Here, watch Young Frankenstein, in full. If you can't click away the sexy ad, just take it to full screen, which makes it go away. Yeah, gotta deal with bullshit when you're ripping off Hollywood. Anyway, have fun!
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Posted by Ron at 2:31 AM
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
ON OUR FRACTURED CIVIC DISCOURSE, PART 2
That's the thing about facebook; the conversation, in theory, is never really over. Here's part one. And the discussion continues:
Kristin I agree with how Liberals are depicted as being unAmerican..however Conservatives are painted as being backwards, nonintellectuals with no concern for the poor. I also challenge you to call out Liberals when they challenge our nation's unity. The name calling comes from both sides and it is revolting.I said "'Nuff said" last night. But now I wonder.
Ronald Actually, Kristin, I'm okay with the name calling to an extent. Yes, liberals characterize conservatives as "backward, nonintellectuals with no concern for the poor," just as conservatives characterize liberals as ivory tower elitists, or as socialists or communists who steal from the rich and the middle class. Both characterizations, at face value, are false, but then both are also rooted in reality. We've got to allow some wiggle room in the public discourse, some hyperbole, some passion.
The right-wing penchant for what amounts to revoking the citizenship of Americans with whom they disagree, however, is something else entirely. Needless to say, this is NOT rooted in reality, in any way at all. And it isn't simply name calling: rather, it's a philosophy, one that runs right through the middle of the Conservative Movement. The most disturbing and over-the-top example of this is the Birther phenomenon, which literally asserts that President Obama is not an American, and therefore totally illegitimate as our leader, but we saw big strains of this, too, in the Clinton hatred of the 90s, in spite of the relative era of peace and prosperity we experienced under his leadership--indeed, the hatred was so fierce that Congress impeached him for dubious reasons. Speaking of Congress, we see this philosophy manifest in the constant obstructionism of the Senate, where virtually every bill is filibustered, allowing the Republican minority to shut down the Democratic majority's ability to do any business at all; contrast this with the Republican freakout on the Dem's threat to filibuster a Bush judicial nominee when the roles were reversed a few years ago. Consider the conservative radio talkers: Michael Savage routinely uses the same word Nazis used to describe Jews, "vermin," to describe liberals; Rush Limbaugh calls liberalism a mental illness, and so on.
The problem with the liberals-aren't-American philosophy isn't that it's offensive. Rather, it gives conservatives permission to dismiss anything and everything liberals have to say. It creates the intellectual foundation for gridlock and constant political warfare. It turns routine problems of governance into apocalyptic events, as per the debt ceiling crisis, which ended up with the United States losing its prime bond rating, which embarrassed the US globally, and potentially endangered our fiscal health.
As one of my favorite Republicans once said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." Conservatives need to get back to their roots on this or we're all doomed.
Posted by Ron at 1:46 AM
Monday, October 29, 2012
ON OUR FRACTURED CIVIC DISCOURSE
I recycled yesterday's Real Art post on facebook, and, strangely, it ended up with me losing one of my conservative friends from high school. I say "strangely" because the post was something of an attack against Obama from the left; generally, conservatives cheer me on when I talk about Nader and his like--obviously, they're all for me "throwing my vote away." I didn't even engage in any kind of argumentation with this woman. She just came in and ranted as usual, and sort of talked herself into un-friending me. It was weird.
But it did give me the opportunity to opine on the extensive political and cultural division now gripping our nation, especially after a much saner conservative friend of mine from high school chimed in it:
Kristin Wow. Ron, you're making all kinds of new friends....or not. Jennifer's response is exactly why I dislike discussing American politics or our political parties. So many people can't simply "discuss" something. It is not a competition and you certainly won't change someone's mind by insulting them. My political views are that..my views, the lens I look through. When we forget that our background and understandings are so diverse, this is when we often stick our foot in our mouth. Helpful for cleaning off that toe cheese, but not much else. I'm sure that Ron and I have extremely differing opinions on many issues, but I also know that he is one of the smartest people I know-my former brother-in-law is first, multilingual, doctorate in high energy nuclear physics and can't match his socks..(I'm sure you're capable of matching your socks, Ron.) And from what I remember, he is also a really decent guy. So we might not agree on certain things? I'm pretty sure we'd agree on things like the Bill of Rights, Civil Rights, oh..and yeah human rights which I'm pretty sure allows people to have differing opinions.My response:
Ronald Thanks, Kristin. Our country really is divided along ideological lines. I think that the high levels of emotion, from both sides, are coming from a collective sense, again on both sides, that America is on the decline. People feel it from multiple directions. Jobs are scarce, so, even if one is fortunate enough to have a job, one is nervous that he's going to lose it. What happens in Washington seemingly has nothing to do with the everyday concerns of most Americans. It's looking like our best days are behind us, and there is seemingly no hope for reversing the decline. Liberals and conservatives have different ideas about why everything seems so screwed up, and about how to repair it, and even what a better America looks like. But it is certain that everybody is extraordinarily dissatisfied with how things are right now, with how things will probably be in the future.'Nuff said.
And everybody is absolutely right to feel that way. This is legitimate, whether you come to this point of view as a conservative or as a liberal. That's why, even though it's enjoyable for me to make fun of the Tea Party people, with their weird tricorner hats and dangling tea bags, I know that their outrage comes from bad things that are actually happening to them. Same with Occupy Wall Street. The nation is broken, and we're all freaking out.
So, yes, I have disagreements with the conservatives. I also, as the essay up top shows, have some big disagreements with my liberal comrades in the Democratic Party. But this is all good. Simply engaging in the public discourse, from whatever point of view, makes you a good American. I do not vilify Americans simply for disagreeing with me. Sure, they piss me off regularly, but that's how the process works.
What deeply saddens me, however, is a cultural strain that I see almost exclusively on the right: many conservatives, but certainly not all of them, strongly believe that if you're liberal, you're somehow less of an American, or not an American at all, that liberals are traitors, opposed to the American way, opposed to the American government. There are some asshole liberals out there, to be sure, but I've never encountered anything similar to this kind of tribalism on the left. I've never seen liberals asserting that conservatives aren't real Americans. Never seen them questioning the legitimacy of conservatives who hold public office, simply because they are conservative.
This is my challenge to conservatives who do not feel like this: constantly call out your ideological allies when they undermine our nation's unity in this way. Liberals are every bit as American as conservatives. What they say matters as much as what conservatives say. That is, I lay the blame for the most egregious tribal behavior on conservatives. We'll never get it together as long as they question their opposition's loyalty. Never.
But actually, Kristin, I think you're kind of already doing what I'm suggesting, which comes as no surprise to me. Gather followers.
Posted by Ron at 12:52 AM
Sunday, October 28, 2012
The progressive case against Obama
From Salon.com, bigtime liberal blogger, Democratic activist, and former Nader-hater Matt Stoller, comes out against Obama from the left:
At some point soon, we will face yet another moment where the elites say, “Do what we want or there will be a meltdown.” Do we have enough people on our side willing to collectively say “do what we want or there will be a global meltdown”? This election is a good mechanism to train people in the willingness to say that and mean it. That is, the reason to advocate for a third-party candidate is to build the civic muscles willing to say no to the establishment in a crisis moment we all know is coming. Right now, the liberal establishment is teaching its people that letting malevolent political elites do what they want is not only the right path, it is the only path. Anything other than that is dubbed an affront to common decency. Just telling the truth is considered beyond rude.
Of course, I am in full agreement on the motivation here. That is, Obama really is a representative of the corporate state, the chosen savior of the capitalist system by a large chunk of Big Business America, a President who says nice things to liberals, but at the same time moves our nation ever towards corporate dominance. Indeed, I've railed away about exactly this for years now. And, as you know, I've certainly taken Stoller's advice on this on more than one occasion: Nader, or whoever, won't ever actually win, but voting for an insurgent candidate, when enough people do it, definitely rattles the establishment cage. Thus far, doing so hasn't done much more than piss people off, causing stupid Democrats to blame third party voters for lost elections. But a concerted effort over the years could have some payoff. Maybe. At the very least, it's nice to vote my conscience, instead of that awful pragmatic keep-the-GOP-at-bay shit that always means losing ground, anyway.
But I'm not sure I understand Stoller's take in this essay. He seems to be riffing on Naomi Klein's sense of "disaster capitalism" somehow. And, at this point, invoking such a concept isn't such a bad idea: the last decade's worth of American history very neatly proves Klein's thesis that when calamity strikes, power brokers lick their lips. But how on earth can advocating for the Green Party candidate, or whoever, be a sort of dry run for the next national crisis? He just doesn't explain the mechanics of what seems to be an interesting idea. I mean, I'm all for telling Democrats to go to hell, but unless you can make them hurt, there's just no need for them to listen. I don't fund their campaigns. So I'm irrelevant.
As Democrats have been saying about their near non-relationship with labor unions for decades, "where else are they going to go?"
In the end, it's nice to see someone who once despised Nader voters come to his senses: the Democrats will not reverse their path left to their own devices. But I need some more explanation of his sense of third party insurgency as training for the next crisis. If he's got a good game, and he is, after all, an activist, then maybe I'll join up. But this year, I'm voting for Obama. Just because I feel like it.
In the long run, it doesn't make a difference one way or the other.
Posted by Ron at 1:35 AM
Friday, October 26, 2012
DON'T REPUBLICANS THINK PERJURY IS A "HIGH CRIME"?
Court Unseals Potentially Devastating Testimony by Mitt Romney in Friend's Divorce Case
So the article's take on this is that it will embarrass Romney with women voters, you know, just another in what is now a seemingly continual list of dunderheaded misogynistic moves made by prominent Republicans over the last year or so. But I'm seeing something that is potentially much more devastating.
Remember those heady final weeks of 1998? Remember the booming economy? Remember how the Republicans wanted to put it all at risk by impeaching President Clinton over oral sex with an intern? Of course, the impeachment wasn't technically about the oral sex--rather, that's what all the hoopla was about. No, the technical legal grounds for the impeachment were that the President lied under oath about the oral sex. Never mind that he was under oath for questioning about the utterly unrelated non-scandal called "Whitewater." Never mind that smiling snake and professional dickwad inquisitor Kenneth Starr clearly maneuvered the President into choosing either public embarrassment or marital stability. Never mind that Starr did this for the very purpose of creating grounds for impeachment. Consider, instead, the position uniting Republican mouths in lockstep for months: perjury is so gosh darned serious, in all instances, for all reasons, because the entire judicial system depends on absolute honesty from witnesses, which is why such an action must necessarily rise to the level of the "high crimes and misdemeanors" named in the US Constitution as warranting impeachment of a duly elected President. This is what they said as they beat their chests in righteous indignation over and over and over. This is about the integrity of the entire judicial system, they screamed, for weeks and weeks. Bill Clinton destroyed the integrity of the entire judicial system because he lied about oral sex while being questioned about a totally unrelated matter that also happened to be a witch hunt. Off with his head.
This was, and to the best of my knowledge continues to be, the official position of the Republican Party. Any perjury at all is a "high crime" against the United States. I mean, I disagree, of course. The circumstances of the questioning, in the case of President Clinton, essentially shred that argument to pieces, but, you know, I'm not a Constitutional law expert.
But if it can be convincingly illustrated that Romney is guilty of perjury, the GOP must necessarily reject him. By their own standard, he would be guilty of a "high crime," utterly invalidating him as worthy of the Oval Office. Indeed, if elected, the House must necessarily move immediately to impeach him. Or they're all big huge liars and scumbags. Totally unworthy of holding elected office, themselves, at all.
Of course, assuming Romney did, in fact, perjure himself, I have absolutely no expectation that his party would hold him to the same standard. Because they never really believed their own reasoning in the first place. They impeached Clinton because they could. Because they arrogantly believe that no Democrat is worthy of being President. Because they believe that only they are the true Americans. And lying, creating bullshit legal standards, witch hunt judicial fishing expeditions on the tax payers' dime, show trials in Congress, all of that's just fine when aimed at Democrats. But certainly not when we're talking about the real Americans in the Republican Party.
It's business as usual.
Posted by Ron at 3:49 AM
Thursday, October 25, 2012
FROM THE REAL ART SPORTS DESK
IS THIS WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE LONGHORNS?
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Brown: 'I didn't ask' for Longhorn Network
Texas coach Mack Brown once welcomed the Longhorn Network. Now he sounds as though it's become a headache and a window for opposing coaches to get an unfair peek into his program.
"I didn't ask for it," Brown said Monday, noting he's worried that the six hours a week he spends taping three television shows and the network's access to the first 30 minutes of daily practice may tip opposing coaches to player injuries, tendencies and schemes.
Something just hasn't been right these last couple of seasons with Texas.
Sure, I can accept a rebuilding year after we lost the national championship to Alabama. But we're now on the third season since that disappointing loss, and the Longhorns continue to stumble blindly in the darkness. Okay, we've only got two losses, but not being able to shut down WVU's high flying offense the way Kansas State did last weekend is a scathing indictment of what was supposed to be a great defense. And I don't even want to talk about the drubbing we took from OU. And our wins...well, beating Ole Miss was nice, but how on earth did we allow Baylor to score fifty points on us? Can't blame it on RGIII.
What the fuck is going on? Maybe this Longhorn Network is too much of a distraction; maybe it really does give opponents too much of an inside look at what Texas is going to be doing against them the following Saturday. I don't know. But something's up.
Indeed, that is very likely why my football reporting has dropped off this year here at Real Art. I'm just not into it. Okay, I continue to watch when I can, and love it. But I'm also bummed with LSU this year, too, which isn't terribly fair because they've only got one loss so far, to a now top three Florida team. But still. When I started my Real Art Sports Desk posts, LSU was just off it's 2003 National Championship season, and Texas was headed toward its 2005 National Championship season, and everybody's expectations continued to be high, for both teams. Until Alabama beat them both.
Fucking Alabama. I hate Alabama. Hate them. And I hate Nick Saban, too. Almost as much as I hate Bob Stoops. That's a lot of hate. Hate that doesn't abate when we don't fucking beat them. But I digress.
The point is that I'm probably not going to be doing as many of these posts this year as I have in the past. It's hard to write about your teams failing to live up to your expectations. Don't get me wrong, though. I'm still a big fan for both teams, and am now talking shit on facebook on game days. And maybe I'll get inspired or something. Who knows? But yeah, my heart just isn't into blogging about it at the moment.
Okay, watching LSU go to Kyle Field and beat the Aggies was pretty nice. I have to admit that.
Posted by Ron at 2:22 AM
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
PREPPING FOR AN AUDITION TONIGHT...
...so no real post. But it's all weird. Suddenly I've got a new agent in the morning, and then an audition dropping into my lap by the afternoon. So I'm reading for this tomorrow. Bit part, of course, but, you know, tell me to break a leg. On the other hand, my commenting system seems to be broken at the moment. How about prayers or good vibes?
Posted by Ron at 1:25 AM
Monday, October 22, 2012
CONFRONTING THE GOP'S LEGACY OF RACISM
So I reposted yeststerday's Real Art entry, an obituary for George McGovern, on facebook last night. Because I talked about the racism inherent in the Republican capture of the South, I decided to post this article in the comment thread underneath:
In American politics, the Southern strategy refers to the Republican Party strategy of gaining political support or winning elections in the Southern section of the country by implicitly appealing to racism against African Americans.
Though the "Solid South" had been a longtime Democratic Party stronghold due to the Democratic Party's defense of slavery prior to the American Civil War and segregation for a century thereafter, many white Southern Democrats stopped supporting the party following the civil rights plank of the Democratic campaign in 1948 (triggering the Dixiecrats), the African-American Civil Rights Movement, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, and desegregation.
The strategy was first adopted under future Republican President Richard Nixon and Republican Senator Barry Goldwater in the late 1960s. The strategy was successful in some regards. It contributed to the electoral realignment of Southern states to the Republican Party, but at the expense of losing more than 90 percent of black voters to the Democratic Party. As the twentieth century came to a close, the Republican Party began trying to appeal again to black voters, though with little success.
Of course, that didn't sit too pretty with one of my high school troll mates
Jennifer D Do you honestly believe the GOP to be embracing Southern racism? If so, than this is truly a sad time for you. The GOP is highly educated......do you honestly think for one second that either party are highly racist? If anything, Obama and his colleagues hate whites....and so does his church in Chicago........other than that........I really think the above Wikipedia dialogue is BS.I don't always respond to everything this girl says, but this most recent comment needed response.
Ronald @Jennifer D: Unfortunately for you, this isn't really something that one believes or disbelieves. I mean, of course, you can believe whatever you want, but dismissing the GOP's Southern Strategy puts you into Easter Bunny territory.'Nuff said.
Now, to be fair, I am in no way asserting that every single Republican is somehow a racist, or even that all Southern Republicans are racists. Rather, and this is a fact, recorded history, about which numerous Republican insiders have been very up front with journalists over the years, I'm simply observing that in the late 60s, in the wake of the Civil Rights Act, establishment GOP figures made a conscious decision to go after alienated Southern Democrats. And the way they did this was by appealing to racist sensibilities. Again, this is a fact. You don't get to choose whether to believe it because it actually happened, and is still happening to some extent even today. I don't know if this makes the Republican Party a racist entity, but I don't really see much of a difference between stoking racist fears in order to get votes and stoking racist fears because one hates black people. In the end, it's all the same, racial fear mongering.
But you, Jennifer, and all Republicans of conscience, have a choice here. You can accept the difficult reality that your party has consciously brought Southern racism into its tent, and fight against it, or you can continue to live in denial, thereby enabling the long standing race hatred within the party. That is, to do nothing puts you on their side.
I suggest that you accept reality and do something about it. You are, after all, a good person.
Posted by Ron at 11:15 PM
FAREWELL GEORGE MCGOVERN
From Daily Kos:
He is best remembered for his disastrous 1972 presidential campaign against incumbent Richard Nixon, in which he only won a majority of votes in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. Less than two years after his defeat, however, McGovern saw Nixon wave goodbye as he was helicoptered away from the White House after resigning in disgrace over the Watergate affair. One popular bumpersticker of the time read: "Don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts." That same year, 1974, McGovern won his third and final term in the U.S. Senate.
His brand of politics was used by the Republicans to define other Democratic candidates for decades. A "McGovern liberal" was allegedly soft on defense, weak on the drug war, too compassionate for the poor and too interested in expanding government social programs. It was while campaigning in Nebraska in '72 that he was tarred with another Republican sound-bite that alliteratively transformed him into the candidate of "amnesty, acid and abortion." He did support amnesty for Vietnam draft protesters, including those of us who went to prison rather than serve, was pro-choice on reproductive rights despite personal opposition to abortion and backed reduced penalties for marijuana use, which his enemies managed to twist into favoring the use of hallucinogenic LSD.
The whole effort was an attempt to tie McGovern to radicals like SDS leader Tom Hayden and other leftists who had vigorously opposed the Vietnam War and proposed changes in the American system of governance that some people, including some of the radicals, called revolution. McGovern was no revolutionary. But that didn't stop him from being "swift-boated" before the term was invented.
George McGovern had the extreme misfortune to be running for president in the era when the once powerful New Deal coalition that had kept the Democrats strong for decades was falling apart, while at the same time his Republican opponent Richard Nixon was perfecting the now common "politics of personal destruction." Neither the Party, nor McGovern, had any idea what hit them.
Indeed, the Democrats have been essentially wandering in the wilderness since then, with the odd Presidential victory here and there, and the odd majority in Congress. But always moving further to the right, always trying to win on a playing field determined by the Republicans. McGovern's devastating loss in 1972 was nothing short of a damning omen of the decades to come. And really, his party still hasn't figured it out.
But McGovern had no way of knowing, at that point, what was going on. He knew that the relationship between Democrats and labor was contentious, to say the least, but he had no understanding that it was over for that once seemingly invulnerable alliance. He knew that the Civil Rights Act meant the loss of Southern Democrats, but just couldn't foresee how the GOP would embrace Southern racism with coded language combined with cracked-out anti-welfare rhetoric. He had no way of understanding that his party's own self-destruction combined with viscous Republican opportunism would spell the end of the liberal era in which he came of age.
But that's kind of why I respect the guy.
He was pure. He was a liberal without apology. He didn't "triangulate." He didn't suck corporate dick in exchange for campaign cash. He supported the labor unions. He opposed war and poverty. Actually, he's the kind of guy I wish was running the Democratic Party today. An actual liberal. But history smashed him, and we've not seen his like achieving such a position within the party since then. As Rhett Butler says in Gone with the Wind, "I've always had a weakness for lost causes, once they're really lost." In that sense, I believe the former Senator from South Dakota was a great man.
Farewell, George McGovern.
Posted by Ron at 2:54 AM
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Snow Job on Jobs
But back to the Romney jobs plan. As many people have noted, the plan has five points but contains no specifics. Loosely speaking, however, it calls for a return to Bushonomics: tax cuts for the wealthy plus weaker environmental protection. And Mr. Romney says that the plan would create 12 million jobs over the next four years.
Yeah, Romney's got, as they say, nothin'.
Indeed, the entire Republican Party's got nothin'. They've been running, for thirty fucking years, on the whole neoliberal thing. That is, cutting taxes for the rich coupled with deregulating business as a way to grow the economy, which translates into prosperity for all. Thing is, and we know this because we've been doing it for thirty years, it just doesn't work that way. Indeed, economists have studied what the rich do with their tax cut savings, and it's pretty clear that they don't tend to reinvest it in their businesses. Meanwhile, it's also pretty clear that businesses have learned how to game the system such that productivity gains and economic growth do not translate into better wages and benefits--these three decades of neoliberal America have done nothing but make the rich richer and everybody else poorer.
What's amazing is that they continue to run on what is now obvious bullshit, and people continue to buy it.
Actually, what's most troubling is that so many Republicans appear to fully believe their own bullshit. I mean, Romney really does believe that his being elected to the Oval Office will so comfort businessmen that they'll expand the economy. Simply because a Republican is President. If that's not delusional, I don't know what is.
But that's what's on the line in this election. I mean, to some extent. The Democrats have been affected by this neoliberal mythology over the years, too--just look at their willingness to go after the deficit in ways that shred the social safety net. Obama is, in fact, a Kool-Aid drinker. But the Dems haven't embraced the dark side quite so much as the Republicans. That is, they enable corporate forces, too, but in a kinder, gentler way.
On the whole, I'd prefer somebody like Nader. But we're not going to get that. So I'm opting for the guy who doesn't have his head up his ass. At least that's something.
Posted by Ron at 11:58 PM
Friday, October 19, 2012
LATEST RIGHT-WING FACEBOOK MEME: CRAP ECONOMICS
Saw this earlier tonight in my fb news feed:
This is pretty easy to debunk quickly, off the top of my head.
Because oil is a global market, it is highly unlikely that any US action by itself could have had such a profound impact on the price of gasoline. Of course, if you check out the dates at the bottom of the chart, you'll see that they coincide rather perfectly with the recent financial crisis, which happened to have put the brakes on the entire world economy. It doesn't take much of a brain to understand that when nobody's buying anything, producers will use a lot less fuel for production and transportation of goods; conversely, when consumers are short on cash, they're not going to be driving so much to get to the places where they would be buying things in better times. That is, a bad economy means less oil usage. And a really bad economy means a whole hell of a lot less oil usage. Economics 101: a massive demand drop, with supply remaining more or less the same, necessarily equals a massive price drop. So, in the same way that the Asian financial crisis of the late 90s gave us $.80/gallon gas for a while, the crisis of 2007-2008 also gave us cheap gas for a while. And, oh yeah, speculators. That is, this doesn't have a damned thing to do with offshore drilling bans.
I'm really starting to believe that Republicans just don't understand economics anymore. Certainly not the economics of oil. What's depressing is that most of us don't understand economics in the first place, which allows this voodoo shit to gain traction. Oh well, at least you know the truth. Impress your friends with superior knowledge when conservatives push this crap logic on you.
Posted by Ron at 1:18 AM
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Crowley Refuses to Backtrack as Romney Surrogate Says Fact Check 'Not Your Place'
From Crooks and Liars:
CNN host Candy Crowley on Wednesday stood her ground and refused to backtrack as a surrogate for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney insisted that she had been "wrong" to fact check the GOP hopeful's claim that President Barack Obama had not referred to the attacks in Libya as "acts of terror."
While moderating Tuesday night's second 2012 presidential debate, Crowley had briefly stunned Romney when she undermined his claim that Obama had not taken the Benghazi attacks seriously.
“He did call it an act of terror,” she had told the former Massachusetts governor.
As I've said here before, I don't watch presidential debates because, you know, they're not really debates. Rather, they're media events, where candidates are judged in terms of how "presidential" they are, how good they look, instead of in terms of clash of opinion and ideas. As a former high school debater, indeed, as someone who's taught high school debate, these things are just insulting to my intelligence. I mean, they matter, in that presidential campaigns are these days more like advertising campaigns, pushing image and emotion, pushing a brand. So how "presidential" a candidate is has some bearing on the overall election. Of course, even that is cause for dismay.
But that's why this little moment in the second of the Obama/Romney debate trilogy is so interesting.
Republicans have been "working the refs," whining relentlessly for decades now, about what Eric Alterman calls "the so-called liberal media." And it's been a very successful strategy. Mainstream journalists have settled into a sort of he-said/she-said approach to "objectivity," such that actual facts and truths must take a backseat to "balance." That is, in the scramble to get conservatives to STFU about media bias, journalists have stopped calling out their bullshit, simply reporting what politicians say and then comparing it to what their opponents say. As Paul Krugman once joked, a good contemporary headline about the Earth being round instead of flat would read "Shape of the Earth: Opinions Differ."
But here we have Candy Crowley doing the totally unexpected: she acted like a journalist is supposed to act. She told the truth, instead of giving equal weight to both candidates' statements regardless of the facts. I'm not sure why she momentarily abandoned the new "objectivity" in favor of the old objectivity, but it seems to have exposed how utterly comfortable Republicans have become with their recent ability to craft entirely new and fictional realities with their rhetoric. Because they're totally freaking out on the fact that a reporter did her job. That is, Republicans now believe they have a right to lie without consequence, which means that calling them on their bullshit is a grievous offense. But that's where we are right now as far as big time American politics go. Insisting on facts is beyond the pale.
I'm pleased that one reporter, at least, took her opportunity in the spotlight to push back a bit against this longstanding trend. But I'm even more pleased by the pig-like squeals I'm hearing from Republicans in response.
Posted by Ron at 3:34 AM
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
HOW TO SHUT DOWN SOMEONE WHO'S TRYING
TO SHUT DOWN SERIOUS TALK ABOUT SEX ED
As you might have noticed, I've tentatively taken Real Art into the waters of facebook. I mean, not in the format used here, of course; rather, I've been sort of adapting certain posts for a wider audience, one that includes lots of conservatives, moderates, and people who just don't give a fuck about politics one way or the other. And most of these people I know/have known in real life. So it doesn't pay to get terribly bombastic. Indeed, I'm trying to aim these posts squarely at conservatives, trying to get them to respond in a constructive way. And I've gotten some good results, which I've then turned around and re-posted here. I might not be persuading anybody in a definitive way, but I'm getting people to consider my arguments, and that's much better, I think, than their not considering my arguments.
Of course, it's all a learning curve for me.
Sometimes, not often, but often enough, I'll get a comment that's a conversation killer, the kind of thing that attempts to put an end to the discussion. And I got one of those for my sex ed post from yesterday:
Wayne At what age is it appropriate for your school teacher to explain anal sex to your children.In keeping with my self-imposed no bombast rule, I clicked "like" on his comment and responded:
Ronald Middle school, right around puberty when anal sex becomes a possibility. And for some, a probability.Then I went on my merry way surfing around fb. But I kept thinking about it, and it occurred to me what this guy was doing. I mean, I treated it as simply a normal question, deserving of a normal answer. And, hell, maybe it was a normal question. But I don't think so. I think this was one of those conversation killers. So I went back:
Ronald Adding: given that anal sex is one of the riskiest behaviors as far as safe sex is concerned, given its prevalence in internet pornography, and given that more Americans are now practicing it than ever before, it is vital that it be included in sex ed programs. Employing the term "anal sex," and stringing it together with the words "children" and "teacher" as some sort of argument is nothing short of Puritanical hysterics, extraordinarily unsuited for the era in which we live. Worse, attempting to shut down the conversation with bad evil ANAL SEX does a massive disservice to America's youth. Gotta keep your cool. It's a big bad world out there.I tried to end on a more upbeat note, you know, so as to tone down the bombast. But if I'm right about where this guy's coming from, and it's tough to say because he's a "friend" of a "friend" who I've never even heard of, then his cheap rhetorical theatrics needed to be addressed. That is, I'm assuming this guy already has his own answer for the question he asked, and, instead of simply furthering the discussion, was trying to put it into his own territory, where "anal sex" "children" and "teacher" are emotionally meaningful enough when put together to make us stop considering the serious business of sex ed in the schools. It's fear mongering and bad argumentation. And I had to call bullshit on it.
As usual, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it was an honest question. And maybe I haven't shut him down yet. He might be back bright and early tomorrow morning to wave around some more anal sex. We'll see.
But I'm sure as hell not afraid of this guy sticking a butthole in my face.
Posted by Ron at 1:58 AM
Monday, October 15, 2012
Cy-Fair ISD revises sex-education program after parent concerns
From the Houston Chronicle:
Some parents objected to seventh-graders being exposed to explicit descriptions of anal and oral sex, older actors in provocative situations and an interactive presentation that details different forms of contraception. The interactive cites "choosing to wait" as the most effective choice and "hope" as the least effective, and it includes details about protection against sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
"There's content in almost every single lesson that is objectionable," said Christine Kalmbach, a parent of a seventh-grade student, who started the online petition.
In materials distributed to parents, the district said it provided information about anal, oral and vaginal sex because all of these practices can cause STDs, and the state requires that it provide information about such risks. That lesson will remain in seventh-grade classes.
Cy-Fair is among 15 Texas school districts or charter schools that use UT's sex-education program, according to data collected by the district. Most Texas school districts teach abstinence-only programs.
Susan Tortolero, director of the UT program, said the more teens know about sex, the less likely they are to engage in it.
Tortolero said the district came to a good compromise with the critical parents by moving back the last few lessons. She said the program has not generated similar backlash to Cy-Fair ISD in any other districts using it.
First off, kudos to Cy-Fair for being one of the very few Texas districts to push back against that "abstinence based" wishful thinking crap masquerading as sex education. And I'm sympathetic to the position in which they find themselves, having to accommodate what amount to psychopaths: school boards are essentially small-time, ultra-local politics, which means that a relative few parents with hairs up their asses can stir up a heap of trouble, as they're apparently doing right now. This is a decent compromise, given the precarious circumstances.
But it's infuriating that they're having to compromise what is already a compromised position, having to sneak in some comprehensive sex ed under the BS banner of "abstinence." These parents are crazy. Or stupid. Probably both. Certainly they're deluded.
Quick refresher. The rise of the mass media many decades ago coupled with the realization of advertisers that sex sells means that the genie is out of the bottle, as far as a sexualized American culture goes, and it's not going back, short of a total reorganization of our nation's economy and a stifling re-imagination of first amendment free speech rights. That is, American culture is now and forever a sexual culture. Insisting that the schools teach kids to refrain from sex until marriage is wishful thinking, at best, and frighteningly delusional at worst. Really, it's all about soothing nervous parents; in no way does this approach accomplish its ostensible goal. Indeed, "abstinence based" sex education not only sends youths out into the world with unrealistic and potentially dangerous attitudes about sexual relationships, but it also fails to keep people from having sex before marriage.
That is, if kids are even paying attention at all. And why should they? They have eyes and ears and definitely notice the culture in which they exist. When your teacher tells you that you must live differently from how virtually everybody else is living, she might as well be speaking in the droning and meaningless voice of the Peanuts cartoons' Miss Othmar. But when teachers honestly talk about reality, about the subject that interests students, and pretty much everybody else, the most, kids do listen. That's why the frankness of Cy-Fair's approach is so extraordinarily important: it tells the truth, and the truth makes a difference.
In addition to our living in the Sexual America era, we also live in the internet pornography era. Don't be a fool. Kids see it, and you can't stop it. When you essentially punt away your responsibility to educate children about sexual health, you hand that task, by default, over to the pornographers. And while I'm quite fond of pornography myself, I'm horrified by the thought of it being the sole source of sex education for students who have been condemned to the "abstinence" regime. Because that's really what this controversy in Cy-Fair is all about: a few parents getting all icky regarding their teenagers gaining knowledge of sexual practices they're "too young" to understand. Believe me, lots and lots of them already have this knowledge, which is why it is so important to make sure that they do, in fact, understand.
Posted by Ron at 10:39 PM
Death By Ideology
So let’s be brutally honest here. The Romney-Ryan position on health care is that many millions of Americans must be denied health insurance, and millions more deprived of the security Medicare now provides, in order to save money. At the same time, of course, Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are proposing trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy. So a literal description of their plan is that they want to expose many Americans to financial insecurity, and let some of them die, so that a handful of already wealthy people can have a higher after-tax income.
I've gone on at length here about the massive problems with Obamacare. But it's something. And it's an acknowledgement that the government simply must be involved with the issue. The Republicans, however, in stark contrast, see health care as nothing but a consumer commodity. That is, if you can't afford it, and many, many Americans cannot, then fuck you.
Seriously, fuck you. Die in the street. Or lose your house and everything in it. Then die in the street. And, oh yeah, fuck you.
That's the GOP position on health care when you strip away all the bullshit libertarian and god-loves-business rhetoric. A great big fuck off and die. Literally, fuck off and die. This is the country Republicans want us to have. They tell us that there is no alternative, that it has to be this way, but, of course, they're wrong. Even lowly Mexico has recently achieved universal coverage. We can provide health care to each and every American. And I think Republicans know this; the "has to be this way" assertion is just cover. They really do want Americans to fuck off and die.
Increasingly, I'm starting to wonder if conservatism has become straight-up immoral. I just don't understand how condemning to financial ruin and death large segments of the population, as a political position, can in any way be understood as good and moral. Really, these are some sick and twisted motherfuckers.
Posted by Ron at 1:25 AM
Sunday, October 14, 2012
Shut up and play nice: How the Western world is limiting free speech
From the Washington Post op-ed section:
Free speech is dying in the Western world. While most people still enjoy considerable freedom of expression, this right, once a near-absolute, has become less defined and less dependable for those espousing controversial social, political or religious views. The decline of free speech has come not from any single blow but rather from thousands of paper cuts of well-intentioned exceptions designed to maintain social harmony.
In the face of the violence that frequently results from anti-religious expression, some world leaders seem to be losing their patience with free speech. After a video called “Innocence of Muslims” appeared on YouTube and sparked violent protests in several Muslim nations last month, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that “when some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected.”
As the essay goes on to observe, it's not simply the religious stuff, either: Western nations are increasingly willing to go after "hate speech," lying, and individuals "discriminating" against one another in their private communications. So it's coming from multiple directions, and it's kind of below the radar in that, short of the above linked op-ed piece and the odd right-wing essay defending the right to piss off Muslims, it's not yet become part of the mainstream news narrative in the US, or anywhere else, as far as I can tell.
For the moment, however, I'm not too worried about this state of affairs here at home. The United States has always been much more progressive on free speech than Europe has been, and countless court decisions since the 1960s have given the first amendment some pretty sharp teeth. No anti-blasphemy laws here, no prosecution for telling people you were in 'Nam when, in fact, you weren't, no fines or jail time for using the n-word, unless you couple that with violence or other crimes. At least, none of that yet.
Because this is, indeed, a disturbing trend. Important and influential people, so-called "serious" people, are suggesting publicly that there ought to be limits to free speech above and beyond the imminent danger limits we've long accepted for practical reasons. That's how slippery slopes begin. And it is frightening that we live in an image dominated era that discourages the kind of thinking needed to understand why limiting speech because some people disagree is so short sighted. That is, the concept of free speech came out of the Enlightenment era, you know, back when people read and contemplated, instead of watching and feeling the way we do today. Stupid bullshit that seems reasonable catches on easily in this day and age.
The bottom line is that the freedom of speech must necessarily be about speech people hate because, otherwise, it's not really freedom of speech. Nobody has a problem with speech that makes us all feel good. But in order for democracy to function at all, we must have a marketplace of ideas, and that means considering ideas that many find to be offensive. Opposing slavery, opposing women's rights, free scientific inquiry, Protestant opposition to the Catholic Church, Catholic opposition to Protestants, and on and on, all these concepts used to piss a lot of people off. Hell, I pissed people off simply for opposing the Iraq invasion, and I was totally right about it! Yesterday's offensive idea can become today's norm. Of course, to be fair, yesterday's offensive ideas often continue to be offensive today. But you've got to give citizens in a democracy the chance to have their views heard, or we're just static as a people. That's how it works.
Now, don't get me wrong. I strongly criticize the assholes whose sole aim appears to be pissing off Muslims. I think it's highly offensive in most situations to use racial epithets, to use sexist or homophobic language. I think lying is unethical. But you battle speech you don't like with your own free speech. You don't use the government to shut people up.
But in the rapid fire television and internet era, even these short lines of thought can be glossed over easily. So I'm worried. I'm afraid people don't understand this stuff anymore.
Posted by Ron at 12:16 AM
Friday, October 12, 2012
JOHN LENNON THE GOD; JOHN LENNON THE MAN
Last Tuesday, October 9th, was John Lennon's birthday. I celebrated by posting the "Instant Karma" video on facebook, which produced a pretty decent comment thread underneath, largely thanks to some poignant observations by my older brother. Here you go, video first:
Ronald "Better recognize your brothers: everyone you meet."
I think Jesus said something to that effect, too. There's a reason I love this man.
Heather Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
Ronald Of course, he also sang "Imagine there's no Heaven, easy if you try, no Hell below us, above us only sky." Not THAT much like Jesus. But they did both sport beards.
Heather And sandals!
Heather Oh, and they were both Socialists
Tara One of my favorite songs and he's one of my favorite people. Thanks, Ron!
Chris Yes, he was a genius. And my favorite wife and child abandoner. Nice touch, totally cutting Julian out of his will like that.
Chris hey, I love his music. But the John Lennon "oh, he's SO AMAZING" Cult of Personality weighs on me just a bit. You could go on for a long time about the profoundly shitty things he did to friends, family, colleagues, and business partners right up to his death. As you can for almost everyone of course. But most people also haven't been given this aura of near sainthood that has enveloped Lennon's memory. Just goes to show...don't meet your heroes.
Heather You're exactly right, Chris! It's funny, I think that all the time and don't understand it. But I never knew that about him! What a shithead! Especially doing that to his son!
Chris I hope I'm not perceived as hating on John. I really admire his career, his creativity and his music. But even though he wrote a lot of beautiful lyrics, he was a flawed human being like all of us. I was only objecting to some of those (not anyone here) who wax on at length like he was some kind of mythic, god-like figure. He was not. His life often contrasted with the ideals of his music. That should not be forgotten. It shouldn't unduly detract from his legacy, but it shouldn't be forgotten.
Chris Now, Ron, please don't post anything about Muhammad Ali, or I may get expelled from Facebook.
Heather No, Chris I totally understand. On a much different level, it's how I feel about Columbus Day. People's nostalgia takes over their brain.
Jennifer I don't think you can be a poet or an artist without being personally flawed in big ways.
Ronald Big brother, I'm definitely sympathetic. I posted something about Whitney Houston when she died that got me into a flame war with a clown. Seriously, a guy who teaches clowning to theater students tried to school me on how much everybody loves Whitney, and to observe that she didn't really do much to write home about with her obvious great talent is a mean thing to do.
Trust me, it sucks when a clown is out to get you.
But yeah, people take their celebrities too damned seriously, investing way too much in them, above and beyond any real consideration of the actual work. Really, celebrity isn't even about the work; it's about the fame, which is a sort of modern day equivalent of connecting with the gods on high at Olympus. So the New York Times said "God is Dead," but that was before Jimmy Page and Robert Plant became like Zeus doing it with mortal women.
But going further, the greatness of John Lennon is that he was seemingly trying to battle his own demons with his writing and performing, that he had a strong sense of what an asshole he was and responded, ultimately, by concocting a vision of what the world would be like if we could all get past being assholes to each other. He may not have succeeded in his personal life, but the struggle, I think, was and continues to be inspiring.
That is, it's not the man so much as what he did in the face of his own imperfections. In short, you can't really understand what John Lennon was about if you don't factor in how tortured he was, which necessarily includes what a dick he was, too. I look to that for inspiration, but not as something worth worship.
For that matter, who the hell would want to hang out with Jim Morrison in real life?
Posted by Ron at 3:08 AM
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Why America's Empire Never Achieves Its Goals
By all the usual measuring sticks, the U.S. should be supreme in a historically unprecedented way. And yet it couldn’t be more obvious that it’s not, that despite all the bases, elite forces, private armies, drones, aircraft carriers, wars, conflicts, strikes, interventions, and clandestine operations, despite a labyrinthine intelligence bureaucracy that never seems to stop growing and into which we pour a minimum of $80 billion a year, nothing seems to work out in an imperially satisfying way. It couldn’t be more obvious that this is not a glorious dream, but some kind of ever-expanding imperial nightmare.
This should, of course, have been self-evident since at least early 2004, less than a year after the Bush administration invaded and occupied Iraq, when the roadside bombs started to explode and the suicide bombings to mount, while the comparisons of the United States to Rome and of a prospective Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East to the Pax Romana vanished like a morning mist on a blazing day. Still, the wars against relatively small, ill-armed sets of insurgents dragged toward their dismally predictable ends. (It says the world that, after almost 11 years of war, the 2,000th U.S. military death in Afghanistan occurred at the hands of an Afghan “ally” in an “insider attack.”) In those years, Washington continued to be regularly blindsided by the unintended consequences of its military moves. Surprises -- none pleasant -- became the order of the day and victories proved vanishingly rare.
One thing seems obvious: a superpower military with unparalleled capabilities for one-way destruction no longer has the more basic ability to impose its will anywhere on the planet. Quite the opposite, U.S. military power has been remarkably discredited globally by the most pitiful of forces. From Pakistan to Honduras, just about anywhere it goes in the old colonial or neocolonial world, in those regions known in the contested Cold War era as the Third World, resistance of one unexpected sort or another arises and failure ensues in some often long-drawn-out and spectacular fashion.
It was very likely Jonathan Schell who first figured this out very shortly after the Vietnam War in his book about the Nixon administration, The Time of Illusion: a small but determined band of insurgents supported by the local population can freeze a superpower in its tracks, and no amount of fire power can stop it from happening. That is, you can defeat a nation state's military, but you can't defeat a people that doesn't want to lose. That's what happened in Vietnam. That's what happened in Afghanistan, first with the British, then with the Soviets, and now with the United States. It happened in Iraq, too, even though we continue to characterize that conflict as a victory--I suppose it is a victory if define it in terms of granting Iran a lot more hegemonic power in the region than it had before we invaded, but that's another story. The bottom line is that, in the 21st century, gargantuan armed forces such as our own encounter diminishing returns the larger they get. And because our military is, by far, the largest in the history of humanity, we're well into the realm of spending billions to get a dollar's worth of bang. If even that.
The essay linked above attributes a lot of the motivation for transmuting so many of our foreign policy problems into military problems to a sort of lockstep herd mentality among the Washington establishment, you know, the old military industrial complex and its vast influence over our leaders. But that doesn't explain why "strong military defense" continues to be a winning campaign issue, why so many rank-and-file Americans always support an ever larger military, even though we break strength and size records year after year after year, why the slightest diplomatic sleight always elicits calls for military response. Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran. What is it about the American culture that makes us want to pull out guns and fuck people up? Why are we like this even when it has become mind-numbingly obvious that there are profound limits to what we can actually accomplish abroad using armed force? When we are laying off teachers and firemen in order to channel our wealth and prosperity into a military that is designed to neutralize Nazis and Soviets even though no threat of this sort has existed for decades?
I don't really know the answer to these questions, but it is telling, I think, that our national anthem is a hymn to war and destruction, rather than an ode to democracy and freedom.
Posted by Ron at 1:57 AM
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Your right to resell your own stuff is in peril
From Market Watch:
At issue in Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons is the first-sale doctrine in copyright law, which allows you to buy and then sell things like electronics, books, artwork and furniture, as well as CDs and DVDs, without getting permission from the copyright holder of those products.
Under the doctrine, which the Supreme Court has recognized since 1908, you can resell your stuff without worry because the copyright holder only had control over the first sale.
Put simply, though Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has the copyright on the iPhone and Mark Owen has it on the book “No Easy Day,” you can still sell your copies to whomever you please whenever you want without retribution.
That’s being challenged now for products that are made abroad, and if the Supreme Court upholds an appellate court ruling, it would mean that the copyright holders of anything you own that has been made in China, Japan or Europe, for example, would have to give you permission to sell it.
“It means that it’s harder for consumers to buy used products and harder for them to sell them,” said Jonathan Band, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries and the Association for Research Libraries. “This has huge consumer impact on all consumer groups.”
Another likely result is that it would hit you financially because the copyright holder would now want a piece of that sale.
It could be your personal electronic devices or the family jewels that have been passed down from your great-grandparents who immigrated from Spain. It could be a book that was written by an American writer but printed and bound overseas, or an Italian painter’s artwork.
Longish excerpt, I know, but it's a slightly abstract concept that needs more than just a few words to explain. Needless, to say, given what's at stake, it's also an important concept.
Since the passage of NAFTA, and even a bit earlier, observers on the left have been noting that "free trade" has a lot less to do with free trade than it does with investor agreements and patent and copyright protections. That is, a not insignificant chunk of the drive to reduce trade barriers and tariffs includes locking in, within an international legal framework, the ability of wealthy elites to make money at the expense of everybody else: the case described above is just about as clear-cut of an example of this as I've ever seen.
Indeed, the very concept of owning something that you have bought and paid for is now on the chopping block, and I'd give the now corporate-friendly US Supreme Court a better than fifty-fifty chance for upholding the lower court ruling. It is very important to note that in our now global economy a great deal of what we buy was manufactured outside our borders. Consequently, this would result in heavily restricted trade, rather than the "free trade" such an idea ostensibly represents. It only helps massive corporations: small businesses, savvy entrepreneurs, thrifty teenagers, and people like you and me just trying to make a buck need not apply. So bye-bye, pawn shops. So long, used car lots. Later days, used book stores. Hasta la vista, e-Bay.
It's clear how this helps out the extremely wealthy. What's not clear is how this does anything but beat up on an already fragile economy.
Posted by Ron at 1:49 AM
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
The Unbelievable Ways Schools Are Now Monitoring Children -- Even What They're Eating
Schools across the country are adopting a variety of different tools to monitor students both in school and outside school. Among these tools are RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags embedded in school ID cards, GPS tracking software in computers, and even CCTV video camera systems. According to school authorities, these tools are being adopted not to simply increase security, but to prevent truancy, cut down on theft and even improve students' eating habits.
San Antonio is taking its cue from the Houston, TX, school district. It began using RFID chips to monitor students on 13 campuses in 2004. Houston’s Spring Independent School District gave 28,000 students RFID badges to record when they get on and off school buses. The police and school administrators provided the badges to ostensibly prevent truancy and child abductions. In 2010, the school reported, “RFID readers situated throughout each campus are used to identify where students are located in the building, which can be used to verify the student’s attendance for ADA funding and course credit purposes.” Student tracking has reportedly brought them hundreds of thousands of extra dollars.
This is disturbing on multiple levels and for multiple reasons. It is a gross violation of privacy. At its root, it's financially driven, but plays into fear mongering about "security" issues, serving to make Americans even more irrational than they already are on the subject. It is highly prone to abuse by school officials and the businesses involved in setting this shit up. It's just plain creepy and sinister. And it's widespread, all over the country, and coming to a school district near you, if it's not already there.
But what's truly disturbing about this, to me, is that it will condition young Americans to accept the surveillance state as a normal part of life. That is, in the same way that public school culture conditions children to trust the experts, to leave major decisions about society to people in positions of power, to obey authority simply because it is authority, you know, the most well-learned lessons students experience because they go through the drill every day for thirteen years, hyper-surveillance in schools will make American culture more accepting of Big Brother watching us every minute of every day.
This can't end well.
Posted by Ron at 12:06 AM