MAJORITIES: IF THE SITUATIONS WERE COMPLETELY REVERSED
From the Washington Monthly courtesy of Eschaton:
In this hypothetical, despite two wars, Democrats rejected funding for the troops. Despite a terrorist plot, Democrats rejected the qualified nominee to head the TSA. Despite an economic crisis, Democrats rejected economic recovery efforts, a jobs bill, and nominees to fill key Treasury Department posts.
Now, in this hypothetical, what do you suppose the political climate would look like? Would the huge Republican majority simply wring its hands? Would GOP officials decide it's time to try "bipartisan" governing? Would Republicans shrink from pursuing their policy agenda?
Or would every single day be another opportunity for Republicans to be apoplectic about Democratic obstructionism? How many marches on Washington would Fox News organize, demanding that Democrats allow the governing majority to function?
So years ago I found myself, as I have many times since then, defending my vote for Ralph Nader in what was then the upcoming notorious presidential election of 2000. Actually, this was one of the more substantial arguments I've had on the subject--most of these discussions are along the lines of my being "stupid" or how I'm effectively working for the Republicans. But this one was a bit different. My position, as usual, is that the Democrats don't really represent my views; they say they're liberal, but I just don't see them going after much policy that I would describe as liberal. Consequently, I've decided to vote only for candidates who espouse views with which I agree. My opposition's position was that the Green Party, which had nominated Nader as their candidate for that election, doesn't have any seats in Congress, which means they couldn't really do much even if their guy won the election.
Get it? Voting Green, or for Nader, or for any third party or independent candidate is a waste of time because none of these people are ultimately in a position to actually do anything should they win the Oval Office, which they probably won't, anyway. Okay, point well taken. But then classic third party or independent insurgencies have never really been about actually winning offices as much as they are about changing the debate, but that's another story.
My point today is that the Democrats, who have majorities in both houses of Congress, and occupy the White House, are currently in a position to actually do something about the way this nation functions. But they don't. In the end, I can't really see much of a difference between my voting for a candidate who would be politically impotent if he won, but represents my views, and voting for a candidate who would be politically powerful if he won, but doesn't represent my views. Either way nothing happens. The Democrats are worthless.
I think I'm going to keep voting for left-wing independents. At least there's a chance they'll change the political dynamic such that Democrats swing to the left. But I just can't keep voting for pathetic career politicians who value their own personal status at the expense of the nation's fate.
I guess I'm just old fashioned that way.
Sunday, January 31, 2010
MAJORITIES: IF THE SITUATIONS WERE COMPLETELY REVERSED
Posted by Ron at 1:28 AM
Friday, January 29, 2010
People's Historian and Progressive Hero Howard Zinn Dies
From the Boston Globe courtesy of AlterNet:
Howard Zinn, the Boston University historian and political activist who was an early opponent of US involvement in Vietnam... died of a heart attack today in Santa Monica, Calif, where he was traveling, his family said. He was 87.
“His writings have changed the consciousness of a generation, and helped open new paths to understanding and its crucial meaning for our lives,” Noam Chomsky, the left-wing activist and MIT professor, once wrote of Dr. Zinn. “When action has been called for, one could always be confident that he would be on the front lines, an example and trustworthy guide.”
Click here for the rest.
This is sad. I mean, I didn't even know about Howard Zinn's work until he was in his mid 70s, so he's always been an old man to me, but still. He changed my life.
Or rather, his great book A People's History of the United States changed my life. Before reading it, the phrase "class struggle" was something alien to me. Sure, I was already a liberal by the late 90s when I first read it, but such seemingly Marxist rhetoric had no place in my understanding of the way things work here in America. Zinn taught me that you don't have to be a communist to participate in the class struggle--indeed, I learned from him that we're all participating in the class struggle whether we care to characterize it that way or not. And perhaps more importantly, Zinn taught me that the class struggle has been going on since before the Revolutionary War, that fighting the wealthy elites who oppress the poor and working classes is, in fact, as American as apple pie.
That is, Howard Zinn gave me an intellectual framework for my leftism which has allowed me to love my country while at the same time criticizing it for failing, again and again, to live up to the standards for which it was supposedly established. At the age of forty two, I believe, more than ever now, in the simple ideas we were all taught as children: America is about freedom, equality, justice and democracy. I cannot accept establishment voices telling me that we have all that, when I can simply glance around and see that we don't. Howard Zinn deeply understood the difference between what we say we are and what we actually are, and researched warehouses full of facts to back him up.
Those who dismiss his writing by calling it too liberal or radical just don't get it. A People's History is a book of facts. The events described in it actually happened. Ideology cannot change the reality: we are a nation of haves and have-nots, a nation of the powerful and the powerless, and Americans on the short end of the stick have always resisted this unjust social order, always insisted that we live up to our values.
That's the tradition I want to be a part of. The true American tradition. And he taught me that.
Farewell, Howard Zinn.
(Listen to NPR's story on Howard Zinn here.)
Posted by Ron at 12:58 AM
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
"Operation: Annihilate!" is the last original episode from the first season of the original Star Trek series. It is episode #29, production #29, and was broadcast April 13, 1967. It was written by Stephen W. Carabatsos, and directed by Herschel Daugherty.
Overview: The crew of the Enterprise must find a way to exterminate malevolent parasitic creatures that have taken over a Federation colony.
This is a very silly episode.
Indeed, Star Trek finishes its first season by following what is arguably its best episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever," with what is arguably its most absurd episode--only the third season's "The Way to Eden," the show's sole outing into the movie musical genre, rivals "Operation: Annihilate!" for sheer silliness. In some ways, that's a shame: this one has the kernel of a good idea, lifting some plot elements from the great Robert Heinlein book The Puppet Masters. Alas, it's all so poorly executed, that the only way to watch is by being prepared to laugh. Repeatedly.
Actually, there's some pretty funny shit here. When the Enterprise first arrives at the infected colony, they are confronted by a small gang of colonists armed with metal clubs shouting "Go away! We don't want to hurt you!" while they charge at the landing party. Their acting is wretched, and therefore hilarious. The parasites, on the other hand, look like lumpy pancakes. Indeed, according to the above linked Wikipedia article, the props department used altered "novelty vomits" to build the creatures. When they fly menacingly, it's very WTF. And when Spock loses his sight in the final act, Kirk and McCoy have a brief and sorrowful moment that could have been pulled directly from Little House on the Prairie.
The funniest moment, by far, is the painful screaming of Kirk's infected sister-in-law: "Things! Horrible things!" Oh god, she's, like, David Lynch funny.
I mean, don't get me wrong, it's not all horrible. In fact, there's a nice fist fight on the bridge, when the infected Spock tries to take control of the ship. It takes everybody in the room, finally, to hold him down, while McCoy has one of those always-cool hypo spray moments to put him out. But, by and large, this one's just goofy.
So go watch it. And have a good laugh.
Spock right after being infected by one of the parasites.
Posted by Ron at 11:30 PM
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
ACORN gotcha man among four arrested for attempting
to tamper with Mary Landrieu's office phones
From the New Orleans Times-Picayune courtesy of Eschaton:
Alleging a plot to tamper with phones in Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu's office in the Hale Boggs Federal Building in downtown New Orleans, the FBI arrested four people Monday, including James O'Keefe, 25, a conservative filmmaker whose undercover videos at ACORN field offices severely damaged the advocacy group's credibility.
Also arrested were Joseph Basel, Stan Dai and Robert Flanagan, all 24. Flanagan is the son of William Flanagan, who is the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana, the office confirmed. All four were charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony.
According to the FBI affidavit, Flanagan and Basel entered the federal building at 500 Poydras Street about 11 a.m. Monday, dressed as telephone company employees, wearing jeans, fluorescent green vests, tool belts, and hard hats.
I suppose it's not surprising that these right-wing sting operation vigilantes would strike again, flush with the seeming success of their ACORN adventure, which obviously made them feel comfortable upping the ante by going after a US Senator. What is surprising is the target they chose. Mary Landrieu? WTF? Sure, she's a Democrat, but she's one of those Blue Dogs, a total conservative, one of the last Senate holdouts on health care reform, utterly owned by Big Pharma and other corporate interests, especially Big Oil. Personally, I have no problem with anybody going after her--I've kind of come to hate her after five years in Louisiana. But it's just so counterintuitive that these conservative pranksters would target her. Why not an actual liberal? Why not somebody who's not causing the Democrats to twist and turn uselessly in the wind?
I don't get it. My suspicion is that they're stupid. You know, get the Democrat, any Democrat. Maybe they had some info on her that made them want to follow up with a wiretap. But still. She's their man, doing their work, inside the opposition party. Why fuck that up? Man, conservatives just get weirder and weirder.
Posted by Ron at 11:26 PM
FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
Saints seal trip to Super Bowl after Favre throws late interception
From the AP via ESPN:
NEW ORLEANS -- A 40-yard field goal in overtime by a little-known kicker could become as famous as jambalaya in these parts.
The New Orleans Saints, a team with no home and an uncertain future five years ago, are heading for their first Super Bowl. By battering Brett Favre and beating the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 Sunday, they set off celebrations on Bourbon Street that locals never could have imagined in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Favre threw away Minnesota's best chance to win, tossing an interception deep in New Orleans territory in the closing seconds of regulation. Then the Saints won the coin toss and ended it on Hartley's kick 4:45 into OT.
Click here for the rest.
Yeah, the Vikings had us. All they had to do was send out the kicker. Instead, they tried to pick up a few more yards, which resulted in the Saints forcing the Vikings' fifth turnover, sending the game into overtime. There's definitely some Super Bowl destiny going on here.
Don't get me wrong. It's not as though it all came down to an interception robbing Favre's last chance at the big one. The Saints' so-so defense was rolling over for the Vikings' high octane offense all day long, but managed to hold the line with more forced turnovers than I have ever seen in a football game--apparently, said the FOX sports announcers, this is one of their specialties. That is, stealing the ball was the Saints' defense modus operandi against the Vikings: the last minute pick was no fluke. It's just how they play the game.
And let's not forget how they kept smacking the shit out of the former Packer QB: today on NPR, former Redskin great Joe Theismann said that he had never in his life seen a quarterback take the beating Farve took against the Saints on Sunday. And that's really saying something: Theismann's career ended infamously with the brutal snapping of his femur during a game back in 1985.
I haven't been an NFL fan since the Oilers left Houston for Tennessee. I mean, I'll watch a game if it's on, but I can't even get myself on board with Houston's replacement squad, the Texans. College ball, especially when it's burnt orange, has been my love since the mid 90s. But that's probably why I've gotten so excited about the Saints. Being in the New Orleans area on game day is a lot like being in a college town on game day, and not just any college town--NOLA, on Sundays during football season, is more like College Station or Baton Rouge; tumble weeds drift around the city, and businesses virtually shut down because everybody's watching the Saints. The devotion here is absolutely infectious.
So now I say "we" when I'm talking about them. I guess the Saints are now my team. Really, it's been getting to be that way for me for a while. The Saints don't have that shitty corporate business feel that I get from most of the other NFL franchises. They feel as down home as the Texas Longhorns or the LSU Tigers. There's really something going on here with how the team interacts with New Orleans' culture. I mean, the Saints are a big part of the culture here.
If you're going to live in the Crescent City, you might as well give in and go "WHO DAT!" It's like gumbo and Louis Armstrong. If you're not a Saints fan, you're just not getting it. The odds makers are saying the Colts by four. I say they're full of shit.
Tracy Porter #22 of the New Orleans Saints intercepts a pass and returns
in for positive yards late in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings
during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January
24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Quarterback Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings kneels on the turf
in pain after he took a hard hit against the New Orleans Saints during the
NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24,
2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Posted by Ron at 1:25 AM
Monday, January 25, 2010
Spoon: A Slow Build To Success
From NPR's All Things Considered:
The band Spoon is a bit of a rarity in rock music — both critically acclaimed and commercially successful.
But it took more than a decade for Spoon to get there. The band came together in Austin, Texas, in 1993; five years later, it signed on with a major label, Elektra. In the sea of alternative acts of the day, Spoon wasn't able to stand out enough — at least for the label — and after one record, Elektra dropped the band.
Now that's usually where the story ends for most rock acts. But Spoon signed with a smaller label, Merge Records. And by 2000, the band finally started getting some serious attention, with a string of well-received albums: Girls Can Tell, Kill The Moonlight, Gimme Fiction.
But it was still seven more years before Spoon landed on Billboard's Top 10, with Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.
Click here to read or listen to the rest, as well as a couple of Spoon songs!
Years ago, I knew Spoon's lead singer and songwriter Britt Daniel when we were taking radio, television, and film classes at the University of Texas. A bunch of us went to see them play at Antone's blues club in the spring of '94, apparently right after the band was founded. Following their set, Britt came to our table, and after everybody spent a few minutes congratulating him for a great show, he told me that they had planned to do a Paul McCartney song that they had learned just for me, but couldn't quite squeeze it in. That was just fine: what they did play was exceptionally good.
A couple of years later, I finally moved away from Austin, and that was the last I heard of my classmate Britt Daniel and his band Spoon. Until these last few years, that is, thanks to NPR's seeming interest in pushing their stuff on the radio. And that makes sense. Spoon writes and plays intelligent pop rock, the kind of stuff that kids can dig, if they come across it, but not the kind of stuff big record labels market to them. NPR's college educated and culturally sophisticated adult audience, however, adrift in a sea of plastic crap music, is literally hungry for this kind of Beatlesque, Elvis Costello oriented smart pop.
I wish I was as good as these guys.
Anyway, this is a good interview. Short and sweet. Go check it out. And while you're at it, go buy their new album. I know I will.
Posted by Ron at 12:39 AM
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Obama unloads on high court over campaign finance
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Obama on Saturday unloaded on a divided Supreme Court for allowing more corporate influence over elections, intensifying his criticism of a ruling that has suddenly reshaped campaign rules in the midst of a midterm election year. The court's 5-4 decision on Thursday allows companies and unions to spend freely on ads that promote or target particular candidates by name, and lifts the barring of union- and corporate-paid issue ads in the closing days of campaigns.
“We don't need to give any more voice to the powerful interests that already drown out the voices of everyday Americans,” Obama said Saturday, devoting his weekly radio and Internet address to the topic. “And we don't intend to.”
The White House is working chiefly with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, on a bill pushing back on the court decision. The goal is to put forward legislation within two weeks, Van Hollen said Saturday, but the choices are limited by the nature of the court's First Amendment ruling.
Among the options under consideration are requiring the approval of a majority of shareholders before a corporation can run a political ad; requiring the CEO of the company to appear at the end of the ad so the public knows who is behind it; limiting the ad-spending of corporations that have received federal bailout money or that get federal contracts; and trimming down the privileges that come with legal corporate status if companies pump money into political campaigns.
Years ago I had a friendly argument with a good friend of mine who is a conservative. We were talking about the vast sums of money used to get candidates elected. My position was that, presumably, the American way is one man one vote, but the large concentrations of wealth that some individuals and organizations, namely corporations, are able to direct toward political purposes utterly undermines such a notion. My buddy's position was that money and free speech are indistinguishable, which is supported by Supreme Court precedent, and that all campaign finance restrictions ought to be lifted.
"What we need," he said, "is complete transparency, so that voters know where political money is coming from, which enables them to see the bias in the information they receive about candidates, so they can make better informed decisions."
"But people don't pay much attention to that stuff," I replied, "and even if they did, who has the time to research all that crap? Besides, you know what Goebbels said about repeating something enough until it becomes the truth, whether it's true or not. The loudest and most omnipresent voices win the day, regardless of the truth."
"Then people need to get it together as far as fund raising goes," he replied.
"But the super rich and corporations have a wildly unfair advantage as far as fund raising goes!" I shot back. "The net result here is that if you have shit loads of money, you have a much much much bigger say in how our country functions."
"Well yeah," he said, "because money and free speech cannot be separated."
"But what about democracy?" I asked.
"What about democracy? This is democracy."
We went back and forth on that point for a few minutes until I realized that neither of us had anything else to say. He was just fine with money trumping voting. I was not.
Leaving aside for this post the disturbing notion that corporations, which are not citizens, or even human beings for that matter, should have the same first amendment rights that people do, we still have a problem that effectively renders the concept of one man one vote almost totally moot: in the United States, according to the Constitution, money equals free speech. The President has some decent ideas about how to blunt this latest Supreme Court ruling, but ultimately there is absolutely nothing he or the Congress can do about the fact that more money means more influence, that voting is largely ceremonial these days, without much meaningful substance, and that we are effectively ruled by corporations and the super wealthy.
When the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, the Founders could not possibly foresee this. Speech was cheap. One could buy or borrow or rent a printing press and distribute pamphlets, or obtain a soapbox for free and rail against or for whatever ideas he liked. No one imagined the rise of mass communication, and the effect it would have on the political process. I'm not one to slavishly adhere to "Founders intent" or whatever, but I think it's safe to say that if they could see what we call "democracy" today, they'd be horrified. This is not the nation they risked their lives to create.
It now appears that the only way out of this is by amending the Constitution, something that takes the money out, or at least heavily marginalizes its effect on politics. Unfortunately, everyone in Congress was elected with corporate cash. Everyone. And they depend on that money for reelection. No fucking way they're going to kill the golden goose, and it doesn't matter one bit whether it's good for the country. I mean, after all, they're no longer our representatives: they represent the corporations and the super rich.
How do citizens get a constitutional convention going? Do citizens even care?
Posted by Ron at 1:18 AM
Friday, January 22, 2010
Air America, the Talk Radio Network, Will Go Off the Air
From the New York Times:
Air America, the long-suffering progressive talk radio network, abruptly shut down on Thursday, bowing to what it called a “very difficult economic environment.”
The chairman of Air America Media, Charlie Kireker, said in a statement that the company would file under Chapter 7 bankruptcy “to carry out an orderly winding-down of the business.”
In a troubled time for advertising-driven media businesses, “our painstaking search for new investors has come close several times right up into this week but ultimately fell short of success,” Mr. Kireker said.
I tried a couple of times to get into Air America, but I just didn't like it. I mean, Al Franken was funny and all, and I've come to embrace Rachel Maddow's work on MSNBC, but for the most part all of AA's other shows were either boring or annoying--I never understood the appeal of Randi Rhodes, a loud mouthed asshole who makes Rush Limbaugh appear sophisticated by comparison. And why the hell was Jerry Springer doing a show? But whatever.
In the end, I think the biggest problem AA had was that it was much more partisan than it was liberal or "progressive," whatever that's supposed to mean these days. I mean, for the right wing, there's not much of a difference between conservative and Republican, at least in practice, but the Democrats take so many stupid fucking positions that you lose a great deal of credibility in terms of ideology or political philosophy when you try to defend them or advance their views.
That is, early on, Air America decided that it was going be a pro-establishment liberal network, and necessarily took on all the baggage that doing so entails. And when you factor in that, these days, "establishment liberal" really means "conservative," in the Bill Clinton or Barack Obama mold, it was only a matter of time before nobody cared what AA had to say about, well, anything at all.
I would say "rest in peace," or something along those lines, but I don't really give a shit. Indeed, I'm kind of glad it's gone. They were never really my kind of "liberal."
Posted by Ron at 12:45 AM
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
The City on the Edge of Forever
"The City on the Edge of Forever" is the penultimate episode of the first season of Star Trek. It is episode #28, production #28, first broadcast on April 6, 1967. It was repeated on August 31, 1967 and marked the last time that NBC telecast an episode of the series on Thursday nights. It was one of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the series and was awarded the 1968 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The only other episode with such an honor is the two-part episode "The Menagerie". The teleplay is credited to Harlan Ellison, but was also largely rewritten by several authors before filming. The filming was directed by Joseph Pevney. Its only guest star was Joan Collins as "Edith Keeler".
This episode involves crew of the starship USS Enterprise discovering a portal through space and time, which leads to Dr. McCoy's accidentally altering history.
Lots and lots of people assert that this is the best one. And it is pretty damned good. Excellent, even. But before I rave about how f'ing great "The City on the Edge of Forever" is, it's probably a good idea to point out a couple of things that don't work for me.
For starters, Dr. McCoy's insanity is laughable, at least for the first third or so. I mean okay, unintentional comedy is something that one must embrace if one wants to enjoy Star Trek, so Bones' weird "Killers! Assassins!" ranting, often delivered straight to the camera, is very much in keeping with the Trek aesthetic. On the other hand, I think his performance would have been way better if he had toned it down a bit. In contrast, the almost always hyper-pumped William Shatner needed to tone it up. Way up. Throughout, the former Shakespearean phones in his lines, and we realize that his odd habit of irrationally pausing between words, best understood by watching John Belushi's classic parody of Kirk on Saturday Night Live back in the late 70s, works well only when delivered intensely. My speculation, as an MFA actor, is that Shatner decided that he was going to play "star crossed lover," and adopted a sort of detached poetic attitude in lieu of playing actions and pursuing objectives. Problem is, attitude makes for inauthentic acting, and because he was so low key, intensity had no chance to make up for his non-believable performance. In short, Kirk's pretty boring in this one.
I mean, don't get me wrong. Kirk has his moments, especially the scene when he tries to explain Spock's ears to a 1930s New York cop. And McCoy gets it figured out by the time he's transported to the twentieth century. His "needles and sutures" speech is just about the best thing I've ever seen him do. Spock is great all the way through, with some especially nice reaction shots, complete with his trademark raised Vulcan eyebrow. Joan Collins' performance of Edith Keeler makes the episode worth watching even if it sucked, which it doesn't.
But what really makes this episode tick is the story, and the efficiency with which it is told.
Never mind that it was written by a hideous dwarf with an ego so massive that he went ballistic when Roddenberry insisted on a rewrite to remove Star Fleet officers engaged in drug dealing, a big no-no for the franchise's vision of the future. This one's so tight that it would make Alfred Hitchcock envious. And the ideas here are just wonderful: a ruined ancient civilization which had mastered time travel, drug induced space insanity, a 1930s peace movement that keeps the US out of WWII allowing the Nazis to develop nuclear weapons before the Allies can, star crossed love, and on and on. This one has it all, and it comes at you like a runaway train.
Indeed, in many ways, it doesn't really matter how subdued and unbelievable Shatner is here: the story makes you cry for Kirk's lost love, even if his acting doesn't.
Yeah, this might be the best. I just wanted you to know that it's not perfect. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't watch. By all means, check it out.
Posted by Ron at 7:48 PM
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Taliban attacks paralyze Afghan capital for hours
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
KABUL — Taliban militants wearing explosive vests launched a brazen daylight assault Monday on the center of Kabul, with suicide bombings and gunbattles near the presidential palace and other government buildings that paralyzed the city for hours.
Afghan forces along with NATO advisers managed to restore order after nearly five hours of fighting as explosions and machine gunfire echoed across the mountain-rimmed city, sending terrified Afghans racing for cover. Twelve people were killed, including seven attackers, officials said.
The assault by a handful of determined militants dramatized the vulnerability of the Afghan capital, undermining public confidence in President Hamid Karzai's government and its U.S.-led allies.
The attacks also suggested that the mostly rural Taliban are prepared to strike at the heart of the Afghan state — even as the United States and its international partners are rushing 37,000 reinforcements to join the eight-year war.
"We are so concerned, so disappointed about the security in the capital," said Mohammad Hussain, a 25-year-old shopkeeper who witnessed the fighting. "Tens of thousands of U.S. and NATO troops are being sent to Afghanistan, yet security in the capital is deteriorating."
We can't win this thing, whatever "winning" means these days.
Kabul is supposed to be Afghanistan's equivalent of Iraq's Green Zone in Baghdad. Okay, not quite so secure, but the safest and most stable place in the region. Indeed, detractors have for years mocked US Puppet-President Karzai by calling him the "Mayor of Kabul," meaning that his government only controls a city, rather than a nation. Apparently, he's not even capable of that these days.
So we're sending thirty thousand some odd troops over there now, Obama's "surge" to try to get things under control. My bet is that this soldier influx will stabilize Kabul and the surrounding area, but how the fuck is such a microscopic increase supposed to pacify all of Afghanistan with its twenty plus ethnically controlled regions? Right, it can't. This is simply wishful thinking, which reveals that President Obama isn't really all that different in many ways from his mentally challenged predecessor.
The Soviets couldn't do it. The British failed twice there. And we'll fail, too.
We need to get out right now. Sure, use Vice President Biden's idea if we must, keeping a base there for rapid response/terrorist fighting stuff, whatever, but end this folly immediately. We're dying; they're dying. And it's bullshit.
Posted by Ron at 10:33 PM
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929-1968
A day late, I know, but better late than never.
From Democracy Now:
AMY GOODMAN: While Dr. King is primarily remembered as a civil rights leader, he also championed the cause of the poor and organized the Poor People’s Campaign to address issues of economic justice. Dr. King was also a fierce critic of US foreign policy and the Vietnam War.
In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech, which he delivered at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4th, 1967, a year-to-the-day before he was assassinated, Dr. King called the United States, quote, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Time magazine called the speech “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi.” The Washington Post said King, quote, “diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people.”
Since I moved into the deep South, I've been hearing a weird idea that Martin Luther King Day is some kind of holiday for black people. I don't understand it. I mean okay, I get that this is a white people idea, the idea that MLK Day is just for African-Americans, but in order to think such a thing, one has to completely dismiss the notion that ending American apartheid was good for the entire nation, and such a dismissal stinks of nostalgia for the days of segregation and Jim Crow.
I, for one, in contrast to what appears to be many of my white brothers and sisters here in the South, claim Dr. King's legacy for myself. He, along with thousands of unsung heroes who fought for civil rights out in the streets, pushed the American white power structure to do the right thing. The whole country owes him and the movement whose ideals he so well articulated an enormous debt.
But the MLK I really dig is the one who took a turn toward the radical late in life, the man who began to realize that racism doesn't exist in an ideological vacuum, that oppressing people because of the color of their skin cannot be separated from oppression in the more general sense. I'm convinced that's why he was finally assassinated. It's as though the power elite was okay with him saying nice things about black and white kids holding hands, but going after war and capitalism drove them nuts. You won't hear much about that Martin Luther King on the news or on PBS or in the schools because that same power elite continues to call all the shots today.
At any rate, if you want to know more about the radicalized Dr. King, check out this Democracy Now episode.
Posted by Ron at 2:02 AM
Sunday, January 17, 2010
What Happens To Polar Bears As Arctic Ice Shrinks?
Or, more importantly, what happens to us?
Anderson, former editor-in-chief of New Scientist magazine, says at the rate the sea ice is melting, by the summer of 2050, the Arctic will be a mostly open ocean.
"The polar bear is the king of the Arctic, the top predator. It'll be gone," Anderson tells Weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "A killer whale living in open water will be the symbol of the Arctic, replacing a bear on ice. And that's an astonishing change.”
Anderson says as the ice melts, it will take several forms of "revenge" on those living south of the Arctic.
"Once the tundra that rims the Arctic starts to thaw, what we'll see is greenhouse gases pouring out of that tundra," Anderson says. Those gases include methane and carbon dioxide, and they'll contribute to climate change, he says.
Another problem: rising sea levels. As the ice cap sitting on top of Greenland melts, it pours into the sea. Anderson says if the entire cap melts, sea levels worldwide will rise by 20 feet or more.
Click here to read or listen to the rest.
The article goes on to observe that the Greenland ice will take much longer to melt than Arctic ice, but the net effect would necessarily be the slow destruction of all developed coastal areas. You know, like New York City. Or, for that matter, New Orleans, where I live now, or Houston, where I grew up.
But the bottom line, for me anyway, is that this is just another story. That is, we're literally watching the Arctic thaw while we continue to have the same argument about global warming that we've been having for the last twenty years. There is no sense of urgency, at least, not from the elite class who own and run the country. Yeah, the polar bears are going, so sad. Just another story. It's becoming increasingly clear that our "democratic" system is simply incapable of doing anything about this.
So it'll be hundreds of years before the Greenland icecap totally melts, raising the sea by twenty feet. But things'll be way fucked well before then, fucked in ways we don't even understand yet. It's not simply about polar bears losing their habitat: it's about the catastrophic breakdown of the global eco-system. Make no mistake. By mid century, the way we live our lives, those of us connected well enough to survive, at least, will be unalterably changed for the worse. And nobody with the power to do anything about it gives a fuck.
Why pursue a career? Why have children? Why do anything at all? Nothing matters anymore. It's all going to end, and soon. How should one behave on the eve of destruction? I have no idea.
Posted by Ron at 11:34 PM
RON REEDER LIVE!
I'm busy tonight, so not much of a post here at the moment, but I do want to plug the fourth performance of my theater/rock 'n roll hybrid show this coming Wednesday. I'll be playing at the same place as last time, the Neutral Ground, 5110 Daneel St., in Uptown New Orleans, from ten to eleven p.m. Lots of songs about the issues I obsess over here at Real Art, but with less of a partisan edge. Lots of banter about culture and politics, as well as a couple of straight-up theatrical performance pieces. Bring friends.
A splendid time is guaranteed for all!
Performing "Smith's Commencement Address."
Performing, I think, "Everybody in Austin."
Posted by Ron at 12:15 AM
Friday, January 15, 2010
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Pat Robertson blames Haiti’s ‘pact with the devil’ for quake
From the Raw Story courtesy of AlterNet:
"Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon the third, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you will get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it's a deal.
And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other. Desperately poor. That island of Hispaniola is one island. It is cut down the middle on the one side is Haiti the other is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island. They need to have and we need to pray for them a great turning to god and out of this tragedy I'm optimistic something good may come."
Yeah, and blues man Robert Johnson went down to the cross road and sold his soul to the devil, too.
This is just depressing. I've been trying to figure out for years how to talk to evangelicals and fundamentalists in a rational way about the very real issues associated with insisting that everybody follow Christian rules in a pluralistic society. But how do you talk to people who literally believe that angels and demons constantly surround us, fighting over the fate of our eternal souls?
I mean sure, this is way offensive, and Robertson is a repeat offender, having made similar remarks about 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. But the real problem is that he, and most of his ilk, possess views about the universe that would get them thrown into the loony bin if religion weren't part of the equation. And they're trying as hard as they can to get as many Americans as possible to adopt those views. Thanks to the shoddy schools, it doesn't strike me as being terribly difficult to get people to believe stupid bullshit like this.
I continue to assert that religion, in addition to being various sets of values, norms, and principles about how we live our lives, is also culture, and ought to be respected, if only for that. But lunatics like Robertson make that damned difficult. How the hell do you work with these people?
Maybe humor is the key. People like jokes, even religious people. On the other hand, if I didn't already know what Robertson is about, I'd think this story came from the Onion. Maybe humor isn't the key.
Posted by Ron at 9:20 PM
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Errand of Mercy
"Errand of Mercy" is an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, and was broadcast on March 23, 1967. It is episode #26, production #27, written by Gene L. Coon and directed by John Newland. This episode marks the first appearance of the Klingons.
Overview: At war with the Klingons, Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock attempt to sway the incomprehensibly placid population of a planet to their side.
So, of course, I really dig this one. First appearance of the Klingons, and all, featuring a really good adversary for Kirk, Kor, played by the great John Colicos, a Canadian stage actor who ended up playing Baltar in the original Battlestar Galactica series back in the late 70s. Good Kirk and Spock stuff, especially in a nice scene where the two manage to break into the Klingon headquarters to take Kor hostage, with Spock constantly stating and revising, as they move closer to their goal, the odds for their being able to do so. And the pacifist leader of the planet they visit is a lot of fun, too, an old school actor with dignity and presence. It's also the episode where Spock says "pure energy," the phrase immortalized in some techno dance hit from the mid 80s.
But it's not really worth watching if you're looking for what makes the show great. "Errand of Mercy" is essentially an episode about kicking ass. I mean, it's dramatically interesting in that the whole thing is about being right on the brink of total war, with it all being scuttled at the last moment by the deus ex machina of a superior alien race. But the superior life form as god-in-the-machine works much better, I think, in "Arena," and Kirk's bloodlust, while always welcome, is a bit too much here, as he practically begs the peace loving Organians to resist their Klingon oppressors.
Don't get me wrong. I love this episode. But I'm a Star Trek nut. I don't know that a non-fan would get as much out of it as I do. But who knows? It is a lot of fun. Lots of shooting and fisticuffs.
Go watch, at least, the first five minutes. If you don't like it, so what? We've got "City on the Edge of Forever" on tap for next week. That one ought to blow your mind.
"It would have been glorious!"
Posted by Ron at 9:42 PM
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Learning From Europe
From the New York Times, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman opines on the proven effectiveness of social democracy:
But taking the longer view, the European economy works; it grows; it’s as dynamic, all in all, as our own.
So why do we get such a different picture from many pundits? Because according to the prevailing economic dogma in this country — and I’m talking here about many Democrats as well as essentially all Republicans — European-style social democracy should be an utter disaster. And people tend to see what they want to see.
After all, while reports of Europe’s economic demise are greatly exaggerated, reports of its high taxes and generous benefits aren’t. Taxes in major European nations range from 36 to 44 percent of G.D.P., compared with 28 in the United States. Universal health care is, well, universal. Social expenditure is vastly higher than it is here.
So if there were anything to the economic assumptions that dominate U.S. public discussion — above all, the belief that even modestly higher taxes on the rich and benefits for the less well off would drastically undermine incentives to work, invest and innovate — Europe would be the stagnant, decaying economy of legend. But it isn’t.
While straight-up socialism would probably be more economically just, social democracy combines the economic dynamism of capitalism with a great deal of economic justice, as well as the freedom that the word "democracy" implies. And it works. And you don't need gulags in order to pull it off. Indeed, Western Europe's adoption of the social democracy model after WWII is probably what drained dry domestic support for the communists and revolutionary socialists who were running around at the time.
I know I've called myself a leftist many times here at Real Art, and in the US that's exactly what I am. But in Europe, I'd just be a moderate. A strong supporter of the status quo, a defender of the way things are. I mean okay, I'm a contrarian by nature, so I'm sure I'd find something to bitch about if I were French or German, but you get my drift.
Maybe I should start calling myself a social democrat. It really is the only way to go.
Posted by Ron at 10:02 PM
Monday, January 11, 2010
Harry Reid's 'Negro' problem
From a blog at the London Guardian:
Now comes the big Harry Reid controversy. I won't defend Reid's use of the word "Negro" in a quote in 2008 while observing that Barack Obama seemed electable to him because he was "light-skinned" and and could turn said dialect on and off as he pleased.
Using that word isn't defensible. He deserves criticism for it.
But this Republican posturing is just beyond belief, except that it isn't because they're so capable of anything. Naturally, they moved to compare Reid's comment to those made by Trent Lott a few years ago.
It then turned out that Lott had longstanding ties to at least one southern group with a starkly racist history. But even if the apologias were real, they are morally obtuse and illegitimate. It would be like a Frenchman saying I support Jean-Marie Le Pen because of his tax policy.
Reid was making a strategic political assessment of how the American public would perceive a particular African American candidate. No one can possibly say with a straight face that there's any remote connection between the two.
Sigh. More meaningless political theater to distract us from things that matter.
Yes, Reid was foolish, but, unlike the Guardian blogger excerpted above, I don't think he really did much worse than stick his foot in his mouth. This other n-word just isn't the same thing as the n-word referred to by the great defense attorney F. Lee Bailey when he was nailing racist LAPD detective Mark Furhman to the wall during the OJ Simpson trial. It was never used by slave owners to oppress an entire race. It still exists in acceptable usage today under very specific circumstances, such as the endless replay of Martin Luther King, Jr. speeches every January, or as part of the name for civil rights organizations and institutions that existed before the 1970s, like the United Negro College Fund. For that matter, I heard an NPR piece a few days ago about how the US Census is putting this other n-word on forms this year because the last time around some 50,000 people opted to write it in rather than checking the more commonly used "African American" or "Black."
I mean yeah, the other n-word is antiquated and close enough to the clearly racist n-word that white people ought to be really careful in this day and age with how they use it, but Senator Reid's usage of the term just isn't a Michael Richards moment. The Democrats, pretty much all the way around, have handled the situation well.
Republicans, on the other hand, continue to turn tragedy into farce, then back to tragedy, then back to farce. Then maybe back to tragedy again. Democrats, who controlled neither the House or the Senate at the time, simply criticized Lott for his support of segregationist Strom Thurmond: it was Bush loyalists who actually forced him out of his Senate leadership position, using the controversy as a moment of opportunity.
I mean, demanding Reid's resignation for this is just silly, especially when you consider that Republicans, who have shamelessly used coded rhetoric to court the votes of angry white racists in the South since the late 60s, just don't give a shit about black people. Why would they care at all if a Democrat used a racially charged term? Answer: there is no reason because the GOP is racist.
No, this is a non-issue blown up into bullshit political theater, just because that's what the Republicans are good at. Actually, I'm kind of annoyed that I even feel compelled to write about it. At any rate, I hope this story dies. Tomorrow. But I wouldn't be surprised if it lingered for a week or two more. After all, the corporate news media are fucking stupid.
Posted by Ron at 10:09 PM
Cavuto's flawed "global warming alert": "It is freezing across the entire globe"
From Media Matters for America courtesy of Eschaton:
On his Fox News show, Neil Cavuto introduced a segment by saying, "This is our Fox News global warming alert for you," and falsely claimed that "[i]t is freezing across the entire globe"; guest Ben Stein later suggested that "maybe all this talk about global warming needs to be rethought" because of recent cold weather. In fact, contrary to Cavuto's suggestion, it is not colder than average across the entire globe, and climate scientists reject the notion that short-term changes in weather bear any relevance to the global warming debate.
More here, with video.
Yeah, I keep hearing this shit, most recently on talk radio when I was driving home from work a couple hours ago.
I mean, it's easy to dismiss when it's coming from obvious right-wing rabble rousers such as Cavuto and his FOX cohorts, but I've also heard intelligent conservatives, like my dad and a few friends, yucking it up about the end of global warming whenever it gets really cold outside. This is very disturbing, and not simply because these global warming deniers are dead wrong.
Anybody who has done even a minimal amount of reading about climate change understands that greenhouse gas spawned upticks in temperature are viewed by climatologists in terms of temperature averages over the span of many years, never in terms of how the weather is doing at the moment. That is, when people assert that a recent cold snap proves global warming is a bunch of hooey, they also necessarily reveal that they have absolutely no knowledge of the subject. In other words, these people have no business intruding on the discussion.
I mean okay, science can get messy and inexact. There's lots of room for reasonable dissent based on actual facts when it comes to a field as vast and complicated as climatology. That's why there are still a few reputable scientists here and there who are global warming skeptics. But at least they know what they're talking about, even if almost everybody else in the field disagrees with them at this point.
But the cold-outside crowd is just straight-up ignorant, and arrogantly so, to boot. Strangely, their voices are heavily magnified by corporate mass communication technology. We really are all doomed.
Posted by Ron at 12:32 AM
Saturday, January 09, 2010
FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
Alabama defeats Texas, rolls to first national title since 1992
From the AP via ESPN:
The Alabama 'D' knocked Texas quarterback Colt McCoy out of the Citi BCS Championship Game early, then made a big play late to stop a Longhorns comeback in a 37-21 victory Thursday that brought glory back to the program Bear built.
Okay, this was a bitter pill to swallow, so I don't really have much to say other than "this sucks." But I do have a couple of observations.
First, late in the regular season when it was starting to look like it was going to be Texas versus the SEC winner in the national championship game, I asserted to a bartender with whom I work when he told me that Alabama would beat Texas, that Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley could pick their great defense apart. I continue to maintain that position.
Second, the Texas defense played brilliantly, and would have played better if the Colt-less offense hadn't had so many three-and-outs. And that's not to knock backup QB Gilbert, who played about as well as a true freshman can play in a game like this. It's just that he's not Colt McCoy. At least, not yet.
The fact that Texas came within three points of tying it so late in the fourth quarter is someting of a moral victory in itself. But still. This hurt.
Texas quarterback Colt McCoy paces the sidelines during the third quarter.
Smiley N. Pool / Houston Chronicle
Posted by Ron at 8:19 PM
Friday, January 08, 2010
FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING
Presenting the rare guest cat for Real Art's Friday Cat Blogging:
Martin belongs to my old pal and songwriting partner Ken, who is now a professor of literature at an undisclosed big state university. Cute kitty.
Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!
Posted by Ron at 2:33 PM
Thursday, January 07, 2010
THIS IS NEWS?!?
Well, it's FOX News, at any rate.
From the Chicago Sun-Times courtesy of AlterNet:
Fox News' Brit Hume has obviously spent some time worrying about the ultimate fate of Tiger Woods' soul.
He apparently felt compelled to share his concerns with a national audience Sunday.
"The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith," Hume said. "He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So, my message to Tiger is, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."
Click here for video and a bit more text.
Never mind that the entire Tiger Woods adultry saga isn't much more than a sidebar blurb wildly overblown into the Big Story of December. This is nuts. Like the Sun-Times piece observes, Hume is a senior political analyst, so I guess that offering Jesus' love to a golfer who screwed around on his wife constitutes deep thinking at FOX. No surprise, I suppose. It's just that every now and then these guys get so weird that it's worth noting here at Real Art.
As if Christians don't screw around on their wives.
Posted by Ron at 6:43 PM
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: TEXAS VERSUS ALABAMA
Here's what I wrote three years ago when they played USC:
Starts in about thirty minutes. I'm getting my head ready--I don't want to have all the nervous excitement that I've had for big games in the past, so I'm making it okay for Texas to lose.Ditto for today. Different foe, same nerves. It's okay to lose, but hook 'em 'Horns, anyway! I'll probably won't post on the game until Saturday. Until then, here's the Bevo icon:
But I really, really, really want them to win.
Hook 'em 'Horns!
Posted by Ron at 6:36 PM
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
The Devil in the Dark
"The Devil in the Dark" is a first-season episode Star Trek: The Original Series which first aired on March 9, 1967. It was repeated on June 15, 1967. It is episode #25, production #26, and was written by Gene L. Coon and directed by Joseph Pevney. William Shatner writes in his memoirs that "The Devil in the Dark" was his favorite original Star Trek episode. From Shatner's perspective, this episode was "exciting, thought-provoking and intelligent, it contained all of the ingredients that made up our very best Star Treks".
Overview: Captain Kirk and Mister Spock face off with a deadly subterranean beast.
This one isn't my own personal favorite - I mean, it's probably in my top five - but it's may very well be the best episode of the series. Everything works together on this one. Everything is Star Trek, none of that early season awkwardness. And tons of highlights.
"The Devil in the Dark" shows some of the mundane workings of our Federation future in the form of an industrial mining colony besieged by an utterly incomprehensible alien life form. That is, as a non-humanoid, non-carbon based being, the Horta is probably the most realistic alien any Enterprise crew ever faces, far more realistic, in a sort of Carl Sagan way, than all those forehead aliens that got so popular during and after the Next Generation days. Given the creature's uniqueness, and the danger it presents to the mining operation, the episode makes excellent use of one of the more interesting conflicts in all of sci fi, science versus security, firmly placing it alongside some of the best films, novels, and short stories the genre has to offer.
But this one's a character piece, as well. Doctor McCoy agonizes over treating a life form about which he has absolutely no knowledge, giving rise to his great line, "I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer." Scotty works his technical magic, using odds and ends around the ship to temporarily repair an out-of-date power plant in the mine. Spock's mind meld with the wounded and desperate Horta during the episode's climax is heart wrenching.
Maybe this is my favorite. It's as near to perfect as Star Trek can get. Go check it out.
Posted by Ron at 5:59 PM
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
INTELLECTUAL SUPPORT FOR CAPITAL PUNISHMENT PUT TO DEATH
From the New York Times courtesy of AlterNet:
Group Gives Up Death Penalty Work
Instead, the institute voted in October to disavow the structure it had created “in light of the current intractable institutional and structural obstacles to ensuring a minimally adequate system for administering capital punishment.”
That last sentence contains some pretty dense lawyer talk, but it can be untangled. What the institute was saying is that the capital justice system in the United States is irretrievably broken.
A study commissioned by the institute said that decades of experience had proved that the system could not reconcile the twin goals of individualized decisions about who should be executed and systemic fairness. It added that capital punishment was plagued by racial disparities; was enormously expensive even as many defense lawyers were underpaid and some were incompetent; risked executing innocent people; and was undermined by the politics that come with judicial elections.
Roger S. Clark, who teaches at the Rutgers School of Law in Camden, N.J., and was one of the leaders of the movement to have the institute condemn the death penalty outright, said he was satisfied with the compromise. “Capital punishment is going to be around for a while,” Professor Clark said. “What this does is pull the plug on the whole intellectual underpinnings for it.”
The article references a 1994 60 Minutes interview with Justice Harry Blackmun where he asserts that it is not possible to reconcile capital punishment with the Constitution. I remember watching, and, fairly new to the liberal game at the time, was excited to hear a new argument against the death penalty: even though killing criminals in the name of the people appears to be Constitutional in theory; actual judicial practice makes it impossible.
But then, I had already felt this way for many years, even when I was a conservative. The notion that I personally might be strapped into an electric chair, even though I was innocent, has always scared the fuck out of me. I think I've always opposed the death penalty for selfish reasons. The government makes a lot of mistakes, and I don't want to be one of them. Later in life, especially after my leftward shift in ideology, it was easy to expand my own fear of death by government to everyone. No one should end his life as a government mistake.
It's really, really, really nice to hear that smart people who support capital punishment have finally concluded it is impossible to do it fairly. But such a landmark conclusion ought to now clear the market of ideas for this notion: why should the government kill anybody, regardless of their guilt or innocence?
I mean, once you've got the guy, you've got the guy: he's not going to kill again. He's no longer a threat to society. What good is killing him? How is it right to punish a murderer by murdering him? Killing is either wrong or it isn't. No matter who the killer is. I mean okay, self-defense, defense of others, all that I understand. But I'm talking about people who are already convicted and behind bars. Capital punishment is murder, and the sooner we all embrace that notion the better.
Posted by Ron at 10:01 PM
FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
THE END OF JOCK CULTURE AS WE KNOW IT?
From the Houston Chronicle, some sports analysis on the recent firing of Texas Tech's football coach Mike Leach:
It's a dumb move by a smart coach in the wrong era
Information from e-mail and statements in support of Leach by players and coaches (current and former), would lead you to believe James, the son of former Stratford High School and SMU star Craig James, is a whiny sort who didn't work hard and walked around with some sense of entitlement.
It doesn't matter how whiny James is or who his father, now an ESPN analyst, happens to be. If you do what Leach did, you are asking for trouble.
We want our football players to be nasty and tough and to run through a brick wall for the old alma mater. But if a coach requires one of them to actually try to run through a brick wall it could cause problems, especially if the kid complains. Kids complain these days.
Old-school coaches tell stories of everything from water deprivation to physical and mental torture that if players were prisoners of war would violate the Geneva Conventions.
That was the old days. You have to be more careful now. You must be smarter.
I played football for two years in middle school and for about five minutes in high school. That is, I went through high school two-a-days and played in a preseason scrimmage my freshman year before it became achingly evident that there would be no way that I could play football while attending debate tournaments and acting in plays. So I quit the Kingwood Mustangs before I had ever played a game. This was a tough decision. I loved, and continue to love, football, and for the next three years I would occasionally entertain the notion of trying to get back on the team. But there was just no time, and I was doing well as a debater and actor, and involved in what seemed at the time a million other extracurricular activities, so I never thought about going back for more than a few minutes at a time.
"Besides," I would think to myself, "jocks are assholes."
Now, it's obviously a much more complicated picture than simply saying that jocks are assholes. I have friends to this day with whom I played football. A coach I had in middle school, Coach Camps, showed up unexpectedly at my mother's funeral, a couple of decades after I had last spoken with him, which I found to be incredibly comforting. It's probably more accurate to say that jock culture is about being an asshole. Indeed, Noam Chomsky asserts that American sports, most notably football, are about indoctrinating people into irrational attitudes of submission to authority. And my own experiences as a jock showed me that a lot of that indoctrination is about both being, and dealing with, assholes.
Often, but not always, the biggest asshole on the team is the coach.
That was clearly the case at Tech. Mike Leach was the asshole-in-chief. This is no surprise. I'm sure that lots of football coaches are assholes, even the guys who seem so nice in television interviews. I mean, if the whole football culture is about being an asshole, and a coach has to ride herd over a bunch of assholes, making them work effectively as a team, then he'd better be the biggest asshole in the room, or nothing's going to get done.
But now it appears that computer technology in the form of phone video footage uploaded to YouTube, intersecting with modern sports celebrity nepotism in the form of a disgruntled player with a famous dad, may very well spell the beginning of the end for the ascendancy of the football asshole. But I wouldn't bet on it. I mean, football is a bloody brutal fucked up sport. I don't think you can play without being a bigtime asshole, at least some of the time.
No, the problem with Leach is that he was so much of an asshole that he got caught. We've been here before, after all. In 1978, the great Ohio State coach Woody Hayes lost his job because he punched a player on the sidelines during a televised game. More recently, in 2000, the great basketball coach Bobby Knight lost his job at Indiana for going off on a sports writer's son. Neither time did jock culture move away from asshole-as-prime-directive. And I don't at all expect that to happen today.
What I expect to happen is that coaches are going to think twice before they let their inner asshole call all the shots. I mean, they'll continue to be big assholes, of course, but they'll realize, like pretty much everybody is realizing in the digital age, that you never know who's watching, never know who's looking at your asshole, never know when your asshole will be spread wide on ESPN and every sports page in the country.
The jock assholes are going to be with us for a long time to come, but they will most likely shrink a bit, as though they've been salved with Preparation H. And that's probably not a bad thing.
Posted by Ron at 1:05 AM
Monday, January 04, 2010
Saturday, January 02, 2010
FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
PSU's last-minute field goal thwarts LSU rally in Capital One Bowl
From the AP via ESPN:
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Dampened by rain, slowed by mud and trailing late in the fourth quarter, Daryll Clark was determined to get Penn State some points.
The Nittany Lions (No. 13 BCS, No. 11 AP) and their star quarterback emerged from the muck for a thrilling 19-17 win over LSU (No. 12 BCS, No. 13 AP) in the Capital One Bowl.
And LSU had one final chance after Wagner's game-winner. The junior kicker said it was the first time he had ever hit four field goals in a game.
The Tigers got to midfield but right guard Lyle Hitt was whistled for a disputed personal foul penalty that pushed them back to their own 40. Quarterback Jordan Jefferson hit Rueben Randle for a 25-yard gain on the game's last play to the Penn State 35 but Randle fumbled as time expired.
LSU was still fuming after the game.
Click here for the rest.
If anybody still cares, the "Capital One Bowl" is what was once called the "Citrus Bowl" back in the days before corporate sponsorship took over everything--in the future, my name will no longer be "Ron;" instead, it will be "Depends Undergarments."
Anyway, despite LSU's loss, this was a fun one to watch, especially because the crappy field conditions, retro-looking uniforms for both teams, and hardcore defensive struggle made it all look like a 1960s NFL game. I mean, don't get me wrong, I would have greatly preferred an LSU win, but I wasn't expecting one, which made the Tigers' late game comeback all the more pleasing, and the loss less painful.
On the whole I saw more things that I liked with LSU than things I disliked. The Tigers' running game was virtually non-existent, which was probably the main factor in their loss, but because I haven't been paying much attention this year, I didn't realize that LSU was playing with their third string tail back. Really, the fact that they were able to get the passing game going in the second half is pretty remarkable given that Penn State didn't really have to worry about stopping the rush. And all those great Tiger wide receivers looked good, really good. I also liked that much of the sloppiness I've been railing on this season had seemingly disappeared--I mean, you know, except for all the muddy wet slipping and sliding and whatnot, but that was more about the shitty field than anything else.
On the other hand, I hated the clock management during the last minute or so. Okay, the personal foul was a pretty bad call - PSU players were purposely lingering, which is an infraction in itself, while the Tigers were trying to reset, which made an LSU lineman pull on a few Nittnany Lion limbs - but the Tigers were taking forever to reset, anyway, which is inexcusable. The blame for that, because this kind of crap has been happening chronically throughout the season, rests squarely on the shoulders of Les Miles.
You can't win big games against great teams if you're sloppy, no matter how much talent you have. I'm willing to see how Miles does next year, but if this shit continues, we're really going to need to get June Jones or something. That is, if I see stupid mistakes and bad game management next season, I'll join the growing chorus of calls for "The Mad Hatter's" head.
Evan Royster of Penn State runs the ball during the Capital One Bowl in Orlando on
Friday. Penn State won 19-17 over Louisiana State. The field conditions were a mess
after rain. (Jacob Langston, Orlando Sentinel / January 1, 2010)
Posted by Ron at 4:53 PM