Saturday, February 28, 2009


So my former student Chad commented on a post I made last week trashing the Republican governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal for rejecting federal stimulus money:

I'm actually alarmed by this Jindal fucker. He seems capable of nullifying the "I'm a rich, white, asshole" stereotype that has plagued the GOP for some time... if the economy worsens and/or Obama makes a Jimmy Carter-esque mistake, I think he could definitely win in 2012.

What do you think Ron?
Well, Chad is right to observe that Jindal represents the GOP answer to Barack Obama. That is, Jesus Jindal is young, a person of color, and says things that the party faithful want to hear. Clearly, Republicans think that's what they need. Unfortunately for them, Obama is much much more than a young black guy who talks good, which says a lot about how befuddled conservatives are these days--I mean, I can hear it in my head, "Hey, we'll get our own young black guy, and then they'll never stop us!"

But the problem Republicans are facing these days has very little to do with who's selling their ideas, and a great deal more to do with the ideas themselves. That is, as I've asserted here at Real Art countless times, neoliberalism, the right-wing economic philosophy also known as "Reaganomics," "classical liberalism," or "supply side" economics, the economic paradigm under which we've been operating since the late 70s, is now utterly and obviously severly problematic as far as the real world goes, but Republicans just can't seem to come to grips with the fact that they're going to have to alter their world view.

So for now, they're stuck pushing ideas that most Americans now know are bullshit.

Enter Bobby Jindal.

Poor, poor Bobby. If he wants to succeed in the Republican rat race, he has to talk the talk, which necessarily makes him sound like an idiot to anyone outside the GOP. But that's no problem to Bobby. 'Cause he's already an idiot. Like I've said, the man may be adept at campaigning for state office here in Louisiana, but that's just about all he's got going for him. Jindal is testament to the fact that one can go to Ivy League schools and be stupider than shit--well okay, former President Bush is also testament to that fact, but you know what I mean. The bottom line is that, for all the hype, Jindal doesn't have an original political, economic, or social idea in his head. He's nothing but a megaphone for right-wing ideology, which works well here in Louisiana, but has apparently fallen on its face in his first major venture into national politics.

You know, that GOP response speech he gave Tuesday night. Here, go watch it, just for a few laughs: part one, part two.

Of course, establishment liberals just hated it. New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman simply mocked it on Olbermann:

Uh, I don't think there was much of an argument there. You really have, you know I've said it was Beavis and Butthead. They find things that sound silly if you don't actually know anything, so gosh, volcano monitoring. Why would you want to monitor a volcano? Because it might erupt and kill a lot of people. Uh, but they're basically reduced to just picking out a few things or in some cases just making stuff up. The salt marsh mouse thing on the stimulus and saying this is stupid. See government is stupid. Cut taxes. It's not much of an argument.

Check it out:

But this PBS News Hour interview with New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks blew me away:

LEHRER: Now that, of course, was Gov. Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, making the Republican response. David, how well do you think he did?

DAVID BROOKS: Uh, not so well...I oppose the stimulus package because I thought it was poorly drafted but to come up at this moment in history with a stale 'government is the problem, we can't trust the federal government,' it's just a disaster for the Republican Party. The country is in a panic now. They may not like the way the Democrats have passed the stimulus bill. But the idea that we're just going to... That government will have no role, the federal government has no role in this, that in a moment when only the federal government is big enough to actually do stuff- to just ignore all that and just say 'government is the problem, corruption, earmarks, wasteful spending,' it's just a form of nihilism. It's just not where country is it's not where the future of the country is. There's an intra-Republican debate: some people say the Republican Party lost its way because they got too moderate, some people say they got too weird or too conservative. He thinks they got too moderate. And so he's making that case. I think it's insane. I just think it's a disaster for the [Republican] Party. I just think it's unfortunate right now.

Watch it:

Yeah that's right. Brooks called Jindal's speech "just a disaster for the Republican Party." And he wasn't even going after the Jindal's Mr. Rogers imitation the way John Stewart did. No, Brooks was criticizing Jindal because he's pushing the same old right-wing bullshit that got us in this economic mess in the first place! That's the disaster, that Republicans are trapped by their own ideology.

And clearly, a guy like Jindal, who couldn't think his way out of a cardboard box, is not the man to lead his party into the promised land. To do that, one must have an independent mind, something Bobby just doesn't have.

But wait, this shit just keeps getting better. Apparently, Bobby Jindal's Hurricane Katrina story, which he used to show that we ought not depend on the government, irony of ironies, was a total fabrication!

From TPMMuckraker:

Jindal Admits Katrina Story Was False

Jindal had described being in the office of Sheriff Harry Lee "during Katrina," and hearing him yelling into the phone at a government bureaucrat who was refusing to let him send volunteer boats out to rescue stranded storm victims, because they didn't have the necessary permits. Jindal said he told Lee, "that's ridiculous," prompting Lee to tell the bureaucrat that the rescue effort would go ahead and he or she could arrest both Lee and Jindal.

But now, a Jindal spokeswoman has admitted to Politico that in reality, Jindal overheard Lee talking about the episode to someone else by phone "days later." The spokeswoman said she thought Lee, who died in 2007, was being interviewed about the incident at the time.

This is no minor difference. Jindal's presence in Lee's office during the crisis itself was a key element of the story's intended appeal, putting him at the center of the action during the maelstrom. Just as important, Jindal implied that his support for the sheriff helped ensure the rescue went ahead. But it turns out Jindal wasn't there at the key moment, and played no role in making the rescue happen.

More here.

Yeah, that's right. Jindal, Republican rock star in waiting, got up in front of the country and fucking LIED to us. So he's an idiot and a liar. I'd like to say this has all effectively ended his political career outside Louisiana, but he's so fucking young: maybe it's safe to say he's set his aspirations back by a decade or more.

At any rate, my young pal Chad has nothing to worry about with Jindal. He's no Obama. Indeed, he's pathetic. A total fucktard that everybody hates. Except for Rush Limbaugh, his only standing defender, and that basically tells you all you need to know about Bobby Jindal.

(Thanks to Crooks and Liars for the pundit video and transcripts.)


Friday, February 27, 2009

The Next Generation

Reine and Dash

If you've been watching Real Art's Friday Cat Blogging for the last three years or so, you've been getting an alternating dose of two sets of cats. The reason for that is that I started cat blogging back when I was married. We had three cats back then, Paz, Phil, and Frankie, and I would post the whole pride on a weekly basis. Then Frankie's brother, Sammy, decided the feral life wasn't for him anymore, so for a while there I was posting four cat pics a week.

Then Becky and I broke up. Don't shed any tears for us, though. We're currently fabulous friends--really, we broke up to save our friendship, and it's ended up being a good call. Part of the divorce, however, was splitting up our family of cats. Frankie and Sammy, who Becky and I adopted when we were a couple, stayed with me; she kept Paz and Phil because they were older and had been with her for years before she and I met.

So far so good.

But how was I to handle Friday Cat Blogging? I had lots of pics of Paz and Phil on my hard drive, so I decided to alternate between my cats and her cats. I mean, the way I see it, and Becky agrees with me, they were still all our cats, albeit living separately. Eventually Paz, old girl that she was, finally passed away. Becky was, of course, miserable about it, me too, as well as Phil, so she decided after a time to adopt a new kitten, Reine. Meanwhile, I was running out of Phil pictures to post, so I made the hour and a half trek from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to get more shots of Phil, and to photograph my new step-cat Reine. Those are the pics I've been running every other week for a couple of years now.

Of course, today I'm living in NOLA myself, and Becky has given me shit about posting pictures of Reine from when she was a kitten, when all I had to do is hop over to her place to get some new ones; I mean, the little girl's all grown up now--Becky definitely had a good point. And in the meantime she adopted a third cat, another jet black one named Dash, my second step-kitty. But I never seemed to make it over to her place with my camera to get a new roll of Reine and Phil and Dash. Circumstances, however, have finally forced my hand. When Phil died recently, I decided to use the last of the pictures I had of him for his memorial post. Two weeks later, or, if you prefer, two weeks ago, I decided to finish off my Reine pictures, leaving me with no new images of my step-cats for Fridays.

But now that's all changed: this is why Reine appears to be fully grown in the photo above despite appearing here as a kitten only fourteen days ago. It's also why there's yet another cat, Dash. Essentially, they're the next generation. I mean, you know, Becky and I are cat people, and even though she and I are no longer a couple, these cats are essentially our children. This is our family. And we love them.


Anyway, be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Will's "final thought" on Obama speech:
"I don't know when men started to hug each
other, but hug they do, and look at that"

From Media Matters courtesy of Eschaton:

You can see this in its original context here. But really, there's no point in clicking through; it's just the video, no transcript.

George Will, the Washington Post's conservative essayist, has been doing the TV pundit thing for many many years in spite of the fact that he's stupider than shit. I mean, he sure does look smart and all, with his wire rimmed spectacles and that professorial bow tie, that midwestern no nonsense Father Mulcahy demeanor, that plain straightforward speech. But trust me, he's a moron. Pure testament to the fact that achieving icon status in the corporate media has nothing to do with brains.

Okay, I like it when he talks about baseball. But that's about it. Otherwise, he's just a more civil version of Rush Limbaugh, putting a little rhetorical flourish on contradictory, hypocritical, and just plain wrong Republican talking points.

Anyway, this vid is pretty much par for the course. Men hugging is weird and new. And worthy of serious political commentary. Fucktard.



From the Denver Rocky Mountain News courtesy of Eschaton:

Lawmaker's HIV, promiscuity comments cause uproar

A Republican legislator's remarks about sexuality sparked a bitter volley Wednesday at the state Capitol, the second time in three days such comments have created controversy.

Though unwilling to publicly discuss the issue, a number of Republicans privately expressed dismay at the brouhaha, fearing the comments may hurt their party's image.

Sen. Dave Schultheis, of Colorado Springs, on Wednesday opposed a bill requiring all pregnant women to be tested for HIV, so that if they are infected their babies can be treated to prevent the transfer of the virus.

"This stems from sexual promiscuity for the most part, and I just can't go there," he said.

"We do things continually to remove the consequences of poor behavior, unacceptable behavior, quite frankly. I'm not convinced that part of the role of government should be to protect individuals from the negative consequences of their actions."

More here.

Back when I was a high school teacher, the topic of abortion would occasionally come up in classroom discussions. Working in what appeared to be a backward-ass right-wing fundamentalist community, I felt like it would be a bad idea to straight-up advocate abortion rights, so I tended to play Donahue, playing devil's advocate, instead, against both sides--I mean, I told my kids where I stood on the issue, unashamedly pro-choice, but I tried to let everyone know that it's okay to have a different opinion. I think all my students learned more about their own positions and how to defend them if needed.

One aspect of those discussions surprised me: several of my pro-life kids spoke about pregnancy in a very punitive fashion. That is, their anti-abortion point of view seemed to be fueled by the notion that getting an abortion somehow took away negative consequences of having sex, with the implication that having a baby is punishment. The only response I could think of was to point out that a new life coming into the world ought to be a cause for celebration, not condemnation. None of my kids really knew what to say to that, but it was obvious to me that these pregnancy-as-punishment kids were simply repeating what they had heard at home, and that their families' anti-abortion attitudes had a strong dose of anti-sex embedded within them.

Atrios over at Eschaton has been making this point for a while now: many, if not most, of these fundamentalist pro-lifers have taken an anti-abortion stance because they have strong ideological opposition to any sex of which they do not approve. Indeed. And this is really no surprise. Fundamentalists are in love with punishment. It's what the Bible says God is all about. I mean, okay, there's all this business about love, too, but the fundamentalists greatly minimize the love stuff so they can wallow in the blood and guts all over the Old Testament. For fundamentalists, God's love exists only so that we might have the "get out of jail free card" known as salvation, and for no other reason--sure, they give lip service to love, but what they really crave is hellfire and damnation for all human beings who aren't in the tribe.

In short, fundamentalists aren't really into condemning abortion in order to save lives--odds are such a baby fetus is going to hell, anyway, so why bother? Rather, they want women who have sex to suffer for their sins. Needless to say, that's really fucked up. And they would totally love it if they could make this point of view the law of the land. It's one thing to honestly believe that abortion is murder, and to want such killing criminalized; it's quite another to force your ideas about sex and punishment on people just because you think that's what they should get.

Increasingly, I find it difficult to take the pro-life movement seriously. I mean, I used to be able to respect what appears to be a principled stance that values life. But why do these life-lovers support the death penalty? Why do they oppose birth control and comprehensive sex education, which actually stand a good chance of reducing greatly the number of abortions performed every year? For me, this is really starting to no longer be about genuine disagreement. The fundamentalist pro-lifers don't seem to be really serious about being pro-life. Why should I take their rhetoric seriously if they don't?



I've got some good ones...but...I continue to be too exhausted from Tuesday's revelries to really deal with posting them tonight. So, maybe for Saturday night. We'll see.

Have I filled you with anticipation? Don't answer that.


Monday, February 23, 2009


From Wikipedia:


The fleur-de-lys (or fleur-de-lis, plural: fleurs-de-lis; pronounced /ˌfləː(r)dəˈliː/ (pronounced [ˌflœː(ʀ)dəˈlɪs] in Quebec French), translated from French as "lily flower") is a stylized design of either an iris or a lily that is now used purely decoratively as well as symbolically, or it may be "at one and the same time political, dynastic, artistic, emblematic and symbolic",[1] especially in heraldry.

While the fleur-de-lis has appeared on countless European coats of arms and flags over the centuries, it is particularly associated with the French monarchy on a historical context, and nowadays with the Spanish monarchy and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg as the only remaining monarchs of the House of Bourbon.

It is an enduring symbol of France that appears on French postage stamps but has not been adopted officially by any of the French republics. By contrast, as Spain is a constitutional monarchy, the fleur-de-lis is associated with the Spanish King Juan Carlos I (of Bourbon descent) and the Kingdom of Spain.

In North America, the fleur-de-lis is often associated with areas formerly settled by France, such as Quebec and Louisiana and with Francophones in other Canadian provinces.

More here.

I'm gearing up tonight for much revelry tomorrow, which means my mind isn't at all on blogging. But I figured I'd offer a nice thematically appropriate quickie. I've done the history and meaning of Mardi Gras already, back in February of '05, my first one in Louisiana, so I'm posting a link to this Wikipedia article on the fleur de lis, traditional symbol of New Orleans, and more recently the newly adopted symbol for the entire state of Louisiana.

C'mon. Haven't you wondered, even just a bit, what's up with this weird and stylized image? After reading up on it, I'm a bit more confused than I was before - for instance, why was the symbol chosen by King Clovis I in the first place? - but I'm now quite certain that the explanation for NOLA's embrace of the fleur isn't much more complicated than the fact that the French seem to be identified with it more than any other people. Yeah yeah, obvious and all, but it's nice to know for sure that's what it's about.

Here's my favorite fleur de lis, the New Orleans Saints logo:

Happy Mardi Gras!

BTW, probably no post tomorrow night. You know, for obvious reasons.


Fox News "war games" the coming civil war

From Glenn Greenwald's blog at Salon, courtesy of This Modern World:

But this Rush-Limbaugh/Fox-News/nationalistic movement isn't driven by anything noble or principled or even really anything political. If it were, they would have been extra angry and threatening and rebellious during the Bush years instead of complicit and meek and supportive to the point of cult-like adoration. Instead, they're just basically Republican dead-enders (at least what remains of the regional/extremist GOP), grounded in tribal allegiances that are fueled by their cultural, ethnic and religious identities and by perceived threats to past prerogatives -- now spiced with legitimate economic anxiety and an African-American President who, they were continuously warned for the last two years, is a Marxist, Terrorist-sympathizing black nationalist radical who wants to re-distribute their hard-earned money to welfare queens and illegal immigrants (and is now doing exactly that).

That's the context for this Glenn Beck "War Games" show on Fox News this week -- one promoted, with some mild and obligatory caveats, by Michelle Malkin's Hot Air. In the segment below, he convened a panel that includes former CIA officer Michael Scheuer and Ret. U.S. Army Sgt. Major Tim Strong. They discuss a coming "civil war" led by American "Bubba" militias -- Beck says he "believes we're on this road" -- and they contemplate whether the U.S. military would follow the President's orders to subdue civil unrest or would instead join with "the people" in defense of their Constitutional rights against the Government (they agree that the U.S. military would be with "the people")

More here.

Greenwald also contextualizes this frightening FOX discussion in terms of the right-wing militia movement of the 1990s, which makes this "War Games" thing all the more frightening. There really were, and probably still are, numerous hyper-paranoid "'Bubba' militias" out there ready to use their guns and bombs to "protect" what they believe is the American way of life--don't forget that the most famous individual in this movement was Timothy McVeigh, the man who blew up a federal building in Oklahoma, killing dozens, just to make some kind of point; what that point was, I'm still not sure, but make it he did.

Anyway, given this context, it strikes me that Beck's "War Games" show comes dangerously close to advocating the violent overthrow of the US government. Isn't that illegal? Shouldn't Beck and his TV guests be thrown in jail and charged with treason?

Just a thought.


Sunday, February 22, 2009


My buddy Matt commented on my recent post railing away on that racist cartoon:

So, for what it's worth, I think the intent was, "hey, this bill is so lame, it's like a monkey typed it up!" And, that they were thinking of the authors being Senators and Reps, not Obama.

But, someone probably should have anticipated the other interpretation...
Matt's in good company. My favorite political cartoonist, Tom Tomorrow, who is definitely in a position to make informed speculation about the motivations and intents of other political cartoonists writes:

It was just the news story of the day, and he was doing that thing that daily editorial cartoonists do where they take the story everyone’s talking about and slap on a few labels and call it “commentary.”. . . My guess is that Delonas simply wasn’t bright enough to understand that “political metaphors involving primates” are going to be perceived differently under the first african american president.

Of course, I have to agree, this is entirely possible. The people responsible for this journalistic travesty, the cartoonist Delonas, the paper's editor-in-chief Col Allen, it's Page Six editor, which is where the cartoon ran, and the entire paper itself, may very well have completely inadvertently, utterly accidentally created the firestorm which now rages in New York and on cable news channels. Everyone in the chain of command who green-lighted the strip could have just brain farted that day, and allowed to go to press a symbolic statement easily interpreted by black and white alike as straight up racist.

No really. I'm trying not to sound sarcastic. I've read a bit over the years about how newspapers work, deadlines, fitting stories into preexisting narratives, adhering to establishment conventional wisdom so as not to offend advertisers and other powerful constituencies, and on and on. Papers make mistakes all the time, and sometimes they're so godawful you can't help but think all these journalists are stupider than shit. Journalism, as an institution, leaves much to be desired. Something as egregious as the Post's dead chimp cartoon is as likely intentional as it is unintentional, when viewed in this context.

But there are other contexts in which to view this incident.

For instance, the New York Post is a consciously conservative newspaper owned by billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch, who also owns FOX News: since the Nixon era, conservatives have been adept users of coded speech and symbols designed to appeal to Southern racist voters alienated by the Democrats' embrace of civil rights during the 1960s. At this point in history, the racist nudge and wink is standard fare among elite conservatives. President Reagan was an expert. When he spoke of unemployed "strapping young bucks" receiving welfare payments, it was understood among racists that he was talking about black men; when he chose Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of the brutal murders of three civil rights workers years earlier, to be the place where he delivered his first speech as the Republican presidential nominee, and spoke of "states' rights," white Southern racists automatically understood whose side he was on. Theirs. But Reagan and many others have always chosen their words such that they have plausible deniability: "it's just a chimp, and a chimp was killed recently, and they passed the stimulus bill, with which we have legitimate issues; it was just a cartoon!" Nudge nudge, wink wink.

Furthermore, the New York Post, according to MSNBC's Olbermann, has a history of offending African-Americans on many more occasions than one--indeed, this racist history inspired a Public Enemy song back in 1991. And the cartoonist who drew the offending panel has been pissing off people for years. It's like a convicted arsonist insisting that the fire he set was entirely accidental: he may very well be telling the truth, but given the context, he's going to have to prove his innocence if he really wants anybody to believe him.

But wait! There's more. I came across this interesting tidbit reading a New York Times column about Attorney General Eric Holder's comment that Americans are cowards when it comes to discussing racial issues honestly:

Project Implicit, a virtual laboratory maintained by Harvard, the University of Washington and the University of Virginia, has administered hundreds of thousands of online tests designed to detect hidden racial biases. In tests taken from 2000 to 2006, they found that three-quarters of whites have an implicit pro-white/anti-black bias. (Blacks showed racial biases, too, but unlike whites, they split about evenly between pro-black and pro-white. And, blacks were the most likely of all races to exhibit no bias at all.) In addition, a 2006 study by Harvard researchers published in the journal Psychological Science used these tests to show how this implicit bias is present in white children as young as 6 years old, and how it stays constant into adulthood.

(You can take the test yourself.)

So why do so many people have this anti-black bias?

I called Brian Nosek, an associate professor in psychology at the University of Virginia and the director of Project Implicit, to find out. According to him, our brains automatically make associations based on our experiences and the information we receive, whether we consciously agree with those associations or not. He said that many egalitarian test-takers were shown to have an implicit anti-black bias, much to their chagrin. Professor Nosek took the test himself, and even he showed a pro-white/anti-black bias. Basically, our brains have a mind of their own.

This bias can seep into our everyday lives in insidious ways. For example, a paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in October found that many white doctors also had an implicit pro-white/anti-black bias, while black doctors showed almost no bias for one race or the other. The paper suggested that these biases may contribute to the unequal treatment of blacks, and that doctors may not even be conscious of it.

That is, and I've been asserting the same thing here at Real Art for years now, many many white Americans harbor racist attitudes even if they don't realize it. I mean, this seems true at face value, but now there's some actual study data supporting it. In short, even if the New York Post is being completely honest about the cartoonist's intent, it is very likely that racism crept into his concept in spite of his noble intentions.

And for me, that's the bottom line. In the end, it doesn't really matter what the Post's intent was. This is a racist image. Regardless of who actually wrote out its details, the stimulus bill is popularly understood as belonging to President Obama--if it succeeds, then so does he; if it fails, then it takes him down with it. It's his bill. The offending cartoon's attribution of the bill's ownership to a chimp makes our black President out to be a monkey. Like the Southern pride advocates who insist that the Confederate battle flag doesn't really represent a defunct nation and still existing culture based on slavery and white supremacy, the Post's perhaps heartfelt denial of what's obvious to most Americans sounds, at best, horrifically naive. At worst, it sounds like a racist lie.

I guess we'll never really know for sure where these assholes are coming from. But like I said, it doesn't really matter. The cartoon is racist, whether the Post meant for it to be or not. As Matt said, "someone probably should have anticipated the other interpretation." Indeed. They were fools to run it.


Friday, February 20, 2009




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


Thursday, February 19, 2009


From Understanding Power, courtesy of This Modern World:

Incidentally, I think there is another reason why a lot of powerful people were out to get Nixon at that time-and it had to do with something a lot more profound than the Enemies List and the Watergate burglary. I suspect it had to do with the events of the summer of 1971, when the Nixon administration basically broke up the international economic arrangement that had existed for the previous twenty-five years [i.e. the so-called "Bretton Woods" system, established in 1944 at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire]. See, by 1971 the Vietnam War had already badly weakened the United States economically relative to its industrial rivals, and one of the ways the Nixon administration reacted to that was by simply tearing apart the Bretton Woods system, which had been set up to organize the world economy after World War II. The Bretton Woods system had made the United States the world's banker, basically-it had established the U.S. dollar as a global reserve currency fixed to gold, and it imposed conditions about no import quotas, and so on. And Nixon just tore the whole thing to shreds: he went off the gold standard, he stopped the convertibility of the dollar, he raised import duties. No other country would have had the power to do that, but Nixon did it, and that made him a lot of powerful enemies-because multinational corporations and international banks relied on that system, and they did not like it being broken down. So if you look back, you'll find that Nixon was being attacked in places like the Wall Street Journal at the time, and I suspect that from that point on there were plenty of powerful people out to get him. Watergate just offered an opportunity.

Much much much more here.

Chomsky then goes on to observe that, when compared to LBJ, JFK, Eisenhower and other US presidents, Watergate was fairly tame, all things considered--I mean, it's not that Nixon wasn't worthy of impeachment or anything like that - his real crimes, like the bombing of Cambodia, go beyond the pale - but Watergate, as a crime, wasn't really worth removing a legally elected president.

Anyway, this is a GREAT book. It really affected how I, well, understand power. And it's all over the place, the Middle East, capitalism and socialism, intellectualism and universities, democracy, the news media, you name it. Easy to read, too: the text is taken from countless interviews, so the language is less dense than when you have the old linguistics professor sitting at his typewriter. It's also good for piecemeal reading, lots of short essays. In its totality, you get a really good sense for how Chomsky analyzes politics and culture, which is something you definitely don't get in college civics classes.

And now the whole book is online. I HIGHLY recommend it, even if you just sort of scan through and read what seems interesting. Even if you disagree with everything you read, you'll be better off for understanding some real leftist thinking, not that drivel the media passes off as "liberal."

Go read it now!



From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

NY Post cartoon of dead chimpanzee stirs outrage

A New York Post cartoon that some have interpreted as comparing President Barack Obama to a violent chimpanzee gunned down by police drew outrage Wednesday from civil rights leaders and elected officials who said it echoed racist stereotypes of blacks as monkeys.

The cartoon in Wednesday's Post by Sean Delonas shows two police officers, one with a smoking gun, standing over the body of a bullet-riddled chimp. The caption reads: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."


The cartoon set off a furious response against the Post. Its phones rang all day with angry callers. Protesters picketed the tabloid's Manhattan offices, demanding an apology and a boycott and chanting "shut the Post down."

Col Allan, editor-in-chief of the Post, defended the work.

"The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut," Allan said in a statement. "It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist."

More here.

Yeah well, it ain't just Al Sharpton condemning the cartoon.

Really, the old Reverend doesn't have to say anything at all. It speaks for itself. Straight up racist. I mean, c'mon. It makes President Obama out to be a fucking monkey. A fucking monkey!!! That's one of the oldest racist attacks on the books. No controversy here, no debate. The New York Post ran a totally racist, totally offensive political cartoon. Period.

There is no way to defend this. "Broadly mocks Washington's efforts" my ass. Like I keep saying, racism is alive and well in the United States, and it is not the exclusive domain of country fucks and skin-headed neo-Nazis: the New York Post is a widely distributed near-mainstream newspaper, conservative yes, but read by thousands of presumably sophisticated urbanites in what is the de facto capitol of the world. And the Post serves up this steaming pile of shit and dares us not to call it what it is. Really, it's sick.

Now here's the punchline: the Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, which also owns FOX News. I know these guys are evil racist assholes, but I never imagined in my wildest dreams they would ever dare to go so far into the sewer.

Yeah, the sewer:

Maybe this will be the event that topples Murdoch's evil empire. I hope.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009


From CBS News courtesy of the Huffington Post newswire:

Jindal Signals Louisiana May Not Take Stimulus Money

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a potential 2012 GOP presidential candidate, has suggested his state may not be interested in all of the roughly $4 billion allotted to it in the economic stimulus package to be signed by President Obama today.

"We'll have to review each program, each new dollar to make sure that we understand what are the conditions, what are the strings and see whether it's beneficial for Louisiana to use those dollars," Jindal said, according to CBS affiliate WWLTV.

Jindal is scheduled to give the response to the president’s not-exactly-a-state-of-the-union address next Tuesday.

Louisiana reportedly faces a possible $2 billion budget shortfall next year. It has been allocated $538,575,876 for infrastructure spending in the stimulus package, and the White House predicts the bill will create 50,000 jobs in the state.

More here.

What the fuck?!?

We're facing a two billion dollar shortfall and Jindal won't take the fucking money? I don't care what your politics are, when you're desperate and somebody wants to bail you out, you take the fucking money. I mean, okay, if Louisiana was a third world nation and the IMF came along and said here's four billion, but privatize all your water companies, privatize all public transportation, and stop spending money on Medicare or you don't get it, refusing their help would be understandable. But that's not what's happening here. Not at all. Sure there are federal stipulations on how to use the money, but a great deal of this is mandating spending on the so-called "shovel ready projects," that is, programs that are ready to go but lack funding right now--in other words, this money is for doing things Louisiana already wants to do, but can't without funding!

I've known for some time now that Bobby "Jesus" Jindal is a clueless fucktard whose only real skill is making public addresses without sounding like a redneck, and even then his speeches are totally lacking in original thought, cribbed from Hannity and Limbaugh, but this is unconscionable. Even before the 2005 hurricane season devastated huge swaths of South Louisiana, this was a poor state, literally crumbling to the ground in numerous places. We need all the help we can get.

To deny these federal billions for nothing but bullshit ideological reasons is horrifying. Clearly, Jindal's posturing has nothing to do with Louisiana itself. I mean, he's dicking us in the ass here, but rejecting this money isn't really about the us: rather, it's about running for President. Jindal is taking this sleazy stand to show Republican primary voters from coast to coast that he's one of them, and can be trusted to do the right thing. And "the right thing" is sacrificing the people he governs for his own personal gain.

There is no punishment strong enough for this crime.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Vatican buries the hatchet with Charles Darwin

From the London Times courtesy of my old pal Matt:

Professor Leclerc said that too many opponents of Darwin – above all Creationists – had mistakenly claimed that his theories were “totally incompatible with a religious vision of reality”, as did proponents of Intelligent Design.

Darwin’s theories had never been formally condemned by the Roman Catholic Church, Monsignor Ravasi insisted. His rehabilitation had begun as long ago as 1950, when Pius XII described evolution as a valid scientific approach to the development of humans. In 1996 John Paul II said that it was “more than a hypothesis”.

Father Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti, Professor of Theology at the Pontifical Santa Croce University in Rome, said that Darwin had been anticipated by St Augustine of Hippo. The 4th-century theologian had “never heard the term evolution, but knew that big fish eat smaller fish” and that forms of life had been transformed “slowly over time”. Aquinas had made similar observations in the Middle Ages, he added.

He said it was time that theologians as well as scientists grappled with the mysteries of genetic codes and “whether the diversification of life forms is the result of competition or cooperation between species”. As for the origins of Man, although we shared 97 per cent of our “genetic inheritance” with apes, the remaining 3 per cent “is what makes us unique”, including religion

More here.

Here's a comment Matt included in the email he sent me with the link to the above excerpted article:

Interesting stuff. And thankless - the hard core evolution types will still think they're mystical morons and the evangelicals will say, "see, told you Catholics weren't Christians!"

Personally, I think they got it right...
...and if I had enough faith to call myself a believer, I'd agree with Matt that the Catholics are right on this--why can't what scientists have discovered about physical reality be God's design? But then, this is no surprise to me. An institution cannot exist for as long as the Catholic Church has without an ability to evolve and adapt to different times and places--it took hundreds of years, but they did eventually pardon Galileo for asserting that the Earth revolves around the Sun, rather than vice versa.

Not having been personally burned by them, I've always liked the Catholics. I mean, this is a sliding scale, of course; I must admit to having numerous deep ideological issues with Catholicism, but they didn't mess with my head the way that Southern Baptists did. And what I like about Catholics is their traditional emphasis on rational thought and philosophy. You can have some good conversations with them, especially if they went to a good Catholic school. They don't get all offended by skepticism: they take it as an intellectual challenge, and fun debate often ensues, totally the opposite of Protestant evangelicals who start to shout when challenged.

Don't get me wrong. You eventually get to a point in the discussion where faith and religious irrationality start to play a bigger role, but it's always a fun ride until you get there. The bottom line is that science plays a much bigger role in Catholic cosmology than it does with their retarded cousins, the evangelicals. Religious debate starts with irrationality for the fundamentalists--it ends with irrationality for the Catholics.

That, too, is no surprise when you compare the institutional structures of these two varieties of Christianity. Catholicism is hierarchical, with virtually all its clergy and leaders steeped in general philosophy, as well as theology. That is, you don't have any power or authority in the Catholic Church unless you're formally educated in the traditional European liberal arts curriculum. For that matter, the Catholics invented the entire concept of college education--historically, all universities are descended from the monastery. Intelligence and thought are quite literally embedded in the Catholic tradition. They have to think about this shit, deeply.

And then they tell their less educated rank-and-file parishioners what to believe. Okay, that's a major defect in their top-down institutional structure, lack of free thought among the masses, but it appears to be counterbalanced, somewhat, by the philosophy emphasis among the elite.

Contrast that with the diffusely non-hierarchical and anti-intellectual structures among fundamentalists. They have loosely affiliated seminaries, yes, but this isn't a Catholic education--these institutions tend to be much more dogmatic, more about rote learning than philosophical theologizing. And many evangelical churches are led by ministers who have not attended seminary at all. Pretty much anybody, from any background, can rise to a leadership role among the evangelicals, and, boy lemme tell you, they do. That is, fundamentalists are anti-education dumbshits who, as their first principle, insist that the Bible is to be understood literally. A simple maxim for a simple people. For the evangelical, when science appears to be in conflict with the plain literal meaning of the Bible, God's word must necessarily trump.

The democracy-loving American in me loves the fundamentalists' bottom-up organizational structure, but I have to admit that such looseness has resulted in mob rule. And when you get enough of these types together it really does start to resemble the French Revolution. It is ironic, indeed, that the stricter top-down hierarchy of Catholicism makes Catholic thought more rational.

Anyway, good for the Catholics!

I'd like to think that maybe this will inspire the fundamentalists to go the same way, but then I realize that Protestants have been defining themselves as "not Catholic" for five hundred years, and evolution will now likely be just another reason for Catholics to go to Hell.


Fox passes off GOP press release as its own research -- typo and all

From Media Matters courtesy of Eschaton:

During the February 10 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, co-host Jon Scott claimed that "the Senate is expected to pass the $838 billion stimulus plan -- its version of it, anyway. We thought we'd take a look back at the bill, how it was born, and how it grew, and grew, and grew." In tracking how and when the bill purportedly "grew," Scott referenced seven dates, as on-screen graphics cited various news sources from those time periods. However, all of the sources and cost figures Scott cited, as well as the accompanying on-screen text, were also contained in a February 10 press release issued by the Senate Republican Communications Center. One on-screen graphic during the segment even repeated a typo from the GOP document, further confirming that Scott was simply reading from a Republican press release.

More here.

Okay, this is pretty damned funny.

I mean, anybody with half a brain, and I'm including conservatives here, already knows that FOX News isn't much more than a propaganda megaphone for the Republican Party. It's obvious at face value, and there has been extensive research, performed by multiple parties, proving it so, again and again. But there's this sometimes maddening, occasionally amusing, always bogus game of denial FOX likes to play: "we're 'fair and balanced,'" the Orwellian network always declares; professional asshole and FOX fixture Bill O'Reilly actually insists he's not conservative. Of course, most people know better, but how do you respond when people lie directly to your face, knowing that you know they're lying, daring you to contradict them? It's not easy to get your opponent to listen to your argument, an incredibly long list of misdeeds, without his interrupting constantly with bullshit responses, making a mockery of the entire exchange.

But this latest gaffe. You've just got to love it. It reminds me of teaching high school, busting kids who plagiarized their papers off the internet: "Listen man, all I had to do was a single Google search for a few lines in your essay; look here, you even misspelled the same words, and you don't know a damned thing about semicolons and independent clauses anyway. You are so busted." It is hilarious to note that FOX News and lazy-fuck teenagers have much in common.

I wonder if FOX will even make an attempt to refute this. Their standard take is that Media Matters is a far-left agit-prop group funded by the likes of George Soros and other lefty billionaires involved in some sort of international conspiracy to get the UN to take over everything. Simply ignoring this report is probably the best approach, from their perspective, but guys like O'Reilly and Hannity just can't keep their mouths shut.

This could get fun.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Kisses unleash chemicals that ease stress levels

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

In an experiment, Hill explained, pairs of heterosexual college students who kissed for 15 minutes while listening to music experienced significant changes in their levels of the chemicals oxytocin, which affects pair bonding, and cortisol, which is associated with stress. Their blood and saliva levels of the chemicals were compared before and after the kiss.

Both men and women had a decline in cortisol after smooching, an indication their stress levels declined.

For men, oxytocin levels increased, indicating more interest in bonding, while oxytocin levels went down in women. "This was a surprise," Hill said.

In a test group that merely held hands, chemical changes were similar, but much less pronounced, she said.

More here.

Well, this is no surprise. At least the decrease in stress thing. I mean, kissing someone to whom you are attracted is very relaxing, no? But it is nice to know that we have our top scientists figuring this all out. Maybe they'll invent a better kiss or something. The decrease of "pair bonding" chemicals in women, however, is indeed counter intuitive. For me, anyway. After all, I'm a man: perhaps women have known this all along, and have kept it to themselves for unknown reasons. But what do I know about women? I'm a divorcee, you know.

Anyway, here's a pic of Rodin's famous statue, "The Kiss."

Read about "The Kiss" here. Happy Valentine's Day.


Friday, February 13, 2009


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


How long till Obama gives up on his "post-partisan" folly?

From the London Financial Times:

President Barack Obama suffered the fourth high-profile withdrawal of a key nominee on Thursday when Judd Gregg, a Republican senator for New Hampshire, stepped aside as commerce secretary candidate, citing “irresolvable” policy conflicts.

Mr Gregg, who was to be the third Republican in Mr Obama’s cabinet, cited policy differences over the $789bn (£552bn) fiscal stimulus, which remains likely to be passed in the next two days, and on which the senator abstained when it came to a vote this week.

Mr Gregg also cited a turf battle with the White House over the US decennial census. After protests from minority groups, who did not want to see a Republican in charge of the census, Obama officials had established joint White House control over it.

The New Hampshire senator, who once voted to abolish the commerce department, had also been bitterly attacked by Republicans from his home state for having accepted a position in a Democratic administration.


Thursday’s announcement also represents a setback for Mr Obama’s bipartisan aspirations. Despite reaching out to Republicans on Capitol Hill, the president secured the support of only three out of 218 for his fiscal stimulus. Mr Gregg, whose withdrawal seems – at least partly – prompted by outrage from fellow Republicans, is likely to oppose it when it comes to the final vote.

More here.

If President Obama's dream of a "post-partisan" nation seemed like a fool's errand a few years back when the Republicans seemed on the brink of ushering in an era of permanent one-party rule, it's even more absurd today: the GOP, now a charred husk of what it once was, has galvanized itself around its dead-ender psychotic core. That is, all that the politically weak Republican Party has left in its bag of tricks is hate and anger. Extremists are calling all the shots these days. Elected Republican officials live in fear of Rush Limbaugh's Caesar-like downward pointed thumb.

For many years now, Republicans have had great distaste for working with Democrats and liberals, who they regard as traitors. But today, it is simply impossible for the GOP to embrace bipartisanship. Their sole reason for existence is to oppose the Democrats. No matter what the cost. They'd rather the nation lie in ruins than work with the majority party.

So it's no surprise that Senator Gregg opted for the better part of valor. And by "valor," I mean cowardice. The right-wing faithful were ready to disembowel him. The President should just give up on this "post-partisan" bullshit. It just won't work. You can't cooperate with people who refuse to cooperate. I mean, has anybody wondered why the Democrats in the Senate need sixty votes to get anything passed? They've got the majority, after all. The reason is that's what's needed to override a filibuster: that is, Senate Republicans filibuster everything now. Everything. Everything. It's not that they're simply voting against Democrat policy; it's that they're using an extreme legislative tactic to stop every single bill the Democrats bring up for a vote. Fuck man, remember when the Democrats were threatening to filibuster a single Republican judicial nominee? Senate Republicans went nuts and were poised to destroy the time-honored, but relatively seldom used Senate rule. And for some strange reason, now that they're in the majority, Senate Democrats don't seem to give a fuck about recent history.

Whatever. The bottom line here is that Republicans are crazy. And you can't work with crazy people. And if you try, all they'll do is fuck everything up. The President needs to learn this, like yesterday. Or he's fucked. And so are we.


Thursday, February 12, 2009


I'm talking about well trained theater actors, not movie stars.

One of the many goals that serious actors try to achieve when they're in performance is a sort of regression to childhood. The idea is that human imagination and spontaneity is at its best when one is a child. Intellect doesn't really get in the way. Emotion and action are close to simultaneous. And kids have fun. Wherever they are.

Yesterday, a pal of mine from work emailed me a link to a bizarre YouTube video of a little French girl concocting a story while she tells it. Of course, it's cute and all, but it's also really weird and cool. The story has no rhyme or reason; it just sort of progresses, quickly, as she comes up with moment after moment after moment. And it makes no sense.

But that's okay. It's a marvelous romp. Check it out. But first, here are some viewing rules:

1. Do not turn off the sound. Listen to the French.

2. Read the English subtitles, and FOLLOW THE STORY. Even if you don't understand what the crocodiles have to do with Winnie the Pooh.


4. Do not lose focus or be distracted.

If you do not experience a sense of surreality along the lines of watching The Wizard of Oz with the sound turned off while Dark Side of the Moon plays in the background, you're an inhuman monster.

This is pure childlike imagination. It's what every actor, indeed every artist, needs to have in his toolbox.

Dig it:


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Porn Star Stormy Daniels to Take on Sexual Hypocrite Sen. David Vitter?

From AlterNet:

This year, an ad appeared on Craigslist seeking "a female in some aspect of the adult-entertainment industry" to run against Vitter. Soon after, a website "drafting" porn actress Stormy Daniels to oppose Vitter sprouted up. Part publicity stunt, part political psy-ops tactic, the Draft Stormy initiative has already forced Vitter's scandalous past back into the limelight. The Louisiana Democratic Party denied any involvement in creating the website, but it is not complaining about Daniels' involvement in the race.

While traveling through Arizona last week, I learned that Daniels would be performing at a Phoenix strip club. I tracked the adult-video starlet down at her hotel and filmed the first interview with her since the Draft Stormy initiative began. During our exclusive interview, Daniels homed in on what she called Vitter's hypocrisy, declaring her intention to make his contradictory behavior the centerpiece of her campaign.

Read more and watch the interview here.

Vitter, former US Representative for the district where I now live, and current junior Senator for my adopted state Louisiana, is among the worst the GOP has had to offer in recent years--yeah, I put him right alongside Bush and Tom DeLay in terms of sleaze and lies. I mean, he's just Louisiana river trash. And very much like the man who succeeded him in his former Congressional district, Bobby "Jesus" Jindal, now governor of Louisiana, there's not an original thought in his mind that he didn't first hear on Rush Limbaugh.

Unlike Jindal, however, Vitter, numerous times, put on a diaper and had kinky infantile fetish sex with prostitutes up in Washington. He is a hypocrite and liar of the worst order: while he was shitting in his adult sized baby pants for erotic pleasure, he was also running around condemning gay marriage, condemning sex outside of marriage, condemning comprehensive sex education, you name it, pushing all that "family values" bullshit.

Prostitution should probably be legal, and I'm not one to heavily criticize anyone's sexual kinks, but I wouldn't shed a single tear if Senator Vitter spent some time in jail for his misdeeds. Actually, I'd laugh and dance. He's a real motherfucker. A total scumbag.

So this Stormy Daniels thing is fucking great. I mean, no way in hell she'll ever win, but the media circus accompanying a semi-serious run will definitely drag Vitter's name through the swamp mud. Hopefully for weeks. Really. This may very well happen. According to Wikipedia, Daniels is from Baton Rouge, which means residency may not at all be a problem, and the Draft Stormy website is no joke. She's got my vote for sure.

Oh god, I hope this happens.

The porn star from Louisiana.

The asshole.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Texas electricity rates soar under deregulation

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The Legislature passed a sweeping deregulation law in 1999 that sought to break down electric company monopolies and remove strict government control over retail electricity rates. The idea was to allow competitive market forces to drive down prices. The sponsor of the legislation, former Sen. David Sibley, acknowledges rates have gone up but said he still considers the bill a success.

Sibley, who now lobbies for power companies and others, blames the hikes on increased natural gas prices. He said Texas is far too dependent on natural gas and would see lower rates if it diversified to coal, nuclear and other energy sources.

“The fuel mix is a problem,” Sibley said. “We’re building nothing but natural gas plants.”

Sibley said the amount of transmission capability, demands from population growth and pressure to reduce emissions can also affect rates.

But the report found that even among neighboring states heavily dependent on natural gas, Texas has higher rates.

Oklahoma and Louisiana, for example, are big users of natural gas but did not deregulate their markets as Texas did, the data shows. Texans currently pay about 10.3 cents per kilowatt hour on average, compared to 8.3 cents in Louisiana and 7.3 cents in Oklahoma, a snapshot of federal data shows.

Ratepayers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, which have also introduced retail electric competition, saw electricity prices rise by 39 percent and 62 percent between 1999 and 2007, respectively, according to the study.

More here.

I'll just put this in the same file as Texas capping medical malpractice lawsuit awards a few years back: the result was supposed to be lower insurance rates, know...rates actually increased.

Of course, deregulation doesn't always work this way. From time to time, business regulations are outdated, or short sighted, or just plain stupid, and need to be reformed. But this power deregulation stuff in Texas was never in that category. Indeed, like California's power deregulation at the turn of the twentieth century which resulted in rolling blackouts and utterly absurd electricity bills which gave the energy industry ridiculous windfall profits, Texas' deregulation was always driven by the industry being deregulated. That is, all the wondrous price drops that supposedly come from magical, marvelous, deregulated market forces were never demanded by Texas consumers. Rather, the energy industry, which essentially wrote the deregulation bill, pushed its own agenda disguised as being consumer-friendly. In other words, they said it would be good for consumers, but they always knew it would be good for themselves.

In short, this bullshit deregulation was sold to Texans as being good for their pocketbooks, but the energy industry fucking knew that no such thing would happen. Instead, they knew that getting the government off their backs would allow them to fleece Texas consumers. Which is exactly what happened.

Like I said before, deregulation isn't necessarily a bad thing. But in this era where it is now perfectly clear that businesses are totally willing to lie their asses off to customers in order to make a few more bucks, I think it's safe to say that we ought to rely on more than their good word that what they want is good for everybody. That is, deregulation bills should never be written by lobbyists.

Or legislators, for that matter--did you notice how the guy who sponsored the original legislation is now a lobbyist for the energy industry? And we call this democracy.


Monday, February 09, 2009


From the New York Times, yet another good Krugman column:

The Destructive Center

What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?

A proud centrist. For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished.

Even if the original Obama plan — around $800 billion in stimulus, with a substantial fraction of that total given over to ineffective tax cuts — had been enacted, it wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will amount to $2.9 trillion over the next three years.

Yet the centrists did their best to make the plan weaker and worse.

More here.

Krugman goes on to talk more about the stimulus bill, but I'm totally wowed by the point he makes only as an introduction. That is, these "centrist" actions he writes about are obviously not centrist; the only thing a person with any political knowledge at all can call them is "conservative."

A few days ago I was at a bar after work talking to a couple of young women. They're both very intelligent, assertive, and have plans for successful professional careers in male dominated fields. They don't take any shit from anybody. But neither of them would accept it when I tried to tag them as feminists. They didn't even like my telling them that, however they wanted to ideologically identify themselves, they were certainly living out feminist lives--I even told them, "hey, it's okay, I'm a feminist myself." No good. Whichever way I put it, they rejected the feminist label.

And that's weird to me because these two are so obviously feminists; indeed, by every definition of the term I can think of, my drinking pals fit it. What's going on here?

A while back, my father, a fairly far-right conservative, who knows I'm liberal, asked me to describe briefly where I'm coming from ideologically. I thought for a moment and told him that I'm probably closest to a 1950s liberal, predating the arrival of the so-called "New Left," and without the accompanying Cold War paranoia that made real 50s liberals so trigger-happy: the idea I wanted to get across to him is that yeah, I want massive change, but I still have a basic faith and belief in the foundational principles and institutions of the United States--I'm a good American who wants the country to change in order to make it more true to itself.

But looking back on the conversation, I found it weird that I needed to to explain myself in this way, using history to define my own specific style of liberalism. I mean, the above explanation is, to me, of the word "liberal" in general, at least in the US, not really of my own personal liberalism. Liberals are patriotic Americans who want change; conservatives are patriotic Americans who are cautious about change, believing the mess we've got is better than the unknown, right?

Apparently, that's not what the establishment thinks these days. Indeed, I'm not sure exactly what the establishment thinks about the subject lately. If the study used during the recent presidential campaign to brand Obama as the "most liberal Senator" is taken seriously, the mainstream simply thinks that "liberal" means "what the Democrats vote for" and "conservative" means "what the Republicans vote for." Such a view essentially renders differences between liberals and conservatives meaningless--policy, that is, what elected officials vote for, is entirely different from ideology, that is, what people believe; to get legislation passed, ideology must often be compromised, but once belief is compromised, it is no longer belief.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, "liberal" and "conservative" are now, for the most part, brand names, and "conservative" plays Coke to "liberal's" Pepsi. Like my young feminist friends who refuse to admit what they are, many Americans prefer to think of themselves as conservative because it beats "liberal" again and again in taste tests. That is, the right wing, as understood in today's parlance, and by that I mean the far-right reactionaries who have come to dominate the Republican Party, has done a marvelous job of trashing the word "liberal." Regardless of belief, people don't want to think of themselves as big pussy liberals.

Except that, according to surveys, most Americans really are liberal. They want government to make their lives easier. They want racial, gender, and economic justice. They oppose non-defensive war. They want a fair two-state solution in Palestine. And on and on. The political class, however, which includes the corporate news media, is not liberal; they're conservative: they oppose "big government;" they favor policies that make the rich become richer; they're very skeptical about any justice associated with social class; they always favor Israel's harsh hawkish position on Palestine, and on and on. This conservatism definitely includes elected officials and journalists who the establishment perceives as "liberal." In short, Americans are liberal, even if they won't admit it, while our rulers are conservative to extraordinarily conservative, even if they call themselves liberal.

Confusing, yeah I know.

But that's why we're treated to the spectacle of "centrists" who are actually conservative fucking up the stimulus bill. The problem here is that when "liberal" and "conservative" effectively have no meaning, the terms of pretty much all political public discourse become wildly dishonest. That is, the true liberal positions held by a majority of Americans are effectively excluded from debate because the people's "liberal" representatives won't voice them. Far right extremist conservative ideology rules our nation's capitol, in spite of Democratic majorities in Congress and possession of the White House.

Fuck "progressive" bullshit euphemizing, liberals need to reclaim this once proud word and reestablish some reasonable boundaries for political debate. Otherwise, these "centrists" with fangs are going to do us all in.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Michael Phelps Has No Business Apologizing for Taking Bong Hits

From AlterNet:

Plastered all over the Internet right now is a photo of Michael Phelps smoking marijuana out of a bong. Phelps put out a statement saying that he acted in a youthful and inappropriate way and promises it won't happen again. Different people are weighing in on the possible impact of this photo on the gold medalist's $100 million endorsement deals.

Here are a few of my observations on Phelps' bong hits.

Click here to read those observations.

And they're good observations. Here are a couple of mine.

First off, since this essay was written, Phelps has been suspended from international sports for three months, despite the fact, if ESPN's scrolling line at the bottom of the TV screen can be trusted, that smoking pot in the off-season is not considered, by whatever controlling body decides these things, to be the same as taking performance enhancing drugs, and is therefore not a violation of policy. So his punishment is itself a violation of rules. Figures. Also, Phelps lost his contract endorsing Kellog's breakfast cereals. Also figures.

This is all bullshit.

I mean, okay, smoking pot continues to be illegal, but it's bad law, especially when compared to alcohol and tobacco laws. And in this era when Presidents routinely torture people, spy on law-abiding citizens, and purposely violate the Constitution, and when top business leaders rip off their clients, and when Congressmen solicit gay sex in airport men's rooms, store sacks of bribery cash in their freezers, don't pay taxes, and on and on and on, the sacred nature of THE LAW seems a bit absurd.

Phelps really does have nothing to apologize for. Indeed, if he weren't such a douchebag dude, he might have had the wherewithal to say something like this:

Yeah sure, I smoked pot. So what? I wasn't smoking crack. I wasn't shooting horse. I wasn't even drinking or smoking cigarettes. It was just a few bong hits. You think that's bad? Think it's wrong? Well fuck you. Fuck you all. Fuck all you self-righteous cops who bust stoners and lecture them about being "criminals." Fuck all you cops associated with the now discredited DARE program. Fuck all you authoritarian teachers and parents who freak out over something that's relatively harmless and culturally normal. Fuck all you addiction "experts" who have gotten rich "treating" marijuana "addiction." Fuck the totally corrupt multi-billion dollar addiction and anti-drug industries. Fuck all you reporters who refuse to tell the truth, who act as stenographers for politicians and cops seeking political points by piling on pot smokers and others who really are addicts and need medical help. Fuck all politicians for refusing to break with the anti-drug political rhetoric mandate.

Think I'm being harsh? Don't like my use of the F-word? Well, fuck you. People needlessly go to prison for this shit. Lives are ruined. Hundreds of billions of dollars are fucking wasted year in and year out. This is madness. Fuck you all.

I'm gonna go get high.
Of course, like I said, Phelps is a douchebag, and incapable of rhetorically striking out in such a way. I mean, he's a great swimmer and all, but waaay too much of a dude to be able to articulate these ideas. And the poor guy's completely scared shitless, obviously in no mood to defend himself. I mean, I imagine his apology in no way represents some kind of philosophical transformation: he's babbling "I'm sorry" because the whole fucking anti-drug establishment has come down on him hard.

And maybe that's the biggest tragedy of all here. Whether you think pot smoking is okay or not, society's favorite anti-drug tactic is humiliation, bullying, dog-piling. And that's horrifying.