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Saturday, May 07, 2005

Of Doobies and Dubya

Earlier in the week, The Fixer over at Alternate Brain alerted us to the new study entitled The War on Marijuana: The Transformation of the War on Drugs in the 1990s, which warns that low-level pot busts have increased from 28% to 45% of the total drug arrests from 1992 to 2002. Gord then pointed to the obvious catastrophic impact this could have on the US economy as companies like Sara Lee and Frito Lay find their customer base vastly depleted.

I thought the White House would dismiss the hefty price tag ($4 billion a year) as Paul Bremmer pocket change and chalk up the overweening racial bias (blacks make up only 14 % of the population, but they account for 30% of arrests even though 74% of regular marijuana users are white) to a good start on Jeb 2008, and otherwise ignore the whole thing. But somebody thought it would be a good idea to be pro-active and unleash the Director of White House Office of Drug Control Policy John P. Waters on the media, clenching a copy of a study which claims marijuana use causes debilitating mental health problems later in life. You know, to justify the effort.

Did somebody forget to inform the irony-challenged Director Waters that his boss, the leader of the free world, the man with his finger on the bomb is a big fat fucking former dope fiend of the "Dude Where's My Car" variety who was probably high for most of the 80s? Uncharitable wonks might wonder of Director Waters if perchance President Horse Cranker must also be the victim of this inevitable brain damage, too.

While I've seen Director Waters many times this week on television touting the study, I never saw this most obvious of questions make it to the airwaves. But the irony does not seem to have escaped those retired agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration who run a site called DEAwatch:
Our esteemed ONDCP director is hitting the public circuit today with news and info that using dangerous drugs causes severe mental handicaps later in life. However, when asked to explain why George W. Bush, having habitually abused marijuana, cocaine and alcohol continues to be the mental giant he is, Waters claims that Mr. Bush used a type of weed and coke of an earlier year which posed no serious threat to one's mental stability.

Yeah... right!!!
This isn't exactly George Carlin here -- these are former DEA agents with a musical shrine to H.R. Haldeman who are not buying into this line of bullshit.
But to counter the question that Mr. Bush, being a mortal just like everyone else, could not possibly escape the brain damage and deterioration Waters claims the rest of humankind is susceptible to by dangerous drug use... Waters claims that Mr. Bush used illegal drugs at a much older age, 35,... thereby escaping the damaging effects of repeated marijuana and cocaine use his scientific data confirms people under 35 (will) suffer from.

When asked if other adults who use illegal drugs can also, like Mr. Bush, be worry-free of dangerous side-effects and diminished mental capacity, Mr. Waters replied, "No."... because George Bush was personally selected by The One True God to be our world's savior, only George W. Bush, alone, has been rendered immune to all of the psychological and neurological dangers we mere mortals succumb to from illegal drug use.

Our thanks go out to Dir. Waters for relieving our minds of any worry that the war in Iraq, social problems, economic misery, needless deaths and hopelessness caused since Mr. Bush was (s)elected are solely the fault of other drug users whose diminished mental capacities have caused them to disagree with God's appointed, George Bush.
Whew. Well, I know I'm certainly relieved. And the moral of the story? If you're over 35, and have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your own personal savior, fire 'em up! Oh and for the record, Bill "Spaceman" Lee claims to have smoked a fattie with Fearless Leader in 1973, which would have made him 26 at the time. That probably explains "strategery."

(photo courtesy Stock.xchng)

(thanks to Ben Maisel)


And Now For a Hollywood Moment

I was watching CNN's In the Money this morning and they were talking about Hollywood's summer movie offerings with some pasty little drone in a tie and a Tom DeLay Grecian Formula haircut (so you'd know he is the Business Reporter, and not a coke-snorting wild man like Pat O'Brien). Jack Cafferty asks him what we've got to look forward to, and aforementioned drone responds that Hollywood is once again pumping out remakes to put asses in seats. Tisk tisk, says Jack, why is Hollywood so lazy. Well, responds drone on cue, it is because there is already a "built-in audience" for remakes like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and War of the Worlds.

Jack shakes his head in disgust for the sad state of popular culture.

It's an exchange you have probably seen oh, I'd guess about a thousand times. The only problem -- it's a crock of shit.

When a studio decides to make a movie, it's essentially starting up a new product line, no different from Brillo Pads or Bagel Bites. One of the biggest expenses is actually not production cost -- it is the giant cost of advertising, of creating awareness in the public mind that the product exists. The studios all get together and pay for a weekly summary called a tracking report, where pollsters go out on the streets and ask people two questions -- have you heard of "project x," (awareness) and if so, would you go see it (want-to-see).

Want-to-see is always a percentage of awareness. And by the time a film is ready to roll out, tracking numbers give a studio a fairly good idea of how much money they're going to have to spend getting people out to the theaters. The thing is, when testing "awareness" people are not necessarily responding to anything specific. I doubt if one in ten people who say "yes" when someone asks them if they've ever heard of "War of the Worlds" actually know where it comes from. They know fuck-all about Orson Welles' 1938 radio broadcast, even less about H.G. Wells, and only a fraction will have seen any of the various remakes that have been done over the years. The phrase is, however, in circulation in popular culture -- it's catchy, it's alliterative, and it's bandied around all time. The "awareness" is guaranteed to be high, without any association to previous films. Thus half of the marketing department's job is already done for them, but the other half remains -- generating "want-to-see." There is certainly no "built-in audience" for a popular phrase.

The case with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is probably quite different. When people are aware of the name, a high percentage probably knows that it comes from either the book or the movie. In this instance there is more of a case to be made about people wanting to see it because they are familiar with previous incarnations. But as any marketing person will tell you, there is much more of a "built-in audience" (to the extent there is one) for a Tim Burton movie or a Johnny Depp movie than there is for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, either of whose awareness and want-to-see numbers would probably dwarf Charlie at this point.

And while I have no specific knowledge of how the deal went down, I can pretty much guarantee you that Charlie got made not only because marquee names like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp wanted to do it, but because it's a good story and it worked once so it will probably work again. Much in the same way that War of the Worlds got made because Tom Cruise and Steven Speilberg wanted to do it, since those two could basically announce they were getting together to film the Yellow Pages and the studios would instantly start haemmorhaging money and hailing it a modern classic. But explaining any of this on CNN would actually require some work on the part of a reporter, and it is easier to pass off another lazy canard that will have the audience sighing in immediate identification and disgust along with Big Jack.

Hollywood is lazy and lacking in imagination beyond the capacity of mere words to describe, but CNN's so-called "news" commentators are symptomatic of the problem -- hardly the people who should be sitting in judgment.


Friday, May 06, 2005

Letter of the Day

Harry rides again:

Letter to Tom Delay (called myself Dingethorpe to throw him off the scent):

Dear Delay,

I am deepy concerned about the prevalence of cursing in the armed forces. I have met several soldiers and their language is often appalling, even the officers. It is one thing to say "Oh, d____," when one is under attack by Arabs; quite another to go around saying, "F___, f___, f___," all the time. This is the langauge of the tavern, sir, low and swinish. My son would like to join the army, but he is understandably concerned about being exposed to such brutishness.

Cursing is the sign of a limited vocabulary, and it sets a bad example to the Iraqis. What is your policy about it?

Best regards,

Reginald Dingethorpe

P.S. I am also concerned that you refer to yourself as a "whip". My wife and I are Christians, and we are not sure what to make of this.
Now, poor Harry took much crap from readers who thought his letter frivolous and chided him for diverting our politicians from important affairs of state. Since we're talking about Tom DeLay here and any minute he or his staff are not devoting to the destruction of the country is a boon in my book, I say bravo Harry, this is an outstanding public service on your part.

For the record, DeLay has been busy weaving the 5th Amendment into his apostate's banner and has not responded to Harry's letter.


Maybe in Dog Years

Cynthia Ore met Family Values trumpet Rep. Don Sherwood (R-PA) at a Young Republicans event in 1999, and she says she has been having an affair with the married man since that time. She initially called 911 and reported he was choking her, but later withdrew the charge.

She claims to be 29 years old.

Hoa yeah. Maybe in the same world where Jeff Gannon is a "journalist."

File under IOKIYAR

(via Attytood)


Nothing "Intelligent" About It

Rob over at Dirty Liberal Words has this to say about the hearings by the Kansas State Board of Education on including so-called "Intelligent Design" in science classrooms:
I have been trying to figure out what is the real motivation of creationists, because it is obviously not promoting good science. I think it is basically just a narcissistic arrogance. They'd rather believe that they were created directly from god, and not evolved from a monkey. Well, I'd have to say my response to that is nicely summed up by this fight club quote...

"You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else."
The need of fundamentalists and others to have the details of the Bible accepted as empirical fact has always puzzled me. My minister Dad always used to say that if you can prove it, then it's no longer faith. Buddhists, for example, subject their faith to no such demands -- Buddhist teachers throughout the millennia have made up stories about the life of the Buddha to demonstrate their teachings. But Buddhists have a much more fluid notion of "reality" than the fundies, and nobody is going to take to the streets protesting the veracity of these stories, or lack thereof.

It is of particular irony to me that the need to have one's faith accepted as an objective truth is a left-brain impulse, the product of the very scientific, rational-oriented, secular culture that the fundies so decry. I'm quite confident that this impulse has little to do with faith, and a whole lot to do with dominance, intolerance, bigotry and ignorance. Let's not forget ignorance.

(photo courtesy Stock.xchng)


Thursday, May 05, 2005

That's What I Get For Reading Roger Ailes

One of my daily stops in the blogosphere is Roger Ailes, who had a post last Friday on The Fifteenth Column, where he admitted he was "sworn to secrecy" about why he was asking but wanted to know everyone's favorite right-wing nutjob columnists. I of course chimed in with The Virgin Ben. I also noted in the comments section that whoever had solicited Roger's opinion had also invited that of Norbizness, who had no interest in participating.

Imagine how happy I am on Monday when I get an email from this guy John Hawkins of Right Wing News asking me to take part in the same survey of lefty bloggers! Oh man, I am certain I have made the big time now, I am right up there with the A-listers! Thanks to the likes of Norbizness they had to make their way down to the C-List, and that's me but I don't care, I'm just so thrilled to be nominated. So I go over to Roger's blog again, look over the list of everyone's suggestions, and decide to give the most weight to the truly dangerous, next to the bug-house crazy, and round it off with the just plain craven.

Novak? He's gotta be on top. Peg-a-loon? Oh, she deserves a spot. John Fund? Twat. I actually wound up taking The Virgin Ben off, because I wasn't able to find anything he'd written recently. I think TBogg put him out of business. So I quickly dashed off my list to Mr. Hawkins and looked anxiously forward to the list on Thursday morning, to see how my votes tallied with others:

1 Robert Novak
2 Jonah Goldberg
3 Ann Coulter
4 Kaye Grogan
5 Peggy Noonen
6 John Fund
7 Charles Krauthammer
8 David Brooks
9 Michelle Malkin
10 George Will
11 William Kristol
12 David Horowitz
13 Kate O'Beirne
14 Brent Bozell
15 Armstrong Williams

Now it's Thursday morning and I'm really excited and I go to the site, where I'm sitting amongst A-list company like Seeing the Forest, Jesus' General, Mahablog and the Agonist. Woo hoo! I've arrived. Then I look at the list:

14) Gene Lyons (10)
12) David Broder (11)
12) Arianna Huffington (11) -- 1
10) David Corn (13)
10) Eric Alterman (13)
9) Christopher Hitchens (16) -- 2
8) Bob Herbert (17) -- 1
7) Maureen Dowd (23)
6) Michael Kinsley (24) -- 3
5) Frank Rich (31) -- 2
4) E.J. Dionne Jr. (33) -- 1
3) Molly Ivins (36) -- 3
2) Joe Conason (38) -- 2
1) Paul Krugman (65) -- 12

And I'm like, oh fuck. I chase back to the email (which I obviously never read) and they're asking for "favorite columnists." Period. The guy must think I'm just being a dick, so I send him an apology note, and he writes me back saying "I did think your selections were a bit odd."

And you want to know the truly pathetic part? I have no idea who half these people are. Wing-nut lunatics howling at the moon? I'm all over it. Well-heeled, articulate defenders of the faith? Uhhh...not so knowledgeable.

Well in all truth it's an honest list, because I'd much rather read about Peg'o'lies giving a spontaneous knuckle job to the Pope than just about anything. Note to Roger: I think this kind of abject fuck-up and barking stupidity should earn me a spot on the Enemies List, don't you? If I have to wait until I come up with something brilliant, it's going to be a while.

Update: YES!!!! Via Roger, I'm now on the Enemies List! WOO HOO!!! I think it's only appropriate that I made it there doing what I do best.


Yes, It's Another Day, Another Meme

I got another meme from SteveAudio, who got it from 12thHarmonic, where I believe it originated. This one is pretty fun, it's a High Fidelity music meme:

Top Five Lyrics that Move Your Heart

1. "I don't fuck much with the past but I fuck plenty with the future" - Patti Smith, Rock'n'Roll Nigger

2. "No mom, I'm not on drugs, I'm ok, I'm just thinking, you know, why don't you get me a Pepsi?" - Suicidal Tendencies, Institutionalized

3. "What the world needs now is a new kind of tension, cause the old one just bores me to death." - Cracker, Teen Angst

4. And now the wheels of heaven stop
you feel the devil's riding crop
Get ready for the future:
it is murder -- Leonard Cohen, The Future

5. Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop. - Billie Holliday, Strange Fruit (Lewis Allen)

Okay we can all see what direction this is taking. I'm really not that much of a hard-ass, most lyrics just look dumb to me when they're written down.

Top Five Instrumentals

1. Andres Segovia - Asturias from Suite Espanola, Op. 47

2. Ornette Coleman --Free Jazz

3. Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs - Foggy Mountain Breakdown

4. Charlie Parker - Embraceable You

5. Joy Division - Incubation

Top 5 Live Musical Experiences

1. 1995 - Spiritualized at the Whiskey

2. 1979 - the Dils, the Dead Kennedys, Gang of Four and Buzzcocks at the Geary Temple (where I smoked all of Pete Shelley's Parliaments)

3. Jane's Addiction, 1984, that run-down hotel by MacArthur Park I can never remember the name of

4. 1995 - Brian Wilson at the River Horse Restaurant in Sundance (I stood next to the piano)

5. 1979 - Avengers, X and the Zeros at 330 Grove, San Francisco.

Runners up - L7 at the Whiskey, 1994; Bob Marley with Ron Woods at the Oakland Coliseum, 1979; Lou Reed at the Old Waldorf, 1979; the Kinks at the Paramount in Seattle in 1978; Bauhaus at the Rock Garden in 1980; Johnny Thunders at the Whiskey in 1981, and James Blood Ulmer somewhere in London in 1980, Tenacious D at the House of Blues, 1999, and the Bongos 1980, some club (Club Foot?) in Silverlake; Elvis Costello, Berkley Auditorium, 1978, the Clash, some place in SF they converted for the gig, 1978; Patti Smith, Winterland, 1977; Jimmy Martin, a high school gym in Robertson County, Tennessee, 2002, and Flipper in some fucking dirty warehouse in 1979.

Top Five Artists You Think More People Should Listen To:

1. Spiritualized - One day Jason Pierce is going to die and everyone is going to realize what a complete frigging genius he was and there will be a Jeff Buckley-ish cult surrounding him, that's just the kind of luck he has.

2. Rank and File (or the Dils or Cowboy Nation or any band with Chip & Tony Kinman in it)

3. Vitold Lutoslawski

4. Harry Partch

5. Z'ev

(I would've said Richard Thompson, but Steve did)

Top Five Albums You Must Hear From Start to Finish

1. Dwight Yoakam - Hillbilly Deluxe
-- from 1987, it has Johnson's Love, which may be the best song he ever wrote

2. Miles Davis - Bitches Brew, just because Ken Burns hates it

3. Velvet Underground - VU - I'm one of those sad souls who thinks it's their very best album

4. Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend

5. Flipper - Generic Flipper

Top Five Musical Heroes

1. Donita Sparks, L7 (pictured above)

2. Joan Jett

3. Kim Gordon

4. The Slits

5. Jessye Norman

I'm handing it off to Dan at Mental Sword Fighting, Geoff at Blog Sothoth and Jim at Vinyl Mine, who will probably blow everyone out of the water with his vast knowledge. Tag, you're it!

And feel free to chime in with comments on everything I missed. I just know I'm going to be remembering things for days.

Update: Geoff has finished his list which swings from King Crimson to Charles Mingus to Slayer and back to Paul's Boutique. Inspired choices all.

Jim's list is here -- Johnny Cash, Nick Cave, Lisa Suckdog and Jesus Christ Superstar -- he does not disappoint.

And Dan's list is now up too -- a most excellent selection of songs -- including Rage, DJ Shadow, Pretty Girls Make Graves, and Slayer (seems to be a big live favorite).

Update II: TBogg's choices are now up which include Ry Cooder, Chet Baker, Beth Orton and the Flamingn Lips, as well as the original High Fidelity quote that inspired the whole thing:
A while back, Dick, Barry and I agreed that what really matters is WHAT you like, not what you ARE like. Books, records, films – these things matter! Call me shallow, it’s the fucking truth.
Yes it is.


Gas Spike and Man Date

I just can't say enough good things about the writing of MandT over at Adgita Diaries, comenting here on the latest gas spike and Preznit Horse Cranker's last press conference:
There is a dark humor watching Dubya deliver a sincere position. He will be reading along a complicated text and then a section, amoebae-like in simplicity, will light up his face with understanding. His ear will twitch like a moronic Yoda. One of those moments happened when he said he could feel our pain at the gas pumps. He then looked us right in the eye and said that there wasn't much he could do about it except reduce our dependency on foreign oil. If you believe that then you can sell milk to cows.

Bush, his family, the Sauds, and their operatives in the Carylse Group do feel our pain--they are making billions in profit manulipulating market prices. Anytime Prince Bandar comes over to do a PR, 'Friend of America' stint it's akin to a set piece in a drawingroom comedy. When we get concessions from the Sauds it feels like a gift carpet crawling with fleas.

The last gas spike brought Bandar, bluejeans and all to Crawford to say oil output would be increased. It was. But the truth of the matter included: 1) enormous profits during the manipulated spike, 2) lowered prices--but higher than before so all levels of the oil business prospered. The only ones left out of the deal are local small businessmen and the consumers. We won't even attempt to engineer an explaination of how all this works. But, it works very well--particularly this time around.

Analysis out of U.C. Berkeley shows a graph of supply and demand against the cost at the pumps. The usual ups and downs are evident. The top graph line representing pump prices crawls along, slowly rising in relation to the ups and downs on the line below it. Then, zoom, the pump price soars up, out of relation to the supply and demand line below it. In other words pump cost is soaring even when supply should moderate the price. Its pure and simple market manipulation like that which trashed California by Enron.

The excuse for this piracy run comes up: 1) Increased demand, 2) China and India, 3) too few American oil refineries. Yes, there is a huge increase in demand, especially by India and China. That will certainly account for a major adjustment, long over due. But, using that as an excuse to gouge consumers above and beyond normal adjustment is simple profiteering. Watch Dubya say with a straight face that he wouldn't permit such goughing was stunning. Smirk-smirk.

As for refineries, there has been a tie up on the East and west coasts for a spell, but mid American refineries have even reported surpluses during this rush to $3.00 a gallon at the pump. It would be the height of naivety to think that a trillion dollar industry wouldn't have planned enough refineries to process a supply demand it created. Even before pulling out the Bandar-to-the-rescue set piece to 'splain' 'ta' 'da' 'Merkin' people that all's going to get better the oil industry makes billions in profits. In fact it is true that the past few months have produced the greatest profit margin in the history of the oil industry.

The sheer grandiosity of the swindle part of the spike is Prince Bandar promising billions in aid to the American oil industry by building Saudi owned refineries on former American military bases. When you look at the reality of the sums involved it becomes increasingly clear that an individual who can spend a hundred million dollars on his personal private commercial airplane can certainly afford to buy a president--or a country for that matter.
It concludes with a deft, tidy little evisceration of Bobo Brooks. Well worth the read.

On a releated note, does anybody want to explain to me the wisdom behind easing up on travel restrictions between the US and Saudi Arabia, considering 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis? And how many Iraqis were there? Let's see. Hmmm. That would be -- zero. (via Shakespeare's Sister)


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Lucky Bastard


Lynndie England

Taking a cue from Soj, I just wanted to post this picture of Lynndie "my boyfriend made me do it" England in memory of everyone who was tortured at Abu Ghraib and state unequivocally -- it was not a fraternity joke. You and everyone else who participated in it, allowed it, ordered it, facilitated it, or knew about it and did nothing are all personally responsible. I don't care how many try and wrap you in the flag -- you did not do this in my name.

That is all.


Viva Brazil

Brazil is being horribly uncooperative these days. First they told the US drug manufacturers that if they didn't lower the price of anti-AIDS drugs, they would violate the patents and produce the drugs themselves if that's what they had to do to save their populace from being ravaged by AIDS (what a concept -- caring more about they quality of life for your people than corporate profits). Then they told Microsoft to take their Windows and shove it; unwilling to have their country's progress held hostage to Bill Gates' billions, they established LINUX as the standard operating system.

Now, they are the first country to tell the US what they can do with the abstinence-only and anti-contraception strings they've attached to their $40 billion AIDS assistance program. The US isn't having much luck appeasing the far right in high-profile cases on their native shores, so the government persists in making mileage with the fundies by insisting that countries desperately struggling to control AIDS toe the line to the right-wing anti-sex agenda.

Forty million is a lot of money to a country where the minimum wage salary is $200 per month. While it's high-handed and hypocritical enough to demand that countries receiving such aid cannot use US funds to support abortion or contraception, more recent funding has also insisted that recipient countries also condemn prostitution.

Brazil's remarkable AIDS treatment and prevention program provides free medical treatment to all who need it. Their program has been successful in large part due to outreach to drug addicts and sex workers; it's hard to enfranchise such people if you're loudly condemning them.

According to the Guardian:
The demand from the US administration, heavily influenced by the religious right, follows what is known as the "global gag" - a ban on US government funds to any foreign-based organization which has links to abortion. This has resulted in the removal of millions of dollars of funding from family planning clinics worldwide.

Yesterday Pedro Chequer, the director of Brazil's HIV/Aids programme, said the government had managed to resist US pressure during negotiations on the Aids funding to focus on promoting abstinence and fidelity rather than condoms - another ideological battle being waged by the religious right. But the US negotiators insisted that the clause on prostitution had to stay.

"I would like to confirm that Brazil has taken this decision in order to preserve its autonomy on issues related to national policies on HIV/Aids as well as ethical and human rights principles," he told the Guardian.
The US comes off looking like a bunch of heavy-handed, sanctimonious, imperialistic assholes kow-towing to an extremist minority group. We look like complete dicks who don't care about living in a global community or helping anyone, we just want people to stop using condoms in AIDS-ridden communities -- which is really tantamount to genocide. I just hope other countries aren't so desperate for the money that they resort to exterminating their own populations to get it.


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

I Say They Should Pay

As the cable news networks try to wring yet another day out of a non-story -- the Jennifer Wilbanks "runaway bride" episode -- the discussion has shifted to the topic as to whether someone should be forced to pay money to the police for causing them to devote massive resources to a case that could've been used elsewhere. The notion being that the person or persons who cause the police to do all this work should be forced to pay. I agree. They should.

So cough it up, CNN. You too, MSNBC. And that goes double for you, Fox News. If the cameras weren't pointed at every cop, every family member and every local acquaintance looking for their 15 minutes of fame, would the police have devoted nearly so many resources to the story? I think not. There always seemed like a bit of a nod of the head of the police in this case that it was a non-starter, and without serious evidence of foul play they probably would've treated it the same way they do the tens of thousands of other people who go missing in this country every year.

But the media decided that instead of covering real news that is generated all the time all over the world, they would manufacture some of their own, a virtually content-free soap operatic pot boiler for the sake of ratings. If that's their idea of responsible journalism, that's fine. But don't go pointing the finger at a worried family and an unbalanced girl and saying they are responsible for all the money wasted by police. They did what people do all the time. They called the police. They lied. People do it every day. If you want to get the people responsible for the media circus, well, that would be the media themselves.

So pay up, all of you, right now, or wipe this story off the airwaves and tell me about something I care about, like the Yemeni woman who is about to be executed. Because when it comes to covering actual news, you suck.


Because Media Does Matter

Sometimes I feel like I live in this rarefied world that defies explanation to outsiders. There just is no good way to explain the blogosphere to people who don't know about it. It's like punk rock in the 70's -- either you're in or your out, either you get it or you don't, and there's a whole lot of unclaimed territory in the middle. (And I assume, like punk rock, twenty years hence many more people will be claiming they were in on it than there actually were.)

Anyway, I watch the news every day and I see tangible results from the activism that goes on here -- be it politicians pleading their case on Kos, the war against Social Security piratization or massive email campaigns that have given Democrats the backbone to resist the appointments of Gonzales, Rice and now Bolton -- and people who don't participate in it just don't comprehend the power or the momentum of this "thing" that exists as a virtually phantom force in the political landscape.

But when I do make the effort to try and explain it, the first thing I point to is Media Matters. It's hard for me to believe that they have only existed for a year, but today is their first birthday. They have had five million visitors viewing 30 million pages in that time, and they provide and absolutely invaluable service. Before they existed there was no central warehousing point to expose the outright lies of the right-wing noise machine and disseminate the information, and the Limbaughs of the world felt perfectly free to make it up as they went along. Now when Big Pharma says torture in Abu Ghraib is like a "frat party," somebody is there to hold him to account -- in fact, Media Matters collected 40,000 signatures to get Rush thrown off the Armed Forces Radio after that. I can't think of a more important public service in the national dialog today.

And I know the mouth breathers are all feeling the heat. Mr. Yell-o-vision was complaining the other day that he has to actually listen to what a producer is saying in his ear piece so he can call his guests on the carpet when they lie, otherwise groups like Media Matters will be all over his ass. They led in the Jeff Gannon story, forced Novakula into retracting his lies, and regularly embarrass Horowitz, Malkin, Coulter, Hannity and the rest of the bloodless brood by exposing their ignorance and their arrogance. O'Leilly calls them "the most vile, despicable human beings in the country." Big Pharma calls them "the middle-finger appendage of the Democratic Party." That's some high praise indeed.

David Brock has done an amazing job in the past year. Cheers to him and everyone who supports Media Matters. I made a donation this morning and urge everyone who can to do so to, either with cash, volunteering time or sending in tips when you see anything outrageous on the air or in print that goes unchecked.



I travel around the blogosphere a lot and read many posts, and often I can't predict what I will still be thinking about the next day. This post from Mumon, a fellow Zen practitioner over at Notes in Samsara, really stuck with me. I thought I'd share it.

He was recently given a copy of Changing Destiny: A Commentary on Liaofan's Four Lessons (which was written in the 16th Century), with text that states explicitly that no money is to be charged for the selling of the book.
One phrase from that book leaps out:
"Utmost sincerity can split a stone of diamond, can evoke a response from Heaven, and can change destiny." Consider the well-known account of what happened to the famous General Guang Lee who lived during the Han Dynasty. One time he and his soldiers were on a march. On one side of the road, the grass was very long. There was a large stone partially hidden in the grass and he mistakenly thought it was a tiger. He immediately shot an arrow and it went deep into its target.

After getting off his horse and going to survey his marksmanship, he was amazed to see that it was a stone! He thought, "I must be very strong to have shot an arrow so deep into a stone!" He tried again and again, but failed to repeat his accomplishment. From this, we can see that the first shot resulted from the utmost sincerity of having no wandering thoughts.

Similarly, when Great Master Kumarajiva was about seven years old, he lifted up a great iron bowl without so much as a thought. But then he thought, "I am so small. How could I have lifted it?" He tried to do so again, but failed. General Guang Lee had mistaken the stone for a tiger and was able to shoot an arrow into it. Master Kumarajiva thought nothing of the weight of a great iron bowl and was able to lift it. Once General Guang Lee realized that the tiger was actually a stone and Master Kumarajiva realized that the iron bowl was extraordinarily heavy, they were unable to repeat their previous accomplishments. Both initially acted from the mind of sincerity that had no wandering thoughts. Thus, the stone was split open and the iron bowl was lifted up.

From these two examples, we can confirm what is said in the Flower Adornment Sutra, "there are no hindrances among phenomena or principles." This is achieved when the mind attains a certain degree of purity as we sever our wandering discriminatory thoughts and attachments. If the mind is not pure, then all phenomena present obstacles. But, when the mind is pure, there are no obstacles.
This is another way of saying prajnaparamita -- the perfection of wisdom. This purity of mind, combined with an active practice being aware of one's errors and faults and of actively, mindfully practicing meritorious deeds, is recommended to "change one's destiny."
May you be of pure mind today and do something to split a stone of diamond and change your destiny.


Monday, May 02, 2005

Of Whores and Not-Whores

Fourth root-canal in the past three months this morning. My dentist finally reveals to me today that he's a Mormon as he's got a needle poised over my mouth and all I can think of is that every time I've walked into his office I've had a cup of coffee in my hand. Fortunately he is very pain-free and as an addict in recovery I enjoy the opportunity for the nitrous-oxide, or a "free-lapse" as we call it in the club.

But it is annoying and damned expensive. The only thing that would make it worse would be not being able to afford to have the work done at all, which fortunately I can but there have been times in my life where I couldn't and the stress of that is ungodly. Bush's war on the middle class -- for which I can only hope he will spend some rather uncomfortable compensatory time in hell -- has resulted in a world where wages have gone flat with inflation, and medical expenses are rising faster than both. Every couple of months I get another letter from Blue Cross telling me that there has been an exorbitant increase in my policy, and I can only imagine what someone trying to raise a family on a budget must feel when they get that very same letter. Every time I drive past a Wal-Mart I think everybody in there must live in mortal fear of getting an appendicitis, and many are probably suffering through ailments that could be easily treated if they didn't feel that going to the doctor would wipe them out.

It makes the new bankruptcy bill even more heinous. According to a study called MarketWatch: Illness and Injury as Contributions to Bankruptcy, about half of the people who filed for bankruptcy in 2001 -- 1.9-2.2 million Americans -- experienced medical bankruptcy. Out-of-pocket medical costs for these people averaged $11,854 and 75.7% had insurance at the onset of illness.

Under the new bankruptcy law, it is much harder to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, where your assets are consolidated and then sold off to pay creditors and that's the end of it. Instead, most people will have to file for Chapter 13, where you don't get a clean slate, the courts establish a payment policy for you that will follow you for the rest of your life. You have no option but to work as a slave to your medical bills until they're paid off or you draw your dying breath.

While I acknowledge that many centrist Democrats aren't just craven amoral opportunists, nobody who voted for this bill has come up with a good reason for doing so. As Atrios so rightly said, "This wasn't right versus left, conservative versus liberal. This was whore versus not whore."

My Congressperson -- Darlene Hooley -- is a whore.


You Gotta Bow Before Genius

It's back...we demanded, TBogg delivered...more Jonah Goldberg Fan Fic:
NRO post day nine

Today is a bad day. A dr named Juan Cole made fun of me and my artical on Irak but its not my fault I just rote waht the readers told me. The englsh guy taht they call Derb said to not worry and taht he was wrong all of the time and no body cares and besides dr Cole teaches at some small colege no body has ever herd of. Also somone stole my lunch today. I think it was Ramesh.

He looks like Apu.
If you've missed previous installments, do yourself a favor and catch up on the series: Part One - Jonah and the Ocean of Lotion ("This pudgy slightly damp man who smelled of Ding Dongs and Hai Karate and danger"), Part Two - Doughy Pantload Tonight ("Look, lady," Jonah said to her, "is there anything here besides yourself, the Stargate and the sarcophagus and those donuts on that table over there? Because we're tired, we're hungry and I left my asthma puffer in my other pants"), and Part Three - It Was A Dark and Jonah Night (He was about 5' 7", scruffy brown hair, little piggy eyes, garbed in Dockers and a black Billy Joel River of Dreams tour t-shirt that was bunched up around his man-boobs.)

I'm not worthy.


Edwardpig is on the Warpath

Sometimes I am slower than others to post on subjects of import because, quite honestly, I can be a bit thick and it takes me a while to get my head around things. I am a perilously slow reader who has to read each sentence two or three times until I feel I understand it. Since I like to read it's never been a problem for me, and I can write almost as fast as I can talk so I make up a bit of time there. But when I read the story being disseminated by Raw Story about Republican rewrites to Democratic amendments being protested by Rep. Louise Slaughter last week I really just didn't comprehend what was going on, no matter how many times I read about it.

According to Raw Story, the Democrats offered up an amendment to H.R. 748-The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act (CIANA), which said "the Nadler amendment allows an adult who could be prosecuted under the bill to go to a Federal district court and seek a waiver to the state’s parental notice laws if this remedy is not available in the state court. (no 11-16)."

The GOP re-wrote it, however, saying that "Mr. Nadler offered an amendment that would have created an additional layer of Federal court review that could be used by sexual predators to escape conviction under the bill. By a roll call vote of 11 yeas to 16 nays, the amendment was defeated."

Several other amendments were re-written by Republicans to say that they were attempts by Democrats to exempt sexual predators from prosecution. I just didn't understand. At what point do the ReThugs insert language like this? Do they do it so they can vote down a bill because of the child molester language, or do they simply want to say that Democrats promote legislation to protect child molesters?

Fortunately, there is helped for the handicapped in the blogosphere from our fellow bloggers. Edwardpig took the trouble to explain it to me in an email, and since I hadn't seen it spelled out nearly as clearly anywhere else, I thought I would share it:
My understanding is that it goes something like this.

Some Republicans wrote this bill.  The bill was then referred to the Judiciary Committee (and possibly others) for consideration.  When the Judiciary Committee met to consider it, a number of Democrats offered amendments to the bill. The Democrats wrote these amendments, and Republicans never had anything to do with them.

The thing is, the Judiciary Committee is expected to issue a report about actions proposed and taken for the bill.  When Republican staffers wrote up the committee report, they summarized the content of the Democrat amendments in a way to make it look like Democrats are defending sexual predators.

So, the distortions about sexual predators have nothing to do with the consideration or passage of the legislation.  It's just that Republican staffers (not even elected members of Congress, but their staff) have decided to make Democrats look like idiots by writing foul and inaccurate summaries of Democrat amendments into the Congressional Record.  So in the future, people who don't know better will read the summary and believe that these Democrats REALLY WANTED to defend sexual predators.

As far as I'm concerned, this shouldn't be a big deal.  What should have happened --- and, I imagine, what Louise Slaughter EXPECTED would happen --- is that Democrats would notify the Republicans in charge of the staffers, like Judiciary Committee Chair James Sensenbrenner, and as soon as the Republicans found out what their staffers were up to, they would apologize, fire the staffers, and denounce their actions.

Only that's not what happened.  What Rep. Slaughter is upset about, and what I'm upset about, is that instead of behaving like a responsible person and punishing those responsible for engaging in such sixth-grade behavior, Sensenbrenner actually DEFENDED that behavior, proving that he, too, has the maturity of a sixth-grader.
This is who they are. This is the Republican leadership. They are a pack of nasty, arrogant little fuckers getting off on their own corruption.

Edwardpig has also written a letter to Sensenbrenner asking him to respond to Rep. Slaughter's allegations. Thanks to him for taking the time to spell it out for me, and bully for him for holding the bastards to account.


Good Luck, Joel

Joel over at Pax Nortana is having surgery today. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.


Sunday, May 01, 2005

Music Man

SteveAudio has produced his long-awaited tome on the history of recorded media and the state of technology and the music business, and it's fantastic. Sez Steve:
As far back as '97, while I worked at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, the record companies were in a dither about downloading. There existed, for a brief time, a joing effort by the 5 (at the time) major labels called The Madison Project, so called because the meetings to initiate the project were held at Sony Record's Madison Ave. offices. The 5 were EMI/Capitol, Sony, BMG, Universal, & Warner Bros. They discusse many ideas to counter "free downloading," including copy protection, watermarking of files, value-added fee based downloads, etc. But reality intervened. Mergers occured, alliances were broken, and all moved on.

Apple has been quite successful with iTunes, a service I feel has established the benchmark for the downloading paradigm, at least in the first round of the struggle. And after much legal wrangling, Napster has emerged somewhat respectable, although much more tame. But the battles aren't over.

Record companies still haven't figured out how to combat illegal downloading. Will they succeed? I doubt it. The 18th amendment didn't stop people from drinking. And while they try to wrap their corporate minds around the idea, the world flows on around them. We have a generation of kids who feel that they are entitled to take anything they want, thus ripping CDs and uploading them for file sharing. Of course, if you tried to take their PlayStation from them using the same logic, they'd freak.

We also have a generation of label execs who want their 7 figure salaries to remain status quo. And we have a group of self congratulating lawyers acting as talent scouts who continue to sign talentless acts to labels. While I worked at Capitol Studios, the head of the label, who was quasi-famous for having grudgingly signed Nirvana while he was at Geffen, spent years pouring money down the drain, and into his own pockets, and at the end, had only Everclear to show for his effort. Well, and a big house in Brentwood, and a golden parachute.
The recording industry is a dinosaur, so entrenched in feeding its own ego it has failed miserably to come to terms with both rapidly changing technologies and an evolving marketplace. Steve's post highlights many of the reasons why, and talks about how the music is suffering as a result. Highly recommended.


Wingnut Mouth

I was watching Max Boot get booed off the stage today at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on C-SPAN after giving the Sipowicz smacky face defense of torture at Abu Ghraib, and I was struck once again by the presence of a characteristic I frequently notice amongst the winger noise machine -- an oddly distorted rictus of the mouth that makes it freeze in inappropriate positions, causing a smile to look not so much like the expression of joy as a symptom of gastric indigestion.

So I am starting a series called "Wingnut Mouth." If you have a photo you would like to submit for candidacy, you can email it to me here.

Today's contestant:

Kaye Grogan: Unhinged and Unmedicated

Kaye writes:
Many are caught up with being a die-hard political party member. They refuse to go outside their party affiliation, and will vote strictly party line, regardless if they know their candidate is supporting abortion, same-sex marriages, and other issues they may not really support in their hearts. The Bible says: "to thine own self be true."
No, it doesn't. That would be Shakespeare. And as the torrid cant of Kate's moue might lead you to believe, a shaky grip on reality compels her to make it up as she goes along. Kaye believes that saying nasty things about the President should be a felony, particularly for those dastardly fabulists who accuse him of "making up fraudulent reasons to go to war in Iraq." She states without fear of contradiction that the "biggest majority of Americans are pro-life"(something less than truth would be...hmm...well, a lie, Kaye), and advises Democrats to heed the council of "more rational party members like Senator Zell Miller" (being the only person on record to use the words "rational" and "Zell Miller" together in a sentence).

Kaye writes for Alan Keyes' website, is an amateur photographer and loves to sing karaoke. She is probably more of a danger to herself than others, but still a good reason to steer clear of the state of Virginia.