Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Volunteering time lately

Light blogging this week as I'm volunteering some time to some worthwhile causes.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Soulful, funky, hip-hop for this rainy Saturday morning in Portland

k-os's "Yes!" is my favorite hip-hop release so far this year, and perfect for this rainy Saturday morning in Portland. .mp3s via my 4shared folder.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Dream of Our Youth

I'm picking up where I left off reading Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives. Scott Esposito has a good theory why this literature has taken off in the States:

What is it about Bolaño that has permitted this author success over here? To start with, he himself makes for a great story, and that counts for a lot. Forgetting even how Bolaño first left Chile and then returned to fight for it and was captured and nearly executed, his lifestyle of tramping around the Hispanic world and then suddenly setting down and writing masterpiece after masterpiece appeals deeply to our idea of the romantic artist, the man who lives life on his terms and seems to grasp the muse between his fingers. Perhaps Bolaño himself best summed it up when he said, upon accepting the Rómulo Gallegos Prize, that good writing “doesn’t mean just to write well, because anybody can do that, but to write marvelously well, though not even that, because anybody can do that too. Then what is writing of quality? Well, what it’s always been: to know how to thrust your head into the darkness, know how to leap into the void, and to understand that literature is basically a dangerous calling.” The writer who boldly leaps where none have leapt before, who mixes passion and love together into art. This is the Bolaño we love to read.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How to deal with the village idiot

Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy for God, commenting on Fundamentalists (Evangelicals), said it very nicely. You don't try to cater to the village idiot, but you try to pass around them. Good advice for the times.

The Acorn Scandal

The is ACORN's purpose: "ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities."

A couple of filmmakers encouraged a couple ACORN employees to act unprofessionally for the camera and then used the lapse of professional judgement to tarnish the organization. This is obviously a political smear campaign.

ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis has twenty years experience in community organization, and no doubt has done a great deal more good than her opponents. The organization has the following campaigns: Foreclosures, Gulf Coast Recovery, Immigration, Living Wage, Paid Sick Days, Voter Engagement. I think most people see the benefit of such an organization on their side, yet the smear has been successful.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

H.R.3200 - America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 appears not to have caught on yet -- there were 641,480 views of the health care bill when I visited -- yet it is an important technological development in giving more transparency to government. You can search legislation, locate and contact your representative, and even vote on a bill (non-scientific).

The Authoritarians

This is a necessary read for anyone concerned about the future of our democracy.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Today's "grassroots" anti-Obama rally was brought to you by:

Corporate contributers:

  1. MetLife (source: Wikipedia)
  2. Phillip Morris (source: Wikipedia)
  3. SBC/AT&T (source: Wikipedia)
  4. Verizon (source: Wikipedia)
  5. Bristol Myers Squibb (source: Rachel Maddow)
  6. SleepMed (source: Rachel Maddow)
  7. Medicines Company (source: Rachel Maddow)
Americans for Prosperity/Patients United Now:
  1. Koch Industries (Koch’s founder helped found the John Birch Society)
  2. Altria (formerly known as Phillip Morris)
  3. Blue Cross/Blue Shield
  4. CIGNA Dental
  5. Pfizer
  6. Microsoft
  7. ExxonMobile
So this is how these people afford to roam the country with crazy signs? And that's supposed to be grassroots? Looks like racist hillbillies doing the dirty work for billion dollar corporations.

Deep Thought: House of mirrors

The banning of Obama speaking to students last week by the Neo-John Birch Party, makes me think these people are censoring the President in their private lives as well; instead, they're probably watching Fox News or Cops or America's Stupidest Videos.

They do not accept him as the President; what reason do I have to think they'd listen to him. Or give him a chance. That makes their craziness all the more a house of mirrors.

Obama's candid moment with a student

I've been vegging out today watching news and caught on CNN a story where Obama answered a student's question so candidly, mentioning how although his father was a smart man that he was also arrogant and argumentative, and if he had stayed around they probably would have been arguing a lot. The student, also the child of a single parent, told CNN how responsible it made him feel.

Obama is probably more like Honest Abe than any President since Lincoln. Which is probably why a school district in Texas barred students from hearing Obama and instead will bus them to hear former President Bush speak.

p0ps art

I think we were at The Vig in the Lower East Village when Steve came up with Steve and Ruth were among my adopted family in New York and generous in their care and concern for me during and after 9/11.

Kinda tacky

Does anyone else feel that it's tacky to organize demonstrations against Obama on 9/12? As a nation, we pulled together during this time. Now these same people who tried to exploit the day politically for the rest of the Bush administration, seem to have forgotten about it altogether.

Even their signs are tacky. Can these whiny white people get anything right?

Joe. My. God. has a moving remembrance of 9/11

That Day.

Anti-Obama protest orchestrated by Freedomworks

In a nutshell, Freedomworks is chaired by Dick Armey, who ushered in the Republican Revolution of the 1990s. Firedoglake exposes the corporate financing behind this PAC.

Basically you have a PAC exploiting people's fears by appealing to their racism, to oppose policy that would be in their best interest.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The polarized political landscape

Obviously the right wing in this country today is scared; they waved the flag all through the atrocities of the Bush Administration, but now all of a sudden for them government is bad. Health care means death camps, socialism, blah blah blah. Oh yeah, and since the President is black he's not an American citizen.

Sometimes I wonder if all it's about is hurting brown people. Hurting gay people. Hurting people different than them because that's what bigots do. They divide the country with hate so they can be smug in their righteousness.

They want Obama to fail. They listen to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, they parade in the streets with angry signs, and they see Obama as the enemy. They don't want to admit failure of their crazy ideologies, or admit that people are suffering as a result of 8 years of Bush who took a 5 trillion surplus and turned it into giveaways to the war corporations while demanding "people better be careful what they say."

Yes, government can be bad as we saw during the Bush Administration. The cooler heads among us prevailed and elected someone who would represent the interests of the country and not allow 9/11, torture or future Katrinas to happen in our country again.

These very people who now point their finger at Obama and accuse him of lying, should be called out for what they are ... shameless hypocrits. And total douchebags.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obama's Health Care Speech to Congress

The New York Times has the full text, as usual. Totally recommend reading. Obama gave a great speech, one of the best I have heard from an elected official.

Regarding Joe Wilson's outburst, not only was it disrespectful but, also, factually wrong. All it told me was that Joe Wilson cares enough about denying illegal immigrants health care to interrupt the President about it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Thank you Senator Claire McCaskill

Thank you Senator Claire McCaskill for mentioning on Hardball that a lot of taxpayer money is going directly to the health insurance industry that could be better spent on actual health care.

A way forward

Obama's speech tonight is meant to recapture the debate. Unless you've been living under a rock, you may have noticed discussion derailed by ridiculous conspiracy theories. Conspiracies are meant to distract and obfuscate, and so you have a number of gullible people believing propaganda, and all of this has to be addressed to regain control of the discussion.

I too am hopeful for a public option, and I agree with Obama that it's a small, but essential part of overall health care reform that will inject competition into the marketplace. The point is that it provides a safety net and brings down overall health care costs. That would be a step in the right direction.

The health care reform that is going to pass will be the beginning of a health care system in this country. The more people that enroll in a health care plan (public option or co-op) the more negotiating power it has. People have to start thinking of health care as a fundamental human right and voicing their issues and concerns based on good information.

There should be little controversy about health care reform. The polls have been showing that it has broad consensus. But the media likes a horse race, and so we get the asses too.

"Triggers" and "Co-ops"

I'm for universal, affordable health care (and I'm not talking you get dropped if you miss a payment). Triggers sounds like a number of people lose their health care before anything is done, and co-ops will not work unless they are not-for-profit and have bargaining power. The health insurance industry tends to like co-ops because they will be easier to compete against than a public option. Why a single-payer system was so controversial, or expanding Medicare, I don't know. Maybe it's our priorities, i.e. being too complacent about the money we spend on foreign wars to take care of ourselves.

There were Americans on board the hijacked flight

CNN asking how many Americans were on board. Since it was an American flight I'm guessing a lot. What was meant, of course, was U.S. Citizens. But that would mean rethinking an assumption.


Blue Dog Democrat Mike Baccus is a tool.

Boycott Glenn Beck Advertisers

I have a good friend and teacher who once told me that no matter how limited one's resources, to use those resources to effect positive change. This has stuck with me over the years, and I try to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

When you are poor that means being a conscientous, informed consumer. Organized boycotts do work. Better yet, in addition to joining an organized boycott, write a personal letter to the company explaining the reasons you are shopping elsewhere.

Media Matters has been covering the boycott against companies advertising on Glenn Beck. I can't stand watching Beck, but Media Matters does so you don't have to. Here's the list of advertisers still supporting Beck. If you are purchasing their products find an alternative. Hit them in pocketbook where it matters.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Citizens United v. We The People

Citizens United is a non-proft, tax-exempt, corporation that wanted to broadcast a 90-minute hit job, sans disclosure of special interests, against Hillary Clinton during the primaries, and in flagrant violation of FEC regulation of corporate influence in elections.

If the Supremes rule in favor of Citizens United, as seems likely by the analysis on the wiki, it means that corporations have the right to broadcast propaganda to influence elections. Imagine during the 2012 elections seeing a dozen or so anti-Obama broadcasts, in various disguses (news, infomercial, documentary), funded by corporate interests without disclosure, posing as "grassroots." Massive propaganda compaigns would diminish any voice a public might have.

Consider this:

Moreover, the brief goes further, urging the Court to strike down a 1990 decision — Austin v. Michigan State Chamber of Commerce — that upheld a compelling interest for the government in regulating expression by corporations who may be very wealthy. That decision, it contended, “is flatly at odds with the well-established principle that First Amendment protection does not depend upon the identity of the speaker.”
You have a lot of voice if you are a wealthy corporation with billions to spend to influence an outcome that may not have the public interest in mind. The Bill of Rights was argued for ratification to grant fundamental human liberties, not for shady entities to run propaganda campaigns.

As Noam Chomsky observed, "He who owns the media controls the mind of the public." It is clear now, if not before, that the conservatives on the court who want to take up this issue to give corporations (global in scope) control of the elections are the real judicial activists. If you think the corporate interest money that's pouring into killing health care reform is stunning, consider what's at stake in the next elections. What's at stake is the nature of our elected officials, whether they are working for corporate interests or the public. Good luck democracy.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Rodriguez's "Establishment Blues"

The mayor hides the crime rate
council woman hesitates
Public gets irate but forget the vote date
Weatherman complaining, predicted sun, it's raining
Everyone's protesting, boyfriend keeps suggesting
you're not like all of the rest.

Garbage ain't collected, women ain't protected
Politicians using people, they've been abusing
The mafia's getting bigger, like pollution in the river
And you tell me that this is where it's at.

Woke up this moming with an ache in my head
Splashed on my clothes as I spilled out of bed
Opened the window to listen to the news
But all I heard was the Establishment's Blues.

Gun sales are soaring, housewives find life boring
Divorce the only answer smoking causes cancer
This system's gonna fall soon, to an angry young tune
And that's a concrete cold fact.

The pope digs population, freedom from taxation
Teeny Bops are up tight, drinking at a stoplight
Miniskirt is flirting I can't stop so I'm hurting
Spinster sells her hopeless chest.

Adultery plays the kitchen, bigot cops non-fiction
The little man gets shafted, sons and monies drafted
Living by a time piece, new war in the far east.
Can you pass the Rorschach test?

It's a hassle is an educated guess.
Well, frankly I couldn't care less.

Never interfere with an enemy set on destroying himself!

I'm all for Texan secession. Federal funds can be better spent on those who want help. There will probably be an exodus of senior citizens who want Medicare, poor people who might need assistance, and business that would need some sort of infrastructure, but maybe Texas was meant to be a largely unpopulated cowboy set. Given their anti-government, anti-tax attitudes, it could be an enclave for wealthy celebrities to buy up a lot of land and turn the new country into something like Monaco or Switzerland. It could be a win-win situation for everyone.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Stop listening already

All August I watched a heavily financed and coordinated effort to stop health care reform. The Republican Party does not have any interest in health care reform. This is obvious. These so-called representatives are tools of the profit-driven health industry. If the status quo didn't have any stake in the issues they wouldn't be spending hundred of millions of dollars to influence the outcome.

To those who think the government has no role in health care, I wonder if they use the post office, the library, drive on paved streets, have their garbage picked up by the city, take public transportation, or are on Medicare/Medicaid. These are all subsized by tax dollars, and personally, I would prefer to have shared ownership rather than pay a private company who may deny me or charge me more than I can afford.

It is not a reasonable debate that we have been having. Republicans such as Inhofe, Grassley and Enzi have excellent health care, the same health care they are bashing at town hall meetings while feeding into fringe fears that Obama's plan is a stepping stone to socialized medicine.

Really, the health care industry is not going to collapse because there is a public option. The health care industry simply doesn't want competition. Let's be honest, they don't even want regulation. These corporations answer to shareholders who answer to Wall Street. And to be most profitable the health care industry already rations health services.

If socialized medicine means that everyone has access, then I'm all for it. I happen to have an excellent health care (thanks to Oregon), and I would hope that everyone has the same. Our society benefits as a whole when we are all healthier.

As for the crazies who are all ginned up on fear of socialized medicine, who think that the government is trying to put people to death, etc. — I really can't take any of it seriously. The truth is the Republican Party ran the country into the ground for eight years, and now they are obstructing any change of the status quo.

Obama doesn't need to compromise with the crazies. A vast majority of this country supports health care reform, and I predict the real losers during the next election will be those who vote for the lobbyists.

Early morning after an all-nighter

I got caught up with computer issues tonight, mainly organizing an iTunes library. Usually when I work at the computer I watch television. I don't really have television habits; by that I mean that I don't sit down for the evening news, watch the Simpsons, or CSI or whatever the latest reality show is.

Instead I channel surf which may be annoying if I had a roommate. But left to my own devices, I surf. Sometimes I have the sound muted and listen to the iPod, when it's not in sync hell. If a program catches my attention, I usually just mute the commercials.

There are times I like quiet. It rained tonight. I opened up the door and let the cool air fan through the apartment, then rode my new bike down to the Shell on Sandy between two small downpours. There was little traffic, and I let the bike coast down the hill on the way there and cycled somewhat in the middle of the street on the way back. I can't remember the last time we had rain. It really is very refreshing after a dry spell, and I caught sight of the moon (full?) moving between clouds.

I caught a little of Rachel Maddow, the last time it aired tonight, and there were the images that brought to mind Abu Graib and Cheney and torture and then I channel-surfed some more and came across the 2006 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and like the ditzy character in the end who can't help but go up the staircase, I was drawn in.

Horror movies are one of my guilty pleasures. The formula is so well-worn, but there's suspense — will good prevail or the victims survive? — that keeps me watching. TCM has no zombies, vamps, unleashed demons, or supernatural. Just a crazy, sadistic family out in the middle of nowhere Texas.

The original TCM was marketed as based on a true story, although the story originated with Tobe Hooper, a documentary cameraman and professor at the University of Texas in Austin, who observed the graphic nature of the local San Antonio news and was intrigued by the ideological/political/cultural tensions of the late '60s/early '70s. The movie is based on serial killer Ed Gein, the product of a severely abusive upbringing in a fervent Lutheran family with an alcoholic father and a mentally ill mother who read to her sons every afternoon the more violent and graphic stories of the Old Testament. The movie garnered such a violent reaction that it was subject to censorship.

When the movie ends I'm truly creeped out, it is 2 or so in the morning, and I switch back to CNN for a moment to catch the news and it's about the security guard/frat boys that reminded me of Abu Grahib and Cheney earlier.

On there's a reporter covering some Korean's practice of eating dogs. He takes a tour of the barns housing the dogs, and it's hard not to think of them as pets. The dog farmer being interviewed, as well as those involved in the dog farming, were afraid of controversy, or slanted coverage, so they were on the defense about the practice. Really it came down to the farmer saying, "I don't care what you think."

Actually, I'm thinking of being a vegetarian after tonight's television viewing. I don't eat a lot of meat, though I do eat the occasional burger or chicken or salmon; but I do see the value of not taking the life of another animal unless absolutely necessary, and here in Portland there are plenty of alternatives.

From there I surfed to Tibet where a Buddhist monk was affirming the spirit of all life and the acceptance of death. I tranced out for awhile and let my thoughts drift, cycling through what I have to do tomorrow and then I shut off the television and laid in the dark for awhile before getting up for a shower and then sitting down to write.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What your health care dollars pay for ...

Most people who are happy with their health insurance should know that a portion of their premiums goes towards lobbying efforts to prevent the uninsured from having health care. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to preserve an unsustainable status quo.

Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), one of the "Gang of Six," has already admitted that he will vote against any health reform bill, and that he's just trying to get concessions on the bill before it leaves the Senate Finance Committee. "If I hadn't been involved in this process as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care," he said. "It's not where I get them to compromise, it's what I get them to leave out."

The White House is beginning to admit that bipartisan support may not be possible. The fate of any health reform may be up to how many Blue Dog Democrats vote for it, and if you follow the lobbying dollars flowing to this group, you can see that the for-profit health care and insurance industries know where to focus their money. Their agenda is to kill the public option and eliminate any competition in the system.

That's why it is important if you are represented by a Blue Dog Democrat to make your voice heard. You may be competing against the health insurance industry, but at the end of the day your representative is going to vote with the majority of his constituents. Send your representative a letter in support of the public option.