Monday, February 28, 2011


From the Washington Post:

After Iraq's Day of Rage, a Crackdown on Intellectuals

Iraqi security forces detained about 300 people, including prominent journalists, artists and lawyers who took part in nationwide demonstrations Friday, in what some of them described as an operation to intimidate Baghdad intellectuals who hold sway over popular opinion.

On Saturday, four journalists who had been released described being rounded up well after they had left a protest of thousands at Baghdad's Tahrir Square. They said they were handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened with execution by soldiers from an army intelligence unit.

"It was like they were dealing with a bunch of al-Qaeda operatives, not a group of journalists," said Hussan al-Ssairi, a journalist and poet who described seeing hundreds of protesters in black hoods at the detention facility. "Yesterday was like a test, like a picture of the new democracy in Iraq."


"We said, 'What are you doing - we're journalists!' " Mahdi said. "And they said [expletive] journalism.' "

They loaded them into the Humvees, drove them to a side street, where they beat them again. Then, blindfolded, they were driven to a place Mahdi later recognized as the former Defense Ministry building, which houses an intelligence unit of the army's 11th Division.

Inside, they heard soldiers laughing and chanting "Maliki liar!" - mocking a slogan some protesters had shouted. Mahdi said he was taken to a room alone, and soon, he was being beaten with sticks, boots and fists. One soldier threatened to rape him, he said. They threatened to kill him. They took his shoes off, wet his feet and administered electric shocks to them.

In between, the soldiers interrogated him, he said. They accused him of being a tool of outsiders wishing to topple Maliki's government and demanded that he confess to being a member of the Sadaam Hussein's Baath party. Hadi explained that he blamed Baathists for killing two of his brothers. He told them that he'd been a member of Maliki's Dawa party until he recently became disillusioned.

"They said, 'You're Dawa?' " Hadi said. "Then I realized they were totally stupid."


Just following up a bit on yesterday's post: it's one hundred percent safe to say that the wave of democratic uprisings shaking the Middle East right now has absolutely nothing to do with President Bush and others' assertion that toppling Saddam Hussein would somehow result in democracy and freedom spontaneously occurring in the region. That's because we didn't really set up a functioning democracy in Iraq.

I mean sure, people vote and stuff there, but that's all theater, nothing but meaningless ritual designed to make the place only appear to be democratic, and it doesn't even really do a good job with that. Instead, it's more like one of the Soviet satellite states of Eastern Europe in the second half of the twentieth century. Unrest in the streets? Round up the artists and intellectuals, rough 'em up a bit, shoot a few demonstrators in the streets. Soon enough, they'll be rolling in the tanks, just like Czechoslovakia back in the late 60s.

I can't help but think that if we'd done nothing in Iraq, the true wave of Middle Eastern democracy, the one we're seeing in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere, would be hitting there right about now, and Saddam Hussein's laughably weak military would have been able to do nothing to stop it. Instead, we have a US established puppet regime, which is democratic in name only, trying to put out the fires of freedom.

This is kind of a shameful moment for America.


Saturday, February 26, 2011


From the New York Times courtesy of
the Huffington Post news wire:

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates bluntly told an audience of West Point cadets on Friday that it would be unwise for the United States to ever fight another war like Iraq or Afghanistan, and that the chances of carrying out a change of government in that fashion again were slim.

“In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should ‘have his head examined,’ as General MacArthur so delicately put it,” Mr. Gates told an assembly of Army cadets here.


At the time, I opposed both invasions, and still do.

I opposed the Afghanistan invasion because it struck me that making war on Muslim populations would be, at the very least, counterproductive in terms terrorism reduction--if you were clever enough to listen to what Bin Laden had been saying, you would have known that the presence of American troops in the Middle East was one of his biggest grievances against the West, and it's just common sense to realize that war causes a lot of collateral damage, which would do nothing but bolster the terrorist mastermind's credibility in the Islamic world.

I opposed the Iraq invasion because the entire rationale for it was an enormous collection of lies. Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, and this was known to everybody, except, seemingly, the CIA, the Pentagon, and the White House, well, the entire US establishment, really, when you include Congress and the press. Furthermore, Saddam Hussein, while Muslim, was a secular dictator, and therefore ideologically opposed to Bin Laden's sense of Wahabbist theocracy: the Iraqi strongman would have never handed over nuclear or chemical weapons to him, even if Saddam had them, which he didn't. Invading Iraq would not result in freedom and democracy for its people, and such freedom would not emanate from Baghdad to the rest of the Islamic world on a wave of American good vibes. I mean, that was pure fantasy from the get-go. The reason the elder Bush left Hussein in charge was precisely because the ethnic and religious factionalism was so intense that it was understood removing him from office would result in chaos, not democracy. And chaos was what happened.

Of course, I didn't realize just how bad it would get in Iraq. Ditto with Afghanistan. But I figured it out quickly enough, even while the US government was constantly assuring us that there was no civil war in Iraq, no insurgency, and that Afghanistan was already a success, a new democracy to be cherished and honored. All bullshit, of course. Meanwhile I was reading about
Nixon and Vietnam, and coming to understand that if a nation doesn't want American "help," all it has to do is dig its heels in and blow up our soldiers until we get sick of it.

All of this seems like common sense now. Overwhelming force can destroy armies, but not a population determined to be rid of it. I mean, unless that force resorts to genocide, something
some Americans have called for. For the most part, however, it is now understood by most of us how massively these two wars have failed, and why.

But think back to those heady days of 2003. We were the greatest country in the world. The strongest country in the world. The bravest, coolest, freest, best nation ever created in the history of the universe. The most righteous simply because we're Americans. People who opposed the wars were idiots and America-haters. This nation could do no wrong. Except, if you go back a couple of decades before that, to the early 80s, it was damned well understood at that point, based on our experience in Vietnam, that not only could we do wrong, but that we do wrong all the time. That we are not invincible. That we are not a shining light for democracy in the world, at least, not all the time.

Apparently, we're back to that
zeitgeist now. It's a bad idea to invade and occupy third world nations that don't want us there. "Nation building," where there had not been a functioning nation in a given region's history, is folly, an idea George W. Bush ironically included in his campaign platform back in 2000. We now understand the mistakes of the past...and they will never happen again.

Of course, the lesson to be learned here is that this all very likely will happen again. 9/11 showed us how easy it is for cynical war mongers to take a national crisis and use it as a rallying cry for deploying the Arsenal of Democracy against whoever stands in our way. As Hermann Goering said while on trial for war crimes at Nuremberg:

"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."
And that's just what the Bush administration did, with a lot of help from Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, Fox News, and the New York Times. They did it as easily here as the Nazis did it in 1930s Germany.

The question we need to be asking, now that we're in one of those rare periods of national sanity regarding the waging of war, is if there is any way to inoculate ourselves against Goering's amazingly effective political strategy for pushing a nation into war. I mean, are we doomed to do this shit again every few decades? Or is there a way to break the cycle?

I'm not optimistic on this.


Friday, February 25, 2011




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


Thursday, February 24, 2011

"All Our Yesterdays"

From Wikipedia:

"All Our Yesterdays" is a third season (and the penultimate) episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, first broadcast March 14, 1969 and repeated on August 5, 1969. It is episode #78, production #78, written by Jean Lisette Aroeste, and directed by Marvin Chomsky. It guest-stars Mariette Hartley as Zarabeth. The title comes from a well-known soliloquy given by Macbeth in Act V Scene V.

Overview: Kirk, Spock and McCoy are trapped in the past on a world threatened by a supernova.


Watch it

Notes and pics:

* This is a nice little mind-fuck teaser. Atoz is one of the more enigmatic guest characters in Star Trek history.

* I love how this library is also a travel agency, in essence, and how Atoz flip-flops between dire warnings about the impending supernova and sales speak aimed at getting our heroes to choose an escape plan.

* The Atavachron looks like Gary Seven's computer.

* Oooh, really nice DOUBLE mind-fuck, Kirk runs out the door only to find himself transported to what appears to be a scene from The Three Musketeers; McCoy and Spock immediately follow, but end up in some sort of Arctic wasteland, instead. As if there wasn't enough cool cerebral confusion already.

* Even though Kirk has a phaser at his side, he goes for the sword fight anyway.

* Oh well, it wouldn't have worked anyway. No phaser-warmed chunk of rock this episode...

* This chick is straight out of a Midwestern university drama department Shakespeare production. The lady doth playact too much, methinks. Not bad as far as wenches go, though. I mean, for what they are.

* Thank you, Spock, for explaining what the fuck is going on.

* This reminds me of the old Alpine Sleigh Ride at Astroworld.

* I love faceless people wearing hoods.

* Nice subterranean spread.

* Well if it isn't
James Garner's television wife! And why does she seem to be talking like a four year old?

* Spock: "I am substantial. You are not imagining this." That's what the techno people should have sampled, instead.

* Oh fab. Now the graduate acting student is calling Kirk a witch: "He's a Wiiiiitch!!!!" Excellent.

* I also love the yelling-in-the-dungeon moment.

* Hubba-hubba. And now, I want to buy an Instamatic for some reason.

* We haven't seen McCoy all fucked up like this since "City on the Edge of Forever."

* "There ARE witches! There are!" This guy's fucking great.

* Spock's speech: "I'll repeat it. Get this through your head..." This is how how I've been wanting Spock to respond to McCoy in these spats for years.

* Kirk taking out the Atoz replicas is sublimely weird.

* Spock eats animal flesh. And enjoys it.

* I love Spock as a lover. He's just waaay better at this than Kirk.

* Okay, trying to cart Kirk out the door is pretty funny.

* Nice. McCoy's using their ongoing feud to make Spock realize how he's descending into a Vulcan ancestral rage.

* Nice goodbye scene for Spock and Zarabeth.

* Beautiful Spock speech: "And she is dead. Dead and buried..." Nice pathos, sort of reminds me of Kirk's "Let's get the hell out of here" at the end of "City on the Edge of Forever."

* Good solid episode with some moments of near greatness. Four stars. Sure, it gets a bit too goofy here and there, but for the most part the weirdness of the set up with Atoz in the library, combined with the two unlikely plot lines in the past, one featuring some very fine Leonard Nimoy acting work, thoroughly outweighs any quality lost from sci fi stupid. I like it.



From the Houston Chronicle's Celebrity Buzz blog:

What happened to Paris' $3,200 birthday cake?

A $3,200 cake stolen from Paris Hilton's Los Angeles birthday celebrations has been donated to the homeless by the thief.

The gateaux grabber, who identified himself as Paz in a cheeky, boastful post on, managed to sneak into Hilton's pre-30th birthday bash last Tuesday and made off with the uneaten cake minutes after the socialite blew out the candles.

In the online post, he wrote, "I woke up this morning with a birthday cake in my living room. It's big. It's red. It says 'Paris'. And it's (expletive) delicious."


Oh, this is just too rich.

So, of course, this won't bring anybody out of poverty. It won't end our disgusting corporate enforced materialistic consumer culture. It won't ensure the collective bargaining rights of public employees in Wisconsin and elsewhere. It won't put Goldman Sachs executives in prison for the rest of their lives.

But it is brilliant.

Paris Hilton is the perfect symbol of our sick society. She's totally useless, but is somehow famous, a sort of meaningless pop icon, and, of course, as an heir to her family's hotel empire, fabulously rich, a parasite who creates nothing but consumes vast quantities of value. Stealing her goddamned birthday cake, which cost about as much as I can earn in six weeks as a waiter, and then using it to feed the homeless, is nothing short of Real Art, the kind of thing that, even though it doesn't directly and immediately change society, does get people to think. And because it's Stupid Spoiled Whore Paris Hilton we're dealing with here, it gets lots of people to think.

Bravo, Paz!

Now what are you going to do next?


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Matt Taibbi: "Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?"

Democracy Now, Amy Goodman interviews Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi on his latest article covering the recent financial meltdown:

MATT TAIBBI: Well, it’s an incredible story. I mean, just to back up and provide some context, I think, for this Wisconsin thing, and especially for the Ohio thing, given what their governor used to do for a living—


MATT TAIBBI: Well, he was an employee for Lehman Brothers, and he was—

AMY GOODMAN: This is Governor Kasich.

MATT TAIBBI: Governor Kasich, yeah, and he was intimately involved with selling—getting the state of Ohio’s pension fund to invest in Lehman Brothers and buy mortgage-backed securities. And of course they lost all that money. And this, broadly, was really what the mortgage bubble and the financial crisis was all about. It was essentially a gigantic criminal fraud scheme where all the banks were taking mismarked mortgage-backed securities, very, very dangerous, toxic subprime loans, they were chopping them up and then packaging them as AAA-rated investments, and then selling them to state pension funds, to insurance companies, to Chinese banks and Dutch banks and Icelandic banks. And, of course, these things were blowing up, and all those funds were going broke. But what they’re doing now is they’re blaming the people who were collecting these pensions—they’re blaming the workers, they’re blaming the firemen, they’re blaming the policemen—whereas, in reality, they were actually the victims of this fraud scheme. And the only reason that people aren’t angrier about this, I think, is because they don’t really understand what happened. If these were car companies that had sold a trillion dollars’ worth of defective cars to the citizens of the United States, there would be riots right now. But these were mortgage-backed securities, it’s complicated, people don’t understand it, and they’re only now, I think, beginning to realize that they were defrauded...

...This is no different than drug dealers who take a bag of oregano and sell it to you as, you know, a pound of weed. That’s exactly the same scam.

Watch or listen to the rest

And to finish out the comparison as it pertains to how public sector unions are now under attack because, critics say, their pension funds cost too much: the drug dealer then calls the police and tells them you have a pound of weed, and, even though it's only oregano, the cops come and arrest you and bust your head open when you try to tell them it's only oregano. That is, the people who committed this massive white collar crime are totally in league with the people who are trying to bust unions in Wisconsin, Ohio, and now Indiana. It may not be a gigantic grand conspiracy to make the middle class pay for the egregious sins of the wealthy, but it is class warfare on a monumental scale: the American people have been fleeced for trillions of dollars, and now they are being punished as though they were the criminals, instead of victims.

I just finished reading Taibbi's book on the financial meltdown, Griftopia, and I have to say that his is the most comprehensive and illuminating account of the affair I've encountered thus far. One of the main reasons for this is that Taibbi doesn't at all come from the world of high finance and politics; he learned all this stuff the hard way: he researched and investigated the story, something most journalists don't do anymore. And the fact that he had to figure it out for himself puts him in a place that people from within that world can't possibly be, the land of objectivity. I mean, most Wall Streeters don't even think these bankers did anything wrong. To them, defrauding the American public is just business, and therefore sacrosanct. But Taibbi calls it what it is, crime, and loudly asks in his latest Rolling Stone essay why the hell aren't these guys in jail already?

The answer, of course, is that, as former Senate Majority leader Harry Reid put it some months ago regarding the relationship between the bankers and Capitol Hill, "Frankly, they own the place." That is, none of these people are going to jail. Ever.

They own the government. And fuck you.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011


From Color Lines courtesy of

Today marks the 46th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. The charismatic leader is among the most important, and often misunderstood, leaders of the 20th century. His speeches and writings on race were often brutally honest, in a way that America wasn’t ready for when he gave them, and probably still isn’t ready to hear nearly half a century later. So to honor his legacy, and the complex ways in which he addressed race and poverty across the globe, here’s an interview with Malcolm shortly before his death. While it touches on the gritty politics that ultimately led to his demise, what rings loudest is his fearlessness. “I am a man who believed that I died 20 years ago, and I live like a man who is dead already,” Malcolm tells reporters.

“I have no fear whatsoever of anybody or anything.”

here to watch the interview.

Over a decade ago I found a cool Malcolm X t-shirt at a thrift store and bought it immediately. I still have it today. Sadly, I only wear it around the house. I know that most Americans with my skin color just wouldn't get it: every now and then I ask a few white people I know what they think of the slain civil rights leader, and almost always it's a negative reply.

"Well, he hated white people, so I don't like him."

I usually respond with something like, "Sure, he said for years that 'the white man is the devil,' but by the time they killed him, he had totally changed his criticism to condemn the 'racist white power structure.' After seeing racial unity when he made his Hajj to Mecca, after he had broken with the Nation of Islam, he became racially neutral with his politics, and went on to vent his rage at an unjust economic and political system."

Usually, this gets not much more than a blank stare, so I recommend The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and leave it at that. I figure that my shirt would just piss white people off. And because it's so extraordinarily clear to me that white Americans tend to hate and misunderstand him, I assume that black people confronted by a white guy in a Malcolm X shirt would either be confused, or worse, offended, thinking that I was somehow mocking a man who is as much a hero to me as John Lennon, Thomas Jefferson, or Paul Robeson.

That's why I only wear that shirt at home. Kind of a drag because it's a cool shirt.

All of this makes it extraordinarily clear that Malcolm X continues to be just about as misunderstood today as he was back in the 60s. And that's an even bigger drag because, make no mistake about it, Malcolm X was a great man, an essential American. He struggled first against himself, and won, before he went on to struggle against oppression. He was no angel, at first, but he ended up getting close to it by the time he was assassinated.

I don't care if he's supposed to be a black hero. I claim him as my hero, too. Go read his autobiography to see what I'm talking about, or, at least, watch the fabulous Spike Lee movie, if only to see how Denzel Washington nails it, turning in what I believe to be the best performance of his career, in spite of the Oscar he got for Training Day--it is as though Washington knew what was on the line, and gave it his all.


Sunday, February 20, 2011


the Daily Kos:

It is, however, deeply problematic that he failed to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars to his wife from right-wing interest groups, even though disclosure of such payments is required by law.

And it is also problematic that he, along with Justice Antonin Scalia, attended a secretive meeting of wealthy right-wing activists and power brokers funded by the Koch brothers. Now we've learned that he was actually compensated for attending by the Federalist Society, another right-wing organization.

In a slower news cycle (or if Justice Thomas were the target of the right-wing machine), these ethical question marks would be a national scandal. Calls for Thomas to recuse himself from political cases like health care reform are well-intentioned, but by all appearances, Thomas is so deeply compromised that the question shouldn't be about recusal, it should be about impeachment.

here for more, including links to relevant sources, and a Stephen Colbert video clip.

Well, I guess it's safe to say that these bozos will most decidedly not be impeached. I mean, if they were Democrats, sure, they'd be brought up on charges faster than you can say "Lewinsky," but never mind the fact that the House of Representatives, the federal body that does all the impeaching, is currently owned by the GOP: this is how things generally work these days--impeachment is for Democrats, not Republicans.

And Scalia and Thomas, with the same arrogant attitude they had when they intervened in Florida's election back in 2000, inexplicably handing over the Oval Office to the the guy from their party, refuse to pull themselves from deliberating over affected cases, like, you know, Citizens United, because they assert that they can still be impartial in spite of the clear conflict of interest. Remember, this is the same party that went nuts over Clinton people using the wrong phones to solicit campaign donations.

Nope. Not gonna happen.

This is, of course, yet more evidence that not only has our democracy been hijacked by oligarchs, but that the very institutions administering the law in our nation are broken beyond repair. Torturers and war criminals go scot free. Election theft not only goes unpunished, but is aggressively pursued as campaign strategy. Billionaire bankers steal billions more from tax payers and live it up at multi-million dollar "retreats." Politicians apologize to environment-destroying oil companies instead of calling for indicting their CEOs.

Barbarians run roughshod over us all. We are now officially a banana republic.


Sarah Palin Addresses Wisconsin Protesters: You Must Be 'Willing To Sacrifice'

From the AP via
the Huffington Post news wire:

Palin weighed in on the debate in a Friday night posting on her Facebook page but didn't indicate whether she would join weekend conservative counter-protests organized by groups including the Tea Party Patriots and Americans for Prosperity.

In the posting addressed to "union brothers and sisters," Palin says Wisconsin taxpayers shouldn't be asked to pay for benefits "that are not sustainable." She says "real solidarity means everyone being willing to sacrifice."

A bit more

Some observations:

First off, fuck you Sarah Palin, you fucking trailer trash piece of selfish narcissistic shit. Sure, you may be brilliant when it comes to self-promotion and marketing, but you know nothing about politics or economics. You disgust me in ways that continue to surprise me.

Secondly, there would be no budget crisis in Wisconsin if its Republican governor and GOP dominated legislature hadn't just passed massive tax cuts for the rich: it just so happens that
Wisconsin's red ink virtually equals the amount of revenue lost in this suicidal move. This is a manufactured "crisis," which is now being used to bust unions.

state workers in Wisconsin have already made concessions, and are willing to make more. This fake "crisis" doesn't have a damned thing to do with whether Wisconsin's public employees are unionized.

Fourth, the entire reason we're seeing these protests is because Republicans are trying to ban public sector unions in Wisconsin. This has nothing to do with the state budget, nothing to do with "sacrifice" or any of that kind of bullshit. It's all about collective bargaining, without which unions would be pointless. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Palin doesn't understand what's going on. Like I said, she knows absolutely nothing about politics or economics.

Fifth, that Palin would refer to these demonstrators as her "union brothers and sisters" would be downright insulting if it wasn't so fucking weird. My guess is that the woman, as usual, has utterly no idea what she's talking about, but maybe it's code or something--I mean, I don't know what kind of code it might be, or what she might be actually saying, but really I shouldn't try too hard to decrypt the rantings of morons; it's like trying to find wisdom in the ramblings of Charles Manson.

Finally, Sarah Palin is a dumb fucking cunt who would be a hooker or a Dairy Queen cashier if she hadn't gotten into politics. That serious observers ponder her Presidential prospects is as good a testimony as any about how horrifying our political discourse has become.


Friday, February 18, 2011

"Dogs and Cats Living Together"

Frankie and Kuzco

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


"The Savage Curtain"

From Wikipedia:

"The Savage Curtain" a third season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, is the antepenultimate series episode, first broadcast on March 7, 1969 and repeated July 1, 1969. It is episode #77, production #77, written by Gene Roddenberry and Arthur Heinemann, based on an original story by Gene Roddenberry, and directed by Herschel Daugherty. It is the last Star Trek episode in which Nichelle Nichols appears.

Overview: Aliens force Kirk and Spock to battle illusory villains.


Watch it

Notes and pics:

* Shatner looks tired.

* Lincoln in space on the bridge view screen. Another Star Trek image seared in my brain since the early 70s. And it's still pretty cool.

* Scotty: "Full dress? Presidential honors? What is this nonsense Mr. Dickerson?"

Dickerson: "I understand President Lincoln is coming aboard."

Scotty: "Are you daft, man?"

Scotty's really on a dialogue tear in this scene.

* Okay, this is pretty fucked up, Lincoln on the transporter, everyone in their dress uniforms.

* You know, this has to be the first impression of Lincoln I ever had, what with seeing it when I was three or four. So this really is Lincoln to me.

* This living rock creature concept is cool, too. Reminds me of "
Devil in the Dark."

* I love Kirk's first log entry after coming back from the commercial break. It's essentially along the lines of this is so fucking weird that we have this Lincoln guy here, but man, he really does seem to be Lincoln. And actually, that's what's making this episode worth a damn so far. Weird Lincoln guy in space.

* Love the exchange between Lincoln and Uhura. One of the few explicit references to the fact that she is a person of color in the entire series.

* God, I love Scotty's dress uniform.

* What's with Spock's quip at Scotty in the briefing room?

* This is a pretty good briefing room scene. Very Star Trek, even includes a nice speech from Kirk invoking their five year mission.

* Surak, the founder of the Vulcan way. I always forget about him when I'm thinking about classic Vulcans, you know, the people who established the concept for the franchise. This guy's good, and deserves some credit.

* This rock alien's fucking great.

* I love the introduction of the bad guy team, very comic booky, reminds me of one of those 80s Marvel Secret Wars series.

* I love how the rock creature keeps using theater terminology to refer to their experiment, "our play," "the spectacle."

* Colonel Green is wonderfully sleazy, very James Woods.

* Very Star Trek, watching Kirk fight on the bridge view screen.

* Did I say I love this rock guy? "Does my body heat distress you?" Fucking great.

* You know, for the founder of the Klingon way, Kahless is kind of a whiney pussy.

* Love the weird cut away shots to the rock creature watching "the spectacle." It's like they come out of nowhere.

* The whole Surak peace mission is bizarre. As a Vulcan, he ought to be smart enough to understand the situation, that their opponents might not even possess free will, and that negotiations are in all probability useless. So while his dedication to non-violence is cool, even Gandhi would defend himself if someone started punching him in the face. Maybe Surak has no free will. At any rate, the conversation with Colonel Green is weird, too, kind of stiff. And then all the "Help me, Spock!" stuff. It's all so off-kilter, sort of Brechtian, which is fitting, I suppose, in that this is the rock creatures' "play."

* I love Lincoln taking over and making the plan. Great speech about how he sent 100,000 men to their deaths.

* Nice deep focus shots.

* I love Lincoln crawling on the ground.

* Colonel Green: "Now can you cry like Lincoln?"

* Lincoln with a spear in his back, also seared in my mind since early childhood.

* Nice fight after Lincoln's death, sort of distant and detached, clinical even.

* Ooooh. Cool death Kirk gives Green.

* Great exchange between Kirk and rock guy at the end.

* This one's really pretty great. I hadn't watched it in years, and didn't remember it too terribly fondly, but I had a great time with it this time. Like I said, it's really all about a weird Lincoln guy in space, and it's pretty cool how such a simple idea is able to drive the entire episode. I mean, it's not just some alien crawling on the ground, it's fucking President Lincoln, who may or may not be an alien, crawling on the ground. The episode gets three stars just for that. But the Lincoln weirdness just seems to have a sort of multiplier effect, what with bizarre voyeur shots of a steaming, snapping, Satan-voiced rock alien, strange theatrical flourishes, Ed Wood cheesiness, and on and on. That's what brings it up to four and a half stars. Not perfect, but still pretty damned great.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

NFL Owners vs. Players


With the NFL’s contract set to expire on March 3, and rumors of a lockout gaining momentum, fans are not only wondering if there will be a 2011-12 football season, they’re already blaming the NLFPA (National Football League Players Association) for this predicament. For whatever reason, it’s the players and their union who usually get blamed in these disputes. Rarely do fans direct their hostility toward the owners.


Myth #1: These guys don’t need a union.

For openers, if they didn’t have a union, they wouldn’t have minimum salaries, defined pensions, guaranteed work rules, or grievance procedures. They wouldn’t have these things because they wouldn’t have had the muscle to obtain them. Professional athletes need a union for the same reason nurses, airline pilots and autoworkers need one. Without a union, they’d be at the mercy of the owners.

And if you trust team ownership, you haven’t been paying attention. In 1990, major league baseball’s owners were found guilty of collusion, a felony, and fined $280 million. Team owners are sharp-eyed, hardbitten businessmen, not sports dilettantes. Just as defense contractors plunder the U.S. treasury while waving the American flag, team owners like to pretend they’re performing a public service rather than engaging in naked commerce.


It's really easy to fall into the standard narrative on professional sports unions versus ownership: spoiled, pampered, highly paid guys who have never held a real job want even more money so they can "play." Kind of easy to be totally unsympathetic when that's how you see it. Indeed, that's how I've felt for most of my life until it occurred to me at some point in the late 90s that there was so much money being thrown around in American professional sports, especially the NFL, that players demanding a larger share of the wealth they literally create isn't so unreasonable.

I mean, as the above linked essay observes, many of these NFL players may be millionaires, but the team owners are billionaires, making billions of dollars from the fabulous performances, injuries, blood, sweat, and tears of the players they employ. And this is no joke: playing football destroys the human body, sometimes very quickly, like when a player's spinal cord is severed on the field, or in the long term, like when multiple concussions cause early onset senile dementia for former players in their forties and fifties. If the money's in the industry, these guys deserve their fair share, no way around it.

And let's not forget that the vast majority of NFL players aren't stars, don't get the "franchise label," aren't famous enough to get a Nike promotional contract; most NFL players are workaday jocks, who show up, play in anonymity for a few hundred grand a year, and then retire when their bodies can't take it anymore. I mean, a few hundred grand is nice, really nice, no doubt about that, but teams couldn't play without these guys. There would be no NFL riches without the quiet effort made by these journeymen players. The union is for those guys, not the stars.

So sure, I support the players. Always. Unless, of course, their demands become so extreme that they threaten the very existence of professional football. But given the hundreds of billions in yearly revenue that comes to the NFL, it's very difficult to imagine players' demands killing the golden goose.

But what's really fascinating to me about these periodic labor disputes in big time sports is that the exact same argument I've just made applies to all workers in all fields. Yeah sure, it's the owners' business, but it's my work. Businesses couldn't exist, couldn't make money, without the life's efforts of people just like you and me. We all deserve a better share of the wealth we create.

It's funny, really. The Fox Newsers and their ilk have been using the word "redistribution" a lot these last few years to refer derisively to taxing the wealthy in order to pay for important social programs. As though the government was somehow stealing from capitalists and handing the money over to the undeserving. The problem, and the humor, lies in the way that this point of view utterly ignores the "redistribution" that takes place at the point that capitalists hire workers. That is, the situation is generally such that a business has an opening and offers a wage for it. For most jobs, there is no negotiation; you take it or leave it. Usually, you have to just take it because you need the income. Always, you're getting paid less than you're worth, getting paid a great deal less than the amount of wealth that your labor produces. And why wouldn't businesses do this? Why shouldn't they fleece the population for as much as they can? I mean, besides ethical considerations. Answer: there is nothing stopping businesses from doing this, short of the rare private sector labor union, or the woefully inadequate minimum wage.

In short, because people need the work, capitalists hold all the cards, and can essentially steal the lion's share of your labor. Just because they can. That's where the real "redistribution" is. And as long as we have an economic and political system that favors "redistribution" toward the capitalists, we must have a tax system that "redistributes" wealth towards those who should have gotten it in the first place. Unfortunately, we don't even really have such a system of "redistribution." Not anymore, at least, not since "liberal" President Bill Clinton signed away "welfare as we know it" back in the 90s.

It's really time for labor unions to make a comeback.

And if this doesn't get my anti-union buddy Matt to comment, nothing will.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

South Dakota Moves To Legalize Killing Abortion Providers

Mother Jones courtesy of AlterNet:

A law under consideration in South Dakota would expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions. The Republican-backed legislation, House Bill 1171, has passed out of committee on a nine-to-three party-line vote, and is expected to face a floor vote in the state's GOP-dominated House of Representatives soon.

The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Phil Jensen, a committed foe of abortion rights, alters the state's legal definition of justifiable homicide by adding language stating that a homicide is permissible if committed by a person "while resisting an attempt to harm" that person's unborn child or the unborn child of that person's spouse, partner, parent, or child. If the bill passes, it could in theory allow a woman's father, mother, son, daughter, or husband to kill anyone who tried to provide that woman an abortion—even if she wanted one.

Jensen did not return calls to his home or his office requesting comment on the bill, which is cosponsored by 22 other state representatives and four state senators. UPDATE: Jensen spoke to Mother Jones on Tuesday morning, after this story was published. He says that he disagrees with this interpretation of the bill. "This simply is to bring consistency to South Dakota statute as it relates to justifiable homicide," said Jensen in an interview, repeating an argument he made in the committee hearing on the bill last week. "If you look at the code, these codes are dealing with illegal acts. Now, abortion is a legal act. So this has got nothing to do with abortion." Jensen also aggressively defended the bill in an interview with the Washington Post's Greg Sargent on Tuesday morning. We have more on Jensen's position

"The bill in South Dakota is an invitation to murder abortion providers," says Vicki Saporta, the president of the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of abortion providers. Since 1993, eight doctors have been assassinated at the hands of anti-abortion extremists, and another 17 have been the victims of murder attempts. Some of the perpetrators of those crimes have tried to use the justifiable homicide defense at their trials. "This is not an abstract bill," Saporta says. The measure could have major implications if a "misguided extremist invokes this 'self-defense' statute to justify the murder of a doctor, nurse or volunteer," the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families warned in a message to supporters last week.


So of course this guy Jensen insists his bill has nothing to do with abortion. But then, this is how leaders in the anti-abortion movement have worked for years; once they figured that an outright reversal of Roe v Wade was most decidedly not on the horizon, they moved on to a more indirect sort of fight. So we saw massive blockades of abortion clinics until federal courts banned them. We continue to see legislative obstacles to abortion, such as required sonograms or weird required patient statements or arbitrary waiting periods. We see clinic bombings. We see assassinations of abortion providers. Or even this bizarre ACORN style attempt to implicate Planned Parenthood in sex trafficking.

In short, anti-abortion movement leaders are not ethical people. Instead of settling for making their argument directly, appealing to citizens to enact social change, these people are willing pursue such change by any means necessary, whether through lies, sophisticated dirty tricks, or terrorist violence and murder. I guess that when you feel like you're absolutely right about something, other people's lives and opinions just don't matter.

It is ironic, indeed, that these people call themselves "pro-life."

At any rate, these sick right-wing radicals in South Dakota can end all controversy simply by adding language to their amendment that plainly says that it has nothing to do with abortion providers. But I'll bet any and all takers a hundred bucks that's not going to happen. This bill does, indeed, target abortion providers; that's the whole reason for trying to get it passed. I mean, it's probably more about running abortion clinics out of the state, which has already happened for the most part, rather than declaring open season on doctors and nurses, but it's still pretty sick and disgusting, and it's yet another example of how anti-abortion leaders are completely willing to lie in order to get their radical anti-abortion agenda enacted.

You know, this is really an issue that needs to be publicly debated again. And I mean real debate, not the sort of stupid shit where each side just pushes their views without recognizing that the other side has some good points. Because when you've got a real public discourse going on, it's that much more difficult for these anti-abortion operatives to pull this kind of bullshit. I mean, abortion is a thorny issue as it is; lies, secrecy, and intimidation just make things worse.


Monday, February 14, 2011


From the New York Times, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman opines on the Republican "mandate" to cut spending:

The key point to understand is that while many voters say that they want lower spending, press the issue a bit further and it turns out that they only want to cut spending on other people.

That’s the lesson from a new survey by the Pew Research Center, in which Americans were asked whether they favored higher or lower spending in a variety of areas. It turns out that they want more, not less, spending on most things, including education and Medicare. They’re evenly divided about spending on aid to the unemployed and — surprise — defense.


How can voters be so ill informed? In their defense, bear in mind that they have jobs, children to raise, parents to take care of. They don’t have the time or the incentive to study the federal budget, let alone state budgets (which are by and large incomprehensible). So they rely on what they hear from seemingly authoritative figures.

And what they’ve been hearing ever since Ronald Reagan is that their hard-earned dollars are going to waste, paying for vast armies of useless bureaucrats (payroll is only 5 percent of federal spending) and welfare queens driving Cadillacs. How can we expect voters to appreciate fiscal reality when politicians consistently misrepresent that reality?


This Pew survey verifies what Noam Chomsky has been saying for years, that the American people are fairly liberal in that they really do want big federal spending programs. And this is pretty damned fascinating in that this reality exists side by side with the right wing's very useful and widely believed lie asserting that all these programs are nothing but wasted money "redistributed" away from you, the hard working honest (white) citizen, and toward those people over there, the lazy parasitic (black or brown) citizens and illegal aliens.

Indeed, welfare used to be fairly popular in this country until the Republicans back in the 1980s got everyone thinking all that money was going to lazy black welfare queens.

But, of course, it's not just the Republicans. Once the Democrats saw how this GOP message hit a nerve in the American heartland, they signed on to the big lie, too. Both parties, indeed, the entire establishment, now push this mythological concept that Americans don't like big government or big spending. I mean, sure, in theory, Americans don't like big government and massive social programs. But that's all "get the government off the little guy's back" bullshit. It's not an argument. It's not an analysis. It's knee-jerk responding to decades of propaganda without the least bit of in-depth thinking. And once you actually do some in-depth thinking, it's like, oh, well, I guess we really do like that kind of spending.

Krugman is very right to observe that our leaders have been literally lying to us about economics for decades. I've tried to attack some of those lies here at Real Art over the years, but it's really easy to get lost among the trees and miss the forest. The overall problem is that the establishment has totally confused the entire fucking nation about how dollars and cents really function at the federal level, and that's a crime against democracy.

It's no wonder our nation is so utterly dysfunctional.



From Wikipedia:

Saint Valentine's Day, commonly shortened to Valentine's Day, is an annual commemoration held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions. The day is named after one or more early Christian martyrs, Saint Valentine, and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD. It was deleted from the Roman calendar of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI, but its religious observance is still permitted. It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines"). The day first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

Modern Valentine's Day symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.


As much as I want to say that Valentine's Day is nothing but a consumerist ploy to get us to buy shit we don't really need, I must admit that it's been around for centuries, well before the creation of mass retail markets, indeed, well before capitalism itself was invented. So there's definitely something culturally solid here, something that's a part of the great Western tradition that exists outside of the commercial world.

And I'm in a good relationship this year, so, what the hell, happy Valentine's Day.

But really, I think this day has its full force only when you're in elementary school. All the weird decorations, all the various shades of red and pink, the hearts, the cupids, the little mailboxes you construct in order to receive the Valentine's cards all the other kids are ordered to make and give you, the cookies and punch. It's just all so weird and cool. By the time you're a teenager, it gets caught up in the notion of boyfriends and girlfriends and sex, but when you're a kid it's almost other-worldly. I miss that.

Anyway, here's a Rembrandt cupid image:

And here's one of my favorite love songs:

Happy Love Day!


Saturday, February 12, 2011


From MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show:

Every year they commemorate this date in Tehran and at today's big march President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised the protesters in Egypt saying, quote, "it is your right to freely choose this path. The Iranian nation backs this right of yours." By "this right of yours" he means this right of Egypt's, not the Iranian people. The Iranian regime is making a big show of backing the Egyptian people's rights, but not extending the same courtesy to its own citizens. Eight Iranian activists including planners of Monday's protest inspired by Egypt are now under house arrest.

here (click on the "transcript" button on the video panel, or just watch the video--what the hell, it's only two minutes).

Okay, point well taken, Rachel: Iran's rhetoric doesn't really match up with its actions. The Persian nation continues to be, after over three decades, a bit longer than Mubarek's reign in Egypt, a religiously oriented dictatorship, a theocracy that denies its people both civil and human rights. For President Ahmadinejad to throw in his support for Egypt's democratic revolution appears to be, at first glance to Western eyes, wildly hypocritical.

But let's take two seconds to delve only a bit more deeply. Egypt just toppled a US supported dictator who for decades tortured his own people and suppressed their rights, just as Iran did with the Shah some thirty two years ago. Both countries are in the Middle East. Both countries are Muslim, albeit Sunni in Egypt, and Shia in Iran. Both revolutions were relatively bloodless, featuring enormous concentrations of citizens in the streets, shouting slogans, denouncing their dictators--okay, there was a lot of anti-American rhetoric in the Iranian demonstrations back in the day, and hardly any in Egypt these past few weeks, but you get my drift. That is, despite the apparent contradiction, there are, indeed, some very big similarities between these revolutions, probably the biggest being a sense of overthrowing US imperialism.

So, from Ahmadinejad's point of view, there is no hypocrisy. He's talking about Muslim countries having the right to free themselves from American domination, not democracy as some worthy national goal--indeed, that makes these Iranian protesters recently arrested out to be counter-revolutionaries, bad guys, not good guys. I mean, I sure would like him to be praising democracy, and, you know, trying to get it going in Iran, but that's not really what I'm getting at here.

It is a bit disturbing that someone as smart and insightful as Maddow falls into the standard corporate media US establishment talking points on the Middle East, rightfully calling out Iran for its oppressive nature, but failing to paint a more subtle and nuanced picture that would help viewers understand the region better than as simply a land of "evil doers." I mean, I guess I shouldn't be surprised because this is the corporate news media we're talking about. But I've really gotten to dig Rachel Maddow these last couple of years.

I suppose I expect better from her.


Friday, February 11, 2011




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



...the Enterprise!

BTW, no Star Trek episode this week--I'm working on a monologue for an acting class I'm taking instead. But I'll definitely be doing it next week. Only three left, you know!


Wednesday, February 09, 2011


I was reading
a post at Hullabaloo a couple hours ago about former president and now conservative mythological godhead Ronald Reagan, and how for about a decade now right-wing activists have been making a concerted and somewhat successful effort to cast the Gipper as "greatest president ever" to a much larger portion of the US population. Needless to say, the context here is that Reagan not only wasn't the "greatest president ever," but he may very well have been one of the worst: out of thousands of conservatives who have been trying for years to dismantle the New Deal programs that literally created the middle class in this country, Reagan was probably the most successful in that he almost single handedly got the philosophical ball rolling on this grand right-wing project. But here in the 21st century, we're supposed to think he's like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

I know it seems like everybody fucking worships Ronnie these days, and that conservatism appears to be triumphant as a philosophy, but back in the day, back before the extended advertising and PR campaign, back when Reagan was doing his deeds, there were large percentages of Americans who hated him. Indeed, when he left office in January of 1989, he had very low approval ratings, down in the thirties, coming off the heels of the
Iran/Contra scandal.

That is, in the days that preceded hard core conservative media action, many Americans were fully aware that Reagan had ramped up the class war to late 19th century levels, and were furious about it. I mean sure, Reagan won reelection to his second term in an electoral landslide, taking forty nine out of fifty states, but won the actual vote by less than twenty percent, and that was with a pretty shitty blast-from-the-past candidate, Carter's veep Walter Mondale, one of those sacrificial lamb candidates periodically offered up when party bosses don't want to try, you know, like Bob Dole in '96.

Anyway, all this made me remember a rather remarkable music video from 1986, Genesis' "Land of Confusion." Remarkable for several reasons. For starters, the video just slams the fuck out of Reagan, portraying him as a dottering fool who accidentally blows up the world. But Genesis is/was a fairly apolitical band. Even when they were being political, their art-rock lyrical stylings were usually so vague and abstract that you couldn't tell. Throw into the mix that MTV, also apolitical, put the video into heavy rotation. That is, people who usually didn't sully themselves with partisan politics felt like it was okay, desirable even, to bash the Gipper mercilessly.

This is the "greatest president ever"? Check it out. Now that we have a sense that Ronnie probably did have Alzheimer's his last few years in office, the video appears to be prescient:

Anyway, fuck Reagan. I was a fool to have ever liked him.


Olbermann to Current TV as Primetime Host and Chief News Officer


In a conference call, Keith Olbermann and Vice President Al Gore announced Tuesday that Olbermann will host a new, hour-long primetime news show on Current TV beginning in spring. He will also act as Executive Producer of the show and Chief News Officer of the Network.

“Nothing is more vital to a free America than a free media, and nothing is more vital to my concept of a free media than news produced independently of corporate interference,” Olbermann said. “In Current Media, Al Gore and Joel Hyatt have created the model truth-seeking entity.”

According to EW, Olbermann also noted, “None of this should be directed at my nine full-time previous employers — there is nothing wrong with people making money and corporations being involved in covering information – provided there is an avenue in which those marketing forces are not the deciding factor in what we are doing. Current is not only the leading independent network, it’s the only one. To underscore and support that is my great privilege.”

In the call, Gore described Olbermann as “a gifted thinker, an amazing talent and a powerful communicator,” as well as “truly one of the unfettered voices on TV” and “one of our society’s most courageous talents.”


Well, that didn't take long.

The only problem I have with this is that I'm not included in the 60 million homes that get Current TV as part of their cable package. Maybe Olbermann's shows will be available online, you know, like they were at MSNBC. Indeed, most of my Olbermann watching was, in fact, online, at off hours. And Current TV does appear to have a lot of video on its website. Keeping my fingers crossed.

At any rate, I'm glad this guy's back quickly. I totally dig Olbermann. Also, it is interesting to note that Comcast, the right-leaning mega media corporate giant that seemingly ran Olbermann off from MSNBC, owns a ten percent stake in Current TV according to Wikipedia. This probably means nothing in terms of content. I mean, after all, the channel is apparently some kind of Al Gore vehicle, and, even though the former Vice President isn't exactly what I'd call liberal, I wouldn't really go so far as to say that Prince Albert is much of a conservative, either--you know, he is Mister Inconvenient Truth these days. Guess we'll see.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Taxes (As A Percentage Of Economy) Drop To Lowest Level In 60 Years

From the AP via
the Huffington Post news wire:

Actually, as a share of the nation's economy, Uncle Sam's take this year will be the lowest since 1950, when the Korean War was just getting under way.

And for the third straight year, American families and businesses will pay less in federal taxes than they did under former President George W. Bush, thanks to a weak economy and a growing number of tax breaks for the wealthy and poor alike.

Income tax payments this year will be nearly 13 percent lower than they were in 2008, the last full year of the Bush presidency. Corporate taxes will be lower by a third, according to projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The poor economy is largely to blame, with corporate profits down and unemployment up. But so is a tax code that grows each year with new deductions, credits and exemptions. The result is that families making as much as $50,000 can avoid paying federal income taxes, if they have at least two dependent children. Low-income families can actually make a profit from the income tax, and the wealthy can significantly cut their payments.


So, while I am bit disturbed that the Republicans have pretty much gotten away with branding Obama as a tax-crazy liberal, even though the evidence shows that the exact opposite is true, what concerns me more is that this news destroys a key piece of contemporary conservative philosophy, but nobody involved in the political discourse is going to point that out, certainly not the Republicans, who never met a tax cut they didn't like, certainly not the Democrats, who don't like to explain things, and certainly not the corporate news media, for reasons unknown.

Of course, that key piece of philosophy is that lower taxes stimulate the economy. Indeed, the Republicans have for years even gone on to assert that tax cuts stimulate the economy so much that, in the end, more tax revenue is gained, even though the tax rates have been lowered. By this standard, we should now be experiencing a federal budget surplus, instead of a deficit, and the economy should be booming, with increasing levels of employment, and higher levels of individual wealth overall.

Needless to say, this is not the case. We continue to run massive budget deficits. The economy, while technically now in a period of growth, is sluggish, and unemployment stubbornly hovers around the ten percent mark with no relief on the horizon. This is real world evidence, not some kind of vague philosophical argument, that tax cuts don't do much, if anything, to help the economy. But like I said, this will not in any way affect the conventional wisdom on tax cuts. Pundits and politicians alike will continue with their fantasy narrative about tax cuts as though reality doesn't matter. Business as usual.

Really, I find myself warming these days to an argument that's been floating around the left side of the blogosphere for a few years now:
high taxes, not low taxes, help cause economic growth. The long and short of the argument, which deals more with taxing businesses and the rich than the general population, is that, because taxes are on profits, rather than revenue, in a high tax environment, people will find creative ways to avoid claiming revenue as profit. Generally, this means funnelling such income back into your business, or into investments, which translates into expanded economic activity, with more job creation, better wages and benefits, higher production, and better product quality. Without higher taxes, however, revenue drains out of business in the form of profits, and is then spent on luxury items, which has a negligible effect on economic growth, or simply dropped into savings, where it does nothing.

That is, the conventional wisdom on taxes comes from
Bizarro World: me want good economy, so me cut taxes to make economy stagnate! Where's the real man of steel when you need him?