Wednesday, December 31, 2008

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne

For Auld Lang Syne:

And then there's this one:

And this classis:

Happy New Year, dammit!

Don't Fiddle About This New Year

Happy New Year

...Be the change you talk about, and bright moments to you.



Dogs of war and men of hate, With no cause, we don't discriminate

(The Dogs of War-Pink Floyd)

I clearly remember the 6 Day War of 1967, it was quite scary. And I remember hearing about the Suez Canal crisis in 1956; I was only 6, but it was on the news every night.

History in the Middle East is complicated, especially by empire-building western nations. England, France, and the US have all made changes in the region which have reverberated for years, and causing consequences many years later. If you don't believe that, ask the Iranians about Mohammed Mossadegh.

I was hitch-hiking through Europe in the summer of '72, and spent a few weeks in a campground in Amsterdam. We (ex-wife & I) had been planning to go to Israel and work on a Kibbutz. That never happened. But I remember talking with a Canadian fellow who had just come back from Israel. His words stick with me today:
Imagine a country where every one of its neighbors hates them.

Clearly that's not a great political imperative or analysis; the same might be said for many countries on earth. But in light of the recent attack on Gaza, it resonates a bit.

Liberals have a natural inclination to defend the underdog in most fights. Israel at one time was clearly an underdog. The foundation of the country was questionable, but it happened, so we move on. And Egypt and other Arab countries have struck out at Israel many times. The animosity is evident, and sad.

But in this latest case, where the brutal blockade and repression of Gazans has been condemned by many, Israel has overstepped its legitimacy:
Numerous world leaders have called for a cessation of the violence, but so far there has been little indication that peace might be at hand. France has called for a meeting of the foreign ministers of EU member states in Paris on Tuesday evening to discuss the situation. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the phone Monday evening and pushed for an immediate cessation of hostilities. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that the blame for the violence lies squarely with Hamas.

Juan Cole has probably the most definitive and even-handed analysis at Informed Consent. On the parity of the Israeli attack:

Israel blames Hamas for primitive homemade rocket attacks on the nearby Israeli city of Sederot. In 2001-2008, these rockets killed about 15 Israelis and injured 433, and they have damaged property. In the same period, Gazan mortar attacks on Israel have killed 8 Israelis.

Since the Second Intifada broke out in 2000, Israelis have killed nearly 5000 Palestinians, nearly a thousand of them minors. Since fall of 2007, Israel has kept the 1.5 million Gazans under a blockade, interdicting food, fuel and medical supplies to one degree or another. Wreaking collective punishment on civilian populations such as hospital patients denied needed electricity is a crime of war.

The Israelis on Saturday killed 5% of all the Palestinians they have killed since the beginning of 2001! 230 people were slaughtered in a day, over 70 of them innocent civilians. In contrast, from the ceasefire Hamas announced in June, 2008 until Saturday, no Israelis had been killed by Hamas. The infliction of this sort of death toll is known in the law of war as a disproportionate response, and it is a war crime.

And on the current irrational actions by Right-wing leaders in Israel:
The Israeli government appears to have rejected international calls for a 48-hour truce to allow humanitarian aid to reach Gaza. Lack of electricity, fuel, medicine and even food is threatening to create an even deep crisis there than during the Israeli blockade that has been in force off and on for the past year.

In fact, an Israeli ship rammed a vessel attempting to deliver medical supplies to Gaza, severely damaging it and endangering the passengers, who included Karl Penhaul of CNN and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. The boat, which was in international waters, could easily have sunk.

The fable of David & Goliath seems to have been perverted. Instead of being the modern incarnation of David, Israel seems to be acting like Goliath. Hopefully another David won't use his sling against them.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Well can't you just let it ring a little longer

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows my computer love is reserved for all things Mac. I've been using Macs since 1985, owned my first in 1990, and am typing one one now. I do use PCs when I have to, but using a Mac is like wearing my own comfortable clothes.

Apple has long been considered a progressive company, not only technologically, but socially. Heck, they even donated $100,000 to the recent No on Pro. 8 campaign here in CA. But this really makes me sad, and is hardly progressive:
Walmart has started to sell the iPhone 3G at nearly 2,500 Walmart stores beginning Sunday, December 28, 2008. The retailer is offering the black 8 GB iPhone 3G model with the price of $197 and the 16 GB black or white model for $297, with a new two-year service agreement from AT&T or qualified upgrade.

Damn. Hardly surprising, I guess. Profit transcends ideology for most companies. And for some other allegedly progressive folks too, who felt a need 2 years ago to get in bed with awful Walmart:
Don Henley is famous for his green causes and bad temper. Wal-Mart is famous for hyper capitalism and exploitation of its workers. What do these two parties have in common? Well they are now in business together, probably for the rest of Henley’s life.

An announcement on October 18 claimed that The Eagles are giving Wal-Mart an exclusive on their upcoming recordings that will be made and released sans major label.

Bastards. All of them.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Well, they don't make 'em like that no more, Not since nineteen seventy four. Big cars.

(Heather Myles-Big Cars)

Mark Steyn unleashes a big can of Teh Stoopid™, while trying to make Obama look foolish. He starts with this Obama quote:
"We can't just keep driving our SUVs, eating whatever we want, keeping our homes at 72 degrees at all times regardless of whether we live in the tundra or the desert and keep consuming 25 percent of the world's resources with just 4 percent of the world's population, and expect the rest of the world to say, 'You just go ahead, we'll be fine.'"

It appears that Steyn has embellished the quote. Here's the original from Agence France Presse including the next sentence ol' Markie conveniently left out:
"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK," Obama said.

"That's not leadership. That's not going to happen," he added.

Hard to disagree with, IMO. Yet after his distortion of the quote, Steyn feel compelled to translate for the rubes:
If I understand then Sen. Obama's logic, in a just world Americans would be 4 percent of the population and consume 4 percent of the world's resources. And in these past few months we've made an excellent start toward that blessed utopia: Americans are driving smaller cars, buying smaller homes, giving smaller Christmas presents.

And yet, strangely, President-elect Barack Obama doesn't seem terribly happy about the Obamafication of the U.S. economy. He's proposing some 5.7 bazillion dollar "stimulus" package or whatever it is now to "stimulate" it back into its bad old ways.
Clearly Mark, you don't understand Pres.-elect Obama's logic, or you wouldn't misstate it so blatantly. Jeebus, where to begin.

First, nobility is always overthrown. It's called revolution. And America has acted like global nobility for several years, and we can't afford to any longer. We've told the world, and our own citizens to 'eat cake' one too many times. Or hadn't you noticed? Because the entitlement of the Right-wing economists, pundits, de-regulators, and money lenders has worked out so well for us.

We've lost our manufacturing base, shipped millions of jobs to former third-world, now second-world countries thereby building their middle classes, and ruined the housing market. All under the watch of the Right. Since the start of the ruinious Reagan years, America's fiscal soundness has continually devalued until the dollar and its image are nearly worthless.

But the stimulus package you bitch about, done correctly, will save jobs. Ulike the fantastically larger bail-out given to Wall St., which will only save the jobs of hedge fund managers. I'm guessing you thought that one was OK.


We will, we will rock you

Imagine you had an Ant Farm, lots of kids had them. Now, imagine that you, as the only source of food, stopped feeding them.

And now imagine that the ants are actually people, trapped behind walls you control, with little or no food or resources. And finally, imagine that you are one of the people trapped in the Ant Farm. I'm pretty sure you'd be really pissed. Mad enough to fire some rockets at your captors? Probably:
Israel, backed by the United States, Europe, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, has sought to isolate Hamas by squeezing Gaza economically, a policy that human rights groups condemn as collective punishment. Israel and Egypt, which control routes into and out of Gaza, have blocked nearly all but humanitarian aid from going in.

The result has been the near death of the Gazan economy. While enough food has gone in to avoid starvation, the level of suffering by ordinary people is very high and getting worse each week, especially in recent weeks as Israel closed the routes entirely for around 10 days in reaction to daily rocket fire.

Opening the routes to commerce was Hamas’s main goal in its cease-fire with Israel, just as ending the rocket fire was Israel’s central aim. But while rocket fire did go down drastically in the fall to around 15 to 20 per month from hundreds per month, Israel said it would not permit trade to go back up until the rockets actually stopped, and because Hamas continued to smuggle weapons through desert tunnels from Egypt. Hamas said this was a violation of the agreement, a sign of Israel’s real intention and cause for further rocket fire.

Hamas is some bad guys
, and the whole "destruction of Israel" thingie isn't really a good idea, as if it would ever happen. But Israel has been no less truculent, nearly starving the Palestinians, and destroying the economy with their foolish and provocative blockade, crippling West Bank commerce.

GWBush promised a peace agreement, and as expected, that promis has as much validity as his promise of "humble foreign policy. For more analysis, read Jon Perr's post at Crooks & Liars today:
In January, George W. Bush famously predicted he would broker a Middle East peace by the end of his presidency. Now with Israel's launch this morning of airstrikes in Gaza -- which so far have left 155 dead -- Bush's pledge of a two-state solution is just the latest failure of his disastrous tenure in the White House.

Tensions between Israeli and Hamas forces have been escalating since the expiration last week of a six-month truce negotiated by Egypt. The retaliatory tit-for-tat has included Israeli strikes against militants in Gaza, and Hamas firing rockets and mortars into Israel. And while Israel reopened border crossings Friday for deliveries of food, supplies and humanitarian aid, the AP reported that the government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "wrapped up preparations for a broad offensive."

On Thursday, the scandal-plagued outgoing Prime Minister issued a warning to Palestinians in Gaza. As Reuters recounted:

"I didn't come here to declare war," Mr. Olmert told Al Arabiya, an Arab broadcaster widely watched in Gaza. "But Hamas must be stopped - that is the way it is going to be."

He issued what amounted to a public call to Gazans to overthrow Hamas, the Islamic group that controls the territory. "I'm telling them now," he said. "It may be the last minute. There will be more blood there. Who wants it? We don't want it."

At least Hamas is doing humanitarian work for its people, as both a real and political counter to Israel's aggression and domination. Still, some real diplomacy by the outgoing Bush Admonistration would have been a good thing.

Oh wait, what was I thinking.


Emperor Short One

Emperor Short One

Friday, December 26, 2008

No don't say a prayer for me now, save it til the morning after

(Save a Prayer)

Another Orange Co. minister has spoken out against Rick Warren's Invocation at the upcoming Obama inauguration, but not in the way you hoped:
Southern Baptist Pastor Wiley Drake bashed Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren this week, saying "God will punish" Warren for agreeing to give the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration next month.

"I pray He is kind to you in this punishment that is coming," Drake wrote in a widely-released e-mail. In it, the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park pastor criticizes Warren's "recent plan to invoke the presence of almighty God on this evil illegal alien," a reference to Obama.

Who is this idiot? Clearly someone who doesn't support the U.S. Constitution:
In early 2008, while he was the pastor for the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Reverend Drake was a vocal supporter of Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign. He sent out a letter personally endorsing Huckabee. However, the letter was on church stationery; thus, to the Internal Revenue Service, Rev. Drake was endorsing a political candidate as a church leader and endangering his church's tax-exempt status.

Rev. Drake's violation of federal tax law was reported to the IRS by an advocacy group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU), which had warned him for endorsing Dick Mountjoy for a U.S. Senate race with a Southern Baptist Convention letterhead. Rev. Drake asked his parishioners and others to pray for revenge using an imprecatory prayer for the punishment, shame, and even deaths of AU officials. He defended these actions by saying, "The prayer does call for serious, serious punishment on people. But I didn't call for that, God did," and, "The Bible says that if anybody attacks God’s people, David said this is what will happen to them…." Drake also did not fear IRS investigation, explaining, "They don’t scare me. I don’t give a rip about the IRS. I don’t believe in the separation of church and state and I believe the IRS should stay out of church business."

I'm not sure about who Drake's God is, but it sure doesn't sound like this guy:
Romans 12:19-21
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"says the Lord. On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Ephesians 4:31-32
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Psalm 37:8
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.

Leviticus 19:17-18
Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

How much ignorance, stupidity, and hate can be rolled up in one person . . . Oh yeah, I forget, there's also Rev. Fred Phelps.


Both of 'em.

Merry Christmas, darling

I never met her, but I did work with Richard quite a bit, and he's a fine gentleman, and very talented.

This is just a lovely song:

Addition by The Sailor. Here's another lovely Christmas song by Eartha Kitt who now resides at the North Pole (AKA heaven):

They're not random, they're chaotic!

Random thoughts:
If banks & corporations are 'too big to [let] fail' then why were they allowed to consolidate to begin with? [/rhetorical]

And why not bust them up (e.g. like Bell was) and make the smaller parts sink or swim on their own merits? [/simplistic]
If you give bailout money to institutions & rich people, they hoard the money. If you give it to people in financial crisis they spend the money. Why aren't we giving the money to individuals in this crisis? It's not like their economic record is worse than Wall Street's. (i.e. they lost thousands, Wall Street lost billions.)

Which reminds me of a Buddy Hackett joke: A couple on vacation in Las Vegas, is having an argument in their hotel room. "How could you lose $200 playing slots!" he yells.
"Why are you yelling at me," she says, "you lost $3,000 shooting craps!"
He says "Yeah, but I know how to gamble!"
I'm very fortunate this year, I still have my job and my 401k (FWIW!) and my health benefits. So I spent my xmas $$ at local businesses and matched it at a food bank & community kitchen.

I think my Community Kitchen has the best charity model I know of. They feed anyone who walks in the door. No bureaucratic hoops to jump thru, no invasive questions, just food. (They also do meals-on-wheels and take out for shut-ins.)

Does it get abused? Maybe. There are probably people who could afford food who take advantage of it, but at the cost per meal of less than $2/person that's a lot cheaper than a welfare program with hundreds of bureaucrats checking their lists and checking them twice.
Every time I hear folks say 'I survived because [insert your deity's name here] was looking out for me', I think that this is the most self-selected poll in existence. It's not like all the other devout folks who were praying to their god and still died had a say.
I've been seeing a lot debate this year in blogtopia about whether to continue the Santa Claus myth with toddlers or tell them the 'truth.'

Oddly enough the negative POV is presented by some christains & atheists. (See they do have common ground!) The christains don't want the competition and the atheists don't want the indoctrination to magical beings.

My take is that kids will be exposed to the myth regardless of what a parent does and kids want to believe. And since kids believe there are monsters-under-the-bed/in-the-closet regardless of what their parent say, this seems like at worst a harmless fantasy.

And fantasies die all too soon for most children. Entertaining your imaginary guests is part & parcel to being forever young. I regret that I lost that ability when I reached maturity (which only happened in the last couple of years.)

Happy holidays!

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hold Your Fire For The Holidays

We (along with Digby and others, we am sure) entreat and implore you cats and kittens in Internetland...

Don't Tase Me Ho Ho Ho


All is calm, all is bright

Pat Buchanan gave a particularly incendiary anti-immigrant speech at the '92 Republican Convention. Molly Ivins (I bow down and worship at your statue, Molly) remarked that Pat's speech "sounded better in the original German". Oh snap!

Well, some things do indeed sound better in the original German, like the fab Christmas song "Stille Nacht".

My dad, a music teacher when I was young, was a fan of the recorder, an end-blown early flute. He wrote his first Master's Thesis on the recorder and its use as an educational tool. And he started teaching me the instrument, it's fingering, and musc theory at age 7. My school musical education began the next year, when I started playing flute at 16th Street School in San Pedro, CA. My music teacher, Mrs. Schmidt, was a treasure. Patient as a saint, she persevered while a sincere but seemingly untalented geek kid tried to master the flute.

One day, near Christmas, she played a recording of the Vienna Boys' Choir singing a version of Stille Nacht, the original lyrics to what we call Silent Night, and it was an epiphany for me. I experienced my first emotional reaction to music. The strange lyrics made it more mysterious, and the sound of the pre-pubescent male voice, as pure as the sound of the recorder, was entrancing to me.

I later became pretty fluent in conversation German, but that performance of Stille Nacht changed my life. The Viennese kid who sang the solo in '57 is probably retired now after a fairly normal life; work, kids, grand-kids, an ulcer or two. But his pure voice singing those foreign lyrics changed my life forever.

Here's a more recent performance by the Vienna Boys' Choir:

Now these guys have an interesting take on the song:

And these guys take it even further:

Christmas Rocks!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Does anyone else see the irony here?

Bump & Update:
Police to get training after head-scarf wearer's arrest

The Douglasville Police Department said Monday its officers will undergo "sensitivity and cultural diversity training" after a Muslim woman who refused to remove her head scarf at a courthouse was jailed.

"We never want this to happen again. It's not our intent to embarrass anybody," Police Chief Joe Whisenant said at a news conference.

The judge who had the woman jailed briefly for contempt of court will also take part in the training, Whisenant said.
Original post:
Ga. judge jails Muslim woman over head scarf

A Muslim woman arrested for refusing to take off her head scarf at a courthouse security checkpoint said Wednesday that she felt her human and civil rights were violated. A judge ordered Lisa Valentine, 40, to serve 10 days in jail for contempt of court, said police in Douglasville, a city of about 20,000 people on Atlanta's west suburban outskirts.
Kelley Jackson, a spokeswoman for Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, said state law doesn't permit or prohibit head scarfs.
Valentine's husband, Omar Hall, said his wife was accompanying her nephew to a traffic citation hearing when officials stopped her at the metal detector and told her she would not be allowed in the courtroom with the head scarf, known as a hijab.

Hall said Valentine, an insurance underwriter, told the bailiff that she had been in courtrooms before with the scarf on and that removing it would be a religious violation. When she turned to leave and uttered an expletive, Hall said a bailiff handcuffed her and took her before the judge.
Hmm, I guess you can wear a scarf in his courtroom!

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Sunday, December 21, 2008

There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark

40 years ago today Apollo 8 launched and became the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon. 3 days later Mission Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders became the first inhabitants of planet Earth to ever see the far side of our Moon.

Earthrise by William Anders
(BTW, this is the proper orientation as conceived by the photographer and the earth concept of North/South poles.)

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Can't We All Just Get Along? Short answer: NO!
A Chance for Consensus on Iraq
By John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham
Now it's time for the unthinkable to take place in Washington. For the past several years, Iraq has divided and polarized our parties, our policymakers and our people. The debate over the war has often been disfigured by politics and partisanship, precluding the national consensus so important to American security in a dangerous world.
Consensus!? Freakin' CONSENSUS!? You dumb,lying,malevolent bastards! There's been a consensus for years! 60%+ Americans want us out and 70%+ Iraqis want us out, that's your consensus! The sovereign government of Iraq stated it quite clearly in the SOFA. Remember when Bush said we'd leave when they asked us to? They not only asked, they're telling us to get out!

The op-ed continues:
To achieve this, the president-elect, his national security team and all of us in Congress should seek the counsel of Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, and Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of coalition forces in Iraq.
Oh really!? Listen to those treasonous bastards?
US Military Defiant on Key Terms of Iraqi Pact

U.S. military leaders and Pentagon officials have made it clear through public statements and deliberately leaked stories in recent weeks that they plan to violate a central provision of the U.S.-Iraq withdrawal agreement requiring the complete withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities by mid-2009 by reclassifying combat troops as support troops.

The scheme to engage in chicanery in labeling U.S. troops represents both open defiance of an agreement which the U.S. military has never accepted and a way of blocking President-elect Barack Obama's proposed plan for withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of his taking office.
Gen. David Petraeus, now commander of CENTCOM, and Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, who opposed Obama's 16-month withdrawal plan during the election campaign, have drawn up their own alternative withdrawal plan rejecting that timeline
The first time one of them pulls this crap after the inauguration I hope Obama does a Truman to their MacArthurs!

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

The Official Portrait

The Official Portrait

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fox, meet henhouse

Despite Concerns, Pentagon Seeks Civilian Firm to Oversee Contractors

Shortly after an inspector general questioned the practice of the Pentagon issuing contracts to administer contracts, the U.S. Army began advertising this week for an American firm to manage oversight of private security companies in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon's inspector general reported last month that the Defense Department was increasingly relying on contractors "to fill the gap from the reduced acquisition and oversight workforce, bordering on inherently governmental functions, thereby potentially taking on decision-making roles."

One such contract was put out for bid Monday by the Joint Contracting Center in Bagram, Afghanistan, which wants an American company to establish and run the Armed Contractor Oversight Directorate "in support of the Combined Joint Task Forces' contractor management initiative." That directorate would be "responsible for administering oversight, policy and reviewing procedures in all matters" concerning private security companies in the region, according to the proposal.
Hiring a private contractor to oversee private contractors ... what could possibly go wrong with that!?

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oh the weather outside is frightful

It's 28 degrees, snowing/freezing rain, and has been like that for what seems forever. I've got a nasty cold, my GF broke up with me, I'm running short of provisions and I need a break!

One break, coming up!

Ladies & gentlemen, the Smothers Brothers rendition of Poor Wandering One:

Notice the Guild D-55, played by the first guitar player to ever have one: Tommy Smothers.

Which was just a smooooth segue into being able to casually mention I just bought a 1974 D-40!
It's still cold and crappy out, but at least now I have something with great curves that's warm and responsive to keep me happy at night. (Less maintenance too;-)

What, Me Hope?

What, Me Hope?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief

(Mr. Hendrix-All Along The Watchtower)

Many liberal bloggers have gone "WTF?" over the selection of Rick Warren to pray at the Obama inauguration ceremony:
Dr. Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” will deliver the invocation.

It's not all bad news, however:
Aretha Franklin and Dr. Rick Warren, an evangelical minister of the Saddleback Church, are among the select group of people who will participate in Barack Obama’s inaugural swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 20.

Mr. Obama has also chosen Elizabeth Alexander, an African-American poet at Yale University, and some of the world’s premier musicians, including Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma, to share the podium with him.

In honoring the civil rights movement, Mr. Obama has asked the Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, dean of the civil rights movement and co-founder with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, to deliver the benediction.

That's a fairly diverse group. The musicians are African-American, Israeli-born American, and Chinese-American. And contra Warren, Dr. Lowery understands something about discrimination.

Pastor Dan at Street Prophets wrote a well-considered critique of the Warren invitation. Please read the whole thing, not just the few words I copied and pasted here:
My tingling pastor-sense tells me that he selected Warren because he likes him and feels comfortable with him on a personal level. That's not as much of a stretch as it might seem; Jeremiah Wright and Trinity UCC are both much more evangelical than the rest of the UCC. Warren probably resonates with Obama in ways that somebody like myself never could.

. . . Nobody likes Warren. The Religious Right think he's a flake because he's too liberal, and everybody else thinks he's a flake because he's a shallow idiot. From where I'm sitting, as the victim of an extremely expensive and extremely rigorous theological education, Obama could have gotten a better invocation from Stuart Smalley. It would have as much depth, and at least it would be doing a Democrat a favor.

I have a couple of thoughts on this, and yes, I may be naive.

First, as many have suggested, this may be a genuine attempt to try and attract the reasonable younger evangelicals that are slowly splintering from the base movement of Falwell and Robertson. I think that will have extremely limited success, because for many of those folks, everything starts and ends with Choice v. Abortion. If Charles Manson ran for President, and claimed to be Pro-Choice™, they would vote for him.

Second, Warren will deliver a generic invocation. Obama will likely make some very inclusive statements during his speech, and may even mention gays and/or the LGBT community. If he does this, he pwns Warren, puts him in a box. In a way, it reduces Warren and his bigotry to the role of "the hired help". It's saying "we'll let you come to the dinner, but you still have to sit at the little kid's table".

Third, it may even be a more confrontational calculus: "OK, big shot, you want to be the Next Big Thing™ in evangelical Christiandom, and you want an audience, come speak at my Prom. I'll invite you, but many here among us don't like what you're selling".

Or Pastor Dan could be right in the end:
Mainline Protestant pastors are opinion leaders in their communities, and they tend to appreciate their GLBT friends and not appreciate slick weasels like Rick Warren. I was hardly the only pastor to support Obama, or to stick up for his vision of hope and reconciliation. Obama just spat in our eyes, and it's going to take a while to get over it.
Here's the thing about Warren. The main evangelical movers of the '70s, '80s, and '90s, in terms of TV exposure, were indeed Falwell & Robertson. Clearly they wanted political power. However, the evangelical leaders who were doing the work of 'saving souls' were, among a few others, Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel and John Wimber of the Vinyard. The main difference between the last two names and the first two were that CC and VCF sprouted many franchises, small churches all over the country, in their attempt to bring people to Jesus and salvation.

CC & VCF annointed many new pastors, and sent them out to preach and save people. Other '70s and '80s churches, like Kenneth Copeland in TX, built empires based on a single personality. Joel Osteen in TX has done the same recently. No real attempt at spreading their message to reach more people than the basic, albeit large, congregation.

Warren is the contemporary result of Copeland, and Osteen. He has built a huge campus, spent $$$'s in state-of-the-art audio & video equipment, and packs thousands into several services every Sunday. But he hasn't spread his ministry into franchises. It's all Warren, all the time. His message, his book, his ministry.

And he seems to love his power, even as he clearly favored McCain during Saddleback Church's Candidates debate forum. And Obama may actually like the guy, as many have suggested. But I don't think many on the far-evangelical right will take to Obama, and many of those same folks will see Warren as craven and manipulated.

I hope so. Still, he's a bigoted lying hate-monger.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Blue Swayed Shoes [sic]

If The Right One Don't Get You Then The Left One Will

Iraqi reporter throws shoes at Bush, calls him dog

An Iraqi reporter called visiting U.S. President George W. Bush a "dog" in Arabic on Sunday and threw his shoes at him during a news conference in Baghdad.

Iraqi security officers and U.S. secret service agents leapt at the man and dragged him struggling and screaming out of the room where Bush was giving a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
When asked about the incident shortly after, Bush made light of it. "I didn't feel the least threatened by it," he said.

Other Iraqi journalists apologised on behalf of their colleague, a television journalist.
Of course he didn't feel threatened, his translator said he called him 'Dawg!'

Oh, and BTW, the "Other Iraqi journalists apologised on behalf of their colleague" statement? Yeah, not so much:
Iraq rally for Bush shoe attacker

Thousands of Iraqis have demanded the release of a local TV reporter who threw his shoes at US President George W Bush at a Baghdad news conference.

Crowds gathered in Baghdad's Sadr City district, calling for "hero" Muntadar al-Zaidi to be freed from custody.
I bet all the sole-less folks on the reichwing will have their tongues flapping about this heel.

Gee, if only there was some artist (cough, DarkBlack, cough) who could come up with a graphic for this post!

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

edit: You should have a doctor look at that cough, Sailor



Sunday, December 14, 2008

Working hard or hardly working?

After Rescue, Bonuses Still Flow At AIG

Insurance giant AIG was given $152 billion in bailout money by the federal government since nearly collapsing in September. Now the company is planning to take millions of that money and hand it over to employees in a program that sounds a lot like bonuses.

AIG's new CEO is only taking a single dollar for his compensation this year and the top 60 executives won't be getting bonuses. But that hasn't stopped AIG from finding a creative way to keep some of their top employees in what they're calling "retention payments,"
Umm, when even lawyers and bankers are filing for unemployment, why do these executives need a 'bonus' to keep working? One would think just keeping the paycheck would be enough incentive.

In related news: The rethuglicans in the Senate trashed the auto bailout when Dems wouldn't give in to their demand that people making $28 per hour take a pay cut. When was the last time congress voted themselves a pay cut? [hint: NEVER!]

I did good work and good works this year and I make less than 10% of their salaries and less than 1% of Wall Street execs. I'm not getting a bonus this year and I'm not getting a raise this year and I didn't get $152 BILLION to bail out a predictably failed business model ... but I count myself lucky I still have a job.

Now excuse me while I comfort myself with bread and circuses (AKA the NFL.)

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Saturday, December 13, 2008

He’s gotta make a living, he’s a Louisiana Man

After the political debacle that was the asshat Republicans voting to punish hard-working American auto workers, I felt like some good American folk music would be in order:

Doug Kershaw started singing with his brother Rusty, in the mid '50s. If like me, you were largely ignorant of Cajun music in the '60s, Doug's appearance on the seminal Johnny Cash Show in 1969 knocked you on your ass. And check out the great photos in the YouTube above.

From Wikipedia:
Born Douglas James Kershaw in Tiel Ridge, Cameron Parish, in an area known as Cajun country, he traces his ancestry to Acadians who were part of the Great Expulsion by the British authorities from their homeland in eastern Canada in 1755. He grew up surrounded by Cajun fiddle and accordion music, and as a 19-year-old, in 1955, he performed with his brother Rusty Kershaw on the Louisiana Hayride radio broadcast. The two were so popular that they were invited to perform at the Wheeling Jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia and in 1957 appeared at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

After fulfilling his military obligation, Doug Kershaw returned to the music business scoring with an autobiographical song he wrote called "Louisiana Man". The song not only sold millions of copies but over the years has become the symbol of Cajun music. In June of 1969, Kershaw made his first network television appearance on the debut of the Johnny Cash Show. He capped the year with a much-publicized, week-long engagement at the New York City's Fillmore East as opening act for Eric Clapton's Derek & the Dominos. While it seemed, to many rock and pop fans, that Kershaw had appeared out of nowhere, he had already sold more than 18-million copies of the records he had done in the early '60s with his brother, Rusty. "Louisiana Man" had been a Top 10 country hit in 1961 and its follow-up, "Diggy Diggy Lo", had done almost as well. His dynamic performance in front of a national audience led to Warner Bros. Records signing him to a long-term contract. In November of that year, "Louisiana Man" was broadcast back to earth by the crew of the Apollo 12 moon mission. Beyond the southern venues, Kershaw's popularity soon extended to mainstream urban America, playing for packed audiences at major concert halls.

Like a lot of "vintage" artists, Doug's shows have become pretty camp. The songs get played too fast, and some of the rich subtlety of the early music gets lost. That said, the last time I saw Doug was around '88, and he was still rocking pretty hard.

Here he is from 1990:

For the curious who can't quite follow the Cajun French references, here are the lyrics to Louisiana Man .

Also, there are a few videos from the same show on YouTube that seem awfully post-produced. The sounds are beyond what would come from a good recording with Kershaw's likely budget, and some of the instrumental parts don't seem to match. Still good recordings, but with a caveat on the "live".

Quotes of the Day

"He'd rather pay a prostitute than pay auto workers."
[Morgan Johnson, president of the United Auto Workers local representing General Motors workers in Shreveport, said] "I don't know what Sen. Vitter has against GM or the United Auto Workers or the entire domestic auto industry; whatever it is, whatever he thinks we've done, it's time for him to forgive us, just like Sen. Vitter has asked the citizens of Louisiana to forgive him," said Johnson, president of Local 2166. Otherwise, Johnson said of Vitter, it would appear, "He'd rather pay a prostitute than pay auto workers."
"It may just prove that when I have a lot of morphine in my system, I make the right decisions"
Ashcroft was confronted with a question about a March 2004 incident, in which the former AG was visited by his would-be successor as he lay sedated in a hospital bed.

Ashcroft was asked by Gonzales to re-authorize a controversial domestic spying program, over the objections of Ashcroft's deputy, James Comey. He refused to reverse the Justice Department's decision, sparking a power struggle which saw the White House re-authorize its own program without the approval of the Justice Department.

"So, I think the system worked. And I'm glad that it did. It may not prove a whole lot about a lot of things. It may just prove that when I have a lot of morphine in my system, I make the right decisions."
In honor of John Ashcroft, who still thinks illegal detention & torture are OK, but bare breasts are bad, I declare War!

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Ye Olde Master Painter

Ye Olde Master Painter

...working in the Neo-revisionist style.


Driving in my car, smoking my cigar

I haven't done this in a while, but I'd like to give our Golden Douchebag award to Sen. Bob Corker:
What makes the situation so dire for GM and Chrysler is that they're currently in the midst of major restructuring, and they are the only auto producers in the world that have massive built-in legacy costs. It's cheaper to produce cars in Canada, despite comparable labor costs and higher taxes, because the auto companies don't have to pay for health care for current and retired workers, both unionized and non-unionized. Take away the massive health care and pension costs borne by the Big Three—costs which foreign producers in the US don't have to the same degree, because they have almost no retirees—and the Big Three would be hurting like the rest of the global auto industry, but GM and Chrysler probably wouldn't be on the verge of a catastrophe.

So, it's possible that the GOP Senators like Corker and McConnell are stupid, and just don't understand some of the basics of the global auto industry. But we shouldn't dismiss the possibility that the ultras who've taken over the GOP, the people for whom ideology is more important than consequences and reality, would rather risk destroying one of our most important industries in an attempt to destroy a labor union.

The spreading meme that the UAW refuses to make any concessions is really pernicious. To counter it, read this from far left-wing ultra-conservative Forbes:
Unionized autoworkers are a favorite scapegoat for the problems facing U.S. automakers. Their job security guarantees and gold-plated benefits have surely cost General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler a bundle over the past few decades. Indeed, the domestics' historically high labor costs are among the reasons they haven't been able to compete with Japanese rivals, and why Detroit CEOs were back on Capitol Hill again Thursday asking for $34 billion in taxpayer loans to survive.

But the U.S. automakers probably would have collapsed by now if not for the concessions made by the United Auto Workers union over the past three years.

Once bitter enemies, the Detroit Three and the UAW have long since buried the hatchet and are now working together to close the wage gap with Toyota (nyse: TM - news - people ), Nissan (nasdaq: NSANY - news - people ) and Honda (nyse: HMC - news - people ) through various productivity improvements and more flexible work rules, for instance.

The union has made some major concessions. Two biggies last year: The UAW agreed to cap the cost of retiree health care through creation of an independent trust fund and agreed to cut wages in half, to $14 an hour, for new hires in non-assembly jobs (20% of the workforce). More concessions came this week when the union agreed to end a controversial "jobs bank" program, which pays workers even when there are no vehicles to build. The union also said it would allow car makers to extend their scheduled payments to the health care trust fund. Importantly, UAW President Ronald Gettelfinger also said the union is ready to renegotiate additional contract terms.

Now, the playing field is just about level--or will be once the economy recovers.

. . . What do autoworkers really make? Detroit's hourly workers earn $28 an hour, or $57,000 a year. (Toyota workers make $25.) Benefits and payroll taxes bring the total cost per worker up to $54 an hour, versus $47 at Toyota. Under a breakthrough labor contract in 2007, new hires in non-assembly jobs will be paid only $14 an hour and will receive less generous benefits, which will narrow that remaining gap considerably.

. . .Not everyone believes the union has given its pound of flesh yet, however. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., home to non-union Nissan factories, said at Thursday's Senate Banking Committee hearing that the UAW must also forgo company-paid supplemental unemployment benefits (worth $450 per week for laid-off workers) and be willing to accept company stock as a partial payment for the car-makers' retiree health care obligation. It's the only way GM can get bondholders to agree to a recapitalization, he said.

GM chief executive G. Richard Wagoner defended the UAW, saying, "Ron Gettelfinger has done more to address the competitive issues in our industry in the last three years than anybody has in the last 30 or 40 years."

Which means GM can't use labor as an excuse any more.

Catch that 2nd to last graf? The odious Wagoner of GM doesn't blame the union? But Corker still does?

So just what actual difference in the price of cars would UAW concessions make?
Union leaders, not surprisingly, reject the notion that concessions are needed. “Talk of more givebacks by our union ignores the cuts we made just one year ago, when our union agreed to a 50 percent wage cut, down from $28 an hour to $14 an hour, and no pensions for new hires,” said Hammer. “Reducing our quality of life would have a ripple effect on our entire economy, and would just make things worse. The reality is that our labor constitutes just 8 percent of the price of a new car. We could work for free, and it wouldn’t solve the crisis.”

If you don't understand what good unions have done in this country, I probably won't persuade you. If you're a working stiff who despises unions because Hannity and Rush tell you to, then you're woefully undereducated. And maybe a little stupid. Are you just jealous that another blue-collar laborer like you can make $28/hr, and actually have a pension at the end of their career?

Yes, the Teamsters and the UAW have had bad times, and have been corrupt. That doesn't make them all bad. Does Blagojevich's corruption in Chicago mean we should destroy the city? No, just ditch the bad actors and move on.

Labor has lost so much ground in this country since the '50s, and too many people today don't seem to understand that one of the only ways for the working person to stand up against management is by joining a union.


And do Corker and McConnell say anything about CEO compensation? I think they should:
Toyota's 32 top executives and auditors received 1.5 billion yen ($16.4mil) in salaries in the 12 months ended March. Nissan paid its top nine executives, including Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn, 2.52 billion yen ($27.6mil) in salaries.

In comparison, General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner's total compensation for last year was $10.2 million, the company said in a U.S. regulatory filing in April.

I don't like to categorize people, paint with too broad a brush. But what the hell.

Republicans are bastards.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Who's gonna take you home tonight?

(The Cars-Drive)

Following up on the last post, I wanted to find what auto manufacturing plants were located in the south. After much googling, I came up with this list:
MFR/Location Employees
Spartanburg, NC 5,400

Louisville, KY (2 plants) 7,143

Arlington, TX 3,000
Bowling Green, KY 1,020
Doraville, GA 1,036
Shreveport, LA 1,877
Springhill, TN 3,000

Lincoln, AL 4,500
Tallaposa, GA 440

Montgomery, AL 3,300

West Point, GA 2,500

Vance, AL 3,869

Canton, MS 3,700
Decherd, TN 1,200
Franklin, TN 1,500
Smyrna, TN 5,700

Blue Springs(Tupelo), MS 3,000
Buffalo, WV 1,107
Georgetown, KY 6,974
Huntsville, AL 891
Jackson, TN 220
San Antonio, TX 1,955

Chatanooga, TN 2,000 Projected, 2011

Total employees 65,332
That's obviously not only the foreign-based makers, but US brands as well.

I found this interactive site, which gives much of this information with a simple mouse-over.

So we have the following states:
North Carolina
West Virginia

And who are the Senators from those states? Listed in order of states, with party affiliations and how they voted:
Jeff Sessions (R-No)
Richard Shelby (R-No)

Saxby Chambliss (R-No)
Johnny Isakson (R-No)

Mitch McConnell (R-No)
Jim Bunning (R-No)

Mary Landrieu (D-Yes)
David Vitter (R-No)

Thad Cochran (R-No)
Roger Wicker (R-No)

Richard Burr (R-No)
Elizabeth Dole (R-Yes)

Bob Corker (R-No)
Lamar Alexander (R-Not voting)

Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-No)
John Cornyn (R-Not voting)

Robert Byrd (D-Yes)
Jay Rockefeller (D-Yes)

Speculation abounds that this vote, clearly designed to try and break the UAW, and by extension all unions, is the first battle in the war against the Employee Free Choice Act, something the right-wing has been opposed to since the outset.

From Think Progress:
Last night, conservatives in the Senate blocked the proposed $14 billion loan to General Motors and Chrysler. As Ali Frick notes over at ThinkProgress, conservatives blamed the bill’s failure on the United Auto Workers (UAW) refusal to accept steep concessions — introduced in a pay-cut amendment by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) — that would have effectively neutered the union.

But various media outlets have reported that blocking the bill also had a wider purpose: sticking it to labor unions in advance of the anticipated debate over the Employee Free Choice Act. Often referred to as “card check,” the Free Choice Act would level the playing field for workers looking to form a union.

As the LA Times reported today, conservatives circulated “an action alert” calling for lawmakers to “stand firm and take their first shot against organized labor“:

In doing so, analysts said, Republicans were planting the seeds for a fundraising appeal to big business — other than the Big Three, of course — as they gear up for a major political fight next year over expected legislation that would make it easier for unions to organize.

The BBC noted this line from the conservative talking points:

This is the Democrats’ first opportunity to pay off organised labour after the election. This is a precursor to card-check and other items.

If the rescue loan was a “pay off” to the unions, it was a pretty awful one, considering the UAW made serious concessions — including delaying Big Three payments into a retiree health care fund — as a prerequisite to the rescue bill proceeding.

Furthermore, conservatives denied the automakers their loan — potentially causing further harm to an already dismal economy — for the sake of preemptively sending a message on legislation that can help the economy. As David Madland and Harley Shaiken point out, competitiveness is “linked to productivity, quality, and innovation — all of which can be enhanced with higher wages” derived from unionization.

Bastards. Fucking bastards.

Here's the complete vote list, if anyone's interested.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Although nothing seems right in cars

(Gary Numan-Cars. I worked on his '83 US tour, was, um, interesting.)

Via email from Sen. Reid (D-NV):
"Given the unhappy choice between a bridge loan and bankruptcy, Democrats have always believed that we must give the Big Three and the millions of Americans they employ every possible chance to succeed.

"By rejecting every good-faith bipartisan compromise – including those from the White House and Senator Bob Corker – it is now abundantly clear that Republicans have no interest in keeping the Big Three from collapsing.

"Because Republicans failed to act, three million Americans are more likely than ever to lose their jobs and our economy is at risk of suffering even greater damage. Our hearts go out to those families who will now have to deal with this burden as the holidays near.

"Republicans may think that rejecting this legislation sent a message to the auto industry. Instead, they sent a message to every single American that they are more interested in settling scores than solving problems."

Look, this same congress gave a bazillion $$ to Wall St. with, by contrast, almost no oversight and discussion. Was there any talk of reducing fund managers' wages? Hell no!

But now the UAW has been painted like the BIG BAD GREEDY union totally repsonsible for the Big Three making crappy decisions and, for a time, inferior cars.

Lies about union wages appear in the traditional media every day, and the silly, vacuous public buys it. Unions are largely reviled these days, never mind that in the 20th century, unions helped in large measure improve working conditions and wages so a guy or woman installing rivets on an assembly line could buy a house. That's all they did, raise the standard of living for millions of working class people.

And they did help out the executives' bottom line, making the Big Three profitable for many years. But now the companies are having trouble, the right-sing bastards in the Senate want to use this as an excuse to bust the unions.

Any wonder that foreign auto makers have plants in Shelby's Alabama:
The United Auto Workers Union boss also hit out at those US States that have welcomed foreign-owned, non-unionised, transplant car factories with generous incentives. "Since 1992, states with transplants have spent over $3 billion in incentives," he said. "In Alabama, Hyundai has received $252.8 million, Toyota has received $29 million, Honda $158 million and Mercedes-Benz $258 million." He also said that Alabama's further incentives, such as training Mercedes workers, agreeing to buy Mercedes vehicles and clearing the proposed factory, amounted to a further subsidy of about $175,000 per worker.

I agree with Jane at FDL:
Funny, none of these bastards demanded wage and benefit cuts for Wall Street workers in the $700 billion bank bailout.

Before the vote, Reid said "I dread looking at Wall Street tomorrow" — with a smile.

When I suggested that Reid call their bluff and make the Republicans filibuster and watch as the stock market tanked in their wake, I never thought he'd do it. Gotta hand it to him -- for the time being any way, he's not letting the red state culture warriors railroad the unions.

Indeed. Oh, and what's the answer?

Single-payer health care. Like the home countries of VW, Mercedes, Honda, Volvo, Nissan, Toyota, et al have.

Here's Chris Dodd:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Where you can live in the love of the common people, Be the pride in the heart of a family man

(Paul Young-Love of the Common People (Waylon Jennings)

Gov. Jon Corzine (D-New Joisey) had been thought to be on the short list for Pres.-elect Obama's cabinet as Treasury Secretary. Obviously that didn't happen, but Corzine is still pretty popular in Democratic circles. His Chief of Staff, Lisa Jackson, is on the Obama transition team.

Corzine just did a good thing, which should make him even more popular with liberals:
Gov. Jon Corzine said today New Jersey's civil unions law "hasn't done enough to narrow the gap" and same-sex marriage should be established in New Jersey "sooner rather than later."

He urged the Legislature to "seriously review" a report released today by the New Jersey Civil Union Review Commission that said civil unions have failed to grant full rights to same-sex couples and urged the state to quickly enact same-sex marriage. The report likened denying same-sex couples the right to marry to racial segregation laws imposed against African-Americans.

"Indeed, the commission found the opposite - that civil unions may have widened that gap and fostered inequity by creating a separate class of relationships," Corzine said in a statement. "While this administration is focused squarely on the economic crisis for the forseeable future, it's clear that this issue of civil rights must be addressed sooner rather than later."

But while Corzine pledged to sign a gay marriage bill if it reaches his desk, it's unclear whether the Legislature will take up the issue, with Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) saying equality must come in "incremental steps."

Excellent. Corzine's statement. Codey's "incremental steps", not so much.

Listen, They're Playing my Song

Musicians Don’t Want Tunes Used for Torture

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - Blaring from a speaker behind a metal grate in his tiny cell in Iraq, the blistering rock from Nine Inch Nails hit Prisoner No. 200343 like a sonic bludgeon.

The auditory assault went on for days, then weeks, then months at the U.S. military detention center in Iraq. Twenty hours a day. AC/DC. Queen. Pantera. The prisoner, military contractor Donald Vance of Chicago, told The Associated Press he was soon suicidal.

The tactic has been common in the U.S. war on terror, with forces systematically using loud music on hundreds of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, then the U.S. military commander in Iraq, authorized it on Sept. 14, 2003, "to create fear, disorient ... and prolong capture shock."

Now the detainees aren't the only ones complaining. Musicians are banding together to demand the U.S. military stop using their songs as weapons.
According to an FBI memo, one interrogator at Guantanamo Bay bragged he needed only four days to "break" someone by alternating 16 hours of music and lights with four hours of silence and darkness.
Vance, in a telephone interview from Chicago, said the tactic can make innocent men go mad. According to a lawsuit he has filed, his jailers said he was being held because his employer was suspected of selling weapons to terrorists and insurgents. The U.S. military confirms Vance was jailed but won't elaborate because of the lawsuit.
There might be a temptation to make jokes about being subjected to loud music being a form of torture, but it isn't funny, and it is torture.

And there might be a temptation in some folks less evolved to OK torture for them foreign brownish folks, but as noted above, our government also tortures white, christain, veteran, FBI informant, Americans.

More here:
Former U.S. Detainee in Iraq Recalls Torment

and here:
A different kind of hell for one American in Iraq FBI informant imprisoned and treated like an insurgent for 97 days
When Bush said "we don't torture"? He lied.

And his enablers continue to lie over and over.

Cross posted at VidiotSpeak

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Please let me love you and it won't be wrong

(Milk trailer/Focus Features)

We were invited by the Courage Campaign last week to a special screening of the new film "Milk", about San Francisco gay rights activist and city Supervisor Harvey Milk.

For folks here who don't know, the Courage Campaign is a wonderful organization dedicated to "progressive change in California." And among these changes are gay rights. Check out their web site, sign up for the e-newsletter, and contribute if it feels right to you.

The evening was hosted by Courage Campaign founder and all-around great guy Rick Jacobs, who then introduced "Milk" co-producer Dan Jinks.

The story of Milk was huge in California at the time. I clearly remember the Prop. 6 battle of '78. One of my mom's best friends was a wonderful gay elementary school teacher, who was in real fear of losing not only his life's passion, teaching, but also losing his job. I proudly wore a "No on 6" button every day before the election.

This is a tremendous film on so many levels. At times it almost feels like a documentary, as if we were viewing real events as flies on the wall of Milk's Castro Cameras shop. And not only is the story, and the message important, but the acting is just superb. There's always a risk in using a high profile actor, not for the studio bottom-line, of course, but for the story. An actor who is really well-known may overshadow the character they are supposed to play.

Sean Penn is one of the most important, and well-known actors today. And he completely overcame his own fame to become a totally unrecognizable actor inhabiting Harvey Milk's body. This was acting into territory not often found, especially by the many of the two dimensional talents working today. After the first 30 seconds or so, Sean Penn acting on screen ceases to exist, and it just Harvey's story.

Harvey Milk wasn't a perfect guy, he had many faults. But he also had a vision that still needs to be remembered today. He was told by the gay establishment at the time to "go-along, get-along" and not make his crusades about gay issues, but human rights issues. And he refused to do that. And it worked.

There is a portion of the conservative left today that has regressed back to that position: no confrontation, bi-partisanship, give away concessions to get something in return. So in many ways, we haven't progressed much from 1978.

So Milk's story is especially important today, coming on the heels of the horrible CA Prop. 8 recently passed. We all need to take a lesson in political activism from Harvey's story. Tell people the truth about what we are fighting for, and against, and don't let the timid hold us back. While it is about civil rights, it's OK to be for gay rights too.

Listen to Harvey's voice in this great video:

Lest We Forget

Unless You Want It

Another day older and deeper in debt

(Merle Travis singing his song "16 Tons")

I am so sick of right-wingers and corporatist fascists babbling on about "The Free Market™" as if they actually believed it.

Case in point
Merrill Lynch & Co. chief John Thain has suggested to directors that he get a 2008 bonus of as much as $10 million, but the battered securities firm's compensation committee is resisting his request, according to people familiar with the situation.

The committee and full board are scheduled to meet Monday to hear Mr. Thain's formal bonus recommendations for himself and other senior executives of the New York company. No decision has been reached, and it isn't known what Mr. Thain will recommend, but the compensation committee is leaning toward denying the executives bonuses for this year, these people said.

Merrill Lynch hired this douchebag and given him a big fat contract. They were clearly stupid. And if his performance wasn't tied directly to compensation, they screwed up.

But if he really presses the point, that contractually he may be entitled to his bonus, he will be shunned and reviled by any other corporation that he approaches, hat in hand, for a job. He will complain that he "deserves it", but if the market is supreme, he's a total failure. He may have engineered the sale to B of A, but so what? B of A has been trying to acquire ML for years, and all he did is preside over a wedding where the invitations had already been sent out:
Merrill has suffered net losses of $11.67 billion this year and is about to complete its acquisition by Bank of America Corp. later this month. On Friday, shareholders of both companies separately approved the deal. Mr. Thain has said he deserves a bonus because he helped avert what could have been a much larger crisis at the firm, say people familiar with his thinking.

Wall Street drives the Free Market™ into the toilet, and wants to be bailed out.

The Big Three™ American auto manufacturers build gas hogs, and want to be bailed out.

Privatize the profit, socialize the risks. That is the real motto of the right-wing business establishment in this country.

Thain deserves exactly $0.00 for his salary, let alone bonus. If he is ever hired by another company, that company should be shunned and destroyed.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Let them know it's Christmas time again.

(BNL doing Jingle Bells, Macy's 2004 Parade)

Anyone who has known me for a while knows I collect out-of-the-mainstream Christmas music. Here's a post I did in 2004, the music I talk about deserves fresh listening:

Working in the music business, I get a chance to collect some fun, different Christmas albums, and yes, Hanukkah albums too. I have the obligatory Beach Boys, Phil Spector's "A Christmas Gift For You," Elvis, etc. Also Louis Armstrong, Boy's Choir of Harlem, John Fahey, many many more.

But the real joy is finding some stuff outside the mainstream. I have several compilations from when I worked at Capitol Studios featuring such diverse artists as Kate Bush, Cliff Richard, Shawn Colvin, The Ramones, James Brown, Bobby Darin, well, the list goes on and on.

Until now, my absolute fave was The Roche's "We Three Kings." With humor and joy, their voices soar as only they can. They are a spine tingling delight as they take on the usual songs, plus originals.

But I've found something new: The Barenaked Ladies' "Barenaked For The Holidays." What a thrill! They do everything from very respectful versions of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings" with Sarah McLaughlin, followed by a very witty ode to Elves who want to unionize, "Elf's Lament" with lyrics spun at the speed of their popular "One Week":

We have roller rink organ stylings, straight ahead rock'n'roll, even a version of Deck The Halls ("Deck The Stills") sung entirely with the lyrics "Crosby Stills Nash & Young". These guys are so charmingly out of their minds, it's a joy to hear. They even throw in a straight reading of "Do They Know It's Christmas," far and away a better Christmas charity song that MJ's treacly "We Are The World." I mean come on Mike, it's supposed to be a charity song about starving people in Africa, and the title includes the plural pronoun 'we'?

The ladies men also include "Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah," and "I Have A Little Dreidl" for Jewish folks. And it's all topped off by a very earnest "Auld Lang Syne" that is so solid and rootsy, it almost makes you want to thrust your cigarette lighter into the air and wave.

This is the funniest, most creative ChrismaHanuKwanza album I have heard in years, and I highly recommend it.