Sunday, February 28, 2010

Simon names who's 'So Vain'

From the World Entertainment News Network courtesy of MSN:

Carly Simon has ended nearly 40 years of speculation by finally naming the man who inspired her hit "You're So Vain" - her target was gay record label boss David Geffen.

The song, which catapulted the singer to fame in 1972, was rumored to be about one of her ex-boyfriends, who include Hollywood legend Warren Beatty and rocker Sir Mick Jagger, but she had persistently refused to name the man behind the track.


More
here.

Oh! I do so love a character assassination song. And this, along with Dylan's "
Positively 4th Street," and John Lennon's "How Do You Sleep?," is among the very best the genre has to offer. Indeed, character assassination in song is something I've loved since I first understood the concept. As a songwriter, I started using the form pretty early on, with my first few in this vein being written when I was in my late teens. And I was good at it, too: I still perform a couple from those days when I play at the Neutral Ground here in New Orleans, "Dawna" and "Love God." But I've never been quite able to match Carly Simon's venom in my own work. I mean, "I bet you think this song is about you;" I could never write that.

"You're So Vain" is fucking great. I've always loved it. At first, for a few years, I had no idea about the famous mystery regarding the song's target; I just figured it was some ex-boyfriend or something. I mean, in the end, who really cares? But by the time I was a teenager, my song writing partner, Ken, had told me about all the speculation, and I was hooked. James Taylor? Warren Beatty? After a couple of years I decided that I liked it being about Beatty, who is, you know, something of an idiot--at this point in my life I really hate to watch his on screen mugging, the whole "I'm beautiful and I know it" thing you see in virtually all his movies. I mean, how could it not be Beatty?

But here you have it. David Geffen. I guess that's okay, too. He is, after all, to borrow a phrase from Frank Zappa, one of "those record company pricks who come to scrape the cream." Nothing like trashing the powerful. But now there are some new questions. Did Simon know at that point that Geffen is gay? What's with the "wife of a close friend" line? And why is Wikipedia reporting denials that the song is about Geffen? Whatever. Like I said, in the end, it doesn't matter. What's important is the song, and how when we listen to it we fill in all our favorite pompous assholes who've tormented us our entire lives. It's nice to think about Beatty or Geffen being ripped to shreds, but really, the song speaks to each of us individually, about our own lives, about the people we know. And that's what makes it great.

Anyway, here's the song on YouTube, playing over a hot gay beefcake pic, which now appears to be entirely appropriate. Lyrics below, so you can sing along. Personally, I like to sing along with Mick Jagger's backing vocal--he's made his career, after all, being just as vindictive with his own lyrics; he's the perfect celebrity addition here.



You walked into the party
Like you were walking onto a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf it was apricot
You had one eye in the mirror
As you watched yourself gavotte
And all the girls dreamed that they'd be your partner
They'd be your partner, and

You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?

You had me several years ago
When I was still quite naive
Well, you said that we made such a pretty pair
And that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved
And one of them was me
I had some dreams they were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee, and

You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?

I had some dreams they were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee, and

You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?

Well, I hear you went up to Saratoga
And your horse naturally won
Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia
To see the total eclipse of the sun
Well, you're where you should be all the time
And when you're not, you're with
Some underworld spy or the wife of a close friend
Wife of a close friend, and

You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you? Don't you?

You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You're so vain
You probably think this song is about you

You're so vain (so vain)
I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you? Don't you?


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Friday, February 26, 2010

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Roi Mixes It Up with Some Plastic




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

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES
Means "Who Polices the Police?"


From the New Orleans Times-Picayune, courtesy of
Eschaton:

Police supervisor pleads guilty in Danziger
Bridge probe; plea deal blows case wide open


Retired New Orleans police Lt. Michael Lohman has pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice in the Danziger Bridge shootings, which left two people dead and four others injured after police fired on a group of civilians trapped in the submerged city days after Hurricane Katrina.

Two men -- Ronald Madison, 40, who was mentally challenged, and James Brissette, 19 -- were killed. The survivors included a husband and wife, their two teenage children and a nephew.

Lohman, who helped orchestrate an elaborate cover-up of the crime, supervised the investigation and was at the scene on Sept. 4, 2005, according to an 11-page bill of information unsealed today.

According to the document, Lohman was aware that a subordinate planted a gun at the scene. He also wrote a 17-page police report full of lies about the incident and encouraged officers at the scene to remove shell casings.


More
here.

Yeah yeah, I know, it was crazy in the week after Katrina.

But this is waaay fucked up. Indeed, the officers who were actually involved in the shootings, and by "shootings" I mean "murders," had their charges dismissed in 2008 due to prosecutorial misconduct. This plea deal may very well be the legal grease needed to open up a new prosecution. And that, at least, is a good thing.

More generally, this is an extreme example of what happens everyday. That is, police organizational cultures, nationwide, with their hyper-masculinity, intense authoritarianism, and us-versus-them attitudes, actually make incidents like the Danziger Bridge case likely. I mean, sure, the NOPD has a reputation for being among the worst in the nation in terms of corruption and misconduct, but that, in itself, doesn't make them simply a bunch of "bad apples." Just do a Google search for "police brutality" or "police corruption" or "police misconduct." You'll get hundreds of recently written hits from legitimate news sources. This is all over the place: the wild West situation in New Orleans right after Katrina simply exposed the worst of what had been lurking there, indeed everywhere, already. The entire idea of policing in the US lays the attitudinal foundation for badge-and-gun despotism, and all it needs is a crisis of some sort to be unleashed.

Perhaps the pre-existing condition of extreme urban despair in the Crescent City is the soft-touch crisis that gave NOLA cops their bad rep in the first place--I mean, suburban cops don't have to be brutal; they're in relative heaven. But trust me, this could happen anywhere under the right circumstances.

And it doesn't have to be that way. Organizational cultures can and do change. All that's needed is the will to make it happen. Unfortunately, it appears that virtually no one is talking about police misconduct in terms of culture. I don't expect law enforcement Nirvana to happen anytime soon.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

STAR TREK
Amok Time


From Wikipedia:

"Amok Time" is an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It is episode #30, production #34, and first broadcast on September 15, 1967. It was repeated April 26, 1968. This was the first episode of the second season, and the first to air after the series moved to Friday nights at 8:30pm. It was written by science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon, scored by Gerald Fried, and directed by Joseph Pevney.

The episode features Mr. Spock returning to his homeworld for a brutal Vulcan marriage ritual. It is the only episode of the original series to have scenes on the planet Vulcan.


More
here.

I am very happy to report that this episode is as good as it was when I first saw it back in 1972 at the age of four. That is, it continues to be great, at whichever point in my life that I watch it, a tour de force, a total Star Trek triumph. I like it better than "City on the Edge of Forever." Maybe it's my favorite. I could go on, but I'm sure you get the idea.


"Amok Time" is all about Spock, and succeeds across the board. I mean, everything is good in this one, not a wasted moment or line--even the couple of lousy and mediocre guest actors here manage to avoid screwing it up. For the first time, Star Trek viewers get much more than a glimpse into what it means to be a Vulcan. Indeed, the Enterprise goes to Spock's home planet, also known as Vulcan, where much of the action takes place.

What draws Kirk and crew to the hot and arid deserts of Spock's world is Vulcan sexuality. That is, Spock experiences Pon farr, a biological condition akin to an animal going into heat, which, while enduring it, renders intensely problematic any Vulcan's devotion to logic. Thus, we get a very close up view of the delicate balance between reason and passion maintained by the entire Vulcan civilization.

And Leonard Nimoy as Spock is nothing short of brilliant here, alternating, again and again, between wild emotion and cool logic, often coming close to bursting at the seams. The rest of the regular cast is solid, as usual for the second season, with a few fun moments firmly establishing Chekov and Sulu's "Lenny and Carl" relationship, working stiffs who punch the clock everyday, and some well spent time establishing Nurse Chapel's ongoing courtly romance with Mr. Spock. But it's guest star Celia Lovsky, as Vulcan matriarch T'Pau, who makes it all come together. Lovsky, a classically trained Austrian actress, who spent time working with German theater auteur Bertolt Brecht before WWII, gives the Vulcan marriage ceremony a sense of high ritual and dignity, literally orchestrating the proceedings as leader of Spock's clan--her Austrian accent makes Vulcan culture all the more alien and exotic.

Also, I just can't forget to mention the greatest Star Trek fight of all time, Kirk versus Spock, to the death, with the first officer out of his mind, and with the Captain having no idea what's coming. When you see it, you finally realize that this is what you've been waiting for since you first saw the two in "Where No Man Has Gone Before," playing three dimensional chess, verbally ripping on each other. Some of the best Star Trek music of the series plays throughout.

Indeed, the entire score for "Amok Time" is great. It introduces what I like to call "Spock's Theme," a rhythmic morphing-tempo melancholy tune played on the low strings of an electric guitar, reprised a couple of times in this one with an orchestra's string section, and later with a trombone, very effectively, when it appears that Spock has killed his best friend. The theme is used for important Spock moments for the rest of the show's run.

Okay, I think I've gushed enough. Now go watch it.


"I grieve with thee."

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TIGER WOODS
SEXUAL TRANSGRESSION AS SURROGATE FOR POLITICAL TRANSGRESSION


From
AlterNet:

Who Cares About Adultery?

It is tragic that we, as a nation are reduced to holding our leaders to sexual standards while giving up on holding them to their promises for social justice. So many of us feel helpless. Only money seems to talk. Those who have no money and at the moment have no organized mass voice are effectively silenced. When people are or feel that they are helpless, they may save themselves the pain of consciousness and create escapes. Those escapes provide a kind of freedom that is its own prison. Perhaps our national investment in our hero’s sexual fidelity to the promise of marriage absolves us of the very difficult struggle to hold our leaders accountable for fidelity to campaign promises and stated human values. Maybe we need to have a national fearless moral inventory of our war crimes and our criminal economic system and its impact on America and the world. Maybe the fascination with Tiger Woods’ transgression and confession is a sad symptom of weakness and a fear of the road to recovery which begins with the truth?

More
here.

As a qualifier, I'm not really so sure that the American public is all that fascinated with the Tiger Woods adultery story: I do know, however, that the corporate mass media are totally obsessed with it. I mean, it's entirely possible that people are on the edge of their seats about it, so I'll keep that in mind, but it's certain that we've had the tale rammed down our throats repeatedly, especially the week after the story broke. At any rate, either way, public fascination or media fixation, we've got to deal with it.

A few days ago, I considered doing a short post about Woods' extramarital affairs, if only because of the way these stories about celebrities' and politicians' sex lives are so omnipresent. That is, I like how he asserted in his recent statement to the press that it's nobody but his and his wife's business; I didn't like how he kept apologizing to everybody. But I let the moment pass. It just didn't seem like that big of a deal.

Then I noticed the above linked AlterNet essay. It reminded me of another essay I read at CounterPunch a couple years back about the Michael Richards n-word scandal. It was just one sentence, really. Something to the effect of "because the progress of US race relations is in a state of stagnation or even reversal, word games take the place of actual debate and dialogue." That is, while deeply offensive, Richards' verbal attack on African-American hecklers is nothing compared to the hard core poverty and urban despair suffered by millions of blacks everyday in the US. But the corporate media don't report on that. Instead, they went wild for a few weeks over the stupid statements of a celebrity in a comedy club.

I already know that the mass media, of both news and entertainment varieties, serve a diversionary function in terms of American political life. That is, like the ancient "bread and circuses" of ancient Rome, if the people are fed and entertained, they're not so concerned with what the government is doing. But I'm starting to see that it's more complicated than simple diversion. Even though most Americans are unable to articulate exactly why, it is clear that people are experiencing great discomfort with the affairs of their nation. They long for justice, but are so ill-informed that they're not quite sure where the injustice they hate actually resides, don't really know where to direct their ire.

And the corporate media appear to be hyper-aware of this. Consequently, they feed us an endless stream of relatively minor transgressors and transgressions to be dealt with in the court of public opinion. Sexual injustice is a favorite, and the bigger the celebrity or politician, the better. But there's also that big cunt on Headline News, Nancy Grace, and her chest-thumping over kidnappers, sexual abusers, and child-killers. There's NBC "news" in the form of the most evil reality show ever, To Catch a Predator. Yes, sexual predators and child-killers are very bad, but when compared to bombing thousands of children in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared to millions of Americans nervously existing without health insurance, compared to hundreds of billions of tax dollars simply handed over to crooked banking institutions, well, it's all a sliding scale, of course, but, you know, they should put the pedophiles in the metro section, not on the front page.

I mean, compare the media festival in the late 90s over President Clinton receiving a blowjob from an intern to the dearth of reports on how President Bush stole the 2000 election, or lied us into the Iraq war. The news media feed us bullshit to satisfy our longing for justice, allowing the greatest injustices to go unexamined.

And that's what the Tiger Woods adultery scandal is really about. The actual event, a great athlete screwing around on his wife, while important to the participants, is utterly unimportant to everybody else. But the corporate media play it like it was Watergate or something. I'm not sure if shit like this does anything to make people feel better about their intense unease with current affairs, but it does successfully divert their attention from matters far, far, far more important.

It would be an interesting thought experiment to compare the number of conversations you've had about Woods' philandering to the number of conversations you've had about Dick Cheney admitting on national television that he personally approved of waterboarding prisoners of war. I know I've talked more about Tiger, myself. What about you?

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nuts: ACORN Cracks Under Pressure

From
Mother Jones:

News of the group's demise—premature or not—will be guzzled by conservatives like so much godly nectar. It's a fair time to ask exactly what it was that got their goat about ACORN, whose most controversial work consisted of often-messy voter-registration drives. The ire, much of it incoherent, that was heaped on ACORN was something akin to the two minutes' hate, an Orwellian orgy of dribbling fury lubricated by lies and craziness.

That craziness, of course, reached its apex with the antics of failed plumber phone technician James O'Keefe, who made some money posing as a pimp and filming himself asking ACORN volunteers strange questions about the pimp business—which, it has been said, ain't easy. O'Keefe's stunt got traction in the media—and even the federal government—and played a disturbingly large part in today's developments, even though Media Matters exposed his deceptive film-editing practices just last week.


More
here.

Right. I've been avoiding the whole ACORN scandal for many months now because, by and large, I don't really understand it. Whenever I hear the latest on the ongoing story, I'm like, "huh? what?" I'm still not even quite sure what ACORN actually does. So I was cruising around the net a little while ago looking for something blogworthy, came upon this short Mother Jones piece, and saw the phrase that told me, for the first time, exactly why I don't get the the controversy: "The ire, much of it incoherent, that was heaped on ACORN..."

"Incoherent." Okay. I don't understand because the story's fucking incoherent. That is, there's nothing really there to understand in the first place. And that's quite a good starting place for trying to make some sense of it all.

From Wikipedia:

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is a collection of community-based organizations in the United States that advocate for low- and moderate-income families by working on neighborhood safety, voter registration, health care, affordable housing, and other social issues. ACORN has over 400,000 members and more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in over 100 cities across the U.S., as well as in Argentina, Canada, Mexico, and Peru. ACORN was founded in 1970 by Wade Rathke and Gary Delgado. Maude Hurd has been National President since 1990; Bertha Lewis was appointed CEO in 2008.

ACORN's priorities have included: better housing and wages for the poor, more community development investment from banks and governments, better public schools, and other social justice issues. ACORN pursues these goals through demonstration, negotiation, lobbying for legislation, and voter participation. ACORN comprises a number of legally distinct non-profit entities including a nationwide umbrella organization established as a 501(c)(4) that performs lobbying; local chapters established as 501(c)(3) nonpartisan charities; and the ACORN Housing Corporation. These entities support labor-oriented causes.

Since the 2006 mid-term elections, ACORN has been the subject of public controversy over voter registration fraud by employees and embezzlement by management.
More here.

Well okay, that sounds benign enough. ACORN is an umbrella organization of smaller groups that serve and advocate for the poor and working classes. That, in itself, is the most likely reason that right-wing zealots have the group in their cross hairs--I'll never forget the deep disgust on my conservative older brother's face when he first saw my copy of Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States; conservatives hate all those 60s terms like "the people" or "community organizing," and ACORN appears to come right out of that cultural strain. Knowledge that such organizations still exist, especially on such a large scale, probably make conservatives sick to their stomachs. Seriously. ACORN makes them want to vomit.

But what about the scandals? Didn't they throw the election that gave Obama the White House? Don't they give mortgage assistance to pimps? Aren't they using federal tax dollars to get liberals elected? Aren't their leaders embezzling millions?

Well, no, no, no, and kind of, but not really. If you click through, you can read about the "scandals" in more detail, but here's the short version. As far as voter registration fraud goes, ACORN was duped by people they hired to register voters. Because these contract workers were paid by the number of registrations they turned in, many of them took the easy money route, filling out the forms themselves as "Micky Mouse" and whatnot. But ACORN weeded out the obviously bogus registrations before handing them over to the government, so while there were fraudulent forms, none of them actually became fraudulent votes. In short, ACORN was the victim here, not President McCain and Vice President Palin; the community organizing group paid unscrupulous workers for worthless bullshit.

Conservative loons turned ACORN's victimization into vote fraud and went wild with it, which is ironic in light of the
actual election tampering that gave Bush the White House back in 2000.

As for the infamous pimp video controversy, it now turns out that the tapes were heavily doctored, and the "filmmaker,"
now awaiting trial for another attempted sting operation here in New Orleans, is being sued by ACORN and some of its employees. And tax dollars are legally separate from donations: ACORN never uses federal or state grants to pay for the activities pursued by its political arm. The embezzlement, however, was real, apparently the only real controversy involving the organization, but it was just one guy, not several leaders, and it wasn't for millions. That is, rather than bilking contributors, ACORN was victimized by one of its own.

As far as I can tell, all ACORN is guilty of is some bad business decisions. But it is clearly not some sort of malevolent liberal force preying upon the poor, tax payers, and donors. Indeed, that notion has been totally fabricated by the right-wing noise machine. And the offensive has been so successful that its target, under attack across the nation, now appears to be literally falling apart.


Really, this is pretty fucking disturbing. The right wing can just make shit up, freak out about it, and win. To call the situation unjust is an understatement. If this is how America works these days, I wonder why anybody even tries anymore.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

A Country of Serfs

From
CounterPunch, former Reagan administration economic advisor Paul Craig Roberts on where the economy is really headed:

The problems of the American economy are too great to be reached by traditional policies. Large numbers of middle class American jobs have been moved offshore: manufacturing, industrial and professional service jobs. When the jobs are moved offshore, consumer incomes and U.S. GDP go with them. So many jobs have been moved abroad that there has been no growth in U.S. real incomes in the 21st century, except for the incomes of the super rich who collect multi-million dollar bonuses for moving U.S. jobs offshore.

Without growth in consumer incomes, the economy can go nowhere. Washington policymakers substituted debt growth for income growth. Instead of growing richer, consumers grew more indebted. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan accomplished this with his low interest rate policy, which drove up housing prices, producing home equity that consumers could tap and spend by refinancing their homes.

Unable to maintain their accustomed living standards with income alone, Americans spent their equity in their homes and ran up credit card debts, maxing out credit cards in anticipation that rising asset prices would cover the debts. When the bubble burst, the debts strangled consumer demand, and the economy died.


More
here.

Roberts efficiently explains why both Democratic and Republican ideas about how to get the economy moving again are doomed to failure: the two parties, more or less, aim to restore the economic situation that existed before the Great Recession began. For Republicans, it's about returning to "true conservatism," or the principles of Reagan, whatever; for Democrats, it's a bit more nuanced, but amounts to the same thing, a kind of globalism that ensures a race to the bottom in terms of wages. Either way, now that debt-as-stopgap has suffered its inevitable collapse, US business faces a domestic consumer market that cannot buy its products.

As long as job prospects for most Americans top out with fast food and retail management, our economy will be sluggish at best, and positively third world at worst. Nothing that either party is recommending, in terms of economic stimulation or job creation, will change this. Nobody in the political class appears to understand that consumer demand plays an extraordinarily important role in economic growth, which is weird because such a concept is self-evident. Both parties are too caught up in their supply-side mythology to see the obvious: it is good economic policy to ensure that rank-and-file Americans have enough money to pay their bills and send their kids to college.

In short, until the US political establishment, on both sides of the aisle, starts to consider the fate of the US worker as part of the overall economic picture, rather than as rhetoric, we're fucked.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dick Cheney Admits to Torture Conspiracy

From
AlterNet:

On Sunday, Cheney pronounced himself "a big supporter of waterboarding," a near-drowning technique that has been regarded as torture back to the Spanish Inquisition and that has long been treated by U.S. authorities as a serious war crime, such as when Japanese commanders were prosecuted for using it on American prisoners during World War II.

Cheney was unrepentant about his support for the technique. He answered with an emphatic "yes" when asked if he had opposed the Bush administration’s decision to suspend the use of waterboarding – after it was employed against three "high-value detainees" sometimes in repetitive sequences. He added that waterboarding should still be "on the table" today.

Cheney then went further. Speaking with a sense of impunity, he casually negated a key line of defense that senior Bush officials had hidden behind for years – that the brutal interrogations were approved by independent Justice Department legal experts who thus gave the administration a legitimate reason to believe the actions were within the law.

However, on Sunday, Cheney acknowledged that the White House had told the Justice Department lawyers what legal opinions to render. In other words, the opinions amounted to ordered-up lawyering to permit the administration to do whatever it wanted.


More
here.

Sigh.

Yeah, "sigh." That's all I've got at this point. Neither the Obama administration nor the Democratic controlled Congress appear to give a shit that the previous administration tortured prisoners of war. I'm really starting to suspect that everybody in the American political power structure believes that the United States, being the greatest nation in the history of the Universe and all that, can do whatever the fuck it wants, and that morality is simply not a consideration when it comes to policy-making.

Okay, I don't suspect that; rather, I've long known it to be true, but just haven't wanted to admit it to myself. I've hoped that when it really came down to it that our leaders are moral people, in the end. But that's so obviously not the case that I can no longer allow myself the luxury of hope. Our leaders are depraved, immoral, evil people.

I'll go through this one more time. Torture is deeply immoral, perhaps even worse than murder. Torture is tantamount to rape. Torturing someone, anyone, is one of the worst things one human being can do to another. Virtually nothing justifies it--I'm open to considering the classic "ticking time bomb" scenario, but the burden of proof lies with whoever makes the assertion, and it's necessary to point out that torturing men who have been held for months, like at the American gulag known as Guantanamo Bay, or in the chamber of horrors otherwise known as Abu Ghraib, can in no way be considered part of this hypothetical situation. It doesn't matter if torture produces "results," whatever that means. It doesn't matter if the people being tortured are evil, and have themselves tortured others. Torture is wrong, and civilized people must always condemn it. Always.

Further, those who rhetorically support torture are necessarily immoral themselves. This includes members of my own family, as well as friends I have loved for many years. If morality means anything at all, I must condemn all who support torture.

Leaders who order subordinates to torture are as guilty and immoral as those who torture. Perhaps even more guilty. And now we know that former Vice President Cheney falls into that category. He's admitted as much on national television. Hell, he's boasted of it. No need to investigate anymore. We should put him on trial immediately. And what's so infuriating is that it's not going to happen.

How can any moral person support President Obama, who sits in his regal pose doing nothing? How can Americans of conscience continue to support the Democrats, who pontificate about their own importance, while doing nothing? How can this be the America I've loved all my life? Doesn't anybody give a fuck about this?

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Friday, February 19, 2010

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Frankie and Sammy




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

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

DISSOLVING A CITY

My buddy Adam comments on
Tuesday's post about the fictional "crime wave" assumed to be brought to Houston by New Orleans evacuees:

Just like all the black folks steeling plasma screen TVs in New Orleans and evacuees in the Astrodome being rude and unappreciative of people serving food. A few black people in horrible situations get caught being human and without hesitation they're all guilty and it's all their fault and they shouldn't have lived there in the first place.

fucking shame.
Indeed.

And I've been thinking about this notion lately. Specifically the "shouldn't have lived there in the first place" part, the whole concept that New Orleans shouldn't exist because it's too vulnerable to hurricanes. Almost always, it's a conservative asshole who asserts this bullshit, but nobody ever seems to take this line of thinking to its logical conclusion.

Put aside, for the moment, the torturous ethical and moral considerations deeply embedded in the idea of a nation abandoning one of its great cities, and suppose that NOLA actually decided to give up, to disband the city and move elsewhere, or just tried to have the population absorbed by other cities. How, exactly, do we go about doing this? And, more importantly, who's going to pay for it? This would be a monumental undertaking, dissolving a city, and, never mind the psychological and emotional toll it would have, I can't even begin to imagine the economic ramifications. You've got to find homes for millions of people--I say "millions" because if NOLA goes, so do Metairie, Jefferson, Gretna, and on and on; New Orleans is the economic machine that drives the entire region. You've got to find new jobs for millions of people. You've got to do it in a way that doesn't unduly burden wherever former New Orleanians end up.

Without billions of dollars in federal aid, we're essentially talking about creating a permanent class of poverty stricken refugees, and this time, a large percentage of them would be white. Even with federal tax dollars for such a venture, we're still talking about a new wretched underclass, most likely reviled as gypsy-trash wherever they end up. In the end, conservative assholes, who demanded the city's dissolution in the first place, would be the most vocal denouncers of the new vagabonds of America, or would loudly decry all the tax money needed to resettle them. Probably both. Either way, the right wing would hate what they had previously demanded.

The reality is that cities usually come into being for very good reasons. In the case of NOLA, the crescent of land between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, originally the highest ground in the area, was an ideal center for trade. It wasn't until the twentieth century that oil exploration and short-sighted environmental engineering caused the land to sink below sea level. But the city had already been thriving there for over 150 years. So that's that. The best you can do is just sort of muddle on however you can.

In short, we simply have no way of doing what these conservative assholes say we should, even if we were inclined to do so. Bunch of stupid sick fuckers.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

STAR TREK
Who Mourns for Adonais?


From Wikipedia:

"Who Mourns for Adonais?" is a second season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It is episode #31, production #33, first broadcast September 22, 1967, and repeated May 10, 1968. It was written by Gilbert Ralston and Gene L. Coon, and directed by Marc Daniels.

Overview: The crew of Enterprise are held captive by the Greek god Apollo.


More
here.

Okay, this one improves with age.

It's easy to dismiss "Who Mourns for Adonais?" as standard Star Trek genre pilfering. That is, the episode looks and feels like a 1950s mytho-classical B-movie, think Jason and the Argonauts, or any one of
dozens of other films from the era. But to reduce it to nothing more than a ripping sword-and-sandal adventure is an aesthetic injustice. Indeed, if Star Trek is American pop culture's most ardent supporter of humanism, then this one is the show's most humanistic episode.

"Who Mourns for Adonais?" explores what happens when the technologically advanced human race of the future encounters one of its ancient gods. But as I reviewed the episode earlier this evening, it was impossible for me not to think of Apollo, the Greco-Roman god of light and purity, as a stand-in for the one "true" God. So what does happen when Kirk and crew meet God? The Captain does what humanists have been doing since the Enlightenment: he tells Him to fuck off.

But this isn't some sort of atheist screed. The narrative style seems tortured, twisting and turning as it rejects the Almighty, but also grieving His loss. Kirk, for instance, continually asserts to Apollo, and anyone else who will listen, that the human race has outgrown its need for gods, that we have advanced beyond such superstition. On the other hand, the story undermines the Captain's certainty of human triumph, juxtaposing 1960s sexism in the form of love struck and whiny Lieutenant Carolyn Palamas, who will, according to Kirk, one day "meet the right man and leave the service," against the progressive and liberated Lieutenant Uhura, who assertively and competently performs her duties on the bridge under great pressure. Humans may no longer need God, and are moving in the right direction, but they still have a long way to go.


Further, there are messages of warning and regret strategically placed throughout. Apollo, while very impressed with human development in the five thousand years of his absence, cautions Palamas that Kirk's denial of God is arrogant and foolhardy, that humans have forgotten what is truly important and real. Later, when Kirk orders his Lieutenant to decisively reject her new lover Apollo, the background music references Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, invoking the tragic opera's deep sense of loss and despair. And when God finally gets the message, that He no longer has a role in the affairs of men, He weeps real tears, humbly explaining that humanity could have experienced paradise under His care and guidance, even while He allows Himself to dissolve into the stuff of the Universe.

That is, God is dead, and it's really really sad. Even Kirk thinks so, asking finally, "Would it have hurt us, I wonder, just to have gathered a few laurel leaves?"

This one may be the most philosophically poignant in all of Star Trek, worth watching just for that. Go check it out.


The hand of God.

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Katrina's impact on crime questioned

From the Houston Chronicle:

A huge crime wave blamed on thousands of Katrina evacuees in Houston and other Southwest cities never happened, say criminologists who warned public officials and the media to be careful in attributing crime to the former New Orleans residents.

Five criminologists who reviewed crime statistics published a study in the current issue of the Journal of Criminal Justice, and found only a “modest” increase in the murder rates of Houston and Phoenix, and none in San Antonio, three cities that took in thousands of evacuees from storm-ravaged New Orleans.

The researchers did not find an accompanying rise in auto theft and assaults and other crimes, which they said would have been expected if dispossessed evacuees were responsible for a crime hike.


More
here.

You can file this away with the reports of mass rape at the Superdome. That is, there were no confirmed rapes at the Superdome, where thousands of poor black New Orleanians sheltered in the days after Katrina hit the Big Easy. And now we know for sure that thousands of poor black evacuees from New Orleans did not cause the crime wave that everybody was certain happened in Houston after my hometown took them in.

Look me in the face and tell me we don't have a severe problem with racism in this country.

Houstonians expected the crime rate to skyrocket when the evacuees arrived. Facts be damned: people expected a crime wave, so people believed that there was a crime wave. It quickly became conventional wisdom that West and South West Houston, where many of the New Orleanians were resettled, were caught up in some kind of NOLA gang war. I mean, the Chronicle and local TV news divisions talked about the "crime wave" as though it was actually happening. I think I even broke down, after reading what seemed to be endless reports on the subject, and agreed that the evacuation had brought the Crescent City's worst element to H-Town.

Except that none of it was true. None of it. There was no crime wave. It was all in people's heads. The only explanation for this grand illusion is racism, plain and simple. Racist newsmen, racist citizens, racist politicians, all feeding on each other's racist fears and creating a racist group-think, a textbook case proving the Nazi maxim about repeating the lie enough times until it becomes the truth.

Sure, Houston just elected a big lesbian to the city's highest office, but prejudice and bigotry are still alive and well there. And frankly, I don't think my hometown is too terribly different from most other American cities. I wonder if liberal white San Francisco would have reacted much differently if they had two hundred thousand poor black people dumped at their door step. Probably not.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

FAT TUESDAY...

...starts early for me tomorrow; gotta be in
Bywater by 8:30 in the morning to march with St. Anne, which is problematic, of course, because I've been working mostly dinner shifts for a couple of years now. Whatever. It's Mardi Gras, and well worth it.

From Wikipedia:

New Orleans Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday in French) in New Orleans, Louisiana, is one of the most famous Carnival celebrations in the world.

The New Orleans Carnival season, with roots in preparing for the start of the Christian season of Lent, starts after Twelfth Night, on Epiphany (January 6). It is a season of parades, balls (some of them masquerade balls), and king cake parties. It has traditionally been part of the winter social season; at one time "coming out" parties for young women at d├ębutante balls were timed for this season.

Celebrations are concentrated for about two weeks before and through Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French), the day before Ash Wednesday. Usually there is one major parade each day (weather permitting); many days have several large parades. The largest and most elaborate parades take place the last five days of the season. In the final week of Carnival, many events large and small occur throughout New Orleans and surrounding communities.

The parades in New Orleans are organized by Carnival krewes. Krewe float riders toss throws to the crowds; the most common throws are strings of plastic colorful beads, doubloons (aluminum or wooden dollar-sized coins usually impressed with a krewe logo), decorated plastic throw cups, and small inexpensive toys. Major krewes follow the same parade schedule and route each year.

While many tourists center their Mardi Gras season activities on Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, none of the major Mardi Gras parades has entered the Quarter since 1972 because of its narrow streets and overhead obstructions. Instead, major parades originate in the Uptown and Mid-City districts and follow a route along St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street, on the upriver side of the French Quarter.

To New Orleanians, "Mardi Gras" specifically refers to the Tuesday before lent, the highlight of the season. The term can also be used less specifically the whole Carnival season, sometimes as "the Mardi Gras season". The term "Fat Tuesday" or "Mardi Gras Day" always refers only to that single day.


More
here.

I've got to go work on my costume here in a bit - I'm going as the "Health Insurance Lobby," with a pic or two of me coming in a few days - so not much color commentary from me tonight, either. However, my gf Carly got some shots of
the Saints Super Bowl victory parade last Tuesday, which might as well be a Mardi Gras event itself especially because various krewes lent them their floats, and I got a few shots of the Hermes parade, myself last Friday night.

They're posted below.

Saints Victory Parade































And a few from Hermes











Happy Mardi Gras!

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!

So I'm busy tonight, celebrating Valentine's Day with my new sweetheart, Carly.

I've long thought that V-Day is really only any good for people in the first few months of a romantic relationship: if you have no sweetie, you're a bit miserable; if you've been together for longer than a while, you feel anxiety about making the day of romance a success. But early on in a relationship, when you're heady with love and good vibes, you don't worry about all that. You just enjoy it.

Fortunately, Carly and I have only been seeing each other since October. Consequently, I'm greatly looking forward to our evening together. Of course, that means not much more of a post tonight than what I've already written. But I will leave you with this, possibly my favorite song right now, and just perfect for Valentine's day cuddling:



Of course, if all you can see right now is Marsellus Wallace lecturing Bruce Willis about loyalty, you've probably short circuited your pop culture sensibilities. I really don't know how to help you. Maybe you should just go watch
the movie, instead. That's fun, too.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

BRAND NEW WAY TO INVEST IRRESPONSIBLY: BOX OFFICE FUTURES!

From AlterNet:

Another problem, says Stout, the law professor, is that such a market creates "all sorts of perverse incentives to manipulate the success of movies." Let’s say you were responsible for Gigli, and you realized during filming that it was shaping up to be one of the worst movies ever made. Instead of writing off the $54 million you’d shelled out to make the film, you could simply buy up a stack of futures contracts priced on the assumption that the movie would tank. Then, to nudge that failure along, you could slash the marketing budget, or decide to add 30 more dreadful minutes to the final cut. Played correctly, a studio could inflict a movie like Gigli on the world and still turn a profit. If box office futures trading happens, being a Hollywood insider would take on a whole new meaning.

More here.

Personally, I don't really see how Hollywood can become much worse than it already is, so I'm not particularly quaking in my sneakers over this. Who knows? It is entirely possible that purposefully bad movies might actually be better than bad movies that were intended to be good. I mean, Ed Wood made a career out of such a notion. Kind of. I guess we'll see what becomes of this.

On the other hand, the above excerpted essay serves as about as good an explanation as any I've read about one of the main financial phenomena mucking up the economy these days. Noam Chomsky has asserted that, in the last forty years or so, international investment has radically moved away from supporting the real economy, production and trade and so forth, toward financial gambling:

One cause is the enormous increase in the amount of unregulated, speculative capital. The figures are really astonishing. John Eatwell, one of the leading specialists in finance at Cambridge University, estimates that, in 1970, about 90% of international capital was used for trade and long-term investment - more or less productive things - and 10% for speculation. By 1990, those figures had reversed: 90% for speculation and 10% for trade and long-term investment.
That is, that vast majority of money being invested worldwide is, more or less, being used like poker chips, enriching the players, but creating nothing useful for anybody else. It is important to note that Chomsky made this observation sixteen years ago--lord knows the state of affairs now, but it's safe to assume that the trend hasn't changed.

Our leaders, the President, the Congress, the corporate news media pundit class, and others, make the assumption that all investment is good because it causes business to grow, which means more jobs and good times for everybody--you know, "a rising tide raises all the boats" and other such economic platitudes. Consequently, hands-off attitudes prevail, for both parties, when it comes to regulating the financial sector. I mean, there's a lot of talk in Washington these days about reining in the fat cats on Wall Street, but nobody really means it; they're just trying to cash in on popular anti-banker sentiment. Our leaders are certain that what we really need to do is simply to let the banksters do their thing and they'll get it right. Eventually.

Thing is, the assumption about investment our leaders make is fatally flawed: less than a tenth of all investment capital in the world actually makes its way to businesses operating in the real economy, you know, the businesses that employ most people. Clearly, all investment does not mean more jobs and good times for everybody. Indeed, 90% of investment is nothing more than gambling money. So most of the money floating around in the global economy is doing only a tiny fraction of the population any good.

Worse, as the recent mortgage backed securities scandal shows, these gamblers have absolutely no problem with betting the house in high stakes games. Your house, not theirs. They walk away with their fortunes relatively intact. You lose your job and health insurance. Worse still, as the above excerpt shows, this casino mentality infects business thinking in the real economy, with CEOs making decisions based on the roulette wheel, rather than market share. That is, when they are seen as nothing more than chips at the table, businesses that actually make things and employ people suffer greatly.

Call me old fashioned, but I think it would do us all a great deal of good if our leaders adjusted their assumptions to acknowledge the fact that some, indeed most, investment is actually bad. That's probably not going to happen anytime soon.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Dash



Reine




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

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

'Christian' Manifesto Comparing Liberals to Nazis Gathers
Signatures of Religious Right Leaders -- and Catholic Bishops

From
AlterNet:

Religious right leaders are making a concerted push to gain thousands of new signatures for their "Manhattan Declaration," a manifesto released late last year by about 150 conservative Christian leaders. The document, signed by such religious-right heavy-hitters as Focus on the Family eminence James Dobson and Prison Fellowship Ministries leader Chuck Colson, compares pro-choice advocates to eugenicists (and implicitly to Nazis) and equates same-sex marriage with polygamy and a gateway to legalized incest. Its authors promise to defy any law that does not comport with their religious beliefs. Joining the religious right's Protestant leaders as signatories to the declaration are four Roman Catholic bishops, including those presiding over the powerful archdioceses of New York and Washington, DC.

And

Despite the hyperventilated claims by the declaration's authors to be staking out new historical ground, the message essentially rehashes the anti-gay and anti-abortion messages religious right leaders have been spouting for decades.

This basic message, while gussied up in pages of prose from George and Colson, echoes speeches we've heard again and again by James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and many of the other familiar religious right leaders who are among the original signers.


More
here.

My take lately is that the glory days of the religious right are safely stuck in the 90s. They got one of their own, a bona fide born again Jesus loving Bible quoting manly man with a big dick, into the White House in 2000. That was supposed to herald the New Jerusalem, but it didn't. As usual, the GOP talked the talk in order to court their votes, but when push came to shove, Republicans just didn't give a shit, also as usual.

I think conservative Christian voters are tired of trying, again and again, without any getting any results. So this latest rhetorical exercise just doesn't rile me the way it would have seven or eight years ago. In all likelihood, for the foreseeable future anyway, the US will not become a Christian theocracy. Thank god and praise Jeebus.

On the other hand, they've got money, numbers, and annoyingly loud voices. They will continue to be a thorn in the nation's side. After all, it was religious money that recently tilted the scale in favor of passing the anti gay marriage Proposition 8 initiative out in California. And anti-abortion terrorists continue to bomb clinics and shoot doctors. They're not going to be taking over anytime soon, but they are going to keep right on fucking things up.


As far as I can tell, this manifesto thingy really only serves as an attempt to rally some severely demoralized troops, you know, the Army of the Lord, or whatever. Good luck with that. As for me, I'm content simply to have a little fun at their expense. I just signed their declaration as "Rod Munch," a good Bevis and Butthead name.

I bet they don't catch it. Heh.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

STAR TREK
Metamorphosis


From Wikipedia:

Metamorphosis" is a second season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series first broadcast November 10, 1967 and repeated July 19, 1968. It is episode #38, production #31, written by Gene L. Coon, and directed by Ralph Senensky.

Overview: A shuttle crew from the Enterprise encounters a castaway and his mysterious alien companion.


More
here.

Okay, this one's not bad. Not particularly good, either, but worth watching if you like Star Trek. By and large, the episode's effectiveness is sabatoged by its two mediocre guest stars, 1960s TV stalwarts Glenn Corbett as the Federation's legendary warp drive creator
Zefram Cochrane, and Elinor Donahue, formerly of Father Knows Best, as yet another asshole Federation diplomat--I mean, you can tell just watching it how Corbett is about as interesting as dishwater, but when you watch Cochrane played by veteran character actor James Cromwell in the Next Generation film First Contact, you see how many opportunities Corbett missed, lots of opportunities.

But "Metamorphosis" has some good ideas, and engages my interest in spite of its shortcomings. The episode pushes a sort of anti-climactic melancholy, narratively asking what happens to a genius-hero who has lived well past his glory days--it is particularly poignant to see the faded Cochrane juxtaposed against the virile Kirk, solidly played by Shatner in this one; the two men obviously have great respect for each other, but Kirk is in his star-searching adventuring prime, while Cochrane spends his life just sort of hanging out in anonymity and obscurity. In the end, the episode is about finding a way to allow Cochrane to pass on with dignity.

The notion of the inhuman energy alien who just wants to love someone is compelling, too. The Federation principle of extreme diversity is stretched to its limit here, as Kirk desperately tries to persuade the Companion to leave Cochrane alone, insisting, in a moving speech, that an alien cannot possibly love a human being. This is also the moment finally explaining the Star Trek staple technology of the universal translator, which is why everybody, in every episode, of every version of the show, speaks English.

Like I said, not great, but not bad, either. Some interesting ideas, and some cool narrative style. A decent, solid story. Hey, they can't all be great.

Go check it out.


Communing with the companion.

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US Forces Can Assassinate Americans Believed to Be Involved in Terrorist Activity

From
Democracy Now:

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, I think it’s incumbent upon the Attorney General to explain the basis in law for such a policy. Our Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, our Seventh Amendment, our Fourteenth Amendment all clearly provide legal protections for people who are accused or who would be sentenced after having been judged to be guilty. And what’s happened is that the Constitution is being vitiated here. The idea that people are—have—if their life is in jeopardy, legally have due process of law, is thrown out the window.

And, Amy, when you consider that there are people who are claiming there are many terrorist cells in the United States, it doesn’t take too much of a stretch to imagine that this policy could easily be transferred to citizens in this country. That doesn’t—that only compounds what I think is a slow and steady detachment from core constitutional principles. And once that happens, we have a country then that loses its memory and its soul, with respect to being disconnected from those core constitutional principles which are the basis of freedom in our society.


Click
here to watch, read, or listen to the rest.

From the
Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution:

No person shall be...deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law...
Well, there you have it, and that's just one of the three amendments to which Rep. Kucinich refers. So, on its face, this carryover Bush policy mandating extrajudicial killings of US citizens is unconstitutional. But simply noting that such a policy violates the Constitution doesn't really make clear why this is so extraordinarily frightening.

I'll be more plain: all the President has to do is declare you a terrorist, wait until you cross the border, and then he can have you killed. You don't get to appeal your designation as terrorist. You don't get to appeal your death sentence. You might not even realize that you're in the cross hairs until you're dead. You don't get a jury. You don't get a judge. You don't get an attorney or even a trial. The President just says "you're a terrorist" and you're dead.

This is what happens in military dictatorships. Like, you know, Nazi Germany, or Soviet Russia. And our "liberal" President thinks it's just wonderful. If you trust the individuals who crave power enough to win the Oval Office with this ability, you're stupid. Commanders-in-Chief going back at least as far as Eisenhower have gravely misused their Presidential power in ways that have resulted in illegal killings: it is foolish to believe that anybody with such authority wouldn't use it against people who are entirely innocent.

I've straight-up asserted on countless occasions that the corporations have effectively rendered our democracy meaningless. But that's not the only force in our nation whittling away at our proud democratic tradition. Our elected leaders appear to be giving the corporations a run for their money.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
Saints overcome early deficit, stop Colts late to seal victory


From ESPN:

Many football fans, leading with their head, viewed the Indianapolis Colts as the better team coming into Super Bowl XLIV.

But when all the multi-colored confetti had rained down on Sun Life Stadium, after the New Orleans Saints took down the favored Colts 31-17, the game turned out to be about heart.

After the Saints won their first National Football League championship -- 43 years after they played their first game -- they talked about the once-ravaged city they represent.

"We play for so much more than ourselves," said Saints quarterback Drew Brees with his brown hair matted to his forehead. "We played for our city. We played for the entire Gulf Coast region. We played for the entire Who Dat nation that has been behind us every step of the way."

Brees referenced trying to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina -- and a football franchise, too. Burn those bags. Put the S back in front of those Ain'ts. These Saints, finally, are Superb.


More
here.

I write so much about culture here at Real Art; I've written a lot about New Orleans and its culture: it only seems fitting that I would have some insight into what this win means to the city. Well, I'm right in the middle of it all, and it appears I'm unable to have any perspective on that at the moment. That is, apart from pointing out the obvious, that this is fucking big, I'm not really sure what the Saints' Super Bowl victory means. All I can say is that everybody, everybody, was in a good mood today. You can feel it in the streets, this sense of "Yeah, alright, we did it," a sense of knowing, finally, that good things really do happen to people, a sense of understanding that the Saints won it on the field, but that we all share in the triumph.

I got to relish the Texas Longhorns' national championship win a few years back, and belive me, it was good, but this is different. It is as though the city and its people have been, at last, delivered from evil. Seriously. This,
like the floods of Katrina, is Biblical.

And then there was the game itself.

It was weird to me, watching the Saints play in the Super Bowl. I've never had a team in the big one. The Oilers, for all their hard work, never did manage to kick the son of a bitch in. The Texans only recently posted their first winning season. I tried supporting the Raiders for a while after Bud Adams cornholed his home town, but it just wasn't the same when they played Tampa--I had never even visited California at that point, and they never really did feel like they were actually my team.

But I've been following the Saints since Katrina, and it's virtually impossible to not become a fan once you move here, so I finally had my team in the Super Bowl. It's just not the same as rooting for a team you like from some other city. Each and every play takes on a weird significance that you can only imagine if you haven't had your guys actually play there.

I remember a conversation I had with a friend at work after the Saints struggled to defeat some team mid season after totally dominating everybody else up to that point. My buddy was worried that they were losing their edge: I told him that I really liked what I saw, that their "messy" win meant that they knew how to struggle when their game plan just wasn't working, that they knew how to find a way to win. And that's the team I saw Sunday night. I mean, in the end, the Saints won by a couple of touchdowns, but it was anything but certain until Porter picked off Manning late in the fourth. In short, like the above excerpt asserts, it was about heart, and the Saints, like the city they represent, had more.

A couple more thoughts.


After the Saints beat Arizona in the divisional round, I told my buddy at work that I think Sean Payton is a football genius. My buddy disagreed, telling me that Payton is good, but he's no Bill Belichick. I've really got to ask him what he thinks now. Also, everybody realizes that Drew Brees is a Texas boy, who went undefeated as a starter for Westlake High School in Austin, right? Well, he is. Texans, hear this: have some pride for your native son; a little piece of this victory is yours, too!

WHO DAT!!!


SCOTT THRELKELD / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE Tracy Porter intercepts the ball
intended for Reggie Wayne for a TD during Super Bowl XLIV.


TED JACKSON / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE Saints Drew Brees during Super Bowl XLIV.


MICHAEL DeMOCKER / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE A dejected Peyton Manning walks
back out on the field after it's clear that the game is out of reach. during Super Bowl XLIV.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

WHO DAT!!!!

Saints 31 Colts 17.


Andy Lyons/Getty Images



So, I'm celebrating right now. I've never been in a city that won the Super Bowl. More on this later. Who dat sayin' dey gonna beat dem Saints? Answer: right now, no one!

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
FAR LEFT SUPER BOWL PREGAME

From
Democracy Now:

Pro-Choice Advocates Criticize CBS for

Accepting Anti-Abortion Super Bowl Ad

With the Super Bowl just two days away, the game’s broadcaster CBS is coming under criticism for accepting an anti-abortion ad paid for by Focus on the Family. For years, CBS and other networks have rejected advocacy ads during the Super Bowl. We get reaction from Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood and sportswriter Dave Zirin, author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States.

Click
here to watch or read or listen to the rest.

And again from Democracy Now:

Dave Zirin on Super Bowl Fever in New Orleans

and the Militarization of Sport’s Biggest Spectacle

Sportswriter Dave Zirin, author of A People’s History of Sports in the United States, says the New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl appearance—at least for the moment—is boosting spirits in New Orleans on a level unseen since Hurricane Katrina. Zirin also discusses pro athletes who have stood up for gay rights and how the Super Bowl spectacle continues to be used to promote US militarization.

Click
here to watch read or listen to the rest.

Well, not much commentary from me on this; just go watch the reports--they're quick. Well, okay, one brief bit of commentary: this pair of stories from Democracy Now is yet another reminder that a lot of things we think of as being completely apolitical are, in fact, extraordinarily political. I don't know that I would agree with Marx's assertion that everything is political, but I do strongly believe that almost everything has a political dimension to it, and that most certainly includes football. Especially football, what with it's military metaphors and hyper-masculinity.

Indeed, I would even go so far as to say that the most devastating aspect of the sophisticated and all-encompassing propaganda system used by the wealthy elites who own and run the country is that most people think that politics is something that only a relative few guys in suits do, in places far from where we are right now. In fact, politics is in your home, out in the streets, in shopping malls and grocery stores, in bars, in the schools, at church, and on television. And politics is something in which you are involved. Whether you know it or not. Whether you like it or not. That most people believe politics is something over there, done by people who aren't me or people I know, means that people tend to simply not think pay attention. And that's when it gets easy for the elites to pull some serious bullshit.

At any rate, GO SAINTS!!!

WHO DAT!!!

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Friday, February 05, 2010

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Roi




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

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IF CORPORATE "CITIZENS" ARE DOING IT, WHY SHOULDN'T I?

From the New York Times courtesy of
Eschaton:

No Help in Sight, More Homeowners Walk Away

Most of all, though, he struggles with the ethical question.

“I took a loan on an asset that I didn’t see was overvalued,” he said. “As much as I would like my bank to pay for that mistake, why should it?”

That is an attitude Wall Street would like to encourage. David Rosenberg, the chief economist of the investment firm Gluskin Sheff, wrote recently that borrowers were not victims. They “signed contracts, and as adults should also be held accountable,” he wrote.

Of course, this is not necessarily how Wall Street itself behaves, as demonstrated by the case of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village. An investment group led by the real estate giant Tishman Speyer recently defaulted on $4.4 billion in debt that it had used to buy the two apartment developments in Manhattan, handing the properties back to the lenders.

Moreover, during the boom, it was the banks that helped drive prices to unrealistic levels by lowering credit standards and unleashing a wave of speculative housing demand.


More
here.

Okay, Atrios over at Eschaton made essentially the same point I'm going to make, but it's well worth repeating again and again: how can something be unethical if the most powerful and respected "citizens" in our nation, the corporations, do it all the time? Actually, the answer is that it's unethical either way. If you borrow some money and can pay it back, you should pay it back, whether you're a corporate "citizen" or a real citizen, with "real" meaning "human being." Nonetheless, when a corporation does refuse to repay a loan because it's a good business decision to do so, said corporation is lauded for being responsible; when a person refuses to repay a loan because it's a good business decision to do so, said person is condemned for being irresponsible.

This makes clear the main reason why it's an extraordinarily bad idea to give the legal entities known as corporations the same set of inalienable rights the people have: corporations operate under an entirely different set of motivations. That is, human beings, generally speaking, want to be happy, want to make their lives and the lives of their loved ones better, want to make the nation and the world a better place to live. Corporations want to maximize their profits. Period. If that means destroying the environment, or oppressing millions of workers, or polluting the airwaves with bullshit, then fine. They're making more money, and, by definition, that's a great thing. It simply doesn't matter if everything else is going to hell in a hand basket.

Do we really want such Frankenstein creatures to have the same rights real people have?

At any rate, this is the situation in which we now exist. So I say, if it's okay for the corporations to fuck over their lenders, then it simply has to be okay for real people to do the same thing. If you owe more on your mortgage than your house is worth, walk the fuck away. You're maximizing profit, which is the responsible thing to do. Fuck everybody else. It's the American way.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

STAR TREK
Catspaw


From Wikipedia:

"Catspaw" is an episode of the second season of Star Trek: The Original Series. It is episode #36, production #30, and was first broadcast October 27, 1967. It was repeated on May 24, 1968. It was written by Robert Bloch, and directed by Joseph Pevney. Its gothic horror elements are perhaps best explained by the proximity of the episode's release to Halloween.

Overview: Two powerful aliens threaten the well-being of the Enterprise and her crew.


More
here.

Okay, the second season begins!


This one, "Catspaw," probably isn't going to make too many top forty lists, but I have a great deal of affection for it. Okay, it's a bit off, I'll admit, even for Star Trek, and doesn't even come close to having some of the more science-oriented ideas that the self-respecting and serious fans go for, but it does have a lot of fun ideas. That is, this is as close to the comic book genre as the show gets.

For instance, Kirk and his landing party are tempted by plates of large and shiny gem stones, which the Captain rejects because he can make them himself with technology on the Enterprise--this comes right out of Superman, who can create diamonds by compressing lumps of coal in his own hands. There are witches and a black cat. There is an ominous castle. A skeleton in a dungeon. Sorcerers. A tiny Enterprise model that, when it is held near a candle, makes the real thing overheat. Stick bug aliens. I mean, "Catspaw" is like a toy box full of nifty concepts pulled straight out of 1960s DC Comics. All it needs is the Flash being turned into a giant paperweight.

It's also extraordinarily well executed, most likely because the guy who wrote it, Robert Bloch, who also wrote the book on which Alfred Hitchcock's film Psycho was based, is a total professional. Good solid storytelling. This may not be an episode for the hard science fiction fan, but if your way into scifi, like mine, was through comic books, you'll probably dig this one as much as I do.

And let's not forget that this was the first appearance of Chekov, complete with his weird Beatle wig to make him more appealing to the youth audience!

Go check it out. Like I said, it's fun.


"Bones..."

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