Saturday, July 7, 2007

Brides of Death

Appearing at The Blogging Curmudgeon, My Left Wing, and the Independent Bloggers' Alliance.

"Sanvean (I Am Your Shadow)" -- Dead Can Dance

"If a woman's husband dies, let her lead a life of chastity, or else mount his pyre"

-- Vishnu Smrti xxv.14

Last month, in the wake of the ghastly stoning death of D'ah Khalil Aswad, My Left Wing's Maryscott O'Connor wrote a passionate indictment of organized religion.

Sure, I hate all organized religions. But I especially loathe those religions that use special modes of dress and behaviour to segregate women from men; in itself, that shouldn't mean much, but invariably when women are especially set apart from men, it is generally with the understanding that it is because women are either inferior or dangerous or "unclean."

Witness the Hindu widows of India.

They cannot remarry. They must not wear jewelry. They are forced to shave their heads and typically wear white. Even their shadows are considered bad luck.

. . .

There are an estimated 40 million widows in India, the least fortunate of them shunned and stripped of the life they lived when they were married.

It's believed that 15,000 widows live on the streets of Vrindavan, a city of about 55,000 in northern India.

This legion of societal outcasts flock to the holy city, Vrindavan, to die. Their hope is to be finally freed from the wheel of karma; from the cycles of life and death.

It is understood that Mathura City is the transcendental abode of Lord Krishna. It is not an ordinary material city, for it is eternally connected with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Vrindavan is within the jurisdiction of Mathura and still continues to exist. Because Mathura and Vrindavan are intimately connected with Krishna eternally, it is said that Lord Krishna never leaves Vrindavan (vrindavanam parityajya padam ekam na gacchati). At present the place known as Vrindavana in the district of Mathura, continues its position as a transcendental place and certainly anyone who goes there becomes transcendentally purified.

"We must understand the transcendental importance of Mathura, Vrindavana and Navadvipa dhamas. Anyone who executes devotional service in these places certainly goes back home, back to Godhead after giving up his body.

In 2000, film-maker Deepa Mehta began production of "Water." The third and final installment of her elements trilogy, it tells of the plight of widows in traditional India.

The backdrop of the film is the rise of Mahatma Gandhi, who not only agitated for India’s independence from Britain but also sought to improve the lot of Hindu widows. Colonies like the one depicted in Water aren’t nearly as prevalent in modern India, but according to Mehta, they do still exist. Through advocacy and activism, however, Hindu widows have become more independent.

“Some of them are becoming aware, slowly, that there is a world outside,” says Mehta, “and realizing that they won’t be rejecting their religion if they step outside the prescribed part. Because religion has nothing to do with it — it’s a misinterpretation of the religion that’s led them there, not the religion itself.”

But, like all religions, much is in the interpretation, and in which of the contradictory texts you keep or reject. We remake our religions constantly in our image; those images shaped largely by the religious beliefs that underly them. Beliefs about the place of widows are so entrenched in Indian culture, that Mehta was unable to shoot the film there. (The movie was finally filmed in 2004 and in the more amenable location of Sri Lanka.) Because of outrage from fundamentalists -- who claimed the film was "anti-Hindu" -- Mehta was threatened and even burned in effigy.

Burning women is another deeply entrenched Indian tradition. An ancient practice called "sati" (or "suttee") calls for widows to be burned on their husbands' funeral pyres. Now illegal, and rarely practiced, it finds its basis -- like the tradition which consigns widows to lives as social outcasts -- in ancient Hindu scripture. While this immolation was supposed to be a voluntary act of self-sacrifice, in practice women were often forced onto the pyres and tied down. In the late 1700s, affluent Brahman Ram Mohan Roy advocated for reform, and achieved a good deal of success. His arguments were theological in nature. In one of his hypothetical dialogs, he argued that, according to scripture, while widows were proscribed from remarriage, the basis for self-immolation was superseded by the admonition for them to become ascetics. In this point-counterpoint exploration he articulates the position of both the "advocate" and the "opponent" of burning living widows to death.

Advocate.—You have made an improper assertion, in alleging that Concremation and Postcremation are forbidden by the Shastrus. Hear what Unggira [Angira—one of the seven rishis or sages of the Hindu tradition] and other saints have said on this subject.

“That woman who, on the death of her husband, ascends the burning pile with him, is exalted to heaven, as equal to Uroondhooti.”

“She who follows her husband to another world, shall dwell in a region of joy for so many years as there are hairs in the human body, or thirty-five millions.”

“As a serpent-catcher forcibly draws a snake from his hole, thus raising her husband by her power, she enjoys delight along with him.”

“The woman who follows her husband expiates the sins of three races; her father’s line, her mother’s line, and the family of him to whom she was given a virgin.”

“There possessing her husband as her chiefest good, herself the best of women, enjoying the highest delights, she partakes of bliss with her husband as long as fourteen Indrus reign.”

“Even though the man had slain a Brahman, or returned evil for good, or killed an intimate friend, the woman expiates those crimes.”

. . .

Concremation and Postcremation being thus established by the words of many sacred lawgivers, how can you say they are forbidden by the Shastrus, and desire to prevent their practice?

Opponent.—All those passages you have quoted are indeed sacred law; and it is clear from those authorities, that if women perform Concremation or Postcremation, they will enjoy heaven for a considerable time. But attend to what Munoo [Manu—mythic lawgiver ca. 200 CE] and others say respecting the duty of widows: “Let her emaciate her body, by living voluntarily on pure flowers, roots, and fruits, but let her not, when her lord is deceased, even pronounce the name of another man.”

“Let her continue till death forgiving all injuries, performing harsh duties, avoiding every sensual pleasure, and cheerfully practising the incomparable rules of virtue which have been followed by such women as were devoted to one only husband.”

Here Munoo directs, that after the death of her husband, the widow should pass her whole life as an ascetic...

I suppose it's arguable that a life shorn of one's hair and begging on the street is better than burning to death, but not by much.

As with all religious prescriptions and proscriptions, it's impossible to separate the ideology from the culture. Like in our own primarily Judeo-Christian culture which fixates on a few obscure references to homosexuality at the expense of the more prevalent message of charity, the emphasis says far more about greater cultural mores than scripture. The plight of the Hindu widows may be justified by scripture, but it has it's roots in economics and plain, old-fashioned misogyny.

The core of the problem lies in what Indian sociologists call patrilocal residence -- the custom of Hindu brides marrying into their husbands' families, largely severing ties with their own. In many cases, especially when widowhood comes early, this leaves a woman dependent on in-laws whose main interest after her husband's death is to rid the family of the burden of supporting her.

. . .

For the younger widows -- some barely teen-agers despite laws that forbid child marriages -- there is the additional threat of being forced into sex with landlords, rickshaw drivers, shopkeepers, policemen, even Hindu holy men.

This, too, has historically been part of the widows' lot. The tradition of widows being forced to have sex with other men in their husbands' families, or to sell sex, was once so widespread that the Hindi word "randi," or widow, became a synonym for prostitute.

. . .

Since independence, Indian governments have revised inheritance laws to entrench widows' rights to a share of their husbands' property, and legislated for pensions. But more often than not, laws are circumvented. One study found that inheritance laws often served to entrap women. Their husbands' families, intent on preventing division of land and homes, frequently forced them to remarry back into the family.

The old customs mean that many Hindu girls are twice blighted. Parents eager to unburden themselves of a daughter arrange a childhood marriage, and widowhood leaves the woman unwanted again.

"The widow is more inauspicious than all other inauspicious things. At the sight of a widow, no success can be had in any undertaking; excepting one's mother, all widows are void of auspiciousness. A wise man should avoid even her blessings like the poison of a snake."

-- Skanda Purana

Friday, July 6, 2007

Rupert Murdoch and Your Media

Evil has many faces.

If you think Cheney's sneer or Bush's smirk are the most frightening images on earth, as I often do, you need to reconsider the face behind brainwashing the country into supporting these demons.

This face:

Rupert Murdoch. Not so grandfatherly from this angle, huh?

On June 26th, the New York Times ran this headline: "Murdoch, Ruler of a Vast Empire, Reaches Out for Even More".

It stated in part that back in 2003 a White House pressured Congress changed the rules to allow Murdoch a monopoly on media stations that had prior been limited. Never bite the hand that force-feeds you, huh?

If you follow any MSM reporting at all, you know that Rupert Murdoch, owner of the right wing tabloid the New York Post, all things FOX, DirecTV, and has ventured into the net, buying up controlling interests on "My Space".

Now the neo-con bastard made a bid to buy the Dow Jones, who owns The Wall Street Journal; claiming he would not influence it editorially.

Yeah, right, we believe you Rooopy.

Back to quoting the NYT article, for context of how Rupert shows his non-influence and balance. (all emphasis mine)

Mr. Murdoch has an army of outside lobbyists, who have reported being paid more than $11 million since 1998 to address issues as diverse as trade relations, programming decency and Internet regulation.


For more than 70 years, the federal government has regulated media ownership to protect against any entity gaining too much power over the dissemination of information. And for much of the last two decades, Mr. Murdoch has chafed against those restrictions, winning exceptions and easing regulations.

Again and again, Mr. Murdoch won crucial skirmishes with the Federal Communications Commission. In this he was helped most by his Republican allies, including former Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Bush administration, which has promoted measures to allow more consolidation.

On Rupert's London Times editorial non-influence by which he claims he would fashion his ownership here, his former Editors had this to say:

Fred Emery, another former Times editor, said Mr. Murdoch once said to him: “I give instructions to my editors all around the world; why shouldn’t I in London?”

The turmoil of those first years subsided, in part, one former Times editor said, because Mr. Murdoch got rid of those who did not adhere to his politics. “He puts people in who will do his bidding,” said Mr. Neil, the former editor.

Fast forward to the move on the Dow. MSNBC reported back on May 1:

"It's a brilliant move on many levels," said Mortimer Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report and chairman and co-publisher of the New York Daily News, which competes head to head with News Corp.'s New York Post. "He’s starting a business channel, and he’ll be able to marry (Dow Jones) to the business channel.

Yes, this is a face I would trust the financial backbone of this country to, and more influence by which to direct it.  Fair and Balanced Influence; we've seen what that looks like at the hands of Fox News.

On the 27th, driving to my job, I listened to a bone chilling report on NPR that is now transcribed there. I suggest the "Listen" feature for its full effect.

The Bancroft family, which owns controlling interest of the Dow and the Wall Street Journal had originally been opposed to the sale. This report said that the sale was getting closer to a done deal.

According to one person in each camp, Dow Jones and News Corp. have agreed to create a five-person board to resolve future conflicts between Murdoch and editors of The Wall Street Journal's top news and editorial pages.

The hope is that the venerable Wall Street Journal, and other Dow Jones publications, would retain editorial independence. Those entities are viewed as staid in comparison with Murdoch's sensationalist media products, which include Fox News, the New York Post, and British tabloid The Sun.


Some former news executives say Murdoch also twists coverage to promote his financial interests, especially in Asia.

Former Wall Street Journal editor Dennis Kneale asserts that Murdoch will interfere.

Opposition was still strong:

James Ottoway Jr. is a former Dow Jones executive and board member who controls about 6.2 percent of the stock.

"I could not live for the rest of my life with the shame of having voted to sell the Dow Jones company to Rupert Murdoch," he said.

The related story that followed, a profile of Murdoch had these money quotes:

But Andrew Neil, a former editor for News Corp., isn't impressed. "Rupert Murdoch has been around since the dinosaurs," said Neil. "He knows how to get around any independent board — as he did with me, and as he's done with other editors as well."


"I would regularly get cuttings of Wall Street Journal editorials, which were taking a sufficiently hard-line Republican line, and they weren't sent just to pass the time," added Neil, noting that the clippings were sent directly from Murdoch with his handwriting on them.

"Don't forget that Rupert Murdoch has always regarded the Op Ed pages of The Wall Street Journal — as he's said to me — as a cup of strong caffeine that gets you going in the morning and tells you what to think," said Neil.

The chess game goes on.... with Murdoch making noises about backing out, and hoping the Dow will go down, making his offer seem more lucrative.

I, for one, am sick to fucking death of the choke hold he and his affiliates have on this country, his Neo-Con OP/ED's "telling us what to think"! In rural areas, many people have only a Fox affiliate to tune into.

Fascism begins when business and politics are married, and the press is controlled by them both.

How much more can we take?

The harder question:

How the fuck do we take our media back?

..and I refuse to take "tune out" as an answer.

These people are so very fucking biased, and are influencing, yes brainwashing the masses daily with their hate, their homophobia, their anti-woman stances, their racism, their calling Unpatriotic any dissent.

Net Neutrality is gone as well. I'm dying for someone to write that up, but I have overdone my rage for the day.

The Fascists must be stopped!


On Fox News the other day, Bernard Goldberg said to Michelle Malkin:

“We go to the American people and we ask them if they can pick out Kansas on a map and they can’t. We ask them if they can pick out England on a map and they can’t. We ask them who the Vice-president is, they don’t have any idea. Who’s the Secretary of State? “I don’t know.” Then we go to them and ask them what they think of the Lewis Libby commutation? I don’t care what the American people have to say about these things.”

Oh yeah, Mr. Goldberg? You and your gang thought We, The People were Einsteins six years ago. Now we're supposed to be dumb? Furthermore, why do you assholes make it hard for people to vote, for example? As it is, the purple fingers in those doomed elections in Iraq seemed to be more accurate than, let's say, the Diebold machines in Ohio.

Besides, maybe you don't care, but any Republican up for re-election sure does. Go ahead, ignore those polls at your peril.

Do you know why?

It's simple.

People had had enough.


As an unknown philosopher said, "If you don't wanna be bullshitted, you better know what bullshit is." Which, by the way, describes Bernie's book perfectly.

And except for the lobotomized 28%, people can't ignore that the putrid stench oozing from the White House anymore. That Haliburton air fresher personally autographed in blood by Dick Cheney ain't working too good. Not when everything is going wrong in America, and it's getting worse, and it doesn't look like it's going to get better.

People can't afford gas, can't afford rent, can't afford cars, can't afford medical insurance, and can't afford poverty. So, oddly enough, they don't want to hear a rich, tanned, well-fed talking head wearing a thousand dollar suit on TV pontificating about Bill, Monica and The Blowjob anymore. Little Neo In Dreamland doesn't want to swallow the blue pill anymore.

Welcome to the real world.

Fox News: Gays! Lesbians! Welfare! Immigrants! Clinton Blowjob Clinton Blowjob Clinton Blowjob! Bad bad bad bad bad!

Us: Fuck you! How am I gonna pay the mortgage? How am I gonna pay for my Mom's surgery? How am I gonna pay for my retirement?

Fox News: Tax Cuts! Get rid of Social Security! Work at Wal-Mart!

Us: Bullshit!

Fox News: No! Don't use your brain! If you do, the terrorists win! Aaaaiiee! Logic! Our Kryptonite!

Ah, I love the smell of bullshit in the morning. It lets me know that something has gone bad and it needs to be thrown away. Now.

Hey, Bernie? Grab a shovel.

The REAL Gore Story!

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

Seriously, 100 miles per hour? That is the real news story. Someone is possessing pot? Bah, who cares?

To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before

Yippee! My Beloved and I are going to Readercon this weekend, so I won't be posting for a few days. Samuel Fucking Delaney is gonna be there! Seeya Monday!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Bush Compares Iraq To American Revolution, Bush is an Idiot

Preaching to the choir yesterday in Martinsburg, W Va, Bush recited the same sermon he and his handlers reserve for these carefully controlled and completely choreographed appearances before the faithful.

"We give thanks for all the brave citizen-soldiers of our Continental Army who dropped pitchforks and took up muskets to fight for our freedom and liberty and independence," Bush said. He added: "You're the successors of those brave men. . . . Like those early patriots, you're fighting a new and unprecedented war."

I wonder if anyone else noticed that our Revolution against the tyrannical rule of that earlier George, the occupation of our cities and provinces by British troops, his interference in what we regarded as our affairs, and the general mistreatment of our citizenry was, in fact, the polar opposite of our invasion and occupation of Iraq and the mistreatment, maiming and murder of their citizenry.

We have been at war in Iraq for over four years, in Afghanistan for nearly six, at the same time we have conducted and continue to conduct covert operations in other countries throughout the Middle East including Iran and Pakistan, as well as in several African countries.

The result of what we have wrought has been the death, destruction or displacement of hundreds of thousands of innocents, along with the sacrifice of our military forces and our economic future. There has been no net gain for the people of this country or any other.

Along the way great benefits have devolved upon many of our well connected corporations, both public and private, continuing the transfer of public wealth to private hands, (select private hands, that is) which is the core of neo conservative economics and was the central purpose of going to war in Iraq.

We might have more easily invaded Mexico, a country which was equally complicit in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the number of Mexican terrorists aboard the ill fated suicide planes having been exactly equal to the number of Iraqi terrorists.

A war against terror in Mexico, so much closer than Iraq, would have greatly eased the logistical problems we have in the Middle East, avoided stirring up the international radical Muslim community and may have gone a long way to solving our much ballyhooed "immigration problems."

Here at home, a young man was killed about two weeks ago, Marine Cpl. Derek C. Dixon was killed while serving at a checkpoint in al Anbar province on Tuesday, June 26. Cpl Dixon was from Riverside, Ohio which is about a traffic light from where I sit typing as I watch the rabbits at early morning play outside my office window.

He will be buried today north of Dayton with full military honors, he was twenty years old and looked younger. Cpl Dixon attended high school at the same school I attended over four decades ago. He probably joked and laughed in the same classrooms, walked the same halls and ate in the same cafeteria as I did those long years ago.

Forty one years ago I walked those halls, laughing and joking with Ronnie Fields, one of my childhood friends and a lovable clown of a kid. Incorrigible and disruptive to good order and discipline was the the verdict of the adults who patrolled the halls in those days.

Ronnie was killed in Vietnam early in 1968 long before our young Corporal was born, his name is etched in a marble slab in the sidewalk of the Vietnam Memorial Park, located near the banks of the Great Miami River, within sight of our sadly aspiring little "downtown." Ronnie's name is there in a great circle of sidewalk joining the names of other local boys who paid the ultimate price of our folly in Vietnam.

I go there sometimes and walk by the river. I stand under the trees near Ronnie's name etched there in the marble and listen to the breeze as it crosses the river and blows through the trees, pushing the blazing city air off to the east and I see his face at 15 and 16, the mischief in his eyes above a grin that made you forget every thing else in the vicinity except whatever he might be up to now.

I stand in that silence and think of him and all the others lost and gone, some I knew, most I did not, except in spirit.

I spent several years on a Veteran's honor guard and have served at more than three hundred funerals and memorial services. In every one I heard the same phrases, the same words, honor and duty and sacrifice, died for his country, service to America, and then, then they play Taps, fire three volleys and go to their homes or to the VFW for sandwiches and beer.

Nothing left at graveside, just another name etched in marble, or concrete, etched in bronze, another memory of a fresh faced young kid laughing with his friends in some high school hallway, just a memory and the wind.

They buried Ronnie almost half a lifetime ago and since that day, so many more, so many more.

They will bury Cpl Dixon today, a squad of Marines in attendance, a Chaplain probably, an Officer in Charge and a rifle squad. The bugle will sound taps, and the riflemen will fire three volleys.

The dreadful finality of the crack of the rifles will startle the senses, bring tears to the eyes, and sobs to the throats of most of those in attendance.
The grief will seem unbearable but it will be borne, once again.

And when final notes of the bugle fade, they will leave
and leave behind another soon faded flag, another memory in the wind.

Bob Higgins
Worldwide Sawdust

Two Tribes

A big tip of the hat to Press Esc.

The I-Word

Time for the I-word again.


I'm tired of feeling like a helpless, scared-to-death passenger trapped in the back seat of a speeding car as a boozy, coked-up Bush careens blindly towards the abyss. Melodrama? God help us, I don't think so.

We already have more than enough reasons: Katrina, Iraq, an economy on the edge of bankruptcy, and flat-earth bozos tossing copies of Origin of Species into trash cans. Yadda yadda yadda. It's goddamned terrible. It's gonna take years to fix this shit. But it can get much, much worse. Before January 2009, a lunatic, I-Don-t-Give-A-Fuck Bush still has the time to appoint a Supreme Court justice or two and--ready?--go to war with Iran. Can this country survive World War III? I don't think so.

Melodrama? I don't think so.

Impeachment is the only check and balance we have left, and threatening to use it with no intention of doing so is like waving a cap gun in Tony Soprano's face: it can get you killed.

It's not a political choice anymore. It's survival.

Thankfully, there is a reluctant but ever-growing awareness in the United States about how batshit crazy the bozo in the White House is.

It's the moment in a horror movie when the sneering cynics realize that the monsters are real. This usually happens before they're eaten. (Don't you hate when that happens?)

As the old saying goes, "Nothing focuses a man's mind like an imminent hanging."

Thank the Goddess for enlightened self-interest. It ain't pretty, but it works.

How Lesbian Culture Can Explain BushCo

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

And no, I am not talking about THAT kinda bush.

The premium cable channel Showtime has a show called The L Word, and one character, Alice, has developed a chart to explain the sexual and emotional relationships of the characters on the show.

Well, it just so happens that Alice's chart is a great tool to illustrate who is screwing who over in the Bush Administration. After close examination of this chart, it really does explain my chaffing.


Thanks again to Cannablog and Tengrain


i'm your mamma, i'm your daddy
i'm that nigga in the alley
i'm your doctor, when in need
want some coke, have some weed
you know me, i'm your friend
your main boy, thick and thin
i'm your pusherman
i'm your pusherman

--"Pusherman", by Curtis Mayfield

Doc claims drug exec threats
WASHINGTON -- The controversy surrounding GlaxoSmithKline's diabetes drug Avandia grew yesterday as a medical expert told Congress that executives threatened to sue when he first raised questions in 1999 about the treatment's safety.

Dr. John Buse told lawmakers that after he drew attention to heart problems among some patients using Avandia, SmithKline Beecham, which later combined with GlaxoWellcome, warned him that some executives wanted to hold him accountable for a $4 billion drop in the company's stock.

In a letter to SmithKline distributed at the hearing, Buse wrote: "Please call off the dogs. I cannot remain civilized much longer under this kind of heat."


What a surprise. Accidents happen, huh? I guess you can put Avandia on the list with other deadly pharmaceutical time bombs like DES or Thalidomide. Another "miracle drug" bites the dust.

It isn't as though big-money corporations have never lied to us before. We're talking about the bottom line, after all. Remember when L & M cigarettes were "just what the doctor ordered"?

Billions of dollars and medical problems later, these guys are still telling us the same thing: Trust Us.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Bright Eyes

The great thing about music is that you can never keep up. There will always be someone new and exciting to discover. The guy's name is Conor Oberst (a.k.a. "Bright Eyes"), and if there is any doubt as to how people who don't live in the Beltway or the Fox News TV studio really feel about Bush, just listen to the enthusiastic shouts from the Tonight Show audience when this talented musician performs his incendiary song "When The President Talks To God". Remember, this isn't the "Real Time with Bill Maher" crowd. These are a bunch of regular folks who came to see Jay Leno. Not exactly bomb-tossing radicals.

Thank you, Cannablog.

4th of July Flyer

Bumping this back up top for the 4th.

Demetrius and I put this together a few years ago, and with the 4th rolling around again, I just wanted to mention that we still have it available online.

Print out and distribute this flyer at your Independence Day celebrations. May these quotes serve to remind us all of the ideals and values upon which the United States was founded.

This is what we are celebrating today?

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

I am just saying, we can’t be very independent if we get all our oil from the Middle East and all our manufactured goods from China.

Have a good Fourth of July.

Captain America Is Dead

Captain America is dead.

It’s one of the oldest and most predictable lessons in the comic book “how-to” manual. If a new costume, a different writer/artist team, or a female character suddenly discovering she’s a lesbian doesn’t pump up declining sales, then killing the super-hero is usually what happens next. Ho hum. If the right number of outraged fans make enough noise, then a magical McGuffin is found, and one timely resurrection later, the Corpse In Tights comes back. If not, oh well.

With Captain America, however, I don’t think it’s going to be that simple. It wasn’t just a sniper that killed America's super soldier: It was an identity crisis. Captain America was an anachronism; a heroic relic from WWII who didn't belong in George Bush's America.

The super heroes who matter, the icons who last for decades and sink deep roots into our collective consciousness are primal archetypes that have a singular purpose. There's much more to their existence than gamma rays, a funny green lamp, or a bite from a radioactive spider. They are what the culture needs.

Batman is a ferocious and relentless avenger seeking justice for helpless victims in the lawless streets. Superman represents the power of an America with open borders that freely welcomes refugees fleeing oppressive countries. The idea of Captain America was born during World War II, when the horror of Nazi Germany threatened to transform the planet into a concentration camp.

The lines dividing good and evil were clearly defined then. Captain America knew who the bad guys were. We all did.

But what about now?

Where is Captain America's place in the ugly America of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld? What does Captain America do when he has witnessed a stolen presidential election, 9/11, the swift boating of John Kerry, fraudulent WMDs, Shock and Awe, Abu Grahib, the erosion of habeus corpus, torture, Alberto Gonzales, No Child Left Behind, Enron, "Intelligent Design", the Supreme Court putting out the welcome mat for Jim Crow, and Katrina? In Karl Rove's broken mirror, Captain America would be beating up abortion doctors and appearing on Rush Limbaugh's radio show.

Is it any wonder that the myth of Captain America was lost, confused, and burdened by a bleak sense of irrelevancy? Naturally, as bad as things got for Captain America, it got worse for the United States of America.

As usual, Tristero from Hullaboo nails it. Hard.

“Once Bush stole his way into the White House, America entered a period of decline. Declining influence in the world, declining pre-eminence in science, and declining trust in international affairs. Some of this is normal and some of America's decline is not necessarily such a bad thing. But a lot of it is very bad news indeed. Perhaps the worst decline is that last one I mentioned, trust that the American system will, at the very least, place major checks upon, the megalomania of mentally unstable executives. And here's the nut of the problem:

“Even assuming the next president makes Lincoln look like a log, would you trust this country if you were a foreign leader, knowing that not only had it enabled a George W. Bush to run the show but, worse, never held either him or his administration accountable for its serial crimes and failures? What - you think it's gonna be easy to say it's the dawning of a new era? Y'think the next President can just appeal to multiculturalism and s'plain away Bush? Like "it's just our culture" to let monumentally incompetent and murderous fuck-ups get off scot-free?

“No. Until the Whole Sick Crew of Bushites is held accountable, this country will continue to lose influence and trust. It will mean that life for Americans who deal with other countries - that means all of us, Chucko, 'cause of the importance of our imports - will become increasingly more inconvenient. And the United States on many fronts, will continue to become less secure. It's hard to build alliances with assholes."


Let's not forget, it wasn't specifically Bush that was voted into power, it was what Bush represented. I don’t care how many votes Bush stole; it never should have been that close in the first place. What myopic white people wanted, I think, was for America to stumble backwards into an Utopian Pleasantville, where there were no scary jigaboos, queers, ragheads, or feminazis to worry about. It was a cold, narrow-minded ideology that brutally excluded everyone and everything that gave the United States its unique identity. No, you can't see the "White Only" signs, but we know where they are, and there's more of them every day.

It worked, didn’t it? Lots of Americans voted for it twice.

Now look where we are.

And if we choose not to stop our slow descent into the abyss, then Captain America and the ideals he honored is truly dead. Unlike the comic book hero, the America we used to be so proud of won’t be resurrected. It won’t deserve to.

Happy Fourth of July.

Pardon Me (Part II)

Hat tip to Scrivener's Error.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Up In Smoke

Here's Skippy to remind us that while the traitorous "Scooter" Libby won't spend a hour in jail, a guy who sold pot has been sentenced to 55 years in jail:

Thirty-two months ago, a young marijuana dealer from Salt Lake City named Weldon Angelos was sentenced to 55 years in prison after a paid informant testified that during three drug transactions Angelos wore a gun on an ankle holster.

While no evidence was ever presented regarding the gun, the mere allegation had been enough to turn what would otherwise have been a relatively minor state case into a big-deal federal prosecution. The reason? Under a well-meaning but poorly written provision of the federal code 924(c), if a drug dealer has a gun during the deal serious mandatory penalties kick in. It's a good law when applied to a drug kingpin armed to the hilt with automatic weapons. It's a lousy and expensive law when applied to a low-end street dealer dabbling in a few thousand dollars of marijuana. After all, in a country with over 250m privately owned guns, it's not as if drug dealers have a monopoly on showing up to work armed.

Here comes the new bullshit, same as the old bullshit.

Same as it ever was.

Sending guys who deal pot to die in prison ain't got nothing to do with justice. It doesn't do a damned thing to keep us safer. It keeps rapists, killers, and pedophiles on the streets. But it has everything to do with supporting the penal system in this country, which is one of the most profitable industries in the United States. So lawyers, cops, and judges get to stay busy at our expense.

Dear God. Too bad if you're a cancer patient who prefers smoking a joint to chemo. How does one escape the dreadful weight of such an awful reality? Get drunk. Smoke a carton or two of Camels. Spend a week's paycheck on lottery tickets. Fuck without a condom.

Just don't get high. Medically, it won't kill you, but the stupid laws keeping it illegal will.

Segregation Now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!

Crossposted from Left Toon Lane & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

If the Scooter commutation shows anything, it shows if you are not a Republican, you are a second class citizen. We fought for the last 40 years to wipe segregation from the map and here we have the new segregation within a week of the overturning of Brown Vs. Board of Education.

As BushCo wiped away the separation of powers, they built a separation of ideology. My way or the highway, us against them. If you are not for us, you are against us.

Wake up folks, this is what fascism looks like.

We The People now get to drink from the piss bucket. Ummm minty!


"The President's decision to commute Mr. Libby's sentence is disgraceful. Libby's conviction was the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence and silence critics of the Iraq War. Now, even that small bit of justice has been undone. Judge Walton correctly determined that Libby deserved to be imprisoned for lying about a matter of national security. The Constitution gives President Bush the power to commute sentences, but history will judge him harshly for using that power to benefit his own Vice President's Chief of Staff who was convicted of such a serious violation of law."
--Harry Reid

"The President's commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence does not serve justice, condones criminal conduct, and is a betrayal of trust of the American people. The President said he would hold accountable anyone involved in the Valerie Plame leak case. By his action today, the President shows his word is not to be believed. He has abandoned all sense of fairness when it comes to justice, he has failed to uphold the rule of law, and he has failed to hold his Administration accountable."
--Nancy Pelosi

"Only a president clinically incapable of understanding that mistakes have consequences could take the action he did today. President Bush has just sent exactly the wrong signal to the country and the world. In George Bush's America, it is apparently okay to misuse intelligence for political gain, mislead prosecutors and lie to the FBI. George Bush and his cronies think they are above the law and the rest of us live with the consequences. The cause of equal justice in America took a serious blow today."
--John Edwards

Pardon Me

John Rogers from Kung Fu Monkey is one of those annoying, envy-inducing, Jack-of-All-Trades type of guys who, amazingly, won't piss you off because he's so damned good. Comic book scribe, Hollywood screenwriter, stand-up comedian, and--when he manages to find the time--blogger. Here's John's take on the vile "Scooter" Libby pardon:

We are faced with utterly shameless men. Cheney and the rest are looking our representatives right in the eye and saying "You don't have the balls to take down a government. You don't have the sheer testicular fortitude to call us lying sonuvabitches when we lie, to stop us from kicking the rule of law and the Constitution in the ass. You just don't. What's beyond that abyss -- what that would do to our government and our identity as a nation -- terrifies you too much. So get the fuck out of our way."

And to a great degree, the White House is right. You peel this back, and you reveal that the greatest country in the world has been run, for the last six and a half years, by men who do not give a shit about the Constitution, or fair play, or honesty. No, not just run by corrupt men, or bribe-takers, or adulterers or whatever, we could handle that --no we'd be admitting It Went Wrong.

There is a sizeable population in America that just does not, cannot wrap their head around the fact that the President may be a Bad Man who does Bad Things. He's President of America. We're Americans. We're the good guys. Remember, the Nixon mythos in America is that the system worked. "See, in America, even the President is not above the law."

These Suited Bastards know the fragile shell of American exceptionalism is all that's keeping a whole lot of people from processing that they're working too many hours for not enough money, and they either believe real reeaaaalll hard that they're living in the Shining City on the Hill or admit their lives are shit and they've been chumped.

Who ya gonna believe, me or your lyin' Congress?

I cannot help but think that as Nixon walked to the chopper, somewhere in the darkened hallways of the White House Dick Cheney shook his head, spit, and whispered: "Pussy."

Y'know, these guys think they're so bulletproof right now that a blowjob from a gay hooker dressed like Monica Lewinsky couldn't kick 'em out of office. Lets prove them wrong.

Bush gives Libby "Get Out of Jail Free" card

Howard Dean's statement:

Bush Gives Scooter Libby A Get Out of Jail Free Card

“Once again President Bush and the GOP have undermined a core American value: equal justice under the law for every American. By commuting this sentence, President Bush is sending a clear message that the rules don’t apply to the Bush White House or loyal Republican cronies. After promising that anyone who violated the law would be 'taken care of,' President Bush instead handed Scooter Libby a get out of jail free card. Though Libby was convicted by a jury of lying about a matter of national security, President Bush is sparing him the consequences ordinary Americans would face. This conviction was the first moment of justice in a Bush Administration void of accountability. It’s a sad day for America when the President once again puts protecting his friends ahead of equal justice under the law.”


Years ago, when he used to be funny, Woody Allen said, "No matter how cynical you are, you can't keep up." The Shrub proves Mr. Allen right. Again.

Bush spares convicted aide from jail
President George W. Bush on Monday spared a former aide of Dick Cheney, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, from going to prison, according to a White House official.

Libby had been sentenced to 2 1/2 years for obstructing the CIA leak investigation - a sentence which Bush has now commuted.

The official said Bush 'has commuted the prison sentence ... leaving intact the probation and fines handed down by the court.'

'That means he is not going to jail,' the official said.

Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, was sentenced to prison for lying and obstructing an investigation into who blew the cover of a CIA agent whose husband criticized the Iraq war.

Bush's move came hours after a federal appeals panel ruled Libby could not delay his prison term in the CIA leak case. That meant Libby was likely to have to report to prison soon.

This put new pressure on the president, who had been sidestepping calls by Libby's allies to pardon the former vice presidential aide.

'I respect the jury's verdict,' Bush said in a statement.

'But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.'

Libby was convicted in March of lying to authorities and obstructing the investigation into the 2003 leak of CIA operative's identity.

JUSTICE, n.: A commodity which is a more or less adulterated condition the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.
--Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Group News Blog

The News Blog is gone. R.I.P. Steve.

The Group News Blog is here. Hubris Sonic, Jesse "Doc" Wendel, and Lower Manhattanite doing their rabble-rousing best to make Mr. Gilliard proud.

Go there. Now. Put it on the top of your blogroll. Harass your friends. Torment your enemies. Wake up the indifferent.

Oh Yeah, Fuck The Yankees. (I'm a Yankees fan, but I gotta give my brother Steve his props, hear what I'm sayin'?)


Crossposted from Left Toon Lane & My Left Wing

click to enlarge

My wife and I went to see SiCKO this past Sunday at the 1:30 matinée. The crowd was thin, but it was just as crowded as the theater showing Die Hard.

The film was different from other Michael Moore works as it focused on an issue without a single-person focus such as Roger Smith, George Bush or Charlton Heston - this film had a lot of stars and a lot of sad stories and all of them were tear jerkers. Moore targeted an industry and did it well while managing to crucify both Democrats and Republicans for taking bribes (I call them that) from the health care titans of industry.

My favorite guy was the philosophical older British gentleman who spoke on the power of democracy and I think he made one of the greatest points of the film. Democracy moves the power of government from the rich to the poor and if the poor ever feel disenfranchised, they stop voting - so it is in the interest of the rich to disenfranchise. Leave it to the British to sum up our voting problems here in the former colonies.

Two of the most emotional moments for me were both scenes from Cuba. One of the women who worked on The Pile had severe respiratory problems resulting from her exposure to Ground Zero. Her disability check was about $1000 a month and just one of her inhalers ran close to $100 each - in Cuba, she learned the inhalers were five cents. You could see the pain and elation on her face when she learned the price difference. The other was a woman who had cancer and lost her house due to medical bills. Once she was in her hospital bed, she expressed her gratitude and her utter disbelief over the cost of her treatment - free. You could see her relief of being helped and her frustration of her American health car experience - murder-by-spreadsheet.

What the fuck is wrong with us?

And lastly, in the beginning of the film, where the parents had to move in with their daughter - would it have KILLED the daughter to at least clean up with room where she stuffed her parents? After all, her Dad has had THREE hear attacks and her mother had cancer (mentioned previously). Hadn’t they been through enough without you dumping then in your cramped, junk-filled storeroom?

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Is There Any Light At the End of the Tunnel?

The topic below was originally posted on my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal as well as the Peace Tree.

Typically, I’m not one to post rants. It’s just not my style. Instead I enjoy reading the skilled rants of others. Maryscott O’Connor’s rants on My Left Wing for example are a touchstone for my own emotions about the state of the world. Nobody cuts to the chase like Maryscott.

Another who inspires me is Bob Higgins of Worldwide Sawdust. There is an old cliché that laughing is better than crying and Bob has the singular ability to help me laugh at the absurdity we’re surrounded by on a daily basis.

When it comes to rants I leave it to the professionals and stick to my strengths. Yet today I’m compelled to express my despair and feeling of utter helplessness. The Supreme Court’s recent rulings were a kick in the groin.

Granted, these rulings are hardly a surprise. Electing conservative presidents such as Ronald Reagan or anointing them as was done with George W. Bush has consequences. The Supreme Court is largely why I’ve put my misgivings about the Democratic Party aside and volunteered in efforts to increase voter turnout electing their candidates to the Senate and White House. Sadly, the calamity others and I have warned about and worked so hard to prevent is here.

Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas are hell bent on raping this country of every legal protection it can for consumers, employees and minorities. Chief Justice John Roberts is an affable corporatist who shares their ideology while his written opinions put diplomatic spin on their reactionary crusade. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, the so-called moderate “swing vote,” is straddling the fence between socially tolerant corporatism and corporate fascism.

Liberal Associate Justice John Paul Stevens is eighty-seven years old. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, appointed Associate Justice by President Clinton in 1993 is seventy-four years old. At sixty-nine, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer is no spring chicken. Neither is Associate Justice David Souter at sixty-eight. These aging four represent a disintegrating minority that only occasionally can hope to nudge Justice Kennedy towards judicious sanity. If one of them dies or retires prior to George Bush’s term expiring, the Supreme Court will be lost for a generation – if it isn’t already.

Scalia is an acerbic seventy-one and so is the fence straddling Kennedy. However, the insipid Thomas is only fifty-nine while Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Samuel Alito are fifty-two and fifty-seven respectively. So even if my ideal fantasy candidate were elected president in 2008, chances are the best that could be achieved is replacing aging liberals with younger liberals.

It’s doubtful any ground would be gained, especially if a Democrat were only elected to one term. Perhaps, if a Democrat were elected to two terms, we might have the chance to replace Scalia or Kennedy. As history shows however, Democrats are not elected to two terms very often. And something tells me Scalia is the sort who can eat cheeseburgers and drink heavily until he’s 100.

Meanwhile, the campaign for president is leaving me cold. Hillary Clinton, who didn’t read the National Intelligence Estimate prior to her support of Bush’s war, is waging what I would describe as the “West Coast Offense” campaign. She’s completing short passes down the field, delivering well-crafted sound bites and not taking any chances.

Her chief rival, Senator Barack Obama, is opposing her with a “prevent defense.” He’s allowing her to complete short passes as he drops his linebackers and secondary thirty yards from the line of scrimmage and giving her maximum room. He won’t blitz no matter what the score is and for damn sure he won’t challenge Senator Clinton’s judgment about her failure to do her job properly in 2002-03. And on the issue of impeachment for Bush and Cheney, Obama was quoted in USA Today as saying,

“I think you reserve impeachment for grave, grave breeches, and intentional breeches of the president's authority."

I believe if we began impeachment proceedings we will be engulfed in more of the politics that has made Washington dysfunction. We would once again, rather than attending to the people's business, be engaged in a tit-for-tat, back-and-forth, non-stop circus."
I can understand the argument that impeachment isn’t practical in the time Bush/Cheney have left. I don’t agree with it but I can understand it. But Obama's implying this administration isn’t guilty of grave breaches of authority. With judgment like that why should I regard him as any better than Senator Clinton?

Rhetorically, I prefer Senator John Edwards to the other declared candidates. But I can’t follow all his contortions and contradictions about whether or not he read the National Intelligence Estimate prior to casting the most important vote of his one term in the Senate. Nor do I see a viable savior among Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich or Bill Richardson. Even worse, I don’t believe Americans have a moral problem with the Iraq War. Americans are fed up with Iraq because we’re losing. Ultimately, our leaders reflect each of us.

I know cynicism undermines activism. I hate feeling cynical. It’s like an insidious toxin ravaging my guts. I’ve registered many voters by telling them apathy and cynicism is what the war mongering agents of status quo greed rely on to perpetuate their outrageous rule. Cynicism doesn't wear well with me.

Perhaps I’m just going through a funk. Supposedly this country is becoming more liberal in its attitudes, especially among the young. And we’ve overcome obstacles such as the Great Depression, Adolph Hitler and avoided Armageddon during the Cold War. History is replete with calamities and the sun still rises everyday.

But when I look at the religious fanaticism gripping this country and the world, the globalization predator that promotes slave labor and poverty, the ticking time bomb of global warming and continued genocide in places like Darfur, hope is elusive. Obama wrote about the "Audacity of Hope" and Senator Clinton married the man from Hope but neither inspires it.

I’m not giving up. I’ll probably volunteer through Citizen Action New York in 2008 instead of carrying a partisan party banner. Best to think locally and act globally. Make a difference where I can. But if there is some kind of light at the end of the tunnel I'm not seeing it right now.

Flying from Extinction

Oboy, I read the New York Daily News today:

American bald eagles are back!
Four decades after it teetered on the brink of extinction, the American bald eagle is expected to be removed from the endangered species list today.

The revered national symbol has bounced back so strongly that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service plans to announce it no longer needs stringent protections to thrive.

"It is a man-on-the-moon moment for wildlife," said Doug Inkley of the independent National Wildlife Federation. He credited the 1973 Endangered Species Act with saving the bird.

"This is a great conservation success story," added Michael Daulton of the National Audubon Society. "In addition to being our national symbol, the bald eagle is now a symbol of environmental stewardship as well."

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne will make the announcement at a ceremony near the Jefferson Memorial, a day before a court-directed deadline for his department to decide the eagle's status.

Hunting and the pesticide DDT killed nearly all the bald eagles in the lower 48 states a half century ago.

Just 418 nesting pairs were counted in 1963.

A prohibition on DDT and the passage of wildlife protections worked wonders, and there now are an estimated 10,000 pairs in the U.S. outside Alaska.

Even after today's announcement, it will still be illegal to kill or "disturb" bald eagles or their nests.

Hey, sometimes it's not all bad news all the time.


When Ann Coulter shot John Edwards in the face with the F-word at the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year, it was the slur heard ‘round the world. Surprisingly, it didn’t get the results Coulter hoped for. Her latest “joke” (wishing that Edwards was killed by terrorists), didn’t do so well either. Is Coulter losing her evil mojo? Sheldon Alberts, a reporter from the National Post, explains:

Making vengeance pay
WASHINGTON -She has accused 9/11 widows of enjoying their husbands' deaths, mocked Hillary Clinton for having "chubby little legs" and says Democrats--pretty much by definition--are "the Spawn of Satan."

Ann Coulter's acid-tongued attacks have long infuriated U.S. liberals, but the uber-conservative commentator has finally pushed one hot button too many for Elizabeth Edwards.

The wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has embarked on a campaign to silence Ms. Coulter after the bestselling author told ABC's Good Morning America she hoped the White House contender would be killed by terrorist assassins.

"This is not legitimate political speech," Mrs. Edwards fumed yesterday. "This is speech of hatred and meanness, meant to distract us from the issues."

Earlier in the week, she challenged the columnist when she called MSNBC's Hardball program and "politely" demanded the best-selling author stop making personal attacks on her husband and other Democrats.

But Mrs. Edwards has also taken the anti-Coulter effort to another level -- using it to help drum up political donations for her husband's White House bid.

In e-mails and text messages sent to Mr. Edwards' supporters, the campaign distributed video of Ms. Coulter's Good Morning America appearance along with a request for donations to help meet a US$9-million fundraising goal for the second quarter of 2007.

A similar appeal for "Coulter Cash" raised US$300,000 for Mr. Edwards in March after the right-wing commentator called him a "faggot" during a speech to a conservative political action group.

The appeal for money has triggered accusations Mrs. Edwards' showdown was spurred more by political calculation than moral outrage. The deadline for second-quarter donations is tomorrow.

"Whether there is a real personal animosity between Elizabeth Edwards and Ann Coulter --who knows?" says Mark Rozell, a presidential scholar at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. "But they are exploiting the situation and doing it beautifully.

"As far as the core Democratic constituencies, Ann Coulter is one of the most hated people in this country. This has been a very effective way for the Edwards campaign to raise big cash."


Maybe I’m foolishly choosing to see this vulgar episode through rose-colored pragmatism, but I think there’s a dim silver lining to be found in the mushroom cloud Coulter left behind: It’s seeing how scared Coulter and the rest of the Republican Party is of Edwards. Not Obama. Not Clinton. Edwards.

Let’s put the cards on the table, O.K.? I don’t care how politically incorrect it sounds, but I think that once the gaudy fireworks fades and the smoke clears, the Last Democrat Standing is going to be Edwards. Why? Well, because he’s an articulate, charismatic, intelligent, handsome white man, that’s why. Hallucinating about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as viable presidential candidates is a waste of time, money, energy, and oxygen. Regardless of how loudly the pundits and the pollsters pontificate, a sizable percentage of voters are going to vote for the white guy.

To believe otherwise is dangerous.

Why? Because the Republicans will then run a Trojan Horse Candidate in 2008, a handsome, well-spoken "moderate" white guy that the other white guys can feel good about. Romney? He’s not African-American. Giuliani? He’s not female. That’ll be good enough for all the undecided voters, fence-sitters, bigots, and the Republicans hiding in the closet of the Democratic Party. But not for us and the rest of America. Eight years of Bush is too long. Another four years of Bush Lite isn't what this country needs.

Hopefully, it looks like John and Elizabeth Edwards have finally learned that turning the other cheek is a stupid idea, especially in the violent, barbed-wire arena of politics. Good. That's how you win elections.