Saturday, September 24, 2005


Once again, I rely on David Rossie, who contextualizes what is happening in Washington today, in the form a recipe for what he calls "Morality Play Pudding."

His ostensible subject is the war protestors who spilled blood, I believe it was their own, on various objects, including an American flag, at an military recruitment office somewhere in upstate NY on St. Patrick's Day, 2003; they were protesting the up-coming invasion of Iraq, and henceforth became known as "The St. Patrick's Four."

His recipe is unusual in that after giving the ingredients, Mr. Rossie explains how to uncook them; a few years back I might have used the word "deconstruct, but the usefulness of that word started to waste away from the day that David Horowitz et al realized its usefulness to making the case that university English departments across the nation pose a national security threat, if not a threat to Western Civilization itself.

The demonstration Rossie is addressing is not the one our good friend and blog-mate, Riggsveda, is attending today, along with other notable female bloggers, as noted here, it is a more recent one, in support of The St. Patrick's Four, who, having successfully defended themselves in a previous trial by using their anti-war views as a defense, are now facing Federal per prosecution, where such a defence has already been ruled out.

Speaking of the gathered crowd, Rossie notices:
The others need no introduction; they're old acquaintances in a way. They may be divided philosophically, but they are united by a single objective that has become a cliche: Support Our Troops. The antiwar people want to support them by bringing them home. The pro-war people, it would appear, want to support them by keeping them in the midst of an escalating civil war, thereby increasing their chances of getting killed or wounded. Some support.

Prominent among the antiwar activists outside Binghamton's Federal Building on Monday were a number of men wearing shirts and caps that identified them as "Veterans for Peace." If there was a comparable contingent of "Doves for War," it was not apparent.

The nearest thing to that category was a gaggle of college kids from Ithaca who showed up on Sunday to whoop it up for the war -- provided, of course, that some other, non-college kids were fighting it.
Rossie suggests he could be accused of cynicism for what he has to say. I respectfully disagree; what I'd call him is tough-minded.

See what you think? Read the whole column, it's well worth it. Then let's discuss in comments. Not just about opposing this war, but also about what choices and venues we have to do so.

600,000 Ugly Ducklings 

Hey Beautiful People: C'mon by the New Corrente Building and read the my take on today's activity (from afar, alas.) Here's a sample:

I was watching the coverage on C-Span of today’s anti-war protest, and following the comments over at the Crack Den, mostly because that’s where I knew a lot of us too poor/busy/far away from the event to go folks would be. A lot of people were complaining about the coverage, but more were complaining about the event itself. Too many issues, too many speakers, not enough “focus.”

I consider myself a bit of a veteran when it comes to protesting, I try to hit at least one or two a year, usually more. I’ve been to DC, and SF, and a bunch of other places for smaller events of a regional nature, and in crowds from 100 to 350,000 or more. Protests are funny things, in that they tend to attract a wide range of people, depending on the subject(s) of the protest and the timing of the event. What I haven’t been to a great deal: rallies that have a lot of “focus.”

I manage to work in the Protest Warriors, Mumia, fat people and rainbow colored farm animals. Just like if I'd actually been there! Plus, live links. I'm too lazy to do the a = href ... dance twice, especially with Blogger. Peace!

Stop The War. Period. 

Come to D.C. TODAY.


Do SOMETHING, for Christ's sake! Get your ass to the protest. If you can't do that, call your representatives. Send them letters. Write to the newspapers. Show your face somewhere and take a stand in public. Make your voice heard.

DO something.

Courtesy of Project for the Old American Century.

Lovely Rita 

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Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, and germens spill at once,
That make ingrateful man!

[ FOOL: O nuncle, court holy-water in a dry house is better than this
rain-water out o' door. Good nuncle, in, and ask thy daughters' blessing: here's
a night pities neither wise man nor fool. ]

Rumble thy bellyful! Spit, fire! Spout, rain!
Nor rain, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters:
I tax not you, you elements, with unkindness;
I never gave you kingdom, call'd you children,
You owe me no subscription: then let fall
Your horrible pleasure: here I stand, your slave,
A poor, infirm, weak, and despised old man:
But yet I call you servile ministers,
That have with two pernicious daughters join'd
Your high engender'd battles 'gainst a head
So old and white as this. O! O! 'tis foul!

King Lear
William Shakespeare


Image from CNN.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Gutless, Feckless Beltway Dems, Corporatese Edition 

You can't Execute or Implement if you don't have a Vision and a Goal and a Plan.

Once you Craft a solid Plan you can Present it to the Stakeholders and get Buy-In. Only then can you Execute Effectively.

Let's say there are two teams working on a project. One team is the lead team.

The non-lead team calls a meeting with management:

"The lead team has made some very bad decisions that have been very damaging to the company. We think we should replace them as the lead team."

Some obvious questions from the management would be:

"Why didn't you try to stop the lead team from making those bad decisions?"

"Why didn't you tell us earlier, urgently and unequivocally, that these were bad decisions and were going to hurt the company?"

"What would you do differently if you were the lead team? What is your plan?"

What if the non-lead team refused to answer those questions or acted evasive?

Would you approve the switch if you were the management?

What if you demanded answers to those questions before you would approve the switch?

Stop The War VI 

Come to D.C. on the 24th. I'll be there, hanging with Democracy For America, and carrying the flag in the upside-down signal of distress. Plans are to hook up with Robin of Fact-Esque, and Barbara of Mahablog, and possibly Neddie of By Neddie Jingo and Melanie of Just A Bump in the Beltway. If the reports from of Operation Granite at Kos are reliable (thanks for the tip to Nur al-Cubicle), we may have to take steps to ensure we aren't framed, or worse, disappeared down the black hole that has become the Bush-approved legal system.

Come with us.


Goodnight, moon 

And may the God of her choice look after Riggsveda in DC!

Stop The War V 

Come to D.C. on the 24th.


Courtesy, once again, of the Project for the Old American Century.

Katrina clusterfuck: Privatized bus contractor screws the pooch, while FEMA turns down volunteers! 

From The Chicago Tribune via Booman:

Two days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, as images of devastation along the Gulf Coast and despair in New Orleans flickered across television screens, the head of one of the nation's largest bus associations repeatedly called federal disaster officials to offer help. [Read the rest of the the ugly, ugly story]

Gaslight watch: Say, with Bush's numbers tanking, isn't it time for a new terror attack? 

Just asking...

NOTE And oh, erm ...

What Happens if We Leave Now? 

(This is in response to the question posed by Nudnik in comments.)

Americans stop getting killed for no g-ddam reason in Iraq. That's a good thing. We can rededicate those resources to capturing Osama and his network and keeping the US safe at home.

The civil war that has been going on for at least two years continues. But, just like what happened in Vietnam when the US got out, the civil war will come to it's natural conclusion. Once they are rid of our massive outside influence the Iraqis will resolve their Civil War themselves. There will be winners and there will be losers, but it will end.

Why do you think the Sunni insurgents are blowing up Shiite and Kurd civilians? Because they hate freedom? Because they want to make everyone terrafied?

It's because they want to send a message to the other ethnic groups: Don't fuck with us. Give us what we want or we'll kill you.

Why do you think the Sunni insurgents are blowing up US soldiers?

It's because they see them as a foreign influence on the side of their ethnic enemies.

Once we get the US military and their giant permanent bases out the slaughter will be stopped, eventually, by the Iraqis themselves. By staying we are only preventing this from happening and prolonging the slaughter. The palestinian insurgency has been going on for what, 40 years?

We might not like what Iraq looks like after we get out, but whatever the Iraqis come up with will be self-determined. That's the first step towards democracy. There can be no democracy in the Middle East if it's imposed by the US at gunpoint.

If bordering countries try to interfere we can threaten to bomb the bejeebus out of them. The current US military is designed to confront an organized army and a country with a government. We can cause the governments of Iran, Syria or Turkey some serious pain. This is something we can do very well. Everybody knows this and we can use it for leverage.

Hi, sailor! New in town? 

Folks, there's good news tonight! Yes, the strippers are back in New Orleans:

In a sign that things may be returning to normal in New Orleans, strip shows are back in the city's famous French Quarter.

"This is our first time off the ship and it's great," said one young sailor as he left the club. He declined to give his name or say where he was stationed.

"It's good to see the businesses getting back up and bringing the city back," another sailor said.


Hey, small business! What's not to like?

Anyone know of a way to post from one's cell via blogapi? 

I want a Drupal module that does that. Presumably some form of Instant Messaging technology would be used. Thanks!

Stop The War IV 

Come to D.C. on the 24th.


As always, courtesy of the Project For The Old American Century.

Want My Vote? Getcher Ass to DC 9-24! 

Today's Esteemed Mr. Froomkin column in the WaPo has the nicely succinct summary of Events As They Stand Now:
A recent Gallup Poll , for instance, found that 63 percent of Americans -- almost two out of three -- support the immediate partial or complete withdrawal of U.S. troops. Fewer than one in three Americans support Bush's handling of the war.

The White House, so aware of the power of staying on message, can take some solace from the fact that the antiwar movement is deeply conflicted, lacks clear leadership, and is being kept at arm's length by many top Democrats.
I will concede that up to now this latter item may have been an excellent strategy. The war is just plain fucking wrong whether you're a Dem, Rep, Ind, Soc, Lib, Grn, PinkoComSymp, or Party To Be Named Later. Only the most dyed-in-the-koolaid even still holds to the rapidly-shredding fantasy that "it was a swell idea that was executed poorly, we can still turn it around." (yeah, I am lookin' at chew, Mr. Kerry--I gagged on that line during the campaign but played along. See how well THAT worked out, eh?)

To the point: The person I am going to vote for for President in '08 will be at the March On Washington on Saturday. This person does not have to speechify or make any orations--but this person will have his or her boots on the ground, be they Ferragamos or Birkenstocks or Fryes or whatever.

I have no idea who this person is as yet. I don't even know what party they're from. But just for the record, I will vote for a Republigoddamican who is in the March Against War before I vote for another Dem who "plays it safe" while the killing's still going on.

Stop The War III 

Come to D.C. on the 24th.


As always, courtesy of the Project For The Old American Century.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Good Fight 

Drumming up business can be tough. I wonder if Dear Leader would be any good in sales?

I have a friend who works for a major advertising agency. She’s what you’d call the classic example of middle management, neither so high nor so low up as to be exceptional nor mundane. When I met first met her, one thing that made me know we’d immediately be friends was the fact that she did not own a TV. Actually, she did, but it sat atop her cat tree, awaiting a rush of energy when she felt like dragging it down the stairs and to the trash receptacle outside her co-op (she’s a small person). I knew then that we’d be fast friends. I was right.

c'mon by the New Corrente Building and read the rest. I promise, it's clean, well-lit, and has a lot of fancy new features that I'm working hard to take advantage of. In fact, we're passing out hefty supplies of free beer, choice bud, and Peace in the Middle East!

.../end bush/ Yes, that must be how he does it. Hope it works for me.

Goodnight, moon 

"Just say it," she said.

And they did!

Meanwhile, that sloppy thudding noise you heard was Bush falling off the wagon.

Rita insanity: Doing the same thing again and expecting a different result 

Will Bunch has the skinny yet again:

The 73 year-old woman called the Red Cross today to find out what she should do about the storm. She said she was told to go to the bus station and tell them she had no money and needs to get out of the city... [The punchline at the renovated Corrente]

"Nothing Is More Important In The Face Of A War Than Cutting Taxes" 

The Onion? Saturday Night Live? The Daily Show? None of the above?
From National Journal’s “Congress Daily PM",
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

“Meanwhile, Majority Leader DeLay today brushed aside arguments that the Bush administration should hold off plans to attack Iraq until it has secured approval from the United Nations, saying the international body has become irrelevant and outlived its useful life. ‘They can talk until they're blue in the face over at the U.N.,’ DeLay told an America's Community Bankers meeting today. ‘I think the days of the United Nations have come to an end ... because they can't do anything.’ DeLay also said it was Congress' duty in a time of war to significantly cut taxes. ‘Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes,’ he said.”
As you no doubt remember, that was our Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, responding to a question from Specialist Thomas Wilson of the Tennessee National Guard, who was serving in Iraq at the time, December 9, 2004. (LINK)

Here was Les AuCoin's response at the time:
The lack of body armor in Iraq has been known for two years and yet little has been done about it—despite protests from officials like Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio, who can’t stand the—what? Arrogance? Ineptitude?—of sending young Americans into combat without the standard means of survival.

What I’d like to know is why the news media was missing in action on this story. Why should the story of inadequately protected soldiers depend on an obscure Army specialist to be told in all its disgrace? I’ll tell you why: it’s because the Washington press corps was too busy inside the Beltway trying to find out if Rumsfeld would stay for a second term, if he helped push Colin Powell out, and if he had been up to mischief on the so-called intelligence reform bill.

The other thing a lot of Americans would like to know is why Rumsfeld gave a misleading answer to the Army soldier’s question. Rumsfeld suggested that overloaded production lines were the cause of the armor shortages.

This turns out to be untrue. The Florida-based maker of fully armored Humvees announced last week that the company has been waiting for more purchase orders from the Pentagon.(LINK)

Here's what Tony Blankely had to say about Rumsfeld's statement at the time:
It is often observed that certain brilliant people "don't suffer fools gladly." But the more common experience of mankind is that fools don't suffer brilliant people gladly.
An excellent example of this phenomenon is the current attack on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld by a legion of Washington little people: a pack of has-beens, never weres and wannabees. In other words, sitting senators, retired generals and journalists who, whether sitting or standing, are, regrettably, never retiring.

What they all have in common is a consuming hatred of logic (of course one often hates that with which one has no familiarity). And, what Donald Rumsfeld has in vast supply is logic: cold, undeniable, cruel, inexorable.


Several senators and congressmen who have been in town for decades hate Mr. Rumsfeld's logic that you fight a war with the Army you've got. They prefer the illogic that cutting the size of our Army in half between 1990-2000 should have no bearing on the size of the Army you have in 2001. How dare Mr. Rumsfeld point out the consequences of their defense budget cuts.


Mindlessly echoing Mr. Rumsfeld's Pentagon and Capitol Hill opponents are the empty suits and skirts (credit to Michael Savage for the phrase) who report the news. When two or three of these people have shared their illogic with each other, it constitutes a reportable condition called "a buzz" that Rumsfeld is in trouble for not doing his job properly.

He is , in fact, doing his job just fine. But we live in age of fraudulent sentiment and paralyzing political correctness. In such a time, Don Rumsfeld1s greatest mistake is not sweetening his logic with sentimental treacle.
By all means, read the whole thing here; it'a classic.

"Only Connect," said the liberal, Edwardian novelist. So, let's connect then and now.

DeLay's expressed attitude toward the UN, and by implication, doing what is necessary to keep allies at one's side, is the major reason we have never had sufficient troops on the ground in Iraq to prosecute an intelligent, well-planned, humane, temporary, and internationally supported occupation, which would have required immediately securing borders, and those huge weapons caches that were locatabreconnaissancelite reconnaisance, plus, at the same time, immediately providing civil order, well, one could go on and on. The flypaper strategy continues to be a total failure, except to the extent that it has worked to keep us stuck in a morass of our own making, with almost no options left to get us outdamagingl not be dammaging both to us and to Iraqis.

Faced now with a "homeland" catastrophe, Republicans' first instinct is to protect tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of everyone else, including the men and woman doing the fighting, and their families, aSirotang to David Sorota, who found the story in the Navy Times:
They say we need to pay for reconstruction not by asking the wealthiest to sacrifice just a little bit, but by massive cuts to spending. And now we see what that means: The Navy Times today reports that those cuts "include trimming military quality-of-life programs, including health care." This, while troops are in battle.

The Republicans have put their cutting efforts in military terms, calling it "Operation Offset" - a further insult to the men and women in uniform they are now trying to screw over. The specifics are ugly. They are, for instance, asking troops to "accept reduced health care benefits for their families." Additionally, "the stateside system of elementary and secondary schools for military family members could be closed." In the past, this idea "has faced strong opposition from parents of children attending the schools because public schools [in and around bases] are seen as offering lower-quality education."

None of this, I suppose, is all that surprising. In the past, we've seen tax cuts put before making sure troops have adequate body armor heading into war - a tax/budget decision that very likely increased U.S. casualties. We've also seen Republicans vote down efforts to reduce tax cuts for the very wealthy in order to restore cuts to military family housing. And we've seen tax cuts come as the White House has refused to adequately fund a variety of other programs for troops. The truth is, the GOP has in moments of candor admitted that they care about cutting taxes for the wealthy far more than they care about the troops.
Read the rest here; David gives links within the post that nails what he claims is going on, like this one to Democratic Rep. George Miller's congressional page; good stuff about really bad people.

Watch for the Bush administration to ask congress to cut funds for all military newspapers.

Stop The War II 

Hurricane's a Comin' 

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My words are weak and small
You can't hardly hear them at all
They are just so many ways to leave a mark

I raise my lantern by the sea
It throws some light, but I can't see
The shadows tremble wild in the dark

There out in the waters
Spinning like a drunken top
The hurricane is coming, but
I will run away from death and never stop
Hurricane's a coming
It's on its way
Hurricane's a coming
It's on its way

Like a fighter in the ring
Death, where is thy sting?
Galeveston is waiting on the shore

Like a dreamer on the sand
Who reaches up with just one hand
But cannot open up the only door

(repeat chorus)

In the Gulf there are warm waters
That sustain the whirling daughters
They seek to come ashore and fly away

The terror and the power
Of a storm consumes the hours
God has bought the garden but it's hell you have to pay

(repeat chorus)

My words are weak and small
You can't hardly hear them at all
They are just so many ways to leave a mark

I raise my lantern by the sea
It throws some light, but I can't see
The shadows tremble wild in the dark

(repeat chorus)


Image of Galveston dead being removed for burial from here.

Crossposted at Mortaljive.



The Ord of War 

I love my city (San Francisco) sometimes. Actually I love it often. Just walking around you can see examples of citizens sharing their creativity through counter-propaganda.

Last night I was at one of my favorite drinking spots, Zeitgeist, and my friends pointed out this billboard, tacked onto the side of the bar's building and clearly visible from the beer garden. It's so well done (it mimics the graphic style of the corporate Lord of War campaign) that you don't notice right away, but if you look closely... that's my Bush!

If you look even closer (you can click on the close up image at the Billboard Liberation Front page if you dare) you'll see that the Bush image is made up of hundreds of... yes that's right, hundreds of assholes.

This other guy I know from the 'hood who was at Zeitgeist told me about the a-holes cause you can't really tell from the ground. My comment to him: "appropriate".

As a marketing tool, I totally appreciate things like this and the FreewayBlogger and the Grover Norquist Katrina Bathtub billboard currently rolling around the DC Metro Area because in marketing it's all about getting the highest Number of Impressions possible. This stuff is mass media that spreads the message to a large number of people. As opposed to blogs which are more of a targeted, opt-in kind of medium. When the two work together, 's a beautiful thing.

UPDATE: Alert reader Nur al-Cubicle has some counter-propaganda painted on Israel's illegal de-facto-landgrab partition wall.

Stop The War 

Stadium Effect 

From a true weather geek's Wunderground blog (highly recommended), proof that some things can bring forth poetry even from Air Force Reserve flyers of hurricane recon craft:
RECON Report - 898mb - Max FLT LVL Wind 165Kts (175mph sustained surface) and the following comments from the crew:


Just for the record, the lowest (=worst) air pressure ever recorded in the eye of a hurricane was 888mb, in Gilbert of unlamented memory. This one is on track to overtake it.

Oh, and the ground fog tonight (2:30 a.m.) is so thick that I can barely see the cotton field across the road, but straight overhead is as clear as a bell. The moon is waning. Mars is exceptionally bright at the moment.

The centaurs would no doubt have thoughts on the matter, but you know how they hate to make predictions.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Katrina: FEMA spends $1 billion on ice that's going to just melt 

Hey, here's an opportunity for another Bush photo-op!

The government will pay more than $4 for each of the thousands of five-pound bags of ice ordered for Gulf Coast hurricane-relief efforts that are now sitting unused in tractor-trailers in Gloucester and across the United States, say shipping and ice-making experts. [Continued at the new place]

I Don't. 

The truth is, I have a hard time remembering that I’m a radical and most people don’t share my views. In that spirit, I’m laying out some of my thoughts on marriage, sex and politics to see what Corrente readers think.

Right now, it’s almost an impossible task to pick out what’s the worst thing happening to America. Creeping theocratic pseudofascism, trillions lost by the DoD, crumbling infrastructures, declining literacy and the destruction of public education, ballooning national debt, spiraling war, yadda yadda yadda. Yet as you all know, some of our elected officials would rather spend their valuable legislative time addressing critical issues like “preserving the sanctity of marriage.” Well, I suppose one can expect no less from Republicans, but I was surprised by a recent discussion among liberals on the topic. Several people were advocating for sustaining marriages at any cost, and most believed in attempting to bring about a lower rate of divorce. On the surface, this is a ‘sensible’ concern. There were also suggestions that marriage brings virtue, and that married people demonstrate virtue by just being (monogamously) married. I take issue with these suppositions.

First off: what is marriage, anyway? You can’t touch it, or sense it with your eyes and ears. Or at least I can’t; when I look at a person I know of no way to discern if they’re married, even with the identifying markers like strategically placed paint or rings- after all, people lie. A person can tell me, “I’m married,” and it relates to absolutely nothing that is physically real and material. What is real and material is a person’s set of behaviors. A person who only sleeps with one other person, a person who shares finances and living space and procreates with one other person, a person who is granted special rights by the state as a result of certifying a religious or civil ceremony- these things are real. But like the FSM, marriage itself relates to something as tangible as fairy dust, and I think we should give it the same amount of attention. It’s a social construct, one that’s created far too great a diversion in these troubled times.

Obviously, there are benefits to partnership and monogamy. Lower risk of STDs, increased social standing and financial stability, confidence in reproductive success, and perhaps the most important, never having to feel “totally alone.” But there are also drawbacks, which may not be of the same scale, but are real nonetheless. The exploration of the sexual self can’t be fully accomplished with one partner alone. Intellectual and sociological change and growth can be hampered by routine. Opportunity can also pass by those who find themselves rooted to a place, job and relationship, sometimes of the once in a lifetime kind. Like all important choices, marriage is one that comes with risks and benefits that each person should weigh carefully before taking that step.

But to a radical like me, marriage in the ideal and marriage in the real world are two different and grossly unequal things. I’ll throw down the gauntlet and say that the ideology of marriage creates unnecessary inequalities for women. Unmarried women are subject to a great deal of internally and externally generated emotional and mental pressure. They are frequently objects of derision, and they suffer from a host of unfair conditions (financial, social and reproductive) that their male counterparts don’t necessarily share. At the same time, married women suffer under a set of completely different and equally unfair discriminations- in the workplace, in popular culture, in forms of religious dogma. While great progress has been made in many countries, it’s still the case that a man shares few of these burdens. Married or unmarried, men enjoy many freedoms that women still have yet to fully experience. Few men have been told that it’s not worth hiring them because “they’ll just quit to have children in a few years.” Few men have been told “there must be something wrong with you” for failing to marry by the age of 40. Few men experience pressure to sacrifice a career in order to reproduce, and suffer the attendant setback in career goals when they choose to return to full employment. And for some reason, men with children but no wife are looked upon as heroic examples of male flexibility and compassion, where their female counterparts are regular targets for political and social persecution, subject to official and unofficial hurdles just to get the basic support they need. Marriage perpetuates religious and social traditions which engender patriarchy, sexism, and violence against women.

Marriage also creates a tremendous sink for the mental and emotional energies of those who are married. Marriage is usually supposed to be defined principally by monogamy, and this is the form of which I now speak. Married people must constantly struggle against their natural biological impulses and find satisfaction in their partner alone, and at the same time a gender disparity exists within the sociological reality of “monogamy” that favors men and male infidelity. Even for those contented by their partner, over a lifetime, sexual synchronicity can be difficult to achieve, especially after childbirth, menopause, medical problems, and varying states of physical and mental health. Assuming those difficulties are overcome, married people must also concern themselves with how they are perceived by others. The appearance of dissatisfaction, adultery, or sexual deviation can cause one or both partners to lose social standing, employment, the approval of their religious leaders, and ultimately even benefits from the state. I would add that lifetime monogamy severely limits the discovery of the natural and wonderful full human sexual range, but I will admit that this could be possible for those who devote themselves to exploration within a relationship.

Finally, marriage and partnership are two different things- just ask any long term gay couple denied marriage rights except until very recently. How do people live together, have sex, raise children, balance shared finances and support each other through thick and thin? Well, I’m sure there is no one ‘right’ answer to this question, just as I’m sure the absence or presence of a piece of paper and a ceremony has nothing to do with it. There are also the examples of other cultures around the world and throughout history, which have different views on heteronormativity and monogamy. Why shouldn’t people be free to enjoy all the benefits the state sanctions for ‘traditional marriage’ if they form partnerships that are homosexual, triune, non monogamous, asexual, or not for the purpose of procreation? And why should any of those arrangements be assumed to bring less satisfaction to those who prefer them? Don’t even get me started on the ‘moral’ component of nontraditional relationships- as far as I can tell, the least moral people are frequently the most vocal advocates for ‘traditional moral values.’ (and are there immoral values? whatever…)

Now, all this wouldn’t really matter too much, it’s just my opinion after all, except that concern about marriage is taking up valuable space in people’s minds, writings and activism time. The Left is told that “gay marriage” cost us the election, and gay rights as a whole are pushed back because of it. People involved in progressive politics have to expend valuable political capital better spent elsewhere dealing with one ridiculous piece of marriage related legislation after another. We spend boatloads of time discussing what “should be” with respect to families, and less time fixing the social problems that actually cause families to have problems- you know, poverty, discrimination, lack of education, etc. Isn’t that what we should be worried about? Or at least, shouldn’t we worry more about those things than something that in the end, is really only the business of the people inside the relationship?

I’m not really arguing for an end to marriage, although if that happened I wouldn’t cry. I am arguing for two things: choice and focus. I believe people should enjoy universal equal rights, and that “marriage” of any kind should have no impact on those rights. I also think the state should get out of the marriage business altogether, and stop trying to legislate reproductive, social, religious and fiscal policies on the basis of who is and who is not married. Further, I would like to see the progressive left quit letting the right frame the issue, and stop wasting our efforts in a battle we’ll always lose. I will always be a “burden” on the left, just because I am queer and exist. Fundies and the far right will never accept me, if I advocate for gay marriage or not. Further, those same groups will never accept the value of nontraditional family arrangements as the equals of their narrow version of what is a legitimate ‘family.’ To their eyes, all divorced people are stained, all women who’ve had abortions are sinners, and all adulterers (except their own) are permanently morally flawed; each of these groups is presumed to have less of a right to contribute to discourse relating to wholesome and prosperous society. So let’s stop trying to please them, and get with the program of what most Americans really care about. There are a hundred other issues which are more important, something most Americans have said when anyone bothers to ask them instead of the noisy far right minority.

A short version of my goals may be explained in this analogy: as a feminist, I cringe to think of how much time and wasted brain space young women devote to subjects like fashion and make up. Not only because of the inherent sexism in such concerns (young men have no obligation to follow fashion in such fervent detail) or even because much of the fashion industry posits racist, unhealthy and impossible standards of beauty. What I lament most is the loss to those young women’s own lives- what education they could’ve received, what adventure they could’ve had, what freedoms they could’ve enjoyed, if only they had turned their attentions on the real world instead of the one in magazines and on TV. In a similar way, I feel the left needs to just let the “marriage question” be, and focus on the issues that matter most in peoples lives. By playing along with the fundies, and treating marriage as a vital, valid topic for political discussion, we waste our own limited resources and play a game we can never win. As far as brass rings go, I say this one is not for us.

Death Business Roundup 

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12 Americans Slain in Attacks as British, Iraqis Argue Over Clash

"Eight service members and a State Department employee are among those killed. U.S. death toll is lower this month."

Los Angeles Times, Page A4, Wednesday, September 21, 2005


The Federal Reserve Death Watch raised its benchmark short-term rate a quarter percentage point Tuesday, causing some analysts to shake their heads knowingly. Share prices ended broadly lower for a second day, as adjusted death values signaled a sell-off of some long cherished relationships. Mary Sutherland, mother of a recently killed soldier, felt the market was just too shaky to produce meaningful results for the large, gaping hole that exists where her heart used to be. "I'm not exactly sure what they had in mind by adjusting gross values, but I went into my dead son's room again today: my ex-husband just sits in there, and holds his head, and won't leave. No talk of market shares can move him."

There have been some consumer "agitations" in the Death Fund Yields markets as traders spread deposit rates evenly among our nation's cemeteries. The Ten-Year Death Note Yield Report has produced some grumblings in the ancillary market sectors, as many analysts predicted, leading to fewer greeting card sales on the heels of the brief up-tic in the "Sorry For Your Loss" division. After tax losses, coupled with a general sense of endless despair, have created a "bulge" in Mercy Capital "floats" which have been off-set by the "One Less Seat at the Holiday Table" ennui, putting a "harsh" on family gatherings in general. Employing aspects of the "Let's Pretend" campaign, designed for families who pay way too much attention to their tragic lives, have not paid off in short-term yields nor stirred overall investor confidence.

The emotional cost of treating human beings like chess pieces being played by people who have never actually played chess could produce a negative ripple effect were it not for the predominance of "poor" or "really poor" families involved. "It's so invigorating to see these young people, with few or no options, being trained to destroy property and life on command," said Iraqi Store Operations Manager Klyde Wilmont, still wearing his Wal-Mart uniform while interviewed in front of a really cool Hummer. "It's like having a bunch of video game characters at your disposal, and then they really go off and do all that stuff you thought was just some cynical programmer's psychotic fantasy. It's awesome!" Mr. Wilmont, when asked why he was wearing a Wal-Mart uniform while leading a bunch of recruits in an assault on indigenous Arabs, ended the interview and began to snap his fingers in an unsettling rhythm.

Answering calls for new leadership in the War On People We Can Have Wars On, executives for 99 Cent Stores have unveiled their offer to buy out the United States, move their minimum wage staff overseas, and "...make the Terrorists stand in line like everybody else." No response thus far from the State Department regarding the 99 Cent Stores offer, as most of them were off checking out the new Outlet Stores recently opened just west of our nation's capital. One executive, who asked to be paid 99 cents for this interview, reached his arms skyward and yelled "God is cheap!" Religious leaders responded by issuing low-yield Heaven Promissory Notes, which, when adjusted for sheer lunacy, offered perfect bliss at a fraction of reality.


Image from here.



Granted, I've give Clinton a lot of shit over the years (welfare refrom, NAFTA, gays in the military, e.g.), but this almost redeems him:

Mon Sep 19, 2:32 AM ET, Agence France Presse

Former US president Bill Clinton sharply criticised George W. Bush for the Iraq War and the handling of Hurricane Katrina, and voiced alarm at the swelling US budget deficit.

Breaking with tradition under which US presidents mute criticisms of their successors, Clinton said the Bush administration had decided to invade Iraq "virtually alone and before UN inspections were completed, with no real urgency, no evidence that there were weapons of mass destruction."

The Iraq war diverted US attention from the war on terrorism "and undermined the support that we might have had," Clinton said in an interview with an ABC's "This Week" programme.

Clinton said there had been a "heroic but so far unsuccessful" effort to put together an constitution that would be universally supported in Iraq.

The US strategy of trying to develop the Iraqi military and police so that they can cope without US support "I think is the best strategy. The problem is we may not have, in the short run, enough troops to do that," said Clinton.

On Hurricane Katrina, Clinton faulted the authorities' failure to evacuate New Orleans ahead of the storm's strike on August 29.

People with cars were able to heed the evacuation order, but many of those who were poor, disabled or elderly were left behind.

"If we really wanted to do it right, we would have had lots of buses lined up to take them out," Clinton.

He agreed that some responsibility for this lay with the local and state authorities, but pointed the finger, without naming him, at the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

FEMA boss Michael Brown quit in response to criticism of his handling of the Katrina disaster. He was viewed as a political appointee with no experience of disaster management or dealing with government officials.

"When James Lee Witt ran FEMA, because he had been both a local official and a federal official, he was always there early, and we always thought about that," Clinton said, referring to FEMA's head during his 1993-2001 presidency.

"But both of us came out of environments with a disproportionate number of poor people."

On the US budget, Clinton warned that the federal deficit may be coming untenable, driven by foreign wars, the post-hurricane recovery programme and tax cuts that benefitted just the richest one percent of the US population, himself included.

"What Americans need to understand is that ... every single day of the year, our government goes into the market and borrows money from other countries to finance Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, and our tax cuts," he said.

"We have never done this before. Never in the history of our republic have we ever financed a conflict, military conflict, by borrowing money from somewhere else."

Clinton added: "We depend on Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Korea primarily to basically loan us money every day of the year to cover my tax cut and these conflicts and Katrina. I don't think it makes any sense."

So get loud, Mr Clinton (Mrs Clinton, too). And stop hanging out with Bush the elder.

In the long run, it's best strategy for '06.

Oh, and if you can't make it to DC this weekeend, plaster your town with these:


And turn, Rita, turn. Hit something self-righteously Xtian.

Try To Remember (This Kind Of September) 

In the run-up to the anti-war mobilization effort in D.C. this coming weekend, I'll be posting some wonderful graphics from one of the best sources on the web, Project For The Old American Century.

In the traumatic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the issue of the war in Iraq has been given a back seat, but the reverberations of both disasters will be felt for a long, long time. Katrina is over. The damage it caused waits to be fixed. But Iraq is a continuous bleeding vein of damage, and it continues to claim and ruin lives, not to mention the stoking of international hatred toward us and our people that gives the lie to Bush's claim of making us safer. Maybe it will take the behemoth claw of the Selective Service to finally make Americans care enough to get off their asses and really do something to stop the war. But maybe they can be reached first by people showing them the way, who make their voices heard. No, there's no guarantee the world will stop, the president will resign, and the flowers will bloom in the spring, tra-la. But like Cindy Sheehan and countless others, you can at least look in the mirror and know you stepped forward to take on the mantle of a citizen.


Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Check out Riggsveda's avatar!

Supreme with the Idea 

"Paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people."
--Hugo Black, Supreme Court Justice

Any of the $5 blowjob, spineless, CYA "mainstream" (i.e., paid off) media listening?

Breaking the Silence 

So some people were talking about the problems the Dems have getting out the message recently, and the comment was made:

Clinton just blasted every thing about Commander CCB. Edwards just blasted him. John Kerry gave an incredible speech to Brown.
And of course, the MSM carries almost none of this.
Gore underwrote two planes to fly people out of NOLA and personally flew in supplies.
Is that a headline at NYT? No.

It seems true to me, although I have to admit that my consumption of SCLM products is absurdly low. Most people around the Internet agree that the coverage of the “good” kind of Democratic discourse is abysmal. I remember a study I saw a few years back, talking about pundits on major media news and commentary programs. If I recall correctly, the ratio was something like 3:1 in favor of right-leaning guests. And that doesn’t take into account the fact that the left-leaning punditry these days is usually aabout as leftist as Bush Sr, or as kooky as Al Sharpton- in other words not really a fair representation of the full spectrum of leftist thought at all. Further, from what I can tell, the right-leaning voices are way overrepresented by ultrarightists, pseudofascists and theocrats.

I did the tiniest bit of research and came across a couple of interesting pieces that I’ll share. First, a Slate piece quoting a Washington and Lee professor of journalistic ethics speaking on newspapers:

...distribution fell 8 percent in the last decade, and 12 of its 25 biggest papers lost circulation last year.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, for a lot of reasons I won’t go into but probably relate to declining interest in print vs. “new media,” increasing corporatization and declining variation of content, and a general trend against reading in the country in general.

Next, here’s a sample from a Common Dreams piece:

So who are the people that the media CEOs are catering to? Media surveys support the data that the 18-25 age group turn to the internet instead of TV. When asked what is more preferable: TV or the Internet, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, in a Youth Study 2004, 75% preferred the Internet to 15% preferring TV. Nightly network news shows are viewed regularly by 64% of people 65 years old or older compared to only 22% in their 30s and younger.

I’ve also read that individual news programs have statistically minor audiences, usually not totaling over a couple million on any given slot or day, usually well below that. In a population of approaching 300 million, it’s a point worth remembering.

Obviously, people get their information from a lot of different sources, and I’m sure the method of gathering information is positively correlated with education and income levels, and skewed for race. But the important question is: how can the Dems reach more people?

Once again, I don’t have all the answers. But I think a couple of points are valid:

-Dems need to do better research. This may mean firing a consultant or two, and replacing them with properly trained academics or statisticians, but oh well. Clearly, most Dems don’t understand that given the numbers above, there are huge segments of the population who don’t read, watch or care about what Bill Falafel and Needra Pickler have to say. Yet from the overall shape of Democratic Party communication and discourse, you’d think the Dems are convinced that everyone in America thinks like the pundits, and only about the issues the pundits want to cover. This just isn’t true, and it’s time the Dems started addressing the issues about which a majority of people want to hear.

-Dems need to do even more than they already are to take advantage of the “New Media” numbers. That is, they should redouble and complexify their on-line outreach and fundraising efforts. The net is still really cheap, and it influences the young far more than traditional media. Youth are the future, and remain a tremendous pool of untapped activists and voters. IIRC, they have the lowest voter turnout, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Plus, I hear programmers and game designers work cheap these days- let them make some sites, games and other on-line interactive toys to get more young people involved. Hell, the Army is doing it.

-I’m open to the idea that there’s value in using the traditional media still, but the last five years have shown that 99% of that media is hopelessly pro-corporate, and thus usually heavily in favor of repeating only the Rethuglican agenda. There are two solutions: convince everyone to stop watching TV news and opinion programs altogether, or buy a couple of major papers and TV stations, and start broadcasting a properly Democratic message. I recognize that either of these steps requires enormous effort and tons of cash. Smarter people than I could plan out a ‘ground up’ approach of how to do the latter, but the point is that the Republicans have already done it. Whining about how difficult this would be isn’t going to help anything. Surely, there are a few liberal millionaires and Hollywood producers left in this country? There’s even a business angle: the dearth of liberal traditional media has created a vacuum, one big enough to fill advertisers’ coffers in short order. Bring back liberal media, and viewers will follow.

As usual, I don’t think the Dem leadership cares much about these issues and I don’t have confidence that they’ll come to their senses about message dissemination. But for local pols, this advice is still useful. Just as local media is more effective than is often supposed. And cheap. Lower order Dem pols should take advantage of their ability to be more ‘real’ to their constituents than a bunch of DC Bubble denizens, and combine internet outreach, local paper and TV access, and get busy with winning. Forget the DLC, “unified” messages (often little more the DINO versions of Republican discourse) and talk to people about those things that truly matter to them. And speak truth to power, as I’ve blogged on earlier.

I can’t stress enough the transformation I’ve experienced as a result of being better informed, and I thank the Internet almost 100% for that. I know I’m not alone. I had a conversation with an elderly White veteran last night in a heavily pro-Bush neighborhood, a business owner. He wanted to talk about, after hearing me let slip something negative about the war....the Trilateral Commission. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather, hearing the stuff that came out of his mouth after that. He thanks a lot of free time in his old age and the internet for his own understanding of politics. We’re not alone.

Media battles are ugly, bloody and painful, and we’ve already lost too many major ones. Cringing, hiding and whining isn’t enough, the Dems have got to take affirmative action. As always, I’m open to suggestions from you, dear reader. It took the Right ~20 years to effect their coup, but they managed it. We’re the smarter side, so hopefully we can retake our ground in a shorter time, which may be all we have left.

Oh bloody, oh blood-ah! 

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Georgie had a future in the United States
Rummy was leftover from his dad
Georgie says to Rummy: let’s invade that place
And Rummy said this as he took him by the hand
O-bloody, o-blood-ah, death goes on, ja!
Ga-ga, how this death goes on
O-bloody, o-blood-ah, death goes on, ja!
Ga-ga, how this death goes on

Georgie took a tour of The Big Easy
Poses for a photo-op, touching
Stops to look at Karl waiting at the door
And waits to feel the pull of all those puppet strings

O-bloody, o-blood-ah, death goes on, ja!
Ga-ga, how this death goes on
O-bloody, o-blood-ah, death goes on, ja!
Ga-ga, how this death goes on

In under two terms they have broken
Just a couple more years with them in charge
There’ll be nothing left but bones

Happy never after in the dying light
Rummy stares at blood that stains the sand
Georgie stays at home and starts to clear his brush
And in the evening waits for shit to hit the fan

O-bloody, o-blood-ah, death goes on, ja!
Ga-ga, how this death goes on
O-bloody, o-blood-ah, death goes on, ja!
Ga-ga, how this death goes on

In under two terms they have broken
Just a couple more years with them in charge
There’ll be nothing left but bones

Happy never after in the dying light
Rummy stares at blood that stains the sand
Georgie stays at home and starts to clear his brush
And in the evening waits for shit to hit the fan

O-bloody, o-blood-ah, death goes on, ja!
Ga-ga, how this death goes on
O-bloody, o-blood-ah, death goes on, ja!
Ga-ga, how this death goes on
O-bloody, o-blood-ah


Special thanks to The Beatles for my abuse of Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da in this un-authorized parody of that most delightful song.

Image from here.


Crossposted at Mortaljive and soon to be headlining at Correntewire. Don't forget to tip your waitress/bartender/valet guy!


And Speaking of Screwing the Newly Poor... 

Could somebody of more legal expertise than I have (which is based largely on extensive viewings of "Perry Mason" in my younger days) please explain why we can't get some judge somewhere to issue a temporary injunction forbidding the implementation of this obscene new bankruptcy law?

(via AP/AL news roundup page)
A new bankruptcy law that takes effect Oct. 17 may sink those Hurricane Katrina survivors who are still afloat.

Jack Jernigan, a New Orleans bankruptcy lawyer who's trying to run his practice from Central Florida, said the Oct. 17 effective date of the creditor-friendly bankruptcy law could have catastrophic effects on his clients, most of whom have low incomes.
Not that the law isn't just as hideous in Alaska as it is in Plaquemines Parish, but there are some particular difficulties unique to the current unpleasantness in the Katrina Zone:
"The court was kind of in disarray anyway," Jernigan said, even before the hurricane.

One bankruptcy judge died six months ago and hasn't been replaced. Another judge is about to reach mandatory retirement age. That leaves one full-time judge and two part-timers who rotate to the court as needed.
C'mon folks, this is the way it works. Everybody knows the steps to this dance: The loons in the Legislature pass some rah-rah bill ginned up with a slogan nobody in their right (i.e. reelective) minds dare vote against (Save the Unborn! Feed the Brain-Dead! Protect the Homeland! Give the President Tools Against Terrists!) knowing full well it will be overturned in the courts (which they also rail against of course) after which the matter can either be hashed out in quiet by the reality-minded or, even more often, allowed to just wander into the desert and expire of embarassment.

Why is this not happening in the Case of the Bullshit Bankrupcy Bill? (See, that Perry Mason influence is still in force.)

Little Cloud on the Southern Horizon 

One becomes curious when a story with words like "heavily edited," "FBI document" and "election fraud" (not to mention "federal campaign contribution laws" and "straw contributions") runs as a very obscure News Brief in a relatively obscure paper. This needs more research to tie the links together but if I wait to do that it may get lost altogether, so here it is. Consider it an appetizer:

(via Columbia SC State)
A heavily edited version released Monday of an FBI document used to seize records in an investigation into possible election fraud sheds little additional light on the case.

The FBI is in the early stages of a probe, led by the Justice Department’s Public Integrity section, of allegations that companies with ties to the Catawba Indian Nation may have violated federal campaign contributions laws. The allegations include possible “straw” contributions made by one contributor in the name of another.

Among the few new disclosures is that the Washington, D.C.-based FBI agent who led an Aug. 31 search of New River Management & Development, SPM (formerly Southern Property Management) and Kapp Investments in Columbia specializes in cases of public corruption and fraud against the government.

Nearly half of agent Amylynn Miller’s 17-page affidavit, described as a “road map” to the investigation, was entirely withheld from public disclosure by U.S. Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant.

Early & Pearly 

It's 4 A.M. and I am awake--suddenly--and thinking, dreaming, something like this:
this (mind you, I sampled the homemade hooch until around 1 A.M.):

Simon Wiesenthal is dead. Gatemouth Brown is dead. And yet Dick Cheney is alive, more or less.

The former two (in spite, or perhaps because of their flaws) demanded to know how that could be in my dream.

I can't find my glasses. I have to pick the last of the chile before the frost in a few minutes.

If I don't make sense, don't blame me. Blame those lost glassses and that damned little limn of corn oil that floats on the whiskey. Old timers say to strain it through stale bread, and I didn't, so I'll smell like corn all day.

And that's the news from here.

In memory of Gatemouth Brown, I will redouble my organizing eforts for '06. And in memory of Wiesenthal, I'll be tenacious as hell about it.

Westward, Ho, The Blogger 

pioneersWell, it's been fun at the old Corrente, but I'm packing up the wagons and womenfolk and heading out to Correntewire, where I plan on homesteading me a piece of webpage and putting down some roots.

Transition is hard, so I decided to just jump in and not look back. I know there's wolves and bears out there, and wild, savage wingnuts, but if this blogosphere is to grow and become great, somebody has to do it.

So from now on you'll rarely see me here in the old barnyard, unless something important needs to be publicized. See you on the other side. Who knows? By the time you all get there, I may have planted and plowed and even founded a little town by the river.

How Much is a Billion Dollars? 

cd's post earlier today (back) reminded me of a speech I give to my long-suffering friends when I'm drunk and worked up about class politics.

Let's say a one thousand dollar bill is 1 millimeter thick.

1 millimeter = 0.0393701 inch

Four hundredths of an inch, pretty close to reality.

If you have a stack of thousand dollar bills one meter high, you're a millionaire.

1 meter = 3.2808399 feet

That's a stack of thousand dollar bills little bit above your waist if you're a 6 foot tall person.

Most people think, "It's just numbers. Basically it means richer than I'll ever be. Millionaire, billionaire, not that different. "

Not so much.

If you have a stack of thousand dollar bills one kilometer high, you're a billionaire.

1 kilometer = 3,280.839895 feet

That's a stack of thousand dollar bills as tall as two Sears Towers on top of each other plus a high-rise apartment building, or two.

1 kilometer = 0.6213712 mile

More than half the way from Sea Level to Denver. Straight up into the sky. One million Grover Clevelands stacked on top of each other.

Conclusion: the non-metric system (whatever the hell it's called) is a ploy by the capitalist overlords to prevent US and UK citizens from conceptualizing the wealth of the super-rich or the size of government expenditures. No wonder Europe has more egalitarian societies.

Bill Gates' net worth (2005): $46.5 billion

Cost of War in Iraq to US taxpayers (by end of FY 2005): $204.6 billion

As the L-Curve guy says, "You will not be outraged by outrageous statistics if you don't comprehend the numbers." Word.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Crooked to the Core 

The head of procurement for the Bush Administration was just arrested in just the latest chapter of the Abramoff-DeLay corruption investigation.

I repeat, the guy in charge of making sure all government contracts are on the up and up just got arrested for corruption.

But I'm sure that we can all expect good honest contracts for contractors on the $200B we'll spend to clean up the Gulf Coast, right?

Oh yeah, the North Korea thing has already fallen apart.

Now that's a friggin surprise, right?

It's all falling in now, isn't it?

Pass the popcorn.

Iraq clusterfuck: So, Casey Sheehan died for an Islamic theocracy, and/or civil war 

Yes, that's the "noble cause."

Finally, the Reagan Revolutionaries are eating their own. Took long enough. But even the wing-nuts are getting the idea that the best outcome is an Islamic theocracy, and the worst outcome is Islamic theocracy plus civil war. And, even more interesting, it seems like withdrawal by 2006 is becoming part of the CW.

I type this in from a copy of today's Wall Street Journal that I found on the train. Under the delightfully deadpan headline, Iraqi Charter Causes Alarm, we read ... [continued at the renovated Corrente.]

In the Arms of Sleeping Sorrow 

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Sometimes it’s all so very hard
This weight will bring you down
Sometimes what’s right doesn’t stand a chance
Like this romance, like love
The world was made to die
In the arms of sleeping sorrow
In the ending of the dream

I hold you like a charm
And wait for falling water
To wash away the night
I hold you like a dream
In the arms of sleeping sorrow
In the arms of a good bye

I construct the broken staircase
I build the ruined wall
We use patch along the fault lines
And kick rocks on down the hall
And honesty is mercy
And hope is just a curse
You think you got it bad
Then bad just goes to worse
And you let out all the wonder
And you freeze the lightning sky
And then you sit and wonder
Why did God make us to die?
In the arms of sleeping sorrow
In the arms of a good bye

In the arms of sleeping sorrow
In the ending of the dream

Sometimes it’s all so very hard
This weight will bring you down
Sometimes what’s right doesn’t stand a chance
Like this deconstructed romance
Like love so weakly spent
The world was made to die
In the arms of sleeping sorrow
In the ending of the dream

I hold you like a charm
And wait for falling water
To wash away the night
I hold you like a dream
In the arms of sleeping sorrow
In the arms of a good bye


Image of William Blake's "Pieta" from here.


Politics, and writings about politics, can talk about having compassion for those who suffer, but can this thing we call "politics" participate in the direct experience of loss and despair? No, because it is not a human being. Politics is a corporate form, occupied by those who hustle for their beliefs or for the brass ring. Imagine the Senate, with 100 Senators, raising their voices in unison, singing of sorrow, a chamber of lamentation. Strange idea.


Crossposted at Mortaljive and at Correntewire.


Ghouls Among Us 

Piggybacking on Riggsveda's post below, let me draw your attention to a story it is highly likely you've already heard about, but this story simply cannot be repeated often enough, for my money. In fact, I would suggest some sort of left blogispheric response that keeps this story alive and appropriately wriggling around the neck of that snake charmer of a Senator, Jeff Sessions.

The original discovery was made by TIME magazine, and among the many bloggers who have linked to it, Kevin Drum led me to this blog, "Common Sense," new to me, by a young progressive who calls himself "Nate," and lives and toils, to elect like-minded candidates, right there in the heart of Texas.

Nate's visceral take on Sessions' attempt to troll for corpses, the right kind of corpses, the ones who may have had estates to bequeath to doubtless completely deserving heirs is just right.

With all the items on a list of things to be upset about in a post-Katrina America, try and imagine that what stood out for the Senator from Alabama, and it should be noted, the Senator from Ariz., John Kyl, both Republicans, of course, was the imminent demise of their long-planned (we're talking several decades here)effort to repeal the estate tax, mainly by renaming it a death tax, which it is clearly not, and pretending that the primary beneficiaries of repeal would be small farmers and small businessmen, kept by this cruel tax, approved by a radical leftist like Teddy Roosevelt, from handing off to their heirs that which had been created by the superior entrepreneurial spirit which accounts for the fact that there is an estate to hand off. In fact, less than 5000 American families are affected by this tax, and Democrats have always been willing to raise the exemption to a high enough figure, five million, say, that would protect any genuinely family farm or genuinely small business.

If you've ever wondered if it might be possible that Republicans just didn't know that they were wrong about who is affected by that tax, forget about it. Here's TIME, as quoted by Nate, on the subject:
It's been hard. Only a tiny percentage of people are affected by the estate tax—in 2001 only 534 Alabamans were subject to it.

It gets worse than that, though.

The Republican leadership is still determined to make substantial cuts in Medicaid, something they had expected to start to accomplish the very week Katrina struck. Remember, Medicaid is the one program by which the genuinely poor among us are able to access anything remotely approaching comprehensive medical care. I won't bore you with yet another recitation of how more expensive it is, in the long run, to force poor folks to seek medical help on a crises basis, in the nation's ever-dwindling and over-extended emergency rooms.

David Sklar, writing for The Warren Reports at TPM Cafe, has the story here. You'd think they'd be talking about expanding it, to include those middle class families on the Gulf Coast who lost everything. Instead, I'm guessing they'll substitute some sort of Heritage-approved, gerryrigged temporary medical care that makes money for Big Medicine, like the large corporate "care-giving" institution on which Dr. Frist's fortune is based.

It's interesting that Dr. Warren and her cohorts got on this one so quickly; their blog within a blog has concerned itself with the increasing burdens being shouldered by middle-class Americans, but increasingly, all of us have begun to see the ways in which the war on the poor, Reagan's substitute for the "War On Poverty," has quietly been extended to the great American middle-class.
We might also note that Medicaid cuts increasingly affect the middle class families, as well as those below the poverty line. Medicaid enrollment rose by an average of 11.6% per year from 2000-2002 and by 7.1% in 2003 according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. With middle class Americans losing employer-based health insurance coverage and facing rising health insurance premiums, they may be forced to turn to Medicaid's "safety net" health insurance.
We have two eloquent and wrenching examples of what Sklar is talking about in comments left today right here at Corrente:

Here's alert reader, Catana, with a preview of coming attractions for those of you not yet of an age to qualify for Medicare:
Sigh. I'm just waiting for the year when the basic premium increase exceeds my cost of living increase. As it is, I have less and less real money to spend each year when I get my SS payment. At least I never signed on for part B, and won't be signing on for part D. Between those two, I'd have to give up eating.

And here's alert reader, Larkspur, proving that you can be unlucky in America and still be a damn fine writer; would that any of our millionaire media elite could write as well:
I still don't get it. I mean, I know they'd be pleased if all really poor Americans just disappeared from the face of the earth. But they are also doing their best to eradicate the middle class.

And yet the whole structure depends on people buying things. I get it that the things to be bought can be made outside our borders. But you still have to have consumers. Currently, I am a very very bad consumer because I don't have much money. The only clothing I've bought in the last year or so has been from thrift stores.

My neighbor used to pass me his computer magazines when he was done with them, but it's been so long since I've upgraded anything that none of the articles make sense to me. And while I know, obviously, about TiVO and WiFi and cell phones with pictures in 'em, I don't own any of that stuff and have no plans to buy any of it.

More and more of us are cutting back. So who will buy all of the things that need buying? I know the folks at the top are getting wealthier, but you can't sustain a country like ours unless the great masses buy buy buy.

What are they going to do with us? I'd really like to see an unedited vision of a true neocon future. Gated communities and crumbling, abandoned suburbs? Minimally lit cities, half-filled with squatters, except for the city centers, which are brightly lit and heavily patrolled?

What are they counting on? Simple attrition? That's going to take a while. Emigration? Avian flu?

I get it that George W. Bush may not be capable of imagining the future in any meaningful way. But surely his supporters can. What do they see?

I'd sure as hell like to know, too. Readers, bloggers, leave your suppositions in Comments; satire and snark are welcome.

Yipee Ki Aye! 

Recently, I was dandling the nephew in front of his parents' newest toy, one of those giant flatscreen digital microwave discotheque Slake-Moths, watching good old fashioned Amurkin violence in the form of the execrable Mr. Willis' Die Hard with a Vengance. The part that struck me as most absurd, in a veritable smorgasbord of absurdities, was when the villain, attempting escape with billions of dollars of gold in the back of one truck followed by Mr. Willis' character in another laden truck, offers the hero "$13 billion" in exchange for allowing the escape. Of course, being the Great White Police Officer, he never considers, even for a moment, taking the prize and letting the villain go. Let's leave aside the problems with converting such sums of gold into cash for now.

I thought to myself that Willis' character was clearly a fool. Billion is a number few human minds can truly appreciate. Multiplied by thirteen...as an imaginative excercize it's quite fraught with possibility. Billions and billions of dollars, even their current somewhat unstable state, would be enough, concentrated in the hands of the right left-leaning people, to eradicate poverty in entire regions of the nation, or successfully treat every drug addict or educate every poor child...perhaps even break the grip of the Republicrat parties hold on American politics. Take a second, unselfish progressive reader, and imagine what you could do.

Now I have to tip Kos for this one, I've not been online a lot today and he's one of my top five news update stops. The Independent has done some really choice work lately, making me long for a British passport. Here's the intro:

One billion dollars has been plundered from Iraq's defence ministry in one of the largest thefts in history, The Independent can reveal, leaving the country's army to fight a savage insurgency with museum-piece weapons.
The money, intended to train and equip an Iraqi army capable of bringing security to a country shattered by the US-led invasion and prolonged rebellion, was instead siphoned abroad in cash and has disappeared.
"It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history," Ali Allawi, Iraq's Finance Minister, told The Independent.
"Huge amounts of money have disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps of metal."

Before I give you the really special part, let me ask you: what groups come to mind when you first read this news? I'm patting myself on the back today, as I got it right:

Senior Iraqi officials now say they cannot understand how, if this is so, the disappearance of almost all the military procurement budget could have passed unnoticed by the US military in Baghdad and civilian advisers working in the defence ministry.
Government officials in Baghdad even suggest that the skill with which the robbery was organised suggests that the Iraqis involved were only front men, and "rogue elements" within the US military or intelligence services may have played a decisive role behind the scenes.

We've all read about the Halliburton billing "problems" and KBR's overcharging for services never rendered and on and on and so forth and so forth. We've also heard a lot about Mr. Cheney buying a new house, and various other shopping trips by other increasingly well-off members of the administration and their friends. But as I've been finding out as I do research on the topic, we don't hear about their agents actually on the ground in Iraq very much. The individual people themselves carrying out the Boosh Assministration's little War on Brown People. Mercs, "experts," contractors, consultants, etc. Nameless to most of us, I often wonder, in addition to spending a lot of time in the Green Zone, what other rewards are to be found in the middle of an increasingly violent war zone. Now we have some idea.

There's theft, and then there's "nation building." Ironically, the villains' goal in the Die Hard movie I mention is to buy a country for an army of forcibly retired former East German Stassi thugs, who've turned to crime after the Wall fell. Now I have a real life example, not the first one I'm sure, but one of note if for no other reason than the size.

When you think about the people on the ground in Iraq (and let me stress: I DO NOT refer to members of the armed forces here, but mercs and 'consulting' paraprofessionals alone) and you think about the escalating violence, the lack of progress in 'rebuilding' and the establishment of an Iraqi military/police force, when you think about the car bombs and Prophet of the Month calling for this or that holy war, when you think of the destruction and despoilment of the museums- what does it look like in your head?

Now, think about these same people currently being employed in NOLA. And think of their share of these newly lost billions, and what kind of Kingdom they are going to build.

Will You Be Having The .45 Or The 30.06 Tonight, Sir? 

71489Here it comes: the old one-two punch:

"The Bush administration announced on Friday that the basic Medicare premium would shoot up next year 13 percent, to $88.50 a month, mainly because of the increased use of doctors' services.
Many beneficiaries will pay an additional premium for the new prescription drug benefit, expected to average $32 a month. So the combined premiums for doctors' services, outpatient hospital care and prescription drugs will average slightly more than $120 a month."
People on Medicare get to look forward to a 13% rise in their rates added onto the cost of prescription drug benefits scheduled to kick in next January, and there's more, as we will see.

The forced march to managed care starts with the choosing of one's own method of execution this month. Big Pharma has been licking their chops in anticipation ever since Dear Leader rounded up the weakest and most vulnerable and gave B.P. a loaded gun to aim at their heads:

"Who is covered. Anybody who is eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. It will be voluntary for most people, but mandatory for roughly 6.4 million current beneficiaries who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare because of age, income or disability. They are obligated to enroll and may be penalized if they do not."
Talk about fish in a barrel. But what if the more fortunate consumers choose to opt out of the prescription benefit to save money? Whatever will B.P. do?

"Medicare profit will be crucial to Big Pharma. If many of the 43 million eligible Americans sign up during the coming year, the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit may reshape the whole business of drug development and marketing, buoy sagging stock prices, and affect thousands of local jobs.
But if people do not sign up or if premiums rise sharply, pharmaceutical profit may become a red flag again for patients and politicians looking to control costs. The industry managed to block price controls when the program was designed in 2003.
"As Medicare becomes an increasingly larger part of the budget, I don't see how that doesn't create pressure for greater management of prices," said Marc Benoff, Medicare expert at Cambridge Pharma Consultancy, a unit of IMS Health, an industry-monitoring firm."
Noted humanitiarian Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a research center that advocates free-market health policies (read: you're on your own sucker!), "predicted that the premium increase would 'create a political firestorm.':

"Some areas of the country are seriously overusing health care," Mrs. Turner said. "Everyone winds up paying the price for that. What do you do? Put more price controls into the Medicare program? That clearly has not worked. Consumers need more incentives and more power to manage the costs of their care."
Yeah, that's right. We've got people pulling their own teeth with pliers, and dying from entirely preventable diseases because they couldn't afford to go see a doctor, but all this wench sees is a problem on the "consumer" end. Just make it harder for them to get treatment, she reasons (as so many of her ilk, in and out of government, do), and all our troubles will vanish as the morning fog into the sunshiney noon. Well, guess what? We also all of us pay the price for the people who can't afford health care and end up in the hospital on life support. And it's a hell of a more expensive bill than that of a couple shots or a well-care diagnostic series. Do you think people like Turner and Bush and any of the other compassionate conservatives who jumped on this bandwagon ever had to endure a day without excellent health care? Ever went a day without food because they had to? Ever had to make a choice between seeing a doctor and paying the light bill? Please.

But there's another obstacle to fat fourth-quarter returns: dramatic increases in the cost of heating bills this winter, with estimates ranging from 70% higher in the Buffalo and Dayton areas area, to 29% higher in Massachusetts:
"The U.S. Energy Department has predicted that heating oil bills this winter in the Northeast will rise 30 percent, assuming average temperatures.
The National Energy Assistance Directors' Association is projecting an average heating oil bill of $1,541 this winter, and that was before the bad news of Hurricane Katrina hit the market.
The heating bill for customers using natural gas is likely to be even higher."
And don't forget the cost of food and other goods transported via fossil fuels, which have already risen. When I walked into my local supermarket a week after the hurricane hit, I found local peaches featured prominently at the entrance in a lovely display, for 2 pounds for $5. Whatta deal! 3 lb. bag of cheap-ass white onions? A dollar a pound! And during a trip across the state last weekend, I saw that people in the west were paying a full 50 cents less per gallon of gas than we here in Philly, despite the fact that we sit on a tank farm of Sunoco refineries, and have the lousy air to prove it. Gas is still averaging over $3.00 a gallon around my area. For some reason Big Oil thought it was a safe bet to really stick it to the mid-Atlantic, so much so that AAA (that knight errant for all things on four wheels) has called for an inquiry into the situation.

The effect of all this is bad enough for people who are able to work:

"(Kathleen Camilli, head of Camilli Economics in New York) adds a sober thought: We'd better hope higher prices get stuck at the input level. She holds little hope that wages could match a serious wave of price hikes.
If customer-support desks can be outsourced to Bangalore, India, and factory jobs to China, then surely there's a limit on how much an American worker can demand to make up for his higher cost of living. This is especially true of underskilled, nontech workers. The lower down the ladder the worker is, the more vulnerable he is.
Average hourly earnings in August rose 2.7% vs. a year earlier. So wages have nearly kept up with prices.
But the latest energy price surge will likely outstrip modest raises.
Also, Camilli says the CPI doesn't fully reflect local price changes.
Yes, prices are falling for a bunch of things: computers, cell phones, clothing. These are the items that can be made cheaply abroad by big companies that can employ innovations or economies of scale, like Dell, (DELL) Motorola (MOT) and Wal-Mart. (WMT)
But services are more shielded.
The barber on Main Street can't use cheap Chinese labor to offset skyrocketing energy costs. Likewise, his customers can't go overseas for a trim.
Either the barber raises his prices, eats the higher costs, or lays off a worker, like the guy who sweeps up. In reality, we're seeing a combination of all three of these options.
Camilli says this is the kind of data that the government misses."
But for the retired, or disabled, or just plain poor who often live on a knife edge, and who will be the ones forced to pick a plan this month, these are the kinds of things that make the difference between being able to eat or not.214

Don't talk to me about the fabulous job Bush did covering his scat in New Orleans last week. Don't tell me about compassionate conservatism. I don't believe in conspiracy theories, and that's why this is not a conspiracy theory. This is a Final Solution.

Why The Poor Will Always Be With Us 

Digby is kind enough to post a Wall Street Journal piece a friend sent him so ALL non-subscribing readers can have strokes. Dancing on the graves of those who died to provide them this opportunity, Republican zealots in Congress are crowing about enterprise zones, the murder of union representation, and wresting the legal system from those who might want to complain. Here's some of what gets these necrophiliacs hard:
"Just yesterday (the Bush administration) waived some affirmative-action rules for employers with federal contracts in the Gulf region."
Well, yes, because you know how hard it is to find blacks and Asians down there, and hell, you can hardly find women anywhere.
"Now, Republicans are working on legislation that would limit victims' right to sue, offer vouchers for displaced school children, lift some environment restrictions on new refineries and...Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would offer sweeping protection against lawsuits to any person or organization that helps Katrina victims without compensation."
Last thing you want is for people to demand recompense for losing their loved ones or everything they own by suing the assholes who could have prevented it. And never mind that much of the damage caused by the hurricane was the result of the destruction of the wetlands barrier around NOLA thanks to a callous disregard for environmental concerns over the last 20 years. Who needs environmental restrictions when there's lots more money to be made by the people who won't have to live with the result? School vouchers? All the better to eliminate that nasty universal free education cancer that resulted in all these over-educated drones thinking they actually had the right to expect a decent living. And as for protection against lawsuits for those helping Katrina victims, think of the experiments that could be done? All those folks exposed to toxic chemicals and bacteria! Why, I'll bet the EPA would have a field day mining that rich vein of poor people! Just offer them a nice baby bib and a video camera.
""The desire to bring conservative, free-market ideas to the Gulf Coast is white hot," says Rep. Mike Pence, the Indiana Republican who leads the Republican Study Group, an influential caucus of conservative House members. "We want to turn the Gulf Coast into a magnet for free enterprise. The last thing we want is a federal city where New Orleans once was."
Many of the ideas under consideration have been pushed by the 40-member study group, which is circulating a list of "free-market solutions," including proposals to eliminate regulatory barriers to awarding federal funds to religious groups housing hurricane victims, waiving the estate tax for deaths in the storm-affected states; and making the entire region a "flat-tax free-enterprise zone."
Members of the group met in a closed session Tuesday night at the conservative Heritage Foundation headquarters here to map strategy. Edwin Meese, the former Reagan administration attorney general, has been actively involved."
That's right, you old fogeys who can remember his name...Edwin Meese, the Alberto Gonzales of the Reagan years, who gave his sound legal imprimatur Reagan's secret plan to sell weapons to Iran.No doubt he'll be useful here. This kind of weasel-work is right up his alley. Does anyone elese here think this sounds like some kind of vulturine star chamber?

And just in case you thought they learned anything from the spike in gasoline prices right after the hurricane, you can just disabuse yourself of that:
"Republicans, meanwhile, say they will also press for a new round of energy concessions, including incentives to rebuild and expand offshore drilling and clear the way for new refineries that were dropped from a 500-page energy bill that passed last month.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton of Texas and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe are working on bills that would encourage refineries to build new plants and expand existing ones by rolling back environmental rules and making it easier for refineries to navigate regulatory channels in Washington."
Oh, those poor oil companies! All those bulging government subsidies and record-breaking profits, but it's never enough, is it? No, theyve got to be coaxed into making more money:
"The National Petrochemical & Refineries Association would like lawmakers to reduce the depreciation period from 10 years to five years in order to stimulate investment."
Because, you know, they're just so gun-shy about making investments in refinery-building, what with the fact that we're running out of product to refine and how the hell else are they going to maintain those profits unless they can convince the American taxpayer to keep throwing money down that black hole?

If they porked up this kind of deal to benefit the poor and infirm, reactionaries all over the map would be screaming about "responsibility" and "hand-holding" and how we're actually hurting the poor by helping them. But when it goes to a good cause--making money for those who already have it--why, no kickback is too outrageous, too shameful to propose.

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