuclear arms control the legitimation of an unacceptable status quo, and rapprochement with China a cynical betrayal of Taiwan.
For more of this essay, click here.
Because they used to be liberals, but changed into conservatives, they are “new” or “neo” conservatives now.
Cute, huh? Crap, by any other name…
Given the neo-cons’ blatant use of Machiavellian tactics to gain power, I would assert that they don't really love democracy; they simply say that they do. To me, it sounds like these guys are simply imperialists in the old British sense: they want to spread their view of Americanism (whatever that is) to the rest of the world by force. In short, they're bloodthirsty hawks draped in the stars and stripes--unfortunately, they now seem to have free run of the White House; they are the face of America abroad. Also, as far as I can tell, they support neo-liberal economics, for the most part.
Have I confused you even more?
The point is that they're all conservatives, neo-lib and neo-con alike. They simply have different priorities. Both groups are dangerous to our nation and the world. Both groups now have a great deal of power.
God, I'm creeping myself out, here.
For even more on the twisted history of neo-cons, click here.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
REAL ART RERUN
Posted by Ron at 2:27 AM
Monday, February 26, 2007
ART IS NEVER NEUTRAL
This Real Art Rerun was first posted on July 26, 2003.
Off and on, for many years now, I have enjoyed the observations of writer Micheal Ventura in his Letters at 3AM column in the Austin Chronicle. A couple of Ventura columns in particular that I read hot off the heels of my stint as an RTF student reinforced a belief in which I had strongly come to believe: there's no such thing as "just a movie." (Unfortunately, both of these columns seem to be unavailable online.) The first column, "Forest Gump Why?" blasted the wildly popular film on the grounds that it is anti-thought, that it glorifies the uniquely American notion that true wisdom is simple, and that intellectual notions cannot be trusted. The second column, "Forest Gump Why Not?" attempted to answer all the critical hate mail that the first column generated--in this second essay, Ventura presented his case for making critical analyses of film. He illustrated that, like it or not, all films present ideological messages; entertainment and art are never neutral, no matter how much we may love a particular film. Indeed, one of my favorite films, Gone with the Wind, is full of negative ideological concepts--slaves are portrayed as happy and stupid; the Klan is portrayed as heroic. Despite my love for the film, it would be dishonest and wrong to ignore its destructive messages.
Some years later, when I was getting my teacher's certification at the University of Houston Downtown, I was able to take a cool cultural rhetoric course. I was asked to write an analysis on the film Sneakers, and, riffing on Ventura, I decided to go for the jugular. I figured that, given my last post, "WHY 'REAL ART?'" I would let you in on how I tend to understand films these days. One note, the essay discusses radical violence to some extent: this is not to be understood as an endorsement of violence in any way; my own philosophy is decidedly non-violent. Also, in spite of my criticism, I really do like the film.
“DON’T YOU KNOW THAT YOU CAN COUNT ME OUT (IN)”
While writing the Beatles’ song, “Revolution,” John Lennon was facing a personal dilemma. Should he embrace the more radical elements of the 1960’s youth revolution or advocate a slower, more peaceful road to societal change? Lennon hated violence but people were being oppressed and murdered by establishment forces worldwide.
His struggle with the issue manifested itself in the song’s lyrics. The Beatles actually released two recordings of the song, a heavy guitar version as the b-side for “Hey Jude” and a slower, more relaxed version on their double l.p. nicknamed The White Album. The guitar version has the lines, “when you talk about destruction/ don’t you know that you can count me out,” but the slower version changes the second line by adding the word “in” immediately after the word “out.” Lennon was sitting on an ideological fence.
Using thirty years of hindsight, the Hollywood film, Sneakers, attempts to resolve this dilemma for aging baby-boomers everywhere. The film presents an ideology that dictates the preferred method of social change in the United States. According to this ideology, radicalism is bad, dangerous, and leads not only to personal destruction but also to potential destruction of the world. On the other hand, social change, if it is really even needed, should be peaceful, incremental, and, by and large, accomplished through the established institutions of society.
The two views are embodied by the actions of the film’s two central characters played by Robert Redford and Ben Kingsley. Kingsley is the bad guy and ideologically represents what is to the movie’s producers the wrong way to change society. Firstly, Kingsley’s character is clearly a radical, but he is also a cold-blooded killer working for organized crime: in Sneakers, radicalism is murderous; its often-noble goals are equated with the self-serving aims of the Mafia. Secondly, as a criminal, Kingsley leads a life of danger with bullets flying and risk of incarceration--radicalism is a dangerous thing; just ask Patty Hearst. Finally, Kingsley loses in the end; he fails to achieve his twisted dream of Nirvana overnight and, if I recall correctly, faces trial for his actions. On the other hand, if he had succeeded, the world as we know it would have ended, replaced by some dark vision. For Sneakers, radicalism, if successful, destroys the world, if unsuccessful, destroys the self.
Redford’s character, on the other hand, is the good guy and ideologically represents the right way to change society, if such a thing is needed at all. Indeed, according to the movie, Redford spends most of his life doing absolutely nothing to change society; he devotes himself to individual concerns, starting a business, leading his life. In Sneakers, societal change is rarely needed: the good citizen should be concerned mostly with his or her own personal business.
Further, Redford is peaceful, only encountering violence when he becomes again involved with Kingsley, the radical. When Redford finally does attempt to change society, even though he acts in a seemingly radical manner, he does it by influencing society’s established institutions such that change is slow and incremental rather than immediate. For Sneakers, good Americans embrace the establishment and seek only slow, non-violent change.
This ideology presented by Sneakers, however, is factually incorrect and even undermines itself through contradiction. To begin, even though radicalism is often associated with violence, it has, in fact, worked quite well numerous times and accomplished numerous worthy goals.
The U.S. labor movement of the 1920’s and 1930’s was, at times, extremely violent, seeking immediate societal change; however, it gained many rights that Americans today take for granted. Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution of the late 1950’s was also violent, changing Cuba virtually overnight. It is arguable how beneficial the revolution was to the people of Cuba, but, by many personal accounts, two great accomplishments were made: Cubans have food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care; the average citizen has a sense of dignity and self-efficacy that he or she did not have before. The African National Congress of South Africa also has a violent history of seeking radical change: Apartheid has ended; white minority rule is a thing of the past. Despite Sneakers’ messages to the contrary, radicalism not only works, but many times it has worked quite well.
Furthermore, the model of peaceful, incremental change offered by Sneakers is undermined by its own narrative elements. Redford’s institutional influence is, in the great scheme of things, inconsequential. He bankrupts the Republican Party; this action implies that the Democrats are the party of good. This notion is almost laughable.
First, one can easily imagine how quickly a raging flood of corporate donations would repair the damage to the Republicans. Second, the Democrats are arguably as money-driven and corporate controlled as the Republicans. It is business as usual one way or the other.
Redford then redistributes the money to Amnesty International and the United Negro College Fund. Both are fine organizations that have accomplished many good things. Despite years of activism, however, the United States still executes prisoners and supports repressive foreign governments; college is still, for the most part, mostly white (and with the dismantling of affirmative action, increasingly white). Redford’s use of established institutions to change society is, in all likelihood, doomed to fail. Therefore, as a close, critical reading of Sneakers suggests, incremental change within the status quo is probably not even worth trying. Just stay at home and watch a video.
John Lennon eventually embraced certain elements of radicalism and wrote some great revolutionary songs such as “Power to the People” and “Woman Is the Nigger of the World.” It is interesting to note, however, that when he withdrew from public life in 1975, he also seems to have withdrawn from radical politics, as did many other baby-boomers. Lennon was murdered in 1980; many of his contemporaries became soccer moms and stockbrokers, absolute symbols of the establishment.
Perhaps Sneakers is a corporate crafted absolution for the guilty conscience of a generation; perhaps it is just a movie. There is one thing, however, that this disillusioned, leftist Gen X-er knows: there is no better punishment for the turncoat hippies of yesteryear than to be condemned to the bourgeois lifestyle that they once despised.
Posted by Ron at 11:50 PM
REAL ART RERUN
REAL MEN REVISITED:
Corresponding with a “Metrosexual”
This Real Art Rerun was first posted on July 1, 2003.
Blogging is just getting more and more interesting.
Karru Martinson, the subject of the New York Times article, "Straight, hip and moisturized, metrosexuals making a mark," to which I referred in my recent post, “REAL MEN: Rejecting Consumerism's Twisted Answers,” Googled up a link to Real Art, read my essay, and emailed me some of his thoughts.
(At least, I think it’s him; Internet anonymity could be helping to make me the butt of some silly cyber-joke, but I take him at his word. It doesn’t even matter, really; the email he sent me has some good thoughts.)
So, here is our exchange:
Greetings & Salutations,
Read your post with some interest and while I agree that the metrosexual concept as it was presented in the article was truly from a marketer’s viewpoint, I believe that many "metrosexuals," myself included, are probably a bit more aware of what is going on with the new masculine mystique and attempts to package and sell it than you give us (or me at least) credit. We aren't the ones shopping at the mega-malls, swallowing the tripe about SUV commercials, etc. And that is why marketers are so keen to label us and try to figure out our code. It will always be a game of cat and mouse so it keeps us all on our toes.
Have a good weekend.
Dear Mr. Martinson,
I meant no offense.
Please understand that my essay was not so much about you or what you may personally represent or believe; rather, I am more concerned with the continuing transformation of the US economy, how that transformation is tending to push an ever growing number of American men into societal irrelevance, and how the fashion, advertising, and mass media industries see such suffering as economic opportunity—those three industries create social meaning, usually without any sense of social responsibility; I fear their marketing of the new “masculine mystique” in its various forms has already caused far more pain than is popularly understood.
Trust me when I say that I appreciate the concept of the well-dressed man. Some of my earliest and most influential memories are of seeing Sean Connery as James Bond, immaculately dressed in a white dinner jacket and black bow tie, drinking his very dry vodka martini, shaken, not stirred—I also remember looking at my father’s 1960s Playboy magazines and, of course, loving the voluptuous babes, but also admiring the hip, urban, sophisticated, classy men. In all honesty, I think that, in principle, I actually like the “metrosexual” concept: I hate what Madison Avenue seems to want to do with the concept—it is depressing that this kind of mandated image-consciousness is already pressuring many American men in ways they probably don’t understand.
And as for not giving you enough credit to know what’s going on, I must again say that the essay wasn’t so much about you as it was about the economy and top-down ideas about masculinity. In fact, I have to say that most of the New Yorkers I’ve met, from street people to professionals, seem to be much more sophisticated and wise about how the world works than most other Americans seem to be.
But I guess that’s how you have to be if you want to live in the capitol of the world.
Thanks very much for reading my weblog.
PS I think, if it’s okay with you, that I’d like to post your email and my response on my site—it would probably make for interesting reading. Please let me know if there’s any problem with my doing this.
No offense was taken so no worries. I can completely relate with your early concept of the metrosexual male and in fact believe that the core group of this sub-set is probably better modeled along those lines. The question for marketers is how to repackage some of the simple elements of the lifestyle (i.e. shampoo) so that the average guy can add incremental revenues to the top line of the manufacturers. In doing so, they will neglect the depth of the group of early adapters and hence products they think that we'll lap up (like Axe body deodorant) are going to remain on the shelf if I pass them.
Feel free to post my original email. And this one as well if you'd like. Have a great day.
Karru seems to be a pretty nice guy. Thanks to him for providing some interesting content for my blog. Also, I keep getting hits from Google searches referring to the Times article: either lots of people in the world are really interested in the “metrosexual” concept, or Karru has a lot of friends. Probably a bit of both. Anyway, thanks to everybody else for surfing on in to Real Art to track down the article.
Ya’ll come back now, y’hear?
Posted by Ron at 1:22 AM
Sunday, February 25, 2007
REAL ART RERUN
Rejecting Consumerism's Twisted Answers
This Real Art Rerun was first posted on June 25, 2003.
I read a NY Times article syndicated in the Houston Chronicle yesterday that kind of made me cringe:
Straight, hip and moisturized, metrosexuals making a mark
By his own admission, 30-year-old Karru Martinson is not what you'd call a manly man. He uses a $40 face cream, wears Bruno Magli shoes and custom-tailored shirts. His hair is always just so, thanks to three brands of shampoo and the precise application of three hair grooming products: Textureline Smoothing Serum, got2b styling glue and Suave Rave hairspray. Martinson likes wine bars and enjoys shopping with his gal pals, who have come to trust his eye for color, his knack for seeing when a bag clashes with an outfit, and his understanding of why some women have 47 pairs of black shoes. ("Because they can!" he said.) He said his guy friends have long thought his consumer and grooming habits a little ... different. But Martinson, who lives in Manhattan and works in finance, said he's not that different.
"From a personal perspective, there was never any doubt what my sexual orientation was," he said. "I'm straight as an arrow."
So it was with a mixture of relief and mild embarrassment that Martinson was recently asked by a friend in marketing to be part of a focus group of "metrosexuals" -- straight urban men willing, even eager, to embrace their feminine sides. Convinced that these open-minded young men hold the secrets of tomorrow's consumer trends, the advertising giant Euro RSCG, with 233 offices worldwide, wanted to better understand their buying habits.
For more Madison Avenue vomit, click here.
My first gut response to this blatant piece of fashion industry info-tainment disguised as news was something like, "I prefer it the way it was back in the day, when gay was gay, straight was straight, and everybody with a good sense about such things was pretty sure who was who." Of course, I don't really care one way or the other--there have always been hyper-masculine men and there have always been effeminate men: humanity is all the more interesting for including both kinds, along with all the different nuances between the two extremes. No, I kind of like the concept of the dandy. After all, I'm an actor, and what actor doesn't appreciate a sense of style?
What actually disturbs me about this article is that it reminds me of a depressing trend that has been gradually worming its way into American culture for some years now: feminist writer Susan Faludi has demonstrated in her book Stiffed that masculinity in America, traditionally defined in terms of social utility, is slowly being replaced by what she calls "ornamental masuclinity," irrelevant gender characteristics for irrelevant people. Faludi doesn't observe this trend only in terms of mall-hopping dandies: the macho yang causing suffering in tandem with the effeminate yin is seen in the endless Hollywood parade of pointless bad boy role models such as Howard Stern, Eminem, and Vin Diesel--to Faludi, it doesn't matter if it's refined style or badass attitude; masculinity is becoming, quite literally, a simple put-on.
Probably the best way to understand how this redefining of masculinity functions is to consider the central premise of Betty Friedan's classic work of feminist literature, The Feminine Mystique. In short, Friedan shows how middle class women in the 50s and 60s lived rather pointless lives, without jobs or a sense of participation in society--women of that era were seen by men as mothers and sex objects: gotta look good for my man, gotta go shopping, gotta go to the salon, gotta get dinner ready, gotta change the diapers. This drab existence as housemaids and objects of beauty is what gives the book its ironic title. There was no "mystique" for women in those days. For women, life sucked, and was without meaning. The passtimes and pursuits in which the mass media encouraged women to engage were hollow, shallow, and ultimately sad. Depression is the only logical outcome for any rational human being in such a situation. Fortunately, the women's liberation movement soon arose and offered meaning and a satisfying way of life to millions, many of whom had no idea beforehand how miserable they were.
Is this situation starting to sound a bit familiar?
Neo-liberal economics, which have been used for over twenty years as the justification for both enriching the already wealthy and squeezeing the middle class and the poor, has been pushing vast numbers of American men into irrelevancy. "Downsizing" has become such a common occurance in the US by now that most people don't even seem to think about the long-term psychological effects of forced uselessness on a couple of generations of American men. "The Feminine Mystique" is now the masculine mystique. Corporate America sees financial opportunity: fill the void with the same kind of phony images and consumer fixes that were successfully thrust upon American women decades ago.
Here's how Faludi puts it:
In a culture of ornament, manhood is defined by appearance, by youth and attractiveness, by money and aggression, by posture and swagger and props, by the curled lip and flexed biceps, by the glamour of the cover boy and by the market-bartered individuality that sets one astronaut or athlete or gangster above another. These are the same traits that have long been designated as the essence of feminine vanity--the objectification and mirror-gazing that women have denounced as trivializing and humiliating qualities imposed on them by a misogynist culture. No wonder men are in such agony. At the close of the century, men find themselves in an unfamiliar world where male worth is measured only by participation in a celebrity-driven consumer culture and awarded by lady luck.
The more I consider what men have lost--a useful role in public life, a way of earning a decent living, respectful treatment in the culture-- the more it seems that men are falling into a status oddly similar to that of women at midcentury. The '50s housewife, stripped of her connections to a wider world and invited to fill the void with shopping and the ornamental display of her ultrafemininity, could be said to have morphed into the '90s man, stripped of his connections to a wider world and invited to fill the void with consumption and a gym-bred display of his ultramasculinity. The empty compensations of a feminine mystique are transforming into the empty compensations of a masculine mystique, with a gentlemen's cigar club no more satisfying than a ladies' bake-off.
Be a real man; kick some ass. Look good; the ladies just love a stylin' guy. See me in my EXTREME gas-guzzling off-road vehicle? Aren't I cool? Aren't I a real man? Look at my gym-sculpted abs; aren't I hot? Look! I wear the same underwear as Michael Jordan--I'm as manly as him!
It's so pathetic. I'm disgusted by it all.
Sadly, Faludi points out how most American men have absolutely no understanding of what is happening to them (in fact, it seems to me that many men, subconsciously feeling a need to prove their manhood, have been attracted to the more manly, badass Republican Party, which, ironically, is the key facilitator of the American man's slide into irrelevancy)--confusion complicates the misery. The only way out of this gender hell is a nationwide uprising against the neo-liberal reforms that have turned American labor, and, therefore, American men into so much waste. Alas, I don't see that happening any time soon.
That's why it is so very important that the relatively few Americans who are able to see this stealthy rise of the new masculine mystique scream like freaks about it whenever they get the chance: "metrosexuals" are not the latest hip, urban trend; the concept is simply a consumerist ploy designed to make a lot of cash off of the suffering of American men.
For that matter, Eminem sucks, too.
Posted by Ron at 12:46 AM
Saturday, February 24, 2007
CAPTAIN SULU STRIKES A BLOW FOR GAY RIGHTS
When former NBA star Tim Hardaway was asked about the recent coming out of another former player, John Amaechi, he replied: "I hate gay people... let it be known I don't like gay people. I'm homophobic."
Well, on the Jimmy Kimmel show this week, Star Trek's George Takei (Mr. Sulu), a gay man and a human being, responds with a hysterical and bold promise... watch upper right...
Click here to see the video.
I've never really gotten past how much Kimmel annoyed me when he was doing the extraordinarily stupid The Man Show on MTV some years back, and I also hate that he replaced the often thought-provoking Bill Maher show when he was bounced for being too politically incorrect in the wake of 9/11, but Jimmy's definitely got good writers, and he's usually the only thing worth watching at that hour, especially if you're bored with Leno and Letterman. And I'm always happy to watch Captain Sulu. Go check this out; it's pretty damned funny.
And Hardaway, the prick, really deserves to be nailed.
Posted by Ron at 1:00 AM
Friday, February 23, 2007
Thursday, February 22, 2007
REAL ART RERUN
THE CREDIT CARD HUSTLE
MORE TALES OF CAPITALISM'S DEPRAVITIES
This Real Art Rerun was first posted on May 6, 2003.
Earlier this evening I was watching C-Span for a few moments and I caught a bit of an interview with Robert Manning who wrote the book Credit Card Nation which is now apparently out in paperback; Manning's book, it seems, is not very flattering to the credit and banking industry, to say the least. Being curious, I did a Google search and managed to find a very interesting, very damning two part excerpt from the book dealing with small business, loans, and credit cards:
In contrast to the generous offer of easy money to unemployed students, the growing use of credit cards by small businesses is often the result of increasingly restrictive lending policies by commercial banks. In the same way the withdrawal of first-tier banks from low-income communities has sharply increased the demand for costly second-tier loans, banks are profiting handsomely from the commercial credit crunch by issuing credit cards rather than approving small business loans. The problem is that credit-card applications do not ask questions about long-term business plans and how the loans will be repaid. As a result, rather than paying 6% to 8% on profit-enhancing small-business loans, eager entrepreneurs soon find themselves burdened with 14% to 24% APR consumer loans that they often cannot repay.
Manning's words illustrate one of the countless ways that capitalism unleashed both contradicts the conventional economic wisdom and is dangerous to our nation. Capitalism's apologists take pride in the fair play and competition of their economic philosophy. The reality, however, is that those who have the most wealth continually rig the game in their own favor: there is no fair play; there is no competition. In the real world, capitalism unleashed cannot help but morph into a grand pyramid scheme ultimately benefitting only those at the top at the expense of those on the bottom. Free market fundamentalists also assert the virtues of the small business: "Wall Street is Main Street" and all that nonsense. Yet, in the name of free markets, banking regulations have been so weakened that small businesses are being totally exploited--this is a drag on the economy that takes money directly away from Main Street and redeposits it on Wall Street. These excerpts from Credit Card Nation show how wealth tends to feast upon itself.
In fact, if you combine the red-lining of small businesses which forces them to use credit cards, with other events such as Wall Street broker and accountant scheming against small investors, the energy companys' manipulation of California markets for great profits, political and corporate cronyism, the blatant pro-corporate propaganda ruling the airwaves, and a host of other capitalistic travesties, it's pretty hard not to conclude that the corporations have declared an all out, but quiet assault against the people of the United States.
For part one of the excerpt from Credit Card Nation, click here.
For part two, click here.
Posted by Ron at 11:26 PM
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
REAL ART RERUN
AN AFFRONT TO FUNDAMENTALIST CHRISTIANS
This Real Art Rerun was first posted on April 7, 2003.
Fundamentalist Christians have a lot of enemies. My experience growing up as a Southern Baptist has made me, I'm sure, much more fascinated with these enemies than I probably would be if I had come of age in, say, an agnostic home. How could I not be? The fundamentalist's rougues gallery is made up of some of the most interesting kinds of people in America: homosexuals, athiests, drug users, pornographers, artists, rock stars, movie stars, film directors, scientists, university professors, feminists, Communists, Satanists, Pagans, Wiccans, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, Unitarians, Hindus, Buddhists, and a whole lot more.
Jews, of course, are a special case. "Children of God" and all that. Otherwise, I'm sure they'd be right up there with the Secular Humanists.
Yes, that's right. The Secular Humanists. I heard that name uttered with scorn and contempt many, many times when I was a Baptist youth. I was never quite sure why we were supposed to condemn them other than that they were apparently opposed to everything good Christians believe. After I had pretty much quit the Southern Baptists, I remember thinking that perhaps there were no Secular Humanists as some sort of social force or organization; rather, I suspected that the name was some sort of blanket church term encompassing objectionable contemporary thinking used to instill fear in the faithful.
Lo and behold, in 1992, at the Undergraduate Library at the University of Texas, I saw a copy of The Humanist magazine. Given my Baptist background, I was drawn to the magazine as if it were pornography. While not in the least bit titillating, it was pretty damned interesting. I read a lengthy essay on Humanism and postmodernism that finally gave me an intellectual handle on PoMo. The Secular Humanists, in fact, do exist. And they're cool.
Anyway, to make a long story short, they have a website that appears to be updated pretty regularly. It seems to be full of cool essays on culture, politics, ethics, and philosophy. I now post a permanent link (near the top of the left column) to the American Humanist Association site as an affront to fundamentalist Christians.
Here's a taste:
The philosophy of Humanism constitutes a profound and passionate affirmation of the joys and beauties, the braveries and idealisms, of existence upon this earth. It heartily welcomes all life-enhancing and healthy pleasures, from the vigorous enjoyments of youth to the contemplative delights of mellowed age, from the simple gratifications of food and drink, sunshine and sports, to the more complex appreciations of art and literature, friendship and social communion. Humanism believes in the beauty of love and the love of beauty. It exults in the pure magnificence of external nature.
Over the years, many women and men who embrace Humanism and who have worked closely with the AHA have contributed greatly toward the betterment of our world. Among them are:
Novelists Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut, and Alice Walker Environmentalist Lester R. Brown Women’s rights proponents Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem Elder citizens advocate Maggie Kuhn Economist John Kenneth Galbraith Entrepreneur Ted Turner Evolutionary scientist Edward O. Wilson Abortion rights champions Faye Wattleton and Bill Baird Director Oliver Stone Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg.
Earlier Huamnists included Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Andrei Sakharov, Erich Fromm, A. Philip Randolph, Margaret Sanger, Gene Roddenberry, Julian Huxley, Brock Chisholm, John Dewey, Bertrand and Dora Russell, and Albert Einstein.
I don't really know about goofy Ted Turner, but I'm impressed with dropping Carl Sagan's and Kurt Vonnegut's names. Anyway, I don't even really know what the Humanists are all about. Maybe they're a front for terrorists. Probably not. But I do think they're thought provoking. So, surf on in sometime, if only to piss off the fundamentalists.
Posted by Ron at 11:43 PM
GOOD MORNING, AMERICA, HOW ARE YOU?
Well, I'm still in grad student hell, madly writing my thesis, and doing technical rehearsals for Merchant of Venice. But I've got other tasks to perform, and one of them is writing a brief paper for my performance theory class on this topic:
Since New Orleans is likely to be hit by another hurricane, is it unwise to rebuild the city and fund its cultural activities?
This struck me as a very nice fit for Real Art, so I'm just going to answer that question as a blog post. Here goes.
The obvious answer to such a question, especially for people in a university theater department, is an unequivocal "no." After all, theater people greatly value culture, and generally believe that funding ought to be greatly increased, rather than decreased. Further, theater people are often compassionate liberals, who hate suffering: rebuilding New Orleans is a no-brainer. This question cannot be seriously aimed at me or my classmates. Rather, such a question strikes me as a sort of practice run for dealing with right-wingers, who cannot, in any case, be persuaded of anything, one way or the other, or, more likely, for dealing with moderates, who might see such a proposition as being not entirely unreasonable.
So, what can I say to a moderate who might think abandoning New Orleans isn't such a bad idea?
I can start with a general argument. If the US abandons one of its cities, we abandon all cities. That is, numerous cities on the Atlantic seaboard and up and down the Gulf Coast are also prone to hurricanes, and massive storms are not the only kind of disaster metropolitan areas face. California deals with earthquakes, and the midwest must endure tornadoes and floods. Needless, to say, terrorist strikes of the 9/11 variety continue to be a very real threat to American cities. There are also chemical plant explosions, massive fires, and disasters we haven't imagined that have yet to occur. Leaving behind the Big Easy sets an extraordinarily bad precedent. If we can turn our backs on New Orleans, then we can turn our backs on any city. One for all and all for one.
For me, such an argument is a winner at face value, but it might not be very persuasive to a moderate American who tends to value specifics. What is it about New Orleans, as opposed to other cities, that makes it worth saving? That's where the "fund its cultural activities" part of the question might come to play.
Obviously, New Orleans is utterly unlike any other city in the country, with an extraordinarily rich history, pulling in bits and pieces from French, English, Spanish, African, and Native American cultures, stewing it all in a gumbo pot, and serving it up as the Big Easy. New Orleans is the keeper of the American Mardi Gras tradition. Jazz was born there. The city nursed such diverse literary figures as Tennessee Williams and William Burroughs. The Crescent City has also done a much better job than most American cities of preserving its historic architecture--simply walking around in New Orleans is a deeply cultural experience.
Like I said, this is a no-brainer.
However, my fear is that, in a mass-media dominated mainstream culture such as ours, regular Americans might not understand why these things are so insanely valuable. That is, I'm afraid that America now views culture, conceptually, as something one buys at the Walmart, or watches on TV, that culture is plastic, made by corporations, and infinitely replaceable. If culture, then, is just another product among millions of products, what does it matter if New Orleans lives or dies?
What do you say to a person who thinks that way?
More Real Art Reruns tomorrow.
Posted by Ron at 12:13 AM
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
REAL ART RERUN
NOTES ON LAST FRIDAY'S ANTI-WAR DEMONSTRATION IN HOUSTON
This Real Art Rerun was originally posted March 17, 2003.
*On the way to the demonstration, we passed the Chinese Consulate building. Since I first noticed it, it has always looked like an old, crumbling, Stalin-era, relic of the cold war. (Yes, I know; Stalin was a Soviet from Georgia, not Chinese. That's just how it looked to me.) Now that the Chinese Communist Party is allowing capitalists to join, the consulate seems to be getting a much needed face-lift. The revolution just ain't what it used to be, huh?
*Shortly after we got to the protest at Mecom fountain in the museum district near Montrose, a woman I met told me that Houston has a local chapter of Not in Our Name.
*The demonstrators came from all walks of Houston life. There was the usual group of tatooed, pierced types. The largest group, however, consisted of aging baby boomers, some of whom brought their children. I heard one forty-something on his cell phone, presumably to his wife: "Did you get the kids? Good." Say what you want about the mostly fabricated generation gap between Boomers and Gen X-ers, at least they're out there doing something instead of sitting on their butts watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the internet. Boomers may still be self-righteous and arrogant, but they're motivated.
*I had a two sided sign. One side said, "Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 19:19," in order to appeal to the many Christian fundamentalists in Houston; the other side said simply, "MAKE LOVE NOT WAR." A group of Islamic women in head coverings seemed to contemplate standing in the open space next to me, but thought better of it. Later, a Christian minister in a clerical collar stood next to me for a moment, but then left. I wonder if my anti-war/pro-sex message made them uncomfortable...
*A lot of the action was in the form of rush hour traffic responses. Most drivers seemed supportive, honking and flashing peace signs. Bus and cab drivers were well represented. There were, of course, butthole hawks. One patriot called me an idiot as he drove by. One guy shouted, "Get a life!" I yelled back, "Get a wife? She's right beside me!" Another guy flipped us off. I said, "Hey, no man! Two fingers! The peace symbol is two fingers!
*All in all, my peace protest experience was really pleasant. I got to meet some like-minded people, feel like I was actually doing something constructive for a change, and live a 1960s fantasy I've had since childhood. If you have any inclination at all, you should go to a demonstration, too.
Posted by Ron at 12:44 AM
Monday, February 19, 2007
REAL ART RERUN
This Real Art Rerun was originally posted on March 30, 2003.
I watched some big chunks of Witness last night on Bravo. I have seen the film several times and I really think that it is one of the best movies of the last two decades. I also think that it is one of the more ideological films to achieve box office success in recent history. I really need to do a textual analysis of pacifist themes in the film here on Real Art sometime soon, but not today.
Instead, I now post a really moving bit of the screenplay (that I ended up transcribing myself because I could only find rough drafts online). To get the sense of the moment, you need to know that Harrison Ford plays a Philiadelphia cop, John Book, that has to hide out in Amish country from rogue cops who want to kill him. An eight year old Amish boy, Samuel, the title character who the rogues also want to kill because he can identify a killer cop, has discovered Book's gun and plays with it. Book worriedly takes the gun away, unloads it and hands it back to the boy to examine. Samuel's mother, Rachel, played by Kelly McGillis, walks in and insists that Book respect their ways. Book then gives her the gun for safekeeping. The film then cuts to the next scene:
(BOOK's unloaded .357 and bullets lay on the kitchen table in the foreground. Behind, sitting at the table, are SAMUEL and his grandfather, ELI.)The verse is from 2 Corinthians 6:17. Why the hell do so many American Christians seem to be reading a different Bible from the one I've read? I think the Amish are on to something...
ELI--This gun of the hand is for the taking of human life. We believe it is wrong to take life. That is only for God.
(Cut to a close up of the two with SAMUEL's face dominant)
Many times wars have come. And people have said to us, "You must fight. You must kill. It is the only way to preserve the good." But, Samuel, there is never only one way. Remember that. (pause) Would you kill another man?
SAMUEL--I would only kill a bad man.
ELI--Only the bad man, I see...and you know these bad men by sight? You are able to look into their hearts and see this badness?
SAMUEL--I can see what they do. I have seen it.
ELI--And having seen, you become one of them. Don't you understand?
(Cut to a close up of the gun and bullets)
What you take into your hands,
(Cut to a close up of the two with ELI's face dominant)
you take into your heart. "Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord. And touch not the unclean thing." (pause) Go and finish your chores now.
(SAMUEL exits. Close up on ELI with a very concerned look on his face)
Posted by Ron at 2:09 AM
Sunday, February 18, 2007
REAL ART RERUN
MY FIRST MARDI GRAS (PART II)
This Real Art Rerun was first posted on February 5, 2005.
Today, we went to the biggest Mardi Gras event in Baton Rouge, the Spanish Town Parade. And I brought my camera for this one, too. Fortunately, the blotter seems to have finally worn off, and the pictures seem less hallucinogenic. Some of the floats were pretty weird and cool. Others were plain, but impressive because they essentially amounted to efficient, massive bead distribution systems. All in all, it was pretty cool. And I scored a bunch more beads.
Here are some pics:
I have to admit that I still don't quite understand Mardi Gras. I mean, I get the part about the last big celebration before the austerity of Lent, but that does nothing to explain why it's all so weird and bizarre. Of course, the gaudy strangeness is what I really love about Mardi Gras, so I'm not knocking it; I'm just observing that I don't get it. Maybe if I did, it wouldn't be so cool. Perhaps there's supposed to be some mystery about this. Mystery and booze. And boobs. Okay, I haven't seen any Mardi Boobs so far--I bet that's just a New Orleans thing--but the mammarian reputation of Mardi Gras precedes itself, so it's worth a mention at least.
Hee hee. "Mardi Boobs." I crack myself up.
Posted by Ron at 12:56 AM
Friday, February 16, 2007
"I vomit in my mouth
whenever I'm around him."
From the AP via Yahoo courtesy of AlterNet:
Kim Mathers blasted ex-husband Eminem during a radio interview Friday, saying she has come to despise the man she twice married and divorced. Mathers described Eminem, 34, as unfaithful and uncaring — and went as far as to disparage the Grammy winner's sexual prowess. "I vomit in my mouth whenever I'm around him," she said during the interview on WKQI-FM in Detroit.
Eminem's publicist, Dennis Dennehy, said he had no immediate response to the comments.
Mathers, 31, said she saw the interview as her chance to turn the tables on the rap megastar, who has used his tormented relationship with his high-school sweetheart as a source of his most popular and demented rhymes. He's killed her off in song and assailed her with his lyrics.
Click here for more.
Well, Eminem has always been very amusing to me, and I'm particularly fond of his political piece "Mosh," but it's really hard to get behind him, what with his homophobic, mysogynistic, hyper-masculine ways. I mean, he really is a big fucking asshole, who spews, for the most part, self-aggrandizing, violent, stupid bullshit on a pretty regular basis. He's most definitely not off the hook simply due to his catchy tunes and vaguely left-wing rhetoric. That's why I just love that his ex-wife vomits in her mouth when he is present.
That really cracks me up.
Posted by Ron at 11:36 PM
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Auditors: Billions squandered in Iraq
From the AP via Yahoo courtesy of AlterNet:
About $10 billion has been squandered by the U.S. government on Iraq reconstruction aid because of contractor overcharges and unsupported expenses, and federal investigators warned Thursday that significantly more taxpayer money is at risk.
The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.
More than one in six dollars charged by U.S. contractors were questionable or unsupported, nearly triple the amount of waste the Government Accountability Office estimated last fall.
"There is no accountability," said David M. Walker, who heads the auditing arm of Congress. "Organizations charged with overseeing contracts are not held accountable. Contractors are not held accountable. The individuals responsible are not held accountable."
"People should be rewarded when they do a good job. But when things don't go right, there have to be consequences," he said.
Of the $10 billion in overpriced contracts or undocumented costs, more than $2.7 billion were charged by Halliburton Co., the oil-field services company once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Click here for more.
I remember back in '03 my bitching to a conservative friend about the no-bid contract awarded to Cheney's old pals, and how it had to be some kind of corruption. But my buddy was unconcerned. He told me that Halliburton was one of only a very few firms that had the capability to do what the government needed them to do. I had no response, so I shut up.
If I knew then what we know now.
Ten billion dollars. Man, that's just insane. And if it had happened under Clinton, you just know he'd have been impeached for it. And, bloody Christ, it's the financially responsible Republicans who have pissed all this money away. I just don't get it. Bush couldn't have done this by himself; he needed the formerly GOP dominated Congress to watch his back, which they did, but it goes utterly counter to everything they say they're about.
But, then, why am I surprised? Even Republicans are p.o'd about this shit now. So, once again, I ask what does the word "conservative" mean these days?
Posted by Ron at 10:54 PM
FORMER NBA ALL-STAR TIM HARDAWAY IS A HOMOPHOBIC PRICK
From Sports Illustrated courtesy of AlterNet:
On a Miami radio show Wednesday, Hardaway was asked how he would interact with a gay teammate.
"First of all, I wouldn't want him on my team," the former Miami Heat star said. "And second of all, if he was on my team, I would, you know, really distance myself from him because, uh, I don't think that is right. I don't think he should be in the locker room while we are in the locker room."
When show host Dan Le Batard told Hardaway those comments were "flatly homophobic" and "bigotry," the player continued.
"You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people," he said. "I'm homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States."
Hardaway also said if he did find out that a teammate was gay, he would ask for the player to be removed from the team.
"Something has to give," Hardaway said. "If you have 12 other ballplayers in your locker room that's upset and can't concentrate and always worried about him in the locker room or on the court or whatever, it's going to be hard for your teammates to win and accept him as a teammate."
Later that night, Hardaway apologized during a telephone interview with WSVN-TV in Miami.
Click here for the rest.
As a stage actor, I've been working closely with gay men for many years, and here's a little secret: gay men generally don't hit on straight men. I mean, there are always exceptions, of course, and sometimes a gay guy might make a mistake, but, almost always, gay men only hit on other gay men. I mean, think about it for like two seconds. Would you really want to be hitting on someone who you know is utterly unattracted to you? Yeah, well, gay people are just like everybody else in that respect, which is one of many, many reasons that homophobia is completely irrational. It's a fear that has virtually no basis in reality.
I've got my own theory about why some straight men are so freaked out by gay gays.
Despite thirty plus years of feminism in this country, we continue to be a fairly patriarchal culture. That is, men continue to hold the lion's share of power in the United States, and people know it. Add to that the idea that, in our patriarchal culture, women, not men, are overwhelmingly understood to be the objects of sexual desire: the bulk of the US mass media environment is dominated by images of the female body, usually presented with a strong sexual undercurrent; men, to a small extent, are sexualized by the media, too, but in no way does this even come close to the way that women are sexualized. So men are the powerful ones, while women are not; women are the sex objects, while men chase after them.
But what happens when the potential is out there for a man to be seen as an object of desire? I think that the mind of the homophobe somehow ties together the secondary social status of women with the concept of sexual objectification. Being potentially seen as an object of sexual desire is tantamount to being squeezed out of the patriarchy, being rendered powerless, and because men are the powerful ones in our society, being robbed of gender identity, and therefore overall identity. Homophobia, then, is an acute identity crisis, which explains the wild irrationality of the homophobe.
Yeah, yeah, it's all very Freudian, I know, but it makes more sense than "it's just not right."
At any rate, Hardaway's unabashed, and unashamed, statements indicate that we continue to have a major problem with homophobia in this country, and perhaps a problem with men feeling powerless, too.
Posted by Ron at 10:24 PM
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
ENDGAME FOR HIV BATTLE
From Reuters via Yahoo courtesy of AlterNet:
AIDS virus weakness detected
They pinpointed a place on the outside of the human immunodeficiency virus that could be vulnerable to antibodies that could block it from infecting human cells.
U.S. National Institutes of Health researcher Peter Kwong said the study, published in the journal Nature, may reveal HIV's long-sought "site of vulnerability" that can be targeted with a vaccine aimed at preventing initial infection.
"Having that site and knowing that you can make antibodies against it means that a vaccine is possible," Kwong said in a telephone interview.
Experts agree that a vaccine is the only hope of stopping the pandemic of AIDS, which has killed more than 25 million people since it was first recognized in 1981. About 40 million people now live with HIV, with sub-Saharan Africa hardest hit.
But while dozens of potential vaccines are in development, only two AIDS vaccine candidates are in advanced human trials -- one made by Merck and Co. and another by Sanofi-Aventis SA.
Click here for more.
Back in 1987, a literature professor who taught me sophomore English at Kingwood Community College insisted that AIDS would ultimately be no big deal: science will find a cure, she strongly insisted. It was difficult for me to swallow at the time because gay men were dropping dead all over the place at that point, and I knew it was only a matter of time before heterosexuals would be at approximately the same risk. In 1991, a gay friend of mine insisted that the day that scientists cured AIDS, there would be "fucking in the streets." He was very loud in his assertion, clearly excited by the possibility.
It remains to be seen whether there will be public sex on Cure Day, but it is increasingly likely that my professor friend was right. I know that they've got some vaccines in trials right now, but we don't really know yet how effective they will be. But put those vaccines in a big blender with this new info about HIV vulnerability and it really seems that this horrible chess match has reached its endgame, and the advantage is clearly on the side of humanity.
More than anything else, AIDS has defined my generation, even while it has killed countless numbers of productive and loved human beings. I'll be glad when we're able to move on from this awful chapter of history.
Posted by Ron at 7:50 PM
Love During a Time of War
Former Marine Sgt. Ty Ziegel, wounded in Iraq in December 2004 by a suicide car bomber, stands with his high school sweetheart, Renee Kline, at a photo studio on the morning of their wedding day, October 7, 2006.
Click here for more.
A picture paints a thousand words.
What the hell is so goddamned important over in Iraq that we have to do this to young Americans? Why the fuck are we there? How can "freedom" and "democracy" in Iraq, with which the Bush administration has never really been concerned, be worth this? Look at how sad but determined the bride appears to be. Look at how the groom lowers his head, seemingly in shame. Why have we allowed this to happen? Goddamned neo-cons.
Happy fucking Valentine's Day.
Posted by Ron at 7:42 PM
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
'Texas Tough' Sex Crime Wave Hits the Dome
From the Austin Chronicle:
When the agent was contacted he wasn't sure where the number had come from, terming it a 'Goldilocks' figure – 'Not small and not large.' He added that it was the same figure that was used by the media to describe the number of people killed annually by Satanic cults in the 1980s, and before that … as the number of children abducted by strangers each year in the 1970s."
There you go – the numbers on Internet sex predators are recycled from our collective "stranger danger" and "satanic panic" scares, which eventually fizzled into obscurity. Dewhurst didn't cite the 50,000 number, but he did make another claim – also misleading – that one in five teenagers is sexually solicited online. The CJR article cites the Justice Department's one-in-five figure before continuing that, while 19% of teens indeed say they received online "solicitations," "half … came from other teens and none … led to a sexual assault." Furthermore, "The number of teens aggressively solicited by adults online was about 3%. A more recent study … found that the number of kids getting unwanted sexual advances on the Internet was in fact declining. In general, according to data compiled by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, more than 70% of sexual abuse of children is perpetrated by family members or family friends."
Re-read that last sentence. Despite all the continued scares – strangers, Satanists, and now, the Internet – "more than 70% of sexual abuse of children is perpetrated by family members or family friends." Therein lies the biggest fault with Dewhurst's rightward-tacking promises to get "Texas tough" on sexual predators: Knowing that the perp may be put to death for his crimes will create enormous additional pressure on families and victims to stay quiet, perpetuating the abuse.
Not to minimize the concept of strangers going after underage children for sex, which is absolutely horrible when it happens, but having lived through both the abduction scare of the 70s, when I was presumably a target, and the Satanic ritual abuse hysteria of the 80s, as have all Americans my age and older, it amazes me, somewhat, that we're in the midst of yet another unfounded panic. I say "somewhat" because 9/11 made completely clear to me that people freak out when they're scared, and clearly, parents really do fear for their children's safety. But still. Why can't we ever seem to learn our lesson? The real threat is what it has always been for most kinds of rape, people who are well known to their victims.
Obviously, television plays a big role here, almost wallowing in the deviant sexuality of it all. I was watching Dateline on NBC earlier this evening, seeing the seemingly endless stream of internet child predators lured into a suburban house for confrontation and eventual arrest, and it struck me how much time the show devoted to quoting predator online chat. There was reference after reference to oral sex and masturbation, as though the program was trying to titillate as well as scare, which is obviously their intent. Great for ratings, after all it sucked me in for a while, but horrible for offering any kind of real picture of what's really going on in terms of child molestation. But then TV's never really been all that great for shedding light on complicated problems.
Meanwhile, the dirty uncles, fucked up little brothers, and ill-chosen babysitters of the world are doing their thing, and getting away with it, while we all worry about the relatively few creepy strangers on the internet. God, this country blows me away sometimes.
Posted by Ron at 10:55 PM
Obama regrets suggesting U.S. lives 'wasted' in Iraq
From the New York Times via the Houston Chronicle:
Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois said Monday that he had misspoken when he suggested the lives of more than 3,000 American soldiers killed in Iraq had been "wasted."
As he arrived in New Hampshire on the third day of his Democratic presidential campaign, Obama said he would "absolutely apologize" to military families if they were offended by a remark that he made Sunday in Iowa while criticizing the Bush administration's Iraq policy.
"What I would say — and meant to say — is that their service hasn't been honored," Obama said in Nashua, N.H., "because our civilian strategy has not honored their courage and bravery and we have put them in a situation in which it is hard for them to succeed."
Click here for more.
Apart from not quite knowing what the man stands for, this story represents my biggest problem with Obama: in his bipartisan zeal to be our nation's healer, he seems to be trying to be everything to everyone. That is, he obviously believes what he said the first time, that the lives of US soldiers are being wasted in Iraq, and he believes it because it's true: we invaded for lies and ideology; the occupation has failed and lingers due to extreme GOP corruption; the mess we've created is so awful that there seems to be no solution the US can offer by itself. We're throwing away lives with no end in sight. And I really do like that the Senator from Illinois has the balls to say so in the first place. But I do not like his Clintonian retraction. Instead of distancing himself from his true assertion, he should have explained the situation and taken the opportunity to trash his critics for their lies and distortions. Instead, he goes for this silly feel-good "Oh I didn't really mean that" kind of vibe. Like I said, Clintonian. They didn't call old Bill "Slick Willie" for nothing.
I will say this, however. As lame as I think this retraction is, I like Obama waaaaay the fuck better than Slick Willie's wife. Of course, none of that really matters: I'm not voting for a Democratic Presidential candidate again until I get one I like, which may be never.
Posted by Ron at 10:44 PM
Congress Finds Ways to Avoid Lobbyist Limits
From the New York Times courtesy of AlterNet:
In just the last two months, lawmakers invited lobbyists to help pay for a catalog of outings: lavish birthday parties in a lawmaker’s honor ($1,000 a lobbyist), martinis and margaritas at Washington restaurants (at least $1,000), a California wine-tasting tour (all donors welcome), hunting and fishing trips (typically $5,000), weekend golf tournaments ($2,500 and up), a Presidents’ Day weekend at Disney World ($5,000), parties in South Beach in Miami ($5,000), concerts by the Who or Bob Seger ($2,500 for two seats), and even Broadway shows like “Mary Poppins” and “The Drowsy Chaperone” (also $2,500 for two).
The lobbyists and their employers typically end up paying for the events, but within the new rules.
Instead of picking up the lawmaker’s tab, lobbyists pay a political fund-raising committee set up by the lawmaker. In turn, the committee pays the legislator’s way.
Lobbyists and fund-raisers say such trips are becoming increasingly popular, partly as a quirky consequence of the new ethics rules.
By barring lobbyists from mingling with a lawmaker or his staff for the cost of a steak dinner, the restrictions have stirred new demand for pricier tickets to social fund-raising events.
Lobbyists say that the rules might even increase the volume of contributions flowing to Congress from K Street, where many lobbying firms have their offices.
Click here for the rest.
Well, that lasted about five minutes.
To be fair, all the Democratic indignation about Congressional corruption really only lasted a month or so once they took the Hill. Nonetheless, this really pisses me off. I mean, I'm not surprised, but I thought these assholes would have the decency to wait at least six months, for appearance's sake, before they started feeding at the slop troughs like the pigs they are. And, given how quickly they've moved to start sucking back the cash, you just know they knew exactly what they were doing when they passed these new lobbying "reform" laws. That is, they've obviously crafted these loopholes both consciously and carefully. And liberals berate me for shunning the Democrats. Gimme a break. They're a bunch of fucking crooks, too.
Really, the only way out of this is to ban lobbying. Or mandate public financing for all campaigns. As if that's actually going to happen.
Posted by Ron at 12:18 AM
THIS MONTH'S STAR TREK CALENDAR PICTURE IS...
Posted by Ron at 12:16 AM
Monday, February 12, 2007
TWO GOOD ONES FROM ALTERNET
Crunch time approaches for my thesis. No real post tonight. Instead, check out these two AlterNet essays by a couple of my favorite progressive writers, Robert Jensen and Barbara Ehrenreich.
A Call for an Open Discussion of Mass-Marketed Pornography
At a progressive media reform conference dedicated to resisting corporate control of mass media, where many of the participants focus on gender and racial justice, it shouldn't be difficult to interest people in the feminist critique of mass-marketed pornography.
After all, the pornography industry creates a steady stream of relentlessly sexist and racist films and web sites that undermine attempts to build a healthy sexual culture, while filling the pornographers' pockets with substantial profits. A general critique of the effects of misogyny, white supremacy, and predatory corporate capitalism on mass media dovetails perfectly with the feminist critique of sexual-exploitation media.
Yet as I circulated at last month's National Conference on Media Reform and distributed fliers for an upcoming feminist conference on pornography, the responses I got were often skeptical and sometimes hostile.
Click here for more.
Get Promoted with a YES! Attitude? Yuck.
First, starting way back in the 1950s, you had to be "positive" to get ahead in business, i.e., ready to see the glass half full even when it was lying shattered on the floor. Then, somewhere in the first few years of the 21st century, the bar was raised to "passionate." It wasn't good enough to feel "positive" about spending your day doing cold calls to potential customers in Dayton, you be had to be "passionate" about it. And now, apparently, even that isn't good enough -- you have to develop a YES! Attitude, as in throwing back your head, balling up your fists, and screaming YEESSS!!!
The purveyor of this new over-the-top, fan-like, enthusiasm is Jeffrey Gitomer, in his brand new Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude. What attracted me to the display in the bookstore was the odd packaging: a hardcover, but smaller than the average paperback, with a bright red ribbon for a page-marker (a biblical touch, someone in the publishing industry explained to me.) Most of the pages contain fewer than 200 words, but don't try filling in the margins with notes: The pages are too slick and shiny for your average pen, so if you want to make notes, get your own damn paper.
Posted by Ron at 12:02 AM