Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Quote(s) of the Day

This gem is from a Joe Bageant essay on the American Hologram and how the American consumer machine can turn anything into a commodity:

"Healthful organic foods and hemp fiber clothing were once merely a holistic hippie thing, but we've see them endure, even grow. And become expensive, of course. (Organic foodwise, I just bought a quart bottle of lemon berry juice with echinacea for nearly eight bucks, though I doubtlessly screwed up it's healthful benefits by mixing it with cheap Aristocrat vodka -- $9 a half gallon. I named the drink "The Echinacean Whore.") And hemp fiber clothing is a low-cost, practical solution to dozens of ecological problems. Just the other day I saw a $60 pair of hemp fiber, bibbed play shorts for the morally superior baby. Market capitalism can co-opt virtually any low-cost alternative and sell it right back at ridiculous prices."

And this from the same essay, on the problem with mass media, specifically television:

"Deploying 250 million televisions which absorb 11 years of the average America's lifespan, the hologram regulates the nation's neurological seasons. Football season is delivered with its competitive passions, political election seasons, Christmas shopping season, but especially marketing seasons. It regulates the national mood, stirring our patriotic passions during wars and anxious vigilance against the threat of unseen terrorists who look absolutely normal. Together, we live within a media-generated belief system that functions as the operating instructions for society. It shows us how successful people supposedly behave, invest, and relate to each other. Through crime shows, it demonstrates what happens to us if we don't behave. It shows us who we should hate (Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro, for starters). Anything outside of its parameters represents fear and psychological freefall."


Haha. "The Ecinacean Whore." The whole essay can be found here.

Republican Family Values

So, yet another self-hating gay Republican Senator was nailed with his hand in the cookie jar the other day. Larry Craig, the junior Senator from Idaho was arrested playing footsie with an undercover police office in a bathroom stall in the Minneapolis St. Paul airport back in June. He pled guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct on Monday. The CNN story can be found here.

The disgusting part of the story isn’t what Craig was doing in the bathroom stall. Hell, the Patriot doesn’t care who or even what Republican Senators decide to have sexual relations with on their own time. And maybe the diversion of a sexual encounter in an airport bathroom helped the man reduce some tension caused by waiting in a 2 hour line to get through security. Hell, flying sucks these days and everybody knows it. No, the truly disturbing part of this story is that Craig was one of the most ardent senators when it came to pushing so-called “family-values” issues while all the while he’s been trolling airport men’s rooms for blow jobs. Craig is a morality crypto fascist; a conservative who believes that the government should stay out of the financial markets but install a camera in your bedroom. Craig's voting record has earned him top ratings from social conservative groups such as the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council. He has also supported a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In 1996, Craig also voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal recognition to same-sex marriages and prevents states from being forced to recognize the marriages of gay and lesbian couples legally performed in other states. Talk about self-hating!

The other chuckle to come out of this story is that Craig now regrets his guilty plea and claims he was railroaded into it because he didn’t have the advice of a lawyer. How a Republican Senator can say that kind of thing with a straight face is beyond me. The tough-on-crime Republican party has tried to do away with the right to counsel for years from their assault on Miranda to their gutting of the Constitution. How quick the little rats are to run behind the tattered document when it’s their own sorry ass in the sling.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Gonzales Has Left The Building

So the Democratic majority is savoring their non-victory now that Alberto Gonzales has followed Karl Rove into the annals of history. Along with some empty chest beating about continued investigations, the democratic leadership in the house and senate are falling all over themselves taking credit for running Alberto out of town on a rail. Chuck Schumer stated that , "no one thought Alberto Gonzales was up to the job" saying that "we need someone who will put rule of law first." Admirable sentiments which make the lack of a filibuster at the time of the Attorney General’s confirmation all the more puzzling. Edward Kennedytalked with fellow lawmakers about a possible filibuster of the nomination but the idea that was dropped when Democrats could not muster the 41 votes needed. In fact Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., urged his colleagues not to filibuster but to generate as many "no" votes as possible to send a message to the White House. Gonzales was ultimately approved on a 60-36 vote, so it bears remembering that six democratic senators crossed the isle to support him. These six are probably as responsible as anyone for our current Constitutional crisis. In case anyone forgot their names, the six senators were Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joe Lieberman (?-CT), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Ken Salazar (D-CO).

Several Democratic Senators expressed surprise about Gonzalez’s evasive non-answers while testifying at the Congressional hearings about the fired US attorneys a few months ago. This is also curious because of the comments some made at the time of his confirmation. According to an article at commondreams.org, “While Gonzales came across as modest and affable [at his confirmation hearing], he infuriated the panel's Democrats by giving what they said were evasive answers about his role in crafting the torture policy.

"He simply refused to say without equivocation that the president is not above the law," said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. "The Judiciary Committee and the American people deserve to hear whether the next attorney general agrees that the president has the power to disobey laws as fundamental to our nation's character as the prohibition on torture." Indeed. The failure of the Democrats to filibuster Gonzalez confirmation led directly to the current climate of warrantless searches, torture, unchecked police power and the evisceration of the Constitution. Where was the opposition party? They are even more culpable because they knew he was a bastard from the get go and still did nothing to stop his appointment. Moving on.

It’s clear to anyone paying attention to the goings on in Washington that Rove’s departure opened up the flood gates for a mass exodus of Bush’s political hack appointees who are no doubt thinking about where they’re going to land in the private sector after the ship finally goes down in November of 2008. According to CNN, after Rove's resignation, senior administration officials said White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten had told senior aides that if they intended to stay after Labor Day, they should plan to remain for the rest of Bush's term through January 2009

The rumor in DC today is that Michael Chertoff is being considered to replace the departing Gonzales. Here’s hoping he doesn’t treat the DOJ the way DHS treated New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. It is typical of the Bush administration to reward fuck-ups with promotions and medals (George Tenet anyone?) Even I think that Bush is going to have a hard time coming up with anyone who truly wants to be associated with the Department of Justice after the damage it has done to the rule of law.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

T For Texas

Hi kids. The Patriot is still in Texas. I had a great steak last night in the old-town part of Dallas but other than that I haven’t been out of the hotel. There are almost as many steak houses here than there are bodegas in New York. I’ll try to get to Dealy Plaza today and provide a full report once I’ve solved the Kennedy assassination. In the meantime, here is an excellent argument why you shouldn’t hold your annual beer festival anywhere near a zoo. Silly Serbians:

http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/08/20/bear.death.reut/index.html

Monday, August 20, 2007

Don't Mess With Texas

This week the Patriot finds himself in Dallas Texas at a mediation in the old, and I do mean old, Adam’s Mark hotel. A stately old grand dame of a hotel, the Adams Mark hasn’t been redecorated since approximately the time of the Kennedy assassination. A certain sort of genteel poverty graces the halls of the old hotel; it isn’t shabby so much as tired, very, very tired. It is also enormous. I have a room on the 26th floor, across from the Presidential Suite, with a view of Hwy 35 East. The hotel has 38 floors and thousands of feet of conference space. The d├ęcor is Texan, by which I mean a bastard hybrid of cowboy, Indian and Mexican. The staff glides around in Tuxedos and is much too polite. A hotel is a hotel, I suppose, but what kind of hotel has no wireless network in their conference rooms? A very old, tired hotel in downtown Dallas, that’s what kind of hotel.

I was reading a copy of the Dallas Morning News last night and the first two stories in the Metro section caught my eye right away as they both epitomize the Texas of my feverish nightmares. The first story entitled, “Beefed Up Bible Study” was about a BBQ restaurant owner who serves up a helping of fundamentalist nonsense aside his Texas short ribs, much to the delight of the yahoos who cram the stuff into their faces on Sunday nights. The second story was about how the Dallas prosecutor’s office has been repeatedly accused of hiding evidence from defense attorneys in order to secure death penalty convictions over the last few years. To me this epitomizes the concept of Texas justice.

I’m also hoping to visit a sight of more murder and mayhem before I run back screaming to New York. By this I mean a visit to the Texas Book Depository and the grassy knoll.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Debt Slavery

The current melt down on Wall Street, largely fueled by the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market, got me to thinking about the availability of easy credit and the inability of anyone drowning in their debt to do anything about it.

The news media rarely give any explanation for why Americans have been racking up debt at rates heretofore unseen in American society, leaving one to infer that the debt explosion is some sort of inevitable by-product of today's moral and economic climate. Nah. All that debt was made possible by one small change in the laws of consumer finance which transformed centuries of economics in a hot instant. In 1978, the Supreme Court interpreted ambiguous language in a little-known federal statute and opened the door for banks to "export" interest rates from one state to another. For example, a bank with lending operations in South Dakota -- where the interest ceiling was 24 percent, could now issue loans at 24 percent interest to a family living in New York (where the max rate is about 12%) without worrying about their corporate officers ending up in Riker’s Island perched next to loan sharks who collected overdue debts by breaking kneecaps. This set the stage for the explosion of the credit card industry and the availability of huge amounts of credit. The problem with all of that available credit is that people were quickly overextending themselves (by paying things like medical bills) and declaring bankruptcy, thus depriving poor little companies like MBNA of their minimum monthly payments and 27% interest payments. (In fact, nearly 90 percent of individuals filing for bankruptcy this past year had been felled by a job loss, a medical problem, or a family breakup, or by some combination of all three.) The solution the credit card companies came up with was to push for reform of the bankruptcy law. They achieved their goal in 2001. It is noteworthy that the bankruptcy bill could not have passed Congress without bipartisan (read, Democratic) support.

Americans in the 21st Century have become little more than debt slaves on a capitalist plantation. Up until a few years ago if you got in over your head you could declare bankruptcy and get a fresh start. No longer. The credit card industry, lead by MBNA and assisted by none other than Senator Hilary Clinton, effectively put an end to American’s ability to reboot their financial lives with a Chapter 7 filing. Of all the despicable things the Senate Democrats have done ion the last six years, and there have been many, none has had and will have such a devastating effect on the middle class than the passage of that bankruptcy bill. As thousands of overextended homeowners face the prospect of losing their homes and still remaining mired in debt for years, the credit card industry is raking in massive profits from jacked up interest rates and over limit penalties.

The industry authored bill to “reform” the bankruptcy system was first introduced when Bill Clinton was in the White House. Then First Lady Hilary Clinton convinced the President that the bill would devastate poor and middle class families if it were signed into law. A lame duck at the time, Clinton vetoed the bill in October of 2000.

In the spring of 2001, the bankruptcy bill was reintroduced in the Senate, essentially unchanged from the version President Clinton had vetoed the previous year. This time freshman Senator Hillary Clinton voted in favor of the bill. When the bill came up again in 2005, she missed the vote because her husband was in the hospital, although she indicated she would have opposed it. I call bullshit on that excuse. It is no coincidence that Senator Clinton received $140,000 in campaign contributions from banking industry executives in a single year, making her one of the top two recipients in the Senate.

Lest anyone forget, the following Democratic Senators voted for the version of the bill that ultimately passed and was signed into law by President Bush: Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware), Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska), Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota), Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico), Sen. Robert Byrd (D-West Virginia), Sen. Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota), Sen. Dan Inouye (D-Hawaii), Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vermont),Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida), Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada), Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colorado), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan).

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Here’s a little diversion for the readers. The Oracle of Starbucks will tell you secrets about your personality when you enter your usual coffee order into their algorithm and click the submit button. Sort of a twisted caffine influenced horoscope. My usual order these days is a double shot vanilla latte. Behold the Oracle's wisdom:

Personality type: Ass-clown

You tell people that you're an executive at your company. You think that your repeated references to being "addicted" to caffeine make you seem intriguing and dangerous. People think you're a sucker because you spend 60% of your annual income at Starbucks. Everyone who drinks vanilla double shot latte ends up addicted to crack.

Also drinks: Zima

Can also be found at: Karaoke bars


I’d have to say that’s about 50% accurate, although the last time I had a Zima was in 1986. Have fun with it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Iraq

Yesterday 200 people were killed in Iraq when successive truck bombs went off in northern Iraq. 200 people. People with families and lives and hopes and dreams and everything else that makes up the human condition. Dead because of our meddling in an area of the world we don’t belong. The lead story on CNN? A crooked NBA referee takes a plea in a basketball gambling case. No dead Americans, no story. The Iraq story? If you can find it, note that it blames the attack on al Qaeda in Iraq, an entity that came into existence only after the United States invaded. It is easy to say that the blood of every man woman and child killed in that country is on the hands of George Bush and his evil Christian cohorts in the White House. The reality is that their blood is on the hands of every indifferent American who’s support of the troops extends to placing a yellow ribbon manufactured in China on the back of their SUV.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Messianic Militarism

So Rove is packing up his black bag and leaving town, having accomplished pretty much everything he set out to when he goose-stepped into the White House with his faux cowboy boss in 2000. The mainstream media is taking his departure rather well and has actually been running creepily laudatory stories about his career in politics. The Republicans now have a permanent majority, in ideology if not in numbers. Can anyone argue that the political atmosphere in this country hasn’t tacked hard to the right since Bush took office?

After recently finishing Joe Bageant’s Deer Hunting With Jesus, the Patriot has gotten his panties in a twist about fundamentalist Christians again. Every time I try to ignore them they keep traipsing, uninvited, back into my life. For example, lately a very annoying man on the Staten Island Ferry has taken to preaching the gospel at the top of his lungs on the 7:45am boat. That asshole is lucky I’m a free speech absolutist or I would have tossed him over the side days ago.

Over the last six years, fundamentalist Christians have been allowed to set the terms of the debate on a host of social issues in the media and their positions are reported with due consideration, as though believing in the rapture is the most normal thing in the world. The fall out from this sort of acceptance is that speech is banned, abstinence is taught in the schools as sex education and even papers as supposedly liberal as the New York Times are publishing “debates” about intelligent design and evolution. Lest we forget, 79% of Americans surveyed in 2004 by Newsweek believe that as the Bible says, Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, without a human father. Curiously, a mere 63 percent of Americans believe the Bible is literally true and the Word of God. I guess this means that 16% of those that don’t believe the bible is the word of God make an exception for the part about the virgin birth.

When broken down into different demographics, the poll somewhat unsurprisingly showed 77 percent of Republicans believe in the literal truth of the Bible as do 59 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of those not affiliated with either major party. These numbers are not encouraging for the rationalists among us who would rather base our middle-east foreign policy decisions on something other than the Book of Revelations. Which brings us, somewhat circuitously, to the concept of Christian Zionism.

Christian Zionism is a belief among some Christians that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is in accordance with Biblical prophecy. Christian Zionists also believe that Christ cannot return to earth until certain events occur. The Jews must return to Palestine, (done) gain control of Jerusalem (not yet), rebuild a temple, and then we all must engage in the final, great battle of Armageddon, after which the righteous will be brought up to heaven and the heathens (including, one assumes, any Jews left hanging around after the conflagration) sent off to push heavy stones around with the devil. Which Christians believe in this nonsense, you might ask? Well, I hate to break it to you but, well, lets just say that the Bush administration’s foreign policy is heavily influenced by the writings of a cave-dwelling hermit who had apocalyptic visions some 2000 years ago.

So while Rove took great pains to court the fundamentalist Christians, who are, after all, the largest voting bloc in the Republican Party, he chose to ignore the danger of coddling messianic militarism. This may well end up being Rove’s true legacy. Granting unprecedented political access to Christian Jihadists and allowing them to govern-from the oval office-using the Bible as a roadmap.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Blog Recommendation For You

Hey!
I want all of my loyal readers (and disloyal readers too-Distraction, I’m talking about you,) to go check out my friend’s blog here:

http://dreamingawake-cls.blogspot.com/

Dreamingawake contains the “[u]nedited (mostly) musings of a professional editor, sleep-deprived mother, political junkie, and wannabe foodie.” The writing is top notch, and there are great food porn pictures. Because the author is a professional editor you won't find as many misspellings and incorrect verb tenses as you do here. Should make it easier on the eyes. Come on, do it now before you forget.
-P

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Happy Weekend


So the Patriot is coming off a couple of rough weeks folks, although nothing as rough as what my poor friend Crackass has gone through, what with the feds tossing his apartment and all. I learned a very important lesson this past week. First and foremost, the principal danger at a picnic isn’t ants, stinging insects or boring conversation. No, the most dangerous thing at a picnic is mayonnaise that has sat in the 100 degree heat for several hours before it makes its way, in the innocent guise of macaroni salad, into your body. Mark my words, nothing will ruin your day, and possibly your week, more than that seemingly innocent emulsion of raw eggs and oil after it’s been exposed to the Virginia sun on a summer’s day. The Patriot learned this the hard way. Feeling somewhat at ill sorts, I took an early boat home last Monday where I promptly passed out in a delirium, only to be prodded awake by a broom-wielding seaman several long minutes after the ferry had docked in St. George’s. A restless night followed, consumed with dreams and hallucinations the like of which the Patriot hasn’t seen since the 1986 Dead shows at the Meadowlands (and they were good shows).

Nevertheless irrespective of bad mayonnaise, the engine of Capitalism grinds on. This week there must have been some serious sand in the gears. The sub-prime mortgage market led the stock market on a wild ride which had the Patriot, who is heavily leveraged in emerging markets, gnawing on his fingernails every time he checked his etrade account. That’s the price one pays for betting on the vagaries of globalism without someone on the inside pulling the strings for you. The bids are rigged my friends. Bush and his corporate masters make money because they know all the players. The markets move when they tell the markets to move. As Political-spazz noted in a posting a few months ago, the day before 911, trading on United Airlines stock was through the roof. They knew what was going to happen. The rest of us are chasing chump change. Might as well go to Vegas, get drunk and at least have a few good stories when we come home hung over and broke. Wall Street bleeds slower but its still a bleed. Alright my brothers and sisters, peace out and see y’all next week.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Surveillance Redux

For the record, 16 Democratic Senators and 41 Representatives crossed the isle to vote for the expansion of warantless surveillance before skulking away to their summer vacations. Slate had a good take on how this abdication of leadership in the face of the White House’s red-baiting compromises the so-called “opposition” party’s stance on other important issues like Gonzalez’s complicity in the firing of US Attorneys:

“There is virtually no way to reconcile Sen. Mark Pryor's, D-Ark., claim that Gonzales has "lied to the Senate" and needs to go with his vote to expand the reach of our warrantless eavesdropping program. And how can one possibly square Sen. Dianne Feinstein's, D-Calif., claim that the AG "just doesn't tell the truth" with her vote to give him yet more unchecked authority? You either trust this AG with the power to listen in on your phone calls or you do not

With this FISA vote, the Democrats have compromised the investigation into the U.S. attorney scandal. They've shown themselves either to be participating in an empty political witch hunt or curiously willing to surrender our civil liberties to someone who has shown—time and again—that he cannot be trusted to safeguard them. The image of Democrats hypocritically berating the attorney general with fingers crossed behind their backs is ultimately no less appalling than an attorney general swearing to uphold the Constitution with fingers crossed behind his own.”

Amen. There is no legitimate reason to support the Democrats in the 2008 Congressional elections if the leadership is planning to continue to operate in this manner. While a third-party presidential candidate has little chance of prevailing, serious consideration should be given to supporting your local Green party candidate for whatever seat he or she happens to be running for.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Same Shit


The Patriot apologizes for the dearth of postings of late but what with a heavy travel schedule, the Zalewski family reunion and a bout with spoiled mayonnaise there has been precious little time to rant and rage about the sorry state of the union. The Times had a story yesterday about Bush signing a law which provided a broad expansion of the warrantless wiretap program. The law was largely authored by the White House and somehow made its way through a democratically controlled Congress without too much hand wringing or public comment.

Previously, under the FISA Courts (set up by the Dems in the late 1970s), a secret Court reviewed evidence and issued warrants to various agencies authorizing wiretapping of American citizens where the national security was ostensibly at risk. Essentially a rubber-stamp for the FBI, FISA rarely declined to issue a warrant where one was requested by the Justice Department. Under the new law, provided that the government is targeting a foreigner talking to a US citizen, no warrant is needed.


The new law expands the eavesdropping powers Bush claimed he had the right to exercise with his Terrorist Surveillance Program in two major ways. First, the law requires telecommunications companies to make their facilities available for government wiretaps, and it grants them immunity from lawsuits for complying. Second, Bush has said his original surveillance program was restricted to calls and e-mails involving a suspected terrorist, but the new law has no such limit. Instead, it allows executive-branch agencies to conduct oversight-free surveillance of all international calls and e-mails, including those with Americans on the line, with the sole requirement that the intelligence-gathering is "directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States." There is no requirement that either caller be a suspected terrorist, spy, or criminal. Government officials are apparently unhappy that details of the wiretapping program were leaked to the public. I wonder why?


As Walter Pincus reports in the Washington Post today, "senior government officials" say Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell will design the procedures for using the new surveillance powers Congress has approved and determine whether the administration is complying with them. Doesn’t that make you feel better about the program?


While the Patriot isn’t surprised at this expansion of the secret police’s powers under this fascist administration, he is pissed at the Democrats complicity at bringing the law to the president’s desk. In what has become an all too familiar scenario of the lawmakers putting their own interests over the Country’s, a number of Democrats in the apparently had doubts about the new law but they caved under threats from the president to force congress to stay in session until they created a version of the law to which he could agree. God forbid the Democrats miss their summer vacation. I mean, warrantless wiretapping isn’t that important compared to missing out on a couple of weeks on the Cape.


As Time Grieve noted in Salon’s War Room today, “The authority granted by the surveillance legislation expires after six months, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that she wants to see it rewritten even before then. But here's a question: If Democrats in the House and the Senate found it impossible to resist giving the Bush administration surveillance powers it didn't already have, are they really going to be comfortable taking those powers away once Gonzales and McConnell can start claiming -- while keeping the details under seal, of course -- that the new powers are already working to stop terrorist attacks?” Good question. I think I know the answer.