Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Flooding on Westbank

While we were reveling about fun in the rain at Jazz Fest, it seems that a lot of the Westbank was floating away. Check out these photos over at EJ's blog.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Jazz Fest Sunday

(Photo credit: M Styborski)

On the walk from LSU Dental School to Jazz Fest, I experienced some of the happiest moments of my return to New Orleans. I love it here, and just walking toward the Fest, my step was lighter, my spine straighter, and my spirits higher than usual. The first thing I wanted was the food, which I'd been looking forward to for days, and I got a combo: crawfish beignets, puffy oyster pies, and something else I can't remember the name of but which is a pasty combination of crawfish stuffing, crafted to look like an apple. You know that the second I turned around with my plate to walk away from the food stand, though, the sky opened before I had my first bite and the rest of the meal, that which was not splashed right off the plate, was...diluted. But, hey, that's okay.

After an hour standing under a very small green tent beside some beer, it was off to The Gospel tent and a too-brief visit to the Mardi Gras Indians before Al Green. Al sounded the same as ever, though he did let the audience do a lot of the singing, which I thought was kind of funny. He threw roses and would begin, for instance, "I'm so tired of being alone..." at which time he'd turn the mike over to the audience to finish up. He interjected a high, masterful, extended trademark "Ooooooooooooeeeeeeee!" from time to time. That was a great show.

I danced a lot even though my back has been in spasm for about a week, so you know it was a great show.

I was quite excited about downloading my photos here, but 1) I knew them to be out of focus and 2) it now turns out that the camera was in fact adversely affected by water. Hmmf. Pay no mind to those clear, sharp, skillful photos over at Bark, Bugs, Leaves, and Lizards.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Recession Diet

(Photo h/t SCAN with in-depth commentary)

From New York Times:
Spending data and interviews around the country show that middle- and working-class consumers are starting to switch from name brands to cheaper alternatives, to eat in instead of dining out and to fly at unusual hours to shave dollars off airfares...In Ohio, Holly Levitsky is replacing the Lucky Charms cereal in her kitchen with Millville Marshmallows and Stars, a less expensive store brand. In New Hampshire, George Goulet is no longer booking hotel rooms at the Hilton, favoring the lower-cost Hampton Inn. And in Michigan, Jennifer Olden is buying Gain laundry detergent instead of the full-price Tide.
Without the New York Times, how would we ever keep up with the real hardships that middle- and working-class Americans are facing?

I am relieved, however, that at least one member of our local community is still able to afford Cheetos(TM) for her toddlers rather than having to resort to an off-brand cheese puff with inferior orange dye, preservatives, and saturated fat:

(Photo h/t SCAN)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Same People, Part II

Months ago, I became upset with the New York Times Editorial Board's early endorsement of HRC. I don't know why her campaign path thus far is suprising to anyone.

But this is what that same editorial board has to say now, after watching her campaign:
On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad — torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook — evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the narrator intoned.

If that was supposed to bolster Mrs. Clinton’s argument that she is the better prepared to be president in a dangerous world, she sent the opposite message on Tuesday morning by declaring in an interview on ABC News that if Iran attacked Israel while she were president: “We would be able to totally obliterate them.”

By staying on the attack and not engaging Mr. Obama on the substance of issues like terrorism, the economy and how to organize an orderly exit from Iraq, Mrs. Clinton does more than just turn off voters who don’t like negative campaigning. She undercuts the rationale for her candidacy that led this page and others to support her: that she is more qualified, right now, to be president than Mr. Obama.
Full article here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Totalitarian State of Walgreens

(Photo credit: abchick)

Of the many serious problems here in New Orleans and in the U.S., Walgreens--the one on Felicity, the one on Tchoupitoulas, the one on Magazine, and the two on Claiborne--are the least of our worries. But I brace myself lately before I even walk into any of these locations because of policies and practices that exemplify our bigger problems.

Lock and Key:

I notice with each successive visit to Walgreens that more of its products are locked up. The locked boxes containing them now feature a button that customers can push for help from a Walgreens associate, who may or may not ever appear, and if he or she does, may or may not have the key. I doubt that Walgreens has enough associates to dispense in a timely fashion everything that is locked up, anyway. And if I were working for near-minimum wage (come to think of it, I am, but just not in Walgreens), I would probably be deliberately slow in making it to the locked boxes, so I want to make it clear that this post is not intended to denigrate Walgreens associates. But have you noticed what all is locked up lately?

1) Razors have been locked up for a long time, not all razors--Walgreens is not concerned about a child unwrapping a razor and mutilating him or herself--but only the obscenely expensive razors. Many razors have become so blatantly overpriced that the many of us would consider pocketing them in protest, so, for this reason, Walgreens has locked away all but the less expensive single-blade, 10-to-a-pack razors that perform more ineptly than rusty antique push mowers.

2) Smoking cessation aids have always been locked up. They are obscenely overpriced, as well, much more so than cigarettes, which are not locked up but are behind the counter. My bet is that it's the price and not the danger that an unattended child may open and chew enough nicotine gum or eat enough lozenges to have a stroke. There's little damage a child could do with a patch, but those are locked up as well.

3) I noticed today that pregnancy tests are locked up. For those of you who know me personally and may be curious, no I'm not in the market for a pregnancy test. But it seems to me that if I were, I would be none too thrilled about waiting around for an associate, especially if I were 15 and trying to get in and out of there without a production. Pregnancy tests are probably overpriced, but they are not exhorbitantly expensive, which leads me to believe that The Totalitarian State of Walgreens may hope that pregnant women (those who will not be delighted with the news) are dissuaded from finding out before they are past the first trimester. Perhaps that is a stretch. Perhaps the Totalitarian State of Walgreens is of the opinion that there are many possibly pregant theiving women here in New Orleans.

4) The OTC allergy drug Zyrtec is now locked up. It must contain pseudophedrine, you may say, but, no, it does not. Zyrtec is locked up because it costs more than $1 per dose. The generic form is not locked up but costs almost as much.

Not all of these products are locked up in Walgreens nationally so I'm forced to believe that the Totalitarian State of Walgreens has issued an executive order concerning New Orleanians and theft, and that really rubs me the wrong way. Most of the products are overpriced to the degree that if only one in ten people paid for them, the profits would still be hefty.

Sale Items:

In my past four visits to Walgreens, I have attempted to purchase a sale item. Once I reach the register, however, the product scans at full price. The sale sticker on the shelf is a lying mofo. No, I'm not confusing the products for others close by, I'm not talking about those that require a coupon, and I'm not off on my count or weight. Next time you go in there (though I don't recommend going in there), try buying a sale item! What is even more worrisome is the response of the sales associates when the item rings for full price. When I point out the sign (in one case removing the sign from the shelf and presenting it to the sales associate just to demonstrate that the product, size, and details are correct), the most common response is some variation of "Well, it scans at [a higher price]," as if to say the computer knows all, and that any contrary indication is incorrect. When fellow humans trust The Machine that much, I become frightened. There are also suggestions that the sale must be over and no one has taken down the sign. On two occasions, managers have scanned from the sign rather than the product for me, so if you attempt to buy a sale item in The Totalitarian State of Walgreens, be ready to ask for a manager. Sometimes, though, the store is so crowded and managers so slow that you may rather pay full price in exchange for an evening at home rather than three hours waiting for a manager in the Totalitarian State of Walgreens to agree that The Machine is wrong. There are so many products that do not ring at the sale price that I believe that there is something intentional going on here.

The Pharmacy:

Because of a federal law that is not the fault of Walgreens, all drugs containing pseudoephedrine must be purchased at the pharmacy, and the purchaser must show identification and sign a log that prohibits said purchaser from acquiring more than the daily recommended dose of that drug anywhere in the U.S. I understand that psuedoephedrine is an important component of Crystal Meth, and that a Crystal Meth addiction is almost always deadly, but I'm not sure that this is the means by which to combat it. I don't use the stuff but am not hearing that it's hard to acquire because of this law. If you visit the pharmacy in the Totalitarian State of Walgreens, be prepared to stand behind some person with an obvious cold who is trying to get the usual meds and being told that he or she is not allowed to buy this and that simultaneously, even if he or she is willing to be tracked by the pseuodphedrine tracking mechanism. That person will probably become angry. The other day, it became obvious to me that a woman who had a cold was also otensibly asthmatic and attempting to buy OTC asthma medicine because she (probably) does not have a doctor (probably) because she does not have insurance. She was doing the best she could to take care of herself. The Totalitarian State of Walgreens stopped her in her tracks. No asthma medicine and cold medicine at the same time. Against the rules.

If you have a prescription for a drug that is "controlled," be prepared to pick up that prescription on the same day you run out of it. The Totalitarian State of Walgreens is tracking you and wants to make sure that you don't take too much, even by one dose, and apparently wants to make sure that you don't have a life, either, like a long work day or a trip that would necessitate your picking up the prescription a day early. One may say, "Isn't that between my doctor and me? Can you call her?" The answer is no. Don't bother asking questions in the Totalitarian State of Walgreens (on Tchoupitoulas).

I take a drug that costs only $5.00 for a 30-day prescription. The good news is that there is still a drug that cheap and it's the one I take! When I had insurance, it didn't pay for drugs that cost less than $25. The Totalitarian State of Walgreens has informed me that even though my insurance was never "covering" the prescription, ever, its cost is now $18.80 for people who do not HAVE insurance. Yeah, you heard me right. This is a new rule. The drug was recently the same price for people with and without insurance, but that must not have seemed fair to the Totalitarian State of Walgreens.

Before ringing in my last prescription, with her fingers poised on the keys of the computer database beside the cash register, the Walgreens associate asked perkily, often as we're asked for our phone numbers when we make a retail purchase, "Are you completely out of your medication today?" I don't know what she (or the database) intended to do with this information, but I did not offer it. My response was, as pleasantly as possible, since I know she was only taking orders, "Why do you ask?" She smiled reassuringly and offered this non-sequitor: "That's no problem, Ma'am," and completed my sale. I paid $18.80.

I'm defecting. But what I dread about that is finding out that most or all of the above is true in other establishments as well and not only in the Totalitarian State of Walgreens.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Liveblogging the Debate

7:02 Good that Obama chose the word "frustration" rather than that divisive term "bitterness."

705: "Continue to fulfill" what "promise," HRC?

Break: Good luck with moderating the time if one candidate speaks longer than the other (Hillary)

7:07: Why use the Constitution? It's gone.

7:08: Running mates? Hell damn no. And I'm not so big on keeping the Democratic Party together, Obama, and I don't think that anybody else really is, either. Let me just repeat: I will NOT vote for HRC.

7:12: Oh here we go with the "bitter." "Patronizing?" No, it's the truth, I was born in a small town and I grew up in a small town and I have no idea if that's where they'll bury me, but nevertheless, Obama's comments were TRUE. Yes, Obama, good, "wedge issues"...stay on the point. I'm guessing HRC is about to jump all into that.

7:15: There she goes, no such thing as religion overtaking politics. No, you don't believe it, HRC, of course not--you've spent too much time introducing those wedge issues in the past two months alone. Liar.

7:17 Hate to go lowbrow here, but can't believe she'd say "cauldron" in public. Excuse me, that was below the belt.

7:18: Obama, will you please point out that Gallup polls show you 11 points ahead of her?

7:20: Yeah, you're right, Obama, it's not going to help the person at the kitchen table trying to pay the bills. "The politics we've been accustomed to" and "using the same tactics." Yes, he's nailing her.

7:21: Hillary, nobody would have even noticed anything wrong with his "remarks" if you weren't telling them they were being condescended to when they're not even. HRC: "A proven record of results"??? Yes, and I wouldn't brag about that, either. A bunch of poor people killing each other is what I've been seeing in the past decade.

7:23: How predictable, we'll spend a (yawn) half hour talking about Jeremiah Wright's (also true) comments. Good, Obama, just don't even get into it.

7:25: Well, here's two minutes, now HRC has to go Jeremiah Wright. Oh.my.god. Yes, his post 911 speech would have been "intolerable" for you, HRC. See above use of "cauldron."

7:29: Six minutes later, George Stephanopolous (sp) on Jeremiah Wright. (yawn) I'll be back when this part is over. Ha: Do you believe he's as "patriotic" as you are? "He was a Marine." That'll cover it.

7:31: HRC back on Jeremiah Wright. I cannot believe HRC is talking about "overcoming divisiveness" and "bitterness." See "cauldron," above.

7:32: 6 in 10 people don't believe HRC is honest and trustworthy? What are the other 4 in 10 thinking? "On a couple of occasions, I just said some things that I knew weren't the case!"--HRC Oh lord. But having gone to Bosnia gives her "an advantage" in this campaign? Shaking the little girl's hand? What I said "Didn't jive with what I knew to be the truth"--HRC

7:36: Obama's getting mad now, fired up--"we're involved in two wars!" Thank you. Ooh, "obsessed with these kinds of errors." (Ooh people clapped, too!)

7:38: "Dew you beleeeve in the American flag?" Ima have a heart attack.

7:41: George Stephanopoulous brings William Ayers up on Obama's ass. Really digging here. I questioned whether to watch this cat piss and think now I shouldn't have. Ooh, Obama, that "doesn't make much sense, George!" Ooh, Obama's madder now. Good. "Anybody I know, somehow their ideas are attributable to me??"--Obama

7:43: HRC slams Obama on Ayers after he just gave her a high-minded pass on her freakin' lying her ass off. She will stoop to any level. Don't forget "cauldron," above. Obama cannot run against John McCain because he knows William Ayers?? HRC stoops again. Has Obama stooped?? I haven't heard it. Ooh, here we GO: "Your husband PARDONED members of the Weather Underground!" Ha!

Commercial for Lunesta: You should tell your doctor if you take Lunesta and you drive while sleeping. Not making this up.

Where are these "questions" coming from?

7:54: HRC is going to make it clear to the Iraqis that they do not have a blank check from the United States. I doubt that they are perceiving mangled bodies, broken infrastructure, raped and tortured people, etc., as a "blank check," but of course I may not be as familiar with Iraqi culture as HRC is. HRC: "Iraqis have to take responsibility for their own future." I'm sure there's a problem with laziness in general among the people in Iraq.

That weird blue light on the audience is awful.

7:59: Notice that Obama said nothig of "blank checks" or failure of responsibility among Iraqis. Commentators raked him over the coals on Israel before the debate started. He's disappointed me with the lockstep with Israeli policies.

8:01: HRC and massive retaliation. I find that not hard to believe. Oh, HRC is complicit with possible invasion of Iran. Obama may have just said he was, too. I hope not. Dogs were barking. Oh, here we go again after Iran. Now she's agreeing with Bush on Iran. She's gonna get the rest of the world on our side, though.

8:04: Hope is going to raise taxes. "Audicity" (McCain). HRC is about to make a read-my-lips claim about not raising taxes on the middle class. Taxes are not my problem. Are they yours? "Making college affordable and so much else"--HRC. No middle-class tax increases of any kind.

8:06: Obama will "offset" payroll tax on middle-class. Again, yawn, taxes are not my problem. I used to be middle-class and taxes were not my problem then, either. "Lack of oversight on lenders and 185 million from lobbyists for lenders." Now we're talking.

These blue people in the audience, except for Chelsea and Mayor Nutter, who are not cast in blue, are making me nervous. Chelsea and Mayor Nutter make me nervous, too, but at least they're not blue.

8:10: Obama refers to infrastructure, additional 420 billion in debt under Bush, Obama says. Charlie's got to hammer his baloney conservative argument from the pulpit there.

8:11: HRC claims that in the 1990s there was an "economy that worked for everyone." I was alive then. And my long-term and short-term memory are still working. And there was not. Oh, HRC says if she'd been president a year ago, we'd've avoided foreclosures. She said "Ed Rendell saw this coming." HRC saw it coming, too. That's why she worked on the you-can't-claim-bankruptcy bill.

Charlie Gibson and GS are reminding me why I don't watch network tv.

Very loud train going by.

Ooh, Obama tattles on HRC for saying she'd consider raising tax cap as soon as she got off camera. Ha.

8:17: HRC takes credit for Clinton legislation and suggests that he'd have saved social security. What? She's gone after Obama for praising Reagan and now she's doing it.

8:18: Ha, "that commission raised the retirement age!" says Obama of HRC's praise of Reagan. HRC is confident we'll work everything out.

Why have we not seen Michelle Obama or the children in the audience, only Chelsea and Mayor Nutter? Is Michelle lost in the blue light somewhere? Have I been typing while she was on camera?

8:25: Oh, geez, here we go with the individual's right to bear arms. Oh and HRC tells us that Mayor Nutter is here when she refers to the gun violence in Philadelphia. Obama's looking at HRC like she has lost her natural mind as she goes on about police outgunned. She'll reinstate automatic weapons ban. Setting the bar low. 80% of the guns are in the hands of THAT CRIMINAL...sounds like Charleton Heston. I've heard about enough of "keeping those guns out of the wrong hands." HRC is going to strike the right balance, protecting people from guns in the wrong hands. Oh good. She's gonna put more cops on the street.

8:28: Obama states that individuals have a constitutional right to bear arms and that govt has a right to constrain that right. Oh he's talking "common sense" approaches just like HRC. "Common sense" arguments bother me.

GS looks at HRC like he's in middle school and wants to ask her out.

8:32: HRC likes what works in New York City. Manhattan, I'm sure. Gun control is not working in Manhattan; pushing out everyone who doesn't make about 200K is.

8:33: Of course, GS goes to Obama with a question about how to make sure that rich African-American kids are not getting advantages and that poor white kids are? Surely, I misheard. Obama confirms that race is still an issue in America. Oh lord, Obama has gone and said that he still believes in affirmative action, undercuts that by condemning quotas. I hope HRC is not about to say the word "entitlement." HRC thinks we should achieve our goals differently, to enable people to fulfill their god-given potential...has to talk about the global society.

8:36: Oh HRC has met with a group of truckers in Harrisburg and is going after these gas prices. She believes there to be some kind of chicanery going on. People are not going to be able to afford to drive to work! she says, as though she's just discovered America.

Now Obama is looking at audience like HRC has lost her natural mind.

8:38: Obama repeats HRC's points on gas but in a less folksy way.

HRC believes in "using" former presidents according to GS. Sorry, below the belt again. Oh, she's not even going to exclude GWB from use as a former president.

8:40: Well, at least Obama is not going to "take advice" (avoids the word "use") from GWB but rather from his father. Praises Bush I's foreign policy. Well, looks good in comparison. Low bar.

Thank goodness this is over soon.

8:47: Yawn. HRC is going to convince superdelegates to support her. She's gonna make everybody feel that they're part of the American family again. She can't do it alone. Says she wants people to look at her "track record." You know she's addressing those who cannot read here. Blah blah. Oh, she's demonstrated "over a lifetime" that we can count on her.

8:49: Obama answers the same question about superdelegates. Reminds us he's not taking PAC money or money from lobbyists. Yes, he has raised money in record numbers in small contibutions. Bottom-up argument. Can form a new coalition.

Sigh. Lackluster debate. Spelling and grammatical errors to be corrected later.

Update: "Lackluster" because it's so clearly rigged by MSM to focus on wedge issues. Glad Obama called those tactics what they were several times, but that didn't keep everybody else's focus off wedge issues for approximately 78 of 90 minutes. Those in power are clearly very angry at Obama for talking outwardly about wedge issues because they believe that this type of talk should be left to elistists behind closed doors. Without wedge issues, ABC, whoever owns ABC, whoever owns whoever owns ABC, and the vast majority of politicians, especially the Bushes and the Clintons, would be out of business. Powerful people are clearly trying to make Obama pay for talk like this by subjecting him to the in-your-face homage to wedge issues that we witnessed last evening. Somebody probably whispered, "And there's more where this came from," "You've gone WAY too far now," and probably much eviler things into his ear as they shook his hand and patted him on the back afterward.


Ten years ago, I never thought that I'd be signing a petition to hold a POTUS, VPOTUS, and other Fascists accountable for approving the widespread use of torture. Well, here is that petition in case you want to sign it, too.

I did, however, read this article, Michael Levin's "The Case for Torture" in 1993. Levin is a professor of philosophy at CUNY and is closely linked with the Heritage Foundation, The Pioneer Fund, and other "neo-conservative" organizations. I was so upset by the article that I used it to teach logical fallacies in all of my composition courses, year after year. And it's chock full of textbook 101-level fallacies, so it served that purpose well. What is, of course, alarming is that any professor of philosophy knows his fallacies, so it's unlikely that the man believes a word he's saying. My real motivation in using this work in the classroom, though, was the worry that we were ripe for some far right maniac to take office and act on the ideas presented there, manipulating the populous in the same way Levin manipulates a naive audience. I felt that one of the few constructive things I could do was to make a couple hundred students aware of Levin's argument, so that when/if they saw it again in the mainstream, they'd associate it with a failure of reason.

One thing that this article makes abundantly clear is that the agenda we associate with 9-11 and Bush-idiocy and Cheney-evil was in the pipes long before they were elected. But now, Levin's argument sure sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Image by Maitri

Please donate to the Ashley Morris fund, which will help to provide his family with needed support and lessen their overwhelming expenses.

Dog and Man on Magazine Street

I'll try to relate here that which would work much better on film. This is perhaps one of those instances when you'd have had to be there:

Yesterday, I was in class in a yoga studio on Magazine Street, down by the Jewel Food Store. Yes, thanks to classes there, there are actually moments in which I'm kind of centered and not ranting about something or someone because it's hard to talk while doing yoga.

During a lengthy, quite contorted pose, I noticed on the sidewalk outside the studio windows a white sheep-looking dog, walking on an extendable leash beside his or her owner. The practicing yogis inside were a great source of amazement to that dog, enough for him/her to strain on the leash, making his/her way right into the alcove leading to the front door. The dog then stood in the doorway, peering into the glass door, captivated, for quite some time. I swear that dog was really grinning.

The first question that may come to mind is what the owner was doing all this time: He extended the leash as far as he could, and stood off to the side, with his eyes averted, as the dog took it all in. When the man glanced over, ostensibly to check on whether the dog was even near ready to go, I waved out because this scene was so damn funny to me. The man responded to my wave with a look that seemed to say, "I know, I know, I'm not being a creepy voyeur here, honest, it's just that Dog is having the time of Dog's life. I'd be a real asshole to haul Dog away." He averted his eyes even further and then faced the street for good measure.

When dog got ready, dog returned to man and the two walked off.

It wasn't just me. Yoga Instructor had been much more inverted/contorted than anyone else at the time, but once she released the pose, I asked, "Did you see what just happened??" She was right there: "What a DOG!"

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A general mood of displeasure

(Photo credit: kier42)

From CNN, regarding the renewal of the U.S. defense contract with Blackwater:
Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 people, including women and children, last September, prompting an outcry and protest from Iraqi officials.

"This is bad news," al-Maliki adviser Sami al-Askari said. "I personally am not happy with this, especially because they have committed acts of aggression, killed Iraqis, and this has not been resolved yet positively for families of victims."

About 25,000 private contractors from three companies protect diplomats, reconstruction workers and government officials in Iraq. Under a provision put into place in the early days of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, security contractors have immunity from Iraqi prosecution.

Al-Askari said he would push for the Iraqi government to contest the contract renewal.

"The U.S. government has the right to choose what contractors it chooses, but Iraq should also have the right to allow or ban certain contractors from operating on its territory," he said.
Al-Askari said there is a general mood of displeasure within the Iraqi government because of the contract renewal.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said a joint Iraqi-U.S. commission was set up after the shootings, and Iraqis told U.S. officials that the rules of engagement and use of force must be changed.

As a result, a State Department security officer accompanies every convoy manned by contractors, Al-Dabbagh said, and every vehicle is outfitted with a security camera. Recordings from the camera are sent to a command center.
Oh, well, the oversight of a State Department security officer. Great. A camera and a command center. And what command center would that be exactly?

Just for the record, CNN's initial title for this story was "Blackwater renewal irks Iraqis." Somebody had the damn sense to change that title before I could even link to its ass. But at least MSM is covering the story now.

See below on KBR (a subsidiary of Halliburton), another group of contractors.

U.S. servicewomen are more likely to be raped by U.S. servicemen than to be killed by Iraqis

Here are details of the rape of one member of the U.S. military, as described by Karen Houppert, writing for The Nation.
That dawn, naked, covered in blood and feces, bleeding from her anus, she found a US soldier she did not know lying naked in the bed next to her: his gun lay on the floor beside the bed, she could not rouse him and all she could remember of the night before was screaming and screaming as the soldier anally penetrated her while a colleague who worked for defense contractor KBR held her hand--but instead of helping her, as she had hoped, he jammed his penis in her mouth. (full article)
Details such as these confirm what we instinctually know is happening, behavior that we have to know is exacerbated by military engagement and by far-right ideology generally. Any system or culture that strives to destroy any traditionally "feminine" characteristic breeds violent rage against women and all who are perceived as “weaker.” And those with a core belief that life is one big power play, that it is not only a prerogative but, indeed, a responsibility, to exploit wherever possible and a duty to take responsibility for their own exploitation are bound to initiate and perpetuate, consciously or not, the type of behavior described above, both on literal and metaphoric levels.

I agree with Noam Chomsky that many of the “surprises” associated with the U.S. landscape from 9-11 forward are not surprising at all except in the demographic of the victims. Women serving in the U.S. military raped by men in serving in the U.S. military are one of those “surprises,” (maybe, to some). There is an unexpressed shock that this would happen to women engaged in a traditionally masculine role instead of only to those many disempowered Iraqi women. Well, boundaries never hold up as we expect them to, and even if a person has no empathy at all, no reason to care about those being victimized, he or she should take heed because in real life, from any historical perspective, everything comes back. Chickens come home to roost. They just do.

Here’s the personal: I’m a woman and, like most women, I’ve been raped. The rapist was a member of the U.S. Marines. I don’t believe that those two facts are coincidental, either. Cold comfort: I was not brutalized as horribly as the woman whose experience is described above.

Before you tell me that all men in the military are not rapists, just don’t. I know that good and well. But the careful conditioning of a patriarchal organization whose raison d’etre is violence can’t really help, can it?

All this shit, all of it, gets overwhelmingly upsetting to contemplate.

Additional links to accounts of the frequent rape of U.S servicewomen:

L.A. Times


A hat tip to RBL, who posted these links and in-depth commentary.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Clinton Tax Returns and InfoUSA

I wondered why the holdup over the Clintons' release of tax returns. Partially because of much more than a cozy relationship with InfoUSA, one of the world's largest compilers of consumer information? Maybe. The company was accused of selling the information of the elderly, including those with Alzheimer's, those with gambling problems, and those who'd demonstrated a desire to make money fast. Their bank accounts were quickly emptied, with a little help from Wachovia.

Find out more here, here, here and here.

I realize that any of us could easily get entwined with a wicked company, especially when our loose millions are lying around, longing to multiply. I'm not without sympathy.

There's a related labyrinthine story here of Clintonian greed and shady dealings, also.


Jake Tapper's Olfactory Nerve

Original photo and article here, at the ABC News Site:

"Last August, I ran into Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, outside the Senate chamber in the Capitol...

As any close friend or family member can attest, I have an unusually keen sense of smell and immediately I smelled cigarette smoke on Obama. Frankly, he reeked of cigarettes.

Obama ran off before I could ask him if he'd just snuck a smoke, so I called his campaign.

They denied it. He'd quit months before, in February, they insisted. He chewed nicorette.

But I knew what I'd smelled and I asked his campaign to double-check and to ask him if he'd had a cigarette.

They reported back that he had told them he hadn't had a cigarette since he quit.

And maybe that was true. Maybe I imagined the cigarette smoke. My olfactory nerve somehow misfired.

Except….last night on MSNBC's Hardball, Obama admitted that his attempt to wean himself from the vile tobacco weed had not been entirely successful.

“I fell off the wagon a couple times during the course of it, and then was able to get back on," he said. "But it is a struggle like everything else.”

Now I wonder about last August.

It's not a big deal in the scheme of things -- the war on Iraq, a major economic crisis -- indeed, it's miniscule. Hardly worth mentioning.

Except that I don't like feeling that I wasn't being dealt with honestly. And as much as citizens who are suspect of the media might scoff at such a notion, many of us consider ourselves to be your representatives to help make sure our leaders are telling us the truth, and leading the country down a path we're confident is the right one. (Corny, I know.)

This isn't the only time I've felt that way about the Obama campaign, of course -- its response to the Austan Goolsbee controversy was a profile in dissembling. (Not that Sens. Hillary Clinton and John McCain or their campaigns are entirely innocent in this area either. Or even that Obama is necessarily the worst offender.)

Jake Tapper, ABC News Senior National Correspondent, I ask you (and the rest of the "press" corp), could you have used your "unusually keen sense of smell" to have determined that the build up to the Iraq war reeked precisely of shit? And that question is just a beginning. Anybody else who believes that this article exemplifies what is wrong with both our press and our country at large, please feel free to use this as a venue for further questions for Jake Tapper and his ilk.

Since you take your role as my "representative" so seriously, I think it's my right as an American to call "any close friend or family member" of yours, Jake Tapper, and double check your claim of extranormal olfactory skill. I hope for your sake that the claim is false because it's blatantly clear to me that your head is completely up your ass. If they support your claim, I'll call them back and ask them to double check. If they support it again, I'll haughtily concede that perhaps my uncanny ability to notice lazy, apathetic, intellectually devoid "reporting" is "misfiring" on me. But still, I'll feel a little cheated, you see, because I like to believe that the function of a free press is to provide me with information I need to make critical decisions pertinent to my best interests in a "democratic society."

Frankly, right now, I wish that the Senator had blown a huge toke of that "vile tobacco weed" straight into your face, the same way you're blowing smoke up my ass.

Jake Tapper, I hear that In Touch Magazine is hiring. You could use your above article as a representative sample of your work.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Ashley Morris

Photo: Humid City

Here is a link to one of Ashley Morris's premiere posts, "Excitable boy, they all said."

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and many fans. This was a man who cared fiercely about this city and everybody in it (except the many fuckmooks who fucked everything up), and I'm deeply sorry that I did not know him personally.

Video by Suspect Device.

Homicide charges?

At age 12, if I heard my mother scream and found someone strangling her on the kitchen floor, my instinct (as far as I know) would have been to grab a knife or blunt object and do serious damage to that person.

I do not understand why authorities in Hyattsville, Maryland, are considering pressing charges against the child who did just that.

I am staunchly opposed to the death penalty and do believe that this woman's attacker had a right to a trial or, more appropriately, to have been confined and treated in a psychiatric facility. Ideally, he would have simply been disabled until police arrived. But it would never, ever occur to me that any child warding off a parent's attacker would or should face criminal charges.

What does occur to me is that if the incident had occurred in an expensive house in a ritzy neighborhood, rather than in a boarding house where a woman struggled to support herself and her child on "widow's benefits," the boy would be cast as a hero with few questions asked. I really hope that I am drawing the wrong conclusion here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Just Stop

Raving Black Lunatic has written a masterful post on HRC's comparison of herself to Rocky Balboa.

I made a decision a while ago to try to ignore these types of blood-pressure-raising remarks from the former First Lady, but...

From AP:
Speaking to the same unions a day earlier, Clinton said as first lady she had forcefully battled the agreement President Clinton labored hard to win.

"I did speak out and oppose NAFTA," she said. "I raised a big yellow flag and said, 'I don't think this will work.'" [I remember, oh yes, of course that big yellow...I was distracted at the time because I was in a bloody battle with, um, poachers off the coast of...]

Teamsters president James P. Hoffa, who is backing Obama, disputed her claim.

"No one who was around in the time of NAFTA remembers her doing that," Hoffa told The Associated Press during a telephone interview. [Ahem, well, you know I do blog a lot and it's late at night and so I might have misspoken about that memory, it proves I'm human and I make mistakes.] "Let's face it, she's tied to NAFTA no matter what she says."

At an economic summit in Pittsburgh organized by her presidential campaign, Clinton said she would eliminate tax breaks for companies that move jobs to other countries and use the savings to persuade them to keep jobs in the U.S. [I'm not sure I understand...]

Clinton's plan would offer new tax benefits for research and job development. It would also create "innovation and research clusters" across the country and provide $500 million annually in investments to encourage the creation of high-wage jobs in clean energy. [I see, taking away the tax cuts but replacing the tax cuts with other 'incentives' that will actually benefit us.]

Clinton called it her "insourcing agenda."

"We hear so much about outsourcing," when jobs are lost to other countries, she said. "I want to put an end to it. We're going to change the tax code, we're going to change the giveaways to the special interests." [Was her insourcing agenda in place when she voted for the trade agreements that outsourced jobs?]

Clinton also broadcast a new TV ad in Pennsylvania explicitly challenging Republican John McCain's economic credentials.

Echoing an earlier ad aimed at Obama on national security, it begins with images of sleeping children while a narrator says a phone is ringing in the White House at 3 a.m. but this time the crisis is economic. As the phone rings on and on, the sleeping children are replaced by adults grimly reviewing bills during daylight hours. The narrator faults McCain's response to rising home foreclosures and teetering markets and says he'd just let the phone keep ringing. The ad ends with an image of Clinton answering a phone.
Now, does anybody really believe that this ad is actually aimed at McCain, whom she's not even running against in Pennsylvania, or could it be a desperate attempt at reinforcing the stereotypes that the first ad introduced into her campaign? Nah.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Step up to the WHAT?

(Photo Credit: Washington Centerville)

Indulge me for a moment in a hypothetical scenario: Imagine that a band of thugs from another country invade us, bomb and destroy our infrastructure, dismantle our government, disband our armed services, kill at least half a million of us, rape and torture many others of us, all for no reason. Then, in response to dissenters from their own country, they eventually consider leaving us alone, but before doing so suggest that it is time for us to "step up to the plate" and solve our own problems? Since baseball is an "American" sport, though, that's probably not the metaphor they'd use. But you get the point.

Helpful Definitions:

Arrogance: overbearing pride evidenced by a superior manner toward [perceived]inferiors

Narcissism: a psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem.

Symptoms of antisocial personality disorder: People with antisocial personality disorder may believe that only threats of punishment, rather than personal values, cause people to play by the rules. The belief leads to a tendency to exploit others, take advantage of their fairness or soft-heartedness, and feel indifferent toward or even contemptuous of their victims. A person with this disorder has little, if any, ability to be intimate with another person. Any lasting relationships involve abuse or neglect. Yet people with this disorder are sometimes charming and can be good actors who use lies and distortion to keep relationships going. Some with antisocial personality disorder have no goal beyond the pleasure of deceiving or harming others.

In reference to Iraq or the Iraqis, this metaphor must die:

''We needed the Iraqis to step up to the plate,'' said a senior administration official, who said American officials had conveyed the sense of urgency to the handpicked Iraqi delegates at Monday's meeting, sponsored by the United States and Britain. New York Times. April 30, 2003.

"We're trying to come up with ways to get the Iraqis to step up to the plate, to push them along, because the time is coming," a senior Bush administration official told the New York Times. The Guardian. October 23, 2006

Senator Hart, General Gard, and General Johns: The United States must begin leaving Iraq to force both the Iraqis and the international community to step up to the plate. Council for a Livable World. September 12, 2007

"How do you get them to do the reconciliation process as long as you give them a blank check?" said Lawrence Korb, a former Pentagon official and now informal adviser to Obama. "It's time for the Iraqis to step up to the plate." Dispatch Politics. February 24, 2008

Army Col. Michael Fuller, Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq’s chief of staff: Indicative of the security forces’ improvement, Fuller said, the Iraqi army recently moved two brigades to Basra province to battle insurgents. “The Iraqis planned, coordinated it, and executed that move on their own,” Fuller said. “This is just an indicator that the Iraqis are beginning to be able to step up to the plate and execute operations on their own.” U.S. Department of Defense Website. March 28, 2008

In his statements about letting Iraqis handle their own civil strife, perhaps Rumsfeld was trying to drive home to Iraqis the message that they should not count on the distant American superpower to bail them out if civil war begins. This message is grounded in a sound logic; Iraqis do need to step up to the plate and solve more of their own problems. Brookings. April 1, 2008
Is it just me?