Saturday, April 28, 2007

everyone knows it's Wendy...

My bestest friend…

…in her element.

I love this pic so much because a.) it’s how I see her, and b.) she looks so happy. (And it's reminiscent of scenes from when she and I first met.)

Miss her something fierce…

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...and so we march

I read the following poem in the March 2007 issue of The Sun magazine and it stopped me dead in my tracks. “Basic” appeared originally in The Dumbbell Nebula (Heyday Books, 2000), by Steve Kowit. It appears again here with very kind permission of the author.

by Steve Kowit

The first thing that they do is shave your head
& scream into your face until you drop
the pleasant fiction that had been your life.
More quickly than you would have guessed
you learn obedience: to shut your mouth
& do what you are told; that you survive
by virtue of compliance, shutting down.
When they scream, “Drop for twenty,” then you drop.
If, wobbly from lack of sleep,
you’re told to sit up half the night & strip
your M-1 down, that’s what you do. You strip it down.
The only insubordination’s in your eyes, which can’t
accept the order not to close. Your combat boots
kept so compulsively spit-shined
you see your face in both hard toes – skinned
to the scalp, pathetically distorted,
not unrecognizable but not quite you – a self
that marches dutifully through sleet & has perfected
the low crawl.
One gray morning in the second week
of basic training, lacing up his boots,
that shy, phlegmatic, red-haired boy who bunked
above me whispered,
I don’t believe I’m gonna make it…”
“No way, man! You’re doing fine! Hey, look, c’mon,
we’re late,”
& shrugged him off to race out just in time
to make formation in the mist
of that Kentucky morning.
- He was right. He didn’t. He took a razor blade that night,
& crawling underneath the barracks slashed his throat.
What little of myself I saved in there
I saved by tiny gestures of defiance:
Instead of screaming,
Kill, I’d plunge my bayonet
Into that dummy screaming,
At rifle drill I’d hum the Internationale
& fire fifty feet above the target. I kept Dexedrines
in my fatigues. Took heart from the seditious drollery
of Sergeant May, that LA homeboy
with the black goatee, all hip panache & grace:
that bop salute and smartass version of left face.
& sometimes from his cadre room at night, the wailing
blues of Ray Charles drifted through the barracks,
& I’d lie there in the dark, awake – remembering
that other life that I had left behind.
& it was Sergeant May & Ray Charles
& Dexedrine that got me through.
Had I been more courageous, less the terrified recruit
who did what he was told, I would have hung back
with that boy & argued with him,
said whatever needed saying,
or at least have heard him out, just listened, or let someone
know, or somehow, god knows, saved him.
But I wasn’t. & I didn’t.
I was just a kid myself.
For all my revolutionary rhetoric, I shut my eyes
& ears when shutting of the eyes & ears was politic.
When they said strip your M-1 down, I stripped it down.
When they said march, I marched.

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I know famous people

The Amazing Fred gets some pretty decent pub…

The Coolest Kid In Town

Attaboy...! Fred and Bill (and Jill) kick ass. It was totally cool to see this post by the wee demon (who looked quite smashing Friday night with her new 'do, I must say).

Figures...he really is a damn good photographer as well. Little bastard. I bought one of his pieces at the show Friday and am looking very forward to finding a good place for it at home. (I bought the one called "stairs" not only because it's a cool image, but because one of the few reocurring dreams I have features stairways - or escalators or other steep inclines - quite prominently. So there's some nifty added symbolism that seems nicely appropriate on a few different levels.)

Also, most of us who know Fred know how photogenic he is and how comfortable he tends to feel on the other side of a camera. Oddly, not only did he inspire the first kinda cool picture I've ever taken with my camera phone (second image at left), he also appears to be a bit uneasy standing in front of the photos he had on display at Space. I'll have to ask him what he was thinking some time...

And on Thursday, my partner-in-blog got some attention herself. Unfortunately, my plans to attend the inaugural Boca Tinta Barbecue And Music Shindig Thingy have gone into the crapper (along with my plans to see Pleasant Grove - already paid for, dammit - tonight) thanks to some really stupid car issues that, long story short, require me to spend the rest of the weekend at my folks' house and miss a chunk of work on Monday. What makes it extra sucky is that whenever Amanda has a show at Dada that Valerie can't attend - such as tomorrow's - she has taken it upon herself, Miss America runner-up style, to fulfill Val's duties as Door Rackage / Greeter / Perv Magnet (see third image for proof). And I'm sure tomorrow would have been a lovely sight in that regard. Double fuck.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

killing in the name of...

More news from the “war on terror” that – aside from the international media – only the great Chris Floyd seems willing to report. If there’s any hope of salvaging a free press in this country, it’s people like him, Bill Moyers, and the greatness of

Bush-Backed Liberation of Somalia: "Most of the dead are poor people"

In the new Terror War front opened by the Bush Administration and its proxy armies –
the brutal "regime change" invasion of Somalia, led by the American-trained troops of the Ethiopian dictatorship – conditions for innocent civilians are worsening by the day. The BBC reports that the Ethiopians and their Somali warlord allies have essentially sealed off large quadrants of the capital, Mogadishu, and are shelling the residential areas to root out "insurgents" – forces loyal to the Islamic Courts government overthrown by the invasion, tribal groups on the outs with the ascendant warlords, and ordinary Somalis defending their country from foreign attack.

More than 300,000 people have fled the carnage in Mogadishu, some heading for the Kenyan border – where many have been captured with the help of U.S. Special Forces and intelligence agents and "rendered" to Ethiopia's notorious torture-chamber prisons – while many other refugees have been forced to simply camp out in the open, prey to extreme hunger and exposure, and the spread of disease. Some have become so desperate that they have had to return to the rubble of their homes in Mogadishu, and are now trapped in the ring of fire that the American-backed invaders are drawing around the city.

At least 250 people have been killed in Mogadishu in this week alone, almost all of them civilians, say relief workers and UN officials. And the innocent victims are overwhelmingly the most vulnerable people in Somali society; the poor, the sick, the crippled, the old and the very young.

The U.S. corporate media – and indeed, much of the "progressive" media as well – have largely ignored the conflict in Somalia, beyond a few brief mentions in the traditional "oh, those African savages are killing each other again" mode. But the war in Somalia is an American war. As we have reported often here – drawing on the extensive work of other researchers – the Bush Administration has armed, trained and financed the war machine of the Ethiopian dictatorship, with special attention paid to "counterinsurgency" training in preparation for the "regime change" that Washington wanted in Somalia. What's more, American warplanes assisted the invasion, launching airstrikes on fleeing civilians and natives of the border regions, ostensibly in a flailing, ham-handed attempt to kill a few suspected "al Qaeda" leaders supposedly hidden among the refugees. Many innocent people were killed – but no terrorist operatives. In addition, U.S. Special Forces troops have been operating with the invaders, and U.S. intelligence agents have been interrogating refugees and "rendering" some of them into a nightmarish journey through warlord prisons in Somalia on their way to captivity in Ethiopia. Again, all of this is going on with practically no U.S. news coverage – and absolutely no political debate in America.

The proxy conquest of Somalia is being undertaken to serve the Administration's strategic aim of dominating the oil supplies and distribution lines in the Middle East and Africa. The "justification" for this act of aggression is, as always, "terrorism." Bush and his proxies accuse the Islamic Courts government of "having ties to al Qaeda," a charge with the Courts faction has always denied, and of which there is no proof. But the accusation provides a handy excuse for attacking, arresting, rendering or killing anyone remotely associated with the overthrown government – or anyone who opposes the new Bush-imposed regime. "Al Qaeda" has become a magical incantation by which the Bush Administration can transform anyone into a "terrorist" or an "enemy combatant." As with the Islamic Courts government, no proof is necessary; the accusation itself will suffice.

Again, all of this happening – helped by American money, arms, training, planes, bombs, troops and intelligence – without the slightest debate or controversy among the American Establishment, and with no attempt whatsoever by the media to inform the American people of the situation. A whole new front in the never-ending, Constitution-shredding, death-dealing, atrocity-bearing "War on Terror" has been opened – a third "regime change" operation descending into murder and ruin – but no one pays the slightest mind. And as long as the Bush Administration can avoid another "Black Hawk Down" incident, as long as most of the dead are poor people – poor black people, those eternal non-entities in the public consciousness – then the American amnesia about the slaughter in Somalia will go on and on.

I think the thing that pisses me off the most, at least for the moment, is that there is no accountability in this administration…particularly with regard to Pentagon spending. There is no telling what kind of ghastly shit we’re financing all over the world. The media in the U.S. certainly won’t report on it. And I’m sure this is pure naiveté and/or doe-eyed ideology on my part, but shouldn’t Congress or somebody have some say in how and on what our tax dollars are spent? Our government is out of control to an obscene degree and has to answer to no one – at home or abroad. And the agenda of greed and global corporate domination without conscience or even the slightest bit of humanity – that I am paying for and you are paying for – is beyond offensive.

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it's the criminals (or evil), stupid...!

This is a really interesting article from last week about the Virginia Tech shootings, and similar episodes from the recent past…

A Volatile Young Man, Humiliation and a Gun

"God I can't wait till I can kill you people." – a message on the Web site of the Columbine killer Eric Harris

In the predawn hours of Monday, Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman, a former marine and Eagle Scout in Austin, Tex., stabbed his wife to death in their bed. The night before he had driven to his mother's apartment in another part of town and killed her.

Later that Monday morning, Whitman gathered together food, water, a supply of ammunition, two rifles, a couple of pistols, a carbine and a shotgun and climbed the landmark 30-story tower on the campus of the University of Texas.

Beneath a blazing sun, with temperatures headed toward the mid-90s, Whitman opened fire. His first target was a pregnant teenager. Over the next 80 or so minutes he killed 14 people and wounded more than 30 others before being shot to death by the police.

More than four decades later we still profess to be baffled at the periodic eruption of murderous violence in places we perceive as safe havens. We look on aghast, as if the devil himself had appeared from out of nowhere. This time it was 32 innocents slaughtered on the campus of Virginia Tech. How could it have happened? We behave as if it was all so inexplicable.

(acs note: Some folks are content on some level to ascribe such behavior to simple “evil.” But then those kinds of people excel at simplistic, religious-based sociology. Not to sound too elitist, but this post – and probably this blog – ain’t for those people.)

But a close look at the patterns of murderous violence in the U.S. reveals some remarkable consistencies, wherever the individual atrocities may have occurred. In case after case, decade after decade, the killers have been shown to be young men riddled with shame and humiliation, often bitterly misogynistic and homophobic, who have decided that the way to assert their faltering sense of manhood and get the respect they have been denied is to go out and shoot somebody.

Dr. James Gilligan, who has spent many years studying violence as a prison psychiatrist in Massachusetts, and as a professor at Harvard and now at N.Y.U., believes that some debilitating combination of misogyny and homophobia is a "central component" in much, if not most, of the worst forms of violence in this country.

"What I've concluded from decades of working with murderers and rapists and every kind of violent criminal," he said, "is that an underlying factor that is virtually always present to one degree or another is a feeling that one has to prove one's manhood, and that the way to do that, to gain the respect that has been lost, is to commit a violent act."

Violence is commonly resorted to as the antidote to the disturbing emotions raised by the widespread hostility toward women in our society and the pathological fear of so many men that they aren't quite tough enough, masculine enough - in short, that they might have homosexual tendencies.

In a culture that is relentless in equating violence with masculinity, "it is tremendously tempting," said Dr. Gilligan, "to use violence as a means of trying to shore up one's sense of masculine self-esteem."

The Virginia Tech killer, Cho Seung-Hui, was reported to have stalked female classmates and to have leaned under tables to take inappropriate photos of women. A former roommate told CNN that Mr. Cho once claimed to have seen "promiscuity" when he looked into the eyes of a woman on campus.

Charles Whitman was often portrayed as the sunny all-American boy. But he had been court-martialed in the Marines, was struggling as a college student and apparently had been suffering from depression. He told a psychiatrist that he absolutely hated his father, but he started his murderous spree by killing his wife and his mother.

The confluence of feelings of inadequacy, psychosexual turmoil and the easy availability of guns has resulted in a staggering volume of murders in this country.

There are nearly 200 million firearms in private hands in the U.S., and more than 30,000 people - nearly 10 times the total number of Americans who have died in Iraq - are killed by those guns each year. In 1966 Americans were being killed by guns at the rate of 17,000 a year. An article in The Times examining such "rampages" as the Charles Whitman shootings said:

"Whatever the motivation, it seems clear that the way is made easier by the fact that guns of all sorts are readily available to Americans of all shades of morality and mentality."

We've learned very little in 40 years.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

impeach the motherfuckers


TEXAS - Arlington

NOTE: The event's actually been moved to Sunday the 29th at 2:00 pm.

We're going to merge the event with a May Day rally we were planning on taking place on the 28th because May Day falls on a Tuesday. The event will be composed of games which will be decided democratically by the group. It may be kickball, soccer, capture the flag... it is really up to the group and resources present. Free Food by Food Not Bombs. There is a possibility of a skit by Code Pink. We will be having tabling by IWW, Peaceful Vocations (counter-recruitment in FW schools!), unions, anarchists, zine distros, etc. It will be at Cravens Park [Cravens Park Drive (near Green Oaks Cravens park intersection)] from 1 or 2 PM until late. They welcome help making signs and banners and bringing food. E-mail

Please visit the website - A28 - for more information on events scheduled around the country, photos like the one above, and some additional information on what they hope can be accomplished. I'm damn sure gonna be there.

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Thought for the day...

You are younger today than you ever will be again. Make use of it for the sake of tomorrow. - anonymous

And I caught a timely headline just a few minutes ago...

Punk icon Iggy Pop turns 60, dives off stage

That's my boy. The mere fact that Iggy's made it to age sixty is amazing in itself. But he looks so fucking good on top of that. Yeah, his face is a bit craggly, but have you seen his body? He's in incredible shape...for anyone, much less a dude that's sixty years old. And while it's been a few years since I've seen him play, back in the day when he was putting out some really damn decent solo records like Brick by Brick, Instinct, and Blah Blah Blah, he was one of the best performers I've ever seen. Like, easily in the top five. His shows were fucking phenomenal. The Ig's always been a hero of mine just because of what he says, the way he says it, and just his approach to life and art in general. So keep giving it hell, Iggy.

Oh, and on an unrelated note, check out today’s Google logo…very nice.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007


Among the things I discovered while cleaning out my bedroom closet was something a bit startling (and funny). I took out all my old vinyl LPs and was looking through them for nostalgia's sake. And I noticed the following photograph inside the gatefold for Pink Floyd's Meddle...

Now, is it just me or is Nick Mason pretty much just one lazy eye - and one swastika carved into his forehead - away from being Charles Manson's identical twin...?

Oh, and here's another great (depending on your perspective) pic...this one from Rush's 2112...

Yes, the "we're sophisticated swingers...let's do some coke" outfits are entertaining in and of themselves. But may I direct your attention to that most unusual and impressive site - Alex Lifeson's (the blond dude) wicked camel toe.

While it's not quite as rare as spotting Bigfoot or something, the male camel toe is at least as fascinating and certainly more disturbing. Bravo, Alex. The fact that my eyes zeroed in on Lifeson's crotch is probably a subject best left for my therapist to consider, okay? In the meantime, let's all just enjoy the moment, shall we...?

PS - For additional camel toe fun/resources, make sure to check out The Camel Toe Report. Especially the "toe haiku" section. It's some of the funniest shit you'll ever read...

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without a trace

Here’s a nice little fact sheet / reference thingy from my new favorite political watchdogs…

CREW Issues New Fact Sheet: The Facts Behind The White House Email Scandals

Washington - Following up on the WITHOUT A TRACE report, today Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) issued this fact sheet to clarify the ongoing White House email scandals.

There are two separate email scandals:

- Top White House officials’ use of RNC email accounts and RNC destruction of those emails
- Five million EOP emails missing from White House (EOP) server from period 3/03 to 10/05

RNC Email Scandal:

- Top White House officials, including Karl Rove, used RNC and other outside email accounts to conduct White House business

- Those officials took no steps to ensure that the emails were preserved, as the Presidential Records Act requires

- Emails show that officials were aware that if they used outside email accounts, their email messages would not be preserved

- Even though DOJ sent White House a preservation request for records related to CIA leak investigation in September 2003, RNC continued to purge all emails every 30 days until August 2004

White House Email Scandal:

- In late 2001 or early 2002, Bush administration discontinued automatic email archiving/preservation system put in place by Clinton administration (ARMS)

- Bush administration failed to put another system in place that would appropriately and effectively save email records in a records management system

- Instead, Bush administration extracts email messages from the EOP server and stores them in files on a file server

- There are no effective internal controls on this system to ensure complete set of messages; messages can be modified or deleted

- In October 2005, White House discovered emails were missing from this system, briefing White House Counsel (Harriet Miers) on the problem as well as Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s staff

- EOP’s Office of Administration (OA) did independent analysis to determine extent of missing email problem – found hundreds of days of email missing between March 2003 and October 2005, for a rough total estimate of five million missing emails

- White House Counsel was briefed on this and given plan of action to recover missing emails

- White House never implemented plan to recover missing emails (even in face of preservation order from DOJ)

- White House has still not put effective email archiving system in place, even though it knows current system is not effective and has led to at least five million missing emails

Bush administration is still not telling the truth:

- Dana Perino has said problem with EOP server occurred when White House switched from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Outlook – this is untrue; emails are missing for a 2½ year period starting in March 2003 and ending in October 2005

- Dana Perino has said no intentional loss of any document – but by October 2005, White House knew system wasn’t working and knowingly and willfully refused to implement plan to recover five million emails missing from EOP server, instead leaving in place a system that does not work

- Dana Perino has said system set up to comply with Presidential Records Act by automatically preserving EOP emails – but White House is using system that doesn’t effectively preserve email and that doesn’t comply with archiving standards (see 36 C.F.R. Part 1234 – guidance for preserving email under Federal Records Act) and doesn’t work (e.g. five million missing emails)

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“Buying the War”

Record of Iraq War Lies to Air April 25 on PBS

Bill Moyers has put together an amazing 90-minute video documenting the lies that the Bush administration told to sell the Iraq war to the American public, with a special focus on how the media led the charge. Watch PBS from 9:00 to 10:30 PM on Wednesday, April 25. Spending that 90 minutes will actually save you time because you'll never watch television news again - not even on PBS, which comes in for its own share of criticism.

While a great many pundits, not to mention presidents, look remarkably stupid or dishonest in the four-year-old clips included in "Buying the War," it's hard to take any spiteful pleasure in holding them to account, and not just because the killing and dying they facilitated is ongoing, but also because of what this video reveals about the mindset of members of the DC media.

It's great to see an American media outlet tell this story so well, but it leads one to ask: When will Congress tell it? While the Democrats were in the minority, they clamored for hearings and investigations, they pushed Resolutions of Inquiry into the White House Iraq Group and the Downing Street Minutes. Now in the majority, they've gone largely silent. The chief exception is the House Judiciary Committee's effort to question Condoleezza Rice…about the forged Niger documents.

But what comes out of watching this show is a powerful realization that no investigation is needed by Congress, just as no hidden information was needed for the media to get the story right in the first place. The claims that the White House made were not honest mistakes. But neither were they deceptions. They were transparent and laughably absurd falsehoods. And they were high crimes and misdemeanors.

The program opens with video of President Bush saying "Iraq is part of a war on terror. It's a country that trains terrorists. It's a country that can arm terrorists. Saddam Hussein and his weapons are a direct threat to this country."

Was that believable or did the media play along? The next shot is of a press conference at which Bush announces that he has a script telling him which reporters to call on and in what order. Yet the reporters play along, raising their hands after each comment, pretending that they might be called on despite the script.

Video shows Richard Perle claiming that Saddam Hussein worked with al Qaeda and that Iraqis would greet American occupiers as liberators. Here are the Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal, William Safire from The New York Times, Charles Krauthammer and Jim Hoagland from The Washington Post, all demanding an overthrow of Iraq's government. George Will is seen saying that Hussein "has anthrax, he loves biological weapons, he has terrorist training camps, including 747s to practice on."

But was that even plausible? Bob Simon of "60 Minutes" tells Moyers he wasn't buying it. He says he saw the idea of a connection between Hussein and al Qaeda as an absurdity: "Saddam, as most tyrants, was a total control freak. He wanted total control of his regime. Total control of the country. And to introduce a wild card like al Qaeda in any sense was just something he would not do. So I just didn't believe it for an instant."

Knight Ridder Bureau Chief John Walcott didn't buy it either. He assigned Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay to do the reporting and they found the Bush claims to be quite apparently false. For example, when the Iraqi National Congress (INC) fed The New York Times's Judith Miller a story through an Iraqi defector claiming that Hussein had chemical and biological weapons labs under his house, Landay noticed that the source was a Kurd, making it very unlikely he would have learned such secrets. But Landay also noticed that it was absurd to imagine someone putting a biological weapons lab under his house.

But absurd announcements were the order of the day. A video clip shows a Fox anchor saying, "A former top Iraqi nuclear scientist tells Congress Iraq could build three nuclear bombs by 2005." And the most fantastic stories of all were fed to David Rose at Vanity Fair Magazine. We see a clip of him saying, "The last training exercise was to blow up a full-size mock-up of a US destroyer in a lake in central Iraq."

Forged documents from Niger could not have gotten noticed in this stew of lies. Had there been some real documents honestly showing something, that might have stood out and caught more eyes. Walcott describes the way the INC would feed the same information to the vice president and secretary of defense that it fed to a reporter, and the reporter would then get the claims confirmed by calling the White House or the Pentagon. Landay adds: "And let's not forget how close these people were to this administration, which raises the question, was there coordination? I can't tell you that there was, but it sure looked like it."

Simon…tells Moyers that when the White House claimed a 9/11 hijacker had met with a representative of the Iraqi government in Prague, "60 Minutes" was easily able to make a few calls and find out that there was no evidence for the claim. "If we had combed Prague," he says, "and found out that there was absolutely no evidence for a meeting between Mohammad Atta and the Iraqi intelligence figure…if we knew that, you had to figure the administration knew it. And yet they were selling the connection between al Qaeda and Saddam."

Moyers questions a number of people about their awful work, including Dan Rather, Peter Beinart and then Chairman and CEO of CNN Walter Isaacson. And he questions Simon, who soft-pedaled the story and avoided reporting that there was no evidence.

Landay at Knight Ridder did report the facts when it counted, but not enough people paid attention. He tells Moyers that all he had to do was read the UN weapons inspectors' reports online to know that the White House was lying to us. When Cheney said that Hussein was close to acquiring nuclear weapons, Landay knew he was lying: "You need tens of thousands of machines called 'centrifuges' to produce highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon. You've got to house those in a fairly big place, and you've got to provide a huge amount of power to this facility."

Simon says he knew the claims about aluminum tubes were false because "60 Minutes" called up some scientists and researchers and asked them. Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post says that skeptical stories did not get placed on the front page because they were not "definitive."

Moyers's wonderful movie is marred by a single line - the next to the last sentence - in which he says, "The number of Iraqis killed, over 35,000 last year alone, is hard to pin down." A far more accurate figure could have been found very easily.

Cannot wait to see this. And it's about goddamn time somebody in the...well, close to the mainstream media finally is calling them all out on it. Yes, we have greedy, elitist thugs - thoroughly corrupt and without the slightest bit of conscience (Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz and, probably least of all, Bush) - using propoganda Hitler would have envied to create this ongoing, racist, corporate-funded massacre. But if there's any group responsible for that agenda to proceed unchallenged, it's the American media. They have collectively forgotten their calling, if they ever had one. And they deserve as much of the blame as those dickheads in Washington. Folks like Bill Moyers are our only hope of ever regaining and independent, free press. Go, Big Bill...!

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Since it was recently revealed how much Amazon sucks (and Overstock, Barnes & Noble, and Borders aren't much of an improvement), the timing of my finding out about these folks couldn't be better. Check out their blurbage (below) and start buying shit from them...!

Make a Difference When You Shop... is a revolutionary online store created for the community-minded shopper. Every transaction in our store generates a charitable contribution to your favorite non-profit organization. And with our direct supplier relationships, this contribution is significant and truly makes a difference. Thank you for sharing our vision and for shopping with Giveline!

Our mission is to fuse social responsibility with consumer spending in an easy-to-use online shopping environment; to provide socially-conscious consumers a unique means by which they can support their favorite charities; to provide the charitable community a diverse source of funding for free; and to provide companies with an incentive and reward solution that allows them to better serve the communities within which they work.

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not all conservatives are ooky (I have proof!)...

I'm starting to fall behind on my issues of The Sun and National Geographic - which I never do - thanks to assigned readings from my shrink. Nevertheless, here's some additional greatness from the March issue of The interview with Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University who has also contributed to the Weekly Standard and the National Review. He's a traditional conservative who, like an increasing (or increasingly vocal) group of Republicans, finds himself none too pleased with the hijacking of the GOP by the neocons - and the neocon ideology of global domination. While I certainly didn't agree with all of his viewpoints, it's striking - and encouraging - to hear from a sincere conservative who can separate his politics from the party that is supposed to represent his politics (and no longer does...much the way I feel about the Democratic Party). Check out the following comments from Bacevich...

...It does seem Orwellian. I am increasingly concerned about the public's habit of deferring to elites, particularly on national-security issues. We citizens don't pay enough attention to such matters, or are kept in the dark on them. Too many of us are willing to persuade ourselves that the generals will do the right thing, or that the civilians in the national-security establishment know better than we do what's good for the country. It's undemocratic. Citizens need to be engaged and informed, and they need to have a voice.

...(George) Washington...advised citizens to be wary of 'those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.'

Washington was a general and did not see military power as an evil. He held soldiers in high esteem and considered the army to be essential to our national safety. He was warning against building a powerful military for its own sake or for the sake of expanding the nation's influence.

Americans hardly needed such a warning in 1796, having so recently won their freedom from the militaristic British Empire. But today, with our illusions about war and military might as means of forcing our values on the rest of the world, we need to heed Washington's words. If we don't, we'll surely follow in the footsteps of other empires that tried to use military power to fulfill their goals. We'll go on endangering not only our own security, but the security of other nations and the values we hold dear.

I wonder how many votes Andrew J. Bacevich would get if he were running for president...not as a Republican but as a conservative...

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

"...the habits of survival"

Here's something from a piece of paper that fell down back behind my refrigerator. If I'm not mistaken, it was written by Sy Safransky, the man behind (and who is) the greatness of The Sun magazine. But I could be wrong about him being the author...feel free to set me straight if you find out otherwise. Anyway...lord knows how old it is, but I dig it still...

Those who returned from the dead, even though they had reason to believe that they would now live forever, did not have time for others' expectations. Some tried to explain to us the overwhelming brilliance of it all...what it is like to awaken to the sights and sounds and smells of the world as a fully conscious person. Those who have never lost the world don't notice the weight of air, the tug of gravity, the smell of our own skin. We are distracted by things to clean, things to buy. We occupy our minds with the lives of others or spend much of our time wanting and dreaming. Or else we are consumed by the unrelenting desire to simply stay alive, to survive the world unscathed, and we filter out everything that is not relevant to that goal. Even in the most serene situations - napping on a flat, warm boulder after a long hike, or lying naked next to someone when there is nothing calling you away - even in those situations when we forget that there are such things as threats, the habits of survival keep us from seeing all there is around us...keep us from feeling it all as intensely as we could.

From that mouth to god's ear...

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Friday, April 13, 2007

I will always have a soft spot for Iggy Osterberg

A lot of people who get stoned - they're just shy people. And there are people who hate what they are, who want to get rid of that part of themselves, to scrape it away...
- Rolling Stone, April 19, 2007

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there is no god but a photogeneic god...

I kept meaning to do this months ago - when it was still an actual story. But better late than never, I s'pose...


It's Muhammad, the sacred prophet whose image cannot (at least among some folks) be shown without being veiled for some cockamamie reason. I don't know why...looks like a perfectly handsome fellow to me.

Anyway, I just had to do that so I could say I did. And if you're a Muslim who finds yourself offended by the above image - and that particular bit of religious dogma doesn't strike you as even a little silly, well, Big Al has something to say to you...

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That’s what usually causes the shit to hit the fan with regard to political crimes…when financial irregularities start to become impossible to cover up. The only thing I keep wondering is what took so fucking long…?

Selected highlights for your entertainment…

A damning report issued last month by the nonpartisan research arm of Congress says the Department of Defense continues to overstate its financial needs, by tens of billions of dollars, to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The agency also casts serious doubt on President Bush's statements that money to fund the war will dry up by the end of the month if his budgetary demands are not immediately met.

The 45-page report, "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11," prepared for Congress by the Congressional Research Service, warned lawmakers that before they release additional funds to the Pentagon for the Iraq war, they should first demand that Defense Department officials provide an accurate accounting of how the money is being spent.

Since 2001, the Pentagon has grossly mismanaged the $510 billion spent thus far on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; has used money earmarked for equipment upgrades to finance fighting on the battlefield, and has refused to provide Congress with a transparent accounting of the money it has spent and intends to spend, according to the CRS report.

…Exacerbating the issue is the fact that the Department of Defense "has periodically revised the figures shown for each operation in previous years, suggesting questions about the validity of its figures," the report says, adding that some of the department's supplemental requests for 2007 include "$2 billion from some unknown source."

Last July, David Walker, comptroller general of the Government Accountability Office, testified before the Congressional Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Affairs. He told lawmakers that a lack of actual costs, supporting documentation and routine reporting problems by the Pentagon with regard to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "make it difficult to reliably know what the war is costing, to determine how appropriated funds are being spent, and to use historical data to predict future trends."

But the Defense Department "has not been willing to provide Congress" with the data it uses to predict its operating costs on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. As such, Congressional researchers have recommended in their report that Congress ask the Department of Defense Inspector General to audit the Pentagon in order to resolve these various gaps and discrepancies in cost data related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The report recommends that Congress should consider taking drastic measures to rein in the administration's out-of-control spending and draw on history for guidance.

…Furthermore, before agreeing to provide the Pentagon with additional funds for Iraq, lawmakers should insist that the Defense Department provide a detailed financial report on the reasons its costs for funding the war have more than doubled from last year.

…Documents turned over to Congress by the Defense Department to justify its financial needs in Iraq and the so-called global war on terror "have been sparse," and government agencies, including the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office, "have all found various discrepancies in DOD figures - including understating budget authority and obligations, mismatches between [budget authority] and obligations data, double-counting of some obligations, questionable figures, and a lack of information about basic factors that affect costs such as troop strength ..."

…The Department of Defense "has provided little rationale or explanation for its requirements or change in requirements for replacing war-worn equipment or extensive upgrades. In some cases, requirements do not appear to be strictly related to war needs," the report says.

Congressional researchers have warned Congress that the Defense Department's $1.9 billion supplemental request for "military construction" in its 2007 budget is twice as much as what it received in 2005 and may be controversial if approved by lawmakers, because it would indicate an "intent to set up permanent bases in Iraq and ... not clearly an emergency. "

To read the full story, click on this below…
Congressional Report: Gross Mismanagement of Iraq Funds

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Monday, April 09, 2007

thank you, Meester Easter

We're very traditional and pious when it comes to Christian holidays at my folks' house. And this past Easter was no exception.

After leaving milk and cookies on the table the night before for the Easter Fairy, we all woke up early and with much excitement to await the annual resurrection. See, with our family, Jesus comes back to life on Easter which point we send him off to find all the Easter eggs we'd hidden for him. (You'd think being the son of god would give him some extra skills or something, but it usually takes him a while...and we still end of having to steer him in the direction of a few stragglers. "Warmer, Jesus"..."no, colder"..."warmer, yes"...etc.)

Once he rounds them all up, though, he then gets to tell us how many more weeks of winter we can expect. A late declaration, of course, but this year it worked out well what with the snow and all. (He says it's global warming too, for any of you naysayers.) He added this last bit to the festivities only recently, though, after he saw my niece's holiday confusion from a couple years back (see first image). Being an empathetic dude, after all, he felt badly for her when she went to school in early February and complained that not only did the Easter Bunny not even faintly resemble a bunny, he also knew nothing of colored eggs or chocolate treats. Instead, he just kinda half-heartedly bitched about how bright the sun was, then crawled back down into his hole.

At any rate, Easter Jesus couldn't stay long as he had other children to visit that day, so we spent the remainder of our time engaging in activities that were appropriate to the era of the resurrection: by gorging on a giant purple cake. Actually, only the outside was purple...the inside was alternating layers of yellow and purple goodness. I believe the ingredients were sugar, butter, sugar, food coloring, and sugar. If I laid eggs myself, my guess is they'd come out pretty damn festive looking right about now. (TMI...sorry.)

Please enjoy the before and after photos of the Purple Easter Monstrosity created by my very talented, albeit holiday-challenged niece. I was ready to hurl after dinner...that's how she knew she done good.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

there goes my hero...

Amanda has Keith Olbermann…I have Bill Moyers. God, how great would it be if Moyers was our president…?

Excerpts from A Time for Anger, a Call to Action (a speech given by Bill Moyers on February 7, 2007 at Occidental College in Los Angeles)

I have come across the continent to talk to you about two subjects close to my heart. I care about them as a journalist, a citizen and a grandfather who looks at the pictures next to my computer of my five young grandchildren who do not have a vote, a lobbyist in Washington, or the means to contribute to a presidential candidate. If I don't act in their behalf, who will?

One of my obsessions is democracy, and there is no campus in the country more attuned than Occidental to what it will take to save democracy. Because of your record of activism for social justice, I know we agree that democracy is more than what we were taught in high school civics - more than the two-party system, the checks-and-balances, the debate over whether the Electoral College is a good idea. Those are important matters that warrant our attention, but democracy involves something more fundamental. I want to talk about what democracy bestows on us, the revolutionary idea that democracy is not just about the means of governance but the means of dignifying people so they become fully free to claim their moral and political agency. "I believe in democracy because it releases the energies of every human being" - those are the words of our 28th president, Woodrow Wilson.

I've been spending time with Woodrow Wilson and others of his era because my colleagues and I are producing a documentary series on the momentous struggles that gripped America a century or so years ago at the birth of modern politics. Woodrow Wilson clearly understood the nature of power. In his now-forgotten political testament called The New Freedom, Wilson described his reformism in plain English no one could fail to understand: "The laws of this country do not prevent the strong from crushing the week." He wrote: "Don't deceive yourselves for a moment as to the power of great interests which now dominate our development... There are men in this country big enough to own the government of the United States. They are going to own it if they can." And he warned: "There is no salvation in the pitiful condescensions of industrial masters... prosperity guaranteed by trustees has no prospect of endurance."

Now Wilson took his stand at the center of power - the presidency itself - and from his stand came progressive income taxation, the federal estate tax, tariff reform, the challenge to great monopolies and trusts, and, most important, a resolute spirit "to deal with the new and subtle tyrannies according to their deserts."

How we need that spirit today! When Woodrow Wilson spoke of democracy releasing the energies of every human being, he was declaring that we cannot leave our destiny to politicians, elites, and experts; either we take democracy into our own hands, or others will take democracy from us.

We do not have much time. Our political system is melting down…failing to deal with basic realities. Despite Thomas Jefferson's counsel that we would need a revolution every 25 years to enable our governance to serve new generations, our structure - practically deified for 225 years - has essentially stayed the same while science and technology have raced ahead. A young writer I know, named Jan Frel, one of the most thoughtful practitioners of the emerging world of Web journalism, wrote me the other day to say: "We've gone way past ourselves. I see the unfathomable numbers in the national debt and deficit, and the way that the Federal government was physically unable to respond to Hurricane Katrina. I look at Iraq; where 50% of the question is how to get out, and the other 50% is how did so few people have the power to start the invasion in the first place. If the Republic were functioning, they would have never had that power."

Yet the inertia of the political process seems virtually unstoppable. Frel reminds me that the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee can shepherd a $2.8 trillion dollar budget through the Senate and then admit: "It's hard to understand what a trillion is. I don't know what it is." Is it fair to expect anyone to understand what a trillion is, my young friend asks, or how to behave with it in any democratic fashion?" He goes on: "But the political system and culture are forcing 535 members of Congress and a President who are often thousands of miles away from their 300 million constituents to do so. It is frightening to watch the American media culture from progressive to hard right being totally sold on the idea of one President for 300 million people, as though the Presidency is still fit to human scale. I'm at a point where the idea of a political savior in the guise of a Presidential candidate or congressional majority sounds downright scary, and at the same time, with very few exceptions, the writers and journalists across the slate are completely sold on it."

Because our system feeds on campaign contributions, the powerful and the privileged shape it to their will. Only 12% of American households had incomes over $100,000 in 2000, but they made up 95% of the substantial donors to campaigns and have been the big winners in Washington ever since.

…The oldest story in America (is) the struggle to determine whether "We, the People" is a spiritual idea embedded in a political reality - one nation, indivisible - or merely a charade masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others.

For years now a small fraction of American households have been garnering a larger and larger concentration of wealth and income, while large corporations and financial institutions have obtained unprecedented power over who wins and who loses. Inequality in America is greater than it's been in 50 years. In 1960 the gap in terms of wealth between the top 20% and the bottom 20% was 30 fold. Today it's more than 75 fold.

Such concentrations of wealth would be far less of an issue if the rest of society were benefiting proportionally. But that is not the case. Throughout our industrial history incomes grew at 30% to 50% or more every quarter, and in the quarter century after WWII, gains reached more than 100% for all income categories. Since the late 1970s, only the top 1% of households increased their income by 100%.

Once upon a time…the American ideal of classless society was one in which all children have roughly equal chance of success regardless of the economic status of the family into which they were born. That's changing fast. The Economist Jeffrey Madrick writes that just a couple of decades ago, only 20% of one's future income was determined by the income of one's father. New research suggests that today 60% of a son's income is determined by the level of his father's income. In other words, children no longer have a roughly equal chance of success regardless of the economic status of the family into which they are born. Their chances of success are greatly improved if they are born on third base and their father has been tipping the umpire.

"Things have reached such a state of affairs," the journalist George Orwell once wrote, "that the first duty of every intelligent person is to pay attention to the obvious." The editors of The Economist have done just that. The pro-business magazine considered by many to be the most influential defender of capitalism on the newsstand, produced a sobering analysis of what is happening to the old notion that any American child can get to the top. A growing body of evidence - some of it I have already cited - led the editors to conclude that with "income inequality growing to levels not seen since the Gilded Age and social mobility falling behind, the United States risks calcifying into a European-style class-based society." The editors point to an "education system increasingly stratified by social class" in which poor children "attend schools with fewer resources than those of their richer contemporaries" and great universities that are "increasingly reinforcing rather than reducing these educational inequalities." They conclude that America's great companies have made it harder than ever "for people to start at the bottom and rise up the company hierarchies by dint of hard work and self-improvement."

It is eerie to read assessments like that and then read the anthropologist Jared Diamond's book, ‘Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail.’ He describes an America society in which elites cocoon themselves "in gated communities, guarded by private security guards, and filled with people who drink bottled water, depend on private pensions, and send their children to private schools." Gradually, they lose the motivation "to support the police force, the municipal water supply, Social Security, and public schools." Any society contains a built-in blueprint for failure, warns Jared Diamond, if elites insulate themselves from the consequences of their own actions.

[acs note: This just in…Ford CEO Paid $39.1 Million for Four Months]

This is a marked turn of events for a country whose mythology embraces "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as part of our creed. America was not supposed to be a country of "winner take all." Through our system of checks and balances we were going to maintain a healthy equilibrium in how power works - and for whom. Because equitable access to public resources is the lifeblood of any democracy, we made primary schooling free to all. Because everyone deserves a second chance, debtors, especially the relatively poor, were protected by state laws against their rich creditors. Government encouraged Americans to own their own piece of land, and even supported squatters' rights. In my time, the hope of equal opportunity became reality for millions of us. Although my parents were knocked down and almost out by the Great Depression, and were poor all their lives, my brother and I went to good public schools. The GI Bill made it possible for him to go to college. When I bought my first car with a loan of $450 I drove to a public school on a public highway and stopped to rest in a public park. America as a shared project was becoming the engine of our national experience.

Not now. Beginning a quarter of a century ago a movement of corporate, political, and religious fundamentalists gained ascendancy over politics and made inequality their goal. They launched a crusade to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual and cultural frameworks that have held private power. And they had the money to back up their ambition.

Let me read you something:

‘When powerful interests shower Washington with millions in campaign contributions, they often get what they want. But it is ordinary citizens and firms that pay the price and most of them never see it coming. This is what happens if you don't contribute to their campaigns or spend generously on lobbying. You pick up a disproportionate share of America's tax bill. You pay higher prices for a broad range of products from peanuts to prescriptions. You pay taxes that others in a similar situation have been excused from paying. You're compelled to abide by laws while others are granted immunity from them. You must pay debts that you incur while others do not. You're barred from writing off on your tax returns some of the money spent on necessities while others deduct the cost of their entertainment. You must run your business by one set of rules, while the government creates another set for your competitors. In contrast, the fortunate few who contribute to the right politicians and hire the right lobbyists enjoy all the benefits of their special status. Make a bad business deal; the government bails them out. If they want to hire workers at below market wages, the government provides the means to do so. If they want more time to pay their debts, the government gives them an extension. If they want immunity from certain laws, the government gives it. If they want to ignore rules their competition must comply with, the government gives its approval. If they want to kill legislation that is intended for the public, it gets killed.’

I'm not quoting from Karl Marx's Das Kapital or Mao's Little Red Book. I'm quoting Time Magazine. From the heart of America's media establishment comes the judgment that America now has ‘government for the few at the expense of the many.’

We are talking about nothing less than a class war declared a generation ago, in a powerful polemic by the wealthy right-winger, William Simon, who had been Richard Nixon's Secretary of the Treasury. In it he declared that "funds generated by business... must rush by the multimillions" to conservative causes. The trumpet was sounded for the financial and business class to take back the power and privileges they had lost as a result of the Great Depression and the New Deal. They got the message and were soon waging a well-orchestrated, lavishly-financed movement. Business Week put it bluntly: "Some people will obviously have to do with less... .It will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more." The long-range strategy was to cut workforces and their wages, scour the globe in search of cheap labor, trash the social contract and the safety net that was supposed to protect people from hardships beyond their control, deny ordinary citizens the power to sue rich corporations for malfeasance and malpractice, and eliminate the ability of government to restrain what editorialists for the Wall Street Journal admiringly call "the animal spirits of business."

Looking backwards, it all seems so clear that we wonder how we could have ignored the warning signs at the time. What has been happening to working people is not the result of Adam Smith's invisible hand but the direct consequence of corporate activism, intellectual propaganda, the rise of a religious literalism opposed to any civil and human right that threaten its paternalism, and a string of political decisions favoring the interests of wealthy elites who bought the political system right out from under us.

To create the intellectual framework for this revolution in public policy, they funded conservative think tanks that churned out study after study advocating their agenda.

To put muscle behind these ideas, they created a formidable political machine. One of the few journalists to cover the issues of class, Thomas Edsall of the Washington Post, reported that "During the 1970s, business refined its ability to act as a class, submerging competitive instincts in favor of joint, cooperate action in the legislative area." Big business political action committees flooded the political arena with a deluge of dollars. And they built alliances with the religious right - Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition - who gleefully contrived a cultural holy war that became a smokescreen behind which the economic assault on the middle and working classes would occur.

From land, water, and other resources, to media and the broadcast and digital spectrums, to scientific discovery and medical breakthroughs, a broad range of America's public resources have been undergoing a powerful shift toward elite control, contributing substantially to those economic pressures on ordinary Americans that "deeply affect household stability, family dynamics, social mobility, political participation and civic life."

What's to be done?

The only answer to organized money is organized people.

In a real democracy, ordinary people at every level hold their elected officials accountable for the big decisions, about whether or not to go to war and put young men and women in harm's way, about the pollution of the environment, global warming, and the health and safety of our workplaces, our communities, our food and our air and our water, the quality of our public schools, and the distribution of economic resources. It's the spirit of fighting back throughout American history that brought an end to sweatshops, won the eight-hour working day and a minimum wage, delivered suffrage to women and blacks from slavery, inspired the Gay Rights movement, the consumer and environmental movements, and more recently stopped Congress from enacting repressive legislation against immigrants.

The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass said that "if there is no struggle, there is no progress." Those who profess freedom, yet fail to act - they are "men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning, they want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters... power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them."

For most of our history this country's religious discourse was dominated by white male Protestants of a culturally conservative European heritage - people like me. Dissenting voices of America, alternative visions of faith, or race, of women, rarely reached the mainstream. The cartoonist Jeff McNally summed it up with two weirdoes talking in a California diner. One weirdo says to the other. "Have you ever delved into the mysteries of Eastern Religion?" And the second weirdo answers: "Yes, I was once a Methodist in Philadelphia." Once upon a time that was about the extent of our exposure to the varieties of Religious experience. No longer. Our nation is being re-created right before our eyes, with mosques and Hindu Temples, Sikh communities and Buddhist retreat centers. And we all have so much to teach each other. Buddhists can teach us about the delight of contemplation and 'the infinite within.' From Muslims we can learn about the nature of surrender; from Jews, the power of the prophetic conscience; from Hindus, the "realms of gold" hidden in the depths of our hearts," from Confucians the empathy necessary to sustain the fragile web of civilization. Nothing I take from these traditions has come at the expense of the Christian story. I respect that story - my story ?even more for having come to see that all the great religious grapple with things that matter, although each may come out at a different place; that each arises from within and experiences a lived human experience; and each and every one of them offers a unique insight into human nature. I reject the notion that faith is acquired in the same way one chooses a meal in a cafeteria, but I confess there is something liberating about no longer being quite so deaf to what others have to report from their experience.

Over the past few years as we witnessed the growing concentration of wealth and privilege in our country, prophetic religion lost its voice, drowned out by the corporate, political, and religious right who hijacked Jesus.

That's right: They hijacked Jesus. The very Jesus who stood in Nazareth and proclaimed, "The Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor" - this Jesus, hijacked by a philosophy of greed. The very Jesus who fed 5000 hungry people - and not just those in the skyboxes; the very Jesus who offered kindness to the prostitute and hospitality to the outcast; who raised the status of women and treated even the hated tax collector as a citizen of the Kingdom. The indignant Jesus who drove the money changers from the temple - this Jesus was hijacked and turned from a friend of the dispossessed into a guardian of privilege, the ally of oil barons, banking tycoons, media moguls and weapons builders.

To you students at Occidental, let me say: I have been a journalist too long to look at the world through rose-colored glasses. I believe the only way to be in the world is to see it as it really is and then to take it on despite the frightening things you see. The Italian philosopher Gramschi spoke of the "the pessimism of the intellect and the optimism of the will." With this philosophy your generation can bring about the Third American Revolution. The first won independence from the Crown. The second won equal rights for women and for the sons and daughters of slavery. This third - the revolution of the 21st Century - will bring about a democracy that leaves no one out. The simple truth is we cannot build a political society or a nation across the vast divides that mark our country today. We must bridge that divide and make society whole, sharing the fruits of freedom and prosperity with the least among us. I have crossed the continent to tell you the Dream is not done, the work is not over, and your time has come to take it on.

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Oh, to live in Norweigia...

(...courtesy of the fine folks at the National Labor Committee)

Wal-Mart Dumped From One of the World's Largest Pension Funds

The Norwegian Government's pension fund, with $285 billion in holdings, is dropping Wal-Mart - the world's largest retailer - from its fund due to the use of child labor and systematic sweatshop abuses in its huge global supply chain.

In its
2006 Annual Report, released on March 20, 2007, the Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund-Global reached the following conclusion:

There is no doubt...that Wal-Mart purchases a number of products that are manufactured under unacceptable conditions. There are numerous reports of child labor, serious violations of working hour regulations, wages below the local minimum, health-hazardous working conditions, unreasonable punishment, prohibition of unionization and extensive use of a production system that fosters working conditions bordering on forced labor, and employees being locked into production premises, etc. in Wal-Mart's supply chain. All the above examples represent violations of internationally recognized standards for labor rights and human rights.

The Petroleum Fund's Council on Ethics considers that there is an unacceptable risk that the fund, through its investments in Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and Wal-Mart de Mexico SA, may be complicit in serious or systematic violations of human rights. The Council recommends that Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and Wal-Mart de Mexico SA be excluded from the Petroleum Fund's portfolio.

On the U.S. front, the fund found Wal-Mart guilty of "discrimination of female employees," "active obstruction of employees' right to unionize," "violations dealing with the employment of minors," "mandatory overtime without compensation" and the "use of illegal labor."

In the section of the report dealing with Wal-Mart's abusive offshore sweatshop practices, the Norwegian Government's Council on Ethics largely relied upon the National Labor Committee's research in Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bangladesh and China. The NLC's research was corroborated by other independent human and worker rights organizations.

Points which emerge in the Fund's report:

- Wal-Mart imports products from 70 countries around the world.

- In 2003, Wal-Mart imported goods valuing more than $15 billion from China and is the world's largest importer from China.

- In 2004, Wal-Mart had 5,300 direct suppliers, but overall depends upon "our 68,000 suppliers worldwide."

- Wal-Mart's annual sales exceed the Gross Domestic Product of 161 countries in the world.

The full report ("Annual Report 2006 / Council on Ethics for the Government Pension Fund-Global")

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

brain freeze

This stopped me dead in my tracks yesterday. My brain just shut down after giving my body orders to do the same.

It wasn't until a friend physically guided me by the shoulders to the other door that I resumed normal function.
What can I say...I'm easily confused.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

no depression

Sunday, my dad and I finished cleaning out all the stuff from my grandmother's room. I can't even imagine what was going through his mind...he's not one to speak much about how he's feeling (neither am I, for that matter). I know he got a little choked up at various times since his mom passed away...when I met him and his brother from Houston in her hospital room so that we could say our goodbyes before they took her body...when he broke the news to my the funeral, then at the "celebration of life" (which was a very, very cool experience) at the facility where she lived...and as he was saying goodbye to my grandmother's caretaker - a noble soul, if ever I've met one - as we were carrying out the last load of stuff.

His two brothers live in Houston and Kansas so my dad bore virtually all the responsibility for anything that went on in my grandmother's life. Medical issues...mental issues like depression, anxiety/panic, fear, anger, concerns. He was her ambulance every time she had to be rushed to the emergency room, which happened with great frequency during the last year of her life. He was her psychological support whenever she needed it...again, quite frequently toward the end. If she had a problem with her TV or blinds or a lamp or whatever - even though that's what the staff where she lived was there for, at least in part - he usually dropped what he was doing to go take care of it. He told me the day after her funeral he caught himself turning north on I-35 toward her home rather than south toward his home out of sheer habit. I'm sure that hurt as well. He was a rock. I hope I can be there for my folks when it's necessary as unflinchingly as he was for his mom...all through her life. If I can be even slightly close to being as helpful to my folks as he was to his mom, I'll consider myself a success.

He and I talked a lot about funeral-related stuff on the trips to and from his home to her home. We share a total lack of understanding of or appreciation for the funeral industry. We'd both be perfectly happy if someone just took our corpses out into the wilderness so that the animals could feed on them. Or just tossed us into a dumpster or something. We're not going to be around, so who cares, right...? (In actuality, we're both donating our bodies to local hospitals / medical schools...decisions we both made independently before finding out the other had done the same.) And we talked about how neat the home's "celebration of life" ceremony was. Despite the cheesy name, it was the most sincere tribute to someone's life that I've ever witnessed...and beautiful in its simplicity.

As you might imagine, we also had plenty of humorous ideas for what could be done with our bodies at whatever service that might be held upon our passings. (These ideas were all assuming the medical institutions couldn't take us for whatever reason and some sort of "funeral" would have to be held.) I think my favorite was the idea of wrapping my corpse in that big, thick bubblewrap rather than being placed in a casket. Everybody loves bubblewrap, right? Folks could make their way past me, pop a few bubbles and giggle, then move on. And after all the bubbles are popped and I'm left just kinda Saran-Wrapped (would be nice if I were sealed for freshness in the afterlife), there would be a giant container of different colored Sharpies next to Deceased Danny. Everyone could sign me in the color of their choice like we used to sign our friends' casts when we were kids with all kinds of fun messages..."Take a left at The Light, Danny" or "Hope you were kissing heavenly ass on your way out, dude"...things of that nature.

Whatever happens, though, I'd like there to be a party in my honor (or what little honor I have left when the time comes). I'd like Amanda to book the music, of course. My first venue preference would be Trees, though that's probably not feasible. So I'd choose Club Dada instead. There would be free booze all night (guess I should start putting away money for all this), women would be encouraged to give my carcass a flash as they pass by (since they won't fucking do it while I'm alive), and my favorite music would be played in between bands. Speaking of which, TheManda, here's who I'd like to play Danny's Last Stand, were it to happen in the very near future (and these are all either Texas artists or artists who frequent the area enough for an extra gig at Dada to not be too out of the way)...

Meat Puppets
Bobby Bare, Jr.
Starlight Mints
Trish Murphy
Doug Burr
The Sword
Baptist Generals

Now, if you could fit my favoriteist band in the world, Biffy Clyro, on the bill, that would be beyond fantastic. But seeing as how they're based in Scotland and don't play the U.S. that often, I'm not holding my breath for that. Though, I guess there won't be any breath for me to hold that night, anyway.

Wendy, you would be in charge of getting some nifty art (you know my tastes) on display for the proceedings - including all the cards you've ever sent me (you'll find them on display throughout my apartment). Valerie, you would be in charge of putting the between-set music together and making sure everyone gets properly drunk or otherwise inebriated in whichever methods they prefer.

I'm still waiting for the reality of my grandmother's passing to set in. Maybe it will take a while longer. Or maybe this is the reality and I'm as emotionally numb as I fear I may be. At any rate, and despite my atheistic tendencies, I find myself taking great comfort from this...courtesy the Carter Family by way of the late, great Uncle Tupelo...

I'm going where there's no depression
To a better land that's free from care
I'll leave this world of toil and trouble
My home's in heaven...I'm going there

My family, in spite of some serious religious, political and philosophical differences, has a generosity in common amongst us all that I think originated with my grandmother. That's a pretty impressive legacy, to my mind. And she was a good person, which, as I know I've stated somewhere before, is the highest human compliment I think any of us can hope to be paid on this earth. I hope the chorus above is something close to the truth for my grandmother now. She deserved at least that much.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

hazardous greed - the neocon agenda strikes again

Taken straight from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website...

In July of 1970, the White House and Congress worked together to establish the EPA in response to the growing public demand for cleaner water, air and land. Prior to the establishment of the EPA, the federal government was not structured to make a coordinated attack on the pollutants that harm human health and degrade the environment. The EPA was assigned the daunting task of repairing the damage already done to the natural environment and to establish new criteria to guide Americans in making a cleaner environment a reality.

The mission of the Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment. Since 1970, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.

The Agency supports environmental education projects that enhance the public's awareness, knowledge, and skills to make informed decisions that affect environmental quality.

Uh-huh. Now let's compare this to a recent proposal unveiled by our esteemed and respected protectors of the environment...

More than a half-million tons of hazardous waste annually could escape federal environmental regulations under a new proposal from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

...The deregulations longer require companies to send hazardous materials to a permitted recycler. Instead, EPA is proposing that waste producers make 'reasonable efforts' to determine that off-site recyclers are 'legitimately' recycling the hazardous materials.

Somebody please argue with me that the only reason this is being proposed is not at the behest of jerkwad corporations trying to increase their profits by any means possible...and that the jerkwads in question don't have "our" government in their pockets. Quite simply, there is no other conceivable motive for this kind of proposal. As with everything else the neocons push for, greed is the sole catalyst. I hope like hell someone in congress has the stones to challenge this proposal in the most straightforward and obvious way - by comparing it to the EPA's own mission statements. But I'm not holding my breath.

So much for the "P" in EPA. In the meantime, you can read the entire article here...

EPA Moves to Deregulate Hazardous Waste

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