Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging

This has to be the most deliciously idiotic thing I have read quite some time. From what I can tell, Marie Jon' has the vaguest notion of what is happening in American politics and spares no wingnut cliche in discussing it. Highlights:
The American people must wake up to the the facts. The Democratic Party has moved well to the left of liberalism, and Barack Obama is — by his record — as far left as one can get in the party.

Once a liberal Supreme Court is installed, all traditional values will be null and void. Everything will change to satisfy the progressives' mind-set. Nothing would be sacrosanct, from the war against terror to the right to bear arms, late-term abortion and the varied definitions of marriage.

Senator John McCain is not trying to run as a Ronald Reagan conservative. He is a maverick. Yet, even his worst critics understand that our nation would be much better off in the hands of President John McCain than President Barack Obama.

Obama claims that he is for change. Indeed, he changes his own political stances with each passing day. Which Barack are Americans voting for? He is so com se comsa. With his gifted, articulate tongue, he speaks disingenuously to perfection.

Democrats are not grumbling about changes they've heard Barack make in his political positions. They understand the game of posturing and pandering to the general electorate. The Rev.Jeremiah Wright had twenty years to mold his protégé.

McCain will be a good steward of our recourses. Under his leadership, nuclear power and newly developed oil fields will become realities. There will be many different energy strategies employed to help our nation back on its feet.

Gas prices will begin to tumble to meet the needs of the consumers' pocketbooks as soon as the word is heard that we are taking care of business.

McCain is a man thinking about America's future. On all levels — whether environmental, social or political — he is able to weigh in. McCain has been blessed with the wisdom of that comes with age and experience.

Has half of America lost their minds? It begs an answer to address his obvious lack of experience and qualifications.

The sober, sound minds of our country will understand who is best qualified to lead the greatest nation in the world. Let's pray there are enough of them. Here, there is no doubt. John McCain is for me.

Friday Cat Blogging

Turns out that today is a John Cougar Mellencamp day at the office.

Would not have guessed that when I woke up.

Friday Cat Blogging

It's Friday. I'm at work alone. I am going on vacation next week. I had two e-mails in my inbox this morning, both spam. I've got nothing to do but blog. First of many, I imagine.

The local weekly alterna paper runs a column by local funny woman Sally Sheklow called Living Out. The column chronicles Sally's travails living in as a lesbian in what has to be one of the most queer friendly cities on the planet. It's not easy. This week Sally discusses her menstrual habits with us. The pull quote from the column is:
During our moon time we shared our insights about how the patriarchal paradigm was designed to keep us powerless, ignorant and deodorized.
I thought that just about summed it up, too. But what I've come to love about Sally's writing is how often she will say something that confirms the worst stereotypes that conservatives have about the gays or just liberals in general. Let me quote:
Ten years after junior high I learned the truth [that she has hormones that regulate her menstrual moods]. Thanks to the kindly dyke who taught my college health class, I discovered certain aspects of the female anatomy that had been completely obfuscated by the common era’s boys-have-a-penis-and-girls-don’t type of sex ed. I learned lots of things about my body that those lipsticked babes in the hygiene film never mentioned. That led me quite naturally into the world of woman-loving-women. In no time I came out and was living with, working with and processing every aspect of life with lesbians. Needless to say, our cycles coincided.
That's right. College health class equals lesbianism. "Quite naturally." Oy.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hope in a hopeless world

My hope:

An LATimes analyst sees popular disenchantment with the free-market orthodoxy of the last 28 years. The WaPo reports on how the global economy currently favors nations that are commodity producers. At my most optimistic, these sorts of statements make me think that some important, fundamental changes could be made towards a more just society. I'm not talking about the coming of the Revolution, or Prince for that matter, but a shift towards a government that actually tries to alleviate suffering, rather than causing it, and towards a more decent relationship with others in the world.

My hopeless world:

Even with the good ideas to be had and the political winds at their back, I don't underestimate the Ds capacity for timidity (even backed by massive popular support) nor the Rs penchant and capacity for obstructionism. On top of that, while the global economy certainly favors certain lefty nations in South America, the real beneficiaries of the commodity booms are the Russian oligarchs and the Gulf State emirs, neither ruling class being known for leveraging their power in support of basic human decency.

Four years

Four years ago I became a dad. Even better, I got to meet this cool little guy...

and watch him grow into this awesome kid...

Happy 4th Birthday, E!

Day Late, Dollar Short, Much Funnier

This is pretty much what I said. Only with writers. And video. And coherence.

War Crimes

The actions at Guantanamo are clearly war crimes, and it seems evident that Bush and his henchmen ordered it. Time to hold them to account, or we risk becoming "Good Germans."

Here is an excerpt from Human Rights First's blog from today's show trial of osama's "alleged" driver:
I was sick for a week and no one did anything, but as soon as I told the interrogator the doctor came.”

Mr. Hamdan suffers from sciatica, a painful back condition. He testified that, after repeated requests for help over a week, nothing was done. He was then taken to an interrogation session, and the interrogator had a doctor and corpsmen treating him in five minutes, in the interrogation room. He quickly learned that the path to medical care lay through cooperation with his interrogators. It is a violation of the laws of war to make medical treatment conditional on cooperation.

“I felt like I started to live again.”

This is how Mr. Hamdan described the feeling of leaving isolation and being transferred to Camp 4. Mr. Hamdan has been in isolation of some sort for virtually the entire time he has been at Guantánamo. For approximately 30 days, he lived in Camp 4 where he shared a dormitory style room with 9 other detainees, had access to outdoor exercise and could pray with other detainees. Despite a federal court order directing that Mr. Hamdan be placed in the general prison population, the government has kept him in isolation. Mr. Hamdan suffers from anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, and his physical and mental condition has deteriorated continuously since he was removed from Camp 4.

“No recreation time per Intel”

The above is an entry Dr. Kemal discovered in Mr. Hamdan’s medical records for February 2004. Mr. Hamdan had seen the medical officer because of the pain of his sciatica. The entry indicates that “Intel” had directed that Mr. Hamdan be denied exercise. Exercise is a universally prescribed treatment for sciatica.

“Doctors or Butchers, How Would I Know”

Mr. Hamdan went on a hunger strike to protest his removal from Camp 4. After that, he was force fed. The first feeding was done humanely according to standard medical procedures. Subsequently, however, he was restrained and force fed using an oversized nasal tube and no anesthetics or lubricant, an extremely painful process. During this force feeding, Mr. Hamdan was placed in a full body restraint chair where he could not move. He was left there for three or four hours. He was told that, if he needed to relieve himself, he could do so in the chair. The persons who did this did not wear hospital uniforms, and Mr. Hamdan does not know whether they were medical personnel.

“He feels dead inside. He has not been treated like a human being here.”

I can’t compress eight hours of testimony into two pages. I haven’t discussed the sleep deprivation program, the anxiety-producing effect of removing comfort items a few hours or days before each interrogation, or the sexual humiliation a very disturbed Mr. Hamdan described today, but I think you may have gotten the general idea.

Anyone else disgusted? Why is impeachment not on the table? Why aren't Americans (good or otherwise) outraged?
Then you have newsweak and Stuart "Torture em then Pardon em all" Taylor putting out this horrific pile, claiming that it has to be done in order to find out what happened.....

Meanwhile, W is back on the links.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Not as Gay as I Had Hoped

Have you all read about this?

An advertising campaign launched on the London Underground during gay pride week earlier this month has caused a political storm in South Carolina.

Posters, displayed at Leicester Square and Covent Garden tube stations in the two-week period surrounding the festival, were designed to promote a gay tour operator and to increase tourism to various US destinations noted for being gay-friendly.

News of the campaign and a poster with the tagline "South Carolina is so gay" reached the state late last week where it was condemned by Senator David Thomas. The state employee who approved the campaign has since resigned and Senator Thomas is calling for an audit of the tourism department's advertising budget, which this year runs in excess of $10m. The tourism department has also refused to pay the $5,000 fee for appearing in the campaign and has asked that the advertising be removed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beware: Run-on Sentences, Cursing, and Ill-formed Thoughs Below

Bush is not an economist, he's an optimist. Great. He thinks the economy is on a solid footing. It's only psychologically that people are worried. This is fine. We don't expect our presidents to be economic experts. We expect them to hire guys who know this shit. Then we hope that they listen to these men. No such luck, apparently.

While we're here, several men have taken pains lately to assure me that speculation has little to no role to play in the recent increase in the cost of oil. I'm not going to link, as you've either read it or you haven't, and I've got a couple bay breezes in me ('cause I'm a girl) and I don't want to look that shit up. But the President has told me just today that if we agree to let oil companies "explore" the shit out of the deep continental shelf and the Alaskan wilderness, then people will be assured and the price of oil will come down. In other words, the oil futures market would come down and we would pay less at the pump oil company revenues would drop slightly.

Also, the President also thinks that it's hilarious to not know how much gas costs. Fuck me. And the magic wand. How's this for a magic wand...any gas station that charges more than $3 for a gallon of gas will pay 120% tax on all income derived from charging more than $3. I bet that would bring the price of gas down right quick. Oh, I know, Exxon would only make $7 billion next year instead of $40 billion. Bet they'd stop selling gas altogether, only making $7 billion and all.

If said it before, I'll say it again, fuck me.

I'm Getting a Little Sick of Josh Hamilton

This man took the cream and the clear, broke several home run records, and is arguably the most hated man in baseball. Or out of baseball, as his crime was apparently so heinous that he is now unemployable in baseball, despite the fact that he had the best OBP in the majors last year. Except that he has not been found guilty of anything (yet) and no one is quite sure he broke any Major League Baseball rules when he took whatever it is that he might have took.

This man took the Mexican Brown and the Columbian White, found Jesus, and is now the most loved man in all of baseball. If one could count the number of times he was called a hero last night, then one would officially qualify as a supercomputer. In interviews he drops so many references to Jesus, you would think he drives for NASCAR and Jesus is the team sponsor. He broke several Major League Baseball rules (in addition to a few federal laws), was suspended for a time, but has been welcomed back with open arms. I imagine there are many Major League teams that would love to have him on their roster.

Now there are many reasons for the disparity in treatment between these two men. Congress has not held hearings on the national tragedy of baseball players using the hard stuff. Josh Hamilton has not broken any records of people revered by Baby Boomers. Bonds famously hates talking to the media. Hamilton never passes up the opportunity to yammer on about how awesome Jesus is. Hamilton has an adorable Southern accent, and baseball is nothing if not romantic about chaw-spitting men with Southern accents. Which brings us to the point, I guess. One major difference between evil Barry and saintly Josh is that one is black and one is white. I am sure, however, that this makes no difference whatsoever.

Holy Crap!

I have been trying to work through my reaction to the New Yorker cover and Dave's question from the last post. I don't know whether it's crap or not crap, but here's what I have been thinking about:

1. I am more and more convinced that satire just doesn't work -- at least not as a political tool. And believe me, as someone with a deep and abiding love of the ironic, satiric, and parodic, it pains me to say that. Am I being overly pessimistic? That people "don't get it" is only part of the problem. (But just as an aside, jeebus! Is it not shocking how many people seemingly lack the capacity to detect and decode satire?) The larger issue, to my mind, is that so many people willfully disregard the intended message. And there's nothing you can do about that; you toss your images or words out there to the masses and they do with then what they will. Wasn't this what Dave Chapelle eventually ran up against? At a certain point, you have to ask some hard questions about why people are laughing. The answer sometimes will make you uncomfortable.

Is it even worth bringing this up? Could this be any more predictable? Do you even need to click on over to Media Matters to confirm your suspicion that the majority of wingnuts who responded to this poll believe the cover image is "funny, because there's some truth in it?" The New Yorker's stated message and intention is irrelevant. It will resonate with a few folks (who were already on board with the intended message anyway) and those whose views are being (cleverly or ineffectively--decide for yourself) skewered with the image will, at best, come out with their minds unchanged and, at worst, appropriate the image for their own purposes. That said,

2. This is yet more evidence that I am just hopelessly out of touch with most mainstream thinking generally and a lot of liberal/progressive orthodoxy in particular. Because I can accept that the image "doesn't work" for a lot of people for a lot of reasons. And yes, obviously, it's a racist depiction...since that was, after all, exactly the point the artist was trying to make about the underlying ideology he was satirizing. But I just can't quite get to "By god, the New Yorker must be denounced!" For example, the folks over at Feministing present a fairly mild rebuke: they frame it as a case where "satire fails" (with, of course, the requisite New Yorker contact info so you can call or e-mail to give the editors a piece of your mind.) Fair enough, I guess. But they link to posts at, among other places, Racialicious and Michelle Obama Watch (go there via the Feministing post; I'm not really interested in inviting all the fired-up readers of those two blogs over here to hound us [read: me] when this shows up in their trackbacks. Yes, that's right -- I am a coward). The former argues that the cover art is an example of "hipster racism," which the author defines as "ideas, speech, and action meant to denigrate another’s person race or ethnicity under the guise of being urbane, witty (meaning 'ironic' nowadays), educated, liberal, and/or trendy." It's not just that the image draws from racist and sexist stereotypes to make its point, but rather that the artist -- and indeed, the magazine staff as a whole -- are sexist and racist. MOW similarly characterizes this as an example of liberals "making excuses to engage in racist depictions of Black people because they have a really good point to make." Really? I'm all about folks on the left confronting our racism, but I'm just having a hard time seeing the relevance of that critique as applied to this image. I must just be missing something, because I have so far resisted the urge to write a letter of complaint to TNY or cancel our subscription. I'm not trying to be flippant here. I want to understand this interpretation and take it seriously, but I really don't see it.

But what I have mostly taken away from this is that:

3. Continuing to allow the right control the public discourse is the real problem. To me this is a perfect case in point. The BHO as closet anti-American Muslim terrorist sympathizer and Michelle as Angry Black Woman rhetoric is a creation of the right. I have really reached the point where I believe that there is no effective way to intervene in this conversation. Addressing the (non) issue head on with well-reasoned counter-arguments does next to nothing. You're still stuck within the confines of "is he or is he not a Muslim/anti-American/terrorist?" First of all, is this really the conversation that Obama supporters most want to be having with the voting public? Even if he and his surrogates "win" any given argument, the best message you take away from that battle is "Barack Obama: He's NOT a terrorist." Wow, some victory. Could I get that on a bumper sticker? Obama - terrorist is still the idea that is structuring the discourse. Best case scenario you add a question mark (Obama - terrorist?). For the wingnuts, it's just even more reinforcement. Why would everyone be talking about whether or not he's a terrorist if there wasn't something to it???

And this magazine cover debacle suggests that a "humorous" intervention (what Tom Tomorrow characterizes as the “pretending-crazy-right-wing-shit-is-true-in-order-to-show-how-fucked-up-it-is” gag) doesn't seem to work a whole hell of lot better. As many folks have noticed (usually before screeching something about the sky falling), this image crystallizes all the scare tactics and misinformation into one powerful image. The same thing that makes it effective satire makes it an effective tool of right wing propaganda. The wingnuts can point to this and say (disingenuously for political gain or because they actually believe it) "yes, that's exactly what we've been fretting about all along!"

I've actually got no fucking idea what the answer is, but I feel like it has to have something to do with finding a way to reframe the discourse on our own terms. Because what we're doing right now ain't working. I have not completely thought this through, but I think this is why I had such a negative reaction to Obama's speech on patriotism. Why go there? People said he "had to" engage. What the fuck do I know, but I just don't agree. If he has to "respond," why can't it be with outlining his own value and beliefs. (Yes, yes, I know his people will say that WAS what he was doing in the speech. But he still let the right set the terms and -- surprise! -- somehow in the course of playing this game he managed to alienate a lot of supporters on the left by explaining how he is patriotic and they are not. Whose interests does that ultimately serve? It. Is. A. Trap.)

Anyway, this is just my very scattered initial contribution to this conversation. Sorry Dave, I know I didn't exactly answer the question you originally posed. I'll be curious to hear what the rest of you think...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Crap or Not Crap

This is the cover for this week's The New Yorker. I'm not going to link to all the hubbub, because either you live on the net or you don't, but there's some disagreement about whether this is hilarious satire (not crap) or badly done satire (crap).

What say you?

EW Letter of the Week

Sorry this is a few days late, I was on vacation. Plus, I will admit that it's not even the best letter this week, but somebody put me in charge, so I get to pick.


I’d like to know why Zachary Vishanoff, whose letters to the editor frequently grace these pages, feels the need to plaster the windows of campus-area Eugene Weekly newspaper boxes with his “Class War, Just Do It” flyers. While I am sure we could debate whether this message is either clever or effective, I think we can all agree the flyers obscure the contents of the boxes. This is especially the case when we have out-of-town guests who might be interested to know that Eugene has an alternative weekly and might be educated by its contents but don’t have a clue what’s inside those red boxes.

Keep up the good fight, Zach, and keep expressing yourself freely, but for gosh sake, don’t go out of your way to make it hard for others to make their voices heard as well.

David Cecil, Eugene

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re not certain if Zach is the one doing this since we haven’t been able to locate him. If anyone spots Zach (hooded sweatshirt, straw hat and sunglasses), tell him he’s a “person of interest” in this case.