Thursday, June 30, 2005

Creepy Cruise and His Thetan Soul

Thanks to Kevin Drum for posing the right questions for reporters to ask of Cruise and his Scientologist lunatics. Here's an excerpt.
* Mr. Cruise, do you believe that 75 million years ago an evil galactic ruler named Xenu deposited trillions of paralyzed alien bodies on earth and then destroyed them with H-bombs?

* Mr Cruise, do you believe that the souls of these creatures, known as "thetans," inhabit the bodies of present day humans?

* Mr. Cruise, do you believe that "clearing" our bodies of these thetans is the key to mental stability? Is that the reason Scientologists believe that psychiatry and antidepressive drugs are damaging and unnecessary?
What Scientologists' believe is just as crazy as what any everyday Christian, Muslim, or Jew believes. Nevertheless, at least many of Cruise's claims can be tested scientifically, thus showing what a numbnut he really is.

He sure does make good movies though.

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Colombia Amendment Fails

Unfortunately, the Colombian Amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which would have reduced U.S. support to Colombian state terrorists by $100 million, came up short. Read more here from Amnesty International.

The morality of a Republican run Congress, oh so wondrous.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Powerhouse Left's Eventual Irrelevance?

This summer's Boston Review features two articles by the elderly powerhouses of the New Left -- Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. It would be no surprise to you all to disclose these two academics have had incredible influence over my political development (just look at the sidebar, "Books That Matter"). Yet I am worried about both Chomsky and Zinn's inability to acknowledge, let alone write about, the very real undeterable risk posed by Islamic fundamentalism. Nevertheless, these two anti-authoritarians have a lot to say about both domestic and foreign policy that is worth listening to. Read Chomsky's essay here and Zinn's essay here and sound off in the comments section. I have to ruminate on these a bit, but I hope to write something integrating what both Chomsky and Zinn hit and miss in these articles while comparing them to last night's address by President Bush.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Undead Rise in Philly

Here's another concert review I did for my local paper, The Bucks County Courier Times. This time it's those ghoulish good guys from The Alkaline Trio, who brought their bloody, cirrhosis corroded songs to Philly's TLA.

On Monday, The Alkaline Trio brought their horrorshow theatrics to The Theatre of Living Arts for the second night of two sold out shows with supporting cast Thieves Like Us and Rufio.

As the crowd awaited the Trio’s emergence, Derek Grant’s drum set lurked ominously in the background, its cover rustling like autumn leaves. Darkness finally prevailed, as the piano intro to their latest single, “Time to Waste,” pulsated out from the stage and cheers rose as the strobe bursts revealed the boys in black cutting into their instruments. Like a ghoulish mortician, Matt Skiba, lead singer and guitarist, sang eyes up-turned, “You had time to waste and I’m not sorry/ Such a basket case, hide the cutlery.”

The Alkaline Trio are touring upon their latest effort, Crimson, a 13-song descent into a noirish netherworld you would find in the pages of Anne Rice. The Trio are the bad boys of the pop-punk scene, reveling in a Miltonesque ethic of “It’s better to reign in hell, than serve in hell,” that is counter to an increasingly powerful Christian cultural conservatism. During the 2004 election, the Trio signed up for the PunkVoter tour in an effort to help unseat President Bush.

Other signs of the Alkaline Trio’s new found activism came during “Prevent This Tragedy,” a plea to free of the West Memphis Three, whose story has been popularized by the Paradise Lost documentaries. Again, Skiba, channeling John Milton, sang, “The flames of hell, they give me hope I drown,” as the crowd’s raised arms pumped rhythmically to the beat.

Despite their recent political turn, the Trio’s ability to establish a hardcore underground following over the last eight years can be chalked up to their morbid, blackly comedic, alcohol soaked take on relationships. As Skiba began plucking the opening notes to the anti-love song, “Radio,” the stage went red as the crowd unleashed a scream in approval. Skiba leaned into the mic for the chorus, “I wish you, would take my radio to bathe with you/ plugged in and ready to fall.” Or “Crawl” from 2001’s From Here to Infirmary, with bassist/vocalist Dan Andriano belting out the Trio’s macabre wit, “Never had a drink that I didn’t like/ Got a taste of you, threw up all night.”

Other highlights of the show included the dark, “Settle for Satin,” from Crimson, with Andriano’s voice tinged in despair, “That there is a comfort in a world where darkness is the only thing we see,” preceded by Skiba intoning, “I guess we only settle in to what we know.”

Where there is dark, there is always light though, with Skiba telling the second show’s crowd, “Thanks Philadelphia…tonight smokes last night.” As the night wrapped up, Skiba told the crowd there was one song left and that they should sing along. It was a “Happy Birthday” salute to Andriano, who blew out the candles of a birthday cake to the applause and yelps of the crowd.

While Andriano’s age went undisclosed, apparently, the undead keep count.

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Monday, June 27, 2005

Graham Cracker

Am I the only one that finds 90,000 people packing into the old World's Fair site near Shea Stadium in Queens, New York to hear the Reverand Billy Graham's "last crusade" incredibly spooky?

Check out this slide show from the NYTs.(For some reason the link doesn't work so just go to the article here, and you'll see the slide show on the left-hand sidebar.) It's scary to see one man have so much control over so many people, especially when he uses Natalee Holloway's kidnapping in Aruba and probable murder and the discovery of three dead children in a Camden, NJ car trunk as evidence that the end of days is near.

With evidence like this, I'm preparing to hollow out my backyard, stock up on bottled water, batteries, and Bush's baked beans (my favorite), crawl in and await Armageddon. As you can see, I don't think the Rapture will be too kind to me fore I've left documentary evidence of my heathenism all over this blog. I pray God is not computer literate.

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Concert Review: The Get Up Kids

On Thursday night I saw emo-heroes, The Get Up Kids, come through Philly for the last time. Here's my review of the show in an effort to widen the topics here on Woodshavings.

On Thursday night, emo-core mainstays, The Get Up Kids, brandished beers and broken hearts for the last time in Philadelphia for a sold out crowd at the Electric Factory.

Born out of Kansas City, Mo., the Kids have been writing songs of love and loss for a decade, while trying to blend their hardcore roots into infectious pop rock. They nearly succeeded. The Get Up Kids will be remembered as one of the most popular originators of that musical subdivision, emo. Emo's that mixture of punk rock and hardcore influences combined with the confessional lyrics of a sixteen-year-old girl's diary. But the time came for them to hang up their melancholy chords to the disappointment of Philly's indie music scene with lead singer, Matt Pryor, telling the crowd, "Thank you very much Philadelphia, goodbye ladies and gentlemen."

Opening up, Pryor belted out "Coming Clean" with his nasally whine from their early album Four Minute Mile, with a clean transition into the crowd favorite "Holiday" from their masterpiece album, Something To Write Home About. Between the songs, Pryor ran over to keyboardist James Dewees and gave him an affectionate hug to thunderous applause from a smattering of late teens and twenty somethings.

One of the reasons why emo bands such as the Get Up Kids proved so popular over the last couple of years was their ability to write songs that resonated with a young and increasingly alienated middle-class white base. When Pryor crooned, "I'm down for whatever...," from the song, "Action and Action," he put to music the theme of a generation of disaffected suburban souls craving affirmation and self-confidence while battling manicured boredom.

Over successive releases, the Kids have been cultivating a slower, poppier sound, and their evolution could be felt on Thursday night as they ripped through songs covering their progression from post-hardcore influenced emo to Beatlesque rock n' roll. During "Let the Reigns Go Loose," Pryor raised his acoustic guitar in triumph as the crowd suffocated him in applause. Yet whenever Pryor and company ventured into their slower musical catalogue, they came driving back with songs of emo-pop perfection such as "Martyr Me" from their latest disc Guilt Show, or possibly their most popular track, "I'm a Loner Dottie, a Rebel," with Pryor screaming, "One night, doesn't mean the rest of my life," to the raised fists and glasses of the love-lorn mob.

One of the more enjoyable aspects of the show was The Kids ability to know what the crowd wanted to hear. Each and every song they played meet an echo of kids screaming Pryor's pitter-patter heavy heart lyrics back into his mic.

And when the band left the stage before their first encore, no one was fooled with everyone like concrete blocks weighed down in place awaiting the next set. During the five song encore, the Kids boiled down their history to an essence of perfection, ending with "I'll Catch You," with Pryor singing, "No need for reminding, you're still all that matters to me." And just like that, The Get Up Kids vanished into the darkness of an Electric Factory black light, never to return.
God, this kind of stuff is so much more fun to write.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Say NO to Plan Colombia

More from the Colombia front: next week Congress will decide whether to increase or decrease military allocations to the Colombian state and military. Geov Parrish of Working for Change tells us why it would be a bad idea to renew Plan Colombia:
There are a lot of good arguments for Congress to consider as to why involving the U.S. in yet another war, this one in Colombia, is a bad idea. In the midst of a War on Terror, the U.S. can little afford, in terms of either money, military aid, or troop strength, to get involved in yet another war. Colombia has nothing to do with the war on terror -- militarily.

But it does have something to do with swaying hearts and minds in the Muslim world. Every time that the U.S. is caught acting like a bully in the world, especially among the world's poorest, that fact is noted by Muslims from Morocco to the Philippines.. In order to shift the catastrophic momentum in Iraq, the U.S. must first convince the Iraq people -- and the rest of the Muslim world -- that the U.S. is sincere in its protestations that it is a force for justice and good. That's a hard case to make if Congress is cozying up to paramilitary thugs in Colombia.

This vote also presents a rare chance for constituents to contact members of Congress and urge a stop to the Pentagon's war by prosy. Call your Representative at 202-224-3121 and urge them to support any amendments to the FY2006 Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill that cut military aid to Colombia and continue to support additional humanitarian assistance and a negotiated path toward peace.
Call your representatives in an effort to stop us from adding more kerosene to this conflagration.

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As Long as You Kill the Left You're Not a Terrorist

Has anyone noticed a gross inconsistency concerning which groups are considered terrorists by the Bush Administration?

Colombia's lawmakers have approved the guidelines for disarming the country's paramilitaries that have terrorized the country for years fighting various left-wing guerilla groups. The guidelines according to a Human Rights Watch press release:
The bill drastically limits time frames for investigation of paramilitaries’ crimes, thus making it nearly impossible to hold paramilitaries accountable for them. Even if convicted, paramilitary commanders could get away with serving as little as two years for all their crimes, without having to confess, fully disclose their knowledge of the criminal networks they run, or even turn over all their massive illegally acquired wealth.
The paramilitaries, primarily the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), are a particularly bad lot. HRW explains:
Colombia’s paramilitary coalition is on the U.S. Department of State’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Many top paramilitary commanders have been requested in extradition by the U.S. government for drug trafficking. In 2002, these commanders initiated demobilization negotiations with the Colombian government in the hope of avoiding extradition and lengthy U.S. prison terms.

Paramilitary commanders are responsible for ordering countless massacres, targeted killings, forced disappearances, and acts of torture and extortion over the course of the last two decades. The troops they command are paid and financed through complex drug-trafficking operations and other illegal activities. Because of the groups’ enormous wealth, individual paramilitary troops are easily replaced with new recruits, and paramilitary commanders enjoy political influence in much of the country.
But the real kicker comes from Frank Smyth's recent Nation article, U.S. Arms for Terrorists, which reports "[i]n 2002 US authorities announced that the AUC was implicated in trading drugs for arms with none other than Al Qaeda."

So this means the Bush Administration is completely opposed to this new law that effectively provides impunity to the paramilitary terror network that has a long history of mass killings, continues to traffic cocaine into the U.S., and maybe doing business with Al Qaeda, right? NYT's, take it away:
The Bush administration and its representative in Colombia, Ambassador William Wood, have strongly supported the law...
The message out of Bushland is clear: kill the "wrong" people and you're a terrorist, but kill the "right" people -- leftists, unionists, and the poor -- and you're worthy of a get out of jail free card.

Think I'm overstating things a bit, here's a long passage from Smyth's article detailing the long U.S. support for Colombia's paramilitary networks:
The United States itself has long been ambivalent about Colombia's paramilitaries. Back in the 1960s the US military, according to its own documents, encouraged the Colombian military to organize rightist paramilitary forces to help fight leftist guerrillas. By the early 1980s, Colombian drug traffickers and large landowners together organized the paramilitaries into a national force to ward off kidnappings and other forms of extortion by leftist guerrillas. But by the end of the decade, the government had outlawed paramilitaries after one group trained by the late drug lord Pablo Escobar blew up a Colombian airliner.

The Colombian military soon found a new way to maintain contacts with illegal paramilitaries, however. In the fall of 1990, according to a letter from the Pentagon to Senator Patrick Leahy, the US military helped its Colombian counterpart make its intelligence networks "more efficient and effective." It was instructed, according to an April 1991 classified Colombian military order, to keep its operations "covert" and "compartmentalized," to use only "retired or active-duty Officers or Non-commissioned Officers" as liaisons, and not to put orders "in writing."

One new intelligence network killed at least fifty-seven people, including trade unionists, community leaders and a journalist, according to judicial testimony. But charges were dropped after most of the witnesses were either murdered or disappeared. In 2001 a former Colombian Army general, Rito Alejo del Rio, was arrested by Colombian authorities from the attorney general's office on charges that he allegedly collaborated with illegal paramilitaries. But these charges, too, were soon dismissed, and the country's top two civilian prosecutors fled the country.
If you don't think this collaboration continues today, I forgot to mention what Smyth was reporting on. It seems two U.S. soldiers got busted for allegedly conspiring to arm the very same paramilitaries with U.S. weapons.

I'm sure they were acting alone, just like the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Terrorism, something the other guys do to us and our allies, never the other way around.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Defending Public Television

Over at, Bill Moyers beautifully defends the existence of public television and argues why it should continue into the future. Quite rightly Bill's sees the ethical dimension of public television:
There are people waiting to give us an hour of their life —time they never get back—provided we give them something of value in return. This makes of our mission a moral transaction. Henry Thoreau got it right: “To affect the quality of the day, is the highest of the arts.”
Well worth a read.

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Time for Withdrawal?

There has been renewed rumblings throughout the liberal blogosphere and media for withdrawal from Iraq. Today, I ran into this argument from, a project of the Nation Institute and oversaw by Tom Englehardt.

Here's the basic gist of Englehardt's rationale:
Back in 2003, when I wrote "The Time of Withdrawal," I offered the following simple summary of our situation and why withdrawal should be on the American agenda:

"History, long term and more recent, is not on our side.

"We are a war-making and an occupying force, not a peacekeeping force.

"We never planned to leave Iraq.

"Time is against us.

"Or to boil all this down to a sentence: We are not and never have been the solution to the problem of Iraq, but a significant part of the problem."

I wouldn't change a word. In October of 2003, however, the "time of withdrawal" was distinctly not upon us. Now -- finally -- it is. We seem to have reached the actual moment when the idea of "withdrawal," at least, is being placed on the American agenda -- by the unlikely Walter Jones, among others. This is, of course, a far worse moment for withdrawal than in 2003, for Iraqis as well as Americans, just as 2007 will be worse than today.
I agree pretty much 100% with Tom on this, yet I have one caveat: Can there be a political solution with Islamic fundamentalist terrorists? I don't think so, and this is my only reservation about a U.S. withdrawal, because I'm not sure Europe and the rest of the U.N. are as vehemont as the U.S. is in stopping Islamic terrorism. Much like the Holy Bible, but only worse, the Koran is littered with passages imploring believers to smite the unbelievers. If those in the global Islamic terror network actually believe word-for-word what the Koran says, then what other options do we have but to kill them. And I understand that at this moment in time, killing one insurgent creates two or three new ones. So how do we kill those who wage holy war on us, while hopefully curbing recruitment at the same time as we show those susceptible of Islamic fundamentalist indoctrination that modernity, secular government, and democracy remain the solution to Middle-Eastern malaise?

Believe me I have no rose-tinted glasses on. I believe this was a war of choice waged on a paper tiger for strategic (military bases,show of force) and economic reasons (oil and a footprint of privatization in the Middle-East), although I do think ending Hussein's tyranny was an unqualified good for Iraqis, despite our unlaudable and dishonest reasons for regime change. Yet, this doesn't change the fact that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has worked as a self-fulfilling prophecy: Islamic militants have migrated there and are doing there worst to stop any evolution toward democracy (much like the Bush Administration was until Sistani called for direct elections). They're there and must be stopped by someone.

So the question remains: How do we concieve of a withdrawal policy that smuthers the flames of legitimate resistance (against occupation, privatization, etc.) without giving undue influence and power to those that would either turn Iraq back into a fascist dungeon or into a Islamic fundamentalist theocracy through violence and intimidation?

This is where the left should be putting their energy at this moment in time.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Moyers and Journalism's Mission

The NYTs is reporting that the researcher used by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Chairman, Kenneth Tomlinson, to monitor "NOW with Bill Moyers" was employed, unsurprisingly, by the National Journalism Center. The center was partly founded by the American Conservative Union.

Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey is rightly calling for Tomlinson's resignation.

If you're not familiar with this story, it's extremely important considering the ways conservatives have inserted themselves into every corner of this society in an effort to consolidate their worldview while simultaneously trying to squelch any opposing perspectives. Tomlinson hired Fred Mann to monitor NOW for liberal bias, approving over $14,000 to conduct the research without the CPB board's knowledge. Tomlinson is currently under investigation by the CPB's investigator general.

I should note as well that this story hits close to home because I worked for Mr. Moyers as his personal researcher for nearly two years as well as his special researcher on an hour special detailing the chasm of inequality in this country on which I also acted as a production assistant --quite badly I might add. I'm happy to report our special particularly pissed off Tomlinson because we had the gall to point our cameras at a little town in Pennsylvania called Tamaqua where the last manufacturing factory closed leaving the citizens desperate for jobs with living wages. As Bill told the folks at the Take Back America conference:
I want to tell you something. When that broadcast aired, Kenneth Tomlinson was watching. Now some of you know that Kenneth Tomlinson is the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (Boos.) He's Karl Rove's ally and the right wing?s point man on keeping tabs on public broadcasting. And I'm not making this up, you've heard that he and I have been involved in a little dispute of late.(Laughter.) I didn't know until I read it in the Washington Post a few days ago, but Mr.Tomlinson himself told a reporter that when that broadcast aired, he was watching and it was too much for him. Reaching into that well-worn book of mindless right wing cliches, he called it liberal advocacy journalism and he decided quote "right then and there" to bring some balance to the public TV and radio airwaves. In other words, to counter what real people were saying about their lives.
This is an important point, Tomlinson wanted to "counter what real people were saying about their lives." Reporting is about recording a subject's subjective interpretation of events, not disregarding them. Tomlinson should know this, he was an editor-in-chief of Reader's Digest for awhile. Yet, Tomlinson is merely a symptom of a greater disease. What's really at stake here is the press' ability to be independent of the state and Corporate America while acting as a democratic arrowhead to those powers that rather stalk the darkness of the forest than run in the open fields. As Bill said in his keynote speech to the National Conference on Media Reform:
Stretching from the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal to the faux news of Rupert Murdoch's empire to the nattering nabobs of no-nothing radio to a legion of think tanks paid for and bought by conglomerates -- the religious, partisan and corporate right have raised a mighty megaphone for sectarian, economic, and political forces that aim to transform the egalitarian and democratic ideals embodied in our founding documents. Authoritarianism. With no strong opposition party to challenge such triumphalist hegemony, it is left to journalism to be democracy's best friend.
I, like Bill, fear we are beginning a slide toward authoritarianism with a heavy dose of plutocracy. People like CPB Chairman Tomlinson act as modern day commissars attempting to protect "the people" from subversive ideas like widening inequality or war on false pretexts or Pentagon spending on defective products. And with the little donkeys scared of being trampled by those rabid elephants, tough journalism that has the public interest as its motivating mission is our only hope of keeping democracy vibrant not brittle. As Bill said in his closing address to the Conference:
An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only on partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, to ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can kill a democracy ? or worse.
But as those democracy destroying viruses of credulity and chauvinism spread, I fear journalism isn't a strong enough anti-body to cure our decrepit body politic. There just aren't enough practitioners like Moyers left to administer a truth serum of sufficient dose.

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Iraqi Unionists Tour U.S.

Representatives from various Iraqi unions are touring the U.S. and may be coming to a city near you. If so, go out and see what they have to say about Iraqi society, the insurgents, and the U.S. occupation -- particularly if you believe "the resistance" is legitimate. What they say may change your mind.

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Sunday, June 19, 2005

White Ghetto Tourism

I found this frank and well-written essay by Michael Stephens on about virtual slumming among namby-pamby middle-class white boys who want to be hard via cultural diffusion through gangsta rap and video games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The basic gist of Stephens' argument is that American society isn't that violent compared to this expat's London and therefore like the English bourgeoisie before them who paid bodyguards to walk with them through London's seedier sides, young middle-class white men are doing the same thing, but behind the safe confines of home and their manicured streets.
The American middle class is encouraged by advertisers and manufacturers to eliminate, not just danger, but the slightest inconvenience from their world. They drive Hummers equipped with satellite navigation and invest in home security systems to cocoon themselves in an atmosphere of absolute predictability and safety. Since 9/11, this tendency has only increased. Yet inside the SUV and the home in the gated community, the preferred entertainment ranges from gangsta rap to video games like Grand Theft Auto to TV shows like OZ.

The popularity of gangsta rap among middle class, white, youth exemplifies the middle class hunger for safe danger. How can teenage boys whose lives outside school are spent being chauffeured to and from soccer practice, identify with the worlds described by 2Pac and 50 Cent? The fantasy projection of white youth raised in ultra-secure environments into the gang-bangin', Glock-totin', ho-slappin', world of "the hood", through the portal of countless gangsta rap records, is a new form of virtual slumming.
Stephens then nails the psychology behind middle class whites love of "thug culture," despite the protestations of critics who allege its inner city reality. (How would they know?)
The "realism" on some gangsta rap records is often praised by critics as providing an authentic portrait of inner city life, but for the white and increasingly middle class black consumers of gangsta rap, this realism serves the same purpose as the finely detailed scenes in video games: it makes the vicarious experience of a fantasy universe more vivid and engrossing. For most consumers of gangsta rap, the streets of Compton are as remote and unreal as the landscapes of Doom. To a few sensitive listeners, gangsta rap may be a genuine communication across social and racial boundaries, but for most, gangsta rap is an aural roller coaster ride, carefully designed and precisely detailed to simulate the vibe of urban black poverty for the entertainment of white ghetto-tourists.
When I argue against gangsta rap and its cultural norms and mores, I usually receive that look,which means how dare I judge another lifestyle or that I'm crossing some boundary into racism. But to me, its those who defend the gangsta lifestyle who are doing the greater disservice. Gangsta rap is a bastion of homophobic, misogynistic, and violent tendencies. To be honest, I don't care if you lived that lifestyle, it's wrong -- simple as that. Defenders of gangsta rap, whether they are cultural critics or "whiggers," basically condone a key tenet of racism -- believing different rules apply to this group because of the melanin content of their skin.

When white kids copy thug culture they do two disservices. First they bring a "tough guy" mentality into their homes and schools that condones hatred for gays, using women as a receptacle for their loving donations without any respect for her or her feelings, and a fetish for violence.(Obviously all this already exists in our suburbs, but I've never seen it glorified to the degree that gangsta rap does.) Second, they lose touch with those inner-city, poor blacks that are struggling to get out of that place and culture for something more approximating their privileged backgrounds. How ironic is it that the sixteen year old bumping to the new 50-Cent album craves the fantasy of thugging while many a sixteen year old black kid in Harlem or Compton craves everything that white kid takes for granted.

As hip-hop historian Kevin Powell said, "Let's be honest, all this fascination with hip-hop is just a cultural safari for white people."

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Schiavo Autopsy

Well, it's been confirmed: Terri Schiavo's brain was "consistent" with a persistent vegetative state. According to the neuropathologist, whose report was attached to the autopsy report:
Brain weight is an important index of its pathologic state. Brain weight is correlated with height, age, and sex. The decedent's brain was grossly abnormal and weighed only 615 grams (1.35 lbs.). That weight is less than half of the tabular weight of a decedent of her adult age of 41 years 3 months 28 days.
Her brain atrophied so bad that by her death she was blind. Now while I sympathize with people who wanted to keep Ms. Schiavo alive because no one could conclusively prove she uttered that she wanted to die if she ever landed in such a state, I have only contempt for people like Tom DeLay and the other assortment of religious fundamentalists who used Ms. Schiavo's tragedy to act upon their Middle-Aged Christian agenda. Genuine compassion, which I believe those on the "right-to-die" camp have, was shown to be of short supply for those who campaigned for keeping the women formerly known as Terri Schiavo on life-support indefinitely. Both doctors and judges were equated with murderers rather than those who merely wanted nature to take its course. Which makes me wonder: Were they really concerned for Ms. Schiavo or just their theological campaign to make all that disagree comply with unverifiable notions of Christian beliefs?

Lastly, why is it the most religious of us who seem most afraid of the great there-after? Logically, all they accomplished according to their beliefs, was rob Ms. Schiavo of bliss.

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Monday, June 13, 2005

Stupidity Incarnate

I have just one question to the cultish crowd celebrating the king of pop's acquittal: Would you allow your children to sleep in his bed?

Morons, anyone?

(I know he may have very well been innocent, although I'm still doubtful, but these people are simply ridiculous.)

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My Proletarian Summer

If you noticed that the frequency of my posts are down, let me explain dear reader.

I'm heading off to grad school at St. Andrew's in Scotland come September, and I need to make as much money as possible. But as many of you probably know, no one really wants to hire someone for a little over three months and another unpaid internship was just out of the question.

So I'm roofing during the day and writing free-lance for my local daily, The Bucks County Courier Times , at night when I have the chance.

Let me let you in on something, roofing is the hardest day of labor I've ever experienced. So if you know any roofers, or see them toiling on those hot suburban or city roofs, be kind and respectful. Last week and this week have just been brutal since the Philly area has been going through one hell of an early heat wave.

And you may have heard some sterotypes about roofers -- basically drinking and drugging -- but the two guys I work with are the salt of the earth. To be honest, my boss may be the most devoted father I've ever witnessed. Working with these guys simply brings back what politics should be all about: the possibility of making things easier and better for those who work their asses off for a living. Today, the political arena is devoted to doing the worst to the working and middle-class, while the wealthiest among us and their political sidekicks in the GOP scratch away, bit by bit, at our progressive tax system.

So I guess it will come as no surprise that I think Howard Dean was on to something when he said that the Republican leadership and pols don't work for "an honest living." My only problem is he didn't include those on his own side of the same thing. The corruption goes both ways, but that being said, the Bush Administration has taken it to the heights of heaven.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Century

Via Kevin Drum, the right-wing Human Events has listed their "Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries." Jeez, they hate commies.

Kevin and his liberal readership responded with a list of their own. The funny thing is as Kevin asks:
Where are the really famous and genuinely influential books of the past 200 years that liberals dislike as much as conservatives dislike Keynes and Kinsey? Not miscellaneous Regnery titles of the past couple of decades, but books published (at least) prior to 1970 that have had a wide impact on the course of public opinion.
He's right. I think Hayek and Friedman's ideas, which made Kevin's list, are laughable and immensely harmful when implemented in the real world -- ask any ordinary Latin American -- but I don't hate them and at least respect their libertarian ideas.

Also, I have a bone to pick with Human Events listing the Communist Manifesto as the most harmful book of the last two centuries because "[t]he Evil Empire of the Soviet Union put the Manifesto into practice." It pisses me off a little since whoever wrote the write-up hasn't read Marx. He certainly inspired the Bolsheviks, but they butchered his ideas. Marx would have laughed at a Communist revolution in Russia considering the economy was primarily based on agriculture and not industry. Therefore, the most harmful work should have been Lenin's What Is To Be Done -- who was undoubtedly an authoritarian prick.

The rest of the list and their "honorable mentions" really irked me as well, which included Darwin's The Origin of the Species, Dewey's Democracy and Education, Keynes' General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Mill's On Liberty, and wait for it...Nader's Unsafe at Any Speed. So essentially humans need to be heavily burdened with undue regulations on behavior -- say homosexuality, prostitution, and recreational drug use -- but corporations should be able to operate free of regulation, even when they put out harmful, defective products. As Kevin likes to say of the right, moral values baby, moral values.

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Friday, June 03, 2005

Bible Blogging: Genesis, Ch. 4

After their ignomious fall from grace for eating of the tree of knowledge, Adam and Eve figure out the joys of each other and their first son, Cain, is born. Somewhere in the not too far future, Eve also bears Cain's brother, Abel. (Again, the timeline is sketchy because both are born in subsequent sentences. God must be a fan of Hemingway.) Abel's a shepard and Cain's a farmer, naturally, competition ensues as Cain gives God "an offering of the fruit of the ground," while Abel offers the "firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions." As it happens, God is not a vegetarian and lifts his nose at Cain's apparently less than stellar offering. But for Abel's succulent gift God "had regard."

Cain doesn't take God's disapproval too well. God, being that disciplinarian he is, warns Cain of sin's creeping influence.
The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your contenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it."
God sure is cold and obtuse. Doesn't this benevolent and adoring creator understand that Cain's anger is a product of his green gifts being disregarded?

Well, things spiral out of control, Cain invites Abel to the field, and then murders him. The funny thing is God's not sure what has occurred.
Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" And the Lord said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground."
I guess God acquired that omniscience ability a little later -- although his intuition seems acute.

And you know a punishment's a coming when God's favored son gets the shank.
"And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength: you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth."
What happens next demonstrates how one has to leave all logic and rationality in limbo when reading the bible.
Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from my face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me."
Hold on there, who will slay Cain? All those other people God must have created, yet declined to mention in the text. But aren't we all descended from that loving pair, Adam and Eve? So many questions, no apparent answers.

To top it all off, God establishes the precedent of unequality before the law. In regards to Cain's fear others will murder him too, God says:
"Not so! If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold."
That's biblical justice for you, it makes secular law look oh so...liberal and reasonable.

I know that many of you reading this will say these stories are allegory and not supposed to be taken literally. I agree. But how can one believe these stories from the Old Testament are allegory while the Gospels of the New Testament are literal? What makes the Gospel writers reporters, and the writers of the Old Testament allegorical storytellers?

I'm sorry, but picking and choosing from the bible sort of dilutes the factual accurancy of the whole book. Since there's no way to ensure what story is allegorical or historical, there's really only one option if believers want to remain consistent: either the book is a historical document of God's revealed truth or it's an allegorical attempt by men to make sense of the harsh world they find themselves in.

Sure, it very well could be both allegorical and historical at times, but how do you know which is what?

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

What a Bird!

I just thought this was incredibly interesting, but scientists have found evidence of dinosaurs direct, common lineage with birds. According to the NYTs:
Scientists have found bone tissue in a Tyrannosaurus rex that they say shows the 70-million-year-old animal was an ovulating female. The estrogen-derived tissue, they determined, is similar to tissue now present only in living birds producing egg shells.

The discovery team concluded in a report to be published on Friday in the journal Science that the finding "solidifies the link between dinosaurs and birds" and "provides an objective means of gender differentiation in dinosaurs."
How cool!

Also what struck me was this quote from the skeptical Dr. Mark A. Norell:
"But I'm not 100 percent sure, and want to see the results replicated in more than one animal. The big thing in science is replication."
Unlike religious zealots, or even your everyday religious moderate, skepticism in science is welcomed and when you claim something like the fearsome T-rex is an ancestor to today's flightless birds like the ostrich, you have to have evidence.

I'd like to see a replication of the resurrection or the virgin birth sometime soon, but for some reason, I don't think that's possible.

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Emmett Till Exhumed

Little Emmett Till is in the news again, according to the NYTs.

He was:
"a 14 year-old Chicago boy when he left his mother behind in 1955 to visit relatives in Tallahatchie County on the Mississippi Delta. Apparently not familiar enough with southern racial codes, the teenager struck up a conversation and possibly whistled at a 21 year-old white female shopkeeper in Money, Miss. Emmett was soon dragged out of his uncle's house at gunpoint, beaten savagely, shot by a riverbank and dumped in the water, his body weighed down by a cotton gin fan knotted to his neck with barbed wire."
It remains one of the most gruesome reminders of how barbarous racial hatred can be when set free with impunity. Because Emmett's mother, Mamie Till Mobley, asked for an open casket to show the horrors of racism, posterity has pictures. You can see them here; be warned they are upsetting.

Renewed interest was rekindled in Emmett's case due to Stanley Nelson's incredible documentary for American Experience, The Murder of Emmett Till, that aired on PBS.

Two men, Roy Bryant, the storeowner, and, J.W. Milan, were charged for Emmett's murder, but were acquitted by an all white jury. After the acquital, Mr. Bryant and Mr. Milan confessed to the murder in Look magazine. You can read their confession here.

It seems the body is being exhumed because the main plank in the defense's case at the time was that nobody could confirm Emmett was indeed dead because no autopsy was performed. Due to double jeopardy, Bryant and Milan could not be tried again for the crime despite their confession. Now, they're dead.

Hopefully, the exhumation and an autopsy will confirm it is indeed Emmett in the grave and find new evidence that can conclusively prove Bryant and Milan's guilt and any others that may have been involved.

Emmett Till, wrested from peace for justice. May it be done in spades.

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