Talkin' trash to the garbage around me.

30 January, 2007

Small wonders

It's nice to see the sensitivities of law enforcement on display in Tampa:
A woman who told police she had been raped was jailed for two days after officers found an old warrant accusing her of failing to pay restitution for a 2003 theft arrest.

While she was behind bars, according to the college student's attorney, a jail worker refused to give her a second dose of the morning-after contraceptive pill because of the worker's religious convictions.


Jennifer Dritt, executive director of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, wanted more explanation from the jail, saying the woman's arrest "makes people think law enforcement doesn't have a victim-centered approach."

That's an understatement.

Given the attitudes of law enforcement officials towards the victims of rape, is it any wonder that sexual assault conviction rates are so abyssmal?
Less than half of those arrested for rape are convicted, 54% of all rape prosecutions end in either dismissal or acquittal. The conviction rate for those arrested for murder is 69% and all other felons is 54%. (The Response to Rape: Detours on the Road to Equal Justice) 21% of convicted rapists are never sentenced to jail or prison time, and 24% receive time in local jail which means that they spend an average of less than 11 months behind bars. (The Response to Rape: Detours on the Road to Equal Justice)

29 January, 2007

One day

When he grows to be a teenager, I'm going to take a great deal of pleasure in waking l'il wobs before the crack of dawn. Yes I will.


Punk Rock Monday

I was initially drawn to Sonic Youth in my teen years because so many people disliked them. The dissonance, the off-kilter tunings, and the extended feedback compositions were enough to send most of my friends running. I picked up Goo when I was sophomore and promptly pissed off many of my mates. That period of obnoxiousness led me to a lasting appreciation of the boundaries this band has been able to transcend, alternatively pushing at the bounds of the pop form while ultimately being comfortable inside them.

Here's a clip of Sonic Youth from their first European tour in 1983 (unsure of song title):

"Schizophrenia" from the Bush I era (perfomance found on 1991's The Year Punk Broke):

And as an extra bonus, here's Sonic Youth with David Bowie, "I'm Afraid of Americans":


28 January, 2007

Dinesh D'Souza is a fucking tool

If you don't already know who Dinesh D'Souza is, take a few moments to acquaint yourself: dave has his appearance on Colbert. Maybe we should let Mr. D'Souza describe the pound of flesh we rabid left-wingers have been extracting from his hide:
As a conservative author, I'm used to a little controversy. Even so, the reaction to my new book, "The Enemy at Home," has felt, well, a little hysterical.

"Ratfink writes new book," James Wolcott, cultural critic for Vanity Fair, declares in his blog. He goes on to call my book a "sleazy, shameless, ignorant, ahistorical, tendentious, meretricious lie."

In the pages of Esquire, Mark Warren charges that I "hate America" and have "taken to heart" Osama bin Laden's view of the United States. (Warren also challenged me to a fight and threatened to put me in the hospital.) In his New York Times review of my book last week, Alan Wolfe calls my work "a national disgrace . . . either self-delusional or dishonest." I am "a childish thinker" with "no sense of shame," he argues. "D'Souza writes like a lover spurned; despite all his efforts to reach out to Bin Laden, the man insists on joining forces with the Satanists."

It goes on. The Washington Post's Warren Bass writes that I think Jerry Falwell was "on to something" when he blamed the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on pagans, gays and the ACLU. Slate's Timothy Noah diagnoses "Mullah envy," while the Nation's Katha Pollitt calls me a "surrender monkey" and the headline to her article brands me "Ayatollah D'Souza." And in my recent appearance on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," I had to fend off the insistent host. "But you agree with the Islamic radicals, don't you?" Stephen Colbert asked again and again.

Uh oh, someone's getting called on his shit!
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But I'm not going to mock his bleatings for mercy. No, I'm going to marvel at the fact that the Hoover Institute at Stanford University will apparently hire any well-connected idiot to churn out worthless right-wing "theory":
Contrary to the common liberal view, I don't believe that the 9/11 attacks were payback for U.S. foreign policy. Bin Laden isn't upset because there are U.S. troops in Mecca, as liberals are fond of saying. (There are no U.S. troops in Mecca.)

"Liberals" are "fond of saying" that Bin Laden is upset that there are U.S. troops in Mecca? Really? I've never heard one leftist say anything about U.S. troops in Mecca. I do know that Bin Laden had demanded that U.S. troops leave Saudi Arabia - and they most assuredly were there when 9/11 occurred.
[Bin Laden] isn't upset because Washington is allied with despotic regimes in the region. Israel aside, what other regimes are there in the Middle East?

What other regimes are there in the Middle East?

Keep in mind, dear reader, that Mr. D'Souza is employed by an institution affiliated with Stanford University.

What other regimes are there in the Middle East?

Saudi Arabia? Egypt? The Gulf States? Pakistan? Jordan? Nations that have their fingers in both pots, by the way. But aside from Israel, what other regimes are there in the Middle East?

I don't know what's worse: that conservative "intellectuals" are this stupid, or that we've been losing ground to these morons since the 1980s.

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26 January, 2007

Is this what they teach in international relations courses?

And to what rationale do we owe the seemingly rash decision to go after Iranian operatives in Iraq?
Senior administration officials said the policy is based on the theory that Tehran will back down from its nuclear ambitions if the United States hits it hard in Iraq and elsewhere, creating a sense of vulnerability among Iranian leaders.

Brought to you by the "greet us with flowers" gang. At least the Bush White House is consistent in its misuse of the word "theory." Much like intelligent design, Bush's plan in Iraq has no basis in reality. What could possibly go wrong?
But if Iran responds with escalation, it has the means to put U.S. citizens and national interests at greater risk in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Crap. That's bad. But that's a worst-case scenario, right?
"This has little to do with Iraq. It's all about pushing Iran's buttons. It is purely political," the official said. The official expressed similar views about other new efforts aimed at Iran, suggesting that the United States is escalating toward an unnecessary conflict to shift attention away from Iraq and to blame Iran for the United States' increasing inability to stanch the violence there.

Oh boy.

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25 January, 2007

Digging deeper (or, Wallowing in the pig sty of statistics)

A little digging on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, and my wish was granted. Here's a linky-loo to today's BLS press release, chock full of all sorts of information to geek out over.

One of the first things to catch my eye was the roughly 10:1 fullee/fairee ratio (15.4 million union members, 1.5 million workers represented by unions but not members). This number is actually kind of a head scratcher for me. First, that 10:1 ratio seems remarkably high to me (and maybe I'm really misinterpreting the number, which is probably why I didn't pursue quantitative analysis very vigorously). My first guess was that there would be wild variations between occupational and industrial categories, but the ratio remained remarkably stable across categories. It does vary across states, however, unsurprisingly correlating with "right-to-work" laws. I suppose if there's anything to be gleaned from these numbers, it's that when workplaces become organized, the density of membership within those bargaining units seems to be fairly high.

To get the official word on a little car-ride trivia with lexdexter and Chicago Nick:
The largest numbers of union members lived in California (2.3 million) and New York (2.0 million). Just under half (7.5 million) of the 15.4 million union members in the U.S. lived in six states (California, 2.3 million; New York, 2.0 million; Illinois, 0.9 million; Michigan, 0.8 million; New Jersey, 0.8 million; and Pennsylvania, 0.7 million), though these states accounted for about one-third of wage and salary employment nationally.

Does anyone want to explain Alaska's third-highest union density rate? Government employees and petroleum workers? We know it's not fishing.

Looking at our own little neck of the woods, Oregon lost roughly 2000 union members and 6000 union jobs over the last year (no breakdown as to which job categories these were). I'm wondering how much of this loss was attributable to busting weak unions as opposed to more structural explanations.

The wage data is again unsurprising, showing that union workers across the board out-earn their non-union counterparts, in some sectors by as much as 30%.

I'm sure there's more to play with here, but the printout I have is very tiny and it hurts my eyes. I s'pose I should reward you for indulging my nerdy stats side. Here's a cute puppy:
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Now wasn't that worth it?

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A cloud to go with your silver lining

Bad news on the membership front:
Union membership dropped to 12 percent of U.S. workers last year, extending a steady decline from the 1950s when more than a third belonged to unions.

After membership had held steady at 12.5 percent in 2005, it declined anew last year, a decrease of more than 325,000 workers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Thursday.

The bottom line seems to be that structural changes in the economy are snuffing out union (manufacturing) jobs faster than we can organize new workers (no new news there). Even more distressing:
The union membership rate for government workers, 36.2 percent, was substantially higher than for private industry workers, 7.4 percent.

I'd be interested to see the breakdowns by occupation and industry (my labor sociologist is yearning to come out and play) before making any sweeping judgments, but the initial indicators don't inspire confidence.


24 January, 2007

Just in case you haven't run across it anywhere else yet

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I know I've been neglecting you

Dearest readers, I know I promised you pictures of our trip ages ago, and you've been infinitely patient. I know it's hard: you were promised pictures of l'il wobs, and then you probably had days of checking this blog three, maybe four times a day in the hopes that I'd finally gotten around to it...

Or maybe not. But if there's anything I enjoy doing, it's posting cute pics!

At the Monterey Aquarium...
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At Big Sur...
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In the City...
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SOTU Playlist

Guess what I didn't watch tonight?

"My fellow Americans, I am pleased to report to you tonight that the state of our Union is rockin'!"
  • Change of Ideas - Bad Religion
  • The Abandoned Hospital Ship - Flaming Lips
  • Live at P.J.' - Beastie Boys
  • Wild Wild Life - Talking Heads
  • Let Down - Radiohead
  • K.C. Blues - Frank Hutchison
  • Change of the Century - Ornette Coleman
  • Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun - Beastie Boys
  • Love Song/Round Dance - Boy Joe Fayant
  • Pork and Beef - The Coup
And your ambitiously vague bonus #11!
  • Final Fight - Vida Blue


23 January, 2007

Policy by talking point

Liz Cheney's WaPo editorial piece is a frighteningly desperate attempt to distill a coherent policy from a collection of hollow rhetorical phrases propped up by ill-informed wishful thinking:
Beware the polls. In November the American people expressed serious concerns about Iraq (and about Republican corruption and scandals). They did not say that they want us to lose this war. They did not say that they want us to allow Iraq to become a base for al-Qaeda to conduct global terrorist operations. They did not say that they would rather we fight the terrorists here at home. Until you see a poll that asks those questions, don't use election results as an excuse to retreat.


Our soldiers will win if we let them. Read their blogs. Talk to them. They know that free people must fight to defend their freedom. No force on Earth -- especially not an army of terrorists and insurgents -- can defeat our soldiers militarily. American troops will win if we show even one-tenth the courage here at home that they show every day on the battlefield. And by the way, you cannot wish failure on our soldiers' mission and claim, at the same time, to be supporting the troops. It just doesn't compute.

What does this mean? How is this supposed to help solve anything? I'm sorry, but locker-room platitudes, like "winners never quit, quitters never win," are not a sound basis for prosecuting a war.

More worrisome is that Liz Cheney was actually given the bureaucratic alchemist's charge of turning this shit into gold:
The writer is former principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

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Daily dissection

If Bob Somerby's Daily Howler isn't in your bookmarks yet, it should be. His daily vivisection of the press, sussing out the right-wing memes that media types use reflexively and that liberals ignore, is a must read.

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22 January, 2007

I can think of someone who should utilize his mental health benefits

To answer dave's question, the Bush health care plan is a crock of shit. Note the following:
President Bush will propose a deep tax break for Americans who purchase their own medical insurance and would finance it with an unprecedented tax on a portion of high-priced health-care plans that workers receive from their employers, according to the White House.

The initiative, which the president briefly previewed in his radio address yesterday, has a dual purpose: It would create a financial incentive for the estimated 46 million to 48 million Americans who lack health insurance to buy it. And it would rein in the soaring cost of health insurance by encouraging workers in high-priced plans to seek more modest coverage.

While it's tempting to focus on the "financial incentive" to buy health insurance for the uninsured - an incentive which would be of dubious consequence for many of the reasons dave points out - the real pernicious part of this plan is how these tax incentives would be financed.

First, the Bush plan makes the assumption that health care premium costs are driven by workers who want "high-priced [health] plans" (read: plans which allow them regular access to quality health care). This assumption is flat-out wrong. Premium cost increases are not driven by consumer demand for better coverage any more than they are by medical malpractice lawsuits. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: health care premium increases are driven by swollen administrative costs, which are increasing at roughly three times the rate of actual medical expenditures. (Ironically, an out-of-control, inefficient administrative apparatus is always the canard tossed out against universal health care).

More significantly, the plan literally robs Peter to pay for Paul. The money to subsidize the uninsured will come from new taxes on the health care plans of employees in "high-priced" plans. So, middle-class professionals and workers who have collectively negotiated a great health care plan can expect to see their benefits taxed. I think there is an intentionally placed trojan horse here for organized labor. Imagine your next health care negotiations with the boss telling you that they're slashing your benefits in order to save your members from paying higher taxes. Nightmarish.

Fortunately, there's hope the idea may be DOA in committee:
Still, some leading Democrats are skeptical of the plan. "It is good that the president is finally talking about health care," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate committee that oversees health-care matters. "I question, however, why the president thinks the way to solve this problem is through the tax code."

Let's hope the Bush plan never sees the light of day, because it - much like everything else this administration has produced - is a huge, stinking turd.

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Dear friends

Your urls now scold me with a sharp "Bad Request." Where have you gone?


Punk Rock Monday

I've been in a maudlin, somewhat sentimental mood of late for various reasons. That has nothing to do with wanting to proffer you some cowpunk courtesy of the Beat Farmers for your Monday viewing and listening pleasure.

"Lakeside Trailer Park"

"Led Zep"


20 January, 2007

A lonely way to die

Amid the mercurial details concerning Castro's health, this paragraph caught my eye:
Dr Garcia Sabrido's prognosis has changed little since December 26 when, on his return from examining Castro, he said the leader did not have cancer and could even return to power. Castro's medical condition is a state secret, but Cuban authorities deny he has terminal cancer.

I'm taking it as a given that Castro in dying, and that the Cuban state has every reason to keep his health a secret. Their non-denial denial, "Of course he's not dying of terminal cancer, don't be foolish!" doesn't fool anyone. Likely he's slowly dying of an infection that his body just can't fight off - much the same way Pope John Paul II went. Castro's on old man, for chrissakes!

How bitterly terrifying it must be for him - he is the lynchpin of a charismatic cult of state. His longevity is of such significance that his enemies and his allies (except for the closest) are denied the opportunity for any resolution to their relationships with him - or he with them. Contrast this with the throngs who flocked to Rome to hold vigil with the pontiff in his final hours. Regardless of my feelings about that particular human being or the institution he represented, it was a powerful thing to witness.

Rightly or wrongly, Castro would probably have those crowds making their peace with him were his condition revealed. Unfortunately, it would also unleash the ambitions of a thousand enemies - of Castro and of Cuba. I'm wondering if this is how he imagined his last days, of necessity quarantined away from "the people."

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19 January, 2007

The Crook and the King

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Today's WaPo has this bit on Elvis's White House with Nixon, and has this hilarious linky-loo to a National Archives web exhibit on the meeting, featuring the original letter Elvis sent to request a meeting:
Dear Mr. President.

First, I would like to introduce myself. I am Elvis Presley and admire you and have great respect for your office. I talked to Vice President Agnew in Palm Springs 3 weeks ago and expressed my concern for our country. The drug culture, the hippie elements, the SDS, Black Panthers, etc. do NOT consider me as their enemy or as they call it The Establishment. I call it America and I love it. Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help The Country out. I have no concern or Motives other than helping the country out. . . .

I can and will do more good if I were made a Federal Agent at Large. . . . Sir, I am staying at the Washington Hotel, Room 505-506-507. . . . I am registered under the name of Jon Burrows. I will be here for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a Federal Agent. I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing where I can and will do the most good. . . .

I am sending you the short autobiography about myself so you can better understand this approach. I would love to meet you just to say hello if you're not too busy.

Respectfully, Elvis Presley

Far. Fucking. Out.

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18 January, 2007

Christians who say fuck

via the General

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Just when you thought that the traditionalist conservatism of the American right couldn't get any more hyper-masculinized, some loud-mouthed jackass with the right connections comes along to up the ante:
The strobe lights pulse and the air vibrates to a killer rock beat. Giant screens show mayhem and gross-out pranks: a car wreck, a sucker punch, a flabby (and naked) rear end, sealed with duct tape.

Brad Stine runs onstage in ripped blue jeans, his shirt untucked, his long hair shaggy. He's a stand-up comic by trade, but he's here today as an evangelist, on a mission to build up a new Christian man -- one profanity at a time. "It's the wuss-ification of America that's getting us!" screeches Stine, 46.

A moment later he adds a fervent: "Thank you, Lord, for our testosterone!"

It's an apt anthem for a contrarian movement gaining momentum on the fringes of Christianity. In daybreak fraternity meetings and weekend paintball wars, in wilderness retreats and X-rated chats about lust, thousands of Christian men are reaching for more forceful, more rugged expressions of their faith.

Wow. I don't know that I want to think about thousands of Christian men reaching for more forceful, more rugged expressions of their faith during an X-rated chat.

Reactionary assertions of "traditional" hegemonic masculinities were once a side interest of mine in my former profession, and they still fascinate me in their increasingly bizarre methods of attempting to re-establish and re-legitimate gendered relationships which rely upon the assertion of brute (masculine) force. This particular iteration contends that Jesus was pretty much a bad-ass motherfucker:
So what's with the standard portraits of Jesus: pale face, beatific smile, lapful of lambs?

"He's been domesticated," says Roland Martinson, a professor of ministry at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. "He's portrayed now as gentle, loving, kind, rather than as a full-bodied person who kicked over tables in the temple, spent 40 days in the wilderness wrestling with his identity and with God, hung out with the guys in the street. The rough-hewn edges and courage ... got lopped off."

Leaving aside the obvious problems of identifying Jesus's biblical fortitude as inherently masculine and "wild", I think it's a fair critique to say that some mainstream churches present the Gospels in a manner which encourages an obsequiousness to power. The story of Jesus can easily be read as a narrative encouraging action against injustice, as a rallying cry to take the stand up on behalf of the oppressed.

We know, however, that that's not the message that is being taken from these non-wussy Christian retreats:
[S]ome men at the conference run into trouble when they debut their new attitudes at home. Eric Miller, a construction worker, admits his wife is none too pleased when he takes off, alone, on a weekend camping trip a few weeks after the GodMen conference this fall.

"She was a little bit leery of it, as we have an infant," he reports. "She said, `I need your help around here.' "

Miller, 26, refuses to yield: "I am supposed to be the leader of the family."

Just so we're clear: Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness, fucked shit up in the Temple, and hung out with lepers and hos. This entitles Eric Miller to leave his wife and newborn child for two weekends - one for his Christian he-man circle jerk, and one for his "weekend camping trip" (where I'm sure he'll be reaching for a more forceful, more rugged expression of his faith). Yeah, his wife says she needs his help, but by the grace of God - his awesome, awesome fucking God - he's the leader of this family and he's going to go camping anyways. That's the way Jesus would've wanted it, dude.
In-your-face aggression at first troubles Howard Stephenson, who paid $68 for a day at GodMen in hopes of forging friendships with other Christian men. When Stine, a born-again Christian, shouts that it's OK to cuss -- and then demonstrates with a defiant "bull ..." -- Stephenson shifts uneasily.

"This is so extreme for me," he says. A few weeks later, Stephenson, 43, is still not sold on profanity. But he has ditched the nice-guy reflex of always turning the other cheek. When he spots a Wal-Mart clerk writing "Happy Holidays" on a window, he boldly complains: It should say "Merry Christmas."

The clerk erases the offending greeting. Chalk one up for Christian testosterone.

"I wouldn't have done that before," Stephenson says proudly. "I am no longer a doormat."

Nope, you're no longer a doormat, having gone the real man route of telling a minimum-wage worker with no health insurance (probably a woman, probably a minority) that you'll have none of that godless liberalism at your local low-wage, cheap-plastic emporium. It must feel good to fight back against such relentless persecution suffered at the hands of the Walton family.

The hostility that barely lies beneath the surface of this particular group creeps me out. And boy do I feel bad for the women who are unlucky enough to find themselves around guys who buy in to this horseshit.

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16 January, 2007

Moving on

via dkos

After seeing Borat, it's painfully obvious that there is a certain prideful and recalcitrant ignorance among certain segments of the American population (or any population, for that matter), but why does its real-life expression always seem to be a parody of itself? Like this:
There were furious denunciations in the General Assembly after a Virginia legislator stated that black people "should get over" slavery.

Hanover Delegate Frank Hargrove made the comment about slavery in an interview published Tuesday in The Daily Progress of Charlottesville.

In the same interview about whether the state should apologize to the descendants of slaves, Hargrove wondered aloud whether Jews should "apologize for killing Christ."

Isn't that almost too perfect? Especially the part about killing Jesus? It's like we're being governed by a bunch of cartoon characters.

Vanity pregnancies

The WaPo is reporting that doctors are ready to perform the world's first uterus transplant. I started reading, curious as to how the whole functioning of a transplanted uterus would work. What I read thoroughly creeped me out:
After performing the complex surgery, doctors would wait probably about three months to make sure the organ is functioning and has been stabilized with anti-rejection drugs.

"We'd want to make sure it was ready to provide a safe environment for the child," said Jeanetta Stega, who is working with Del Priore.

An embryo created through in vitro fertilization would then be placed in the womb. If the pregnancy goes well, the baby would be delivered by Caesarean section to minimize risks from labor and to allow doctors to simultaneously remove the uterus, so the woman could discontinue the anti-rejection drugs.

"We are calling it a temporary transplant," Del Priore said. "This minimizes the time patients have to be on the medications and makes it a much more reasonable risk to take to have a baby."

Wow. There's nothing even remotely resembling "natural" in that description. And the idea of a "disposable" uterus? Where does that concept lead us, ethically? And what is the moral and political significance of what is ultimately the complete objectification of a woman's ability to give birth?

I have had no moral qualms about surrogate births and am sympathetic to the plight of women who, for some reason, may not be able to bear children, but the actual transplantation of another's uterus - a disposable uterus, at that - into one's own body seems to me a questionable and dangerous step into frankenscience.

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15 January, 2007


Martin Luther King Jr.'s final public comments, delivered to striking garbage collectors in Memphis, TN on April 3, 1968: "I've Been to the Mountaintop" (edited audio with incidental images) -

A full transcription can be found here.


Punk Rock Monday

For the past twelve years, the universe has seen fit to fill my life with an abundance of people from Minnesota. It's the damnedest thing, but I think I've met more people from Minnesota than any other place. So, for all you Minnesotans - what with your cute Scandinavian accents and your inexplicable love of the Vikings - and those of us who love Minnesotans, Hüsker Dü...

"Private Hell"


Both are from fabled 7th St. in Minneapolis, circa 1980.


14 January, 2007

History, through the looking glass

One of my newfound joys is taking dry saunas. The community center near our house has a great cedar steam room, and I've taken a cotton to going there once or twice a week and sweating for an hour. It's typically not that crowded, 3 or 4 others, and the conversations are usually pleasant and informed. It obviously draws the hippie crowd, so the conversation often draws towards spiritual matters, but it often happens in a thoroughly engaging and, if I may be so bold, enlightening manner. I suppose it's another one of the reasons I enjoy the experience.

Yesterday was not one of those days. The Saturday afternoon crowd (there were eight of us cooped up in there) had elements of the not that interesting (the middle-aged hippie woman interspersed awkwardly timed "humorous observations" between her "fer sures") and of the "other side."

For example, I learned that, given British financial support to the Bolshevik movement and for Sun Yat-Sen, the WWII Alliance between the Soviets and the West, and the fact that Karl Marx was buried in London, all pointed to the fact that Great Britain was the de facto home of the COMINTERN (or some such leap). Moreover, according to "the encyclopedia," "communism" is like an English workhouse - which I assume means dark, dank, and thoroughly soul-crushing - and therefore, since this has to be common knowledge because it's in the encyclopedia, why would anyone openly advocate for such a system? C'mon! These are well known facts!

I also heard that Mao Tse-Tung had all the intellectuals killed; I'm willing to forgive this one because I think the gentleman was probably confusing him with Pol Pot. Mao just shipped most of the intellectuals to workfarms in the hinterlands. What else... the Bolshevik mobs in 1917 executed people because they were college educated and therefore smarter than the stupid Reds, and were thus a danger. I was always under the impression that it was because they were members of the aristocracy and their enabling allies in the middle class.

But that's just me.

Oh, and Peak Oil is just a media scam to manipulate the price of oil. And SUVs aren't dangerous vehicles compared to 4WD pick-ups that'll roll for lookin' at 'em wrong, and you don't hear anyone in the media talking about that, do ya?

So I think I'll shoot for a different time for my sweats on Saturdays.


12 January, 2007

Hedging bets

Let the equivocating begin!
Top U.S. defense officials told a Senate panel today that President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq to quell the country's violence can succeed only if the Iraqi government makes good on its military, political and economic commitments, and they held out the prospect that such an outcome could lead to U.S. troop withdrawals later in the year.

So if Bush's escalation fails, it's everyone's fault but his. Or worse.

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Failing upwards

George W. Bush isn't the only person to have followed failure on to bigger and better things. According to the good folks at Editor & Publisher, the fortunes of those pundits who were (spectacularly) wrong on Iraq have been waxing, while those whose foresight has been vindicated have languished. Example #1, NYT war-pimp Thomas Friedman:
Friedman initially supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq, then kept writing columns giving the Bush administration six months to fix things after the war went sour, and then belatedly turned against the war. So what happened to Friedman's career after being wrong for so long?

Reed writes: "Before the war he was charging less than $40,000 to give a speech; these days it's a rumored $65,000. And afterward the audiences are encouraged to scoop up copies of 'The World is Flat,' his love letter to corporate globalism that has been on the Times best-seller list for 91 weeks. The royalties certainly help defray the costs of a $9.3 million mansion in Bethesda and a second home in Aspen that -- if the local phone book and Google Earth are to be trusted -- is a massive chateau with its own lake on the swanky northern side of town. ...

"Friedman was feted by Queen Elizabeth in 2004, and also received a lifetime award from the Overseas Press Club. Though he was probably the most influential pro-war voice in the American media, he still hasn't had to own up to his mistake. If you ask him about it -- as Don Imus did recently -- he quotes a few misgivings from his columns to demonstrate that he was quite aware the war could be a fiasco and a bloodbath. ..."

Friedman's status as the Times' number one pundit has always perplexed me, from his glowing reviews of global capitalism as seen from the floor of a New Delhi customer-service call center to his "conversations" with fictional cab-drivers. But despite his prognostications based on some alternative reality, he seems to be doing pretty well for himself. How about one of the pundits who got it right?
One was Creators Syndicate columnist Robert Scheer, now based at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Reed writes: "As a liberal columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Scheer argued relentlessly against the war, focusing on the dishonesty of the administration's efforts to 'frighten the American people into supporting' it and seeking to bypass rational discussion and analysis by making Saddam into a cartoonish 'super-villain'. ... His work constituted perhaps the most full-throated anti-war voice on the editorial page of a major American newspaper."

The result? "Fired from the Times in 2005, his column was handed over to the well-fed and well-connected pro-war conservative, Jonah Goldberg [of Tribune Media Services]," Reed says. "Scheer wrote afterwards, 'The publisher Jeff Johnson, who has offered not a word of explanation to me, has privately told people that he hated every word that I wrote. I assume that mostly refers to my exposing the lies used by President Bush to justify the invasion of Iraq.'"

Ouch! Replaced by the Doughy Pantload (as tbogg would have it). Let it never be said that America doesn't like a loser!


Pamela Houston or Danielle Steele?

I shudder to think what sort of pablum might be unleased on an unwitting literary world by this contest:
They are billing it as the thinking person's American Idol, a search for the next big superstar but with literary, as opposed to pop celebrity, pretensions.

Touchstone, an imprint of the publishers Simon & Schuster, yesterday launched First Chapters, a competition designed to find writing talent through the internet. It is inviting unpublished authors to submit the first three chapters of a manuscript to the scrutiny of the voting public. The winner's book will be published and distributed by Touchstone and the author will enjoy a $5,000 (£2,575) cash prize.

[In the interests of full disclosure, I haven't read one page of the authors gratuitously name-dropped in the title.]


A parallel

Something occurred to me reading this statement:
Mr Bush and his most senior staff embarked on a huge public relations exercise to sell the plan to send an extra 20,000 troops to Iraq, aware of formidable opposition in Congress which already promises an embarrassing vote next week rejecting the new strategy.

The last time a massive PR blitz came in the face of public opposition and Congressional skepticism was in early 2005 with Bush's Social Security privatization scheme. IIRC, Bush's stock fell as he waged that campaign. Now, facing into an even stronger headwind, might we see the 30 percent barrier cracked?

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11 January, 2007

Uh oh...

Please, please, please don't let this become mainstream sentiment:
“I’m as devout a Democrat as they come,” said Mr. Daily. “But if we are still in the war in two years and a Republican candidate for president like Hagel or Brownback is more anti-war than the Democrat, then I will vote Republican.

Even the mere mention of "President Sam Brownback" gives me the willies. I'm doubting that this speaker is that devout a Democrat if he'd consider electing another right-wing Christianist just because he was "anti-war."

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When it happens Someone call the wah-mbulance

It's kind of a cliché in organizing circles to say that you're a successful organizer when you're no longer needed. But it's sad when it happens.


10 January, 2007

Georgie plays with his Christmas toys

Be afraid. Be very, very afraid. Dick Cheney George W. Bush is asserting himself as Commander in Chief:
When President Bush goes before the American people tonight to outline his new strategy for Iraq, he will be doing something he has avoided since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003: ordering his top military brass to take action they initially resisted and advised against.

Bush talks frequently of his disdain for micromanaging the war effort and for second-guessing his commanders. "It's important to trust the judgment of the military when they're making military plans," he told The Washington Post in an interview last month. "I'm a strict adherer to the command structure."

I'm fairly certain none of us are surprised that Bush's vaunted "commanders-on-the-ground" schtick was anything but bullshit, given the disdain he'd shown for the professionals within the intelligence bureaucracies during the run-up to the war. But the picture of the petulant dauphin lashing out after being told, in no uncertain terms, that his behavior was unacceptable and must be changed is disturbing:
But over the past two months, as the security situation in Iraq has deteriorated and U.S. public support for the war has dropped, Bush has pushed back against his top military advisers and the commanders in Iraq: He has fashioned a plan to add up to 20,000 troops to the 132,000 U.S. service members already on the ground. As Bush plans it, the military will soon be "surging" in Iraq two months after an election that many Democrats interpreted as a mandate to begin withdrawing troops.

In this context, in what other way are we to interpret Bush's plans for escalating the war than as a giant "Fuck you!" to the American people? And additionally, shouldn't we be more than a little worried about the article's assertion that Bush himself "fashioned a plan?"
Pentagon insiders say members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have long opposed the increase in troops and are only grudgingly going along with the plan because they have been promised that the military escalation will be matched by renewed political and economic efforts in Iraq.

Why do I get the bad, bad feeling that we're picking sides in Baghdad's civil war?

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09 January, 2007

Complete and utter idiots

digby heps us to this abomination of public discourse, Applebee's America, whose promotional website has this quiz to help you solidify your political tendencies.

Based on responses which were more often than not questions of personal taste and corporate conditioning (what if I don't want a fucking soft drink? what if I'd rather go do something that doesn't involve either fossil fuels or a bizarre homoeroticism? and c'mon, Coors or Bud?), I've been identified by this brain trust as a member of the Red "Tribe."


It's fucking brilliant.


Late to the party again

The LN Stern review, gotten to well before I got back, harkened me back to my first days in the labor movement when I helped organize where I was working at the time - a non-profit assisted-living agency for people with developmental disabilities. This was back in 1998. I remember Suzanne, the woman from SEIU who first met with us, jokingly introducing what I would come to know as the organizing model as the "12 steps of relieving worker oppression." As I recall, Suzanne spoke glowingly of Sweeney. For all I knew, everyone in the Sweeney/SEIU (they were one and the same at the time) faction of the labor movement was like Suzanne: ready to kick the bosses' asses, and Suzanne seemed to me to genuinely believe that Sweeney was going to bring SEIU-style social-movement unionism to the AFL-CIO (the extent to which it actually occurred is the subject for another post).

At any rate, the organizers from 503 - Suzanne, Danica, and Lisa - who worked with us to that first year to win our election and secure a first contract are badasses who to this day I'd follow to the ends of the earth. They taught me a lot of what I know and have been able to refine as an organizer over the years.

The whole thing was exciting. It was empowering, a show of what even a small cadre of people could accomplish. Just think what the power of 13 million people making labor an actual social movement could achieve! And these people were telling me that's where Sweeney was pushing. I was inspired, if not wholly-informed.

Stern's agenda doesn't excite or inspire me, and more often than not, he lets slip something in his public pronouncements (the Colbert Report immediately comes to mind) that make me painfully wince ("Labor needs to start being part of the solution..."). That makes my Spidey-sense tingle.

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Punk Rock Monday

It was only a matter of time before we worked our way 'round to the Sex Pistols on PRM. This weeks edition is dedicated to the crunkest punk of 'em all, Cecil.

From their very last show, "Bodies":

And ripped from The Great Rock 'N Roll Swindle, Sid Vicious takes on Old Blue Eyes' "My Way":


And we're back

I'm a little too brain-dead right now to recount the whole trip or post pics, but here's some thoughts and highlights:
  • Note to bar proprietors in cities outside of the Pacific Northwest: Six bucks a pint is an unacceptable price for good beer. Why is it whenever I'm in Portland, Seattle, or even here at home, I can get a tasty beverage for $3.50, but as soon as I leave the friendly confines, I'm socked with outrageous prices. Six bucks for Mirror Pond is a rip-off. Six bucks for Sam Adams is highway robbery. Please follow this handy pricing guide for your drinking establishment:
    • Domestic swill (including Sam Adams): $2.50
    • Micros: $3:50
    • Guiness or Murphy's on nitro: $4.50
  • Driving like a jerk will not get you where you're going any faster.
  • Rarely do I think a $23 admission price is worth paying, being the cheap bastard I am. It's worth it at the Monterey Aquarium - I love that place! Too bad the rest of Cannery Row is a freakin' tourist trap.
  • Here's to big city eats. We ate lunch yesterday at the Naan and Chutney on Haight Street. Best Indian food I've had since I was in New York, and it puts all the Indian cuisine I've had in Eugene to shame. Their Paneer Tikka Masala was sumptuous, and their chai was some of the best I've had - perfectly spiced and not too sweet. For dinner last night, the high-rollin' ms. wobs and I stepped out to Asia de Cuba near Union Square (inside the Clift Hotel). As the name implies, the cuisine was a fusion of Asian and Cuban, and the three dishes we scarfed down (a seared tuna appetizer, a calamari-banana green salad, and a chipotle-glazed cut of steak) were insanely delicious. All the good eats made me want to be a culinary tourist, only visiting the restaurants.
  • It's amazing how much easier traveling is when you give yourself plenty of time to get where you're going.
  • Why is the architecture in San Francisco so beautiful, while in the rest of the state it looks like the same cookie-cutter subdivision?
  • I think the post-modern disconnect of being served exclusively by immigrants in an "all-American, Fifties-style diner" (complete with finned cars, black and white checkered floor, and doo-wop tunes piped over the speakers) was lost on most customers.
More later.


Tap, tap, tap...

Is this thing on?


03 January, 2007

Out there having fun in that warm California sun

Not that the noodle has been cranking along at 100% the last few weeks anyways, but I'm taking a brief blogging hiatus while the family goes down to Monterey to visit the father-in-law (plus a bonus day in San Francisco). Hopefully our trip down south won't have the many, many complications of our previous adventure. Fingers crossed.

At any rate, I'll be spending the next few days catching up on some more reading, tramping around Big Sur, probably re-visiting the aquarium, and viewing art at the SFMOMA. Expect a full report of the carnage - with pics! - as well as Punk Rock Monday, late Monday evening.

In the meantime, here's a playlist to tide you over. Happy New Year!
  • Axilla - Phish
  • Heroes and Villains - Brian Wilson
  • At the Movies - Bad Brains
  • Soul Letter - Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
  • Jimmy James - Beastie Boys
  • Pink Moon - Walt Mink
  • Hold On - Tom Waits
  • Jimmy Jazz - the Clash
  • Parsec - Stereolab
  • Anna Lee - Bad Livers
And your bonus #11:
  • Just a Little While to Stay Here - ReBirth Brass Band

[updated on January 2, 2006 at 11:56 PM]: Everyday heroism. Wow.


01 January, 2007

Punk Rock Monday: v.2007

I hope y'all had the New Year's Eve you desired. On to the all important business of the first post of the New Year, and more importantly, the first PRM of 2007!

Alice Donut occupied the role of the "loud & angry" band for a few years during college, and by "angry," I mean "fucked up." A lot of my friends absolutely hated this band, mostly for their lyrical content; their hallucinogenic tales of incest and redemption, domestic houses of horrors, and paranoid urban dystopias ran the gamut from "darkly humorous" to "hard to listen to." All of which was great when I needed to brood in my dark place. I'll still pull Mule out every now and again if I'm in a particularly bad mood.

"Mrs. Hayes" -

Apparently, Alice Donut has gotten back together recently. "Every Body's on Sale," from 2004: