Lemme 'splain... 

Nobody knows, What kind of trouble we're in. Nobody seems to think, It all might happen again. [guitar solo!]





My Overflow






Ted Barlow




This Modern World

Talking Points Memo

The Onion



Sisyphus Shrugged


The Poor Man

Nobody Knows

River Tech Review


Friday, January 31, 2003

More on the Repub Talking Point piece below

I don't think I was entirely clear as to why I think that story, from one paper, that wasn't taken up anywhere else as far as I can tell, is so darn important; so allow me to elucidate:

It's not going to be very much longer until your average workin' man realizes there is a huge and ever widening disparity of wealth in this country- and not like it. Informed, on-the-go, liberal do-gooders (like yourself) already know this; so do evil, let's-all-rape-the-land-and-then-have-a-smoke, neo-conservatives.

Neo-cons know it can't go on much longer till people wise up. Right now they've got a very good thing going. They've been crafting a message of "fairness" since Goldwater days. Witness young Reagan's "The Speech", given many, many times, most famously for the Goldwater campaign in '64. Since then, most "conservative" talking points have grown from ideas presented in "The Speech". It's a simplistic message of fairness: conservatives are fair, liberals are not. Today you can see how it's morphed into the utterly simplistic b.s., 'taxing of dividends is unfair, among other things.

If someone's personality is reactive, they listen to talk radio and watch TV news, rarely read anything deeper than Newsweek, more than likely the Republican/neo-conservative message of fairness rings true to them.

Republicans and neo-cons know it's all bullshit. Bush and Cheney know there's nothing "unfair" about the estate tax, they know damn well tax-free dividends won't help anyone but the wealthy, they know all of this. But, they also know that the ignorant masses don't know; at least not yet. With 99% of every radio show dominated by a right-wing jackass, cable news dominated by the same, and a huge network of think tanks funded and maintained solely for the purpose of dominating the province of "expert opinion" throughout media, they've got a lot of pulled wool out there.

As it is now, if presented with information that the top 1% of the population control more wealth than the entire bottom 95%, your fed-on-talk-radio shmoe making $30,000 a year will take offense. There's something unseemly, dishonorable, and whiney to them when someone complains about disparity of wealth. The thinking goes, "because theoretically America is the land of opportunity, because theoretically anyone can get rich if they work hard enough, because theoretically those who work hard and get rich have made it completely on their own, only a jealous, whiny, lazy loser who doesn't want to do what it takes to make it would complain about those who did work hard, and did make it." Don't believe me? Hell, spend 2 minutes in any political internet chat room, or go here to find creepy dissertations on everything I just wrote.

And, anyone who thinks they have "made it", who does have money, and still feeds on the trough of punditry, will give you something like this:

Some how the Democrats think that because I worked hard , studied hard and carefully planned out my life to be sucessfull that I should support a grossly out of controll welfare system that actually promotes unemployment and having kids that I will be paying for !!!

The neo-cons have convinced a large portion of the population that (among other things):
#1- there are a lot of people on welfare,
#2- most, or at least 50% of these people are just lazy,
#3- a large amount of their tax dollars go to welfare (I've seen articles that claim 50% of tax dollars go to welfare, and
#4- "liberals" essentially are people who want to make it easier to live off welfare.

Of course, "welfare" is best defined as AFDC, Aid to Families with Dependant Children, food stamps, and SSI, Supplemental Security Income; this is what "welfare mothers" receive. The percentage of the budget for these programs in 1995 was 3%. Another comprehensive overview from 1997 shows a total expenditure as a percentage of GDP for all social programs as being around 3 1/2%.

Obviously, certain Limbaugh and O'Reilly fans are misinformed.

But, this is what the believe, and it's what they're enraged about.

That's why it's so important to recognize repub talking points before they hit the street. It won't be too long until people realize the playing field isn't level, it's mainly just the rich that get richer, and no, working hard doesn't guarantee you jack. It won't be too long till people will be able to really understand what it means to have 1% of the population control 95% of the wealth, and nearly all capital access; it's fundamentally undemocratic.

Understanding this, Berkeley has cut the argument off at the path. He's made broad-based ownership an issue before it becomes an issue in order to control the terms of debate. He has told people what they would figure out on their own in a matter of a few years: inequity of ownership is a problem, broad ownership is necessary for a viable democracy (correct, but), making sure the SEC doesn't make companies count stock options as an expense is the solution. Bullshit.

Stock options have nothing to do with the dispersion of capital assets; it's a cost free substitution for living wages and benefits that shifts tax burden onto the employee.

Mark my words, this will be a repub talking point, and you'll have guys driving garbage trucks telling you about the evil liberals who want to take away ordinary people's right to own significant portions of equity…

Gird yourselves, my friends.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Bless the Irish!

A US military transport aircraft has been vandalised at Shannon airport, in the latest sign of popular disquiet in the traditionally neutral Irish Republic over the possibility of war in Iraq.

More here. (boy, the Financial Times is great)

I would chalk this up to civil disobedience, and more power to 'em. They don't want any part of this bullshit? Let 'er rip!

Oops, I mean, Let's Roll the Blarney Stone (at a plane)!

NASDAQ chief creates next Repub talking point, and you should care.

From the Financial Times we get Alfred Berkeley attacking the proposal to account company stock options as an expense:

[after attacking accountants, fund managers, and large companies] Next come the Europeans, who see options an unfair competition and need to pull us down to their own miserable levels of opportunity and performance. Europe has tried and failed to use options to motivate innovation and spread ownership.

Unable to unleash the creative power of their own economies, Europeans, particularly bureaucrats, are appalled at the willingness of American workers to accept low wages and willingly work 50 and 60 hours weeks in return for a sliver of ownership in their own business. Using "convergence of accounting standards" as a political grail, they plan to lower America to their own pitiful level of innovation and labor mobility.

He attacks the idea because, as he states:

Broadspread ownership of our productive assets is the surest, safest way to a rising standard of living and political stability.

And he's absolutely right. However:

For hundreds of years. people have come here for economic opportunity. At first, it was for land. Our first "option" program was the Homestead Act, which, like today's option programs granted ownership in return for labor over time. A deep understanding of the relationship between ownership and a stable society manifests itself in various programs that encourage home ownership - from veteran's loans to the home mortgage interest tax deduction.

In the U.S., stock options are the most logical way to reward intellectual capital, in a winwin way. The decisions are distributed widely in a large number of corporations. Corporations are the unit of production able to both recognize and reward talent. Competition will reward good decisions in talent and punish bad decisions.

These statements illustrate, in part, why he's also so very wrong, and how this is just another attempt to create an easy to digest argument for the masses, that serves only to entrench the status quo.

One of the most profound problems that has always plagued western society is that too few people own too much of the capital, I mean, if it weren't a problem Marx would have been well adjusted, right? Broad ownership is the key to a better tomorrow. Read any Jeff Gates, or Robin Hahnel and you come to that conclusion pretty quickly.

However… stock options?

Pardon me while I drop to the floor and nearly suffocate for the mother of all giggle-fits.

continued here...

So I'm putting really long posts at another blog, but leaving the comments here. We'll see how it works out.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003


When did people who identify as Republican become so generally stupid? I'm serious. I'm not positing that Republicans are stupid by default, I'm just saying there's a lot of idiots in their ranks.

Where is the liberal counterpart of Ann Coulter, or Sean Hannity, or Bill O'Reilly, or Rush Limbaugh, or [insert name of screaming jackass here]? Michael Moore. That's it. There's one liberal, slightly-loose-with-the-facts populist out there, and it's Michael Moore.

There's a website called Moore Watch, the purpose of which is (in part): dedicated to unearthing the truth behind the doublespeak and falsehood that spews from the mouth (and keyboard) of Michael Moore on a regular basis. The site is simply unreadable. Most of it seems to be odd bits of pro-gun propaganda delivered by, well, assholes.

Moore does need a fact checker. There's a run-down of some of his goofs here. But, contrast that with this compendium of Coulter lies. Multiply that by Rush Limbaugh and all those other flaming nuts and you've got Moore out-lied by 1,000 to one.

And yes, Moore goofs, Coulter lies. Why? Well, he's the only one out there, and he's a social comedian. He is not a footsoldier in a movement advancing a common agenda, as are Coulter, Limbaugh, Hannity, etc., etc. What Moore says is on his shoulders, he has to bear it all. Every mistake, flub, obfuscation, it's his fault and his responsibility; for this I give him the benefit of the doubt that he doesn't deliberatly decieve when it comes to facts. Yes, he's a showman, yes he flim-flams a little to make a point, but I doubt he knowingly lies about facts- it's just to easy to take him down.

The others, however, have equally disingenuous congresspeople shilling for them, how many times has "Iraq kicked them out" been spewed with no comment, how many times has "taxpayers will receive $1,100 on average" been touted as truth, how incredibly dishonest was every republican commentary on the privatization of social security? And they're all marching lock-step to the same beat. They all want one thing: absolute economic freedom so they can get around to completely running the country already. These hucksters are many, and they all speak the same dialect. Coulter lies and she's got people all over screaming she doesn't. At best they may say she's "entertaining". O'Reilly lies, he's got 2 million viewers who take it as gospel. Limbaugh lies, he's got the dittoheads.

Liberals don't have dittoheads because, for the most part, to really be a liberal you've got to think. Al Franken knows this, and he doesn't think a liberal really could have a Limbaugh type show:

BOB GARFIELD: Are you suggesting that it - were there a liberal counterpart to Rush Limbaugh who used the same techniques, they couldn't make it because the liberal mind, by its very nature, simply will not countenance such distortions and, and sophistry and trickery?

AL FRANKEN: You put it very well. I really believe that.

He's right. Now, if you listen to Pacifica radio you know sometimes it can be a little, shall we say, reactionary, college co-ed-ish, but I have never heard anything approaching the vitriol that Coulter or Limbaugh spout, and I've never heard anything so bare of facts as your average O'Reilly show.

You can patrol a college campus and pretty quickly find an idiot who's willing to spout poorly thought out, basically moronic, leftist ideas. In fact it's done all the time by David Horowitz, a man who apparently can't see a tree when he goes for a walk through a forest. And it's a favorite pastime of Lynne Cheney.

Where's the liberal counterpart to this? Where is the foundation created by Rosalynn Carter to shine the light on supply-side economists?

It's all hate, bigotry, and simple-mindedness. Truly conservative ideas are worthy of thought and consideration, where are they? None of the right-wing pundit a-holes could be called conservative in the traditional sense, no way. Where's the reasoned thought, the compelling arguments?



Or here?

"Conservatism" is dead. The number of true conservatives in government you could count on one hand, and 4 of them are Democrat. Our media is terrible, we know that. The population simply isn't provided enough accurate, easily obtained information to make responsible, considered decisions. Really, what use is an idiot's argument? If someone doesn't have a basic grasp of the issues, what worth is their opinion? Nothing, in a just world.

But we don't live in a just world. We live in a nation instant gratification, consumption, and sound bites. And frankly, the simple black-and-white idiocy of neo-conservatives wins when that's the playing field. It's very easy to consume, digest, and regurgitate to all your friends and co-workers.

It's a social thing. Republicans have become the party of idiots because neo-conservatism has become a simple and fun method for social interaction. you can talk about the estate tax the way you would a football game. In fact it's easier to talk about than a football game: "It's unfair!" How much does a liberal have to read to be able to discuss Bosnia with another liberal? A lot! It's a confusing issue; not when you're a republican, though! "We tried to save the Muslims, and look at the thanks we get!"

So when did this happen? The 50's? When society really started it's big push toward a consumer culture? Nah...

Nixon? The Southern Strategy? Maybe...

Reagan? Well, kind of obvious, but how did Reagan start?

You meet a republican who watches Fox News, chances are he's an idiot, it's just simple math. It's easy to see how it perpetuates: it's easy and satisfying. But when did start?

And by god, when will it end?


I just added comments. They're courtesy of Enetation, which I read somewhere was slow, but oh well.

Anyway, now readers can comment! Both of you! I wish that joke weren't so accurate!

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

"Dee Tee" and "E-Street Freddy" respond to Bush

This is the response to Bush's state of the union speech if it were delivered by two badly "stereotypical", urban black men sprung from the mind of very white, fictional Hollywood producer, circa 1987, Ned Goldbergman:

< Dee Tee and E-Street Freddy are "kickin" on a corner and wearing their typical urban attire of backwards cycling caps and bright spandex (note- they drink "40's" - have Jennifer find out what "40's" are -Ned) >

Dee Tee- Yo, E! That Bush speech was 'M, M'!

E-Street- M, M? Yo, wassat mean D?!

Dee Tee- Emmm, Emmmmmmm! Mostly Mendacious!

E-Street- Ha, ha! You got that right!

Both- Boyeeeee!

Monday, January 27, 2003

Over, under, and through the looking glass

From the Financial Times:

Proof of Iraq's arms unknown till after war

Detailed intelligence on Iraq's alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will not be revealed until after foreign troops have seized production facilities, in order to protect sources of information, a senior western security official said on Sunday.

"It is the war that is going to lead to the extent of Iraq's WMD arsenal being fully revealed," the official said.

Despite precautions against possible chemical or biological attack being taken by foreign and Iraqi troops, evidence of a WMD development programme - rather than an extensive weaponised arsenal - is what is expected to emerge if Iraq is invaded.
But strong evidence of Iraq's success in hiding its WMD programme will also emerge only when foreign troops have occupied the areas in which its alleged chemical and biological weapons programmes have been carried out, the security official said.

Meanwhile, US administration officials stress that just because certain sites are not operating, does not mean that they will not be used for WMD production in the future. "The only way to be sure of that is to change the regime," said one.

It's hard to even comment on this without simply restating it. It's so blatently illogical and nonsensical.... I can't even think of the right word to describe it (that's one of my character flaws- poor vocabulary recall abilitites).

Proof of the weapons programs we are ostensibly going to go to war over, of which there is no demonstrable proof yet, will not be provided until after the war... which is of course being waged over WMDs, WMDs we have shown no proof of, but will be proved after we attack... because of the weapons, which we can't prove, but will after we've attacked.. over the weapons (which we can't prove, but will prove after we've attacked because of them).

Certainly, though, the best part is: "officials stress that just because certain sites are not operating, does not mean that they will not be used for WMD production in the future."

Were these officials 12 years old? That argument is about as reasoned as, "Does too!"

Sunday, January 26, 2003

I hate these guys

Two from the LA Times-


As the Pentagon continues a highly visible buildup of troops and weapons in the Persian Gulf, it is also quietly preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons in a war against Iraq, according to a report by a defense analyst.

Military officials have been focusing their planning on the use of tactical nuclear arms in retaliation for a strike by the Iraqis with chemical or biological weapons, or to preempt one, Arkin says.

Administration officials believe that in some circumstances, nuclear arms may offer the only way to destroy deeply buried targets that may contain unconventional weapons that could kill thousands.

OK, shudders of despair aside, I would like an explanation as to how the US military, or any military for that matter, can see into the future. Do they have a time machine? Just one? Or is it standard issue to the special "Time-Force Troopers"?

"Preemptive" strike. If an army is massing on your border, you could attack them first and say it's preemtive, you won't get much argument. Besides that, how could any strike be preemtive? Unless you're talking about intercepting some intelligence, how is it possible to have a preemtive strike?

They're talking about nuking Iraq to preempt a chemical or biological attack. How they fuck could they know?! We're assuming it would be some sort of rocket or missle attack, right? How could they know such a strike was going to take place unless it takes place?! It's not like firing a rocket takes a fucking week! It's a rocket!!! They're fast! That's why they're called "rockets"!!!!! If the US military had the power to predict rocket attacks, well then I don't suppose we'd ever, ever lose another man again, right? One guy could do all the fighting, right? He could just sit at a laptop directing robot weapons against all these attacks that haven't happened yet!

(rage rising... flurry of angry typing coming....) And then, ooohhhhhhh, and then... "nuclear arms may offer the only way to destroy deeply buried targets that may contain unconventional weapons that could kill thousands".

So let me get this straight: it's OK for us to unleash the greatest horror the world has ever seen in order to destroy weapons that are deep underground that could be used to kill our soldiers. These weapons are deep underground? And how exactly are they going to kill our soldiers, being buried deep underground?

Bunkers aren't missle silos where something can shoot out of them, they're basements. Because we can't wait for them to come out we have to nuke them? And so is the new rule of warfare: "our guys can't die"? We threaten nuclear warfare because if we don't use nukes some of our guys might die?

I don't get it. I thought in war, people died. You know, they're called soldiers. They like, are paid to kill people, or get killed in the line of duty, that duty being to kill people? Isn't that how wars work? Nuclear weapons aren't war-fighting weapons, they're end of the fucking world, my god it's come to this, somehow some way there's no other option for some reason, weapons. You don't drop a nuclear bomb because some of your soldiers might actually get killed during a fucking war!!!

And "unconventional weapons"?! Like, more unconventional than a fucking A-bomb?! OK, OK, I know what this is like. This is like a cop pulls a guy over, sees he has a baseball cap on, makes the assumption he has a baseball bat, so he blows the car up with a police-issued bazooka.

"Well, if he did have a baseball bat I could have been hurt in the line of police duty. That duty having something to do with carrying a gun and protecting and serving, or something. I just didn't want to take any chances."

And finally, I'd like to point out that chemical weapons' effectiveness can depend on which way the wind is blowing, and are simply not capable of leveling cities or killings tens of thousands or millions with one blow. Nuclear weapons, on the other hand, are all-weather friendly, and just one could flatten New York in a matter of seconds. To suggest we might have to nuke, in order to avoid the risk of having a chemical weapon launched... I don't even know where they think one would go, certainly not the US... anyway it's just absurd.

Here's the second one:

Prepare for War With Iraq, Bush to Tell America
Address won't be a 'declaration speech,' official says. Citizens abroad are put on alert. Hussein son warns of consequences.

President Bush will tell the nation to prepare for war in next week's State of the Union address, the White House said Friday, as the State Department alerted U.S. citizens overseas to be ready to evacuate on short notice.

Bush was heard to say: "I've seen your protests, I've read the polls... Didn't you people hear me when I said he tried to kill my dad?!"

Friday, January 24, 2003

My lightbulb joke

A' la Ted Barlow. Inspired by the Wolfowitz quote below.

Q. How many Paul Wolfowitz' does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A. There is adequate proof the light bulb in question has already been screwed in; I have the evidence, the witnesses and the internal sources to prove it. I haven't made the bulb-insertion information public as a matter of national security. If released some of this information could give our enemies clues on how to screw in their own lightbulbs. No doubt they would use this knowledge to their advantage by lighting up rooms non-adjacent to windows, or rooms darkened by nightfall. With this knowledge they could map out their horrible plots 24 hours a day, where previously, during the dark hours, they could only sit quietly or sleep.

I find it troubling the complete darkness that envelopes this room is being
presented as a challenge to my claims. I think this has more to do with knee-jerk ocularism than a review of the facts. My position is clear: the lightbulb is already screwed in. Now, somebody near the exit yell so I can get out.

I didn't know he did stand-up!

Paul "I would have been perfect for gollum" Wolfowitz, during a Council on Foreign Relations press conference concerning Iraq yesterday, when repeatedly challenged as to why the administration has not provided any of the Iraqi WMD proof it has repeatedly claimed to have, he replied:

"I must say I sort of find it astonishing that the issue is whether you can trust the U.S. government. The real issue is, can you trust Saddam Hussein? And it seems to me the record is absolutely clear that you can't."

Buh-.... wah.... pfffff- HA HA HA HA HA HA HAHA! OH GOD STOP! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!
hee hee... hee- BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!! OH! Oh! Oh... Oh man...

Oh Geez....

Oh God.... trust the- pfffffft- Bwa HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HAHAHAHA! WOLFIE PLEASE! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Oh Man! Stop! I'm serious! Oh God I'm going to pee my pants!! I'm not kidding!!

Oh Crap! Oh Crap! Oh Crap! Oh holy fucking shit! Oh God... Oh man.... Oh man....

Heh heh.

OK, seriously stop, man, I can't take it any more.


Everything he needs to know he learned in Kindergarten

Bush, from a couple days ago:

Likening Saddam Hussein's maneuvering to "a rerun of a bad movie,"
Mr. Bush indicated that he had not yet made a decision on military action, telling reporters, "I will let you know when the moment has come."
"You know, how much time do we need to see clearly that he's not disarming?" Mr. Bush said with evident frustration. "As I said, this looks like a rerun of a bad movie and I'm not interested in watching it."

These are not the words of a world leader, they're the words of an emotionally immature man-child. He should be a salesmen, of the sort that drive BMWs as fast as they can and talk rudely to waitresses. That's his people.

Thursday, January 23, 2003


From the "They Should Be Ground Into Coyote Feed" department -

These guys.

Bastards. Grind 'em up good.

I'm a real preservationist when it comes to wild animals. I basically don't want any wild animal to die at the hands of man without a really good reason, like it's clearly a destructive, foreign, invasive species, or when we've screwed up a regional ecosystem so much culling is necessary to restore balance; but for the most part I want to see wilderness and wild animals left alone.

But, I have no problem with reasonable and rational hunting laws and practices. I've never been hunting and never will be. As a kid I killed a few birds with my BB gun for fun, and to this day I regret it (not so much the starlings though, they were forcing out the robins and every other species around). Basically I realized at some point that what I was doing was incredibly wrong and just plain sick. I was killing a creature that existed simply unto itself. I had nothing to do with a songbird's world, yet for my own amusement I wiped out its universe. See, humans are blessed and burdened with symbolic cognizance. We can care about, think about, and order our world around things that do not exist except in our collective minds. We can be effected by words uttered by a person on the other side of the globe. We can be effected by words uttered by a fictional character from a fictional world, even.

Our world is huge, and the worth determined by our own individual prejudices. A wild animal's world consists of nothing besides what it encounters and what it needs, it's a self-contained cosmos by comparison. Though animals are often social, and I think capable of non-cognizant emotion (that is, the emotion has no meaning), there are no meanings or values in the animal world. If meerkat's are altruistic it's because it makes simple, objective sense to be altruistic. If a lion takes out a gazelle there's no meaning to the lion or gazelle, there's objective significance for both, but no meaning. A chimp's mother dies, there's genuine grief, emotion, and significance, but none of this can be intellectualized and it's not the same as it would be for us. We're so bound in symbols and values and predicates most people can't even begin to conceive existence without them. Hence you have your pachtuolli-soaked hippy chicks who think compassion, empathy, hatred and the like exist throughout the cosmos and not just in our heads.

Yes, I know I'm rambling. No one will read it anyway. OK here's the point, an animal's death has no meaning, only purpose, which is all the more reason to respect their life.

What's the worst crime out there? Premeditatedly killing someone with cold ruthlessness and no regret, right? Why is that so horrible? Because the killer took a life for no reason, no meaning. We can stand losing a loved one because it was "their time". We can handle someone dying trying to protect something. We can handle a soldier dying in a war. Everyone who died 9-11 are regarded as... saints, martyrs, heroes?... something, and that doesn't make it palatable, but it gives their deaths meaning and honor. I suppose the worst way for someone to die is just randomly, at the cusp of some point in his or her life, with no one at fault. In that scenario it's not their time, and they aren't even a victim, they just got snuffed out with no rhyme or reason, and those are the hardest deaths to bear. If only they're death had some sort of meaning it would be that less painful.

And who are the most revered in society? Those that seem to have a purpose, perhaps? Someone with a "higher calling"? Someone who devotes their life not to merely enjoying themselves but rather working toward a goal? I think that's somewhat accurate.

So if the worst thing that can happen to a human is to die with no meaning, and if the greatest life one can live is a life filled with purpose, how can we think killing wild animals for fun is OK? Wild animals are all purpose, no meaning. They exist to persist and procreate. Their entire universe and existence is contained within themselves. They cannot be lumped into our value system and since they are completely outside of it, they cannot be subject to it. If we kill a wild animal we are doing one simple thing- wiping out that animal's entire existence. It would be like killing someone, their entire family, everyone they ever knew or had memory of them, and destroying every bit of evidence they ever existed. Because we're so meaning and symbol-laden we persist long after we're dead. Wild animals get one shot to fulfill their entire, ultimate reason for being; it's a lot to lose. Who am I to take so much away from a creature that has nothing to do with me?

Whew. Ramblo-mania!

Awright. Anyway, that's me. And hunters aren't bad people by default. I mean, for millions of years we've killed animals for subsistence, and still do (for which I have reservations but few ultimatums), so you can't really argue it's a barbaric thing to hunt, per se. If this were 1703 I most certainly wouldn't think the same way I do now. I think this way because we've reached a point in humanity where we do not have to be "cruel" to survive. We don't have to live cruelly, so therefore we have no excuse for being cruel in our amusements. Properly regulated hunting is sad if you're the bleeding-heart type, but it's not wrong. In a way it's a hell of a lot more honest to shoot an animal and eat it than go to the grocery store and buy meat and eat it.

However, cruel amusement with a high-powered rifle, treating wild animals and the wilderness as a personal amusement park, feeling it's OK to hunt illegally and without respect for the laws of man or the worth of nature… that's never OK.

Grind those a-holes up into coyote feed and spread 'em like deviled ham upon the rocks.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Jackalope RIP
The inventor of the "Jackalope" died. Full story here, via This Modern World.

If you don't know what a Jackalope is, it is this: a jackrabbit with horns and one of my most precious, innocent, childhood memories.

Jackalopes aren't real of course, but for years, oh god the years, I had no idea if they were or not. When I was a kid my Dad and brother went to South Dakota a couple of times on antique-buying trips (we owned an antique store). I was real young and had no idea how big the world was. I thought the pope lived in a church downtown in a city of 50,000, fer chrissakes. South Dakota was a mysterious, far-away, spice-soaked Arabian port of call as far as I knew. For all the fantastical and exotic gifts they carried home I assumed they had travelled to another country. There was the miniature bale of cotton, the little wooden cage holding a black puff-ball with toothy cloth grin glued below it's google-eyes; bottles that resembled fish and other miniature versions of larger things but most exotic of all, the jackalope.

Good lord! A rabbit with horns! I've never seen one of those, are they real? My god! What is this place, 'South Dakota'? What other fantastic creatures roam this far-off land? Are the people there like you and me, or do they too have horns? Or perhaps, three arms? Maybe they live underground and fear the light? Tell me! Tell me damn you! Do their young frolic and play as I do, or do they reside in a pupae stage till fully adult! Damn you- what of the Jackalope?!

As I recall they only brought back one, that is, a plastic representation of one, and some Jackalope literature; brochures showing the jackalope in it's natural habitat. It was my brother's jackalope, and the coolest thing I had ever seen. It seemed sort of like the greatest animal ever to me. Here was a small, cute little rabbit, but mother nature had seen fit to bestow upon it horns with which to horn things. It was like a bunny with a knife attached to it's head. In the bunny world, the jackalope was king.

And so unassuming. So small and rodenty, yet so majestic. All the horned animals, deer, elk, moose, are so big, so showy, so pretentious and so dangerous; here was was a horned mammal for the rest of us. If I could find a population near me, I could enjoy horns at my leisure; every week even!

I looked at that brochure all the time. I wanted nothing more than to see a jackalope out on the prairie. I don't think my dad ever told me one way or another if they were real or not, but he did tell us that a "real" one was coming in the mail. I wanted one for myself and he said the "real" one coming would be mine.

I waited, and waited, and waited. I checked the mailbox all the time. I asked him repeatedly when it was coming and I don't recall getting a very clear answer. I think at one point he said something like his friend who was going to send it didn't come through.

God my heart ached for that jackalope. I mean, it seriously killed me. I still didn't have any first-hand proof they were real- the most wonderful animal ever in the history of the world and I couldn't verify their existence. A "real" one is coming. Proof is in the mail. The mystery will be solved and I will have my very own jackalope.
Nope. It was crushing.

I never got a jackalope. I think at some point maybe my brother gave me his, after all the fuzz-fur had rubbed off of it, but at that point the dream had died. There were, however, a number of years I really, trully had no idea if jackalopes were real, and desperately hoped that they were. I dreamed of someday visiting the land that bore them, a grand adventure to South Dakota and jackalope country. It's a good memory. I've managed to hang on to my sense of wonder but I haven't been capable of that sort of equal mix hope and wonderment, with a healthy peppering of ignorance to make it all so real for a long time now.

Well, today is the day. I know who gave birth to the first jackalope- here's to you Douglas Herrick!

Action Affirmed

So... affirmative action, eh? "Reverse discrimination" right? Yeah, it's just doing to white people now what was done to black people in the past, so therefore it's just as wrong as, say, the old Jim Crow laws, right?

And worst of all, it goes against everything Dr. King dreamed of, right? He was against affirmative action because in that one speech from the 1963 march on Washington he said he dreamed of a day when people "will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." His goal was a color-blind society, so therefore, if one acknowledges race, or race becomes a factor in anything, we're sullying Dr. King's dream, right?

Well, if you've been nodding your head in agreement up till now I suggest you pull your head out of your ass before you suffocate.

It never ceases to amaze me how people try to define reality via a dream Dr. King mentioned.
From Alternet:

Shelby Steele, in his 1990 best-seller "The Content of Our Character" presents a harsh critique of affirmative action efforts, claiming they have "done more harm than good" and implying that King would agree. Steele seeks to prove this not only with reference to the Dream speech, but also by recounting a 1964 presentation in which King implored black youth to "run faster" to get ahead: the implication being that King was an apostle of self-help and hostile to special efforts to provide full opportunities to people of color.

Clint Bolick – one of the leading critics of affirmative action – writes in his 1996 book, "The Affirmative Action Fraud," that King did not seek "special treatment" for blacks, and, as with Steele, mentions the "content of their character" remark as justification for his position. Tamar Jacoby, in her 1998 offering "Someone Else's House: America's Unfinished Struggle for Integration," says King's "dream" was color-blindness. Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, in "America in Black and White," make the same claim as part of their critique of race-conscious programs, as do Terry Eastland, in "Ending Affirmative Action," and Paul Sniderman and Edward Carmines, in "Reaching Beyond Race," who say "the civil rights movement...took as its ideal a truly colorblind society, where, as Martin Luther King Jr. prophesied, our children would be judged..." by you know what.

I'm sure King probably had a dream where he could fly, or where he had a really, really big head, but is Shelby Steele going to suggest we should all try jumping off cliffs, or that we all need to go buy big head braces to support our oversized craniums?

I'm being facetious, of course. The point is even if "color-blindness" was indeed King's dream, it was- here it comes -a Dream!

As in, "not reality", as in, "a lofty ideal", as in a theoretical goal one works toward but may never attain! It doesn't matter if King dreamed of a day when ants rule the earth, his dream changes reality not one whit.

Nothing else he ever said (as far as I know) indicated his work would be done as soon as anti-discrimitory laws were on the books. The idea being put forth by every affirmative action opponent (cough! cough! closet-racist! cough!) is essentially this: the laws of the land proclaim there should be no racial discrimination, therefore the playing field is level, nothing more needs to be done.

This goes hand-in-hand with every other neo-conservative "fairness" argument out there: anyone can become a multi-national mega-corporation if they work hard and prosper, therefore there is no need for industry or ownership regulation. Anyone can become president if they work hard and prosper, therefore there's no need for campaign finance reform. Anyone can become a billionaire if they work hard and prosper, therefore let us not punich success by taxing wealthy people more than someone making 20 grand a year.

It's all bullshit folks, and so is the invocation of Dr. King's speech. The playing field is not level. White people in this country are not exiting from 300 years of slavery and oppression. White people's ancestors were not denied property ownership for the first 200 years in this country. White people were not denied the fruits of their labors for 200 years.
So King would be pissed at AA?

"Whenever this issue of compensatory or preferential treatment for the Negro is raised, some of our friends recoil in horror. The Negro should be granted equality, they agree, but he should ask for nothing more. On the surface, this appears reasonable, but it is not realistic. For it is obvious that if a man enters the starting line of a race three hundred years after another man, the first would have to perform some incredible feat in order to catch up." From "Why We Can't Wait."

Or howabout:
"A society that has done something special against the Negro for hundreds of years must now do something special for him, in order to equip him to compete on a just and equal basis." From "Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community?"

King was no idiot, and he was racist apologist either. To say we're honoring his legacy and work by pretending his dream has come true is at best, moronic. The "fairness" and "color-blind" arguments are the calling cards for the new racists. If enough people can become convinced that the acknowledgement of race is racism (because of course we're supposed to live in a color-blind society), then race will be forced to become a non-factor, rhetorically and officially.

Sound good? Race no longer a factor? Well, if indeed race were not a factor (in reality, not just rhetorically), it would follow that it would become a non-factor. But any idiot can look around and realize race is a huge factor. So to pretend it is not a factor, to force race out of every equation, is to allow racism to once again become an accepted part of social life.
As it is now, because the attention racism has received, hopefully one is often forced to confront their own motivations once in a while. Something like an internal monologue that just says, "I'm told racism is bad, am I judging this person based on their race?". Or if a person is in some sort of public or private official capacity they may think, "discrimination is supposed to be illegal, is race entering into my decision?". A racist meets those same situations more like this, "race never has anything to do with my decisions and I'm tired of being scrutinized".

If race is forced off the table, against all observation and common sense, it will remove scrutiny. If it's allowed to be the unspoken, unacknolwedged norm racists hope it will be, decisions can be made based soley upon race with impunity because, by default, race is not an issue. A judge hangs every black man he comes across, lets the white guys live, race isn't a factor so it's got nothing to do with race- everyone was judged on their merit. Colleges become nearly all white? Black people didn't have the merit (based upon what?) to get in.

See folks, these are the arguments racists already use. No one proclaims more loudly that they do not see race than a racist. Take Randy Ridgel, a leader in the California Republican Party, and obvious bigot. Race is soooooo not a factor for him that he feels free to employ oh-so-biting sarcasm (in open letter to GOP secretary Shannon Reeves):

"At my age, with the distractions of being a detestable, insensitive racist, I grow befuddled from time to time, but I just don't remember your being hired as our black window dressing."

Partly full story here.

Funny guy. And a bigot. If you've been following the story Randy is pissed because a black GOP member complained of being treated as mere "window dressing" within the party. Randy's method of dealing with this charge, screaming as loudly as he can, essentially: 'you have no right to decide if you are being treated differently because of your race, that's for us white guys to decide, and I 've decided it's all in your head'.

I can't speak for black people, cuz I ain't black, but one thing I know for sure, I have no idea what it's like to be black. Black people say racism is still a big problem, all the statistics show blacks disproportionately represented in the poor, the incarcerated, the un-educated; we just got out of 300 years of official, state-sponsered oppression of blacks and other minorities, many congressional reps opposed a holiday honoring MLK.... sorry, but it doesn't take a sign-languagin' ape to understand we are by no means living in Dr. Kings dream-world.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Put the bacon down (or let me suck it out)

Something I've always assumed, and in some ways known from factual evidence but was never able to get a complete grasp on, was the idea that somehow the US healthcare system was inherently flawed due to its disparate nature.

Well I just read a great piece in the New Republic (via Tapped) profiling Bill Frist. Inside it discuses the stratified nature of healthcare:

Medicine has an established sociology to it. On one end of the spectrum you have the specialists: orthopedists, ophthalmologists, cardiothoracic surgeons. On the other end, you have the primary care doctors: pediatricians, family practitioners, and some internists.

Surgical specialists, as the term suggests, develop deep but narrow expertise on one part of the body or even one particular procedure that a patient may need just once in a lifetime. Primary care physicians, by contrast, must consider patients as large, interrelated systems whose health they must maintain over the course of years.

What's more, surgeons worry a great deal about anything that might stunt technological innovation, a problem they see as related to government regulation and cost controls. Primary care physicians, on the other hand, spend a lot of time watching how outside factors--environment, poverty, lack of insurance--affect their patients' well-being, and they frequently see government as a means for correcting these problems.

Ah-ha! It's making sense. Last night I watched a debate on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer regarding Bush's plan to limit patient's malpractice awards. Dr. Donald Palmisano, president-elect of the American Medical Association, would have been more suited to The O'Reilly BS factor show- he had this incredibly adroit thing to say:

This is the best medical care the world has ever seen by the way. You don't see any Americans going to other countries for their medical care. So we want to acknowledge that we have the best medical care.

What defender of the status quo (minus patient rights, of course) hasn't said this? What objective proof do they give for that summation?

Well, certainly the Journals of the American Medical Association (JAMA) would have some evidence, right?
No, of course not, because it's not true. This article challenges the assumption and cites several different studies, including the 2000 World Health Report on world health systems (the JAMA article's link is dead).

Among possible neglected factors aggravating the poor performance of US healthcare the author has this to say:

In the United States, in contrast to many other countries, the extent to which receipt of services from primary care physicians vs specialists affects overall health and survival has not been considered. While available data indicate that specialty care is associated with better quality of care for specific conditions in the purview of the specialist,15 the data on general medical care suggest otherwise.16 National surveys almost all fail to obtain data on the extent to which the care received fulfills the criteria for primary care, so it is not possible to examine the relationships between individual and community health characteristics and the type of care received.

Primary care and specialist care, expertise, and technology are two very different things. You don't see many Americans going to other countries for health care? Well I can tell with absolute certainty if I were a Canadian living near the border, and my foot was hurting, even if it were free I wouldn't go to the US to have it looked at. Does anyone really think primary care physicians in Canada are incompetent? Point of fact my foot is hurting, I injured it a few months ago and only recently found out what I really need to alleviate the pain is some custom arch supports. My insurance denied the prescription, I can't afford to buy them because they cost $250 or more, so now I have to wait a month to see if my appeal goes through. If it doesn't I may be screwed.

If I were in Canada I'd be strutting my shit up and down the block already, and it wouldn't have cost me a dime. How is our system better?

It isn't. The majority of healthcare needs are met through primary care or non-surgical specialists. Preventative medicine, common ailments, diagnosis, rehabilitation… how many years in a row does an average person need surgery? How often does an average person see a surgeon or some sort of uber-specialist? Our surgeons and high-end technology may be better than the rest of the world on average, but what does that do for the majority of Americans who will never even see this equipment? There's not really any data ranking surgeons by nation that I can find, though there are indirect findings in the WHO report that suggest all the claims are bunk. So if, on average, our surgeons and specialists are no better than that of other industrialized nations, then what possible claim would we have to "the best health care in the world"?

I have no doubt that for the wealthiest people the best healthcare is here in the US, but so what? What is the reasoning behind the peculiar American trait of measuring everything from the top down? Taxes suck because the top pay a lot, healthcare is the best because the wealthiest get the best treatment.(?)

None of the "we're the best" arguments hold up under any scrutiny. If 80% of the population get lousy healthcare compared to other first-world nations, how does having the best goddamn defibrillator in the world push us over the top?

The problem is if anything we have is better, even if it's only within or available to the top 5%, that's all that is considered in the measurement of quality. We focus on surgeons because they make a lot more money and have more prestige than primary care physicians; they are specialists whose services are harder to come by and much more dependant on quality. They're like a piece of heavy equipment, one of those things that can scoop up a tree and it's roots for relocation. They're rarely needed, and so special-purposed they're very expensive, but when a tree needs to be moved, there's no better way to do it. Surgeons are much more focused on reaching the heights of very narrow goals. Pushing brain surgery to new heights, organ transplants, etc. These are no doubt worthy endeavors, but it does nothing for most everyone in the country.
We're not seeing the forest for those few big, honkin' redwoods blocking our view. Healthcare is a much larger thing than the best brain doctor's in the world and the shiniest new heart-thingy.

Dr. Palmisano illustrates his glaring disconnectedness to the average healthcare seeking person with this little gem:

Cont. from above: So we want to acknowledge that we have the best medical care.
That's why the AMA founded the National Patient Safety Foundation. That's why we believe we should change from the shame and blame environment and lawsuit environment to an environment where if an error is made or there's a near miss, we can report it without shame or blame.

Experts can look at it, give feedback to the people involved and disseminate the information to the entire world so we all learn from it. The aviation safety reporting system overseen by NASA is a perfect example of how to enhance safety.

"[E]rror is made or there's a near miss…", like, the doctor told you to jog ten miles rather than stay in bed when that illness just turned out to be the flu?

"Experts can look at it, give feedback to the people involved and disseminate the information to the entire world so we all learn from it." Something like, 'don't tell your patients to jog ten miles if they have the flu'? Or, 'if your patient has a sharp pain in their shoulder don't jab a pencil into said shoulder'?

"The aviation safety reporting system overseen by NASA is a perfect example of how to enhance safety." I agree, because people are just like planes; their tailfins sometimes just rip off during ascent for no reason, killings hundreds of people in the process.

Doc, you're talking about surgery, you're talking about medical research, though those are of course important things, what does that do for my achin' dog?!

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Let's make a deal, Bush

Tell you what, you can bring an end to affirmative action if, within 6 years:

legacy admissions are illegal,

the finest public primary and secondary schools in the nation reside in the poorest neighborhoods and serve the most impoverished students,

federal dollars allocated to public education are quintupled (that's big-talk for increase five times),

funding for school districts is based solely upon need and not through the surrounding community's ability to pay through bond measures,

and at least 2 years of college (community, trade, or state university, subject to acceptance of course) are free to every high school graduate under the age of 30, every GED holder 40 years or younger, and the amount of money allocated to financial aid is quadrupled (that's 4, dipshit).

How about that? Do that and you can have a complete and utter end to affirmative action within all of higher learning.

Boy, I can't wait.

Of Gerunds and Such

I don’t think I got off on this blogging thing on the right foot. I read what I wrote and, I dunno, it just doesn't sound like me. And for some reason none of it really has anything to do with why I started a blog anyway, which was… uh… I think I'm so fucking cool?

I feel like I'm in competition with someone, or many someones, or all someones. All the someones out there in blog-world, I suppose.

But I can't even place a comma correctly! And every time I use "but" to start a sentence my mind races, pulse quickens, because I know I just did something wrong grammatically speaking, or at least that's the bulk of what I was taught in my primary to high-school education. That and don't start a sentence with "and" or "because" and, Jesus Christ, I already did that just trying to describe this to you!

Is that even correct? Are you not supposed to start a sentence with "and", "but", or "because"? Or "or"? Do I even need quotes around those fuckers? Does the comma go in the quotes or out?!

You know who I blame? Mrs.- oh what was her name? In high school, Freshman year, I think (because they didn't really teach any grammar after that), I had this teacher whose name sounded like that of an uptight, derisive bitch, and lo and behold she was precisely that. The sort of monster who expected kids to be adults in both breadth of knowledge and demeanor. No, scratch that. She expected us to be just as we were, and what we were disgusted her.

Although I can remember a social studies teacher who lamented because Israel wasn't able to completely destroy the PLO in the '67 war (he knew we didn't know what he was talking about, because we hadn't been taught anything about Israel, he just wanted to plant the seed in our minds), she was the first National Review, Weekly Standard type conservative I had ever come in contact with.

She was disgusted by youth culture, appalled at our apparent lax upbringing, and quite content to feel better than us at all times. In fact she reveled in her superiority, she loved to walk down the halls confident she was a Monarch of intellect, refinement, and morality compared to all the rich brats and trailer-trash punks. She fucking beamed, man.

I went to a small school, our graduating class was 150. You simply didn't have a choice in most of your core courses, everyone took the same classes from the same teachers just at different times. There weren't two 9th grade algebra teachers, there was one, and he also taught 10th grade. There was a little deviation, I was in the "honors" English classes 10th through 12th, but as far as I can recall, in the 9th grade, the bitch was it.

To this day I have no clue what a gerund is. I could be writing nothing but gerunds and I wouldn't know it. I didn't know then, either. I asked her several times to explain what it is. I remember, 15 years or so ago, specifically asking her to explain what it is. I can vaguely recall the classroom and could probably tell you which one it is if I went back, I shit you not.

Was it traumatic? No. I just remember it, I think, because that's my earliest recollection of not understanding a concept, and having the teacher subsequently blame me.

She refused to teach the concept. She was appalled, yet at the same time very pleased we didn’t understand. Whenever we weren't getting something she'd get a smirk on her face. A, My-Children-Are-So-Much-Better-Than-You-Because-They-Are-My-Offspring, smirk, and I relish your ignorance, children.

Yeah, she had kids. A couple sons, I think. They were out of high school already. She was so properly proud of them. She didn't speak much of her sons but when Notre Dame was playing she'd wear a jersey, at least one of them went there. It's not that she wouldn't speak of them, she would if you asked, it's that she thought there something unseemly, talking about her perfectly American sons, to a bunch of reprobates.

Back to the gerund. She wouldn't explain, I seem to recall her saying something to the effect of, "I've already taught it, if you don't understand by now I can't explain it to you."

I didn't learn jack shit from her. Nothing. Everything was either disappointment, derision, or pedantic correction, all with a smug air of cultural superiority. It's interesting because prior to coming to our high school she taught at a locally prestigious, private Catholic school (which went under). For a woman whose family was among the intellectual elite of the nearby (population of 50,000) city, a woman who was objectively successful, her husband successful, her kids attending an elite college, and who relished in all her many shining qualities, she was a remarkably ineffectual and downright shitty teacher. But, being a bitch gave her the reputation of being "tough", and expecting "100%" from her students. Yeah, right. You had to be on 150% in order to fill in the blanks in her lessons.

As I said she expected us to be adults. Not in the bullshitty, hyperbole, What-I-Mean-Is-Shut-Up-And-Be-Quite, way, I mean she could not tolerate who we were: teenagers. A few of the students, the girls mostly (they do mature faster, they say), tried to be adults along with her. They took the view that she was a perfectly good person, she was just doing her job and this was just business, trying to be sophisticated about the whole thing. They got the same disrespectful treatment, but because they took it with a smile and an air of mature geniality, it pleased the bitch even more. Because not only was she able to feel grand by out-knowing a child, she had convinced the child hers were the normal terms for discourse and propriety; she had chained the child in the cave and the child asked for more. Delicious.

It was only looking back at her projected construct of "adulthood" that I saw how repugnant it was, and how soulless it must be to live like that. Scratch that, there are plenty of people like her in this country of ours, and it I know it's a soulless existence. Thank deity or deities I figured out early on life doesn't have to be completely subject to mindless protocol and arbitrary measures of worth.

I think as a supplement to our textbook we had the MLA style guide. No instruction, just the MLA book which, I'm sorry, wasn't exactly written with a 14 year-old in mind. We didn't have much grammar after that, and to this day I either use too many commas, too few, use them where a semi-colon should be, and I'll be damned if I know what a gerund is.

Yeah, I could pick up the style guide myself, and someday I probably will; "pull my writing up by my own bootstraps", as it were. Nevertheless, she kind of sucked it out of me. I didn't give a shit what a gerund was after her class. Really, what was the point of caring if she wouldn't explain to me what it is? I read the goddamned textbook, I didn't get it. How much more effort would it really have taken her to elucidate for us? Well, not much, but that wouldn't have been half as fun as superciliously lording over… a bunch of 14 year-olds for Chrissakes!

Could I be projecting?


Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Bush to kids: you're not making money for anyone, so therefore I don't care.

Cursor links to a few good articles today (check them out) concerning standardized testing (here's one).

Standardized testing, performance-based fund allocation, these are terrible fucking ideas. Perhaps, purely theoretically, such a scheme could work, but in the real world it doesn't. Public schools need money. Tons of it. A lot more than they get now. The only way standardized testing could work is if each and every school was well funded. You get good teachers if you offer a good salary and good working environment. If you don't offer either of those, you won't get many good teachers. It's a simple equation.

Why would a Republican administration and/or congress allow public schools to starve for funds? Notice how Bush's economic plan does little for the states, he knows full well that education is going to be on the chopping block in every state with a budget crisis.

Why? Because Republicans do not want public schools to exist. It is their dream that all schools become privately run. Why else would they all defend in unison the terrible record of Edison Schools?

It is my estimation that in their view there is no use for public schooling. Private schools would serve just fine and they would make money to boot. Yes, millions of kids would be left behind, quality of education would be dictated by the markets, but who cares? The wealthy would continue to receive excellent education, and that's who Republicans care about. Op-ed pages would be filled with right-wingers defending the situation in terms of fairness: "If you work hard and smart you can be successful and send your child to a good school. Why should the successful be punished by paying for the education of the lazy and unwilling?"

If for no other reason, though of course there are many others, I wholly despise the GOP for so wretchedly colluding to dismantle and render impotent our nation's public education system.

For a very interesting, street-level perspective of all these issues, go here. This guy has lived it, and his story will really open your eyes.

Bush to Poor: "Suck it. Suck it hard, suck it long."

Bush said Congress should take as its model a bill the Republican-run House approved last year that would have required more people to work more hours 40 hours a week, 10 more than current law to receive government benefits. Of the 40 hours, 16 could be used for job training, education or drug rehabilitation.
According to Bush, welfare rolls have dropped by 2 million since the 1996 law, or 54 percent.

"That's a number, but behind each number is a life, and that's important to recognize," Bush said. "In Washington, we spend a lot of time talking about numbers, and that's OK. It's kind of a measuring tool. But we've also got to remember, with each number is somebody's aspiration and hope."
-- (what is unspoken) "A hope I don't mind squashing by forcing single mothers away from home for so long they have no time to care for their children."

"Also, my timing is perfect. Forcing welfare recipients to work more hours during one of the worst job markets in years is sound thinking. It certainly has nothing to do with my privileged upbringing and absolute disconnect from anyone who doesn't pull down at least $300K a year."

This just in! Bush doesn't negotiate! He gets BOLD.

WASHINGTON - Adopting a more conciliatory stance, President Bush said Tuesday he may revive a proposal for substantial economic benefits for North Korea if it agrees to dismantle its nuclear weapons facilities.

"We expect them not to develop nuclear weapons," Bush said. "And if they so choose to do so — their choice — then I will reconsider whether or not we'll start the bold initiative" that he said he discussed with Secretary of State Colin Powell last year.

Everything he does is bold. Bush boldly orders the steak, Whitehouse reports.

Bush boldy decides it's bedtime, Whitehouse says. Quote: "I'm goin' to bed."

First of all, this is not a bold plan, this is basically the Agreed Framework. You know, the plan Bush wiped his ass with.

Second of all, to try to maintain the illusion of credibility, he makes a point to state that he has been thinking about this "bold" plan for a year, as if he hasn't taken the hard-right line since his swearing-in.

How the hell did that guy get elected? Oh... oh yeah.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Neo-conservatives and libertarians essentially don't think there should be any sort of welfare system (well, they don't want to pay for one). They do not want the state to impose upon them taxes which pay for the lives of people they do not want to help.

The Charitable Faith-Based Initiative implemented by Bush is basically an appeasement to neo-cons and the religious right. It's still money spent on "welfare", but it's given to religious organizations and the right can get down with that (see, they would prefer the US were a Christian nation).

But it's also "charity", rather than "welfare". It jibes better with their idea that charity is fine and good, welfare bad, because charity is voluntary, welfare is a bureaucracy of the state apparatus (they don't think the state has a right to tax them for anything they don't want to be taxed for).

Bush's contention, and his followers would agree, is that charities are better at caring for the underprivileged because they are less encumbered, more compassionate, and more attuned to the needs of their communities.

Well here is undeniable proof. We can just scrap the welfare system tomorrow, cuz local charities, A) work perfectly, and B) enjoy the support of everyone in the community.

So atrios picks up on a discussion in the blog-world (I prefer that to blogosphere cuz I'm such an iconoclast) regarding the internment of Japanese during WWII.

It started, apparently, here at instapundit with this statement, "The wrongfulness in the World War Two internments, after all, wasn't that they happened, but that they were unjustified. Had significant numbers of American citizens of Japanese descent actually been working for the enemy, the internments would have been a regrettable necessity rather than an outrageous injustice." Then there's this from a reader, "I attended several JACL (Japanese America Citizen's League) meetings at the time of the redress legislation and observed a very different reaction by Japanese Americans from Muslims in the United States. Every JACL meeting commenced with the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge was not recited as an empty gesture either, the Japanese Americans made very clear their allegiance to the United States and their pride in fighting for the United States in every war from WWII on....
This is in stark contrast to many Muslims (not all) who howl about perceived civil rights violations and yet refuse to assimilate American values and culture, treat their wives and daughters as slaves and seek to supplant religious freedom with Islamic tyranny. Where are vocal Muslims denouncing Islamist terrorists and supporting America?

This all makes me very, very sad (BTW- read the Atrios stuff).

To me the single biggest driving issue behind arguments for racial profiling, musings on internment that barely conceal the desire for such a thing to take place, is the racial and moral default idea most American's share.

White people are the default. That's what people think without thinking. And I don't mean default as in majority, I mean white people are the standard to which abberations are measured. For example, Timothy McVeigh. He blew up a building, a big building, yet we didn't start profiling white guys with crewcuts, we didn't bomb swaths of the US full of para-military types, we didn't start rounding up people in the John Birch society. Why? Because white people are the default.

White people are just "people", white people are the "guy" or the "girl" when you talk about people at work (if you're white, that is). If you're talking about a black guy at work you say "this black guy at work". If you're talking about a white guy you say "this guy at work".

White people are individuals because here in the US ethnicity does not bind them together. Yes, a white person can be Irish, Swedish, British, etc, etc, but that part of their ethnicity must be pressed by the individual in question. They have to work to maintain even a modicum of that identity. Unless they really look like a member of an ethnic group (like very, very Italian), they're just white because there's basically no physical nor cultural manifestation of ethnicity. The perception is therefore a lack of saturated ethnicity- "default people".

Since white people are just "people" in general, individual white people are subjected to few assumptions (beyond the lack of assumptions, which of course is an assumption). Therefore the actions of one white person do not automatically effect the perception of other white people. There's no easily apparent connection between them so they're regarded as individuals.

Non-white people do not enjoy the status of individual unencumbered by assumption. Black people are physically and culturally different from the default people and they're connected by this difference. It's like if millions of aliens came down and lived among us. Of course they wouldn't all know each other, but many would assume they did and a guy in Eugene would no doubt ask one of them, "I knew an alien in Mobile named Smork. You know Smork?"

This is, in my mind, the very core basis for all racism in the US, and it's the only reason anyone would even contemplate the internment of others.

See? Middle-Eastern men aren't individuals. Well, lip service is paid to the individuality of those who say what the warmongers want to hear, but unless a guy from Yemen is screaming at the top of his lungs "Kill Saddamm! I love Jesus!", he's just part of the hated group.

People like the guy who wonders why Middle-Easterners aren't whipping out flags and "assimilating" (to what, the default people?) simply do not view non-white people as individuals. That guy, whatever his story, is a racist. You can't only view whites as individuals and not be. Sadly, I think it's part of the make-up of this country, every white person has a little of this unknown racism in them.

Even if some Japanese Americans had tried to sabotage the US during WWII, it still wouldn't make any sense to intern them. How are they less individual than the default people? Why is it the actions of a few of them damn the rest, while the default people are given the benefit of the doubt that they're their own person?

Are white people unencumbered by loyalties? Have they no fidelity to causes or ideas? Wasn't that the issue with the Japanese internments? It was thought they may be more loyal to Japan than the US so we had to jail them up? Isn't that the issue now? These Middle-Easterners, these Muslims might be more loyal to something other than the US government? Why is it their skin color, language and religion makes them suspect and not their character, as is the case with white people?

How could the actions of a few possibly implicate thousands of disconnected individuals? How could that ever be the case? It makes no logical sense.

Well, because people who aren't white don't enjoy individuality, they're not the default, so obviously they're all connected. Right?

This is a brand-new blog, and thanks to Atrios for linking to my Cheney "scoop" (it ain't really a scoop, just noticed somethin'), I've actually got some visitors. So if I ever need some Buffy books I'll definitely get them from Atrios.

There's a billion blogs out there and many that are more adept at disseminating loads of current political info than I am, so I'm not going to try to keep up with the Flanderses.

What I will bring to the table is a rapier wit (I'm still warming up), an uncanny ability to make connections and distill intentions, the occasional Sexy Zombie, and some (hopefully) thoughtful essays on politics and American Culture.

About me: I'm a dude, I make movies when I can, I have a degree in Anthropology, a disdain for Windows, deep psychological problems with money, relatively poor grammar and vocabulary skills which belie my otherwise- uhhh… big brain skilz… a perspective that only a man who has conclusive proof the universe was created solely to annoy him can bring, and I have tickets to see Willie Nelson.

I live in Los Angeles, land of pricks in BMWs, and I hate it when someone tries to be cool and cynical by calling it "Lost Angeles" (bra-freaking-vo, for that one). I lived in Seattle for 5 years, Land of the invisible, yet lauded, black people, and land of the "be open-minded or else!" bumper-sticker (actually I made that up, fits perfectly though). I grew up in a small farming town in eastern Washington, so I know all about rednecks and their linear-thinking ways.

So, for no other reason than to feed or starve my insecurities, I hope you visit once in a while.

If you gotta blog I'll be more than happy to swap links with you.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

A continuation (sort of) of an issue brought up at Maxspeak, which regards the NY Times article below.
This is a typical argument against a more European style of government:

"The first is that my other big problem with "social democracy" is that it is based on an idea of rights with which I am fundamentally uncomfortable. The idea of rights articulated in the Declaration of Independence is that all people naturally have rights, and that these rights are what the state cannot do to you. The European idea of rights (to housing, health care, a good job, etc.) is that they are what the state must do for you. I don't like that idea of rights because it is based on the notion that it is the state that gives (and what the state gives, it can take away). I do not like a system with the state holding all the cards."

I simply can't understand this point of view, unless I make the assumption the speaker is extremely alienated from "the government", to the point of paranoia. Also, his idea of what "the state" is or should be is odd. "The State" should be an extension of the people's will. In a democratic system the state is the people via their representatives, or at least it's supposed to be. His point of view seems to be the state rules the nation, rather than the other way around.

Don't get me wrong, I assume the administration, and to a very slightly lesser degree the congress, mostly work from the most cynical place you could imagine. Policy is most often made for political and financial gain. I don't think that's a very untruthful statement. But that's the point. That's what it's like here in the US, and a little less like in coalition European governments. I'm not saying Europe is full of perfect democracies, just that he seems to be defending our currupt system, which produces a huge disconnect between people and their government, against a system that is theoretically more attuned to the people it serves.

Considering our civil rights have fundamentally changed within the last year and a half, one of our greatest weapons in the war of accountability has been taken away, and personal freedom now, for all intents and purposes, is dependant upon the benevolence of "the government", I find it hard to argue that somehow the European system is, by definition, less free than ours.

It's a curious thing that people on the right consider universal health care, subsidized housing, and other elements of "Welfare" to be a gross affront to freedom, yet they're more than willing to defend things like, attacks upon civil liberties, secret bombings, murderous proxy armys and those responsible. It's not just curious, it's severely depressing. Why is it conservatives want, for example, to keep the "money equals free speech" electoral system in place when it's that very system that ensures our government is stocked with plutocrats, and completely in thrall to money?

I read a book review at Amazon once, it was some economic theory book, or maybe it was the anti-federalist papers, I dunno... it was contained within one of those personal recommendation lists you can set up and the guy was obviously a righty. Anyhoo it was a simple, short comment, "economic freedom = liberty".

In other words, nothing matters but money. I think that sums up nicely the modern-day conservative mindset; "I don't want to pay for anything that benefits anyone but myself".

Saturday, January 11, 2003

If you like zombies and lingerie, you should go here.

Hey kids! Did you realize we're living within a 6th mass extinction? (Or 7th, depending on how you count the wipe-out of the dinosaurs)

Yep! Brought to you by a world economic system based upon sustained consumption, with no regard for replenishment or sustainability.

Essentially plants and animals are becoming extinct, at a comparable rate, to when that big-ass asteroid hit the Yucatan and wiped out the dinosaurs.

Thank God we have an administration, in this country that produces a quarter of the world's greenhouse gasses, that doesn't have it's head in the sand, and is firmly commited to protecting the environment.

Two quick thoughts:

I wanna see "Chicago" because I'm hot for Catherine Zee-tah Jones. I had a great idea for a star vehicle for her- "Catherine Zeta Jones' Ass". Just 90 minutes of her gyrating butt. You know you'd at least rent it.

Also, Marxism.

The last few months or so I've seen rightys invoke Marxism as an insult toward leftys on a strangely regular basis (I'm too lazy to link for this one, trust me, I've been called a Marxist several times this month alone). Maybe because our president is resurrecting Reaganomics, I dunno. Anyway, this is a message to the rightys out there:

Marxism? Really? Do you actually believe anyone outside of the dumb-ass-college-kid-who-don't-know-jack realm desires an economic system in which there is no ownership at all? Stop bringing it up, it makes you look stupid.

I have trouble keeping the pundits straight, partly because I don't care. Most of the right-wingers are essentially the same; all they do is find some intellectually dishonest way to defend the administration. But tonight, while dining on my first attempt at cooking artichokes (it was... OK), I was flipping and saw David Brooks on Chris Matthew's network show. I saw him the other night too, I don't remember where. First times I really noticed him before. Anyway...

David Brooks is kind of a f**k, right?

Friday, January 10, 2003

From The New York Times:

Shortened Workweek Shortens French Tempers


PARIS — Ahhh, to be French!

Marielle Saulnier, a 34-year-old radiotherapy nurse, took 10 days off to ski in the French Alps over Easter, and three weeks to vacation in Corsica during August. She took another week off in October to visit museums and parks with her children during their mid-autumn school break, and 18 more days, sprinkled throughout last year, just to relax.
more. Probably requires registration.

The biggest single argument right-leaning persons bring to the "Hey, screw this working 60 hours a week, let's be like the French!" argument is- "If you work hard and smart you can do whatever you want! If I work hard and become successful I shouldn't have to pay so someone can sit on their ass and not work as hard as me, blah, blah, blah."

But you know, I'm a smart guy (trust me), I did well in college, 3.6 gpa in Anthropology, my bosses have always liked me (well... that'll be another blog), when I'm treated well at work I'm one hell of a good little worker. But, my days and nights are filled with... frustration? Longing? What's the word? What I'd like to do concerns art, and frankly you just can't go out and "get in on the ground floor" with most careers in art. I wanna make films, and let me tell you, whatever stories or ideas anyone may have about a Tarantino sort of success or the film school track or the working your way in by assisting on a film, etc., it's incredibly difficult to become a writer or director, even if you have a lot of talent. If you want to be a director, a cartoonist, an actor, a muralist, a musician, whatever, most likely you're just going to have to pursue your art as best you can while you're working some crappy jobs.

So you wanna work in films? You get a job. If you didn't study film in school do you continue on to graduate school to pursue a career in your field, even though you know it's not your passion? Do you spend thousands studying for something ultimately you don't want to do or spend that money on making a flick? While in the job market do you get on a career track, perhaps locking yourself into a life you're not terribly excited about? Or do you just do what you can to make money and expend your energy on your art?

I would welcome lower pay in exchange for free health care, cheap rent, and loads of time off. Who gives a crap if it's a job I'm not too excited about? Most people are already in jobs they're not too excited about! The job market here is not much different. If you want to work a dream job you either need to specialize early (be on track during college at least), get a ton of education in a specific discipline, or spend years at the bottom working your way up to get a job you truly love. But if you didn't realize what you wanted to do till after it was essentially too late to specialize, it's tough to get on that trolley. It may have been easier in the boom years to change careers but, as we all know, the boom years were just a bit of a distortion.

Americans live in a lottery culture. We think, because it's possible, it's somewhat likely. We've got a lot of opportunity here but realistically speaking, it's not lightyears ahead of (most of) Europe. I would kill for 35 hours a week and a month of vacation.

If you got a job you love, if you were able to successfully create a business you love- great. More power to you. But most people work the best jobs they can find, and it pays the bills. Hopefully the rest of the things in their life fulfills them where their job doesn't.

Thing is, when you're working 50 hours a week in a job you don't value, an hour drive away from your home, it's hard to have the time to enjoy the rest of your life.

A righty at this point would start screaming "You're just jealous! You just want successful people to subsidize your life!" Well, it would be a little less coherent than that.

Well, no. I want as many people as possible to be happy. And you know what? If you want to get rich, you can get rich in France too.

No, I'm not arguing others should subsidize my dreams, I'm arguing everyone ought to subsidize everyone else's well-being just a little more than we do now (and FYI, I have a decent job I don't despise). So it costs me $50 more bucks a paycheck to keep some crazy bum guy in cheap housing, or some poor immigrant kid in good health, so what? I'd like to feel our nation takes care of it's citizens rather than "dog eat dog = fair".

The French got it goin' on.

Cheney has lied again.
"The fact is that 54 million Americans own stocks that pay dividends."

Interesting that elsewhere on the whitehouse website is this information.
"Roughly 35 million American households receive dividend income that is taxable and will directly benefit under the President's plan."

That's households, Cheney is counting the kids in the families as owners of stock, apparently. I know you can say it's not a "lie", it's just a re-figuring of the data, perhaps there are 54 million individuals who own dividend paying stock. However, we all know it's just another deliberate obfuscation of the facts. Notice the whitehouse states 35 million will "directly benefit", meaning 35 million tax returns will claim dividend income and therefore get the tax break. 54 million people will not. I call it lie because, with this as the preceding sentence "Other critics have suggested that ending the double taxation of dividends is somehow tilted toward a small number of wealthy beneficiaries" he is of course implying 54 million taxpayers will benefit. Which ain't true, so it's a lie.

I'm not the guy to take anyone point by point through the lies that the whitehouse is pumping out about all this (I'm far too lazy and/or busy for that), but I find it interesting that Cheney's speech couldn't even jibe with the "fact" sheets on this. I'm sure the 35 million number itself is suspect, but I don' wanna search around all night trying to figure it out. The truth will show up somewhere.

I work with a hard-core, laissez-faire, sex-with-reagan-if-I-could kind of guy, and even he is, albeit grudgingly, furious about Bush's plan.

That's a goooood thing.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

My blog.

Blog shmlog.

Or would that be blog shmog?

Sooooo. For my first post I will explain to you why the new Fox series "Joe Millionaire" exists for one reason only- to humiliate women.

Lemme 'splain...

First of all, I haven't seen the show and aren't going to either. I try to watch as little absolute crap as I can (my quota is taken up by pretty much any Simpsons episode after season 5), but nevertheless it's an easy analysis.

The advertised purpose is to see if "love can survive" a lie. The lie being the guy's a millionaire when in fact he's not. The premise being that "true" love can be effected by money, so if a girl loved this guy, then found out he didn't have money, if she still loved him she would love him for him, not the money. If she didn't love him then the money was a big factor and she's just a money-grubbing bitch.

First argument- suspend disbelief. Let's pretend you can fall into love, "true love", whatever the fuck that is, via reality TV.

Money can effect affection. All of the women are automatically going to be effected by the money, they're starting from scratch- they don't know the guy. Even if their ultimate love may be true, it is de facto tainted by the money. They're getting to know a millionaire, not a construction worker. Therefore, loving him for who he is means loving him as a millionaire who knows shit about wine and lives in a goddamned castle.

Deceit effects affection too. So the "winner" finds out he's not who he said he was. He presented himself in a completely false manner. She finds out she did not, in fact, know the man at all. Obviously she couldn't possibly be in love with the "real" Joe because she didn't get to know the real Joe. Even if her love was real and for true, it was for someone else. I'm sorry but 50 million, riding horses, living at some castle, knowing crap about crap like wine and cheese- that's part of the person.

Second argument- acknowledge you can't truly fall in love on a game show.

Same particulars but this time we're acknowledging the fact they aren't going to find true love. At best you can hope for lust, a modicum of tentatively genuine affection, hope that you can fake it long enough to ge embroiled in the 50 million dollar world.

A girl wins. She's got a shot at being married to a multi-millionaire (or do they get married at the end? I don't know). Then she's told she was lied to, the man she met was half created by the producers in a game show specifically created to showcase her reaction to the revelation of that lie.

See, it's created to humiliate at least one women. That's the premise of the show whether "true" love can be found or not. It's one big, elaborate set-up. I'm wondering if the pitch was something like this: "We're going to convince some woman she can marry a good-looking multi-millionaire, then reveal he's broke, and if she freaks out, well then the whole country sees what a gold-digging bitch she was, just trying to get his money and people will eat it up! Nothing people love more than hating scheming woman (ooooooo, maybe we should get some black women with children as contestents, that'd be sweet!) She'll be called a whore from here to Kansas and it'll put the 'shameless' back in Fox! But here's the beauty part! If by some chance (don't worry it won't happen) she still loves him- we got a true-blue American princess on our hands and people will eat that shit up for months and months! We'll be able to run 'Joe Millionaire Revisited' whenever rating go in a slump and just rake it in!"

There's a handlful of reactions the girl can have, but I think it will probably be something like:

"It was all a lie? There's no money?"

(pause as she tries to maintain a bit of a smile on her face, realizing she's been set-up to either look like Anna Nicole or Mary Lou Retton and she doesn't really want to be either one)

"Well, you shouldn't have lied to me Joe Millionaire, but I still care for you, and we should talk this over."

After the finale we learn they aren't seeing eachother but remain "good friends".

This page is powered by Blogger.