Friday, October 09, 2009

Putting The Prize in Perspective

Just wanna mention, since it seems necessary, just because I disagree with the Nobel award committee over selecting Obama for their prize, doesn't mean that this is some "travesty of justice" or whatever the Fox Fanatics are saying. It's their award and they can give it to the f'ing Predator if they want. I just think it's putting the cart before the horse.

Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize.

For what?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Ted Kennedy, Senate leader and liberal firebrand died today. He was 77.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why I Wouldn't Not Want to be a Senator

Watching Arlen Specter's town hall meeting on Heath Care Reform on MSNBC, and boy are they grilling him up like a spare rib. Half of the people are barely coherent, but the other half are giving very reasoned arguments against the bill(s?) and Specter is floundering like a fish. These town halls, the way they're done now, aren't getting the job done, primarily because they representatives don't know how to talk to people and secondly, because they bill(s?) in the house seem to suck. I'm still for health reform, but I really wish they'd done these meetings before they presented anything and taken some of this criticism to the board. My prediction? Something will pass, and the Dems will get whipped in the midterm. This really looks bad.

Friday, August 07, 2009

John Hughes R.I.P.

Kinda depressed. The man gave shape to my childhood and teen years. If you haven't, pick up The Breakfast Club and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Awesome.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Article of the Day

Julian Sanchez has a piece well worth reading about the birthers and what he calls "symbolic beliefs." Money quote:

"The classic case of a “symbolic belief” is what Orwell dubbed “doublethink”: propositions you profess publicly, maybe even sincerely believe you believe, even while, on another level, there’s some part of you that knows better, so that the false belief doesn’t actually get you into practical trouble. Pseudobeliefs may serve any number of functions; I’m using the phrase “symbolic belief” for the ones that either work as a public expression of some associated attitude, or play some role in defining the holder’s self-conception. In a post from last week, a commenter pointed out that there really are vegetarians and vegans, especially in certain punk scenes, who purport to believe that animals are not only morally equal to, but perhaps even morally superior to human beings. As he also pointed out, though, none of them really act as though they believe anything of the sort. Now, you might say that we already have a word for this: Hypocrisy. But I think it’s worth preserving a separate term here, because we usually use that term for people who specifically promote standards of behavior that they either consciously don’t really hold or do hold but are just incapable of adhering to (from weakness of will or whatever), and conceal this inability out of shame or fear. Symbolic beliefs, as I’m conceiving of them, are “sincere”—in that the person holding them probably isn’t consciously or reflexively aware that they’re false, but also shallow, insofar as a subconscious lack of commitment to the truth of the belief renders it behaviorally inert. For those who aren’t hardcore birthers, I’d hazard that the real meaning of professing either uncertainty or positive disbelief in the claim that he was born in the U.S. is something like: “I consider Obama phony, dishonest, and un-American.” It’s not, I hasten to say, that they really believe, deep-down, that Obama was born in Hawaii. It’s more that—as with H.G. Frankfurt’s definition of “bullshit”—the literal truth or falsity of the proposition is a matter of indifference; it’s not really the point."

While this is all very interesting and brings out some thought provoking points, I think there is much more to this that needs to be fleshed out. Particularly its racial component which he doesn't being up. The chart he discusses is showing in that it finds that the birther debate is much more intense in Southern states and I don't think I need to argue too much that the South has deep unresolved issues with racial equality. As Josh Marshall insightfully commented, "...the best way to understand the 'birther' craze is as a proxy for people who don't want to accept a black man with a Arabic-derived first name as President of the United States. Really as simple as that." That is the real heart of what Sanchez calls the birthers belief that Obama is "phony, dishonest, and un-American." If that is the case then is it a "symbolic belief" whose "lack of belief renders is behavorially inert?" The 9/11 truthers I believe may be more of a case of Sanchez's "symbolic belief" simply because their premise doesn't have the underline historic strength of racism. Although I grant the foundation of the truthers might be a general fear of government, but that seems, in our country, more fuzzy and vague--less actionable on an individual or small group level--than racism. If a person has a hatred of government they can do less to hurt government than a person who hates a particular race can hurt a person of a particular race. I think a true "symbolic belief" makes it more unlikely that they would act on it, in proportion to how preventively taxing the action could be.

I Believe In Harvey Obama

Recently this poster has been showing up in the CA area. Sully notes the complete absurdity of its image:

"It's graphically striking, but politically obtuse. The Joker is a wild man; Obama is no-drama; the Joker is an anarchist; Obama is a community organizer. Obama's careful politicking, his almost painful resistance to emotionalism, are worth lampooning, because they at least show an understanding of him, which is essential to successful mockery. But portraying him as an anarchist white terrorist recently made famous by Heath Ledger? To prove what exactly? Or is even asking for a reason at this point a silly thing to do?"

But seeing this it reminded me of the days before the election when I wore two pins on my book bag. The first was an Obama campaign button and the second (shown below) often elicited strange reactions.

I wore the two side by side to remind my self that no man deserves complete and unquestioning faith. I felt the urge to think of Obama as some type of messiah, but like Dent, even those with the best intentions can go astray. To me if there is a connection between The Dark Knight and Obama it is this, not the Joker and not Batman.

The good news is that if Obama does go Harvey Dent's way, the blue dogs and birthers better hide their two sided coins.

Monday, August 03, 2009

What I Did Over the Weekend

Saw Tool at All Points West:

It was dope, and Tool is amazing (though I feel unfulfilled. I suppose that comes when you have too many good songs in your resume. I don't feel I've really seen them unless they do "Prison Sex" and "Right in Two", but that's just me), but I can't do open air concerts anymore. I'm just too old to stand in the middle of thousands of people surrounded by weed smoke, B.O., and tattoos, while I stand ankle deep in mud. But as a swan song, you can't go wrong with this.

This was also VERY awesome:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Royal Rumble

From TNR, when politicians wild out:

The flip kills it.

And Because I Must

Shatner reads Palin:

And because it's just as cool, Shatner reading Elton John:

That's the stuff. You know, I never blamed Shatner for this foolishness, but what were the producers thinking?

Talk About the Pot Calling the Kettle...

Glenn Beck calls Obama a racist:

Imagine, all this because Obama called a white cop 'stupid'. What do you think Beck would have done if Obama had of winked at a white woman?

I'm Down With This

Friday's off...forever:

"Forget everybody working for the weekend. In Utah all government employees have shifted to a four-day workweek, and the state is calling it a win-win-win for its budget, workers and clean air. Utah has saved $1.8 million in electrical bills in the last year, the air has been spared an estimated 6,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, and workers are thrilled. Eighty-two percent of them say they prefer the new arrangement, which still enforces the 40-hour week by requiring 10 or more hours a day Monday - Friday."

Spread the word.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Second Chance

I'm down with Judis' argument for letting Michael Vick play. I think not giving him a second chance is only maximizing the immorality of his own actions. If society is better than him we'll show this talented player that we have more mercy then he showed his animals.

The bonus? When Vick gets his head knocked off Lawrence Taylor style from a blindside blitz we can debate over who gets to toss his carcass on an electrified fence.

Off the Chain

Tron Legacy:

This, by itself, makes the movie season of 2010 better than what we've seen so far this year. Bring out a new Batman and life is complete.


Josh Marshall on the birthers:

"Others have said this. But the best way to understand the 'birther' craze is as a proxy for people who don't want to accept a black man with a Arabic-derived first name as President of the United States. Really as simple as that."


Children Don't Make the Best Lawyers

MY brings up an important issue:

"Related to Friday’s post about DC cutting funds for legal services, my colleague Ian Millhiser had a nice post yesterday about how one of the things poor people need to do without in America is adequate legal representation with one study indicating that as much as 80 percent of poor people’s legal needs go unmet. Even if you think that’s exaggerated, it’s clear enough as soon as you think about it that many of their needs will necessarily go unmet. This makes something of a sham out of the rule of law in the United States, as legal rights are worthless without a reasonable means to enforce them.

"And it doesn’t need to be this way. As Ian writes, “At the low end, Germany and Finland spent three times as much of their gross domestic product as we do on civil legal services for the poor. At the high end, England outspends the United States twelve times.”

Its funny how often we forget this simple issue, and it's even more ironic that I forgot this issue. Backstory: When I was around 12, my mother went, well let's just say that in many ways she checked out. She decided that she didn't need to work; and, accordingly, didn't need to pay her bills. When the eviction notices started to come in, and I had to take the reins as head of the household I discovered that there were few places to go to get legal help. There was obviously legal aid, but their motto should be "sorry, we're underfunded" since I heard that from them every other sentence. From 12 through 17 I was forced every year to go to court myself and act as my own legal counsel, filing paperwork, talking to the judge, arguing with lawyers and finally going down to welfare to fill out their forms to get whatever government aid I could.

I suppose I didn't really think of legal services to be as important as health care because I had (and perhaps still have) a feeling that this was all my mother's fault, as that I didn't recognize that she had some type of mental illness, and still continues to go, as far as I know, untreated. (My father, by the way, didn't live with us; my parents were divorced and he was homeless at the time) There are legal solutions for these issue, particularly when there is a child in the home, but the onus to find those solutions is up to the household when much of this could be addressed, and relatively easy, through an attorney. However, even with having something like 80 percent of the world's lawyers in the US, most people go without coverage (I never thought of it percetage-wise, but I can't really see how the 80 percent number MY cites is off--I never met anyone growing up in Harlem that had a lawyer on retainer). I still can't say that this is as pressing a need as say health coverage, but it is an issue that we should discuss. I often think now that running around doing all this legal work when I was a kid helped me grow into the academic I am now, however I have a huge gap in my childhood from the experience and while I was lucky to be as successful as I was, I don't think children make the best lawyers.

Some Final Words on Gates-Gate

My final blast of steam occurred in my reaction to Bill Starlin's article over at Planet Ill, but for a more tempered and just response, I'll pass the mike to Sully:

"...I do think it's necessary to remember that policemen are our servants, not our masters. We pay their salary - and they'd better treat us right. And I find the many comments that we should always show deference to the man with the gun and the badge and never publicly criticize cops to be alarmingly authoritarian in its implications.

"If a cop gives you trouble in your own home after it is perfectly clear that no crime has taken place, you have every right to tell him to get the hell out of your house; and he has no right to hang around. You also have every right to give him your opinion of his police work or his haircut if you so wish.

"There is a distinction, in other words, between a deference to cops based on trust and a deference based on fear. I find the idea that mouthing off to a cop in your own home is enough to get you arrested a disturbing feature of the post-9/11 police state. My gut sense of the interaction is that Crowley - used to total deference and fear from those he interacts with - was simply appalled at being harangued so vituperatively, especially by a black man (but race was not the only factor), and quickly realized he had no grounds to arrest Gates in his home, and so lured him outside to get the pretext of "disorderly conduct" in front of seven people. Yes, Skip over-reacted after a long flight and an embarrassing battle with his door; but Crowley - a cop who declared that he was a Republican to the media for no apparent reason - got the man who didn't kowtow to him in cuffs as revenge. The very fact that the charges were dropped tells you who was in the wrong, according to the Cambridge police.

"I don't know about you, but I prefer societies in which the exercize of free speech in your own home does not lead to being arrested - especially just to teach you a lesson on how to be deferent to police"

I think it's laughable and sad that the party whose members think that Obama is going to open up socialist concentration camps to "educate" our children, and who take him to task for taking away our civil liberities seem to have no problem with officers violating a person's home and arresting them for no reason. It really, really worries me.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

And What's This Shit About Having a Beer?

Yes, I'm still pissed. If you're looking for some reasoned, calm blogging check back Tuesday. Until then...

What's up with the President saying that Gates and his arresting officer should sit down and have a beer with one another? Thinking about it now, that, in and of itself, is pretty stupid. What this officer did to Gates wasn't some little harmless embarrassing mistake, it was a gross humiliation. To be ducked walked out of his own home, past his neighbors to assuage the ego of this cop. Not only that, but as an older black man getting arrested can be terrifying. You're talking about a group of people who come from a generation where getting arrested can be a sentence of death and torture. Where you can walk into a building and come out in a bodybag. Particularly when you know that what you're being charged with is complete BS. Usually that needs to be covered up, and you know what some cops do when they need to do a cover up? Put you underground and cover you up with dirt. Yeah, maybe that sounds a bit extreme, but it has happened and it does happen. Again, if you think I'm making this shit up then you need to read a book, or maybe ask an old black dude about their experience with cops. I'm betting not too many will have first or second hand experiences (usually coming from family members) that are pleasant. Obviously, I don't know how Gates felt but I'm sure it wasn't good, and it certainly doesn't seem like an experience you'd like to rehash with the arresting officer over a Goddamned beer.

And how would that exchange go?

Officer: Hey Gates, remember when you cursed at me from inside your own house and I arrested you, and slapped the cuffs over your wrists, and then pushed you outside on your lawn so people could take pictures, like I was hunting Zebra in Africa? Wasn't that fun?

Gates: Why don't you go fuck yourself.

Officer: (Pulling out the cuffs) Yeah, I like reliving the experience over reminiscing too.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sorta Sick

I'm trying to give myself time to think about Obama calling the police officer who arrested Gates and then coming out and basically, apologizing for his "stupid" comments. CNN is praising him for "calming the situation down"--as if there was going to be a race riot or something coming up--and what a great political move this was (right now they're laughing about it and wondering what beer the Prez will have with the officer and Gates when they take up the invitation to have a beer and talk it over), and all I can think about is:

a) Good to know that if you arrest a black man over BS, you get the President to call you--but heaven help we talk to Iran...

b) Glad we can all sweep this under the rug--once again folks we can get resolution on the cheap! Whoo Hoo! Now we can get back to discussing MJ.

Sorry, I'm just a bit bitter. I really can't believe Obama actually called him...Jesus...

I Disagree

Far be it from me to disagree with someone I respect like MY, I have to take issue with this statement (in bold):

"Meanwhile, note that racial motivations or there absence have really nothing to do with the nature of Officer Crowley’s misconduct. What happened basically is that Crowley accused Gates, whether for good reason or not, of breaking into his own home. Gates, pissed off, offended Crowley. At which point Crowley, even though he was now perfectly aware that Gates was not guilty of anything, decided to exact revenge by manipulating the situation to create a trumped-up disorderly conduct charge. That’s not professional policing, and it’s not a good use of the City of Cambridge’s law enforcement resources. That’s why the charges were dropped, and that’s why it’s fair to say that Crowley was acting stupidly racial issues aside.*

"* To consider a race-free instance, I was actually treated extremely rudely by an MPDC officer yesterday. I, wisely, just decided to not worry about it and move on. But suppose I’d decided to respond to him being rude by overreacting and blowing up at him. And then he decided to respond to me being rude by finding some pretext on which to arrest me. Neither the fact that the cop’s not a racist nor the fact that I had overreacted would make retaliating with a trumped-up charge the right way for the cop to respond."

Now let me tell you a story:

About four years or so ago, I lived in an apartment building with some of my frat brothers in Harlem, NYC. One night after having some drinks, one of my bros (he's white) decided to go to a bar on the upper west side. So, pretty tipsy, on our way to shit faced, we go to the corner of 140th and Amsterdam, and jump into one of the many Dominican gypsy cabs the circulated in the area. (At this time, before gentrification really took hold, you'd catch hypothermia waiting for a yellow cab).

Anyway, a cab picks us up and we go about a block before a cop pulls us over. As a black kid, with a terror of police that comes from being raised in Harlem, and raised by black parents who never wanted me to have anything to do with cops (including calling on them for help). I immediately sober up, sit up straight and pull my wallet out getting ready to show them ID or my library card if they ask.

One of them approaches the driver and his partner taps on the side of the back seat where my brother is sitting. He lowers the window.

The cop says, "What are you boys doing in this neighborhood?"

Immediately I pull out my ID, ready to show it to the cop, and begin, "We live down the street, and we're going downto--

My brother cuts me off.

"We're buying crack to sell it downtown."

I turned red and begin to shake. "Jesus Christ!" I yell. "No we are not officer."

My brother then pulls his bookbag that is next to him and shows it to the officer. "I have 12 Uzis in her and a kilo of blow, what the fuck do you think we're doing up here? We live here? Or can't white people live in Harlem?"

By this time I have my face in my hands, and I'm thinking that when they pull me out of the car I better remember to shield my head.

"So you think you're a comedian?" The cop says.

"No, you're the fucking joke you racist son-of-a-bitch." My bro shouts. "You think cause I'm white and he's black and we're in a cab going downtown you can just pull us over for any dumb shit. Well fuck you ok?"

"How about we see how tough you are down at the station?"

"Yeah, and we'll see how tough you are when I put a false arrest suit into the NYPD, and shove my lawyer so far down your ass that your kids will be shitting law degrees! So why don't you get back in your car and go down to Broadway and get your rocks off making Dominican's lay on the ground."

At this point I'm just waiting to get the shit kicked out of me. I actually thought that I was supposed to get the shit kicked outta me. And then--surprise, surprise--the cop looks at us for two more seconds and then waves to his partner.

"You keep outta trouble."

And he walks away. The cab driver and I look at my friend like we've seen a fucking unicorn. He shrugs and says.

"Hey, when you're white, you're all right."

Now, I'm not saying that we got off that night because my friend was white--plenty of white people get beat up by the police every day. But I am sure that if my brother had of mouthed off like that, in Harlem, at night, obviously intoxicated, and was black, that chances would have been higher that we would have gotten, at the least, arrested. I'm not saying that it positively would have, but there is no doubt in my mind that the chances would have been higher. And that's the point. Not that police corruption and abuses of power are directly in corrolation to race, but that they intersect, that the chances that cops would abuse their power are linked to the color of a person's skin. It's the nature of the beast, and anyone who can't see that is blind to reality of the nation they live in.


Maybe its because I'm black, or an elitist or whatever, but this is what I hear when I watch this video clip:

Angry white woman: I'm angry that the President of the United States is black! He's black! Can't you see he's black! I mean it's written all over his black face! My daddy was white! I'm white! And the President should be white! Can't you white men do something about this or should be go to war again!?!?

James Carville: That woman is crazy.

Liz Cheney: That woman is not crazy. She has a point. Obama is black.

Carville: So?

Cheney: Damnit, don't you understand?

Larry King: You both make good points. We'll be right back to discuss Michael Jackson. Was he black?

And that, my friends, is our racial debate.

A Deeper Issue

What the F is going on with cops?

PS: And Coates is right, I understand the idea that cops would look after their own, but damn, what do you have to do to get fired? Are they trying to be as inept as big business? Next thing you know they'll want bonuses...

Can You Close A Can of Worms?

Obama follows in Cheney's footsteps. Not by shooting someone in the face, but it looks like his committees will be secret as well:

"Obama administration officials have rejected a watchdog group's request for a list of healthcare industry executives who've been meeting secretly in the White House with Obama staffers to discuss healthcare changes being drafted there and in Congress."


You're Both Right

Over at Sully's Blog, guest blogger Conor Friedersdorf points out how unfortunate it is that it took the Gates case for Obama to directly address the endemic racism in this country when so many poor and unknown blacks are unjustly harassed by the police every day:

"Isn't it notable that six months into his presidency, the most prominent advocacy President Obama has done on behalf of minorities mistreated by police is to stand up for his Ivy League buddy? Somehow I imagine that Professor Gates would've fared just fine absent help from Harvard's most prominent alumnus.

"Whereas if President Obama spoke up at a press conference on behalf of people wrongly imprisoned due to "testimony" by police dogs, or advocated for those sexually assaulted by an officer, or spoke against prosecutors who block access to DNA testing, or called out the officer who choked a paramedic, or objected to the practice of police killing family pets, or asked the Innocence Project for a clear cut case of injustice to publicize..."

On the other hand, Anita Bartholomew avers that it is precisely Gates' status that displays the bias of race over class:

"Gates forces white Americans to face the fact that race does play a role in how the police behave, no matter how much Sgt. Crowley protests to the contrary. A distinguished gentlemen with a cane? A Harvard professor? And he's reduced to this? Who can believe that he would have been hauled to jail if his skin were a different color?

"We see this and if we're honest, have to face the likelihood that this sort of injustice, if it could happen to him, could and probably does happen to many less distinguished looking, less well-spoken black men."

To me both are right. It is tragic that it took Gates, an Ivy-League, conservative black professor, to get the our national debate on race going again, when an even more tragic example of racism happened not more than two weeks ago. But when discussing this issue I think its important to keep your end goal in mind that being an open and honest dialogue in this country where this issue can be laid on the table and policy can be created to solve the racial injustice in our justice system. Thus, I don't really care which of these examples we're discussing as long as the discussion begins.

And as far as Obama is concerned, and the implicit charges of elitism that it took a fellow black intellectual to get the President to discuss this matter, I'd like to revisit a key point in Conor's post:

"I understand, of course, that Pres. Obama was asked about Henry Louis Gates, which is also part of the problem. Wrongly arrest a black men who happens to be a Harvard professor, release him without filing charges, and the national press corps asks the president to comment. Wrongly imprison for years on end a black man who happens to be working class and without celebrity, and the national press corps continues to utterly ignore a criminal justice system that routinely convicts innocent people. Apportioning blame for this sorry state of affairs isn't as important as recognizing that the news we get on these matters reflects a value system that is seriously flawed, and that news consumers bear blame for too."

Precisely. The media is horrible when it comes to these type of things because of its sensationalist nature. They don't wanna talk about race unless it can stir shit up, and in this case getting Obama to use the words "police" and "stupid" in the same sentence was probably a gold nugget. Not to say that I don't think the Cambridge police did act stupidly in this case, but of course the President's words will undoubtedly get twisted and the media will shape this into how Obama is against law enforcement rather than actually discuss some of the explicit racial elements of this case. This is why you can never depend of the media to get to the bottom of anything except a barrel of shit.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Danger of Speaking the Truth

Over at The Plank we are reminded at today is the 30th anniversary of Jimmy Carter's so called "Malaise" speech (in which the word 'malaise' is never mentioned). I, like so many of you, have heard of the speech without actually reading it, and, again, like many of you, know the speech to have been perhaps the proverbial 'nail in the coffin' for Carter administration. Supposedly, this speech was a big downer on the American public, where, in so many words, President Carter told us that we were a bunch of big losers and that our problem was that we were depressed. You would have thought he told us to take a bunch of Zolofts and hit him back at election time. 30 years later this is how Damon Linker explains Carter's speech:

"Thirty years ago today, Jimmy Carter delivered the worst major speech of a modern president. The "Crisis of Confidence" speech (often described as the "Malaise" speech) was by turns mawkish, hectoring, self-pitying, maudlin, self-righteous, undisciplined (the address opened with a string of nineteen quotations from critics of his presidency). It wildly exaggerated the nation's problems (the "erosion of confidence in the future" was "a fundamental threat to American democracy," one that would also "destroy the social and the political fabric of America") and proposed a series of absurdly ambitious policies and goals (according to the president, "20 percent of our energy [would come] from solar power by the year 2000"), not one of which was realized. Carter's delivery was halting, awkward, abrasive, excruciating to watch (see for yourself). The editors of this magazine were quite right to comment shortly after the speech, "The past two weeks will be remembered as the period when President Jimmy Carter packed it in, put the finishing touches on a failed presidency." (And this was still four months before the hostages were taken in Tehran.)

"And yet, one of Carter's speechwriters (Gordon Stewart) would now have us believe that the "Crisis of Confidence" was a success. Don't believe it for a second. The speech was a "kick me" sign Carter affixed to his own back just as Ronald Reagan was coming up behind him. It provided a perfect set-up to what would be Reagan's most potent line of attack against his opponent during the 1980 campaign -- that the Carter administration was one of "weakness, indecision, mediocrity, and incompetence.""

I say to you, don't believe Linker for a second.

Having taken the time to read over the full text of Carter's speech, I can say now that after hearing it, I probably would have followed that president into the brink and beyond. Why? Because Carter, for that moment in American history, dropped a massive amount of raw, unadulterated truth on our heads. Truth that we were not ready then to hear, and, probably still aren't ready to hear. For example:

"In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we've discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We've learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose."


"In little more than two decades we've gone from a position of energy independence to one in which almost half the oil we use comes from foreign countries, at prices that are going through the roof. Our excessive dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy and our people. This is the direct cause of the long lines which have made millions of you spend aggravating hours waiting for gasoline. It's a cause of the increased inflation and unemployment that we now face. This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our nation. The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation. These are facts and we simply must face them."

Furthermore, for from wallowing in self-pity, Carter offered strong and explicit solutions:

"Point one: I am tonight setting a clear goal for the energy policy of the United States. Beginning this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never. From now on, every new addition to our demand for energy will be met from our own production and our own conservation. The generation-long growth in our dependence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in its tracks right now and then reversed as we move through the 1980s, for I am tonight setting the further goal of cutting our dependence on foreign oil by one-half by the end of the next decade -- a saving of over 4-1/2 million barrels of imported oil per day.

"Just as a similar synthetic rubber corporation helped us win World War II, so will we mobilize American determination and ability to win the energy war. Moreover, I will soon submit legislation to Congress calling for the creation of this nation's first solar bank, which will help us achieve the crucial goal of 20 percent of our energy coming from solar power by the year 2000."

Could these goals have been met? Possibly. We will never know. Why? Because Reagan deconstructed all of these plans and reconstructed it in the form of Star Wars. Because Reagan told us that we were ok. We were better than ok, because we consumed and consumption was great. It was the dawn of the me generation and with the Russians as the embodiment of evil, we forgot that we had responsibilities to ourselves, and to the world. We got drunk on the Kool-Aid and as we see now the party has come to an end. Now, not only to we face the same problems of unemployment and inflation that Carter confronted, but now we have the spectre of terrorism and war that has sprung up due to our dependence to foreign oil, and the lack of industry that we could have created to confront that dependence.

I don't blame it all on us, after all, truth--dare I say, inconvenient truths, the ones that force a person to change, are the hardest to accept. Our first instinct is to run away from them. I don't wonder why we fall for slogans like "drill baby drill" and "Conservation is not prudent energy policy" because they are too tempting, simple. But time and again we learn through, as RFK mentioned, the "awful grace of God" that what is tempting and simple isn't always right. And usually we make a buffoon out of the dude who tries to drop the hard knowledge on your head.

So on the 30 anniversary of his speech I'd like to make a toast to President Carter. Hey, at least he tried, and most of the time, that's the best we can do.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Haven't You Seen A Bruce Lee Movie

Sotomayor has to explain the dangers of nunchucks to Orrin Hatch:

Maybe she should have just given a visual presentation:

Damn--Lee was a BAD man.

Read A Book

I've probably made this point before, but I think it bears reiterating. For Liberals who claim that they were hoodwinked by Obama into believing that he was more liberal than his actions so far bare out, and Conservatives who claim that the man is a black Karl Marx I would like to refer you to Obama's book The Audacity of Hope. When Obama began his run for president, I, unlike most of the M$N, actually did research, which is why I never fell for that meme that he was "untested" or "inexperienced". His book lays out some of the general issues going on in American society and he, in more explicit details that you'd expect, lays out his thoughts and ideas on what he felt should have been done and needed to be done. His text revealed that while, generally, his thinking can be considered to have a liberal tilt, he was moderate in his tendancies to the point of even being considered libertarian. (That's why when he talks of personal resonsiblity, I don't think he's pandering in the least). His book details the thinking of a pragmatic man who will shift ideology when it will make what he believes is a better decision. I don't think he hid this from the general public. Yes, I did believe he would be a bit stronger in ending our secret detention and interrogation cubby-holes around the world, but that's about all.

All of this rehetoric surrounding Obama and his admistration seem to miss the substance of the man, rather than confront his policies and decisions the want to talk about ideology, but the reason I voted for him, a reason motivated by my readings of his books and speeches, exposed a man who was not an ideologue, and trying to label him as such, to me, exposes ignorance. If Liberals really wanted a liberal you should have voted for Dennis Kuchinch or Ralph Nader, and conservatives...well you just got beat. You really want to get at Obama, then do us all a favor and read a book.

Remember Tommy Lee Jones in...

Natural Born Killers, where he played Warden Jack McClusky? If not here's a reminder:

Remember how at the end of the film he's ripped apart by his own prisoners? Well when I read stuff like this about dickhead sheriff Joe Arpaio, I can't help but think that Mr. Tough-Guy-Hiding-Behind-His-Badge is going to out in the same way:

"In 2005, he forced nearly seven hundred prisoners, wearing nothing but pink underwear and flip-flops, to shuffle four blocks through the Arizona heat, pink-handcuffed together, to a new jail. When they arrived, one prisoner was made to cut a pink ribbon for the cameras. This elaborate degradation, which is remembered fondly by Sheriff Joe's fans, was ostensibly in the name of security--the men were strip-searched both before and after the march. But Arpaio also told reporters, "I put them on the street so everybody could see them."

By the way, would that make Glenn Beck Wayne Gale?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Reminder

Coates reminds us of how dope the original Transformers movie was. It had Orson Wells, and it was alot less racist.

How hardcore was Starscream? Man he was ill.

Shiz Ain't Changing

Maybe the problem in our political debate is "contrary-iness", but it's probably the just the commodification of ideas. Pundits, bloggers, journalists, and so on have to fill virtual pages to draw attention to themselves and they have to do it fast, and alot, so they have to come up with shit that's going to get hits and links. Whether or not that happens to be true or make sense doesn't matter, as long as people will read it, send it out to their buddies, or post it up on facebook.

I don't see this changing for at least...well for a long time.

PS: Irony of the day--blogger's spell check doesn't recognize the word "bloggers". And for some reason this really bugs me. I need a beer.

Sarah Palin as Jesus

Publius, riffing on Benen, theorizes that GOP support for Palin is rising because they see their persecution in America through her:

"In a sense, she's Jesus -- she's standing in for them, and being crucified for being true to their cause. And so the media criticism (even though totally justified) will help her with this activist base, even if it destroys any chance she might have had to win a national election."

I've been fascinated with this persecution performance (or if you wish, outrage performance) phenomena since I wrote about the R. Kelly trial last semester. It's my feeling that this type of performance is growing in our culture, from Palin's resignation to Peter King's seemingly manufactured outrage at the coverage of MJ's death (Did MJ babysit his kid? Does he even have children?). What is it about our media that finds the performance of outrage or persecution more engaging than reality? Or is it that we can't tell the differance anymore? I don't really have an answer right now, but I think it's a question worth thinking about.

What a surprise...

CIA caught lying:

Beyond Disgusting

Turns out one of the people buried in the historic African-American cemetery that had been desecrated as part of a scheme to resell plots was Emmett Till. I'm not sure that his plot had been one of the ones that had been destroyed but, damn...just the thought of it...some people can't even find peace in death.

PS: This is pretty disturbing too.

The Flip Side?

Watching CNN right now, and they're talking about Health Care reform. What's killing me is the way they're phrasing the question:

"Should we tax the rich to give health care to poor sick people?"

So what's the flip side? Like, are we really supposed to answer this? No, we shouldn't tax the rich to take care of poor sick people, we should let them die. F! 'em.

This is what passes for debate. Great.

Monday, July 06, 2009


The title says it all. I was thinking about wasting time talking about her resignation but then I realize that if I did that then Sarah Palin would win. Anyway, AL shines a light on this farce here. Money quote (In response to Ross Douthat):

"This last line from Ross's column also bothers me:
'Sarah Palin is beloved by millions because her rise suggested, however temporarily, that the old American aphorism about how anyone can grow up to be president might actually be true.
"This is a ridiculous statement. If you want evidence that anyone can grow up to be president, how about looking at the current President. It's hard to imagine a more unlikely future president than the biracial son of a teenage mother in Hawaii who was given the name of his absentee Muslim father. But Obama did well in school, worked hard, impressed everyone he met with his intellect and managed to put himself in a position to become president."

Oh and maybe, just maybe, not anybody should become president? Hasn't Bush taught us anything?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Bloomberg Endorses Universal Health Care

Agree or disagree with NY's emperor, er, I mean mayor, he does seem to stay ahead of the curve. From his op-ed in the NY Daily News:

"The public option in health care - which President Obama is supporting as a central part of his proposed reforms - grows out of the same idea. If you like the coverage you have, you keep it. But if you don't have coverage - or if you lose your coverage - you'd have another option. And virtually everyone agrees that a well-managed public option has real potential to provide - for less money - the same benefits that private insurers provide."

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Bad Move

The headline alone gives it away:

"US gives Somalia about 40 tons of arms, ammunition"

"WASHINGTON, June 26 (Reuters) - The U.S. government has provided about 40 tonnes of weapons and ammunition to Somalia's embattled government in the past six weeks to help it fight Islamist insurgents, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States spent less than $10 million on what he described as small arms and ammunition as well as on payments to other nations to train Somali government forces."

This seems so familiar...where have I seen...oh yeah, now I remember!

And we all remember how well that one turned out for us. Ah well ,anything to get Phil Hoffman in a movie.

Pushing Hard for Health (Care)

Alot of people have wondered why the Dems and Obama haven't used their political capital to push harder on health reform, and more particularly, reform that headlines universal coverage. Erza makes a great point here about the potential disaster that would be waiting for them if they did:

"Hacker and Rajkumar simply consider the policy consequences of a failed attempt at health reform. I think people should consider the political consequences of a failed attempt at health reform. People talk about Colin Powell's Pottery Barn Rule: If you break it, you own it. But there's a partner to that law: Call it the Plumber's Principle. If you hired a plumber to fix your toilet and a week later the problem returned, you'd stop trusting that plumber. If you say you've fixed it, in other words, you own that fix.

"If Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi muscle health reform through Congress, if President Barack Obama signs a bill in the Rose Garden and hands the pen to an ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy, if health reform, in other words, passes with fanfare and attention, Democrats own it. This will not be a quiet accomplishment. They will have told the American people that on this historic day, under this historic administration, they have begun to bend the curve and and tame the insurers and guarantee coverage and generally fix this huge problem that so many before have promised action on but so few have succeeded in tackling.

"And if, 10 years down the road, the plight of the middle class has worsened and cost growth hasn't slowed and the only real difference is that more tax dollars go towards low-income subsidies, Democrats will be blamed for that. Their arguments will have less credibility. Republicans will run ads about "the last time a Democrat told you he could reform American health care."

I think that's a concern that should be kept in mind, but I think a bigger concern for the Dems should be if they do nothing or, perhaps worse yet, manufacture some sort of tepid reform. Again the Obama administration should remember that they were installed to

a) do something...

i) unlike Bush

ii) progressive

Either our parties are going to be more concerned at maintaining power or concerned about improving our country. To do the latter requires doing something, and if it fails, well you have to accept the consequences or not run for office.


Let's hope this WashPo article is just wrong. AL gives his take here. Important quote:

"Whether or not we sympathize with some of the political difficulties the Obama administration faces, it is incumbent upon those of us who care about civil liberties and the rule of law to apply continuous and aggressive pressure on the Obama administration to do the right thing and to live up to the principles they claim to believe in. If there is no political pressure coming from the left on this issue, then the only pressure the administration will feel is demagoguery coming from the right."

I guess it just goes to show you how hard it is to close Pandora's Box.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

And About That Movie...

So far Transformers 2 has been the best summer movie this year. Yeah, I said it. I know, I know, inane plot, flat characters, dumb script, but it is the most fun I've had at the theaters since Dark Knight. I think part two is a far superior movie than they original. Most of all I have to give Michael Bay props for putting together some of the best visual action sequences ever. Say what you want about the man, but he really knows how to blow shit up.

And Megan Fox is really, really hot.

Talking Smack

I would widen Coates' point here (Important: Please read the whole post to understand his context):

"With respect due, I am so heartily tired of reading certain white writers talk about what's wrong with us [Black people]. It's like watching a terminal cancer patient with, a few months to live, talk shit about another patient, with mere weeks."

I think one of the problems with our American debate is that we base our decisions and opinions on what hegemonic voices (ie. white males, but obviously can and does incorporate voices of other genders and races) tell us. My dad used to ask me, "Why is it that if I wanna know about Indians, or Africans, or black people or any colored people I have to ask a white guy or read a white guy's book?" Understand that my dad is 72 years old so he sees these things slightly different than we may. We may rightly say, well now we can read books on other cultures by people from those cultures, but in our mainstream media are those sources really getting through to us? Remember our march to war in Iraq? Wolfiwitz telling us that our troops would be met with roses and honey? Think maybe we could have gotten some better info if we asked an Iraqi? And I don't mean those dudes on the US payroll like Chalabi, but some less biased guys? We do have some in America you know?

You know why the Daily Show's coverage of Iran was so good? Because they went there and spoke to them.

Now we have a situation in Honduras--how much do you want to bet that on CNN and FOX and MSNBC we're going to have an influx of "experts" where most will not be Honduran, telling us what the Honderan people want? I recently taught a class with a Honduran woman who wrote a paper on the enviromental and social damage done to the Honduran people by the timber interests that are empowered by American and European companies. These timber companies have huge control within the government. Think that information will come out in our "weekly roundtables" as they tell us why Honduras doesn't have a stable and efficent democracy?

If we truly want to have a just and effective foriegn policy that protects American interests without alienating and offending indiginious populations we must give these populations voices to present their issues and then listen to their grivences with good faith.

PS: I do not mean, of course, that a person outside of a community cannot write on that community. If that was the case academics would cease, or would be incredibly hindered. But good scholarship means gathering as much first hand information as possible and then fleshing out arguments from that information. Much of what passes in the media for commentary doesn't seem to go through this process. Rather first hand information is either cherry picked, or is imagined. This is how we get people like Bush telling us that terrorists hate us "because of our freedom." Or, better yet, Ahmadinjad telling is that there are no gays in Iran.

On That BET Tribute to MJ

Odeisel's got the scoop on what went wrong with it, and how reflects the overall degeneration of BET.

I'm Back

My classes ended at the beginning of June, and since then I've been bumming around, but one can't just sit around smoking...stuff, drinking beer, reviewing magic cards, reading Tolstoy, jogging, and playing bad video games forever (unless you're one of the characters in this movie), while the world goes to shit.

In review--I think Obama's doing a good job, but not a great job, and while I think Maher is grilling the Prez a bit hard, his overall point, that there's really no left to our political debate, I think is correct. Maybe if there was these bailouts wouldn't be so out of control, universal health coverage would be the center piece in reform, and the Democrats wouldn't have replaced the GOP as the party of no ideas and more rhetoric than substance. We still have captives in Guantanamo who haven't been tried (and Obama claims they may never get a trial), we still have over 130,000 troops in Iraq, and unemployment is still rising.

And Michael Jackson died. Though this may not be the government's fault.

Obviously, it's still too early to judge how this administration is doing, but the tone, the flavor of the overall debate seems as stagnant and stale as the Coleman/ Franken election (I mean they're still fighting? Really?) or NY's legislative crisis (The Republicans lost--they need to get over it, hand over the reins to the Dems, and shut up. And no equivocation Gov. Paterson, you are not getting elected--ever--so try to leave office with at least one ball intact).

Obama was elected one the referendum of change, and while we know that change takes time, it also takes action and it takes determination, two traits seemingly missing from our debate. I think the people made it very clear what we want our leadership to do, and now its time for them to follow through.

Anyway, hope some of you are still out there. If not, then it's still good being home.

LabPixies TV