They showed us this film in elementary school back in the 70s. It's actually pretty freaking excellent. Check it out.
Friday, October 31, 2014
Thursday, October 30, 2014
From the Houston Chronicle:
Forty years ago this Halloween, the Houston area saw perhaps the worst Halloween crime ever to hit the U.S.
Pasadena father-of-two Ronald O'Bryan laced candy with poisonous cyanide and handed it to five children including his own 5-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son.
The optician had taken out a life insurance policy on the children; prosecutors later argued he was trying to kill them simply to claim the $40,000 payout.
I didn't trick-or-treat in 1975, when I was seven, because of this. And it's not like my parents over reacted or anything like that. Rather, they told me about this case and I just couldn't do it. I was horrified. Actually, I continue to be horrified.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
What Danish fast food workers have that their American counterparts do not is a powerful union, and fast food franchise owners who are willing to make a little less of a profit, though they still do make a profit. Denmark is also a much smaller country, with a higher cost of living and a huge social safety net. And yes, a fast food burger is a little more expensive in Denmark than here in America.
Conservatives are either liars or fools on this topic. Businesses, especially big corporations, can, in fact, pay a living wage to their hourly employees. It is impossible not to notice that Denmark's economy has NOT failed, and that Burger King and McDonald's are profitable enterprises there.
This is, to be sure, about the balance sheet, but not about whether fat-cats will be making money, not about crashing the economy; rather, it's about how much money these fat-cats are going to make. Here in the US, they've been allowed to make so much money that they've leveraged their ill gotten gains into a rigging of the economic and political systems creating an upward spiral of riches, one that steals wealth created by ordinary workers and deposits it into the wealthy elite's already bulging pockets.
Okay, to backtrack a bit, this actually is about crashing the economy, but not in the way discussed in the public discourse. When you keep fairly earned wages out of the hands of the people who fairly earned it, just because you're a greedy dick, you depress demand. And when you depress demand, you depress the entire economy.
That is, demand drives growth. Paying crap wages destroys economic growth. And it's all for the sake of the over-the-top selfish narcissism of the people riding at the top of the capitalist class. It's way beyond time to end this bullshit.
Posted by Ron at 7:20 PM
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
From TruthDig, a new Chris Hedges essay:
If the CIA was funneling hundreds of millions of dollars in drugs into inner-city neighborhoods to fund an illegal war in Nicaragua, what did that say about the legitimacy of the vast covert organization? What did it tell us about the so-called war on drugs? What did it tell us about the government’s callousness and indifference to the poor, especially poor people of color at the height of the crack epidemic? What did it say about rogue military operations carried out beyond public scrutiny?
These were questions the power elites, and their courtiers in the press, were determined to silence.
Hey, did you know that the CIA was running TONS of cocaine into the US during the 1980s in order to fuel their clandestine and illegal war against Nicaragua? Yeah, I didn't think so. The story, broken by San Jose Mercury-News investigative journalist Gary Webb, was totally denounced by the big boys, the NY Times, Washington Post, etc., whose reporting on the story was essentially to go ask the CIA if what Webb had written was true--of course, the CIA denied it, which made it "not true."
Webb then lost his career, and, facing foreclosure on his house, committed suicide in the mid 2000s, a total disgrace. Then a Congressional investigation exonerated him and established as fact once and for all that the CIA almost by itself caused the crack epidemic of the 1980s, which devastated ghetto communities from coast to coast, and ramped the "War on Drugs" up to Orwellian levels. Too late for Webb, of course, but nobody in power gives a shit about a reporter who has exposed their lies and complicity. Good riddance. And Webb's exoneration didn't even make the front page.
What does all this mean? Journalist Chris Hedges understands and articulates what's happening in twenty first century America better than anybody else, bar none.
You'd be a fool not to check out what Hedges has to say.
Posted by Ron at 7:16 PM
Monday, October 27, 2014
Last Friday's Krugman:
Or are you one of the dupes? One of the millions of suckers and tragic fools willing to sell out his vote and citizenship for a false sense of psychological well-being coming from sucking up to the wealthy and powerful? Better get it together before it's too late. History will cast you as a minor villain. Very minor. And dressed in a clown suit.
Posted by Ron at 5:38 PM
Sunday, October 26, 2014
I posted this on facebook Friday:
I just voted for Wendy Davis and a bunch of other Democrats. As many of you know, I have some severe problems with that party, but in the Lone Star State the enemy of my enemy is my friend. So I did the deed.So far, I've gotten over forty "likes."
Actually, I was really happy to vote for Davis, the first Texas Democrat to show some balls in many years. She's a hero to me. I know she's very likely going to lose, but I remember the Alamo, just as I remember San Jacinto, and I remember Fred Akers, just as I remember Mack Brown. In Texas, defeat can eventually turn into victory. If you're patient. And dedicated.
It's good to be back home.
Posted by Ron at 6:40 PM
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Friday, October 24, 2014
Thursday, October 23, 2014
I shared this image on facebook a few days back:
Here's what I wrote to accompany it:
Back during the Bush days, when things were looking particularly grim, we would occasionally hear some prominent liberal, like Alec Baldwin or some such, saying he would leave the country for good if W was elected to a second term, or if some other in-your-face right-wing victory came to pass.Excelsior!
But these people have always had it all wrong. Leaving is a bad idea. If you're an American, and you believe in America, you don't run away when things are at their worst. You stay and fight to make the country what it's supposed to be, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Can't do that in Canada or where ever. You can only do that here.
And we've got a lot of work to do.
Posted by Ron at 5:18 PM
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
The case was mired in legal battles for years, making it uncertain whether the defendants would ever be tried.
The trial itself focused on the killings of 14 Iraqis and the wounding of 17 others. During an 11-week trial, prosecutors summoned 72 witnesses, including Iraqi victims, their families and former colleagues of the defendant Blackwater guards.
There was sharp disagreement over the facts in the case.
The defendants' lawyers said there was strong evidence the guards were targeted with gunfire from insurgents and Iraqi police, leading the guards to shoot back in self-defense. Federal prosecutors said there was no incoming gunfire and that the shootings by the guards were unprovoked.
The prosecution contended that some of the Blackwater guards harbored a low regard and deep hostility toward Iraqi civilians.
The guards, the prosecution said, held "a grave indifference" to the death and injury that their actions probably would cause Iraqis. Several former Blackwater guards testified that they had been generally distrustful of Iraqis, based on experience the guards said they had had in being led into ambushes.
Finally. Some justice.
Of all the war crimes committed by US personnel in Iraq, this was, to me, the most disturbing, the most infuriating. I mean, technically, they weren't even US personnel; they were mercenaries, hired guns, thugs, it turns out, working for the State Department. It was a bad idea from the get-go to use these people.
For a while there, it even looked like these killers would go scot-free because there appeared to be no American law governing their actions--the defense asserted that the law under which they were tried applied only to the military, not civilian contractors employed by an agency which is not the Pentagon. And it's, like, really? We can just hire murderers and it's all good and dandy? Really? Really?!?
Blackwater symbolized everything that was wrong with our invasion and occupation of Iraq: the arrogance, the callousness, the hatred, the wanton violence. So good. We've convicted some of the symbol.
But I won't be happy about it all until we've put the architects of the war in jail. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, and others, all of them need to be behind bars. All of them are criminals. All of them led us as a nation into what the Nuremberg Trails found to be the greatest of all war crimes, the waging of aggressive war, the malevolent and bloody umbrella under which all lesser war crimes take place.
Let's not stop now. Justice must be done.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
From Think Progress:
"The Post and Courier, which originally reported the prosecutors’ position, has been doing a series on domestic violence over the past few months, in which it found that women are dying at a rate of one every 12 days from domestic abuse in South Carolina, a state 'awash in guns, saddled with ineffective laws and lacking enough shelters for the battered … a state where the deck is stacked against women trapped in the cycle of abuse.' More than 70 percent of those who kill their spouse had 'multiple prior arrests on those charges' and the majority spent just days in jail."
Of course not.
I mean, unless the abuser is a black guy wearing a hoodie, possibly drinking tea and eating Skittles. And the victim is white--well, unless the judge decides she had it coming to her because miscegenation is a sin. Otherwise, no court in South Carolina would convict because, well, you know why. SC never needed "stand your ground" in such circumstances, anyway.
But generally, no surprise at all that women In South Carolina can't defend themselves from abusers using "stand your ground."
Posted by Ron at 7:23 PM
Monday, October 20, 2014
From the AP via the Huffington Post:
"He told reporters that if the world's response to the Ebola crisis isn't stepped up within 60 days, 'a lot more people will die' and there will be a huge need to deal with the spiraling numbers of cases."
This is why we need big government, why we need government with a lot of money, your money, and much more money from the super wealthy and corporations. This is why Libertarians are fools.
Posted by Ron at 5:17 PM
Sunday, October 19, 2014
From the Guardian via AlterNet:
We tend to perceive our identities as stable and largely separate from outside forces. But over decades of research and therapeutic practice, I have become convinced that economic change is having a profound effect not only on our values but also on our personalities. Thirty years of neoliberalism, free-market forces and privatization have taken their toll, as relentless pressure to achieve has become normative. If you’re skeptical, I put this simple statement to you: meritocratic neoliberalism favors certain personality traits and penalizes others.
Even if there weren't any issues concerning fairness or wealth inequality with capitalism at all, I would still be deeply disturbed by the economic system's absolute dominance of our culture's imagination and moment-to-moment functioning. Greed is one of the seven deadly sins for a very good reason: it makes cannibals of us all. As Chris Hedges has said, "Commerce cannot be society's sole concern." But in all the most important ways, it is. And we are now a very sick people because of it.
Posted by Ron at 6:40 PM
Saturday, October 18, 2014
Friday, October 17, 2014
Thursday, October 16, 2014
Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater i, according to a ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings.
The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.
This isn't something from the liberal imagination. This isn't about blacks with a persecution complex. Not about Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. This is real. This is actually happening. Blacks are at twenty one times the risk of whites for being killed by a police officer. Twenty one times. That's bad. Really bad.
I mean, actually, this has been totally obvious to honest observers for many years. But a lot of whites in this country live within a bubble of delusion and denial, sick of hearing about racism, covering their ears and shouting "there is no racism" over and over so as to shield themselves from the deeply disturbing truth: Michael Brown is not the exception; Michael Brown is the rule.
The numbers don't lie.
My fellow white Americans, it is time to face the facts. Racism is alive and well in this country, often perpetrated by people who have no idea what it is with which they are involved. And people are dying because of it. Something must be done. Right now. We have a moral responsibility.
Posted by Ron at 5:16 PM
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
From a facebook discussion:
Okay, so many Libertarian "arguments" being thrown my way that I'm not going to hit every one specifically, but rather address the whole shebang in brief.'Nuff said.
"Big government or small government" is an absurd way to look at things. We live in a big world, with big industries, a big economy, big numbers of people. We NECESSARILY need government to be big. Sheriff Taylor and Deputy Fife can't get it done in the modern world.
And that's that. Big government, whether you like it or not, is how it HAS to be. "Shrinking government" so you can "drown it in a bathtub" is a stupid joke, as is Grover Norquist. Anybody who believes this stupid joke is entirely ignorant of economics. I mean, sure, lots of people who believe this THINK they understand economics, but they don't. This is all a big fairy tale, folk wisdom repeated endlessly, like Goebbels' theory on propaganda, until it becomes "truth."
But it's wrong no matter how often it's repeated. Demonstrably wrong: since the Reagan era, economists have had plenty of time to study how this stuff works in the real world, and they've found that a lot of the ideas taken for granted by Libertarians, indeed, by the entire neoliberal establishment, which includes Democrats as well as Republicans, even Obama, are just wrong. Cutting taxes for the rich does NOT stimulate the economy. Markets are NOT self-regulating, and so on. The whole Libertarian edifice is built on a foundation of what amounts to believing in the Easter Bunny.
People are fools to believe these fantasies.
Now we can argue about what the government spends money on. That's an honest discussion, and it's what people actually mean when they talk about "Big Government." That's what we SHOULD be talking about.
But I, personally, no longer take this "Big Government" shit seriously. It's a joke. And trying to get me to behave as though it's something I should take seriously is just insulting. I will not join you in your Easter Bunny fantasies. I'm only interested in what happens in the real world.
Posted by Ron at 5:30 PM
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
From Paul Krugman's blog:
The CBO tells us that the federal deficit is way down — under 3 percent of GDP. And Jared Bernstein notes that Obama seems to get no credit.
You may ask, what did you expect?
When it comes to worrying about the deficit, there are two kinds of people. The first group sincerely worries, but knows virtually nothing about economics, while thinking that, in fact, they do. This is probably most of the country, including more than half, at least, of the Democratic Party. The second group only fakes their worry, using alarmism as a cover for their true desire, gutting the social safety net, including social security, just because Ann Rand doesn't like it or whatever.
I forgive the first group, to an extent, because they've been pounded with dishonest deficit propaganda for over three decades. The second group, in sharp contrast, is sociopathic, and would be behind bars in a just society. No forgiveness from me for unrepentant evil.
Monday, October 13, 2014
From the Houston Press:
Guidry-Stryk's Jane is sleek and equally inscrutable. With her lipstick-red mouth, pale skin, and mane of raven hair, she is either the face of death or the walking dead. (Unless I'm reading this play completely wrong, which I have no way of knowing.) For all Jane's dastardly deeds, though, we're always on her side. She's on a mission, yet is so clueless (and afraid?) it's endearing. Schlag's Connie is so brittle she may crack, which she does after vodka and childhood memories. Especially effective are Reeder's spooky, efficiently determined Detective and Todd's wistful Dad, who keeps losing his daughter over the years. Jane promises to come back for a longer visit, but never does.
Helping everyone in this quest is the smooth direction from Jennifer Decker, who keeps the scene and costume changes at lightning pace.
While the writer didn't gush about me or anything, I am extraordinarily pleased in that this is, by far, the most unequivocal "Ron was good" notice I've EVER gotten, going back to the 80s. Yes, I'm proud. I've worked on my craft for many years now, and today I feel like I'm at the top of my game. So yes, this is a bit of a triumph for me. Even if it's really only half a sentence.
Of course, what's really helpful to me is that I'm getting to do this work in what is an overall excellent show across the board, acting, design, tech, script, and directing. It's hard to look good inside a piece of shit. But this is no piece of shit. I'm honored, really, to be a part of this production.
Full disclosure: director Jennifer Decker is my girlfriend. Damn, she's good.
Posted by Ron at 6:20 PM
Sunday, October 12, 2014
If you have a scrap of progressive politics in your bones, it's no surprise to you that sexism hurts women. Like, duh. That's kind of the definition of the word.
But we don't talk as much about how sexism hurts men. Understandably. When you look at the grotesque ways women are damaged by sexism—from economic inequality to political disenfranchisement to literal, physical abuse—it makes perfect sense that we'd care more about how sexism, patriarchy and rigid gender roles affect women than we do about how they affect men.
But men undoubtedly get screwed up by this stuff, too. Not screwed up as badly as women, to be sure... but not trivially, either. I care about it. And I think other feminists—and other women and men who may not see themselves as feminists—ought to care about it, too.
Patriarchy isn't individual men. It is the cultural, political, economic, and institutional ramification of the fact that men continue to dominate society at all levels. This definitely plays itself out in the form of individual men, in interpersonal relationships, but it is definitely more of a zeitgeist or attitude permeating the very air we breathe. It affects us all. Of course, men get a lot of rewards from this, a lot of privilege. And women take the brunt of it all. Indeed, patriarchy offers very few rewards or privileges, if any, to women: instead, women are oppressed by patriarchy.
But so are men. In different and obviously less destructive ways, of course, but patriarchy DEFINITELY diminishes and oppresses men, too. As the author of the linked essay observes, men have a stake in ending patriarchy, too, if only for their own self-interest. Patriarchy, as an informal but omnipresent social system, hurts us all, and I have long been of the opinion that what benefits I get from it just aren't worth the cost, to me, to other men, to boys who will inherit such attitudes whether they want them or not. Definitely not worth the cost to my fellow human beings who aren't men.
Really, I'm just sick of this shit. I'm sick of the ongoing question of "what it means to be a man." I'm sick of righteously aggrieved women calling me out, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly, for my own perceived sexism. I'm sick of trying to figure out what's sexist and what isn't. I'm sick of men siding with men and women siding with women in knee-jerk response to divisive issues. I'm sick of men, which sometimes includes me, being threatened by women asserting their rights as human beings. I'm sick of liberals ganging up on people who just don't know any better, instead of trying to help them understand. I'm sick of men and women alike reviling the word "feminist" even while they support everything feminists believe. I'm sick of the whole damned thing.
I just want to do the what's right. I just want the patriarchy to end. I just want us to find a way to be equal. But patriarchy seems to grip us, all of us, around our throats in ways we barely recognize. It's deeply embedded in all of us. I have no idea how to unwind it all. Simply desiring an end to patriarchy isn't even a start. But I know that until men do strongly desire an end to patriarchy, it will continue.
We've all got to get on the right side of history.
Posted by Ron at 7:31 PM
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Friday, October 10, 2014
Thursday, October 09, 2014
From Broadway World:
Jane Whithers, an erstwhile kindergarten teacher/lifeguard has been sent to find the "origin of evil, the root of denial and the basic human weakness that causes us to fear death" by a mysterious extra-legal organization called "The Panel." Her search takes her from Florida beaches to Texas sewers, from the Adriatic Sea to little Grass Lake, Michigan all on the heels of Propsero Albright, a childhood friend who she thinks holds the answer. Inspired by Poe's gothic fantasy The Masque of the Red Death, D'Amour crafts a dark and comic rollercoaster ride through our existential dilemmas, everyday fears and ever-present anxieties.
More here, including show times and dates.
I'm doing this show starting tonight. Tell me to "break a leg"!
Posted by Ron at 4:57 PM
Wednesday, October 08, 2014
From Addicting Info:
“May you live in interesting times” – Alleged ancient Chinese curse
We are surely witnessing such times right now and the road ahead is going to be rough and violent. Why? Because, as Salon details in its article, “The South’s victim complex: How right-wing paranoia is driving new wave of radicals,” the Republican Party, long the party of white people, is rapidly devolving into the party of Southern White Power.
To the best of my knowledge, conservatives haven't lifted a finger to refute this argument.
Sure, sure, they say "impossible" or "don't play the race card" or they'll just get really pissed off. But they NEVER actually address the argument: the GOP's "Southern Strategy" worked so well that old school Southern conservatives weren't simply absorbed into the Republican Party after the Democrats alienated them by embracing civil rights; rather, Southern conservatism, complete with its peculiar notions and institutions of race, BECAME the Republican Party.
No conservative acknowledges that this argument even exists. They just get pissed off. I suspect it's because there's not really an effective counter-argument to this, but it's hard to say because they're just not talking. I mean, they're bitching, but that's not really talking.
Posted by Ron at 4:48 PM
Tuesday, October 07, 2014
From the Huffington Post:
A mother in Michigan took to Facebook last week to express her outrage over a 10th-grade school assignment that she felt promoted Islam.
In an initial post, Jennette Hall complained about a Jenison High School assignment that asked students to make a pamphlet about Islam. The post, which had been shared over 5,400 times as of Tuesday morning, said students were told the pamphlet would be used to "introduce Islam to 3rd graders."
I don't really grok what this woman's complaint is. If I'm getting what the school's principal is saying about the assignment, it seems like it's nothing more than getting students to come up with something to explain a specific world religion to kids younger than they are. Teaching a subject is, of course, a great way to understand that subject.
I really think the problem is that she doesn't like Islam and doesn't want her children understanding it. And that's really freaking weird to me.
Posted by Ron at 4:31 PM
Monday, October 06, 2014
From the Huffington Post:
On another occasion last September, Wilson was punished by a manager for coming by the store while off-duty to talk with other workers outside. Wilson had asked a colleague who'd just finished her shift to fill out a questionnaire on wages. The manager told Wilson she was violating the store's 'loitering and solicitation policy,' then wrote her up for it.
Amchan ruled that the enforcement of this policy on employees violated the National Labor Relations Act. The workplace is a 'particularly appropriate place' to distribute materials or discuss organizing rights, seeing as it's 'the one place where employees clearly share common interests,' he wrote. He added, 'This is particularly true in the instant case where some of the workers are lower paid individuals who commute to work via bus.'
Business has had its way for so long, under multiple administrations from both parties, that they no longer know how to operate within labor law. That is, yes, workers have the RIGHT to discuss work issues with other workers at work, whether the boss likes it or not. Too f'ing bad if that makes management uncomfortable.
It's nice to see Obama's NLRB actually doing something after all these years.
Posted by Ron at 5:05 PM
Sunday, October 05, 2014
From the Houston Chronicle:
A Houston-area man, who the FBI says was prepared to launch his nationwide “American Insurgent Movement” here by robbing an armored car, killing a trooper, and spraying a mosque with gunfire, pleaded guilty Friday.
“We must rebel. Blood and bullets are the only two things that will change this world, short of divine action,” Robert Talbot Jr. wrote online in an effort to attract recruits to join him.
Talbot, 38, admitted to his crimes during a Friday hearing as he stood before U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. Those include attempted interference with commerce by robbery and solicitation to commit a crime of violence. He faces up to 20 years when sentenced.
I think that as bedrock conservative views increasingly hit the wall known as reality, we're going to be seeing more and more of this sort of thing. I mean, combine cognitive dissonance with the arsenals right-wing gun enthusiasts have been putting together, you know, to save us all from a "tyrannical" government, and to shop in the baby section at Target, we necessarily have all the ingredients for a bloodbath.
Fortunately, the system appears to be working at the moment, and they caught this nut-job before he could do some serious damage. But when you have Fox News and other prominent conservatives doing their damnedest to make this a partisan issue, asserting that having law enforcement going after far-right extremists is tantamount to oppression, we have some potential problems that could get some people killed.
I mean, Timothy McVeigh, Randy Weaver, the reverend Paul Jennings Hill, Cliven Bundy's gun-toting supporters, this guy they just busted out in Katy, these people aren't even close to being heroes or upstanding citizens. They're criminals. These types shouldn't be celebrated or defended in the public discourse. They should be behind bars like other criminals, and law enforcement should be allowed to do its job without political interference.
Mark my words. Frightened and angry right-wing extremists in this country will kill again. They need to be stopped.
Posted by Ron at 10:53 PM
Saturday, October 04, 2014
Friday, October 03, 2014
Thursday, October 02, 2014
So OF COURSE we're a "Christian nation." We're ALL "Christian." Why the hell not? Apparently it's just a brand name that people really dig. I'm a Houston Texans fan, a Coke drinker, and a "Christian." No sweat. It's just a name.
Posted by Ron at 6:07 PM
Wednesday, October 01, 2014
From Talking Points Memo:
KILL for LIFE!!!
Yes, as usual, conservatives continue to be in what amounts to a persistent vegetative state when it comes to irony. That is, they're blissfully unaware that the concept even exists, even while they take ironic stances again and again. Or maybe it's just rank hypocrisy. One of those two.
At any rate, such rhetoric provides the philosophical framework allowing anti-abortion terrorists to justify their handiwork. It is, at the very least, PROFOUNDLY irresponsible rhetoric. People may actually die because of this.
Posted by Ron at 6:06 PM