FAREWELL HARVEY KORMAN
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Harvey Korman, the tall, versatile comedian who won four Emmys for his outrageously funny contributions to The Carol Burnett Show and played a conniving politician to hilarious effect in Blazing Saddles, died Thursday. He was 81.
"It takes a certain type of person to be a television star," he said in that 2005 interview. "I didn't have whatever that is. I come across as kind of snobbish and maybe a little too bright. ... Give me something bizarre to play or put me in a dress and I'm fine."
[Mel] Brooks tapped Korman's kinetic comic chops often, including roles in High Anxiety, The History of the World Part I and Dracula: Dead and Loving It.
"I gave him tongue twisters because I knew he was the only one who could wrap his mouth around them," Brooks said. "Harvey was such a good solid actor that he could have done Shakespearean drama just as well and easily as he did comedy."
Brooks described Korman as a "dazzling" comic talent.
"You could get rock-solid comedy out of him. He could lift the material. He always made it real, always made it work, always believed in characters he was doing," he said.
Click here for more.
I don't have much more to add; Mel Brooks, who used Korman so effectively, again and again, understood him best. Korman, while extremely funny in his own right, was the ultimate straight man, aiding and abetting his scene partners regularly, making them much funnier than they could have ever been on their own.
For instance, in this great moment from Blazing Saddles, watch how Korman's utter seriousness, his hyper-villainy, make Slim Pickens' doofus bad guy character transcend the simple classic comedic idiot:
And Korman was at his absolute best with Tim Conway, often breaking character, seized by fits of nearly uncontrollable laughter, but doing it so honestly, visibly straining muscles in order to stay in the scene, that he quite literally becomes an audience surrogate, making Conway ten times as funny as he was with, say, Don Knotts:
Korman was brilliant. Very few actors understand comedy or how to execute it as well as he did. Indeed, I'm indebted to him as an actor myself, greatly indebted.
Farewell, Harvey Korman. You're one of the all time greats. I mean, right up there with the Marx Brothers, Woody Allen, Peter Sellers, Mel Brooks, Monty Python, John Belushi, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, all of them. Thanks for all the stitches.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
FAREWELL HARVEY KORMAN
Posted by Ron at 11:10 PM
Friday, May 30, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
FUCK THA POLICE
"Fuck tha Police" is a protest song by the hip hop group N.W.A. on the album Straight Outta Compton. It ranked #417 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and is the group's only song on the list.
It highlights many of the tensions between black urban youth and the police (widespread resentment towards the LAPD boiled over 3 years later, in the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King incident). The song also alleged that minorities in the police department betrayed their race
In 1989, Australian radio station Triple J had been playing "Fuck tha Police" for up to six months, before gaining the attention of Australian Broadcasting Corporation management who subsequently banned it. As a reaction the staff went on strike and put "Fuck tha Police" on continuous play for 24 hours, playing it roughly 360 times in a row. In 1996, during massive opposition street protests in Belgrade, Serbia "Fuck tha Police", along with Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" was continually played for 2 days on a Belgrade radio station B92. This was a form of expression of most people's feelings towards police and state regime.
Once upon a time gangsta rap wasn't the cliched self-parodying negative racial stereotype it was eventually morphed into by soulless corporate music promoters marketing to white teenaged suburbanites. Back in the day, it was some of the most honest seething outrage ever recorded as music, an outcry of pain and anger blasting its way out of the urban despair found in ghettos throughout the nation. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't nice. But it was genuine, and political, and therefore Real Art. It was also, at times, deeply moving.
N.W.A.'s "Fuck tha Police" is such a song. While I don't condone the anti-police violence advocated in the song, I think I can forgive such thinking when I try to imagine the circumstances under which it arose. That is, every account I've ever heard about how cops were treating African-Americans in Los Angeles back in the late 80s and early 90s indicates that the LAPD believed it was engaged in a street war, and treated their opponents accordingly. And if you were black, you were an opponent. When you see people who look like you gunned down by the armed security agents of the government every week, I can see how you just might want to shoot back.
As I've said many times, we do indeed need some kind of public policing, but it needs to be aimed at protecting all the people, instead of simply the well-to-do, instead of the powerful. When I think of the abuses I've posted on here at Real Art, time and again, when I understand how such abuses happen every day of the week, when I think of how I myself have been subjected to humiliating treatment from time to time, well into my adult life, I feel like "Fuck tha Police."
So here you go. A nice little fan mash up video:
Sing along (careful, though, it's EXTREMELY politically incorrect):
Right about now NWA court is in full effect.
Judge Dre presiding in the case of NWA versus the police department.
Prosecuting attourneys are MC Ren Ice Cube and Eazy muthafuckin E.
Order order order. Ice Cube take the muthafuckin stand.
Do you swear to tell the truth the whole truth
and nothin but the truth so help your black ass?
Why don't you tell everybody what the fuck you gotta say?
Fuck tha police
Comin straight from the underground
Young nigga got it bad cuz I'm brown
And not the other color so police think
They have the authority to kill a minority
Fuck that shit, cuz I ain't tha one
For a punk muthafucka with a badge and a gun
To be beatin on, and throwin in jail
We could go toe to toe in the middle of a cell
Fuckin with me cuz I'm a teenager
With a little bit of gold and a pager
Searchin my car, lookin for the product
Thinkin every nigga is sellin narcotics
You'd rather see me in the pen
Then me and Lorenzo rollin in the Benzo
Beat tha police outta shape
And when I'm finished, bring the yellow tape
To tape off the scene of the slaughter
Still can't swallow bread and water
I don't know if they fags or what
Search a nigga down and grabbin his nuts
And on the other hand, without a gun they can't get none
But don't let it be a black and a white one
Cuz they slam ya down to the street top
Black police showin out for the white cop
Ice Cube will swarm
On any muthafucka in a blue uniform
Just cuz I'm from the CPT, punk police are afraid of me
A young nigga on a warpath
And when I'm finished, it's gonna be a bloodbath
Of cops, dyin in LA
Yo Dre, I got somethin to say
Fuck the police (4X)
M. C. Ren, will you please give your testimony to the jury about this fucked up incident.>
Fuck tha police and Ren said it with authority
because the niggaz on the street is a majority.
A gang, is with whoever I'm stepping
and the motherfuckin' weapon
is kept in a stash box, for the so-called law
wishin' Ren was a nigga that they never saw
Lights start flashin behind me
But they're scared of a nigga so they mace me to blind me
But that shit don't work, I just laugh
Because it gives em a hint not to step in my path
To the police I'm sayin fuck you punk
Readin my rights and shit, it's all junk
Pullin out a silly club, so you stand
With a fake assed badge and a gun in your hand
But take off the gun so you can see what's up
And we'll go at it punk, I'ma fuck you up
Make ya think I'm a kick your ass
But drop your gat, and Ren's gonna blast
I'm sneaky as fuck when it comes to crime
But I'm a smoke em now, and not next time
Smoke any muthafucka that sweats me
Or any assho that threatens me
I'm a sniper with a hell of a scope
Takin out a cop or two, they can't cope with me
The muthafuckin villian that's mad
With potential to get bad as fuck
So I'm a turn it around
Put in my clip, yo, and this is the sound
Ya, somethin like that, but it all depends on the size of the gat
Takin out a police would make my day
But a nigga like Ren don't give a fuck to say
Fuck the police (4X)
Police, open now. We have a warrant for Eazy-E's arrest.
Get down and put your hands up where I can see em.
Just shut the fuck up and get your muthafuckin ass on the floor.
Easy E won't you step up to the stand
and tell the jury how you feel about this bullshit.
I'm tired of the muthafuckin jackin
Sweatin my gang while I'm chillin in the shackin
Shining tha light in my face, and for what
Maybe it's because I kick so much butt
I kick ass, or maybe cuz I blast
On a stupid assed nigga when I'm playin with the trigga
Of any Uzi or an AK
Cuz the police always got somethin stupid to say
They put up my picture with silence
Cuz my identity by itself causes violence
The E with the criminal behavior
Yeah, I'm a gansta, but still I got flavor
Without a gun and a badge, what do ya got?
A sucka in a uniform waitin to get shot,
By me, or another nigga.
and with a gat it don't matter if he's smarter or bigger
[MC Ren: Sidle him, kid, he's from the old school, fool]
And as you all know, E's here to rule
Whenever I'm rollin, keep lookin in the mirror
And there's no cue, yo, so I can hear a
Dumb muthafucka with a gun
And if I'm rollin off the 8, he'll be tha one
That I take out, and then get away
And while I'm drivin off laughin
This is what I'll say
Fuck the police (4X)
The jury has found you guilty of bein a redneck,
whitebread, chickenshit muthafucka.
Wait, that's a lie. That's a goddamn lie.
I want justice! I want justice!
Fuck you, you black motherfucker!
Fuck the police (3X)
This really is one of the greatest songs of all time.
Posted by Ron at 11:08 PM
Ex-spokesman McClellan 'disgruntled,' White House says
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan writes in a new memoir that President Bush relied on an aggressive "political propaganda campaign" instead of the truth to sell the Iraq war, and that the decision to invade pushed Bush's presidency "terribly off course.'
The Bush White House made "a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed"
McClellan called the Iraq war a "serious strategic blunder," a surprisingly harsh assessment from the man who was at that time the loyal public voice of the White House who had followed Bush to Washington from Texas.
"The Iraq war was not necessary," he concludes. "Waging an unnecessary war is a grave mistake."
But, McClellan said, Bush's unwillingness to admit mistakes and belief in his own spin contributed to turning the president into "not quite the leader I once imagined him to be." He faults Bush for a "lack of inquisitiveness" and "a degree of self-deception that may be psychologically necessary to justify the tactics needed to win the political game."
Bush "convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment," McClellan writes.
Bush press secretary Dana Perino issued a statement that was highly critical of their former colleague.
"Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House," she said. "For those of us who fully supported him, before, during and after he was press secretary, we are puzzled. It is sad — this is not the Scott we knew."
Click here for the rest.
Ha! I love this shit!
A guy I work with was telling me earlier tonight that he thinks he would have been better off being born in 1945 or so, coming of age in the 60s; I told him I used to think that, myself, years ago, but I eventually came to the conclusion that if I'd been in my prime back then all my hopes and dreams would have been dashed by the Reagan era and beyond, especially by the current Bush administration: right now is the best time to be alive because anything can happen--it's our future to write, and new wonders await our gaze.
This is a new wonder. McClellan is a major Bush insider; his turning coat, his telling the truth, at last, is glorious. I mean, none of this information is new. Everybody with half a brain at this point can read the writing on the wall: Bush is a liar, and worse, is willfully ignorant. But that a guy like Scotty McClellan, a bona fide drinker of the Kool-Aid, would come out and break ranks is extraordinarily significant. I mean, it was probably inevitable that someone was going to do this, at some point, but here it is happening right now--it's no longer an abstract idea; the truth is being told by people who saw it happening first hand. The door is open now for others to follow.
And the White House's dismissal of McClellan as "disgruntled" is nothing short of lame: of course he's disgruntled! He had to lie to the American public on TV, again and again and again. No smear campaign has a chance in hell of succeeding this time. Everyone believes him.
Keeping that in mind:
Hey Congress! You've got an eye witness here ready to say that the President "convinces himself to believe what suits his needs at the moment." Why the fuck weren't impeachment articles filed last night?!? We've got him now. Smoking gun. Slam dunk. Home run. Touchdown. You motherfuckers don't impeach him now, you're just as guilty.
Posted by Ron at 2:02 AM
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
HOWARD UNIVERSITY'S AFROBLUE
From NPR's All Things Considered:
Nine music majors at Washington, D.C.'s Howard University are also part of the schools vocal jazz ensemble AfroBlue. Michele Norris talks with the group's director, Connaitre Miller, and listens as the students demonstrate "crunchy" harmonies on a familiar tune, as well as some smooth chords on a cappella versions of "Surrey with a Fringe on Top" and "Sometimes I'm Happy."
Click here to listen.
Okay, go check this out right now; it's well worth the thirteen minutes NPR spent on it--I mean, for a two hour radio news show, it's pretty significant that they used up nearly an eighth of their time on this. That is, AfroBlue is incredible. Okay, I admit I have a bias for this kind of music, a capella vocalese underscored by lush and harmonious scat singing. Actually, I suppose what I heard isn't really vocalese per se, which turns instrumental jazz into verbal singing: these kids appear to be doing good old vocal standards by Cole Porter and the like, but whatever, it's great. I've always loved this stuff. I remember first hearing a capella jazz on Sesame Street when I was a little boy back in the early 70s, and was ultimately able to turn myself on in adult life to such kickass groups as Les Double Six and their successor the Swingle Singers.
I'm thinking that Howard University, a.k.a. "the Black Harvard," has one of the best jazz programs in the country. And that's not surprising, either: I would expect no less of a university music department in the city that birthed Duke Ellington.
Go check out AfroBlue right now.
Posted by Ron at 11:36 PM
FAREWELL SYDNEY POLLACK
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Academy Award-winning director Sydney Pollack, a Hollywood mainstay who achieved commercial success and critical acclaim with the gender-bending comedy Tootsie and the period drama Out of Africa, has died. He was 73.
Pollack died of cancer Monday afternoon at his home in Pacific Palisades in Los Angeles, surrounded by family, agent Leslee Dar said. He had been diagnosed with cancer about nine months ago, Dar said.
Pollack, who often appeared on the screen himself, worked with and gained the respect of Hollywood's best actors in a long career that reached prominence in the 1970s and 1980s.
He executive-produced HBO's Recount, about the fight over Florida's electoral votes in the 2000 presidential election. The movie recently had a screening at Rice University's Baker Institute in Houston.
Click here for the rest.
Big drag. I really, really liked Sydney Pollack. He was a hoot acting under his own direction in Tootsie, a movie that ought to be fluff, but has too much humanity to be so easily dismissed. He was always fun playing Will's philandering father on Will and Grace; he was equally fun playing a similar role in Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors. He was the only redeeming aspect of Stanley Kubrick's final film Eyes Wide Shut, blowing lead actor Tom Cruise out of the water in every scene they had together.
I mean, the guy was just fucking great, and, to the best of my knowledge, never played a lead role, but turned his relatively small moments into dynamite every single time. Put that together with the fact that he was also a great director: Sydney Pollack was one of the few American role models for how I see myself as a theater artist. That is, Pollack was able to circumvent an industrial era theater and film mandate, which continues to exist to this very day, shackling artists to narrowly specialized fields. Actors almost never direct, and directors almost never act, but Pollack defied all that, excelling equally well in both areas. And why not? Being a great actor means that, as a director, Pollack was able to speak to actors as peers, getting fantastic work out of them in ways that elude other great directors. In short, he was both a general and a foot soldier, a manager and a worker, denying hierarchy and elitism through the example of his career.
That's not surprising, I suppose, given his connection to early twentieth century theater radicalism by way of training at the Neighborhood Playhouse where he was taught by former Group Theater member Sanford Meisner. Okay, that's probably a stretch. Meisner was, by all accounts, an authoritarian bastard, despite the communist leanings of the Group. But then, communists have always had something of a fascist streak. I'm just saying that Pollack was a workingman's artist in a field dominated by narcissistic Colonel Kurtz figures.
Pollack was also a Real Artist in that he was able, from time to time, to use his art to make poignant political statements. I haven't seen the above mentioned Recount yet, but I plan to, and Three Days of the Condor, which he directed in the mid 70s, and is an extraordinarily cool Hitchcock style thriller, worth watching if only for that, is a scathing indictment of US covert action, and the politicians who play with the lives and deaths of the citizens they supposedly represent.
Yeah, losing him is a big drag. He was a great man.
Farewell Sydney Pollack.
Posted by Ron at 1:56 AM
Monday, May 26, 2008
A Tale Of Two Storms: Myanmar And New Orleans
Consider, for just a moment, the Bush rhetoric; in fact, just consider one piece of it. President Bush criticizes the Myanmar junta for its failure to allow into the country foreign aid workers to help with disaster recovery. While this criticism appears to be absolutely correct, it ignores an interesting fact: in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster the governments of both Cuba and Venezuela offered badly needed assistance. The Bush administration, under those circumstances, either ignored the offers or turned them down. In fact, the Cuban government had experienced personnel on standby prepared to fly to the Gulf Coast (note: Cuba has a great deal of experience with hurricanes).
What is striking here is not only the hypocrisy of the Bush administration but that few commentators have even noticed. A global chorus of outrage has been expressed with the Myanmar junta, but a significant silence surrounds any comparison with the failures of the Bush administration's approach in the Katrina disaster.
In the case of Katrina, the economic policies over the years have drained the public sector of the resources that are needed for disaster response. In the case of New Orleans, as we now know (and as experts AND the people of New Orleans knew then) the levees were not in any shape to withstand a major storm. Coupled with this was the Bush administration's own incompetent response to the disaster, betraying a class and racial bias against the people who were the principal victims of the storm. The refusal to accept outside assistance from Cuba and Venezuela simply added salt to the open wound.
The Bush administration's hypocritical rhetoric should remind us that the Katrina wound has not been healed. The Bush administration has learned nothing from the disaster except how to take advantage of it to advance its pro-privatization agenda for economic development, along with the ability to change the demographics of New Orleans in order to make it more likely that the Republican Party can gain ground. In that sense i see very little difference in the response of the Myanmar junta and the Bush administration to disasters in which thousands of innocent victims have perished or been displaced.
I was completely infuriated at the time. During the Reign of Chaos, the week following the failure of the levees when the federal government did virtually nothing, I was shocked and amazed that one of the few things they actually did was to keep out people who were ready and willing to help. It wasn't simply throwing "salt on the open wound," as the above excerpt suggests: it was bending New Orleans over and fucking it in the ass, no lube.
And that's exactly what the ruling junta in Myanmar has been doing to its own people. Yeah, in the end, Bush really is no better than brutal third world military dictators. Only the Constitution, and our entire culture's longtime dedication to it, have kept America from resembling such countries more than it does already.
As for the deafening news media silence about such hypocrisy, this is totally normal. Predictable, even, when you apply Hermann and Chomsky's Propaganda Model of the US news media to the situation. That is, mainstream news media, zealously led by such respected "liberal" stalwarts as the New York Times and the Washington Post, always exaggerate the misdeeds of official enemies, ignoring what good they may do, and always ignore the misdeeds of the US and its client states. Bad, bad, evil Myanmar, keeping out foreign aid--this comes with the implicit suggestion that America would never do such a thing.
Well, America did indeed do such a thing, and, juxtaposed against the tragedy in Myanmar, and its rulers' dunderheaded response to it, that's news. That the American mainstream media pretend as though it never happened does nothing but make obvious their role as propagandists for the US political and business establishments.
Posted by Ron at 12:47 AM
Saturday, May 24, 2008
McCain rejects televangelist Hagee's endorsement
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Republican John McCain rejected the months-old endorsement of an influential Texas televangelist after an audio recording surfaced in which the preacher said God sent Adolf Hitler to help Jews reach the promised land.
"Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them. I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee's endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well," the presidential candidate said in a statement issued Thursday.
Hagee quickly responded that he was withdrawing the endorsement.
McCain actively courted Hagee, who leads a megachurch with a congregation in the tens of thousands and has an even wider television audience. Former GOP presidential rivals also sought Hagee's backing.
The preacher has controversial views that were well-known before McCain accepted his endorsement at a news conference Feb. 27 in San Antonio shortly before the Texas presidential primary.
Hagee has referred to the Roman Catholic Church as "the great whore" and called it a "false cult system." He also has linked Hitler to the Catholic church, suggesting it helped shape his anti-Semitism. And Hagee said Hurricane Katrina was God's retribution for homosexual sin.
Hagee said critics are "grossly misrepresenting my position on issues most near and dear to my heart."
"I am tired of these baseless attacks and fear that they have become a distraction in what should be a national debate about important issues," Hagee said. "I have therefore decided to withdraw my endorsement of Senator McCain for president effective today, and to remove myself from any active role in the 2008 campaign."
Click here for the rest. Click here for some audio of Hagee's classic fire and brimstone.
Once again, this is what you get when you mix religion and politics.
I was so unsurprised by Hagee's remarks that I didn't even think twice about them. I've heard them before, really. In a very bizarre way, this makes sense from a fundamentalist perspective. When you read the Old Testament literally, as all fundamentalists do, you can't help but see one of the major themes as Jews pissing off God, followed by God extracting revenge, followed by Jews renewing their faith and obedience in their usually angry master. Apply this theme to recent history and you can't help but get Hitler in on the act. This makes even more fundamentalist sense when you incorporate the evangelical conception of God as divine puppet-master: he's always here, always calling the shots, even right now, right here while you read this.
Kinda makes the notion of free will problematic.
Anyway, this is but one of the many reasons I reject Christian fundamentalism and Christianity in general. If you take the Bible seriously, you simply have to understand God as either stark raving bonkers or straight-up evil. He's always smiting and destroying, over the least little transgression. He's either enslaving his own children, or encouraging those children to commit genocide. To God, if we're doing the right thing, we're sheep. If we're doing the wrong thing, we're meat.
A total nut, with omnipotence.
At least Obama's pastor problem is about real world issues. It's nice to see that kooky religion is being driven out of the public square and back into the church where it belongs. Here's hoping it stays this way for awhile.
Posted by Ron at 11:12 PM
Friday, May 23, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Appeals court rules Texas had no right to seize sect children
From the Houston Chronicle:
In the decision, the 3rd Court ruled that CPS failed to provide any evidence that the children were in imminent danger. It said state acted hastily in removing them from their families.
The agency had argued that the children on the ranch were either abused or at risk of abuse. The Texas Family Code allows a judge to consider whether the "household" to which a child would be returned includes a person who has sexually abused another child. Child welfare officials alleged that the polygamist sect's practice of marrying underage girls to older men places all its children at risk of sexual abuse.
"The existence of the FLDS belief system as described by the Department’s witnesses, by itself, does not put children of FLDS parents in physical danger," said the unanimous ruling by the three-judge panel of the 3rd Court. "Removing children from their homes on an emergency basis before fully litigating the issue of whether the parents should continue to have custody of the children is an extreme measure.
"The danger must be to the physical health or safety to the child," the appeals court wrote. "The Department (CPS) did not present any evidence of danger to the physical health or safety of any male children or any female children who had not reached puberty."
The court wrote, "Even if one views the FLDS belief system as creating a danger of sexual abuse by grooming boys to be perpetrators of sexual abuse and raising girls to be victims of sexual abuse as the Department contends, there is no evidence that this danger is ‘immediate’ or ‘urgent’ ... with respect to every child in the community."
Click here for more.
I've kept quiet about this sordid tale of church versus state for weeks now because I'm genuinely torn about what position I should take. The whole thing is really confusing from an ethical standpoint. That is, I have no love at all for Mormons in general, and this lovelessness extends to the fundamentalist multi-wife variety of America's homegrown weird religion. So it's really easy to side with the state--yeah, get those Mormon weirdos! I mean, they're hyper-patriarchal. They brainwash their children, which they must because no mainstream American would ever accept their insular and misogynistic ways. And, you know, they marry off young teen girls to men in their fifties; there's no other way to see such as practice as anything less than sex trafficking.
On the other hand, there are quite a few mainstream Christian denominations that are nearly as hardcore. Aren't the charismatic Pentecostals weird, too? They ban males and females from swimming together, and the women don't cut their hair. They speak in "tongues." They brainwash their children, too. Some of their sects handle poisonous snakes. And don't the Christian Scientists press the envelope as well? They force their children to forgo medical care, believing that only God's will can affect health. Sometimes this means allowing a child with kidney failure or cancer to die. And didn't the Southern Baptists recently rhetorically reaffirm their commitment to "wives submit(ting) unto their husbands"? I can tell you for a fact that the Baptists use cult-like brainwashing tactics on their children, too, because I was subjected to them when I was a kid. For that matter, famed atheist evangelist Richard Dawkins asserts that all religions brainwash their children.
One man's mondo-bizzaro weird is another man's spiritual comfort.
And when you get right down to it, by historical standards, marrying off teen girls to older men isn't so strange. Indeed, it's always been so in the West until fairly recently. I'm not saying it's acceptable, mind you, just that it's not the same as pedophilia.
The bottom line for me is that if we're going to be true to the first amendment's religious freedoms, we must always proceed very carefully when balancing the needs of the state against such fundamental rights. That's why I've been asking myself since this whole story broke, "does the state really have a case here?" When it turned out that the child abuse tip originated from somebody who has nothing to do with the FLDS group in Texas, and that it was in all likelihood a lie, I found myself feeling some real sympathy for these Mormon weirdos.
This appeals decision indicates, to me, that Texas probably moved way too quickly, and way too extremely. I mean, there may very well be some child abuse cases here, but in their zeal to save "the children! the children!", I think it's pretty clear that the state trampled all over not only first amendment rights, but also due process rights.
You just can't do that. Otherwise the Constitution means nothing.
Posted by Ron at 11:24 PM
AMERICA: THE TORTURE STATE
From the New York Times editorial board:
What the F.B.I. Agents Saw
They were described in a painful report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, based on the accounts of hundreds of F.B.I. agents who saw American interrogators repeatedly mistreat prisoners in ways that the agents considered violations of American law and the Geneva Conventions. According to the report, some of the agents began keeping a “war crimes file” — until they were ordered to stop.
These were not random acts. It is clear from the inspector general’s report that this was organized behavior by both civilian and military interrogators following the specific orders of top officials.
The study said F.B.I. agents reported this illegal behavior to Washington. They were told not to take part, but the bureau appears to have done nothing to end the abuse. It certainly never told Congress or the American people. The inspector general said the agents’ concerns were conveyed to the National Security Council, but he found no evidence that it acted on them.
Mr. Bush claims harsh interrogations produced invaluable intelligence, but the F.B.I. agents said the abuse was ineffective. They also predicted, accurately, that it would be impossible to prosecute abused prisoners.
Click here for the rest.
The evidence just keeps piling up. Not only have American service personnel engaged in the illegal and extraordinarily immoral act of torture, repeatedly, but those actions were also approved and ordered by the President himself. This is no longer in any way disputable. It's a fact. Yet the American public seems to not care. Congress, now controlled by Democrats, does nothing. If ever there were a case of an American President committing high crimes, this is it. This is why our founding fathers, the framers of the Constitution, included impeachment among Congressional powers.
But nothing is happening.
The only conclusion a rational citizen can make is that America is now profoundly dysfunctional. Our constitutional republic, our modern democracy, no longer functions. The United States of America, the nation I've loved deeply my entire life, no longer exists--sure, we're still here, living in a nation called the USA, but all our sacred values have been rendered meaningless. By the entire political establishment. By a citizenry that doesn't concern itself with the affairs of its nation.
I mean, I continue to hope that everybody comes to their senses, that Congress moves to impeach Bush, impeach everybody in the White House, and then throw them out of office and into prison for the rest of their lives. That Congress will restore our great republic to its former (mostly) moral status. But I'm pretty certain at this point that it's not going to happen. Democrats and Republicans alike are completely willing to sacrifice our most foundational principles for personal reasons amounting to not much more than a desire to stay in power.
And what's particularly disgusting is that this sets a grave precedent: Congress, through its inaction, through its shirking of Constitutional responsibility, is essentially telling all future Presidents that torture is now the American way.
I'm so disgusted and horrified. Is this how German citizens of conscience felt while the Nazis enacted the first round of anti-Jewish laws? We've asked for six decades since WWII how the German people could allow it all to happen.
We've finally got an answer, America: just look in the fucking mirror.
Posted by Ron at 1:28 AM
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
ONE FLEA SPARE: THE REVIEWS ARE IN
From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Katrina-plague parallel is stretched
The poster for The Cripple Creek Theatre Company's "One Flea Spare" shows a boarded-up New Orleans shotgun house. In the theater space where "One Flea Spare" is performed, the blacked-out windows are similarly boarded.
Clearly, we are to draw parallels between the world depicted onstage -- the plague-ravaged London of 1665 -- and post-Katrina New Orleans. The comparison holds, but only so far. We understand the similarities of both events in exposing poverty, brutalization, class-consciousness, oppression and non-response from the ruling class.
But ultimately, Naomi Wallace's poetic melodrama, depicted in self-contained vignettes, each a small play in itself, stands alone and apart from our situation. If anything, it resonates more closely with the Holocaust, with talk of pits of dead people.
Emilie Whelan, though not remotely believable as a 12-year-old, is nonetheless a riveting presence as a wild child, quiveringly stimulated by the possibilities of sex and violence. Blake Baudier's sailor is increasingly vulgar, yet with his own personal code of honor. Charles Vaught is haughty, well-spoken evil incarnate, while Mishikea Braithwaite is damaged porcelain as his gracefully suffering wife. Her scenes with Baudier sizzle with sensuality. Completing the cast is Ron Reeder as the blithely heartless guard, singing merrily of death as he barters for lives. Well-acted portrayals all, under Andrew Vaught's direction, which brings out the playwright's implacable criticism of the way the world was and, she says, still is.
Click here for the rest.
And from the New Orleans Gambit:
Andrew Vaught gathered a strong cast and took advantage of Blake Baudier's strong abstract set (a floor of hardwood planks and the two wooden arm chairs) to emphasize the symbolic aspects of the tale. Scott Stewart designed the excellent lighting.
Charles Vaught is a fuming volcano of an imprisoned merchant, and Mishikea Braithwaite gives us a stifled, embittered Darcy. Blake Baudier as the sailor walks a fine line between insolence and deference. Emilie Whelan is appropriately enigmatic as Morse. Ron Reeder's Cabe tears around in a frenzy like the legendary inmate in control of the asylum.
One Flea Spare has an impressive pedigree, including productions at the Humana Festival of New American Plays and The Public Theater of New York. Nonetheless, I was generally underwhelmed by the claustrophobic and somewhat overlong tragedy. Or, rather, I was engaged by fits and starts, instead of from beginning to end.
Click here for the rest.
The reviews for my first show in New Orleans are in, and they're...not bad. Of course, I want every play I'm involved with to cause artistic orgasm among the members of the press who cover them, but obviously that's not always going to happen. Really, as my ex Becky pointed out to me, these two reviews are actually quite positive, especially in their critiques of the talent, and the production itself.
So cool. Welcome to the Big Easy, Ron--you're in the public record now, as a good actor working with a good company. Yeah, I'm talking to myself; wha' choo gon' do 'bout it?
On to the negative aspects of the critiques. To contextualize, even though I disagree, I think both reviewers raise fair points. The Picayune picks up on the Katrina parallel, which I suppose isn't so odd considering the fact that the storm, and its horrifying aftermath, continue to dominate public discourse here in New Orleans, but I think that if the same production were performed in, say, Houston, no one would have thought about Katrina at all, as is evidenced by the couple of reviews Mildred's Umbrella got for their version of the play a few weeks back. That is, in my opinion, the Katrina parallel for our version isn't "stretched" at all; if anything, Katrina is a whisper with One Flea Spare, only noticeable if you're listening intensely for it. Our director very consciously decided not to play that angle up, allowing audiences to make their own connections if they felt compelled to do so, allowing the text to speak for itself. On the other hand, my own artistic inclination is to hit people on the head, such that, if the audience gets anything at all, they get the message--I probably would have even gone as far as placing some kind of essay in the program, literally telling the audience how to understand what we're doing.
But that's what art is about. Different artists have different approaches. And I can't even speculate as to whether subtlety or obviousness would have worked better with the Picayune's critic. His problem appears to be something along the lines of how the death toll in NOLA wasn't as high as with the Great Plague of London. And that's a fair observation. But it's also a fair observation to remember the horrifying stories and images coming out of the Superdome and the Convention Center. To remember the people of color in their rag tag bands of desperation blocked from exiting the city by paranoid Jefferson Parrish sheriff's deputies. To remember the people who stayed for weeks in pre-industrial conditions without help or protection. I mean, I wasn't here, but if anything, the comparison isn't stretched; rather, it could go much, much further.
But don't get me wrong; I'm thankful for what is an overall good review.
The Gambit raises a completely different point. What the Picayune calls "self-contained vignettes, each a small play in itself," the Gambit refers to as "fits and starts." NOLA's tabloid alternative weekly might be onto something here. The New York Times review of the play's above mentioned premiere at NYC's Public Theater back in 1997 says:
But while sensationally dramatic things do happen in ''One Flea Spare,'' the work remains stiff, schematic and surprisingly unaffecting. Often one has the feeling of looking at, rather than listening to, a score for a chamber ensemble. The notes are clearly all in place, but you've yet to hear the music that would sweep you into experiential involvement.That is, in my opinion, the script itself has some problematic features, most noticeably the story's flow. These "self-contained vignettes" possess a lot of drama, as the Times observes, but they don't really show many crucial character moments, moments of agonizing decision, moments when the conflict moves the characters to take their lives in new and different directions--I mean, it's all suggested, of course, but it mostly happens off stage. It's possible that we're all missing stuff, but I don't think so: if Dianne Wiest and other distinguished New York professional actors couldn't pull it off, then it's probably a script issue.
That is, it's a script issue that doesn't really bother me personally: I'm all about the anti-wealth ideology, myself; the drama here is a vehicle to make audiences think about how the rich fuck the poor. I think the playwright necessarily makes a few concessions, sacrificing some psychological human reality in order to get more to the heart of the themes she explores.
But I can see how some audience members, especially those who prefer realism, would be left feeling like they just didn't get enough. As with the Picayune review, however, I'm very thankful for the mostly positive critique.
Hey, have I mentioned that I suck a girl's toes for a brief moment in this play? Well, here you go:
Posted by Ron at 11:08 PM
REPUBLICAN QUEER BAITING
From Hullabaloo courtesy of Eschaton:
I looks like they're going to go back to this well one more time:
"It was remarkable to see Barack Obama's hysterical diatribe in response to a speech in which his name wasn't even mentioned." McCain campaignAnd
"If he is this prickly, he is way too much of a girly man to be president of the United States." Monica Crowley on the McLaughlin Report
Maureen Dowd has already blessed the meme with her oh-so-clever depictions of Senator Obama as an "anorexic starlet" and "desperate debutante."
I knew they would do it, but I didn't think they could get away with doing it so blatantly. Sometime back, I wrote:
I think that one of the reasons the conservatives are mostly hanging tough with Coulter is at least partially due to what she specifically said. She used the word "faggot" to describe a Democrat. This is the premise that forms the entire basis of the Republican claim to leadership and lies at the bottom of the media's continuing ridiculous assumption that the Republicans are more natural leaders than Democrats. For forty years the Republicans have been winning elections by calling liberals "faggots" (and "dykes") in one way or another. It's what they do. To look too closely at what she said is to allow light on their very successful reliance on gender stereotypes to get elected.Click here for more.
Right. Well, of course the rhetorical dynamic about liberals and conservatives is much more complicated than this, but it hits on an essential truth: most Republican men side with the GOP because they're the real man's party--likewise, most GOP women affiliate with the Party because they want to side with real men. How many people do you know who voted for Bush in 2004 because they just didn't feel "safe" with a Democrat at the nation's helm? Same thing. Only the manly Republicans can keep us safe; the girly and gay Democrats couldn't limp-wrist their way through a fist fight if their lives depended on it.
Of course, that's crap, but it's a compelling "argument" in a culture such as ours with an extraordinarily high level of gender/sexual anxiety--see a couple of books I've recently read, Susan Faludi's Stiffed, and Marjorie Garber's Vice Versa, for more on this. I mean, think about it for a moment. Think about all the attacks on Obama's arugula and juxtapose them with news images of President Bush in a cowboy hat clearing brush at his "ranch" in Podunk, Texas. None of this shit has anything at all to do with how competent either individual might be as Chief Executive, but it does play into deeply held beliefs about how Americans ought to conform with gender norms, beliefs that might not even be consciously held. That's a really difficult "argument" to defeat, especially when Democrats rhetorically buy into the notion that men are men and women are women, allowing Republicans to define what's important for political leadership.
I have no idea how to beat this line of attack. It's unfair, yes. It's full of shit, yes. It's amazingly cynical, yes. But it is devastatingly effective within our gender-fucked-up society. Perhaps Obama's best approach is to track down all these pundits and politicians playing the queer card and mix it up with them, one by one:
What do you mean by "girly"? Are you saying that women are inferior to men? Why are you saying that? Do you really think Al Gore is gay? Gay like right-wing evangelist Ted Haggard? Gay like Florida GOP representative Mark Foley? Gay like GOP Senator Larry Craig? What's wrong with being gay? You know, the Spartan warriors, the guys in 300, were all gay. Every single one of them. Are you telling me it's impossible to be a badass if you suck dick? And what's your deal that you have to be going on about who you think is gay and who's not? Are you gay? I think you are. Faggot. Why not? Ann Coulter said it; why can't I? Okay, then just shut the fuck up, bunch of queer baiting assholes. Let's talk issues.
Of course, Obama doesn't really tend to mix it up, and is rarely willing to talk issues. Ah, well. I guess he's on his own.
Posted by Ron at 12:37 AM
Monday, May 19, 2008
NOT A MAVERICK
From Politico courtesy of Eschaton:
Another top McCain official resigns
Former Rep. Thomas G. Loeffler, a Texan who is among the McCain campaign’s most important advisers and fundraisers, has resigned as a national co-chair over lobbying entanglements, a Republican source told Politico on Sunday.
It’s at least the fifth lobbying-related departure from the campaign in a week.
The McCain campaign, already facing the prospect of being badly outgunned in the general election, now also must cope with the disruption of the lobbying shakeout.
The McCain campaign’s stringent approach to the issue is provoking a bit of grumbling from some of its Washington allies, who point out that a lobbyist’s function is enshrined in the Constitution.
“No one in real America cares,” said one key Republican. “But McCain cares.”
The officials who have left include Doug Goodyear, who was McCain’s top liaison to the Republican National Convention; Doug Davenport, regional campaign manager for mid-Atlantic states; Eric Burgeson, an energy policy adviser; and Craig Shirley, a prominent Republican consultant who was a member of McCain’s Virginia Leadership Team.
Click here for the rest.
Even though this is something of a campaign purge, it is remarkable that no less than five lobbyists have had to quit in a week. That is, the McCain campaign, and the GOP in general, are crawling with lobbyists. I mean, the Democrats are pretty bad off in this way, too, but the Republicans are into it neck deep.
It is particularly ironic that the anonymous "key Republican" quoted in the article believes that "no one in real America cares." As far as I can tell, the exact reverse is true. It isn't simply the war, or the economy, or any number of other problems that have the GOP fighting for its life right now: the indistinguishable line between big business and the Republican Party appears to have "real America" disgusted as all get out. Indeed, the vast majority of "real America" cares quite intensely. Americans believe that citizens ought to run the country, not corporations.
And McCain knows it. I don't think he has any personal problem with all these lobbyists; after all, he hired them in the first place, and surely knew their work histories when he did it. This isn't some sort of purge of bad guys from the Maverick's perspective, but it is an attempt to remove the stench of anti-democratic corporate influence from the Republican nominee's persona.
Unfortunately for McCain, you can scrub excrement all day long, make it sparkle and shine, but it's still going to stink like shit when you're done. Just like John McCain.
Posted by Ron at 1:19 AM
Sunday, May 18, 2008
U.S. HEALTH CARE DEBACLE: IT'S NOT JUST INSURANCE
From PBS's Bill Moyers Journal:
WARNING! ADS MAY HAVE HARMFUL SIDE EFFECTS
MELODY PETERSEN: A few years back, I kept getting information from a group called the PTSD Alliance. PTSD is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And one of the main messages of this group was that five percent of the American public suffered from PTSD. And this is estimate was millions and millions more than the government actually said suffered from this illness.
And later, I learned that this group wasn't actually what I thought it was. It was the creation of a public relations firm working for Pfizer to sell more Zoloft. In fact, it was staffed by the public relations firm. Its offices were the same address of the public relations firm.
BILL MOYERS: She found example after example of science compromised by marketing.
MELODY PETERSEN: You know, it's gone so far that some independent scientists are starting to view our medical literature as propaganda. I've learned that there are so many different ways for a study to be designed to get the data that will help you sell your drug. If you want to make it look more powerful than an older drug on the market, you give the volunteers in your trial the older drug at a dose that is too low to really help them so your drug looks better. If you want your drug to look safer than an older drug you boost the dose up of the older drug in the volunteers so they have more side effects. If you have one study that showed it worked, and one study showed it didn't, you publish the first study over and over again with the help of your advertising agency. And you don't publish the second one.
BILL MOYERS: Are we being deliberately misled?
MELODY PETERSEN: Yes.
BILL MOYERS: Intentionally?
MELODY PETERSEN: Yes, looking at documents from inside the drug companies, yes. I would say we're being misled deliberately.
Click here to watch or read the interview.
Right. Well, the entire point of advertising is to mislead, that is, to get people to buy things that they wouldn't ordinarily have wanted or even thought they needed. And that's the point this reporter, Melody Peterson, makes in the interview: the pharmaceutical industry is all about PR and marketing these days, rather than science and health--actually, Big Pharma is about the same thing that all corporations are about, increasing profits every quarter.
Of course, I fully understand that businesses must necessarily be about profits, but there are certain sectors of the economy where profit and the service or product provided are at odds with one another. If the blue paint you buy turns green after a few months, that's a problem, but you can always buy a different blue paint. If the cholesterol medicine you're using causes you to have a heart attack, you're fucked, forever.
In short, some businesses, like drug companies or health care in general, simply cannot be allowed to operate in the same way we allow, say, a soap company to operate. The stakes are much too high, but the right-wing dominated conventional wisdom for the past two decades, its laissez faire philosophy no-matter-what, has brought us to a place where it is fully legal, desirable, even, among the business elite, for the drug companies to lie to the public about the benefits and side effects of their products.
That's crazy, and there is no nuanced economic argument existing that could ever make it sane.
Posted by Ron at 1:28 AM
Friday, May 16, 2008
Top California court overturns same-sex marriage ban
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
California's Supreme Court declared that same-sex couples in the nation's biggest state can marry — a monumental but perhaps short-lived victory for the gay rights movement Thursday that was greeted with tears, hugs, kisses and at least one instant proposal of matrimony.
Same-sex couples could tie the knot in as little as a month. But the window could close soon after — religious and social conservatives are pressing to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that would undo the Supreme Court ruling and ban gay marriage.
James Dobson — chairman of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, which has spent thousands of dollars to get the measure on the ballot — called the ruling an outrage.
"It will be up to the people of California to preserve traditional marriage by passing a constitutional amendment. ... Only then can they protect themselves from this latest example of judicial tyranny," he said in an e-mailed statement.
In its 4-3 ruling, the Republican-dominated high court struck down state laws against same-sex marriage and said domestic partnerships that provide many of the rights and benefits of matrimony are not enough.
"In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation," Chief Justice Ronald George wrote for the majority in ringing language that delighted gay rights activists.
Massachusetts in 2004 became the first, and so far only, state to legalize gay marriage; more than 9,500 couples have taken advantage of the law. But the California ruling is considered monumental by virtue of the state's size — 38 million out of a U.S. population of 302 million — and its historical role as the vanguard of many social and cultural changes that have swept the country since World War II.
Click here for the rest.
While I'm very happy with such a common sense decision in favor of expanding civil rights, I have to admit that I'm enjoying much more the howls of indignation emanating from the social wing of conservatism. Heh, heh, heh. That's what you motherfuckers get: boys with boys and girls with girls, wedded in blissful matrimony.
As the article observes, this ain't over yet, but I wonder if it's more difficult to amend the constitution in California than it is to simply pass a law. In Texas, constitutional amendments seem to be on pretty much every ballot, but the land of fruits and nuts just isn't Texas, which is just how things ought to be. At any rate, the right wing on the left coast faces something of an uphill battle: Governor Terminator supports gay marriage, so I'm assuming he won't be helping the gay-haters out much.
And really when you get right down to it, gay marriage should be legalized in all fifty states for first amendment reasons. That is, the philosophical framework behind opposing gay marriage is most definitely religious in nature. Bogus secular arguments that gay marriage will somehow "subvert the institution" are full of shit. In no way will boy/boy girl/girl weddings affect hetero marriage. It's just as simple as that. No change. I've asked quite a few conservatives to explain it to me, but they always just kind of flap their gums.
"Man on dog," indeed.
Mark my words, gay marriage will be fully legal in these United States, sooner than later. It's only a matter of time, and we're currently watching the grains in the hourglass move into overdrive.
Heh, heh, heh. I love this.
Posted by Ron at 12:52 AM
Thursday, May 15, 2008
BUTTHOLE O'REILLY HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN ASSHOLE
Ah! This is great fun. A twenty year old clip of FOX News' Bill O'Reilly freaking out back when he was anchor of celebrity gossip show Inside Edition has been making the rounds in cyberspace these last few days. It's well worth the couple of minutes it takes to watch, if only because it shows that O'Reilly really is nothing more than a demented asshole with severe anger management problems. That is, it's not bad politics that makes him angry: he's just angry, all the time, and it appears that pretty much anything can drive him round the bend.
His right-wing fans, I imagine, just love it when he tells his liberal "guests" to "shut up," like when he "dress[ed] down" the left-wing son of a 9/11 victim, Jeremy Glick, back in '02. But it's all a bunch of crap. With O'Reilly, it's not the politics; it's the anger. The politics don't really matter. Just as long as he's freaking out, which is apparently the only talent he has. Actually, I suspect that most of his fans are really only into the anger, too.
Actually, I suspect that, for the vast majority of those who comprise the right wing, anger is all they've got.
Anyway, courtesy of Brave New Films, courtesy of AlterNet, here's the Butthole freaking out a couple of decades ago:
I really love to hate him.
Posted by Ron at 1:37 AM
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
From the American Prospect:
McCain's Judicial Hypocrisy
The truth is that an "activist judge" is a judge who makes a decision conservatives don't like. If they truly cared about the principle that judges shouldn't substitute their own opinions for the law, then they would be just as exorcised about "activist" decisions that served conservative goals as they are about those that serve progressive goals. But if anyone can name me a single judicial decision that served the right's ends and that conservatives protested on the grounds that it was too "activist," I'll eat my hat. And even a court's refusal to exercise power and overrule laws or precedents -- as courts at every level did in the Terri Schaivo case -- will be called "activist" if conservatives don't like the outcome.
I haven't heard Barack Obama talk much about judges, but if and when this comes up in one of the presidential debates, and McCain blows the same old smoke about activist judges, I'd like to see Obama turn to him and say, "You know what, senator? Let's try telling the truth. You and I both know that this 'activist judges' line is a load of bull. You want to appoint judges who are conservative -- you want them to overturn Roe v. Wade, and to rule against protections for workers, and to support expansions of executive power. I disagree on all those things. But at least have the courage to be honest with us about it. Don't hide behind this phony 'activist judges' line and try to convince us it's all about some abstract principle. You want to talk about judges? Let's talk about it."
Click here for the rest.
I don't think I've ever agreed with this right-wing nonsense about "judicial activism" or "legislating from the bench," even when I was a conservative. The whole concept of "strict constructionism," or what Justice Scalia likes to call "originalism," struck me when I was a young Republican, and continues to strike me today as a weird non-defined leftist, as being naively short sighted: interpretations of the law must grow and change in order to deal with a society that must always grow and change--there's no way the founding fathers could have possibly foreseen many of today's legal issues, and waiting for Congress to specifically address each and every problem that arises every day, all day long, is a recipe for disaster.
However, once upon a time, I did believe that these conservative Bozos had a legitimate argument. I mean, it kind of makes sense: judges and justices ought to do nothing but interpret the law as it was written; anything more than that is usurping legislative power. I can dig that. Our Constitutional system is designed to protect us from anyone seizing absolute power. The President can veto Congress. Congress writes the laws and can impeach the President. The Supreme Court can nullify Congressional and Presidential action through the process of judicial review, and on and on. President Bush's power-grabbing actions over the last seven years, "signing statements" and much more, have shown us just how delicate a system it all is. So I can appreciate why some legal scholars might want to err on the side of caution, lessening the power of the courts for the greater good. Even though I disagree, it's a reasonable line of thinking.
But after about a decade or so of accepting, but not buying, the "strict constructionist" point of view, it became clear to me that the conservatives advancing the idea don't really believe it. It's the whole "we're pro states rights as long as the states do what we want" point of view that you see with conservative attitudes about medicinal marijuana and other issues. That is, it's hypocrisy. "Strict constructionism," like laissez faire, exists only as a rhetorical justification to advance conservative goals. Lacking any true support from actual people, the philosophy, as reasonable as it may seem, is meaningless.
And, unsurprisingly, it's what John McCain would be using as a litmus test for any judicial nominees he might make as President. Does Obama have the juevos to publicly express the contempt that "strict constructionism" deserves?
Posted by Ron at 12:45 AM
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
U.S. dropping charges against 9/11 suspect
Saudi had been called the '20th hijacker'
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Pentagon is dropping charges against a Saudi at Guantanamo Bay who was supposed to have been the "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Mohammed al-Qahtani was one of six men facing murder charges before a U.S. military tribunal for the attacks.
But U.S. military defense lawyers confirmed to the Associated Press on Monday that a Pentagon official has finalized the charges only against the other five, including the alleged architect of the attacks.
U.S. officials have said al-Qahtani was subjected to harsh treatment authorized by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
And that's the entire article.
To see it in its Houston Chronicle context, click here.
This is a troubling article for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is somewhat amazing that the dismissal of charges against the "twentieth hijacker" doesn't get front page treatment. Indeed, I found this on the AP news feed that the Chronicle runs only online--if I blinked, I would have missed it entirely. But isn't this rather significant? I fully understand why the Bush administration would like this to be kept quiet, and FOX News too, for that matter, but I'm flabbergasted that the rest of the mainstream corporate dominated media are in on burying the story.
And burying it is what they're doing. I glanced at the Wikipedia entry for Mohammed al-Qahtani and it straight up says that the reason he isn't being tried is that Bush's "enhanced interrogation" techniques, a.k.a. "torture," essentially killed the case. That is, al-Qahtani's civil rights were so grossly violated that he is unconvictable. Why on earth does this article make no mention of that? Isn't that essential to understanding the story? I don't get it. The corporate media is seemingly over Bush, over the mad patriotism that made everything the White House does fantastic and wonderful. But here they are warping and twisting as though it was 2003.
What the fuck is going on here?
Secondly, what the fuck is going on with the 9/11 case overall? And it is a case because it was a crime, a massive crime, rather than the popular conception pushed by Bush that it was an "act of war." The Feds have held six people for over half a decade now who were supposedly involved in the plot. Al-Qahtani has apparently beaten the rap, with no small help from the President, but even more suspects, most notably Osama bin Laden, continue to roam the world free.
Has anybody at all been convicted for their involvement in the 9/11 attacks? To the best of my knowledge, the answer is a big huge "no." And they've had five years! Five fucking years! We've destroyed Afghanistan and Iraq, scared the shit out of the world, shredded trillions of dollars, destroyed foundational laws and rights of all Americans, and we have absolutely nothing to show for it.
What the fuck is going on? Israel and the U.K. have been making successful terrorism busts for decades, like clockwork, efficiently and intelligently, and back in the day the FBI managed to track down our own homegrown terrorist Timothy McVeigh pretty quickly and easily, too, and the DOJ was able to get the death penalty.
Are we really that pathetic these days? Or is something more sinister afoot? I honestly don't know. It's the old "Is Bush incompetent or is he evil?" question. I'd pretty much settled on incompetence, but the unraveling of these terrorism cases is so over-the-top, it's moving me back toward the evil side of the question.
UPDATE: The AP updated the story after a few hours; it now has about three times as much text as the one copied and pasted above. However, as in the version above, the update only hints at assertions that Bush-sanctioned torture killed the case. Further, I can't find it at all on the Chronicle's main page--it's not even in the AP news feed anymore. I mean, I'm sure it's there somewhere, but I'd have to dig around for a while to get to it. Still strikes me as burying the story. Further, the new version continues to say nothing about Bush's lack of success, after all these years, in convicting 9/11 conspirators.
Posted by Ron at 12:04 AM
Monday, May 12, 2008
Adjunct Professor Fired for Not Signing Loyalty Oath
From the Progressive:
Wendy Gonaver was hired by Cal-Sate Fullerton last fall to teach American Studies and Women’s Studies. As part of her American Studies course, she had planned to teach a section on McCarthyism. But she wasn’t allowed to teach at all because she refused to sign the loyalty oath that the state of California still insists that its employees sign.
This is the text of the oath:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.”
As a Quaker and a Buddhist and a pacifist, Gonaver says she could not sign the oath without registering her views.
“As I was sorting through all this, I was listening to reports about extraordinary renditions and eliminating habeas corpus and whether torture was a fine thing for us to engage in,” she says. “I am opposed to war and have never seen one in my lifetime I could support.”
Click here for more.
Right. The era of torture and illegal, immoral invasions makes "loyalty" an extraordinarily problematic notion. Actually, in a modern democracy such as ours "loyalty" is a problematic concept from the get-go. Loyal to what, exactly? To the Constitution? Sure, I'm all for that; I support rule of law. But how is loyalty to the Constitution defined here? Should we use the recent definition of the word "patriotism," that we should support the government no matter what it does? Well, no fucking way. None of us should be loyal like that. Indeed, such widespread loyalty in the wake of 9/11 has gotten us into a great deal of trouble that it will take decades to repair, even if we start right away. True loyalty, true patriotism, is about telling your fellow countrymen when they've gone round the bend, that if they persist, they'll be fucking us all over.
In short, loyalty oaths are so fucking stupid they deserve nothing but contempt. They're anti-American in the truest sense of the word: they force people to publicly declare blind obedience, which is profoundly damaging to our democratic spirit. It's amazing that California, land of fruits and nuts, continues this relic from the Cold War. So, good for Wendy Gonaver's display of conscience.
On the other hand, as far as navigating treacherous career waters are concerned, I wouldn't have a problem with anyone signing such an oath dishonestly. Like I said, it's fucking stupid, and no government supported institution has any right to require it. So rank dishonesty is entirely acceptable here. In fact, that's what they deserve for being so fucking stupid. Lie to them. Then tell everybody else that you lied. Parade around; dance and sing about how you stuck it to the man. And if the university makes an issue about it, call it "performance art." Call it a protest. Whatever. You signed the damned thing. What do they want?
At any rate, people need jobs, even academics. It is not dishonorable to lie and lie and lie when required to verbally violate your deepest beliefs in order to get work. It's a double ethics bind, damned if you do and damned if you don't: lying is an acceptable ethical choice, especially when you've got a family to support.
But getting the ACLU involved is good, too.
Posted by Ron at 1:01 AM