Friday, October 31, 2008

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Sammy



Frankie




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

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Here, watch Night of the Living Dead:


via videosift.com

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CHARITY: A KIND SWEET GENEROUS PERPETUATION OF INJUSTICE

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Texas Samaritan buys woman her house at auction

A woman distraught over losing her house showed up to watch it auctioned off, but that wasn't the end of the story. Tracy Orr will return home after a stranger bought the house back for her Saturday.

"It means so much to all of us," Orr said. "It's not just a house."

Marilyn Mock said she decided on the spot to buy the house after striking up a conversation with a sobbing Orr at the auction Saturday. Mock was there to help her 27-year-old son bid on a house.


More here.

Marxists have been making this point for many, many years, but it's well worth repeating in this day and age. This woman who bought back the house for its previous owner is clearly being extraordinarily nice. I mean, fuckin' a, that's really really really nice. If I'd just lost my house to foreclosure and had it bought back for me, I'd be eternally grateful. After all, I'd have my house back.

But the wealthy and kind hearted Ms. Mock is only buying one house.

Okay sure, it isn't reasonable to expect an individual, or groups of individuals, to solve the world's social ills with their altruism--as an extreme example, these hypothetical generous folks would send themselves to the poor house if they tried to save the world with their charity. All charitable people can do is temporarily help out a few lucky souls. That is, charity is a social dead end.

Charity is nice. Very nice. It helps some people in need. But charity does nothing to change the circumstances that put those people in need in the first place. Worse, charity gives the appearance that something is being done to ease suffering. I mean, yeah, charity does indeed ease some suffering, but does nothing to ease all suffering. And defenders of our plutocratic economic and political establishment can always point to these necessarily limited efforts to make the false assertion that the political order enriching them is fair and just. Charity is ultimately nothing but propaganda fodder for rule by the rich--it also makes the well-to-do feel much better about the fact that they have so much when so many others do not.

Ultimately, charity does nothing but perpetuate our unjust society.

Only the government has the power to actually change the economic and social circumstances that keep so many citizens down. And I'm not talking welfare: cash payments to people who don't work is the same as charity. I'm talking about making life easier for those who actually contribute to society. That means "spreading the wealth around" as Senator Obama recently put it. That means making it easier for workers to unionize. That means making access to health care, housing, and good education a right, not a privilege. That means making a society geared toward citizen empowerment instead of what we have now, a society where most citizens are utterly irrelevant to the ruling elite.

Yeah, charity is nice, really nice, but in the end, it's wildly counterproductive.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Are credit cards the next collapse?

From McClatchy via the Huffington Post news wire:

As the economy slows and unemployment rises, consumers are defaulting on credit-card payments more often. And though that trend is unlikely to create a crisis in line with the mortgage fallout, it's still a headache for banks that are already hurting.

and

To be sure, credit cards don't represent a huge portion of assets for most banks. For example, they comprise about 14 percent of all consumer loans and leases at Bank of America, the country's largest credit-card issuer. The main problem, Nishikawa said, is that "everyone is so weak after what happened with mortgages that another blow to a consumer product would be hard to handle."

Consumer groups have long complained that credit-card issuers push cards onto people who don't need them or can't afford them. They say that rising credit-card defaults – just like mortgage defaults – are largely the fault of banks who lent to risky borrowers.

Innovest estimates that about 30 percent of Bank of America's credit card loans are to subprime borrowers – second only to the failed Washington Mutual Inc., which had almost half of its credit-card loans held by subprime borrowers.

Innovest also estimates that more than half of Bank of America's credit cards are high-limit cards – second only to American Express Co. (Innovest classifies high-limit cards as those with lines of more than $10,000.) Nishikawa says that combination could prove toxic for Bank of America, which may have "lent more than (borrowers) can be expected to pay back."


More here.

Ha! Good, serves those motherfuckers right. That's what they fucking get.

Long ago, during my first few years away from home at college, I noticed that many of my friends were getting pounded with multiple offers for new credit cards. Me too. I thought it strange that kids with no income of their own could possibly be considered a good credit risk. As some of those friends began running up thousands of dollars in credit card debt, I decided that my credit-flush pals were being extraordinarily irresponsible, and that I would go as long as I could without getting one for myself.

To this day, I shun credit cards, using only a debit card when I've got to have plastic for whatever reasons. I was right, back then, in thinking that running up credit card debt is irresponsible, but I only had one tiny piece of the picture: banks issuing credit cards wanted irresponsible people to run up massive debt, and purposely targeted some of the most vulnerable and irresponsible people around, the young. Seriously. The human brain isn't fully mature until sometime in the mid twenties, and part of that immaturity is an inability to fully assess risk. Teens and early twentysomethings are simply incapable of seeing long term consequences in the way that fully developed adults can. Banks have also purposely targeted people in poverty, and people on the verge of poverty, for different reasons amounting to the same thing--the poor find it difficult to avoid credit card debt when they lack money to buy food or pay the bills or pay for health care; they're vulnerable, too.

All of this predatory lending, because that's what it is, came about when banks in the early 80s decided that they could make much more money from credit cards if they could get card holders to run a balance from month to month. It's all about the interest. Back in the day, credit cards were simply a service, making a small profit, and people who didn't pay up at the end of the month were usually cut off. People who didn't have much income couldn't get them in the first place. But when these banking corporations set up shop in the few states allowing usurious interest rates all that went out the window. The credit card industry became all about dicking people over, and turning them into life long sources of cash for the already rich.

And Washington, both Democrats and Republicans, were more than happy to allow it all to happen. Fuck man, they even helped out as much as they could: the bankruptcy reform law passed a few years back was all about keeping people deep in credit card debt from defaulting, a sort of fuck you to the beleaguered consumer.

Well, you reap what you sow. Wah, wah, wah. The credit card companies are hurting. Well, too fucking bad. That's what they get.

Watch Frontline's documentary The Secret History of the Credit Card here.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

'Diva Palin is going rogue,' say McCain backers

From the London Independent:

Bitter infighting between advisers to John McCain and his running-mate, Sarah Palin, has exploded into public view, with McCain supporters accusing her of being a "diva" and her own faction warning that they would not let her take the blame if the campaign suffers a heavy defeat.

Anonymous briefing and counter-briefing yesterday suggested Governor Palin is "going rogue" and blaming many of the campaign's senior advisers for her own plummeting poll ratings.


More here.

Oh, this is really fucking funny!

McCain months ago made a deal with the devil: he would court the psychotic GOP Conservative Movement faithful in order to get the party's nomination. I mean, don't get me wrong, McCain is most definitely a conservative guy, but he's not the radical neoliberal, tongue-speaking Jesus freak type that holds an effective veto on all Republican Party presidential candidates. So he learned their language and talked the talk, but that wasn't enough, so he tapped Palin, who is just as loony as anybody on the far right, to be his running mate. That did the trick as far as internal Republican politics goes, shoring up the lunatic fringe base and all, but Palin seems to have done nothing but horrified people outside the party, quite a few inside the party as well.

And now that the ship is sinking, the rats are turning on each other. That is, this is pretty clear evidence that now even McCain insiders are convinced they're going to lose. And Palin's looking at the long term, maybe 2012.

Can this spectacle of conservative collapse possibly be more entertaining? Actually, I think there's a lot of opportunity out there for these people to make even bigger fools of themselves. Here's hoping.

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FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
TEXAS SURVIVES, LSU DIES


From the AP via ESPN:

McCoy soars, but No. 1 Horns escape No. 6 Cowboys behind defense

Colt McCoy made rare mistakes. The Texas defense got pushed around and the Longhorns watched their big lead and momentum gradually disappear.

Suddenly, the No. 1 team in the country looked vulnerable.

Yet here they are, still unbeaten, and with still more tough games to play.

McCoy passed for a career-high 391 yards and two touchdowns Saturday but the Longhorns defense needed to come up with two huge stands in a 28-24 win over No. 6 Oklahoma State after he threw a third-quarter interception and fumbled late in the fourth.


More here.

I had to work the rare Saturday dinner shift, which starts at four in the afternoon, which was approximately at halftime for this game, so I taped it to watch later, and tried to avoid the TV sets playing college football at our bar. Fortunately, everybody in New Orleans wanted to watch LSU play, so going home late last night I knew nothing about how Texas played.

This was a tough game to watch. I mean, Texas played pretty well overall, McCoy's short pass attack was just amazing, but the lack of running game, as well as the Doctor's rare interception and fumble, made it all a nail-biter. And oh yeah, Oklahoma State played brilliantly, too.

Really, man, after the interception late in the third quarter I just couldn't handle it anymore. I went to the internet to find out who won before I could watch the rest, figuring that I wouldn't if Texas fell. And it was still tough to watch, even knowing the final score. The Longhorns offense has not been slowed down in this way all season long.

They really, really, really need to get a good running game going if they're going to win out. Right now, they got nothin'. And Texas Tech is playing extraordinarily well. Every few years, the Red Raiders have the Longhorns' number, and they dial it best from Lubbock, which is where they will play next weekend.

You know, football season is always easier for me when Texas isn't in the national championship hunt.


Oklahoma State running back Kendall Hunter (24) is stopped by Texas defenders,
from left, Blake Gideon, Roddrick Muckelroy, Ryan Palmer, and Earl Thomas,
during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in Austin, Texas,
Saturday, Oct. 25, 2008. Texas won 28-24. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)


Again from the AP via ESPN:

No. 7 Georgia scampers past No. 13 LSU on back of Moreno

Georgia coach Mark Richt once called the Tiger Stadium crowd the loudest he'd ever heard.

Knowshon Moreno may remember Death Valley more for the hush he caused with his tackle-breaking 68-yard touchdown run.

Moreno's long score late in the third quarter gave seventh-ranked Georgia a three-touchdown lead, and the Bulldogs held on for a 52-38 victory over No. 13 LSU on Saturday that sent many Tigers fans to the exits early.


And

"The story is the mistakes," LSU coach Les Miles said. "When you play a quality opponent, you can't give them turnovers. You can't uncover people in coverage. You can't let runs that should be tackled go untackled. Our football team has to learn that. That's my job. I promise you I will go about teaching it."

More here.

Because I was taping the Texas game, I was unable to tape LSU as well, which played at the same time. It's just as well. I was able to get bits and pieces of the second half on the bar TVs at work, and it wasn't pretty. No, not at all.

Coach Miles says it all in the excerpt above. You fuck up a lot, you lose ball games. You lose 'em big. Especially when you throw three interceptions. Right now, the Tigers are playing like Texas did back in the mid 80s when I was a student there--the fans would openly call from the stands "Fire Fred!", as in coach Fred Akers, who presided over UT's fall from national prominence.

I've been a big defender of Les Miles, who has been savaged on Louisiana sports radio for virtually every year he's had the head LSU job. But right now, the situation is looking similar to the Akers situation back in the day. Akers took over from Texas god-coach Darrell Royal, who won three national championships. Nick Saban, who won a national championship with LSU before he left to fail in the NFL, but apparently succeed back in the SEC with Alabama, is no Darrell Royal. But it's the same point: both Akers and Miles took over wildly successful nationally prominent programs; Texas then slowly declined, which is what LSU appears to be doing now. Is Les Miles really just riding the successful program that Sabin created?

On the other hand, it could simply be that Jarrett Lee is just a kid and plays like one. I don't know. But this is all very depressing.


Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green (8) catches a pass in front of LSU cornerback
Patrick Peterson (7) in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Baton
Rouge, La., Saturday, Oct. 25, 2008. Green was ruled out of bounds on the play.
(AP Photo/Bill Haber)


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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Greenspan Concedes Error on Regulation

From the New York Times:

For years, a Congressional hearing with Alan Greenspan was a marquee event. Lawmakers doted on him as an economic sage. Markets jumped up or down depending on what he said. Politicians in both parties wanted the maestro on their side.

But on Thursday, almost three years after stepping down as chairman of the Federal Reserve, a humbled Mr. Greenspan admitted that he had put too much faith in the self-correcting power of free markets and had failed to anticipate the self-destructive power of wanton mortgage lending.

“Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief,” he told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.


And

“You had the authority to prevent irresponsible lending practices that led to the subprime mortgage crisis. You were advised to do so by many others,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, chairman of the committee. “Do you feel that your ideology pushed you to make decisions that you wish you had not made?”

Mr. Greenspan conceded: “Yes, I’ve found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I’ve been very distressed by that fact.”

On a day that brought more bad news about rising home foreclosures and slumping employment, Mr. Greenspan refused to accept blame for the crisis but acknowledged that his belief in deregulation had been shaken.


More here.

This really is quite remarkable.

We are currently witnessing the dissolution of some of the central premises underlying the free market philosophy which has guided US economic policy and American politics in general for decades. I mean, this is fucking Alan Greenspan, for god's sake, the Ayn Rand worshiping, let-them-eat-cake, free market fundamentalist guru of gurus himself. When he starts having doubts about free market economics, you can bet your 401k that free market economics are in doubt.

I know I've mentioned it here before, but I can't help but remember what my old pal Matt told me shortly after the Berlin Wall fell: a historian who had predicted the collapse of communism in the early 80s had also predicted the collapse of capitalism, which seemed near impossible back in 1989. It doesn't seem so impossible today. Indeed, I would go out on a limb and say that, even though capitalism isn't going to die as thoroughly as Soviet or Maoist communism did, the ideologically purist version of it long celebrated by the political class in the United States is dead. Nobody with a clear head now believes that government interference in the economy is inherently a bad thing. And that's a good thing.

I do worry, however, about all those Americans and politicians without clear heads. Free market fundamentalism has always been as much of a tribal culture as it has been an economic philosophy. Billions have been spent indoctrinating Americans into the belief that what's good for Wall Street is always what's good for Main Street--indeed, my above mentioned buddy Matt and I once attended during our senior year in high school a Rotarian hosted radical right-wing economics weekend seminar which was disguised as a training session for public speaking; who paid for all those economists we hung out with?

Millions of Americans don't understand what's going on. They cling to their false belief in the magic of the market in spite of all the evidence currently being rammed down their throats. They think it's a liberal plot, or they think the cure is still more deregulation, or more tax cuts, or whatever. To them, it's not about logic or reason: to them, it's about good Americans, the pro-capitalists, versus the bad Americans, the stupid liberals who are secretly communists. It's about us and them, about identity. Can these people ever be convinced that they've been duped? The right-wing indoctrination apparatus has done its job all too well.

I'm probably being afraid of nothing here. After all, an electoral college landslide victory for Obama appears to be in the works, and his coattails may very well provide him with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. My greatest hope is that public sentiment ends up pushing the wussy Democrats in a much more progressive direction once they realize how much power they've amassed. But the Maoist/Stalinist GOP dead-enders aren't just going to fade into the woodwork. They'll still have a voice in Congress, and on cable news shows, especially they now obviously psychotic FOX News.

When will these people understand that it's not this or that ideology that's to blame, but the very notion of rigid ideology itself which harms us most? When will these right-wing ideological purists embrace the obviously necessary philosophical relativism they've despised for so long, in order to embrace an obviously necessary hybrid capitalist/socialist economic model? 'Cause, mark my words, that's what we're going to need if we're ever going to have any economic and social stability in the long run.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Reine



Phil




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

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Obama's Loss Traced To Me

Shocking news video from the future via MoveOn.org courtesy of my buddy Reuben:



Right. Well, of course, the deal isn't that I'm a non-voter as much as it's about my throwing my vote away to Nader. Same difference. But I prefer to think that this shocking news from the future isn't something that's set in stone. That is, I believe this video comes from a possible future. We really can shape our own destinies. And I've already put some deep thought into this issue. As I proclaimed a couple of weeks ago, I will vote for Obama if it looks like it's going to be close here in Louisiana as we approach election day. Goddamned "Bradley Effect" outrages me in a very personal way; I mean, if you can't vote for Obama simply because he's black, just fucking say so. Don't throw the polls because you can't 'fess up to your fucking racism.

I've said for many years that one of the most significant effects of the Civil Rights Movement on American whites is that nobody can handle thinking of themselves as being racist, whether that's the case or not. Just check out the discussion thread here for this post I made a while back about an unsolved murder in Vidor, Texas. Most of the back and forth essentially boils down to telling me how wrong it is to call people racist. Only in America.

At any rate, I'm very much hoping that the video from the future doesn't truly come to pass.

Okay, I know it's fake.


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THE TERRORISTS SUPPORT MCCAIN

From the Washington Post courtesy of Crooks and Liars:

On Al-Qaeda Web Sites, Joy Over U.S. Crisis, Support for McCain

Al-Qaeda is watching the U.S. stock market's downward slide with something akin to jubilation, with its leaders hailing the financial crisis as a vindication of its strategy of crippling America's economy through endless, costly foreign wars against Islamist insurgents.

And at least some of its supporters think Sen. John McCain is the presidential candidate best suited to continue that trend.

"Al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election," said a commentary posted Monday on the extremist Web site al-Hesbah, which is closely linked to the terrorist group. It said the Arizona Republican would continue the "failing march of his predecessor," President Bush.

The Web commentary was one of several posted by Taliban or al-Qaeda-allied groups in recent days that trumpeted the global financial crisis and predicted further decline for the United States and other Western powers. In language that was by turns mocking and ominous, the newest posting credited al-Qaeda with having lured Washington into a trap that had "exhausted its resources and bankrupted its economy." It further suggested that a terrorist strike might swing the election to McCain and guarantee an expansion of U.S. military commitments in the Islamic world.


More here.

I must admit to enjoying some delicious irony here, the Republican hypocrisy which Crooks and Liars is all over, but really, trying to ascertain who the terrorists support or don't support in order to gain some cheap political points has always been fucking stupid. I mean, okay, I've always imagined that hardcore Islamic terrorists, the guys who want to force Muslim theocracy down the Middle East's throat, totally support the Republicans because endless American aggression in the region does nothing but bring in terrorist recruits. But that's an argument easily made without speculating about who the terrorists might actually support. And that's what it is, speculation. We can't really trust these kinds of statements one way or the other. Al Qaeda terrorists are evil asshole thugs, criminals who lie in order to confuse as easily as they kill in order to fan fear.

The Republicans have always been complete morons for using the "who the terrorists support" line of attack. And it doesn't really seem to be all that effective, anymore, either. Really, the best way to approach US policy on Islamic terrorism is to study the issues at length and make decisions based on how you understand the facts. That doesn't mean watching cable news; it means reading a bunch of shit that you may find boring, but informative.

On second thought, maybe "who the terrorists support" is an effective line of political attack. Most Americans have no interest in reading boring shit. But at the moment, in the short term, such attacks can apparently only harm McCain.

Because the terrorists support his candidacy for president!

Heh.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why You Should Work Less

From AlterNet:

John de Graaf, a longtime television producer and creator of the award-winning documentary "Affluenza," was in my discussion group. He noted the irony of how we live in the most affluent society in the history of the world, yet are increasingly time-poor. John had put his finger on the number one reason why people often can't do anything other than try and make their own lives better -- there's no time for anything else.

Then someone brought up FLSA and said, since FDR signed the bill into law, the time most people spent laboring had only increased -- to the point where, for millions of gainfully employed Americans, working 40-hours a week doesn't pay the bills. An increased workload also diminished most people's ability to even spend quality time with their families, to say nothing about getting involved in social activism.


More here.

This may very well be my number one issue. I mean, health insurance is up there, and so is peace, and the environment, as well as economic justice. But working all the time...man that's just the suck life. Let's get really basic: why do we work? Most of my life I've been steeped in the bogus "career" point of view, that you are your work, that it's your identity. I've also been socialized to some extent into this work-as-civic-duty point of view, which has some truth to it because if we didn't work, civilization would fall apart. But really, the vast majority of us work in order to pay the bills, to survive, whether we like it or not. Rare, indeed, is the person who truly loves his work, who sees it as a life's calling. Most of us, myself included, are just work-a-day schmucks.

Really though, when you dig a bit deeper, the why-we-work question isn't about paying the bills: it's about being subject to the vast concentrations of wealth that decided long ago that most of us are just drones, void of humanity, good for nothing but making the rich get richer. Here's a novel idea. We should work for ourselves. We should work in order to give us meaningful lives outside of work. The essay linked above goes into great detail about how taking time off has fantastic health benefits, which it does indeed, but what I'm talking about is quality of life, or rather, having a life at all. And I don't mean playing video games and watching TV. We need more time with our families, much more time. We need more time to participate in and build community, which includes a more dynamic role in politics. We need more time to tell and hear stories. In short, we need more time to be human beings.

The character John Keating put it best in Dead Poets Society:

We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?
Or better yet, just listen to this song:



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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Socialists: Obama no socialist

From the Chicago Tribune courtesy of the Huffington Post News Wire:

John Bachtell, the Illinois organizer for Communist Party USA, sees attempts by Sen. John McCain's campaign to label Obama a socialist as both offensive to socialists and a desperate ploy to tap into fears of voters who haven't forgotten their Cold War rhetoric.

And

So, how do you know if you're a socailist?

Generally, it involves espousing government control over a country's basic industries, like transportation, communication and energy, while also allowing some government regulation of private industries.

"Obama is about as far from being a socialist as Joe The Plumber is from being a rocket scientist," said Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution. "I think it's hard for McCain to call Obama a socialist when George Bush is nationalizing banks."

And this from Bruce Carruthers, a sociology professor at Northwestern University: "Obama is like a center-liberal Democrat, and he is certainly not looking to overthrow capitalism. My goodness, he wouldn't have the support of someone like The Wizard of Omaha, Warren Buffet, if he truly was going to overthrow capitalism.


More here.

Okay, this is pretty damned funny.

I posted back in April about how the right wing was already in full red baiting mode over Obama even before it was entirely clear that he would have the primary votes to beat Hillary. Obviously, Democrats in good standing, who conservatives have pounded with the commie accusation for decades, are offended by this baseless bullshit. And now actual commies are offended, too. Ain't this country great?

Really, true communists and socialists ought to be offended. Obama is utterly entrenched in mainstream American power politics: he could have never risen to the position he now holds if he, at any point in his life, even as a teenager, ever entertained any far-left ideological positions. Far-leftist types, such as myself, are effectively banned from bigtime national politics. And such a ban should be worn as a badge of honor: it means you understand how US democracy is a ruse which allows the rich to control and exploit everybody else. Calling Obama, who seeks to repair and stabilize the American plutocracy, rather than change it into a more equitable and just system of governance, a socialist is a slap in the face to all American commie bastards.

What's fascinating about all this is that it appears most Americans simply don't give a shit about communism anymore. With the Soviet Union nothing but a memory, and with China now controlled by a business-friendly totalitarian regime which is communist in name only, it's really starting to look like red baiting is no longer effective. And that's a good thing: it means that in the long run American discourse can now go in directions it never could during the days of the Evil Red Menace.

Just for the record: I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party. But I will name names. Just email me and ask. Here's a little taste. Vladimir Lenin was a Communist. I've got lots more names. Indeed, I have a list.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
TEXAS POUNDS MISSOURI TIGERS,
LSU TIGERS EDGE SOUTH CAROLINA


From the AP via ESPN:

McCoy, No. 1 Texas ride 35-0 lead past No. 11 Mizzou

Using a stunning first half, Texas raced to a 35-point lead before cruising to a 56-31 victory Saturday night that left little doubt these Longhorns plan to be No. 1 for a while.

Colt McCoy passed for a 337 yards and two touchdowns, ran for two more and set a school record with 17 straight completions in the kind of nearly flawless performance that he's starting to make look routine.


And

For Texas, the Longhorns are just halfway through a brutal stretch of games against ranked opponents. In the next two weeks, they play No. 8 Oklahoma State and No. 7 Texas Tech, both of whom are undefeated.

"When you believe you're No. 1," linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy said, "that's when bad things happen."


More here.

And again from the AP via ESPN:

No. 13 LSU ekes past South Carolina with second-half rally

The No. 13 Tigers held South Carolina to minus-7 yards in the fourth quarter and sacked first-time Gamecocks starter Stephen Garcia six times in a 24-17 victory Saturday night.

With LSU (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) down by seven at halftime after allowing two touchdowns in the last 3 minutes of the second quarter, end Kirston Pittman said the defense resolved to stiffen and not collapse like it did in allowing Florida to score 31 second half points in a 51-21 loss last week.

"We just put it in our minds that they couldn't score any more," Pittman said.

And the defense did just that, holding South Carolina (5-3, 2-3) to just 42 yards in the second half, forcing Garcia into a fumble and forcing an interception with 3:57 left that sealed the game.


And

South Carolina had only one first down in the fourth quarter, and it pushed the ball into LSU territory. But Taylor broke through on third down, sacking Garcia for an 11-yard loss and prompting Spurrier to drop his headset on the ground and kick it.

More here.

Okay, Saturday night was great fun. I mean, I'm sure that football fans who aren't Texas or Missouri supporters turned it off after the first half because, you know, it was a blowout and all, but this is exactly how I like my Longhorn football: embarrassingly big. The five first half touchdowns Texas scored, while Mizzou scored nothing, were a great joy to me. Just beat the shit out of them. I fucking love it.

Of course, as everybody keeps saying, the season is far from over. Both Tech and Oklahoma State are quite capable of upending Texas on any given Saturday. I'm always especially nervous about Tech. Obviously, the 'Horns need to keep up their businesslike approach to bigtime football.

I had a fabulous acting teacher in grad school who, after we had all turned in a particularly fantastic run through of a show during rehearsal, made a wise statement. "Remember guys, if you had some great pizza last week and want to eat it again, you don't get it by remembering how great the pizza was: you get it by doing again what got you to that pizza in the first place--you follow the directions to the restaurant, bring your money, order the right thing, etc." That is, if you want to repeat greatness, you don't bask in that greatness. You do what made you great in the first place.

The Longhorns obviously understand that. They didn't beat the Tigers by remembering that they had beaten Oklahoma last week. They repeated what it was that allowed them to win. Now all they have to do is keep on doing that.

LSU, on the other hand, would do well to follow UT's example. I didn't get to see this one because it was on at the same time as the Texas game - I did tape it, however, and plan to watch later tonight or tomorrow - but given the way they didn't get their shit together until the fourth quarter, it's clear that Les Miles era inconsistency is still a problem. I mean, don't get me wrong. An SEC win is an SEC win, and that's something, especially when it inspires football asshole Steve Spurrier to descend into his classic loser headset kick. But the Tigers have a shot at returning to the top 5 if they can win the conference, which I belive they are capable of doing.

They just need to be more businesslike.

Really, I need to watch the game. Maybe they're playing better than I assume. Man that Florida loss still hurts.


Texas back Chris Ogbonnaya (3) runs past Missouri defenders Hardy Ricks (4)
and Tommy Chavis (48) during the third quarter of their NCAA football game
in Austin, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008. Texas won 56-31.
(AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)



LSU running back Charles Scott (32) scores the first of
his two touchdowns as Herman Johnson (79) celebrates
(photo courtesy of the Baton Rouge Advocate).


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Saturday, October 18, 2008

REPUBLICANS ATTACK "VOTER FRAUD"

From the New York Times editorial board:

The Acorn Story

Acorn is a nonprofit group that advocates for low- and moderate-income people and has mounted a major voter-registration drive this year. Acorn says that it has paid more than 8,000 canvassers who have registered about 1.3 million new voters, many of them poor people and members of racial minorities.

In recent weeks, the McCain campaign has accused the group of perpetrating voter fraud by intentionally submitting invalid registration forms, including some with fictional names like Mickey Mouse and others for voters who are already registered.

Based on the information that has come to light so far, the charges appear to be wildly overblown — and intended to hobble Acorn’s efforts.

The group concedes that some of its hired canvassers have turned in tainted forms, although they say the ones with phony names constitute no more than 1 percent of the total turned in. The group also says it reviews all of the registration forms that come in. Before delivering the forms to elections offices, its supervisors flag any that appear to have problems.

According to Acorn, most of the forms that are now causing controversy are ones that it flagged and that unsympathetic election officials then publicized.


More here.

This is yet another bogus right-wing "argument" that's driving me nuts. Sure sure, Acorn was taken in by some of their registration canvassers - who work for shit wages, no doubt, and you always get what you pay for in such situations - but the organization itself reported the bogus registrations to state authorities when turning them in. In short, the only people defrauded here were members of the liberal group now being attacked viciously by Republicans.

Further, as observed by Atrios over at Eschaton, there is a big whopping difference between voter registration fraud, and voting fraud. That is, voting fraud, like stuffing ballot boxes with fake votes, is essentially election tampering, along the lines of what Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris, and the rest of the state GOP apparatus did in Florida back in 2000--it's bad shit that truly threatens democracy. Registration fraud, especially of the variety that's screwed Acorn, on the other hand, while lame and illegal, does not threaten democracy. At worst, it causes some bureaucrats to do more paperwork than they might ordinarily have to do. I mean, these bogus registrations were about lazy canvassers, who are paid by the number of registrations they submit, getting some extra ill-gotten bucks: nobody actually uses these Micky Mouse and Tony Romo registrations to vote.

But the right wing needs something to scream and wail hysterically about. It also helps them out a bit. First, when Democrats make genuine and serious allegations of GOP disenfranchisement efforts, or election day dirty tricks, Republicans can always scream "ACORN!!!" as though it meant something even though it doesn't. Second, the more conservatives push this bullshit voter fraud story, the closer they get to tightening up restrictions on voting, which makes elections much less democratic, which always works in their favor--it has long been understood that if the entire voter eligible population actually voted, Republicans would almost never be elected.

How on earth do these bullshit GOP "arguments" gain any traction at all? How can the news media, even the detestable FOX, take this shit seriously? I mean, this is a bad argument. If it were a high school debate it could be dismissed this easily: voter registration fraud is not voting fraud, no harm. Yeah, nine words to take out what Republicans have been going on and on about for fucking weeks!

Are we really that stupid?

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Friday, October 17, 2008

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Sammy



Frankie




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

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hulu

From Wikipedia:

Hulu is a website that offers free, ad-supported streaming video of TV shows and movies from NBC, FOX, and many other networks and studios. Hulu videos are currently offered only to users in the United States.

Hulu provides video in Flash Video format in a higher resolution and bit-rate than YouTube, but lower than standard-definition television, though many films and shows are available in 480p. Hulu also provides web syndication services for other websites including AOL, MSN, MySpace, Yahoo!, and Comcast's Fancast.com. Hulu provides one of the largest free video selections from a collection of over 50 broadcasting networks. It allows the users to watch shows with limited commercial interruption.


More here.

Okay, so I accidentally discovered this time-consuming website only a couple of days ago: it continues to be very clear that Big Media is becoming serious about digital media in cyberspace, and I mean that in a congratulatory and positive way. But, no man, this is fucking cool. WKRP in Cincinnati episodes, the film Starship Troopers, old Mary Tyler Moore episodes, stuff I've never seen but wanted to, like episodes of Always Sunny in Philadelphia, man, they've even got Alien versus Predator. Yeah, sure, there are commercials, but so what? It's free, and you get to choose the programming.

Who needs TV anymore?

Here, have a dose of Austin with Slacker:



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Pundits are wrong to fault lending to the
poor for the subprime mortgage meltdown


From the Houston Chronicle editorial board:

Forcing banks to extend mortgage credit in poor neighborhoods has not fixed every problem of the inner city. But returning to the days when banks blatantly discriminated against minorities will not inoculate us against economic crisis either. Incredibly, that is what some observers of the current downturn imply is a solution when they rail against the CRA and blame low-income borrowers for the failure of the subprime marketplace.

It is true that many people — including those of moderate means and the well-to-do — signed on to mortgage and refinancing terms that they should have known were beyond their ability to repay. They must share some culpability for the subprime disaster.

But as many more thoughtful commentators already have pointed out, most subprime mortgages were financed by lenders that are not depository banks and therefore not regulated by the act. What's more, there is no federal edict or statute that mandates that unregulated lenders create loan products requiring no documentation of income or assets and for amounts well above the realistic value of the purchase property. And no law pushed lenders to aggressively market their wares to clearly unqualified borrowers.

Nor did the CRA call on investment banking firms to package and repackage those risky loans into complicated investment vehicles and sell them to investors as highly rated securities.

Meanwhile, it's important to note that not all subprime borrowers were low-income minorities. The majority were white, and many were well-off.


More here.

Only a couple of weeks ago did I hear about this latest piece-of-shit "argument," which clearly comes out of some dumbfuck conservative think tank, on a cable news shoutfest show--an idiot right-wing pundit was asserting that a federal program I had never heard of was responsible for the credit meltdown we're now trying to deal with. I'm used to hearing stupid conservative arguments, but this was weird and new: for months the overall narrative had been about greedy lenders and foolish borrowers, but never about the Community Reinvestment Act, which according to the above linked essay "require[s] banks taking minority residents' deposits to also make good-faith efforts to extend loans to them."

Clearly, this one was hatched as a desperate rhetorical maneuver aimed at taking some of the heat off of much embattled right-wing free market ideology. I thought it was so stupid nothing would come of it. After all, conservatives come up with bullshit like this all the time. They offer tax vouchers as a solution for failing school systems, trying to bring market-like competition to something that is so utterly unlike consumer products such as soap or cars that one wonders if these people actually believe what they're saying. They offer tax incentives for individuals to create savings accounts as a solution for mass lack of access to health care without acknowledging that most of the uninsured don't have any savings in the first place. And now they're saying that a program that played virtually no role in the credit market meltdown is, in fact, entirely responsible.

I mean, it kind of sounds like a reasonable point of view until you look at the facts, listed in the excerpt above, but these conservative blowhards usually don't concern themselves with facts.

Anyway, like I said, I thought it was no big deal, that nobody would take the bait. Until a buddy of mine at work, one of the more well read and thoughtful fellows there, spouted out the same argument during a quick discussion some of us were having last week about the crisis. He changed his mind when I pointed out that these subprime loans were aggressively marketed, but if this conservative attempt at misdirection sucked him in, it's a fair assumption that lots of other intelligent people are buying the bullshit, too.

Really, as far as I can tell, the main culprits here are the people who bundled these bad loans into securities packages for resale on the market. If that hadn't happened, my guess is that the crisis would have hit only the assholes who issued the loans in the first place. Well, okay, I blame the morons who bought these "securities," too, but none of these people live in the ghetto--they all wear suits and have nice houses, just like the Republican assholes on TV who are trying to shift the blame for their reckless misguided harsh free market fundamentalism.

Will we ever see a day when most Americans are trained enough in argumentation, and informed enough about the facts, to shoot this shit down the moment they hear it? Probably not. At least, not as long as public education is about quashing critical thinking rather than nurturing it.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

GRIEVING NOTES: Epilogue

So, my mom died a year ago today.

I still haven't figured out what it means exactly to not have her anymore. I know that when I think about it I'm sad, but that doesn't tell me too much. My guess is that I'll never figure it out. I mean, of course, we all go on and everything, but all I know about what it means is that it sucks, and that's not really saying anything.

I don't dream about her anymore: I didn't put this in my "Grieving Notes" series, which I'm linking below, because it didn't start happening until after I had written it, but for a few weeks I had a some dreams that she was in. The situations were always different, but I would be talking to her, hanging out with her, when I would suddenly remember that she had died, and I would have to say to her finally, "But Mom, you're dead. How can you be here with me now?" Then she would fall silent, I would turn my head away, and she was gone.

That I kept having these dreams about Mom is significant. I usually don't dream, or at least, I don't usually remember my dreams. I imagine this was my subconscious trying to come to grips with my loss, trying to convince me that she really was gone. On the one hand, this was painful; on the other hand, it was nice to have such vivid dreams of spending time with her--my first thought when my father told me she was gone was that I didn't get to say goodbye to her; these dreams helped resolve that feeling for sure.

I've also discovered, philosophically at least, that, as an atheist-leaning agnostic, I'm okay with the fact that she may actually be gone for good, that when we die, we actually die, that there is no afterlife. She had a great time here among us, and I had a great time with her: that's enough for any of us. I mean, an afterlife, an eternity in paradise, is probably a cool thing if that's what happens, but she made the absolute best of her allotted time here. Why should we want more?

Anyway, I figured that this would be a good time to bundle together the series of posts I made about my experiences during the week after her death, so I can put it up over in the Real Art Greatest Hits column. So here you go:

GRIEVING NOTES: Prelude

GRIEVING NOTES: Intro

GRIEVING NOTES: Day One

GRIEVING NOTES: Day Two part one

GRIEVING NOTES: Interlude

GRIEVING NOTES: Day Two part two

GRIEVING NOTES: Day Three

GRIEVING NOTES: Day Four

GRIEVING NOTES: Day Five



I'll always love you, Mom!

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Krugman Wins Economics Nobel

From the New York Times:

He has developed models that explain observed patterns of trade between countries, as well as what goods are produced where and why. Traditional trade theory assumes that countries are different and will exchange only the different kinds of goods that they are comparatively better at producing; this model, however, was not reflected in flow of goods and services Mr. Krugman saw in the world around him. He set out to explain why worldwide trade was dominated by a few countries that were similar to each other, and why a country might import the same kinds of goods that it exported.

In his model, companies sell similar goods, with slight variations. The companies get more efficient at producing their goods as they sell more. Consumers like variety, so they pick and choose goods from among these producers in different countries. He developed this work further to explain what effect transport costs, which obstruct trade, should have on migration patterns. He helped explain under what conditions trade would lead to concentration or decentralization of populations.

Mr. Krugman’s models have been praised for their simplicity and practicality — features economists are often criticized for ignoring.

“Krugman’s trade models became the standard in the economics profession both because they fit the world a bit better and because they were masterpieces of mathematical modeling,” said Edward L. Glaeser, a professor at Harvard University who also studies economic geography. “His models’ combination of realism, elegance and tractability meant that they could provide the underpinnings for thousands of subsequent papers on trade, economic growth, political economy and especially economic geography.”


Click here for the rest.

Okay, raise your hand if you followed the above excerpt...

...I'm raising mine, but I fully admit that it's simply a tiny overview of the work that snagged Paul Krugman his Nobel Prize. That is, I'm sure that if I actually started reading his scholarly work in depth, I would have to stop a few pages in, befuddled as anybody--I'm much more comfortable with his twice weekly column in the New York Times. But that's one of the things that makes Krugman so extraordinarily important: he's as great as anybody who's ever worked in the field, as today's award fully illustrates, but has the ability to make extremely dense material understandable to laymen such as myself. I bet a good undergraduate macroeconomics course with him teaching would be kickass.

Of course, as observed by the above excerpted article, Krugman won for his work in trade theory, rather than for his journalistic work. But, like I said, that only makes his columns more compelling because they come from one badass economist. On the other hand, Milton Friedman, Grand Wazoo of the free market theory that's got the credit markets all fucked up right now, got a Nobel in economics, too, so it seems like they give these things out to pretty much anybody.

Whatever. Krugman's great, and I'm glad I post his stuff all the time.

Interesting trivia I learned today during an interview he did on PBS's The News Hour: Krugman was inspired to become an economist by reading Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, which I read when I was in college; it seems that Asimov's fictional academic field Psychohistory, which, as expressed by Wikipedia, "combines history, sociology, and mathematical statistics to make (nearly) exact predictions of the collective actions of very large groups of people," fascinated him, as it did me. I didn't become an economist, myself, but the books did make me much more interested in economics, which is the closest thing we've got to Psychohistory in the real world.

As an economist, we already know Krugman's a geek, a cool geek, but a geek nonetheless. Now we know he's a science fiction fan, which makes him a double geek. Yeah yeah, I know, I'm a geek, too.

Congrats, Krugman!

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FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
FUCK YEAH!!!
Texas builds on second-half momentum to drop Oklahoma


From the AP via ESPN:

The Texas Longhorns came into their annual showdown against the Oklahoma Sooners with a quarterback they could trust and a defense playing great under an aggressive new coordinator. Yet even after five solid wins, coach Mack Brown still wondered how good they were.

Now, everyone knows.

Trailing the No. 1 Sooners nearly all game, Colt McCoy and the No. 5 Longhorns grabbed control in the fourth quarter and refused to let go, pulling away for a 45-35 victory Saturday in one of the greatest games in the storied series between these Red River rivals.


More here.

Like the sports writers are saying, this game is now a classic, one of the best I've ever seen, right up there with Texas' stunning defeat of USC to win the national championship in the 2005 Rose Bowl. It was the kind of game that I can really enjoy only when I don't give a shit who wins. I was nervous and on edge until we were finally up by ten late in the fourth quarter--again, this kind of tension reminds me of that Rose Bowl win.

But don't get me wrong. I did enjoy this. I'm still enjoying it. I mean, we won. And Texas is now the number one college football team in the nation. I may only be able to dig such a hard fought game when I don't care who wins, but I don't jump up and down in front of the TV yelling repeatedly "GO TEXAS!!! YEAH!!! FUCK YEAH!!!" either.

It's also nice to note that we won it in the only way I thought we could: efficient, businesslike, serious play. Indeed, this is the only way we were capable of winning. Oklahoma is that good, maybe even better than Texas in terms of sheer talent. Many of Doctor McCoy's passes went through microscopic windows in OU coverage that were open only milliseconds--that takes intense focus and concentration from pretty much everybody on the offense to pull off. And the defense was brilliant, too. They were incapable of stopping the Sooners' fierce passing attack, but they slowed it down just enough, to give the offense a fighting chance: you've just got to love the pressure the Longhorns' front four were able to put on Bradford. I mean, fuck man, we were collapsing the pocket every other fucking play with only four linemen! Hardly any blitzing at all! It was also beautiful to see the offensive line outlast the Sooner defensive line in the second half, when Texas finally got the running game going--it took a while, but our five guys were ultimately able to manhandle the guys in red on the other side of the scrimmage line. Beautiful.

We've really got some fucking great linemen. I usually don't go on about linemen - nobody does, really - but our guys are just incredible. Some of those surges were amazing.

Anyway, we're number one now. And we can keep it by doing what we've been doing all season. No bullshit play. All business. All focus. You know, I recorded the game on the trusty old school VCR. I think I'm going to watch it again, this time with the outcome already known, so I can actually experience this now legendary game in the more academic and abstract way that most of the country saw it. Is that weird? Watching a game for a second time? Fuck it; I don't care.

Hook 'em 'Horns!


Texas wide receiver Quan Cosby (6) pulls in a 36-yard pass in the third quarter
in front of Oklahoma defensive back Brian Jackson (2) during an NCAA college
football game, Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam)


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FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
FUCK NO...
No. 11 Gators' offense revs up in rout of No. 4 LSU


From the AP via ESPN:

Tebow vowed to play harder following his last home game, a humbling home loss to Mississippi two weeks ago. The Heisman Trophy winner backed up that promise with his best game of the season Saturday night.

Tebow threw two touchdown passes to Percy Harvin and ran for a score, and No. 11 Florida thumped defending national champion LSU 51-21 at Florida Field.

"I think we had a little chip on our shoulder going into the game," Tebow said.

The fourth-ranked Tigers (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) had won six consecutive games, 19 in a row at night and 23 straight in regulation. Florida (5-1, 3-1) ended all those streaks with a fast start and some huge plays from Tebow, Harvin, Jeff Demps and Brandon Spikes.


Click here for the rest.

Okay, Saturday ended in bittersweet fashion for me. I mean, yeah sure, just another day in the SEC and all, losses are always tough when it's your team, but LSU just got the living shit kicked out them. It was enough of a bummer to tarnish my shiny burnt orange glow a bit; I had been hoping to accent that glow with some purple and gold highlights, but got purple and gold vomit all over me instead.

I watched until the very end, but I sure was tempted to turn the damned thing off numerous times, which I probably should have. Earlier in the day it was Longhorn glory; that night was just painful. I have no idea what went wrong. Florida just shut down the Tigers' running game, and our two quarterbacks looked young and inexperienced, which I guess they are.

And Tebow looked great. All the Gators looked great. Touchdown after touchdown after touchdown. The only analysis I can offer is this is the same inconsistency that has plagued LSU since I started paying attention in the 2004 season: the SEC is tough, but talented, well focused teams who are serious about winning can run the board. This goes back to Coach Miles. The Tigers shouldn't have lost to Florida by thirty points. He doesn't have their minds in the right place.

I guess. What the fuck do I know about football?

Hook 'em 'Horns!


LSU offensive tackle Ciron Black looks up at the scoreboard
during the final moments of an NCAA college football game
against Florida in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008.
Florida won 51-21. (AP Photo/John Raoux)


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Saturday, October 11, 2008

RIGHT-WING CRAZIES: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN OBAMA IS ELECTED?

Courtesy of Eschaton, from Paul Krugman's blog Conscience of a Liberal:

One thing that has been sort of written out of the mainstream history of politics is the sheer insanity of the attacks on the Clintons — they were drug smugglers, they murdered Vince Foster (and lots of other people), they were in league with foreign powers. And this stuff didn’t just show up in fringe publications — it was discussed in Congress, given props by the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, and so on.

What it came down to was that a significant fraction of the American population, backed by a lot of money and political influence, simply does not consider government by liberals (even very moderate liberals) legitimate. Ronald Reagan was supposed to have settled that once and for all.

What happens when Obama is elected?


More here.

Krugman is riffing on the recent hate speech shouted by supporters attending McCain and Palin rallies, stuff like "traitor" and "kill him," and I agree there's a lot more going on than simply some angry assholes at political events. The Conservative Movement is, as far as I can tell, primarily composed of people who continue to be extraordinarily pissed off by the 1960s even though the 60s ended decades ago. Shit, man, there are people in the Movement who are too young to even remember the 60s--mostly it just seems to be tribal hate aimed at a straw man liberal constructed by right-wing myth makers. This tribal hate has been successfully channeled in various directions which are useful to conservative power weilders.

One of those hate-directions is the non-conservative notion that government ought to play a strong role in the economy: clearly, this non-conservative notion must now be regarded as absolutely true, given current events. Unfortunately, the tribe has been strongly indoctrinated, and god knows what the faithful must now think. I'm betting that many of them must be going through some strong cognitive dissonance at the moment. But add to it the sense of dysphoria and disappointment after nearly eight years of Republican rule: no WMD in Iraq, no capture of bin Laden, no reversal of Roe v Wade, no prayer in school, no crackdown on immigrants, and need I even go on? You get the idea. This country must be a very frightening place to the true believers.

And now a black guy stands ready to take the Oval Office!

It must feel like the Apocalypse to most of these fuckers. (Aside: why haven't they been Raptured up to God yet?) Krugman says he wouldn't be surprised by some anti-Obama violence. Neither would I. Some of these right-wingers are being driven spanking bonkers insane right now. Get-a-gun-and-start-shooting insane. I mean, they love their guns anyway, so this is bound to happen. It's already happened with that nutjob at that Unitarian church in Tennessee. But who's going to be the first to take a shot at President Obama? Who's going to be the first to take out Rachel Madow?

Remember the militia movement of the 90s? That was just a bunch of stupid rednecks worried about globalization and their new draft-dodging, dope smoking, wife trading, fucking hippie President Clinton, not even really a liberal by historical standards. I mean, Obama's not really much further to the left than the man Michael Moore has called America's "best Republican president," but to conservative diehards I'm sure he's the devil.

What's going to happen while conservatism continues to be torn to shreds by reality? What's going to happen when a black Democrat takes the White House? Hopefully nothing. But I think there's potential enough to be worried.

As if there wasn't enough to worry about already.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Reine



Phil




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

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Racism: the elephant in the US polling booth

From Agence France-Presse via Yahoo News:

"Race is a factor for those who would vote for and against him," said Gary Weaver, an American University professor who leads its Intercultural Management Institute.

"I think that there are some white Americans who will not vote for a black person. It is unlikely they would admit this publicly, but they might admit this in anonymous surveys," Weaver said.

"On the phone, racists will often deny that they are influenced by race because it is socially unacceptable. When they enter the poll booths, these people may very well vote against Obama."

According to a recent Stanford University poll, Obama could lose six points on election day due to his color -- a troubling price to pay for prejudice.


Click here for more.

Right. So if you've been reading Real Art regularly you know that I plan to vote for Ralph Nader next month. Long story short: the Democrats are simply incapable of nominating an actual liberal for president, and I'm sick and tired of having to hold my nose and vote for a candidate who in no way represents my vision for a better America; I voted for Kerry in 2004 because all my liberal friends and all those "progressive" writers insisted on it, "anybody but Bush," and I was sickened by doing it, so no more of this shit. I know Nader won't win, but he's the guy I want, so he gets my vote--I'm not a Democrat, and I owe them nothing.

But of the two candidates who actually have a shot, I'd greatly prefer to see Obama win.

So I'm quietly rooting for him, even though what he would do is stabilize the bullshit system rather than doing away with it--I have to admit that is indeed a bit better than the far right-wing chaos we're experiencing now. I think it's also very symbolically cool that Obama's a black man--sixty years ago, black men couldn't even vote in the city where I'm now writing these words; today we stand a very good chance of being led by a black man. That's why I'm troubled by this business about polling data being skewed by in-the-booth racists. If you assume a five percent margin of error, and then throw in this potential six percent who've possibly lied about voting for Obama, the Senator from Illinois is going to need to lead by at least a ten percent polling margin going into election day.

So I'm modifying my voting plans.

If Obama is beating McCain in the polls here in Louisiana by five to ten percent during the week before the election, I'll vote for him instead of Nader in order to cancel out one of those lying, in-the-booth racist people's votes. Either way, my guy won't win, but it would drive me nuts if post election analysis indicates that Obama lost by a slim margin attributed to voters who decided at the last minute that a black president is a bad idea.

You hear that Democrats? I've found our common ground. Really, though, this state's pretty safe for McCain, and I fully expect to be voting for Ralph. But just in case...

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

THE STAR TREK CALENDAR PICTURE OF THE MONTH IS...



...Mr. Sulu!!!

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Pope Slams Modern Societies For Godlessness

From the AP via the Huffington Post Newswire:

Pope Benedict XVI warned Sunday that modern culture is pushing God out of people's lives, causing nations once rich in religious faith to lose their identities.

Benedict celebrated a Mass in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls to open a worldwide meeting of bishops on the relevance of the Bible for contemporary Catholics.

"Today, nations once rich in faith and vocations are losing their own identity, under the harmful and destructive influence of a certain modern culture," said Benedict, who has been pushing for religion to be given more room in society.


More here.

What does it mean, exactly, "for religion to be given more room in society"?

You hear this bullshit all the time here in the US, that religion is under fire, that there needs to be more display of religion in public, that more God equals a better society. But how does that work exactly? From my perspective as an agnostic leaning atheist, we've got plenty of room for religion in society. People are always talking about God's will. The schools teach Christian inspired abstinence-based sex education while tolerating "student sponsored" religious events and prayer meetings. Politicians crawl over each other to out-God the opposition, always saying "God bless America."

Maybe the Pope was talking about secular Europe, but I'm pretty sure he was including America. But put all that aside for a moment to modify my original question: why must religion be given more room in society?

There is no public discussion on this question. It seems that the prevailing attitude is that religion is generally a good thing, so more of it seems to be a reasonable goal. But what would it do, having religion play a stronger role in society? How is it going to make life any better? Nobody really ever asks that, which is why nobody appears to have an answer. What's particularly troubling to me is that not many Americans seem to be troubled by this. I mean, if you supported the proposition that more religion in society is good, wouldn't you want your view to be grounded in a strong and reasonable argument? But no such argument, short of vague assertions that God is great, or Jesus loves us, exists.

It's one thing to lose an argument, but I'm really disturbed by the fact that there is no argument about this. C'mon. Shouldn't the god-believers at least have to make a legitimate case?

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