Friday, September 30, 2005

Riding Between Cars Is Prohibited

Friday. I need a break from the 2005, from being 48, from being consumed with the Oil Mafia and their systematic dismantling of America...

1979. That was the year that I was graduated from college. Armed with my BA in Psychology and the confidence that I would soon be able to escape the mundane existence of a day-gig, I happily accepted a corporate job in downtown Manhattan near Wall Street, donned my suit, (there was no “Business Casual” back in those days. You had to wear a suit and a tie,)and pretended that I was an adult.


I had to take the subway from Wall Street up to 42nd St. at 5:00 PM on weekdays. To say the trains were packed would be like saying it’s chilly in Antarctica in the middle of winter. I have literally dozens of stories from those days, but one of my favorites involved a lifelong friend, about 6 Puerto Ricans and one of New York’s finest.

It was fortunate that one of my boyhood friends worked about a block away from me on Wall St. We would meet up and take the train together to work our way back to Long Island. We would often ride outside, in between the subway cars. It was private, away from the crowds. It was also dangerous and illegal. We didn’t give the downside a second thought. We’d often step off the platform across the tracks right into the space between the cars without even getting inside the car first. Sometimes, there’d be one or two other people riding out there with us. It was fun and we felt like we were beating the system.

In 1979, we had this illusion that pot was legal in NY, and there was a good reason for it. If you weren’t dealing, and you had a small amount on you, you had little to worry about. It was common to be toking on a number and have cop walk by and maybe he would say, “Put that out!” or maybe he would ignore you, but worst case he’d break your balls for a minute and then take whatever you had for later. That was the atmosphere in those days, when we still had John Lennon, and we didn’t yet have Ronald Reagan. Man, that was a bad trade we made in 1980, but that’s another story.

This one day, the trains were particularly unbearable. It was hot. The trains were running slow and behind. We found ourselves between the cars, with 5 or 6 Puerto Rican twenty-something guys heading back up to the Bronx, and stuck in a tunnel in pitch black. One of the guys lit up a cigarette, so we all did and we started to talk.

“Ees hot mang!”
“I hate theees, ees so crowded.”
“I just want to get home and take a shower.”
“Anyone got any weed?”

In fact, I had a couple a joints in my box of Parliaments. I took one out and lit up.

“Oh, mang, you alright. I saw that suit an' thought you were so straight mang!”

It seemed like we were stuck there for a half hour. We smoked up both joints, and we were laughing, joking and trading stories like old friends. When the weed had been consumed, we all lit up cigarettes. What we didn’t know was that we were just outside the next station. So there we were, one toke over the line sweet Mary, standing downtown outside a railway station, smoking cigarettes and laughing like we were hanging out at some bar at 9:00 on a Friday night.

Except we weren't.

Abrutptly, the train started moving, and we were suddenly bathed in the bright lights of the station, a bit stunned and too stoned to drop the butts on the tracks.

The train stops, and here is a transit cop in uniform. Right in our faces. On the platform, looking up at us standing between the cars. He is all red-faced and sweaty, and yelling at us to get off of the train. My boyhood friend blows his smoke from his last drag of his cigarette, drops it to the tracks and looking at the cop but speaking to me in a tone of annoyance and mild disdain, unconsciously, as if the cop was in a movie and certainly out of earshot, and he says,

“Fuckin’ COP!”

As you can imagine, I was stunned, the Puerto Ricans were stunned, and the cop was livid. We were in violation of two laws that he was charged with enforcing, and my friend said the two words that we were all thinking but the two words that you should never say should you find yourself in such a situation.

One of the Puerto Ricans made a move to disembark from the train directly onto the platform, which also was illegal, and the cop said, “NO! NO! NO! GO THROUGH THE CAR.”

When we got back into the car, it was so full that had we wanted to get out of the train it would have been questionable. We were scared, and had been taught to respect the law, so we did make an effort to get off the train, and indeed we did, but people were crowding into the train at the door that the policeman expected us to exit from, so we found our way to the next door, and pushed our way on to the platform. We were surrounded by a gaggle of sweaty commuters who were unable to get on this train and had to wait for the next one. We couldn’t see the cop, so we went upstairs and out to the street, had another cigarette and counted ourselves lucky.

I still chuckle to myself when I think of it all, now so long ago.

“Fuckin’ COP!”

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Rough Ride

Let’s review what we know, shall we?

DeLay indicted on campaign finance charges.
Frist under investigation by the SEC for insider trading.
Rove may be facing charges for the Valerie Plame affair.
Downing Street Memo.
Evidence of election fraud and voter tampering.
FEMA’s dismal performance in the wake of Katrina.

Looks like we got a momentum building.
Looks like the pendulum has stopped and is poised to swing back.

Let’s set our expectation levels appropriately.

We still got:

Gasoline prices at $3 per gallon and rising.
Federal government running record deficits.
Global warming.
Iraq Quagmire.
Osama running free.
Afghanistan neglected.
The Supreme Court stacked against freedom.

spreading lies over the airwaves.
The majority of Americans (72%)

not accepting or doubting evolution.
The majority of Americans (52%)

believing that the prophecies found in the book of Revelations will come true.

Hold on, because it is going to be a long, rough ride.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Horror

Neil Shakespeare is trying to make sense of the latest atrocity from Iraq.

He writes: “Support Our Troops? After reading today about "Our Troops" trading death photos for porn I'm not certain why we should support them,” after learning that “[the] lovely, mild-mannered troops have been posting their 'military death photos' on a site called …”

[I want nothing to do with that website, so I masked the URL. I’ve seen enough atrocity in my life, I am over-edecuated to the point of despair when it comes to the evil that we humans are capable of inflicting upon one another, and I don’t want anyone going there because they came here to visit.]

It reminded me of the speech by Col. Kurtz (played by Marlon Brando) at the climax of
“Apocalypse Now.”

"I've seen horrors... horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that... but you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face... and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember... I... I... I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond... a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God... the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters. These were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling... without passion... without judgment... without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us."

This is the Oil Mafia’s fault. We tried to tell them what war really is. It isn’t a party. It isn’t a movie. It isn’t glory. War is the Utlimate Horror. Ask anyone who has been in one. They will tell you, “You do not wage war unless you have no other alternative.”

I don't blame Mr. Shakespeare for his feelings of disgust. Just imagining the photos makes me ill. Thinking about the sort of person who gets some kind of thrill by viewing the pictures makes me wish that I could rescind my membership to the human race. But I also don't blame the troops. The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the evil men who think of war as a tool to increase their power and wealth. Who think of war as a trifle, another business proposition. Who gamble with the lives of our young people, but who have never themselves experienced the horrors of war firsthand.

I hate them.

I feel nothing but sadness for the soldiers who joined the military to defend our freedom, only to be exploited by profiteers in a war of choice. I feel nothing but sadness for those who have been forced to make a friend of horror.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Look It Up

Conservative: adj. Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.

Liberal: adj. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.

Most of us would like to believe that both adjectives describe us, depending upon the situation. They are not mutually exclusive. We should strive to preserve that which works, and to try new things to remedy that which does not.

One of my favorite quotes which not so coincidentally occupies some space at the top of my blog is by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She said, “Seek truth for authority, not authority for truth.” I think this quote can help us to understand what attracts people to the “left” or the “right.” People on the “right” tend to trust authority. They like simple rules that are easy to follow. Gray areas make them uncomfortable. They like “strong leadership” and the discipline of religion. People on the “left” tend to mistrust authority. They want to ensure that what they are being told is the truth, that it can stand up to scrutiny. It’s no coincidence that religious fundamentalists, (in our country primarily “old testament Christians”) are attracted to the right side of the spectrum, and that “new testament Christians,” (but not the ones who believe in the cockamamie interpretation of Revelations!) agnostics, and atheists tend to be on the left side of the spectrum.

Seems obvious to me which is the superior philosophy. One uses critical thinking and reason to solve problems, and the other places its faith in authority figures and ancient unscientific, unsubstantiated doctrine. One professes that the truth and the unbridled search for truth need to be independent of agenda, while the other demonstrates that their agenda transcends truth when the truth contradicts their agenda. One holds that that truth is absolute and morality is relative, and the other holds that morality is absolute and that the truth is relative. Please note that I didn’t say the politicians live by these standards, because I think that the politicians on the left have historically been just as corrupt as those on the right. (I say historically because these renegade neo-cons that have hijacked the US government are in a class by themselves when it comes to political corruption. What would they not do?) It is the philosophy that I think is superior. When I vote, I vote for the doctrine, not the candidate.

Need I list the things that have been said about “liberals?” People have said so many ridiculous, outrageous, stupid, and false things about those on the left that many of us have said defensively, “I am NOT a liberal!” Well, I may not admit to being a liberal, but it isn’t because I’m ashamed. It is because I can’t live up to “Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.”

I also find it ironic that liberals are often decried as stupid and / or evil. Anyone else notice that most scientists, artists, scholars, writers, intellectuals and humanitarians are liberals? Indeed, would Buddah or Jesus or Ghandi be considered liberal or conservative if they lived in today's America and preached the same messages that they did in their day? I know it is anecdotal, but most self-described conservatives that I meet are either not very bright or exceedingly selfish, or religious to the point of the irrational. The problem is, stupid people don’t know that they are stupid, exceedingly selfish people don’t admit that they are selfish, often not even to themselves, and religious people are told that it is sinful to question what they are told. Or as John Stuart Mill once said, “Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.”

Here is what I want to know: If your politics lean to the right, do you trust Ted Kennedy or Michael Moore to tell me who you are and what it is that you believe? Well, then, why do you give any credence to what Rush Limbaugh or Tom DeLay say about what I believe?

If you want to know what I believe, why the hell don’t you ask me?


This week's Top 10.

In case you are feeling a bit equivocal today, read this.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Meme 23:5

I saw this first over at Lance's place.

1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

"F’rinstance: A religion that demands celibacy from its priests attracts child molesters."

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Nation of Anger

Everyone is so damned angry. I know I am. The neocon movement has at least succeeded in stirring up fear, hatred and anger. All of us are furious, not just the progressives.

I know why I am angry. We are all intimately familiar with the litany of misdeeds that fuel our anger, but isn't it just the sheer dishonesty of it all that ignites it? The bald-faced lies that the uninformed or the mentally lazy actually believe, and that the well-informed, intelligently savvy pretend to believe? It is the dishonesty that enables the misdeeds. Who would accept the “tax-relief” if they called it “a party for the rich” or “a tax-increase on your children and their children?” Who would condone “Operation Iraqi Freedom” if they called it “Operation Oilfields?” How about “Corporate Profits at the Expense of our Environment” instead of “Clear Skies Initiative?" The few who stand to gain from such insidious policies, sure, but a majority? A plurality?

What about the anger of the conservative population? The religious right? The libertarians? I’ve noticed that they are all very angry too. That is something that has been scaring me for the last year or so. The neocons have incited anger among their followers as well as their opponents. Members of the NRA are angry, in spite of the fact that the
assault weapons ban was allowed to expire. Racists are angry even as African Americans are still taking it on the chin in our criminal justice system. Religious fanatics are angry, even though “Intelligent Design” has been deemed a scientific theory and on an even par with evolution by the president, and even though there are “national days of prayer” officially declared by the government. Right-wingers are angry in the midst of cutting taxes to the bone, gutting regulations on corporations, and, for practical purposes, successfully “starving the beast.” Anti-feminists are angry while Roe vs. Wade is threatened and while safe drugs that can circumvent abortions remain unavailable. They are all still furious, and yet they are getting exactly what they claim to have wanted.

I believe that the tide is turning, that this government is on its last legs, that some Democratic seats in congress will be gained in ’06 and the Democratic nominee will win the presidency in ’08. As good as that sounds, it begs the question:

What are all of those angry conservatives going to do then?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

When I'm Sixty-Three

Like millions of others, I sat glued to the TV set on that Sunday night in February of 1964 and was forever changed by The Beatles. What would have that 6 year-old boy thought if he was told that some 41 years later he would still love their music, and would attend a concert featuring one of them?

There I was last night. My kids got together earlier this year and secretly bought us the tickets to see Paul McCartney as a Father’s Day / My Birthday / Viscountess Birthday present. We were impressed. I’d seen him twice before, but The Viscountess had never had the pleasure.

It is very hard being a McCartney fan. You never forget the great songs that poured out of him during his tenure with The Beatles. Let me just rattle off 5 Paul songs.

“All My Loving”
“Can’t Buy Me Love”
“Paperback Writer”
“Lady Madonna”
“Hey Jude”

That’s only 5. Famous recording artists have made an entire career out of 3 songs. How many more great songs did this man write that I didn’t mention? 10? 15? 20?

After the break-up of the Beatles, the McCartney songs came fast and furious. As the 70’s continued, his music became increasingly insipid. Sometimes you’d have to think, "is that Paul McCartney or Barry Manilow?" Still, I’d buy each new album, play it a few times, tell myself, “This isn’t THAT bad,” and then have to admit, “yeah, it is THAT BAD!” How many times was there a buzz about the new McCartney? “
Tug of War.” “Flowers in the Dirt.” “Flaming Pie” All were bought with the anticipation that "yes, this was going to be a GREAT album." Each of them featured some fine songs, especially “Flaming Pie,” but all of them still had filler and their share of schmaltz and happy-dippy-crappy (these are words with the double “P” this time!) poppy-or-peppy little ditties that were annoying at best. Plus, half of “Flaming Pie” was produced by Jeff Lynne and sounded like an ELO record. ELO records have the potential of putting me into anaphylactic shock, so that made listening to it a real challenge.

Last week I picked up “
Chaos and Creation in the Backyard.” This record had a serious buzz. A producer (Nigel Godrich) who told him that he thought a lot of his post-Beatle work was crap, and he would have to be able to take brutal honesty if they were to work together. Paul agreed. Two years to make. Serious introspective songs.

I had tickets to the show, so I plunked down my 13 bucks, hoping against hope that it would at least not suck.

Finally. A Paul McCartney album that was devoid of lameness and cloying sentimentality. No silly dopey tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

What the album has is a collection of great songs. Some are immediately accessible, others grow on you. Now, don’t get me wrong here; it is still McCartney, but the songs are like “Blackbird” and “For No One” and “Penny Lane” (although not quite as good, but in the realm) and there is nothing at all like “Listen to What The Man Said” or “Let ‘em In.”

Now on to the show.

He rocked. I mean, really really rocked. It was a 5-piece band. Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums, “Wix” Wickens on keys, Rusty Anderson on lead guitar, Brian Ray on Rhythm and Bass guitar, and Paul on Bass, Guitar and Piano. This was a serious rock band. They banged out “Drive My Car,” “Let Me Roll It,” “Live and Let Die,” “Too Many People,” and “Magical Mystery Tour,” etc. with conviction, and confidence, and had a damn good time doing it. With the exception of a little straining here and there, that 63-year-old man sang like a canary for 2+ hours. He sang ballads such as “’Til There Was You” and “Yesterday” effortlessly. He belted out “Back In The USSR” and “Good Day Sunshine” like a rock singer of 35, with power and seasoned experience. The band handled the sometimes complex harmonies with ease, and they were solid and faithful to the original records. Paul was personable in a natural and unrehearsed way. He seemed genuine, and the audience loved him.

This was the Paul McCartney that we’ve been missing. It took him some 35 years to get over his divorce from The Beatles, but he’s finally done it. It was an amazing show, and it made restitution for a multitude of sins.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Comfortable IIlusions

Yesterday, Neddie said:

Have also been reading John Powers' Sore Winners, a survey of the cultural landscape of the Bush Years by LA Weekly's media critic, who is also a film critic at Vogue. He put his finger on something I've been trying to formulate for some time:

"Since the fall of Communism and the rise of centrist Democrats, even the faith in action [among the Left] has largely disappeared. The remnant of the Left is largely defined by patterns of consumption -- which magazines we read and which movies we see -- or by newfangled ideas of organizing -- such as Howard Dean's Internet-grassroots campaign. What passes for the serious Left isn't a set of shared ideas or values attached to a living social movement. It's an audience brought together by big-name freelance "radicals" -- [Michael] Moore, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Arianna Huffington, Jim Hightower, and showbiz figures like Susan Sarandon or Martin Sheen. What these folks have in common isn't a vision of the world -- it's fame."

This bothers me. Doesn't it bother you? Discuss among yourselves. In your discussions, please consider this month's Theme Statement:
Blogging provides a comfortable illusion of activism. In fact, it is no such thing.

There is a lot of truth in that blurb. I think it pays to take a step back from time to time and ask ourselves why do we do what we do? If we want to change our circumstances, sitting behind a desk and pounding on a keyboard is clearly NOT the way.

I can’t say why other people choose to blog, but I know why I do it, and it isn’t because I am under any “comfortable illusion of activism.” I suspect that the above does apply to many bloggers.

Back in the 80’s when I was under an uncomfortable illusion of rock stardom, there was a band of 40 somethings at the rehearsal studio that we frequented, and they played Motown and Classic Rock covers. They weren’t very good, but they were there every Wednesday night. One night the sound engineer referred to them as “The Bowling Band.”

“The Bowling Band? Is that their name?”

Laughing, he said, “No, they don’t have a name. They’re just a few guys that get together to jam. They decided it was more fun than bowling once per week.”

Well, here I am. I love to write, and I have plenty of strong opinions. Pushing 50, I’m painfully aware that even the best Op-Ed columnists have very little impact on the political landscape. They reinforce the beliefs of their like-minded readers, and stir the ire of their polar opposites, but few people ever change their minds as the result of an Op-Ed column, let alone a blog entry written by an aging, jaded software engineer. The fact that a handful of people come to visit and read my entries and leave their comments is extremely gratifying to me. I’m not, nor am I ever going to be Paul Krugman, or even Neddie Jingo. I see this blog as rehearsal studio for a gig that I’m never going to play, and that suits me fine.

Regarding the John Powers’ quote: The same could be said about the right, except that the people in power are ruthless, so activism is not needed. Their “audience” can afford to be passive. We cannot.

I’ve been thinking about what is I am able to do, and I’m not sure yet, but I know this: Nothing is going to change if we do not ensure that future elections are free from voter fraud and corruption. We can never again allow a political party to suppress voters and control the voting mechanisms.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Blue Girl vs. The Right Winged Nincompoop

Here I go again, riffing on a comment that Blue Girl in a Red State left here at the Viscount's: [BG's comments are in italics.]

Al, this is off topic [Not anymore!] -- but, I've got a GREAT story for you -- I was at a supplier's office -- people I've been dealing with for years, ultra-right wingers -- guess what one of the guys said? Get ready for this, cuz it's so crazy I can't even stand it.

I thought I was ready, because I certainly know the type. No shortage of ‘em here in the land of “Intelligence Resigned.”

He said

“the reason liberals *love* abortion…”

Stop right there.

I had to read that twice.

“the reason liberals *love* abortion…!”

I have been called “a liberal.” What do I love?

The Viscountess.
Our children.
Music, esp. The Beatles, Steely Dan, XTC, Yes, The Allman Brothers Band, and Kevin Gilbert.
My stupid dog.
Books, esp. “The Hobbit,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Glass Bead Game,” “Siddhartha,” and Stephen King novels.
Red wine. Italian, French, Californian, Chilean and lately, Spanish.
Eating at restaurants.
Cities, New York, San Francisco, San Diego, and London
Our big, comfy bed.
And lots of other stuff.

Funny, but Abortion doesn’t seem to be on the list.

In fact, I hate abortion. I also hate prostate exams, and I hate saying “no” to my children when they ask for something that they can’t have. I hate getting old. I hate lotsa things that I have to accept as part of life.

The thing that stupid people and conservatives (I hope my editor doesn’t delete that for redundancy!) always seem to miss is that the most difficult choices we face in life are difficult because the options presented to us are all bad! In their black and white world, everything is a simple decision. “Abortion is bad. Don’t have one.” If someone said to me, “Hey Al! Here are your choices: You can either go to Tuscany with The Viscountess and tour the wineries or you can go be mistaken for a member of Al Qaeda and get your ass sent to Gitmo. Which do you prefer?” I am not going to agonize over that one.

If however, the doctor says, “Hey Al! Here are your choices: You can submit yourself to a humiliating, embarrASSing, uncomfortable rectal examination and decrease your risk of dying early, or you can go home and forget about it and increase your risk of having a serious illness go undetected until it is to late to save your life.”

Hmm. I really, really HATE having to bend over and having him poke around inside of me with that damn glove. However, I want to continue to revisit and relive the things on the ‘Things I love’ list for as long as possible. “Ok doc!”

Only an idiot or a conservative republican would infer that I *love* the exam because I choose to submit to it.

Likewise, (as with matters of this complexity, one cannot say “always”) usually a woman who chooses to terminate a pregnancy agonizes over a set of options that are all bad. If a woman decides that she must terminate a pregnancy, it is usually because her alternatives by definition are worse. I say that it is precisely the politics, philosophy and policies of the mean-spirited, the selfish, and the neo-cons that often limit the alternatives of a pregnant woman who feels that she must terminate a pregnancy, and those people are the ones who would take away that choice.

The blathering maladroit continues the sentence: “the reason liberals *love* abortion …is because it's their way of getting rid of black people.”

When did I miss that decision? When did “we” come to a consensus? Liberals want to get rid of “poor people,” but the way we want to do it is to give them more opportunities to escape from poverty. “Poor people” of all colors. Seems to me that it is the greedy selfish people, and the libertarians who want to *increase* the number of poor people of all colors by denying the working class access to education, decent wages and healthcare.

After all of this, this prime example of a person who everyday gives himself a rectal exam with his own head finishes:

“Just go into the black neighborhoods and ask them. That's what black people think.”

Great. He *knows* what *they* think, as if *they* all think the same thing.

How many ways is that wrong, and insulting, and bigoted, and uninformed, and just plain STUPID? Does Condi Rice think the same things as Dave Chapelle? Does Colin Powell think the same things as Snoop Doggy Dogg?” I assume from my experience that both Blue Girl and the self-proclaimed expert on “what black people think" are both white, her name notwithstanding. By virtue of being of similar skin color, does that imply that they both think the same things? Why did he even bother to have this conversation? Or in his world of irrationality, does this axiom only apply to people with dark skin?


Here’s an idea. Let’s go to a “black neighborhood,” get all of the people who live there, put them somewhere, I don’t know where, maybe the Superdome? [Bad joke. Sorry for that one. ] and ask “them” questions. Perhaps “they” will all answer in unison:

“Hey, you black people. I have some questions for you! White people keep quiet!

Do liberals *love* abortion?”


“Do they want to get rid of black people?”


“Are any of you LIBERALS?”


BG finished the story with this:

I'm like, WHAT??!! What did you just say??!! How do you know that? When have you ever been in a black neighborhood taking an abortion survey?!! And why do you think liberals *love* abortion??!! That is just plain weird and extreme. (I was ranting and raving -- you would've been proud.)

He and his brother went on and on with the most extreme language you can imagine.

I just kept answering with: I don't care what either of you say -- my entire goal in life [is] to defeat you. You MUST BE STOPPED!!~!!

Indeed. The right-winged nincompoops must be stopped.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Live Long and Prosper

For my birthday this year, The Viscountess bought me the entire Star Trek original series on DVD. We have been watching the episodes in their original broadcast order, averaging about 2 or 3 per week. There are 70-some-odd episodes, and we want the experience to last. It has been perhaps 10 years since the program was available to me through syndication, so the show is like the return of a long-lost friend.

When I was in my thirties, the question was posed to me, “Whom do you admire most?” An obvious question. It struck me that I immediately thought of John Lennon, and Mr. Spock. Spock? He wasn’t even a real person! Yet, there it was. I had to admit that a major influence on my life was a television character from a science fiction series.

When Star Trek made its debut in September of 1966, I was 9 years old. I was a fan of “
Lost In Space” and was actually afraid to watch Star Trek. It was a “real” science fiction show, and that meant it might be scary. At some point, in 1967, I remember being at my friend’s house, and talking about “Lost In Space” and his mother piped up, “That show is for kids. We watch ‘Star Trek.’ ”

“That show is for kids!” Indeed! I damn well wasn’t going to take that sort of insult lying down. I wasn’t ready to give up on “Lost In Space,” but I decided in that moment that if he could watch “Star Trek,” then so could I.

I remember the first episode I saw was “
The Devil In the Dark,” and it was a revelation. These people were serious. Who was that guy with pointed ears? That would be the science officer, Mr. Spock. He was a Vulcan. He was an alien. An alien that was a good guy?

From that moment on, I was an addict.

After watching a few more episodes, I wanted to be Mr. Spock. The concept of basing decisions on logic over emotions was an absolute revelation to me. I’m sure most boys wanted to be
Captain Kirk. He was tough, but fair. He was loyal. And he got the girls. Gorgeous girls. I admit that part was intriguing. Still, Spock did have his share of female admirers, and they were not only cute, they were also smart!

As a child, I was hyper-emotional, and it got me into lots of trouble. I had a keen sense of introspection at a young age. I was extremely analytical. I pondered my predicament of being small for my age, of being mediocre at sports, and of being “the baby” of the family. If I had to pick one word to describe my life as a child, it would be frustration. Boys fought, and I hated fighting. I had older brothers that teased me constantly. When teams were chosen up for sports, I was usually one of the last kids picked. The idea that a hero could be a hero because of his intellect alone never occurred to me. Here was a way out.

The secret of the Mr. Spock character was that he was half-human. He had emotions, but he fought to triumph over them, and it did not come easy. His god was truth, and his religion was logic. Spock was proud, but not arrogant. He was willing to die for his principles, and he put the well being of the crew ahead of his own. As he said at the end of the movie, “
Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan,” sacrificing his life to save the ship and her crew, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”

Mr. Spock taught me that the way to salvation was through the pursuit of the truth. The pursuit of truth was not only a means to an end; it was an acceptable end unto itself. I didn't know it at the time, but Mr. Spock was responsible for one of the governing principles of my life: Truth transcends agenda.

I've wanted to write this post ever since I read Lance Mannion's excellent post about Scotty.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Schrodinger's President

This is unscientific.


I can’t help but believe that if Al Gore had been the president, and had been re-elected in 2004, things would be much better today. There would have been no war in Iraq. Saddam may have collapsed under the pressure of inspections and sanctions. We may have avoided the 9/11 terrorist attacks, maybe not. Had they occurred, we would have captured or killed Bin Laden and would have crippled Al Qaeda. The economy would have been in much better shape. There would be a budget surplus. There would be a program in place to make healthcare more affordable.

Katrina hits. Maybe the levees break, maybe not. If they did, rescue operations and relief efforts would have been done in a timely, compassionate and professional manner. Less people would have died. Less people would have suffered.

And the Republicans and their idiot media shills would be telling us that the country was sliding to hell on Satan’s sled.

There has been a lot of talk about who should be the nominee in ’08. Someone over at Shakespeare’s Sister’s place said "Al Gore," and at the time I hadn’t considered him. I now think he would be great. I know he isn’t perfect, but compared to the other potential Democrats he has the experience and leadership skills that are needed to stop the idiocy dead in its tracks.


M.T. Vanus, an infrequent contributor [one of his insightful comments can be read here,] but loyal reader alerted me to The Union of Concerned Scientists effort to Defend Science from Political Misuse. The current administration’s misdeeds are numerous, and their disregard for and attack on science surely must be at the top of the list. I think this is a noble cause and I urge anyone who cares about the future to take a minute and get involved.


I heard a sound byte the other day from DL Hughley. I can’t find a link, but it went something like this: “The Bush administration sent Dick Cheney to New Orleans to help comfort the victims. Cheney comforting the victims? That would be like comforting a baby by giving him a cactus!”

Thursday, September 15, 2005

All Ted All The Time

A guy, who is more or less cynical and apolitical walked into the break-room this morning and said, “I hate Ted Kennedy.” He went on to tell me about Ted not letting Roberts answer his questions. I asked, “How did you know about this?”

“Ummm, you know I don’t believe what these guys say, but I think it was on Hannity’s show.”


Can you see it?

Cheney: “We’re screwed. What do we do now?”
Rove: “No sweat. Two words. ‘Ted Kennedy.’ ”

Has anyone else noticed that people are talking about him? It seems now that the two-idiot format morning radio shows, the Limbaughciles, all of them are attacking Ted. In unison. A couple days ago I mentioned him, but the pattern had not emerged yet. Look, he is an easy target, a definite liability to the progressives. No argument from me. But that isn't what this is about at the moment. It is about the tactic of getting the masses to focus on something unimportant but divisive, diverting attention away from crucial issues that are either being bungled or worse, exploited.

This is the same thing they did during the last leg of the second coronation of Lord Farquaad. We were in a war, we had a horrendous terrorist attack on American soil, an increase in poverty, job losses, a surplus became a defecit, millions of Americans without health insurance, and people all over the place were talking about “Gay Marriage.”

If we want this to stop, we have to refuse to play. I told that guy flat out, “The reason you are talking about this is because Bush’s numbers are in the toilet. They don’t want people focusing on the real issues. They own most of the media and are using it to get you talking about something other than their atrocious mishandling of Hurricane Katrina.” At the moment of saying this, I'm sure he thought I was a bit off, but I think he will remember that I said it, and will check it against what he observes.

We do what we can.

We’ll see if I’m right, but I predict that the next couple of days are going to be, “All Ted, all the time.”


Howard Dean on Hannity and Colmes.

Alan: You've said that President Bush doesn't care about all of the American people, and you've said something similar about Judge Roberts--that he may love the law but doesn't necessarily love the American people. Do you ever have a concern about rhetoric that you may put out like that, that may be more divisive than uniting?

Howard: I think it's true. I think it's time somebody told the truth. The president said he was a uniter, and turned out to be the most divisive president probably in our history, except perhaps before the Civil War. This is a divisive president, and he got there by not telling the truth. The truth is that there are a lot of people who it turns out, through no fault of their own, really got hammered in this, and they didn't get any help from the federal government. There are a lot of women, for example, who couldn't participate in sports. My wife didn't have equal access to sports; my daughter did. Judge Roberts wants to undo that according to his writings. I think that those things that I say are true, and therefore they need to be said. You can't fix something if you're not willing to point your finger at it.

Good articles on the difference between claiming to be a “Christian Nation” and behaving like one.
This just in from Xtcfan. Not a good thing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

This Is America?

I blame the Republicans, their psycophantic bought and paid-for talk radio minions, especially Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News for turning America into this.

[Note: I have been informed that this has been published elswhere in the web with the names included. I witheld them because a friend sent it to me with no explanation. I have since restored their names. 9:01 PM EDT]

[Second Note: From Homefrontradio helping to set the record straight: Found the original published source for that EMS article for you so people can't dispute it as an Urban Legend.
And another posting of the article. And confirmation from other witnesses. 9:53 PM EDT]

Hurricane Katrina - Our Experiences Larry Bradshaw, Lorrie Beth Slonsky

Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims" of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed, were the real heroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with$25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement".

We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short-order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander’s assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the f******freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.
The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coastguard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches. Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist. There was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.

Katrina - One Couple's Story

My friend's wife relocated from New Orleans to NY a couple of years ago. She received this as an e-mail from a friend / previous employer. They passed this on to me and gave me permission to post it to The Viscount’s, provided that I delete the personal references. I have done so.

“This is a fairly well-to-do guy, about 60ish - a fairly conservative, soft-spoken dude - VP with a very respectful business”

Monday - my wife and I survived, house survived hurricane, with just the fence blown down. Then, a levee broke and Lake Pontchartrain inundated our subdivision. Could not save much of anything, and rising water forced us into the attic Monday night.

Tuesday morning - found a boat at an adjoining house. Motor worked, but couldn't get it off the trailer.

Waited around for hours and a rescue boat from the fire department came to us. We swam out of the house with the clothes on our backs and a few mementos. They brought us to highway 90 at the south end of the subdivision. They told us the National Guard was picking up people along the highway that the fire department was plucking people out of the water.

At first it was great to be on dry land and out of that foul evil water, with alligators and water moccasins along with floating clumps of human waste vomited up by a hundred thousand overflowed toilets.

After a while the blazing hot sun was getting to us. No trucks. No food. No water.

We broke in to a Winn-Dixie and looted food and water, broke In to a clothing store for dry clothes to take the stink away. After no truck showed up, we broke into a Pentecostal church to get out of the hot sun.

Two days - no trucks. Running out of food and water. Everyone else who made it to high ground stripped out the store. We got desperate yesterday morning as the sun rose and we were running out of water.

The previous night several of us convinced one of the locals to hotwire the church sedan which we thought was full of gas so we could escape to Baton Rouge. Turns out he wanted $400 to drive us and an additional $175.00 for the hot wiring. We agreed, money not being an object. But then he overreached himself and couldn't hot wire the van and it only had gas vapors anyway.

3:00 am in the morning of day 3, my wife went ballistic. She commandeered a tractor and asked the driver to bring us to our French quarter offices because they were still above water and we thought that maybe the water pressure still worked. We paid him $1,000 to drive us there.

It turns out that the truck was stolen. Worse, we couldn't exit any ramps from the interstate because the water was too high. All the time, the driver constantly sipped from a pint bottle of whiskey. (Scenes of people in the dead of night reaching out for the truck as we drove along were truly frightening. Unable to leave the interstate, we had to go back, $1,000 blown (The movie "Escape from New York" pales in comparison. It was Dante's Inferno.

Ready to give up entirely, my wife wanted to go back into our house and at least stay in the attic, but the water was still rising.

We were really desperate yesterday morning, as the temperature increased and we ran out of water. Desperate, we found three tour buses that were not ruined in the water, but they only had a minimal amount of diesel. We joined up with others who were in the same predicament. We piled onto the buses, and we left with about 100 people, driving across the river where there was dry land.

Officials refused to give us any extra diesel, saying it was for rescue operations personnel.

Never saw hide or hair of FEMA. We probably left over 1,000 dead back in our neighborhood subdivision.

We drove via highway 90 on east bank of the river, up to Hale Boggs Bridge, then back over the river onto I-10 and to Baton Rouge. There, we found diesel, thank God. I saw Air Force 1 drop down to 1,700 feet to get a closer look (Bush didn't wave to me so I guess he didn't see me.}

Our buses arrived at WBRZ TV 2, where the crew turned this nightmare into a media event.

My wife and I called a taxi and went to Baton Rouge airport, but could find no flights out to Los Angeles where my wife has family. We rented car and headed out to northern Mississippi. Along the way, every convenience store/gas station was stripped of food --fuel rationed out in some cases by authorities. We had enough fuel to get to Memphis. Others weren't so lucky. Many cars on the shoulder of the road. All motels filled. Finally, after driving since 3:00 PM the previous evening and not having slept for 4 days, we found a room at an Economy Inn on the north side of Memphis intl. airport - checked in at 3:00 am this morning.

Now I'm trying to set up a satellite office in Memphis, but where to begin? I don't know who of our staff survived. Last I heard, my son was still in the ER of University hospital as an ER RN. I spoke to him at the height of the storm, but lost contact. I assume they will evacuate hospital personnel as generators have failed.

[Name witheld] (homeless and sunburned)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Hodgepodge Tuesday

I’d had a lot of ideas today, but none of them really jumped out at me as “the one,” so I thought I would just write about all of them without too much discussion. We’ll see how it goes.

Jill left a link in the comments section of yesterday’s post, and I have to admit it made a good cross reference to what I was talking about. In case anyone missed it, Jill is my better 4/5. She is in all of my thoughts and my posts. Much of what I write about is a direct result of our lives together; our conversations.

I’m really tired of hearing the words: “I’m a libertarian,” spoken with a tone of smugness and conceited condescension. Libertarianism sounds good on the surface, and is very attractive to people who don’t want to pay taxes but think they should be allowed to smoke marijuana. Lots and lots of people who claim to be libertarian are not outraged at the Bush administration. In addition to having an aversion to taxes, libertarians believe in preserving the rights of individuals. The true libertarian would like the tax-cuts of the Bush administration, but would have to be appalled at their disregard of the protections granted to us by the Bill of Rights. I don’t hear any of these people complaining about that, and I don’t expect to, because all they really care about is a justification of their self-serving behavior fueled by personal greed.

One of my co-workers often puts some sort of article/picture/quote/puzzle etc. on the front of his cube. Today I noticed a new article titled, “Who Was Mary Jo Kopecne?” I can’t find the article online, but basically it summarizes the circumstances of her death, and then goes on to ask, “Why should we believe anything Ted Kennedy says?” Listen, I’m no fan of Ted Kennedy. I think he was the loser brother in that family, and a liability to the progressive movement. I think at best he panicked in the above incident, and I don’t rule out foul play. Still, I wonder why this gentlemen isn’t outraged at the president who started a war under false pretenses that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people, including almost 1900 Americans?

Anyone who honestly believes that the radio and television News Media is "liberal" is easily proven wrong. The television and radio news outlets are owned by huge corporations who have a stated agenda: To earn money for themselves and their stockholders. This means 3 things. 1) They report stories that will increase their advertising revenue. 2) They will not report stories that will hurt their advertising revenue. 3) Any slant that a story might have is there because the news producers believe that it will increase their revenue. Most people agree that "conservatives" prefer smaller government, and the less government regulation of corporations, the better. Most people would also agree that "liberals" view the increased power and influence of corporations on America and the world as a bad thing, and prefer government controls to keep corporations in check. Therefore a "liberal media" would be counter to the corporate media's primary agenda.

As a "liberal," (I use quotes here because people insist on labeling me as such, although most people who use that term have no clear idea of what it means) it is a constant source of irritation that people continually repeat the words "liberal media."

XTC is a great band that has been making records for about 25 years. Their appeal is not always immediately apparent, but “Skylarking,” “English Settlement” and “Nonsuch” are all good places to start.

We disconnected the cable in February of ’05, and upped our Netflix membership aggreement to 4. I’d always heard that “Upstairs Downstairs” was one of the best television shows ever, and after watching the first season and part of the second one, I’d have to agree.

The British version of “The Office” is brilliant. Easily as good as "Seinfeld" and "Fawlty Towers." The reason they made an American version is that the accents are sometimes hard to understand by American ears. Fortunately, the DVD includes English subtitles. Not to be missed.

We saw "The Wedding Crashers” this weekend. A little long, but outrageously funny and a good way to forget your troubles for a couple hours.

And last but not least, "Mr. Cranky" trashes every single movie he reviews, except when he reviews them as "Mr. Smiley." I find it oddly amusing, even when he trashes movies that I love. Also great fun when he abuses movies that I think are overrated. In addition, he also does some provocative political commentary. Very good stuff.

Monday, September 12, 2005

It is 9:11 P.M.

I'm sick and tired
of people insisting
that what is,
is not,
what is not,

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Four Years On

Four years on, and here we are. Worse for the wear. Less freedom. Less money. Less jobs. Less friends in the international community. Stuck in a war of choice that is draining our resources, that is destabilizing a part of the world that needs more stability, that is helping to create more terrorists, and that in the minds of the terrorist leaders justifies their actions. Terrorists tell the Islamic people that Americans and Christians hate them, that we want to destroy their way of life, and then we invade a nation of Islamic people that had no connection to the attacks of 9/11 in retaliation. We rightly pointed out that Saddam Hussein was an oppressive evil dictator that killed his own people, and employed torture against his enemies, and then we killed thousands of Iraqi citizens and employed the use of torture against them. We also tried to forget that it was the US government who helped him seize power and then sold arms to him.

The attacks on September 11, 2001 were horrifically evil. We were told the reason behind those attacks was that the terrorists hated freedom, and were envious of our wealth and power. Analysis, discussion, observation of any other hypothesis was verboten. If anyone dared ask questions like, “Does the United States’ foreign policy help to fuel this hatred?” or “Does our thirst for foreign oil help to finance the terrorists?” they were immediately accused of capitulating, of being weak, of being afraid. This is nonsense. Trying to understand the root causes of terrorism through a frank and open analysis of the situation is not the same thing as “understanding” the terrorists, as “aiding the terrorists,” or as “capitulating” to the terrorists. Indeed, it is vital that we consider all possible factors and explanations of any problem if that problem is to be solved.

Imagine if we used this brand of logic when confronted with other challenges that we face? Global warming for instance? Ok, bad example! How about the possible causes of cancer? What if the government said, “The increase in the incidence of cancers in the US population is explained by the advancements in medicine in the treatment of other diseases. People who used to die from infectious diseases now live long enough to develop cancer.” Certainly a possible factor, but would it then make sense to inhibit the investigation of other possible explanations?

This administration decided long ago that their agenda, their ideology will be pursued singularly, regardless of the facts or the evidence at hand. This sort of thinking is destined to fail, and it is what will ultimately cause the collapse of the neocons. Facts are persistent. Truth can only be denied temporarily. Eventually the cold and damning truth defeats any dogma or ideology that dare ignore it.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Sweet Regret

In our little world of bloggerspace, we have the Pynchonian prose of Neddie Jingo, the level-headed voice of reason in blue girl, the artistic and irreverent observations of Neil Shakespeare, the no-nonsense “calls ‘em as I sees ‘em” Kevin Wolf, the eclectic musings of Lance Mannion, the insightful thoughts of Jill over at Ob-La-Blog, the to-the-minute take-no-prisoners Shakespeare’s Sister, the awesome macro-lense world of Manny Festo at Eye Camera, and the sensitive but firm Calidem over at Nite Swimming.

Last, but note least, we have the outrageously funny, can’t take it anymore from these wrongheaded right-wing reactionaries, Bobby Lightfoot.

If anyone has ever seen “High Fidelity,” you might remember the over-the-top performance of Jack Black, inviting John Cusack to come see his band? You’re expecting Johnny Rotten or Danzig, but when you finally get to hear him sing you get some smooth blue-eyed soul.

Bobby Lightfoot’s music will come as a surprise to many of our readers. It is what we wish they would play on the radio. Accomplished, mature, interesting. A voice that sounds warm and friendly. Evocative lyrics. Lush arrangements, but not gimmicky sappy arrangements. George Martinesque arrangements that enhance the listening experience but don’t take over the record. Gorgeous background vocals. A little of the best bits of Paul McCartney, Michael Penn, and reminiscent of some of the singer-songwriters of the 1970’s.

Hopefully at some time in the near future, this music will be available to buy. For now, follow the links over to Neddie’s place and treat yourself to some unexpected ear candy.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Reduce The Surplus Population

By now, I’m certain everyone who has stumbled across this blog has seen the Cheney video.

“Go F#$k yourself Mister Cheney.” As people have pointed out, he is genuinely amused by the episode. He smiles and immediately turns it to his advantage by referencing John Kerry.

It reminded me of George C. Scott’s brilliant portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge. Over the years, the Alistair Sim Scrooge has been celebrated as the standard by which all others are judged, but I do not share that opinion. I think Scott’s Scrooge is by far the best, because he is gleefully mean. He is his own audience, and he is greatly amused by his miserliness and his callous indifference to suffering.

The classic scene is when he is approached by businessmen for a contribution to charity. He welcomes this opportunity to express his disdain for the poor. He appears to live for moments such as these. When he first encounters them, they say something like, “Mr. Scrooge, I don’t believe you’ve made our acquaintance” and he mutters with a wry grin, “Nor do I wish to.” They then go on to explain to him about the suffering children, the whole exchange about “Are there no prisons? No work farms?” The defining moment though, is when they tell him that conditions are so bad that some would rather die, and he says, (paraphrased from memory) “Well, if they’d rather die then let them die. It will reduce the surplus (laughing!) population.” There is the difference. Alistair Sim delivers those lines in anger, but Scott delivers them with glee, reveling in the fact that he is so clever in his meanness. He is proud of being such a scoundrel. He loves being a miser.

That is precisely the way I see Dick Cheney.

By the way, I still haven't figured out exactly why, but I find it wildly enteraining that the off-camera protagonist chose to call him "Mister" Cheney.


This morning, I had a coffee mishap at my house, so I had no go-cup coffee for the drive to the office. The easiest remedy was to stop by the local Starbucks, and that is exactly what I did. I'm not proud of it. I needed my fix. As I parked, I notice a Ford Explorer with its lights on in the parking lot. As I got out of my car, I realized that it had been left running, at $3.00 per gallon. When I went inside I noted that the driver was a spoiled 30 something woman, totally without any clues. I have no clever punchline to this story, nothing to add that will make any point. Just thought I would share...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

How Can We Win?

First of all, when I say, "We," I don’t mean Democrats. I mean anyone who is against what the current administration has done to our country. The problem is, at this stage the Democratic Party is our best hope. I am not happy with their dismal perfromance as a party, but they are all we got.

We must concentrate on how to defeat them at the polls, and we have to choose what we will be our issues in the upcoming ’06 and ’08 elections. These issues can’t be based on ideals. They must be based in reality. I realize that some of what I am about to say is going to be a bitter pill to swallow, but unseating these people is vital to the future of our nation, and the future of the world.

Gay Marriage. This is an absolute loser issue for the Democratic party. In my heart, I know that homosexual Americans deserve the same rights and privileges as heterosexual Americans, but gay marriage as an issue to be discussed at election time will not bring the anti-BushCo voters to the polls, but it will bring the opposition to the polls in droves. Someone who lives in Massachusetts or California cannot possibly imagine the violent opposition to this issue in the Bible Belt. Trying to get these people to accept gay marriage would be just as easy as getting them to accept Islam as the established religion of the USA. It will never happen in our lifetimes.

Instead, we should follow Howard Dean’s advice, and push for “Civil Unions,” after we defeat them at the polls. If we don’t call it “marriage,” but gay couples get access to the same rights as straight couples, what would be the harm? I was raised a Catholic, and my first wife divorced me. I did not get an annulment from the Catholic Church, and when I remarried, I was married by a judge. That means that my “marriage” is not recognized by at least one church in this country, and probably a few more. So? What do I care? Most people who have an opposition to gay marriage have that feeling based on an emotional reaction to the word “marriage.” Admitting to them that “marriage” is a union in the eyes of the church and their God and Civil Unions are a legal agreement between two adults and their government is I believe a compromise that we can all live with, and one that is necessary if we want to relegate these neocons to the history books.

Gun Control. Another big loser for the Democratic Party. Should not even be discussed until after 2008, and then only to reintroduce the Assault Weapons ban and close the gun show loophole. Any more discussion than that, and we will hand the country right back to the Republicans.

The Pledge of Allegiance. We all grew up saying “under God.” So what? When we are cast as anti-God, we always lose. We should shut up about it.

What will win elections for us is to talk about issues that matter to the majority of the Americans, and not issues that anger us on principle. We must clean up the mess we made in Iraq, and find a way out of there. We must provide health insurance for those Americans who can’t get it through their employers. We must stop the flow of American jobs overseas. We must protect our population against disasters, natural and terrorist. We must make sure that a woman’s right to choose is protected. And, we must restore our reputation with the rest of the world. Other issues that are important to people who actually think, like global warming, stem cell research, etc. can be tackled after the election. The way to win is to appeal to masses with issues that they care about. The Republicans figured this out a long time ago, and we better do the same. If we continue to concentrate on loser issues that unite one-issue voters against us, then we must accept the consequences.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

This Just In

I am in the middle of a debate at one of my music geek websites, (my last post was actually a rewrite of my initial post there) and one of the neocons included the following quote as his tagline at the end of his post:

"That's why I like Bush. He doesn't over-think it. He wakes up every morning, jumps out of bed, lands on his two feet, scratches his balls, and says, "Let's kill some f@#@$ing terrorists!"
- Dennis Miller

What a sellout he turned out to be...

A Sham Exposed

The libertarian, Republican neo-conservative philosophy of "every man for himself" has been exposed for the sham that it is by the hurricane. This neocon administration was unable and unwilling to deal with the aftermath (and also the prevention) of the damage done by the
hurricane because their philosophy is anti-collectivism. The rebuilding of the levees was abandoned under the Bush administration. Everyone consulted knew that money was needed to
reinforce them. People were left for days in horrid conditions because of the incompetence and indifference (I think contempt) of the Bush administration. Even conservative columnist William Kristol admitted that the Clinton administration would have done a better job:

William Kristol, the conservative publisher of The Weekly Standard, said of Mr. Bush: "I do think people think he could have showed stronger leadership." But Mr. Kristol expressed doubt that the
hurricane would have much lasting effect on the president's personal and political fortunes, because "people are capable of saying, 'The president kind of screwed this one up, but I still basically agree with him.'"

Mr. Kristol added, "I think the Clinton administration would have done a better job in handling Hurricane Katrina, but I'm also glad Bush is president and not a Democrat. "

[Courtesy of Shakespeare's Sister originally from the NY Times]

This nonsense of "why should MY MONEY pay for YOUR misfortunes?" is an awful way to live, and it can't work. Isn't it obvious that YOUR MONEY has no meaning and no value in a vacuum? The society that enables and ensures the value of YOUR MONEY comprises the entire
population. You want to go back to feudalism where rich land owners have serfs and their own army? I sure as hell don't. The idea that a progressive tax system with higher taxes on the rich is unfair and punitive is ludicrous. The rich make the rules and control the economy, and without a government collecting taxes and regulating them, they will act out of their own selfish interests to the rest of the population's peril. When someone like me dares voice this opinion, we are called "socialists" and "communists" which is a straw-man argument. Under the tax-structure of the Clinton years, the rich prospered. Their class didn't change. Indeed, they got richer. I myself love the idea that I live in a country where I have the opportunity to make more money if I work hard and am creative, and I believe that if I'm able to do that, then I owe some of that money back to the society that made it possible.

I for one am glad the "liberal media" (what a stupid joke - go to England and watch their news to see what a "liberal media" really is) finally found some integrity and reported what actually happened, which was, it took 5 or 6 days to show up in New Orleans and help the people who couldn't just hop into their Lexus SUV's and drive to Vegas and check into a Hilton. Does anyone actually believe that if it was West Palm Beach instead of New Orleans it would have taken 5 days for the government to go help the people who either refused or couldn't leave?

The fact is, the only way the USA can remain strong and prosper is through a progressive tax system that funds a government that can supply services that can improve all of our lives. Yes, the government wastes some of the money. Yes some in the government are corrupt. But the alternative, which is just let businesses do what they want is exponentially worse. If there is no government to stop them from polluting, they pollute. If there is no government to prevent them from treating their employees like dirt, they will. If there is no government regulating competition, then all there will be is Wal-Mart and Microsoft. And don't give me that old tired argument
that the market will take care of itself. If company A can sell its goods cheaper than company B by dumping toxic waste into a poor neighborhood instead of paying to properly deal with it, company B cannot compete so they will have to do the same thing to survive. The idea that people will buy from company B and pay the higher price because Company A pollutes is nothing but a fairytale, and people who choose to argue otherwise are being disingenuous at best.

I have little hope that the die-hard conservatives will
ever change. Go listen to Neal Boortz if he is syndicated in
your area. If not you can find him at His
libertarian philosophy is nothing more than a rationale for rich
people to exploit the rest of us.