Thursday, December 31, 2009


From Wikipedia:

Champagne (wine)

Champagne is a sparkling wine produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of the wine to effect carbonation. It is produced exclusively within the Champagne region of France, from which it takes its name.

The primary grapes used in the production of Champagne are Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot Meunier. Through international treaty, national law or quality-control/consumer protection related local regulations, most countries limit the use of the term to only those wines that come from the Champagne appellation. In Europe, this principle is enshrined in the European Union by Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. Other countries, such as the United States, have recognized the exclusive nature of this name, yet maintain a legal structure that allows certain domestic producers of sparkling wine to continue to use the term "champagne" under limited circumstances. The majority of US produced sparkling wines do not use the term "champagne" on their labels and some states, such as Oregon, ban producers in their states from using the term as it can be confusing to consumers.

Champagne first gained world renown because of its association with the anointment of French kings. Royalty from throughout Europe spread the message of the unique sparkling wine from Champagne and its association with luxury and power. The leading manufacturers devoted considerable energy to creating a history and identity for their wine, associating it and themselves with nobility and royalty. Through advertising and packaging they sought to associate Champagne with high luxury, festivities and rites of passage. Their efforts coincided with an emerging middle class that was looking for ways to spend its money on symbols of upward mobility.


Ha! That's really funny!

I never knew that Champagne's luxurious mystique was by and large manufactured as an advertising scheme, and that class-conscious elitist bourgeois assholes fell for it hook line and sinker. Sometimes I really do feel like I've figured out how the world works. Kind of reminds me of the first and only time I've had
Dom Pérignon: it was good, but not knock-yer-socks-off; on the other hand, maybe I just didn't like the rich white people who had their black servants pour it for me.

At any rate, I won't be drinking Dom tonight, or even Champagne, for that matter. But I will be imbibing some domestic bubbly, something I found at the grocery store for cheap called "Barefoot Bubbly":

The back label says:

Our Bubbly Chardonnay is refreshing with a tasteful balance of tart green apples and sweet honey. The clean, bright, and palate-pleasing flavors finish on a smooth, sparkling note.
Well, I guess we'll see about that. Really, I bought it because I like the packaging. It's sad, but for a waiter, I don't know a damned thing about wine. Neither do the people I wait on, but that's another story.

Anyway, Happy New Year. I'm really glad to be leaving this shitty decade behind.

NEW YEAR'S BONUS: Go check out This Modern World's 2009 year in review; it's fucking funny. Part one
here. Part two here.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This Side of Paradise

From Wikipedia:

"This Side of Paradise" is a first-season episode #24, production #25, of Star Trek: The Original Series. It was first broadcast on March 2, 1967 and was repeated on August 10, 1967. The episode was written by D.C. Fontana and Nathan Butler, and directed by Ralph Senensky.

Overview: The Enterprise visits a planet, where the inhabitants are under the control of strange plant life.


This is not an episode to which I've returned over the years. I've sort of categorized it away, based on my memories of watching it as a child, as one of those goofy and unsuccessful episodes, with particularly bad acting, and an uninteresting story. But I watched it again recently on broadcast television here in NOLA, for the first time in many years, and it turns out that I was only half right.

I mean sure, Doctor McCoy's old-country-doctor routine is played to the hilt, verging on comedy. Actually, he is pretty funny in this one. The fights Enterprise crew members get into toward the end of the episode are laughable, too. And the colony leader is one of those iron-jawed, stiff-lipped sci fi actors so common in 1950s schlock B movies. Kirk has some pretty silly dialogue.

But to judge "This Side of Paradise" only in those terms is to do a grave injustice to the fantastic chemistry shared between Leonard Nimoy and future Charles Bronson wife Jill Ireland. The "strange plant life" noted in the Wikipedia excerpt above removes Spock's Vulcan ability to suppress his emotions, and he falls in love, and it's really fucking beautiful. And doomed, too, because we all know that things will be back to normal by the end of the episode: there's some incredible pathos here, amid all the unintentional science fiction comedy. Really, Nimoy is a fantastic actor, and this one's all about Spock, as penetrating and cool, in it's own way, as the second season Vulcan fest "Amok Time," or "Journey to Babel," which delves into the science officer's relationship with his father.

When you get down to it, "This Side of Paradise" is something of a Star Trek tragicomedy: you can watch it both ironically and seriously at the same time.

Go check it out.

"Right next to the dog faced boy!"



I don't often post stories from NPR's All Things Considered, but listening to the show Tuesday afternoon I was wowed by a couple of items about a couple of slightly bizarre performers I like from the mid twentieth century.

Check it out.

In A New Biography, Monk Minus The Myth

She also gave her son rare recordings of Monk playing that had not been heard outside the family. Kelley calls them "just incredible gems."

"And what I heard particularly in this wonderful recording of him dealing with the song 'I'm Getting Sentimental Over You,' " Kelley says, "you hear him first try to assimilate the song, understand its dimensions. And he's playing a passage over and over again. And it sounds like somebody who doesn't know the song, though you know he does.

"And he works through it. And after about, really, 45 minutes of working through this, as if he's struggling, he suddenly gets his stride. And he obtains a kind of mastery of the song. And if there's any lesson in those tapes, it's that it was hard for Monk to play Monk."

here to listen to the story.

They play a bit of that practice tape in the NPR piece, and its exactly as described here: Monk sort of losing himself in the composition, trying to figure out it's hidden mysteries, looking to translate it into his own musical idiom. I've never been a huge Thelonious Monk fan, but I've liked him since I first encountered him in a jazz appreciation class I took back in the 80s. Our professor briefly explained why Monk sounds so weird: there are all kinds of chord variations where the pianist adds or subtracts a few notes here and there to turn, say, a C major chord into, say, a C minor diminished seventh; usually, the added notes are spread out across the keyboard, giving the chord a harmonious feel, but Monk would sandwich these notes together, literally on top of one another, so it all works musically, but has a sort of off-kilter feel. Listening to Monk is way cool, but it's also kind of WTF, in a good way. Excellent weird jazz.

Remembering Spike Jones And His City Slickers

Spike Jones and his City Slickers broke the mold of conventional music decades ago with humor, drums, cowbells and even cannons. With his 1950s TV show now on DVD, the late bandleader's wife, Helen Grayco, and son, Spike Jones Jr., talk about his legacy of subverted songs.

Listen to the story

As with Thelonious Monk, I've never been a big Spike Jones fan, but I've definitely noticed him. Really, it was about humor, which, as a long time Frank Zappa fan, I greatly appreciate. Jones used lots of non-musical instruments and sounds juxtaposed against a more standard approach in order to confound expectations--it's much more than the funny lyrical approach used by Weird Al Yankovic and his ilk. Indeed, it might be fair to say that Jones paved the way for the likes of Zappa and others: you probably couldn't have the Beatles doing something like "Yellow Submarine" if you didn't have Jones doing his weird stuff a decade earlier.

Actually, I think I remember reading something some years ago about Beatles producer George Martin having worked with Jones before he met the Fab Four, making Martin the perfect guy for John, Paul, George, and Ringo's free-wheeling and experimental approach to pop and rock music. If that's true, we've got a lot more to thank Jones for than just his funny records.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Put Anyone Who Is A "Known Muslim" In A Separate Line

In the wake of Friday's attempted plane bombing in Detroit,
Crooks and Liars posts on the return of calls for intense racial profiling, specifically those of right-wing radio host Mike Gallagher:

Gallagher: But guys, let's look at the inevitable, the 800-pound gorilla in the room. How about we scrutinize young Middle Eastern men to stop this.

What happens when El Al Airlines, the airline run and operated by the state of Israel, if a Palestinian tries to board that plane? Do you think he goes through an extra degree of security? Well, let's do that with Muslims, let's do that with anybody named Abdul or Mohammad or Ahmed, let's take them and put them in a room and make sure they don't have explosives sewn into their underwear.

here, with video.

Of course, this point of view has always been bullshit, but I think only recently have I been able to articulate exactly why.

Just think about this for half a second. Suppose we did this. Suppose we essentially decide to make Muslims, and anybody who seems to be a Muslim, into a sort of second or third class, under continual deep scrutiny by law enforcement, with fewer rights than non-Muslims. I'm very skeptical that this would make our lives in the least bit more secure, but let's assume that it does, anyway. What happens if there is another attempted or even successful terrorist attack? It's reasonable to assume that we would ramp up the program, intensify the scrutiny, rescind more rights, maybe round up Muslims and put them into detention centers like we did with Japanese-Americans on the West Coast back in WWII.

Never mind that this is all "politically incorrect," which is the term conservatives sarcastically use to dismiss the reasonable fears of civil libertarians on the issue of profiling. Never mind that this would in all probability be counterproductive, enraging Muslims around the world, encouraging even more of them toward the radical terrorist fringe, especially here in the US, where we have already witnessed the horrifying and murderous actions of one of our own citizens, Major Nidal Hasan, at Fort Hood in Texas. Never mind all that, at least for the moment.

What's really disgusting about this renewed call for profiling Muslims is that we're talking about turning our country into a police state. And I just can't stomach that. Anybody who takes being a United States citizen seriously cannot stomach that. Conversely, anybody who calls for profiling Muslims is unworthy of living in this great nation. Let's call this bullshit what it is: the end of America. These right-wing assholes would have us self-destruct in order to save ourselves. Sickening, just sickening.

Like I keep saying, if we really want to get serious about terrorism, we have to stop treating other nations as though they were nothing more than resources to be extracted and labor to be exploited. This is why there are terrorists. And nothing short of treating people like human beings will stop the terrorists' homicidal rage.


Sunday, December 27, 2009


From WebMD:

Southern States Are the Happiest

There may be something to be said for southern hospitality and sunshine. A new study shows that Southern states are the happiest while coastal rivals New York and California are at the bottom of the list.

Researchers ranked the happiest states (plus the District of Columbia) on self-reported measures of happiness as well as objective measures like sunshine, congestion, and housing affordability and found six out of the top 10 happiest states were in the South.

Louisiana topped the list, followed by Hawaii, Florida, Tennessee, and Arizona rounding out the top five.


Like the excerpt says, the study, published in Science magazine, uses it's own methodology to arrive at it's own conclusions, but being in the thick of it, as it were, here in South Louisiana, I've got my own ideas.

That is, Noam Chomsky has written about poverty in the US versus poverty in the Third World and asserts that, even though by material standards poverty here is not nearly as harsh as it is elsewhere, the poor in developing nations are visibly happier. His take is that poverty stricken communities in the US have lost all social connections: the poor in America are isolated while the poor in the Third World continue to have a strong sense of community, and therefore hope and happiness.

Louisiana is a poor state. One intuitively concludes that being poor ought to make us unhappy here. But Louisiana also has a very strong social fabric, with festivals and a seemingly infinite number of social traditions. And lots of good food, which usually serves as an excuse to party. Actually pretty much anything serves as an excuse to party. And then there's Mardi Gras.

Moral of the story: money doesn't make people happy; people make people happy. After five and a half years living here, that's what I've decided this state is about.

Smiley face


Tuesday, December 22, 2009


So I'm going out of town for a few days starting tomorrow, and, as usual, that means no posting until I get back, probably Sunday. But until then, enjoy this Real Art Christmas party!

Calif. city gets Charlie Brown Christmas tree

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

"This thing looks like it's dead and it's leaning over," Concord resident Bill Gram-Reefer said Wednesday. "It just doesn't evoke a Christmas tree to me."

Adds resident Pat Breen: "It's kind of sad after all the nice trees that Concord has had."

Officials said budget woes forced them to forgo a freshly cut, full-bodied tree for one that was already growing in a city plaza.

"We had to cut $8 million out of our budget and had to lay people off, so we had to figure out a way to share the spirit of the season while still cutting expenses," explained Mayor Guy Bjerke.

He said the city would have ended up spending about $23,000 for a cut tree had they not opted to use the one growing in Todos Santos Plaza. The city chose the tree over other fuller trees in the plaza because of its location near an electrical outlet and away from the road.


Stupid blockheads. All it needed was a little love.

From CSpan's

Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn't Buy Presents for the Holidays

Joel Waldfogel argues that Americans end up wasting billions of dollars on presents during the holiday season every year. He says that the worth attached to these gifts by those who receive them is generally considerably less than what the gift-giver spends on them. Prof. Waldfogel spoke about this topic at the University of Pennsylvania Bookstore in Philadelphia.

Watch the interview


7 Reasons for Atheists to Celebrate the Holidays

It's often assumed that the atheist position on what is politely termed "the holiday season" is one of disregard at best, contempt and annoyance at worst. After all, the reasons for most of the standard winter holidays are supposedly religious -- the birth of the Savior, eight days of miraculous light, yada yada yada. Why would atheists want anything to do with that?

But atheists' reactions to the holidays are wildly varied. Yes, some atheists despise them: the enforced jollity, the shameless twisting of genuine human emotion to sell useless consumer crap, the tyrannical forcing of mawkish piety down everyone's throats. (Some believers loathe the holidays for the exact same reasons.)

But some of us love the holidays. We love the parties, the decorations, the smell of evergreen trees in people's houses, the excuse to eat ourselves sick, the reminder that we do in fact love our families and friends. We're cognizant of the shameless twisting and mawkish piety and whatnot -- but we can deal with it. It's worth it for an excuse to drink eggnog with our loved ones and bellow out "Angels We Have Heard On High" in half-assed four-part harmony. (In fact, when it comes to the holidays, atheists are damned if we do, damned if we don't. If we scorn the holidays, we're called Scroogy killjoys. If we embrace them, we're called hypocrites. Oh, well. Whaddya gonna do.)


And finally, courtesy of
Eschaton, I've recently learned that there is a Christmas version of "The Macarena":

Merry Christmas, ya'll! See you in a few days.


Liberal Enthusiasm Convinced Me To Oppose Medicare Buy-In

From the Huffington Post:

In an interview with the New York Times, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) revealed Tuesday that he decided to oppose a Medicare buy-in in part because liberals like Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) liked it too much.

[I]n the interview, Mr. Lieberman said that he grew apprehensive when a formal proposal began to take shape. [...]

And he said he was particularly troubled by the overly enthusiastic reaction to the proposal by some liberals, including Representative Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, who champions a fully government-run health care system.
Click here for more.

A few years ago I was having margaritas back in Houston with a couple of theater buddies of mine, one liberal and one conservative, both of them extraordinarily intelligent. The whole immigration debate was taking up a lot of space on the evening news at that point, and our conversation drifted in that direction. After the standard liberal/conservative back and forth on the issue, I threw out one of my dissenting ideas: I don't understand why liberals don't take this issue as seriously as conservatives; after all, illegal immigrant workers depress wages for everybody, and that's bad for workers who are actually citizens.

Both my buddies loved this, and one of them, I forget whether it was the conservative or the liberal, asserted that both sides are prone to knee-jerk responses. That is, if the right wing says one thing, liberals often feel compelled to say the other, simply because it's the opposite of what their adversaries are asserting, and vice versa.

I suspect this happens a whole lot more than people are willing to admit. I mean, it's easy to blast Lieberman for it because he's a dick and an idiot. But at least he's being honest about how he doesn't really give a shit about what people who disagree with him have to say. The bottom line here is that we don't really listen to each other. My take is that conservatives are probably more guilty of this than liberals, but I'm sure I'm biased on this. Actually, there are some rather profound and frightening totalitarian tendencies on the left, so opposition simply because it's the other side is probably as pronounced among liberals as it is among conservatives.

At the very least, we ought to hear each other out, fairly and at length, before we render judgment. But I guess that's not really the zeitgeist, is it?


Monday, December 21, 2009

Patrick Stewart to receive knighthood

From the World Entertainment News Network via the Houston Chronicle:

The 69-year-old star will be honored by the British monarch for his 50-year acting career, which spans the stage and screen and includes roles in sci-fi TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation and comic book blockbuster franchise X-Men.


Anybody who's followed his career even slightly understands that this has been due for some years. Indeed,
Patrick Stewart, in my humble opinion as a Master of Fine Arts in acting, is at least as talented as his Royal Shakespeare Company predecessors Lord Laurence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud. 'Bout fucking time. Sir Patrick Stewart. That sounds right.

On the other hand, the neanderthal comments left by Houston Chronicle readers make me shiver. Go check 'em out; if you think Stewart is a great actor, they'll make your blood boil.

Here's the comment I left:

kjblur wrote:
"Knighthood for just being an actor?.....might as well give him a Nobel Prize too."

The Brits, unlike most Americans, understand that the theater is a four thousand year old art form dating back to classical Greek civilization. That is, unlike in the US, the English greatly value their culture, and reward and respect individuals who do great things to enhance and expand that culture. Have any of you naysayers actually ever seen any Shakespeare on stage performed by great actors? Right, of course not. You really have no place commenting on something about which you obviously have no understanding.
A few others commented with me along the same lines, but how the fuck can people be so fucking ignorant?

If you want to see some really great Shakespeare stuff, Stewart along with guys like Ian McKellen and Ben Kingsley, then track down the BBC series Playing Shakespeare, fun stuff, especially Stewart and David Suchet's dueling Shylocks. Fabulous shit!

Playing Oberon in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Or Puck.

I'm not sure which. Probably Oberon.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kucinich: 'Class War Is Over, Working People Lost'

From Raw Story via

"The class warfare is over -- we lost," Kucinich said before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "I want to make that announcement today. Working people lost. The middle class lost."

The harrowing comments from Kucinich, who is Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, come amidst a national unemployment rate of 10 percent, one year and several months after the economic collapse of 2008 has marred the livelihoods of many.

"Don't tell me about class warfare," he continued. "Come to my neighborhoods in Cleveland. I will show you class warfare. I’ll show you hollowed out areas. I’ll show you businesses that went down because they don’t have access to capital. And on Wall Street it is fat city. Don’t tell me about class warfare."


A favorite right-wing rhetorical tactic over the last decade or so is to shut up Democrats and liberals by dismissing their comments with a simple sentence: "well, that's class warfare." The understanding here is that America is a classless society, so waging "class warfare" is un-American by it's very nature. It is disturbing that the ploy usually works; liberals who don't know any better shut the fuck up when conservatives play the "class warfare" card.

Of course, the reality is that if anyone is waging class warfare in the United States, it is almost always the fabulously wealthy attacking the poor, workers, and the middle class. Sure, there have been a few points in American history, such as the New Deal era, or the Civil Rights era, when regular ordinary people have managed to make some gains at the expense of the fabulously wealthy, but most of the time, it's the rich fucking over everybody else.

That is, we're always engaged in "class warfare," and the most strident and effective warriors come from the upper class, who use their wealth as a weapon to bust heads, all the while denying what they're doing. Yeah, Kucinich is right. We've lost the class war. Really, the only difference I have with the Congressman from Ohio on this is that this most recent loss is nothing new. It's been happening pretty much since the drafting of the Constitution.

Government of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy shall not perish from the Earth. It's the American way.


Friday, December 18, 2009


Becky tells me this guy's quite the demon. But isn't he cute?


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


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Review: E-mails show pettiness, not fraud

From the AP via MSNBC:

E-mails stolen from climate scientists show they stonewalled skeptics and discussed hiding data — but the messages don't support claims that the science of global warming was faked, according to an exhaustive review by The Associated Press.

The 1,073 e-mails examined by the AP show that scientists harbored private doubts, however slight and fleeting, even as they told the world they were certain about climate change. However, the exchanges don't undercut the vast body of evidence showing the world is warming because of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.


I've resisted posting on this "scandal" because recognizing it almost gives it a sense of legitimacy, and legitimacy is one thing this controversy lacked from the get-go. That is, it strikes me as extraordinarily implausible that some emails from a few scientists involved in global warming research somehow render moot the mountains of evidence which firmly establish human created global warming as fact. I'm also keenly aware of how right-wing cyberspace lunatics love to manufacture bullshit "reality". So I was immediately sure that these emails amounted to nothing, and was dead set on ignoring it all until the whole thing went away.

But what the hell. The AP was nice enough to spell everything out for us, so why not dance on the grave of yet another conservative attempt to send us all to hell? Moral of the story: until they start consistently telling the truth, everybody should be wildly skeptical of everything the right wing has to say. You know, the boy who cried wolf and all that.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Space Seed

From Wikipedia:

"Space Seed" is a first-season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, that was first broadcast on February 16, 1967 and repeated on August 24, 1967. It is episode #22, production #24, written by Gene L. Coon and Carey Wilber, based on a story by Carey Wilber, and directed by Marc Daniels. It went on to serve as a basis for the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

The episode guest-stars Ricardo Montalbán as Khan Noonien Singh, and Madlyn Rhue as Lt. Marla McGivers.

Overview: The crew of the Enterprise awakens a powerful dictator from Earth's war-torn past.


Of course, this one is fucking great, easily in the top five. I mean, it's a great story, with some fascinating sci-fi ideas, most notably the notion that selective genetics might do us all in someday, but it's also got the old concept of the space travellers from the past frozen in suspended animation. Wonderful stuff. It's also anti-authoritarian, narratively asserting that strong charismatic leaders shouldn't be trusted, and you just have to know that I love that.

But what really makes this episode hum and zing is the acting. Ricardo Montalbán and William Shatner are cut from the same cloth. They're both way bigger than life, and amazingly comfortable in that shape and size. It's almost as though they feed off of each other, getting better with each scene. Khan is easily Kirk's greatest and most worthy adversary.

Go watch "Space Seed" right now.

"Well, either choke me or cut my throat."



Tonight, Wednesday, December 16th, at the Neutral Ground coffee house, 5110 Danneel St. in Uptown New Orleans. Ten to eleven p.m. Come watch me, for the third time, sing original songs and a couple of covers, recite Shakespeare, and ramble on about art, culture, and politics in much the same way I do here at Real Art.

People appear to be enjoying what I'm doing. Maybe you will, too.

"A splendid time is guaranteed for all!"


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Obama urges banks to boost lending

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

President Barack Obama told top bankers on Monday to explore “every responsible way” to increase lending, saying they were obliged to help repair the American economy after being saved by the taxpayer-funded bailout.

In a statement after more than an hour with the executives, Obama said he reminded them that much of the financial crisis that took the U.S. banking system to the brink of collapse had been “of their own making.” He also exhorted the executives — both in private and in public — to drop their opposition to an overhaul of the nation’s financial industry.


Oh god, this is so pathetic. Please, sir, please, could you stop fucking us over? This is the most disgusting moment of the Obama presidency thus far. When you are President, you don't politely ask federal entities, which is what recipients of the bailout funds are now because the federal government owns them, to do the things you want: you fucking dictate terms; you order them to do your bidding.

Nonetheless, President Obama continues to pretend that these banks are privately owned companies. Probably because of the persistence of powerfully influential right-wing delusions of laissez-faire absolutism. But that's all over now; we no longer live in a world where the market can do no wrong. We can no longer trust these too-big-to-fail organizations to do the right thing--actually, we could never trust these uber-banks to do the right thing, but now it's achingly obvious that that's the case.

Obama had better get his shit together, had better stop pussy-footing around, adhering to economic ideology that is as defunct as Aristotelian physics, or things are just going to get worse. The Reaganomics model doesn't work. We cannot return to the glory days of the go-go 90s, which is clearly what the President's goal is, because it was all an illusion in the first place, nothing but a precursor to today's broken economy.

I'm really starting to think that we're all fucked.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Disaster and Denial

From the New York Times, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman on the persistence of now totally discredited right-wing economic ideology:

Talk to conservatives about the financial crisis and you enter an alternative, bizarro universe in which government bureaucrats, not greedy bankers, caused the meltdown. It’s a universe in which government-sponsored lending agencies triggered the crisis, even though private lenders actually made the vast majority of subprime loans. It’s a universe in which regulators coerced bankers into making loans to unqualified borrowers, even though only one of the top 25 subprime lenders was subject to the regulations in question.

Oh, and conservatives simply ignore the catastrophe in commercial real estate: in their universe the only bad loans were those made to poor people and members of minority groups, because bad loans to developers of shopping malls and office towers don’t fit the narrative.

In part, the prevalence of this narrative reflects the principle enunciated by Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” As Democrats have pointed out, three days before the House vote on banking reform Republican leaders met with more than 100 financial-industry lobbyists to coordinate strategies. But it also reflects the extent to which the modern Republican Party is committed to a bankrupt ideology, one that won’t let it face up to the reality of what happened to the U.S. economy.


Yeah, it's not even really an argument anymore. (And by "argument," I mean in the Monty Python argument-sketch sense: an argument is a set of propositions intended to prove a point. Not the right-wing sense of running your mouth until the other side gets sick of it and quits the exchange.) Yet we continue to see a seemingly endless parade of conservative commentators, activists, and politicians who seemingly have no understanding at all that some of the most foundational principles of their economic views, deregulation, free markets, etc., have been utterly shattered by real world events. I mean, there's obviously still some room to talk about how some regulations are bad, or how certain parts of the market ought to be freer than others, but until the right wing acknowledges that their laissez-faire absolutism now resides in the same file cabinet as phrenology and alchemy, and incorporates this development into their discussion of economics, they're just a bunch of gibbering monkeys.

The corporate news media taking their voodoo bullshit seriously doesn't help matters much.

Krugman ends his essay by tossing the problem to the Democrats. It's up to them, he writes. But the Democrats, even the true liberals among them, take laissez-faire absolutism seriously, too, even when they disagree. As a political party, they're incapable of dealing with this mass denial of reality. It's truly a Gordian Knot. Who's going to step up and cut the damned thing in two?


Why We've Stopped Fighting Back Against the Forces of Oppression


Shortly before the 2000 U.S. presidential election, millions of Americans saw a clip of George W. Bush joking to a wealthy group of people, "What a crowd tonight: the haves and the haves-more. Some people call you the elite; I call you my base." Yet, even with these kind of inflammatory remarks, the tens of millions of U.S. citizens who had come to despise Bush and his arrogance remained passive in the face of the 2000 non-democratic presidential elections.

Perhaps the "political genius" of the Bush-Cheney regime was in their full realization that Americans were so broken that the regime could get away with damn near anything. And the more people did nothing about the boot slamming on their faces, the weaker people became.


When people become broken, they cannot act on truths of injustice. Furthermore, when people have become broken, more truths about how they have been victimized can lead to shame about how they have allowed it. And shame, like fear, is one more way we become even more psychologically broken.

U.S. citizens do not actively protest obvious injustices for the same reasons that people cannot leave their abusive spouses: They feel helpless to effect change. The more we don't act, the weaker we get. And ultimately to deal with the painful humiliation over inaction in the face of an oppressor, we move to shut-down mode and use escape strategies such as depression, substance abuse, and other diversions, which further keep us from acting. This is the vicious cycle of all abuse syndromes.

Much more

Yeah, I know, it sounds kind of whiny. I'm usually not one who readily embraces victim oriented narratives about politics and society--personally, I'm much more fond of storylines where the oppressed rise up against their oppressors, empowering themselves instead of cowering in dark corners. But if you're able to get past the sort of Lifetime channel metaphor in the essay, it's a great read.

Indeed, it hits on several of the themes about which I write here at Real Art, social isolation, debt and fear of job loss, corporate control of the political class, schools as training for submission to authority, social control through psychiatric meds and institutions, television as a means of normalizing capitalist control over society, commercialization and commodification of everything. Really, the point here is that our collective political life, whatever that means these days, is extraordinarily influenced by forces that we don't really think of as being political, and these forces, when viewed in their entirety, greatly serve the elites at the top of the heap, while rendering the hopes, dreams, and fears of most Americans quite meaningless.

That is, our great democracy is totally fucked up, nobody is doing anything about it, and nobody appears to understand the situation enough to actually do anything about it, even if they wanted to.

Go read this essay. It's good stuff.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Annise Parker elected Houston's next mayor
Nation watches as city becomes the largest

in U.S. to choose an openly gay leader

From the Houston Chronicle:

Annise Danette Parker was elected mayor of Houston on Saturday, winning her seventh consecutive city election and becoming both the first contender in a generation to defeat the hand-picked candidate of Houston's business establishment and the first openly gay person to lead a major U.S. city.

Parker, Houston's current city controller who first emerged in the public arena as a gay rights activist in the 1980s, defeated former City Attorney Gene Locke on an austere platform, convincing voters that her financial bona fides and restrained promises would be best suited in trying financial times. Parker, 53, will replace the term-limited Mayor Bill White on Jan. 1.

Her victory capped an unorthodox election season that lacked a strong conservative mayoral contender and saw her coalition of inside-the-Loop Democrats and moderate conservatives, backed by an army of ardent volunteers, win the day over Locke, a former civil rights activist who attempted to unite African-American voters and Republicans.


Instead of being turned off by a politician reluctant to promise the world, voters responded to Parker's straight talk about all that might not be possible in the coming years.

Dozens of Houstonians interviewed by the Houston Chronicle said they appreciated her often blunt answers that made Locke's proposals seem vague.


While some voters acknowledged it was a matter of concern, many saw no problem voting for a gay candidate, especially given Parker's assurances that she did not intend to expand gay rights through her position as mayor.

Ray Hill, the dean of Houston's gay activists, saw victory in more ways than one.

“For me, it means 43 years of hard work has finally paid off,” Hill said. “For Houston, it means we have finally reached the point where being gay cannot be used as a wedge issue to divide the community and prevent us from reaching our aspirations. Annise Parker is not our mayor — she is the city's mayor.”


Wow. I didn't know my hometown was capable of this.

In all honesty, I must admit that I'm pretty terrible when it comes to understanding local politics. I mean, I guess I've got a decent macro understanding of how Houston works: real estate developers and business, big and small, essentially own the city, and run it to best suit their interests. That's why it's so fucking sprawling. That's why it buys culture from New York City rather than supporting the many talented individuals who actually live there and labor in obscurity. That's why the pollution is so bad. That's why the only thing worth doing, if you're not into corporate chain entertainment and dining, is inside the Loop. That's why mass transit is so shitty and irrational. And on and on. So yeah, I've got an understanding of Houston politics, but I'm woefully uninformed when it comes to the nitty gritty nuts and bolts of how things get done in the Bayou City.

On the other hand, compared to my understanding of local politics in New Orleans, which are just impenetrable, my views on Houston are f'ing brilliant. But that's still not saying much. Anyway, keep all that in mind as I make a few observations on this mayoral win in Houston:

1. Yeah, it is quite significant that H-Town elected an out lesbian as Mayor. Sure, Houston has a relatively huge gay community, but it's also Texas. The steers and queers thing is really just a joke. Historically, there's been a lot of homophobia in the city of my birth. I really can't believe she pulled this off.

2. It's also worth noting that her runoff opponent was an African-American man. That is, the two choices here were historically oppressed minorities, no white men at all. If we've got shit like this going on in Houston, you know, Bush country, and a black man occupies the White House, I think it's safe to say that we really are becoming a more diverse country. Way cool.

3. I think it's probably a good thing that Parker beat the business candidate, if only because business, as a special interest in H-Town, has been far too dominant for far too long. And it's not as though Parker was a tax-and-spend California liberal, either, not as though Che Guevara was forcing ship channel workers onto collective farms. It's simply that cities have more concerns than commerce, and hopefully Parker gets that.

4. I like that Parker's rhetoric avoids promising a chicken in every pot, and that voters are attracted to that. It's refreshing to hear someone from the political class shoot straight--it's been so long since John McCain was that guy, I'd almost forgotten what it was like.

5. The article kind of implies that conservatives might be losing power in Houston. This may be true, but remember to keep in mind that liberals ain't what they used to be, and a liberal in Houston usually gets along well with a conservative from New England. That is, Houston may be moving into an era when it will simply be less far right, rather than more liberal.

6. Along those lines, is Houston going to become the San Francisco of the Southwest? Absolutely not. Not in a million years. I mean, this is Texas we're talking about.


Friday, December 11, 2009


Becky's other cats...



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


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Are Liberals Pathetic?

Why, yes, they are.

AlterNet, my favorite Harvard Master of Divinity, journalist Chris Hedges, gets right at what disgusts me about contemporary American politics:

Liberals are a useless lot. They talk about peace and do nothing to challenge our permanent war economy. They claim to support the working class, and vote for candidates that glibly defend the North American Free Trade Agreement. They insist they believe in welfare, the right to organize, universal health care and a host of other socially progressive causes, and will not risk stepping out of the mainstream to fight for them. The only talent they seem to possess is the ability to write abject, cloying letters to Barack Obama -- as if he reads them -- asking the president to come back to his "true" self. This sterile moral posturing, which is not only useless but humiliating, has made America’s liberal class an object of public derision.

I am not disappointed in Obama. I don’t feel betrayed. I don’t wonder when he is going to
be Obama. I did not vote for the man. I vote socialist, which in my case meant Ralph Nader, but could have meant Cynthia McKinney. How can an organization with the oxymoronic title Progressives for Obama even exist? Liberal groups like these make political satire obsolete. Obama was and is a brand. He is a product of the Chicago political machine. He has been skillfully packaged as the new face of the corporate state. I don’t dislike Obama -- I would much rather listen to him than his smug and venal predecessor -- though I expected nothing but a continuation of the corporate rape of the country. And that is what he has delivered.


The imperial projects and the corporate state have not altered under Obama. The state kills as ruthlessly and indiscriminately in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as it did under Bush. It steals from the U.S. treasury as rapaciously to enrich the corporate elite. It, too, bows before the conservative Israel lobby, refuses to enact serious environmental or health care reform, regulate Wall Street, end our relationship with private mercenary contractors or stop handing obscene sums of money, some $1 trillion a year, to the military and arms industry. At what point do we stop being a doormat? At what point do we fight back? We may lose if we step outside the mainstream, but at least we will salvage our self-esteem and integrity.


An internal conversation I often have with myself revolves around how I moved so far to the left, ideologically speaking. I was raised in a conservative Republican Southern Baptist home in Texas, so it only makes sense that the first few times I voted I was supporting conservative candidates. After a few years in the theater department at UT Austin, surrounded by liberal artists, it only makes sense that I started voting for Democrats in the early 90s.

Okay, that part's easy to figure out. Conservative to liberal. Sure. But how did I end up further to the left than the term "liberal" implies? Some of my more liberal friends in college had turned me on to
Noam Chomsky, who I read voraciously in the mid and late 90s. I started listening to Pacifica radio when I moved back to Houston. I found out about Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. And, obviously, I found all their arguments persuasive.

But this above linked essay totally hits the essence of why being a "liberal" wasn't enough for me: the far left narrative of the way things work in the US is the only explanation that makes sense to me. Howard Zinn, for instance, has described the American liberal as an apologist for the establishment. That is, liberals say lots of nice things about oppression and the working class and war and how the wealthy, rather than regular ordinary people, control the nation, but virtually all their "efforts" to effect the change about which they always wax sentimental amount to nothing. In the end, even though they pay lip-service to righting it's wrongs, American liberals support the establishment, and just don't have the stomach to push for the drastic alterations our society needs in order to be more just and fair.

To me, this description, liberal as pro-establishment apologist, makes a whole hell of a lot more sense than the gobledy gook bullshit we constantly hear from Democratic politicians, labor leaders, abortion rights activists, and the rest of the usual gang of inside-the-beltway idiots, about why they have to constantly cave in to conservative demands. I mean, if I take what they say at face value, I really don't understand them. Not one damned bit. They make no fucking sense.

I mean sure, I often call myself a liberal, if only because its too damned difficult to explain to most people where I actually sit on the American political spectrum, but like I've said in the past, when justifying my voting for Ralph Nader, liberals and I are not on the same side. Yes, we have similar rhetoric, but we also have very different meanings when we use it. Until liberals start to actually mean what they say, we have virtually no chance of undoing the corporate hostile takeover of our nation. Judging by how Washington liberals are behaving these days, I don't see that happening anytime soon.

'Nuff said.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Taste of Armageddon

From Wikipedia:

"A Taste of Armageddon" is a first-season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. First broadcast on February 23, 1967 and repeated July 20, 1967, episode #23, production #23, and was written by Robert Hamner and Gene L. Coon, and directed by Joseph Pevney.

Overview: The crew of the Enterprise visits a planet whose people fight a strange war with a neighboring enemy.


The "strange war" is fought with simulated nuclear weapons. That is, it's all done on computers, without any actual nukes; software on both planets calculate what would happen if real missiles were to reach their targets, and casualties, real people, are then ordered by their respective governments to report to disintegration chambers to die actual deaths. The idea is to preserve culture and infrastructure without losing all the dying. Nifty idea. Kind of like exclusively using neutron bombs, which kill by radiation, rather than with massive explosions.

Of course, this horrifies Captain Kirk, who believes war should be about destruction, which compels him to concoct yet another justification for defying Star Fleet's
Prime Directive, forcing these two hypothetically warring civilizations to fight a real war--ideally, faced with holocaust, the two planets will sue for peace.

While "A Taste of Armageddon" has some interesting concepts, there's really nothing intellectually or artistically redeeming about it. Both philosophies presented here, fake war with real death and real war with real death, are morally reprehensible. What makes this episode fun is that it's straight-up action and adventure, lots of ass-kicking and shooting, Kirk's cowboy diplomacy--indeed, the episode's one true Federation diplomat is portrayed as a stupid fucking pussy. Episode highlight: Kirk taking out six alien security guards in less than three seconds using only his fists.

If you dig kicking ass in space, this one's for you.

Watch it


Tuesday, December 08, 2009


October 9, 1940-December 8, 1980

Happy XMas (War is Over)

So, this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong

And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight

War is over
If you want it
War is over


Historic EPA finding: Greenhouse gases harm humans

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

The Obama administration took a major step Monday toward imposing the first federal limits on climate-changing pollution from cars, power plants and factories, declaring there was compelling scientific evidence that global warming from manmade greenhouse gases endangers Americans' health.

The announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency was clearly timed to build momentum toward an agreement at the international conference on climate change that opened Monday in Copenhagen, Denmark. It signaled the administration was prepared to push ahead for significant controls in the U.S. if Congress doesn't act first on its own.

The EPA finding clears the way for rules that eventually could force the sale of more fuel-efficient vehicles and require plants to install costly new equipment or shift to other forms of energy.

Energy prices for many Americans probably would rise — though Monday's finding will have no immediate impact since regulations have yet to be written. Supporters of separate legislation in Congress argue they could craft measures that would mitigate some of those costs.


But business groups said regulating carbon emissions through the EPA under existing clean air law would put new economic burdens on manufacturers, cost jobs and drive up energy prices.

"It will choke off growth by adding new mandates to virtually every major construction and renovation project," declared Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which in recent months has been particularly critical of the EPA's attempt to address climate change.


'Bout fucking time.

This really should have happened years ago, but couldn't because, you know, psychotic right-wing assholes occupied the White House, which controls the EPA. But just because the conservatives are out of power doesn't mean they're not going to pitch the mother of all fits about this. Indeed, the above linked article goes on to assert that a massive wave of lawsuits aimed at tying up the EPA for a long time to come is all but inevitable.

Shit like this, right-wing resistance to combating global warming, gives me a lot of empathy toward George Carlin's giving up on the human race in the latter years of his life. Science, especially climatology, is now dead certain that global warming exists, human activity is causing it, and the end result will necessarily be the destruction of civilization. So why the hell are so many Americans opposed to doing anything about it?

Business opposition I understand. Businesses, while staffed by humans, are not themselves human beings. They're soulless, emotionless, short-sighted organizations governed by procedural rules, motivated solely by increasing profits and nothing else. Of course businesses are opposed to doing anything about greenhouse gasses: they don't give a shit about the end of civilization as long as they continue to make money. I mean sure, the end of civilization is bound to be bad for business, but I did say businesses are short-sighted, didn't I?

What I don't get are individuals who oppose getting serious about climate change. I don't understand how people can simply dismiss hard science--I don't understand why people don't accept evolution, either, but that's another story. I don't understand how people can scoff at EPA plans to regulate carbon dioxide emissions by observing that CO2 exists naturally--I mean, that's true enough, I suppose, but using such a fact in such a way betrays what is obviously a willful ignorance of the entire global warming phenomenon; that is, saying that carbon dioxide exists in nature, and should therefore not be regulated, automatically disqualifies one from the whole conversation. I don't understand why people say the same thing over and over, that fighting climate change will hurt the economy, without acknowledging that climate change itself will hurt the economy far, far worse than efforts to fight it ever possibly could.

Actually, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman asserts that if Congress gets in on the regulation act, the economy would hardly suffer at all, but I guess that conservatives rule out anything he has to say because he's a Bush-hater.

Anyway, this news is way cool. It's also yet another reminder that, in spite of all my criticisms, President Obama is about a thousand times better than what we had before. At least he's serious about governing the country.


Monday, December 07, 2009

Texas Edges Nebraska 13-12 to Win Big 12 Championship

From the Houston Chronicle:

But at Cowboys Stadium, in the biggest game of his life, his moment found him anyway. And on a night when Nebraska’s superstar lineman threw Lawrence’s larger teammates around and UT’s Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback nearly threw the game away, it was Lawrence whose 46-yard field goal as time expired lifted the No. 3 Longhorns to a 13-12 victory in the Big 12 Championship Game.

With the victory, UT (13-0) likely advances to a Bowl Championship Series title game showdown with Alabama on Jan. 7 in Pasadena, Calif.

The Longhorns nearly didn’t get that chance. One play before Lawrence’s kick, Nebraska players stormed the field celebrating after Colt McCoy inexplicably ran a play and threw the ball high out of bounds with time running out. The stadium clock showed 0:00 after the play, but a replay official reviewed it and ruled McCoy’s pass hit the turf with one second remaining.


Well, I've always said I love a great defensive struggle.

It's just that I wasn't expecting this one at all. I mean, last week the Aggies shut down the Texas defense and ran all over the field; this week the Cornhuskers (it's really hard not to say "Cornholers," but I'm trying) shut down the Texas offense. Naysayers insist this all means that Texas has no business playing against the Crimson Tide in the BCS championship game. The way I see it is that we won, both times, against good but radically different teams, in different ways. That is, Texas knows how to win, especially when it looks like they're not going to.

Despite their struggles these last two games, the fact that they won them both makes me feel good about taking on Alabama. The Longhorns don't get flustered. I mean, that big-ass defensive tackle playing for Nebraska, the guy who created so much mayhem again and again behind the Longhorn offensive line, by himself should have scared the fuck out of Doctor McCoy. But no. He just kept on playing. Another day at the office. And in the end he did just enough to pull it out.

Okay, the shades-of-Les-Miles clock bullshit at the end is troubling, but this is the only time I've seen Texas flail around in this way in years--LSU's Tigers, conversely, do this shit all the time. This was a fluke moment, not likely to be repeated. Personally, I think we're ready, and Houston sports analyst guy
Richard Justice agrees. Indeed, struggling to win these last two games is actually good for Texas: there's no way they're going to the Rose Bowl thinking it's a gimme; they'll be tough and hungry, desperate for redemption in the national spotlight.

It's time. Let's do it again. Hook 'em 'Horns!

Hunter Lawrence kicks the game-winning field goal.
Ronald Martinez / Getty Images


Sunday, December 06, 2009


...Captain Pike!


Friday, December 04, 2009




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


Thursday, December 03, 2009


From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Obama: Afghanistan not lost, remains challenge

Declaring “our security is at stake,” President Barack Obama ordered an additional 30,000 U.S. troops into the long war in Afghanistan on Tuesday night, but balanced the buildup with a pledge to an impatient nation to begin withdrawing American forces in 18 months.

In a prime-time speech at the U.S. Military Academy, the president said his new policy was designed to “bring this war to a successful conclusion.” The troop buildup will begin almost immediately — the first Marines will be in place by Christmas — and will cost $30 billion for the first year alone.

“We must deny al-Qaida a safe haven,” Obama said in articulating U.S. military goals for a war that has dragged on for eight years. “We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum. ... And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government.”


He said he was counting on Afghanistan eventually taking over its own security, and he warned, “The days of providing a blank check are over.” He said the United States would support Afghan ministries that combat corruption and “deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable.”


Okay, but how on Earth can we get Afghans to take over their "own security" while combating corruption? This was always, and still is, the problem in Iraq, which many strategists argue is a much less complicated situation than the one in Afghanistan. While I don't think everything President Carter's national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski says about global conflict is worth even listening to, he's got
some good observations about President Peace-Prize's plans for the mountainous "nation" that neither the British nor the Soviets could conquer:

Brzezinski also cautioned that it would be hypocritical and counterproductive for America to stress that Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government be purged of corruption.

"Who are we to seriously be preaching [such] a crusade?" he asked. "We have a financial sector that is voraciously greedy and exploitative, to put it mildly. We have a Congress which is not immune to special interests. And we have an electoral system that is based largely on private donations which precipitate expectations of rewards. The notion of us going to the Afghans and preaching purity is comical... I think we should just quit that stuff."

Brzezinski also expressed reservations about a counter-insurgency strategy that is too reliant on bolstering national institutions, noting that there is "a very complex" mix of different ethnic and tribal groups that have historically opposed foreign or even central authorities.
Of course, Brzezinski goes on to assert that what we need to do is work more closely with local authorities, rather than with the US created national government, which seems sensible enough, until you consider that we're talking about some twenty ethnically-controlled autonomous regions. That is, Iraq is tough enough, what with Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds: Afghanistan, with seven times the number of Iraq's factions, doesn't even come close to what we in the West would consider to be a nation state. And it never has.

So what Obama's talking about is good old fashioned "nation building," but the rub here is that he wants to build a nation where one has never existed. Maybe the conservatives have gotten to me, but I'm really starting to buy into one of the Bush II platform planks from the 2000 campaign: the US should not be in the business of "nation building," especially in places where such a thing is virtually impossible.

Iraq, as a nation state, may yet succeed, but only if the US decides to tolerate a dictatorship as brutal and despotic as the one it replaced, which is no doubt happening right now. Afghanistan, however, is quite literally a Forbidden Zone. There's just nothing we can do there.

If we were really serious about ending Islamic terrorism, we'd get serious about ending our support for Muslim dictatorships, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which enrages the entire Islamic world. And we'd tell Israel to get it's shit together on Palestine, or no more billions to fund its war machine. Of course, we'd have to reevaluate the role that oil plays in the global economy, too, so I don't expect this to happen anytime soon. But it is the only way.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009


From Wikipedia:

"The Return of the Archons" is a first season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It is episode #21, production #22, and was first aired February 9, 1967. It was repeated by NBC on July 27, 1967. The screenplay was written by Boris Sobelman, based on a story by Gene Roddenberry, and directed by Joseph Pevney.

Overview: The crew of the Enterprise encounters a world controlled by an unseen leader.


Oh, but this one is so much more than a simple encounter with "a world controlled by an unseen leader." Yeah, it's one of the better "parallel Earth" stories. Sure, it offers a glimpse of the future's past, with the Enterprise investigating the loss of the USS Archon nearly a century earlier. And it's got one of those fabulous logic battles between Kirk and a powerful sentient computer. This one would be fun, no matter what.

But it's the social situation in which Kirk and crew find themselves, and its ramifications for our culture, you know, us viewers back here in the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries, that truly make this episode great. The people of Beta III exist in a sort of group consciousness, which allows for some sense of individuality, but which can also be stripped away at the whim of the apparition-like Landru whenever he requires "The Body," that is, his subjects, to perform a group action. Generally, these people are calm and peaceful, with a psychedelic gleam in their eyes, offering well-wishes and love to whomever they may encounter. Except, of course, during "Festival," when Landru causes his people to release their inner demons, spending entire nights literally raping and pillaging their own civilization.

They're just like us.

No, seriously. Think of the bloodthirsty Southern Baptists who love the death penalty, love torturing prisoners of war, love hating homosexuals, and who love you and Jesus. Think of the perfect suburbs with their underbelly of sleaze and anger. Think of the entire US population twenty four hours before, and then twenty four hours after, 9/11.

"The Return of the Archons" has always creeped me out, from the first time I saw it when I was four or five, right up until today. The notion that all our minds are being controlled somehow, that we only pretend to be peaceful and loving, that animalistic violence is just a surface scratch away from it's full bloody glory, that everything we value and believe in is a monumental lie, I think I've instinctively feared my whole life.

The more I think about it, the more I realize how psychologically disturbing this episode is. I've read a few reviews of this one on the web, and, generally, people rate it as average: they obviously don't get it. Go check it out. It's great.

"It is done."


Tuesday, December 01, 2009


From the Houston Chronicle:

Scientist: U.S. effort on climate ineffectual

Prominent climate scientist James Hansen on Monday dismissed President Barack Obama's recent pledge that the United States would cut its carbon dioxide emissions as “completely ineffectual.”

Hansen said Congress, which is considering a cap-and-trade bill to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and the president, who pledged a provisional target of reducing greenhouse gases by about 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020, should pursue a carbon tax instead.

“These are completely ineffectual approaches,” Hansen said in an interview.

Obama made his pledge last month in advance of his planned Dec. 9 visit to an international meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark, where policymakers hope to craft a global treaty to reign in a warming climate.

By making such pledges and appearing to address climate change, Hansen said the U.S. government, is guilty of “greenwashing,” the practice of disingenuously spinning products and policies as environmentally friendly.


And from

Is Obama Following in the Footsteps of Bill Clinton?

Today, it’s crucial to ask where Obama is heading. From the stimulus to healthcare, he’s shown a Clinton-like willingness to roll over progressives in Congress on his way to corrupt legislation and frantic efforts to compromise for the votes of corporate Democrats or “moderate” Republicans. Meanwhile, the incredible shrinking “public option” has become a sick joke.

As he glides from retreats on civil liberties to health reform that appeases corporate interests to his Bush-like pledge this week to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, an Obama reliance on Congressional Republicans to fund his troop escalation could be the final straw in disorienting and demobilizing the progressive activists who elected him a year ago.


When you start in the center (on, say, health care or Afghanistan) and readily move rightward several steps to appease right-wing politicians or lobbyists or Generals, by definition you are governing as a conservative.


Okay, I have to admit that I'm getting some wicked pleasure out of the confusion and disillusionment being suffered by stupid liberals who believed against all reason that President Obama was somehow going to be their progressive savior. It was in-your-face obvious during the campaign that Obama is a corporatist conservative Democrat, and it's ram-it-in-hard obvious now. I mean sure, FOX News guys and their ilk go on and on with their "socialist/fascist" oxymorons, but the far right wing has gone drooling gibbering crazy, and doesn't really make much sense anymore: Obama's multi-billion dollar spending spree is all about trying to save the corporate capitalist establishment, restoring the conservative institutions which own and run our society to the position of strength they enjoyed back in the 90s--conservatives ought to love Obama, just as they ought to have loved conservative Democrat Bill Clinton; I guess they just can't get past the whiff of good vibes that goes with being a Donkey.

On the other hand, the preordained failure of Obama to govern from the left, to make the real changes that this country desperately needs, is extraordinarily disturbing: the American political system, and therefore its government, is fucked up broken bad. We continue to regress, not nearly as quickly as we did under eight years of the giggling boy-president named Bush, but the course of our nation is definitely going backward, not forward.

Maybe it's time to embrace nihilism. Either that, or go on a year-long Jim Morrison binge. Whatever.