Monday, June 30, 2008

Rising Red Tide, Not What Mao Was Thinking

With less than six weeks before it plays host to the Olympic sailing regatta, the city of Qingdao has mobilized thousands of people and an armada of small boats to clean up an algae bloom that is choking large stretches of the coastline and threatening to impede the Olympic competition ... Officials in Qingdao said pollution and poor water quality did not have a "substantial link" to the current outbreak, according to Xinhua.

Yeah, right... sure it didn't. You gotta love the Chinese though, who else can order 20 or 30 thousand people to go and remove tons and tons of algae. Now!

State media reported that 100,000 tons of the algae had already been taken out of the water. Much of it was being transported to farms as feed for pigs and other animals, according to news reports.
Some algae will be reeducated through labor and become a active members of the working class, if it knows whats good for it.

The earth is angry...
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Wes Clark is Right

Clark is right, just because McCain managed to lose 5 Navy aircraft and get himself shot down on one of his first combat flights doesn't make him Mr Foreign Policy guy, in fact his grasp on foreign policy to date has left me about as comfortable as I would be with him in the pilot seat of an aircraft.
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Pentagon: Toxic Criminals

Ok, The Whitehouse won't open up the EPA email. And now the DOD/ Pentagon are resisting orders (isn't that ironic for the military) to clean up what the EPA are calling dangerous waste at 3 bases-- not to mention loads of other military sites listed as dangerous toxic dump locations.

Pentagon = America's Biggest Superfund Polluter.

Lyndsey Layton, of The Washington Post: "The Defense Department, the nation's biggest polluter, is resisting orders from the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up Fort Meade and two other military bases where the EPA says dumped chemicals pose 'imminent and substantial' dangers to public health and the environment. The Pentagon has also declined to sign agreements required by law that cover 12 other military sites on the Superfund list of the most polluted places in the country.
Maybe it's time to send in this guy.

Seriously, these guys are child-criminals. Every law breaking moment seems to be highlighted with tantrums and stubborn adolescent behavior. I can just about picture them with their fingers in the ears yelling la-la-la-la... I can't HEAR you!
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LOST: Books, TV and Popular Culture

In full disclosure I am pretty anti-tv. Happily, I don’t really watch. A bit on vacation in hotel rooms and some stuff that I can watch via the internet. But I am really not a TV person- gave it up more than 15 years ago. I love books, movies, music, podcasts and lots of other media—but not tv. Watched more as a kid but the older I get the less interested I am.

When I was working for 8 weeks in Hawaii last year I watched a lot of TLC stuff, including my guilty addiction, What Not To Wear. But I am not a big, famous, series fan. I don’t get caught up in that kind of thing. There are simply not enough hours in the day, and not enough good writing for television. And besides I always wonder how many great inventions will not be invented, how many problems will not be solved as we sit and vegetate in front of the blue flickering light of the devil.

Having said all that though, I was impressed this week by a TV-BOOK crossover phenomenon. The extremely popular show LOST has spawned a new interest in reading! Really.

Apparently, though I have not seen it myself, there are people in the blogosphere, and in libraries and book groups who have documented the books that appear on the desert island show and are writing about, reading and discussing those books. The premise is that the stranded members of the cast go through the luggage on the crashed airplane for reading material to pass the time. The collection of books is quite eclectic.

Some from the list so far…

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
by Lewis Carroll

Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret
by Judy Blume

A Brief History of Time
by Stephen Hawking [523.1 Haw]

The Brothers Karamazov
by Fyodor Dostoevsky

by Stephen King

by Joseph Heller

The Epic of Gilgamesh
by Anonymous

Evil Under the Sun
by Agatha Christie

The Fountainhead
by Ayn Rand

Heart of Darkness
by Joseph Conrad

by Walker Percy

Laughter in the Dark
by Vladimir Nabakov

Lord of the Flies
by William Golding

Of Mice and Men
by John Steinbeck

Our Mutual Friend
by Charles Dickens

The Stand
by Stephen King

Stranger in a Strange Land
by Robert Heinlein

A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens

The Third Policeman
by Flann O'Brien

The Turn of the Screw
by Henry James

Watership Down
by Richard Adams

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
by L. Frank Baum

A Wrinkle in Time
by Madeleine L'Engle
This book-tv phenomenon was pointed out to me last week at my regular monthly book group. (we were reading The Book Thief, which I enjoyed tremendously even though it is a young-adult novel) And I did some follow up research today yielding these web results;

This led me to muse on my own desert island lists—what 10 books would I want with me if I were lost? (will post mine later) How about your list?
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Sunday, June 29, 2008

JCPenny Speed Dressing

This Cannes Film award winning commercial is (not surprisingly)raising eyebrows. I love it. Great use of story. Not much in the way of commercial substance-- which are the best kinds of commercials. And the opposing internet and fundie buzz-wars are going to put JC Penny on the cool list for a bit. Hard to do when you are a company who started around 1902!!! (h/t dropkick monkey)
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Convict "Jack" Abramoff

Number of known contacts between convicted criminal Jack Abramoff and George Bush (President)

Despite vociferous denials by White House officials of knowing Jack Abramoff... For the second time, an investigation by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), confirmed extensive communications between disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is now serving a prison sentence, the White House and President George Bush. A September 2006 report by the same committee identified 485 contacts between Abramoff and the Bush Administration over the brief career of the scandal-tainted lobbyist; the new report identifies 70 additional contacts. Watchdog Blog
This is a criminal administration. They have committed numerous criminal acts. They have committed more crimes than Boss Tweed. It's really quite stunning.
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Electronic Search and Seziure at the Border

Ironkey secure flashdrive
Ironkey secure flashdrive.

What is this Fourth Amendment You Keep Talking About?

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in April, all your electronics belong to us.


Your laptop, your flash drive, your PDA, your iPod. Fourth Amendment? We don't need no stinking Fourth Amendment. We're the United States Customs. This is no-man's land, buddy-boy. We own your ass.

We can search you without reasonable cause or warrant. Strip-search you, x-ray you, and make you poop into a bowl.

As of April, Customs can take every electronic device you have.


Returning from a vacation to Germany in February, freelance journalist Bill Hogan was selected for additional screening by customs officials at Dulles International Airport outside Washington. Agents searched his luggage, he said, "then they told me that they were impounding my laptop."

Shaken by the encounter, Hogan examined his bags and found the agents had also inspected the memory card from his camera. "It was fortunate that I didn't use [the laptop] for work," he said, "or I would have had to call up all my sources and tell them that the government had just seized their information." When customs offered to return the computer nearly two weeks later, Hogan had it shipped to his lawyer.

How common Hogan's experience is remains unclear. But an April ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Customs and Border Protection, does have full authority to search any electronic devices without suspicion in the same way that it can inspect briefcases.

But congressional investigators say that copies of drives are sometimes made, meaning customs could be duplicating corporate secrets, legal and financial data, personal E-mails and photographs, along with stored passwords for accounts with companies ranging from Netflix to Bank of America.

The practice of storing and duplicating material might be something that both opponents and supporters of seizure could agree to regulate, says Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, an otherwise staunch supporter of customs' authority. Larry Cunningham, an assistant district attorney from New York, told the hearing: "I am aware of no authority that would permit the government, without probable cause to believe it contains contraband, to keep a person's laptop or to copy the contents of its files."

Customs insists that terrorism and child pornography are sufficient justification for electronics searches. And even civil libertarians agree it makes sense for customs to search luggage, which could pose immediate dangers to aircraft and passengers. But, says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, "customs officials do not go through briefcases to review and copy paper business records or personal diaries, which is apparently what they are now doing in digital form. These pda's don't have bombs in them."
Customs doesn't make copies of the files in your briefcase. For them to copy the files on your computer is to turn over one's life to the government.

“Stop! In the Name of Law” -- All crimes against the Constitution can be justified by The Four Horsemen of the Internet:
  • Terrorism
  • Drugs
  • Child Porn
  • Racism & Hatred
Rip the Bill of Rights up. We're making a safer world for the Children.

What can you do?

Take only a clean laptop and an encrypted flash drive through Customs. Be prepared to lose them forever. Send any data you care about over an encrypted channel before you cross the border.

Until the Judges currently on the Bench are replaced with ones who respect the Constitution -- a thirty year project, which will only come to pass once we have a progressive President elected, and guess what kids, Obama ain't him -- there isn't much we can ultimately do. A netroots caucus in Congress would help. Specific laws about this would help.

Ultimately what is needed is to shift the country back to a deep respect for the Constitution. Searching every electronic device, keeping them and rifling through them... obvious bullshit. Yet here it is, real as $140 oil and climbing (before we're formally at war with Iran.)

Obviously the Bush administration came up with this steaming crock of cow dung. What amazes me is the Ninth Circuit went along.

h/t Crooks and Liars.
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Killer Tomatoes Update

As of this weekend-- Salmonella-tainted tomatoes have sickened more than 800 people in the food scandal that just keeps on giving.

As I have written before, the inadequacies of the FDA will have a long range impact. In addition to the people who get sick, (some fatally) when these big-ag outbreaks happen, the absolute inability of the inadequately funded and grossly mismanaged FDA to track down the actually culprits and causes, ultimately effects all growers and particularly medium sized ones - leading to more big ag, more mismanagement and more health & safety concerns. It is a vicious circle.

Growers urge salmonella hearings. Western Growers is urging the House Committee on Agriculture to quickly hold hearings on the salmonella outbreak associated with fresh, red round, roma and plum tomatoes. The industry group, whose membership includes produce growers in Monterey County, said federal food safety and health officials haven't been able to pinpoint the outbreak's source. As a result, tomato growers are suffering great harm, the group said Saturday.

"Congress must investigate this matter and determine ways to avoid this in the future and make the innocent tomato growers, packers and shippers whole," said Western Growers president Tom Nassif."- The Monterey County Herald

The big companies can write this kind of thing off, pass on the expense, push a different product. The Medium size growers, canners, packers and shippers will go out of business which leaves us with less choice, more mono-culture, higher risk of poor health and safety standards.

It will help small, local producers and that is the only good part of this story. Unfortunately small growers cannot grow enough to meet need and demand.

We need some real house-cleaning in the FDA and almost every other federal oversight-bureau. It is going to take years to root out all the corruption and insider “looking the other way,” that is the legacy of this administration.

In addition to making people sick, every major mistake like this will drive food prices higher. As with so many other Bush and Co. policies we are seeing the inevitable conclusions brought about by the GOP conservative, corporatist ideology.

Here are just some highlights of the who's who in regulatory jobs under Bush-Cheney Inc.

DAVID LAURISKI, chosen as the Labor Department’s Assistant Secretary of Mine Safety and Health, previously spent 30 years in the mining industry, during which time he advocated loosening of coal dust standards.

J. STEVEN GRILES, named Deputy Secretary of the Interior, was previously a lobbyist for major oil and mining companies and for the National Mining association.

JACQUELINE GLASSMAN, appointed chief counsel of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, previously worked in the general counsel’s office of DaimlerChrysler, where among other things she helped defend against charges brought by California State officials that the company had recycled defective cars to consumers.

In the DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (keepers of the tomato saftey responsibility along with the FDA)

Deputy Chief of Staff, Michael Torrey, had been a vice president at the International Dairy Foods Association.

Deputy Secretary James Moseley was a partner in Infinity Pork LLC, a factory farm in Indiana.

Under Secretary J.B. Penn had been an executive of Sparks Companies, an agribusiness consulting firm.

Under Secretary Joseph Jen had been director of research at Campbell Soup Company’s Campbell Institute of Research and Technology.

Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Mark Rey, whose post involved oversight of the Forest Service, was previously a vice president of the American Forest and Paper Association.

Deputy Under Secretary Floyd D. Gaibler had been executive director of the National Cheese Institute and the American Butter Institute, which are funded by the dairy industry

Deputy Under Secretary Kate Coler had been director of government relations for the Food Marketing Institute.

Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations Mary Waters had been a senior director and legislative counsel for ConAgra Foods.

--all the above taken from

I am sure none of these fine people were influenced by their prior corporate positions and none of them would put American citizens at risk in order to create larger profit margins for their former bosses. I am feeling pretty safe, how about you?

*Update* from the thread (h/t ensley) there now seems to be some question if it even was the tomatoes which caused the outbreak. That's how poorly run the FDA really is.
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Get a Move On- Weekend Jam

Kicking back on a low energy sunday.
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Please explain...
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Cheney Effing Nuts

Vice President Dick Cheney fought furiously to block efforts by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to strike a controversial US compromise deal with North Korea over the communist state's nuclear programme, the Telegraph has learned.

"The exchanges between Cheney's office and Rice's people at State got very testy. But ultimately Condi had the President's ear and persuaded him that his legacy would be stronger if they reached a deal with Pyongyang," said a Pentagon adviser who was briefed on the battle.

Days before Dick Cheney no longer holds office.
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Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Hardships of the Rich

I feel so bad for Cindy today, her life must be so difficult. It turns out that she has not paid her property taxes on a La Jolla condo for about 4 years.

When you’re poor, it can be hard to pay the bills. When you’re rich, it’s hard to keep track of all the bills that need paying. It’s a lesson Cindy McCain learned the hard way when NEWSWEEK raised questions about an overdue property-tax bill on a La Jolla, Calif., property owned by a trust that she oversees. […]

County officials say the trust still owes an additional $1,742 for this year, an amount that is overdue and will go into default July 1. Told of the outstanding $1,742, the aide said: “The trust has paid all bills shown owing as of today and will pay all other bills due."- Newsweek
They just keep making it easy. I mean really-- gee, I am so rich it is hard to remember to pay all my bills? For FOUR years? Damn, I wish I had those kind of hardships to deal with.
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Michelle Says that Barack Will Fight for GLBT Equality

Michelle Obama says her husband will fight for equality for gays just as he fought to help working-class families overcome poverty. The wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke Thursday night in New York City at a fundraising dinner for the Democratic National Committee's Gay and Lesbian Leadership Council. She spoke about her husband's record pushing for workplace discrimination legislation in Illinois when he served in the Legislature there. The DNC says the dinner raised more than $1 million.-- AP
One of the things I will be so happy about come Jan. 09, is that when we win we can get back on track with trying to make our country more fair for everyone. I will be happy to shine some light on all this racist, homophobic, sexist crap that has become somehow acceptable again under the Bush administration. These slimy screwed up haters will have to crawl back under the rocks that they have slithered out from in the last 8 years. It won't be easy but it will be worth it.
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Friday, June 27, 2008

VoteVets Thanks Us and Reminds Us that we Have a New Reason to Celebrate!

30,000 petition signatures. Tens of thousands of letters to Capitol Hill.
Thousands and thousands of letters to the editor. Donations that allowed us to air national TV ads on the bill. That’s what you did to help pass this bill, in the name of, and that’s why I was invited to stand with Senators as the bill was brought up for consideration.

More importantly, your work made passage of the bill a reality.Now, the bill will go to the President’s desk, and he has signaled he will sign it. It wasn’t so long ago that the President had threatened to veto the legislation, with Senators like John McCain backing him up on that decision. The President’s reversal can also be attributed to just how much you worked to pass this bill. The President and those in his party know that there could be nothing more unpopular than vetoing increased education benefits for those who serve in war, in a time of war.

That’s why I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, on behalf of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. What you have done is make the American dream possible for so many of us. Many of us who couldn’t afford college will now be able to. We’ll go on to become doctors and lawyers and teachers, and have the chance to raise families in the American middle class. It was a promise made to us by Franklin Roosevelt, and your work has restored that promise.You are truly patriots, in every sense of the word.-- Sincerely,Brian McGough
Iraq and Afghanistan War Veteran

Nothing really to add to this other than I am proud to have been a part of the fight for a new overdue GI Bill. Oh, and who's going to design the new stamp?
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In a Town Called Unity

UNITY, N.H. — Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton set off on their maiden political voyage on Friday, trading their rivalry from the presidential primary battle for a newfound display of harmony intended to set a fresh tone for any Democrats still harboring bitterness from their grueling duel.

It was a day of choreographed unity — their destination was a rally here in this small western New Hampshire town — with the two senators appearing together before the cameras for the first time. Three weeks after suspending her campaign, Mrs. Clinton renewed her endorsement and pledged to do all she could to help Democrats win the White House in the fall.-- New York Times
Ok-- start your engines ladies and gents, let's get this thing done. What are you planning in your areas to get out the vote? What are your plans to raise awareness? What is your donation strategy? (Budget now, we need you.) Are you registered to vote yet? If not, why the hell not? Plan now how you are going to get at least 2 other non registered friends or family to participate this year. Each and every one of us needs our own personal field plan. We have just about 4 months left. What are you going to do to help end this 8 year nightmare?

One of my friends went to the Unity NH event and posted this photo of the buses lined up in neighboring town pick up points. This was just at one pick up stop of many... I think the repubs are in some serious trouble.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Gap

As I have wandered around the internet, I have seen plenty of post primary pie fights that are not about candidates but about differences in thinking. Some of the most vehement lingering anti-Obama sentiment seems to be expressed in outrage directed at "cultural creatives" or internet activists, or those naïve young people that bought into the Obama campaign.

I have been thinking about this since one particular angry thread in a previous piece here about Ivo Daadler. The thread became something more about a perception (I believe an incorrect one) of anti-intellectualism and at the same time anti-blue collar. These opposing angers came from some of the same commentors—which is what kind of tipped me off to the fact that there might be something else going on.

The anger that was expressed seemed beyond the subject matter being discussed and I have been thinking about it ever since.

I am sure I am not going to be able to get to the heart of this on my first try. But here is some of what I have been thinking.

What people really fear, or hate, or lash out against—is not differences of thinking or ideas, or even core belief disagreements, we seem to be able to have those without resorting to angry name calling (trolls not included) and ranting. But what gets people really going is the idea of being left-out, left behind, disregarded or not taken seriously.

This is important as we go forward. The bitterness-bs, the angry women over 50, the poor in the Appalachia region—the older activists who cut their teeth during the 50's and 60's—what makes them angry and frustrated is the thought that they will be left behind in the new political and economic constructs being discussed and also that they have been left behind for so long already and we need to fix that.

The Netroots needs to take this very seriously. We need to learn to talk about stuff better, include more people, reach out, listen and learn from people that have historical knowledge. We can't go arrogantly forward without doing this or we will certainly pay a price. We need to pay attention to what people are feeling, not just what they are saying. Technology divides, and economic paradigms are going to be the new divide, not unlike what immigrant families in the 20's-50's felt when they came here and their children learned to speak a different language and understand a different reality. That generational divide might be a good model to consider as we face this political divide.

The folks that feel the fear of being left out also need to meet us halfway. Many already are. They are reading and posting and interacting here on the internet. For some that is a big step.

For the 60's activists many are just beginning to come back into politics after being disappointed and disillusioned that their first efforts did not change the world's ills as they had hoped. But we still need to ask them to do more.

Meet in the middle. Look at your own anger and think about what might really be going on. And be patient with newer netroots types. Be understanding that some of what fuels cultural creatives is the same optimism and hope that fueled great change in the 60's and 70's. That hope helped end the Vietnam war, and pass the civil rights legislation.

We need that kind of hope now because the odds are always against positive change and the people on the front lines need to believe it can happen in order to keep their courage. Don't stand behind us and whisper in our ears that we are foolish and it will never work. Give your knowledge and your advice but don't be angry that we willingly believe that maybe this time things can be at least a bit different.

How can we work across these various ideas, histories, and economic realities? I don't know-- but I bet many of you have some strong ideas.

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Fed's Raid Blackwater Armory

Raleigh N.C. -- Federal agents raided Blackwater Worldwide this week as part of an investigation into whether the private security company sidestepped federal laws prohibiting the private purchase of automatic assault rifles, the company said Thursday.

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell said investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched Blackwater's armory at its corporate headquarters in Moyock on Tuesday as part of the investigation. She said she did not know whether the weapons in question were seized. --MichiganLive
Boy, I'll bet Herr Hauptsturmführer Prince is not too happy about that. I wouldn't want to be the one that brings him his baby's blood this morning.
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Breaking: Heller Affirmed

Glock 19.
Glock 19.

People have an individual right to have a gun.

Justice Scalia writes for the majority.


Answering a 127-year old constitutional question, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to have a gun, at least in one’s home. The Court, splitting 5-4, struck down a District of Columbia ban on handgun possession.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion for the majority stressed that the Court was not casting doubt on long-standing bans on carrying a concealed gun or on gun possession by felons or the mentally retarded, on laws barring guns from schools or government buildings, and laws putting conditions on gun sales.

More follows...
They are going APESHIT at the NRA today.

This is their goddamn dream.

Quotes from the majority Opinion.

“Logic demands that there be a link between the stated purpose and the command.”

We start therefore with a strong presumption that the Second Amendment right is exercised individually and belongs to all Americans.”

the most natural reading of ‘keep Arms’ in the Second Amendment is to “have weapons.”

The term was applied, then as now, to weapons that were not specifically designed for military use and were not employed in a military capacity.”

Putting all of these textual elements together, we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.

“Thus, we do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose.”

The prefatory clause does not suggest that preserving the militia was the only reason Americans valued the ancient right; most undoubtedly thought it even more important for self-defense and hunting.”

It was plainly the understanding in the post-Civil War Congress that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to use arms for self-defense.”

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”

Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ 307 U. S., at 179.”

Read that last graph again...

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ 307 U. S., at 179.”

No machine guns (the Gatling Gun wasn't invented till 1861), no military-grade weapons.

Read literally, the majority says, yes, individuals have an individual right to the weapons ‘in common use at the time.’ At the time of the revolution? Or now?

I need to read further, but I think -- these are originalists after all -- they mean the weapons in use 220 years ago. Heh.

Wouldn't that just frost the NRA's chops?

The good news is, weapons for everyone.
Bad news is, black powder single shot smooth bore.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hear No Reality, See No Reality, Speak No Reality

There has been a consistent thread to the last 7 ½ years. The common denominator has been the volatile mix of evil, incompetence and deliberate ignorance.

The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency's conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior EPA officials said last week.- New York Times, Felcity Barringer
They wouldn't even open the email. So what do you think the chances are of any real climate crisis management under a McSame presidency?
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We Have Not Hit the Bottom Yet

In news that has effected consumer confidence, recording record low levels--
The latest S&P/Case-Shiller home price index shows April home prices dropped by 15-point-three percent from a year earlier in 20 U.S. metro markets. The index has dropped every month since January of 2007. A senior economist commented the current size of home inventories indicates prices will decline even further.
This is going to continue to be a bumpy ride down hill. This will mean more foreclosures, more job loss in the building, repair and contracting sectors, and pretty much every other industry related to home building, home sales, landscaping, etc. etc. etc. We need to add the architects of the subprime fiasco to the list of people that have to answer for the disasters of the last 8 years.
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F*cking America

The top ten recipients of Telco money-from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint

 ContributionHouse MemberDistrict
1$29,500Clyburn, James SC-6
2$29,000Hoyer, StenyMD-5
3$28,000Emanuel, RahmIL-5
4$27,500Boucher, Frederick VA-9
5$26,000Meeks, Gregory NY-6
6$24,500Crowley, Joseph NY-7
7$24,500Pelosi, NancyCA-8
8$24,000Bean, Melissa IL-8
9$22,500Edwards, Thomas TX-17
10$22,100Baca, Joe CA-43

This is taking money to screw America. Absolutely No Question. This money was left on and removed from the nightstand.
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Now Is The Time For All Good Men To Come To The Aid Of Their Party

Fisa Call Your Wobbly FISA Senator

* Bayh (202) 224-5623
* Carper (202) 224-2441
* Obama (202) 224-2854
* Inouye (202) 224-3934
* Johnson (202) 224-5842
* Landrieu (202)224-5824
* McCaskill (202) 224-6154
* Mikulski (202) 224-4654
* Nelson (FL) (202) 224-5274
* Clinton (202) 224-4451
* Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551
* Pryor (202) 224-2353
* Salazar (202) 224-5852
* Specter (202) 224-4254
* Feinstein (202) 224-3841
* Webb (202) 224-4024
* Warner (202) 224-2023
* Snowe (202) 224-5344
* Collins (202) 224-2523
* Sununu (202) 224-2841
* Stevens (202) 224-3004
* Byrd (202) 224-3954
* Lincoln (202)224-4843
* Reid (202) 224-3542
* Coleman (202) 224-5641
* Durbin (202) 224-2152
* Smith (202) 224-
* Stabenow (202) 224-4822
* Kohl (202) 224-5653
* Leahy (202) 224-4242
* Schumer (202) 224-6542

Once you've called, let Jane know what you were told here.

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CSA Week 3 Notes

CSA Week 2 Haul. June, 2008. photo Jenonymous.
CSA Week 2 Haul. June, 2008. photo Jenonymous/Group News Blog.

“Closer to my reality” CSA Eating

Okay, this past week, I had what I’ll call a “closer to my reality” CSA eating experience. As mentioned, this past week’s share was:

Veggie Share

sugar snap peas
butter lettuce

Now here’s the rub—not only did I eat out one night during the week, but I was out of town Friday thru Sunday. So, how to eat all my stuff without wasting it? Well, I re-did the rinse/dry/store in lined bowls thing for the lettuce, and left the snap peas in their bag (and made a note to just eat them faster.) I left the strawberries uncovered in their little cardboard thingie and just set the radishes down in my crisper drawer, which once again I had lined with fresh paper towels.

Guilty TV Product Confession: I also went here:

and got some of their stuff. The site is one of those TV product total rip-offs where they try to get you to upgrade shipping, but all kinds of other crap, and whatnot. However, I did also manage to get two of those things that open clamshell packaging, which I actually need.

The irony is, of course, that they come in clamshell packaging. But I digress. Both lettuce and mizune are in those bags; let’s see how they work out.

And then it was off to the races with the salad thing again. This time around I had the herbed vinegar from week 1. So, it was time for salad with nice cheese on it, salad all by itself, and interesting things with radishes and the remainder of the Jerusalem artichokes (both of which I really had to take my veggie brush to—again, they didn’t just have surface dirt, but were really caked over.)

I was exhausted when I got home on pickup nite—mega-stress at work—but I did make a nice arranged salad which I just drizzled with some of that herb vinegar, heavy olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then I had strawberries for dessert. I also did a bunch of salads with either smoked or canned fish on it. If I remember, I’ll hard-boil some eggs and do those on greens. I should also probably try making herbed egg salad or something, or maybe crunchy egg salad with radishes/other crunchy edible root or rhizome in it.

I must say I’m happy about how much I have managed to replace my bought (high-fat, high crap factor) meals despite a nuts schedule. The way I see it, every little bit helps even if it’s only a few meals a week.

Note: The mizuna is great raw even though it is traditionally eaten steamed. For salad, I tore rough bunches into thirds so that the stems became manageable mouthfuls.

I still need to buy a lunchbox with one of those pocket-thingies for a coldpac—if anyone has a brand that they like, let me know!

Here’s what I am due to pick up on Tuesday:

Fruit Share
strawberries (1 quart)
honeycrisp apples (we got 4)

Veggie Share
strawberries (more on top of fruit share)(one pint, so I get a biggie and a littlie)
Swiss chard
snow peas

Herb Share
lavender (in addition to the first bunch from above)

In addition, my CSA lets you order meat, dairy, and so forth from a collective site online, with once-a-month delivery dates. In addition to my share, I ordered and got:

Beef Liver (about a pound)
Honey (a pound)
Raw-milk cheddar-style cheese (about half a pound)
Ground Mutton (making Minstrel Boy’s Navajo Green Chili) (about 2 pounds)
A dozen eggs
Swiss-style raw goats’ milk cheese (half a pound)

The game plan is to cook up some of the liver and freeze the rest. I have some really good breadcrumbs; may just slice it thin, bread, and panfry perhaps with an herb pan sauce.

Suggestions Needed For:

What to do with the lavender? Yeah I know, other than dry it and put it in with my unmentionables. I was thinking lavender cream for the strawberries and/or lavender vodka.

What to do with the sorrel?

I think I’ll cook down the mustard greens this time. Maybe have them with the liver.

Oh, one last thing—went out to Orient Point this past weekend in Long Island and stumbled across a jumble sale held by a local synagogue while walking to the train. Wound up getting two copies of the Temple cookbook for $15 for both copies (I always get super-local cookbooks when I can, and always get a copy for Mom) and…drum roll please…an almost brand-new, stainless-steel, American-made 2-quart food mill from the 1960’s in the original box for…wait for it…ONE DOLLAR. The thing is made like a TANK—one nut screws off to release a STRONG spring so that you can take it apart and wash it. The steel is at least 12 gauge—gotta go dig out my gauge-checker disc from jewelry class. Improved tomato sauce here we come! *cheers* I mean, it literally looks like someone got it, opened the box, took the original label off (there is still an old label on the main unit), washed it, maybe used it ONCE, washed it again, and put it away. Forever.

The rest of the sale was kind of sad because you can tell that it was all the crap out of old people’s basements that was taken out by their kids/grandkids after they died. If I was a circuit-bender, I would have had my full pick of various kid’s toys from the '70s. Ditto for interior decoration opps. Case in point: I also picked up a HUGE mother-of-pearl abalone shell—from one of the sized ones that’s been illegal to sell for years now. Unlike many of these that I’d seen in the past, this one had not been used as an ashtray. It was covered in a HARD coating of grey dust which took a soaking and scrubbing to get off, but now I have a nice place to put my little collection of nice pebbles and shells that I picked up on the beach for a grand total of $3. It’s the kind of thing that someone probably picked up on a trip to Hawaii or Mexico twenty years ago. All I know is that new abalone shells aren’t bigger than 6” or so (mine is almost a foot across) and start at $20 even in the smaller junk shops. But I digress…on to the recipes.

Here’s what I did with last week’s share that was new for me:

Recipes from the stuff from Week 2:

Sprat Salad:

Butter Lettuce
Snap Peas
Small can of sprats (I used smoked sprats from Lithuania that were on sale)
Quick Mustard Dressing

Put down lettuce, then mizune, sprinkle with snap peas.
Put sprats on top.
Dress with Quick Mustard Dressing. Eat.

Quick Mustard Dressing:

In a small cup, combine a good splash of vinegar (I used about a tablespoon or two) (I used my herb vinegar) and stir in spicy mustard (a shy tablespoon).
Add some mayo (about 1/2 to 1 Tbs) and whisk very fast with a small fork until smooth and lump-free. Add black pepper and more salt if necessary. Use immediately.

Astorian Radish Rounds

Take a whole wheat non-pocket pita—I used a locally-made brand. Spread with a thin coat of butter (I used my unsalted herb butter with oregano and sage). Slice radishes super-thin and put on buttered bread. Salt. Cut into 4 pieces and eat immediately.

Strawberries, Honey, and Black Pepper:

Clean and hull strawberries. Drizzle with good honey and add a grind of black pepper. Eat.

Herb Vodka:

Take home-dried herbs and the end of a bottle of vodka (or the whole thing if you feel adventurous) . You’re supposed to have another empty vodka bottle around to strain off the herbed vodka once it steeps. I didn’t do that and just use a small screen to filter the stuff when I pour. I used the bottom 1/6th of a bottle of vodka and put in about 1 tablespoon each of dried sage and oregano. I let it steep in the freezer. This was amazing as-is after three or four days but would probably also make a killer martini. Next time around I may buy the small hipflask bottles of vodka and make small batches of different herbal vodka. I will also try to get some cheesecloth and make a “teabag” that I can yank out of the bottle rather than mess around with filters and funnels and whatnot.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Supporting Dodd and Feingold

Senators Dodd and Feingold will step up as progressive leaders and filibuster this legislation. Here's part of the joint statement they just released:

We will oppose efforts to end debate on this bill as long as it provides retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies.
As we have explained repeatedly in the past, existing law already immunizes telephone companies that respond in good faith to a government request, as long as that request meets certain clearly spelled-out statutory requirements. This carefully designed provision protects both the companies and the privacy of innocent Americans. It gives clear guidance to companies on what government requests it should comply with and what requests it should reject because the requirements of the law are not met. The courts should be permitted to apply this longstanding provision in the pending cases to determine whether the companies that allegedly participated in the program should be granted immunity.

We also urge you to correct the significant flaws in the FISA provisions of the Senate bill, some of which were addressed in the House version. The Senate bill authorizes widespread surveillance involving innocent Americans and does not provide adequate checks and balances to protect their rights.

This filibuster may be the last chance to stop immunity from becoming law and Senators Dodd and Feingold are going to need all the help they can get in preventing their opponents from cutting off debate on this issue. That's why we need you to call your Senators right now and ask them to support the Dodd/Feingold filibuster of telecom immunity.

Tell your Senators to support the filibuster:
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Looks like this.

The campaign is also wisely using this video for a matching fundraising drive. smart.
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Madam President

We’ve already won so much. This election is 140 or so days away from V-day. But we have had some significant victories. The one that is most striking is this—It will never be particularly noteworthy again to have a major contending candidate for the office of president being either an African American or a Woman (or both!). The work has been long and hard—and there is much more ahead of us but we have won a few of the battles this election season. Today I am musing about our advances in the area of political gender bias.

Hillary was right, the gender glass ceiling now has 18,000,000 cracks in it and the light is starting to shine through. Suddenly plans and discussions concerning things like Project 2024 don’t seem so unlikely or surprising. And this change happened quite literally in 18 months.

Project 2024, an effort launched six years ago by teen magazine CosmoGirl with the support of the White House Project, a New York-based bipartisan advocacy group that works to elect women to all levels of political offices.

The idea of the project is that by 2024--the year when the magazine's youngest readers will reach 35 and be eligible to run for U.S. president--one CosmoGirl from each year of the program will stand on the presidential debate floor as a real candidate.- Women's e-news

There is a new film out this summer that talks about 7 of these project 2024 women and also focuses on another group of girls—ages 9 to 12 as they seek the answer to the question, “Why hasn’t a woman already been president of the USA?”

The movie is called "What's Your Point, Honey?" You can see special showings this summer in these locations;

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- June 26 -- 7pm
Ritz At The Bourse Theater

WASHINGTON, DC -- July 17 -- 8pm
Avalon Theatre

SAN FRANCISCO -- July 31 -- 7:30pm
The Red Vic Movie House

Or buy the DVD

Out of the mouths of babes…

Do you think a woman could be president?

Do you think a woman could be strict?

Would you vote for a woman for president?

Why do you think we haven’t had a woman president yet?

These questions are real, and we are coming closer to real answers. Better yet, we are getting closer to understanding how insane and hypocritical our answers have been over the last 200 years. And these young women are going to take this country to school, and it doesn't seem like they are going to wait till 2024 to do it.
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Monday, June 23, 2008

Dead Americans = Good for McCain

Charlie Black, one of McCain's most senior political advisers, said in an interview with Fortune Magazine that a fresh attack "would be a big advantage to him." He also said that the December assassination of Benazir Bhutto, which he called an "unfortunate event," helped him win the Republican primary by focusing attention on national security.

Charlie "Top Lobbyist" Black? Charlie "I support Congolese Dictator Mobutu" Black?...

Yes Charlie, a "fresh" attack would be fucking wonderful. Bodies flying, buildings crashing to the ground. Blood and turmoil. That would be just fucking peachy.

Sorry Charlie, Bhutto's assassination had nothing to do with your client winning the GOP nomination, he won because of all the losers the GOP ran, he was the least worst. But they have rethought that decision numerous times since then. Bhutto affecting the RNC nomination, are you fucking kidding me?
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The Post In Which Karl Rove Channels Hall & Oates' Hit Single “Out Of Touch”

The Above Visual Metaphor Worked. The One Karl Rove Cited This Morning? Um. No. Never. And What The Fuck?

As it's hot as hell today with Summer officially on, let's just dive on into the deep end of the cool pool of GOP crazy, shall we?

Rove: Obama's the Guy at the Country Club Holding a Martini Making Snide Comments About Everyone Else

June 23, 2008 1:36 PM
ABC News' Christianne Klein reports that at a breakfast with Republican insiders at the Capitol Hill Club this morning, former White House senior aide Karl Rove referred to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, as “coolly arrogant.”

“Even if you never met him, you know this guy,” Rove said, per Christianne Klein. “He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.”


Interesting that Mr. Rove would use a country club metaphor to describe the first major party African-American presidential candidate, whom I'm sure wouldn't be admitted into many country clubs that members of the Capitol Hill Club frequent.

But the picture Rove paints is interesting. Who, pray tell, is Rove at this country club?

The guy telling funny stories near the band?

The charming president of the club's philanthropic arm?

The brainy guy with all the sports scores?

Or the guy who vandalizes your car and blames it on the kitchen staff?

I'll wait while you feel around for your eyes on the floor seeing as how they popped out of your head a few seconds ago.

Washed 'em off? Got 'em back in? Good! Let's make short work of this Tacoma Narrows Bridge of “reasoning” on Rove's part.

First of all, you should take note that Karl Rove been damn near out of his mind with his every loopy pronouncement since the fall of 2006, when he screeched about how he had “The Math”(favorable to the Republicans) immediately prior to the mid-term elections he bollixed up so badly for the GOP. He's managed to make the ramblings of an end-stage syphilitic like Al Capone (“The Bolsheviks! The God-damn Bolsheviks!”) sound like homespun folk-wisdom in comparison.

Perhaps sympathetically, like the person he's championing to replace his boss, he's utterly “lost his bearings” on reality. That's the truly crazy part of his “Country Club” statement—in likening someone who looks like Barack Obama to a pink-cheeked, millionaire swell sippin' Rob Roys at “The Nineteenth Hole” or somethin'. How out of your mind do you have to be in America to make that kind of rhetorical leap?

Let's spell out that leap:

Yeah. It's the Black dude whose father booked up on him, leavin' his White mom to raise him alone, who stilll managed to excel academically, and in spite of that—came back to the South Side of Chicago to work in the 'hood' with his 'peeps', instead of taking the stoopid-money Wall Street jobs...who's the arrogant guy at the country club. Not the guy who married into millions, took part in a Savings and Loan scam, ripping off even mo' millions, and...owns like eight houses in choice locales all over the country. Mmm-kay?

I mean...this is a land where a well-to-do Black Lawyer went undercover a decade ago as a busboy at an exclusive Country Club in Connecticut (as that was the only way he could get in the place) to find out first-hand what down-their-nose White folks really thought of Blacks when they felt they didn't have to hold their tongues around them out of concerns for propriety. There are places where my Black ass would be hauled away and arrested “The Dude” style just for lingering too close to the Goddamned shrubbery at the gate, and Rove somehow sees Barack Obama—who the last time I checked, doesn't sign his name as “Biff”, “Chip” or fucking “Cadwallader” as the “the Guy at the Country Club Holding a Martini Making Snide Comments About Everyone Else.”?

There are too many of these clubs in America where if Obama showed up unannounced with a “member”, all of a sudden there'd be a full course and no room to play—but hey, there's always room in the back for another n*gger to scrub bits of Cobb Salad off the dishes and whatnot, eh?

So, color me wet sand-trap brown, but I'm just not getting this analogy of Rove's with Obama as the swell and... I guess his boy McCain as the scrappy outsider. Is Rove's issue with his inability thus far to elicit the desired “response” from the senator from Illinois? The desired “Angry Black Thug” angle he's so desperate to exploit—whether its rooted in an actual statement or rebuttal from Obama or not? “How dare he seem above the bullshit I'm trying to run! That arrogant S.O.B.! He won't get 'ghetto' like he's supposed to!”

That just may be it.

That...and the whole “Tiger Woods” comparison redux. We first noted this a couple of months ago when a lesser McCain surrogate ham-fistedly made the comparison of Obama to the hated Tiger Woods in pumping up the sad spectacle of the GOP's “champion”...

You see, the usage of Woods as a slang shorthand for Barack Obama speaks to a certain racial paranoia of the part of folks like Bellavia. I was in Augusta, Georgia the weekend that Tiger Woods officially burst onto golf's lily-white scene in 1997. I wasn't there for the tournament mind you, but rather, I was visiting a significant other who was performing in town. I found myself at trip's end at Bush Field, the city's airport waiting for my flight home, aimlessly walking from my gate to the oddly crowded bar and back. I finally stopped at the bar's fringe—I couldn't get in it from the huge crowd packing the place—and noticed what everyone was looking at, namely the final round of the Masters tournament just a stone's throw away in which first-year PGA pro Tiger Woods was ripping through the course like Caddyshack's Ty Webb on a fast-drip adrenaline and espresso I.V.. There was a 99% White crowd in that airport bar, and all you could hear over the hushed announcer tones from the TV were grunted “God-damns”, “Fucks”, and an almost percussive slamming down of beer bottles and cheap glass tumblers at every dead-solid-perfect drive and seemingly magnetically-guided putt.

No slurs...just a palpable displeasure with what was transpiring. There was a lot of head-shaking and napkin-tossing. And I must say, more than a few almost hissed “Unbelievable. Fucking unbelievables”. I intentionally lingered there amongst that grumpy assemblage, maybe courting trouble, but mostly getting a secondary visual dig in at that unreasonably angry bunch. There were two Black people within thirty feet of that ball of anger. Me, and a guy I thought was an airport employee as he had a uniform-ish-looking outfit on and was leaned against a trash bin. He and I made eye contact for a moment and there was a knowing smile. He was lingering too, a fellow “chip in the cookie” like me. He shook his head with a silent laugh as Woods trod the green grass back to the clubhouse, post-massacre, and the man pulled his wheeled bag hidden by the bin and walked down to his gate...with a big “Callaway Golf” logo on the back of his windbreaker. Golf fan? Duffer? I don't know what he was exactly, but he was getting as much enjoyment out of the first wave of the “sea change” we had just witnessed. I turned back to the crowd and couldn't help but notice their noticing us. There was an odd silence amongst them as they looked on. An almost collective audible and visual sigh from them looking at us, clearly translating as an exasperated “Oh great...we'll have to hear about this shit from 'them' forever about this.”

Woods' win there and his subsequent hyper-dominance and revolutionizing of the game is something that many look at with a level of awe...and a lot of others scowl at with barely-concealed disgust. He effectively took a game—golf—away from the demographic group that pretty much owned it outright since its inception 600 years ago.

He's in the process of re-writing the record book, and doing so at a younger age and with a more punishing dominance than his predecessors. Those facts have upset many of his peers, with requests that courses be “Tiger-proofed” with new and more challenging layouts, spiteful talk of how the game's popularity is in jeopardy due to Woods' “Colossus amongst men” skewing of the sport's talent curve (“If no one else is gonna win—why watch?”), and even outright verbal denigration from...well, there's no other word to use but “haters”


But the underlying zing from the mumbling, GOP-backing sergeant is that aforementioned fear-and jealousy based dissing that Tiger Woods is the constant recipient of. When you think about it, Bellavia's stuttering blather smacks of that same “How dare you enter and rule my last bastion of power?”-speak—I mean, this is the Presidency we're talking about here—not too many last bastions beyond there. And as Woods' emergence represented some serious applecart upsetting, just the consideration of an Obama's ascending to the Presidency flips the whole damned orchard upside-down.

'Oh no. This is the one thing you will not take take from us. not this. NOT the fucking Presidency'.

It was a punk-ass scream for help that he thought was a silent dog whistle.

Well...woof-woof, mother-fucker..

Thus, it's Obama/Woods all over again. I liked the “beautiful date” part of it this time, though. The whole equating the statuesque Michelle Obama with Tiger's Swedish ex-model wife Elim Nordegren. Can you feel the hate, kiddies? Grrrrrrrr! Spinning the senator as the casually victorious, “arrogant” king of all he touches, as some sort of passive-aggressive “poor-mouthing” of the scrappy, l'il McCain's candidacy.

“Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion...”

Oh...fucking...please, Karl. Really? That's the talking point, now? Seriously? Even ABC's Jake Tapper is clowning your ass mightily with your unfortunate bit of drama-queenery from this morning, noting Rove's obvious familiarity with the “Country Club Types”. Again:

But the picture Rove paints is interesting. Who, pray tell, is Rove at this country club?

The guy telling funny stories near the band?

The charming president of the club's philanthropic arm?

The brainy guy with all the sports scores?

Or the guy who vandalizes your car and blames it on the kitchen staff?

Who is Rove in this setting? None of the above.

He's this guy.

The fuck-up scion of the man in charge...lucky because of where he is, but not who he is. Never called on his bullshit, and given enough rope to hang ten men. The mean, spoiled, and classless in spite of his being “To the Manor Born” Spaulding-fucking-Smails from “Caddyshack”. He's the “kid who can do no wrong” because he'll always get another chance, and everybody around him gets the fist upside the head as punishment. He's right twice a day, just like a broken clock and that's been his “get over” for years.

But...if you look at his record—especially lately, he's still...a...fuck-up. Just like his boss. Can you spell “transference”, kids. I bet you could.

All that's left is for him to do is to drunkenly puke his guts out into the sunroof of an expensive car at this point.

I'm hoping it's a Texas-bound limousine pulling out of the White House driveway on January 20th 2009.
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“The Mick”

Rest In Peace, Harlem's George Carlin—1937-2008

We knew we weren't going to have him for long very early in the game.

George Carlin. comedian, monologuist , and member of the “Willie, Mickey and the Duke” troika of dazzling comedy talent of the sea-changing 1970's has passed away—although, as Hubris says downpage a touch“What (are we) thinking? George hasn't passed way, we didn't 'lose him'. He didn't go to the other side. He's dead.”

Which is a perfectly apt, Carlin-esque way of summing it up.

George Carlin IS dead. And we should thank our lucky, brick wall-backdropped stars that we had his talent for as long as we did. By my count, he'd suffered at least three heart attacks (that we knew of) and kept bouncing back from those should-have-been-life-stealing-episodes to bring us the funny, make us think—and yeah, give everyone who listened a little lesson on writing with wit in the english language. And mind you, those debilitating health issues didn't just crop up as he wizened into a raging old lion trodding the comedy circuit boards. No. He was just shy of forty and at the peak of his popularity when he first dodged death's swinging scythe pointed at his fragile heart, and basically called the black-clad ender of things, word number six—“Motherfucker”—to his face, and then proceeded to keep on steppin'. He would duck and slide away from that bastard's blade at least two more times we knew of, and still he returned to entertain and challenge us again and again.

I referred to him up-page here as “a member of the “Willie, Mickey and the Duke” troika of dazzling comedy talent of the sea-changing 1970's”, and he absolutely was—with Richard Pryor as Willie Mays, Carlin as Mickey Mantle, and the great Robert Klein as Duke Snider. If you don't get that reference, it's to the great trio of Hall of Fame major-league center-fielders who all played here in New York during the halcyon 1950s and were immortalized in the song, “Willie Mickey and the Duke”. If that's too “in” for ya, think of heavyweight boxing in the seventies when it was ruled by colossi like Ali, Frazier and Foreman. Pryor, Carlin and Klein were like those three in the comedy world—dominant, mega-talented forces who changed the game for everyone who followed in their wake. Now, only Klein remains. But if you're a comedy newcomer, or managed to be unlucky enough to miss 'em when they—and particularly George Carlin were hurling thunderbolts of laughter from the heavens, you need to understand just how good these three were and how their work changed the game.

Pryor, who I have discussed at length before, was the most protean talent of the three in my mind. For all of his unfortunate bacchanalian excesses, there may have never been a more all-around gifted comedian and yes, no-holds-barred social commentator. A rubber-face and body, a keen intellect and sense of unsparing anyone for their transgressions—especially including himself, and finally, a sense of verbal rhythm that made him the “Charlie Parker” of the comedy game—were the formidable weapons Pryor brought to the stage, and no one as far as I can see, ever outgunned him. You throw in as an extra his having perhaps the most tuned-in observational powers of regular folks ever bestowed by the creator on a funny person and you get the magic that was him—so much more than dirty words and a bushy 'fro as some liked to discount him as—he was damn near a Will Rogers 2.0, tearing away the veil of false propriety on America's issues of race, sex, class,and justice. He did this not by impersonating the famous, but rather—by channeling the voices of WASPS, winos, and women. Dogs, doctors and Dracula. An old, Black man, a young spotted giraffe, and even a horny spider monkey on the loose in the palm tree fronds canopying Hollywood. And tapping into ALL of those people, animals and more, (yes, he even personified a heart attack trying to kill him), he soared to prominence in the early seventies. But he wasn't alone...

The Bronx's own Robert Klein also came down the pike, and he too was a student of the observational school. But Klein was effectively the first, great, post Borscht-Belt, post-Goodman/Cheney/Schwerner Jewish comic. Relying on the old archetypes of irony and self-deprecation, he flipped the script in dealing with subjects as Joe McCarthy, the stupidity of cold-war excesses and of course, his beloved whipping post of Watergate, in which he took on a president in ways the late Vaughn Meader could only hint at. He took the old cadences of the Catskills and ran the new subversive material through them, while also subtly mocking the style to boot. It was unabashedly “Noo Yawk”-ey, yet it had a deciely college-educated vibe running through it as well, and his exasperation with the world he grew up in, only to see it replaced with the crazier world he was now an adult in only heightened the laughs. His work was finely-crafted and yet...had that corduroy-ed college professor prowling the stage at the lecture hall vibe, riffing on history and seeming to discover some wild, new shit right there in front of you as he spoke and fairly explodied with new energy to “hip” you to his breakthrough. What a time that was.

And we come to the great Carlin, (who was from what he joked was “White Harlem”, aka West 121st Street—the “Morningside Heights” section of the nabe)...who may have been the best pure wordsmith of the three. I am hard-pressed to think of another comedian who worked harder at perfecting his craft than George Carlin did. In his peak years, he Pryor and Klein ALL busted their asses coming up with new material, but it was Carlin who chiseled at the marble more, with finer tools and then buffed it to a glowing finish better than any of 'em. He workshopped his material so hard as he toured the country, and with such a discerning eye for pacing, and just the right phrasing and even intonation, that by the time you saw him at a big venue of on one of his annual HBO specials, you were watching something pretty damned close to stand-up perfection.

You see, every comedian's goal/wish/dream/necessity is to come up with “a fresh fifteen” every three months or so. A “fresh fifteen” being a new, and solid fifteen minutes of new material—staggered in such a way that at the end of every year, you'd end up with a different hour's worth of stand-up than you had the previous year. (Ostensibly so that when you hit spots on “the circuit” for the second time within a year's cycle, you're not booed off the stage for bending ears with the same old stuff) That's a damned hard thing to come up with, that whole new hour—but it starts with that supremely difficult “fresh fifteen” every three months, and Carlin was fucking superhuman at this. He would work from a handful of index cards when starting a new quarter's worth of material, stuff he painstakingly wrote himself, testing it, floating it and then honing it or ditching it based on the audience's reaction. He crafted his sets with an architect's eye almost, with special attention to pacing—when to run for twenty seconds breathlessly, and then, when to pause for a long beat, and hit with that one-liner with the vocal curl up at the end.

Which would of course, push the verbal boulder down the mountainside to start the next run of funny anew.

Where Pryor was an improvisational wizard, springing new additions from his basic outline of things, Carlin wrote these perfect pocket symphonies of comedy. Arranged just so, and when performed by the master—himself, they were quite simply brilliant. Especially when mated with that well-honed stream-of-consciousness, slightly buzzed delivery of his. (He would abandon much of that “stoner” timing as his work got sharper in tone over the years.)

And that goes without even dipping into the nature of the material itself—another observational genius, he—Carlin was also an unabashed observer of language itself. Playing with it, noting it's foibles and inherent silliness in how we fuck it up every damned day. Not to mention his constant highlighting of words' power, and how we as a society constantly mis-ascribe power to certain words to make points beyond the words' meaning.

Thus, we get Carlin's most infamous and subversive bit—“The Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television”. You know 'em...

“Shit, piss, fuck, c*nt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits.

The routine itself is damn near a doctoral dissertation on the words and the hypocrisy of the so-called “affronted” so outraged by their use. It's a masterful piece of wordplay, timing and knife-edged in way that simultaneously draws the guffaws while ridiculing the posers who would stand in judgment. It also drew the ire of those posers who held power in media here in America, placing Carlin right where he wanted to be—diametrically opposite them, but also NOT exactly where he wanted to be—which was in a fucking courtroom with these stodgy bastards fighting this shit out like some property-line case in Levittown. Carlin, something of a Lenny Bruce acolyte (who yes, was there in the club the night Bruce was arrested on obscenity charges, and in defending Bruce wound up going downtown with him in the same cop car!) believed whole-heartedly in using language to challenge, and did so with that bit. However, in the most classic case of “You can't fight City Hall”, not only did the powers-that-be use all of their “oomph” to keep their verbal ban in place, but they then ascribed huge fines for broadcast outlets that dared flout said ban—fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for usage “on-air”. I know from that ban close-up. The radio station I worked at for years here in NY had on the wall of the Master Control room (and still does to this day) an ‘Olde English” scroll featuring the calligraphed words you must not ever fucking say displayed in plain view, lest you bankrupt the joint with fines. The ironic thing was that their fighting Carlin on this only gave him that much more fame, and in the end—respect—and it only helped him far more than it ever hurt him. Folks don't give a shit about the “rightness” of the government in it's crusade for morals per se—they remember Carlin's routine, and that cadence of how he rolled those words off the tongue—“Shit, piss, fuck, c*nt, cocksucker, motherfucker and...tits.”, and how he stuck it to the man.

And of course, he'd have the ultimate last laugh in doing his routines unexpurgated on TV whenever he wanted thanks to the birth of Cable which didn't have to hew to the FCC's whips and thus gave Carlin (and other envelope-pushing funnymen) bigger audiences than ever with his perennial one-man shows, centered around his anti-bullshit mantra. He tackled with rough hands society's hang-ups over sex, religion and violence, while brutally making light of our superficial ways of dealing with the supposedly bad outgrowths of those things. He railed—far longer than I ever thought he would, considering his repeatedly failing heart—against those hypocrisies and was damn near as sharp now at it as he was at his youthful peak.

Maybe even sharper.

Having worked professionally in comedy for twenty years, I can say with no doubt that this is a loss of huge proportions for the biz. He was a professional's professional, and cared enough about the craft to keep honing his shit, and never gave in to the temptation to be a lazy-ass, and fall back on lame-ass material because he didn't respect his audience—the ultimate stand-up no-no that some so-called “pros” shittily engage in, as noted by one of my favorite bloggers, Mark Evanier:

It's just the nature of comedy to deflate the privileged and the powerful. It was the Marx Brothers tormenting Margaret Dumont, not the other way around. Lately, Dennis Miller seems to be trying to reverse this principle. I used to really like Miller, though not all the time. One of the "not" times came after I saw him perform years ago at the MGM Grand in Vegas. Rita Rudner was the opening act and she was funny and fresh and giving it her all. Miller came out next and did horribly dated “topical” material — nothing I hadn't heard him do a dozen times — with an attitude of, “Gimme my check and let me get out of here.”


What struck me when I saw Miller on with Leno the other night was that given the state of the world right now, a comic who decides to not joke about the President really hasn't got a lot to say. He started his Tonight Show spot by hauling out his joke about Michael Jackson and George Hamilton officially crossing on the pigmentation chart. It's a joke that has now been rerun more often than the I Love Lucy about John Wayne's footprints and one that really shows its age. I suspect that were it not for Miller and that joke, George Hamilton would not have been mentioned on network television in the last decade.

That's a disease that afflicts many of today's comics—be they big names or guys booked at “The Yuk-Yuk Hut” on Route 11. There's an ugly laziness there, and sadly now—minus the borderline-crazed professionalism of a George Carlin, there's one less person working to point to as a sterling example of “how it should be done”. It's no mere coincidence that in the first year of NBC's Saturday Night (the show's REAL name at first before the change to a bunch of things ending with “Saturday Night Live”), he, Klein and Pryor would be guest hosts, and that Carlin himself would host the very first episode . “Willie, Mickey and the Duke” indeed. And damned if he didn't hit some serious tape-meausre shots like “The Mick” did when he prowled the stage with a mic.

He was a giant. A pro's pro, and as someone who also values the weight and worth of “the word”, I shall especially miss him, as we all should. Because I think we're all a little bit dumber, and a little less brave without his needling, cranky and “How could we not notice this?” presence.

“Sigh!” I guess I'll have to find “a place for my stuff” all by myself now. Damn.
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George Carlin Happens to be Dead; Speaking from the Grave on White People, Dancing, And the Blues

I am crying and laughing today, in honor of a life well and fiercely lived.
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