Thursday, March 31, 2005

And The Inanity Continues...
A rather interesting quirk of this whole Schiavo stupidity is how much of a division it's causing for rank and file Republicans. Such as this fellow, for instance, a very conservative judge on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. In fact, this Judge Stanley F. Birch authored opinions that upheld banning dildos in Alabama and gay adoption in Florida, and has been described by them that know as "squarely in the Scalia/Thomas camp". In other words, he's a strict "original intent" type when it comes to the Constitution and doesn't pussyfoot around.

Been hearing a lot of this lately. Makes me wonder if certain parts of the GOP aren't regretting the rather Faustian deal they made with the Christian Right. Here's the money quote, delivered via Columbia University law professor and constitutional expert Michael Dorf:

"'Republicans are not categorically against opening federal courts where they think that doing so would produce politically conservative results,' Dorf said. 'It's easier for a judge to stick by abstract principles than for a politician. The judge only has to answer to the limited audience for judicial opinions. The politician has to answer to voters, who don't generally draw those fine distinctions.'

In the political realm, he said, 'repeated instances of hypocrisy can become consistency.'"

Ain't that the damn truth.

Friday, March 25, 2005

One For The Peach Staters...

For the Georgia news junkie, this site is a pretty nifty fix. It's a round-up of stories from newspapers all over the state concerning the various issues that are affecting Georgia. It claims to be non-partisan and, for the most part, looks to be just that. In any event, it's a pretty good chunck of daily news to wade through.

Thanks to the Radical Georgia Moderate for the heads-up.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes 2005

It was revealed Tuesday that a Swiss biotech firm had inadvertently sold U.S. farmers a strain of genetically engineered corn that hadn't be approved for public use by the U.S. government. The company, Syngenta AG, as well as three U.S. federal regulatory agencies said they're really don't have any idea how much got into the national food supply nor how it actually happened, but they're sure it's safe for both people and the environment. Pretty sure, anyway. And the best part? It's been going on for over four years.

Now. I heard about this yesterday. After reading the story, I got up from my chair and walked outside. To my shock and dismay, I did not see a mass of people armed with pitchforks heading for Washington, D.C. Now I find out, that despite all the warnings and fears, Americans have eating genetically engineered food for over a decade... and didn't know it. It appears that roughly 75 percent of U.S. processed foods - frozen dinners, cooking oil, boxed cereals and what not - contained genetically modified ingredients.

Funny thing is, even though half of the country has no idea they're chomping this stuff down, they trust in governmental regulation industries to keep us safe. That being said, companies developing GM foods aren't required to send data to the FDA for approval. They do it on a voluntary basis. How quaint. On the upside, one has to admit there's been no reports of illness. On the downside, there's apparently no way to track and report allergies or other reactions to such "Frankenfoods". And for what it's worth, our country's intake of corn in staggering quantities is a bit scary.

Lovely. Now, there are some positive aspects that might arise, including drought-proof strains of wheat, but the very fact that even the haphazard FDA - which allows an acceptable level of rat shit in wheat - doesn't really work to hard to make such stuff is nasty is, well... troubling. Course, one really shouldn't be surprised. The government, beloved, does not care about you or what you eat.

For what it's worth, Europeans are a bit more disturbed by the concept of GM foods. Apparently, they really don't put much faith in their governments for some reason. Shows what dummies we are, don't it?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Well, Well, Well...Let Me Down Easy...

Apart from being completely and totally disgusted with the obvious political circus the whole sordid affair has become thanks to "honorable gentlemen" like Frist and DeLay, I don't really have much of an opinion on the Terri Schiavo flavor of bread and circuses. If you want to know the truth, it’s mainly because I’d hate to find myself in that position. Most folks arguing for or against seem to forget these are human beings we're dealing with here, not political brickbats, but real people going through a really bad time.

I really can't find it within me to loathe the Schindlers, though I do question their actions. I honestly think they're acting out of some warped sense of parental responsibility. Every parent thinks he or she has to move the moon and stars to make sure his/her child is protected and safe. However, what parents think is best for their child ain't always best for the child, much less what the child wants.

And I'll admit, I'm taking the husband's side on this. I wouldn't be surprised if the Schindlers still saw Terri as "their baby", while Michael sees her as a grown woman who was his wife. My parents certainly still see me as an awkward 12-year-old kid who can't keep his shoes tied...rather than an awkward 30-year-old man who can't keep his shoes ties but nevertheless has to make his own decisions now. There's no money left and no man works for 6 years to try save a woman who's long gone except out of love. The doctors say she's gone, but as this article points out, it's not always as simple as that.

What it boils down to is it was a fight between the parents and the husband, both of whom wanted what's best for the poor woman. They couldn't agree, so it went to court. Michael Schiavo has no control over whether or not his wife lives or dies. The state courts have said they're say, and it's not a case of "judicial activism" (which is wingnut code for "we don't like the ruling"), it's a case of the court doing its job. They looked at the facts and made a decision, end of story.

When I was 12, my first cousin Jason was in a truck wreck. It happened on Oct. 31, 1986. That was a Friday. The following Sunday, while all us kids were watching cartoons - including Jason's brother and two sisters - his mother came in and told us he'd gone to be with Jesus. We were closer than brothers, he was my role model and he was gone, just like that. I still can't put into words how devastating it was to me and I've just recently stopped blaming myself for it, even though I had nothing at all to do with it. To be honest, it was probably my first step towards religious skepticism, because I could not reconcile this horrible, useless, unnecessary tragedy that destroy my aunt and battered my tight-knit family with the kind, loving God I'd grown up hearing about. A God that really cared wouldn't let death hurt this much.

And I think that's part of the reason why the questions of this case - Do we have a right to die? How long do you keep someone alive when their mind is gone? What constitutes "gone" and who has the right to say? - resonates so much in this country despite the political boorishness. Our culture has an almost stultifying fear of mortality, so much so that many people are so afraid of death that they fail to actually live their lives. Death is a part of life, it's a natural occurrence and, frankly, it's gonna happen whether you want it to or not. You might as well accept it, and concentrate on enjoying life and enjoying the time you have with their loved ones. Don't put yourself in a position where you'll regret taking those opportunities. And do your loved ones a favor; get a living will. My Uncle Roy had to make the decision to disconnect his 15-year-old son - my cousin, my hero - from the life support systems that kept his lungs breathing and his heart pumping.

That's what a parent has to do, sometimes. Love is doing what best for your loved one even if it causes you pain. Please don't add to their burden if you can help it.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Wonder If She Gives Good Comb...

Eee-yah-hah...apparently, Paul Wolfowitz has a girlfriend. He's evidently seeing a lady named Shaha Ali Riza, a Tunsian-born British citizen. The woman in question - a divorcee like Wolfowitz - works as a communications adviser for the Middle East and North African department of the World Bank. Lest we forget, Wolfowitz was recently nominated by the Bush people for president of the World Bank, a move many see as not only controversial but completely batshit insane. So, not only does he have no experience whatsoever that would qualify him for such a position and not only has he made a practice in recent years advocating the bombing of places the World Bank usually helps (Wolfowitz was one of the prime architects of the Iraq war), Wolfowitz is fishing off the company pier. And apparently, Wolfowitz's people see no problem in this. Now, as much as I hate to defend the Clenis for anything, but what kind of yowling do you think we'd hear from the crybaby conservative wing of the GOP if a Democratic administration pulled shit like this.

Some days, you just get the feeling that the universe is, indeed, laughing behind your back.

Friday, March 18, 2005

A Different Place And A Different Time

This post at Atrios' place got me to thinkin', and when I realized how long the comment was going to be, I just decided to run with it here.

Anyhow, the piece is about how the approval rating among Americans concerning interracial marriage didn't reach a plurality until 1991 (at 48%, for what it's worth). It's up to about 73 or so these days, which is pretty amazing to consider how far we've gone in a relatively short time. It's a nice stroke, and it makes you think that maybe, just maybe, this deal will work out eventually. There's a lot one can say about why this has changed for the better, why some people are still against interracial marriage for whatever reason, and how it reflects on the overall struggle for equal protection under the law for everyone regardless of creed, color, religion or sexuality.

There's also plenty of talk as to just who this objection applies to, as in whether it's interracial marriage in general they object to or merely a specific coupling. For example, my Old Man's an ex-Marine and has recently started attending Corps reunions and functions. He's struck up a correspondence - one could hardly call it a friendship - with a cat who lives in South Georgia. This gentleman is very involved with the League Of The South, one of those "we're not racist, we just don't want to be around anyone who isn't white and kinda don't think anyone else should, either" type groups. This guy sends my Old Man literature and emails, which my Old Man sends to me and I have a hearty laugh.

First time they met, they shared a table at the banquet at whatever function they were attending. My Momma's a rather loquacious lady - if you're wondering where I got it from - and will talk all four legs off a mule. It never fails, she can go anywhere on this, the third stone from the Sun, and she'll find someone to talk to on a number of subjects - all delivered with rapid-fire gear-changing tangents - until the person can get away. And God help us all if she runs into someone as likewise talkative, you might as well hang it up. And, apparently, this dude was a talker, and brother, he could flat hang it in.

Eventually, the scattershot conversation drifted around to the cat's interest in The Honah Of The Sooth and, before too long, the subject of interracial marriage. As one might imagine, this feller wasn't very much against it. He wasn't the "well, won't it be tough for the children" bullshit cop-out against it; he was against it with an exclamation point. He went on at length on the topic, evidently spurred on by a black-man-white-woman couple a few tables over.

First, the punch line. The man's wife, who was at the table, is Filipino. Apparently, this defender of the purity of Southern White Women doesn't recognize the humor in that one bit. Now, this line of conversation chilled my folks to this gentleman, but being the horribly polite Southern people they are, they haven't really told him to fuck off yet.

Now, as to why this chilled my folks' opinion. It’s not that they’re particularly liberal as far as the whole racial thing goes, nor are they particularly enlightened when it comes to the concept of interracial marriage. Now, don't get me wrong; my folks aren't what you called outwardly racism, but it'd be a lie to say it wasn't there all the same. Nevertheless, when it comes to the whole argument of interracial marriage, my family has a unique perspective on it.

(Before I start, though, one small digression. The aforementioned Southern Leaguer, when he spoke, spoke directly to my Old Man. My Old Man, in turn, would turn to Momma, who'd more or less answer the man. The man would then reply to my Old Man. The gentlemen's wife, I am told, was not particularly active in the conversation. Usually, her husband answered for her.)

Anyhow, my family, or more specifically, my mother's side of the family, the various folks who married people on my mother's side of the family, the various offspring from said unions, and where applicable, their spouses. They are the Beans. We're from Scottish stock, originally, traced back to the Clan MacBean. We apparently have ties to Clan MacBeth, and yes, that Clan MacBeth (or whoever it was based on). The original ones came over not long after the Revolutionary War, and my mother's people have been in the same general area of Mississippi since the mid-1800s. In fact, apart from my brother, myself and a few scattered cousins, they all still live there. My mother lives on my great-grandfather Bean's old homeplace, less than 200 yards from where she was born.

Mommaw and Poppaw Bean - always just "Mommaw" and "Poppaw"; my paternal grandfather was "Pappaw Thompson" until my teen years and my maternal grandmother died before I was born - had five kids. Three boys and two girls. One uncle is mentally retarded due to a childhood illness, but the other four had a grand total of 10 children. Other that bunch to date, there's 10 kids from that bunch, as well. Only my brother, myself and one other cousin have failed to reproduce. That cousin is married, one just got engaged and the youngest is still in high school. My brother and I currently live as bohemian pains in the ass in a college town pretending we're "artists".

My family is, basically, country folk. We're not rednecks or hicks or white trash - and there is a difference, trust me; if you know, you know - but they are country. There is a difference between country people and someone who lives in an identifiable town, no matter how small said town is and no matter how miniscule the difference is when you get right down to it. Only a few of my kinfolk have beyond a high school education - and a number don't have that - and they're you're average non-frothing conservative type. They're religious, patriotic, law-abiding, conscious of how others view them (perhaps overly so), and fairly mainstream in their taste in entertainment, cuisine, decorating, consumerism and relationships.

They're also all children of a farmer who barely kept above the poverty line. They didn't have electricity until after my mother was born (she's in her mid-50s) and didn't have running water until my youngest uncle (early 50s) was born. The two girls went to college and both became teachers. The two boys both went to work, both in the field of fixing big things that moved a lot of stuff around and made a helluva lot of noise. I figure that, if nothing else, my family has instilled within me a deep love of both education and heavy machinery. I have driven bulldozers and I love them.

None of 'em are rich, but they're all doin’ okay these days. It wasn’t always easy, but they've all been able to give their grandchildren chances they've never had. They all wonder what the hell happened to my brother and me, and they can't understand why we do things the way we do them, but all they care about is if we're happy doing what we do or not. Granted, they seem to think that if we do what they do, we'd be even happier. They may be right, who knows, but what matters is that they're happy.

They're lower-middle class Southern white people who came of age in the '50s and early '60s. They worked the fields along side black people. My mother played basketball in high school and at Delta State University alongside black girls. Even though I heard the word almost constantly, I was also told constantly to never say "nigger" to an actual black person because it was hurtful to them and they, therefore, might be hurtful to you. It didn't occur to me until I hit high school that if it was wrong to call a black person a "nigger" when s/he was around, it wasn't right to say it when s/he wasn't. My family, like everyone else, is a product of our place and time. My family is, therefore, racist. There's no Klan members and there's never any overt hatred of people "not like us", but there is a definite conception of "people not like us". That, in a nutshell, is racism.

Still, my mother's best friend when she taught school was a black lady. I had black friends, more black friends than I do now. I also had a Confederate flag hanging on my wall. Not because I hated black folks, but because I was "proud to be Southern". It was part of what defined me. It gave me a group to belong to, which is where that nonsense connects with the vast majority of Southerners who embrace the Klan Flag. It's not hatred of other colors, but a need to be a group. It's still racism, though.

My family's good people - some of the best you'll find - but they're still racist. I'd say they couldn't help it, but that would be letting them off the hook. They can help it; they just chose to not even try. Personally, I think everyone has a fear of The Other, and that's where racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and religious bigotry comes from. For most people, it isn't the overt, frothing kind, but it's there nevertheless. The trick is try to not give in to it. I don't know if anyone will ever truly succeed, but the whole point, I think, is to try.

But, most folks don't. The system is racist and it's set up so that any change that comes, comes slowly and with struggle. But change comes nevertheless. Change cannot be stopped. My folks are the norm, not a deviance anymore. I admit, being a straight white dude, I'm in a position where I can call that progress, but you gotta hold onto whatever you can.

The reason, I think, most folks stay stuck in this undercurrent racist thought - fear of The Other - is that there's generally no reason to really confront it. People, for the most part, avoid confrontation of any sort like the Devil avoids church, and that goes double for racism. Oh, sure, we all have friends who are a different color than us, but we're all aware of it. It's always a factor in the relationship, even if it's just a case of "a guy I know who's Asian". It's there, but again, it shouldn't matter. It does, but you gotta try...

Still, people occasionally get their racism thrown back in they're face, and that generally happens when two people of a different skin tone decide to hitch up. That happened in my family. About seven years ago, my first cousin married a black dude. He's a helluva guy: hard working, good-natured, intelligent, polite, the whole nine yards. But he is black and, brother, when he married my cousin, the shit not only hit the fan, it went through the roof.

Now, at the time, I was living in Gainesville, Florida, which is about 560 miles from my Peaceful Valley home. Therefore, I missed most of the fireworks. My brother was there, though, and he said it wasn't pleasant. Frankly, I'm glad I missed out on the bulk of it, because what I saw wasn't pretty. It wasn't pretty the way various members of my family were acting. You heard outright nigger-bashin' racism and you heard limp-wristed bullshit like "well, the kids will have it hard growing up because of other people". It also wasn't pretty to see my family's racism, always there, thrown in my face. It wasn't pretty to have to confront my own racism that I thought was by then non-existent.

No one, especially liberals, like to admit the dark, dirty secret of life in America: it's racist and we’re racist. Being a white guy, I don't recognize it for the most part because, frankly, the game's geared for me to win it. If you're a white guy in America with a decent mind, the only thing that holds you back from being a "success" as defined by America (i.e.: having a shit-ton of money) is how ambitious you are and how far you're willing to go to get what you want. Simple as that. Not being Jewish helps, too. If you're not a straight white guy, the deck is stacked against you from the get-go. And you really can't help but take advantage of it, partly because basic human instinct says look out for number one, but mainly because we just don't recognize it. The whole thing about fish and water, and such and such.

The key, though, for straight white guys is to at least try, I think. Recognize that, yes, the game is geared for you and, yes, you gotta take care of your own first, but no, you don't have to be an asshole about. Be conscious of how things are and do the best you can to live and let live. Everyone's an asshole, basically, so skin color is almost irrelevant.

Tackling the problem as a whole is a tough one and almost an insurmountable obstacle, which isn't to say it shouldn't be accomplished. However, there's really no point trying to argue the pros of racial tolerance with some who's mind is deadset in thinking anyone who isn't white should be considered not quite "us". Again, I'm not saying those windmills shouldn't be tilted from time to time, but one has to recognize when one is pissing in the wind.

The very best thing someone who's truly interested in helping the tide of progress can do is simply do the best they can to help it along. It sounds a bit circular, but it's the best way I can describe it. Live you're life to your standards and just be an example instead of trying set standards for others. Walk the walk along with talking the talk, in other words. Change comes from within but it affects what's without.

And change continues, as the increasing acceptance of interracial marriage suggests. Eventually, it'll only be the sad, myopic few who even give a shit one way or another. While it's on my mind, I guess I should add this is directed mainly at white people. I recognize there's a strong feeling in many other ethnic groups to not marry outside one's race for various reasons, but not being anything but a white guy, I can only speak from a white guy's perspective. I can't make that argument, nor can I refute it. Wouldn't know where to begin.

But even there, progress continues unabated. It may slow down and speed up, but eventually, people come around. In racial terms, things are much better than they were 10 years ago, much less 50. Once the box is open, it can't be closed, and while it's not exactly equal to the Civil Rights movement, the gay rights movement will eventually succeed. Gay people will eventually be able to be in a completely empty, miserable, soul-destroying marriage with all the rights and privileges of straight people. You can't stop progress.

As for my cousin? Well, things got better. Some of my kinfolks keep an icy distance, sad to say, but there's a general sense of "Well, it's not my doin's", which is probably the best we can hope for. The husband came to the Christmas diner this past year, the first time he's been there. He and my cousin have three kids that everyone just flat-out dotes on, and if that's what it takes, then that's good enough for me.

Either way, you can't stop progress no matter how hard you try.

Granted, I Was In An Altered State A Good Deal Of The Time, But...

The latest conservative whine meme is that admittedly old bugaboo of college campuses being hotbeds of rampant liberalism. Led by switch-hitting bullshit artist David Horowitz, crybaby conservatives - after bitching about political correctness and Affirmative Action - are running to the federal government for "protection". Seems they think they're being repressed on campuses and apparently they're having to hide in sewers or something so they're not indoctrinated by mean ol' liberals.

It's all hogwash, of course, but anyone with a lick of sense coulda told you that. Dig it, most kids going to college these days could give two shits about political activism, liberal or conservative. Most of them are more interested in getting out of their parents' house, having a good time, getting laid, meeting new people and - just maybe - learning something along the way. The same thing goes for teachers, who're more interested in keeping their jobs than "shoving liberal ideology" down anyone's throats.

And as an aside, what sort of mind keeps using that imagery, anyway? The gay agenda, the feminist agenda, the atheist agenda... conservatives are awfully concerned by things being shoved down their throats.

Anyhow, this is a whole lot of nonsense, in my opinion. I took a number of "liberal arts" classes and, honestly, I can only think of one professor who made any sort of deal about his politics. The man in question - and I'll protect his privacy - road with the Freedom Riders and staged sit-ins at lunch counters in the South during the Civil Rights struggle. That's it. The rest? They taught me the stuff I was supposed to learn for the classes (or tried to, anyway).

The story by Russell Jacoby cited above makes another really good point. If conservatives are so concerned with making sure there's balances in state-run colleges, why aren't they yowling for more liberal representation in the Pentagon, the military, Corporate America and the police. Personally, I'd love to see the cops get more liberal - not to mention our country's drug laws - but that's just me.

There is the idea that folks like Horowitz and his groupies are doing this because they hate education. I could buy that. I mean, this is the same side that howls non-stop that creationism should be on equal footing with evolution (which I don't understand, because you'd think they'd be more pissed off about something like quantum theory or, for that matter, cosmology in general). But frankly, I think it boils down to the same thing that causes a lot of complaining from the Irrational Bush Lovers: we don't love them, so they want to change the law to make us love them.

Frankly, I don't know if I quite understand why the hullabaloo (apart from some conservatives are just incredible crybabies, that is). Just because a liberal professor has a certain point of view a student might disagree with, it doesn't mean the student has to change his/her views. It just means the student has to bullshit the professor to get the grade. Hell, I thought that was what college was all about.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

No Dog Jokes, Either, Cause I Like Dogs...

As a general rule, I rarely make a comment on anything from Atrios' place, mainly because I recognize a large portion of folks reading these words come from said site. That said, I'm posting this anyway because it needs to be seen. There's a bill in the Senate to raise the minimum wage by $1.10. Good thing, right? Well, Dan Savage's favorite senator, Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum, has snuck in some rather nasty shit, including eliminating the minimum wage and overtime for over 6.8 million workers, and eliminating regular wages for people who get tips.

Say you go to a restaurant. Your waitperson makes a little over two bucks an hour (depending on the restaurant, state, city, etc.) and the rest of his/her salary comes from tips (which are taxed as income). Santorum's monkeyshines would take away that regular wage, such as it is, and force the waitpersons to pay higher taxes in the process. Lovely. Anyhow, read it and do what you gotta do to get the info out to other people. Course, the upside for the GOP is if the Democrats find the spine to shoot down this bill with Santorum's riders, the Republicans can say they "voted against raising the minimum wage and hate working people".

Here are some of the things the modern GOP has done or tried to do to "help" out the working man and woman:

- Weakening workers' rights and pay

- Ending bankruptcy for individuals

- Killing Social Security

- Limiting access to the Courts for individuals

- Appointing mostly judges who have a proven history of ruling consistently for corporations over workers

- Huge tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations

- Gut or weaken laws and regulations restraining corporations while tightening them severely for individuals (thank you, PATRIOT ACT)

- Impose censorship and media control.

- Eliminate inheritance taxes for the wealthy

That list, by the way, comes from the good folks in the A-Man's comments board. Remember, the government does not give a shit about you or your family. The Democrats, it seems, refuse to risk losing "political capital" to fight for you. You have to fight for yourself. Don't take this bullshit. Howl.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

I'll Avoid Any Jokes About Being "On The Road Again"...

A few years ago, I had what I consider the highlight of my existence. For nearly two hours, I had the full attention of one Willie Nelson. He had just got through playing a show here in Athens, and I got the chance to talk about music, politics and life in general. With Willie. On his bus. And, yes, he smoked me out. It was awesome.

I say "highlight" because it was; I'm a huge, and I mean huge Willie Nelson fan. I've been one since somebody gave me a copy of The Red-Headed Stranger album when I was eight. I can honestly say that if I were to die tomorrow, it's okay. I've hung with Willie. And you haven’t, so there.

That being said, there's always been more to admire about the man than just his music. A long-time advocate of progressive causes and protection of the American family farmer - note Farm Aid, now in its second decade, and his enthusiastic support of Dennis Kucinich for president - Willie combines the two with his new venture Willie Nelson Biodiesel. The company is targeting truck stops and convenience store chains to market his brand, made mainly from soybean oil, and apparently works on any car's engine without any sort of modification. It's currently going at $1.79. Right now, the concentration of gas stations that offer biodiesel are mainly in the Midwest and there's still some bugs to sort out, apparently, but industry experts also see a very bright future for it.

The upshot of it is fairly simple. One, biodiesel reduces American dependence on foreign oil, which is proving to be something of a booger as of late. Secondly, it helps out farmers, as soybeans tend to be a resource that's quickly renewable. Finally, it's much better for the environment than fuels that use petroleum. Me, I'm generally given to thinking most of Willie's ideas are pretty good from the get-go*, but even beyond simple fandom, I'd think it'd be a good idea if out country could turn it eyes away from oil-based products as quickly as possible.

* Yeah, yeah, there duet with Toby Keith, I know. But as the man himself told me, "Hell, son, they can't all be Waylon."

Friday, March 04, 2005

The Best Thing Going Today

As both some who considers himself a progressive and a seeker of the truth, I've long had it with that so-called ringleader of the even more so-called "Liberal Media", The New York Times. In a very small nutshell, it's my opinion that the mainstream media is neither liberal nor conservative, as we define those terms in a political context. The mainstream media is pro-Corporate, pure and simple. They're owned by folks who care more for making money than informing the public, and their chief interest is not seeking the truth but maintaining the status quo. I've said it in other places, and I'll say it here. The government exists to protect us from corporate malfeasance and the press exists to protect us from governmental shenanigans, and neither one can do that when they're both owned by Corporate America.

That being said, add me to the chorus of folks singing hosannas for Frank Rich. Not only does he have a sharp, cutting eye when it comes to media criticism, he's got a way with a turn of phrase. His latest piece basically says what I said in my Flagpole story. The intertwining worlds of societal criticism, political punditry and flat-out pure journalism are in sad, sorry shape, but the really sad thing is how little has changed since Hunter Thompson was regularly going for Richard Nixon's throat. Even more synchronicity at work: Rich notes that the loss of Dan Rather isn't that much of a loss. Be damned.

While the thought's on my mind, thanks to everyone who emailed all the good comments about the aforementioned Flagpole piece. I'm much obliged and very touched. I do want to start writing for publication more - or, as I like to call it, "getting paid" - but I'm still trying to work out the details, such as figuring out a way to get a regular gig that didn't involve deadlines.

Anyhow, speaking of the Grey Old Lady, my buddy Luke from We Vs. The Shark - an excellent little quartet for those of y'all into the whole math rock thing - thinks this picture was monkeyed with. It just doesn't look right, says he, and I'm inclined to agree. Luke thinks some of the shadows don't match up, the lettering on the plane isn't right and both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdel-Aziz look "washed out". Me, I can't tell for sure, but it's piqued my curiosity, and I wouldn't put it past the Times, sad to say.

In local news, the Georgia Legislature approved legislation yesterday that would give Georgia companies a $1 billion tax break over the next 10 years. The bill essentially changes the way corporations in Georgia are tax, shifting it from stuff like property, payroll and sales combined to sales only. Proponents say it'll shift more of the burden on out-of-state companies, while critics say the taxpayers will take the shot, making up the lost revenue through tax increases and/or cuts in services.

Now, lest we forget, the same GOP-run state legislature is working like the dickens to pass legislation that would make it harder to get info on both out-of-state companies that want to do business in Georgia using taxpayer dollars. The idea is to keep the details secret until the deal either goes through or falls apart. Proponents, of course, say it'll help with jobs, though they fail to cite an example of a company that refused to do business because of Georgia's previous openness or, frankly, why the government wants to do business with a company that wants to hide its goodies from the public. The House also passed a bill, now in the Senate, that'd hide the names of donor's to universities and colleges. Again, I gotta ask just why these things need to be such an all-fired secret? The bright spot in all this is the corporate secrecy is tailspinning pretty badly, and the Democrats are actually showing a little spine when it comes to keeping government open and, therefore, honest.

Other examples of recent legislative silliness include longer mandatory delays for folks filing for divorce, a pork-laden $17.4 billion budget, a wait for abortions, a bill that legalizes "noodling" for catfish (just click the link) and, of course, a pay raise. Gotta have a pay raise. Glad to know they’re concentrating on the important issues, ain’t it?

And then there's the whole faith-based schoolin' thing Gov. Sonny Perdue is trying to push through. Even it's sponsor, Columbus Sen. Seth Harp (Republican, natch) says it's designed so that the state's taxpayers are funding churches in schools. Man, I love this state sometimes.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Last Word...

Like I said last week, I wrote a piece on Hunter S. Thompson's recent exit from this world of fear and loathing - my return to publication after a mighty long absence - and it ran in this week's issue of Athens' alternative news weekly Flagpole. It's here if you're curious, about halfway down and subtitled Howl, Dammit!. There's a number of folks who wrote on the Good Doctor's impact and loss, including my buddies JoE Silva and Jon Tonge. So, read, enjoy and raise a glass.

In other media endings, Dan Rather is stepping down from the CBS Evening News anchor chair on March 9. As FAIR shows us - and despite what many conservative bloggers and their drones wish us to believe - it isn't really a staggering blow to liberalism nor a mighty defeat of the Vast Liberal Media Conspiracy. While I still haven't decided what to think of the whole "Memogate" affair - it's either a case of tremendously shoddy journalism or a case of extremely nasty political misdirection - Rather's loss is no great loss in my book. He was and is just another mouthpiece for the status quo, and we'll be no poorer for his riding off into the sunset.

So long, Dan. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.