Saturday, April 30, 2005

Coz I got Friday on my mind

Still working on my magnum opus, the response to 12thHarmonic's "tag, you're it" with their High Fidelity Music Meme.

Meantime, I went with friends to CBS-LA to sit in the audience of "Real Time with Bill Maher" tonight. What fun! He can be smug, and can also sink into cliches, but damn, that boy is quick.

He fairly firmly spanked Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R-Black? WTF?) of Maryland. To paraphrase:

Steele: We need to allow everyone to have the freedom of their values and beliefs.

Maher: So you're talking about people who are homophobic, who can be free to be intolerant?

But the best time of the night was with the irony-challenged Jeff (James Guckert) Gannon. Bill was respectful as he asked Gannon why he had any right to call himself a newsperson. Gannon's best quote (paraphrased):

"Usually people wait until after they become reporters to become whores."

Oh my sweet God, that this man can be taken even remotely seriously. I think he should be made to do every talking head show on TV, until he's associated firmly with the EvangeRight. We couldn't ask for a better Right Wing poster boy.

"I started to cry,
which started the whole world laughing.
Oh, if I'd only seen
that the joke was on me."

Thursday, April 28, 2005

I got the music in me

Some things the general public doesn't really know about are some of the behind the scenes changes that have happened in the recording business. Here's a partial update.

Originally, albums (records) were made by recording everything at once and capturing it on a disk made of lacquer coated on metal. This provided a master which could then be processed and turned into multiple copies which in turn were used to make records, you know, the vinyl type.

Recording on magnetic tape came later. Although it had been invented and subsequently perfected by the late '40s, it was really in the '50s when recording studios started to record to tape. At first it was a similar process: record directly to tape, transfer to lacquer with some additional processing called "mastering", then manufacturing. And of course, all of this was done in glorious old mono.

Stereophonic recording soon followed, but it was not available to the casual consumer. The first stereo recordings sold to the general public were on reel to reel tape, sold in the manner of record clubs, for enthusiasts who had early home stereo tape players. Mono was still the main choice for users of records.

But that soon changed. With the invention of the stereo disk, it quickly became the medium of choice for the manufacturers and consumers alike. Recording was done to a 2 track tape machine, and then edited and mastered to the master disk. But that was soon to change.

Several manufacturers of tape recorders existed: Ampex, 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, the Scotch Tape folks) in the US, Studer in Switzerland, as well as some other manufacturers with smaller client lists. And they were competitive, as well as being responsive to the recording industry. And very quickly the benefit of more tracks became clear.

First came 3 track. Used extensively in the US by Capitol Records, it allowed real time recording with final decisions put off until later. For example, while I was employed by Capitol Studios in the late '90s, I had an opportunity to play many of the wonderful old tapes in their library. It was virtually a religious experience to play a Nat "King" Cole 3 track master for the first time. Orchestra on 1 & 3, in stereo, vocal on 2 in the center, the experience was enlightening. I realized that the recordings being made today, while technically more complex, sounded no better.

Of course, this material was most often released in mono. The fledgling multitrack process was mostly used to postpone mix and edit decisions until the last moment, the mastering room.

But artists had other ideas. It quickly became obvious that one could record on track 1, then "overdub" on tracks 2 and/or 3, and create musical ideas that were previously impossible. A singer could sing along with him.herself, for example. In the most famous example of overachievement, Les Paul, along with late wife Mary Ford, could create a whole orchestra and vocal ensemble with just 2 people.

Ampex responded by developing first 4 track tape machines, then in the later '60s 8 track mechines. Quickly after this came 16 track, and then, by the very late '60s and early '70s, we had 24 track machines, using 2" wide magnetic recording tape. By the mid '70s, 24 tracks on 2" tape had become the standard. A few alternative formats were tried, but were discarded; 24 track reigned supreme.

During this time we had 3 primary manufacturers of recording tape: Ampex, 3M (Scotch), and BASF in Germany, the folks who perfected the technology of audio recording on magnetic tape. All 3 had good products, and some engineers preferred one over the other, but they all worked well.

Meanwhile, digital recording, by converting analog electronic signals into computer storage information consisting of groups of 1s and 0s arranged into "words" having a numerical value, had been on the ascent.The first commercially usable digital recorders were demonstrated in the mid '70s, and by the early '80s had become, not commonplace, but at least regularly seen in studios. And as Sony & Phillips were perfecting the CD, Sony also developed the digital recording system that all studios had to use in order to manufacture CDs. These early digital units were 2 track systems, and were used for the final mixdown of all the tracks on the multitrack tape, the conventional way of making records at the time.

Soon, digital multitrack recorders came on the scene, and they became truly commonplace by the mid '90s. While they offered an alternative to some of the inherent noise of analog tape, they also presented their own problems. Most people agreed that the early digital recorders simply didn't sound that good. But they offered some electronic editing features, more tracks per single reel of tape, and a lower residual noise floor.

Meanwhile, percolating under the surface were some really new devices: personal computers using 3rd party software and hardware to allow recording digitally into the computer, and storing the digital audio data on a hard disc drive. Starting in the mid '80s, these systems were adopted first by home users and smaller studios, but didn't get much market penetration at first. The editing features were truly spectacular, but these early systems were slow in performance, and hard drive costs were high, so the application seemed limited.

But by the mid '90s, computer based recording systems (DAWs-Digital Audio Workstations) were coming of age. A few systems were available for PCs, but 2 systems designed for the Mac really captured the market: Sonic Solutions, designed for mastering (final processing after all mixing is finished), and ProTools, designed as a complete multitrack recorder and editing system.

2000 was the transition year. ProTools moved from being a clever alternative to the dominant recording system in both the music and TV/film post production worlds. I have seen the use of recording tape, both analog and digital, decline steadily since then. Of course, some producers and engineers still like to use analog tape for the "sound", but the actual amount of tape used has really dwindled. Ampex had spun off their tape manufacturing division several years ago, and newly renamed Quantegy, they bravely soldiered on. Until recently.

In late '04, Quantegy announced that a) they were looking for a buyer, b) they were filing Chapter 11, and c) they were closing. That meant there were NO manufacturers of large format open reel tape for recording studios. Widespread semi-panic ran through the industry, and people called all the distributors trying to buy the last available stock. I personally arragned for a high profile client to purchase virtually all the inventory from a distributor in Chicago.

Meanwhile, another radical change was taking place, this time in content delivery (previously called sales): downloading. Shortly after the start of the internet, people figured out how to copy albums, both vinyl and CD, into their computers. And as internet complexity exploded, the idea of using the web to share music with someone else became a new goal.

As far back as '97, while I worked at Capitol Studios in Hollywood, the record companies were in a dither about downloading. There existed, for a brief time, a joint effort by the 5 (at the time) major labels called The Madison Project, so called because the meetings to initiate the project were held at Sony Record's Madison Ave. offices. The 5 were EMI/Capitol, Sony, BMG, Universal, & Warner Bros. They discussed many ideas to counter "free downloading," including copy protection, watermarking of files, value-added fee based downloads, etc. But reality intervened. Mergers occured, alliances were broken, and all moved on.

Apple has been quite successful with iTunes, a service I feel has established the benchmark for the downloading paradigm, at least in the first round of the struggle. And after much legal wrangling, Napster has emerged somewhat respectable, although much more tame. But the battles aren't over.

Record companies still haven't figured out how to combat illegal downloading. Will they succeed? I doubt it. The 18th amendment didn't stop people from drinking. And while they try to wrap their corporate minds around the idea, the world flows on around them. We have a generation of kids who feel that they are entitled to take anything they want, thus ripping CDs and uploading them for file sharing. Of course, if you tried to take their PlayStation from them using the same logic, they'd freak.

We also have a generation of label execs who want their 7 figure salaries to remain status quo. And we have a group of self congratulating lawyers acting as talent scouts who continue to sign talentless acts to labels. While I worked at Capitol Studios, the head of the label, who was quasi-famous for having grudgingly signed Nirvana while he was at Geffen, spent years pouring money down the drain, and into his own pockets, and at the end, had only Everclear to show for his effort. Well, and a big house in Brentwood, and a golden parachute.

So budgets are being cut for albums. The labels think that since everyone is recording into ProTools, they don't need studios with expensive rent and infrastructures anymore. The fault in that logic is clear. ProTools is merely a medium, one that can be used anywhere, in studios formal and casual, large and small. But because of the perception that it has to be cheaper than "back in the day" they are willing to spend less on recording. And while disk drive space costs less than 2" analog recording tape, the proportion of the big picture is not really significant. Think "Tom Cruise gets 20 mil$ per film, is it important whether he flies first class or business class?"

Producers are told that they did such a wonderful job on artist X's first album, for which they were paid a fee of $100,000, they are being asked to do X's 2nd album. Only this time they are being asked to do it "all in." This means a fee will be paid, from which the producer must deliver the finished product, with all costs inclusive. Thus, all expenses come out of the producer's bottom line. And it trickles down from there.

Management companies call to book studio time, and here's the conversation. "Hey, we had a great time working on the X's project last year. The album shipped platinum, won a Grammy, we all couldn't be more pleased. So we'd like to the the next album with you again. Only, instead of charging is $1500 per day, with ProTools rental extra, and charging us for a 2nd runner to help with the complex food runs (vegan/kosher for the drummer, Zone diet for the singer), we now want to pay $1000 per day with all the other stuff included."

So tape sales have slowed down, so much that Quantegy filed Chaper 11. And studio after historical studio here in LA is closing down. A world class producer friend of mine is buying a house in the Hollywood Hills where his artists can stay while recording on the lower floors. Sad, maybe. Yet the demand for "content" goes on. And labels sign acts, some of which actually make money. And execs still make 7 figure salaries, no matter how badly the labels underperform. And kids want the music for free.

Were does it end? Will everyone with a Mac record something with GarageBand and be famous for Andy's 15 minutes? I dunno. I just spent the last couple of days working for a World Class producer, a nice man, who needed my skills to make sure that the computer music and the tracks on tape synchronized correctly, not a trivial task. In the old days he would have been working at a studio with a full time technical staff. But nowadays he's working at a studio he can afford. Except without that staff, he couldn't be confident that all went well, thus, he hired me. Out of his own pocket. Because he cared.

But who cares at the end of the day? Not the label exec, who is too busy checking his Blackberry at the club. Not the attorney because, well, that's obvious. Not the kid who feels entitled to the music, while compaining that artist X didn't tour last year because, well, he couldn't afford to. And not the studio owner, who just sold the property to a developer who wants to rebuild it into a check cashing business and a laundromat.

So that's some of what's been happening in the recording biz lately. As a friend of mine once said, "It's all tinsel and glitter."

Update: corrected for late night typos.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Mine eyes have seen the glory

ThatColoredFella over at The American Street has a fun little project:

You’re the A&R Rep (Artist and Repertoire) for That Colored Fella’s Records or the hot shot, young Music Producer I just laid six figures on to deliver the eagerly anticipated debut album from the Christian Rock outfit, Dr. Frist and the Justice Sunday Theocrats! And, I want a list of suggested song titles, like yesterday.

Here are my suggested song titles:

“Stairway To Heaven”
“My Sweet Lord, Not Yours”

“Put Your Hand In The Hand Of The Man Who Kills The Cats”

“Heaven Is In My Mind”

“Christ, You Know I Ain’t Sleazy”

“God Damn The Clergy Man”

“My God Is An Awful God”

“The Night We Drove The Constitution Down”

“I Shot The Judge”

“Sunday Will Never Be This Lame”

“Going To The Chapel Of Hate”

“I’m Special”

“Sunday, Sunday, Can’t Trust That Day”

Fun, and yet, oh so serious underneath it all.

On a side note, having spent several years providing technical support to the Christian recording industry, I can state confidently that no label I ever worked with layed out anywhere near six figures for an artist. Perhaps Amy Grant with Word Records. But otherwise no, to the best of my knowledge.

One label exec, who was a really nice guy otherwise, told me that they wanted to keep the artists "accountable," meaning attending THAT specific church. And that they wanted them to NOT quit their day jobs. Thus, they didn't want them to be too successful. If that happened, he was afraid, the artist(s) might get uppity and want to spread their metaphorical wings and fly away. That might result in less "accountability."

My thoughts on that are that if one is Christian, a few extra bucks in the pocket is not too much of a temptation. At least, it shouldn't be. On the other hand, if the artist(s) bolted for a larger label, that would mean less income for the smaller Christian label. Tha would mean less money for the church to use for outreach, for executive salaries...


Friday, April 22, 2005

Listen, do you want to know a secret...

I hate it that some sick, disgusting news as this supports the progressive contention that this administration is totally corrupt. I don't want this kind of support and vindication. Nevertheless, it needs to be reported.

Judicial Watch is an interesting organization. Somewhat conservative in the true sense of the word, they don't want to totally destroy the Constitution. Rather they feel, as true conservatives do, that change must come slowly and deliberately, with much discourse and consideration.

They have sided with the Left before, for example, here:

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today in oral argument in its lawsuit against Vice President Cheney and the National Energy Policy Development Group (“Energy Task Force”) urged a U.S. Court of Appeals to reject the Bush administration’s argument that it is not subject to the federal “open meetings” law.

Still, they do have some ideological issues that are pretty right-wing friendly. See here re: Schiavo, and here re: Arizona Minutemen project.

But in this explosive new issue they have exactly the right idea. This goes right to the heart of Michael Moore's (and others) oft ridiculed claims that some mighty strange and improper flights took place right after 9/11:

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that fights government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) has invoked privacy right protections on behalf of al Qaeda terror leader Osama bin Laden. In a September 24, 2003 declassified “Secret” FBI report obtained by Judicial Watch, the FBI invoked Exemption 6 under FOIA law on behalf of bin Laden, which permits the government to withhold all information about U.S. persons in “personnel and medical files and similar files” when the disclosure of such information “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6) (2000))

The redacted documents were obtained by Judicial Watch under the provisions of the FOIA and through ongoing litigation (Judicial Watch v. Department of Homeland Security & Federal Bureau of Investigation, No. 04-1643 (RWR)). Among the documents was a declassified “Secret” FBI report, dated September 24, 2003, entitled: “Response to October 2003 Vanity Fair Article (Re: [Redacted] Family Departures After 9/11/2001).” Judicial Watch filed its original FOIA request on October 7, 2003. The full text of the report and related documents are available on the Internet by clicking here (Adobe Acrobat Reader required).

The additional point here is that Osama bin Ladens' privacy is more important than the American People. Of course that isn't the real point, kids. It's that someone else's privacy is more important than the American People.

Someone who is in a position of power to order the FBI to block access to records.

Someone who is in a position to order flights to take off while the nation's air fleet is grounded.

Someone who knew before 9/11 that the bin Laden family (A) was important, and (B) had members in the US. Did you know? Me either.

I wonder who?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call, don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall

Is the Right completely unraveling? After seeing their poll numbers absolutely tank a few weeks ago while they all prayed and moaned at the wailing wall of St. Terri, you'd think they'd move on. After all, most of the alleged Red staters that elected them responded to polls by saying the whole spectacle made them really queasy.

And yet we now have this current outburst of rabid religiosity and patriotism. DeLay tries to invoke God, Novak is lauded for converting from Judaism to Catholicism (never mind that no one in the MSM remembers that the recently deceased JPII smacked GWBush good about the Iraq debacle), and now this:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, after vowing last fall to stop Democrats from blocking the most conservative of President Bush's nominees, will appear in a telecast later this month with leaders of social conservative groups.

According to a flier for the Louisville, Ky., event, it will focus on how judicial filibusters are being used "against people of faith." The telecast is being organized by the Family Research Council, which sponsored a similar event last year opposing gay marriage. First's staff said he will probably record his message for the telecast.

So soon it's to be: "...not by the color of their skin but by the content of their prayer." (Apologies to MLK). I can't believe Rove et al really believe this will work. I know everyone is all in a dither about it. See Kos here for a good list of some of those who, like any normal human, have deep objections to this form of political gamesmanship.

A few selected quotes from Kos, from various folks:

This is so patently offensive that I don't have adequate words to describe how truly wrong this is: [...]

If you don't share our politics, you hate the baby Jesus.

If you don't share our politics, you hate religious people.

If you don't share our politics, you are evil.

Congrats, Republicans. Our leaders have now taken the traditional rhetorical demonization of our opposition and elevated it to heavenly heights. I assume my friends on the right are going to spend the week-end attacking me for being a 'religious bigot' because I rightly point out the inappropriateness of this behavior.

. . .

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has reportedly now not only decided on the "nuclear option" on filibusters but he is apparently ready to help instigate a political BIG BOOM that has the potential of enmeshing the GOP in charges that it's ushering in a new, dangerous area of theocratic McCarthyism.

If he does it, it'll be a watershed moment -- a transformational moment for the GOP...marking the political death of a dominant part of its party. [...]

Isn't this ushering in a new LOW in American political demonization? Isn't this akin to labeling those with whom we disagree Communists or Communist stooges? Isn't this throwing out all pretensions of the kind of intellectual, civilized discourse and debate taught in universities, law schools and practiced daily by Americans on the right and left who sit down for drinks or coffee and agree to differ on issues but maintain respect?

Also see the ADL's response here.

But seriously folks, this will only work in the most blindly loyal followers of Bush Messiah, and they would vote for him no matter what. For other slightly moderate Red staters, this is a real groove buster.

One of my friends who ran one of the Christian recording studios I have previously mentioned told me something interesting in the '92 election cycle. I asked him why vote for Bush41 when he actually seemed to believe in the slightly more socially liberal policies claimed by Bill Clinton.

His answer: "He kills babies."

Folks, this mind is a terrible thing to waste, but wasted it is. It will never change, no matter how much evidence is mounted. It doesn't care about education, poverty, military waste (including wasted military lives), the economy, or anything else. All it cares about is killing babies.

The midwestern person who works at Walmart or the gas station part time and can't support him/herself, and who is socially somewhat open minded, however, is the target we should be interested in. They were largely turned off by the ranting of DeLay, Cornyn, James Dobson, and all those on the Right who gathered like ghouls at the Crusade for Terri. And damn you, Jesse, you know better than this crap. You set your own movement back years by aligning yourself with these frauds and radicals.

Because that's what the whole thing is, radical and fraudulent. Radical in that the Right is actively trying to subvert the Constitution. And fraudulent because Frist knows that. Remember when Stephanopolous asked him about AIDS being transmitted by tears as told in a White House tract? He couldn't dissemble fast enough. That a man of science and medicine would so cravenly ignore his own experience and knowledge tells the tale of a complete whore, soul sold for a seat at the table of power.

The Constitutional principle of Original Intent, championed by such conservative stalwarts as Robert Bork, is being tossed out into the dung heap of failed ideals by the criminals. Any true conservative should be frightened to death of such activism and zeal. Where is George Will these days? How about John McCain? Calling the spirit of Goldwater past. I like Ike.

So clearly we have a group of spiteful and evil politicians who, having jumped this shark once, are readying themselves to do it again. My fervent hope is that the shark wins this time. That would be better than they deserve.

I just hope the shark doesn't get indigestion from eating such carrion.

Take me out to the ballgame

TBogg hit me a fly ball yesterday in the form of the Book Meme that has been bouncing around the blogosphere, and having caught it, I have to do something with it.

First, I play with it a minute:

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?

This may seem lame, but I would be the Webster's Dictionary. I feel passionately that words should be understood, and then used, very precisely. And as liberal as I am about virtually all things, this is one exception. I see the language adapting all the time, and of course that can't be helped. But downright wrong usage by otherwise smart folks, especially in print drives me nuts. Here are a couple of examples of words misused all the time: nonplussed, comprise(d). If you're not sure, look them up.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

Duh! Kinsey Milhone, for one (see below).

What are you currently reading?

"The General's Daughter" by Nelson DeMille. A big, fun, murder mystery set on an army base.

The last book you bought is:

"The Book On Bush" by Eric Alterman & Mark Greene.

The last book you read:

"The Ice Child" by Elizabeth McGregor. This is a fascinating book that deals with a father and son, both explorers, coming to terms with each other's failings, while telling the fictionalized story of a real, doomed Arctic expedition in the mid 19th century.

Five books you would take to a deserted island:

1. The aforementioned Webster's Dictionary, to keep it all straight

2. Annotated complete Sherlock Holmes, because this can be read over and over.

3. "The Minority Report and Other Classic Stories" by Philip K. Dick. Every story is about resistance against tyranny.

4. "Long Walk to Freedom" by Nelson Mandela. This needs no explaination.

5. either:
"Baseball for Brain Surgeons" by Tim McCarver,
Complete set of Mix Magazine,
Complete set of Guitar Player Magazine
Complete set of Sue Grafton Kinsey Milhone mysteries (A is for Alibi, etc.) [I love a good mystery, especially written by women]

I'm not sure why I enjoy murder (and other types of) mysteries, since I absolutely hate guns. I guess that means I'm complicated. Or just contradictory.

So that's what, shallow as it may seem, has interested my eyeballs and mind lately.

And now, the throw to some other players. Here, catch: Jane at FireDogLake, Ralph at, and Deb at Progressive Blogger's Union.

Knock it out of the park, kids.

Update: 1 great catch, 2 cases of defensive indifference.

So I'm gonna throw it again. Catch, Lane at Dr. Laniac, and Jon at 12th Harmonic.

We are family...

The Right is simply more organized than the Left. But we're learning.

As has been pointed out by many, the Right stays on point, on message, in a way that is both admirable and frightening. While I grudgingly admire the ability to focus and adhere to the party line, the trait invokes images of totalitarian regimes (think Pravda and Baghdad Bob.)

Kos from Daily Kos has this here, in which he expresses this idea clearly and passionately:

Anytime a liberal points out the well-greased parts of the Republican Noise Machine, the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, some winger cries about the supposed Left Wing machine -- CBS News, NY Times, and, well, some other people.

There is an important distinction, and one that really, really makes all the difference. Their machine talks to each other. It coordinates. It works off the same playbook. It strategizes.

Our so-called liberal machine does none of that. Period. Our supposed media organs are genuinely trying to conduct legitimate journalism. Our think tanks are generally ignored. Our issue groups fight each other for turf, and show little gusto for anything outside their immediate area of expertise.

So guess which is more effective?

Please, go read. And then react by joining, and from there become active with any of the major organizations that are making noise.

Please, see the forest, not the individual trees. Yes, single issue advocacy is valid, but if the Supreme Court is co-opted and overrun with fascists, then your pet environmental, labor, reproductive rights, etc. issue will be meaningless. This game is not just about the big inning, it's about the pennant.

On that note, go Angels!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Put your hand in the hand of the man...

I posted about the topic of the Christian Fundie Right getting all warm and fuzzy with Catholics some time ago, when it had a different context. But like many bad things, it's back.


THE FAƇADE of respect did not hide President Bush's utter disdain for the pleas for peace from Pope John Paul II. In his press conference Monday to announce that he would attend John Paul's funeral, Bush was asked by a reporter: ''How do you think this pope has affected America's spiritual and political life? And how much weight did you give to his opposition to the Iraq war?"

Bush began his answer by calling the pope courageous, moral, and godly. He talked about how the pope had a ''huge influence not only amongst, for example, young people in America, but around the world. One of his great legacies will be the influence he had on the young. He spoke to the poor. He spoke to morality."

Bush never answered the question on the Iraq invasion of 2003. The closest he got was, ''Of course he was a man of peace and he didn't like war. And I fully understood that. And I appreciated the conversations I had with the Holy Father on the subject."

Their ideals were unified, sadly, on only a couple of points, notably, women's choice, Terry Schiavo, and disdain for the Liberation Theologist clerics in Central & South America who compaigned against the rightist authoritarian leaders in the region. Otherwise, as GWBush fails to recognize, the crustly old Pontiff found his military adventures quite distastefull.

But here's the real problem with the Right in the USA cozying up to the Pope: IT'S A COMPLETE LIE!

Here's some of what I posted before about this topic, wherein I discuss how the Christian Fundie Right feels that Catholics are going to Hell:

I used to work with some of the biggest evangelical churches here in So. Cal., designing and building recording studios for their Christian record labels (another topic worth discussing), so I feel confident to speak on this issue. I spent time with staff, management, insiders, and not just the average parishioners, and I heard comments supporting my thesis many, many times.

In Catholic apologetics, much is made of the various scriptures discussing "works," i.e., how people demonstrate their Christianity. This doesn't mean public piety and pronouncement, but rather quietly helping the less fortunate, and behaving in a caring and selfless manner. "Do unto others..." is really the operative ideal. Demonstrating time and again one's Christian ethics is a noble goal. Of course, one must truly believe in Jesus as the Christ, sent from God to atone for mankind's sins.

The evangelicals, especially the large worldwide churches I worked with, however, pay less attention to the scriptures about "works" and focus on the idea of being "saved." Once someone is "born again," they are "saved," and that's that. Bad behavior is frowned upon, but it will not interfere with being "saved."

They believe that Catholics haven't really gone through this "born again" moment, so they aren't really "saved." I remember working with one man who was in charge of the sound system at one of these very large churches, he was saying that he wished his mother was saved. An Hispanic, he admitted that he had been raised Catholic. I asked if his mother went to church, prayed, and believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and he said "Of course she does. But she's not 'saved.'"

In the eyes of many born-again, Catholics are only slightly better than the evil cultists Mormons. Yet, this election cycle, they were gladly accepted as long as they passed the litmus test, not of being true Christians, but being anti-Kerry (anti-choice.) Utter hypocrisy, much like Nader allowing Republicans to support his ballot presence.

Believe it or don't, the hypocrisy stinks.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Got a devil's haircut in my mind

Mark Kleiman has a great post that points out and documents Delay's poisonous nature, wherein he actually offered support to Milosevic in Kosovo, in an attempt to embarrass President Clinton:

And now we know, as Kevin points out, that DeLay was doing all of this as the beneficiary of largesse from the Russian security services. Taking an expensive vacation at the expense of the military of a foreign power to support America's enemies probably doesn't amount to treason under the Constitutional definition, but it comes close.

Here is supporting data from Kevin Drum:

Hmmm. Back in the mid-90s, wasn't DeLay awfully vocal about opposing action to stop Serbian genocide in Kosovo? And wasn't the Russian security establishment one of the biggest defenders of Serb interests?

From PBS:

Tom DeLay, the House Whip, and a member of House Republicans, this actual impeachment. That's exactly what it is. They're going to make it Clinton/Gore's war and they're going to guarantee that it doesn't work. Paul can say they're emulating, they're simulating. What that was - you had the House Republican Whip whipping members on the floor to vote against air cover that had been supported by president George Bush, supported by Bob Dole, the last Republican nominee, supported by Dick Lugar, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and John Warner, the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Dick Shelby, Richard Shelby, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. And he whipped them to the point where they were contradictory. They're saying we're against bringing our troops home. We're just going to leave them there.

From William Saletan, of Slate:

DeLay, meanwhile, voted not only against last week's House resolution authorizing Clinton to conduct the air war--which failed on a tie vote--but also in favor of legislation "directing the president ... to remove U.S. Armed Forces from their positions in connection with the present operations against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." When asked whether he had lobbied his colleagues to defeat the resolution authorizing the air war, as had been reported, DeLay conceded that he had "talked to a couple of members during the vote" but claimed not to have swayed anyone since it was "a vote of conscience."

Nice. Love the war, hate the warrior. Or rather, love my war, hate yours.

Apparently Nancy Pelosi is considering offering a resolution to expel Delay. Of course it won't pass, but it will be fun hearing the GOPers in the House rise in flaccid support of the Bugman.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I believe, I believe

I know there are few folks who actually read this, but for those who do, this is important.

One of the leading lights at DailyKos, MeteorBlades, has a family crisis:

We don't know the specific details, but Meteor Blades' wife and sister-in-law have been in a serious automobile accident.

Their injuries are challenging. There were fatalities in the other car involved.

We know how much Meteor Blades means to this community, and we thought everyone might like to send some good energy his way.

Please express your best wishes and love to him via comments to this diary and we will save it for him. He can read it when he has the time and energy to focus. Let's keep his email box open for his family and the business of healing.
Go there. Help out with wishes, prayers, anything you can do. This is a good person who needs support. No politics, no agendas, just people helping people.

Even those of us who don't subscribe to a specific faith tradition often believe in a higher power. So call upon your concept of a higher power and ask humbly for help for these folks.

Thank you.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Oh Karol

Oh Karol,
I am but a fool
darling I love you
but you treat me cruel

A complex man is near death. I don't always agree with him (nor do I agree with just about any leader of organized religion.) And I find many of his positions frustrating, especially considering his obvious intelligence. Yet clearly this is a passionate man who truly believes in his God and Saviour and has stubbornly marched along a path marked by both progressiveness as well as reticence.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't admire stubbornness particularly. If I did, I would admire GWBush. But John Paul II has worked hard for what he believes (unlike GWBush) and was not shy about expressing his opinions.

He wasn't afraid to tweak world leaders to their face; he criticised GWBush before the Iraqi invasion. He spoke eloquently on human rights world wide. He apologized for past Church mistakes. (!) And he traveled tirelessly, talking to millions, trying to spread his message of Christianity as a caring, tolerant, and vibrant religion.

Yet he clearly wasn't in favor of elevating women to the priesthood. This archaic law, created not by Biblical understanding but rather by political concerns, is long past any logical support. Many major religions have embraced women clergy (about time!), and yet, the Pope felt that was wrong.

Also, the idea that priests should be celibate, which has vague biblical precedent, is also due for a modern rethinking. Again, virtually all major religions except Catholicism celebrate married clergy.

And re: same sex relationship rights and recognition, he was stubbornly behind the tolerance curve.

My point is that while not perfect (by definition, since according to the Bible we are all sinners), John Paul II was still a strong, passionate figure who truly believed in compassioniate and humane treatment of all people. Not many world leaders can honestly make that claim.

PATER NOSTER, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo. Amen.

Requiescat in Pace, Ioannis Paulus II

He's the universal soldier, and he really is to blame

The masterful Billmon, of The Whiskey Bar, has departed of late from his self imposed constraint of comparison/contrast with some wonderful original writing.

Here's his piece from yesterday talking about the so-called discomfort the true conservative Right feels with the tactics of the Religious Right:

Today's key document, I think, is former Sen. John Danforth's op-ed in the New York Times, which can be read as both his own personal declaration of independence from the religious right, and a manifesto calling upon the Republican Party to do likewise.

This came as a bit of surprise to me, since I always assumed Danforth was essentially a "social" conservative himself -- not a hardened shock trooper like his old colleague John Ashcroft, but definitely a reliable foot soldier in the great crusade. Danforth is an ordained minister, albeit in the Episcopalian Church (the American upper middle class at prayer) not one of the fire and brimestone sects that are the backbone of the movement. He also was, and apparently still is, a staunch pro-lifer. But for Private Danforth, the raging firefight over Terri Schiavo's feeding tube seems to have been the last straw. He's gone over the hill. And so we get:

But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed [our] shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.

Danforth quite correctly blames the GOP for this miserable state of affairs, not the grassroots fanatics to whom it panders. Correct, but also a little disingenuous. At one point in his own political career Danforth barely survived a close race against a pro-choice Democrat -- former Missouri Lt. Gov. Harriet Woods. I don't remember hearing any complaints from him about the influence of the religious right back then.

In that sense, Danforth is very much in the mainstream of the GOP mainstream, which has studiously ignored the more bizarre obsessions and authoritarian yearnings of the Christian conservative movement for more than two decades now, out of fear of being left behind (at the ballot box, not the Rapture.)

Go, read. It's a great assessment of the perfidy and hypocrisy of the Right, as well it points the weird connection with a faux military style of presentation that seems to be common these days:

The strong mutual attraction between the career officer corps and the Christian conservative movement, now evolving into something resembling a military-religious complex, is only the most obvious evidence of this trend. Since 9/11, the term "culture war" has taken on a whole new meaning, and this particular New Model Army isn't looking to Adam Smith and Milton Friedman for inspiration. Cromwell would have understood, even if our modern Internet libertarians do not.

Now consider Billmon's subsequent post re: Jeff (James Guckert) Gannon:

The truth is, Jim/Jeff Guckert/Gannon represents, in one muscle-bound package, just about everything I find repulsive about the modern conservative movement. And while I don't hold Jim/Jeff's sex business against him (so to speak), the pseudo-military fetish that was/is his specialty frankly creeps me out, particularly given the the macho fag-hating swagger so common on the gung-ho right. When I saw American Beauty, I thought the character played by Chris Cooper -- the self-loathing homosexual Colonel -- was totally over the top, an unintentional parody of what Hollywood liberals see when they look at the military. But after checking out Bulldog's web pages . . . I'm not as sure.

I have always felt a great distaste and discomfort around folks, almost always men, who are cop and military afficionados and pretenders. If you really feel an affinity for the "uniform" then go enlist.

Otherwise, in my considered and fair opinion, you're a pathetic chicken shit who has no real character or backbone.

And you're also a creep who has an issue about controlling others, in short, a Fascist.

Anyway, Billmon's onto something here. As usual, he deserves attention.