Saturday, March 31, 2012

All 6 Censored Doonesbury Cartoons

From News Junkie Post courtesy of my buddy Alden on facebook:

DOCTOR (reading text from a document to a female patient): “On behalf of Governor Rick Perry, May I welcome you to your compulsory transvaginal exam…This invasive procedure is mandatory for anyone seeking to end innocent unborn life in the state of Texas…After meeting with your fetus, you will be given state-approved printed material that explains the consequences of your actions…”

PATIENT: Why are you reading all this?

DOCTOR (reading): “…As your doctor cannot be trusted to do so.”

Read 'em all here.

I've read that, even though some papers are, indeed, choosing not to run Gary Trudeau's scathingly hilarious take on the Texas anti-abortion object-rape law, some are simply moving the strip over to the editorial section for the week, and most papers are just running the strip as usual, which is good news. Guess we've come a long way since Doonesbury began in the 70s, when, I imagine, this story arc would have never made it out of the cartoonist's head and onto the his drawing board.

While horrifying, this shameless law easily lends itself to comedy because it is so absurd. I mean, seriously: there is absolutely no medical justification for requiring this ultrasound procedure; it exists only to humiliate women seeking abortions. And "humiliate" is something of an understatement. For no medical reason, Texas doctors are required by law to insert an object into their patients' vaginas, that is, to rape them with an object. Nobody actually involved wants to do this, but the state of Texas doesn't care. Women who want abortions, according to the state legislature, must be raped in order to obtain one. Both horrifying and absurd at the same time.

There can be no civilized debate about this. Mockery and ridicule are the only responses rational and moral people can make. Way to go Doonesbury!!!


Friday, March 30, 2012



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


Broccoli and Bad Faith

From the New York Times, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman chimes in on oral arguments before the Supreme Court about Obama's Affordable Healthcare Act:

Nobody knows what the Supreme Court will decide with regard to the Affordable Care Act. But, after this week’s hearings, it seems quite possible that the court will strike down the “mandate” — the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance — and maybe the whole law. Removing the mandate would make the law much less workable, while striking down the whole thing would mean denying health coverage to 30 million or more Americans.

Given the stakes, one might have expected all the court’s members to be very careful in speaking about both health care realities and legal precedents. In reality, however, the second day of hearings suggested that the justices most hostile to the law don’t understand, or choose not to understand, how insurance works. And the third day was, in a way, even worse, as antireform justices appeared to embrace any argument, no matter how flimsy, that they could use to kill reform.

More here.

Maddow was hitting on exactly this subject last night, and made the obvious point I like to make when the ideologically divided Supreme Court takes on a controversial issue: this is, more or less, the same Court that made the outrageous, unprecedented, and inexplicable decision in late 2000 that installed George W. Bush to the nation's highest office. That is, the decision in Gore v Bush was nakedly partisan, so much so that the conservative justices who authored the case's opinion refused to sign it, and added the WTF statement that it shall not be used as precedent for any future cases. In short, they fucking knew it was bullshit, and added weird conditions and caveats in order to sort of distance themselves from it.

So we know that, in spite of all the legalese, these right-wing lawyers of the SCOTUS are ready willing and able to bullshit themselves into whatever position they want, all the while pretending to be disinterested Solomons dispassionately weighing laws and ideas against each other for the general benefit of the nation. I mean, the lefty Justices probably do it, too, but they appear to be much less willing to rub everybody's nose in it. No, it's the conservatives who fuck us in the ass and then tell us it's right and good.

So, all legal issues aside, the hostile attitudes coming down from the Court's right wing on this show that they're ready to take the ACA down, whether it passes Constitutional muster or not. That is, Gore v Bush destroyed the Supreme Court's credibility, and they need to rehabilitate its image somehow if they want that credibility restored, but that doesn't appear to be happening anytime soon.

On the other hand, striking down Obamacare may very well leave the door open to single payer. Keeping my fingers crossed.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Got this pic off facebook, courtesy of science fiction author David Gerrold:

This is very much in keeping with the fact that Bertolt Brecht was a Socialist: as Marx said, everything is political. Personally, I think that's something of an absolute statement, and therefore not entirely true, but I certainly agree with the overall notion. That is, everything has a political dimension, or at least, a potentially political dimension, and once you've learned how to be on the lookout for it, you really do start to see politics everywhere.

Here at the end of the American Empire, most citizens don't understand this simple truth. They think that politics is something that other people do in other places, guys in suits at City Hall or in Washington, D.C., or on television. Most Americans think they don't understand politics and are therefore unqualified to participate in or even discuss politics. And a large segment of the population doesn't even advance the analysis that far; they just don't give a fuck and don't want to understand--"Let's not talk about politics, okay? It makes my head hurt."

And this is exactly how the powers that be want it.

The reality, of course, is that the simplest most mundane acts and utterances are profoundly political. Having sex, whether in or outside marriage, is political; getting married or not getting married are both political. Having children or not having children, too. Getting drunk is political. Watching television is political. Attending public school, or any school at all, is political. Sports are political. Getting gasoline for your car is political. And on and on and on. And these are just the most obvious examples. Politics runs right smack dab down through the center of your life whether you like it or not, and the political class continually struggles to bend your politics-of-everyday-life to its will. Whether you admit it or not.

It's tempting to simply castigate Americans as sheep, but that wouldn't do much to get people involved. I mean, think about the possibilities here: millions of sheep discovering that they're sheep and that they don't like it one damned bit, suddenly descending on Washington to drown all the scum bag politicians in their heavy fleece. That's what I'd like to see. Revenge of the sheep.

It could happen.


5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women

From courtesy of my facebook friend Jennifer D:

Now go to the front page of any mostly male discussion site like and see how many inches you can browse before finding several thousand men bemoaning how all women are gold-digging whores (7,500 upvotes) and how crazy and irrational women are (9,659 upvotes) and how horrible and gross and fat women are (4,000 upvotes). Or browse the "Men's Rights" section and see weird fantasies about alpha males defeating all the hot women who try to control them with their vaginas.

This current of white-hot rage has to come as a surprise to some of you, because we tend to think "sexism" is being dismissive toward women, or paying them lower salaries -- we don't think of it as frenzied "burn the witch!" hatred. Yet occasionally something like this Limbaugh thing will come along to prick that balloon, and out it pours. Like it's always waiting there, a millimeter below the surface.

More here.

While I don't agree one hundred percent with every assertion the above linked essay makes, I agree that every dynamic it mentions is definitely in play and affecting how American men think about women, in often unquestioned ways. Because that's the rub, "unquestioned." A complicated stew of social messages and custom, mass media, and sexual biology influences and guides the male decision making process when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex, and even those of us men who are relatively aware of all this are under its control to some extent whether we want to be or not. And, of course, that makes everything even more complicated: knowledge of social conditioning and biology, without the ability to really change personal behavior, make the notion of flipping some sort of intellectual switch turning us into nice guys severely problematic. That is, awareness of these problems is not enough to effectively change individual behavior, let alone instigate social change.

But, at least, awareness is a start.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The GOP’s woman problem is that it has a serious problem with women

From New York Magazine, new Frank Rich:

At the very top of the Washington GOP Establishment, however, there was a dawning recognition that a grave danger had arisen—not to women, but to their own brand. A month of noisy Republican intrusion into women’s health and sex organs, amplified by the megaphone of Limbaugh’s aria, was a potentially apocalyptic combination for an election year. No one expressed this fear more nakedly than Peggy Noonan, speaking, again with Stephanopoulos, on ABC’s This Week. After duly calling out Rush for being “crude, rude, even piggish,” she added: “But what he said was also destructive. It confused the issue. It played into this trope that the Republicans have a war on women. No, they don’t, but he made it look that way.”

Note that she found Limbaugh “destructive” not because he was harming women but because he was harming her party. But the problem wasn’t that Limbaugh confused the issue. His real transgression was that he had given away the GOP game, crystallizing an issue that had been in full view for weeks. That’s why his behavior resonated with and angered so many Americans who otherwise might have tuned out his rant as just another sloppy helping of his aging shtick. It’s precisely because there is a Republican war on women that he hit a nerve. And surely no one knows that better than Noonan, a foot soldier in some of the war’s early battles well before Rush became a phenomenon. In her 1990 memoir about her service in the Reagan administration, What I Saw at the Revolution, she recalls likening Americans who favored legal abortions to Germans who favored killing Jews—a construct Limbaugh wouldn’t seize on and popularize (“feminazis”) until Reagan was leaving office and Anita Hill and Hillary Clinton emerged on the national stage.

More here.Link
I've loved Frank Rich for some years now. He tends to write about political issues in the way I like to think about them, as more than simply bits and pieces of policy or rhetoric, but also illuminating how the flashpoints relate to and are embedded in the overall culture, from religion, to entertainment media, to the arts, to regional customs and beliefs, and on and on. Rich sees the direct connection between, say, the death of Michael Jackson or the antics of The Jersey Shore and the narcissism that brought down Wall Street. And he's solid, packed with good shit, always, especially now that he's writing the less frequent but longer pieces for New York Magazine since he left the New York Times some months ago. Of course, that last statement is something of a problem for me as a blogger: Rich is so solid as an essayist, I usually have nothing to add or ponder for my blog. He just takes an idea and exhausts it. So I don't usually post his work here at Real Art.

From time to time, however, he writes something that, even though I have nothing to add, is so compelling that I think I ought to do my part to transmit it into the overall body of knowledge. And this piece on the GOP's latest flareup in their apparently ongoing war on women is one of those pieces. There's been a great deal of coverage of this issue over the last year or so, coming at times on an almost daily basis, so it's very nice that Rich sort of steps back and takes stock of the whole thing, tying it together, revisiting Republican history, and contextualizing it all against the Republican presidential primary context. That is, it's not simply that the Republicans suddenly seem to be falling all over themselves in order to show their base how much they want to control and humiliate women: rather, it's that these kinds of positions and rhetoric have been floating around the GOP universe in various forms for some four decades now, but are only now all coming down at once, the perfect misogynistic storm.

Go check it out. Good stuff.


Monday, March 26, 2012


From the Washington Post:

Senators want feds to look into employers asking
for Facebook passwords during job interviews

Two U.S. senators are asking Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether employers asking for Facebook passwords during job interviews are violating federal law, their offices announced Sunday.

Troubled by reports of the practice, Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said they are calling on the Department of Justice and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to launch investigations. The senators are sending letters to the heads of the agencies.

The Associated Press reported last week that some private and public agencies around the country are asking job seekers for their social media credentials. The practice has alarmed privacy advocates, but the legality of it remains murky.

On Friday, Facebook warned employers not to ask job applicants for their passwords to the site so they can poke around on their profiles. The company threatened legal action against applications that violate its long-standing policy against sharing passwords.

More here.

And when I say "fatal flaw," you can be sure I'm not talking about civil libertarians.

No, I'm talking about the right-wingers who are just fine with people smoking pot and having gay sex, but hate government interference in virtually everything, especially commercial activity. Actually, mostly commercial activity. Indeed, Libertarians sort of co-mingle the notions of individuality and business such that, to them, it's all the same. Freedom for people, freedom for business, no difference. But, of course, there are differences between individual citizens and businesses, most notably money and power--business has power to control your life while most individuals don't. That is, the Libertarian Party, and others such as Republicans Ron Paul and his son (Ayn) Rand, and their followers, claim to be all about "freedom," but simply don't recognize that private business entities can be just as oppressive, and often more oppressive, than the government.

So it's a fucked up "freedom" that these people champion, an impossible self-contradictory "freedom" asserting that taking government out of the equation must always make us more "free." The reality, however, is that power abhors a vacuum, and wherever the government pulls up stakes, private business sets up shop.

That's exactly what's happened with this alarming rise in employers demanding prospective employees' facebook passwords as a condition for gaining employment. At face value, this is obviously a gross violation of individual privacy, and thank god we have a government, for now anyway, that takes this shit seriously. But in the perfect Libertarian reality, this solicitation of personal online material is nothing more than a private contract between citizens--if you don't like it you don't have to do it; you can always seek employment elsewhere. One thing with which the Libertarians never concern themselves, however, is what happens when such a practice becomes the standard, as happened with drug testing back in the 80s. Under such circumstances, you can't look for work elsewhere; you've just got to bend over and take it.

Some "freedom." But Libertarians are just fine with it all because it's not the government doing the oppressing. That's their fatal flaw: they think that government, and only government, can curtail your freedom. The reality is that government, and only government, can protect your freedom.

I wonder if any Libertarians appreciate the irony that American government in the 21st century is, by and large, owned and operated by private business. Probably not.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jim Jordan Suggests Elections Drive Solyndra Investigation

From the Huffington Post:

After months of investigations into Solyndra and other Department of Energy loans failed to produce a smoking gun, one Republican lawmaker let slip why House Republicans have kept up the charge.

In an interview following yet another hearing in which Energy Secretary Steven Chu testified about the Department's loan guarantee program, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) appeared to admit that Republicans' ongoing probes of the program -- from which the bankrupt California-based solar company Solyndra and others benefited -- are largely a play to win votes in November.

"Our staff will continue to dig into it and see," Jordan told Environment & Energy Daily. "But what I hope happens is we stop doing these kind of things ... this whole cronyism approach to the marketplace.

"Ultimately, we'll stop it on Election Day, hopefully. And bringing attention to these things helps the voters and citizens of the country make the kind of decision that I hope helps them as they evaluate who they are going to vote for in November."

More here.

What's amazing about this is not that these full court press investigations are political, rather than sincerely being about finding evidence of governmental wrongdoing, but that there are so few of them coming out of the GOP dominated House these days. I mean, think back, if you can, to the Clinton era: it was all about hostile and politically motivated investigations of the Oval Office. From the granddaddy of them all, Whitewater, which ended up being a great big nothing, to all kinds of minor spin-offs, like the Vince Foster suicide, or the President's haircut on an airplane, or Paula Jones' sexual harassment allegations, and on and on and on ad nauseam. And let's not forget the jackpot, Monica Lewinsky, and how the Republicans turned a white lie about a blowjob into grounds for removing the President from office.

Oh yeah, those were the days.

Not so much today, though. I mean, sure, the Republicans have figured out new ways to bog down the federal government into profound impotence what with debt ceiling debates, budget standoffs, and abortion bill after abortion bill after abortion bill. But investigations? I guess the GOP finally decided that approach just made them look bad, which, of course, it did.

No, twenty first century Republicans are finding all new ways to look bad. And they're doing a pretty good job of it, too.

(Yes, yes, I know the Republicans had a budget standoff back in the 90s, which they lost, but they only did it once, so maybe they just figured if they tried harder this time...)


Friday, March 23, 2012



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



I'm working lines tonight, so no real commentary from me, but a fellow I don't know contacted me via email yesterday to push for my blog a graphic he put together about the rich in a sort of 99% Occupy Wall Street context. I've gotten these pitches from people before, and always dismissed them. Primarily because it usually is only marginally related to my own blogging, but also because, even though I do indeed write a blog, nobody really reads it, and consequently I have absolutely no sway or influence, and certainly cannot provide any real exposure, except to maybe the five or ten people who actually check out Real Art with any regularity. But, surprise surprise, this guy's graphic is pretty good.

So check it out:

Rich People Are Unethical

Nice, huh? Of course, it is ironic and amusing that the graphic directs people to some sort of online accountant training scheme. It's like, "Okay, so the rich suck, but wouldn't you like to work directly for them, crunching their numbers, finding ways for them to avoid paying the relatively few taxes they're paying now?" Personally, if you're interested in accounting, I advise you to attend your local community college for a few courses to see if you like it. Then go to an accredited university to finish your course work, rather than this fly-by-night operation which may or may not be of any real value.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Customers or Citizens?

From CounterPunch:

At the root of the long-standing distinction between businesses and customers on one hand, and governments and citizens on the other, is that the experience of being a customer and being a citizen are (or at least traditionally have been) framed by fundamentally different imperatives.

When I go into a store to buy something, my actions are generally guided by a concern to which all other considerations are decidedly subsidiary: getting the “most” –be it measured in quantity or quality–product for my money.

Though I may also go to a government agency to “get” something, that effort to obtain a good or service is necessarily mediated by concerns for the commonwealth. Indeed, that is one of the prime purposes of government: to establish mechanisms that that give voice to collective goals of one type or another, transcendant aims that necessarily ask us curb or tame all that we might desire in the privacy of our customarily covetous hearts.

Hence, when we allow the language of consumerism to be injected into the realm of the commons, we are effectively permitting the miseducation of the populace in regard to the relationship they can and should expect to have with the government.

More here.

Right. And this miseducation simply plays into the hands of psychotic right-wing forces that want to destroy the government, or at least, as anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist once put it, "shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Same difference. The point here, however, is the longstanding conservative meme that government ought to not only favor business by never touching it at all, but that it should also be run like a business. Of course, I'm not really sure what that means exactly because government and commerce are two separate and distinct concepts, very often with conflicting or mutually exclusive motivations and goals. But here we have Romney and others once again pushing that now tired concept that what the US really needs is a businessman to get all our affairs in order.

And that's a really bad idea.

Business' sole purpose is to create profit; government, however, and by that I mean our government, exists's always worth it to revisit our foundational documents:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The preamble to the Constitution tells us why we have government, and none of it says a damned thing about making a profit. Further, business is autocratic; government is democratic. Businessmen are woefully unprepared for the coalition forging, deal brokering, and hard nosed politicking needed in order to effectively run our democracy. I really have no idea why any American at all thinks we need a businessman in the Oval Office. It really is apples and oranges. Nonetheless, the notion persists, I assume, because of decades of American commerce worship. That is, our nation has to a great extent fetishized the businessman as the greatest possible position to hold in our culture, while making commerce our sole concern. In short, people believe this bullshit because of mythology.

Yeah, creationism isn't the only thing we have to fear.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

NRA dreams come true

From Digby over at Hullabaloo:

So it would seem that the teen-ager was the one who was afraid. And rightly so as it turns out.

He didn't run, and for good reason. If he had, he would have been considered a "fleeing suspect" and could have gotten shot. Of course, under Florida's lunatic gun laws, if he stood his ground, he could still get shot. Indeed, under these laws, the only person who has any rights is the one with the gun. And that person is evidently entitled to stalk, chase and shoot unarmed strangers and call it self defense.

I was talking about this this morning and someone said that "they" were going to have to change these laws. And I realized once again how sick our society has become --- those are NRA laws and thus inviolable. I honestly cannot picture how it's even possible for them to be changed short of a massive uprising by tens of millions of middle class working Americans. The NRA is holding the government hostage and its now completely ineffectual at dealing with gun violence.

More here.

Digby's talking about Florida's psychotic "stand your ground" law essentially extending the so-called "castle doctrine," which allows you to kill home intruders, out into public space. That's the legal issue behind this awful killing down in Florida everybody's talking about; that's why local police aren't charging the killer with a crime. And yeah, I have no doubt that Digby's right when she asserts that this is something the NRA pushed on Florida's state legislature. I mean, of course the NRA is behind a law that allows you to shoot somebody on the street and call it self-defense even though your target is unarmed and eighty pounds lighter than you and trying to get away. Fucked up shit.

Back in the 90s, liberals seemingly gave up on the gun control issue. Sure, lots of liberals still support the idea, but nobody really beats their breast about it anymore. Democratic candidates don't talk about it on the stump. Around the same time, I kind of gave up on it, too. Michael Moore's documentary Bowling for Columbine made the flabbergasting observation that gun ownership rates in Canada are approximately equal to the US, but their homicide rate is a lot lower: maybe the wing-nuts have a point when they say that people kill people, not guns. At any rate, I got tired of having the argument with people who are scared shitless that black thugs are going to kill them.

But now there's this situation in Florida with a white man killing an unarmed black teenager out in the street for no other reason than fear and racial paranoia. And it's all apparently completely legal. I don't even know if this is actually a gun control issue, but I'm certain that it's totally utterly irredeemably fucked up. How can this possibly be just? How can you just kill someone because you're afraid of him?

So we Americans love our guns. Gun ownership is apparently deeply embedded in our culture. We've got to have our guns, got to carry them around like the old West. Is this kid's death just the price we have to pay in order to be a gun-loving society? This stinks. I'm fucking sick of this macho bullshit.

Apparently, killing black kids out in the street is the white man's right. Down South, anyway.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jimmy Carter Says It’s “Fine For Gay People To Be Married”

From the New Civil Rights Movement, courtesy of a gay marriage advocacy group on facebook:

Former Democratic President Jimmy Carter says it’s “fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies,” and adds that Jesus never once said anything about homosexuality. The 39th president seems to have evolved, and talks about his new book, “NIV Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter,” in an exclusive interview with The Huffington Post:

"Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things -– he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.

I draw the line, maybe arbitrarily, in requiring by law that churches must marry people. I’m a Baptist, and I believe that each congregation is autonomous and can govern its own affairs. So if a local Baptist church wants to accept gay members on an equal basis, which my church does by the way, then that is fine. If a church decides not to, then government laws shouldn’t require them to."

More here.

Indeed, Jesus never said anything at all about homosexuality. And this is something of a key point conspicuously unaddressed by today's fundamentalist Christians: Jesus existed in the Hellenistic world, that is, the geographic region around the Eastern Mediterranean that was conquered by Alexander the Great, and, culturally speaking, this region was very Greek in its outlook. So it isn't simply that homosexuality was known to Jesus; rather, it's that homosexuality was practiced all around Jesus. It was culturally normal, and Jesus apparently had absolutely no problem with it, or he would have said something about it, like he did with the Pharisees or the Romans or the Samaritans or the poor or tax collectors and on and on.

Sure, you can quote Leviticus all day long, but if you're serious about the "New Covenant," you're going to be taking your cues from Jesus much more than from the Old Testament, which his ministry superseded.

And Carter's right about legally requiring churches to marry people, too. And he's not "arbitrarily" drawing this line, either: the first amendment clearly states that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. You simply cannot compel a religious body to do anything in terms of how it worships. Churches don't have to marry gay people if they don't want to do so, and that is a protected and foundational civil right. On the other hand, and by the same token, churches that do want to solemnify gay matrimony have just as much of a right to do so as churches that don't.

I swear, Carter is far better in his role as elder statesman than he ever was as President of the USA. But then, I'm certainly not the first to have made such an observation.


Monday, March 19, 2012

NAACP to call on UN to investigate voter disfranchisement in US

From the UK Guardian courtesy of BuzzFlash:

The leaders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP, will travel to Geneva next week to tell the UN human rights council that a co-ordinated legislative attempt is being made by states across America to disfranchise millions of black and Latino voters in November's presidential election.

The delegation, headed by the NAACP's president, Benjamin Jealous, will address the council on Wednesday and call on the UN body to launch a formal investigation into the spread of restrictive electoral laws, particularly in southern states. The NAACP intends to invite a UN team to travel across America to see for itself the impact of the new laws, which it argues are consciously designed to suppress minority voting.

The UN has no power to intervene in the workings of individual American states. But Jealous told the Guardian that the UN had a powerful weapon in its armoury: shame.

"Shame alone is effective. The US, and individual states within the US that have introduced these laws, have a vested interest in maintaining the opinion that we are the world's leading democracy. That means something," Jealous said.

More here.

Yeah, shame is right because that's what this is, a fucking shame.

The notion of the NAACP having to go to the United Nations, hat in hand, like a despised and oppressed minority in some fucked up third world dictatorship is the shame of the United States. All these Republican voter ID laws are just sickening. I mean, their ostensible purpose is to fight "voter fraud," and I have no doubt that many of the rank-and-file believe exactly that. Of course, what these Republicans don't realize is that there is no problem with voter fraud, at least, not the kind these laws are aimed, ostensibly, at combating. I mean, sure, there are some screw-ups here and there, a few assholes who just like fucking with the system, but nothing, nothing at all, in the way of fraud that would actually change an election--there's just no evidence of this anywhere.

So it really is about suppressing minority votes. It may not even be directly racist in terms of whites just not wanting people of color to vote simply because they're not white; it may be that the GOP doesn't want minorities to vote because they usually vote for Democrats. But whatever the motivation, the outcome is racist, pure and simple, the kind of thing we haven't seen since Jim Crow. And there is seemingly no help on the horizon here at home. So the NAACP is off to the UN, and every American should hang his head in shame.

Of course, even though there is no problem with voter fraud, there is a problem with election fraud, the kind of thing where the GOP works around the electoral edges, tweaking and adjusting, sometimes legally, sometimes illegally, as with electronic voting machine tampering, or placing shoddy ballot equipment in Democratic precincts when Republicans control the electoral process, that sort of thing.

This is probably the grossest example, and it has affected malevolently the course and trajectory of US and even world history. Scum bag Republicans.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

SWAT Team Raids Occupy Miami Safehouse

From Crooks and Liars:

Mahmoud and other Occupy Miami members were preparing to travel downtown to protest the birthday of Chase Bank CEO Jaime Dimon when at least half a dozen police vehicles screeched to a halt in front of the building on NW Seventh Street.

A cop in a dress shirt and bullet-proof vest jumped out of an unmarked car, aimed his gun at them, and shouted, "Everyone on the ground," according to Occupy Miami members.

"I thought it was either a joke or he was robbing us," says an occupier who gave his name only as Cobra. "Then an ice-cream truck full of SWAT officers pulled up."

"They said that they had gotten a tip that we had "long guns" and were going to use them at our protest," Occupy member Thomas Parisi told Miami New Times.

More here, with video.

My older brother, a staunch, but reasonable, conservative, made this observation when I compared unfavorably the government's treatment of the Tea Party rallies to the heavy-handedness used against the Occupy groups: Tea Party groups show up, protest a few hours, and go home; OWS stays for weeks. Okay, that was a fair observation. Whatever your interpretation of the first amendment versus private property or public disruption laws, the Occupy groups do, indeed, create a much bigger social hassle for public authorities than their conservative Tea Party counterparts. I mean, I still think it's harassment, but the conservatives have an argument, at least.

So I wonder how my brother, or any other conservatives who make the same assertion, would explain this one? This Occupy group in Miami was on their own private property. Sure, they were about to go to a demonstration, but they hadn't even left yet. And the cops didn't simply show up and bust them: they used the paramilitary assault force commonly known as a SWAT team to come in and fucking take over. On a "tip" that the Occupiers were bringing guns. And never mind the fact that there are numerous documented instances of Tea Party protesters who actually brought guns to their rallies and were not detained or arrested by police.

Can somebody please explain to me how this is not police harassment?


Friday, March 16, 2012



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


The Bible Belt's Love Affair With (Gay and Straight) Porn

From AlterNet:

Actually, Obama has never said anything in favor of adult entertainment. Very few Democratic politicians will openly embrace the adult entertainment industry in any way. And the more one examines the data, the more evident it becomes that Republican-dominated states with a heavy concentration of far-right culture warriors are also states where erotic entertainment is very much in demand. Adult industry advocate Bill Margold, who was one of the top adult film stars of the 1970s, has often described the United States as a place where people hypocritically condemn adult entertainment with one hand while pleasuring themselves to it with the other hand; recent data bears that out.

In 2009, Benjamin G. Edelman of the Harvard Business School published the results of a state-by-state study on the number of people who were subscribing to adult membership Web sites; Edelman found that eight of the 10 states that had the highest per capita consumption of online porn were states that Republican John McCain won in 2008’s presidential election. Utah topped the list, and other red states in Edelman’s top 10 included Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, North Dakota and West Virginia. The only states in Edelman’s top 10 that Obama won in 2008 were Florida and Hawaii.

More recently, in December 2011, Rutgers University researcher/blogger Omar Haq published the results of his study on Google searches for gay porn. Haq found that between 2004-2011, the top 10 states that had the most Google searches for gay porn included five states that McCain won in 2008 (Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, West Virginia) and five states that Obama won (New York, Ohio, New Mexico, Nevada and Florida). “People subscribe to a lot of porn in the southern Bible Belt states,” Haq noted. “I really believe it is suppression. Freud himself said that the more you suppress people, the more they are going to want to do something. It might be due to conservatism; I think that definitely plays a role."

More here.

So, of course, I have my own issues with the porn industry, from a leftist perspective, but it's about how the industry is structured, how it depicts and treats women, not at all, however, with the notion of visual depictions of people having sex in and of itself. That is, I'm all for porn; let's just keep in mind that the actors, or models, whatever you want to call them, are workers just like all other workers, and must be treated by their employers with decency and respect. Let's also keep in mind that, with the shoddy state of sex education being what it is, teenagers see this stuff and take it seriously as a guide for how men and women ought to treat each other in the bedroom. Porn ought to be responsible.

Indeed, a lot of it is responsible, and I have no quarrel with it.

But that's all beside the point for this post: no, we're talking about conservatives who, on the one hand, support politicians who are blatantly anti-sex, anti-woman, and anti-porn, but, on the other hand consume pornography at similar or higher rates than voters in more liberal states. Needless to say, there is more than a wee bit of hypocrisy going on here. And that's pretty easy to figure out.

We have been living for the last few decades in a culture where sexuality is omnipresent. Yes, this has something to do with the rise of Freud as a pop icon, and the invention of the birth control pill, but what's most powerful on this cultural front has been advertising. Yeah, that's right, advertising. From the moment advertisers figured out that sex sells all kinds of products, when television producers and film makers discovered that sexual imagery increases audience numbers, America crossed a threshold from which there could be no return. The sexual revolution became serious economics, and now sexual imagery and capitalism walk hand in hand.

So there's no going back. Not unless you want to regulate the sex right out of the market, and that's just not going to happen.

So these anti-sex politicians are appealing to a point of view that only excites a very small minority, even though many voters give lip service to this nostalgia driven Puritanism. Call it bizarre tribalism, or hypocrisy, whatever, but the fact is that these conservatives who vote for anti-porn politicians live every day within our culture. And that culture is a sexual culture. It is no surprise at all that people in red states like porn as much as, or more, than people in blue states. They are, after all, twenty first century Americans.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

7 Scientific Reasons You'll Turn Out Just Like Your Parents

From Cracked, courtesy of a buddy on facebook:

Old people are cranky, slow and boring. Kids are noisy, restless and irritating. For most of us, life is about making sure we stay as awesome as we are right now -- we'll always love our video games, and music, and eating burritos at two in the morning after the bars closed. Isn't that what all the commercials tell us, that you're only as old as you feel?

Well, science has some bad news for you. The behaviors of the elderly that you write off as old-person lameness, and your behavior that the elderly credit to dickish rebellion, are all based in biology. And no, you can't stop it.

Click here to read 'em.

So I, and probably most Americans, have been operating on a somewhat dubious principle in our dealings with the rest of the human race: people's behaviors and attitudes are mostly governed by conscious thought. I mean, people's behaviors and attitudes are governed mostly by conscious thought, but I, for one, have wildly underestimated biology, hormones, and genetically hardwired routines in human interaction for most of my life. Actually, I probably continue to do so, but I'm trying to catch up.

For me, this all began a few years ago when I started reading George Lakoff essays about conservative versus liberal attitudes. In a particular interview with him, he asserted that logic, within the human mind, is inextricably intertwined with emotion. That is, there can be no such thing as a purely logical decision; logic is always associated with emotion, whether you like it or not. It is an easy conclusion to make, and further reading on my part has supported this, that humans aren't really logical. We are, first and foremost, biological creatures, subject to our own physicality, which includes the brain, an important and complex organ, but an organ nonetheless. That is, logic, while valuable, is simply an intellectual construction of the human brain, rather than our natural way of understanding the universe. In short, we must make an effort to be reasonable.

Don't get me wrong: human beings do have a great deal of conscious control over their own thoughts and behaviors, but looking back on that great literary theme we all study in high school, reason versus passion, I find myself reevaluating the impact of passion, or rather biology, in the overall equation. Passion apparently counts for a whole lot more than I could have possibly imagined a decade ago.

I have no idea where this notion will eventually take me.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The War is Over, the War is Lost, Bring Them Home

From CounterPunch:

This latest GI mental explosion by the staff sergeant was preceded by increasing acts of American troop indiscipline – Marines pissing on Afghan bodies, the Koran-burning fiasco, units loudly cheering indiscriminate Hellfire drone attacks on a village, etc. – that an increasingly demoralized junior and midgrade officer corps has neither the ability nor will to stop.

The troops are protesting “by any other means” their entrapment in a no-win landscape where Washington politicians and career-crazy senior officers keep a war going beyond the limit of sanity.

It’s no stretch to suggest that GI suicides, domestic violence by returning soldiers and their self-harm by narcotics are a depoliticized form of protest against the same despair that was felt by General Westmoreland’s cannon fodder at Hue or World War One poilu at the Chemin des Dames allied massacre when they refused to fight any more.

The Afghani war is over. Yet the President, his cheerfully on-message advisors, and most of the stenographic media refuse to call it a night when the situation on the ground, with its secret night raids and fucked up soldiers, can only get much worse. Mitt Romney, who never served and has five military-age sons likewise, wants to stay there presumably forever and fight it out. Rick Santorum wants to hang in until “mission accomplished” whatever that is.

More here.

We've been there a fucking decade. Bin Laden's been dead for nearly a year. I don't know what we're even ostensibly fighting for these days, let alone what we might be really fighting for. Apparently, we're fighting in order to win, but nobody seems to know what winning means or what it's supposed to look like.

I opposed the Afghanistan war from almost the beginning, based on the reasoning that outraging Muslim populations can only make the disaffected fundamentalist jihadi movement gain sympathy and grow. That's still a very good reason to get the fuck out, but there are now numerous other good reasons to end the war, as well. Monetary cost, among them. Collateral damage, another.

But right now, after this bizarre shooting spree performed by a man who was cleared to continue serving in spite of his traumatic brain injury, I think that fucking up permanently our soldiers' minds and emotions by inflicting endless war on them stands as one of the most compelling. We can't wait for 2014. It's time to get out right now.


Monday, March 12, 2012

The Go Nowhere Generation

From the New York Times op-ed section courtesy of Eschaton:

But sometime in the past 30 years, someone has hit the brakes and Americans — particularly young Americans — have become risk-averse and sedentary. The timing is terrible. With an 8.3 percent unemployment rate and a foreclosure rate that would grab the attention of the Joads, young Americans are less inclined to pack up and move to sunnier economic climes.

The likelihood of 20-somethings moving to another state has dropped well over 40 percent since the 1980s, according to calculations based on Census Bureau data. The stuck-at-home mentality hits college-educated Americans as well as those without high school degrees. According to the Pew Research Center, the proportion of young adults living at home nearly doubled between 1980 and 2008, before the Great Recession hit. Even bicycle sales are lower now than they were in 2000. Today’s generation is literally going nowhere. This is the Occupy movement we should really be worried about.


Perhaps young people are too happy at home checking Facebook. In a study of 15 countries, Michael Sivak, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute (who also contributed to the D.M.V. research), found that when young people spent more time on the Internet, they delayed getting their driver’s licenses. “More time on Facebook probably means less time on the road,” he said. That may mean safer roads, but it also means a bumpier, less vibrant economy.

All this turns American history on its head. We are a nation of movers and shakers. Pilgrims leapt onto leaky boats to get here. The Lost Generation chased Hemingway and Gertrude Stein to Paris. The Greatest Generation signed up to ship out to fight Nazis in Germany or the Japanese imperial forces in the Pacific. The ’60s kids joined the Peace Corps.

But Generation Y has become Generation Why Bother. The Great Recession and the still weak economy make the trend toward risk aversion worse. Children raised during recessions ultimately take fewer risks with their investments and their jobs.

More here.

Oh god.

When I was a kid I used to think that if you wrote for the New York Times that you must be pretty smart. Increasingly, I'm thinking the opposite. Or maybe the state of corporate journalism has gotten so bad that intelligent writers have to work in code or some such.

That is, the essay has the answers it seeks weaving in and out of its assertions and observations: young Americans aren't leaving home these days because there is nothing compelling them to do so. Indeed, the rise of the corporate state, the consumerization of everything, the continuing disaffection of voters from our now fictional democracy, the destruction of civil society, and, of course, the bleak jobs picture, all make staying at home and doing nothing with your life a whole lot more enticing than jumping into our cesspool of a society in order to - what? - participate in life-long endeavors that may or may not provide a living, but will almost certainly produce anxiety, depression, and a sense of meaninglessness.

Doing chores for your parents and fucking around on the internet are far more meaningful and fulfilling activities than handing your life over to a soul-sucking corporation, or teaching in an educational system that is consciously designed to not educate, or entering our corrupt political system, or working in the shitty service sector, or any other number of bankrupt "career opportunities" offered today by our pathetic excuse for a civilization. American life is pointless in the long run, and the kids appear to realize that. Nonetheless, even though the above linked essay has the truth encrypted between the lines, the writer makes the obligatory finger-wagging admonitions about facebook and video games. As if American youth suddenly collectively said, "Hey, fuck doing something with my life; I'm playing video games!"

If there is any truth to this article's central point, that twenty somethings aren't getting out there on their own, the reason is that there is nothing out there worth doing. Because our leaders have rendered American existence pointless.


Scooter Libby v. Bradley Manning

From CounterPunch:

Libby and fellow war plotters Karl Rove and Richard Armitage, not satisfied by their success in making war, wanted to punish their Washington enemies. They leaked Plame’s name to the mischievous columnist Robert Novak — to punish her husband, Wilson. Novak’s story ended her CIA career, and exposed her agents and contacts.

A jury later convicted Libby of obstruction of justice and perjury around the case. A judge sentenced him to 30 months in prison, and fined him $250,000. Bush, months later, commuted his term. But no one got charged with plotting to distribute false information to lure the public to war. The New York Times had even helped the campaign by publishing the lies as news stories on its front page.


These documents exposed not secrets vital to our enemy, but lies, corruption and crimes by US officials and those of other countries. Manning’s defense team stresses that what Wikileaks published wasn’t or shouldn’t have been secret.

Manning did however embarrass US officials by exposing their illegal, stupid, selfish and downright inane activities. If he illegally distributed those documents, why doesn’t the Justice Department charge the New York Times and other newspapers that gleefully distributed this supposedly classified (mortifying) material?

More here.

As the essay observes, Manning is now facing life in prison for treason, and has already spent months behind bars in solitary confinement, often in forced nudity, ostensibly to keep him from committing suicide--of course, nudity isn't really part of traditional jailhouse suicide watches, so, you know, it's obviously bullshit, and really designed just to punish and humiliate him. And do keep in mind that this is the Obama administration doing all this. Some "change."

So. Let's look at how the federal government, spanning two administrations, one from each party, deals with people who leak classified information. Libby leaks info that blows a CIA agent's cover, wasting, no doubt, millions of dollars in terms of training and the immediate end to ongoing intelligence operations run by said agent, not to mention the destruction of her personal career, all for the purpose of punishing a political enemy who had done nothing more than tell the American public the truth about how the Bush administration was lying in order to justify the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq. Libby is essentially slapped on the wrist and then pardoned. Manning, on the other hand, leaks information about US massacres and other American war crimes and is essentially thrown into a hole for months, naked, and is now up on charges that will probably result in him spending the rest of his life in prison. There will be no pardon because the Obama administration is leading the charge on this.

Obviously, there is no justice here, in both cases. I'd be outraged, but I long ago gave up hope for there being any justice at all concerning our endeavors in Iraq. That is, US national security is now, and probably has been for a very long time, a criminal enterprise, not subject to the rule of law, totally managed by the whims of the Commander-in-Chief. At this point, it's pretty easy to argue that, in this realm, war and defense, Obama is as much of a criminal as his predecessor.

Of course, neither will ever be made to pay for their crimes.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

10 Hilarious Right-Wing Freak-Outs Over Children's Cartoons

From AlterNet:

The right wing is hyper-paranoid that liberals have some secret power-cabal to shift the cultural politics of America (er, they confuse themselves for themselves), and therefore can find a bogeyman in anything. We’ve seen this plenty on the GOP campaign trail, with their attacks on, and fear of (broadly) women, gays and people of color. Sometimes they attack directly, but other times they find a strawman to mask their hate—contraception or marriage equality. But what happens when conservatives’ abject terror gets so ridiculous, paranoid and out-of-whack that the basic culture wars don’t do it for them anymore?

That’s when they start going after kids' shows.

More here.

Of course, this is to a great extent about conservative paranoia. I mean, paranoia is one of the main features of conservatism. Why do you think they're so into their guns? Why do you think the conservative version of God is all about wrath and anger instead of peace and love? Why do you think conservatives are united against things instead of for them? Conservatives are a terrified people who believe that enemies are in the woodwork just waiting to slit their fat throats. It is no wonder that they see malevolence in children's cartoons. They see malevolence everywhere.

But, more broadly, I also see this as evidence of the continuing conservative journey into fantasy and non-reality. Remember, these are people who now have open hostility toward science and rational inquiry. Conservatives don't believe in global warming, even though it is, at this point, a well established scientific fact. Nor do conservatives believe in evolution, which is an even more established scientific fact than global warming. Conservatives, many of them, at least, believe we found WMD in Iraq, that President Obama wasn't born in the United States, that cutting tax rates creates more tax revenue, and on and on and on.

And in order to maintain these impossible beliefs, conservatives have constructed complex and wild fantasy narratives and conspiracy theories explaining why they're right even though they're wrong. For instance, many conservatives actually believe that the reason the vast, vast majority of climate scientists assert that global warming is a fact is that they are part of a worldwide plot to bring more government money into their research institutions. That's right. It's not simply that conservatives believe the scientists are wrong; it's that they believe these tens of thousands of scientists are lying in order to bilk the government of tax dollars. And, for some reason, none of this veritable host of weathermen has gone on the record to talk about the conspiracy. Really, it's as good as aliens or Bigfoot. Impossible. But they believe it.

So, if conservatives are willing to go that far into fantasy land, to assert that football stadiums full of people are all in on a plot to defraud the planet so they can do more and better research, and that none of them, none at all, are talking about it, how can it be so weird that conservatives believe children's cartoon producers are in on a conspiracy to indoctrinate kids into homosexuality and communism? Okay sure, it's all weird. I'm just saying that, given the overall context, it's not at all surprising.

Disturbing, but not surprising.


Friday, March 09, 2012



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


Ignorance Is Strength

From the New York Times, some new Paul Krugman:

So why are Republicans so eager to trash higher education?

It’s not hard to see what’s driving Mr. Santorum’s wing of the party. His specific claim that college attendance undermines faith is, it turns out, false. But he’s right to feel that our higher education system isn’t friendly ground for current conservative ideology. And it’s not just liberal-arts professors: among scientists, self-identified Democrats outnumber self-identified Republicans nine to one.

I guess Mr. Santorum would see this as evidence of a liberal conspiracy. Others might suggest that scientists find it hard to support a party in which denial of climate change has become a political litmus test, and denial of the theory of evolution is well on its way to similar status.

More here.

It's not easy being college educated these days, especially if you have a degree in the humanities. No, I'm not talking about how stupid I was to study theater and the mass media, and how I'm not making the big bucks because of it; I'm talking about how such studies trained me well as a critical thinker, how I'm able to see the Great Oz behind the curtain working his arcane contraptions that create the illusion of his magnificence, how I can see that repeating "hope and change" endlessly does not actually create hope and change, how I can see that cutting tax rates does not, in fact, create more tax revenue. And on and on and on. That is, once you've learned how to decode what passes for conventional wisdom these days, how to see through what everybody else "knows" is real, depression is a very real possibility.

Of course, I wouldn't have it any other way. It is far better to be sad but enlightened than to be happy but deeply ignorant. And it's not as bad as I'm making it sound, either. Ideally, if you can get together a certain density of educated people who understand just how fucked things are these days, you can change things for the better. But we're nowhere near that, which is how both parties appear to want it to be. After all, the political establishment doesn't want anybody to see how foolish the Great Oz actually looks, or they'd have a rebellion on their hands: ignorance is the policy of the establishment.

Needless to say, the Republicans are way ahead of the curve on this--the Democrats, at least, continue to give lip service to college education, but usually mean job training rather than actual intellectual development. But, as Krugman observes, how on earth can you get people to buy that global warming isn't happening or that evolution doesn't exist if they're well educated? You can't. Now that the Republicans are pushing pure fantasy as fact, they have to trash university education. Interestingly enough, trashing education fits in very nicely with lots of other GOP notions, such as phantom WMD in Iraq, or "drill, baby, drill."

Anti-intellectualism is as American as apple pie, but now the fast-fading Republicans absolutely depend on it. Otherwise, there wouldn't be enough of a party left to even hold a primary.


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Invisible Children responds to criticism about ‘Stop Kony’ campaign

From the Washington Post:

A new campaign spreading across the Internet says it has one goal in mind: Make Joseph Kony, the Ugandan leader of the violent Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) “famous” so he can be brought to justice.

The viral film was created by Invisible Children, a charity that seeks to end the conflict in Uganda and raises awareness about the use of child soldiers and other human rights abuses by Kony and the LRA.


But in November, a Foreign Affairs article pointedly challenged the tactics used by Invisible Children and other nonprofits working in the region to raise awareness. “Such organizations have manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil,” the magazine wrote.

More here.

If you've got a few bleeding heart friends on facebook, and, being a bleeding heart myself, I have many, then you've probably been pounded by this campaign on the social network and elsewhere for the last forty eight hours or so. While on the one hand I'm pleased to see yet another left-of-center public awareness project fire up so quickly, on the other hand I have to admit that I don't really know much about the Ugandan situation, and I'm certain that I probably know more about it than most of my fb friends hitting me hard with anti-Kony posting. That is, the political problems of Africa, devastated as it still is by over a century of brutal European imperialism, from which it can hardly be called "recovered," are complex and opaque. Choosing sides is a dicey proposition at best, one that should not be undertaken lightly or easily.

So this Invisible Children thing seems a bit pat to me.

But my overall sense of the campaign came together tonight after I got home from work when I suddenly realized, vis a vis the Ugandan situation, the we have our own war criminals right here in the US, people who play golf, pontificate on television, and even sit in the best chair in the Oval Office. Here's my latest fb status update:

According to the principles established at the Nuremberg war crimes trials after WWII, the worst war crime of all is waging aggressive war, that is, choosing to go to war rather than having it forced on you, because all other war crimes take place under that umbrella of war-by-choice. And, of course, that's exactly what the US did in Iraq starting nearly a decade ago. Why, then, are so many concerned fb people all hot and bothered by this Kony guy in Africa, when Americans can't even get it together enough to prosecute OUR OWN WAR CRIMINALS?!?!? I'll start worrying about other nations' war criminals when we start worrying about our own.
This was, of course, quickly followed by a comment from one of my bleeding hearted friends:
But taking a stand for peace in any capacity or anywhere is nothing to bemoan, right? Or just make an inspiring video, rallying the masses re: our country's war criminals.
And I can never keep my mouth shut:
Okay, good point, but we've been here before, again and again. American liberals are really good at seeing the proverbial speck in the other country's eye, but not seeing the spike in their own. That is, liberals have been achingly silent about the crimes against humanity committed by the Bush administration, and now the Obama administration. For years. I'm sure this Kony guy is as evil as they say, but we have absolutely no moral license to berate him when we refuse to do anything about our own guilt. We have to do that first, or it's just a big joke, morally speaking.
Then a conservative friend popped his head up and started arguing UN resolutions, but I'll save that for another day. I mean, really, this whole thing is being driven by liberals, and that's who I'm talking to here: conservatives don't give a shit if we commit war crimes; no point in arguing with them on this.