Tuesday, September 30, 2008


So the economy is falling apart while we all watch on TV, and the major presidential candidates, Congress, and the White House all seem powerless to do anything. What to do? What to do?

Think about comic books!

From retroCRUSH:

Okay, but my favorite thing about Jimmy Olsen was that he existed as one of those characters that the publishers, writers, and editors felt comfortable doing anything with. Jimmy could take a secret serum and turn into “Elastic Lad” and actually become a real superhero. He also turned into a giant turtle and all sorts of crazy monsters along the way, but the coolest thing existed in the form of a secret signal watch to call on Superman whenever he got into a jam. Talk about fulfilling the sidekick dream, Jimmy had direct access to the ultimate big brother who could kick anybody’s ass.


Enter Jack Kirby. When he moved from Marvel to DC to usher in a whole new adventurous world for the 1970s Kirby insisted on taking over the book with the lowest sales so someone with a steady job wouldn’t lose work.

That book,
Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, is where and when the Jimmy Olsen series truly became a vitally interesting comic book, containing a continuity of stories that every serious reader of comic literature should own.

Jack Kirby made Jimmy Olsen modern, relevant, and totally far out. Jimmy throws away his bowtie and basically becomes an action-packed superstar that isn’t afraid to tell the authoritative Superman where to fly.

Jimmy’s far out “Fourth World” trip lasted about four years until his book hit cancellation, no doubt because it has gone too far into the “wild.”

Click here for more.

Being born in 1968, the Jimmy Olson I first got to know was the revamped guy from the early 70s. I mean, I understood that Jimmy had long played a totally secondary role for Superman, being someone else besides Lois to fall out of windows for the Man of Tomorrow to rescue, but Jimmy's "Mr. Action" phase in the 70s, the twentysomething suave and competent crusading photojournalist who hung out with superheroes and aliens, and only used his signal watch to contact his Kryptonian mentor under the most dire of circumstances, captured my imagination, often as much as DC's actual costumed characters.

And the Jack Kirby stuff is as good as anything he did at Marvel, maybe even better. Kirby took the weirdness of what was at that point thirty years of accumulated Superman storyline into the realm of sublime art. If you ever get the chance, you should try to check out some of the Jimmy Olson clone stories Kirby did: I have never experienced a comic book moment as compelling as when Jimmy has to fight hundreds of evil clones of himself, with his fists, at the same time.

You know, Lois Lane had her own title, too, and by the time I was reading her stuff in the late 70s, there were lots of cool underwear shots. I guess DC's editors knew what nine year old boys wanted to see. Don't believe me? Check this out:

Hubba hubba! But this is about Superman's Pal not Superman's Girlfriend, so I'll end this post with this fabulous cover courtesy of retroCRUSH:



From Rolling Stone via AlterNet, Matt Taibbi goes for Sarah Palin's jugular:

Mad Dog Palin

But watching Palin's speech, I had no doubt that I was witnessing a historic, iconic performance. The candidate sauntered to the lectern with the assurance of a sleepwalker - and immediately launched into a symphony of snorting and sneering remarks, taking time out in between the superior invective to present herself as just a humble gal with a beefcake husband and a brood of healthy, combat-ready spawn who just happened to be the innocent targets of a communist and probably also homosexual media conspiracy. It was a virtuoso performance. She appeared to be completely without shame and utterly full of shit, awing a room full of hardened reporters with her sickly sweet line about the high-school-flame-turned-hubby who, "five children later" is "still my guy." It was like watching Gidget address the Reichstag.

Within minutes, Palin had given TV audiences a character infinitely recognizable to virtually every American: the small-town girl with just enough looks and a defiantly incurious mind who thinks the PTA minutes are Holy Writ, and injustice means the woman next door owning a slightly nicer set of drapes or flatware. Or the governorship, as it were.


The great insight of the Palin VP choice is that huge chunks of American voters no longer even demand that their candidates actually have policy positions; they simply consume them as media entertainment, rooting for or against them according to the reflexive prejudices of their demographic, as they would for reality-show contestants or sitcom characters. Hicks root for hicks, moms for moms, born-agains for born-agains. Sure, there was politics in the Palin speech, but it was all either silly lies or merely incidental fluffery buttressing the theatrical performance.

Much more here.

It took me awhile to warm to this guy, but I'm really starting to like him. He has advanced the sociopolitical insult to levels never even imagined by the likes of Hunter S. Thompson, but the Generation X writer takes his work into areas his gonzo predecessor would not. That is, Matt Taibbi moves fluently back and forth between dry evisceration and poignant observation. I mean, it's fairly easy to lampoon GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, as Tina Fey and numerous others have deftly shown, but going from "It was like watching Gidget address the Reichstag" to the assertion that American politics have been reduced by television to nothing more than the grandest of reality shows is nothing short of sublime.

Go check out his essay. It's the definitive Sarah Palin piece. And look for more Matt Taibbi--I'm starting to think that he may be one of the key essayists of our time.


Monday, September 29, 2008


From the AP via ESPN:

QB McCoy nearly perfect as Texas embarrasses Arkansas

It came at the hands of another near-perfect performance by McCoy, who put up five touchdowns and has Texas (4-0) coasting into its Big 12 schedule after a 52-10 romp over Arkansas that ranked among the biggest blowouts ever in the historic rivalry.

The loss was the worst in the series since a 52-0 Texas shutout in 1916 and the fourth-most lopsided meeting between the schools.

It was an embarrassing rivalry debut for Petrino in a series famous for close games. In the previous 10 meetings between Texas and Arkansas, the average margin of victory was fewer than nine points.

But the Razorbacks (2-2) left Austin as another overmatched opponent for Texas, which have now outscored opponents 198-36 this season.

"This is the best we've played since the national title year," said Texas senior offensive lineman Cedric Dockery, recalling the 2005 season. "It shows up on the scoreboard and in the win column."

More here.

Okay, this game was frustrating. Well, not the game itself, but the way I watched it. As usual, I woke up Saturday afternoon only to find that Texas/Arkansas was already well underway on the local ABC affiliate. The good thing was that Texas was up by twenty eight points. "Cool," I thought, "I'll watch a rip roaring rout in the second half." And a rout it was. Texas had extended its lead to forty two points midway through the third quarter. I was loving it! And that's when ABC decided that the game had ended and switched over to ESPN coverage of a game I didn't really care about.

All told, I only got to see a little more than half a quarter of play. That's the thing about living outside my home state: you've really got to relish those televised Longhorn moments when you get them. I mean, yeah, I do get to see a lot of Texas ball out here in Louisiana, but that's only because they're so nationally prominent. Lord help me if I was a Baylor fan. Well, Lord help me if I was a Baylor fan in any case, but the point is that I'm not living in Longhorn country, and television executives know it.

Texas/Colorado may or may not be shown here next Saturday, which is a drag because I'm sure UT/OU will be shown here, and I'm still quite afraid that my next Longhorn TV fix will be watching Mack Brown once again be outcoached by Bob Stoops. Yeah yeah, I'm finally ready to admit that the 'Horns really are playing well this season, but they still haven't played anyone as good as or better than they are yet. What's going to happen?

I'm trying not to think about that. For now, I'm just going to enjoy this number five ranking Texas has fallen into, just as I'm enjoying LSU's number three ranking.

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy attempts to elude Arkansas defensive
end Jake Bequette during a second-quarter option play in an NCAA
college football game, Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008, in Austin, Texas.
(AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)

Speaking of LSU, again from the AP via ESPN:

No. 5 LSU stays unbeaten with scrappy win over Mississippi State

Scott surpassed 100 yards rushing for a fourth straight game, leading No. 5 LSU to a 34-24 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday night.

"We played a very physical defense and ... matched that physicality or exceeded it," Miles said. "I think we can run the football against any opponent."

The Bulldogs turned in a feisty performance in a bid to add another surprising result to a week highlighted by upsets of No. 1 Southern California, No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Florida.

Mississippi State trailed by only 10 during much of the fourth quarter, but Scott's 27 carries for 141 yards kept LSU (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) moving and the clock rolling.


However, LSU starting interior defensive linemen Ricky Jean-Francois and Charles Alexander both were shaken up in the first half. Alexander briefly returned in the fourth quarter, Jean-Francois did not, but remained on the sideline in uniform.

More here.

Okay, I got to see this one, just as I get to see every LSU game here in Louisiana, sometimes twice because of rebroadcast on local stations, and it was exciting. Kind of exciting in the way that the Auburn game was exciting, and that's a problem. While a member in good standing of the SEC, which is accompanied by a certain level of respect if only just because, Mississippi State is no Auburn. LSU should have beaten the shit out of MSU and they didn't. My thinking is that the loss of Jean-Francois and Alexander is what opened the game up for the Bulldogs; fortunately, the two dominating defensive linemen were only out for that game. On the other hand, inconsistency and sloppy play is a problem that has plagued the Tigers during the Les Miles era, and I wonder how we're going to do the rest of the season--maybe we'll convincingly beat number two Alabama, rubbing Sabin's nose in it, but lose to, say, 0-2 South Carolina.

It would be just awful to lose to a bunch of game cocks.

LSU wide receiver Demetrius Byrd (2) breaks away from Mississippi State
defender Tay Bowser (28) in the second half of an NCAA college football game
on his way to scoring a touchdown in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008.
Byrd scored on the play and LSU defeated Mississippi State 34-24.
(AP Photo/Bill Haber)


Saturday, September 27, 2008

S.E.C. Concedes Oversight Flaws Fueled Collapse

From the New York Times:

The chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a longtime proponent of deregulation, acknowledged on Friday that failures in a voluntary supervision program for Wall Street’s largest investment banks had contributed to the global financial crisis, and he abruptly shut the program down.


“The last six months have made it abundantly clear that voluntary regulation does not work,” he said in a statement. The program “was fundamentally flawed from the beginning, because investment banks could opt in or out of supervision voluntarily. The fact that investment bank holding companies could withdraw from this voluntary supervision at their discretion diminished the perceived mandate” of the program, and “weakened its effectiveness,” he added.


Because it is a relatively small agency, the S.E.C. tries to extend its reach over the vast financial services industry by relying heavily on self-regulation by stock exchanges, mutual funds, brokerage firms and publicly traded corporations.

More here.

Atrios over at Eschaton, an economist by training, noticed the same article and called "voluntary regulation" an oxymoron. Indeed, if rules are optional, there's no point in following them, which is exactly how Wall Street and the entire US political establishment, both Republicans and Democrats, like it. I might have been surprised hearing about this SEC "voluntary regulation" except for the fact that Bush, back when he was governor of Texas, used a similar phrase while introducing a plan for lowering the record levels of pollution produced by petrochemical plants on the Gulf Coast--clearly the White House employs "voluntary regulation" when they want nothing to happen.

I've railed away for years now about the cult of deregulation dominating Washington since the 90s and earlier. There's no point in going on about that right now especially because recent events have made it utterly clear to anyone without an impaired brain that we really do need to regulate business in some way shape or form. No need to beat a dead horse. At the moment, anyway.

But what's got me kind of amazed at the moment is how so many smart, well educated people, in government and in the private sector, could have been so fucking stupid for so long. Take a moment to consider all the years that deregulation mania has captured these people's imagination. You know, all the years we've heard economic debate reduced to "cut taxes" and "get the government off the people's backs" and all that crap. I mean, you know, sometimes it is a good idea to cut taxes or to streamline or eliminate absurd laws that have outlived their usefulness or were badly written in the first place--it's not as though there was never a nucleus of a good argument in all the hoopla from the get-go. But it seems like it's been years since the deregulators and tax cutters actually had to make that argument; it seems like it's all become such conventional wisdom that the establishment takes it as truth no matter what.

That is, lots of really smart people had come to believe that the market really is magic. Cutting taxes is like waving a wand. Deregulating is like saying "abracadabra." Really, public discourse on economics has, until very recently, become fucking retarded. And I swear to god, it appears as though the people who had the most to lose, the Wizards of Wall Street, started to believe in magic, too. How could they not know that extraordinarily risky investments, when spread throughout the entire investment world, could fuck up everyone? It really looks like they were counting on the Magic Market to make everything work out somehow.

This is the same mentality that brought down Enron--it's also probably the same mentality that's been inside the Oval Office for nearly eight years, too, but that's another discussion.

Anyway, what good are all those brains and educations if people refuse to use them? What good is all their expertise if they prefer to believe in fantasy, the supernatural powers of the market economy, over reality, of which they must be aware somewhere inside their magic addled brains? Is is possible that our entire ruling class is completely clueless? That's the really frightening thing about all this.


Friday, September 26, 2008




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


Thursday, September 25, 2008


From the Houston Chronicle:

Some Galveston officials miffed by Paul's no vote on Ike aid

Some Galveston officials aren't too pleased with their congressional representative, Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, for voting against the $22.8 billion disaster recovery aid package on Wednesday.

"That's sad. That's bad," City Manager Steve LeBlanc said.

"I find it very distressing," said Councilwoman Karen Mahoney, who represents the West End of the island, where damage was extreme. "He's voting against aid for the region that he represents? I don't find that very representative."


Eight of the Houston area's nine lawmakers voted for the bill, with the exception of Paul. His spokeswoman, Rachel Mills, said Thursday that the congressman did not vote for the bill because it contained other "unconstitutional" provisions, which she did not specify.

Paul is famous for his consistent positions on limited government and low taxes. His views have drawn a vocal grass-roots following across the country.

Reactions among Galvestonians were mixed.

"That's not too good," said Mareia Schreiber while shaking out water-soaked artwork. "It feels kind of bad for the citizens of Galveston."

But other residents said Paul's vote didn't bother them. "We've worked hard all our lives," said Gene Lossow. "We take care of ourselves. I don't need FEMA or anything else. We got insurance."

More here.

A few observations:

1. This is the real Ron Paul. He's been a Libertarian, even when he's a Republican, for many years. Libertarians believe the government should do nothing except build roads, maintain a court and police system, and keep a military force only to be used if our borders are actually invaded. Seriously. They're total kooks, utterly disdainful of the complexities of modern existence, pushing a civic philosophy that has a serious chance of functioning only in pre-industrial societies.

Voting against disaster relief for his own constituents is thoroughly in keeping with his entire record as a politician. That doesn't make it right, but the majority in his district who voted him into office have absolutely no room to complain--this is what they get.

2. This Gene Lossow character, the Galvestonian who "take[s] care of [himself]," is fairly typical of the Libertarian point of view: we're all on our own; if you're in distress it's your own fault for not being prepared for every conceivable emergency; don't take my money; don't ask for help; fuck you. I'll be the first to admit that such an attitude probably works pretty well out on the range, or in the Yukon, or the Outback, or in some Robert Heinleinesque future Mars colony or the like, but the reality is that most of us are at the mercy of the vast concentrations of wealth and political power known as corporations, which are run by the wealthy elites who own the country--most of us cannot possibly be prepared for every conceivable emergency. We really do need Big Government to take care of us.

3. I continue to be amazed by Ron Paul's left wing popularity. I mean, he's clearly a nice guy and all, and it's hard not to like his anti-war views, but that's all incidental. His Libertarian philosophy is ultimately the exact opposite of everything the left believes. He would have the strong rule the weak, and too fucking bad because that's freedom. Well, okay, not really, but that's what these Libertarian loonies think. Clearly, all these dumbass hippie kids who love Ron Paul aren't really listening to what he has to say.

Score a few more points for American ignorance and apathy. Filthy goddamned hippies...


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The trust problem

From Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's blog Conscience of a Liberal:

The two striking things about the Paulson push since last Friday have been (1) demands for complete discretion, with zero accountability and (2) a complete refusal to explain the theory of the case — to explain why this thing is supposed to work, so that we can have an open discussion of whether he’s right.

The whole premise of the bailout push has been “We’re the grownups, we know what we’re doing, just trust us.” Sorry, but that’s how Colin Powell sold the Iraq war. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice … you shouldn’t get fooled.

And that, by the way, is why Paulson’s whopper about oversight matters. On one hand, the secretary poses as the adult providing supervision, with no need to explain his decisions; on the other, caught with his hand in the cookie jar, he offers childish excuses.

Click here for the rest.

We should all be amazed by the White House's audacity here, but, of course, we're not. As Krugman observes, this is typical Bush behavior going back to at least 9/11, and probably earlier--remember Cheney saying something to the effect of "now the grownups are in charge" shortly after they took office? That they would drop a proposal on Congress with the potential to become a massive giveaway to GOP cronies rather than a desperately needed shoring up of the US financial system is simply how these guys do business. I guess if there's anything amazing in all this, it's that this move shows they have far more contempt for the American public's intelligence than had been previously understood--previously, you may recall, it had been understood that the White House believes that Americans are stupider than shit.

It should also be noted that this "do as we say without questioning" bailout plan is as good an example of Naomi Klein's "disaster capitalism" thesis as it gets. That is, with the news that the White House bailout plan has existed already for some six months, and is only now being revealed to the public, to be hastily adopted under crisis conditions, that is, rammed down the people's throats without warning or discussion, is exactly how Klein's "Shock Doctrine" works. Once major distaster occurs, rush in before anybody else can even think, spouting out plans previously hatched in conservative think tanks that sound coherent and effective on the surface, while demanding adherence-or-else. Then forcefully impose such psychotic right-wing theory on frightened and battered populations. They did this with the Patriot Act. They did this with Afghanistan and Iraq. They did this in New Orleans with Katrina. They tried, and failed, to do it with Social Security--the problem there was that there isn't actually a crisis with Social Security, and the public failed to bite at the fear-mongering bait.

And now they're trying to do it again.

Fortunately, people in Congress, from both parties, are sick of all the lying bullshit. Right-wing ideological purists hate the market intervention; Democrats can't stomach the hundreds of billions going out to massive businesses without any oversight at all. Whatever it takes. In the end, Wall Street's going to get the money, which will infuriate the aforementioned purists, but I'm very thankful for their delaying skepticism at the moment. Once the dust clears, a coalition of Democrats and not so pure Republicans will pass the bill by a most likely veto proof margin. And I'm pretty sure it won't be free money for irresponsible assholes in suits. Big strings will be attached, and that's a good thing.

But still, what Paulson offered last Friday was just so insulting...

(Naomi Klein discusses this current financial meltdown in terms of her book The Shock Doctrine on Democracy Now here.)


Democrats To Relent On Offshore Drilling Ban

From the AP via the Huffington Post Newswire:

Democrats have decided to allow a quarter-century ban on drilling for oil off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to expire next week, conceding defeat in a months-long battle with the White House and Republicans set off by $4 a gallon gasoline prices this summer.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., told reporters Tuesday that a provision continuing the moratorium will be dropped this year from a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running after Congress recesses for the election.

Republicans have made lifting the ban a key campaign issue after gasoline prices spiked this summer and public opinion turned in favor of more drilling. President Bush lifted an executive ban on offshore drilling in July.

"If true, this capitulation by Democrats following months of Republican pressure is a big victory for Americans struggling with record gasoline prices," said House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio.


"The White House has made it clear they will not accept anything with a drilling moratorium, and Democrats know we cannot afford to shut down the government over this," said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "We look forward to working with the next president to hammer out a final resolution of this issue."

Click here for the rest.

Okay, this completely encapsulates why I so hate the Democrats. They know, fucking know, that more offshore drilling will do nothing to ease prices at the pump. It will do nothing in the short term because it will take a decade or more for oil companies to get their operations up and running. It will do nothing in the long term because the amount of oil coming from these future offshore operations will be negligible in terms of affecting the world oil market--virtually all economists are telling us this. The Democrats know this. Republicans know it, too, but they're just fine with lying to the public, which they do all the time anyway, so this is very much their thing. Democrats, on the other hand, are supposed to be above this kind of pandering bullshit. They ought to be leading instead of caving.

But here we are.

They whine that it would be shutting down the government, and they just can't afford to do it. But so what? They would have the truth on their side: it would be Bush shutting down the government if he vetoed the bill, not Congress. Bunch of fucking pussies. I mean, it's very cool that they're standing up to the White House on the Big Bailout and all, but right in the middle of their Adlai Stevenson moment, they fuck it up with caving on drilling.

They do this again and again and again. What good are they?


Monday, September 22, 2008

Charlie Haden Returns To His Bluegrass Roots

From NPR's Weekend Edition:

During radio's Golden Age, live country and bluegrass shows were popular from coast to coast. Back then, listeners to KMA in Shenandoah, Iowa, might have tuned in to hear the Haden Family Band. Charles Edward Haden stole the show as the 2-year-old yodeling cowboy.

Charlie Haden's singing career lasted only until his teens, when he was stricken with a strain of polio that affected his vocal cords. But with music coursing through his veins, he went on to become one of the jazz world's most sought-after bassists and composers. He played with Ornette Coleman, Keith Jarrett, John Coltrane and Ringo Starr, and has been a longtime collaborator with guitarist Pat Metheny.

But the bluegrass music of his youth was an irresistible siren song. So now, with his son Josh and his triplet daughters (Petra, Tanya and Rachel), he's made the recording that's been on his mind for years:
Rambling Boy.


It seems to be a little-known fact that Tanya Haden's husband is actor and comedian Jack Black, star of movies such as Tropic Thunder, School of Rock and High Fidelity. He sings "Old Joe Clark" on Rambling Boy. He's mostly known for his rock 'n' roll persona — and recordings with Tenacious D — but here takes on bluegrass music.

"I was nervous about it," Black says. "But once I got into the studio and Charlie taught me the melody line and the lyrics, something took over my body, and I felt like I was transported to another time."

Click here to listen to the interview, complete with cool bluegrass tunes.

To this day, I continue to be stunned by a tiny bit of information I picked up a few years ago watching Ken Burns' PBS miniseries Jazz: when sax player Ornette Coleman was inventing what would later be called free jazz in the late 1950s, he hired a bass player from the Grand Ole Opry to become one of his faithful sidemen, Charlie Haden. I was like, the Grand Ole Opry? The Grand Ole Opry?!? What the fuck? I mean, okay, I totally dig classic country and all, but you just can't get further apart than free jazz and Minnie Pearl. Fucking wow.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not at all a fan of free jazz. Call me old school, but I tend to enjoy musical dissonance only when it is in strong juxtaposition to musical assonance. That is, without some accompanying musical structure, you know, chords, scales, themes and motifs, that kind of thing, dissonance is simply annoying noise. I'm fully aware that thousands of music snobs worldwide disagree with me, but fuck 'em. This is like "The Emperor's New Clothes"; they're full of shit no matter how many five dollar words they use to make their shit taste yummy.

But enough of that. Haden eventually moved on to more musically sounding music, and his collaborations with Pat Metheny are fun. I'm not a fan, but I respect his work and position in jazz history. And, of course, I'm still weirded out, in an entirely good way, by his down home beginnings. That's what makes his return to his roots so interesting. This isn't the greatest bluegrass I've ever heard, but it's good, and weird given its pedigree.

Somehow the addition of talented professional weirdo Jack Black to the mix makes perfect sense.

Go check it out; it's well worth the fifteen minutes the piece runs.



From the AP via ESPN:

McCoy breaks career TD pass mark in Longhorns' triumph over Owls

Instead, the Texas quarterback coolly tossed a perfect strike down the middle of the field for a 60-yard touchdown play and the No. 7 Longhorns romped to a 52-10 win over Rice on a record-setting Saturday night for McCoy.

McCoy passed for four touchdowns against the Owls, giving him a school record 62 for his career. He finished with 329 yards on 19-of-23 passing and led Texas (3-0) in rushing for the second time this season with 83 yards on eight carries.

"He's just taken over," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "This is his team. He's having fun."

McCoy even got into the power running attack, bowling over two defenders who outweighed him by 230 pounds on an 8-yard TD run in the first quarter.


All of Texas' wins have come against teams from Conference USA and the Sun Belt. The Longhorns plays Arkansas next week in a game that was postponed two weeks because of the hurricane.

Click here for the rest.

Okay, so this wasn't shown live in New Orleans, but I did get a chance to watch a quarter or two for an FSN rebroadcast shown here in the middle of the night. And what I saw was cool, along the lines of what I've seen for the 'Horns' last couple of drubbings of utterly over matched teams: they looked pretty good and confident; they moved the ball well; their freshman secondary allowed a lot of passing yards, but stiffened when they had to. Colt McCoy is finally fulfilling the promise I and many others saw in him a couple of seasons back. I mean, he's looking pretty goddamned good.


Like the AP article excerpted above observes, Texas hasn't really played anybody worth mentioning yet. I was really looking forward to what would have been last weekend's game against former Southwest Conference rival Arkansas, who beat LSU last year in a late season SEC matchup that almost derailed the Tigers' shot at the national championship, but it was postponed by Hurricane Ike. Now, since the Razorbacks got the shit kicked out of them by Alabama, it looks like Texas will once again be playing a wildly overmatched opponent for the rescheduled date next weekend.

I guess we'll have to wait until Big 12 play begins in two weeks. I do hope the Longhorns are as good as they appear to be.

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy (12) slips away from Rice defensive end Scott Solomon
as he scrambles for a 15-yard gain during the second quarter of an NCAA college football
game Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008, in Austin, Texas. McCoy rushed for 83 yards and passed
for 329 in Texas' 52-10 victory. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)

Again from the AP via ESPN:

LaFell's touchdown catch lifts LSU past Auburn in thriller

Jarrett Lee and Brandon LaFell hooked up on an 18-yard touchdown pass with 1:03 left to lift No. 6 LSU to yet another dramatic comeback win over No. 10 Auburn, 26-21 Saturday in an SEC West showdown that once again produced a fantastic finish and wild momentum swings.

The last five meetings have been decided by a collective 19 points in a rivalry that has produced more than drama. The winner has gone to the SEC championship game in six of the last eight seasons.


The only major difference in this one was the road team came out on top. The last eight games in the series had gone to the home team. LSU (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) also snapped Auburn's streak of six consecutive victories at Jordan-Hare Stadium against Top 10 teams.

Click here for more.

On the other hand, this game was pure joy to watch. Full disclosure: I only saw the second half. I was taping it to watch later because I had been planning on hanging out with some non-football friends, but that didn't materialize until around halftime, so I said "fuck it" and flipped over to ESPN. That's when I found out we were down by eleven.

So the pure joy came from watching an incredible road comeback against a hardcore top ten SEC opponent. I didn't see Lee's agonizing first half interception - well okay, I did get to see about three or four replays - so, to me, he was fucking brilliant. Fuck man, everybody was brilliant. The Tigers are arguably better this year than last year's national championship team was. And Coach Les Miles, as usual, gave us lots of theatrics: okay so we went three and out after the successful onside kick early in the third quarter, but it was a fucking successful onside kick!!! When we didn't have to do it!!! The Tigers have both talent and balls.

I've been saying for several years now that the SEC is so tough (three of this week's top five are from the SEC) that if a team can make it through conference play undefeated, the national championship is simply a formality. Looks like the Tigers have a shot at proving my new maxim.

LSU wide receiver Brandon LaFell (1) scores a the game-winning
touchdown against Auburn during the second half of an NCAA
college football game in Auburn, Ala. on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008.
LSU won 26-21. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)


Saturday, September 20, 2008


From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Financial crisis will cost taxpayers hundreds of billions

Struggling to stave off financial catastrophe, the Bush administration today laid out a radical bailout plan with a jawdropping price tag — a takeover of a half-trillion dollars or more in worthless mortgages and other bad debt held by tottering institutions.

Relieved investors sent stocks soaring on Wall Street and around the globe. The Dow-Jones industrials average rose 368 points after surging 410 points the day before on rumors the federal action was afoot.

A grim-faced President Bush acknowledged risks to taxpayers in what would be the most sweeping government intervention to rescue failing financial institutions since the Great Depression. But he declared, "The risk of not acting would be far higher."

The administration is asking Congress for far-reaching new powers to take over troubled mortgages from banks and other companies, including purchasing sour mortgage-backed securities. Administration officials and congressional leaders are to work out details over the weekend.

Congressional officials said they expected a request for legal authority to buy up the bad loans, at a cost in excess of $500 billion to the government. Democrats were discussing whether to try to attach middle class assistance to the legislation, despite a request from Bush to avoid adding controversial items that could delay action. An expansion of jobless benefits was one possibility.

Click here for the rest.

A few years ago, during one of my rare and cautious conversations about politics, economics to be specific, with my very conservative father, he asked me after a few minutes if I believed in "redistribution." Fortunately, I had been recently listening to Rush and Hannity, to which my father listens religiously, so I was aware of how the right-wing talk idiots were using the word. For them, "redistribution" means using government money for people and programs for which conservatives don't believe it should be used. Of course, that's not how they would define it: they would define it as taking away somebody's hard earned income and handing it over to somebody who didn't work for it--a very related idea is that "redistribution" is inherently unfair and unjust, and that the government should never "redistribute" income. But that's bullshit.

I responded to my dad, "Everybody believes in 'redistribution;' the only real questions in this area are about whose money is being 'redistributed,' how much, who gets it, and why." For some reason I don't remember, phone ringing, distraction, whatever, the conversation ended right there, and I never got a chance to explain what to my father must have been an exercise in absurdity: how could everybody believe in "redistribution" when all conservatives and businesses are strongly against it?

Obviously, opposition to "redistribution" is lip service only. That is, countless Americans oppose the concept in the abstract, but fail to recognize countless instances of "redistribution" which they fully support, be it cheap or free mineral or logging rights handed out to private companies, massive tax breaks handed out to the rich but not to the poor and middle classes, cheap or free patent rights handed out to chemical companies, subsidies for various industries, stadium and arena deals, massive no-bid contracts and sweetheart deals given to companies and individuals friendly with government insiders, and the list just goes on and on. Indeed, conservative dissident Kevin Phillips in his book Wealth and Democracy has well documented how virtually all of America's fabulously wealthy families throughout history have benefited enormously from government money.

Everybody believes in "redistribution," whether they admit it or not. And we're currently experiencing one of those rare occasions where the hypocrisy is so egregious that conservatives feel compelled to explain themselves: "no, no, no, it's not socialism; you see, we have to do this or the consequences would be too terrible to consider."

Don't get me wrong. I actually agree. This isn't socialism, which is about government ownership of the economy for the purpose of giving workers a fair shake. We really do have to do this or everybody is fucked. But it is "redistribution." And it is in no way anything new. We've been doing it throughout our nation's entire history. The only real issue to consider here is whether we, regular ordinary tax payers, are actually going to get something for our money beyond saving a financial system which renders most of its benefits to wealthy and irresponsible elites.

Personally, I believe that if we don't attach some big time strings to this bailout, like heavy regulation coupled with some "redistribution" aiding ordinary Americans, it's all going to happen again, and there won't be any money left to save us next time.

(Kevin Phillips interviewed by Bill Moyers on this most recent financial meltdown here.)


Friday, September 19, 2008




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


Thursday, September 18, 2008


My old buddy Matt writes:

The world needs answers!

Ok, so I'm sitting here listening to my iPod and working and Shakedown Street by the Dead comes on (my wife is a Dead fan; we have a combined MP3 file; hence, I have Dead songs on my iPod). Any who, it got me thinking - what are the best examples of bands with fairly distinctive sounds putting out albums in a genre that is significantly different just to cash in? Spinal Tap had a lot of fun with this. Dylan famously changed his sound but I think it was not commercially driven. Some bands searched for their sound for awhile before becoming what the world knew them as (Journey, for instance). I remember when The Cult went from indie rockers to a hair band. What are some other examples?

I respond:

Oh god, where do I begin?

Both the Stones and Paul McCartney tried their hand at disco, "Emotional Rescue" and "Goodnight Tonight" respectively as a couple of prime examples. Actually, the Stones were tinkering with their sound all through the 70s, and I think some of it was commercially driven, but some of it was genuine interest in exploring new sounds. McCartney continues to do this, just as the Beatles did throughout the 60s. As with the Stones, some of it has been commercial, and some of it artistic--for instance, the Beatles' "Paperback Writer," with its smooth multi-part harmonies, was a conscious attempt to compete for Beach Boys fans--commercial or not, the result was pretty great.

Steely Dan's sound also changed throughout the 70s, moving from rock to a jazz fusion sound by the time they recorded Aja--I'm still not sure how to describe the Gaucho album, much less jazzy than Aja, but still pretty jazzy. I don't think much of Dan's evolution was about commercialism. However, it is important to note that everything they've done since their reunion in the early 90s is a conscious attempt to NOT change, for utterly commercial reasons, of course. I think all these albums totally suck. Fagen's recent Morph the Cat solo album is pretty good, though.

Both the Butthole Surfers and the B-52s moved toward a radio-friendly sound later in their careers. I have no idea what's happening with either band today. Bongwater and Negativland moved in a more commercial direction musically, too; however, both groups retained most of their subversive edge via lyrics and themes. Don't get me started on Brian Eno as Dr. Frankenstein and his experiments on U2.

Didn't Carlos Santana update his sound in the late 90s with both critical and popular success?

Here's an awful thought: Jefferson Airplane-->Jefferson Starship-->Starship. It's just so sad.

There's a special place in hell for Collins, Rutherford, and Banks, but not for Peter Gabriel, who also became a big star in the 80s, but not because he sold out. Emerson, Lake, and Palmer never changed at all, even when they were trying to. King Crimson changed, but did it like Gabriel: the music takes Fripp in always new directions.

I'm sure there's tons more I'm forgetting, but this ought to be enough food for thought.

Wait a minute, you were talking about cross-over artists. Maybe this doesn't answer your question at all. Anyway, here's some EL&P for you:


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

George Takei marries longtime partner Brad Altman

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

George Takei and his longtime partner, Brad Altman, have agreed to live long and prosper together.

Takei, 71, and Altman, 54, were married Sunday in a multicultural ceremony at the Japanese American National Museum that featured a Buddhist priest, Native American wedding bands, a Japanese Koto harp and a bagpipe procession.

The couple, both clad in white dinner jackets with black pants, made a grand entrance to the tune of One Singular Sensation from the Broadway musical
A Chorus Line. They stepped into a circle of yellow roses and lilies, where they shared a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and were wed by a Buddhist priest.

The couple, who have been together for 21 years, wrote their own vows.


Takei said he and Altman chose to make their wedding public — and have been outspoken gay-rights advocates for years — for the sake of democracy.

"We have a relationship that's been stronger and longer-lived than some of our straight friends, and yet we were not equal," Takei told The Associated Press before the ceremony. "What this does is give us that dignity; (it's) being part of the American system and being whole. We're making the American system whole as well, as America is becoming more equal."

Such activism is nothing new for Takei. He participated in the civil rights movement, served as a Democratic delegate in 1972 and fought for redress for those — like his own family — who were forced into internment camps after World War II.

"I grew up determined not to be marginalized," he said. "That served as an incentive for me to be proactive."

Click here for the rest.

Of course, while I totally dig the novelty that one of my favorite Star Trek characters, well, the actor who plays him anyway, is gay and is having one of those new fangled gay weddings, I'm particularly approving of Captain Sulu's politicization of it all. After all, whether we like to admit it or not, marriage is a political act: it is considered by most to be the basic building block of all human social structures, and the ceremony itself is the most self-consciously political aspect of marriage. A wedding is a declaration to all society that marriage, and by extension, family, is how we humans ought to organize ourselves. We assume it's political only when you throw in the millions of gays and lesbians who are clamoring for a seat at the social structure table, but, like I said, it's already political. Old Captain Sulu is just playing it up, to make people think, and rightfully so.

I'm also impressed by the cultural diversity incorporated into the ceremony, which is something that Becky and I tried to do with our wedding back in '01--okay, so our marriage didn't last, but we had one hell of a ceremony, and she and I are still pals, so we must have done something right.

Anyway, congrats to George and Brad. And keep on fighting the good fight. You know, I'm really beginning to think of Takei as something of a Real Artist for all his activism over the years. That's a very cool thing.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

FEMA Struggles To Provide Aid As Ike Survivors
May Wait Weeks For Food, Water And Electricity

From the AP via Huffington Post:

HOUSTON (AP) _ More Hurricane Ike relief was on the way for evacuees Tuesday as tens of thousands of people waited for food, water and ice, for the electricity to return to their homes or for their first hot meal and shower. President Bush viewed devastated areas, and urged people across the country to donate money to speed recovery.

The number of distribution centers was to be quadrupled to 60 to deliver food, water and ice. Still, for some, the wait for a return to normalcy could be days. For others, it could be weeks.

"A good bath would be nice: have the fire department swing by and spray us down," said Carlos Silliman, 48, as he sat on a picnic bench in front of his Galveston Island home, where 18 inches of water flooded his garage and ruined a freezer full of venison. "I'm ready to have a cold beer and read the paper."

For most, such luxuries are far beyond the horizon. Many service stations have no gasoline, and some major highways remain under water. More than 30,000 evacuees are still living in nearly 300 public shelters, and roughly 2 million people in Texas alone are without power.

Ike's survivors have already walked for miles and waited for hours at supply distribution centers, gobbling up all that was offered: 1 million bottles of water, 1 million meals and 600,000 pounds of ice in just the first 36 hours after the storm passed.

It's not enough, and those dispatching truck after truck to distribution centers around the city know it. One center north of Houston drew 10,000 people Monday in search of food and water.

Click here for the rest.

I, for one, am not quite ready to start complaining about how FEMA's doing this time around. I mean, I just don't really know what's going on. For that matter, I still don't know how the Katrina-besmirched federal agency is doing with Gustav related destruction here in Louisiana, or with the more recent Ike related storm surge devastation in coastal parishes. Okay, I know they're not doing enough, but that could just as easily have as much to do with the fact that these back-to-back hurricanes are major fucking disasters as it does with FEMA's old school incompetence.

I do know that the White House has seized the opportunity to try to redeem itself after its loss of reputation during the Katrina debacle. It's just that what happened in New Orleans was so fucking obvious: people sat there in flood waters for days while FEMA did nothing, and it was on TV for the whole world to see; Gustav and Ike's devastation is much more spread out, harder to fathom, harder for the press to cover. Maybe FEMA's finally doing a good job, maybe not. One thing we can be sure of is that, no matter what, Bush's people are in total spin mode for the media. Anything they say should be parsed through this filter.

For instance, during Gustav, Republican governor of Louisiana, Jesus Jindal, not with FEMA, but definitely playing for the same team, kept going on TV with speeches comprised of long lists of numbers, something along the lines of "we've got three thousand national guard troops coming into Terrebone Parish, a thousand more coming into Orleans Parish; we've got ten thousand MRE's and bottles of water up in Baton Rouge ready to go as soon as the weather has calmed enough to distribute it..." and on and on. The public, including myself, has no way of understanding if that means the new GOP governor was more prepared than the old Democrat governor, but all those numbers sure sounded like Bobby means business.

My suspicion is that Republicans have better rhetoric this time around, which they obviously do, but that doesn't mean they're actually doing a better job. But like I said, they may actually be doing a better job this time around. I just don't know.

I sure hope they are. The Houston area, my hometown, especially south of I 10, sounds majorly fucked up, as bad as Katrina devastated New Orleans in some places, and these people need all the help they can get. Strangely, and very fortunately, according to a brief email my father sent a couple of days ago, my family's house up in Kingwood had no damages--apparently, the houses around us got hit pretty fucking hard; "We are blessed!" my dad wrote.

Alas, the Lord hasn't smiled so brightly on hundreds of thousands of others: the government needs to do what God won't. And quickly.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Financial Russian Roulette

From the New York Times editorial page, Princeton economist Paul Krugman on today's Wall Street carnage:

Will the U.S. financial system collapse today, or maybe over the next few days? I don’t think so — but I’m nowhere near certain. You see, Lehman Brothers, a major investment bank, is apparently about to go under. And nobody knows what will happen next.

To understand the problem, you need to know that the old world of banking, in which institutions housed in big marble buildings accepted deposits and lent the money out to long-term clients, has largely vanished, replaced by what is widely called the “shadow banking system.” Depository banks, the guys in the marble buildings, now play only a minor role in channeling funds from savers to borrowers; most of the business of finance is carried out through complex deals arranged by “nondepository” institutions, institutions like the late lamented Bear Stearns — and Lehman.

The new system was supposed to do a better job of spreading and reducing risk. But in the aftermath of the housing bust and the resulting mortgage crisis, it seems apparent that risk wasn’t so much reduced as hidden: all too many investors had no idea how exposed they were.


But the economic effects — a freezing up of credit, a downward spiral in asset values — are the same as those of the great bank runs of the 1930s.

Click here for the rest.

Okay, so here's a brief recap of what's happened today. Lehman Brothers, one of the biggest investment banking firms in the world, declared bankruptcy. Merrill Lynch, also one of the biggest investment banking firms in the world, was bought by Bank of America. American Insurance Group, a.k.a. AIG, one of the largest insurance companies in the world, found itself teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and is now searching desperately for some quick capital, in terms of tens of billions of dollars, to keep itself solvent in the short term. Meanwhile, Washington Mutual, the nation's largest savings and loan business, saw its stocks downgraded to "junk" status, which means exactly what it sounds like--investors no longer have enough confidence in the company to see it as a worthwhile investment. And all this is taking place in front of a background of continuing financial business failure and a wildly volatile oil market. Oh yeah, I can't forget to mention that the stock market dropped over five hundred points in reaction to it all.

I have no idea what all this means in the long term, but it's fucking scary. Indeed, as Krugman observes, not even economists know what's going to happen next. I mean, the business class continues to do everything it can to reassure the public that everything's going to be okay, but they really have no idea what they're doing. They can't possibly know that everything's going to be okay. They're scared, too.

So I don't know, but here's what I think.

Right-wing economic orthodoxy coupled with greed resulting in mass deregulation of business and finance over the last three decades have created a situation where a mass collapse of the US economy is not at all unimaginable. Meanwhile, as a part of the aforementioned greed/deregulation downward spiral, the US now manufactures a whole hell of a lot less than it has in years past. This has seemingly made good business sense, greatly lowering labor costs, savings which have to some extent been passed on to consumers, but it has also hurt those same consumers when they're called workers, taking away good jobs, and replacing them with burger flipping and Walmart store greeting. So we've become increasingly good at retail services, but increasingly bad at making cars, televisions, refrigerators, you know, stuff--that task has been contracted out to lesser developed nations. Like the failed empires of the Netherlands and Great Britain before us, we've finally opted for paper wealth over real wealth. And nobody in power gives a shit because they've all gotten rich on paper.

You'll note that there is no longer such a thing as a Dutch or British empire. That's in large part because their paper wealth systems ultimately collapsed leaving both nations in financial dire straits back at home for decades trying to clean up the mess while recreating economies based on material things instead of the abstract ideas known as finance.

And that's what I fear may be happening here. Maybe not right now. Maybe today's Wall Street catastrophe is only the beginning of a long and slow economic deterioration. But I just can't shake the feeling that sooner or later all this economic lunacy is going to catch up with us, and when that finally happens, it will be the middle and working classes, and especially the poor, who suffer the most, while the rich bemoan losing that third house, or that second yacht.

It is especially sad that the economic system currently falling apart is the same one blessing Obama and McCain with the money and authorization needed to make a serious presidential run. That is, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have any real desire to do what it would take to actually change our economic course. They're part of the problem, certainly not the solution.


Scott, No. 7 LSU sweep away North Texas in blowout fashion

From the AP via ESPN:

Charles Scott keeps breaking loose for long gains and LSU's running game looks as powerful as ever.

If the seventh-ranked Tigers don't find a passing game to match, they may not have it so easy when they begin Southeastern Conference play at Auburn next weekend.

Scott ran for touchdowns of 39 and 43 yards, Trindon Holliday scored on a 92-yard punt return, and LSU cruised to a 41-3 victory over winless North Texas on Saturday night.

More here.

Well, probably the most interesting part was the USC/Ohio State game.

That is, LSU playing North Texas is your typical college football powerhouse early season warmup game-joke. I'm sure it was a snoozer. Well, maybe not: I really dig my teams beating the living shit out of pretty much anybody. I mean, it was probably boring for anybody who's not an LSU fan, but, you know. I probably would have enjoyed it if I'd gotten to see it, but for some reason it wasn't broadcast here in New Orleans. Instead, I watched USC beat the shit out of Ohio State, which, as I mentioned, played an important role in the LSU game. That is, LSU won convincingly enough to retain its spot in the AP poll; Ohio State's massive 35-3 loss pulled the Buckeyes out of the top ten completely: consequently,
LSU moves up to number six in this week's poll--Texas, right behind LSU, moved up as well, and they didn't have to do shit because their much anticipated game with former Southwest Conference rival Arkansas was postponed due to Hurricane Ike; I guess we'll see how that Big 12/SEC matchup works out.

Okay, don't get me wrong. It sounds like LSU has some problems in the passing game, which I hope will be worked out by the time they start playing some real teams. But really, I have absolutely no idea what kind of team the Tigers are this year. I haven't seen them play, and they haven't played anybody worth mentioning. Kind of hard to get excited just yet--the Longhorns have gotten my hopes up too many times with early season high rankings only to see it all go to shit once the real season starts for me to give my emotions so readily over to the Tigers at this point.

Ah hell. LSU is great even when they suck. Hook 'em Tigers!

LSU punt return specialist Trindon Holliday (8) races up field with a
North Texas punt in the second half of an NCAA college football game
in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 13, 2008. Holliday returned the
punt 59-yards but did not score on the play. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Obama hits McCain for 'phony outrage' over remark

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

On Tuesday, Obama criticized McCain's policies as similar to those of President Bush, saying: "You can put lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still going to stink after eight years."

The McCain campaign immediately jumped on the comments, arguing they were directed at Palin, the GOP's first woman on a presidential ticket. In her acceptance speech last week, she had referred to herself in a joke about lipstick being the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull.

Accusing Obama of "smearing" Palin in "offensive and disgraceful" comments, the McCain campaign demanded an apology — though McCain himself used the folksy metaphor a few times last year, including once to describe Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's health care plan.

The McCain campaign today issued an Internet ad that said Obama was talking about Palin and said of Obama: "Ready to lead? No. Ready to smear? Yes."

Obama's campaign has accused the GOP camp of engaging in a "pathetic attempt to play the gender card." The campaign noted two other instances of McCain using the phrase "lipstick on a pig" and its use by other Republicans such as House Minority Leader John Boehner and Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl.

More here.

Okay, so this is extraordinarily funny because not a single individual in the Republican Party, male and female alike, gives a shit about this kind of "sexism." I mean, sure, after three decades of feminist influence on the US, Republicans have become liberated enough to nominate a woman for veep, but absolutely none of them have a problem with lipstick jokes--after all, they've been railing away on whatever "politically correct" may mean for years and years. They just don't mean it, and it's very hard to take them seriously on this.

They are pretty good, however, at throwing hysterical bitch fits, so I guess we'll see if this hilarious attack on Obama gets any traction. Probably not because, in addition to being really funny, it's also bullshit, a straight-up lie, for reasons noted in the article excerpt above. I'm keeping my fingers crossed this time that the media does a better job, like they are with this lipstick thing, of pointing out the more absurd lies that the GOP likes to throw around in presidential elections--indeed, Krugman's got a recent column on how the McCain campaign is currently trying to outdo Bush's magnificent record with extreme lies; the whole "thanks but no thanks to the bridge to nowhere" meme is an almost funnier example.

Beyond all that, I think it's time for me to reveal what I think about this new presidential race wild card, Republican Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin: obviously she's a total right-wing kook, a complete nut, with lunatic Christian anti-feminist attitudes, and psychotic neoliberal distortions with which actual neoliberal economists would disagree, a perfect piece of red meat to throw the base for unity and poll attendance on election day. I also imagine that, by drafting a woman, the GOP is trying its hand at countering the diversity angle brought to the table with Obama's African-American ethnicity; however, as their utter feebleness with the pig lipstick attack clearly shows, Republicans are way out of their depth here, and Palin probably won't have much of an effect on voters who value diversity.

But I think there's more going on here than meets the eye. I think the real reason the GOP tapped Palin is because she's a babe. I mean, a major fucking babe. Okay, it might just be me, with my bizarre fetish for lawyerly chicks which dates back to my days as a high school debater, but there's just no way Republicans could be unaware of the raw librarian sexuality Palin brings to the race. In short, I feel certain that she was chosen, in part, to be a sex-object-for-votes, which is much more in line with where the GOP is on feminism than with its faux outrage over pigs and lipstick.

No seriously. Presidential campaigns are massive marketing campaigns in the truest sense: everybody knows that sex sells; it was only a matter of time before political parties started infusing sex into the products they sell. But what a product!

Hubba hubba!


Friday, September 12, 2008




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


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Solemn rituals mark seventh anniversary of 9/11

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Familiar rituals of grief marked the seventh anniversary of Sept. 11 on Thursday as thousands paid tribute at the attack sites, the presidential candidates laid flowers at ground zero and children mourned parents they can barely remember.

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama called off their campaigns for the day, and in the late afternoon descended the long ramp into the pit of the World Trade Center site, bowing their heads and leaving the flowers in a reflecting pool.

At the Pentagon, 15,000 people turned out for the dedication of the first permanent memorial built at any of the three sites where hijacked planes crashed. It includes 184 benches that will glow at night, one for each victim there.

"Thanks to the brave men and women, and all those who work to keep us safe, there has not been another attack on our soil in 2,557 days," President Bush said at the outdoor dedication.

More here.

Not to disparage the brave men and women who work to keep us safe, who, I'm sure, work their asses off, often risking life and limb, but the fact that we haven't seen a spectacular follow up to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 most likely has very little to do with the efforts of President Bush. Indeed, I've posted here at Real Art numerous stories about how porous post 9/11 security has been here in the US, with wide open chemical plants and petroleum refineries, ports through which it would be fairly easy to move a "dirty bomb," and border checkpoints that have allowed to pass from Canada a serial killer with his bloody chainsaw. For that matter, waging illegal and senseless wars against the Islamic world has done nothing but make more terrorist attacks likely.

Frankly, I'm not sure why we haven't had any more attacks. My guess, to put it in football terms, is that 9/11 was something of a trick play pulled off by an inferior opponent--that is, if you're a shitty school like North Texas or Louisiana Tech, you might be able to score some points on USC or LSU, but you're not going to score that many. We were asleep at the wheel and they took it in for a touchdown, but it was unlikely then, and it continues to be unlikely now. Even though the White House hasn't really done much in terms of new effectiveness.

Beyond that, I'm realizing this year that, for me, 9/11 has jumped the shark. I'm no longer freaked out like I was for a few weeks after the event. I'm no longer frightened of America Gone Wild like I was well into the days of the Iraq invasion. I'm no longer frightened of the right wing's cold steel grip on American politics as I was until around Katrina and the wave of conservative gay sex scandals. I mean, I'm still angry about it all, but it's now part of a larger political anger, lodged deeply within an overall historical context going back decades.

That is, as observed by historian Andrew Bacevich, 9/11 comes straight out of US foreign and domestic policy establishment consensus dating from the late 1960s: both Democrats and Republicans have treated and continue to treat the planet as our market, secured by military force, both overt and by proxy, oppressing millions worldwide in the process, decade after decade. Nobody who died on 9/11 personally deserved it. It wouldn't be fair to say that we brought it on ourselves. It would be fair, however, to say that the actions of our government made it inevitable. Fuck bin Laden and all that. But the US created him. And the American establishment, rather than taking the obvious opportunity for some deep reflection and reassessment, has done nothing but ramp up and pump full of steriods the process that made him what he is.

And that's what makes me angry today. Not 9/11 itself, but everything surrounding it that made it happen. And it pisses me off that neither McCain nor Obama will do anything to change that process.