Saturday, January 31, 2009

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich thrown out of office

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Gov. Rod Blagojevich was thrown out of office Thursday without a single lawmaker coming to his defense, brought down by a government-for-sale scandal that stretched from Chicago to Capitol Hill and turned the foul-mouthed politician into a national punchline.

Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, becomes the first U.S. governor in more than 20 years to be removed by impeachment.

After a four-day trial, the Illinois Senate voted 59-0 to convict him of abuse of power, automatically ousting the second-term Democrat. In a second, identical vote, lawmakers further barred Blagojevich from ever holding public office in the state again.

"He failed the test of character. He is beneath the dignity of the state of Illinois. He is no longer worthy to be our governor," said Sen. Matt Murphy, a Republican from suburban Chicago.

Blagojevich's troubles are not over. Federal prosecutors are drawing up an indictment against him on corruption charges.

Click here for more.

Yeah, fuck this guy. Good riddance. Throw him in jail, too. Hangin's too good for him. Seriously. Blagojevich is scum. He's made a mockery of everything we as Americans hold dear.

Of course, the story doesn't end with nailing the now former Illinois governor. It didn't start with him, either. Power attracts money, which is definitely a kind of power in and of itself, making money one of democracy's fatal flaws, a flaw our people haven't done nearly enough to safeguard against. It's easy to hate Blagojevich because he was so old school with his corruption. That is, he was so up front, so quid pro quo, so brazen about using political power to enrich himself that his bad guy status is utterly obvious. What's not so obvious is that most of our elected leaders are on the take. Sure, most of them don't hide sacks of money in the freezer, but they hand out favors all the time in return for massive campaign contributions, or lucrative jobs once they've left politics. Many of them, like former House Whip Tom DeLay, ride so close to the legal limit that they cross the line, but all of them are influenced by money in one way or another.

That is, the power of money has made our democracy a total sham. Like I said, this doesn't end with Blagojevich. It's not even the beginning of the end. Our political system is totally corrupt.

This is no time to celebrate.


Friday, January 30, 2009


Becky had Phil put to sleep Wednesday afternoon. He was eighteen, and his body simply gave out from old age. I met him when he was six, and lived with him for five years when Beck and I were married. I knew him for twelve years in total. He was quite simply one of the best cats I've ever known.

When my first and most beloved cat Giskard died, Phil went out of his way to comfort me, crawling in my lap and purring, running to me when I was crying. He was a good boy. He was a good companion to his fellow cat and lifelong friend Paz. He was mellow, usually in a good mood, and always a good sport with the wild kittens he had to endure in his winter years. He would have made a good dad. Indeed, I feel like he was something of a mentor to my cat Frankie when he was little.

I'll always love him.

Farewell, Phil. The world is a lesser place for your absence.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Harris County youth boot camp may replace rigorous drills with therapy

From the Houston Chronicle:

Harris County may scrap rigorous physical training and rigid military-style drills at its Delta Boot Camp in favor of a program that uses therapy to attack the emotional and behavioral problems that led the young people into crime, officials said Wednesday.

The county opened a juvenile boot camp in 1994 to offer chronic young offenders one last chance to shape up before they would be shipped off to do hard time at a Texas Youth Commission facility. Officials hoped the facility’s strong emphasis on military structure, drill and discipline would help the 14- to 16-year-old residents change from trouble-making boys into responsible men.


Juvenile boot camps sprang up across the country in the early 1990s amid a national push to get tough on crime.

However, studies soon showed the facilities did not improve recidivsm rates for youths and in some cases were detrimental to young people who had experienced violence and abuse at home, said Gaylene Armstrong, an associate professor of criminal justice at Sam Houston State University who has studied juvenile boot camps extensively.

Treating juvenile offenders’ problems with substance abuse, mental illness and anger management, or even just offering them a basic education, was found to be more beneficial than having them run laps and do push-ups, Armstrong said.

“Even though from a public perspective, maybe some people would say, ‘These people did something bad, let’s really punish them,’ in the long term that’s not going to do much for us as a society because they’re going to end up back in the community and their problems aren’t going to be addressed,” she said.

More here.

Fucking Jesus, it's about time! What is it about American psychology that we have to collectively fuck up as badly as possible before we start using our common sense?

Boot camps were incredibly stupid from the get-go. To the best of my knowledge, there was never any hard data at all suggesting that screaming at teens, forcing them to do push ups, humiliating them, dressing them in military uniforms, and on and on, would do anything but mind fuck kids. But the whole short-sighted "tough love" movement of the 90s literally demanded boot camps for troubled youth. Suddenly, people were getting rich on this shit. Self-proclaimed "experts" peddled cruel and unusual punishment on Oprah and Maury. Companies sprang up offering a bogus and counterproductive solution to frustrated parents.

For some reason, nobody with a public voice was willing to see the boot camps for what they are: child abuse.

It now appears that local and state governments are catching up with the sociological studies. Like I said, 'bout time. But what really irks me is that this isn't rocket science. It's completely obvious that troubled kids need massive social intervention, not further abuse. You don't need an advanced degree in social work to see that.

Maybe this is the new zeitgeist, people using their brains. I sure hope so.



The YouTube description for the clip I'm about to link:

From the 1977 "The Richard Pryor Show". The forerunner of "In Living Color" and "Chapelle's Show", this classic program only aired four original episodes, due to Mr. Pryor's frustration dealing with network censors. Look for Robin Williams, John Witherspoon, Marsha Warfield, Tim Reid, and Sandra Bernhard in this classic sketch .

So my dad, of all people, sent me the link to this clip. It was one of those mass emails, titled "The First Black President," sent out to like twenty people or so. I'm not sure what his point is, given that he is very conservative and definitely not an Obama supporter, but whatever. This is fucking funny.

You know, it's weird. In 1977, even though I was only in fourth grade, I already knew who Richard Pryor was, and loved him. But I only heard of the short lived show's existence a few years ago, decades after the fact. I guess that makes sense: it was on for less than a month, and opposite Happy Days, which had not yet jumped the shark at that point. I did love Fonzie and Richie. It's a shame, though. If this clip is any indication, the show was brilliant. According to Wikipedia, however, NBC had it in for Pryor from the beginning, and did everything they could to undermine its success. Typical.

Anyway, embedding is disabled, so you'll have to go check it out at YouTube. This is as good as anything you've ever seen on TV. Better, even.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Holy Cow: Top Dems Are Serious About Investigating Bush's Criminal Acts

From AlterNet:

As President Barack Obama reverses some of ex-President George W. Bush’s most controversial “war on terror” policies, a consensus seems to be building among Democratic congressional leaders that further investigations are needed into Bush’s use of torture and other potential crimes.


The emerging consensus among top congressional Democrats for some form of investigation into Bush’s controversial policies has surprised some progressives who had written off the leadership long ago for blocking impeachment hearings and other proposals for holding Bush and his subordinates accountable.

In 2006, for instance, Pelosi famously declared that “impeachment is off the table,” and prior to Election 2008, the Democratic leadership largely acquiesced to Bush’s demands for legislation that supported his “war on terror” policies, including a compromise bill granting legal immunity to telecommunications companies that assisted in Bush’s warrantless wiretaps.

More here.

Yeah, you can add me to that group of surprised "progressives who had written off the leadership long ago." I've also, as numerous posts here at Real Art have publicly displayed for many months now, been totally outraged about it. I mean, c'mon. Torture is totally illegal, totally immoral, and totally counterproductive in the foreign policy realm for more reasons than I'm willing to go into at the moment, but it has been US policy for eight years, making our nation, in effect, a guiding light for evil in the world. Seriously. There is no debate about whether we should use torture: torture is wrong, end of discussion.

On the other hand, this appears to be playing out pretty well in terms of my best case scenario. That is, I've long realized that our new President is a centrist to conservative establishment insider, but that the national situation created by Bush has deteriorated so badly that circumstances may very well force first Congress, and then Obama, much further to the left than any of them would have ever dared imagine. I figured if that was going to happen anywhere, it would be the economy, and that is indeed what's happening. I had almost given up on the torture issue, but here we are. Democrat losers in both the House and Senate are feeling braver, now that the opposition is both weak and absurd. A new leak here. A disgruntled Bush employee there. Another seemingly unrelated investigation over there. Suddenly, it's a brand new ball game.

Is this really all coming together? What's going to happen when it becomes plain as day that torture orders came down from the very top? Will our leaders have the stomach to put a former president behind bars for crimes against humanity? Oh god, I hope so.


Monday, January 26, 2009

On Plane to Texas, Critiques of the Speech

From the New York Times:

The Bush team had worked assiduously to make the transition smooth for the incoming President Obama and stayed out of the way as he used the postelection period to take leadership of the economy even before being sworn in. And now, as far as some of them were concerned, the new president had used his inaugural lectern to give the back of the hand to a predecessor who had been nothing but gracious to him.

“There were a few sharp elbows that really rankled and I felt were not as magnanimous as the occasion called for,” Karen Hughes, a longtime Bush confidante, said in an interview. “He really missed an opportunity to be as big as the occasion was and, frankly, as gracious as President Bush was as he left office.”

Dan Bartlett, another top adviser, used similar language. “It was a missed opportunity to bring some of the president’s loyal supporters into the fold,” he said. Marc A. Thiessen, the chief White House speechwriter until this week, added: “It was an ungracious inaugural. It was pretty clear he was taking shots.”

More here.

Wait a minute; lemme get this straight.

Bush's people spend almost the entire eight years they're in office rhetorically thrashing even the slightest opposition to their reign of terror, usually naming their targets, almost always equating criticism with, at best, "anti-Americanism," and at worst, treason. That is, they fucking called people traitors just for disagreeing with Bush--they even went after fucking war heroes like former Senator Max Cleland and 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry.

That is, Bush's people are the trashiest of the trashy. Filthy sleaze buckets of rotting semen, blood, feces, and dog urine.

And now they're upset because the new President simply rejects the politics of the Bush administration? Talk about thin-skinned pussies. I'm so glad they're back in Texas. Stupid-ass fuckers.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Means "Who Polices the Police?"

From Feministing courtesy of my old pal Matt:

Colorado State University Police Chief:
"women want the dick, even when they say 'no.'

Colorado State University Police Chief Dexter Yarbrough was suspended on a litany of charges, like falsifying police documents - but it was this quote that stuck with me:

Yarbrough told students in a class lecture that "women want the dick, even when they say 'no.' They want the dick."

More here.

Wow. Pretty hardcore. But totally unsurprising when you click through to the original article: this guy Yarbrough comes straight out of The Bad Lieutenant. At least, that's the case if the countless allegations against him, and his non-stop boasting about his misdeeds, turn out to be true. This cop could turn out to be the worst of the worst.

One might wonder how such a man could rise to the rank of university chief of police.

Of course, I, personally, would not be that one wondering. Police departments throughout the land have a collective organizational culture that actually encourages such behavior. Cop hypermasculinity, authoritarianism, us-versus-them attitudes, and intense solidarity in the face of corruption probes make police misbehavior all but inevitable.

As far as I can tell, there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of Dexter Yarbroughs out there. And their cop brothers who aren't so evil are willing to go to bat for them just because they're cops. This will never end until we stop looking at these Yarbroughs as "bad apples" and start changing the culture that inspires them.


The true history of the Bush years

From Making Light courtesy of Modulator:

There will be histories written about the Bush administration. They’ll be privy to information we don’t have yet, because the future is like that. On the other hand, we have our own privileged knowledge: We know how the story looked like to people who didn’t know how it was going to come out.

Now, in this moment before a changing world overwrites our memories of the era, let us pause to salute our constant companion of those years:
The Onion. Other histories of the Bush years will doubtless be more factual, but none will ever be truer.

More here.

Okay, so what this links to is a page that has compiled links to every story the Onion has done about Bush from late January of 2000 to mid January of this year. That's nine years worth of stories. To be fair, I've only read a few of them. Indeed, my favorite, published around the time of his first inauguration, has become legendary:

Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over’.

Of course, this recent one made me laugh pretty loudly for a moment or two:

Spider Eggs Hatch In Bush’s Brain.

Anyway, I'm sure the vast majority of these stories will, at the very least, make you smile for a moment or two, and at most will have you rolling on the floor. The Onion definitely understands the maxim "it's funny because it's true." Go check 'em out.


Friday, January 23, 2009


Sammy and Frankie

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



From Newsday courtesy of Crooks and Liars:

Possible FDA head: More staff needed to inspect food

The Food and Drug Administration is not staffed to handle the growing complexity of food inspection, especially now that a significant amount comes from abroad and is never inspected, a leading candidate to head the embattled agency said yesterday.

Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic - and reported to be on President Barack Obama's short list to become FDA chief - said food inspection is swamped by the FDA's other responsibilities: the approval of medications and medical devices.

The result is an overworked and understaffed agency continually hit by sweeping food scares that sicken scores of people and sometimes result in death.

"The truth be told, the FDA is a failed agency ... the main problem is that it is terribly underfunded," Nissen said. "It needs to do more inspections, especially of foods brought in internationally. We are all very vulnerable. This has to be fixed and fixed quickly."

More here.

President Obama certainly has a full plate in front of him. So to speak.

This latest tainted food scandal is yet another in-your-face reminder that our nation has been ravaged by fifteen years of Republican "government-is-the-problem" dominance: the GOP controlled Congress, which ended only two years ago, has deeply slashed funding for regulatory agencies across the board, while eight years of White House conservatism have changed these agencies' role from consumer protection to the enabling of consumer exploitation. That is, the salmonella peanut butter scare, like other recent salmonella and E. coli scares before it, is a designed crisis. I mean, what possible result can one expect from heavy deregulation of consumer protection agencies but this one?

Thank god there's a new sheriff in town. Like I keep saying, I don't see eye to eye with President Obama on numerous issues, but this isn't one of them. I'm expecting great change in this area soon. I'm fully anticipating extraordinarily loud squeals of indignation from America's capitalist pig class.

It's going to sound good.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009


(After writing the "BLACKFACE" post a few days ago, I immediately contacted my buddy Reuben for his reaction--Reuben and I had countless discussions on such issues and many others while we were studying acting in grad school. His response was, as usual, both thought-provoking and cool. I miss hanging out with him.

Anyway, I'm posting his email as a guest blog. Check it out.)


Not having seen the show, I can't say for sure.

But judging by that picture...

it don't look good.

I will, however, say this. If someone wants to put an image as absurd and ridiculous as blackface in a play, he/she better fill the play with as many OTHER applicably absurd images as he/she can to create a context in which the blackface loses it's ability to offend.


If someone wants to cast a white person in a role that was written to be played by a black person, then he/she should just cast that person and be done with it. No blackface is needed. All that actor needs to do is study the language and the circumstances and COMMIT to them. No tricks, no gimmicks. If I'm cast in a role that was written to be played by a white person, I don't think, "Oh shit, let me grab the pasty-white make-up!" or "How can I blacken this person up a bit?" I just learn the language, the circumstances, the culture, etc. and work.

Let me tell you a story. I was in a play a couple of months ago and there were two white actors that were cast in roles that were originally written to be played by people of color, one black and one Latino. The actor that was cast in the "black" role seemed to struggle for much of the rehearsal. The idea of the character was of a middle aged black man who, judging by his speech, had obviously been really affected by the seventies. Eventually he tried to find his way into it by imposing this weird Texas tycoon thing onto it, like he was in the show Dallas or something. He sounded and felt so strange. Sometimes it worked, I guess, but most of the time it sounded like a country-ass Texan making fun of the way black people talk. The actor playing the "Latin" role was even more clueless. It was as if she was completely oblivious to the reality of her character. The person she was playing used very specific and descriptive street slang that, with a little research, could have given an actor a really good idea of who this person is and the things that have influenced her life. But this actor chose not to do that, and ended up sounding like a mockery of Latin speech and culture and not a representation of it.

If these actors would have just approached these roles in they way they would approach Blanche DuBois or George from Virginia Woolf there would be no cause for concern. It's not like they were asked to play animals or aliens. They were asked to play human beings that are part of human culture. All they need to do is study the humanity, which is what I thought theatre was supposed to be.

One of these days, I'm gonna direct an all white version on Raisin in the Sun just to fuck with people. That way, no one in the cast will be able to hide behind the "trying to find my way into it" excuse. I'll call you when I need a Walter Lee.

(I told Reuben that I would fucking love to be in his all white Raisin in the Sun. How could I not fucking love to do that?)



As Real Art readers know, I have numerous political differences with President Obama, but one thing about him I cannot possibly criticize is his ability to give a damned fine speech. Today was no exception. Indeed, several key points he made, as well as major themes and overall tone, made this liberal's bleeding heart melt. Screw Reagan, dottering "Great Communicator" that he was; Obama is one of the great orators of our era.

And, unlike the Gipper, he's not simply acting like a president: he is the President.

Check it out.

part one:

part two:

Here's the transcript, courtesy of the New York Times:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you.

CROWD: Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!

PRESIDENT OBAMA: My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.

I thank President Bush for his service to our nation...


... as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.

The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.

Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable, but no less profound, is a sapping of confidence across our land; a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.


On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.


In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.

It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died in places Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.


For everywhere we look, there is work to be done.

The state of our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth.

We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.

We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality...


... and lower its costs.

We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.

MR. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works, whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.

Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end.

And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account, to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day, because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched.

But this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control. The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart -- not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.


As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.

And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.


Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We'll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard- earned peace in Afghanistan.

With old friends and former foes, we'll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense.

And for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."


For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.

And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those...


To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.


To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.

We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service: a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves.

And yet, at this moment, a moment that will define a generation, it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.

It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break; the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours.

It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old.

These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.

What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence: the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed, why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall. And why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.


So let us mark this day in remembrance of who we are and how far we have traveled.

In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by nine campfires on the shores of an icy river.

The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood.

At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet it."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Thank you. God bless you.


And God bless the United States of America.

Long post, I know, but this thing's going to be studied for decades to come, like JFK's inaugural speech, or the Gettysburg Address, or MLK's speech at the march on Washington. This is instantly great American literature.

Besides, this is well worth revisiting, again and again, just for the repudiation of thirty years of dominant right-wing rhetoric. I'm happy today.


Monday, January 19, 2009

World Court: U.S. defied order in Texas death row case

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The judgment ended a five-year cascade of proceedings in the wake of a 2004 decision by the same court that the U.S. had violated an international treaty by failing to advise 51 Mexicans of their consular rights. The court required that each case be reviewed to determine whether the lack of diplomatic access could have affected the outcome of their cases.

The U.S. had argued to the tribunal, also known as the World Court, that the federal government had done all it could, but that it had no authority to tell the state courts what to do.

Mexico argued, however, that U.S. obligations to abide by international law also applied to its state governments.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that President George W. Bush had exceeded his authority when he issued a directive in 2005 to the states to comply with the demand by the U.N. court for a judicial review of all cases.

Following that ruling, Mexico hurriedly petitioned the World Court to stop the impending executions of five of its citizens. The court issued an emergency injunction last July, but three weeks later Texas prison authorities gave a lethal injection to Jose Medellin, convicted of the rape and murder of two teenage girls in Houston.

The 12 U.N. judges unanimously ruled the U.S. “has breached the obligation incumbent upon it” in the Medellin case.

Bellinger said that ruling was “not a rebuke or a reprimand. It was simply a finding.”

Human Rights Watch urged the incoming administration of Barack Obama to heed the court’s ruling and “to show the world that it will respect the rule of law, even when it’s politically unpopular at home.”

The World Court is the U.N. body that adjudicates disputes among states. Its judgments are binding and cannot be appealed, but it has no enforcement powers.

More here.

So I've already put in my two cents on this a while back, but I'm still left with a very perplexing question: if American hostility toward the World Court and the UN in general is so strong, why the hell does the US continue to be a signatory to the treaties establishing these bodies? I mean, like I said last July, ratified treaties, according to the Constitution, are "the law of the land." Like it or not, the World Court does indeed have jurisdiction in America, despite US Supreme Court rulings to the contrary--okay, I understand that Supreme Court decisions are also "the law of the land," but this one striking down the World Court Medellin decision is a really bad call, destined to be reversed one day when Roberts, Alito, Thomas et al. are being eaten by worms.

But that's beside the point. It is rabidly clear that the US establishment so disrespects the UN and the World Court that it is willing to violate the Constitution in order to undermine their foreign influence. Why not just get the hell out? It is maddening to sit on the sidelines year after year watching our leaders laud the UN when it does what they want while damning the organization when it doesn't. What's the point? If we really hate the UN then fuck 'em. Get out. If not, then shut the fuck up.

We really do deal with the world as though we were a drunken tyrannical asshole father.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Salon Radio: Jay Rosen on the media's control of political debates

Salon's liberal blogger Glenn Greenwald:

Rosen begins by citing a chart from the 1986 book, The Uncensored War, by Daniel Hallin, which defined the three categories of arguments that the media employed during the Vietnam War: (1) those within the "Sphere of Consensus" (ideas deemed so plainly true that they required no debate or examination); (2) those within the "Sphere of Legitimate Controversy" (ideas deemed reasonable enough to be debated and disputed within mainstream discussion); and (3) those within the "Sphere of Deviance" (ideas so plainly wrong, radical and fringe that they deserved no hearing at all):

According to Rosen, the diagram depicting these three spheres is "easily the most useful diagram [] found for understanding the practice of journalism in the United States, and the hidden politics of that practice." Rosen argues -- quite persuasively -- that American journalists, usually unthinkingly (i.e., without even realizing that they do it), control and restrict political discussions by using these categories for virtually every political issue of any significance. No theory regarding how the media controls political debate is complete without reference to
Manufacturing Consent, but Rosen's explanation is quite compatible with it and, standing alone, has great value.

Click here to listen to the interview--be sure to scroll down a bit to find the listening device.

Right. Manufacturing Consent is indeed the Bible as far as understanding how the mainstream news media have pro-corporate and pro-government bias deeply embedded within its organizational structure, and I've hit on MC's ideas myself on more than one occasion here at Real Art, but it's always good to hear from some other people on the subject. It's a good interview. Go check it out.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Adolf Hitler Campbell Mystery:
Why Did Authorities Take Him And His Sisters

Huffington Post commenting on a FOX News story:

It has been a few days since little Adolf Hitler Campbell and his sisters were taken from their parents by New Jersey's Division of Youth and Family Services. The mystery remains over why they were taken. Fox News reports on the possibility that their infamous names are to blame:

A state official was adamant Friday that a child would never be removed from his parents based solely on his name. But a First Amendment expert said that the boy's name might have had something to do with it...
More here.

Okay, I'm already on the record for opposing naming children after genocidal monsters in human form, but this bizarre and racist New Jersey family's latest turn on their funky voyage through life is arguably more interesting than the birthday cake fiasco that brought them to the nation's attention in the first place. I got into a brief but fun argument with a friend at work a couple of nights ago on this: his take was that naming your kid "Adolph Hitler" constitutes child abuse--the idea is that such a child would necessarily and foreseeably encounter intense and psychologically harmful resistance to his name while growing up and later, and bestowing upon him the inspiration for such travails amounts to de facto abuse.

I have no doubt that people are going to fuck with this kid because of his name. But is that really child abuse? Is it so severe that the government must take the child into state custody? Maybe. But to the best of my knowledge, there are no reputable psychological studies suggesting that an unpopular name is the same thing as molestation, or chronic beatings, or imprisonment in a closet for weeks. You get the idea. Naming your kid "Adolph Hitler" is obviously an awful thing to do, but it just doesn't rise to the level of the kind of abuse that calls for breaking up a family. I mean, this really is a slippery slope, having the government tell families what they can and cannot name their children, declaring that some names constitute abuse and others don't: I don't know about you, but I don't want the government to have that kind of power.

It would be like living in Nazi Germany.

Of course, we don't actually know that's why these kids were taken, but I have a very strong hunch that whatever "official" reasons are cited by New Jersey officials, odds are that they're trumped up, that the racist names are the real reason. The real problem here isn't the names, anyway: the real problem is these kids growing up in a white supremacist home. Unfortunately, that's the way it has to be. This, too, is a slippery slope. The moment the government gets into the business of dictating what kind of values we must teach our children in the home is the moment the government takes over the family.

And that would be like living in Communist China.

Maybe these people should have named their kids Mao or Dung. Dung has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?


Friday, January 16, 2009




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



From the New York Times, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman's latest essay:

Forgive and Forget?

I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. It’s not just torture and illegal wiretapping, whose perpetrators claim, however implausibly, that they were patriots acting to defend the nation’s security. The fact is that the Bush administration’s abuses extended from environmental policy to voting rights. And most of the abuses involved using the power of government to reward political friends and punish political enemies.

More here.

Right. The Bush administration was nothing short of a massive criminal enterprise even before it actually moved into the White House. From the well documented outright theft of the 2000 election to the invasion of Iraq to the outing of a CIA agent for partisan purposes to mass torture to mass surveilance of US citizens to what now appears to be a multi-billion dollar kickback to wealthy and powerful banking entities disguised as a "bailout," Bush's White House has committed crimes on a scale that would make Don Corlione blush. He and his capos must face justice if the word means anything at all. Indeed, if US law, and the US Constitution, have any meaning at all, the entire Bush crime family must stand trial for their countless and shocking misdeeds.

But they won't. And the Democrats, who refuse, amazingly, to peform their Constitutionally mandated duties on this issue, are now accessories, and therefore just as guilty. The United States of America, as we understand it, has lost all relevance, all meaning.

There is no way for me to be more disgusted than I am now.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

'Why I hate Black History Month' flier draws criticism

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

A flier headlined “Why I hate Black History Month” that was sent home with St. Louis-area schoolchildren has been tweaked after a handful of complaints.

Organizers say they were trying to emphasize the importance of learning about black history all year long, not just in February.

A bit more here.

Okay, so this really is a legitimate mistake, not some of the typical white bashing of Black History Month we see every year around this time--these people were trying, albeit failing, to make a good point. And given the nasty comments Houston Chronicle online readers were leaving under the story, it's a point well worth making.

Back when I was teaching high school, whenever February rolled around, some misguided or asshole white kid would inevitably ask me, "So why don't we have white history month, too?"

My typical response was always along the lines of "We already have white history month, all year long; it's simply called 'history'." Indeed, the problem is deeply embedded in how the education establishment understands history itself. As radical historian Howard Zinn and others have observed, history, in all cases at the K-12 level, and many cases at the university level, is seen from the point of view of power. That is, history, as popularly understood and taught, is from the perspective of governments, nation-states, powerful men, and powerful business entities. We rarely hear about average, ordinary people, people of color, women, workers, citizens, and the like, despite their obvious major contributions to the slow evolution/devolution of civilization we think of as "history." So it's not simply that "history" in America is white; it's that "history" is about white power--this is bad for all kinds of reasons, but probably the biggest one is that it causes people to think that their personal interests are the same as the powerful white men who run the world, which is only occasionally true.

Black History Month goes a long way toward repairing the problem, but not nearly far enough. History, as an academic subject, must change such that it reflects actual history, which includes much, much more than the relatively simple story of white power. Until that happens, we absolutely need special events like Black History Month highlighting what "history" leaves out.

This isn't rocket science, but so many white people seem so fucking deluded and resentful on the issue. We've got a black president now. Can't whitey just get the fuck over it?



From the Chicago Sun-Times courtesy of the Huffington Post news wire:

Drama, race collide at Goodman Theatre

Late Wednesday afternoon, hours before the opening of The Wooster Group production of Eugene O'Neill's play, "The Emperor Jones," at the Goodman, Third World Press sent out e-mails asking for a boycott of the show. It also had asked for a boycott of a panel discussion scheduled earlier in the day at the Chicago Cultural Center titled "Performing Other: Constructing Race and Gender Onstage and Off."

O'Neill's play, the story of a black Pullman car porter who flees the United States after committing two murders and sets himself up as the dictator of a West Indian island, has generated controversy ever since its initial New York production in 1920.

But it is the use of minstrelsy by Kate Valk -- the gender-crossing white actress of the Wooster Group who is playing the title role -- that has upset Bennett Jones Johnson, vice president of Third World Press. Third World Press is a Chicago-based publishing company that focuses on African-American issues.

Minstrelsy was the 19th century American form of entertainment in which white performers applied blackface, and promulgated some of the most disturbing of racial stereotypes.

More here.

Okay, this is quite interesting.

I saw an earlier version of this show in New York back in '97 or '98, same company, same concept--Willem Dafoe played Smithers in the one I saw; it was pretty cool being only a few yards away from a movie star. I really liked it; I was absolutely riveted for every single second. But I didn't get it. I mean, okay, I followed the story pretty well because the Wooster Group stuck to the text's dialogue, which is straightforward. But the production concept is very much about deconstructing the play in a sort of postmodern sense, more of a commentary on the play, and its place in American culture, both back in the 20s when it was written as well as today, than an execution of the play itself. Cool, in an absurdist way, but impenetrable as far as actual ideas and artist's intent are concerned.

Sure, there were a few notes in the program about race and gender, but nothing telling viewers how they were supposed to interpret a white woman in blackface playing a black man, nothing explaining the fancy Japanese dances the actors spontaneously jumped into, nothing explaining the use of video monitors on stage as part of the production. And I had an advantage over most viewers: at that point I had two degrees that are ideal for understanding this kind of longhair shit, a BFA in theater and a BS in radio, television, and film. When it was over, I was like, "cool, but I'm not sure what they were trying to do."

And that's generally okay. It's okay if I can't articulate my reaction to a given work of art. It's usually okay, good even, for a work of art to emotionally move me, to intellectually force me to think about the issues it raises, even though I'm totally clueless about what's actually going on with it.

But this show is different. It uses the extraordinarily powerful, and extraordinarily negative, image of a white person in blackface. And, lemma tell ya, artists must always be careful that the individual images they choose to work with don't overpower the work itself. My best example of this is lowbrow, but it gets the idea across: the suspense thriller Basic Instinct ruins it's own main plotline, an interesting murder mystery, by periodically descending into softcore lesbian porn--nothing wrong with softcore lesbian porn by itself, but the sexual imagery was stronger than the murder story, and a shitty mismatched jigsaw of a movie resulted. Now, Basic Instinct was clearly about pandering, while this production of The Emperor Jones is a legitimate work of art. But the same principle applies, especially when you factor in the confusing nature of Wooster Group's postmodern artistic choices. That is, assuming most audiences, like me, don't quite get what the production is trying to do, the offensive image of a white person in blackface used as an artistic statement comes dangerously close to being simply an offensive image.

Don't get me wrong. The artist's freedom of expression must be absolute. But artists must also bear responsibility for what they create. The Wooster Group should have seen this coming; without better explanation of their production concept, the blackface image takes on its traditional offensive nature. It moves from commentary on blackface and the social construction of race towards confusion and racism, even though that is clearly not the creators' intent. This is clearly a flawed show.

Really, most of the problem can be solved by simply including an explanatory essay in the program, which would cost about five cents or so. So why not? Personally, I hate artistic ambiguity, especially when you've got something important to say.

Kate Valk -- a gender-crossing white actress -- is playing a black man in
The Wooster Group production of Eugene O'Neill's play, "The Emperor Jones,"
at the Goodman Theater.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009


From AlterNet:

Why You Should Be Screaming for Higher Taxes

Why are we so resistant to raising taxes?

It's our nature. Nobody likes to give up their personal money for the common good.

People with a lot of money have, over the past fifty years, spent a fortune on exploiting that instinct and pandering to that feeling. Eventually, with nobody willing to say publicly that taxes are good, they took over the dialogue. It is now routine to hear tax cuts refereed to as "pro-growth" policies, even though, in fact, that's not true. It is routine to hear tax hikes called "anti-growth" policies, when that's not true.

The rich, the Republicans, and the Right, have lost this last election, but they still own the mythology.

More here.

Back in the early 90s, when I was moving toward the left but hadn't quite gotten there yet, I offhandedly mentioned to a leftist friend that I hated paying taxes. His response was surprising. He told me that hating taxes is a rather bourgeois attitude, that taxes are what citizens owe to the state for its services. This blew me away. All my life I had been hearing from virtually everyone who had an opinion that taxes were bad. I mean, there was always the obligatory lip service paid to the necessity of taxes, a necessary evil, but the emphasis was always on the word "evil."

Of course, my old commie buddy was absolutely right. Taxes are what we owe. They're dues, or bills, for roads, courts, police, national defense, and a million other things that make life easier or better. Generally speaking, taxes are good. Even Jesus said so. But the right wing has been so successful with tax=bad for so long that it's really just conventional wisdom now.

Now don't get me wrong. There are indeed certain taxes in certain situations that can be very bad. There can be a threshold crossed beyond which high taxes do indeed impede economic growth--think Robin Hood and tax tyranny. But the national dialogue paints taxes as pretty much always being in those terms, that taxes are always bad, without recognizing the obvious, that taxes, when well planned and managed, are actually not only necessary, but good.

So the point here is that tax debate and discussion in the US is deeply flawed by a false assumption. Not only have we wasted decades with pointless discussion, but we have also allowed conservative mythology to alter the tax code to greatly favor a very small percentage of citizens.

I'd like to think that our new Agent-of-Change is going to do something about that come January 20th, but I haven't heard much out his mouth yet along those lines. He seems to be conceding the point to the opposition, so there's always this sense of guilt embedded in his pro-tax rhetoric. I hope he has the balls to get past that.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Safety group urges U.S. ban on drivers' cell phones

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Council officials acknowledged a total ban could take years.

"Public awareness and the laws haven't caught up with what the scientists are telling us," Froetscher said. "There is no dispute that driving while talking on your cell phone, or texting while driving, is dangerous."

Froetscher said the council examined more than 50 scientific studies before reaching its decision. One was a study by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis that estimates 6 percent of vehicle crashes, causing about 2,600 deaths and 12,000 serious injuries a year, are attributable to cell phone use. Hands-free cell phones are just as risky as hand held phones, she added.

"It's not just what you're doing with your hands — it's that your head is in the conversation and so your eyes are not on the road," Froetscher said.

John Walls, vice president of CTIA-The Wireless Association, a cell phone trade group, objected to a complete ban. He said there are many instances where the ability to make a phone call while driving helps protect safety.

More here.

Of course, the wireless industry's lobbying group opposes a complete ban.

Here's my deal. Some years back, when I made a daily commute from Houston's East side out to Baytown to teach high school, I was in a wreck. While talking on my cell phone. It was a ten car pile up, but I didn't get hurt--it was heavy traffic, and I was only going about thirty or so. The cop on the scene, after interviewing everybody involved, gave me a ticket for "failure to control speed to avoid an accident." I guess that's what comes from the investigative style of a dunderheaded beat cop: my insurance company's more in-depth investigation discovered that the guy two cars ahead of me didn't have any brake lights, which was enough for my insurance company to sue his insurance company for damages. That is, my rates didn't go up even though according to the cop I was at fault.

Whatever. I know that I rearended the car in front of me because it came to an instant and complete stop against a guy who didn't have any brake lights. But I can't help but think that if I hadn't been talking on the phone I would have had a second or two more to react, which probably would have allowed me to drive away from the scene with no trouble at all. That is, I'll always believe that being distracted by my cell phone was a decisive factor in my wreck.

Banning cell phone use while driving is a no-brainer to me. However you look at it, it's a distraction. Multiple studies support this. The problem here is that people have been doing it for years; people have come to have an expectation that they can chat away while driving with no problem at all. And, as with drunk driving, many drivers haven't wrecked while talking on their phones, and falsely believe there is no risk involved.

The safety group pushing the ban has a great deal of common sense in understanding that attitudes must change before anything can actually be done. But public interest organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers did something similar back in the 80s. It can be done again.


Saturday, January 10, 2009


From the AP via the Huffington Post:

Obama, Spider-Man Appear In Inauguration Marvel Comic

The comic starts with Spider-Man's alter-ego Peter Parker taking photographs at the inauguration, before spotting two identical Obamas.

Parker decides "the future president's gonna need Spider-Man," and springs into action, using basketball to determine the real Obama and punching out the impostor.

Obama thanks him with a fist-bump.

Marvel comics have featured most presidents, but generally in walk-on roles, Quesada said.

More here.

It's always been a bit weird for me to see actual, specific, real human beings portrayed in comics. I mean, it's okay, I guess, but as a comic geek since childhood, I have to say it kind of spoils the imaginary fun a bit. I've read a 1960s issue of the Flash featuring its then-editor Julius Schwartz. I've read a 1970s issue of Marvel Team Up featuring then-publisher Stan well as the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players--let me tell you, the comic book version of John Belushi was a sight to remember. I've seen comic versions of Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton. I've seen comic versions both Orson Welles and Edgar Allen Poe in 1940s era Superman comics. Kind of nifty, I suppose, but really, these people don't belong in comics. They do nothing in the long run but crash the party.

You know, DC even gave Jerry Lewis his own title for a while in the 1960s. Why do they do this shit? Yeah yeah, money, I know.

Anyway, as far as my love of comics goes, this isn't such a big deal. What vaguely disturbs me, on the other hand, is the continued mythologizing of our incoming President. I have absolutely no doubt that many Obama voters, perhaps a majority, don't really know the damnedest thing about American politics, only that they're sick of conservatism and Bush. Combine that with the whole agent-of-change meme strongly pushed by the Obama people during the election and you have the former Senator from Illinois elevated to bizarre cult status.

That is, I don't really think a lot of his supporters really know or care what he's actually up to because they know he's a good man and that he will bring much needed change to our nation. In other words, he's become something of a messiah in the psyches of Americans. And that's dangerous in a democracy. No one man can or should hold the fate of the nation in his hands, and even thinking such a thing is an abdication of civic responsibility on a grand scale. In the US, the people govern, not men, certainly not a single man.

Turning Obama into a superhero doesn't help.

For that matter, turning him into a commemorative plate doesn't help much either.

I guess we'll see how this all works out.


Friday, January 09, 2009


Frankie and Sammy

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


Thursday, January 08, 2009


From the AP via ESPN:

Florida rides Tebow, suffocating defense to another BCS title

Tim Tebow gave Florida the jolt it needed, and the Gators toughed out a second BCS title in three years.

Their 24-14 win over No. 2 Oklahoma in a choppy, sloppy affair Thursday night made them a national champion. But it likely did little to quiet fans of Southern California, Utah and Texas, all of whom already claimed the top spot.

The high-scoring shootout between Heisman Trophy winners Sam Bradford and Tebow never materialized.

Tebow, however, shook off a career-high two interceptions to rescue the top-ranked Gators (13-1). He drove them to the clinching score -- he took two hard steps toward the line, jumped and zipped a 4-yard touchdown pass to David Nelson with 3:07 to make it 24-14.

More here.

Yeah well, like I've been saying, the Big 12 should have sent Texas to face the Gators, instead. I mean, the Longhorns put up 21 points more against OU than Florida did. And when was the last time "Big Game Bob" even won a BCS bowl, let alone a national championship?

This will go down as one of the great American cultural travesties.

Hook 'em 'Horns!!!


Mississippi passes Texas for highest teen birth rate

From the San Antonio Express-News via the Houston Chronicle:

New Mexico ranks second, and Texas is third in the rate of teen births, according to a final report released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The two states tied for the highest teen birth rate in 2005.

More here.

Number three, eh? Texas just can't catch a break. First the Longhorns end up, unfairly, at number three in the BCS rankings, and now this teen pregnancy bullshit. I'm telling you, Texas is undoubtedly number one when it comes to teen pregnancies, and we can prove it, given the chance, on the field!

But seriously.

This is obviously the result of "abstinence based" sex education combined with regional dominance of the attitudes that created it. In Mississippi and Texas, at least. I get the feeling New Mexico might be a bit different from it's teen pregnancy competitors: the state immediately west of Texas straight-up rejected "abstinence based" sex ed a year ago after trying it on for size. Indeed, New Mexico's Health Department, while turning down federal funds for the dangerous and stupid program, declared that "national studies have found that abstinence-only programs are not effective in preventing teen pregnancy or in delaying young people from having sexual relations."

Maybe that's why they dropped out of the top slot. Who knows? But I will tell you this. As long as parents and authorities simply wag their moralizing Christian fingers at teenagers and call it sex education, kids are going to get knocked up. No mystery about it.

Really, in a sane world, teachers would have goldfish bowls full of free condoms on their desks. Unfortunately, the world is crazy.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009


From the AP via ESPN:

Longhorns squash Buckeyes' upset dreams with 26-yard score at :16

Left out of the national title game, Colt McCoy and Texas made the most of their trip to the Fiesta Bowl.

They just hope they did enough to impress poll voters.

McCoy hit Quan Cosby for a 26-yard touchdown with 16 seconds to play, lifting the third-ranked Longhorns to a 24-21 victory over No. 10 Ohio State on Monday night. The dramatic strike capped an 11-play, 78-yard drive that took only 1:42.

"It doesn't feel any better than to come from behind and win," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "It was just a classic, really, between Texas and Ohio State, the way it should be."

When it ended, Texas players rushed onto the field, then gathered in front of the band and sang "The Eyes of Texas" with jubilant fans.

More here.

Okay, as the article goes on to observe, Texas probably didn't do enough to satisfy AP sportswriters enough to get the split title. I mean, these people don't give a shit about come-from-behind, or magnificent defensive struggle, or the tenacity needed to beat an extraordinarily good Buckeye team after having the college football establishment shitting on you for weeks. No, sportswriters like sixty point wins over lesser teams--I wonder how they'll vote if both Florida and OU look like crap on Thursday?

Anyway, none of that matters now. Texas kicked ass last night. I really do agree with Dr. McCoy: nobody can beat Texas right now, not Florida, not USC, and certainly not number one OU. The Longhorn nation knows who the real national champion is.

And it was a great game. A couple of buddies of mine at work told me it sucked during the first half, but I just had to respond that a great defensive struggle is just as much of the game as running up the score is--I guess they were simply reflecting the score-happy bias of coaches and the press. The Texas front four played magnificently, as usual, and the young Longhorn secondary has obviously grown up over the season. Our defense fucking rocks. And our offense...well, kickass come-from-behind wins are what NFL teams do; one rarely sees such a thing in bigtime top five college games. Unless Texas is playing.

My god, this really was bad for my heart. That last drive really blew me away. I yelled "Touchdown Texas!!!" so loudly that I worried my neighbors would call the cops. Fucking A. I love the Longhorns.

UT wide receiver Quan Cosby runs and leaps into the end zone for the game-winning
touchdown Monday after a pass from Colt McCoy in the fourth quarter at University
of Phoenix Stadium. Cosby, a senior, was penalized for the celebration.

Go watch this quick video courtesy of my old pal and fellow Longhorn Matt. It's funny. And glorious. Hook 'em 'Horns!


Monday, January 05, 2009

The Iraq War Is Now Illegal

From AlterNet:

In authorizing an invasion in 2002, Congress did not give President Bush a blank check. It explicitly limited the use of force to two purposes: to “defend the national security of the US from the threat posed by Iraq” and “enforce all relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”

Five years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the government of Iraq no longer poses a threat. Our continuing intervention has been based on the second clause of Congress' grant of war-making power. Coalition troops have been acting under a series of Security Council resolutions authorizing the continuing occupation of Iraq. But this year, Bush allowed the UN mandate to expire on December 31 without requesting a renewal. At precisely one second after midnight, Congress' authorization of the war expired along with this mandate.

Bush is trying to fill the legal vacuum with the new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) he signed with the Iraqis. But the president's agreement is unconstitutional, since it lacks the approval of Congress.

More here.

Of course, the Iraq war has always been illegal. Never mind the fact that it was, from the get-go, an imperialistic war of aggression, which is the supreme war crime according to the judges at Nuremberg because all other war crimes stem from it. The Iraq invasion was illegal according to our own laws: there never was any threat posed by Iraq; there never were any weapons of mass destruction--the White House lied. And the UN Security Council blessing of the occupation was after-the-fact. That is, when Congress authorized Bush to go nuts in the Middle East, absolutely no one outside the US believed that existing UN Security Council resolutions authorized an all out invasion of Iraq.

So we violated both US laws and international laws.

But now, clearly, even by our own retarded standards, it is illegal for the United States to wage war in Iraq. Sadly, I'm sure this will make no difference at all in how Bush deals with our latest vassal state during his final two weeks in office. And I'm sure the cautious Democrats in Congress will let him continue to have his way. That's because the law in America no longer has any meaning. The Constitution has no meaning. Democracy, and increasingly freedom, have no meaning.

A nation turns its lonely eyes to our incoming savior-in-chief. He's got to be better than Bush--you just can't get any worse. But how much better? That's the question.