Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

28 February, 2006

Okay - it's a bad deal

I'm convinced:
Joseph King, who headed the customs agency's anti-terrorism efforts under the Treasury Department and the new Department of Homeland Security, said national security fears are well grounded.

He said a company the size of Dubai Ports World would be able to get hundreds of visas to relocate managers and other employees to the United States. Using appeals to Muslim solidarity or threats of violence, al-Qaeda operatives could force low-level managers to provide some of those visas to al-Qaeda sympathizers, said King, who for years tracked similar efforts by organized crime to infiltrate ports in New York and New Jersey. Those sympathizers could obtain legitimate driver's licenses, work permits and mortgages that could then be used by terrorist operatives.

Dubai Ports World could also offer a simple conduit for wire transfers to terrorist operatives in the Middle East. Large wire transfers from individuals would quickly attract federal scrutiny, but such transfers, buried in the dozens of wire transfers a day from Dubai Ports World's operations in the United States to the Middle East would go undetected, King said.
DarkSyde adds:
Would that kind of precise marine intel be easier to come across if your pals in the UAE or Saudi Arabia or Egypt happened to be managing the shipping traffic? Might it be easier to find some mid-level shipping clerk to bribe or persuade in the local area into handing over info, as opposed to port personnel speaking another language on the other side of the world?
It's a bad idea.

Draw your own conclusions

I have no idea what to make of this piece in the WaPo:
It's not always true that familiarity breeds contempt. An unknown political candidate who bears a passing resemblance to Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will be liked more than one who doesn't -- even when the candidate is a man.

But a fresh face who looks a bit like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) may be out of luck. The more a candidate looks like McCain, the less people like him or her, according to the first online experiment conducted by The Washington Post, and Shanto Iyengar, director of the political communication lab at Stanford University.
Weird, huh?

Stranger still, Morin's column also reveals the 20th Century's most important piece of art (hint: it's a Picasso) and highlights some of the wackier academic findings that have been recently published. Gotta fill column inches somehow, I suppose.

Sir Paul

Roy at alicublog has an excellent piece resolving the ambivalence many have felt (myself included) about Paul McCartney:
In the first place, he was that Beatle. He stood on those stages, played those splendid bass lines, wrote those amazing songs. When John Lennon was a shuddering wreck, McCartney still went to the studio and kept things up, and when it was all really coming apart, he got the boys to play old tunes like "One After 909" and "Two of Us." (He and John did "The Ballad of John and Yoko" pretty much by themselves.) The Let It Be album at first looked like an expedient to get the title song on a marketable LP, but now it looks like McCartney's final act of faith in the band. Now, when I see Lennon in that film singing the hell out of "Don't Let Me Down" on that rooftop, I think of how McCartney must have forced it out of him by putting him on the spot -- after trying to convince his partner that they were "like Stravinksy," and getting only stoned stares in response, McCartney resorted to the oldest kind of musical challenge: okay, motherfucker, it's showtime. And Lennon came up.
You really should read the whole thing. I'll probably spend a few hours of my own now re-examining the legacy of Sir Paul.

27 February, 2006

Double Nickels on the Dime

Was there a better punk album made in the 1980s? Was there a better rock album?

The 43 tracks (damn them for editing two tracks off the CD release!) on the Minutemen's sprawling epic have it all: revolutionary politics, Mike Watt's gymnastic bass playing, D. Boon's hyperactive and powerful guitar contortions (Distortion? We don't need no fucking distortion!), Hurley's tight rhythmic backing, and perfectly crafted sub-two minute bursts of songwriting brilliance. I'm hard-pressed to think of any other album where I absolutely have to listen to each and every track.

Do yourself a favor and pop this sumbitch into your media player of choice, and then turn it up real fucking loud. It's the definition of punk-rock bliss.

Dear Rolling Stones fans

I'm seeing from the Site Meter that many of you have stumbled upon my humble blog after googling the Stone's show in Brazil, looking for either a setlist or streaming video - neither of which, I regret to inform you, you'll find here. Many of you, no doubt, are confused by what you see - one snarky post about the Copacabana Beach show and the ramblings of an apparently drug-addled graduate student about the state of world affairs.

So, my apologies for randomly interrupting your search. But before you mosey on from this page, I'd like to leave you with two things:
  1. The Stones fucking rock.
  2. You're probably not half as confused as the poor bloke in France who was directed here after searching for "huge real boobs."

Hey, that's not GOP approved science!

Demonstrating yet again the Republican Party and its lackeys' contempt for science:
An Oregon State University study has raised an extraordinary ruckus in the Pacific Northwest this winter by saying that logging burned forests does not make much sense.

Logging after the Biscuit fire, the study found, has harmed forest recovery and increased fire risk. What the short study did not say -- but what many critics of the Bush administration are reading into it -- is that the White House has ignored science to please the timber industry. The study is consistent with research findings from around the world that have documented how salvage logging can strip burned forests of the biological diversity that fire and natural recovery help protect.
Now, no one who has been paying attention for the last five years is shocked to see the GOP pooh-poohing the results of scientific studies that conflict with its corporatist agenda. However, the lengths they went through to keep this study under wraps is shocking. Consider:
The Oregon State study was published in Science, the prestigious peer-reviewed journal. It appeared after a group of professors from the university's College of Forestry, which gets 10 percent of its funding from the timber industry, tried to halt its publication.

Professors behind the failed attempt to keep the article out of Science had earlier written their own non-peer-reviewed study of the Biscuit fire -- a study embraced by the Bush administration and the timber industry.
It's one thing for political hacks to try to halt publication, but quite another for academics - whose sole obligation should be to scientific truth - to try to squelch a research publication for fear that it might upset their precious, precious grant providers. This behavior is grotesque and has seriously undermined the credibility of Oregon State's College of Forestry as a legitimate research institution.

Then, the political flacks at the BLM step in:
A couple of weeks after the Science article appeared and infuriated the forest industry, the federal Bureau of Land Management, which footed the bill for the study of the Biscuit fire, cut off the final year of the three-year, $300,000 grant. BLM officials said the authors violated their funding contract by attempting to influence legislation pending in Congress.
Pot, meet kettle. So now publishing the results of empirical research is attempting to influence legislation? Isn't the point of these scientific studies to provide a sound basis upon which to base forest policy? Fortunately, the grant money was restored after the BLM flacks were exposed as the water-carrying loons they are.

Sadly, though, this kind of "produce-the-results-we-want-or-no-soup- for-you" attitude is becoming increasingly common as ideological hacks seek the legitimacy of statistical science for their extremist positions. In fact, a friend of mine who runs a survey research business was told that he'd receive payment for his services on one particular survey after he "returned the results they wanted." These people then tried to keep the completed surveys and analyze them themselves. A threatened lawsuit saw the surveys returned to their rightful owners for an impartial analysis.

But I digress.

When all else fails, of course, you attack the messenger:
[Rep. Greg] Walden [R-Ore.] accused [OSU graduate student and principal author of the Science article Daniel] Donato, 29, of having failed to tell his federal research supervisor about the findings of his study, as is required by the terms of his research contract with the federal government. Donato conceded that he had not known about the requirement for consultation and that he knows more about it now.

Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), another member of the subcommittee and a co-sponsor of the forest recovery bill, was even more disgruntled. He charged Donato with a long list of professional failings and character flaws, including "deliberate bias," lack of humility and ignorance of statistical theory.
Let's see, we have one Congressional shill for Big Timber scolding Donato about a minor bureaucratic detail, and another Congressional shill for Big Timber lecturing someone who's been published in arguably the most prestigious peer-reviewed science journal about scientific integrity. Walden and Baird are, to be charitable, wearing their asses as hats.

And what is the conclusion of the preponderance of research into salvage logging?
After Donato was excused, one of the nation's best-known forest ecologists attempted to summarize the world's collective scientific knowledge on logging after fires...


Salvage logging and replanting can often succeed, Franklin said, if the intent is to turn a scorched landscape into a stand of trees for commercial harvest.
Now that's a scientific finding that Big Timber can get behind!

26 February, 2006

Things I'm over

  • Rising with the son/sun - and as the morning breaks earlier and earlier, I imagine I'll get even more over it.
  • Grad school - the thought of working my ass off and racking up even more debt for the next three years, all for a shot at three faculty positions in places I wouldn't visit, much less live, isn't exactly motivating.
  • The cold - we were teased with a week's worth of gorgeous weather, prompting the daffodils and crocuses to bloom, and then were crushed with 10 days of 40°F highs and sub-freezing lows. Give me my springtime showers, punctuated by sunbreaks, all at a balmy 60°F.
  • Not kayaking - I just missed an epic winter season, and the spring snowmelt will be here soon, but all the sudden, my kayaking buddies (okay, one in particular, the other two have a very good excuse) get motivated to do work. Feh.
  • The Office moving to Thursday nights - there are very few shows on network tv I like, and this is one of them. Now they're on Thursday, which is my one "night-on-the-town" during the week, and even if that weren't the case, CSI is on during that time slot, and the last time I challenged ms. wobs over the remote control on a Thursday, you could see the bruising for weeks (that's a joke - ms. wobs is very careful to ensure the bruising isn't visible to y'all;).
  • People who control all three branches of government acting like victimized crybabies.
  • "Keeping our powder dry."
  • Coldplay - I was never into them to begin with, but man, can you say overexposed?
  • Post-Sgt. Pepper Beatles - that's not to say I don't love it still, but right now, I'm finding their earlier music much more interesting from an artistic standpoint. Their expansion and ultimate subversion of the pop idiom is present even in such simple tunes as "Please Please Me" and "Love Me Do."
  • Dave being in Italy - why should those espresso sippin', Gucci wearin', Fiat drivin' Italians get to enjoy him while we Muricans - his peeps, dammit! - have to go cold turkey?
  • Being disappointed by the Cubbies - this is our year.
  • Making lists about things I'm over.

25 February, 2006

Henpecking the Middle East

From atrios:
Why has no one bothered to notice that putting two people in charge ([Condi] Rice and [Karen] Hughes) of shaping our image abroad whose entire schtick consists of talking to people as if they're 8 years olds was probably not the best idea.

While your children are being killed in Iraq

Being preznit is hard work:
The President spent Thursday at fund-raisers for Congressmen.

He raised well over half a million dollars for Rep. Chris Chocola of Indiana. And he raised about $1 million for Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio.

With 150,000 troops under his command in a country on the brink of civil war, with the soldiers he sent to Iraq killed daily, the Commander-in-Chief was not in his War Room with his Chiefs of Staff. He was not working late into the night in the Oval Office executing a plan to protect America from terrorists. He went to two parties and played politics.
There are at most 1,059 days left in the Bush Administration. Let's hope we can find a way to remove this clueless, reckless failure before then.

Brave new world of forced childbirth

In a week that has seen some pretty gruesome and fucked up news stories, the story out of South Dakota bodes the worst for American women. The South Dakota legislature has passed a bill forcing women to give birth to unwanted children, which the governor has stated that he is "inclined" to support, in an effort to force the issue before the SCOTUS in order to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Let's not mince words about this bill. It's purpose is to punish women for having sex. It turns women into walking incubators who give up any control over their bodies while they carry a fetus within them. It will kill women who are forced to seek unsanitary, back alley abortions. Welcome to the Great Leap Backwards.

Jane and ReddHedd at firedoglake have been providing their coverage par excellence of this assault on women's bodies. Check in there regularly for updates and for action you can take to help resist the efforts of the forced childbirth movement.

Horowitz counts on your ignorance

I posted this review of David Horowitz's The Professors over at While I don't mention it in my review, I should mention that I find Horowitz to be a douchebag of the highest order. Enjoy.

I'm familiar with a good number of the professors who are, erm... "profiled" in Horowitz's latest screed, and I'll agree with his assessment of many of them. Yep, they're radicals. They challenge sexism, racism, capitalism, U.S. foreign policy, etc., etc.

And this all occurs, shockingly enough, at a univeristy, where one expects a diversity of opinions. And luckily, this diversity is protected by the academy's commitment to academic freedom from neo-McCarthyites like Horowitz and his ilk. And yes, I did have conservative professors in the University, in classes spanning a number of disciplines (and I earned my undergraduate degree from an institution that ranks right up there with the most liberal of them all). So there's radicals teaching on college campuses. Big deal. If universities are doing their job properly, an open-minded student will be able to sift through all of the studied opinions presented by faculty members (and yes, all of these opinions are arrived at after years of dedication to one's discipline) and draw their own conclusions.

Ah, but the sub-text of Horowitz's argument is that these professors are using the classroom as a bully pulpit to brainwash and indoctrinate unsuspecting undergraduates into accepting leftist ideologies. But a funny thing happens over the course of Horowitz's book. Not one instance of unprofessional conduct by these professors in the classroom is presented. Not one. In fact, a number of these professors have been commended for their outstanding teaching. Similarly, all of the student complaints of "liberal bias" that Horowitz drums up in trying to foist his "Academic Bill of Rights" on state legislatures have been shown to be frauds. Interesting, isn't it?

What Horowitz counts on to make his case is the general public's unwillingness to do their own research. Are the professors misquoted? Not at all. But Horowitz depends on the reader not searching out the context in which the statement is made. That makes it that much easier to twist a statement's meaning into some gross caricature of the "evil, anti-American communist professor who is out to brainwash your children and steal your tuition money." All academic writing is full of nuance and hair-splitting that most people don't have the time or the energy with which to deal. Horowitz uses this to his advantage in slandering the academy.

Horowitz's goal isn't to remove the 101 professors profiled here - he knows he can't because these faculty members are respected in their field and conduct themselves in a manner befitting their profession. Rather his goal is twofold. First, he and his ilk aim to intimidate younger and less secure academicians who engage in critical studies into silence. Second, he's out to make a buck flogging his dead one-trick pony - the bogeyman of the out-of-touch professor living in the ivory tower. While he's not succeeding in his first objective, it's unfortunate to see that he's going to continue fleecing hard-working individuals who are rightfully concerned about their children's education by peddling his toxic mix of half-truths and unsubstantiated innuendos.

So here's my challenge. If you absolutely must read Horowitz's volume, take the time to read the writings of the professor that he cites as supporting his arguments. I guarantee you'll find work that is provocative (if not always correct), work that will raise certain questions and lead to some interesting discussions - precisely the type of discussions that Horowitz wants to shut down.

[update 2:40 pm 2/26/06]: So has finally posted my review at their website. I've also noticed that another 40 some-odd reviews that were previously posted have been scrubbed. Not unprecendented, on their part, but it's a little shady. Anyways, find my review here.

22 February, 2006

What's playing...

Because I could be doing something, you know, productive:
  • W.R.U. - Ornette Coleman
  • Cayman Review - Trey Anastasio
  • No Water - Yo La Tengo
  • Joy to the Person of My Love - Baltimore Consort
  • Hit the Plane Down - Pavement
  • Joe McCarthy's Ghost - the Minutemen
  • I Am a Lonesome Fugitive - Leo Kottke & Mike Gordon
  • O Maria - Beck
  • Mr. Tambourine Man - Bob Dylan
  • Doin' My Time - Earl Scruggs & the Foggy Mountain Boys
  • Freddie Freeloader - Miles Davis
  • Everything Happens to Me - Charlie Parker
  • Kickin' the Gong Around - Louis Armstrong

Out of the frying pan...

This is very, very bad. I know many critics of the Iraq War have said that the insurgency is already a low-intensity civil war, but this incident may bring it to full boil. Goddess help us.

For more, go read Juan Cole's analysis.

Misadventures in e-mail

I've had my fair share of annoying e-mail exchanges with students, but nothing like this:
9:39 a.m.


i want to take yr literary jornalism class but i'm not on campus tues. would it be alrite if i came on thurs? cuz last qtr my comp teacher let me do this and said i wuz a great writer. i read all the time and would be an assett to yr class on thurs and woundnt talk to much cuz i wouldn't be there any tues. u wont regret it.

12:01 p.m.

Dear Jimmy (?),

You really do seem like a great writer. Who was your instructor last quarter?


Oh, but it gets better. And if you've ever rolled your eyes after reading another student e-mail from, this is for you.

Portgate: A few observations

The blogosphere is certainly a-twitter with news of the sale of terminal operations in six U.S. ports to a firm (Dubai Ports World) owned by the government of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. I myself clogged the bowels of the internets with this massive post on the subject last night. All said, I wanted to distill all of this down to a few observations.
  • Regardless of the merits or drawbacks of the deal, it's become a grade A political scandal that may be the final nail in the coffin for Bushco. Granted, he's been teetering on the edge of "lame duckness" since his second inauguration, but when wingnuts are calling for your impeachment, the writing's on the wall.
  • There has been an ugly racism permeating this issue from the get-go. It's been made explicit by many on the Right (check out, Little Green Footballs, and (I won't dignify these asshats with a link) for some nasty examples), but it has also underlied several comments I've seen by leftie bloggers. It's par for the course, I s'pose, among Murcans, but nonetheless ugly to behold
  • As a corollary to the aforementioned point, the links between the UAE and terrorism are tenuous, at best. By the logic used by some people, the United States "supports terrorism" just as much as the UAE - where did the 9/11 hijackers learn to fly aircraft, after all? Again, I think there's a subtle racism that underlies that assumption.
  • It is legitimate, on the other hand, to draw attention to the fact that port operations aren't being sold to a foreign corporation, per se, but rather a corporation owned by a foreign government. While there's nothing to suggest that DPW would behave in a manner that's any more detrimental to our physical or economic security than any other foreign shipping conglomerate, their ownership situation does give me pause.
  • In many ways, this whole brouhaha is one of the unforeseen consequences of neo-liberalism.
I'm not particularly convinced that the sale of terminal operations to DPW is the unmitigated security disaster that many are making it out to be. What is clear, however, is that approving the deal would be political suicide.

Jeez, this all makes shooting somebody in the face look like child's play, eh?

[update 11:34 am 2/22/06]: So I appear to have spoken a bit prematurely about the circumstantial links between the UAE and terrorists. There are explicit links.

21 February, 2006

Corporate Ownership of Shipping Terminals: Port Security Just the Tip of the Iceberg

A lot of keystrokes have been pecked describing Bushco's approval of a deal selling terminal operations in major East Coast ports to Dubai Ports World (DPW), a corporation owned by the government of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Most of the commentary that I've read revolves around issues of port security and terrorism, with critics highlighting the Bush administration's malignant neglect of our nation's shipping infrastructure. Others have maintained that while this is certainly a bad political move, this particular sale isn't necessarily a security risk, as the global shipping business and port operations are by their very nature transnational and the previous terminal owners, P&O, where themselves a foreign-owned (UK) business.

A few people raised concerns about the loss of jobs as a result of the sale. I initially posted this snarky response to one such commenter:
I'll leave alone the irony of talking about moving port jobs off-shore ;)
There is a threat to our national security due to the privatized and globalized ownership of our ports, but it isn't posed by terrorists. It's a threat to the economic security of the American workers who form the backbone of our national transportation and shipping infrastructure, according to this piece by Richard Vogel in the February 2006 Monthly Review:
Currently, intermodal transportation of cheap imported commodities is the lifeline of the American economy. In 2004, the Port of Los Angeles processed 7.3 million container units and Long Beach handled 5.8 million. These two ports alone accounted for 68 percent of the West Coast total and are, by far, the largest employers in California. U.S. workers, who have seen so many lucrative manufacturing jobs moved overseas, assumed that import transportation and distribution jobs could not be offshored and were, therefore, relatively secure.

Current transportation trends are proving labor’s assumption to be dead wrong.

A note on this article's source: It is fair to note that the editor of the Monthly Review, and many of its commentators, are dyed-in-the-wool Marxists who are as committed to the political agenda of Marxism as they are to its (marginally) more accepted academic incarnations. The journal sometimes veers into some rather silly apologetics for Marxists regimes, but taken on the whole, it attracts high quality leftist scholarship and is well regarded in leftist academic circles, especially in Europe. It's editors have included some of the luminaries of American leftist scholarship, including Harvard economist Paul Sweezy and University of Illinois media scholar Robert McChesney. Just FYI, for those of you who obsess over the credibility of sources...

Sparked by organized resistance and wildcat actions by workers against falling wages and deteriorating working conditions at America’s ports and on the nation’s highways, the flow of container traffic is being shifted to a south-north orientation. By leveraging both the U.S. and Mexican governments and taking advantage of the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), big capital is developing container terminals in Mexico and using that country as a land bridge and labor pool to deliver shipping containers to destinations in the United States at discount prices.
Vogel describes a fundamental restructuring of how goods are transported in this country, following a pattern that is disturbingly familiar: well-paid American union workers, in this case longshore workers (affiliated with the ILWU) and Teamster drivers, are finding their jobs outsourced to foreign workers who will work for a fraction of the price. This restructuring is being accomplished via the construction of what Vogel calls “NAFTA Corridors,” a system of port terminals, highways, and rail lines that are being built from the Pacific Coast of Mexico and stretching through the heartland of the United States all the way to the Canadian border. The costs of this mammoth infrastructure construction project, the biggest in U.S. history, are staggering: a landmass the size of the state of Vermont will be necessary to accommodate the transportation corridors; the increase in vehicular traffic is expected to dramatically increase pollution; and the highway system, to be operated as toll-roads, has already been privatized under exclusive development agreements with the states in which they are being developed.

The cost of these NAFTA corridors is estimated at $31.4 million per mile. On the surface, it seems like a boon to the American construction industry. However,
Building and operating the NAFTA corridor system will require an army of labor, and capital is looking for the cheapest labor it can find to maximize profits. To meet their manpower needs, the developers and operators of the NAFTA system are planning to exploit Mexican labor on an unprecedented scale. Chronic structural unemployment in Mexico and political vulnerability in the United States have rendered Mexican workers prime candidates for exploitation, and they are already being widely tapped for highway construction projects.
This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, in terms of the number of transportation jobs that will be affected:
Though the exploitation of immigrants, both legal and illegal, to build the NAFTA corridor system will be heretofore unparalleled, the offshoring of U.S. transportation jobs will have a substantially larger and longer lasting impact on labor on both sides of the border.

The list of transportation jobs that will be offshored to Mexico is long: port employees from supervisors and inspectors to crane operators and longshoremen; railroad construction and maintenance workers and supervisors; railroad operators; warehouse workers and supervisors; highway construction and maintenance workers; local and long haul truck drivers; and an army of logistical support workers for the entire network.
Vogel spends the remainder of the article discussing how this situation arose out of the implementation of NAFTA and other neo-liberal “free trade” regimes, as well as touching on some of the innovative cross-national labor partnerships that have sprung up to resist this race-to-the-bottom in the transportation industry.

Now, what does this all mean politically? I believe that the current brouhaha over DPW's ownership of shipping terminals may provide Democrats an opportunity to extensively broaden their critique of the Bush Administrations incompetent “attempts” to safeguard our nation's transportation infrastructure, both in the short and long-term. Consider:
  • Foreign-owned corporations (either private or state-owned) control our shipping terminals, potentially compromising our physical safety by providing a soft spot for terrorists to exploit. Now, let me say that as of right now, I haven't read or seen anything that would lead me to believe that DPW is a threat to our national security, and I think that this point plays to our nation's ugliest xenophobic and racist tendencies. That said, it has become an explosive political issue.
  • Shipping corporations are willing to move cargo terminals outside of the United States in order to take advantage of the lowered costs of business and NAFTA rules which allow for the free flow of goods across national borders. Likewise, jobs in other transportation industries will be opened to competition from foreign laborers willing to work for substantially cheaper wages. Too many Americans are already familiar with the downward spiral that occurred in other sectors of the economy due to “free trade” rules. The privatized nature of our transportation infrastructure, in other words, will cost us jobs
  • Right now, the roughly 2000 mile diversion from East Asia to the Western United States, via Mexico, saves transportation consumers about 15% over shipping directly to ports on the West Coast of the United States. Let's assume that ports on the West Coast atrophy as a result of this transportation restructuring and that the new Mexican ports become the primary points through which Asian goods will flow into North America. Now let's remember: the entire global trade system is dependent upon cheap energy. I think it's safe to assume that the 15% savings accrued because of cheap land and labor may soon be offset by rising oil prices. If there is no recourse to more energy efficient trade routes (a big IF, to be sure), consumers take a hit in the wallet.
In other words, the DPW opens a nasty can of worms for Bushco. The deal not only offers an opportunity to show the Bush Administration is cavalier with regard to our physical security, but its also provides a chance to demonstrate that their slavish adherence to “global free trade” is damaging the economic security of our nation. Moreover, as Vogel points out, Democrats may find a willing partner in the efforts in organized labor, which has already been working with their counterparts in Mexico to deal with other multinational corporations that have used NAFTA to pit workers against each other.

Who owns our ports does not only matter in terms of stopping future terror attacks. Their ownership may affect the ability of hundreds of thousands of Americans to be economically secure.

19 February, 2006

Procrastination playlist

Okay, so I'm avoiding grading papers right now, and I can blog for real after I get through 25 of them. Sigh. Here's what popped up on the shuffle to get my morning started:
  • Power to the People – Public Enemy
  • Black's Ball – J.B. Hutto & the Hawks
  • Swedish Schnapps – Charlie Parker
  • Tejwid (Qurr'Anic Chant) – El Hajj Mohamed; Hakim Bennani
  • Cowboys and Aliens – Dept. of Energy
  • At the Movies – Bad Brains
  • Runchin Celi Asuko Dharale – [Nepalese Folk Song]
  • Forget the Flowers – Wilco
  • The Whole of the Law – Yo La Tengo
  • Think It Over One More Time – Buckwheat Zydeco

18 February, 2006

Those hateful leftists

Digby - 1, Cry-baby wingnuts - 0.

Right-wingers fuck over Eugene's kids - again

Measure 5 bites us in the ass again. From the Register-Guard:
The Eugene and Bethel school districts may be millions of dollars poorer next year because of a decision Thursday by the Oregon Tax Court.

Judge Henry Breithaupt ruled that a city-sponsored tax levy funding school activities such as physical education, library services and health care was unconstitutional.
Passed in 1990 as a revolt against rising taxes in the Portland metro area, Measure 5 also held out the promise of narrowing the funding gaps between urban and rural school districts by placing the burden of funding K-12 education on the state instead of local governments. Voters soon discovered that school funding equalization would mean a race to the bottom, as the anti-tax activists who shoved Measure 5 down our throats made damn share that the state would be unable to find the funding necessary to provide all of Oregon's children with a quality education. In other words, our kids became victims of Grover Norquist's homocidal fantasy of drowning government in the bathtub and Don McIntire and Bill Sizemore's war on public employees.

We know what these people think. Fuck social obligations. Fuck taking care of those who need our help, because I've got mine. More importantly, this short-sighted thinking ultimately screws the state's economy - as our quality of education drops, companies looking for an educated and trained workforce will look for greener pastures, and our kids lose ground to those who are willing to pay for (either public or private) education. All so some rich assholes can afford the gas for their motorhomes.

Oregonians need to seriously re-visit Measure 5. Moreover, we need to get over our anti-tax hysteria and realize that, in the long run, this myopic "taxes can only be bad" mindset will only shoot us in the foot and hobble the futures of our children.

15 February, 2006


The rhetorical contortions of conservatives who are going to condemn the Australian press for releasing new images of torture from the Abu Ghraib prison after defending a Danish newspaper's right to print blasphemous depictions of the Prophet Mohammed will almost be as sickening as this:

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I am so ashamed by what our government has done in our name.

He'll shoot you in the face

Or worse...

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Tip o' the hat to phillygal

A king's court of fools

georgia10 nails it:
Look at your party, Republicans. Look at your civil servants, all you logic-minded conservatives out there. Look at your legislative bimbos, your lemmings in Congress. Look at how they serve only the interests of an Executive drunk with power. Your representatives are about to give the ok to the President unilaterally erasing the 4th Amendment from the Bill of Rights. Your so-called "conservatives" don't dare conserve jack, not the separation of powers, not any sense of fairness, and certainly not your rights.

It's party over principle. Party over justice. Party over civil rights. They just keep shredding up that Constitution and feeding it to that goddamn Elephant, because they have to anything and everything to keep that damn Elephant alive and fat and happy, right? Members of Congress, my ass. Every one of them took their oath of office with their fingers crossed behind their back. Every one of them pledged to uphold and defend the Constitution, with a huge asterisk (*) that when the President's ass needs saving, well, that Constitution just has to step out of the way.
Read the whole thing.

14 February, 2006

One million to see the Stones in Rio

Damn. It seems that everyone (and I do mean everyone) in Brazil loves the Rolling Stones:
More than one million people are expected to gather in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday night for the Brazilian leg of the Rolling Stones' world tour, A Bigger Bang, to be broadcast live on national television.

With a production crew of nearly 1,500 and a guest list running to 4,000 names, the free show on Copacabana beach is expected to dwarf other legendary rock concerts. Seven huge screens have been installed on the beach, stretching more than half a mile back from the stage, while a specially constructed walkway has been erected to take the group from the luxurious Copacabana Palace Hotel, where they will stay, to the seven-storey-high stage.
Ho. Lee. Shit.

On first reading, I was stunned by the numbers: one million, 1,500, four thousand, seven stories... but then my attention was drawn to this: "the free show on Copacabana beach..."

Those bastards! The Stones come to the States and charge ticket prices in the three digits (excluding poor schleps like me), and the Brazilians get to see Mick strut and Keith pickle for free? There's gotta be a catch, right?
However, with tens of thousands of fans pouring into Rio, some locals have reacted angrily to the amount of money being devoted to the show.

Rio's town hall has splashed out 1.6m reals (£425,000) on the event, arguing that it will help raise the city's profile.

"How is it that they can spend all this money on one show and not have hospitals that work?" said Fernando Cerdeira, a music promoter who worked with the likes of Tom Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell during the bossa nova heyday in the 1950s and 60s.
Priorities, people. I didn't realize that Rio de Janiero's profile was lacking. I suppose the images of sun-kissed beaches and beautiful women in thongs don't have the drawing power that four old coots - albeit four rockin' old coots - from Merry Olde England have.

And I'm sure all the money coming into the city will trickle down to the poor - it worked here in the States, right?

And while they ain't the Hell's Angels, the Stones will have an equally brutal security contingent:
About 10,000 police officers will be mobilised to patrol the crowds. Police say they may also occupy several of the hilltop favelas, or slum districts, which tower over the beachside district.


If the Stones need a reminder of Rio's well-publicised social problems, they need look no further than their support act, Afro-Reggae.

The group - whose latest album, No Motive Can Explain the War, contains participations from British rappers, Ty and Estelle - formed in the aftermath of the notorious 1993 Vigario Geral massacre, in which off-duty policemen killed 21 innocent slum-dwellers.
What a mess, even if it is for the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World. A crowd three and a half times the projected size of the Stones show would increase these problems exponentially. Who could draw 3.5 million people?
According to the Guinness Book of Records, the only bigger show was a Rod Stewart concert, also on Copacabana beach, which attracted about 3.5 million people in 1994.
Rod Stewart? Un-fucking-believable.

An open valentine to my sweetie: I ♥ TSE

And now for a little love to punctuate the rantings...

My sweetie - it's been four Valentine's Days together for us now, and two with our wee wobs. Each year, it seems to get better. I know I don't say it enough, but I'm so lucky to have met you and to have fallen in love with you. I'm so blessed that it was with me you chose to spend your life and create a family. I love you so very much.

A Valentine's playlist for you:
  • K.C. Blues – Frank Hutchison
  • Lay Lady Lay – Bob Dylan
  • Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes – Paul Simon
  • In My Life – The Beatles
  • Kingpin – Wilco
  • In Spite of Me – Morphine
  • Let It Bleed – The Rolling Stones
  • Hold On – Tom Waits
  • Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder) – The Beach Boys
  • You're in My Heart – Rhonda Vincent
  • Roggae – Phish
  • I'm Gonna Be an Engineer – Peggy Seeger
  • Major Leagues – Pavement
  • Living in Paradise – Elvis Costello
  • Lover's Rock – The Clash
  • You Can Have It All – Yo La Tengo
  • Walkin' (For Your Love) – Widespread Panic
  • Broken Hearted Blues – Danny Barnes and the Old Codgers
  • Sunday Sun - Beck

Incompetent, trigger-happy boobs

I know, I know. Everyone's piling on old Dead-eye Dick and his errant slug of buckshot. And honestly, are we really suprised that Dick Cheney shot someone? Let's face it, the dude fucked up, but this sort of behavior is positively quotidian for the veep. There doesn't seem to be any point to my heaving some half-ass snark upon that heap.

But the seemingly everyday banality of Dick Cheney unloading a shotgun blast into the face of a supposed friend is the point. This is what Dick Cheney does. He recklessly and relentlessly endangers the lives of others, day in and day out. I'll let thereisnospoon bring it home:
It's a perfect analogy for the way they have conducted their entire administration--and all the biggest flaws of this presidency are on display in one little vividly portrayed story.

A little story that has tremendous sway because, let's face it: THE VICE PRESIDENT JUST ACTUALLY SHOT ANOTHER HUMAN BEING. The imagery is clear and potent--and not subject to the typical political "he said, she said."

There is no way to play the usual equivocating politics with a story about the vice-president ACTUALLY SHOOTING SOMEONE.

And that's why I guarantee you this story isn't going away: It's a perfect way for the press to indict the entire Administration through the perfect metaphor.
BTW - Dick Cheney now joins Aaron Burr in the extremely exclusive club of veeps who have shot another human being while in office.

Brah. Voe.

12 February, 2006

Ethical qualms - a sure career killer

via ReddHedd at firedoglake

Aren't we supposed to be the good guys?
The CIA’s top counter-terrorism official was fired last week because he opposed detaining Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons abroad, sending them to other countries for interrogation and using forms of torture such as “water boarding”, intelligence sources have claimed.

Robert Grenier, head of the CIA counter-terrorism centre, was relieved of his post after a year in the job. One intelligence official said he was “not quite as aggressive as he might have been” in pursuing Al-Qaeda leaders and networks.

Vincent Cannistraro, a former head of counter-terrorism at the agency, said: “It is not that Grenier wasn’t aggressive enough, it is that he wasn’t ‘with the programme’. He expressed misgivings about the secret prisons in Europe and the rendition of terrorists.”

Grenier also opposed “excessive” interrogation, such as strapping suspects to boards and dunking them in water, according to Cannistraro.
Still want to claim we don't engage in torture?

10 February, 2006

Help fix NCLB

The American Federation of Teachers has been buying ads all over the left-wing blogosphere for this little Flash animation movie.

I, however, as a good union member, will pimp it for free. Give it a click, enjoy the cartoon, and find out what you can do to help improve that abomination of education "reform," the No Child Left Behind Act.


Incompetence kills.

09 February, 2006

Irony, anyone?

The headline for this article says it all: "Israel plans to build 'museum of tolerance' on Muslim graves."
Skeletons are being removed from the site of an ancient Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem to make way for a $150m (£86m) "museum of tolerance" being built for the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre.

Palestinians have launched a legal battle to stop the work at what was the city's main Muslim cemetery. The work is to prepare for the construction of a museum which seeks the promotion of "unity and respect among Jews and between people of all faiths."


Ikrema Sabri, the Mufti of Jerusalem, demanded a halt to the excavations and said the Muslim religious authorities had not been consulted on the dig. Saying that the cemetery was in use for 15 centuries and that friends of the Prophet Mohamed were buried there, the Mufti declared: "There should be a complete cessation of work on the cemetery because it is sacred for Muslims."
Nothing says interfaith understanding and reconciliation like desecrating a burial ground.

Grow up

Why the hell are we paying these people? Instead of attending to matters that affect the lives of real people, congressional staffers are fucking around and editing the Wikipedia entries of their bosses and enemies:
Recent reports about editorial antics taking place on the site -- selective erasures of past faux pas, outright insults and dozens of other politically motivated revisions -- prompted Wikipedia to block temporarily some addresses on Capitol Hill from being able to edit entries...


This crime-scene-style investigation points to staff members of at least five offices: Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

In all cases the edits removed factually accurate but unflattering descriptions of the lawmakers, and in many cases they added some beautifying language describing awards or glorifying legislative records.
Jesus, kids. Your wacky office shenanigans shouldn't end up in the WaPo. I'm sure y'all think you're playing politics, but the fact of the matter is, you look like a bunch of amateur teenage doofuses. Grow the fuck up.

08 February, 2006

Theories and opinions

NASA climate scientists finally had enough of a political flunkie telling them what they could or could not say. And not just any political flunkie, but one George C. Deutsch, who slithered his way into NASA's PR office by lying about - are you ready? - graduating from college.

Typically, your educational background is listed at the top of your resumé. So pretty much, young Mr. Deutsch lied from the get-go on his way to being appointed by the president for this post. Makes you wonder what else he fibbed about on the old job application, eh? Moreover, it makes you wonder about who is vetting these people - they've allowed some piss-poor appointees slide through, even by the most corrupt standards of cronyism. But I digress.

Here's what Mr. Deutsch, the holder of one high school diploma, had to say of his colleagues at NASA, many of whom happen to be, you know, rocket scientists:
The Big Bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion," he instructed one person working at NASA. "It is not NASA's place, nor should it be to make a declaration such as this about the existence of the universe that discounts intelligent design by a creator ... This is more than a science issue, it is a religious issue. And I would hate to think that young people would only be getting one-half of this debate from NASA. That would mean we had failed to properly educate the very people who rely on us for factual information the most."
Breathtaking in its arrogance and stupidity, isn't it?

Josh Marshall distills this incident down to its high ABV essence in this post at TPM:
Deutsch told the NASA guy that the Big Bang was not a "proven fact", which is certainly true. But in no meaningful sense is it mere "opinion."

It's not just some idea someone thought up which stands on an equal footing with any other idea anyone else could cook up. Among cosmologists today, it's the dominant theory about how the universe began. It is based on various theoretical work (which I won't try to understand or explain) and supported by a lot of astrophysical data.

The theory could turn out to be wrong. And it will almost certainly end up being revised in one or more ways. But it is not 'opinion'.

It's worth taking note of the word choice because it captures the mix of obscurantism and relativism which has characterized all the Bush administration's attitude about science and, really, pretty much all empirically based knowledge -- something we discussed at length here.

The Bush Administration's War on Science is threatening to relegate our nation's youth to the dark closet of ignorance. In Mr. Deutsch's case, they appear to have already succeeded.

Tribunal for the ultra-rich represents "world community"

The WaPo is reporting that the World Trade Organization has ruled that a European ban on genetically modified crops violates free trade rules, which, quite frankly, comes as no surprise to me. The WTO has been infringing upon the sovereignty of democratically elected governments on behalf of corporate profits for the better part of a decade now, and the writing was on the wall as soon as the United States took up the case for the biotech industry in 2003. To quote an expert:
"The decision was never really in doubt, but its global impact could be huge," Gregory Conko, an analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, said in a written statement. "With the voice of the world community now clearly on the record, we hope the Europeans will quickly dismantle their bans and let science-based policy and consumer freedom prevail."
Wait a minute.

Did he refer to the WTO as "the voice of the world community?" The WTO that is composed of unelected trade representatives? The WTO whose whole raison d'etre is to undermine the regulation of Big Business? The one that sparked massive grassroots protests in Seattle in 1999 and in Cancun in 2003.

Mr. Conko - the bureaucratic lackeys of the richest 1% of each nation who meet together to subvert democratic institutions in the name of profit are not "the voice of the world community."

06 February, 2006

Go Stu!

I just got this from my college (Eckerd College in St. Pete, FL) alumni association:
Stuart Hyatt '97 has received a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Recording Package. His artwork for The Clouds, a collection of gospel and folk music from Alabama, is being honored.
I have many fond memories of Stu and Carlos P. strumming together at Wednesday evening coffeehouse performances. It's nice to see someone you've known succeed. I typically abhor award shows (although I'll enjoy a good Oscar party), but I might just have to tune in to see if he wins (although I'm sure this particular award is one of those they scroll through about two-thirds of the way through the show).

Stu's Grammy nomination makes for a nice little coincidence. I already happen to have met a Grammy winner: my high school sweetie's uncle won a Grammy for his photography on Suzanne Vega's album Days of Open Hand. So by that criteria, Stu's a shoo-in.

Iraq: A Gift to Our Grandchildren

Via Crooks & Liars, "new" Majority Leader (same as the old boss) John Boehner (R-OH) on Iraq and our progeny:
It may not benefit our generation, but for our kids and theirs, this maybe the greatest gift we give them.
Which gift is that? The crushing debt of a war costing $1 billion a week? That's cost each American family $3000 so far? Or maybe the gift is to be drafted to serve in a conflict that has the potential to drag on for decades, according to no less an authority than former President Jimmy Carter, appearing on Larry King a few nights ago:
CARTER: ...But, what I believe is that there are people in Washington now, some of our top leaders, who never intend to withdraw military forces from Iraq and they're looking for ten, 20, 50 years in the future...

KING: Why?

CARTER: ...having major American military board -- well, because that was the reason that we went into Iraq was to establish a permanent military base in the Gulf region and I have never heard any of our leaders say that they would commit themselves to the Iraqi people that ten years from now there will be no military bases of the United States in Iraq.

I would like to hear that. But that's one of the things that concerns Iraqi people. And when I meet with Arab leaders around the world they all have noticed this. They're the ones that have brought it to my attention and I think it's an accurate statement.

KING: Do you believe that's the intent of the administration to keep the -- when you say high officials do you mean the Bush administration wants to keep troops in Iraq ad infinitum?

CARTER: Yes, I do and I hope I'm wrong. I don't think there's any doubt that we did not need to go into Iraq. We went in there under false pretenses, either inadvertent misunderstanding of intelligence or maybe deliberate. I'm not saying it was deliberate. I don't think President Bush was deliberately misleading us, maybe some of his subordinates.
Or maybe Boehner is speaking of our gift to future generations of Iraqis: occupation, a fundamentalist theocracy, a crippled infrastructure, a government rife with corruption.

I'm sure you'll understand, Mr. Boehner, when all those thank you cards don't show up in your mailbox.

05 February, 2006

New comment system

I switched my comments (and their archives) over to haloscan last night, so any comments posted using Blogger have... um, evaporated. Luckily, it's a young blog (although the month and a half I've been posting probably makes me a late teen/young adult in blog time), so not too much was lost - although I did lose my one "celebrity" comment, egalia from Tennessee Guerilla Women :-(.

Hopefully, their won't be any bugs to work out. That's my story, thanks for listening.

03 February, 2006

A time of sacrifice

Apparently, Republicans don't think that the rich should have to sacrifice anything to support the members of our armed forces who place their lives on the line for our nation. salvador's diary over at dkos draws attention to a vote last night that would have repealed tax cuts to provide care for disabled vets. Vets comprise 25% of our nation's homeless.


You can't make this shit up

Biggest. Wanker. Ever... EVER!

Cheers to ReddHedd at firedoglake for the find.

01 February, 2006

TN Guerilla Women make me homesick

I grew up in Tennessee, but left as soon as I graduated high school - a fact which has grown bittersweet over the years. At any rate, my peers growing up were all fairly liberal (with a few libertarian conservative types thrown in), and for the most part, they all fled hither and yon. Subsequent trips home to be with my family have made me realize how conservative the town I grew up in has become (or may it's always been that way). Every now and again, even though I love Tennessee and its people, I'm ready to write the place off. I mean, Bill Frist people. Bill Fucking Frist. Agh.

But every now and again, a ray of sunshine breaks through giving you hope for the future:
Image hosting by Photobucket
Bless y'all. Moments like these make me really miss my home.

What I did instead of watching the SOTU

Yeah, go ahead and flip me shit about not caring enough to watch Dear Leader's Big Talk. I didn't miss anything other than his standard captive audience speech of the last four months, microwaved on "high" for 90 seconds. And apparently, those 51 minutes that nobody can have back did little to cover up the heaps of shit in which Bushco and the rest of the GOP find themselves.

Nope, I did some other things:
  • We had a nice family dinner. Food tastes a lot better when you're not fighting down the bile.
  • I played with the wee lad. Spending time with someone you really love puts you on top of the world. Spending time watching a bunch of mindless jackasses applauding the village idiot makes you feel like kicking puppies. And I don't want to be a puppy-kicker.
  • We listened to some music. And mercifully not one lyrical reference to "staying the course" or "Septembruh Levunth."

As a result, I am now tanned and well-rested, ready to face the evening with vim and vigor, and I sport a healthy, shiny coat. Yeah, I took a chance that Bush might use the SOTU to apologize for screwing up the country and announce his resignation, but my gamble paid off, and I won't have that wretched hangover tomorrow morning.

[update]: Josh Marshall finds the SOTU insufferable as well.