White America Has Lost Its Mind
From the Village Voice courtesy of This Modern World:
Anyway, as boomers age, they get more politically active. That's just human nature, and their 40-million-strong AARP is the nation's biggest lobbyist. But as they try to wield that power, they're running into the growing, and less white, younger generations.
"Like tectonic plates, these slow-moving but irreversible forces may generate enormous turbulence as they grind against each other in the years ahead," writes Brownstein.
At some point, when tectonic plates build up enough tension, that destructive energy gets unleashed in a major earthquake, which is a pretty good metaphor for what happened on November 4, 2008. A black man got elected president, and suddenly every aging white boomer in this country turned into Carole King—they sure as hell felt the earth moving under their feet.
Meanwhile, the brother moving into the White House inherited the kind of mortgage that even Wall Street executives might hesitate to call "subprime."
A devastated economy. Two wars, neither being fought with clear goals. Housing markets that resembled war zones. A health system crippled with costs. An auto industry cratering.
But surely, in a time of crisis, the country could pull together to fix this mess, right?
Can you help a brother on health care? No.
The economy? No.
Financial regulatory reform? No.
National security? No.
Now, some black folks can be forgiven for thinking, as they watched the political drama in Washington unfold over the past two years, that this was just another form of the same old thing they'd put up with in one way or another in this conflicted multiracial country.
But there is another explanation.
White people have simply gone sheer fucking insane.
Great essay. It doesn't really say much that's particularly new, but it does put it all together into a very nice overall contextualization of the insanity of our era: the fact that gradual demographic shifting will soon result in minority status for white Americans coupled with electing a black president has driven many, many white Americans over the edge into total irrationality. And the essay names names. Like I said, not new names, but it's good to get them all into one article.
Go check it out.
I would add one idea to the essay's main thesis. A great deal of the white insanity we're enduring today has been inevitable for a very long time. Indeed, the conservative hysteria of the 90s, seemingly driven by electing draft-dodging, wife-trading, pot-smoking, baby-boomer Bill Clinton to the Oval Office was very clearly a fear based reaction to the political upheaval of the 60s, a large component of which was the Civil Rights Movement. Indeed, you couldn't have the rise of modern conservatism if the GOP didn't have a handy target to beat up on in the South, the post Jim Crow African-American.
In so many ways, it appears that we've never stopped fighting the Civil War. I mean, the fighting between armies ended, of course, in 1865, but the segment of American culture that arose in the antebellum South in order to justify the barbaric "peculiar institution" known as slavery never went away. Sure, it's evolved, rolling with the changes as it were, but many of the base line assumptions of pro-slavery Southern culture exist to this day, and have expanded well outside the original slave states. American means white. Property rights are absolute. Labor is owned by capital, and therefore has no rights. Guns are not simply a necessity, they are glorious. All that government does is take away private property. You could almost write a Tea Party manifesto or a GOP campaign platform using these ideas. Really, what the American left ought to do is work its ass off to identify today's politics in terms of an unfinished Civil War.
And then finish it.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
White America Has Lost Its Mind
Posted by Ron at 1:42 AM
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
MORE OF THIS PLEASE
From Media Matters via AlterNet:
Obama: Fox News Destructive for Country
We’ve been saying it for years: Fox News is not a news organization, it is a political outlet. It seems that the President agrees. In the latest Rolling Stone, President Obama is quoted as saying Fox News is “part of the tradition” of media outlets who, like William Randolph Hearst, report with “a very clear, undeniable point of view.” He added, “It’s a point of view that I disagree with. It’s a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world.”
Okay, we're nearly two years into the Obama presidency, and look where unity and bipartisanship have gotten us: nowhere. Sure, the President's gotten some major legislation passed, albeit watered-down and tailor-made so as not to offend powerful oppositional interests, but without any support at all from those powerful interests. It remains to be seen if health care reform really will have much of an impact. It remains to be seen if BP really will clean up its mess in the Gulf. It remains to be seen if Wall Street will use the trillions in bail-out money it's received for the good of the nation. And odds are that the corporations will win out in the end. Meanwhile Obama has been subjected to at least as many attacks from the right-wing noise machine as was his Democratic predecessor, President Clinton. Actually, it's probably been worse, what with Nazi, Communist, Nigerian anti-colonialist, not-really-an-American, and straight-up racist labels being stuck on his forehead.
In short, the Democratic presidency and majorities in Congress are a wasteland battlefield, pocked with craters and dead bodies. And the Republicans, who, as a political party, continue to poll very badly, are poised to take back at least the House of Representatives. Obama's easy going, let's all get along game plan is a total failure.
This was an obvious eventuality to any and all honest political observers before the President was even elected. I was saying that he needed to roll up his sleeves and start punching out Republicans and corporatists back in 2008, that it was the only way to proceed given the current political reality. I was saying it after he was elected. I was saying it during the health care battle. I'm saying it now.
The President needs to name names. He needs to call people fucking stupid. He needs to be a total bastard. This is the only way. Obama has to understand that all the right wing wants to do is destroy him. I mean, they've been perfectly clear about it, but he doesn't seem to take them seriously, which has allowed his opponents to, well, destroy him.
I'm really glad that he's calling out FOX for what it is. But he needs to do this all the time, and with much harsher language. This country's not ready to play nice. We have to fight.
Or we're fucked.
Posted by Ron at 12:28 AM
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFE
"Got to Get You into My Life" is a song by The Beatles, first released in 1966 on the album Revolver. Written by Paul McCartney, it made prominent use of a brass section. A cover version by Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers peaked at number six in 1966.
The Beatles' version was released in the US as a single in 1976, a decade after its initial release and six years after the Beatles split up, as a promo for the Rock 'n' Roll Music compilation album. It reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, The Beatles' last top ten hit there until their 1995 release "Free as a Bird".
And it is a great song, one I've loved since I first heard it when I was eight years old back in 1976: that's right, I first knew "Got to Get You into My Life" during its second incarnation as a top ten single, kind of part of my soundtrack for the 70s, right along with Aerosmith's "Walk This Way," Paul McCartney's "Silly Love Songs," and hundreds of other singles that I continue to love to this day.
Here, check it out:
But, you know, two years after the Beatles hit the top ten with it, Earth, Wind, and Fire covered the song...and...I actually prefer it:
The guys in the Sergeant Pepper suits are the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton. Why they appear in this Earth, Wind, and Fire performance I will not explain. But I will say this. Paul McCartney was consciously trying to get a sort of soul feel for the Beatles' original recording of the song, hence the groovy horns. And it worked really well within the overall Beatles context. But the four lads from Liverpool were, well, from Liverpool, which means that soul, as a music form, was something that was happening across the Atlantic. Conversely, Earth, Wind, and Fire was a soul band. What the Beatles were trying to do with "Got to Get You into My Life" was what EW and F did every day. And their cover of the song isn't great simply because they were able to be truer to the Beatles' intent than John, Paul, George, and Ringo were: it is great because Earth, Wind, and Fire was great. They found music inside the song at which its composers only hinted.
Indeed, I think it is safe to say that EW and F's cover is the fully realized version, with the Beatles' recording amounting to only a rough draft--I mean, what a fucking great rough draft, but I'm sure you get my drift.
In my opinion, this is the only cover of a Beatles song that improves on the original.
Posted by Ron at 1:23 AM
Monday, September 27, 2010
TEXAS LOSES, LSU WINS
From the AP via ESPN:
UCLA forces four first-half turnovers to knock off Texas
Thirteen years after "Rout 66," UCLA produced another stunner: The Bruins walloped Texas again.
Johnathan Franklin rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown, Kevin Prince ran for a score and passed another and UCLA beat the seventh-ranked Longhorns 34-12 on Saturday.
Back in 1997, the Bruins crushed Texas 66-3 in the same stadium and their first trip back to Austin since had Texas fans baffled and booing again -- at least until they left early. The Bruins forced four first-half turnovers and chewed up the nation's No. 2 rushing defense with 264 yards on the ground.
"It was a rear-end kicking," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "This one's embarrassing for me. As a head coach, I'm responsible for everybody in this program, from the trainers to the managers to the walk-ons, to the kids to the coaches -- everybody."
And again from the AP via ESPN:
LSU holds off WVU as Patrick Peterson scores on punt return, blocks field goal
The return, Peterson's second of the year for a score, wound up being a crucial play in LSU's hard fought 20-14 victory over a Mountaineers squad that would not quit on Saturday night.
Against West Virginia, the Tigers (4-0) again had to rely heavily on defense and special teams to remain unbeaten. Jordan Jefferson had a third straight game throwing for fewer than 100 yards and no touchdowns. He was also intercepted twice and was pulled for a series in the fourth quarter.
LSU coach Les Miles tried to look on the bright side of LSU's win but did not dismiss his club's lingering inability to move the ball through the air.
"I was just in locker room with an undefeated, 4-0 football team. A lot of teams would like to be in that position," Miles said. "Our team is playing great on defense, very good on special teams. ... Our quarterback play has got to get better, it's just that simple. Our guys know it."
Tough weekend. The Texans, looking to go to 3-0 for the first time in franchise history, lost to the Cowboys. The hated Cowboys. The Saints lost. And my favorite football team in the universe, the Texas Longhorns, got the shit kicked out of them in Austin by an unranked UCLA team. Inexplicably, my other school, LSU, won, although I don't expect that to continue for too long. Silver lining, I guess.
Indeed, Texas looked a lot like LSU in its loss to the Bruins. I mean, except for the defense, which looked pretty bad, too; apparently, LSU is all about defense these days, depending on them to score points, even, because the Tigers continue to have virtually no offense--wouldn't it be nice to beat Alabama without any offense? I can dream, can't I?
At the beginning of the season, I declared Texas to be in a rebuilding year, noting that they will very probably lose a few times this season. I just didn't expect it to be against an unranked non-conference opponent. And I didn't expect them to topple so intensely in the AP rankings. Defeat is a bitter swill to swallow in the first place: did the sportswriters really have to drop Texas to 21? Oh well. No place to go but up, I suppose. At least the national championship wasn't on the line.
And who knows? LSU stumbled their way to a national championship only a few years ago, with a couple of losses on their schedule, to boot. Maybe this is their year again. I mean, probably not because Jared Lee and Jordan Jefferson appear to be ineffective as signal-callers, but like I said, I can dream, can't I?
Man, the UT-OU Shootout is next weekend. I do hope the 'Horns get it together by then.
Posted by Ron at 1:47 AM
Sunday, September 26, 2010
E Shoppingus Unum
From Matt Taibbi's blog:
A few weeks before that I tried on a friend’s recommendation to get into Entourage and gave up after it struck me that it was the same show as Sex and the City – a drama about a foursome of impulsive yuppies with lots of disposable income who spend half of each show buying brand-name consumer products to make them feel better about having no brains/soul. And the plot of pretty much every reality show is the same: ordinary middle American Joes with poor taste meet silver-tongued, fake-boobed Hollywood/New York shopping expert, who tells them what a shitty house they’ve been living in and what ugly shoes they’re wearing, and hands them a bunch of cash so that they can shop themselves back to superficial respectability. The public seems to have a limitless appetite for this awful stuff, which makes me wonder if it’s possible to clinically diagnose an entire country with depression.
Well, I don't know if it's as much "a limitless appetite" as it is a case of nothing else to watch. I mean, when you get right down to it, television's sole reason for existence is to attract millions of people to view advertisements: it is no surprise, then, that the content television executives program would ideologically mirror the thirty second pro-consumerist propaganda pieces that are the medium's raison d'être. That is, television shows themselves are little more than advertisements for consumerism more generally. Consequently, there's really no way around watching all these pathetic bourgeois shit-shows if you want to watch TV.
Nonetheless, such programming does have an effect, whether we're really all that into it or not.
I hated TLC's What Not to Wear almost immediately. I mean, you know, I've got a couple of arts degrees, took a class in costume history for the theater, and studied theatrical design more generally in a couple more classes. This stuff is kind of interesting to me. Trading Spaces was kind of cool, so why not check out a version of the show dealing with clothes? And I have to admit that what the asshole clothing experts steer their hapless victims into is always aesthetically pleasing, but...you know...they're asshole clothing "experts." With the keyword being "asshole." And I say "asshole" because these people spare no words in letting their subject each episode know that they are the "experts." And you're just some stupid piece of shit from the South or the Midwest who doesn't know how to dress.
The sense of corporate elitism grossed me out, and I was unable to watch more than a couple episodes before I started trashing the show to anybody who mentioned it to me.
But I'm weird. I do watch television, but with an extraordinarily critical point of view--I'm on the lookout for class issues and cultural hegemony propaganda. Most Americans aren't as lucky as I am in terms of academic background. Consequently, the notion that the assholes on What Not to Wear are "experts" goes unquestioned. Indeed, a television show that presents the idea that there is such a thing at all as "experts" in what you ought to wear very strongly reinforces the concept of fashion, which exists for no other reason than to get us to throw out last year's still functioning clothing and buy this year's new line, which is essentially the same as last year's.
In other words, consumerism is all about buying things you don't really want or need, but really feel like you've just got to have right now. And we're drowning in consumerist messages. Indeed, if you were to compare the amount of time religious people spend reading the Bible to the amount of time they are exposed to consumerist propaganda, the Good Book loses by a huge margin: consumerism is our national religion. Sure, it's taking a beating right now with the down economy and credit freeze, but the evangelists of consumerism, advertisers and marketers, are working 24/7 to figure out how to get you to buy stupid bullshit that you can't really afford and don't desire.
So...the vacant, meaningless, and narcissistic materialism that's helped put this country on the edge of oblivion isn't really the fault of the American people. But it is our problem. And short of kicking all commercial interests out of television, I don't really see much of a solution.
Just another way that we're fucked.
Posted by Ron at 1:00 AM
Friday, September 24, 2010
And the Children Shall Lead
"And the Children Shall Lead" is a third-season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, and was broadcast October 11, 1968. It is episode #59, production #60, written by Edward J. Lakso and directed by Marvin Chomsky.
Overview: On a distant planet, Kirk, Spock and McCoy find a scientific team dead, and their children who, unknown to the crew, have great powers at their disposal.
Watch it here.
Notes and pics:
* According to Wikipedia, episode director Marvin Chomsky is my intellectual guru Noam Chomsky's cousin. Small fuckin' world. Marvin Chomsky is probably quite a good director, with a couple of Emmy's under his belt, but you couldn't tell by watching this one. Indeed, judging just by "And the Children Shall Lead," you wonder how these two guys could come from the same family.
* Until last night, I hadn't watched this one for nearly two decades mostly because I remember it as being the absolute worst Star Trek episode of the original series' run. Is it really as bad as I remember it being?
* Okay, I have to admit that I like the opening tableau with all the suicide bodies lying around. Indeed, it reminds me of something...
* ...Why yes, the mass suicides at Jonestown back in the late 70s. Good times.
* Oh man, children. Children and science fiction almost never work well together, at least on film and television. This one is no exception. And what's with the patent leather boots? Are they into the Temptations or something?
* Kirk's sense of deep anxiety ought to be funny, but it's just lame and stupid. He really should have gone over the top with it. At least it would have been funny.
* Nurse Chapel serves the children ice cream. This scene is horrific. I hate these kids.
* And just when you think it can't get any worse, Kirk enters the scene and you just want to change the channel. I've seen better performances at middle school speech tournaments. Much better performances.
* I wanna punch this guy in the face.
* The chant is fucking stupid.
* The "angel" is fucking stupid, too. And his name is Gorgan. That also reminds me of something...
* ...Gorgon of Marvel Comics' The Uncanny Inhumans. Similar name, totally different character. And by "totally different," I mean "good."
* Chomsky tries to get artsy, superimposing Gorgan's face over the children's hands during their fucking stupid chant, but it just makes me want to vomit.
* Is this even really Star Trek?
* Oh. Now Spock tells us of a "legend" of evil associated with planet Triacus' history. But so what? Who cares? This is all so awful.
* At least we've got some creative red shirt deaths. Mistakenly beaming them into outer space, very nice.
* Mystical daggers coming at the ship, an ancient crone in Uhura's reflection, a Satanic angel, this is like watching television on Saturday afternoon back in the 70s. You know the drill. There's nothing on at all, so you're totally willing to watch stupid B horror films from the 60s.
* Okay, the moment when all the red shirt hears is gibberish is nice. And it goes on for fucking ever.
* Kirk: "I'm losing my ability to command!" This is so terrible.
* Kiss him, Spock! Ram your filthy Vulcan tongue down his slutty throat! You know that's what everybody wants to see.
* Scotty: "We'll all be lost, forever lost!" At least Mr. Scott escapes this one relatively unscathed.
* Fucking Christmas tree.
* Why don't they just beat the shit out of these kids?
* The only thing that could have made this script work would have been to use the cast of The Brady Bunch. Oh well.
* Okay, it is satisfying to see them cry. But only because I hate them and enjoy their pain.
* WTF? This sucks so bad.
* Heh. McCoy's seemingly as happy as I am to see these little brats bawling: "They're crying, Captain! I don't know how you did it, but it's good to see."
* No stars. None. "And the Children Shall Lead" doesn't even deserve a rating. Sure, it's got one or two decent moments, and a couple of funny things here and there, but it's just not enough. Not nearly enough. Really, the biggest crime the episode commits is that it's boring. You couldn't care less about the characters or their story. And it's embarrassing if you genuinely like Star Trek. You kind of feel like an idiot for being a fan. I'm probably not going to watch this one again for another twenty years. I've got a very bad taste in my mouth right now.
Posted by Ron at 12:55 AM
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Public Education Is Under Attack Around the World
A couple of weeks ago or so I posted on a rousing discussion Democracy Now had on Washington's latest education "reform" offerings. You never can tell what's going to happen on the internet. A couple days later, one the discussion participants, education professor Lois Weiner, dropped by and left a comment about my skepticism that federal education reforms are part of a larger, consciously intended, neoliberal attempt to "deprofessionalize" teachers. I mean, I conceded that the net result is the same, whether deprofessionalization is the explicit intent or not, but on Democracy Now she made the assertion without really backing it up, and because I had never heard of such an idea, I branded it a conspiracy theory. In her comment, Weiner referred me to an article she had written on the subject.
From New York Indypenent:
Known outside the United States as neoliberalism’s project in education, this package of “market-friendly” reforms includes privatization of schools and services; charter schools, public-school closings, fragmentation of the school system’s administrative apparatus; budget cuts, high-stakes standardized testing and the destruction of the teacher unions as a significant player in education. Given the state of the financial system, it’s ironic that the economic crisis has accelerated and intensified efforts in the United States to push this package of reforms.
In developing countries, the architects of these reforms are quite explicit that they aim to make education produce workers who are minimally educated and will compete for jobs that require no more than a seventh or eighth grade education. This new educational system will better serve transnational corporations and their quest for increased profits. A small number of workers will require the ability to think and be the new leaders of finance, industry and technology. They’ll receive a high-quality education, in expensive private schools or in privately-run public schools — that is, charter schools.
But in neoliberalism’s educational plan, most workers do not need much schooling, so they do not require teachers who are well educated. In fact, teachers with lots of formal education and experience are a problem because they will ask for higher wages, which is a waste of government money. Teachers for most kids need only be “good enough,” to follow scripted materials that prepare students for standardized tests, and these teachers can be put into schools through “fast track” programs, like Teach For America.
When I speak to audiences of teachers and teacher unionists about my research about this package of reforms, already implemented by the World Bank in Africa, Asia and South America, invariably someone argues that I’m portraying a conspiracy. Not at all. A conspiracy is secret. This project is quite public, if you look for information about it in the right places. One place you would have found these reforms touted a decade ago was on Wall Street. A Merrill Lynch report issued in April 1999 titled “Investing in the Growing Education and Training Industry” informed potential investors that “A new mindset is necessary, one that views families as customers, schools as ‘retail outlets’ where educational services are received, and the school board as a customer service department that hears and addresses parental concerns.”
I stand corrected.
It's pretty clear that the time constraints of radio programming made it difficult for Weiner to do much more with the idea than mention it--it was, after all, a densely packed exploration of current education issues; under such circumstances it's impossible to hit on everything. Noam Chomsky runs into this problem all the time: he'll make some kind of assertion well supported by facts, but because such support isn't the kind that's on the front page of the New York Times, it's outside of the sphere of "common knowledge," which makes the old linguistics professor come off, again and again, as a conspiracy theorist, which he is most certainly not.
Same thing here with Weiner. She's got the goods on this, and, really, it's not so surprising. This World Bank and IMF shit rarely makes it into the public discourse, despite the fact that it's published material, freely available to any journalist who wants to read it, even though they never do. Indeed, there's almost total media silence about neoliberal influence on education. It's almost as though these ideas sprang forth from the forehead of Zeus fully grown, just like the Greek goddess of wisdom Athena. But of course, that's just mythology. We live in the real world, and ideas come from real places and real people, who usually have some kind of agenda to pursue. In this case, that agenda is, ultimately, to turn the US into a third world country. And education, or rather lack of education, is an excellent vehicle with which to achieve such an end.
It really is difficult for me to imagine a public education system worse than the one we have now. But there is, indeed, something worse, and it's waiting in the wings to take center stage as soon as it gets its cue. And when that moment comes, the entire US establishment will be applauding it as good "reform."
This is all so horrible. I'm really starting to wonder why I even bother anymore.
Posted by Ron at 12:28 AM
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
WHAT'S YOUR IDEOLOGY?
Do you even know what that means?
The problem with this analysis is that he thinks all this has something to do with how people self-identify, as if the people who identify as "conservative" are all really conservative or the moderates and liberals are truly moderate and liberal. I don't know that that's the case. Sure it's true in some cases, but I don't think people necessarily identify with these ideological labels out of ideology. It's more of a tribal ID or a social designation.
And I think it's fairly clear that a huge propaganda campaign to demonize the word liberal that has lasted nearly 30 years has taken its toll on the willingness of people to wear it. Even I, old time lib that I am, have found myself in large social and business situations in which self-identifying as a liberal is uncomfortable. So I'm fairly sure that there are plenty of people who call themselves moderates or centrists who are actually ideologically liberal. (And conversely, I suspect there are more than few "conservatives" who would more likely fall into the moderate camp. They identify as conservative because its adherents embrace it proudly, which makes it the default "popular" ideology regardless of its content.
Right, well, I don't have any problem publicly identifying as liberal because, apparently, I've always liked pissing people off. Actually, that's true. A few years back, my old pal Matt, who has known me since I was twelve, remarked, regarding my blogging, how my old urge to start shit with people had morphed from aimless authority-baiting into something with purpose. I had to think for a moment before I agreed with him because I had forgotten how often I would verbally cross people who I thought had it coming, but he was definitely right: my need to tangle with people is very ideologically driven these days.
I'm glad I finally found a purpose for my destructiveness. But that's all something of a digression.
I think that Digby, Hullabaloo's main blogging voice, is very likely right in her assertion that for most people ideological self-identification is much more about tribalism than it is about ideology. I think this because most people don't really have an ideology, or even know a damned thing about politics at all, for that matter. And when I say "politics," I mean in the mainstream conventional sense, rather than the odd tangential perspective from which I view politics.
We've joked a lot about the Tea Party woman at the Congressional town hall thingy who said to keep the government out of health care and away from Medicare, which is a government program. Funny, yes, but also frightening. This woman is a political activist on a very specific issue, but obviously knows absolutely nothing about it. Same thing with all the right-wing pundits who call Obama both a Nazi and a socialist. Sure, Nazi means "national socialist" in plain English, but fascism is all about a cozy arrangement between big business and the government, while socialism is about government ownership of business for the benefit of the people. That is, fascism and socialism are mutually exclusive of one another. Fascism is far right; socialism is far left. Nobody can be both fascist and socialist. But you have "experts" on television insisting that's what the President is. It's like calling him gay and straight, or male and female.
You get similar bullshit from self-identified liberals. (Not me, of course.)
The long and short of all this is that there really is no culture of politics in the United States. I mean, we have something we call "politics," and people get really worked up about it, but it's meaningless in any real sense. We might as well be rooting for professional sports teams, or asserting that Pepsi is better than Coke, or preferring Law and Order over NCIS. It's my tribe versus their tribe, and that's what really gets people going.
Meanwhile, sort of behind the scenes, the people with the real power, who are coincidentally the people with real money, do whatever they want because the country's so caught up in pointless bullshit that it doesn't really consider the issues or even pay attention to what's going on.
Just more evidence that the US is no longer a democracy. I continue to grieve for my country.
Posted by Ron at 12:44 AM
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Wiccan Community Upset with O'Donnell
From the Huffington Post news wire:
Mantineia called the Delaware Republican's conflation of witchcraft and Satanism "disappointing."
I really have to question what she is talking about because witchcraft and Satanism are two different things... witches or Wiccans do not believe in Satan. We don't even believe that Satan exists. Satan is a Christian deity of some kind. He is part of the Christian religion not ours. We worship nature; we work very closely with nature. We do not have blood on our altar and we have little to do with Satan. So I don't know what Ms. O'Donnell is talking about. I wonder if she knows what she was talking about.More here.
That's just too funny. I mean, it's not particularly unprecedented or weird; just ask the socialists, real socialists, what they think about Obama being called a socialist all the time by the right wing. I wonder if real Nazis have a problem with the President being called a Nazi all the time, too. You've just got to love the era in which we live.
Of course, the anti-masturbation GOP Senate candidate in Delaware, Christine O'Donnell, is a total kook, and I greatly look forward to her election hopes being dashed to bits on a rock come November, but the kind of "dabbling in witchcraft" as a teenager she described ten years ago on Bill Maher's now defunct ABC late night talk show Politically Incorrect is one that is familiar to me. That is, fundamentalist Christians believe that Satan is alive and well on planet Earth. No, seriously. They believe that angels and demons continually surround all human beings and do spiritual warfare over their souls. Actually, it's very difficult to have a conversation with fundamentalists about this topic because it's, well, fucking ludicrous. But that's what they believe.
Consequently, going on a date with a guy who listens to Black Sabbath or Marilyn Manson, wears black and displays pentagrams, or is a Wiccan, is tantamount to going on a date with a Satanist. That is, a Satanist who really worships Satan, who really exists, and has millions of real followers worldwide. Fortunately for us, and perhaps unfortunately for Christian fundamentalists, the vast majority of Satanists aren't much more than disaffected teenagers trying to piss off their parents and teachers--people who really do worship Satan, on the other hand, aren't much more influential than the "God hates fags" crowd from the notorious Westboro Baptist Church, probably less influential, actually. That is, in the grand scheme of things, there aren't any Satanists.
So O'Donnell's "dabbling in witchcraft" very likely falls into the disaffected teenager category. To her, it was a brush with evil that influenced the rest of her life. In reality, it was a date with an idiot who probably works at Burger King today.
Full disclosure: I've had a devilish grin on my face the whole time I've been writing this.
Posted by Ron at 1:43 AM
Sunday, September 19, 2010
LONGHORNS, TIGERS BOTH GO TO 3-0
From the AP via ESPN:
No. 6 Texas overcomes four turnovers to dispatch Texas Tech
The Texas Tech crowd was loud, the atmosphere was hostile. Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert stayed cool, though, despite some rough moments in his first road start.
Gilbert threw for two touchdowns and 227 yards to lead No. 6 Texas in a sloppy victory for the Longhorns on Saturday night.
Texas Tech had 144 yards of offense, its worst game in 10 years.
The last time Texas Tech had fewer than 150 total yards came in 1990 against Miami when they got just 93 total yards. First-year Red Raiders coach Tommy Tuberville was a defensive coach when the Hurricanes beat the Red Raiders 45-10 in Lubbock.
"You've got to be able to run the ball, and we weren't able to run it at all," he said.
Again from the AP via ESPN:
Josh Jasper's FG record, Tigers' staunch D doom Bulldogs
Still, the star cornerback's performance boosted his Heisman Trophy credentials and took the pressure off LSU's inconsistent offense in a 29-7 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday night.
Josh Jasper set an LSU single-game record with five field goals, which alone would have stood up thanks to a dominant Tigers defense that produced five interceptions in all.
Well, I've always said I love a good defensive struggle. And I really do. But when the struggle happens because your offense is playing shitty, rather than being stifled by a defense every bit as good as yours, well, it's not so fun to watch. The good news here is that both Texas and LSU's defenses look damned good. The bad news is that Texas' offense looked like LSU's offense, you know, shitty. That LSU's offense looks shitty was already known.
On the other hand, "weird things happen in Lubbock," as Mac Brown says. And this Texas/Texas Tech rivalry has gotten to be a pretty big fucking deal, the kind of thing that makes players jittery on both teams. So my thinking is that Gilbert's three interceptions - he's still a young guy, after all - had more to do with Lubbock weirdness than anything else, and I expect the offense to continue to improve throughout the season. I just hope we get it together by the time we play OU.
And great defense may get the Longhorns in a position to win when they go to Dallas: OU nearly lost to an unranked Air Force team on Saturday--the military service academies are not usually known for their ability to hang tough against elite college football programs.
LSU is another matter entirely. I totally love that their defense appears to be coming into its own, but I'm really starting to wonder if they've got anybody worth a damn as QB. As with the last game, this one didn't appear to be on television here, which is damned weird, so I didn't get to see it, but if I understand the article correctly, the offense didn't really account for much of the scoring.
You just can't win the SEC without a good offense, and even though they're 3-0, I'm expecting that second column to ratchet up a bit here in the near future. Sigh. I really would like some revenge against Alabama, especially for the Longhorn's sake. I guess we'll see.
Posted by Ron at 11:50 PM
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Rich Americans Save Tax Cuts Instead of Spending
Give the wealthiest Americans a tax cut and history suggests they will save the money rather than spend it.
Tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 under President George W. Bush were followed by increases in the saving rate among the rich, according to data from Moody’s Analytics Inc. When taxes were raised under Bill Clinton, the saving rate fell.
The findings may weaken arguments by Republicans and some Democrats in Congress who say allowing the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to lapse will prompt them to reduce their spending, harming the economy. President Barack Obama wants to extend the cuts for individuals earning less than $200,000 and couples earning less than $250,000 while ending them for those who earn more.
Some economists voice caution about the promised effects of a change in tax rates. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office in January analyzed policy options and possible short- term effects on growth.
“Policies that temporarily increased the after-tax income of people who are relatively well off would probably have little effect on their spending because they generally would be able finance their consumption out of their income or assets without such a change,” CBO director Douglas Elmendorf testified to Congress on Feb. 23.
The BIG assumption on which virtually all right-wing ideas about economics are based is that when you cut taxes for the wealthy, such an action, in the long run, generates more tax revenue than you had before the cut because the wealthy supposedly spend their "tax relief" on business expansion, which supposedly then stimulates the economy. Never mind that, right now, the problem facing our economy is that consumers aren't spending, which means that stimulating the business side will simply result in even more excess capacity than exists at the moment. The reality about cutting taxes for the rich is that it doesn't even result in increased investment. And that's not an assumption made by some dissident economist in his office at some university somewhere: it's a fact based on actual real world data.
Because this flawed assumption plays such an extraordinarily powerful role in US politics it is worth repeating: tax cuts for the wealthy do not result in increased business investment. Instead, the wealthy simply drop their savings in the bank, thereby increasing their net worth. That is, all the high end tax cuts this nation has been enduring for some three decades have done is to make the rich get richer. At the expense of everyone else. Consequently, almost the entire discussion on economics at the national level does not reflect reality.
Actually, it's funny, in a sort of gallows way. The article suggests that "the findings may weaken arguments by Republicans and some Democrats" who favor, as usual, tax cuts for the rich. This won't happen, if history is any indicator. Intuitively, the idea that less taxation means more tax revenue doesn't make sense--"voodoo economics" the first President Bush called it right before the Reagan people tapped him to be the Gipper's running mate back in 1980. And there's never really been any actual hard evidence to suggest that it does make sense. Rather, tax cuts for the rich, as a concept, has always been driven by political hype. I see nothing in Washington to make me think that this Moody's study will in any way deflate that hype.
You see, reality no longer plays a meaningful role in the affairs of our nation.
Posted by Ron at 9:14 PM
Friday, September 17, 2010
The Enterprise Incident
"The Enterprise Incident" is a third season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, first broadcast September 27, 1968 and repeated December 27, 1968. It is episode #57, production #59, written by D.C. Fontana and directed by John Meredyth Lucas.
Overview: The crew of the Enterprise are on a secret mission to steal a Romulan cloaking device.
Watch it here.
Notes and pics:
* They set the tone right away, with the breakneck pace that typifies truly great episodes, and a nice voice over of Dr. McCoy's medical log, which establishes Kirk's state of mind as over-the-top stressed out.
* Nice. The Enterprise is surrounded by Romulans before we even get to the credits. This is going to be good.
* Good briefing room scene, with nice tension because everybody's pissed at the Captain for getting them into this situation.
* Cool. The Romulan commander is a cougar!
* Kirk to Spock: "I'll kill you!" Spock to the Romulan commander: "He is not sane." This is so fucking great.
* Scotty on the bridge, using attitude alone, facing down the superior Romulan force, this may very well be his finest moment in the command chair.
* Shatner clearly gave himself permission to outdo himself in this one and it definitely shows, again and again. Like this hardcore moment in the Romulan brig.
* The Romulan cougar continues her seduction of Spock in the corridor.
* It's a shame that the "Vulcan death grip" is just a part of the subterfuge; I'd love to see Spock using it for real.
* Fabulous moment right before the commercial break. "The Captain's dead."
* Actually, the Captain's not dead at all. Really, the choice to keep viewers in the dark about the whole intelligence operation up until this point is pretty brilliant. You're confused but thrilled watching Kirk behave like a mad man, and thrown for a big loop to see Spock selling out to the Romulans. Then you see that it's all a ruse, and are forced to completely reconstruct the entire narrative before this scene. Hitchcock did this shit all the time.
* Scotty: "You look like the Devil himself...but as long as you're alive, what's it all about?" If doing these posts on Trek has changed anything about how I relate to the series, it's that I love Mr. Scott far more than I used to.
* Softening Spock up with delicious Romulan ale.
* Is that tranya they're drinking? You know, the stuff Balok serves the landing party back in "The Corbomite Maneuver." Oh well, they don't really say. At any rate, I totally dig their groovy mod cocktail glasses.
* Spock does impromptu romance waaaay better than Kirk.
* She really does throw herself at him.
* Subcommander Tal is a very nicely understated presence, especially as a contrast to Kirk's pumped up theatrics. But he joins in the 'roid rage for a brief moment when he says, "I must know the source!!!"
* Now she's wearing motel room curtains. Okay, it doesn't look half bad.
* There wasn't a good screencap available, but this is a great moment. Kirk, when confronted by a Romulan security guard outside the cloaking room, suddenly shouts "Over there!" which allows him to knock his adversary out when he is distracted.
* Oooooh. Cold. Spock reveals that his Barry White thing was all an act. And he does it so subtly, simply holding up his communicator to indicate that he was the source of the alien transmission. You can't help but feel a little sorry for the Romulan commander. She's made a fool of herself. And destroyed her own career.
* Admit it: you love it when Kirk kicks some ass.
* Look! It's Nomad's head sitting on top of Sargon's ball! Small world.
* Classic exchange on installing the Romulan cloaking device on the Enterprise.
Kirk: "Can you do it?"
Scotty: "I don't know, sir!"
Kirk: "You've got fifteen minutes."
* Man, Spock is cool as a cucumber: "What is your present form of execution?"
* I totally love Spock's use of the Romulan Right of Statement as a delaying tactic. Or is it the Romulan rite of statement? Whatever. It's cool.
* Chekov, on trying to get a reading on Mr. Spock aboard the Romulan ship: "Got him, sir!" That's kind of a catch phrase for him. Is this the first time he says it?
* Escaping at warp nine. Like I said last week, I fucking love it when they go to warp nine.
* Spock doesn't like Kirk's ears.
* Five stars. It's got balls.
Posted by Ron at 12:32 AM