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Saturday, March 12, 2005

Attention Oregon Residents! March 19 Peace Gathering in Lincoln City

Saturday, March 19th will be the second anniversary of the war in Iraq. Two members of the Lincoln City Artist's collective Casbah, Sharon Maribona and Ken McCormack, are organizing a peace gathering to mark the event. It will be held at Highway 101 at E. Devil's Lake by the Factory Outlet Mall in Lincoln City, from 11am to 1pm.

According to Sharon, the gathering has been okayed by the police and the city hall of Lincoln City. If you live near the Lincoln County area, please come by and visit. There will be speakers, and they are encouraging everyone to bring signs and prayers and make their own statements as well. They're also trying to scare up somebody to sing, so if you're of that particular bent drop Sharon an email. She is a very nice lady, a good friend, and will also happily answer any questions you may have about the gathering.

Looking forward to seeing everyone there. If you need more info you can also feel free to email me.

I will be adding updates regarding the march as needed to this post, so check back for any changes.


Friday, March 11, 2005

ABC Refuses Outfoxed Ad, Censors Boston Legal

You know that if a dictum comes down censoring David Kelley, one of the biggest franchises in network television, it had to come down from on high.

Nobody will talk about it -- not Kelley, who can't be happy. Not any of the executives at ABC. And not Roger Ailes, whose Fox News network ABC obviously wants to shield from criticism more than they want to honor David Kelley's first amendment rights.

The controversy stems from this Sunday's episode of Boston Legal, which contained criticism of Fox News that accused them of being a propaganda arm of the GOP. Also nixed were references to everyone's favorite falafel flinger, Bill O'Reilly. Kelley evidently had enough juice to maintain excerpts from the excellent Robert Greenwald documentary Outfoxed, but when Greenwald's distributor went to ABC wanting to purchase advertising for the doc during the program, ABC turned them down flat.

As Greenwald writes on his blog:
[T]hey have refused our money, refused to make suggestions to the ad so they would run it, and in short have said no! Now, if they were not airing an episode in which outfoxed is the center of the storyline, it MIGHT be justifiable on some grounds about fear of conflict. But to refuse to air an ad, when the storyline of the show features OUTFOXED..... well, it boggles the mind.
Surprised? Don't be. For those who can't keep up with all the mergers and acquisitions, wife-swapping and general bed hopping within Big Media, ABC is owned by...wait for it...the Walt Disney Company! Yes, the same people who leaped in a nerve-jangling frenzy of blind patriotism to purge from its distribution slate what would prove to be the most commercially successful documentary of all time, Fahrenheit 9/11.

How serious is Disney about protecting BushCo. and its propaganda arm? Pretty fuckin'. The NYT is reporting that although there has been a long-standing antipathy between Disney Chief Michael Eisner and the head of its Miramax division, Harvey Weinstein, the battle over the release of Fahrenheit 911 was the straw that broke the camel's back. Disney is now giving Harvey the boot, although I'm sure he will be able to salve his wounds with boatloads of cash.

But back to Boston Legal. Alternet got a hold of a copy of the script for the controversial episode, which will run this Sunday, March 13 on ABC. The story surrounds a principal who puts a "Fox Blocker" on every TV set in his school, saying that Fox News is anything but, and accuses them of generating "hate speech.

Here's an exchange from the original:
Chelina: If you had to watch the news, Mrs. Piper, which network would you go to?

Catherine (simply): Fox, of course.

Chelina: Can you tell us why?

Catherine: Well. For starters, we’re winning the war on Fox. The economy’s better there. And Brit Hume. Sometimes I close my eyes and…go to him.
And the version approved by the censors:
Chelina: If you had to watch the news, Mrs. Piper, which network would you go to?

Catherine (simply): I don’t know. I’d probably seek out the station where we’re most likely to be winning the war. Where I can find a better economy. Maybe some weapons of mass destruction.
The first one? Made me laugh out loud. The second one? Well, the amazingly talented Mr. Kelley isn't saying much publicly. But the re-write says it all. It was obviously concocted under duress, or by someone else entirely. David Kelley knows how to write better than that. He just didn't.

It's probably tough to write funny when you're watching your first amendment rights swirling down the shitter.


Thursday, March 10, 2005

Gannon, Saddam and the Phoenix dactylifera

When a Saudi paper reported yesterday on an ex-marine who claimed that the whole narrative regarding Saddam's capture in a "spider hole" was an elaborately staged event worthy of Stanley Motss, it was greeted with some skepticism. After all, there were reports last December that the Kurds had actually captured Saddam and handed him over to the Americans. Rumors and conspiracy theories have consistently percolated in abundance.

The above photo, via This Space For Rent, apparently shows some US marines looking into said spider hole after the capture of Saddam in Central Iraq. If you look at the bunch of dates hanging from the date palm in the background, they appear to be golden yellow. Now, I know fuck-all about date maturation in the Arab region, but there is an interesting post over at ridingelectra that tells us that this golden color of the Phoenix dactylifera, according to, is the color of dates around late August -- by December they should have ripened to either deep brown or jet black.

Why am I giving myself over to a momentary indulgence in tin foil hattism? 'Cos I have wasted years of my life sitting through Hollywood "development" meetings, where one untalented goofball after another brainstorms (or braindrizzles) on how to bring a bad script to a fever pitch of intensity. And from the start I've always thought that the image of Sadaam at the time of his capture -- powerless, incoherent, scribbling away at bad novels from a small hole in the ground -- sounded like something conceived in one of those meetings, guaranteed to present him as abjectly powerless and humiliated in the public eye. Just about the only thing lower would've been to come upon him bent over a stable rail being gang-raped by a herd of pack mules.

It's nice to know they have limits.

If you're still wondering several paragraphs later who Stanley Motss is and haven't succumbed to curiosity and clicked on the link, he was the character from Wag the Dog hired by Robert DeNiro to stage international events on behalf of the President, and rendered by Hoffman as a not-so-loose caricature of Robert Evans. It's a brutally insightful film whose legacy has proven that life imitates art on oh so many occasions.

Why should we care if BushCo. has its own Stanley Motts furiously churning out plot lines worthy of a dime-store bodice-ripper? Because once again, it demonstrates that the administration sees the news as something it can manipulate and control with impunity, as the Gannon/Guckert incident so blatantly authenticates. They consistently hold the public in contempt and disdain, deserving of only half-truths, obfuscations and outright fabrications.

I have no idea if US forces captured Saddam months before they said they did, or what they had to gain by delaying the announcement until December. Maybe Stanley's brain was on simmer and it just needed a couple of months to come to a furious boil and conjure up the appropriate sartorial backdrop, I don't know.

Politics may be on a forced march to the draconian beat of real-life events, but genius can't be rushed.


Go to War, Have a Beer!

Lawmakers in Wisconsin may be dismayed by the dismal military recruiting shortfall that is currently topping the headlines (reports released today show the Army Guard 24% below their year-to-date goals), but they are not standing still in the face of it.

Their latest brainstorm -- lower the drinking age for military personnel in the state to 19. "I think a lot of those individuals wonder why they can go overseas and handle an M-16 and handle major military weapons, yet the country doesn't trust them to go into a bar and have a couple drinks," says Republican Rep. Scott Suder.

It won't be an easy bill to jam through, however. If they make any exceptions to the drinking age they face a 10% reduction in federal highway funds, unless they can get a waiver from the government or permission for a pilot program.

I have heard several on the left cheering for this program as they do for any relaxation of laws regulating substance consumption, as if it were some sign of universal cease and desist in the war on drugs. That notion is so thoroughly misguided I don't even know where to begin. This nasty little piece of legislation has nothing to do with that.

They're selling an image -- offering kids the opportunity to "be all you can be," see the world, live in exotic places, be a man.  The idea of piling on privileges not afforded to regular citizens, the notion that you are somehow entitled to be a member of an elite crew and can do so publicly and with impunity while your high-school compatriots can only sit by and look on with envy is a very seductive selling point, especially in a culture that prides itself on substance consumption like the one we live in.

This isn't about lowering the drinking age, people.  It's about enticing very young and impressionable kids to kill and die.  Wake up.


Quote of the Day

Politics is like sex. Those who have never tried it can't understand the attraction. But those who have can't keep themselves away. - Sergei Markov, political analyst to the Kremlin

(via American Blog Party)


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

What teacher changed your life?

Today I learned that Ellen McComb Smith is dead.

You've probably never heard of her unless you went to Roosevelt High School in Seattle from the 50's through the 70's. She'd been in the back of my mind a lot lately, but I started Googling around for her after reading about the forward lurch that Florida is making toward restricting freedom of expression for state educators. Florida is but one of several states that have been inspired by former liberal recreant turned neocon sorehead, David Horowitz, who thinks that poor captive conservative students are being bludgeoned by corrupt ideologies at the hands of liberal college professors, and he wants to put a stop to it.

In other words, he wants to put the state in control of what can and can't be taught.

I thought of Ellen McComb Smith because I started to wonder what my life would be like if she hadn't been my high school English teacher, and had she not been free to speak her mind in the largely white Republican school district I hailed from. I learned that she died in 2003 at the age of 86. It's too late for me to tell her what a difference she made in my life. But I can tell you.

By the time I got to Roosevelt High School in the late 70's, I was firmly indoctrinated in right-wing ideology. I can shamefully admit now that the deprogramming has kicked in that as a teenager I used to be a big fan of William F. Buckley, and while in grade school I came home every day to watch the Watergate hearings, convinced Nixon was getting a raw deal. I can't even tell you how I got that way, because my parents -- although nominally Republican -- weren't all that reactionary. I guess I was just the product of a very sheltered upbringing and a culture of sterile, white suburban smugness, extrapolating way too much from way too little experience.

I could've easily grown up to be Monica Crowley, or worse (shudder) Ann Coulter.

Everyone dreaded getting E.M. Smith for high school English. Not because she was liberal but because she was tough. She was in her final year of teaching before retirement, and on the first day of class, she enthralled me. She stood about 5'1", and favored velvet magenta pantsuits over lucite high-heels with goldfish in them. And she loved to challenge us. I was swollen as a chipmunk after having four impacted wisdom teeth extracted when she handed me a copy of Spengler's Decline of the West (which she largely disagreed with) and said "read this."

But the moment I remember with distinct clarity was the day she told us she was a card-carrying member of the ACLU. Now, this was a pretty ballsy thing to say in front of a group of future Hannitys who had been raised to think that the ACLU was a cabal run by communists for the benefit of shameless perverts. But she stood up, raised her head high, and told us the law was not carved out in the comfortable middle of society. If a law was fair, it had to be applicable to all, even those who might be the most desperate and unsympathetic. That if we saw the ACLU defending someone otherwise completely unsavory, as they often were, it was because the social fringe was the place that the freedoms we all cherished were most likely to erode.

I'm paraphrasing, because I'm certain she said it much more eloquently and with spotless grammar. But for some reason, and I can't explain why, I heard hear. The giant dark rock that was my brain cracked open and light poured in. That sounds fair, I thought, I get it. That thought stayed with me for days. Weeks. Then it started to grow. And a year later, I was living in San Francisco, working at a muckraker newspaper with old Berkeley refugees like Paul Krassner and Art Goldberg and cursing the twin evils of Tammany Hall politics and corporate greed.

I'm sorry, E. M., I never finished Decline of the West, but I did learn to throw around terms like Dionysian and Apollonian Nature Knowledge and pretend it was my favorite book. I apologize for all the poor grammar and atrocious spelling, because some thing never really did get any better. But I guess I'm not the only one whose life you changed. I came across this piece written on the occasion of your passing by Karen Symms Gallagher, Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education:
She was a great teacher -- demanding, knowledgeable and dedicated to students learning to read, write and think. I had her as a sophomore and as a senior...I know that she influenced my life in more ways than just my educational achievements....

Mrs. Smith did not go into teaching because it was the only professional choice available to her and she didn't stay at Roosevelt High School because of great colleague support. She told me, as she did countless other students, that her goals in life were to raise a family (which she did) and to teach. Her advice to me as I was preparing to go to college was to get a liberal arts education and to choose a profession I loved....

[R]ight now, there are more Mrs. Smiths in teaching than you might think. Individuals who love their work, find meaning in it and who think that the best definition of social justice is teaching ALL kids to read, write and think for themselves. What is causing them to abandon their life's work is the reduction of teaching to a teacher-proof curriculum and testing that says there is only one right answer to a problem. There is very little time left to work with students on intellectually engaging projects and even less time to have dialogues about how the curriculum relates to what is happening after school.

Today, Mrs. Smith would not be able to teach the project-based curriculum she organized so well for all students in her classroom. Five years ago, I had the opportunity to tell her what she had done for me and that I had indeed gone into teaching.
I stayed in contact with E. M. for a year or so after high school, enough time for her to see me transformed, but I don't know if she realized how big a part she played in that transformation. I don't think I was self-aware enough at the time to realize it myself. It surprised me today when I read the news of her death, and realized I'd never be able to thank her for all she did, that I broke down and cried. She was a very big and fundamental part who I am and what I became, and I guess I always thought she would be there.

No wonder they want to stifle liberal teachers. The person who can get through to someone at the right time, who can drag kids out of their cocoons of ignorance and teach them to think for themselves is the most dangerous person of all to the neocon ideology. Anyone who can look critically at the faulty straw man logic of Faux News and can't be whipped into foaming indignation by the cattle prod of fundamentalism is immune to their propaganda machine.

So in honor of all the Ellen McComb Smith's out there, and in defiance of David Horowitz and all the other mouth-breathers who want to strip them of their voices and their students of all independent and creative though, tell me -- what teacher changed your life? 'Cos I really need to hear it today.

(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)


Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Letters, We Get Letters

Preznit's social security plan proving unpopular

I've been cleaning up my blog roll, and one of the criteria I've been using for removal is sites who don't enable comments. Comments keep you honest. I like to leave 'em, and I like to get 'em. They don't allow you to exist in some preternatural cocoon of deluded isolation -- people call you on weak arguments, sloppy thinking, poor spelling and sometimes just plain bad writing.

One of my favorite frequent commenters is a guy named John Perley Huffman, who tends to come down on the more conservative side of most issues than I do. This week takes me to task over my last post about the Freeway Blogger:
This may be therapeutic for him and the other sign painters... but being "seen by hundreds of thousands of people" isn't the same as changing a single mind.

These signs are eye sores and their politics are so trite and simple-minded. You really think someone driving to work down the 101 is going to see a "Bush Lied" sign and suddenly reconsder his position on invading Iraq?

If the left is ever going to make a difference again in this country they have to give up this inane street theater and move on to developing compelling and attractive policies. And then effectively selling those policies to the public.

Right now all this does is contribute to the left's accelerating marginalization. And while that's a bad thing for the left, it's a worse thing for the country.
I didn't really think about it until John brought it up, I just see spirit like that and I go "woo hoo, good for you, buddy." But now that he mentions it, I've been thinking about it, which is a good thing.

And I don't think the purpose of those signs is to change anybody's mind. Half the country didn't vote for Bush. And if you only relied on the main stream media to reflect what the temperament of the country was like, all you would hear would be "mandate, mandate" and you'd think you were alone. That's how I felt during the Reagan years, really isolated and powerless to do anything. What good would it do me to write one letter when I knew that Ralph Reed could bat an eyelash and the Christian Coalition would write 10,000?

That's why I blog, both on my own site and on DailyKos. It makes me feel a part of something larger that is moving collectively for change. The Christian Right have never been a majority, and yet they move together in a way that gives them influence that far exceeds their numbers. Reading other blogs and doing it myself gives me hope. It motivates me to write that letter that I didn't bother to write when Reagan was in office. It makes me realize that there are other people out there like me, and that we can change something.

But there are tons of people out there driving to work every day who don't have the luxury to spend hours online, or they may just not know that there are other people out there who feel like they do as they sit in traffic breathing exhaust fumes and feeling alone. Seeing a sign by a freeway blogger lets them know that somebody is still out there fighting, nobody is giving up, that as much as the white house tries to choke all dissent out of a feeble fourth estate people will take to any means possible to get their message out.

And as to the left's accelerating marginalization -- I beg to differ. The New York Times poll today finds "Bush Priorities are Out of Step With Americans." The Democrats have been incredibly successful at putting across their message on this one, and Bush is going down -- 69% of respondents now think privatized Social Security accounts that result in a reduction of guaranteed benefits are a bad idea. His number just continue to slide.

A fully 90% of respondents say the deficit is a very or somewhat serious problem, and 60% disapprove of how Bush is managing it. Would anybody be questioning this if Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi weren't holding the Democrats in line and speaking as a pretty well united front? Only three Democratic senators failed to sign the letter that essentially told Bush he could take his Social Security plan and shove it, and one of those was Russ Feingold who would have signed save for a death in the family.

Even the Freepers today turned into a bunch of goddamn socialists after Republican Chuck Hagel proposed raising the retirement age:
. That is the only thing I am completely against is raising the retirement age. What about people who do hard, manual labor? Something Congresspeople would not understand. I plan on emailing my Senators concerning this matter.

. I agree. I don't want to retire any later than I have to. I don't want to have to drag my butt to work at 70 years old! I think it should be optional. I want to enjoy my retirement and not be too old for it!

. So let's see here, the government says that the retirement age is 65 when you start working (and contributing) then gets to unilaterally change the deal? Hmmm.

. You are right. I am 32 and am totally against them raising the retirement age. They have already raised it. Have some compassion for those who do hard, manual labor...I am assuming you do not.
Boy, if you can't even sell your crappy program to the freepers, what hope do you have?

Now BushCo. seems to be backing off their marquee second-term issue, having hung every Republican who supported it out to dry and given Democrats something powerful with which to pummel those who are up for re-election in 2006.

So once again, John, thanks for keeping me on my toes. 'Cos now every time I see one of those signs, I'm gonna think to myself -- it's working.

(Photo courtesy stock.xchng)


Monday, March 07, 2005

Do not go gentle into that good night

The Freeway Blogger is taking it to the streets. As he states on his blog, "here's how it works: when you put a sign on a freeway people will read it until someone takes it down. Depending on its size, content and placement it can be seen by hundreds of thousands of people."

Personally I just like to entertain the thought of Sean Hannity caught in that traffic and forced to look at a "Bush Lied" sign for about 20 minutes.

And they tell you urban stress has no upside.

So far the website claims 1200+ signposts in 250 cities and 48 states. May not have the reach of Faux News, but on the impact scale, I'd have to give 'em a "10."

(via RogerAiles)


Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Little People of Egypt Offer Their Humble Thanks to BushCo.

without you we're nothing, George

I don't pretend to be an expert on the Middle East like Jonah Goldberg, and I certainly don't understand all the historical political nuances of what is going on in Egypt right now. But following this week's announcement by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that he will open this year's election to competing candidates for the first time since he took office in 1981, I've spent way too much time listening to TV talking heads who obviously don't know any more than I do chalking this up to a direct result of BushCo's triumphant effort to spread democracy to the Middle East. So I found the following interview with Egyptian writer and professor Nawal El Saadawi, who intends to run for President herself, to be of some interest. Here is what she had to say on the subject:
This is, in fact, a joke, ridiculous, and it makes me furious, because they deprive us of our struggle. First of all, George Bush is not democratic. He is a global dictator. He is even a dictator here in the United States. I have a lot of friends here in the United States who did not elect him and, in fact, democracy even -- democracy in the United States is questioned, because it's not democracy. What do we mean by democracy? Is democracy just to go and vote, or is it that all people from all classes can really govern themselves? So we have to understand what’s democracy. George Bush cannot bring democracy to the United States, so he cannot bring it to other countries....

Last December, I was in the streets with the people in demonstrations, and the demonstrations in the last few months were continuous. And we were collecting signatures to change the Constitution. So we were fighting for years. And then they come and tell us, that’s because Condoleezza Rice made a pressure on Mubarak or George Bush made a pressure on Mubarak. This is -- I call this is a new type of imperialist, because they do not take our resources, our oil, our materials, so they take also our efforts, our struggle for freedom. They take it and rob it of us, and they say that they are bringing us democracy and freedom. This is a big lie.
What, no oil? Leave it to the Chief Thief to find new and imaginative ways to appropriate national resources -- in this case, pride and struggle. If your own best-laid plans explode into disaster like Iraq and Social Security, declare yourself responsible for something you had nothing to do with. Nawal El Saadawi has been fighting for years, has received numerous death threats and is denied the opportunity to teach in her own country. But all credit is due to George Bush. Just ask Condi Rice.

I like to think of it as Revisionist History On the March.

(Photo by


The Only Jacko Post You Will Ever See on This Blog

And it wasn't written by me. But I found it on my travels around the blogosphere at Adgita Diaries and I thought it set the stage well for the travesty that's about to completely absorb the American imagination:

We silently promised ourselves that we would limit ourselves to just one opinion piece about the Michael Jackson trial. But, since we have not even fulfilled the scant hope of New Year's resolutions and have given up bruise pressing and abstinence for Lent, we fall by the wayside with this latest hot flash from Santa Barbara California. Creatures are crawling out of the woodwork to rat on Mr. Michael and a backlash of 'poor Michael' is taking hold of the collective circus. Imagine sitting in the courtroom and watching Michael enter like Fay Ray, that 'satin drapped frame' wearing a golden brooch, embroidered blouse, brocade armband, perfumed, covered in heavy makeup and powdered like a courtier in the palace of Louis IV. Then hear defense attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr. breathlessly admit that Michael, oh no say it isn't true, occassionally read 'girly' magazines. Right!--probably to get hair and makeup tips--H-E-L-L-O. Mesereau's stupid and sexist attempt to normalize jackson's masculinity or lack of it is a bit like putting cajones on Bambi. Its not going to fly. The kindest thing one could say from this distance about Michael is that if he is not a kid at heart or a pedophile, he may at his age become a mother at heart. In any case the pathology is a real tragedy in the making. In America its always presume guilty until proven innocent, famous, or very rich. This trial promises to be a petri dish test for American family values or a bean pot of foul hot air.