Wednesday, January 29, 2003


You know, I thought about giving a sort of point by point analysis of King George's speech for a while: "can you believe that bullshit?" or "like that's going to happen," or "oh, my god, this is getting creepy," or some such. But the more I reflected on our monarch's call to arms, the more I thought about a moment in one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek (the original series, of course). "Patterns of Force" has always and still is known affectionately in my mind as "the Nazi episode." It's one of those parallel Earth stories that were so common during the second season: an Earth anthropologist named John Gill goes to study a race of people on the planet Ekos and somehow, in a forbidden social experiment gone terribly wrong, ends up as the leader of a world wide fascist government, complete with jack boots and swastikas. When I located the teleplay on the internet, I quickly found the climactic scene of which last night's SOTU address reminded me. The parallels are almost too amusing (or too creepy) to be true. The scene centers around a demagoguery-laden speech made by Gill-as-fuher; a crowd watches and cheers while Kirk, Spock, and McCoy observe and comment:

The Fuhrer's speech.

- Hail Fuhrer! - Hail Fuhrer!
- Hail Fuhrer! - Hail Fuhrer!
- Hail Fuhrer! - Hail Fuhrer!
- Hail Fuhrer! - Hail Fuhrer!

Ekosians ...the job ahead is difficult. It requires courage and dedication. It requires faith.


The Zeon colony has existed for nearly--

Watch his mouth.

If we fulfill our own greatness, that will all be ended. Working together --

Captain, the speech follows no logical pattern. Random sentences strung together.

He looks drugged, Jim, almost in a cataleptic state.

...reach our goal, And we will reach that goal.

- Yay! - Yay!

I've got to have a close look at him.

...must be decisive. Every thought...directed toward a goal. This planet ...can become a paradise, if we are willing to pay the price. As each cell in the body with discipline and harmony for the good ...of the entire being –

Gentlemen, I want a picture of you two with the Hero of the Fatherland listening to the Fuhrer's speech. Get that light over there, please. Get this light around here. Smile, gentlemen. Turn around, smile, and -- Now.

- Hail Fuhrer! - Hail Fuhrer!

Hail Fuhrer!

- Hail Fuhrer! - Hail Fuhrer!
- Hail Fuhrer! - Hail Fuhrer!

The Fuhrer has given us our orders, and we pledge him our lives in this sacred task. Death to Zeon!

- Death to Zeon! - Death to Zeon!
- Death to Zeon! - Death to Zeon!
- Death to Zeon! - Death to Zeon!
- Death to Zeon! - Death to Zeon!


Unfortunately, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy do not seem to be waiting in the wings ready to perform a Prime-Directive-friendly coup d'etat. Big drag...


Sunday, January 26, 2003

the truth about cats and dogs...

You know, I don't think that Janeane Garofalo is a very funny comedian--she rarely makes me laugh. But I love her, anyway. Firstly, she is very clever, and clever goes a long way with me. Secondly, she is far more attractive than Uma Thurman. That movie they were in together where Janeane was supposed to be the homely one just didn't work for me. But it's always nice to look at her cute face...

The real reason I love her, however, is that she is an extremely articulate spokesman for progressive causes, and she doesn't have the stink of the hypocritical Hollywood liberalism embraced by Barbara Streisand and her slimy ilk. She's even managed to put it to one of the grand, high-profile FOX assholes, Bill O'Reilly, live on his show. She's just plain cool. Check out this CNN Talkback transcript to see what I mean.

Thanks to the fantastic Eschaton blog for the link.


GO RAIDERS!!!!!!!!


Friday, January 24, 2003


To whom it may concern:

My government's executive branch has been illegally seized by power hungry, war mongering fools who are every bit as fundamentalist in their Christian views as their Islamic counterparts are. I fear these machiavellian madmen are leading the United States down the path of self-destruction, and my fellow countrymen are either too anesthetized by television, religion, and material comforts, or too blinded by the most effective propaganda system ever devised to do anything to stop it.

Insanity reigns in America. We desperately need your help.

In World War II, many Americans sacrificed their lives to help end fascism's tight grip on the European continent; to do so was not only altruistic and just but also self-serving. Now, as a very frightened United States citizen, I beg you to help us. To do so would not only be altruistic and just but would also greatly serve your interests: I assume that Europeans have no desire to fall under American hegemony--if the White House continues with its imperialist designs, such a thought is not inconceivable.

American culture descends from European culture. We are kinsmen, brothers. Please help us.

France has a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council; I understand that Germany will soon be rotating onto the Council as its Chair. The British are of no use; their government seems to be suffering a dementia similar to our own. Your two nations, therefore, have the ability to forestall the coming invasion of Iraq for a period of time. This is vital; once the war starts, if history is any indicator, the American public will push aside any questions of peace in order to rally behind our flag. Once the bombs start to drop, blind patriotism and blind support for the carnage and slaughter will embolden our bloodthirsty leaders to ever-higher levels of violence and arrogance. That's why the blatantly imperialist invasion of Iraq by the United States must be held off for as long as possible: the American peace movement grows, but is not yet powerful enough to stop those who Bob Dylan once called the "Masters of War."

Do not be bullied by George W. Bush; he's not as tough as he wants everybody to think he is and I believe that he will back down in the face of overwhelming resistance. That is, after all, what one does to a bully: stand up to him.

But the American peace movement needs more time. We are not yet overwhelming.

Please help us. Please help everybody. Right now, you may be the world's only hope.


Ron $$$$$$
United States citizen
Harris County, Texas resident ("The Execution Capitol of the World")


Now I've just got to figure out who I'm supposed to send this to. I guess I'll do a web search or something. Any suggestions? Just email me at the address in the upper left corner.

And, what the hell, I guess I'll post this, too:

"General Kenobi, years ago you served my father in the Clone
Wars. Now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Empire.
I regret that I am unable to present my father's request to you in
person, but my ship has fallen under attack and I'm afraid my mission
to bring you to Alderaan has failed. I have placed information vital
to the survival of the Rebellion into the memory systems of this R2
unit. My father will know how to retrieve it. You must see this droid
safely delivered to him on Alderaan. This is our most desperate hour.
Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope."

I guess it's hard to shake my influences.


Sunday, January 19, 2003


If you pay close attention to the usual MLK day media hype, you'll probably see some film clips of the great march on Washington, hear bits of the "I have a dream" speech, and hear pundits, politicians, and other leaders give bland, inspecific praise to the great civil rights leader. It's even worse in the world of public education: here he is something of a warm, fuzzy, uplifting, friendly muppet that says nice things about black children and white children; his "dream" becomes mingled with and therefore indistinguishable from the more abstract and fictional "American Dream." Let's face it, in 2003, MLK is now far more of a symbol used by the establishment to make us all feel good about race relations than he is a martyred revolutionary.

While King was no doubt friendly, warm, and uplifting, progressives must make sure to firmly stress what he actually was, a scathing critic of the American racist, classist, imperialist, capitalist, elitist establishment. It seems that the powers that be were willing to tolerate his charismatic leadership as long as he kept his fiery rhetoric confined to simple understandings of race relations; he was assasinated within months of his speech coming out against the Vietnam war, a speech that linked American racism to militarism, materialism, and capitalism.

This MLK day, do yourself a favor and remember him not with a millionth rehearing of the "I have a dream" speech; rather, read the text of his anti-Vietnam war speech. You won't regret it.

Monday, January 13, 2003


I wasn't happy with the clarity of the final section as originally posted so I reworked it and reposted it earlier today. Please indulge me by rereading that section; I think it states what I think a bit more clearly now.


Sunday, January 12, 2003


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes.

Christmas Eve, 1988

One of my favorite rituals during my college days was getting the hell out of my parents’ house whenever I was home for the holidays. I spent many Christmas Eves driving around my old suburban environment with good friends, talking, bonding, and smoking cigarettes.

One particular Christmas Eve, instead of driving around, I ended up hanging out with my pals in my parents’ backyard (which was open to the streets behind and to the side of the house with a heavily forested vacant lot to the back and public easement to the other side) at, say, 11:30 or so. We were not doing drugs, drinking, worshipping Satan, joining the Communist Party, or supporting Michael Dukakis.

But that didn’t matter to the pissed off cop. We were just standing there in my parents’ backyard talking about music or movies or something: the cop had an immediate suspicious attitude and demanded to see all our driver’s licenses. All of our “yes, sir” and “no, sir” appeasements did nothing for his Christmas disposition.

“Where do you live?” he commanded more than he asked.

“There,” I said as I pointed to my parents’ house less than thirty yards away.

“Do your parents know where you are?”

“Yes, sir. They know I’m in the backyard,” I said while mentally noting the sense of surrealism that almost always accompanies my conversations with cops.

After detaining (or was it harassing?) us for another ten minutes or so, the grumpy cop was on his way. I had the good feeling of knowing that our county constabulary was on the job, protecting us all from dangerous societal elements, a sort of strong, kindly big brother figure looking out for our well being.


Two Or Three Springtimes Ago

I am a high school theater teacher in a large, working class petrochemical town near Houston. Teachers are pillars of the community, very respectable generally. Right? Right?

Not to cops it seems.

A chair, a somewhat valuable property of the theater department, had turned up missing after an inventory. The gossip was that a former student who had graduated a couple of years earlier had snagged it. The chairman of the department had been putting up with student theft for years and decided that enough was enough. She called the police.

I actually believed that the girl who was the suspected thief either didn’t have the chair or believed that she had permission to take it, a misunderstanding. But whatever. There had been many props, costumes, and set pieces stolen over the years. So I didn’t complain about involving the cops.

Bad move on my part.

Even though I knew absolutely nothing about the missing chair, a local plain-clothes detective sent a message asking me to meet him in the front office that day after school. Being the good citizen and role model that I now pretend to be, I went straight there when the final bell rang. Then, I waited. After ten minutes, I figured that he must have ended up in another office by mistake, so I went hunting for him. No such luck. I asked around and nobody had seen him. I kept waiting. After thirty minutes, I thought to myself that I was waiting for a guy who I had never spoken to and may never show up. I went home.

The next morning, Sergeant Stedanko, as I now think of him (remember the Stacey Keach character in Cheech and Chong’s “Up in Smoke”?), and a uniformed cop came to my classroom during first period and ordered me to step into the hallway. So I left twenty-five students hanging during the middle of a lecture to go play my part in the mystery of the missing chair. I was annoyed, but then my interactions with the armed security agents of the state are always annoying.

Things got worse.

“Now, why weren’t you in the front office waiting for me after school yesterday?” Stedanko angrily asked.

Twilight Zone time. “Um, I waited for you for thirty minutes…” I said.

“No, you didn’t. I was there,” Stedanko retorted.

“Well, I was there.”

“No, you weren’t.”

I shrugged. Stedanko continued, “Now, I want you to tell me why an innocent girl’s reputation needs to be destroyed.”

“Uh…Well, I don’t really think that’s a good idea, actually.”

“So why are you accusing this sweet girl of stealing that chair?”

“Well, I’m not accusing her of anything, to tell the truth…”

“Then what do you think should be done?” he asked and glared.

I chose my words carefully, “I guess…if she’s guilty, she needs to be punished and if she’s innocent, her name needs to be cleared.”

Sergeant Stedanko just stared at me and then turned around and walked away. No “thank you.” No good byes. Just a foul taste of cop in my mouth.

So much for being a pillar of the community.

(As it turned out, the whole thing was, in fact, a big misunderstanding that I had absolutely nothing to do with. But I guess cops need no justification to harass.)

Last July, 7 a.m.

My wife and I were sound asleep. We were going to get up around eleven or so and drive to New Orleans for a few days of merry making and revelry in the French Quarter. Then, bam, bam, bam! Bam, bam, bam! “Ugh, I think somebody’s at the door,” I sleepily said. My wife got up to see what all of the ruckus was about.

“Hey, don’t you need a warrant?” I heard her yell.

I got up and was standing next to the bed in my underwear when three sheriff’s deputies, weapons in hand, entered our bedroom. “Keep you hands where we can see them!” one of them shouted.

“…Uh, okay,” I said. I hadn’t heard that hands phrase directed at me for over ten years.

The cops searched our apartment, apparently for some fugitive, and left without explanation. Becky and I were, needless to say, shaken. She said, “Ron, look out the window.” Twenty cop cars were in the parking lot. Numerous deputies ran to and fro. A helicopter circled overhead.

“This is big,” I thought, “it’s gotta be on TV.” Sure enough, we turned on the set and saw a local reporter at the entrance to our apartments. It turned out that a deputy had been shot in the leg while trying to apprehend a car thief on the property. The cops told the reporter that they believed that the suspect was holed up in one of the apartments and that they were “canvassing” all residences. I guess that “canvassing” now means “wantonly violating the Fourth Amendment.”

It is important to note that my apartment complex is about 90% African-American and Hispanic. I don’t think this would have happened at a white complex.

As it turned out, the thief was caught elsewhere, blocks away. The wounded deputy was hit by friendly fire, an accidentally discharged cop gun. The police were not in “hot pursuit;” the incident had happened seven hours earlier. In short, the illegal door-to-door search was an absolute outrage, a total abuse of police power.

My older brother, an archconservative, pro-cop business lawyer urged us to sue. He was pretty pissed about it. We didn’t sue; he wouldn’t represent us…

Last Week

Tennessee cops gunned down a tail-wagging family dog on the side of the road while the kneeling, handcuffed mother, father, and son watched, shrieked, and cried. Read about it here. This story really kicked me in the gut. It was as though Hitler’s brownshirts invaded a Norman Rockwell painting and started busting heads.

In fact, it’s hard not to cry as I write this.

I now realize that when I read about police brutality toward humans (that is, as opposed to dogs) I get angrier in my head than I do in my heart. I suppose the image of uniformed men with guns blowing away a family pet while the helpless family freaks out is, at the very least, difficult to digest. But what about the countless individuals, human beings, most of them ethnic minorities, that have been brutalized, harassed, and beaten by the police? Things are much, much worse than the sadistic killing of a dog might suggest. I ought to be angrier in my heart.

Increasingly, I am.

American police culture is out of control. (I say “culture” because I believe that there are lots of well-meaning, good individuals that are cops. But many of those “good cops” end up doing bad things or remaining silent when they witness acts of corruption and brutality performed by their less well-meaning cop brothers.) Newspapers report HUNDREDS of instances of police misconduct every year but miss the big story: THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF KNOWN INSTANCES OF POLICE MISCONDUCT EVERY YEAR! How many Richard Jewells and David Koreshes must it take? How many murdered dogs? When will mainstream (that is, white) America wake up and realize that it is no longer such a gross, radical exaggeration to say that we’re not too far from Nazi Germany? (That is to say, Arayans equal whites; Jews equal non-whites...hey, there really is a comparison there!) The only thing out of the ordinary about the killing of the Smoak family dog is that the Smoaks are white. People of color know the score but lack enough clout and power to address the injustices. Whites, for the most part, live in ignorant bliss—when a white American gets screwed by the cops it is viewed as an “isolated incident” that is not representative of the overall situation.

Of course, that’s a lie. Authoritarianism and violence are simply a big part of what cops are. I hate cops. Because, you see, cops really are pigs.


(Well, most cops, anyway. In all fairness, I ought to be willing to change my point of view on a case by case basis or the like, but I really think that each individual cop I meet would need to prove to me that he can be trusted first. That's only common sense given the circumstances.)


Friday, January 10, 2003


Michael Ventura's thoughtful essays published every other week in the Austin Chronicle first came to my attention in the mid 1990's. Here is his latest essay. It deals with the situation of the artist and art in 2003 and I think it's pretty poignant. Enjoy.


Tuesday, January 07, 2003

I don't even know what to think about this.

By the way, I got the link from a weird web site that features a strange combination of political news and essay links, surrealistic art, and naked girl pictures.

If you're brave and/or curious, surf here.


Monday, January 06, 2003

Probably the most well known and influential intellectual guru of the neo-liberal movement is a really old guy named Milton Friedman. This founder of the "Chicago School" of economics layed the intellectual groundwork for the monetary policy and Reaganomics that are taken for granted today--Friedman had already become so influential by the mid 1970's, in fact, that when Henry Kissenger arranged the coup that installed the bloodthirsty Augusto Pinochet as the Doctor Doom figure of Argentina, Friedman and his team of conservative economic homies were allowed to head on down south of the border to put their new theories to test under tightly controlled circumstances and eventually claimed success: the Argentine wealthy got wealthier. (I must mention Friedman's well known book "Capitalism and Freedom" here; the book argues that democracy and capitalism are naturally linked somehow and that's why it's the best system for all--so I don't really know how they could have claimed "success" in junta land, but I guess that's just how logic has worked for the last fifty years or so.) Several years after their South American miracle, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States. The rest is history.

A little known theory of Friedman's is that conservative legislators ought to cut as many taxes as they can such that legislatures have no choice but to eventually cut programs and social services--in Friedman's view, the government should have an extremely limited role: roads, military, protection from monopoly, and that's about it. Cutting social programs is unpopular. Therefore, taxes should be used as legislative extortion.

That's why the President's HUGE tax cut for the wealthy that was announced today got me thinking. It was two times larger than what what most Republicans were shooting for.

I wonder...


Thursday, January 02, 2003

Just a thought...

When hawks say that going to war with Iraq isn't about oil, I'm reminded of southerners that are nostalgic about the Confederacy saying that the Civil War wasn't about slavery. Of course, the Civil War was about slavery and going to war with Iraq is about oil. But let's not be confused by the facts.