Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Hershey's Kiss-Off

foilhats_170 Something for all you conspiracy buffs out there:

Remember Popular Science? Seems some whiz kids at MIT have concerns about that classic home remedy of schizophrenics everywhere, the tinfoil hat:
"What started strictly as “a desire to play with some expensive equipment” ended with surprising results, says lead study author Ali Rahimi, a recent graduate of MIT’s doctoral program in electrical engineering and computer science. Overall, the foil effectively weakened radio waves by up to 10 decibels over most of the frequency spectrum (there were no significant differences among helmet shapes). But at 1.2 and 2.6 GHz—which fall within the band reserved for government satellites, GPS systems and mobile phone corporations—passage through the foil amplified these waves by 20 to 30 decibels. Although Rahimi doesn’t know why the foil increases only those frequencies—antenna design is a “black art,” he says—the implications of the research were clear. “It requires no stretch of the imagination to conclude that the current helmet craze is likely to have been propagated by the Government, possibly with the involvement of the FCC,” the students sagely declared. “If there are radio waves involved in reading minds, aluminum hats aren’t an effective way to counteract them."
So use of the tinfoil hat actually makes you more visible to the government.

It's a joke....or is it? (Cue Twilight Zone soundtrack.)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I Want to Live I Want to Live I Want to Live

grave14Last Memorial Day I posted what is to me probably the most shattering polemic against war I've ever read, and in light of the fact that this damned war looks as if it will be going on ad nauseum for years to come, a repeat post of an excerpt of "Johnny Got His Gun" by Dalton Trumbo seems in order. We never seem to get enough of death, do we? So long as we can sanctify it with our bullshit about freedom and liberty, we never have to look to closely at the inherent stupidity and hypocrisy behind the cheerleading. We never have to question the piss-poor results of our recurring global barroom brawls, because we hide behind the deaths of those who went out and killed for us, and use their sacrifices to shut down any and all objections. "How can you call into question the noble dying done by men (and now women) who threw themselves on the grenade of terrorism so you could live freely and complain about it?" This is the coward's way of avoiding confrontation. Those noble dead aren't talking. It's the easiest, sleaziest thing in the world to put words in their defenseless mouths. We do not honor them by perpetuating this wrongful war...we only ensure the deaths of more like them, and for nothing.
"He thought here you are Joe Bonham lying like a side of beef all the rest of your life and for what? Somebody tapped you on the shoulder and said come along son we're going to war. So you went.
But why? In any other deal even like buying a car or running an errand you had the right to say what's there in it for me? Otherwise you'd be buying bad cars for too much money or running errands for fools and starving to death. It was a kind of duty you owed yourself that when anybody said come on son do this or do that you should stand up and say look mister why should I do this for who am I doing it and what am I going to get out of it in the end? But when a guy comes along and says here come with me and risk your life and maybe die or be crippled why then you've got no rights. You haven't even the right to say yes or no or I'll think it over. There are plenty of laws to protect guys' money even in war time but there's nothing on the books says a man's life's his own.
Of course a lot of guys were ashamed. Somebody said let's go out and fight for liberty and so they went and got killed without ever once thinking about liberty. And what kind of liberty were they fighting for anyway? How much liberty and whose idea of liberty? Were they fighting for the liberty of eating free ice cream cones all their lives or for the liberty of robbing anybody they pleased whenever they wanted to or what? You tell a man he can't rob and you take away some of his liberty. You've got to. What the hell does liberty mean anyhow? It's just a word like house or table or any other word. Only it's a special kind of word. A guy says house and he can point to a house to prove it. But a guy says come on let's fight for liberty and he can't show you liberty. He can't prove the thing he's talking about so how in the hell can he be telling you to fight for it?
No sir anybody who went out and got into the front line trenches to fight for liberty was a goddamn fool and the guy who got him there was a liar. Next time anybody came gabbling to him about liberty- what did he mean next time? There wasn't going to be any next time for him. But the hell with that. If there could be a next time and somebody said let's fight for liberty he would say mister my life is important. I'm not a fool and when I swap my life for liberty I've got to know in advance what liberty is and whose idea of liberty we're talking about and just how much of that liberty we're going to have. And what's more mister are you as much interested in liberty as you want me to be? And maybe too much liberty will be as bad as too little liberty and I think you're a goddamn fourflusher talking through your hat and I've already decided that I like the liberty I've got right here the liberty to walk and see and hear and talk and eat and sleep with my girt I think I like that liberty better than fighting for a lot of things we won't get and ending up without any liberty at all. Ending up dead and rotting before my life is even begun good or ending up like a side of beef. Thank you mister. You fight for liberty. Me I don't care for some.
Hell's fire guys had always been fighting for liberty. America fought a war for liberty in 1776. Lots of guys died. And in the end does America have any more liberty than Canada or Australia who didn't fight at all? Maybe so I'm not arguing I'm just asking. Can you look at a guy and say he's an American who fought for his liberty and anybody can see he's a very different guy from a Canadian who didn't? No by god you can't and that's that. So maybe a lot of guys with wives and kids died in 1776 when they didn't need to die at all. They're dead now anyway. Sure but that doesn't do any good. A guy can think of being dead a hundred years from now and he doesn't mind it. But to think of being dead tomorrow morning and to be dead forever to be nothing but dust and stink in the earth is that liberty?
They were always fighting for something the bastards and if anyone dared say the hell with fighting it's all the same each war is like the other and nobody gets any good out of it why they hollered coward. If they weren't fighting for liberty they were fighting for independence or democracy or freedom or decency or honor or their native land or something else that didn't mean anything. The war was to make the world safe for democracy for the little countries for everybody. If the war was over now then the world must be all safe for democracy. Was it? And what kind of democracy? And how much? And whose?
Then there was this freedom the little guys were always getting killed for. Was it freedom from another country? Freedom from work or disease or death? Freedom from your mother-in-law? Please mister give us a bill of sale on this freedom before we go out and get killed. Give us a bill of sale drawn up plainly so we know in advance what we're getting killed for and give us also a first mortgage on something as security so we can be sure after we've won your war that we've got the same kind of freedom we bargained for.
And take decency. Everybody said America was fighting a war for the triumph of decency. But whose idea of decency? And decency for who? Speak up and tell us what decency is. Tell us how much better a decent dead man feels that an indecent live one. Make a comparison there in facts like houses and tables. Make it in words we can understand. And don't talk about honor. The honor of a Chinese or an Englishman or an African negro or an American or a Mexican? Please all you guys who want to fight to preserve our honor let us know what the hell honor is. Is it American honor for the whole world we're fighting for? Maybe the world doesn't like it. Maybe the South Sea Islanders like their honor better.
For Christ sake give us things to fight for we can see and feel and pin down and understand. No more highfalutin words that mean nothing like native land. Motherland fatherland homeland native land. It's all the same. What the hell good to you is your native land after you're dead? Whose native land is it after you're dead? If you get killed fighting for your native land you've bought a pig in a poke. You've paid for something you'll never collect.
And when they couldn't hook the little guys into fighting for liberty or freedom or democracy or independence or decency or honor they tried the women. Look at the dirty Huns they would say look at them how they rape the beautiful French and Belgian girls. Somebody's got to stop all that raping. So come on little au' join the army and save the beautiful French and Belgian girls. So the little guy got bewildered and he signed up and in a little while a shell hit him and his life spattered out of him in red meat pulp and ho was dead. Dead for another word and all the fierce old bats of the D.A.R. get out and hurrah themselves hoarse over his grave because he died for womanhood.
Now it might be that a guy would risk getting killed if his women were being raped. But if he did why he was only striking a bargain. He was simply saying that according to the way he felt at the time the safety of his women was worth more than his own life. But there wasn't anything particularly noble or heroic about it. It was a straight deal his life for something he valued more. It was more or less like any other deal a man might make. But when you change your women to all the women in the world why you begin to defend women in the bulk. To do that you have to fight in the bulk. And by that time you're fighting for a word again.
When armies begin to move and flags wave and slogans pop up watch out little guy because it's somebody else's chestnuts in the fire not yours. It's words you're fighting for and you're not making an honest deal your life for something better. You're being noble and after you're killed the thing you traded your life for won't do you any good and chances are it won't do anybody else any good either.
Maybe that's a bad way to think. There are lots of idealists around who will say have we got so low that nothing is more precious than life? Surely there are ideals worth fighting for even dying for. If not then we are worse than the beasts of the field and have sunk into barbarity. Then you say that's all right let's be barbarous just so long as we don't have war. You keep your ideals just as long as they don't cost me my life. And they say but surely life isn't as important as principle. Then you say oh no? Maybe not yours but mine is. What the hell is principle? Name it and you can have it.
You can always hear the people who are willing to sacrifice somebody else's life. They're plenty loud and they talk all the time. You can find them in churches and schools and newspapers and legislatures and congress. That's their business. They sound wonderful. Death before dishonor. This ground sanctified by blood. These men who died so gloriously.
They shall not have died in vain. Our noble dead.
But what do the dead say?
Did anybody ever come back from the dead any single one of the millions who got killed did any one of them ever come back and say by god I'm glad I'm dead because death is always better than dishonor? Did they say I'm glad I died to make the world safe for democracy] Did they say I like death better than losing liberty? Did any of them ever say it's good to think I got my guts blown out for the honor of my country? Did any of them ever say look at me I'm dead but I died for decency and that's better than being alive? Did any of them ever say here I am and I've been rotting for two years in a foreign grave but it's wonderful to die for your native land? Did any of them say hurray I died for womanhood and I'm happy see how I sing even though my mouth ~ choked with worms?
Nobody but the dead know whether all these things people talk a;bout are worth dying for or not. And the dead can't talk. So the words about noble deaths and sacred blood and honor and such are all put into dead lips by grave robbers and fakes who have no right to speak for the dead. If a man says death before dishonor he is either a fool or a liar because he doesn't know what death is. He isn't able to judge. He only knows about living. He doesn't know anything about dying. If he is a fool and believes in death before dishonor let him go ahead and die. But all the little guys who are too busy to fight should be left alone. And all the guys who say death before dishonor is pure bull the important thing is life before death they should be left alone too. Because the guys who say life isn't worth living without some principle so important you're willing to die for it they are all nuts. And the guys who say you'll see there'll come a time you can't escape you're going to have to fight and die because it'll mean your very life why they are also nuts. They are talking like fools. They are saying that two and two make nothing. They are saying that a man will have to die in order to protect his life. If you agree to fight you agree to die. Now if you die to protect your life you aren't alive anyhow so how is there any sense in a thing like that? A man doesn't say I will starve myself to death to keep from starving. He doesn't say I will spend all my money in order to save my money. He doesn't say I will burn my house down in order to keep it from burning. Why then should he be willing to die for the privilege of living There ought to be at least as much common sense about living and dying as there is about going to the grocery store and buying a loaf of bread.
And all the guys who died all the five million or seven million or ten million who went out and died to make the world safe for democracy to make the world safe for words without meaning how did they feel about it just before they died? How did they feel as they watched their blood pump out into the mud? How did they feel when the gas hit their lungs and began eating them all away? How did they feel as they lay crazed in hospitals and looked death straight in the face and saw him come and take them? I! the thing they were fighting for was important enough to die for then it was also important enough for them to be thinking about it in the last minutes of their lives. That stood to reason. Life is awfully important so if you've given it away you'd ought to think with all your mind in the last moments of your life about the thing you traded it for. So did all those kids die thinking of democracy and freedom and liberty and honor and the safety of the home and the stars and stripes forever?
You're goddamn right they didn't.
They died crying in their minds like little babies. They forgot the thing they were fighting for the things they were dying for. They thought about things a man can understand. They died yearning for the face of a friend. They died whimpering for the voice of a mother a father a wife a child They died with their hearts sick for one more look at the place where they were born please god just one more look. They died moaning and sighing for life. They knew what was important They knew that life was everything and they died with screams and sobs. They died with only one thought in the* minds and that was I want to live I want to live I want to live.
He ought to know.
He was the nearest thing to a dead man on earth.
He was a dead man with a mind that could still think. He knew all the answers that the dead knew and couldn't think about. He could speak for the dead because he was one of them. He was the first of all the soldiers who had died since the beginning of time who still had a brain left to think with. Nobody could dispute with him. Nobody could prove him wrong. Because nobody knew but he.
He could tell all these high-talking murdering sonsofbitches who screamed for blood just how wrong they were. He could tell them mister there's nothing worth dying for I know because I'm dead.
There's no word worth your life. I would rather work in a coal mine deep under the earth and never see sunlight and eat crusts and water and work twenty hours a day. I would rather do that than be dead. I would trade democracy for life. I would trade independence and honor and freedom and decency for life. I will give you all these things and you give me the power to walk and see and hear and breathe the air and taste my food. You take the words. Give me back my life. I'm not asking for a happy life now. I'm not asking for a decent life or an honorable life or a free life. I'm beyond that. I'm dead so I'm simply asking for life. To live. To feel. To be something that moves over the ground and isn't dead. I know what death is and all you people who talk about dying for words don't even know what life is.
There's nothing noble about dying. Not even if you die for honor. Not even if you die the greatest hero the world ever saw. Not even if you're so great your name will never be forgotten and who's that great? The most important thing is your life little guys. You're worth nothing dead except for speeches. Don't let them kid you any more. Pay no attention when they tap you on the shoulder and say come along we've got to fight for liberty or whatever their word is there's always a word.
Just say mister I'm sorry I got no time to die I'm too busy and then turn and run like hell. If they say coward why don't pay any attention because it's your job to live not to die. If they talk about dying for principles that are bigger than life you say mister you're a liar Nothing is bigger than life There's nothing noble in death. What s noble about lying in the ground and rotting. What's noble about never seeing the sunshine again? What's noble about having your legs and arms blown off? What's noble about being an idiot? What's noble about being blind and deaf and dumb? What's noble about being dead. Because when you're dead mister it's all over. It's the end. You're less than a dog less than a rat less than a bee or an ant less than a white maggot crawling around on a dungheap. You're dead mister and you died for nothing.
You're dead mister. Dead."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Alert the Media: Families Living Together!

Thanks to the booming economy, high wages, and the growing job market, families discover one another again---in the bathroom, the basement, the attic, over the garage, and in that room they thought they had converted to a den. In almost any other country in the world this would be a real yawner, the equivalent of the Times blatting "Televisions Now Found In Every Household!" But here, in the land of the endless conservative kvetch to return to the nuclear household of the 50's suburbs, the concept of families even seeing each other every day, let alone living together, is looked on as aberration.

But fret not, Ayn Randys. If George and Grover's economic "family values" project maintains its momentum, can a return to the nostalgic days of Jacob Riis and those extra-cozy walk-ups full of family members and more be far behind?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Sick of the Flapjacks of Sorrow (or, Who Dealt This Mess Anyway?)

(Thanks for all the kind words. We are getting better. Strangely, in the last week and a half, 3 of us at my office have been in serious car accidents, and 2 of us totalled our cars. I'm not much up for writing, but the song below came careening out of my past and into my head as I was reading the news this evening, and I just wanted to see it on my page.)

Over at Political Animal, Christina Larson posts an anthropological note on The National Review's determination to give Republican meaning to the odd pop lyric:
"Courtesy of The National Review, John J. Miller has sifted through NRO readers' suggestions for "The 50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs" and picked some winners. "
These evidently include such RNC-stoppers as Aerosmith's "Janie's Got A Gun".

no-more-slavery-lgThis is pure hokum. Reactionary cool? Please. The real conservative theme song sounds more like "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" ("You still think you can control them?"). Rock should be revolutionary on at least some level, and no one ever fit that bill better than The Fugs. And few songs match the zeitgeist of this sorry age like my favorite Fugs' song, "Wide Wide River". Roll on and weep:
"River of shit, River of shit
Flow on, flow on, river of shit
Right from my toes,
On up to my nose
Flow on, flow on, river of shit
I've been swimming iIn this river of shit
More than 20 years and I'm getting tired of it
Don't like swimming, hope it'll run dry
Got to go on swimming, cause I don't want to die.
Oh I can feel another 1000 years Of the flapjacks of Sorrow! Unless!
Unless we make 2000 A.D.!
2000 A.D. Our glorious deadline
A glorious deadline to make the World a better place!
Or else the flapjacks of sorrow Are going to slide down our throats
Slide down our throats For another millenium
Of pain and war and oppression
And all our children's children's children's children's children children
Shall have to wade and to swim In the same grim river In which we now swim
Sing along with us
Sing sing sing sing sing sing sing sing!

(Repeat first verse, or, as it was originally done on the album:)

River of shit, river of shit
Flow on, flow on, river of shit
Right from my toes
On up to my nose
Flow on on, flow on, river of shit
I've been swimming in this river of shit
More than 20 years and I'm gettin' tired of it
Don't like swimming, hope it'll soon run dry
Got to keep swimming, 'cuz I don't want to die
Who dealt this mess, anyway?
Yeah, that's an old card player's term,
But sometimes you can use the old switch-a-roo
And it can be applied to frontal politics.
What I mean is, who was it that set up a system,
Supposedly a democratic system, where you end up
Always votin' for the lesser o' two evils?
I mean, was George Washington the lesser of two evils?
Sometimes I wonder.
Ya got some guy that says,
"For god's sake we got to stop havin' violence in this country",
While he's spendin' sixteen thousand dollars a second... snuffin' gooks.
River of shit, river of shit
River of shit, river of shit
(Big brown river!)
Flow on, flow on, river of shit
(Yeah! Bigger than hell! And wealth and prosperity to every
man woman and child)
River of shit
Flow on"
No more slavery!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

More Down Time

Been in a car accident. Out of commission for a bit.

Update: Below are some shots of our now totalled car. I was riding in the passenger's seat/ We were hit in the left rear quarter panel as we crossed a city intersection, on a green light, on our way to our Wednesday night peace vigil. The damage to the driver's side doesn't look so bad here, but the guy who hit us left a chuck of his bumper in our tire:
sm_Wrecked Trooper 17 May 004
According to people who saw what happened, our car was lifted up and rolled over onto its right side, then skidded across the intersection into a fence.
sm_Wrecked Trooper 17 May 007
I was braced against the ceiling as the road slid past me a few inches away, and I heard the glass shatter.
sm_Wrecked Trooper 17 May 012
They took us to the ER by ambulance. More later.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

idollarFederal minimum wage: $5.15 hr.

Kansas minimum wage: $2.65 hr.! (We finally know what's the matter with Kansas...they're lost in a time warp.)

Minimum wage for Afghan mercenaries in exchange for their promise not to like bin Laden: $3.12 to $6.25

Enough irony to freeze that sneer on your face for posterity? Priceless.

Just so we're clear on this: we’re willing to pay aliens who hate us (and will betray us just as they did their neighbors during the last lucrative turkey shoot) more money than we’re willing to pay our own people to accomplish needed tasks and fuel the economy here in the U.S.

Because Christ knows, $7.25 an hour is going to break us, isn't it?

Monday, May 15, 2006

This World of Creepers

Art Spiegelman, author of Maus, has an essay in Harper's this month titled "Drawing Blood", on the Danish cartoon bushwa and the bizarre monkey-see monkey-riot fallout it evinced. It's a nice piece, but I will be forever indebted to him for his introduction in it of the ARTyoungsocialist cartoonist Art Young, whose work has an incredible ferocity and vibrance that still resonates. On the first page of the essay is a color reproduction of one of Young's cartoons circa 1907, "This World of Creepers", which shows a mass of sepia-clad worrywarts cringing on hands and knees as they crawl across the landscape, wind blowing up a darkling sky, dead tree in the background, and the single word "Fear" etched over their cowering heads. The caption reads:

"Afraid of themselves, and of others, afraid of the Almighty, of life, and of death."

Yeah. That's us.

Below is another of his works, for the early 20th century magazine "The Masses." It shows a male ape with a newspaper on which the headline "War" is prominent, telling his wife:
"Mother, never let me hear you tell the children that these humans are descendants of ours."

And even though it's not one of his, here's another one from "The Masses" circa 1916, that seems especially relevant in these days of right-wing religious zealots and war-loving McCarthyites. The artist is Boardman Robinson, and the title is "The Deserter":

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mother's Day Sentmentality

kitten7Thank you,

And thanks for the encouragement to the inimitable Jackie Chiles. Hope Mama Chiles is doing well, too.

The Great Eye, Having Opened, Will Never Blink

One of the most impressive (and important) posts ever. Follow every link, and every link inside every link. You can't afford not to know any of it.

Friday, May 12, 2006

United Slaves of America

63% of Americans said they had no objection to being probed anally by government sniffer machines if it meant the security of the United States would be ensured, including 44% who said they would volunteer for surgical castration to prevent terrorists from watching American TV.

slae of slavesA slightly larger majority--66%--said that allowing National Security agents to slowly roast their first-born children in front of their eyes was an acceptable way to prevent terrorism, and 65% said it was more important to let George Bush burn the Declaration of Independence and shove the Constitution up John Conyers' butt "for just a little while" than to selfishly hang on to their pitiful last shreds of privacy and freedom, "even if it intrudes on privacy."

51% said that Bush was such a scary guy that they would gladly agree to live under the interstate overpass and let Alberto Gonzales have their homes to house shock troops in, as long as they were allowed to have a bathroom break once a day.

Only 28% said they would rather breathe in ricin fumes than to give George Bush one more undeserved day of occupation in the Oval Office, and less than 17% could remember the definition of the word "democracy".

A total of 502 randomly selected brain-damaged adults were interviewed Thursday night for this survey.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Mother's Work Is Never Done

7152521014Dying, for instance. Turns out it wasn't the abortion pill after all:
"A rare germ that killed four California women who took the abortion pill RU-486 has been implicated in the deaths of even more women after childbirth or miscarriage, broadening the debate beyond abortion on the eve of a meeting to examine the bacterial mystery.

While the abortion link has grabbed the most attention, Clostridium sordellii has killed at least 11 other women, women's health experts said in interviews. That's more than twice as many as have died of infection after taking the abortion pill, also called Mifeprex or mifepristone.

The numbers suggest the bacterium's threat, while still limited, could be broader than previously thought."
Women have been dying from this bug after giving birth, because pregnancy suppresses the immune system and allows such opportunistic infections easier access. One even died after she contracted the infection during her menstrual period. Perhaps the anti-choice movement would like to outlaw periods, too. And childbirth? Well, there's a reason that the only non-warriors the Aztecs let into their best heaven were women who died in childbirth:
"The maternal mortality rate for Black women (22.0 per 100,000 live births) is almost three times the rate for White women (7.5 per 100,000 live births)."
But don't let that deter the uberplan for forced conception running amuck in the fevered brains of the Religious Right. Not when Nicolae Ceausescu set such a beautiful example, and with such stunning results.

And when a mother isn't dying herself, she's watching her children die:
"Although the newborn mortality rate in the United States has fallen in recent decades, it is still higher than most other
industrialized nations – 2.5 times that of Finland, Iceland and Norway, and about three times higher than the newborn mortality rate of Japan...

A recent study found U.S. newborn death rates are highest among minorities, even when mothers have early and equal access to prenatal care. Compared with the white population, all minority races (black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian) have higher rates of newborn mortality. The odds of newborn infants dying, after all other risk factors were taken into account, were 3.4 times higher in blacks, 1.5 times higher in Hispanics, and 1.9 times higher for races other than whites...

The United States is tied for second-to-last place with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia (in all five countries, there are 5 newborn deaths per 1,000 live births)."
And this isn't new. In 1970 we were bemoaning our ranking at 15th in the world, but that was before we had fallen to 33rd by 2003.

lange_migrant_motherNow, you might be starting to feel the itch of guilt here, knowing the wealth we have at our fingertips, and the magnificent infrastructure of state-of-the-art medical care. But don't worry. Because Mom's here for you, to do what she does best of all---take the blame (click "Comments"):
"Could it be that the U.S. has more idiot mothers who don't bother to read up on proper pre-natal nutrition? Or more mothers that drink and do drugs?"
or this:
"Two major contributing factors to low birthweight babies are:
1) teenage mothers
2) drugs and alcohol
Another factor may be the unwillingness or inability to comprehend and utilize prenatal services that are available.
I concur on the statistical differences, the application of heroic measures with newborns is very aggressive here."
Because this is the land of personal responsibility, aka "Blame Yourself First". Mercury in the water? Too stressful living in a dangerous neighborhood? Poisons in your FDA-approved food? Your own damn fault! _1920764_1995150So don't come whining around the servant's entrance complaining about your low birth weight problems or your chromosomal abnormalities, when you should've just gotten off your ass and earned a M.B.A. and a 6-figure income. Then you could have HAD your precious health insurance.

But what we fail to spend for affordable, available health care, we surely make up in billions for database mining. That's the compassionate conservative, get-government-off-your-back, Texanomics way.

Thanks a lot, Bar. You mother.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

In Honor of Mom

Phrase of the week will definitely be:"It's a good way to get lipids."

Freud Was Right!

Since tristero has a bit up over at Hullabaloo about this as the vaccine is coming up for FDA approval, I dredged this piece up that I posted last year at corrente on the same subject. People just don't get it. It's not about saving lives. It's not about preventing pregnancies and abortions. It's about making sure that society equates sex with death, about making sure the ultimate expression of life gets warped into a dance of death, so that people will stop having it. dead womenAnd though tristero seems to think this equation is only supposed to hold till people get married, the fact is that the religious right's push to criminalize contraception extends to the marriage bed, where every sex act should be potentially procreative, and if you don't want pregnancy, your only option is---wait for it---abstinence! And since childbirth is still the leading cause of death among the earth's women, you can see how the equation of sex with death holds even up to the reproduction of life.

What is it about this desert god that makes it's adherents hate life so much?

May 5, 2005

It's An Epidemic

Thanks to the heads up from alert reader yank in london, who in comments at my last post provided a link to New Scientist on the upcoming HPV vaccine that will prevent most cervical cancers, we read this:
"The trouble is that the human papilloma virus (HPV) is sexually transmitted. So to prevent infection, girls will have to be vaccinated before they become sexually active, which could be a problem in many countries.
In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.
"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex," Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus."
As mentioned, to be effective the vaccine will have to be given to girls just before they are sexually active, and the best age for this is believed to be about 12 years old. This creates two problems in the puritanical/patriarchal mind: giving the vaccine could be perceived as giving permission to have sex, and getting it would impugn a girl's purity prior to marriage.

This was actually anticipated back in November in an article in November's Technology Review, that quoted spokeswomen from the Abstinence Clearinghouse, Concerned Women For America, and Family Research Council. And from them we get the usual reasoned, fair, and logical arguments we've come to expect:
"This thing is motivated by money as usual—and in a worldview that not everyone subscribes to,” says Leslee Unruh, founder of the Abstinence Clearinghouse. Unruh believes that abstinence-only sexual education offers a better approach to preventing the spread of all sexually transmitted diseases. Other Christian values groups, such as Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council, echo her point of view.
"We know that there is what could easily be called an epidemic of HPV infection, and that needs to be taken seriously,” says Pia de Solenni, an ethicist who serves as director of life and women's issues at the Family Research Council. “However, our concern would be that [a vaccine] really isn't comprehensive, especially when you're talking about administering it to 12-year-olds. It's important to focus on abstinence.” Abstinence, Solenni notes, would prevent not just HPV, but an array of other sexually transmitted infections, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV.
Many find the idea of incorporating the vaccine into school-entry requirements particularly troubling. “We need to look at this with a serious moral perspective and talk about it some more instead of just imposing it on every parent and every child,” says Wendy Wright, senior policy director of Concerned Women for America . “We're not saying don't make this vaccine available.” But, she adds, giving the vaccine at an early age sends a message. “What they've done is told this 12-year-old, ‘You can now become sexually active,'” she says. “Perhaps they could adjust this vaccine so that it could be taken at a later age.” Solenni concurs, saying that although she still wouldn't endorse it, the vaccine would best be offered only to people who are at least 18 years old. The only form of prevention she supports is abstinence from any sex outside marriage."
What a fucked up world. This is a VACCINE, assholes, not a diaphragm! It's supposed to save their lives!! It's like a polio shot, fools!

Can't somebody do something about the rampant stupidity infecting this country? Isn't there a vaccine fot that?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Horse Sense and High Spirits

Below is a re-post of an old favorite, in honor of the upcoming Derby: the only place where you'll find more horses' asses than the Bush administration. In the meantime, get behind the support for passage of H.R. 503 and S. 1915, The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which is coming up for a vote soon. Even Kentucky Derby winners can be used up and slaughtered. These noble animals deserve better from us.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Mint Julep Blogging

In honor of the venerable Kentucky Derby, I offer you Mint Julep Blogging Friday,top_mint_julep and a little something to go with--a story on making the perfect julep, and a recipe for it as well. First, the recipe:

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water (branch water is ideal)
Fresh Mint
Crushed Ice
Kentucky bourbon (2 ounces per serving)

Make a simple mint syrup by boiling sugar and water together for 5 minutes; cool. (This recipe makes enough syrup for 44 juleps.) Place in a covered container with 6 or 8 bruised mint sprigs. Refrigerate overnight.
Make a julep by filling a julep cup or glass with crushed ice well-packed into the cup, then adding 1 tablespoon of mint syrup and 2 ounces of bourbon. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost outside of cup or glass. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig and a straw cut short enough so that you almost bury your nose in the mint as you sip.

And now, the story, from a 1937 letter at the Buckner Family website:

"Go to a spring where cool, crystal-clear water bubbles from under a bank of dew-washed ferns. In a consecrated vessel, dip up a little water at the source. Follow the stream through its banks of green moss and wildflowers until it broadens and trickles through beds of mint growing in aromatic profusion and waving softly in the summer breezes. Gather the sweetest and tenderest shoots and gently carry them home. Go to the sideboard and select a decanter of Kentucky Bourbon, distilled by a master hand, mellowed with age yet still vigorous and inspiring. An ancestral sugar bowl, a row of silver goblets, some spoons and some ice and you are ready to start.

In a canvas bag, pound twice as much ice as you think you will need. Make it fine as snow, keep it dry and do not allow it to degenerate into slush.

In each goblet, put a slightly heaping teaspoonful of granulated sugar, barely cover this with spring water and slightly bruise one mint leaf into this, leaving the spoon in the goblet. Then pour elixir from the decanter until the goblets are about one-fourth full. Fill the goblets with snowy ice, sprinkling in a small amount of sugar as you fill. Wipe the outsides of the goblets dry and embellish copiously with mint.

Then comes the important and delicate operation of frosting. By proper manipulation of the spoon, the ingredients are circulated and blended until Nature, wishing to take a further hand and add another of its beautiful phenomena, encrusts the whole in a glittering coat of white frost. Thus harmoniously blended by the deft touches of a skilled hand, you have a beverage eminently appropriate for honorable men and beautiful women.

When all is ready, assemble your guests on the porch or in the garden, where the aroma of the juleps will rise Heavenward and make the birds sing. Propose a worthy toast, raise the goblet to your lips, bury your nose in the mint, inhale a deep breath of its fragrance and sip the nectar of the gods.

Being overcome by thirst, I can write no further."
Me, too.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Michelle Milliken Will Say Anything

It's getting pretty bad when you have to make a formal statement that you find invading people's private space objectionable. "I vow that I find splashing someone's home address and phone number across the public square for harassment purposes objectionable, and that I will not torment anyone's family no matter how much I despise their ethics." What an act of self-discipline.

What's not so funny is that we feel impelled to get behind it. Because the prevailing culture of late has been so shamelessly heartless.

Oh, sign on, if only to remind yourself that once upon a time, we at least believed we were basically decent people.

But It Would Be Wrong

Posted below this one is a piece I wrote last August after learning of the Philadelphia School District's plan to utilize the curriculum tools of K12, a company whose Chairman at the time was Bill Bennett, renowned high roller and boo-hooer over the spilt milk of America's morals. I'm re-posting it for the only good reason any self-respecting blogger reposts anything: to say "I told you so".71489

Old Bill kind of shot himself in the foot last August on that ignoramus-pleasing babblefest "Morning in America"with one of those little psuedo-Socratic bon mots he's become so famed for. You remember:
""If you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down."
Or your ratings. This did not wow them in Philly:
"K12 Inc., the science-curriculum company whose founder, former education secretary William J. Bennett, drew fire last fall for suggesting that aborting black babies would reduce crime, is on the verge of losing its $3 million contract with the School District of Philadelphia...A high-ranking school district source confirmed that SRC Chairman James Nevels "is strongly inclined not to renew the K12 contract."

Nevels, in an interview, had said because the contract is expiring this year, it can be terminated without resulting in a financial loss to the district.

That was not the case last September when Bennett, the former cabinet secretary, made the controversial abortion remarks on his syndicated radio show, "Morning in America...In response to Bennett's remarks, Philadelphia parents and community activists demanded that the school district sever ties with K12, which Bennett co-founded in 1999 and had continued to serve as chairman of the board.

On Nov. 9 when the reform commission voted 3-2 to retain the contract, a near-riot erupted and security officers had to whisk the commission members and schools Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas from their meeting room..."
Yes, we do "whisking" real good here in Philly. We so often have the need.

But I digress. As Earl would probably say, Karma had other plans for K12. Get yourself some context below, and comfort yourself in knowing that once, just once in awhile, even if it's by accident, justice triumphs.

August 21, 2005

If Thinking Is The Best Way To Travel, We Are A Nation Of Stay-At-Homes

Animal%20021%20-%20turkeys According to the most recent on-line edition of The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, Sheila Simmons writes:
”The Philadelphia School District’s unexpected decision to award a major contract for curriculum materials to K12 Inc., a company chaired by a former U.S. education secretary, has some science educators wondering why this controversial but politically influential firm got the deal...

K12 board chair William J. (“Bill”) Bennett, now a conservative talk show host, served as Secretary of Education under Ronald Reagan. The company’s senior vice president of education and policy is former Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Charles Zogby, a key architect of the state takeover of Philadelphia schools.”
As usual when something like this gets forcefed into a school system, the district's science teachers were the last to know, let alone have their opinions considered. Furthermore, for most of them it was an unknown quantity with little national recognition, which seemed to fly in the face of one of the guidelines for acceptance, that “materials selected have received national recognition and approval for their excellence.” Very few people in the field contacted by Simmons had even heard of the company: experts in the field seemed baffled at best, damning at worst. Said David L. Smith, director of professional development at the Da Vinci Discovery Center of Science and Technology in Bethlehem:
“The portion of a sample earth science lesson that I looked (at) on their web site was of very low cognitive demand, contained no inquiry at all, was oriented toward shallow factual content rather than deep conceptual understanding, and contained numerous errors of fact.”
Of course, I would never suggest that District CEO Paul Vallas' history with Bill Bennett, and Bennett's recommendation of Vallas for Secretary of Education that positioned him as runner-up to successful candidate Rod "Teachers are Terrorists" Paige both in 2001 and again when Paige stepped down last year, had anything to do with the choice of Bennett's company. And the sudden stealth appearance of creationism and intelligent design in the district's classrooms, brought to you by a company whose forte has been home-schoolers and virtual classrooms, shouldn't worry us:
"K12 has received criticism for the receipt of public funds for its services to private, often religion-oriented home-schoolers; for its “anti-scientific” approach to evolution; and for the political influence K12 wields with its use of aggressive, high-priced lobbyists who were active in the Bush campaign."
That's right...ties to the Bushies (check out the back-scratching that went on with Jeb down in Florida), and a religious agenda. In the words of the old High Roller himself:
"Bennett says, "We're centered in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we do not ignore faith and religion, we do not ignore the arguments against evolution, because there are some...I think what we'll say is, Here's evolution, this is a definition, this is what other people think, this is what a lot of the scientific community thinks, this is what a lot of the criticisms are. You decide, parent and child, working your way through this how you want to evaluate this."

[A]ccording to Bennett, the science curriculum presents evolution, creationism, and intelligent design as equally tenable explanations for the existence of life"
Now, according to the article, the religious instruction doesn't begin until K12's 7th grade level, and the contract in question is for K through 3rd grade, but it doesn't matter; the integrity of the entire program is brought into question by this. And the fact that schools will be expected to answer via testing to Bush's No Rich White Child Left Behind mandate starting in 2007, combined with Bennett's cozy relationship to his administration and the religious right, should have taxpayers putting this entire transaction under the microscope.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Colbert Redux

Although Crooks and Liars has an excellent partial link to the performance, Empire Burlesque has the whole thing (in parts), plus the transcript.

UPDATE: Go thank Colbert yourself.