Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: Maybe Bush v. Gore Wasn't the Best Decision
“Obviously the court did reach a decision and thought it had to reach a decision,” she said. “It turned out the election authorities in Florida hadn’t done a real good job there and kind of messed it up. And probably the Supreme Court added to the problem at the end of the day.“
If nothing else, Bush v. Gore demonstrates how justices who are determined to reach a certain result are capable of bending both the law and their own prior jurisprudence in order to achieve it. In Bush, the five conservative justices held, in the words of Harvard’s Larry Tribe, that “equal protection of the laws required giving no protection of the laws to the thousands of still uncounted ballots.”
The Court’s decision to hand the presidency to Bush stunned many legal observers, some of whom were O’Connor’s fellow justices. Retired Justice John Paul Stevens once recounted a story where he ran into fellow Justice Stephen Breyer at a party while a relatively early phase of the case was pending before the Court. According to Stevens, “ [w]e agreed that the application was frivolous.”
I don't even know what to say about this. I mean, okay, it's very cool that O'Connor is acknowledging what any and all honest observers have known since December of 2000: Supreme Court justices, like all lawyers, are not legal calculating machines, and are prone to all the same human failings in judgment that afflict all human beings. That is, Bush v Gore was an incomprehensible mess, clearly a highly partisan move misusing judicial power to install the majority's preferred candidate, without any legal justification of which to speak. Nice to see she's joined the twenty first century.
But this is way too little, way too late. I don't know what would have happened to this country with a President Gore instead of what we got, but Bush's presidency was never legitimate. We went through years of chaos and hell, and we haven't even really started to recover from it all. I wonder how she sleeps at night.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: Maybe Bush v. Gore Wasn't the Best Decision
Posted by Ron at 11:13 PM
Hear Guantanamo Horror Stories as Mass Hunger Strike Continues
Some are waiting to stand trial for war crimes. Others - more than half - have been cleared by the US government to be returned to their homelands or other countries. All watch the days, weeks, months and years slip by without resolution, regardless of status.
Al-Hela, who has been detained without charge or trial for nearly a decade, and has been stamped and unstamped with the label of al-Qaeda operative over the years, has not eaten since February 6.
He is gaunt and weak like dozens of other Guantanamo detainees who are participating in a protracted hunger strike that is approaching three months. Al-Hela, who walks with the aid of an aluminum cane, has lost more than 30 pounds in the past 10 weeks.
This is not the first time prisoners have refused sustenance to protest conditions at Gitmo, but it is the longest and most pervasive, according to human rights lawyers like Remes, who have sounded the alarm as their clients visibly deteriorated - mentally and physically - with each visit.
While the inspection of the Korans may have been the catalyst behind this most recent hunger strike, the driving force that sustains it is despair over more than a decade of indefinite detention and no hope of ever being released.
You know, even if every word spoken by these prisoners is a total lie, this hunger strike is extraordinarily shameful for the United States. Only the desperate, only the totally oppressed, only those who have given up on life resort to this tactic. These men have been incarcerated for over a decade now. Many of them without even being charged with a crime. Many who have been charged but have waited forever to stand trial. And there are even some who have already been cleared, but aren't being allowed to go home, for reasons unknown. They wait, and they wait, and they wait, and they wait, with no end in sight. This makes me sick to my stomach. It makes me ashamed to be an American.
Needless to say, those who have been cleared of any wrongdoing must be sent home immediately. Those who have been charged with a crime need to be given a trial immediately. And those who have not been charged, but have not been cleared, either, need to be charged or released. Immediately. Ten years is more than enough time. This is a sick horrific joke. It is not the American way. It taints our nation with the stench of evil. And, liberals, guess what? We can no longer blame this on Bush. Liberal savior Obama has been presiding over this atrocity for four years. It's his now. Which means it's ours, too.
We are all terrible people to allow this to continue.
Posted by Ron at 1:22 AM
Sunday, April 28, 2013
50 Reasons You Despised George W. Bush's Presidency
The ex-president’s defenders are betting that the public will reconsider their judgments after a hefty dose of historical amnesia. Bush has been absent from political debates in recent years, instead making millions in private speeches. Today, his popularity is even with Obama's; both have 47 percent approval rating.
Let’s look at 50 reasons, some large and some small, why W. inspired so much anger.
Click here for the list.
Yes, the Bush presidential library is now open, and, with it, a propaganda push to restore his reputation as much as possible. I guess we'll see how that works out. But reputations aside, W's eight years in office were a total nightmare for the country, whether you think so or not. We're still in a hole because of him, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future, maybe for the rest of my life. He was easily the worst president this nation has ever had, and we've had some pretty bad ones over the decades. Incompetence, arrogance, ill informed decision making, psychopathic advisers, all these things working synergistically together to create an enormous mess of the nation's business.
The founding fathers never in their wildest dreams imagined that the Oval Office would ever be inhabited by his ilk. I fear the governing structure they created may not be up to the task of reversing the damage he wrought.
Posted by Ron at 12:39 AM
Friday, April 26, 2013
Frank Luntz Calls Rush Limbaugh 'Problematic' In Secret Tape
From the Huffington Post:
Frank Luntz, a top Republican strategist and pollster, called conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh "problematic" in a talk with college students this week that was secretly taped.
"If you take—Marco Rubio's getting his ass kicked. Who's my Rubio fan here?" Luntz said. "We talked about it. He's getting destroyed! By Mark Levin, by Rush Limbaugh, and a few others. He's trying to find a legitimate, long-term effective solution to immigration that isn't the traditional Republican approach, and talk radio is killing him."
More here, with video.
Problematic, indeed. More like apocalyptic.
And the fact that Luntz is so under-emphasizing the problem bodes ill for the Republican Party. That is, the GOP has courted the American lunatic fringe for a very long time, depending on them to be shock troops on election day. Meanwhile, conservative talk radio and Fox News have become serious self-perpetuating institutions that make their bread and butter by pandering to these conservative psychos. But now, a decade into the twenty first century, the ranks of the shock troops have thinned, and Americans are no longer swayed so much by their fear-mongering, xenophobia, and down home fantasy folk economics. These people are now a detriment to the party's survival.
So how do you get rid of Rush Limbaugh and the like? The GOP cannot adapt when massive for-profit ideology sales firms take the lead in telling Republicans what they are to believe about the way the world works. There will be no Republican renaissance until they get this figured out. It's pretty clear that the party's intelligentsia are not yet aware of how big of a problem they're facing.
Personally, I'm loving it.
Posted by Ron at 1:16 AM
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Monday, April 22, 2013
AMERICAN DEMOCRACY'S DEMISE IS NOW OBVIOUS
From the Washington Post:
Gun-control overhaul is defeated in Senate
But the biggest setback for the White House was the defeat of a measure to expand background checks to most gun sales. The Senate defied polls showing that nine in 10 Americans support the idea, which was designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.
Okay, this one's easy. Ninety percent of the US population wants background checks for gun sales. But it didn't pass Congress. A total failure of the assumption that in our democratic republic elected representatives carry out the will of the people. An obvious failure because the difference between what the people want and what our representatives actually did is like day and night. So it's easy to see, in this instance, a complete and utter systemic failure of our way of government.
What we don't see, unfortunately, is that this isn't a one-off. This is, in fact, how American government now works. It's how American government has been working for some years now. Our representatives no longer represent us. Sure, we vote for them, but that's just theater. It doesn't really matter who wins. Either candidate will do for the people the winner will actually represent. People with money. Lots and lots of money.
Why are we seeing increasing numbers of tainted food scares? Because the people with money don't want to be bothered by troublesome regulators. Why are fraudulent bankers rewarded with massive bonuses instead of rotting away in prison where they ought to be? Because the people with money think defrauding the American people is a grand idea. Why do we have Obamacare, which rewards the parasites collectively known as the health insurance industry with captive customers, instead of single-payer universal health care? Because the people with money want it that way. Why are we increasing oil production instead of fighting global warming? Because people with money want even more money.
We live now in a de facto plutocracy--you know, rule by the wealthy. Sure, we continue to go through the motions of democracy. We vote. We watch debates. We get all riled up about our pet issues. But none of it matters. It's all just for show. When you get down to the nitty gritty of policy, we don't count. In fact, people's opinions, people's sense that they ought to be a part of the decision making process when those decisions affect how they live, really, it's all just a problem for the plutocracy to manage. And they manage it pretty well. Most Americans have no idea how pointless their participation in politics actually is.
Friday's near-comical defeat of background checks isn't an exception. It's the rule. Expect more in-your-face defiance of the people's will in the decades to come. It's all over, folks. The democratic experiment has ended.
Posted by Ron at 1:20 AM
Sunday, April 21, 2013
West Fertilizer Co. Failed To Disclose It Had Unsafe Stores Of Explosive Substance
From Reuters via the Huffington Post:
The fertilizer plant that exploded on Wednesday, obliterating part of a small Texas town and killing at least 14 people, had last year been storing 1,350 times the amount of ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Yet a person familiar with DHS operations said the company that owns the plant, West Fertilizer, did not tell the agency about the potentially explosive fertilizer as it is required to do, leaving one of the principal regulators of ammonium nitrate - which can also be used in bomb making - unaware of any danger there.
The West Fertilizer facility was subject to other reporting, permitting and safety programs, spread across at least seven state and federal agencies, a patchwork of regulation that critics say makes it difficult to ensure thorough oversight.
An expert in chemical safety standards said the two major federal government programs that are supposed to ensure chemical safety in industry - led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) - do not regulate the handling or storage of ammonium nitrate. That task falls largely to the DHS and the local and state agencies that oversee emergency planning and response.
So, while the rich have been leveraging their economic power into political power and putting it to work these last thirty or thirty five years rigging the tax code, destroying labor unions, squeezing both workers and consumers like blood from a stone, they've also been manipulating the federal regulatory structure to their benefit. If it's not regulatory capture, where the plutocrats manage to get their own people into key positions at regulatory agencies, it's intense lobbying to kill regulatory bills. If it's not suspending funding for enforcement, it's stacking the courts with judges who routinely rule against regulation. Yes, we continue to have something we call a regulatory structure, but it is increasingly superfluous and meaningless.
The result, needless to say, is events like the one last week in West, Texas. Like the numerous and now routine food poisoning scares. Like sky high cable and pharmaceutical bills. Like the manipulation of California's energy markets that caused rolling blackouts back in the early 2000s. Like the multiple mining disasters in recent years. Like the saturation of our nation with guns. Like the toxic mortgage scandal that brought down the financial sector creating the Great Recession from which we haven't even really started to recover. And on and on.
There will always be unethical businessmen who will cheat, lie, steal, and murder in order to make a profit. If there are no consequences for their behavior, if there is no enforcement of laws, indeed, if there are no laws, then it's an invitation to rape and pillage while pretending it's all capitalism.
I don't understand how we can call what we have "civilization."
Posted by Ron at 1:56 AM
Friday, April 19, 2013
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Which means I'm focusing on that tonight, so no post today. But there will be Friday Cat Blogging tomorrow, and a resumption of regular blogging late Saturday night. Tell me to "break a leg."
Posted by Ron at 11:57 PM
High Schooler Protests ‘Slut-Shaming’ Abstinence
Assembly Despite Alleged Threats From Her Principal
From Think Progress:
A West Virginia high school student is filing an injunction against her principal, who she claims is threatening to punish her for speaking out against an factually inaccurate abstinence assembly at her school. Katelyn Campbell, who is the student body vice president at George Washington High School, alleges her principal threatened to call the college where she’s been accepted to report that she has “bad character.”
I do love the facebook era. That's how I first learned about this story. Apparently, community members who are defending the principal in question have set up a page to disseminate information. The student posted a lengthy missive there defending her own actions against what appear to be attacks from a bunch of local conservatives who don't believe teenagers have opinions or brains or the freedom of speech or ought to have concern for their communities or the nation at large. A buddy sent me the link, and I just had to weigh in:
Katelyn: You have no need to explain yourself. As a former high school teacher in Texas, I can correctly inform you that high school is by its very nature a political institution. You are necessarily, every day, from 9th through 12th grade, thrust into a situation that is automatically political, from compulsory attendance, to mandatory dress codes, to severe restrictions on creativity and thought, to informal, but no less authoritarian, mandates to conform to whatever passes for conventional wisdom. You are not only well within your rights to question this assembly, but also behaving more like a citizen ought to behave than anyone else who's involved with the controversy. Stick to your guns. You are apparently the only grownup associated with your school.$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
Beyond that, you ought to stop granting that abstinence is the only sure fire way to avoid pregnancy and STDs. Nobody is abstinent. Some 90% of all high school students have had sex by the time they graduate. Abstinence based sex "education" has never been anything but a fraud, Puritanical morality of The Scarlett Letter variety disguised as responsibility, an excuse to use government money and institutional power to force religious ideas on young captive citizens. That is, abstinence has nothing to do with sex education, and pretending that it does is a cultural sickness from which we must all recover after we have had it inflicted upon us. If we're lucky, that is.
The reason you're encountering so much resistance is because the power structure you are opposing is only geared to deal with fart jokes, short skirts, and cigarette smoking in the bathroom. They have no idea what to do when somebody is truly calling them out on their psychotic totalitarian BS. Personally, I'm thrilled by your struggle.
Posted by Ron at 12:55 AM
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
New Hampshire Republican refers to women as ‘vaginas’
From the Raw Story courtesy of a facebook friend:
Responding to debate over the state’s Stand Your Ground law, Hansen wrote on April 1 that “children and vagina’s” were missing from “the illustrious stories purporting to demonstrate the practical side of retreat.” The law allows deadly force when someone believes their life is in danger, without the obligation to first retreat.
But Hansen was less than apologetic.
“Having a fairly well educated mind I do not need self appointed wardens to A: try to put words in my mouth for political gain and B: Turn a well founded strategy in communication into an insulting accusation, and finally if you find the noun vagina insulting or in some way offensive then perhaps a better exercise might be for you to re-examine your psyche,” he responded.
I commented this on my friend's post for the article:
I'm starting to think that, instead of embracing ideas about women's rights that we have long taken for granted, lots of conservative men have simply been gritting their teeth and tolerating it all. For decades, apparently. And now they're tired of doing it. I guess. This continues to be really weird.Indeed, I've long since lost track of all these conservative beyond-the-pale remarks and legislation blatantly aimed at oppressing women. This kind of crap has long been on the wane, almost gone entirely, excluding random abortion restrictions here and there. But in the last three or four years, it's been open season on women, and the conservatives doing it are doing it without shame, proudly, as though the women's rights movement had never happened, never been successful. It's like 1955 all over again, but right now. I just don't get it.
It's frustrating enough to have to hear about this shit, but what's worse is that it forces citizens who value women's rights to be ever vigilant. Sometimes they get these bills passed through, and the rhetoric itself has the potential to make people forget that women, are, in fact, human beings. You know, just like men. That is, these Cro-Magnons are trying to fight a battle that they lost decades ago. They are few in numbers, but they have more power in the political sphere than such numbers might suggest. We're all in the twenty first century, but these alpha male assholes have a decent chance of pulling us back in time if nobody opposes them.
That's the thing about winning. You forget that your opponent might not understand that he's already lost. Fuckers.
Posted by Ron at 12:55 AM
Monday, April 15, 2013
THE BOSTON BOMBINGS
I posted this on facebook a couple of hours after the attacks.
First off, all sympathies to the victims and their families. Also, many thanks to the many brave and capable first responders.Select comments on the post:
Having said that, remember how after 9/11 both houses of Congress, including the Democratic majority in the Senate, united in expressing their support for President Bush? No way that's going to happen with a Republican Congress and a Democratic President. Not these days. If Fast and Furious and Benghazi were a preview, this is going to be the main event. Expect the GOP to freak out in ways we never saw for 9/11.
Of course, they could surprise me. I sure hope so.
Liz I'm afraid you will be disappointed. Sadly.
Ron Believe me. I totally hope so. It's just that recent history doesn't fill me with hope.More:
Alan Kinda like how the dems freak out over Newtown?
Ron Mmmm. No. Not like that at all. No Republican scapegoat. No massive hearings calling government figures as witnesses. No impeachment attempts. That's the kind of thing I'm expecting. You know, the stuff we saw for Fast and Furious and Beghazi.
Alan Well - let's wait until they pull out all the dead bodies before republicans are blamed for something today.
Ron You have no idea how much I want to be proven wrong about this.
Ron Although, speaking of Tea Partiers, it is ironic to note that Boston is where the original Tea Party took place, as well of lots of other key events in American history. No doubt, this was intended if it turns out to be the Saudi national that I'm hearing rumors about.Still More:
Stefanie It's Patriot's Day, Ron.
Ron I've never heard of "Patriot's Day." Is that a Boston thing?
Stefanie Boston and Maine - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriots%27_Day
Rick Kinda sad that you jump straight to the political rhetoric.Still More:
Ron @Rick: No, Rick, I'm saying exactly the opposite, to the people who need to hear it. It is highly unlikely that liberals and Democrats are going to politicize this. No, it's Republicans and conservatives who are most likely to turn this into a political circus. I really hope they don't, hence the status update.
Ron I posted this elsewhere:
"It's been twelve years, but I still remember the horrible silence imposed on liberals in the wake of 9/11. It was frightening, demoralizing, terrifying, more so than the terrorist attack itself. I do not think it is an attack to caution conservatives against attempting the same kind of oppression again. Frankly, I'm in fear of it, and now is exactly the right time to insist that the Boston attack does not become an excuse to attack liberals."
Jennifer D I've already started seeing it happen. I've also seen 2 comments on my own news feed of people trying to turn it into a pro-gun agenda. Obviously, those comments were completely ridiculous.
Ron I'm pretty sure this will be irresistible to the usual suspects. I do hope I'm completely wrong about this. What's Rush Limbaugh saying?
Rick regardless of party, we should not discuss this during a time of mourning. There's plenty of time for that. It's poor taste and there's nothing you can say to convince me otherwise
Ron It's poor taste to tell conservatives not to politicize the bombings? I don't get it, Rick. You appear to be telling me exactly the same thing.
Rick yes exactly. You politicized it the moment you posted orginally. Why discuss partisan crap while people are literally still bleeding? Really really poor taste. No more responses from me. Take care.
Jennifer D half the people on the news, the president of the US and numerous people on FB said what this post says long before this was posted. The reason for it is that past experience tells us exactly how people will react to this, and there have been ugly political comments flying around on every news site and on Facebook all day about it. This post is mild and fair compared to the rest of what I've seen.
Rick it was posted less than 1 hour after the bombing seriously come on
Jennifer D well, for one thing, I was seeing comments almost immediately, and people arguing about it. SEcond of all, the bombing happened before 3pm EST. That is 2pm CST where Ron is. So it was actually more than 2 hours later. The whole world was lit up with comments by then.
Ron Rick, thank you, as always, for your participation in the discussion. I truly don't understand your point. I am calling for exactly what you are calling for: avoidance of politicizing the bombings. That I named conservatives as being very likely the ones to do the politicizing seems to be your real problem with what I said.
But seriously, are you telling me that Democrats are as likely to blame Obama for this as Republicans? I kept my mouth shut for months after 9/11. I was afraid of losing my job. I was afraid of getting the crap kicked out me by hyper-patriots. I was afraid of disappointing family and friends for dubious reasons. Never again. I will not subject myself to that sort of cultural mania and hysteria ever again. My civic responsibility as an American is tell the truth. If there is any politicizing that's going to be happening, it will be conservatives blaming President Obama. This cannot be allowed to happen without protest. And no, I'm not going to wait to insist that we unite as a nation on this. Without oppressing dissenters.
Which is why I say: I respectfully disagree with your characterization of my statements. I'm not saying what you think I'm saying. You and I are far more in agreement than you realize. It's just that I don't think you really know what it's like to be on the other side of politicizing terrorist attacks in the way that I do.
Jennifer L How about odds on it being a foreign entity? And then what does that have the political entities say?$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$
Ron I'm assuming it's foreign, if only because of those reports of a Saudi citizen in custody, and the style of the attacks reflecting the London and Spain bombings. I mean, it could be some domestic terrorist, a definite possibility, but I think it's only an outside chance. If it is, in fact, Islamic extremists, there will almost certainly be a reigniting of the massive discussion on Al Qaeda and whatnot. And, to be fair, as President, Obama's got the responsibility for protecting us. But I want facts, not House show trials.
Rod Eric Rudolph used this style of terrorism too...
Ron Are you sure it wasn't security guard Richard Jewell? Of course, I'm just joking. You have a good point. But the reality is that, at this point, we really have no idea.
Rod Just pointing out America has its own share of home grown lunatics. Especially the week of April 15th to 20th...
Wayne I always think domestic first.
Jay Yep, I'd gamble it was a Tea Bagging lunatic.
Posted by Ron at 11:37 PM
Whatever Happened to Left-Wing Domestic Terrorism?
I don't have too terribly much to say about this other than to bring attention to the article's assertion: there is really no such thing as left-wing terrorism in the United States. If you want the reasons as to why this is the case, which have more to do with what motivated it in the first place no longer existing, then, by all means, click through. But really, I just wanted to get a little something out there countering a popular conservative response when people bring up the very real threat of homegrown far right extremist terrorism. You know, "well, they do it, too" or "the real threat comes from the eco-terrorists" or whatever.
No, the far left does not kill abortion doctors, or bomb abortion clinics, or burn down black churches, or murder government officials, or blow up government buildings, or create arsenals, or build bombs, or create stockpiles of poison. This is a right-wing problem, and ONLY a right-wing problem. There is simply no existing counterpart to violent far right extremists on the left. Domestic non-jihadi terrorists are exclusively conservative--indeed, American right-wing extremists these days are actually a much bigger threat to the country than Islamic extremists are.
Conservatives really ought to do something about the traitors in their midst.
Posted by Ron at 3:17 AM
Saturday, April 13, 2013
THE RED ALBUM
1962–1966 (widely known as "The Red Album") is a compilation of songs by the English rock band The Beatles, spanning the years indicated in the title. It was released with its counterpart 1967–1970 ("The Blue Album") in 1973. 1962–1966 reached number 3 in the United Kingdom and managed to reach number 1 in the United States Cashbox albums chart. However, in the US, the official chart was administered by Billboard, where 1962–1966 peaked at number 3, while 1967–1970 reached the top spot. This album was re-released in September 1993 on compact disc, charting at number 3 in the UK.
The album was compiled by Beatles manager Allen Klein. Even though the group had had success with cover versions of songs, most notably with "Twist and Shout", which made number 2 on the Billboard charts, only songs composed by the Beatles themselves were included.
As with 1967–1970, this compilation was produced by Apple/EMI at least partially in response to a bootleg collection titled Alpha Omega, which had been sold on television the previous year. Print advertising for the two records made a point of declaring them "the only authorized collection of the Beatles."
I posted 1967-1970 a couple of days ago, so I figured I ought to post this one, too. Unlike the Blue Album, which was my brothers, the Red Album was one of my first music purchases. So I owned it. It's not quite as influential to me as the other one--I bought it a couple of years after I had heard the Blue Album. But it's definitely in there in terms of establishing the template in my head for what the Beatles were and are. That is, it's also great.
Posted by Ron at 11:12 PM
Friday, April 12, 2013
Posted by Ron at 12:57 AM
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Bobby Jindal: Stupid, Party of One
From the New Yorker courtesy of a facebook friend:
Longtime Real Art readers know that I've been calling Jindal a stupid fucking moron for years now. This is important because, among the political and media establishment, the Louisiana governor has a reputation for being a smart guy, which is puzzling. My guess is that people think this because he seems to be wonky and has a willingness to wade into policy details when others won't. But whatever. Any old idiot can spout jargon.
The reality is that that my former Congressional representative embraces impossible conservative positions and tries to implement them from his roost in the governor's mansion. And this is traditionally a no-no for Republican governors. Indeed, when you get down from Washington into the states, governors, all governors, regardless of party affiliation, tend to be rather pragmatic with their rule, rather than ideological, because, you know, governors have to get shit done. And Jindal, who is obviously trying to appeal to Republicans nationally in hopes of winning the GOP presidential nomination some day, doesn't appear to understand this.
You know, because he's fucking stupid.
But with this tax thing, he appears to be in the process of jumping the shark here among the bayous and swamps. In some small way, this reaffirms my faith in humanity.
Posted by Ron at 12:45 AM
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
THE BLUE ALBUM
1967–1970 (widely known as "The Blue Album") is a compilation of songs by the English rock band The Beatles, spanning the years indicated in the title. It was released with 1962–1966 ("The Red Album"), in 1973. 1967–1970 made number 1 on the American Billboard chart and number 2 on the British Album Chart. This album was re-released in September 1993 on compact disc, charting at number 4 in the United Kingdom.
The album was compiled by Beatles manager Allen Klein. Songs performed by the Beatles as solo artists were also considered for inclusion, but like the cover songs on 1962–1966, limited space resulted in this idea having to be abandoned.
As with 1962–1966, this compilation was produced by Apple/EMI at least partially in response to a bootleg collection titled Alpha Omega, which had been sold on television the previous year. Print advertising for the two records made a point of declaring them "the only authorized collection of the Beatles."
My brother had this album in the mid 70s when I was a kid. He had several Beatles albums, actually, but this is the one to which I got the most exposure. Consequently, the songs on this record, in this order, constitute my Beatles Ur-text. A few years later, I got my own copy of its companion album 1962-1966, "The Red Album," which I greatly enjoyed, but my mental template for what the Beatles were was established by 1967-1970. In short, this collection of songs is, for me, as Beatles as you can get. The ultimate Beatles. What it's all about. I mean, you know, it's just a greatest hits or best of package. But, oh, what a package it is!
I listened to it earlier for the first time in a couple of decades, and it's very nice to note that it continues to hold up well. My Beatles template. It's like going back to the Bible after years of avoiding it.
Here, check it out:
Posted by Ron at 2:13 AM
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
Country star Brad Paisley releases bizarre “Accidental Racist” song
Brad Paisley is among the biggest stars in the present-day country-music firmament, and his songs generally deal with such innocuous issues as partying, the Internet and drinking.
But with his newest song, Paisley has inserted himself into a racial debate.
“Accidental Racist,” a collaboration with the rapper LL Cool J, begins with Paisley’s apology to an unnamed Starbucks employee for wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the Confederate flag. “When I put on that T-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I’m a Skynyrd fan.”
Listen to it here.
Okay, it is a bizarre song. And it makes some statements that would make anybody who's gone through some diversity training cringe. And it's shallow, nearly as shallow as the kind of mindless patriotic crap released by various CW performers in the year or two after 9/11. But it is not mindless. Yes, it's far, far, far from perfection, but you know what? I'm going to let that slide. This is the conversation that white Southerners desperately need to start having with one another, to start having with blacks. It's got to start somewhere, and Paisley, for all his imperfections as an analyst of culture and race, is clearly coming from a sincere and compassionate place.
For the record, my deep belief is that the Confederate battle flag, as a symbol of a hostile and treasonous regime based economically, politically, and philosophically on white supremacy, is just about as offensive as the infamous flag of Germany's Third Reich. But the Germans went through a process of US enforced de-Nazification after WWII, as well as a decades long period of national soul searching, and, all the while, we, the victors, poured billions of dollars into their economy so as to rebuild the devastation left after the war. This never happened in the South. Indeed, the white Northern political establishment was completely content, in the end, to allow the rise of Jim Crow, to allow lynchings and other atrocities, as long as the Democrats were getting Southern votes. And the South remained economically poor relative to the rest of the country, not really industrializing until well into the twentieth century. It is no surprise, then, that a culture of resentment, mingled with the most important cultural element of the antebellum South, racism, has festered there for so long. It's a Gordian Knot, to be sure.
That's why Brad Paisley has my support on this. He appears to be the only Southern pride guy willing to stand up and do something about about a problem that has existed for a very long time before his birth. We'll see where this leads.
Posted by Ron at 2:45 AM
Monday, April 08, 2013
FUCK PETA II
So I cross-posted yesterday's FUCK PETA rant on facebook, as I often do these days with my Real Art missives. And a good buddy of mine commented with a link to a Jon Stewart segment from about a year ago eviscerating PETA for some of the same reasons I mentioned yesterday. But, as usual, the Daily Show people were far more effective than I could ever be. That is, they did a very nice job of highlighting the utter absurdity of the animal "rights" organization's foundational positions.
Check it out:
Posted by Ron at 12:42 AM
Sunday, April 07, 2013
From the Huffington Post:
Shocking Photos: PETA's Secret Slaughter of Kittens, Puppies
Warning: Some of the following graphic photos may distress the reader.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an organization that publicly claims to represent the best interest of animals -- indeed their "ethical treatment." Yet approximately 2,000 animals pass through PETA's front door every year and very few make it out alive. The vast majority -- 96 percent in 2011 -- exit the facility out the back door after they have been killed, when Pet Cremation Services of Tidewater stops by on their regular visits to pick up their remains. Between these visits, the bodies are stored in the giant walk-in freezer PETA installed for this very purpose. It is a freezer that cost $9,370 and, like the company which incinerates the bodies of PETA's victims, was paid for with the donations of animal lovers who could never have imagined that the money they donated to help animals would be used to end their lives instead. In fact, in the last 11 years, PETA has killed 29,426 dogs, cats, rabbits, and other domestic animals.
A mother cat and her two kittens, all perfectly healthy and adoptable and none in danger of being killed until they were given to PETA by a veterinarian who was trying to find them homes and was told by PETA employees that they would have no problem adopting them out. After PETA lied to him and the mother and her kittens were entrusted to their care, they reportedly killed them, within minutes, in the back of a van.
I've always had a problem with PETA from the moment I first heard about them. Their position, as I understand it, has always been impossible. I mean, not that I disagree with where they stand in the abstract. I love animals, too. I don't think we ought to use animals for scientific experiments, if it can be avoided. I agree that the meat industry often abuses them horrifically. I think that the fur industry is particularly cruel. Indeed, if it wasn't for PETA, I don't think I would know nearly as much as I do about how our civilization abuses animals on a routine and widespread basis. So there's always been some room for me to see them sympathetically, if not as ideological allies.
But here's the problem. PETA pushes a radical agenda for which humanity is simply not ready. Now, I know that various liberation movements over the years have been dismissed for exactly the same reason. And, generally, my thought is that there is no time like the present to end oppression, regardless of the current culture or the dominant mode of thinking. But PETA would, for instance, have us all become vegetarians, even though humans have eaten animal flesh since before recorded history. As noble as I believe the decision to become a vegetarian is, it must, for the time being, continue to be an individual decision. The vast, vast majority of us enjoy eating meat. It isn't simply for nourishment, either; eating meat is deeply embedded in our very identities. And that may very well be wrong in multiple ways. But it is, and has been for millennia, something that is essentially human. PETA, however, seeks to villainize virtually the entire population, branding as evil people who do something that humans have always done, something that is seen and understood as life-sustaining and life-affirming. They make a noble individual decision into a social mandate. And you're evil if you don't embrace that mandate.
That's bad enough, turning a nuanced discussion of morals and ethics into a simplified conceptualization of good and evil with which both fundamentalist Christians and Muslims would feel at home. But what's worse is that it misses the point entirely. The United States now tortures captives as official policy. We put prisoners to death. We allow children and the elderly to go homeless and hungry. Large percentages of the population go without health care. We wage war, killing not just soldiers, but also civilians in very large numbers. We poison the atmosphere. We poison our life-giving waters and food supplies. We allow a very few to have most of society's wealth, leaving most of the rest with almost nothing at all. We continue to practice racism, homophobia, sexism, and other kinds of prejudice in pervasive ways. In short, at this point in history, humans are seemingly incapable of treating other humans in an ethical way.
How on earth can we possibly find it within us to treat animals better than we treat ourselves?
The reality is that we can't. Mankind must first learn to be kind to mankind. That is a necessary condition for treating animals ethically in any large-scale meaningful way. PETA's radical agenda is a non-starter in this day and age. Consequently, all the self-righteous posturing, all the celebrity hob-nobbing, all the blood thrown at fur coats, all the anguished crying and moaning and gnashing of teeth about eating meat, all the bogus talk of "animal rights" within a social context where human rights are routinely violated, it's all narcissistic bullshit. Indeed, it's insulting and offensive.
Again, don't get me wrong. Society does, indeed, abuse animals, and we've got to stop it as soon as possible. But it's just not black and white. There are good and real reasons why some scientific experiments on animals are direly necessary. There are good reasons people eat meat. To throw around the concept of evil in such a haphazard way simply helps true evil, behavior and actions that we understand unambiguously to be evil, and which continue to exist all around us, all the time, fade into the social woodwork. And that's why I've always had a problem with PETA. They seem to be way more into being PETA than into real and meaningful social change.
Of course, now it turns out that not even PETA believes what they want everybody else to believe.
You'd think that with their hundreds of millions of donation dollars, with all their celebrities and resources, that they'd find ways to honor their promises to avoid euthanizing the pets that come to their shelters. But no. Instead, they're particularly effective at killing animals they promised to save. I suppose they need to save money so as to remain famous and in the public eye. Running with the beautiful people ain't cheap. Needless to say, they no longer have even my sympathies.
Indeed, I condemn PETA as the worst sort of human scum. They're part of the problem. Definitely not the solution. I hope they rot in Hell.
Posted by Ron at 3:22 AM
Friday, April 05, 2013
FULL COURT PRESS
From Think Progress courtesy of their facebook page:
Tax Dodging By Corporations And The Wealthy Cost Each Taxpayer $1,026 In 2012
America’s largest corporations have stashed nearly $1.5 trillion in offshore tax havens like Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Ireland — countries where they do little business but claim massive profits due to low tax rates. As a result, corporate tax rates fell to a 40-year low in 2011 even as profits rose to a 60-year high.
Tax avoidance from corporations and wealthy individuals has a cost for individual taxpayers and small businesses, according to a new report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. According to U.S. PIRG, tax dodging cost individual taxpayers $1,026 and each small business $3,067 in 2012.
Those costs don’t necessarily come from higher taxes; instead, they often come in the form of higher budget deficits or, as they are now, from substantial cuts to public programs and services that benefit middle- and low-income families.
They've used their power to manipulate Congress so as to remove or render irrelevant existing laws that help labor unions collectively bargain with companies for fair wages and benefits. They've used the same tactic to weaken regulations, you know, the kind of stuff that keeps them from poisoning the environment, and from ripping off, hurting, and killing consumers, so they can make more money while the tax payers pick up the tab for their "externalities." They've used their power to get their people into regulatory agencies so as to avoid enforcement of regulations that they couldn't weaken in Congress. They've also used their power to get their taxes reduced year after year. And on and on and on. The tax avoidance scams mentioned in the excerpt above are yet another way that corporations and the very wealthy take money out of our pockets.
It's a full court press. The rich are stealing from us in as many ways as they can imagine. And they're getting away with it scot free. Just another reminder that we've been losing the class war for a very long time.
Posted by Ron at 2:53 AM
Thursday, April 04, 2013
The Economy is "Recovering" By Creating More Low-Wage Jobs...
Increasingly Filled By Graduates
Last month, the Department of Labor released new job market numbers, which suggests that the economic recovery is perpetuating the trend of college graduates turning to minimum wage jobs. Though there has been significant employment gains, many recent college graduates have been forced to resort to low-wage, low-skilled jobs. There are now 13.4 million college graduates working for hourly pay, up 19 percent since the start of the recession.
In a recent study released by NELP, the National Employment Law Project, the low-wage occupational sector is the fastest growing sector in the economy, even though this sector only lost about one-fifth of its jobs. Meanwhile, the middle-wage job sector—which usually serves as the pathway into the workforce for many recent graduates—was hardest hit, and has been the slowest to recover.
Back in the 90s, when I was less liberal but no longer conservative, it occurred to me that the job advice everybody in the establishment was giving, "go to college," was bizarre and short sighted. Imagine everybody taking that advice seriously and America ending up with its entire work force having college degrees. You'd have essentially the same situation as before. Some people would have good jobs, but most people would not. And the reason for this is simple. People going to college does not create good jobs. Sure, in a situation with most people not going to college, a bachelor's degree will do a little something to make one stand out from the crowd, but it doesn't really do much for the work force as a whole. So going to college might help you, an individual, maybe, but it's a sick joke to say that it will somehow improve the lives of most Americans. It's not a solution. It's never been a solution.
Now don't get me wrong. I personally would totally love it if everybody went to college. But that has nothing to do with increasing employment prospects. Rather, college provides its own rewards, making one's own existence far richer and more interesting than a simple high school diploma could ever do. Further, more college educated Americans makes for a wiser and more contemplative nation--if we had all been to college, it's very unlikely, for instance, that we would have bought the trumped up lies and fear mongering that led to the disastrous, bloody, and costly invasion of Iraq back in 2003. College education simply makes life better, and I encourage everybody to go if they can.
But "college for everybody" is not going to get us all jobs that can pay the rent and bills, that can provide for our children, that will allow us to save enough for retirement. There just aren't enough of those kinds of jobs to go around, and, increasingly, those jobs are disappearing, anyway. Apparently, the demands of our economy are such that we need far more cashiers, restaurant servers, janitors, telemarketers, and hotel cleaning crews than positions requiring a college degree, and sending the nation to college cannot alter this math.
So the real solution is mind-numbingly obvious. If we are to be a nation of service sector workers, which is fine by me because service work is honest and decent, we need to make those jobs pay. If there was still such a thing as a labor movement with unions to collectively bargain with employers for fair wages and benefits, this discussion wouldn't be necessary. But right-wing anti-labor propaganda and legislation over the decades has destroyed the labor movement and allowed the wealthy to pocket compensation that rightfully belongs to workers. Consequently, only the government can make business pay what it owes. And that's what the government should do. Right now.
Posted by Ron at 1:51 AM
Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
The White Supremacist Group That May Be Targeting Law Enforcement For Revenge
From Think Progress courtesy of a facebook friend:
In October, a major effort by federal, state and local law enforcement landed 34 alleged Aryan Brotherhood members, including four top bosses, in prison. Members were accused of issuing kill orders on rival gangs, attempted murder, kidnapping, assault, drug dealing, weapons trafficking, arson and counterfeiting.
Texas law enforcement was warned in December that ABT leaders were “issuing orders to inflict ‘mass casualties or death’ to law enforcement officials who were involved in cases where Aryan Brotherhood of Texas are facing life sentences or the death penalty.” According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the group was also “conducting surveillance on law enforcement officers.”
Soon after the warning was issued, Kaufman County assistant district attorney Mark Hasse was shot and killed in the parking lot of the Kaufman County courthouse in broad daylight. After the shooting, District Attorney Mike McLelland reportedly carried a gun everywhere, while a constant security watch guarded his house for a month. McLelland was killed on Saturday by an unknown assassin with an assault rifle.
So, of course, the overall news media take on this, and so far this includes the scant amount of left-wing coverage I've seen on the story, is that there's an evil racist prison gang out there doing terrible and evil stuff. And, needless to say, that appears to be entirely accurate. But it's just not the whole story.
There very likely wouldn't be any racist prison gangs if prison wardens didn't encourage racial animosity behind bars. It's pretty well documented at this point that wardens across the nation, in order to deal with overcrowded and understaffed situations, have adopted a sort of divide and conquer strategy for the purpose of maintaining order overall: if the blacks are fighting the whites, there's necessarily less time and energy left to fight guards.
That's terrible in itself. Prison officials stoke racist attitudes among prisoners because they think that's the best policy under the circumstances. But why are the prisons overcrowded and understaffed? The quickest answer is that a very sizable percentage of the prison population ought not be there in the first place. The fruitless and pointless War on Drugs has sent millions into prisons over the decades, many of whom are simply users or petty dealers, criminals only by virtue of the fact that the substances they buy and sell are forbidden, for reasons that are increasingly unclear. As the Johnny Depp character in the movie Blow so deftly illustrated, once these people are in prison, they become acquainted with people who really are criminals, and, with nothing to lose because mandatory minimum sentences put such "criminals" inside for extraordinarily long periods of time, drug convicts become real criminals themselves.
But that's not all. Prisons are awful places. Health care is shoddy, at best. Rape and other kinds of violence run rampant. Society jokes about the rape and doesn't appear to care about the violence. And, in the odd instances when people do remark about the violence, it's usually along the lines of "that's what they get." Compounding the problem is the fact that, even though a lot of these prisoners have severe mental health issues, and very few skills that would allow them to make a legitimate living on the outside, there is virtually no attempt to rehabilitate them. So they just sit there and rot, while trying to avoid rape, or beatings, or murder.
In short, the way we run our prisons guarantees that prisons are factories for the creation of more and worse criminals. It is no wonder at all that our penal system breeds gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood. It's exactly the same thing that happens if you chain up a dog and beat him for a few years. He turns mean. In this sense, society shares responsibility for these gang murders. There's a lot we could do to lessen the probability of events like this. Instead, we seem to be content with how things are now.
Posted by Ron at 12:24 AM
Monday, April 01, 2013
Stuffy Old Men: Region, Religion, Race and Class Define and Buffet GOP
From the Daily Beast courtesy of the Huffington Post:
Increasingly blue New York has become a model for Democrats’ successful formula. Figures like Governor (and 2016 presidential possible) Andrew Cuomo and New York City Council Speaker and mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn have made themselves national figures with a socially liberal, business-friendly fusion of urban centrism and identity politics. It remains to be seen if this is a roadmap to victory in the rest of America, but their success is unquestionably an indicator of the hurdles that Republicans face, linked as closely as they are, to anti-gay-marriage dead-enders, as they attempt to play political catch-up.
Click through and read the essay; it's good. It mostly deals with topics I've hit on here a lot: the Republicans are now weighed down heavily by ultra-conservative weirdos who will for the foreseeable future prevent them from winning any national elections, and, increasingly, statewide elections.
But, like I said, I've talked about that a lot already. I'm looking to the future. Because the GOP seems to be hell bent on driving itself into obscurity, all the real political action is destined to be taking place within the Democratic Party, and the excerpt above describes well the frightening future I fear we face: the Democrats are, and will continue to be, liberal only on the social issues, but conservative on economics.
That is, in many ways, such a situation represents the near total victory of conservatives.
The Southern evangelicals have, since the Reagan era, really been nothing more than shock troops on election day. Republican rhetoric has been very appealing to them all these years, but they've never gotten much more than a few scraps and bones thrown their way. Abortion is still legal. Gay marriage is posed to go national. Teachers still can't lead their students in Christian prayer. The drug war hasn't even caused the price of drugs to go up. And on and on. Social conservatives have worked their asses off to elect conservative candidates for decades and have gotten nothing in return.
Economics, however, is a completely different story. All of Washington, Congress, the White House, the elite press, have swallowed, hook line and sinker, the notion of neoliberalism, or Reaganomics, or supply side economics, whatever you want to call it. I mean, Obama is a friend of the corporations, and he wants to cut Social Security--Obamacare is a corporate joke, and we're the punchline. Mainstream Democratic thinking on money is all Republican now, or, rather, Republican before the crazies took over. The point is that, when you throw out the social issues, the Democratic Party is currently pretty damned conservative.
This means that mainstream American politics looks like this: a far right party, a right party, and nothing else. There is no liberal party left. It's all conservative, whether we want to admit it or not. So, as much as I'd like to celebrate the decline and fall of the GOP, it seems that there's a new political battle on the horizon.
We need to start seriously thinking about how to undo the conservative takeover of the Democratic Party.
Posted by Ron at 2:06 AM