BAD TECH HIATUS
In short, I can't get Windows to boot. When this has happened in the past I've always been able to get my old laptop to serve as a temporary substitute, but it's being very difficult right now, and the internet is problematic. So hopefully I'll manage to get back to regular blogging sometime next week, after I get some tech guys to look at the mess I once called my computer.
This is kind of a drag for me. We've got former Homeland Security Czar Tom Ridge saying that the Bush administration used those old terror alerts for political advantage, which I'd just always assumed, but still, this is yet another significant correction to mainstream US history that makes conservatives look really bad. And we've also got a possible DoJ torture investigation in the works, finally, thanks to that CIA torture memo that was released late last week.
Lots of good blogging fodder. But not for me. Not right now.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
BAD TECH HIATUS
Posted by Ron at 11:42 PM
Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Twelve Carry Guns -- Including Assault Rifle -- Outside Obama Event
From Talking Points Memo courtesy of Eschaton:
About 12 people were carrying guns, including at least one semi-automatic assault rifle, outside a building where President Obama was speaking today.
No one was arrested outside the VFW National Convention in Phoenix, according to the Associated Press, where hundreds of people demonstrated both for and against health care reform. There are no reports that the 12 were part of an organized group.
The man spotted carrying the assault rifle and a pistol, who gave his name only as "Chris", was asked why he was armed. "Because I can do it," he said. "In Arizona, I still have some freedoms."
Because he can do it.
Okay. That's a bullshit response. The gun's clearly a threat to the President. Period. I mean, this idiot may have had absolutely no intention of taking a shot at Obama, but he definitely wanted people to see him carrying around his assault rifle; he definitely wanted to send a symbolic message. Same with the other eleven there. Same with the two who showed up at a similar Presidential event last week in New Hampshire.
You put these high-profile right-wing displays of weaponry together with the Tiller murder and the shooting up of that Unitarian church in Tennessee, and an extraordinarily disturbing picture starts to emerge. Back in the 90s, these violent conservative weirdos were dressed in fatigues and mostly confined to their paramilitary "patriots" compounds: today they're running around in public, menacing Americans with whom they disagree, and sometimes killing them.
Not only am I worried that one of these psychos might kill President Obama, I'm also worried that they might kill me. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think civil society has been so bad since the decade immediately preceding the Civil War. Are these motherfuckers going to force me to do what I currently believe to be unthinkable? Will I have to buy a gun?
I don't really think I want to live in a country where I have to arm myself for fear of political violence. What the fuck is happening here?
Posted by Ron at 10:06 PM
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
THE ALTERNATIVE FACTOR
"The Alternative Factor" is a first season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It is episode #27, production #20, and was broadcast on March 30, 1967. The episode was written by Don Ingalls, and directed by Gerd Oswald.
In this episode, the crew of the Enterprise encounters a "reality jumping" madman. This is the first Star Trek episode to deal with parallel universes.
Okay, I like this one, but I have to be honest. It's got some problems. For starters, it's got that first season awkwardness I've written about for earlier episodes, mostly due to the guest star, Robert Brown, who was cast at the very last minute because Drew Barrymore's father, John, failed to show up when they started shooting, apparently something he did often--it's tough playing a psycho in the first place, but doing it with very little preparation was something Brown just couldn't pull off. But it's not all his fault. The dialogue gets weird in places. For instance, Shatner had no idea how to deliver the episode's final lines, "But what of Lazarus? What of Lazarus?" To be fair, as an actor myself, I have no idea what I would do with such faux poetry, either. A lot of the episode just looks plain cheesy, too. The negative image shots look cheap, which they are, and I knew it even when I was a kid. But the continuity errors with Lazarus' beard are simply insulting. Is it a thick and manly beard? Or is it thin and wispy? Depends on what scene he's in, I guess.
But for all that, it continues to engage me. Parallel universes, holes in the fabric of reality, time travelers who jump from dimension to dimension. The idea of a man from our universe, which is made of matter, touching his duplicate from an anti-matter universe resulting in the destruction of all reality is something that captivates my imagination to this very day. I mean, these are the sci-fi ideas that made me a geek.
I don't know. Maybe you'll like it too:
Posted by Ron at 10:07 PM
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Why Does Popular Culture Treat Prison Rape As a Joke?
"Humor is part of the cultural attitude that (prison) is the one place where rape is okay," said Linda McFarlane, JDI’s deputy executive director.
McFarlane added that, "Jokes target the pain of a particular group of people and dehumanizes them. … It layers the discourse with a veil of acceptance."
This dehumanization trades on the well-being of the thirty-some individuals that write letters to JDI each week, telling their stories of abuse and asking for help. A 2007 survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that nearly 1 in 20 inmates -- more than 60,500 people -- experienced some form of sexual abuse in the previous twelve months. That’s considered a conservative estimate since many survivors prefer not to admit the abuse they’ve suffered. As well, the study did not include people involuntarily detained in juvenile facilities, halfway houses, or immigration centers.
The obvious answer to the question posed by the essay's title is the prevalent American social anxiety about male homosexuality--anxiety about male homosexual rape, on the other hand, is probably close to non-existent, if only because it is inconceivable to most American men. Nonetheless, prison rape is a very real and very disturbing phenomenon, and the jokes, as the essay asserts, do nothing but grant legitimacy to this extraordinarily barbaric aspect of American society--indeed, prison rape, and other issues, are so problematic to me that, odds are, prosecutors will always strike me from any jury panel where sending someone to prison is a possibility.
Anyway, go check out the essay. It's only marginally about pop culture attitudes toward prison rape, and much more about the rape issue itself. We, as a people, really need to confront this issue, and in order to do that, we need to know about it. Clearly, the thing that allows prison rape to continue is that it is out of sight, and consequently, out of mind.
I cannot possibly imagine that the American people would approve of this if they really understood what was going on.
Posted by Ron at 10:38 PM
Monday, August 17, 2009
White House appears ready to drop ‘public option'
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Bowing to Republican pressure, President Barack Obama’s administration signaled on Sunday it is ready to abandon the idea of giving Americans the option of government-run insurance as part of a new health care system.
Facing mounting opposition to the overhaul, administration officials left open the chance for a compromise with Republicans that would include health insurance cooperatives instead of a government-run plan. Such a concession probably would enrage Obama’s liberal supporters but could deliver a much-needed victory on a top domestic priority opposed by GOP lawmakers.
Under a proposal by Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., consumer-owned nonprofit cooperatives would sell insurance in competition with private industry, not unlike the way electric and agriculture co-ops operate, especially in rural states such as his own.
With $3 billion to $4 billion in initial support from the government, the co-ops would operate under a national structure with state affiliates, but independent of the government. They would be required to maintain the type of financial reserves that private companies are required to keep in case of unexpectedly high claims.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, said it would be difficult to pass any legislation through the Democratic-controlled Congress without the promised public plan.
“We’ll have the same number of people uninsured,” she said. “If the insurance companies wanted to insure these people now, they’d be insured.”
If the liberals I've been reading on this subject are right, and some of them are economists, this may very well signal the end of any kind of real health care reform. The whole point to the "public option" is to use federal economic force, by offering inexpensive health care to the currently uninsured, to make insurance companies lower upward spiraling costs for everybody else. You kill two birds with one stone, cover the uninsured while putting the brakes on insurance rates that for years have outpaced inflation at frightening rates.
I don't understand how these "co-ops" are supposed to accomplish the same thing. Indeed, without the federal purse, it seems highly unlikely that this exotic compromise idea has any chance of undercutting the existing insurance market. I can see them offering slightly less expensive health insurance, which, of course, won't do much in the way of universal coverage. Likewise, for-profit insurance companies will have no incentive to reign in costs because "co-ops" can't rock the market. That is, "co-ops" will still be pressured by the same fucked up "market" realities that pressure for-profit companies, you know, staying away from the people who really need insurance because they're either very young or very old or very sick.
Only the federal government has enough economic power to deal with this, which is why the only real solution to America's health care shame is the single-payer solution, or if you prefer, Medicare for everybody. Personally, "co-ops" remind me of the bizarre market driven ideas offered by the likes of right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute, ideas that look interesting on paper but have no chance of working in the real world. Remember "health care savings accounts"?
This is all one big fucked up mess. House liberals may very well kill the bill altogether if there's no public option, and I don't blame them one damned bit. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans are denouncing the "co-ops." Apparently, there's just no pleasing the conservatives. And that's why the President needs to just ignore them and get this thing passed, with the public option. Bipartisanship means no reform, no matter what compromises the Democrats make.
You know, I've purposely kept my expectations for our new President low because I've not for one moment believed he's a liberal. But I had hopes for health care reform. I thought he was serious about pulling it off. That's what I get for hoping. Damn my audacity.
Posted by Ron at 10:59 PM
Sunday, August 16, 2009
QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES
Means "Who Polices the Police?"
Cop Tasers Mom During Speeding Stop
"In January, an Onondaga County sheriff's deputy pulled over Audra Harmon, who had two of her kids with her in her minivan. A routine traffic stop escalated quickly.
The deputy, Sean Andrews, accused her of talking on her cell phone. She said she could prove him wrong.
He said she was speeding. She denied it and got out of the van. He told her to get back in. She did, then he ordered her back out.
He yanked her out by the arm, knocked her down with two Taser shots and charged her with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. His rationale on the disorderly conduct charge: She obstructed traffic when she got out of the van. The speeding accusation: going 50 mph in a 45-mph zone."
More here, including cop dashboard video of the incident.
As was much discussed during the recent Professor Gates "disorderly conduct" scandal, it's generally a bad idea to mouth off to a cop, or even to disagree with him in any way at all. So this woman wasn't being very smart; she should have been all "yes sir; no sir" and shit.
Having said that, Tasering her was a clear cut case of police brutality. If you click through and watch the video, it's obvious that she was no threat: the cop used his Taser on her, which is lethal in some circumstances, because he didn't like how she was talking to him. Indeed, as the above linked post goes on to relate, the DA's office dismissed charges after seeing the video; she committed no crime.
The only crime here was committed by a cop who, like an amazingly huge percentage of his fellow cops, believes mouthing off to a cop is a crime, to be punished violently, on the spot, with police officer as judge, jury, and executioner. That is, police culture, nationwide, doesn't accept the laws policemen are "sworn" to uphold. As an elite class, cops think they're the law.
Is this ever going to change?
Posted by Ron at 7:43 PM
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Republican Death Trip
Yet another poignant essay by Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman:
Sure enough, President Obama is now facing the same kind of opposition that President Bill Clinton had to deal with: an enraged right that denies the legitimacy of his presidency, that eagerly seizes on every wild rumor manufactured by the right-wing media complex.
This opposition cannot be appeased. Some pundits claim that Mr. Obama has polarized the country by following too liberal an agenda. But the truth is that the attacks on the president have no relationship to anything he is actually doing or proposing.
Right now, the charge that’s gaining the most traction is the claim that health care reform will create “death panels” (in Sarah Palin’s words) that will shuffle the elderly and others off to an early grave. It’s a complete fabrication, of course. The provision requiring that Medicare pay for voluntary end-of-life counseling was introduced by Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican — yes, Republican — of Georgia, who says that it’s “nuts” to claim that it has anything to do with euthanasia.
I wrote this about then candidate Obama back in April of '08 during the height of the Reverend Wright dust-up:
The only way for Obama to survive this crap-scandal is to take charge of the narrative. He's got to get out of the rhetoric of denial, which is now doing nothing but digging a bigger hole, and start talking about real issues, the ones that piss people off. He's got to take sides. He's got to declare enemies. He's got to tell Americans that, even though he would never phrase it as "God damn America," we have some horrific sins on our national conscience, with which we have never dealt.And I wrote this during the Congressional fight over the stimulus bill last February:
The time for uplifting good vibes is over. Obama's got to roll up his sleeves and ball up his fists. Time to fight. 'Cause right now, he's getting his ass kicked.
This was my biggest fear about Mr. Change. He talked big during the campaign. "Yes we can," he said again and again. But he also said all this uplifting shit about coming together, about being "post-partisan." These two ideas, change and unity, are incompatible. There are vast concentrations of economic and political power that will and are doing everything they can to resist both change and unity. The only way to get past them is to fuck their shit up. The only thing to get this wonderful "change" President Obama's been going on about for a couple of years now is for him to roll up his sleeves and punch these motherfuckers in the nose. Repeatedly. Unity ain't doing nothing but repeating the dreadful Democratic mistakes of the past.So, obviously, I think I, and many others with much louder voices than mine, have made the point already. You can't be friends with people who are beating the shit out of you. Thing is, President Obama appears either to not understand or to not be listening. Same difference: in his drive for bipartisan "unity," he's getting his ass kicked. If the President doesn't up his rhetoric into the stratosphere (i.e. "These Republican attackers are just f'ing stupid."), his goose is cooked, health care reform is dead, and so is the rest of his first and what will probably be his only term.
Unless Obama takes the lead in branding these Republican know-nothings as straight-up bad for the country, which they most decidedly are, he'll lose, big, and take the nation down with him. Fuck friendliness; the conservatives don't go that way.
You can't have "post-partisanship" without a preexisting and popular philosophical and intellectual framework within which to contextualize it. That is, America just isn't ready to get along with itself. The right wing continues, even after some fifteen years, even after reality has rendered the majority of its favorite ideas dead, to be in hyper-self-righteous mode. They will not give up. They will not stop fighting. They will use, and are using, every tactic they can imagine, up to and including outrageous lies and, yes, even violence, to destroy anything they don't like.
Right now, America has little use for "unity." What we desperately need is a fighter. I'm rapidly losing hope that President Obama is up to the challenge.
Posted by Ron at 7:17 PM
Friday, August 14, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Averting the Worst
New essay from Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman:
For all that, however, the latest flurry of economic reports suggests that the economy has backed up several paces from the edge of the abyss.
A few months ago the possibility of falling into the abyss seemed all too real. The financial panic of late 2008 was as severe, in some ways, as the banking panic of the early 1930s, and for a while key economic indicators — world trade, world industrial production, even stock prices — were falling as fast as or faster than they did in 1929-30.
But in the 1930s the trend lines just kept heading down. This time, the plunge appears to be ending after just one terrible year.
So what saved us from a full replay of the Great Depression? The answer, almost surely, lies in the very different role played by government.
Probably the most important aspect of the government’s role in this crisis isn’t what it has done, but what it hasn’t done: unlike the private sector, the federal government hasn’t slashed spending as its income has fallen.
Krugman goes on to assert that the federal stimulus and the bank bailouts, as ham-handed as they are, have played an even greater role in preventing Great Depression II. Sadly, conservatives, who are ideologically opposed to government spending on anything that doesn't further conservative causes, will never admit it, either to themselves or others. They'll say it wasn't so bad in the first place, or that government spending made the crisis worse, or some other nonsense. And the corporate news media may very well project such views through their enormous megaphone. It's almost as though conservatives and establishment journalists simply don't have the intellectual structure from which to understand what has happened.
And really, when you get right down to it, the economic crisis, and the Obama solution to it, aren't so hard to fathom. While the US economy was entering a not so unusual business cycle recession, the banking system failed, causing the money flow to sieze up dramatically. That is, businesses and individuals, having lost confidence in the entire economic system, stopped spending, which created a frightening downward spiral of economic inactivity. The federal response was to replace the now gone private spending with public spending, keeping the overall GDP in survivable shape long enough for people to relax and get back to work, which is what is apparently happening right now.
Conservatives simply can't understand this, and corporate journalists are simply stupid. In their minds, government is the problem, never the solution, so a federal rescue of the economy is, to them, a non sequitur. But there really is an intellectual framework from which to understand all this. It's called Keynesianism, and it used to be the prevailing economic paradigm, back before the conservatives rammed neoliberalism down our throats.
All of us learned about Keynesianism in eleventh grade. Why do so few people remember it now? Especially after it's once again saved our collective ass?
Posted by Ron at 10:10 PM
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
"Arena" is an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It is a first season episode, #18, production #19, first broadcast January 19, 1967 and repeated on July 6, 1967. It was written by Gene L. Coon, based on a short story of the same name by Fredric Brown, and directed by Joseph Pevney. The episode introduces the Gorn. While pursuing an unknown enemy for an apparently unprovoked attack, Captain Kirk is forced by powerful entities to battle the opposing captain unarmed.
Another great one. And I mean great. This one's easily on my top ten list, and a viable competitor for best of all time. For starters, it's totally solid, absolutely clicking in terms of the Star Trek formula, no awkwardness, extraordinarily well paced, nothing weird or out of place. You get to see a battle devastated star base. You get to see some high tech Star Fleet ground combat technology. You get to see some red shirts die horrible deaths. You get to see one of the great Star Trek aliens, the lizard like Gorn. You get to see yet another god like and superior race coming in as deus ex machina, the Metrons. You get to see the Enterprise go to warp eight. You get to see Kirk in an extended hand to hand combat sequence, complete with blood and ripped shirt; you get to see Kirk win the fight by constructing a cannon using all natural materials. You get to see some fabulous pre postmodernism when the audience literally joins the crew of the Enterprise while it watches, helplessly, on the bridge screen while their captain fights for his life.
All of the above makes it a really good episode. But what shoots it to the top of the list is Gene Roddenberry's humanistic philosophy.
When Kirk defeats the Gorn, he moves forward to finish him off, but hesitates at the last second. He then chooses not to kill his vanquished foe, declaring, "No, I won't kill you," standing up and shouting to the superior and invisible Metrons, who have arranged the death match, "No I won't kill him! Do you hear? You'll have to get your entertainment someplace else!" When one of the Metrons appears, congratulating Kirk for demonstrating mercy, and speculating that humans might one day equal or surpass them, the Captain is humbled, but happy and encouraged.
I must have first seen this episode when I was four or five, and it is perhaps the single most important lesson I have ever learned: killing, even in battle, is deeply immoral, and is to be avoided in virtually all circumstances; human beings possess greatness, and can become greater still by embracing peace and mercy. Almost everything I believe today has a foundation in the humanism of Gene Roddenberry. I didn't get these ideas from the Bible or school or my family or rock music. I got them from Star Trek. "Arena" may very well be the clearest and most concise expression of that philosophy, and that's why it may very well be the best in the entire series.
Check it out:
Posted by Ron at 10:59 PM
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I FUCKING LOVE THIS SONG!!!
MARLENE DIETRICH SINGS "SUCH TRYING TIMES"
I've known New Orlean's public radio station WWOZ for years, and became a frequent listener once I moved to the Crescent City. I mean, there's no way I wouldn't be a bigtime fan of the station: no commercials, really intelligent programming of roots music, blues, jazz, zydeco, gospel, you name it, the sound of the Big Easy. But there was one show in particular, which appears to have been recently replaced with an equally good accoustic blues show, on Sunday afternoons. I don't even know how to describe the show's unifying theme, maybe "obscure and eclectic twentieth century music," but the song it always opened with blew me away, Marlene Dietrich singing "Such Trying Times."
Of course, I've loved Dietrich for longer than I've loved WWOZ. Her whole German cabaret thing drives me wild, and has been more than a bit influential to me as an artist. That she was one of the most beautiful and charismatic women ever to appear on the silver screen doesn't hurt either. So this song I'd never heard before instantly captivated me. It's totally in a Weimar style, sort of off-kilter, a bit weird, featuring both banjo and orchestra. I figured it was some gem from the twenties or early thirties before the Nazis started rounding up cabaret artists, communists, Jews, and homosexuals, but no: it's Dietrich's version of a song by John Addison from the early 60s British comedy film Tom Jones. I've never seen the film, but maybe I should, given the song's strength, and the fact that it got the Best Picture Oscar for 1963.
But really, this post isn't about the movie; it's about the song. Go check it out. I think I'm going to learn it for performance at open mike night. It's perfect for me.
Marlene Dietrich, 1930.
Posted by Ron at 10:21 PM
Monday, August 10, 2009
Tarmac policy violated in smelly, stalled flight
From the Houston Chronicle:
A Continental Airlines regional partner kept 47 passengers inside a cramped and smelly plane over the weekend for twice as long as permitted under a policy the Houston-based airline adopted earlier this year.
The passengers who boarded Friday night's Continental Express Flight 2816 — marketed and booked by Continental Airlines and operated by ExpressJet Airlines — expected a three-hour flight from Houston to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.
They wound up stuck on the 50-seat aircraft more than nine hours, three in the air and six on the tarmac outside the terminal in Rochester, Minn., where the plane was diverted to avoid heavy rain at the Twin Cities airport. They sat and waited to be released from the airplane from midnight Friday to about 6 a.m. Saturday, as the parents of two infants on board ran out of diapers and the lavatory toilet stopped flushing.
In January, Continental implemented a policy “that no passenger should be subjected to a tarmac delay of three hours or more without being afforded the opportunity to get off the aircraft, provided we can do so safely,” Continental spokeswoman Julie King said in a written statement Monday.
Less clear was exactly why the passengers weren't allowed off the plane as hours passed, the cabin conditions worsened and the meager food supply dwindled to nothing.
ExpressJet said Sunday that it couldn't gain access for the passengers to the terminal at Rochester International Airport. But airport manager Steve Leqve told the local Post-Bulletin newspaper that was not correct and that “they could have come into the airport.”
After reading this story I looked around my apartment and very quickly felt a great deal of empathy for these essentially imprisoned passengers.
The company that owns the place where I live is doing some major renovations here, and the work has been going on for weeks. Because I work nights, and usually get up around 1:30 in the afternoon or so, I've lost some serious sleep as workers have hammered and nailed what seems to be every square inch of my home's exterior. But that was just the warm up: the renovations have had workers actually coming inside every other day for a couple of weeks now. They're converting my small balcony, which I loved because it gave my cats some much needed outdoor time in a relatively safe environment, into a "sun room." Well, okay, no balcony now, I guess I'll learn to love my tiny "sun room," and the cats will just have to deal. Meanwhile, they're converting my storage closet, in which I had stored a bunch of shit, into a microscopic laundry room; this involves work in my bedroom closet where the water heater is located. The long and short of it is that my apartment now looks like I'm in the process of moving, with all my stuff all over the place--it's not easy to get around in here at the moment.
Last week, my cable and internet were down for a couple of days, and I had to call in a technician to hook it back up--he told me the construction workers had disconnected it for reasons unknown. Last night, I had to spend the night over at Becky's place because I was informed in a terse memo shoved under my door Friday evening that plumbers were coming over at 8:30 Monday morning to work for many hours whether I liked it or not. Another time, workers left a window open after they were done; I got home six or seven hours later to find my air conditioner cooling the greater New Orleans area.
My cats are traumatized. My home life is utterly disrupted. I keep losing sleep. And my lease is up at the end of the month: I have a creeping dread that my rent is going up to compensate for all these renovations. I wonder how much I'll have to pay for my troubles. This is what it's like for a business to bend you over and stick it in. And that's exactly what the passengers on this flight had happen to them.
It's not simply that corporate forces have hijacked our political process, rendering the notion of democracy moot. Corporate forces are increasingly taking over our personal lives, and because they already control the government, there's very little we can do about it. Compare my troubles, and the plight of the passengers of Continental Express Flight 2816, to the people whose dogs and cats were poisoned in the tainted pet food scandal a couple of years back, or to the various salmonella and E. coli scares over the years, or to people sucked in and fucked over by subprime loans, or to people screwed by their health insurance providers. This shit just goes on and on.
Other than smiling to hold back the tears, I have no idea what to do about this.
Posted by Ron at 11:44 PM
Sunday, August 09, 2009
Congressman gets death threat over health reform
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
A North Carolina congressman who supports an overhaul of the health care system had his life threatened by a caller upset that he was not holding a public forum on the proposal, his office said Friday.
Democratic Rep. Brad Miller received the call Monday, one of hundreds the congressman's office has fielded demanding town-hall meetings on the health care proposal, said his spokeswoman, LuAnn Canipe. She said the callers were "trying to instigate town halls so they can show up and disrupt."
"We had one of those kind of calls that escalated to what we considered a threat" on the congressman's life, said Canipe. "These are some strong-arm tactics, and we are trying to deal with and trying to talk to people in good faith about health care reform."
This guy made a death threat, to a fucking congressman, because he wouldn't have a town hall meeting for the purpose of allowing conservative agitators to disrupt it. I've been thinking for years that the country's going nuts, but it is interesting to note that I can still be amazed.
More generally, I strongly condemn, of course, these right-wing disruption tactics, whether astroturf or genuine. If democracy stands on a foundation of free speech and lively debate, shutting down debates is necessarily anti-democratic, and therefore anti-American. And given all the misinformation and lies conservatives have been hurling about health care lately, such as the absurdly false Obama "euthanization program," Americans desperately need to know what's going on.
On the other hand, the left wing has been using this tactic on various issues for decades. It is truly ironic to watch liberals howl about all this when they've kept their mouths shut about it for so long: if it's wrong when they do it, it's definitely wrong when we do it.
But then, liberals have never been too good at looking themselves in the mirror.
Posted by Ron at 8:10 PM
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Ex-Democratic lawmaker convicted in bribery case
From the Washington Post via the Houston Chronicle:
Former Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., was found guilty of corruption charges Wednesday in a case that featured $90,000 in bribe money stuffed into his freezer and a legal battle over the raid of his Washington office that reached the highest levels of the government.
Federal jurors in Alexandria, Va., convicted Jefferson of using his congressional office and staff to enrich himself and his family, offering and accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to support business ventures in seven West African nations. The eight-woman, four-man jury convicted Jefferson on 11 of 16 counts that included bribery, racketeering and money laundering.
If you serve as an opposition party representative during what arguably amounted to the most corrupt administration in US history, that is, the Bush era, the least you could do is keep your nose clean. Jefferson, for all his accomplishments, was apparently unable to do that. I mean, relative to the corruption of the likes of Tom DeLay and the entire Bush administration, Jefferson's down-home Louisiana style of corruption wasn't much more than chump change, but it's anti-democracy bullshit when it's hundreds of thousands of dollars, just as it's anti-democracy bullshit when Republicans do it with billions.
That is, fuck Jefferson. He betrayed his office and his nation.
Which reminds me, how is DeLay's trial going? And is the DoJ ever going to look into all those no-bid secret contracts former VP Cheney gave out to his company Halliburton? Are we ever going to get serious about corruption? I'm not too hopeful.
Posted by Ron at 7:52 PM
Friday, August 07, 2009
Thursday, August 06, 2009
INTERNET DOWN LAST FEW DAYS
So I got home Tuesday night to find both my cable television and cable internet service out. Always a drag. Fortunately, I had already pre-posted for Tuesday and Thursday, but could do nothing about my Wednesday Star Trek episode. Bummer. I guess I'll put that up on Saturday night.
At any rate, my internet access is back, so normal blogging will now resume.
Posted by Ron at 11:59 PM
QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES
Means "Who Polices the Police?"
Pregnant Mother Tasered at Baptism Party
Responding to a noise complaint in Prince William County, police sought to quell the assembled crowd — who they said were making too much of a racket — by firing a Taser at the child’s grandfather and at the pregnant mother of the baptized child.
The officers said they placed a call to the homeowner, who they said was intoxicated and refused to reduce the volume.
The homeowner, 55, is a church family counselor and bible study teacher. His son, Edgar Rodriguez, claims he was Tasered three times after producing his ID for police. The elder Rodriguez was arrested for public intoxication in his own backyard.
More here, with video.
According to the home video accompanying the report, the "crowd" wasn't much of a crowd, just a few people in the backyard. And the music wasn't particularly loud. And the "intoxicated" grandfather didn't appear to be particularly drunk. Really, my best guess is that language, rather than alcohol, played more of a role in the conflict between the cops and Rodriguez. When interviewed for the local news, he had his son interpreting for him, all of which makes me wonder if race had something to do with what amounts to an old school police riot.
Last time it was lesbian Democrats in a Republican county out West; this time it's Hispanic Catholics in the Protestant white South. Either way, it's cops invading relatively tame backyard parties and fucking shit up. And this kind of cop bullshit happens all the time. Why isn't that the story?
Posted by Ron at 10:49 PM
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
From the New York Times editorial board:
After the F-22
Even with the threat of other presidential vetoes, there is still plenty of support — among lawmakers, lobbyists and defense contractors — for other weapons and other spending the Pentagon says it can do without. The parochial pushback is being led by members of Mr. Obama’s own party.
Just look at the House bill, approved 400 to 30. It seeks to finance billions of dollars (by some estimates more than $6 billion) in weapons that the Pentagon did not request and/or the administration rightly wants to kill or cut back. These include more than $400 million for the new presidential helicopter, $560 million for an alternate engine for another new fighter plane (the F-35), $674 million for three extra C-17 transport planes and an additional $603 million for the F-18 fighter jet program.
The House also reaffirmed its undying addiction to projects lawmakers insert in legislation to curry favor in their districts. Led by Representative John Murtha, head of the defense appropriations subcommittee, the House beat back efforts by two Republicans, Jeff Flake and John Campbell, to cut up to $2.7 billion in such earmarks. You would think Mr. Murtha might scale back, given the ongoing investigation into a lobbying firm with ties to him and other congressmen over insider contracts.
This really does speak for itself, but I'll go ahead and spell it out for you, if only to vent my rage.
The federal budget, as most everybody knows, is deeply in the red, and has been for many years. Much of that can be blamed on the spend-happy Republicans under Bush, but certainly not all of it. Indeed, I support much of the wild deficit spending of the Obama era: the bank bailouts, as fucked up as they are, have undoubtedly saved the banking and finance sector from total collapse, sparing us from great economic turmoil, likewise with the stimulus spending, which has kept this Great Recession from becoming another Great Depression.
But in the long term, federal deficits, which cause economic stagnation by squeezing the money supply, are a very real problem. We desperately need to find ways to minimize the budget damage, and the Pentagon budget is a great place to start. Especially when the Pentagon wants to cut back.
But no. Fucking Democrats want pork in their districts. They don't give a shit about the nation. All they care about is getting reelected. "Jobs" they say, defending their absurd position, "and national defense." They simply change the subject when told that these jobs are about building things nobody wants, or lie, to themselves and everybody else, insisting that the Pentagon is wrong, that we really do need these weapons systems. Whatever. In the end, it's about bringing home the bacon, which translates into votes, and everything else be damned: the Democrats are the most reckless and selfish motherfuckers in America.
And people have the audacity to fuck with me about voting for Nader.
Posted by Ron at 10:18 PM
Monday, August 03, 2009
Sunday, August 02, 2009
Voices From Above Silence a Cable TV Feud
From the New York Times, the inside scoop on the end of the Keith Olbermann/Bill O'Reilly war:
It was perhaps the fiercest media feud of the decade and by this year, their bosses had had enough. But it took a fellow television personality with a neutral perspective to help bring it to at least a temporary end.
At an off-the-record summit meeting for chief executives sponsored by Microsoft in mid-May, the PBS interviewer Charlie Rose asked Jeffrey Immelt, chairman of G.E., and his counterpart at the News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch, about the feud.
Both moguls expressed regret over the venomous culture between the networks and the increasingly personal nature of the barbs. Days later, even though the feud had increased the audience of both programs, their lieutenants arranged a cease-fire, according to four people who work at the companies and have direct knowledge of the deal.
In early June, the combat stopped, and MSNBC and Fox, for the most part, found other targets for their verbal missiles (Hello, CNN).
“It was time to grow up,” a senior employee of one of the companies said.
Yeah, I was starting to wonder how long the free hookers and beer would last.
For a while there, I've been able to say that ideologically analyzing the corporate media landscape has, as of late, become more problematic: you can make your arguments one way or the other, but MSNBC really has morphed into the formerly imaginary "liberal media" that the right wing has been railing about for many years now. That is, the "liberal media," being pro-government and pro-big business, and therefore conservative, have never existed, except in the paranoid minds of conservatives. Since MSNBC hired Olbermann, Maddow, and now Ed Schultz, it's not so absolute anymore.
But this General Electric imposed "truce" between O'Reilly and Olbermann is a stark reminder that all this liberal television fun exists only as long as NBC's parent company, deeply entrenched within the military/industrial/entertainment complex, believes MSNBC's antics are both profitable and unthreatening to the corporate establishment. That is, this left-leaning TV news anomoly could be gone faster than you can say "Donohue," if G.E. decides it has become troublesome.
I mean, that's really the ultimate problem with corporate ownership of news reporting organizations: if you're too critical of the corporate business model or its interests, you get the axe. Apparently, going after Fox darling O'Reilly came close to that. So, poof, no more attacks on the big butthole.
Oh well. There's always listener and viewer supported Democracy Now fighting the good fight. No corporate influence there, I guarantee it.
Posted by Ron at 10:24 PM
Saturday, August 01, 2009
U.S. Adviser’s Blunt Memo on Iraq: Time ‘to Go Home’
From the New York Times:
A senior American military adviser in Baghdad has concluded in an unusually blunt memo that Iraqi forces suffer from entrenched deficiencies but are now able to protect the Iraqi government, and that it is time “for the U.S. to declare victory and go home.”
The memo offers a look at tensions that emerged between Iraqi and American military officers at a sensitive moment when American combat troops met a June 30 deadline to withdraw from Iraq’s cities, the first step toward an advisory role. The Iraqi government’s forceful moves to assert authority have concerned some American officers, though senior American officials insisted that cooperation had improved.
Prepared by Col. Timothy R. Reese, an adviser to the Iraqi military’s Baghdad command, the memorandum details Iraqi military weaknesses in scathing language, including corruption, poor management and the inability to resist Shiite political pressure. Extending the American military presence beyond August 2010, he argues, will do little to improve the Iraqis’ military performance while fueling growing resentment of Americans.
Oh yeah. Iraq. I had almost forgotten.
Not really, but the oil rich desert nation we invaded six years ago has by and large dropped off the corporate media's radar screen. I mean sure, there's the occasional story on a car bomb or some such, but the US power establishment doesn't appear to care so much these days. Some of that has to do with President Obama's shift to Afghanistan as top military priority, but more of it has to do with achieving some relative stability in Iraq, either because of Bush's "surge" or more likely because Shiite and Sunni ethnic cleansing finally carved out permanent ethnic enclaves, with the former group solidifying the lion's share of political control.
Whatever. Either way, Iraq no longer seems to be the hemorrhaging wound it once was. There are no more excuses for an American troop presence there. Sure yeah, it's a "victory;" we "won." Time to withdraw.
Of course, that's not going to happen. We'll be in Iraq forever. As if we were simply going to abandon the five massive and fabulous multi-billion dollar bases we've constructed there. As if we were simply going to walk away from an extraordinarily strategic position right smack dab in the middle of the most oil rich region on the planet, with all the global economic influence such a position carries--I mean, that was the point to the invasion in the first place.
As if we were going to allow Iran to have hegemonic control over Iraq.
Nope. Not gonna happen. Democrat, Republican, it doesn't matter. Both parties are pro-establishment more than anything else, and posessing Iraq is good for US power. All this discussion about pulling out is moot from the start. We own Iraq. And we're never giving it up.
After all these years, I continue to be disgusted.
Posted by Ron at 10:53 PM