Saturday, April 29, 2006

Revolutionary QOTD: April 30, 2006

"A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny."
-- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Revolutionary QOTD: April 29, 2006

"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy."
~James Madison

Friday, April 28, 2006

Living With War
Neil Young's new album. You can listen to the whole thing here. Found it at This Modern World. I am just passing it on as I found it. Haven't listened to it myself yet. Listening as we speak. Enjoy.
A Lot of Corn
A post at This Modern World by Greg Saunders gives some insight into why George Bush, oil baron, is suddenly a big fan of alternative fuels. At least in the case of ethanol. The president spoke Tuesday at the Renewable Fuels Association convention. Greg points out that:
...agribusinesses giant Archer-Daniels Midland (whose Senior Vice President for Ethanol Sales & Marketing sits on the RFA's board of directors) has given over $3 million dollars in political "donations" since 2000.
Thing is, although anything is better than fossil fuels for automobiles, ethanol from corn is not as efficient as other sources, particularly biomass sources such as switchgrass. Sugar cane is used in Brazil. It's sad that even when these guys do something good you have to suspect their motives for doing it. You have to wonder cui bono. I guess that is part of life. It becomes clear why they haven't done more regarding alternative fuels and why they aren't doing all they can now.

Greg cites this line in Bush's speech as hilarious:
The way I like to put it would be -- it's a good thing when a president can sit there and say, "Gosh, we've got a lot of corn. And that means we're less dependent on foreign sources of oil."
We've got a lot of something. And it ain't all corn.
Revolutionary QOTD:
Environmentalists have long been fond of saying that the sun is the only safe nuclear reactor, situated as it is some ninety-three million miles away.
~Stephanie Mills, ed., In Praise of Nature, 1990

Thursday, April 27, 2006

President or Decider?
When I saw this post on Huffington Post by Congressman John Conyers, Jr., I realized that there was at least one exception to my do nothing Democrats in congress comment a couple posts ago. Actually there are several. The congressman and a few colleagues are taking President Bush to court over yet another example blatant disregard for the constitution, law and our system of checks and balances. It's explained on HuffPo, but briefly the recent Republican budget bill, though it passed both houses of congress, portions of the House and Senate versions of the bill are not in agreement. In case you missed that episode of School House Rock, apparently the President and Congressional Republicans did, by law both versions of the bill must be the same in order for the bill to pass. But the Republican congress, anxious to make cuts in many essential programs, simply certified the versions of the bill as the same. President Bush was warned that the bills did not match, yet he signed it into law anyway.

I guess when you are The Decider, you don't have to worry about little things like the law and the constitution. You can approve spying on US citizens without a warrant no matter what the law says. You can declassify information on the fly when it suits your purposes to justify a war, even when that information is incorrect. You can torture prisoners of war and not worry about the Geneva convention or any messy stuff like that.

When I read some of the comments under that post, I realized that there are several congresspersons who don't deserve the "do nothing" remark I made recently. Those joining in Congressman Conyer's suit don't deserve it. Also Congressman John Murtha for speaking out against the war. And, of course, Senator Feingold for his resolution to censure the president. I'm sure there are others, but those are the major ones that come immediately to mind. Actually Congressman Conyers was one of the first voices to talk about impeachment, long before the president's poll numbers dipped. We must give credit where it is due. I think what this country needs is not a decider, but a president whose decisons follow the constitution and the law.
Look it Up in Your Wikipedia
I saw this on - The most trusted name in news, this morning, and at the end of the piece a few swipes are taken at Wikipedia that I think are unfair. To be fair to one of the people making the swipes, if I was in his shoes I would probably feel the same way he does about Wikipedia. He has good reason. But basically it's the same kind of blame the Internet for every evil in the world that you see in the mainstream media every day. Listening to the news these days you would think that was invented by and for the sole purpose of connecting pedophiles with children. It's not that I don't recognize the real dangers out there. I do. Teenagers should not put personal information on Myspace and should be supervised by adults when they use it. But isn't that just an extension of what we've always known since we were able to understand what our parents were telling us. Don't talk to strangers, don't tell them about yourself, and that parents need to watch what their children do. Not just online, everything. It's really that simple. It all gets blown out of proportion in the press.

At the end of the article it touches on the case of John Seigenthaler Sr. and an update to a Wikipedia article that falsely linked him to the Kennedy assassination. It wasn't discovered and corrected for 132 days. But the main story of the article is about a campaign manager who updated the Wikipedia article on their political opponent, including information that was true, but completely unfair and hurtful. Specifically the article refers to this:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Georgia gubernatorial candidate accepted the resignation of her campaign manager Wednesday after he was accused of changing the online Wikipedia biography of an opponent in the upcoming Democratic primary.

Secretary of State Cathy Cox's opponent, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, said Cox campaign manager Morton Brilliant altered an online encyclopedia entry to include a reference to Taylor's son being arrested for DUI after an accident that killed his passenger.

And they note that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone as if this is the problem. The interesting thing is that this appears on CNN's site and no doubt elsewhere in the mainstream media. Are you going to tell me that a campaign manager, or any other political operative hasn't leaked damaging information to the news media and they've run it? Sometimes information that's not true. In this case it was. It was unfair, but it was true. It happens all the time. Daily in fact. So much so that I would bet anyone willing to take the bet that Wikipedia on any given day is more accurate than the mainstream press. Precisely because anyone can edit it. And what they don't say is that edits are reviewed and don't go directly on the site. Anyone can dispute an edit and controversial material is marked as such. That's a lot better control over content than you have with the mainstream media.

But this is the typical bias, and I think it is a fear, that anything that is open and free and isn't controlled from the top down is dangerous. In a sense it is, but it is mostly dangerous to the media who are not free (you have to pay for their information or listen to advertisements that pay for them), and who exercise that top down control over what is allowed to be said. Because once people realize that it doesn't have to be that way, and through the blogosphere and Wikipedia they are realizing it, those media are in trouble.

What I don't think is fair, but I can understand why Seigenthaler feels that way, is that Wikipedia is a, "flawed and irresponsible research tool." That's simply not true. Wikipedia is an excellent research tool and no more flawed than any other. And at least as accurate. Anyone who doubts it should simply take a look and compare it to other resources. And if you find it valuable and are able, you should support it.

Final note: The campaign manager's name (above) is ironic. Apparently he was not very.
Boob in Drive Thru Worse Than Boob on TV
I saw a phenomenon yesterday on CNN - The most trusted name in news that is insanely American. I wish I had video or could find the story online. CNN has the worst search on their site. Google does a better job of finding stuff on their site than their own search. Their results are nearly 100% irrelevant. In any case, it was one of the 8 million stories recently about high gas prices. All of which include obligatory footage of people at gas pumps bitching about how the oil companies are reaming us. And they no doubt have a reason to complain. Don't get me started about oil subsidies. In this piece, however, the CNN reporter talks to a woman waiting in line in of all places, a fast food drive thru.

This woman is sitting in an SUV, apparently alone and when the reporter asks her how long she's been waiting, she looks sheepishly into the camera and says, "six minutes." Then almost guiltily, "I know, the gas...." This is the very last place you should look to for sympathy regarding gas prices. She's sitting alone in her $30k gas guzzling SUV, which is belching particulate matter and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere so she can be served something that they shouldn't allow to be advertised as food, to put in her face. Fortunately the poor, starving and suffering of the world don't have cable so they don't, have to see this on top of their suffering.

She made me talk to the TV. I'm saying, park your friggin' SUV, get your fat, lazy, American arse out and go inside and wait in line for your food. First you'll burn some of the calories you're about to consume, and second it will probably take you half the time because of all the other lazy arses. No where else in the world would you see such a picture. No where else in the world would they even understand such a picture.

This is gross

It's weird because you have people on the conservative right who talk about what they find obscene and offensive on TV. And inevitably it is something involving "inappropriate language" or a nude or semi-nude body, or something involving sex. Those things don't bother me that much. I'll admit some of them bother me some. But not as much as they bother the people I'm talking about. I find gratuitous violence on TV much more offensive. And I'd rather not hear about people's diarrhea, constipation, menstrual cycles and the rest. Also I'm not too fond of seeing digger the dermatophyte burrowing under some dude's grody toenail. But these are things you live with or you switch the channel. But this woman in the SUV, I have to say, I found obscene. Not that I would call and complain to the network, or FCC, and ask that they not show it. But this is my definition of obscenity and far more egregious than dropping the F-bomb on TV or seeing some celebrity's flaccid boob at halftime at the Superbowl.

Janet's SuperBoob, do ya really need to see it again?

Barak He is Not
Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers has been described as, "the angriest black man in Nebraska." I'm not sure where that would rank the senator nationally. Nebraska is not the first place I think of when I think angry black men. He is the only African-American senator and extremely liberal in that very conservative Republican state. Maybe that's what makes him so angry. He has also been described as the "defender of the downtrodden" and "the Maverick of Omaha." His name has been in the news recently regarding a law he backed which separates the Omaha School District in to three separate districts, one majority white, one majority black and one largely Hispanic.

The law has been described in the news media by civil rights activists and others as state-sponsored segregation. It has in the senators own words, "thrown white people into a tizzy." It's thrown a few black people into a tizzy as well. Beyond being an obvious lightning rod for controversy I think Mr. Chambers might be a political genius. And I think that this law, clearly a step backward on the road toward the ebony and ivory living in harmony society which we idealize and strive mightily to achieve in this country, might be one of the smartest pieces of legislation ever.

Chambers is not your typical state politician. He wears sweatshirts and jeans on the floor of the senate. Every year at the start of the session he introduces legislation to abolish the death penalty. He fought against an amendment to the state constitution to protect the right to hunt. Also, according to Mother Jones magazine:

He cajoled his colleagues into abolishing corporal punishment in schools, correcting the state pension system so that women would be treated equally with men, and back[ed] a switch from at-large municipal elections to district-based voting so that nonwhites would have a chance to serve. Under his sway, Nebraska led the nation in the 1980s in divesting in companies that did business with apartheid-era South Africa.

He frequently single handedly filibusters against laws he believes are harmful to the poor and powerless. He's served for 35 years and must step down in 2008 due to term limits he believes were voted into law to get rid of him. So why would a defender of the disenfranchised support segregation by law? When asked about the bill in a couple TV interviews, and in this article on, the most trusted name in news, Chambers answers simply, "the district is already segregated." It has been segregated since the state stopped busing students to insure integration. This has resulted in an inequitable distribution of resources that leaves minority students on the short end of the stick. Minority students are receiving a poor quality education as a result. The change in the district lines would allow each minority group to control its own schools. That would give them the ability to allocate resources in a way that would give minority students a chance at a better education.

The odd thing about this story is that every time you hear it on the news or read about it in the newspaper, the fact that the district is already segregated gets buried under all the hubbub over the new law. The outrage seems to be not so much over the segregated school system, as it does over the law acknowledging that fact.

Why Our Children Isn't Learning
Recently the Oprah Show devoted two programs to a Special Report: American Schools in Crisis. The shows were eye opening and featured Bill Gates with his wife Melinda and their crusade to revolutionize America's school system, which is now failing. Oprah's web site cites statistics that are shameful.

Just 20 years ago, American students were among the best in the world, routinely coming in first in test results. Now, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, students in the richest country on earth are in 24th place in math. That's behind Canada, Germany, France, Korea...but also smaller, poorer countries like Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.

Gates points out that at the rate American students are dropping out of school we are at risk of raising a nearly unemployable generation. Nearly a third of all American high school students drop out of school. That figure is 50% for minorities. On the same show author Jonathan Kozol appeared. Kozol is an educator and activist, and one of the most vocal critics of American public education. He has written a book, The Shame of the Nation, which compares the current state of the American school system to South African apartheid. Kozol says:

"We are now operating a school system in America that's more segregated than at any time since the death of Martin Luther King," he says. "Racial segregation has come back to public education with a vengeance."

The Oprah show compared an inner city Chicago school to an upper class suburban school and the disparity is shocking. At the city school students are greeted by metal detectors inside the doors. They have outdated computers that don't work, a gymnasium that is falling apart, a pool that has not been filled with water in decades and only a few broken instruments for music classes. The suburban school is a 65 million dollar facility with a new Olympic sized pool, a state of the art workout room which looks like a commercial fitness center, a modern computer lab and an award winning music department.

Located in a low-income community in Chicago, Harper High School graduates just 40 percent of its 1,500 students. Meanwhile, about 35 miles away in suburban Naperville, Illinois, Neuqua Valley High School...graduates 99 percent of its students....

The difference between the two schools can also be seen in their scores on state exams. At Neuqua Valley, 78 percent of students meet Illinois' reading standards, 76 percent meet the science standards, and 77 percent meet the math standards. At Harper, 16 percent meet the reading standards, 1.5 percent meet the science standards and just .5 percent meet the math standards.

The special goes on to show that crime rates and poverty are directly related to the disparity in education. They visit a prison where they talk to inmates and discover that 75% of the inmates are high school dropouts. The schools don't educate students and essentially these high schools become prep school for prison. Prison is merely higher education for criminals. They also point out that it costs $34,000 a year to house a prisoner, about 3 times what the state spends on the average student per year. This all ties in to a post I made last week about Angel Davis and her campaign to abolish prisons.

I don't know the specifics of the Omaha school system. But I doubt it is very much different. As Jonathan Kozol points out, this is happening across America. The busing experiment is over for the most part and schools are once again separate and unequal. The other part of this controversy that gets minimal coverage in the media is expressed in this NY Times article. And that centers around the fact this bill started out as an attempt to incorporate surrounding white majority schools that were within Omaha city limits, but were in suburban school districts, into the Omaha city school district. It was an attempt to provide a larger tax pool for school funding and to integrate the district. Voters in those districts revolted fearing that the measure would result in school busing to achieve integration goals. This short excerpt from that article says it all:

Parent reaction is divided. Darold Bauer, a professional fund-raiser who has three children in Millard schools, said he was pleased that the law had eliminated the threat of busing, although he said he was not thrilled about sharing a common tax levy with the Omaha schools.

What this law does is protect the boundaries of my district," said Mr. Bauer, who is white. "All the districts in the area are now required to work together on an integration plan, and I'm fine with that, because my kids won't be bused."

There it is in black and white. White parents don't want their children bussed to achieve integration. And they aren't thrilled about sharing taxes to make minority schools better.

My European friends ask me all the time why America doesn't do what they do in Europe. The first time I was asked was 20 years ago by a friend from the Netherlands. Just recently I was asked by a German friend. Why not allocate money for all the schools from the state's general tax base, and not by district according to real estate taxes, as is the current practice? Then every school gets the same amount of money per student no matter whether the students are black, white, brown, or any other minority. Whether their parents are rich or poor. That ways no child is truly left behind.

I believe that when this is seen as an integration issue, basically a black and white issue, it short changes both blacks and whites. Specifically poor blacks and poor whites. Because it is the poor of both races and other minorities who have poor schools and end up stuck in a cycle of poor education which leads to prison or poverty or both. Which leads to in turn poor education for the next generation. My finely tuned sense of paranoidar leads me to suspect that it's a good way for the rich folk to keep out the competition. Kids with rich parents don't have to compete with the poor for a good college education and later for good jobs and eventually for a nice house in a good neighborhood. It keeps poor folk right where they are generation after generation. A kind of neo-serfdom. The poor and middle class, distracted by arguments over integration, spend time fighting each other over busing, as America under-educates its potential workforce into third world status. Meanwhile the privileged point their fingers at minorities and blame them for generation after generation of failure. But this is a failure of the system. Given the same chance at education, the poor, all the poor, minority or otherwise, would have much improved lives.

A Liberal Legislative Genius

And this is exactly what makes this piece of legislation one of the craftiest moves a politician ever made. Especially a liberal politician. Unable to get his state to fix the inequities in the school system through integration or providing adequate funds to minority schools, Mr. Chambers got them to vote for something they apparently find more palatable. Racially segregated districts. The legislature voted for it, and Republican Governor Dave Heineman signed it into law. He got them make a law that opponents to segregation have no choice but to challenge.

We are fifty-two years past Brown v. Board of Education. Fifty years past the end of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Rosy speeches have been made on Martin Luther King Day and at the funerals of Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King. At this point in our history we simply can't have laws that reflect the true state of segregation of our country's school system. Civil rights groups will fight this in the courts, but Chambers wins either way. Because if they fail to strike down the law, minority parents get control of their kids education. If they win, it will still involve court battle which may go all the way to the Supreme Court. The media attention from that fight will certainly also shine a light on the problem that was his focus in the first place; that the district is already segregated. It may well bring focus to the problem nationally. I can't tell you if this was his plan from the start, but if it was, he's the Bobby Fisher of state senators.

And that's why this lone legislator who forced through some of the most liberal laws in the country in one of the most conservative Republican states in the nation is without doubt a genius. He is also one of my personal heroes and a revolution of one. We could use a guy like this among the do-nothing Democrats in the US congress. Now that Omaha is retiring him involuntarily he is available. Hell, I'd vote for the man for President, but I don't think the "angriest black man in Nebraska" image will play nationally with white voters. Barak Obama he is not.
Revolutionary QOTD:
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
~Chief Seattle, 1855

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Shakey Video, Sound Words....
The video's a bit shakey on this clip, but it's what's being said that's important. In about 5 minutes Senatorial candidate Kevin Zeese covers a number of topics and makes some salient points. I'd vote for him if I was in Maryland. Found the video on Google video. I think I see Cindy Sheehan seated beside Mr. Zeese. It's from back in January, so you may have seen it somewhere already. Here's the description from the posting on Google.
A forum discussion on the possible impeachment of President Bush was held at Busboys & Poets in Washington, DC on January 30th, 2006. Kevin Zeese, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Maryland and directory[sic] of Democracy Rising, moderated the event. This is a video of his closing remarks.
Revolutionary QOTD:
Oh Beautiful for smoggy skies, insecticided grain,
For strip-mined mountain's majesty above the asphalt plain.
America, America, man sheds his waste on thee,
And hides the pines with billboard signs, from sea to oily sea.
~George Carlin

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

TV Junk
An interesting phenomenon on the teevee are shows that center around what is happening on the Internet. CNN -- the most trusted name in news, has for some time now had Internet reporters whose job it is to tell you what's happening in the blogosphere and on the Internet in general. And as much as I hate to give them any credit for basically surfing the net for me, I have to admit that occasionally something they find is useful and informative. The Internet is a big place and someone...anyone, is bound to find things that you won't. Usually those people are in your email addressbook and they forward the stuff to you.

One such show devoted to stuff you find on the web is VH1's Web Junk. It's full of the timewasting stuff you'd either have found yourself if you cared, or somebody forwarded to you days before the show aired. It's all very funny stuff. But I find it interesting that networks now pay someone to do what you risk being fired for at work, and then tell you about it. It's like spam from your TV. Part of it I'm sure is TV's desire to capitalize on the popularity of the web and to get back what it is loosing in audience. But mainly it is inevitable. If you want to talk at all about what is happening you have to talk about the web and what's happening on the web.

Far better at the job and much more useful is a whole channel devoted to technology, G4TV. Unfortunately G4 has recently morphed into this kind of hybrid channel that is half about computer games and half Star Trek reruns. But when they report on the web, they do a much better job than the more conventional broadcast and cable networks. The G4 network gets the net. I think the other networks still don't and some never will.

And that's Ok because there are a lot of people out there who still don't get it and to whom these kinds of shows are extremely informative. Call me technically old-fashioned, but I still think the web is the best place to find out what's happening on the web. There are plenty of sites that will give you the same kind of information these shows do, better, with links to the actual sites they are talking about so you can go there in a mouse click.

It's only for lack of a technology to keep people from skipping the commercials that all of free TV and radio aren't on the web already. Making watching the actual teevee itself, or listening to a radio unnecessary. And that's a useless strategy on the part of the television industry because the technology, using Tivo or any other type of recording, already allows you to skip all the commercials you want. Most people watch them anyway. Culturally and technologically speaking, TV is already the new AM radio. Back in the olden days when FM radio was introduced, many thought it would be the death of AM. Like they thought movies would be the death of plays, TV the death of movies and so on. Those kinds of fears surface with every new media innovation. But all those old media are still around. Inevitably changed by the new media, but still out there. Excuse me now, gotta go, Web Junk is on....
Revolutionary QOTD:
I conceive that the land belongs to a vast family of which many are dead, few are living, and countless numbers are still unborn.
~A Chieftan from Nigeria

Monday, April 24, 2006

Comrade, You've Got Spamski!
I get Russian spam. At least I think it's still Russian. I used to work with a Russian woman and I had her translate one. It was years ago and if I remember correctly it was about weight loss or something. Typical spam. I used to get German spam. It was all sex stuff. I would occassionally throw it in the Bablefish translator if it seemed particularly juicy or I was curious. The German stuff doesn't come anymore, but I still get the Russian messages. I have no idea why or how I got on a list for Russian spammers. I don't know if this will display correctly in your browser, but here's one I just got:
Частная гостиница в Москве.
Не можете заказать номер в гостинице? Проблемы с размещением гостей и партнеров компании?
Предлагаем в посуточную аренду апартаменты в центре Москвы. Цена ниже номера гостиницы той же категории. Полный гостиничный сервис: охрана, уборка, смена постельного белья.
Контактный телефон: (495) 901-91-51
Wow. I guess it doesn't display, at least not in mine. Anyway, here's the Babelfish translation:
Particular hotel in Moscow. Cannot order number in the hotel? Problems with the arrangement of guests and partners of company? We propose into the by the day lease apartments in the center of Moscow. The price lower than number of hotel the same category. Complete hotel service: protection, harvesting, the change of bed linen. Contact telephone: (495) 901-91-51
There's even a phone number. It's probably the kind of thing that will set me up to be spied on by the domestic spying program, oops, I mean the Terrorist Spying Program. You folks are doing a fine job by the way. I say that randomly in my email occassionally. I don't want to end up at Gitmo naked and piled crotch to butt with some Iraqi detainee and a german shepard nipping at my nads. Sorry for that imagery.
More on Ethanol:
Except this time it's a video. It's just like watchin' the teevee, except it's on my blog. And that makes it a vlog (video + blog). Now all you need is a couch, and a wireless keyboard and mouse to make this feel just like watchin' the tube. Technology is incredible, isn't it?

I still say Bush talking about a cure for America's oil addiction is like getting drug counseling from your dealer. I mean, that is, if you have a dealer. I don't.
Revolutionary QOTD:
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
~Sinclair Lewis
Found the above quote on this blog, along with this interview (video below) with Neil Young about his new album, Living with War, featuring the single, Let's Impeach the President. More about Neil's album, including lyrics at his site

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Revolutionary QOTD:
Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. ~Bill Vaughn, quoted in Jon Winokur, The Portable Curmudgeon, 1987

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Would You Steal A Car?
Among their guilt inducing efforts to reduce piracy, the movie industry now includes these short infoganda pieces on DVDs that start by asking you the question, Would you steal a car? Now I do not condone or support stealing or piracy. But, let's not mention the fact that both the movie and the music industries should be among the last to try to guilt someone with admonitions regarding stealing from artists. I mean the music industry was built on stealing from artists. How many artists died dirt poor and broke while the industry itself got filthy rich off their music? And even today how many million album selling artist are there who eventually end up broke after everyone in the industry takes their cut from them? The movie industry is just as guilty. And though you see the Tom Cruises and other superstars who make $20 million a picture, that's not the history of the business.

And also not to mention the fact that I have bought the same damn album in almost half a dozen different formats from vinyl to 8-track tape to cassette tape to CD to mp3. And the movies have had Beta, VHS, laser disk and now DVD. Still, it is bad karma to steal. Even if you're stealing from huge faceless evil corporations. So I thought about the question. And I had to be honest with myself. And I thought, well, if the car could be downloaded over the Internet in the privacy of my own home without anyone knowing, or if it could be illegally copied onto cheap media on my home computer, I would be very tempted. But it would an environmentally friendly Flex Fuel car or a gas/electric Hybrid car. I mean I wouldn't want the karma of driving a gas guzzling SUV on top of stealing.

Pirated available at the Revolutionary Store
More Sunshine for Your Earth Day
On George Carlin's album, Jammin' in New York, he does a routine called the Planet is Fine. It is classic Carlin and by that I mean it is the kind of unique perspective on a topic you can only expect from George. The entire text of it is copied without, no doubt, permission, by this blogger so I don't have to. It is hilarious. I will warn those of you who care ahead of time, it contains language. Hey, it's Carlin. Here's an excerpt:
Nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine. The PEOPLE are fucked. Difference. Difference. The planet is fine. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great. Been here four and a half billion years. Did you ever think about the arithmetic? The planet has been here four and a half billion years. We've been here, what, a hundred thousand? Maybe two hundred thousand? And we've only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. Two hundred years versus four and a half billion. And we have the CONCEIT to think that somehow we're a threat? That somehow we're gonna put in jeopardy this beautiful little blue-green ball that's just a-floatin' around the sun?

The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through all kinds of things worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles...hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worlwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages...And we think some plastic bags, and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet...the planet...the planet isn't going anywhere. WE ARE!

We're going away. Pack your shit, folks. We're going away. And we won't leave much of a trace, either. Thank God for that. Maybe a little styrofoam. Maybe. A little styrofoam. The planet'll be here and we'll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet'll shake us off like a bad case of fleas. A surface nuisance.

You wanna know how the planet's doing? Ask those people at Pompeii, who are frozen into position from volcanic ash, how the planet's doing....[Ellipsis mine] Or how about those people in Kilowaia, Hawaii, who built their homes right next to an active volcano, and then wonder why they have lava in the living room.
Last night I was watching Now on PBS and the show's commentator said that author Kurt Vonnegut expresses a similiar conviction that the planet will eventually slough off the human race like dead skin, or some kind of virus.
Future's So Bright...?
Ok, now that I've brightened your day with all those prognostications of doom regarding the earth, I'd like to inject a little earth doom humor. I mean this would be like some kind of universal karmic joke if it weren't for the fact that it's proabably true. Last Tuesday on Nova there was a special on Global Dimming. If you are unaware of it, the gist of it is that we are screwing up "the planet" (you'll see why I put "the planet" in quotes in the next post) in two ways that are actually cancelling each other out. Global dimming from pollution limits the amount of light and therefore heat that reaches the earth and is cooling the planet. In effect it is cancelling out global warming. The good news about that is there isn't any. It means that global warming is very likely worse than we thought because we couldn't measure how bad it was because of global dimming. And correcting global dimming, by correcting pollution, will only intensify the effects of global warming from greenhouse gases. Again, have a nice Earth Day.
Happy Day Earth!

Happy Earth Day to ya!
Happy Earth Day to ya!
Happy Earth Daaaaayyyyy!
-Stevie Wonder Paraphrased

Actually, I'm finding out that there are two Earth Days. One on the Vernal Equinox and one on April 22nd. But isn't every day really Earth Day? *sigh*. If you're going to spend at least part of your Earth Day weekend watchin' the teevee, you might want to check out these two specials on CNN - The most trusted name in news, We Were Warned: Tomorrow's Oil Crisis. Or on Sunday, Melting Point: Tracking the Global Warming Threat. After you watch the first one you might want to ask yourself how a country like Brazil, not that there's anything wrong with Brazil, could anticipate and develop a solution to their energy crisis based on Ethanol from sugar cane? Forty percent of their nation's cars now run on it. They are very near complete energy independence. Three-fourths (75%) of their new cars are Flex Fuel cars that run on ethanol or gasoline or any mixture of the two. Flex Fuel cars that are now available from GM in the good old US of A. How could they have such foresight and we, the richest, most powerful, nation on the blah blah, yada yada, are going to be paying a finger and a toe to fill our SUVs?

And after you ask yourself that you might want to ask yourself why it took so long to develop an alternative when one of the very first cars ever made, the Ford Model T, was a Flex Fuel car? That was 1908. Before that the first biodiesel car was awarded the Grand Prix at the World's Fair in Paris. That was 1900. You might want to ask why in 2006 we are still using fossil fuels at all? And why the President in his State of the Union Address can say with a straight face that America is addicted to oil? An oil baron from an oil dynasty family. That's like Tony Montana telling someone they snort too much coke. It's enough to overload your sense of paranoidar.

So after that you might want to ask yourself, hey! what is up with all the dang questions about alternative fuel? I get it. Big oil is evil. Jeez. It's Earth Day. Chill.

Photo of earth, western hemisphere courtesy of NASA.
Revolutionary QOTD:
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. ~Native American Proverb.

Friday, April 21, 2006

We Are What We Eat:
This was forwarded to me by a friend. Another forward I could rant on forever, and probably will at some point. In any case an interesting piece about where your food comes from. Some surprizing information too, such as just how far your free-range chicken gets to range. Stuff everybody who eats should want to know. Here's an except and the whole piece is here.

On the long trip from the soil to our mouths, a trip of 1,500 miles on average, the food we eat often passes through places most of us will never see. Michael Pollan has spent much of the last five years visiting these places on our behalf. "Industrial food," as Pollan defines it, "is food for which you need an investigative journalist to tell you where it came from." We have been eating such food for so long that most of us have no memory of the much shorter and less complicated food chains that once tied people to the land. We need someone, in other words, to tell us where food of any kind comes from. A longtime writer on food for the New York Times Magazine and author of the bestseller "The Botany of Desire," Pollan is a good man for the job.

In his new book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals," Pollan traces meals across four different food chains, or, if you prefer, markets, arranged in order of popularity: a McDonald's drive-through meal, a Whole Foods dinner, a meal raised on a "beyond organic" pasture farm in Virginia, and what Pollan labels the "Perfect Meal," one whose ingredients he hunts and forages for himself. In the course of his investigations, Pollan comes across an unlikely collection of people -- from Iowa corn farmers, Kansas feedlot managers and food processing scientists, to rebel farmers, San Francisco Bay area gourmands and fanatic mushroom foragers -- yet manages to approach all of them with a common sympathy. As he sees it, the corn farmer dumping nitrogen on his fields, the veterinarian loading corn-fed cattle with medication, and the hog farmer snipping pigs' tails to prevent stress-induced chewing in close quarters are all driven by the same pressures. He lays the blame for our destructive and precarious system, if at all, on those in Washington and on Wall Street -- at the USDA and Archer Daniels Midland -- who set the rules of the game. But then they too, he knows, are responding to a set of pressures that come from all of us and our appetites.

Bring Out Your Dead!
Whenever I hear the words Bubonic Plague, it makes me think of the, "Bring out your dead!" scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I can't help it. Random surfing this morning, well, actually I followed a recommended link from to the LA Fire Department blog and happened on this piece of news:
LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles County health officials have confirmed a case of bubonic plague in an adult woman. This is the first human case of plague in a Los Angeles County resident since 1984. The affected individual resides in the Country Club Park area of the city of Los Angeles. The woman, who came down with symptoms one week ago and remains hospitalized, may have been exposed to fleas in the area around her home. The investigation is continuing. "Bubonic plague is not usually transmissible from person to person," says Jonathan Fielding, M.D., M.P.H, Director of Public Health and Health Officer, Los Angeles County. "Fortunately, human plague infection is rare in urban environments, and this single case should not be a cause for alarm in the area where it occurred." "Plague is characterized by fever, muscle aches, nausea, headache, sore throat, fatigue, and swollen, tender lymph nodes associated with the arm or leg that has flea bites and is treatable with antibiotics," added Dr. Roshan Reporter of the Acute Communicable Disease Control Program. "The disease often causes illness serious enough to warrant hospitalization, but if treated is rarely fatal."
Just one more thing to worry about along with Bird Flu, SARS, the ebola virus and the list will undoubtedly go on. Have a good day.

Revolutionary QOTD:
Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.
-George Orwell.
I'm not sure when he said this, but I'm sure they didn't have Fox News, CNN, ABC, NBC or CBS News back then. So I think one could safely substitute any source of news above in place of "newspaper" and the statement would still be true. It was hard to pick just one quote from Orwell, as it is often hard to pick one from most people worth quoting at all. I used two from Bob Marley and rather than make a habit of doing that I will use him another day. But it is especially hard to pick one from Orwell because of the times we live in, with the Bush Administration in the White House and the newspeak and deception they used to justifiy the Iraq war. There are dozens of quotes that apply, but this one relates best to another post I plan to write shortly. So, there it is.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

If You Tell I'll Deny It:
Ok, I'm going to say something you might find repulsive. I'm going to congratulate the Bush administration on the immigration arrests of the past few days. I'm not congratulating them for all the arrests, just the arrests of the 9 IFCO employees. Please don't tell anyone I said something good about the administration. If you do, I'll deny it. It's not like I believe the administration's hype when they say that this raid is not in response to public pressure regarding immigration reform. Or that I believe this operation has been "in the planning stages for months," as Homeland Security officials claim. Those kinds of statements set off my paranoidar (paranioa + radar).

But I do believe it is time the government focused, not on the illegal immigrants themselves, who are the exploited in this scenario. And who are the people least economically and politically able as individuals to do much about it. Immigration enforcement is now at least somewhat focused on the corporate employers who are the exploiters. I don't expect this to become a trend or anything, but if it does you are going to see illegal immigration drop to almost zero in no time flat. Which won't necessarily be good for the people who want to immigrate. Unless, of course, it is accompanied by good jobs either in their own countries of origin, or by legal immigration and good jobs here.

Photo is of an immigration rally in downtown Manhattan 4/10/06. Photo by Michael Brandon.
Hu's Bad!:
I wrote a post about Tank Man, the Tiananmen Square massacre and China's abysmal human rights record last week. I think it is important to remember those things now as President Bush meets with President Hu Jintao today. A woman protester interrupted President Hu's speech to remind us of China's squelching of religious freedom. It would be a good time to check out the PBS Frontline report online if you haven't already. If we're really the country we say we are and if we are really in Iraq to assure the human rights of the people there, how can we in good conscience deal with China without insisting that they treat their people better? Not only our government should insist on this, but also companies such as Microsoft and Boeing who also met with President Hu. And that doesn't even get into how trade with China affects our markets, it is not an equitable deal we have right now. And how it affects the job market in this country with all of our manufacturing outsourced to third-world countries. What is the difference between the human rights abuses of a country like Cuba and those of the Chinese? The Chinese may well be worse. The hypocrisy sometimes is absolutely staggering.
Revolutionary QOTD:
Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy
'Cause none of them can stop the time
-Bob Marley from Redemption Song
The 25th anniversary of reggae singer, activist and Rastafarian prophet, Bob Marley's death is May 11. There is an interesting post and comments at the Huffington Post about his legacy. The "fear of atomic engergy" lyric may have some relevance vis a vis the Iran nuke controversy. Maybe. I found this quote below when I had nearly finished this post. I had to add it, so it's a QOTD two-for.
Babylon System is the Vampire
Sucking the children day by day
Me say the Babylon System is the Vampire
Sucking the blood of the sufferers
Building church and university
Deceiving the people continually
Me say them graduating thieves and murderers
Look out now
Sucking the blood of the sufferers

Tell the children the truth
Tell the children the truth
Tell the children the truth right now
Come on and tell the children the truth

'Cause we've been trodding on
The winepress much too long
Got to Rebel, Got to Rebel Now
-Bob Marley from Babylon System
Yes brother Bob, I and I got to rebel. Be irie, mon.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Erasing the Past:
Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth.
-From Chapter 7 of 1984 by George Orwell.
Another second hand post from This Modern World reminded me of the passage above from 1984. The main character, Winston Smith's job at the Ministry of Truth was to rewrite documents to make the past version match the current "truth" the party expected the populace to believe. A truth that changed constantly. TWM links to this article from the NY Times Opinion Page about the CIA and Air Force conspiring to gather up and reclassify documents from the National Archives, some dating back as far as the 1950s.

And under the terms of two disturbing agreements - with the C.I.A. and the Air Force - the National Archives has been allowing officials to reclassify declassified documents, which means removing them from the public eye. So far 55,000 pages, some of them from the 1950's, have vanished. This not only violates the mission of the National Archives; it is also antithetical to the natural flow of information in an open society.

As time passes, the need for secrecy, which should always adhere to a very strict standard, usually diminishes. Apparently the C.I.A. wants to turn back the hands of time.

The new director of the National Archives, Allen Weinstein, rightly put a stop to this nonsense as soon as he heard about it. But he will need to do more than just abrogate these suspect agreements with the C.I.A. and the Air Force. He will need to figure out how they came about in the first place. The former director, John Carlin, has said he knows nothing about them. They appear to have been signed only by the assistant archivist.

What makes this all seem preposterous is that the agreements themselves prohibit the National Archives from revealing why the documents were removed.

And this one also from the NY Times where the FBI is attempting to examine and reclassify documents that may have been leaked years ago to columnist Jack Anderson who died in 2005.

The F.B.I. is seeking to go through the files of the late newspaper columnist Jack Anderson to remove classified material he may have accumulated in four decades of muckraking Washington journalism.

Mr. Anderson's family has refused to allow a search of 188 boxes, the files of a well-known reporter who had long feuded with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and had exposed plans by the Central Intelligence Agency to kill Fidel Castro, the machinations of the Iran-contra affair and the misdemeanors of generations of congressmen.

Mr. Anderson's son Kevin said that to allow government agents to rifle through the papers would betray his father's principles and intimidate other journalists, and that family members were willing to go to jail to protect the collection.

"It's my father's legacy," said Kevin N. Anderson, a Salt Lake City lawyer and one of the columnist's nine children. "The government has always and continues to this day to abuse the secrecy stamp. My father's view was that the public is the employer of these government employees and has the right to know what they're up to."

More evidence of the Bush Administration's efforts to turn back the clock to a time of increased government secrecy and surveillance and the abuses of governmental power that resulted from them. I am going to get tired of hearing myself say how much they love the idea of freedom of information in Iraq, but don't much care for it here....
The Messenger Shoots Self:
Press Secretary Scott McClellan resigned this morning. You know if there's anyone you could possibly muster any sympathy for in the Bush Administration, it would have to be the Press Secretary Scott McClellan. This guy has to stand out front more than anyone and try to explain all the mistakes this administration has made and try to put a good face on them. It really has to be one of the hardest jobs in the world. Especially for a president who rarely does his own news conferences, he's held the fewest of any president in the television age. Not to mention a VP who shoots someone in the face with a shotgut and waits nearly 24 hours to inform anyone of it. Scott handles the sharks in the White House Press corps while the President and VP take softballs from hand picked Republican audiences at staged appearances. As I've said before, Republicans love the idea of free speech in Iraq. But they're not so fond of it here in America. The only one available to shoot is the messager in this case. Could you blame Scott for, only figuratively of course, putting himself out of his misery?
Revolutionary QOTD:
What this country needs is more unemployed politicians.
-Angela Davis.
Amen sister. I recommend we start at the top. I heard Ms. Davis speak several years ago on the campus of Cal-State, Dominguez Hills. At that time she spoke about privatization of the prison system and how communities who have lost their economic base are vying for prisons to be located there to restore their economies. She called it the Punishment Industry, which has never had rehabilitation as its goal. At the same time, especially in California, tougher laws are providing the raw "material" to make those prisons economically feasible. These new laws put people behind bars for longer stretches of time for non-violent offenses they would not have served time for in the past. Crimes such as simple marijuana possession. And of course it is no surprise that the majority of those incarcerated are black and Hispanic. It is a system built on an economic model doomed to fail because the revenue to support it comes from state and federal taxes, not from something that generates real income. It is a literal warehousing of the poor for the crime of being poor.

Now Ms. Davis advocates for the complete abolition of the prison system. A system that does not, as I said above, rehabilitate, but serves as a training ground for criminals. If a person does not go into the system a hardened criminal, they will almost certainly come out as one. The prison system is, she informs us, a form of institutionalized racism. Hers is a radical position, but no more so than the advocating for the abolition of slavery was in the 1700s. Or for the abolition of Jim Crow in the early 1900s. She sets forth her well-reasoned argument, as well as the need for a humane and moral alternative to the prison system, in her book entitled, Are Prisons Obsolete?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Heard on CNN:
Republicans are robbing the bank and Democrats are driving the getaway car.
-Radio Talk Show Host James Mtume on Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN - The Most Trusted Name In News.
Amen brother.
Ok I got this from This Modern World too. Sorry I don't want to make this all second-hand TMW, you might just skip this altogether and go straight there. All 10 or 15 of you. But this one is too good not to pass on. Warning: if you're sensitive about language, don't visit this site. If not, check out
Godwin's Law:
At the risk of sounding like a newbie, I learned about Godwin's Law from Glenn Greenwald's post. It is:

Godwin's Law (also Godwin's Rule of Nazi Analogies) is, in Internet culture, an adage originated in 1990 by Mike Godwin that states:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.[1]

There is a tradition in many Usenet newsgroups that once such a comparison is made the thread in which the comment was posted is finished and whoever mentioned the Nazis has automatically lost whatever debate was in progress.

It is considered poor form to raise arbitrarily such a comparison with the motive of ending the thread. There is a widely recognized codicil that any such deliberate invocation of Godwin's Law will be unsuccessful.

Although in one of its early forms Godwin's Law referred specifically to Usenet discussions[2], the law can be applied to any threaded online discussion: electronic mailing lists, message boards, and so on.

-from Wikipedia.

Apparently blogs as well. A law I will keep in mind should I get any comments (hint) on any of my posts.
As I Was Saying:
Speaking of justifying violence in the form of war, I got this second hand via This Modern World from a post by on Unclaimed Territory by Glenn Greenwald. Tom Tomorrow's post is Time For A New War. Mr. Greenwald's is Fighting All The Hitlers. If you have the time the full Greenwald piece is worth reading as well as several of the comments (I didn't get through all of them, but there are some good ones in the first dozen or so.) Here's the except from Greenwald that Tom used:

As Bush followers gear up for another election year campaign to start a war, they are using exactly the same rhetorical tactics and are revealing precisely the same mindset to which we were subjected during the 2002 campaign for the Iraq War. What is starkly apparent from this repetition is that their awareness of history and knowledge of the world is sadly confined to one singular event, which is all they know and which, rather bizarrely, they have a need to live over and over and over again.

To pro-Bush war supporters, the world is forever stuck in the 1930s. Every leader we don't like is Adolph Hitler, a crazed and irrational lunatic who wants to dominate the world. Every country opposed to our interests is Nazi Germany.

From this it follows that every warmonger is the glorious reincarnation of the brave and resolute Winston Churchill. And one who opposes or even questions any proposed war becomes the lowly and cowardly appeaser, Neville Chamberlain. For any and every conflict that arises, the U.S. is in the identical position of France and England in 1937 - faced with an aggressive and militaristic Nazi Germany, will we shrink from our grand fighting duties in appeasement and fear, or will we stand tall and strong and wage glorious war?

With that cartoonish framework in place, war is always the best option. It is the only option for those who are noble, strong, and fearless. Conversely, the sole reason for opposing a war is that one is a weak-minded and weak-willed appeaser who harbors dangerous fantasies of negotiating with madmen. Diplomacy and containment are simply elevated, PC terms for "appeasement." War is the only option that works.

Revolutionary QOTD:
From pacifist to terrorist, each person condemns violence - and then adds one cherished case in which it may be justified.

-Gloria Steinem.

I'm not sure when she said this, but it is certainly relevant today. The condemnation and justification are made almost in the same breath with absolutely no irony. It is startling how similar the rhetoric is on both sides of a conflict. Any conflict today or throughout history. With one side accusing the other of being evil, claiming that they themselves are righteous and have god on their side. And that the other side's violence justifies their violent response. In that way the violence perpetuates itself and it rarely ever settles any issue for good.

Monday, April 17, 2006

More journal randomness....

I saw a picture of the mother earth from space. I studied her face. I saw no borders. None between the United States and Mexico to make one person legal and another illegal. I saw no border between Christian, Muslim or Jew to justify terrorism or war. None between Protestant or Catholic. None between Buddhist or Hindu. No division between Sunni, Shiite, or Kurd. Between black or white or red or brown or yellow people. None between a rich man or a poor man to justify one being treated better than another. All I saw was a blue true sphere. A mother who nourishes her children. No matter how her children treat each other over differences you can't see from not so very far away. I saw. One world.

Photo of earth, western hemisphere courtesy of NASA.
Randomness from my journal.

One night a man danced himself to death at Harvelle's. Laurie said she held his head in her arms as he died. The paramedics came and worked on him a long time. But he was gone. His wife came in after. She said she was glad he had gone that way. Dancing between two women. She said he must have been happy. He was dancing as hard as he could, Laurie told her. He was dancing so hard between those two women and then he fell. I came in after all of it. After the dancing with the two women. After the paramedics who worked on him so long. After Laurie held his head in her arms. After the wife. After he was gone. Laurie told it all to me when I asked her how it was going. She said it had been a rough night. I said to her, if you have to go, that's not a bad way. That's not a bad way at all. Dancing to death is dancing to life.

I ran across a pack of matches from Harvelle's and it made me think of this incident.

Love sucks. Sorry people. I know I just posted about Revolution & Love a few days ago. But I was on the VH1 site and was reminded of some really bad news from a few weekends ago and I'm very disheartened by it. I can't help it, I'm really sad about it. Well it's no secret, you probably heard it too. Flav and Hoopz didn't really work out. And I just have to think that in a country like America, if a man like Flavor Flav, with a mansion, 20 chicks to choose from, a reality TV show on VH1, gold teeth and a clock for every outfit can't find love in this crazy world, well, what hope is there for the rest of us? I was so glad he didn't choose New York that I really hoped the thing with Hoopz would work out for him and that the Flav would find love. But alas, it didn't happen that way. The only bright spot in this whole sad scenario is that this most likely means, A WHOLE NEW SEASON OF THE FLAVOR OF LOVE!!! FLAVA! FLAVA! FLAVA! FLAVA! FLAVA! FLAVA! FLAVA!

Oh and one other thing while I'm on the subject and this is for one of the two girls who just can't seem to get along on the show (don't make me quote Rodney King up in here). I have just one word for Pumpkin. Flats. That's right, flats. When you know you're coming on a show where a crazed black woman from New York is going to be on your ass like white on rice, you can't count on moving out of the way fast enough in heels. I know big Rick is there to protect you. And that's one big Negro. (Ok, I can say that because I myself am a pretty fairly sized Negro, though not as big as big Rick.) But that crazy bitch could slip right between big Rick's legs and your white ass would be grass girlfriend. Wear flats so you can run girl. I would have been up in there in some Blackspot sneakers myself. Yeah boyeee!

Cory Maye Update:

For those of you who are wondering what is going on with the Cory Maye case, from what I can determine, he is petitioning for a new trial and has been granted a 60 day continuance. There is a lot of information on Maye, his family, the town he's from and the case at The Agitator. Frankly there's quite a bit there and I haven't read through all of it. I skimmed through to get the info above. More after I've had time to read through it.