Crusing WaPo tonight. Saw, again, Sally Quinn doing women and religion. That's like Bill O'Reilly doing charm and chastity.
Can we put a lien on the holdings of the Bush family to compensate us for the massive fraud romp they've perpetrated on us all?
Yes, I'll pray for peace in the Mid-East, and yes, I know Hammas fired first this time, but dammit, this Gaza conflict makes me sick. Angry and fed up. I'm sick of Palestine, sick of Israel, sick of Hammas, sick of Hezbollah, sick of Irgun, sick of Haganah, and sick of everyone like any of them. I'm sick of US policy, sick of Arab policy, sick of Israeli policy. I'm sick of the whole effing lot of them. Everyone involved has failed abjectly for 60 miserable, woe-begotten years. Yes, I know I'm not there, but so how long does it take to end war and make peace? How many brain cells does it take to see that violence just breeds violence? When do these people lay down their weapons for the sake of their children? Or do they intend to keep this up until the conflagration overtakes the entire world? Sometimes things are so screwed up they can't ever be fixed. This is one of those things. The only way out is to lay down the weapons and lay down the grudges.
The most annoying Talking Head on TV? That self-righteous, overstarched, cross-eyed Republican. Somehow he reminds me of a seagull on a dry pier post. Get him out of here.
Did you hear that Republican babe announce last night that next on the list of the Republican social terrorists will be gay adoption? I am so unutterably fed up with our being the national punching bag. Have they no imagination?
I know. Let's start a counter-movement. No marriage, no adoption, no out in the military? Fine. No taxes, no culture, no poetry, no style. We'll be only too delighted to leave you to your tomato-wrestling, Velveeta-eating, Palin-worshipping, Enquirer-oggling, Limbaugh-laden, Hummer-craving, sour, miserable, faded, despairing, panicky, tacky, craven little Chef Boyardee lives.
It's "symbolic" to prosecute Bush and Cheney for war crimes and other acts of treason? Does that mean it's "symbolic" to prosecute the rest of us for speeding? God I hate how these people think.
If you hate insurance companies and financial planners even more than you hate Exxon, raise your hand.
What's more useless than t*ts on a boar hog? Being compelled to know that you're patronizing a "Christian" dry cleaner or a"Christian" Jiffy Lube or a "Christian" drywall hanger. Is this a campaign to balkanize this country or just an excess of sharing? Emphatically: I don't need to know the religion of my shoe repairman. I need to know he can fix my shoes. So just shut up. Like the man says, "You don't tell me about your religion, I don't tell you about my genital warts." That's a deal, baby.
My hopes for 2009? We're out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we adopt a comprehensive, sane, and humane immigration policy, Joe Arpaio is impeached, there really are war crimes and treason trials, our soldiers get first-rate health care, the economy turns around fast, the Wall Street crooks go to jail,and the whole world goes green. See Wall-E.
I'm going to stand up in a minute and kick 2008 from here to history, but first I have to wish everyone a sincere happy, healthy, peaceful, wonder-filled, loving, and adequately prosperous New Year, and I do. Long shots sometimes work out fine. And before I go, I want to wish Barack Obama the best four years he's ever had, and thank God for Rachel Maddow.
Night, all. Thank you so much for dropping by.
Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Crusing WaPo tonight. Saw, again, Sally Quinn doing women and religion. That's like Bill O'Reilly doing charm and chastity.
Labels: New Year's Eve 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
This is Samson Ledger, aka Sam, aka Sledge. He's Pico's new sidekick and the newest member of our family. Sam arrived with us on December 27, 2008, at 4 pm. He'll be a year old on January 14.
Sam is the strong, silent type--hence the name Samson Ledger. The Samson part should be obvious. The Ledger part is a tribute to the late, great strong, silent type Heath Ledger, in his role as Ennis Del Mar, in Brokeback Mountain.
Labels: Samson Ledger
Sunday, December 28, 2008
When the fix has to do with money, the rich never lose.
Thomas Friedman has written persuasively today about the need for a gasoline tax. I can't find the flaw in his logic, except to note that the poor and middle classes are hit the hardest in a recession, and even a modest gas tax can make a big difference to a home with a part-time breadwinner. Friedman's case is pretty tight, but look at it this way. A $20 tax consumes a larger percentage of a modest income than it does of a fat one. That's what makes a gas tax regressive in short-term effect. Is it still necessary? Yes. But I merely report. You decide:
"Today’s financial crisis is Obama’s 9/11. The public is ready to be mobilized. Obama is coming in with enormous popularity. This is his best window of opportunity to impose a gas tax. And he could make it painless: offset the gas tax by lowering payroll taxes, or phase it in over two years at 10 cents a month. But if Obama, like Bush, wills the ends and not the means — wills a green economy without the price signals needed to change consumer behavior and drive innovation — he will fail.Knowing what you now know, will you support Obama if he calls for a gas tax? I will. Because otherwise, the cost to future generations is incalculable.
"The two most important rules about energy innovation are: 1) Price matters — when prices go up people change their habits. 2) You need a systemic approach. It makes no sense for Congress to pump $13.4 billion into bailing out Detroit — and demand that the auto companies use this cash to make more fuel-efficient cars — and then do nothing to shape consumer behavior with a gas tax so more Americans will want to buy those cars. As long as gas is cheap, people will go out and buy used S.U.V.’s and Hummers.[Emphasis added.]
"There has to be a system that permanently changes consumer demand, which would permanently change what Detroit makes, which would attract more investment in battery technology to make electric cars, which would hugely help the expansion of the wind and solar industries — where the biggest drawback is the lack of batteries to store electrons when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining. A higher gas tax would drive all these systemic benefits.
"The same is true in geopolitics. A gas tax reduces gasoline demand and keeps dollars in America, dries up funding for terrorists and reduces the clout of Iran and Russia at a time when Obama will be looking for greater leverage against petro-dictatorships. It reduces our current account deficit, which strengthens the dollar. It reduces U.S. carbon emissions driving climate change, which means more global respect for America. And it increases the incentives for U.S. innovation on clean cars and clean-tech."
The Christmas season isn't all saccharine, all gluey sweet, but some of it is. It isn't all twinkly lights and shiny colored orbs on a pretty tree, or GodHelpMe "Walking in a Winter Wonder Land," but way too much of it is. So by the time I make it to December 27, what I want is Springsteen's "Spirit in the Night," top volume. What I need, the way collards need ham, is The Band, The Last Waltz, Mavis Staples and Levon Helm, and "The Weight."
This time of year, if I've survived, I have a dirt-deep, nitty-gritty physical need to hear Janis Joplin scorch "Me and Bobby McGee." In other words, what I need is music that scrubs the residue of all that right out of my soul. It's already too cluttered.
I need to see a winter-dry Maryland field, a gray waterman's sky blistered with reticent blue, and an impervious formation of Canada geese, and after that, a plate of steaming hot red tamales and a painfully cold beer.
Maybe you know what I mean.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
From The New Republic, and reprinted in full here (emphases added) on the theory that if you want to fix it, you first have to understand it. It's very good, very timely information, although Momma doesn't expect anybody to read every book here. It's more a matter of picking one from Column A, etc.--perhaps starting with Naomi Klein's essential guide to what ails us, The Shock Doctrine.
The Crisis Of '08 Reading List by John B. Judis
The best books to help you make sense of Marx, Keynes, the Great Depression, and how we got where we are now
Every few years, someone urges me to do a Christmas book list, and while protesting my ignorance and incompetence, I gladly comply. This year's subject is the current global recession, which threatens to become a global depression. This is a layman's list, because I am strictly a layman on the subject of economics. You don't have to know anything about string theory to read any of the books I recommend.
I learned most (or what little I know) of economics from reading on my own or from study groups we used to hold in the fading days of the new left. I read all three volumes of Capital in a study group organized by the late Harry Chang, a Korean immigrant to the Bay Area who was a computer programmer by day (in the keypunch era) and a Marxist scholar by night. I read Keynes under sporadic supervision of economist Jim O'Connor, the author of The Fiscal Crisis of the State, and a fellow member of the collective that published Socialist Revolution (which in 1978 became Socialist Review). And I got my introduction to economic history from historian Marty Sklar, who was also a member of that collective.
A decade ago, I might have been embarrassed to admit that I was raised on Marx and Marxism, but I am convinced that the left is coming back. Friedrich Hayek is going to be out; Friedrich Engels in. Larry Kudlow out; Larry Mishel in. And why is that? Because a severe global recession like this puts in relief the transient, fragile, and corruptible nature of capitalism, and the looming contradiction between what Marx called the forces and relations of production evidenced in unemployed engineers and boarded up factories and growing poverty amidst a potential for abundance. As capitalism itself--or at the least the vaunted miracle of the free market--becomes problematic, the left is poised for an intellectual comeback. So here are four topics and some books to read about them, plus a few articles, from someone who learned economics by reading and rereading Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy's Monopoly Capital.
1. The current crisis. I was warning my colleagues of an encroaching disaster a year ago, because I was reading the columns and articles of Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini, Larry Summers, and Dean Baker. They were on top of this when Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke were still telling everyone not to worry. Of the current books I've read (and I haven't read many), I'm very high on Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf's Fixing Global Finance, George Cooper's The Origin of Financial Crises, Jamie Galbraith's The Predator State, and Dean Baker's Plunder and Blunder. Wolf is terrific on the international currency mess--and the Financial Times is the paper to read--Cooper is first-rate on the irrationality of money and finance, Galbraith has a good explanation of how we got to where we are, and how to get out of it, and Baker is the expert on the housing bubble. I also liked Krugman's The Return of Depression Economics when it appeared almost ten years ago (Short take: If it could happen to Japan, it could happen to us). There is a new edition that incorporates some material about 2008, but I haven't read it.
2. John Maynard Keynes. Keynes is back in vogue, and rightly so. One economist--I can't remember who it was--recently warned against reading The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money because it was written strictly for economists. I don't agree at all. It's a very hard book, especially some of the middle sections, but worth reading and rereading. If you don't have energy for the whole thing, read the first three chapters, some of the middle chapters (7, 10, 16, and 18 are my suggestions) and the last three. I suggest, however, a guide. The best I've found is Dudley Dillard's The Economics of John Maynard Keynes, which, to my amazement, is still in print after sixty years. I also like Hyman Minsky and Paul Davidson's guidebooks to Keynes. But you've got to read Robert Skidelsky's three-volume biography of Keynes, Hopes Betrayed, The Economist as Savior, and Fighting for Freedom (also now available in an abridged one-volume edition). Believe me, this is one of the great biographies. The way he brings together Keynes, the gay aesthete of Bloomsbury, and Keynes, the economist and man of worldly affairs, is something to behold. Skidelsky's second volume is also the best introduction to Keynes's economics, because you learn that exactly those ideas you found mystifying or most difficult in Keynes were hotly debated between him and his colleagues.
3. The Great Depression. There have been a lot of books on this subject, but most of what I read I read decades ago, so I'm sure I'm going to overlook worthy choices. Still, there are two older books that continue to stand up. George Soule was an editor of The New Republic during the 1930s. He was also an economist and in 1947 published a study of the American economy from 1917 to 1929 entitled Prosperity Decade. Soule shows that well before 1929, there were rumblings of trouble in the American economy--not only in the stock market bubble, but in overcapacity in key industries like auto, and in the rise of technological unemployment. You'll see the surprising resemblance to our own decade, including an anticipatory recession in 1926 like the one in 2001. On the international crisis of the 1930s, I like Charles P. Kindleberger's The World in Depression, which I reread two months ago when I was writing about the current international imbroglio. I want also to mention an essay by Sklar in The United States as a Developing Country. In chapter five, "Some Political and Cultural Consequences of the Disaccumulation of Capital," Sklar puts forward the idea that during the 1920s, capitalism shifted from the accumulation to disaccumulation of capital. That's Marxist jargon, but what it means is that goods production began to expand as a function of the reduction rather than increase in labor-time and in the labor force. That created an enormous opportunity, but also a potential crisis. The depression of the 1930s, Sklar argues, was the first "disaccumulationist" depression. One of his former students, historian Jim Livingston from Rutgers, has put forward a similar analysis of the current recession.
4. Marx and Marxism. Marx, like Keynes, is best read in his own words. There are a lot of brilliant shorter works, but I'd put the first volume of Capital up there with The Origin of Species, The Interpretation of Dreams, and The Philosophical Investigations on my list of great books of the last two hundred years. It's not a guide to starting your own business and really doesn't have a theory of crises. Some of that is in the other unfinished volumes. What volume one does is establish capitalism as a phase, and perhaps a passing phase, in world history whose very nature has consisted in disguising that fact from worker and capitalist alike. You read Capital to understand the historical underpinnings, not the mechanics of capitalism. Marx's theory of history has obvious deficiencies--he didn't foresee, certainly, the rise of corporate capitalism and of corporate liberalism. His trademark theory of the falling rate of profit, which you can find in volume three, is also unpersuasive. But these failings pale beside his portrayal of capitalism as mode of production based upon labor power as a commodity and on the accumulation of capital. I wish I could recommend guides to Marx's thought. The economic guides often err by trying to justify his works as modern economics. G. A. Cohen's book, Karl Marx's Theory of History, is a little academic, but of all the books I've read in the last twenty or thirty years, it's the best.
Have a good, if grim, read of these books--if you have some better ideas, include them in the comments below--and let's hope that the next year brings some better economic news than this one.
John B. Judis is a senior editor at The New Republic.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
(Hat tip to pal VL for kitteh pic.) Is it me, or is there a strong resemblance to Barbara Bush?
For the survival-inclined, from the Harvard Press:
“Around the corner at Madigan Lane, John Sweeney, a member of the town’s conservation-minded Heat Advisory Committee, took a characteristically green approach to powering his home during the [ice] storm. He reported his achievement in an e-mail, saying it was no big deal, but that his wife thought it an impressive tale worth sharing: Sweeney ran his refrigerator, freezer, TV, woodstove fan, and several lights through his Prius, for three days, on roughly five gallons of gas.Nice, huh? From what I can tell, there are several kinds of power inverters. Best check with someone knowledgeable--for instance, an RV outfitter accustomed to recommending power inverters to run appliances from a vehicle battery--to see what kind will work best for your needs. [Note: I'm not specifically endorsing the roadtrip america site. I list it here only as one of many possible sources for background information only. Use it or any other information source at your own risk.]
“’When it looked like we were going to be without power for awhile, I dug out an inverter (which takes 12v DC and creates 120v AC from it) and wired it into our Prius…These inverters are available for about $100 many places online,’” he wrote.
“The device allowed the engine to run every half hour, automatically charging the car battery and indirectly supplying the required power.”
Saturday, December 20, 2008
From the editorial page of the New York Times: Separate and Not Equal
Published: December 20, 2008
"Civil unions are an inadequate substitute for marriage. Creating a separate, new legal structure to confer some benefits on same-sex couples neither honors American ideals of fairness, nor does it grant true equality. The results are clearly visible in New Jersey, which continues to deny same-sex couples some of the tangible civil benefits that come with marriage.It's time for the nation to find that political courage. Anything less is despicable.
"Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey has long said that he would sign a measure granting the right to marry to couples of the same sex. We are heartened that he has declared that that should happen sooner rather than later.
"We hope Mr. Corzine intends to prod legislators into passing such a law early in the 2009 session. That would make New Jersey the first state to legalize marriage for same-sex couples through legislative action. Three other states — Connecticut, Massachusetts and California — have done so through the courts. Unfortunately, California voters approved a ballot measure in November rescinding that right, at least for now.
"Mr. Corzine made his statement after a state commission released its final report on New Jersey’s two-year-old civil union law. The commission noted the hurt and stigma inflicted by shutting out gay people from the institution of marriage. It also found that civil unions do not assure gay couples of the same protections, including the right to collect benefits under a partner’s health insurance program and to make medical decisions on behalf of a partner who is unable to do so. The panel concluded unanimously that the state should enact a law to remove the inequities.
"We regret that the leaders of the state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature do not view this issue with the same urgency. Senate President Richard Codey, for instance, said recently that progress in civil rights areas 'is typically achieved in incremental steps.' We suspect that political expedience is clouding Mr. Codey’s sense of fairness. Next year in New Jersey, the governorship and all seats in the Assembly are up for grabs in an election. Some Republicans already are talking about making their opposition to same-sex marriage a campaign issue.
"Governor Corzine typically takes the right side on important issues, but he has been known to retreat in the face of opposition. We hope that’s not the case here. It’s past time for him and for the Democrats in Trenton to find the political courage to extend the right to marry to gay couples."
Here's an important new article about the Rick Warren tag that puts a whole lot more light on this ugly subject. I strongly recommend it. Here's an outtake:
"Yet this is symbolism with real-world consequences and concrete implications. First of all, it reifies the image that Warren has been assiduously constructing for himself as 'America’s Pastor,' a post-partisan and benevolent figure with a quasi-official role atop the nation’s civic life. When it comes to his public persona, Warren is something of a magician. He has convinced much of the media and many influential Democrats that he represents a new, more centrist breed of evangelical with a broader agenda than the old religious right. This is, in many ways, deceptive. Yes, Warren has done a lot of work on AIDS in Africa, but he supports the same types of destructive, abstinence-only policies as the Bush administration. One of his protegés, Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, has been a major force in moving that country away from its lifesaving safer-sex programs. He’s been known to burn condoms at Makerere University, the prestigious school in Uganda’s capital, and in his Pentecostal services, marked by much sobbing and speaking in tongues, he offers the promise of faith healing to his desperate congregants, a particularly cruel ruse in a country ravaged by HIV.[Emphasis added throughout.]
"The truth is that the primary difference between Warren and, say, James Dobson is the former’s penchant for Hawaiian shirts. Warren compares abortion to the Holocaust, gay marriage to pedophilia and incest, and social gospel Christians as 'closet Marxists.' He doesn’t believe in evolution. He has won plaudits from some journalists for his honesty in forthrightly admitting that he believes that Jews are going to hell, but even if one sees such candor is a virtue, the underlying conviction hardly qualifies him as an ecumenical peacemaker. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, Warren himself described his differences with Dobson as 'mainly a matter of tone,' and was unable to come up with a theological issue on which they disagree.
"If Democrats collaborate in positioning Warren as the centrist alternative to the religious right, they consign vast numbers of people, including many of the party’s most dedicated supporters, to the fringe. 'It does strengthen Warren as kind of a new Billy Graham figure,' says the Reverend Dan Schultz, a United Church of Christ pastor and the founder of the progressive religious blog Street Prophets. That has especial relevance for Warren’s role in Africa, where a very conservative kind of evangelical Christianity is exploding, bringing with it virulently anti-gay politics. 'What I have heard is that it will help Warren overseas,' Schultz says of Warren’s role in the inauguration. “He’s big into work in Africa. This will give him a lot of clout over there. Part of the reason this is kind of insulting for me is that Warren has supported some pretty awful people in Africa, including people who think homosexuals should be jailed.”
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thanks to Zooborns for the loan of this image, and hat tip to VL!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Anyone who's read The Shock Doctrine (Naomi Klein) will need no further introduction to this piece of information:
"A new report by the U.S. Army War College talks about the possibility of Pentagon resources and troops being used should the economic crisis lead to civil unrest, such as protests against businesses and government or runs on beleaguered banks.This article isn't reassuring, either, to those of us who have watched as, step by step over the last eight years, the Bush administration has laid the groundwork for precisely this eventuality--from sinister and anti-constitutional changes to our surveillance laws, to construction of concentration camps on domestic soil, to suspension of the regulatory apparatus that was supposed to prevent the kinds of fraud that have wiped out our investment banking and home mortgage industries. When all of these developments manifest at the hands of one regime, what's a smart person to think?
"'Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order and human security,' said the War College report.
"The study says economic collapse, terrorism and loss of legal order are among possible domestic shocks that might require military action within the U.S.
"International Monetary Fund Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn warned Wednesday of economy-related riots and unrest in various global markets if the financial crisis is not addressed and lower-income households are hurt by credit constraints and rising unemployment.
"U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., both said U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson brought up a worst-case scenario as he pushed for the Wall Street bailout in September. Paulson, former Goldman Sachs CEO, said that might even require a declaration of martial law, the two noted." [Emphasis added.]
Obama's decision to invite Far Right evangelical pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration spits in the upturned, hopeful faces of America's GLBT people and of the women and men who believe that women have the right to control our own bodies.
Warren doesn't sit quietly on the political sidelines. Nor is he a theological moderate. Warren is as virulently hostile to gay men and lesbian women as James Dobson, of Focus on the Family. The difference between them, as People for the American Way president Kathryn Kolbert says, isn't theological. It's just a matter of tone.
This isn’t Obama’s first public liaison with a homo-hater. If you recall, about a year ago, he made a similar alliance when he chose to campaign in South Carolina with outspoken heterosexist and homophobe Donnie McClurkin. That made me furious. This time it’s worse. This makes me question Obama’s heart.
It goes without saying that that these decisions are rank and cynical political calculations. They reflect Obama's capitulation to the worst form of demagoguery, the kind that pits one group of Americans against another, the kind that perpetuates and legitimizes militant ignorance on a vacuous cry of “religious freedom,” the kind that intentionally stimulates the worst of us to daily acts of physical, psychological, spiritual, legal, and verbal violence.
I believe Obama knows that he's taking risks with our wellbeing, but I think, like most straight people, he severely underestimates those risks so that he never has to examine his religion or take responsibility for his role in making GLBT people and women second-class citizens in America.
As an African American active in a quasi-evangelical Christian church, Obama is fully aware that many black Americans are outraged when GLBT people claim that our struggle is a civil rights struggle. He may well share that view.
I don’t understand it so I can’t explain it, but I suspect that it comes from that font of never-ending curses, Pauline and Augustinian Christian theology.
A superstitious hostility to sex is deeply embedded in both Catholic and Protestant forms of Christianity, and is nowhere more pronounced than in the Church’s conservative evangelical and fundamentalist sectors. For these believers, thanks to the Bible and the very word “homosexual,” GLBT people exist, by definition, outside the righteous realms of civil rights. The language itself and a pernicious Christian tradition drown our humanity in the stews of other people’s phobic, misogynistic sex panic.
Accepting us as peers in the claim for liberty and justice would mean looking that panic in the eye. Embracing us in common humanity would demand that African American and other Christian conservatives let sex intrude into the holy war on discrimination. That, in turn, would complicate our cherished cultural narrative that links “innocent” to “victim” before the courts of public opinion and of law, and turn a very bright light on the myriad forms of sex and gender violence in American society.
This brings us back to the intrinsic link between sexism and heterosexism, between denying women the right to control our own bodies, and writing GLBT persons out of the book of common humanity. After all, there is no way to define a “gay” or “lesbian” person without the underlying reference to the Patriarchy’s rigid assignment of gender roles. It’s no accident that Warren espouses the views he does. Nor are his views benign.
THIS is why Obama’s decision to elevate Warren, specifically in his role as biblical interpreter and Christian authority, is utterly unacceptable.
In this action, Obama will have symbolically fused Rick Warren’s brand of extreme Christian terrorism to the White House. Whether or not Obama intends it this way, the choice of Warren for this role is a Far Right Christian theocrat’s wet dream come true.
I’m pretty sure that Obama doesn’t see it this way. I believe he means the Rick Warren choice to signal Obama's intent to be President of all the people. I believe that, in his mind, this kind of outreach is essential to set the tone for an administration that has to unite the country in order to succeed in dealing with its numerous threats.
However, if that’s true, it reveals another frightening blind spot on the part of the President-Elect. If true, it comes from a place of sublime heterosexual privilege, a place where it isn't necessary even to see, let alone to understand or empathize with the lives of GLBT Americans even far enough to get our feelings of betrayal over the choice of Warren. And so he doesn't.
We saw a glimpse of this in Christian fundamentalist Rev. Mike Huckabee, recently, who actually said out loud that gay marriage isn’t a civil rights issue because gays "aren’t getting their skulls cracked." Oh, really? This will come as quite a shock to the Real world.
I guess Matthew Shepard didn’t count. I guess the savage slaying of a lesbian couple on the Appalachian Trail didn't count.
Because of heterosexual privilege, Obama, like Huckabee, can manage to believe that any prejudice against gay men and lesbian women – like Proposition 8, for instance – merely amounts to inconveniencing us. Because of heterosexual privilege, the majority of their audiences can agree. If they don’t know about the avalanche of suicides and homicides and bashings and rapes, it’s because they don’t have to know. Though these are reported every day to Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and in the GLBT press, they are rarely reported in the mainstream media. It’s part of the privilege of being a heterosexual not to have to see that, thanks to heterosexual bigotry, being taken for Queer in America can be fatal.
Because of what the Warren selection says about and to women and about GLBT people, Obama needs to rethink this one. It’s so not about being President of all the people in a fractured society.
It’s so not the change we hoped for.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
On George W. Bush's watch, we've seen the trashing of the US budget, the city of New Orleans, the US investment banking industry, the US mortgage industry, the US global reputation, the nation of Iraq, and now the Big Three US automakers.
Bad as this sounds, it utterly obscures the savage and ongoing pain that Bush and the Republicans have delivered to average Americans and Iraqis. Pain is too small a word for lives rubbed out and homes and farms lost and lifetime savings wasted by fraud, for a severely trashed job market, for a flood of lost businesses, for homes wrecked and families separated by financial disaster. I don't know that Americans younger than 80-something have any real frame of reference for what has been unleashed on this country.
A handful of men and women, propelled into office by election fraud and a corrupt Supreme Court, have done graver and in some ways more enduring damage and brought more anguish to American families than anything since the other gigantic Republican-induced disaster, the Great Depression.
I'm not trying to state the obvious. It's just that it occurs to me that most of us take a mechanistic view of these developments. We've been told so often that the causes are incomprehensible, complex, remote and technical that we retreat into a kind of dull stupor to numb the anguish.
But the causes aren't remote and incomprehensible. They're all too easy to see. Each of these catastrophes was brought about by an intentional White House policy. All were driven by some combination of greed, dishonesty, flawed ideology, arrogance, and recklessness. These -- even ideology -- are schoolyard sins, only in this case writ infinitely larger. I mean, they're not at all incomprehensible. Everyone knows what they are and what they accomplish.
But I suppose that if go there, we also have to look at ourselves, at our own role in enabling these cataclysms. Apathy, paralysis, support for that flawed ideology, endorsement of those fraudulent officials. That's asking the walking wounded to pile on more pain. Not likely, and probably at this moment not wise either.
But at some point, we have to take at least enough responsibility to explain to our children why this happened, honestly and clearly enough for them to avoid our mistakes.
It's a heck of a record, isn't it? A heck of a job.
Layout Mess! The right-side column of this blog may not appear unless you scroll way down the page.
This happens to me when I use Mozilla's Firefox browser, which I just installed this morning. It does not happen to me when I use Microsoft Internet Explorer.
I've tried to fix it by tweaking the code in Blogger. Unfortunately, that only erased some resent images and widgets. It will take a while for me to remember what I've lost, but I'll be restoring context as time permits.
Yes, I've alerted Firefox to this problem and requested assistance. I hope that they or I can correct this layout mess soon.
In the meantime, could you, dear reader, please leave a comment telling me what you see and which browser you use? If you'd rather email me, please email email@example.com
Your feedback will be very helpful. Thank you, and please accept my apology for this inconvenience.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The two leading names in the current financial crisis are CashCarry and MadeOff.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I'm not getting paid for this, I promise.
One, go to Majorgeeks.com and check out the list of recommendations for software to do wondrous things.
Two, for a great freeware to clean up, tweak, and speed up your PC, I recommend IObit's Advanced System Care 3. (Follow the link to version 2 on Majorgeeks. Eventually it will walk you to version 3.) Disclaimer: Of course if you try it and something screws up, that's not my fault! I'm not a pro. I'm just saying that I had great results today. But, do note my tweaking rule: If I don't understand it, I don't mess with it. That said, the registry cleaner, spyware tool, defrag/optimizer, and junk files remover did wonders for me.
Labels: Advanced System Care 3
It's a measure of my wellbeing as an American that I don't think first of military protection, though God knows I'm grateful to the men and women who create the shield that's invisible to most of the rest of us. God bless them and keep them safe.
And it's a measure of my personal good fortune that I live in a well-lit house with a beloved partner of 25 years and three very cool dawgs.
It's another measure of my luck in life that I was born to a couple of wonderful parents who brought with them a whole passel of kin, most of them an asset to anybody's life.
I have way too many blessings.
After CJ, I count our friends chief among them, the long-timers and the newcomers, and all the laughs and warmth they've made for us these many years. Wherever you are, you're in my heart forever. You know who you are.
Tonight I try to count my blessings and give thanks from down deep in my heart. For me, this season is about shedding the failings and the woes of the year just passing, about cleaning out the closets and cupboards to give what I no longer use, and about opening my soul, praying that I will notice all the miracles yet to come. That's what a Christmas tree means to me. It stands for the gift of the Created Universe in all its simplicity, in all its splendor and complexity, in all its richness and fecundity and nourishment.
If I can just feel that, feel my organic connection to all that unutterable Wonder, I can't help but think myself richer than any Wall Street princeling ever thought about being.
Then I can't help but stop the whining that marks the days and nights of so many pampered Americans as we willfully fixate on all the wrong places--annoyances of download, overwhelm of shopping, tedium of life's marvelously automated chores, and fits of traffic. We're a marvel, aren't we, we simpering, spoiled sacks of arrogance. All it takes to see the truth in that is to glance for just a second at the world around us.
Music makes me feel safe--Wyndham Hill's first Winter Solstice album, for instance. Its minor key summons cold medieval cloisters with candles all alight and warmth somewhere inside. It conjures new, warm bread, a rabbit stew, a bit of story-telling, a smoky fire, a round of red wine, and a moment of peace.
Roasted potatoes make me feel safe. Actually, potatoes in any form make me feel safe.
A bead at the neck gives me joy, especially if I've made it with my own two hands.
The kindness and welcome in my beloved's face when she smiles at me, even now, after all these miles and all these years.
A very small Chihuahua who chooses to snug in the small of my naked back in night's darkest, stillest hour restores my aching, bedraggled soul.
Memories make me feel safe--gossamer thin though they may be, but oh, don't they circle and circle in the quiet of an evening to give reassurance that one's life perhaps has meant something important, albeit small and fleeting, to this or that one here and there?
My memories call up scents and colors, touches and sights and sounds and whole living moments. Resurrections, I call them, and they grow more precious the older I get.
That one frigid Taos evening, adorned with the last roasted chicken in the whole dark town, a six-pack nestled in the snow outside the low-hung window, and a couple of Santo Domingo turquoise necklaces draped on the mantel above a mesquite kiva fire in our bare, spare little adobe.
That green fiberglass and varnished timber Old Town canoe, and my father's scent of clean, sweaty male, marine motor oil, fishing tackle, cigarettes, and the Tennessee River. How could I have had any idea, at age ten, that I was in the presence of the Divine--whatever That is?
The twinkle in my late lovely mother's dark brown eyes as she tried in the worst way to sing a hymn with the best of them, or as she appeared around the kitchen corner to host us with dry roasted nuts, rocquefort cheese dip and crudite, and one Manhattan too many.
Just in case I ever needed to know the very living definition of Joy, seeing our Fury, the most beautiful Doberman who ever lived, racing full out across a snowy golf course that none of us was ever meant to be on, running like a gazelle, top speed, free for the first time in her two-year old life. (We had adopted her a few days before, and I knew from the look on her face that she'd so far spent most of her young life in a crate.)
The Milky Way spread across a velvet 1950s Tennessee sky.
My first sight of the red-rock West.
My first taste of real New Mexican carne adovada.
Water skiing on the Caney Fork--the clearest, blue-green river there was in Tennessee these many years ago.
Sneaking off when I was nine to get a fountain Coke, a pack of those waxy little yellow banana thingys, and a pack of Kools because I liked the penguin, at the long-gone corner cafe in Sewanee.
The smell of coffee in the morning. Always. Still.
A good country ham.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
If you haven't read Lisa Miller's article in Newsweek about the Bible and gay marriage, you're in for either a shock or a treat, depending on your--dare I say it--stance. Entitled "Gay Marriage: Our Mutual Joy," the piece takes a daring swing across the pages of scripture and the words of selected churchly marriage rites to draw what I would think is the obvious conclusion for Christians: Jesus was about inclusion, not exclusion, and if you're going to throw the Bible at gays and lesbians, you'd better remember that the Bible's many models for marriage include some pretty repugnant arrangements.
For every biblical pronouncement on male-male sex, there are at least a dozen different interpretations, each dependent on the extent and quality of the interpreter's biblical exegetic training and tools and on his or her politico-theological orientation. For every strict constructionist, there are at least a dozen thorny issues to be explained or waved away--including the story of David and Jonathan, and the story of Naomi and Ruth, not to mention the explicit teachings of Jesus and the values and precepts implicit in his life, or the fact that adultery is mentioned in the Ten Commandments, along with killing, but same-sex marriage just isn't. You'd think, if it were in fact a fatal assault on one of society's main bearing walls, it would rate a mention in the grandfather of all No-No lists.
It's a very good piece for a mainstream popular magazine (as contrasted with a scholarly tome). Since I lambasted Newsweek recently for another piece in its Religion section, I think I owe it the courtesy of a favorable review for this one. Read it. These are among the kinds of questions students at good seminaries wrestle with, with the aid of good scholarly tools like Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew, contemporaneous documents, comparative translations, and a few hundred years' worth of critical scholarship in many languages, from many traditions--aids not really referenced in this piece.
Most pew-warmers, however, don't get even a tiny taste of what goes on intellectually behind the doors of a good, tough seminary classroom. And that's because most graduated preachers don't have the courage to deal with the politics of issues like the place of homosexuals in our society today, or the integrity to take on the theocratic Right.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
It may not be the be-all and end-all on the question, what caused the meltdown of the US econony, but it comes from someone in a position to offer a credible opinion, and it squares with other analyses out there. This traces the catastrophe back to Reagan. Read it.
Tennessee Senator Bob Corker (R) has done wonders in remaking the once grimy, polluted river town of Chattanooga. He gets kudos from me for his vision and leadership in that matter.
But today's announcement that Corker is spearheading an alternative to the pending auto "bailout" bill slapped sense into my head. The guy is a just another fucking Republican.
Here's the context, from Rick Wolff, professor of economics at U. Mass, for the remarks that follow:
"Real wages in the US rose during every decade from 1830 to 1970. Then this central feature of US capitalism stopped as the figures below show:
Source: Labor Research Associates of New York, based on data from the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics; wages expressed in constant 1982 dollars.No comparable steady rise in real wages has occurred since. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate real weekly wages declined again over the last year (2005-2006). American workers' reactions to this downtrend in real wages have profoundly shaped the nation's economy and society for the last thirty years.
Really. You don't say! Could this have something to do with falling domestic consumption, rising consumer credit indebtedness, catastrophic home foreclosures, and families shattered by impossible, extortionist-level health care costs? Ya think?
Now, before reading further, ask yourself what force in US history had most to do with dragging US workers up from the Great Depression--with creating the "Greatest Generation," the WWII generation, the most prosperous middle class in world history. Well, that would be FDR's New Deal, not least because of its intentional policies to empower labor unions.
Fast forward to December 11, 2008. Corker's alternative plan for aiding The Big Three would condition that aid on requiring (currently unionized) US auto workers to accept wages equivalent to the wages paid by non-unionized workers in foreign-owned factories in semi-rural communities in Southern states like Tennessee.
Here's a United States senator--a Republican, of course--who is intentionally using the auto crisis to leverage a Washington-driven wage-lowering, union-busting juggernaut and unleash it on US auto workers. I so have a problem with that.
I particularly have a problem with that because I know that Corker helped to mastermind the forthcoming move to Chattanooga of a brand new Volkswagen plant.
Corker, here, among other things, is acting indirectly to protect Volkswagen from the threat of future unionization by effectively rendering the (northern) unions' negotiating power moot through mandating a extra-market lid on the wages of home-grown workers.
Extra-market? What does that mean? Republicans like Corker are champions of a "free market," a market unfettered by regulation or by any other "outside" force. Here, however, we see the truth: Republicans all along have strongly supported any outside intervention in the market, so long as it improves the lot of the management and owner class, and worsens the lot of the workers.
Here's a United States senator spearheading legislation that would treat the US as a level playing field in terms of cost of living. We all know that it isn't.
Here's a United States senator ignoring the extravagant compensation of US auto executives, but pulling the plug on wages of workers--wages that have been in persistent decline since the mid-1960s.
Are we really so stupid that we put into office men and women who want American workers to earn LESS, not more? Are you kidding me?
No economy grows from the top down. First of all, there's rarely any "down," in the sense of "trickle down," as the figures above demonstrate. Second, when wages stagnate, who buys product? The current automaker crisis should be etching that lesson on every forehead in Congress. The big hush-hush not being discussed these days is that it's not merely about lousy strategic planning on the part of the Big Three. It's about steadily falling US wages and the steadily rising cost of living.
Well DUH. (Does this make me a Nobel candidate in Economics? Evidently it should.) I learned that lesson when I was 12 and my Dad cut my allowance from $.25 a week (!) to $.20 a week. I doubt that the corner market felt the crush, but for me it was cruelly, bitterly painful to discover that $.20 meant fewer candy cigarettes than $.25.
All of this, to me, points inexorably in the direction taken by the workers at the Republic Doors and Windows factory in Chicago. Fight back. Don't expect an easy victory. The Patriot Acts have ensured that government has a whole 'nuther arsenal to deploy at will on uppity Americans. But be that as it may, we've got a fight coming. Best ready up.
From Erika Yancy at Alternet:
"The good news: in the past 20 years spending for higher education has increased 21%. The bad news: in that same 20 years, spending for prisons increased 127%.Of course that federal spending is your tax dollars, in the form of per capita/per diem payments for every prisoner. And it's now going to the owners of and investors in privatized prisons. These investors, by the way, include VP Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
"We're creating criminals, not citizens."
Now that's what I call great job! You ge to throw favors at legislators who "woik witch ya," and you get to enforce the laws that put people in prison and money in your pocket. Cool!
By now, you should be tracking over to mandatory sentencing and to the recent war on undocumented workers, whom the Bush administration has classified as felons, or whom dozens of new privatized facilities have been constructed or are in the works, and of whom thousands are being rounded up and "detained" at Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and other privately owned prisons like this one, in something like 16 states. See Project Endgame. (I kid you not.) Can you say, "Hmmm, this is not a coincidence!"
About the California City facility, the website for California City Real Estate says this: "The Federal Bureau of Prisons announced Friday it would contract with Corrections Corporation of America to house criminal aliens in its 2,304-bed facility near here.
"The federal contract with CCA to house the inmates at the California City Correctional Center is worth $529 million at the end of 10 years. It begins with a base period of three years, with seven one-year options and ensures that the prison, completed last year at a cost of over $110 million, will be filled."
Not a bad return on investment, eh?
The stench from Blogojevich is as nothing compared with the stench of the Bush administration. Just keep it in perspective--and ask your legislators why the Bushies aren't doing time.
Could the White House have thought of that before inviting the fat cats to plunder and pillage it? (Plunder and pillage? What else do you call "de-regulation"?)
I no longer believe anything this White House or this Congress tell me about bailouts.
I mean, do I really know that the economy "can't stand" massive layoffs? No, I don't. I thought the economy couldn't stand the failure of Wall Street investment banks, too, but apparently they weren't facing ruin after all. The evidence is that they just wanted fatter bonuses. Pure Shock Doctrine at a neighborhood near you.
So now, I want those who testify before Congress to testify under oath and under penalty of perjury, racketeering, fraud, and extortion. And THEN I want their signatures on contracts stipulating restructuring for a challenged environment, prudent industrial and manufacturing reinvestments, new green jobs, fair pay checks for the workers, and their commitment to partner with the government to create and support universal health care.
This isn't about union wages. This is about the unfettered costs of health care. Get that money off the backs of US companies and families facing foreclosures (that's all of us) and our economy will be fine.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Do you ever get frustrated by the loose way we throw around terms like "far Right," "radical Right," etc? I do. Most of the stuff I read uses phrases like these without explaining what they're supposed to mean. That leaves me in the uncomfortable position of assuming that I know and/or agree, when maybe I don't.
If you had to pick one thing, one variable, that distinguishes the "far" Right from the "radical" Right, what would it be? What one attitude or behavior or ideology would clarify the difference, if any, between the US "far" Right and the US "radical" Right?
What about the one thing that distinguishes the "far" or "radical" Right from the regular garden-variety Right, or from "conservatives"?
What sparked my latest round of OCD was reading Heidi Beirich's review of a book about Willis Carto and the American Far Right (current issue of the Intelligence Report of the Southern Poverty Law Center). She castigates author George Michael for using such terms loosely. Well, he's not the only one. So I'm trying to work out a coherent typology--if only for myself.
While I'm emailing Heidi for clarification and discussion, do you guys have any thoughts? Please, pitch in if the subject interests you at all.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
A blogger colleague recently hung a new blog called Project Letters (Proyecto Cartas) to encourage all of us to write the President on February 12 to ask for thorough, humane, and sane immigration reform (my adjectives).
Although I'm sure that he would welcome all letters encouraging just and compassionate immigration reform, from the tone of his model letter, I believe that he would especially encourage personal appeals rather than the usual brief political paragraph--letters that paint for the new President our unique individual feelings of horror, shame, and agony at the current inhumane treatment of Hispanics and Latinos in the USA.
Please visit this site when you have a moment, and lend a pen to this worthy cause. The site is available in Spanish and in English.
If IL Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich is guilty of the extensive corruption of which he is charged in today's indictment, he deserves to go down hard and in flames.
The degree of venality and cynicism revealed in the statements attributed to Blagojevich is boggling--as is the degree of stupidity. There are no excuses, and if he is guilty, as wiretapped quotes seem to indicate, Democrats will be contending with the shame he has heaped on his party for months, if not years, to come.
My fervent hope, of course--and strong belief--is that Obama's people are not involved in any way, and have never been involved in the filth of Chicago politics. Significantly, according to CNN's reports this morning, Blogojevich himself seems to exhonerate Obama, observing that all that he could squeeze from the people was "appreciation." "Fuck them," Blogojevich said.
Analysis of the alleged crimes and corruption is important. And at the same time, the timing of this federal bust will not have escaped you. It, too, deserves examination. It's always also about context and timing.
One, Blagojevich follows his predecessor governor, Republican George Ryan, on the short walk to the house of shame. Something's pretty rotten in Illinois when two governors in a row are busted on corruption. We've heard for decades about corrupt Illinois politics, but this takes the cake.
Two, the seat of former Illinois Senator, now President-Elect Barack Obama, is involved. It occurs to me is that Obama is at a vulnerable point in his ascendency to the White House.
I'd say the public temper is on a pretty short fuse when it comes to more corruption in high places. Even in stabler times, the mere hint of corruption can tincture reputations permanently. In bitterly partisan, angry times like these, the hint of scandal can significantly weaken anyone whose name arises in the course of its investigation, even when it isn't justifiable. I worry that the GOP will relish having the "Blogojevich-Obama" mantra to hammer into the public mind. The timing this indictment gives commentators like Limbaugh and Hannity a lot of fodder in this sensitive and critical pre-inaugural moment.
Three, both Blagojevich and Obama have come out publicly in support of the workers who are occupying the Chicago-based Republic Windows and Doors factory. You will remember that management gave these workers three days' notice of closure, blaming the bank of America for refusing to make critical operating loans. Because the Bank of America is among recent beneficiaries of a large chunk of public money intended to loosen up loans and preserve jobs, Blagojevich has barred state officials from continuing to do business with the Bank.
Politicians mess with the Bank of America at their peril. If they do so during the most blatantly anti-union, pro-corporatist administration in history, would pay-back surprise anybody? Not me, expecially if the said payback manages to besmirch both the governor and, by proximity, also organized labor.
Let's stay tuned. This is going to get uglier before it gets prettier.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
See? And you thought Latin was a waste of time! From the CNN website, and I encourage you to go there and follow the excellent related links:
Sixty years ago this month, the U.N. voted unanimously to adopt the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It was ambitious, serious, far-reaching -- and largely the result of Lemkin's lifetime of effort.So? So if you can't name a thing, can you communicate about it? If you can't communicate about it, can you alter or affect it?
A Pole and a Jew, Lemkin had watched in horror as Hitler nearly succeeded in his plan to exterminate the Jews. Six million Jews -- including 40 members of Lemkin's family -- died at the hands of the Nazis.
Today, we call what happened at Auschwitz and the other death camps "genocide." But at the time, there was no name for the Nazis' crimes. The word "genocide" did not exist.
In 1944, Lemkin wrote a book about the Nazis. In it, he combined the Greek "genos" for race with the Latin "-cide" for killing: Genocide. Lemkin had named the crime he spent a lifetime trying to prevent.
"The limits of my language are the limits of my world."
This is so cool. Who knew?
Hat tips to Bill Zardus for this video.
Friday, December 5, 2008
It's the healthcare costs as much as anything else. So doesn't this create a perfect opportunity for big business to support a national, universal health care program?
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I've been out of town, taking a needed break from my desert fortress to revisit my homeland, Tennessee. I've learned something important: You can go home again, and you probably should. After I let this experience simmer and distill a spell, I'll try to write more about what it's like to wander down the roads of childhood and to see roads and towns and courthouse squares bearing the names of your ancestors. What Southern hospitality means, at the hands of family, new friends, and a herd of five horses.
Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide
Is it a given that all who fly these days will get a cold, or is it just me? I even slathered my hands and arms to the elbow with that alcohol-based handwash--not once. Multiple times. Doesn't work when three passengers in your half of the airship are coughing.
Hell, airlines should pay us to fly. It's hazard duty.
The Detroit Three
I've been watching the bailout hearings all morning. Of all the interrogators, the two who most impressed me were Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and Senator Jon Tester(D-MT).
Tester is that flat-top farmer guy. I already liked him and didn't even know he farms organically. His questions trended around ensuring that no taxpayer money will go to funding overseas plants, jobs, or initiatives. He got those assurances. I appreciate it.
Corker is the former mayor of Chattanooga, TN. I had heard good things about him, I had no real way to assess his work. Now I do. We spent Thanksgiving in Chattanooga, which I last saw in the mid-1960s. His vision and leadership have turned Chattanooga from a polluted, boring runt town to a thriving, green, high-tech, clean, arts-centric hotspot that we'd be happy to inhabit. Corker wondered why we should rescue Chrysler when its own holding company won't invest in it. He doesn't think we should bail out Chrysler when its plan may merely be to stay alive long enough to be bought by someone else. No jobs there! I agree. I liked his approach so much that I called his Washington office to tell him that although I generally can't stand Republicans, he's a big exception. I made sure they know I'm from Tennessee, too. Don't anybody tell me he's a Troglodyte, please. I couldn' bear it.
Georgia on My Mind
What's the matter with those people? Building a trash landfill on top of Union Bethel's 311 slave graves? Re-electing Saxby Chambliss? Disgusting. Some things are self-evidently wrong. Both these actions fit that category. Stephens MDS needs to resolve this with a process and an outcome that honors people, not profits. As to Chambliss, he needs to excuse himself and leave the planet through the slime hole from which he came.
And by the way, Georgia's Democrats and African American voters could do worse than consider what this election says about the critical importance of staying involved in the electoral process even after Obama.