This is the Archive site for Firedoglake. To go to the main site please click on the following link

Saturday, April 30, 2005

All Bible, All the Time

FallenMonk has an excellent corollary to the post I wrote yesterday on teaching the Bible in public classrooms. I just want to make certain my point was clear -- there is no way the people pushing to teach the "Bible as literature" in the classroom actually want to do that, nor -- as he point out -- are they probably qualified to do so:
It's like this -- the Bible is a collected work of ancient writing full of parables, allegory, myth, mysticism and just plain fiction that requires a working knowledge of mythology, linguistics, theology, history, philosophy and archaic language to interpret at all credibly. Probably someone like Jane's father could be trusted to teach a course but I would doubt anyone with lesser background. Additionally, there should be prerequisite courses in comparative religion, philosophy eastern and western not to mention history. If you just turn over this dangerous book to a bunch of relatively ignorant and uneducated pheasants to use their superstition, petty jealousies and greed to interpret and use as they see fit -- guess what you've got American Fundamentalism.
He is right -- it's just another excuse to strip-mine a few quotes that support the right-wing social agenda and then use it as a political taser in schools. Do they really want to teach about the deeply flawed "great patriarchs" like Noah drunk and passed out on the ground, and the Hebrew puns that imply he had a hard-on to boot? No, they want to talk about how the flood carved the Grand Canyon.

And the notion that my dad would be a great one to teach this --oh, lord, I can feel the collective family cringe right now. Citing my father's credentials yesterday in favor of teaching the Bible in school was my own private joke. He was a rabid anti-fundamentalist, in reaction to growing up in the deep south in the Church of the Nazarene where Sunday school was dominated by topics like "do niggers have souls." He hated fundamentalists for their narrow-minded racism and bigotry with a zeal I don't think I ever heard him express toward anything else. He got fed up and left the ministry when I was very young for a career in business, but he never gave up his love of using his knowledge and intellect to express his complete and utter contempt for the fundies, and he loved to bait his opponents. He was a deep, deep contrarian and it was not unheard of for him to adopt positions diametrically opposed to what he actually believed just to show his disdain for the hypocrisy of those who might agree with him. I can virtually guarantee you that if a bunch of parents sent their kids to school expecting them to learn how "Jesus loved the little children" from my dad his head would be on a pole by nightfall.

But such is the fate of kids from fundamentalist backgrounds who actually study the Bible from a scholarly point of view -- fundamentalism becomes an impossible doctrine to defend and uphold. You don't find a big movement at Harvard of students demanding to be taught creationism -- oh, excuse me, "intelligent design." (On behalf of my late father -- fah!)

There seems to be some enthusiasm, at the suggestion of John Huffman, in reading as a group Harold Bloom's Book of J, and anyone is welcome to join in. I suppose there are things more ironic than a fervently anti-fundamentalist feminist Buddhist moderating a discussion of a book written by a self-described Gnostic Jew-slash-atheist on the Bible as literature, but I can't think of any offhand. (Bloom is the Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University.) It sounds pretty fun to me -- The Book of J is a quick and easily read dagger of a book. If you would like to take part and have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments section.


Friday, April 29, 2005

Fake or Photo?

Is it a photo, or was it created by computer graphics? Take the test. I thought I'd do pretty well. I only got 7 out of 10. It's amazing what they are doing with CG these days, and it makes you wonder how much you can trust what you're seeing any more.


Bibles in the Classroom? YEE HAH!!!!

Roy lets us know that there is a movement afoot to teach the Bible as literature in public classrooms. Can I tell you how excited I am about this? My father was a minister and a biblical scholar with a PhD in philosophy from Boston University who also studied at Harvard and could read and write seven eight* languages, including Hebrew, Sanskrit and Aramaic, in addition to being a professor of Classical Greek and Latin (nobody is quite sure what happened to me -- mostly we nod indulgently and blame it on the drugs). Anyway, he had a pretty amazing mind for a kid from a hillbilly family in rural Tennessee. So over the years I have studied me some bible, and it is quite a profound piece of literature. I am tickled pink at the thought of kids actually reading it in public schools.

Since the Bible can be a bit dense and sprawling, it will obviously require some sort of companion text book, and I would like to suggest one: The Book of J by Harold Bloom. Bloom is probably most famous for writing The Western Canon and The American Religion, but his seminal Book of J is my personal favorite.

Although scholars argue over authorship, most agree that the first five books of the Old Testament (the Torah) were the result of several authors -- the original author J (or "Jahwist," for Jehovah/Yahweh), E (or "Elohist", for Elohim, another name of God), P (for "Priestly," considered to have largely authored parts of Leviticus) and D (for "Deutoronimist"). A much later contributor is known as R, for "Redactor," who probably re-wrote many parts in later eras to adopt the text to conform to changes in dogma.

Bloom posits that J was a woman who was a member of the court of King Rehoboam, son of Solomon and grandson of King David. Rehoboam's reign was purportedly one of decline, and Bloom imagines J writing many of the strands of the books of Genesis, Exodus and Numbers as a satire of courtly life, looking back fondly at David's era and fashioning the commonly told stories as a criticism of her own time she could not tell directly:
J was no theologian, and rather deliberately not a historian.... There is always another side of J: uncanny, tricky, sublime, ironic, a visionary of incommensurates, and so the direct ancestor of Kafka, and of any writer, Jewish or Gentile, condemned to work in Kafka's mode.
Bloom hypothesizes J was a woman (admittedly with no proof) because he finds the author to be largely sympathetic to the women characters, and of the opinion that the men (including Jehovah) consistently behaved in less than admirable fashion:
None of J's male personages, Yaweh included, ever surmount their childlike and also childish qualities. The only grown-ups in J are women: Sarai, Rebecca, Rachel, Tamar. Isaac is always a baby, Abram and Judah easily fall into childishness, and the two men of acute sensibility -- Jacob and Joseph, father and true son -- remain wonderfully spoiled and gifted temperaments, childlike in the extreme, until they die.
Bloom reserves his highest praise for Tamar, whose story is rarely told unabridged in fundie circles. Tamar marries Er, son of Judah, who is so wicked Yahweh slays him. The law says that if a man dies his brother must marry his widow and knock her up. Too bad for Tamar; Onan is a world-class beat-off (he "went in unto his brother's wife, he spilled (the semen) on the ground"). Yahweh is monster pissed and he strikes Onan down, too. Judah gets a bit worried about the mortality rate of Tamar's husbands, so he drags his feet about sending in his third son, Shelah, to get the job done.

The crafty Tamar is not about to be cut out of the picture, however. She trusses herself up like a two-dollar whore and goes to Timnath, when Judah goes there for sheepshearing. He spots her sitting by the side of the road after he's had one too many Cosmopolitans; she's veiled and he doesn't recognize her. He asks her if she's got the time. She says let's go, baby, and they do the dirty deed, breaking about half the Commandments on the spot.

He pledges to give her a sheep in payment for her services, and until his man delivers it to her she asks him for the pledge of his signet, bracelets and staff. But when the man comes to deliver the kid -- no Tamar.

Well, Judah goes home and shortly thereafter someone tells him his unmarried daughter-in-law is up the stick. "Bring her forth and let her be burnt," says Judah. But then Tamar presents the signet, bracelets and staff, and asks "who are these?" Judah sheepishly admits it's his own fault for withholding Shelah, and she is less wrong than he is; Tamar thus outflanks Judah, and wills herself into the story as the Bearer of the Blessing.

Says Bloom:
A woman of the people, with no previous connection to the House of Israel, [Tamar] is presumably Judah's choice for Er precisely because of her vitality. Indomitable, she does not accept defeat, whether from Er, Onan or Judah. Her will becomes the will of Yahweh, and ten generations later leads to David, of all humans the most favored by Yahweh. Pragmatically Tamar is a prophetess, and she usurps the future beyond any prophet's achievement. She is single-minded, fearless, and totally self-confident, and she has absolute insight into Judah. Most crucially, she knows that she is the future, and she sets aside societal and male-imposed conventions in order to arrive at her truth, which wil turn out to be Yahweh's truth, or David.
The translation Bloom uses does not sanitize the bawdy tales of the Torah with obscure and archaic language; he's quite graphic about Noah lying on the ground drunk while his son Ham "enjoyed his father's nakedness" (whatever that means). He calls Noah "the first alcoholic," quoting the poem by G.K. Chesterton, "I don't care where the water goes if it doesn't get into the wine." He's also quite clear about the daughters of Lot, who -- concerned about the shortage of local men -- set out to get Dad drunk and seduce him.

I told my friend Linda M. many of these stories one time, and she didn't believe me. She was dead sure I was making them all up. I got a call in the middle of the night after she had started reading the Bible. "That's the dirtiest book I've ever read!" she screamed.

So I wholeheartedly applaud any attempt to put the Bible as literature into the school curriculum. What's that you say? They won't be teaching "those parts?" Well, my friend, then they are not teaching the Bible as literature, what they intend to do is pursue religion in the classroom -- their religion, which has almost nothing to do with the Bible as far as I can tell -- and that violates the separation of church and state.

You can't have it both ways. It's either all or nothing - dirty bits too, or no go.

(BTW, did I mention that my dad's dissertation was on how the stories of the Old Testament had their origins in Egyptian myth? I come by this strain honestly.)

* my sister corrected me


Thursday, April 28, 2005

When Will Jesus Bring The Internets?

If nothing else, you’ve got to admire the indefatigable energy of James “Sponge Bob” Dobson and the leadership council of fundamental wingnuttery. Judicial filibusters, stem cell research, school vouchers, media indecency, homosexuality, pornography, prayer in the public schools, evolution, college professors, Hollywood, the Easter Bunny, the Ten Commandments, Procter & Gamble, Apple Computers, Bill Clinton, Roy Moore, Howard Stern, Janet Jackson - I’ve got to take a breath just typing this stuff. Who knew religious zealotry provided all the jaw-clenching intensity and endurance of methamphetamines, without the need to filch cash from Grandma’s purse? (But then again….) Pity the folks at Americans United or the ACLU who make it their lives’ work to keep up with these people.

If you’re like me, I know what you’re asking yourself.

Where do these whackadoodles find the time?

Indulge me for a moment. I think I’m on to something.

According to the latest surveys, 73% of U.S. adults are online. One guy, somewhere, has a REALLY big porn problem, but the pollsters haven’t found him yet. Everyone else is “doing research for work or school” (46%), “getting information about products and services” (38%), “making travel plans or reservations” (26%), “seeking information about local amusements and activities” (22%), or “obtaining information about health or diseases” (21%). The polls are also telling us that 44% of adult online users have read a political blog. Of course, we political bloglodytes are more likely to have a college or post-graduate degree and be liberals, but we knew that.

Here’s where my seminal hypothesis comes in.

Bobo’s world has all this time to rant and rave and host prayer meetings and issue press releases and worry themselves silly about pharmacists in Dubuque whose religious rights are being violated because a married woman just came into their drug store and tried to buy a tube of KY Jelly because there’s nothing on the Internets for these people to do!

But it’s not because they haven’t tried. Oh no. The Internets are filled with dozens upon dozens of time-wasting-pastimes-for-Christians-gone-wrong. Call me a godless evolutionist if you must, but I have come to the startling conclusion that there is something in the wingnut DNA that leaves fundamentalists unable to design a website.

Where’s the evidence?

Good Christians everywhere should be able to have adventures (Adventures for Christians) of every stripe. Island-hoppers should be taking ocean voyages (Cruises for Christians), rugged outdoor types should be staking tents (Camp for Christians) or fishing along a mountain stream (Cabins for Christians), and pioneering spirits should be living the life of Lincoln (Log Homes for Christians). Even the needs of the less adventurous people of faith should be accommodated for – after all, you’d never be too far from the comforts of home in your well-appointed vacation rental (Timeshares for Christians).

Good Christians in need of a tune up before they’re ready to don the all-too-revealing sportswear of the era should have the opportunity to get in shape (Fitness for Christians), whether by diet (Weightloss for Christians), or tantric means (Yoga for Christians). And hey, there should be no need to worry about that 98-pound weakling thing, what with ample opportunity to brush up on the martial arts (Self Defense for Christians).

Stuck at home for the upcoming Focus on the Family 700 Club fundraising drive? The moral majority should be able to borrow a few bucks (Bank for Christians) that will cover the cost of some good flicks (Clean Movies for Christians), yummy home cooking (Food for Christians), printer ink for those Chick tracts (Ink for Christians) and a special fellowship call to Junior in his dorm at Liberty U. (Long Distance for Christians). And thank the Lord, there should never be reason to worry about banker’s hours, with all the complimentary goodies that inure to those of the Gospel (Freebies for Christians) and (Free Stuff for Christians).

Walking the righteous path alone is no fun at all, and every one of Pat Robertson’s followers should be able to experience a little magic (Magic for Christians) and (Magic Tricks for Christians) in their lonely lives. Sure, you may not trust in the morality of the Internets (Online Dating for Christians), but for the non-believers, hope springs eternal, whether you’re looking to do your own thing (Dating for Christians), you need a little help (Matchmakers for Christians), or you’re willing to throw all caution to the wind and entertain the company of wayward women (Chicks for Christians). If nothing else, a comfortless Christian should be able to get a little friendly guidance (Advice for Christians).

Tragically, every single of those essential aids to the Christian community is….

Under construction.

Coupons for Christians? An insurance company.

Romance for Christians? A purveyor of vintage board games.

Coffee for Christians? A devious subterfuge to draw Christians of all faiths to a product that is clearly labeled as appropriate only for Catholics.

Scoff, if you must. If James Dobson could only get a decent Christian shirt (Shirts for Christians) and Dr. D. James Kennedy could only have a chaste online conversation (Chat for Christians), Wingnut Command might not have the free time to impress their narrow-minded bible-thumping dogma on the nation’s innocent.

And just in case you’ve ever wondered why they all seem to be in such poor humor about the whole thing – one trip to Jokes For Christians should answer that one.


Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The GOP Base is Feeling Betrayed

There seems to be some extreme discontent amongst the GOP faithful at the failure of the GOP leadership to push through their agenda, and feelings of abject humiliation that Harry Reid, even in the minority, has managed to run embarrassing rings around Herr Cat Killer. Thus there is a movement afoot, led by conservative blog The Captain's Quarters, to cut off the party from any future contributions until they see some results:
This fits a pattern of failed leadership in the Senate GOP, one which needs immediate addressing by the Republican caucus. My good friends in the GOP disagree with my form of protest and motivation to get some immediate improvement. They point out, correctly, that the Not. One. Dime. campaign will hurt all 55 Republicans in the Senate when 45 or more may well be in solid agreement with me -- and that's very true. However, 45 members is an overwhelming majority in the caucus, and if they truly felt like change was needed, that kind of number would make it happen. Obviously, they have not received the right kind of motivation yet to address the fact that Harry Reid has outfoxed them for the first 90 days of this session.
Powerpundit concurs:
I AM NOT IMPRESSED with Sen. Bill Frist as Republican leader, either.

Senate Republicans are placing their continued majority in a precarious position if they don't get moving on ending the ability of the Democrats to filibuster judges. I am tired of hearing excuses. I want to see some action.

And my personal favorite, from Residual Forces ("Some of us are fighting the information war here at home to keep them safe over there"):
ALERT, converging forces in my life are forcing my to rant! This is incohearant!...

I am calling this Project R.O.R.A.
Let all RNC and NRSC donation callers be fore warned!

triple_a will not give you spineless whimps one more stinking dime. I will no longer politely wait til the end opf your script to tell you no! I will interupt the speech, performing a verbal tyraid on you, the whole time pretending your Sen Frist, and I'm his father. I will recite numerous examples of the Senate GOP's complete uselessness, an threaten to support any opponent of any Republican that opposes appointment candidates....

If those punks that we elected in DC keep this up, I may have to quit my jobv to blog full time in order to make surte they ALL loose!
I believe you are absolutely entitled to your anger, fellas. You guys should be ashamed, humiliated and feel utterly betrayed by the GOP leadership. Like the fat, stupid playground bully who's been kept back for years until he can pass a NCLB test, you SHOULD be able to whip everyone on the playground, especially a cotton-thonged liberal four-eyes like Harry Reid, and he has kicked your bitch-ass all over DC. Hell, you're sitting on a pretty profound Senate majority. What's up with that? All the marbles, candy and pocket change should be yours. I say cut 'em off. I support your boycott wholeheartedly, and hereby give my pledge to contribute Not. One. Dime. to the Republican Party, either.

Spread the word.

(photo courtesy WTF Is It Now)


Jane's World

I don't think it's any surprise that liberal bloggers are pet freaks -- witness any given Friday when just about any given blogger pays tribute with photos of dubious focus and composition to their animal companions. I'm not saying lefties have the corner on pet love, but I think on the whole they tend to be people sensitive to the needs of others, and animals are the soul of compassion. I remember driving down Hollywood Boulevard one night and seeing this homeless guy curled up on the sidewalk with his dog, and I remember thinking -- what human would have that kind of compassion that they would lay down with the dirty, the crazy and the unloved and give comfort to them? It's Christ-like in a way that humans don't even seem to have the capacity to be.

My dogs are zen dogs. They are absolutely in the moment; they don't think about the past or worry about the future. They are sensitive to a degree that boggles the mind. Katie woke me up the other night to fill the water dish because Kobe was thirsty. How did she know? Did they discuss it? They have a joy in life that you almost never see in people, and I consider their care an absolutely sacred trust. No matter what else is happening in my life, those dogs are taken care of first and foremost, to the absolute best of my ability. I never take them for granted. I eat MacDonalds myself, but I drive 40 miles once a month to Lincoln City to Paws on the Sand to buy them all-organic food. They get a long walk on the beach every morning, come rain or shine. In LA they only drank bottled water, but here in Oregon the quality of the local water is excellent so they are now relegated to tap, which they are quite happy with. Which probably places me firmly in "nutjob" territory as far as many people are concerned, but I could really give a shit. My dogs are happy and healthy.

Which is why it made me physically ill to hear what is happening in Georgia, where animal control officers have taken in 321 abandoned dogs and cats since January, when the Fort Stewart-based 3rd Infantry Division deployed 19,000 troops to Iraq. They've been dumped off at the pound, or found wandering the street, hungry and dirty and frightened. They've been discovered emaciated in the back yards of abandoned homes. To date 119 have been euthanized.

Who thinks this is okay? Treating a dog like a fucking beanie baby you can play with and love and just throw away when you're done with it? Well, I guess people who think war is a good job. You would hope that the military could cough up a few dollars of the billions they are funneling to Halliburton to help with the problem, but you would be wrong. Volunteers in the community are struggling to find both foster and permanent homes for the animals before "euthanasia day." It's absolutely abhorrent.

Gandhi once said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be determined by the way it treats its animals." I absolutely believe this to the core of my being. If Jane ruled the world, it would look a lot more like Turin, Italy, where a law was recently passed fining you $650 if you don't walk your dog three times a day. Further, you can be fined up to $13,000 and spend a year in prison if you are found to have tortured or abandoned your pet. "To enforce the law, Turin police would rely largely on the help of tipsters spotting cruel treatment by their neighbors," they note. If you plan on being cruel to your pet, don't live next to me, because I would absolutely snitch.

So, the question of the day -- what would your world look like? If you were emperor for a day, how would you change it for the better? (After you throw Novak in chains & lock him up, that is -- that's a given.)

Update: Welcome to everyone coming over from TBogg, who happens to be another not-so-closeted dog softie. Please feel free to have a look around. BTW we LOVE comments.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Heads Up

Ramones Alert: Tonight on PBS at 11:00 PST, "End of the Century: The Ramones; Joe Strummer Rocks Again", the history of the Ramones, from the 1970s to their 2002 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Follows "White Smoke Up My Ass: Three Weeks in the Life of Pope Benny the Rat." Well the universe has to balance out that kind of evil karma somehow, doesn't it?

I'm pretty sure I only saw the Ramones once, at a free concert in the park in San Francisco, right around the time Rock'n'Roll High School was released. They were awesome.


Did Rove Okay This?

Oh what a news morning it is...Italy bends over, Berlusconi grabs ankles, and a joint US/Italian commission investigating the death of Nicola Calipari completely absolves the US troops who killed him of any responsibility. The Italians are furious, and one can only hope it tarnishes the fair Berlusconi...

Bush has decided to punch up his fake town-hall meetings by adding a geek to the freak show...Tom DeLay. It's not only true, it's truly mind-boggling -- Bush's numbers are in the tank, the only one polling worse right now is DeLay. But I've never quite bought this routine that the White House was sabotaging DeLay, I think he's their go-to guy when it comes to spreading the "activist judge" propaganda and making it easier to jam those evil judges through. Either that or he has some inside information about what JimmyJeff has been doing with that big bald head....

And on the truly abhorrent front, it looks like Microsoft has had Ralph Reed (of the Christian Coalition) working for them since 1998, and he's currently receiving a consulting fee of $20,000 per month to advise them how to pander to the fundies by stabbing gays in the back, according to AmericaBlog. Yes, the same man who was paid a consulting fee by Enron to shut up about the anti-choice issue during the 2000 election (back when Republicans were trying to hide their extreme right-wing in the closet, rather than pushing their defective children to the head of the class) so as not to jeopardize the election of Herr Bush. Well, JimmyJeff certainly doesn't have the corner on whoredom. I know I've been bitching about how Apple charged me $700 for a 50 cent repair this week, but they do have a superior product (I also have a tricked-out Windows machine for editing & gaming and the Mac is infinitely better engineered) and Steve Jobs is one of the only tech billionaires who openly supports the Democrats. So here's the unnecessary link of the Apple.

(Mike Tidmus' Microsoft Logo courtesy of Pam at Pam's House Blend who is one righteously pissed-off lesbian giving excellent coverage to the story -- I sure wouldn't want to be Steve Balmer right about now.)


Nuclear Options

After Sunday night's Fascist Fundie Free-For-All,
and many others are urging everyone to contact their Senator and let them know you oppose any concilliatory action with regard to the “nuclear option.” Sixty-six per cent of Americans agree that the minority should have the right to use the filibuster – or if they don't understand quite what the underlying principles are they at least get the concept that the Republicans are up to no good, and Fearless Leader is not to be trusted (his approval ratings are now officially in the shitter).

Per Skippy, and AP:
Officials said as part of an overall deal, Reid has indicated he is willing to allow the confirmation of Richard Griffin and David McKeague, both of whom Bush has twice nominated for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. At the same time, the Democratic leader wants the nomination of Henry Saad scuttled. Democrats succeeded in blocking all three men from coming to a vote in 2004 in a struggle that turned on issues of senatorial prerogatives as well as ideology.

You can read People for the American Way's letter of opposition to Griffin, McKeague and Saad that was written when they were up for nomination the first time around, and decide for yourself whether you think this is a reasonable compromise (I don't). You can contact Senator Reid by phone: 202-224-3542; fax: 202-224-7327; and toll free for nevadans: 1-866-sen-reid (736-7343) or you can email him here.

You can also find contact information for your own Senator here.

(photo courtesy Stock.xchng)


My Friends Send Me Stuff Like This

Thanks, Kenny.


Monday, April 25, 2005

How Much of a Commie Is You?

This should be a good one -- where do you fall on the political compass scale? Thanks to The Dirty Northwest (who are also members of the Pacific NW Portal with me, and now that my laptop is back from thieving Apple I can not only UPDATE MY BLOG ROLL I can PUT MY PORTAL LINK UP!!) we find a six-page test you can take in 5 minutes to tell you where you stand on the left/right, social/economic, libertarian/authoritarian scale, and it actually seems to be a bit more telling than most of the tests that are floating around on the web. To the surprise of ultimately no-one, I'm falling off the left side of the page (it makes more sense when you see the graph):

Economic Left/Right: -6.63
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.31

Which I guess translates into "get out of my underpants and stop ripping everyone off, you Christo-fascist freaks!" Or something along those lines.
Now I'm REALLY curious to know where people who visit this site actually fall. Call it an informal focus group. Without the creepy guys in ties and the one-way mirrors.

(Photo of absolutely no relevance at all courtesy Stock.xchng)


All the Petty Rock Stars

Poor Lars Ulrich. First he alienates his fans by hand-delivering to Napster a list of over 300,000 users who allegedly traded Metallica files over their system (another 300,000 names were delivered 2 weeks later). Then, with album sales in the shitter, he makes a documentary where he basically comes off looking spoiled, indolent and anacrhonistic, overpaying for both bad therapy and bad art.

Well, some good news for Lars. Dan from Mental Sword Fighting lets us know that the RIAA, after filing a couple of subpeonas with the courts and sending out a few threatening letters, have collected $25,269,000 in settlement money from illegal downloaders. You know, the effort the RIAA was making to protect the poor starving musicians who were being victimized by NAPSTER and their ilk. Whew. Well, that's a relief. Lars must be resting easy, knowing that he will not have to rely on crappy album sales and endless residuals from Enter Sandman to feed his conspicuous consumption habit, they'll probably be mailing him and all the musicians who really are starving their shares of that $25 million any day now.

Except for one problem – not one penny of the settlement is going to the artists.

Dan writes:
For years, the RIAA has been waging their war on P2P services and file traders in the name of the artist. "You're taking money out of the pockets of your favorite artists! If you loved these musicians as much as you say you do, you wouldn't share their files!" And now, you come to find out that these artists, these starving musicians are seeing all of... absolutely nothing from this crusade, and the RIAA is keeping it all for themselves.

But see, I'm not all that surprised by the fact that the RIAA is holding onto this easy almost $26 million dollars. Because the RIAA is the legal action arm of the five major record labels. The same five major record labels that fuck artists all the time on there contracts, sometimes only giving a dollar per record sold (after money spent on videos, promotion, and advance is recouped, of course). Most artists make most of their money on the road touring-- are you that surprised, looking at that contract? Unless you're a superstar, you've gotta sell a boatload of records to make serious money.

And that's why I never felt guilty about downloading music. I wasn't naive enough to believe that me downloading an album made all that much of a difference to an artists bottomline. And when I read a prominent rock manager say in Rolling Stone a few years ago something like "If you can guarantee me that the tour is sold out, I'll give away 500,000 copies of the album," I was convined all the more. Hell, the Offspring (back when some people still cared about the Offspring) tried to give away their album online, only to be sued by their record label. Weezer encountered the same thing.
At some point – and I can pretty much guarantee it won't be during this administration – lawmakers are going to have to come to terms with the fact that copyright law is being written by the large copyright holders for their own benefit, that it is in the public interest that cultural artifacts fall into the public domain for the purpose of criticism and discussion, and that the laws on the books are hopelessly outdated and have not come to terms with available technology. That the landmark civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize can't be legally shown publically or distributed due to copyright conflicts is just wrong. For that very reason I'm happy there is a palace coup going on.

That having been said, I don't download music on file sharing services myself, and that's a personal choice, I don't judge anyone who does. My reason is pretty simple – I can afford to pay for it, and iTunes is a reasonable response by copyright holders to modern technology that I can get behind. But way more than iTunes I frequent sites like Vinyl Mine, Soul Sides, BoBlog (Bob Mould's site) and TofuHut, which mostly deal with music that artists themselves put on the net or at least their songs appear there with the artists' consent. They also put up “Fair Use” notices and a post that says they will take any song down if there is an objection from somebody with a copyright interest. I think they do a pretty good job of mediating legalities and serving the intersts of musicians who, as Dan notes, are just trying to get their stuff heard. And I get introduced to a lot of music I would never otherwise be exposed to, because these people KNOW THEIR SHIT. It's a win-win situation for me all around.

But you can be pretty sure you will never find a Metallica track on any of them. So hey Lars – let us know when you get your check, okay buddy?


Because My Sister Claims She Checks In Here

Now I'll know.

(Thanks to Ripley at blogsquito for the link)


Sunday, April 24, 2005

Rick Santorm Fights For Your Right to Party

Rick Santorum is the Republican's "Culture of Life" Guy. The first member of Congress to visit Terry Schiavo's hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida, Santorum was the first to pray with the Schindlers, and the first to tell The Hill that Schiavo's feeding tube would not be removed on his watch. Ever empathic, Senator Santorum was so struck by the Schindlers' brave fight that he cancelled a planned Social Security propaganda event in Tampa.

(Ed. Note: Santorum can still be GOP "Culture of Life" Guy even though it later turned out that the Social Security event was cancelled several days before he flew to Florida on Wal-Mart's corporate jet to attend long-scheduled meetings that were actually revealed to be Revlon and Outback Steakhouse-hosted fundraisers. Just because he happened to be in the neighborhood to shill for cash didn't mean he had to go to all the trouble of stopping by some little out-of-the-way hospice in the middle of nowhere. And don't think for a minute that the Senator doesn't know a dead cause when he sees one.)

Rick wouldn't make much of a poster child if he were just a one trick pony (He looks so clean. He looks like God's immaculate machine.). Lest we adjudge Pennsylvania's junior Senator a single-minded apostle of the culture of life, rest assured that Santorum is the party's go-to guy on evolution (a still controversial theory that has holes), the constitutional right to privacy (a phony legal concoction foisted on the country by liberal judges), and homosexuality (the right to gay sex implies a right to bigamy, polygamy, incest, adultery, and bestialilty.)

Anti-homosexual, anti-abortion, anti-science, anti-privacy, Rick Santorum has to be for something, doesn't he? Who knew? Culture of Life Guy wants to fight for your right to party!

Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa) is an American hero for the frat rats, the NASCAR dads and the Joe Six Packs everywhere. Righteous Rick is the proud Senate sponsor of S.722, "A Bill to Amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to Reduce the Tax on Beer to its Pre-1991 Level."

Here's what you need to know: In 1991, Congress raised the Federal excise tax on 31-gallon barrels of beer from $9 to $18 a barrel. This brazen act of Congressional dauntlessness represented the first time the Federal beer tax had been increased in this country in forty years.

Sanctimonious, moralistic, self-righteous holy rollers extracting their pound of flesh in sin tax upon the simple pleasures of the common man, right? Not quite. Try 1990 budget agreement between Congress and President George H.W. Bush. One hundred billion dollars over the legally permissible Federal budget deficit, the legislative and the executive crafted the Revenue Reconciliation Act of 1990, marking a fleeting, momentary apperception that the government actually had to take in money, in order to spend it. (See: Tax cuts, Bush).

As suds savior Rick would have us believe, the consequences of doubling the excise tax on beer were dire indeed. Sales declined, as hard-working, blue-collar Americans were denied the simple pleasure of a frosty can of brew. How many Americans staggered home from a hard day slaving on the assembly lines to make our country great, only to come face-to-face with the pitiful sight of a suds-less refrigerator. As a direct consequence of the increase in the beer tax , 31,000 American workers suffered the loss of their beer job, and the middle class was hit with another tax hike.

We interrupt this tragic narrative for a momentary glimpse at reality.

The average combined state and federal tax on a 12-ounce serving of beer is seven cents. Each state taxes beer at a rate determined by its own public policy, ranging from just two cents per gallon in Wyoming to a buck seven in Alaska. But, hey, smokers beware -- the beer tax-equivalent to a single carton of cigarettes in Rick's state of Pennsylvania is 222.2 six packs. Don't cry for me, Anheuser-Buschentina. In the first quarter of 2004, America's largest brewer banked record net sales (sales after excise taxes) of $3.5 billion.

Because beer is taxed at a fixed rate per barrel -- a rate unrelated to the price of the product -- the average price of beer has fallen more than 25 percent relative to the Consumer Price Index over the past 50 years. Had the tax grown in pace with inflation (as it does, say, for a bottle of Coke), the per-barrel tax would now be more than $61 a barrel. Nonetheless, Rick Santorum considers the federal government's nickel a beer a draconian burden on the poor, unappreciated, oft-exploited quaffer of malt liquor refreshment.

All those lost American jobs? The Labor Department hasn't caught sight of them. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total employment in the beer wholesaling industries increased by 8,000 jobs from 1990 to 2000. Overall employment in beer manufacturing has declined since 1990, but this entirely ordinary development maintains a trend that has continued unabated in the industry since the 1960s. Like many other once-labor-intensive processes, the demand for production employees in beer manufacturing has declined as the result of automation, efficiency and industry consolidation.

Assuredly, the taxation of alcohol serves a powerful public policy interest. A 1999 study commissioned by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimated that American alcohol consumption costs this country more than $180 billion in health care, criminal justice, social services, property damage and lost productivity expenses. Research literature demonstrates that raising the taxes on beer cuts consumption, which has been shown to reduce domestic spousal and partner abuse (National Bureau of Economic Research), domestic abuse directed towards children (Contemporary Economic Policy), highway fatalities (Journal of Health Economics), consumption of underage drinkers (Journal of Research on Adolescence), and crime (rapes, robbery, murders and assaults).

To absolutely no one's surprise, the tax-halving bill proposed by Culture of Life Guy is actually the work of the nation's beer manufacturers. See for the exhortations of The Beer Institute, the potent lobbying arm of the country's largest brewers, Anheuser-Busch, and Miller and Coors Brewing. Ordinarily, we would never stoop to the incivility of impugning a Senator's motives, but it may be somewhat telling that there is not a single major brewing facility in the entire of Rick Santorum'’s home state of Pennsylvania. Make what you will of the fact that Anheuser-Busch, Coors Brewing, and the National Beer Wholesalers Association have contributed thousands of dollars to the Senator's re-election campaigns.

And here's one last thing to think about. Senator Rick Santorum’s proposal to cut beer taxes by 50 percent would cost the federal government $1.75 billion per year. Perhaps we could make it up by reducing government-supported health care to the critically ill, or by taxing transparent legislation at the behest of powerful Washington lobbies.


Fire Dog Lake Welcomes Funky PhD.

I am so VERY lucky to welcome Funky PhD. as a new poster to this blog. I've used his stuff many times as source material for posts, and finally managed to twist his arm into posting here (okay he volunteered, but I was so quick to take him up on it I think it gave him whiplash). His first post is on everyone's favorite Man-on-Dog Rick Santorum, and it's absolutely great. Stop by in the Comments section and let him know what you think.