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Learned from [ profile] level_head who learned it from [ profile] rowyn that at a Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, an employee was stampeded to death by a mob awaiting the store's early opening. Do read the story if it is not familiar to you.

Now, where to even begin?

Well, let's see, let's begin on Thanksgiving, when people who were working retail had to be prepared to wake up at 2 or 3AM to be at stores by 4am for 5am openings. Many would have had to have earlier Thanksgiving meals, or given up on it in order to be alert the next day. This was noted by friend Stego.

This is in service of what?

Then there are those 5:00 store openings as well, littered with loss-leaders to entice people into the stores. Heavy discounts on flat screen TV's were common, not just at Wal-Mart, but at Best Buy, and many other outlets across the nation.

This is in service of what?

Then there are the people determined to be first in line, determined to beat their neighbors to those loss-leaders. Instead of getting a good night's sleep and spending the day after Thanksgiving in quality time with family and friends, they're up at God-knows-when so they can get this stuff that no one really needs.

This is in service of what?

There's desperation all over this scenario - the retail worker desperate for a paycheck, the retailer desperate for sales, the consumer desperate for the discount. And all this desperation collided tragically on Friday in Valley Stream, and a man died.

This in service of what?

Ben Zoma would say: "Who is rich, he who is happy with his portion." (Avot 4:11)

If everyone in America followed Ben Zoma, our economy would collapse in a heartbeat. So we live in a world of manufactured need, and discontent with our portion is the engine that drives our economy. And right now, problems in banking and industry are forcing some to learn to be content with their portion, and others to look for bargains that will allow them to assuage their discontent within the constraints imposed by those problems.

Sales like the Black Friday sales are designed to capitalize on the discontent that our culture works so hard to manufacture. And that discontent is a powerful enough force that this year, it killed a man.
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Here are some thoughts of mine on the matter of the Real Estate market correction and its consequences.

The assumption that the bubble came about solely because of subprime lending unhinging home prices from inflation misses the point. The Fed lowering the Prime Rate to levels that were unsustainable in order to combat inflation near the beginning of this decade did a lot to make people seek new mortgages and re-finances who perhaps otherwise would not have. It demonstrates a failure of the "Free Market" that prices so quickly began to outstrip value. One thing this should teach us is that homes, real-estate, have an intrinsic value, separate from the market value. The bursting of the bubble is a "correction," but this is a more tragic correction than, say, a correction in the stock market, because rather than being stock certificates, these are people's homes. So these homes go into foreclosure because, in many cases, the homeowner is burdened with a debt that exceeds the value of his collateral. Seen this happen first hand.

Banks could have taken two approaches - 1) Take a loss by writing a new mortgage for the real value of the house, or 2) Take a bigger loss by foreclosing the home and reselling it in a depressed market, depressing it even further.

Banks seem, by and large to have chosen option 2. It seems to me that any "bailout" would have to favor option 1 - I suspect many homeowners currently faced with foreclosure would greet a manageable monthly payment at a fixed rate with relief.

And this brings me to my last point. If you are buying a house because you plan to fix it up and resell it within a year, perhaps an ARM makes sense. But if you are buying a house as a roof over your head, and a nest egg, then the ARM is a predatory instrument. Especially in times where the prime rate is unsustainably low. If subprime lending is to continue, ARMs should not be among the instruments used: a subprime loan presumes a precarious borrower, it is folly to imagine that such a borrower will be able to manage a higher payment when the rate goes up.

So, my proposals are as follows:

1) Do not write (or underwrite) loans for more than the home is reasonably worth.


2) Do not make ARMs available to subprime borrowers. The more precarious your economic situation, the more important it is that your housing costs be Fixed, not Variable.

Item 1 is tricky, because it raises the problem of how to assess a property's intrinsic value (by which I really mean the market value in a market which is neither inflated nor depressed). I suppose a formula that looks at average home prices over a fairly long period of time, adjusted for inflation would come close.

The effect of people not being to obtain loans for a ludicrously overvalued home would be that they could not make offers on them and the prices would have to reach sane levels before the loans would be written.
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Sounds like Imus may have lost his show if I heard the news right this morning.

That's fine, he'll find another venue.

I cannot help but note that its another in a series of similar scandals, whether of racism, anti-semitism, or misogyny.

These things aren't happening because Howard Stern, Don Imus, or Mel Gibson, or whomever are bad people. These things are happening because there is a zeitgeist that eats it up, because there is an audience that is receptive to, and even validated by it.

And when Don Imus finds a new venue it will be because of this infamy, not in spite of it, and the market it appeals to will be even more receptive to a diet of hate. So much so that Imus may find himself in the position of having to ratchet up the volume in order to retain them.

Is this a desirable outcome?

And more pressing: what is this zeitgeist that these speech acts validate it and do we REALLY think we can staunch it by suppression? Sure we can put a finger in the dam where Imus is, but that only increases the flow elsewhere, and I'm not sure who's going to put a finger in Ann Coulter.

When we hear speech we do not like, we are to apt, I think to react with outrage and punish, punish, punish. That makes martyrs, and feeds the perception of oppression held by those who regard their prejudices and perceptions as normative.

I would keep Imus on the air. But I would shuffle McGuirk off elsewhere, and pair Imus with, say, Jeannene Garofalo, a liberal humorist who will only be too happy to call him on his shit in a way that makes him look like a jerk.

Come on - this is Defense Against the Dark Arts 101, guys. The way to vanquish a boggart is to make it look ridiculous.
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Many years ago, I was working at Zeos computers, doing technical support. My co-worker, Lyle - a Lutheran minister who served as an Air Force chaplain, co-worker Colin - a recent grad from Saint Olaf's who is legally blind, and co-worker Bill - like Lyle, a USAF vet who also happened to be triumphing in his struggle with alcoholism, all carpooled together. Well not "carpooled" really, since Lyle was the only one of us with a car; it would perhaps be more accurate to say that Lyle, in an act of loving-kindness, chauffered us.

One day he came to pick me up, with Colin already in the car, and we headed over to the street corner where Bill would reliably be waiting with his morning coffee and his Pioneer Press.

He was not there.

So we traced the steps of what we knew to be his morning walk back to his home. There were fire-engines and first-responders all over the place. The building Bill lived in was being evacuated, and evacuees sent to the hospital because of a Carbon Monoxide. Lyle spoke to a fireman who was controlling access to the site. He gave Bill's full name to the fireman, told the fireman that Bill had not been where he was expected at an appointed time. He urged the firefighter to make sure that Bill was accounted for before they left the site. He even offered to go look himself. He was turned away with a cursory "Yeah, we'll get everyone out." We accepted that, trusted them to do their jobs, and went off to do ours. When, by 11:00am, we'd heard nothing from him, we went to HR and got his emergency contact. It was his girlfriend, an RN herself. I swapped contact info with her, and she assured me she'd look into it and call back.

She did. I came home to a very tearful message on my voicemail. Bill was dead. He'd been found by another tenant, in the communal bathroom on the first floor. Although the responders had emptied all the dwelling units, they had not checked the bathrooms (very possibly did not even know they were bathrooms. Bill liked a long morning soak, and the comfort he took in it was the reward of his own work. He had personally weatherproofed the bathroom, being faced with an apathetic landlord. The bathroom was directly over the boiler that was putting out the carbon monoxide. Bill was probably dead before we even got there.

At least that's what I tell myself. I have to believe it, because the alternative is that we stood by and LET Bill die. That our ovine acceptance of what the authorities told us killed him. It's what I told Lyle two years later in a server room at Eaton Hydraulics in Eden Prairie. I reminded him of his clear articulation, and of the Fireman's refusal to let us pass. I assured him that we had done what we could, and that if Bill WAS still alive then, it was a failure of communication that was beyond our control that killed him.

And I felt like a heel, doling out mealy mouthed rationalizations like some Nazi at Nuremberg professing ignorance and deference to authority to explain away his role in the Holocaust.

Lyle was never able to escape the feeling that we should have persisted until Bill was rescued (or recovered) or until we were arrested. Instead we turned away like meek lambs at the shepherds' urging. I, too, always wondered if we could have caused a difference for Bill with more persistence. Lyle lives with the guilt. I live in a house whose windows leak like sieves all through the Minnesota winter. So what if the heating bill exceeds the mortgage payment so I can shiver under two blankets in a 40 degree bedroom? At least I wake up in the morning and the cold winter's air slipping through the casements is the smell of life to me, the smell of NOT DYING LIKE BILL.

It weighs.

Then I see what's happening in New Orleans. So I donate, and my wife donates and a guy at our synagogue is running a truck down there so we plan to donate supplies. Tampons. A blanket. An air mattress. We hope it helps and can be used. But what's worse I hope it gets there.

FEMA has been turning away people bringing tools and skills to help while not doing much at all to lend help themselves. The Red Cross is not being let into New Orleans to give direct assistance. Mostly, it seems that it is at FEMA's request, but the Red Cross is doing a good job running interference for the feds in this link.

Looking some of this material over, it seems as if the feds WANT these people to die. It seems like a passive aggressive holocaust, like "oopsie, we've had a little hurricane thingy. Well we got the people able to transport themselves out, and if the others die, well it's a disaster, people die in those. Not our problem." It makes me want to hop on the truck headed down there and do something hands on. I both envy and admire [ profile] odanu who is headed down there.

It's bad enough when first responders make honest mistakes. Bill died in an understandable oversight, though I'll never understand why they didn't kick EVERY door in in that place. What I'm hearing from NOLA is far from understandable though, and if I can't shake some sense of culpability in Bill's death, how can we, as a nation, expect to live with ourselves in the aftermath of this?
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I am not a consumer of pornography, and I never have been. But back in the 80's when Larry Flynt was under fire, I was content to take his side. Not because I have any taste for his product (I once looked at a Penthouse and found it . . . disturbing), but rather because I understood what few Americans understood at the time - that ANY restriction on speech is EVERY restriction on speech.

Larry Flynt was an excellent choice for an attack on free speech. The right didn't like him because he was Im-MOE-ral, the left didn't like him because his portrayals of women perpetuated a rape culture. In short he was someone that you could love to hate regardless of your political persuasion, and to many on both sides of the fence, restricting his press freedom seemed a good idea at the time.

But it wasn't.

It was the groundwork for the actions of the moral majority, giving the FCC ever greater enforcement power over what was said on the airwaves. It was the bedrock of rules regarding Indecent and Obscene speech. And there is a VERY fine line between enforcement and retribution. And where government retribution becomes a possibility, basic freedoms are lost.

We are approaching the final stages of this game. Our media is useless. I will refrain from arguing whether it is "liberal" or "conservative." Truth is, it doesn't matter any more because primarily the media are a)Greedy and b)Fearful. The result is this:

CBS and UPN have refused to air an ad from the United Church of Christ that states that it welcomes gays and lesbians. Here is the reason they give:

"Because this commercial touches on the exclusion of gay couples and other minority groups by other individuals and organizations," reads an explanation from CBS, "and the fact the Executive Branch has recently proposed a Constitutional Amendment to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, this spot is unacceptable for broadcast on the [CBS and UPN] networks."

Contemplate that for a moment: The federal government has proposed an amendment to the constitution, and rather than engage in speech that would foster discussion, major networks are prattling about "controversy."

The problem can be summed up in this one single event: Janet Jackson's Boob. That event set the stage for the FCC levying unreasonable fines for something over which the network had no control, and this was followed swiftly by fines for Howard Stern's material, at which they had looked askance for decades.

The message, of course, is that the Federal Government has retributive powers over broadcast media. Because sex sell and because obscenity rules or vague, if a broadcaster publishes a message that runs afoul of the government, it may be subject to the government's arbitrary punishment.

The result is a media that is, in essence, the executive's mouthpiece, afraid, by its own admission, to run afoul of that executive's mouthpiece, both because of the threat of fines and because of the carrot of increased market share.

With such a media, the most important fundamental of democracy, a population well informed about all sides of the issues, is destroyed.
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This is going to be a bit tricky to write but here goes.

My previous post addressed only half the problem we are facing right now. Now it's time to look at the other half.

If you are one of those Christians - conservative or liberal - who built a web site making the Christian case against George Bush, bravo! If you were out there protesting the war, dressed like Jesus and carrying a sign that says "not in my name!" Bravo.

And if you created or passed around the JesusLand map, or are comparing "Christian" voters to the hillbillies in Deliverance, shame! [ profile] the_ferrett makes a good point when he says that if one were to say the things some of us have been saying about Christians with regard to say, Blacks, or Jews, or Gays, it would unleash a firestorm.

And please, spare me any crap about how it's impossible, by definition, to oppress the dominant regime. People are people, and whether or not one is part of the "dominant regime" is every bit as much an accident of birth as any other trait they might possess. And derision hurts, regardless of who you are.

In my previous post, I quoted someone very slightly out of context. I'm going to give you a bit more of her comment now, because it raises some important questions:

As a lesbian Catholic, I have not spoken from my religious views on LJ. I'm constantly amazed at what people will say about how it's WRONG to be a Christian here.

Is this what we've done? Have we forced our Christians into the caves? Has the left, with its great claims of "Diversity" been actively silencing the very voices we most need in our choir?

Indeed, we have cultivated a culture in which anyone who is affiliated with the dominant regime is too afraid of giving offense to speak their minds. We have such a great fear of conflict that we let our differences fester without discussion until they explode into major rifts. So now we some sort of holy war raging in our midst between the camps of faith and reason, and we have placed our allies on the defensive against us.

Good Job!

Diversity is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it gives us e pluribus unum, from the many, one. On the other hand it gives us "divide and conquer."

Which one of these things do you think Grover Norquist is counting on?

So, grab that beat-up six string, the one with the sunflower applique around its sound hole and sing with me, folks:

We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
Like a tree planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.

Faith and Science together, we shall not be moved.
Faith and Science together, we shall not be moved.
Like a tree planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.
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I've been coming across lots of diatribes like this since the election.

OK. You're Liberal. You're smart. And you're Christian. And you're tired of hearing how those ignorant, bigoted red-state Christian podunks got us four more years of Bush. You don't want to be lumped in with them, and you don't want Christianity characterized as a religion of ignorance, hatred and bigotry. So you start screaming at us liberals to stop the hatred.

Well I've got some news for you Sunshine. You're responsible.

That's right. Because instead of claiming your faith, you pull mealy-mouthed crap like this: As a lesbian Catholic, I have not spoken from my religious views on LJ.

It raises the question "why the hell not?" Why are you allowing only those people who invoke Jesus to rationalize their bigotry to be the ones speaking from their "religious views." And how DARE you turn on the rest of us when your silence has let them steal your God.

So, let me teach you a new phrase: "I am a Christian. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson do not speak for me, and they do not speak for the Jesus that I know."

Try repeating it, backing it up with relevant scripture, and showing the world how the haters have rejected the moral values of the New Testament. It's not that hard. If Mad Magazine can do it, surely a smart, liberal, Christian can.

It might take a little time to win us over though. You've let Falwell and Robertson "brand" Christianity for a little too long, so we associate it with the product that they're selling. And if you start now, it's still going to be a little too little, a little to late - because we're all going to suffer from this sin of omission for the next four years.

In the meanwhile, stop returning friendly fire. If you point your guns in the right direction, you'll find us dug in beside you in no time.
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About 6 Months ago, I wrote the following:

OK, my fellow Americans. Are you SO willing to keep people you've never heard of from getting married that you will vote for a president who:

1) Took office by appointment because he couldn't get votes,
2) Turned a significant budget surplus into the hugest deficit this country has ever seen,
3) Established a precedent for pre-emptive war that has made it permissible for any country to attack another at whim,
4) Established new environmental regulations that guarantee your children the god given American right to suffer from asthma and mercury poisoning,
5) Had all the information in hand to bring 9/11 to a halt before it came to very much, but passive-aggressively allowed it to happen so that he could use it as political capital to
6) Spy on your purchasing habits, unlawfully detain you indefinitely without due process, and declare peace protestors enemy combatants,
7) Oversaw the hugest hemorrhaging of jobs from the economy, which will not be recovered even at current levels of growth,
8) Wants to hand the Social Security benefits you've paid all of your working life over to the care of the Enrons and Worldcoms of the world,
9) Pushed a medicare reform bill that funnels your tax dollars directly into the pockes of the Pharmaceutical and Health Insurance industries?

Do you hate gays SO much that you are willing to DESTROY AMERICA just to prevent two people you've never met from getting married?

George W. Bush thinks you do. In fact, he's counting on it.

I guess I have my answer now: reported by Mako

And Mako -- Do not mistake mob rule for democracy. They are two different things - the latter guarantees freedom, justice, and peace, the former guarantees a holocaust.

These initiatives were placed on the ballot so that people would be enticed to come out and vote their hate, and for the person who will do the most to uphold that hate. We are barreling toward a holocaust, and tonight is our last chance to apply the brakes. God help us all if we fuck it up.
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Those of you who have been reading my Journal for a long time know that while I opposed the war in Iraq, I did not think it unjustified. My opposition to the war can be summed up in a single name: George W. Bush. The craving of the Bush family's enfant terrible for this war convinced me that it was being waged with inadequate forethought and for the wrong reasons. Yes, this oil-industry entrenched, Halliburton-connected corporate sycophant was engaging in a simple transaction of blood for oil. And like some child screaming "I want it now Now NOW!" in the candy aisle and Target he managed to shout down anyone who reasonably opposed him.

But there was a case for war, and there is a link to 9/11.

This all comes around to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. When Bush accused Saddam Hussein of funding international terrorism, he was not lying. Let me repeat that: When Bush accused Saddam Hussein of funding international terrorism, he was not lying.

Saddam very openly supported the suicide bombings in Israel by essentially offering rewards to the families of suicide bombers. He even traveled to Gaza to present these awards in person. This is no secret, it is something he did with plenty of press coverage. After all, it was in Saddam's best interests to show the Arab world that even a secular state such as his was a useful ally.

And this brings us to the very nature of the intifada: Namely that the war between the Israelis and the Palestinians is a proxy war between the US and the Arab world. We pump money into Israel, they pump money into Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and the two sides kill each other. But proxy wars are long, drawn out, bloody, and ineffectual. And they don't really strike at the heart of the matter. We fought one against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Our boy was Osama Bin Laden.

So the Arabs would like to win this proxy war. While Saddam is doing his bit to keep the flow of suicide bombers streaming steadily into Israel, Osama decides, quite independently, and with the help of many people in the Saudi government who prefer to say that they were making "charitable donations," to staunch the flow of US Money into Israel. So he figures that striking out at the US might curtail that. The Arab world has been trying to destroy Israel since 1948, and the strike at our World Trade Center was an attempt to cut a supply line. It was also an ultimatum: continue supporting Israel, and more stuff like this can happen.

So, while Saddam and Osama would likely not give each other the time of day, they are working for a common goal: the elimination of the State of Israel. Now it's impossible for us to strike at the supply line feeding Al Qaeda because, well, we need Saudi Oil. So how can we reduce our dependence on Saudi Oil AND take out a supply line of money to suicide bombers? By taking out Saddam, and taking over Iraq.

There's only one problem with this plan: it violates international law. And unfortunately, given the UN's positions that wander between anti-Zionism and barely disguised anti-Semitism, preventing Saddam from killing Jews is hardly justification enough.

And that is why, when the war was being protested, the Anti-Semites on the left broke out their "Magen David = Swastika" signs, in addition to the more rational No Blood For Oil, and Let Inspections Work. And that is why I could not stand with them.

But Bush was lying. He was lying about direct connections between Hussein and al-Qaeda. He was lying about the state of Iraq's WMD programs, and the quality of our intelligence. And he asked congress to invest him with powers that he cannot constitutionally possess -- and they did it.

Now, one of the most disturbing things about Bush's lies is this: The Good, True reasons for fighting the war in Iraq, that we need to do something to staunch the flow of suicide bombers into the land of our ally, Israel, and that he is running a regime that tortures and kills its own, were not likely to be sufficient in the eyes of the world community. Bush's lies stemmed from the fact that he knew the truth wouldn't be good enough for a UN Secretary General who, when a Suicide Bomber walks in on a Passover Seder and kills a dozen people, vaguely condemns "violent methods," but when the Israelis respond by killing Palestinian terrorists and the kids they use as human shields, enumerates each death in gory detail.

Which raises the question in my mind: when the State of Israel was first created by the UN, did they really intend it as a safe haven for the Jews, or was placing it in the midst of hostile territory just a way of establishing a new kind of concentration camp?

This leaves me feeling -- well a bit lonely. To really have opposed the war in Iraq, to march against it, would have meant standing shoulder to shoulder with someone who apparently thinks my circumcised dick qualifies me as some sort of Brown-Shirt, while supporting it would have meant standing behind an oligarch for whom the wages of death is cash.
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Two Easters ago, [ profile] morgan1 and I were attending a service at a very liberal baptist church in Minneapolis. That day's sermon was based on something Ghandi said: "worship without sacrifice is idolatry." The overall gist of the sermon was that if the dominant regime isn't shooting you, beating you, or driving tanks over you, you are somehow failing in your duty to God. Morgan, being the Christian in our relationship and having grown up on messages like that, fled the church as soon as the service ended, never to return. As for me, the Jew, I was grateful to have just sat through an Easter service where I was not made to feel that I was having Jesus' death pinned on me. But the sermon itself itself was a valoration of martyrdom. And the fact that Liberals regularly choose martyrdom over victory is the problem with the left.

This is why Dean is losing in primaries. He might just be more electable John "Lurch" Kerry. But leftists don't like his willingness to roll up his sleeves and fight. They don't like a man who who isn't rabidly anti-gun, because hey, in lefty-land guns are what the regime uses to make a martyr of you. The moment you touch one, you become soiled by the power it grants. They don't like a man who can raise a rallying cry worthy of Jesse Ventura, even if his voice cracks at the end. Dean isn't afraid of mustering and using the raw power of the anger shared by many Americans. But the left is afraid of its own anger, afraid that if it gives its anger free rein, it might just do something . . . effectual.

The enmity of the left for Dean can be seen best in Maureen Dowd's articles both on Judy and on the "scream." She goes on like Ann Coulter, enumerating the many ways in which Judy's failure to be the perfect bimbo campaign-prop wife should raise our suspicions. Indeed if what Maureen prescribes for Judy is what she really believes in, one wonders where she finds the time to write her snarky little articles between raising her husband's children and cleaning out her husband's asshole.

So a word to the left: whether you like it or not, many Americans are ANGRY with Bush, and there is no shame in USING that anger. And Kerry -- If you DO win the nomination, offer Dean the Vice Presidency, and get James Carville to manage your campaign, and you might just have a shot at the whitehouse.

Pet Peeve

Jan. 24th, 2004 12:30 pm
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I am tired of hearing from advertisers how I can "save up to N or more." It's either up to "N" or it's "N" or more. But the phrase as uttered does not establish "N" as either an upper or lower limit, it merely appears to. In this construction "N" is merely some arbitrary number pulled out of the marketing wonk's asshole, which, incidentally, is the orifice directly beneath his nose. (I say "his" because I am a sexist pig who refuses to believe that a woman would come up with such stupidity).
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Went through the Cat-Tharsis archives the other day just to see how things are hanging together. From a purely techinical standpoint, the plot is moving along, perhaps a little too quickly. The last time I really took the time to srop and smell the roses, as it were, was the "Sybil's Secret" storyline. Since then, I've been concerning myself a little too much with advancing certain plot points for the uberstory, and neglecting my characters' lives.

Of course, I recently took a detour from that to, well, vent about political polarization, and that also came out a little bit more shrill than it should have. It could have been worse though -- I designed the Cat-Tharsis universe to prevent me from getting too topical, and that is a good thing and has worked well.

Part of it, too, is I'm impatient to tell my uberstory and it happens painfully slowly at the rate of 1 strip/week. The solution to this is to either bide my time or go to a twice a week schedule. As tempting as it is to do the latter, I do not draw quickly enough to manage it while retaining balance in my life (as if my life were balanced!), so I will simply need to bide my time and have the faith that in so doing I will create a better body of work.

Well, next up for the comic, Cujo is going to get Grendel's car working again. There is lots of gag potential in that story that I should not neglect in favor of advancing the narrative. Just . . . slow . . . down . . . and smell the roses.
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When the Oklahoma City Federal Building was blown up, the first suspects pursued were "middle eastern men seen driving away from the scene." I suppose it was unfortunate that they happened to be driving there and middle eastern.

Turned out the terrorist responsible was just a good ol' American boy, from a good ol' American town. He was executed a few months before 9/11. I can't help but think it must have been a great relief to the Bush administration for this white, American face of terrorism to have been scrubbed from the planet, in time for him to hang an Arab face on terrorism.

I can't help but think that had Oklahoma City happened on Bush's watch, those two middle-eastern men would have found themselves whisked away to a place from which they would never be heard again, while McVeigh remained free to attack again.
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[ profile] ekevu reminded me of the Peanut Butter Jelly Time meme, which I thought I had successfully repressed.

You know, I've known about this meme for three years. It's always bugged me in a way that was way out of proportion to what it is. I mean, the Badger meme is every bit as annoying, yet I find it cute. But this one has always made me seethe.

I think I know why. It's because the phrase "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" means to me that at some arbitrary time, known as "Peanut Butter Jelly Time," all things that have nothing to do with peanut butter and jelly must cease, while peanut butter and jelly is forced upon me whether I want them or not. It ties into the notion that nothing, not even peanut butter and jelly, can escape having a particular time assigned to it. And that all our time is programmed by forces outside ourselves, right down to the level of when "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" shall be.

I mean, why should anyone decide for me when "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" shall be, or for that matter whether there shall be such a thing as "Peanut Butter Jelly Time?" And all-in-all, I rather think I would prefer to have that singing banana sliced upon my peanut butter than any jelly at all.

And yes, in case you were wondering, this does in all likelihood have something to do with my mother.
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Ted Rall, a liberal cartoonist and political commentator, recently wrote this article about Bush's notion of an "ownership society."

While I agree with much of what Rall says in the article I feel compelled to take apart this paragraph in particular:

Bush says he wants Americans to adopt a "responsibility culture." But his Ownership Society concept requires more responsibility than most folks should be asked to bear. The health insurance tax credit, for example, would come in the form of a big refund check after taxpayers file their 1040s. Many workers, hit hard by stagnating wages and unexpected expenses, will spend the government windfall on other bills. The same thing goes for reemployment accounts. If a guy blows his lump-sum unemployment payment on a casino riverboat or Internet gaming-site bender, he and his family could end up out on the street. You and me, we might spend the money on computer classes. But for too many people, it's too big a temptation.

In this paragraph, Rall makes the classically paternalistic liberal argument that the American worker cannot be trusted to handle his money, while completely missing the opportunity to point out the REAL problem with Tax Credits as an approach to funding anything for the working poor: namely that in order to get the tax credit at all, one must be able to come up with the money to lay out in the first place.

Because of that, most working poor are never going to see a "government windfall [to spend] on other bills" because they will not have been able to afford the outlay in the first place. The result? They remain uninsured while the administration can make the claim that it has "done something for them." In short, tax credits are a cynical ploy to appear to be solving a problem while doing nothing, because the administration can rest assured that food and rent will take a higher place in the budget of the working poor than an individually held health insurance policy.

The second half of the paragraph is even worse, since it assumes that the American worker will blow "his lump-sum unemployment payment on a casino riverboat or Internet gaming-site bender." Now if I were a conservative political commentator in the tradition of Rush Limbaugh, I would take this paragraph, read it on the air, and then say "see that folks, liberal intellectuals think that you're too stupid to manage your own finances." And I'd be right. This paternalistic attitude is symptomatic of liberalism's most significant problem - the feeling of superiority over the very people they claim to advocate for. To liberals like Rall, the poor are a type of "noble savage," deserving of compassion and protection, but certainly not of respect.

William Blake wrote of John Milton that he "was of the Devil's party, and didn't even know it." With Rall handing such tasty morsels as this to conservative political commentators, one wonders if something similar can be said of him.

And welcome, [ profile] athelind and [ profile] makovette. I hope you find my pratings both edifying and amusing.
richardf8: (Default)
Regarding this article on American opposition to gay marriage:

OK, my fellow Americans. Are you SO willing to keep people you've never heard of from getting married that you will vote for a president who:

1) Took office by appointment because he couldn't get votes,
2) Turned a significant budget surplus into the hugest deficit this country has ever seen,
3) Established a precedent for pre-emptive war that has made it permissible for any country to attack another at whim,
4) Established new environmental regulations that guarantee your children the god given American right to suffer from asthma and mercury poisoning,
5) Had all the information in hand to bring 9/11 to a halt before it came to very much, but passive-aggressively allowed it to happen so that he could use it as political capital to
6) Spy on your purchasing habits, unlawfully detain you indefinitely without due process, and declare peace protestors enemy combatants,
7) Oversaw the hugest hemorrhaging of jobs from the economy, which will not be recovered even at current levels of growth,
8) Wants to hand the Social Security benefits you've paid all of your working life over to the care of the Enrons and Worldcoms of the world,
9) Pushed a medicare reform bill that funnels your tax dollars directly into the pockes of the Pharmaceutical and Health Insurance industries?

Do you hate gays SO much that you are willing to DESTROY AMERICA just to prevent two people you've never met from getting married?

George W. Bush thinks you do. In fact, he's counting on it.
richardf8: (Default)
Leviticus 18:22 is the bible verse most frequently cited to justify institutionalizing homophobia. I will leave alone for the moment, the fact that the people who cite it, do so while happily rejecting pretty much everything else in Leviticus as legalism superseded by Christ's death on the cross. That small matter of hypocrisy has been covered more wittily by better artists than me. I believe that a correct understanding of Leviticus 18:22, properly contextualized, can lead us to a grand unified theory of the Neo-Con agenda.

Leviticus 18:22 belongs to a set of laws governing sexual behavior. When combined with the laws regarding menstruation, one finds that the overall effect of the laws is to present ovulating women to sexually frustrated men. In short, the whole thing is a formula for breeding, and breeding quickly. If you doubt this, the effect can be seen in the story of Baalam, in which it is remarked upon how rapidly the Israelites breed. The book of Leviticus prescribes behavior, and unlike later works such as the Mishnah or the Gospels, does not care a whit about intent. A man can be fantasizing about Aaron, the high priest, for all the Torah cares, as long as he's sowing seed in a woman. It is a text that begins with the end in mind, and in this case the end is the conquest of Canaan. The Israelite military strategy can be summed up in the words of Jim Morrison: they've got the guns, but we've got the numbers.

Fast forward to today and the war in Iraq. It's going to be a long war, even though it's already over. We've got the guns, but they've got the numbers. The Neo-Cons, having very consciously placed us in this peccadillo, want to ensure that we can balance that inequity. They realize that they need guns AND numbers to win this war and any/every other war they intend to put us in. And that levitical prescription is a pretty good recipe for it. Hence the war on gays, the war on abortion, the war on contraception and the war on sex-ed are all part-and-parcel with the war in Iraq. The goal is to breed as many youngsters desperate enough to join the armed forces as possible. By prohibiting any sex that is not procreative, and ensuring that any sex is procreative, they seek to ensure that they have sufficient troops to conquer whatever countries they see fit to conquer.

So why the quest to conquer? Oh the usual reasons, markets, resources, blah blah blah. We already see the economics at work in Iraq, as Halliburton picks up contracts that it never really had to bid on, and other large Bush/Cheney contributors are awarded sweetheart deals for work that can be done for 1/10th the price by Iraqi contractors. The long and the short of it is that they seek to ban homosexuality, abortion, and birth control to make Dick Cheney rich. And Iraq is just a conduit from your paycheck to his pockets.
richardf8: (Default)
I found this letter in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press today:

Renewing vows

Maybe I'm missing something but the last time I checked a map, St. Paul was still located in Minnesota. Yet my young son, tears streaming down his face, was deeply distressed to find an entire section of the Pioneer Press devoted to the Green Bay Packers. In shock, we immediately burned the newspaper and renewed our vows to always despise the Hated Pack. I only pray that we won't open the paper next week to discover a new section extolling the virtues of Osama Bin Laden, but nothing would surprise me at this point.


St. Paul

Now, forgive me, but while the Vikings/Packers rivalry is certainly an amusing diversion isn't burning the newpaper a bit of an extreme reaction? The child's tears were certainly a wonderful opportunity to teach him about priorities, about how important, or not, this diversion we call football is in the grand scheme of things. Instead we get a parent who responds by burning the paper and invidiously compares the Packers (who, as far as I know, have never killed anyone) with Osama Bin Laden, whose Al Qaeda has been responsible not only for 9/11, but ample attacks before and after. And we wonder why there have been post-game riots?
richardf8: (Default)
The following letter appeared in todays New York Times:

To the Editor:

Re "Hummers to Harleys," by David Brooks (column, Oct. 4):

I wonder if it occurs to Mr. Brooks, Arnold Schwarzenegger or even President Bush that this macho, military, Mack Truck response to 9/11, based entirely on anger and fear-mongering, is turning out to be more foolish than manly.

Rather than buying Hummers, Americans should become experts on the Bill of Rights, help those who've been out of work for a year or two, and register people to vote.

Rather than dropping bombs on the Arabs, we should bombard them with cultural emissaries who could help them understand that we hold our freedoms dearer than McDonald's, Disney and Coca-Cola. Rather than cutting taxes on rich individuals and corporations and creating record deficits, our leaders should have the courage to separate money from politics.

It's clear to me that we've learned the wrong lesson from 9/11.

Kingston, N.Y., Oct. 4, 2003

I must say that in the past decade, I've seen precious little evidence that Americans do, in fact, "hold our freedoms dearer than McDonald's, Disney and Coca-Cola."

Indeed, the fact that these are the symbols of America to the world is a testament to just how highly we prize them. Indeed, when our schools form alliances with these entities, when licensed merchandise figures in a child's life from perhaps as early as birth, when one can walk into sears and find a Disney Licensed Television, complete with DVD Player and remote control all ready for the Kids' room, we imbued them with more power than the constitution.

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