Saturday, July 31, 2010

A LITTLE DIVERSION

One not exactly a diversion: a link to Paul Krugman's very well put argument from the progressive/liberal side about Obama here (and thanks to my oldest son Miles for hipping me to Krugman's column(s) in the first place)...

...and this Youtube video sent to me and others in the clan from one of our Italian (or actually Italian-Irish) relatives (thanks to my niece Linda) (and hopefully the irony will make you laugh and not get all p.c. on me) here.

[PS: I had the video embedded in the post but as often happens the right side of the screen was cut off. Does anybody know why sometimes this happens when I use the embed code from Youtube and sometimes it doesn't?]

Friday, July 30, 2010

A BIG HOUSE AND JOB AND...

Having been broke many times in my adult life while at the same time raising kids mostly on my own for most of it, living the life of a poet, and a nonacademic one at that, and later a TV and film actor and film writer but one incapable of schmoozing and guilty of what an early educator of a school I got kicked out of called "brutal honesty" in my dealings with the powers that be in Hollywood and the academy etc....

...I know something about how to overcome the odds to put food on the table and a roof over the heads of my children and wives and others. It ain't easy. But it is possible. I worked hard to get some college degrees while holding down various parttime jobs, and I worked hard at the creative endeavors as well, especially writing for hire which I did for many years, from newspaper reviewer and columnist to ghostwriter and screenplay writer etc.

But I never had to face some of the obstacles many folks I've know have had to face. And even though no one has to starve ito death n this country, a lot of people end up homeless. Even I did once. My kids always argue that we weren't homeless back in the 1970s in New York when we lost an apartment due to a gangster landlord fighting a rent strike by us tennents which the others let me opt out of since they had all moved in with their respective lovers and friends while the landlord removed plumbing and used other tactics to get us to give in.

We ended up staying with friends, my kids with one friend and me with another, until I could find us a place to live, which ended up being an apartment we'd lived in before, which became available during the three months or so we were without an actual address. But we weren't forced to live in our car (I didn't own one then) or a cheap drug and prostitute ridden motel like some are. I'm thinking of a documentary I don't know the name of that my twelve-year-old was watching the other day in which homeless single mothers with kids were living in a less then inviting motel near Disneyland where the mothers worked but didn't make enough to be able to rent an apartment, one of the women had formerly worked for Wal-Mart which is when she became homeless because she didn't make enough to pay the mortgage on the home she'd had etc.

I didn't catch the name of the documentary and only saw a few minutes of it because we were on our way out. But it stuck with me, especially when I think of the way kids I've known (and taught years ago) from poor environments where there is no money, and the education is often lacking, who nonetheless have these dreams, beliefs really, that they will someday own a big house and have a big important job and make lots of money and spend it on fancy cars etc. And what that makes me think of is...

...the way so many of my fellow citizens seem to have this same kind of magical thinking that somehow someday things will be the way they imagine rather than the way they really are. I used to think this might be limited to only some kinds of people, people with particular mental or social issues. But I now think it is simply a result of the ways in which our society, especially the entertainment business and the media, distort or exploit reality for a profit.

The right has a stake in convincing people that anyone can end up becoming a CEO, or somehow making the kind of money the right never wants to tax because those who spend big bucks promoting the rightwing agenda ARE making that kind of money and want to protect it and make it "grow" by not paying their fair share. (There are tons of sites where you can find tons of graphs by economists showing that when the rich paid a higher percentage in taxes this country was better off in almost every way economically, especially in terms of the wealth being spread out more evenly and benefiting more people and therefore contributing to a better economy etc.).

But this kind of magical thinking isn't confined to the right. The left right now is doing much the same thing when it ignores or objects to so much of what Obama and the Democratic Congress have achieved that has benefited more people than the alternatives (continued Bush/Cheney policy or any other Republican's stated policy plans etc.). Yes Obama and the Dems deserve to be pushed harder to achieve more, especially to cut back on the military budget by closing bases around the world and ending the two wars we're explicitly fighting.

But I have known many poets who were among those I would consider the greatest of our times and yet they never got recognition, never won an award, never even got the paltry reading fees (which usually start at nothing and go up to measly for most poets but can reach the thousands for the famous and recognized). I have known actors who were incredibly talented and original who never or hardly got any work that paid anything or any real recognition, etc. and in all these cases I have also known the opposite: people who have been rewarded beyond what most people could expect for mediocre or even bad work.

This is true in businesses and corporations as well, as we see all the time and we all know, and suffer the consequences of.

It is not easy to get a plumber who knows what he's doing and is efficient and reasonable, let alone an entire army or economy or healthcare system etc. I have the belief that it is progress rather than perfection that is the realistic goal in most things in life, and I am grateful for that. I have made progress since my brain surgery, obviously, but am still not the same as I was in terms of the way my brain works, my writing, my thinking etc. but I'm grateful for the progress and do not expect perfection.

I do not defend Obama and the Democrats because they are perfect or their solutions are or the policies they offer or enact etc. Obviously not. From everything I've read Bush Junior made progress in the fight against AIDs in Africa, for which he deserves credit. He also made progress as an individual, from a spoiled Yalie drunk to getting the presidency (because he himself and those he surrounded himself with were willing to do pretty much anything to win and to hold on to power, unlike Gore and most Dems, except for Bill and Hilary Clinton who knew and know how to give the Republicans a fight though even they refuse to go to the lengths the right is willing to go to—Vince Foster, impeachment etc.).

In most areas—the gap between the rich and poor, the decline in real wages, the trade deficit, the national debt, the economy, employment, civil rights, citizens rights, constitutional rights, unaccountable hundreds of millions spent in Iraq, support of corrupt politicians and governments, etc. etc—no progress was made under Bush/Cheney but in fact the opposite was true, in most areas that matter this country was set back, put in reverse, heading in not just the wrong direction but backward! (and deliberately, as the goal was stated outright many times, to diminish the federal government to the point where it would be too broke and too broken to be able to regulate an kind of profit-making scheme the funders of the right might come up with, from fake oil crises to raise prices or wars to increase demand etc.

But in the past year and a half progress has been made by Obama and the Democrats in Congress, in healthcare, in saving jobs that would have been lost had the economic policies of BUsh/Cheney continued any longer (3.5 million), financial reform, etc. etc. Did they do enough or take it far enough for me? Absolutely not. Do I need to be pushing them to do more? Well I already do with the few contacts I still have and in my writing and speaking, but for the most part there's plenty of writers and communicators doing that all over the internet and cable and radio etc.

If the Dems had a big enough majority in the Senate and in the House they would achieve more progress, but they don't, and they won't if they lose seats this Fall. But it will not be because the right wins the elections, it will be because the Dems lost them by allowing the right's constant message of disappointment in all politicians and how they're all useless and corrupt etc. (though they mostly only attack and try to defeat the Dems) to keep so-called "swing" voters and many Dems themselves from voting because "it doesn't matter" and "a pox on both their houses" etc.

That's how the right first took over this country under Reagan, and it's been doing it successfully for the most part ever since, (and interestingly all the main economic indicators—jobs, wealth gap, wages, etc.—have declined ever since except for a short-lived reversal during Clinton's time in office).

Today's rightwing ploy I notice (it's already in today's comments added to yesterday's post) on the radio news and on CNN is that the revised economic figures shows growth was even slower in the second quarter of this year, 2.4%. The rightwing is trying to blame that on Obama and the Dems even though the Recession, i.e. no or negative growth, occurred under Bush/Cheney and as a result of their policies and in fact, what they didn't say in the mass media so far today that I've heard or seen is that if you eliminate the trade deficit which grew, the growth amounted to 5% which would be its highest in many years!

And the trade deficit is partly the fault of factory jobs going overseas and us not manufacturing much in this country anymore. A trend that started under Reagan as corporations were let off the hook for sending jobs out of this country, something Obama and the Dems have been trying to rectify and I believe will, if they have the power to, which doesn't come from magical thinking but from savvy politics and convincing the public and voters, which they have become pretty lame at as if they're still playing by some long gone rule book (like Warren Christopher's advice to Gore during the Bush attempt to steal the presidency to be statesmanlike and not lower himself to the level of street fighting that the Bush crowd not only was actively doing but relishing in, as they obviously still do, no matter how many of the rest of us get hurt).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

THERE IS NO REASONABLENESS FOR FANATICS


It's truly become pointless to even try and respond to the right's more and more wild accusations about Obama and the Democrats and government in general.

The kinds of accusations I'm hearing from other sources (here's one for instance), that Rush and Beck and Palin and other rightwing demagogues are making now, go beyond even their usual ruthless distortion of reality to a fantasy land that because of its influence can only lead to serious consequences for all of us.

Like I've said on previous posts, my experience with regaining many functions and abilities I lost after the brain surgery has taught me that when the brain lacks the wiring to make the obvious connections it needs to make in order to use logic and reasoning to determine a solution to a problem, it ends up substituting the easiest explanation it can find.

In other words the corporate shills, that Rush and Beck and others obviously are, probably know their lies and distortions serve their corporate sponsors and masters etc. and are either faking it (we see this often when rightwing Republican politicians are caught thinking their microphones are off making disparaging and dismissive comments about their followers) or have convinced themselves their propaganda and demagoguery is necessary to defeat the "Communist/Fascist/Antichrist" they portray Obama as.

Some of these tactics were used by the left in the late 1960s and early '70s and I fought against them as much as I did anything else. Coming from a family of cops I knew all policemen weren't "pigs" etc. But I also knew the analyses by most leftist intellectuals and leaders were based on facts, on a reality that the mass media of the time tried to cover up or simply ignore. Unlike many of Beck's and Rush's pronouncements that are based on lies necessary to foment animosity and rage against "the other" (i.e. minorities, Dems, "liberals" or "progressives" etc.).

It's obviously working as those whose brains cannot make the logical and reasonable connections—and thereby conclusions—demonstrate with their ongoing daily attacks on anything their leaders and spokespeople target for them (as The Daily Show and Rachel Maddow et. al. often highlight with reels showing the talking points of the day on the right being repeated verbatim all day throughout the rightwing media and the mainstream media they have such enormous sway over these days (which almost never uses the same kind of factual references to expose the usual rightwing lies (the Shirley Sherrod experience being one of the few where they were forced to but then made it all about the Obama administration apology rather than the rightwing's manipulation of the so easily manipulated mainstream media, but the distorted edited videos that led to ACORN's being misrepresented weren't corrected as most rightwing lies and distortions aren't in the MMS, etc.)

This occurred during the 1960s where many myths developed on the right based on rightwing propaganda and lies but which were nowhere near as insidious as those being perpetrated these days by Beck and Rush and their ilk. Like the myth that returning Viet vets were spit on and called "babykillers" as a matter of course. If it ever happened at all it was probably right after the Mai Lai massacre was exposed where US troops did kill babies and it was discovered that it wasn't the first or last time.

But in general the "hardhats" (rightwing demonstrators for the war who were initially characterized as construction workers mostly but often, as these days, were promoted and provoked and funded by rightwing organizations) were the ones who did the spitting and the hitting while most "flower children" and even the later SDS anti-war demonstrators of which I was one and often in a leadership position, made peaceful gestures toward these same "hardhats"—as well as National Guard troops and even the police sent to control or put down demonstrations—who we tried to educate about the lies used to justify the continuing war deaths and destruction.

But when attacked some attacked back as in picking up tear gas canisters and smoke bombs meant to disperse crowds of demonstrators and throwing them back at the police or National Guard troops who fired them. Often, when the main stream media references those days and those demonstrations you see mostly long haired young men throwing these smoking canisters at the police or National Guard troops but almost never does this same stock footage show the initial attack by the police or National Guard.

Anyway, even in those turbulent times very few on the left—and no on with the kind of media access and audience of a Beck or a Rush—used outright lies as the basis for their attacks on the government of that time. It was true then that the government was lying in order to keep support for a war based on lies. And that the FBI was spreading lies in the media in order to discredit leftist activists and peace organizers etc.

The idea that Obama is a "communist" let alone a "socialist" (I wish!) or "fascist" or "Nazi" or "illegal" or a "Muslim" or out to deliberately and consciously destroy his and our country is so preposterous that if you had told me or anyone else back in the 1960s that someday we'd have a part African-American president and these things would be said about him in major media outlets we'd have thought our greatest hopes and worst fears had come true at the same time. True indeed.

[And PS: "hope" is kind of spiritually useless in a way, as my old friend Hubert Selby used to say, because it's based on future projections rather than present reality where to maintain spiritual balance we need to live—i.e. in the "eternal now"—and then work for the changes we see as being beneficial to all so that the future reality may look more like what we envision as a better world, or as our president likes to say, quoting the Founding Fathers, "a more perfect union" (a little grammtically incorrect of course, how can anything be "more perfect" than perfection etc.)]

[And PPS: I know I went ahead and did what I said at the top was pointless, but as one of my favorite writers, Marth Gelhorn, said after she realized historical events were not necessarily going to go the way her youthful idealism had hoped, that at least she could bear witness to what actually is going on.]

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE

I still haven't read the books these flicks are based on, but I've seen the first two movies now and they have become two of my all time favorites.

As in the first one—THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO—the second—THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE—has its moments of plot predictability (when "the girl" leaves a gun behind early in the flick and she isn't wearing gloves, I noticed and it seemed pretty obvious where that was heading, etc.) and overcooked depictions of the evil our hero and heroine end up battling...

...BUT...both films still have so much suspense and tension—and without all the computer-generated fantasy nonsense of most Hollywood movies these days—I felt like I was watching an old-fashioned film noir flick from the '40s with a 1970s' twist of reality to it (as the friend I saw THE GIRL WHO PLAYS WITH FIRE with said it reminded her of, the classic '70s "new Hollywood" realism).

The latter is partly a result of the leads being so "unAmerican" (i.e. un-Hollywood) since Michael Nyqvist, the male lead, has a bit of a gut and a pocked mark face and Noomi Rapace, the "girl" of the series titles, has a boyish figure (what they used to all "flat chested" as an insult, but in Rapace's case seems not only fitting for the character but a bold—for our sad society—statement about true beauty) and an unconventional kind of beauty that would mark her as the lead's friend in any Hollywood flick but I find mesmerizing (as my friend, a female, found Michael Nyqvist).



Even the second leads in this flick—Yasmine Garbi playing "Miriam Wu" and Paolo Roberto playing himself (when he was still boxing)—are unconventionally (for Hollywood) realistic-looking characters as opposed to the Hollywood cliche etc.

And though some of the characters and scenes might seem a bit over-the-top or even cliched, they are at least based on realities of contemporary life, unlike most Hollywood flicks that have this kind of suspense and action and battling between "good" and "evil" no matter how unconventional the good guys are.

In Hollywood action-suspense flicks the villains are still usually comic book caricatures if not actually based on comic book (or video game) characters. But THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE serve up villains worthy of our fear and anger because they are based on the real villains in our world (in this case the Swedish version of it) who may appear like responsible corporate citizens on the surface but are willing to sacrifice the good of others for their corrupt profits or physical gratification.

I suspect I'll eventually read the series in their English translations after I see all three movies (a fourth manuscript is being fought over by the author's—Stieg Larsson's—companion, who he spent most of his adult life with, and his father and brother, who he was estranged from at the time of his unexpected early death), because especially in this second flick—THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE—I felt the style and perspective of a good Raymond Chandler classic in its narrative contours and character depiction.

But in the meantime, the movies are high on my list of new favorites, and I can't wait to see the third one when it arrives on our shores (and even look forward to the American versions, just to see if they get any of it right).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

THOSE "BUTTONS"

A few folks have been wondering what those things are that have suddenly appeared at the bottom of my posts on this blog. It's a device Blogspot introduced to make it possible for people to share a post they like in various contemporary ways (e mail, twitter, etc.) which I don't even really understand in my post-brain-op, techno-challenged condition.

But I accidentally pushed the wrong one I guess that put it on my blog, and when I asked my older son to help me remove it, he suggested I keep it because he feels it's not a bad thing to have available to those who read this blog.

I'm not crazy about the way it looks, but don't really know how to take it off anyway. And respect my son Miles' opinion on these matters (he's one of my several techno gurus whose advise I follow and whose help has made this blog possible, since even before brain surgery I didn't and don't get half the technological challenges doing this blog encompasses).

Meanwhile, the world goes on in its own crazy challenges to understand it. And speaking of brains and the way they work, as I realized after the operation when I not only couldn't understand the levels of irony and nuanced meaning in a typical Daily Show with John Stewart, and it actually hurt my brain to try and understand it all, I never lost the capacity to easily understand Faux "News" broadcasts and commentaries even though they made no logical sense, because they were so simplistic and obvious they didn't challenge my brain at all even in it's terribly diminished state in those early post-op days and weeks and months, or still for that matter.

And as my friend Freddie pointed out to me when he hipped me to the Olberman commentary I posted a link to yesterday, most of us "liberals" and "lefties" and Democratic centrists etc. don't watch MSNBC or listen to Rachel Maddow et. al. on a daily or even necessarily a regular basis because we don't need to have our perspective and beliefs reinforced all the time etc. as the "dittoheads" and others on the right need to do in order to not just get the daily message the right is pushing for that day but to have an argument to defend it.

That's why Fox News has the numbers. Without a daily dose of rightwing vitriol and talking points, most of the rightwing leaders' supporters wouldn't have a clue how to defend their positions against the reason and logic and complexity of reality and those not-on-the-right who have the brain power to distinguish between the various arguments and perspectives and come to their own conclusions.

Just look at an array of so-called "leftist" takes on any current event and you will see how independent Democrats and "liberals" and "progressives" are, as opposed to the word-or-phrase-of-the-day lockstep conformity on the right. And all rightwing comments on this post will be ignored, it's too beautiful a summer day back in Jersey to even engage with them.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010

FIGHTING AN UPHILL BATTLE...

...to set the record straight on any given day.

I was up in Lenox Mass. yesterday morning driving on a stretch of road I hadn't been on in a while, 7A. It had been widened and mostly repaved, so the ride was quicker, safer, and more efficient. There was a sign saying something about the "American Recovery Act" or something, but it had way too many words to comprehend as you drove by.

What it should have said was: "Obama and the Democrats made this happen." And that's what Obama and the Democrats should be saying too.

But the right not only gets more air time and has more influence on the messages we get these days (it would seem even on the comments on this blog, even from those on the left!, because we spend way too much time defending the president and his party or responding to rightwing ploys to change the subject or divert our attention etc. from what's really going on!) it also has mastered the art of propaganda, "The Big Lie," and other media manipulation tactics and the left is still back in the 1960s, or actually even further back, at least in the '60s we knew how to get the media's attention.

And for those on the right who would point out how short the section of route 7A is that I saw improvement on yesterday morning, or how elitist that neighborhood is compared to the supposed "real Americans" the right pretends to represent (but actually exploits for the benefit of the corporations they are in thrall to), I can point out that a much more complex use of a lot more manpower can be seen on a stretch of 78 and the Garden State Parkway in Newark and environs back in Jersey—urban, economically hurting, and much in need of jobs—also funded by Obama and the Dems' stimulus package.

But the right is still able to use the magician's trick of distracting with showmanship with one hand while doing the actual deed with the hidden other hand, as in convincing a lot of our fellow citizens that Obama bailed out the banks that Bush Jr. did, and that the stimulus hasn't done anything for the economy and jobs when it is doing just that every day.

Only not enough, which is the substance of Obama and the Dems' problem (beyond their problem with getting their story out to people and the media in a concise and clear way). The stimulus package should have been at least twice as big and the manpower projects twice as ambitious (not just improving some of our nation's infrastructure, but all of it and quickly, etc.).

But as we will see from comments here and elsewhere, and on most news shows and everywhere politics are debated or even just talked about, the right will try to dominate—and be successful at it most of the time—the discussion with misdirection, misinformation, and their distortion or outright lie of the day, and they'll all stay on message about it until their masters change the message for the next round of headlines and punditry.

[PS: For those who can't access the links on my second comment below, here and here they are.]

Friday, July 23, 2010

RACHEL MADDOW SAYS IT BEST

Here's the best response to the typical rightwing ad hominem argument I've seen since, well RJ Eskow's from yesterday's Huffington Post:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

RJ ESKOW'S LATEST & REASON VS. THE NEW DARK AGES

RJ Eskow had the lead article on Huffington Post yesterday comparing the treatment of Shirley Sherrod with recent attempts to alter Social Security.

It's a well reasoned article. You can disagree with some of his conclusions I suppose, but it'd be difficult to argue with his facts. Even so, I expected the comments to reflect some arguments from further left and dismissals from the right.

But I expected at least most of these to be well-reasoned too. Talk about disappointment.

With only a few exceptions, the comments range from ill- or misinformed to just plain dumb. And seeming deliberately so. As if their originators were determined to prove their inability to reason.

This is to be expected to some extent from ideologues (I've been guilty of it myself at times) but the breadth of ignorance and seemingly deliberate refusal to use any reasoning whatsoever to counter his argument left me, well, deeply disappointed.

I blame much of this on the rightwing strategy of repeating misinformation and lies along with discrediting logical and reasoned thinking as "liberal" and intolerant declamations as fact on whatever line they're pushing for the day or week etc. as irrefutable because they say so (like insisting there is no global warming despite all evidence to the contrary and then when that repeated insistence seems to be losing adherents switching to there has always been periods of global warming, etc.).

Anyway, you can check it out for yourself here.

[PS: Woops! It looks like the comments section for Eskow's article was either amended or they added new comments at the front that are much more reasonable than the ones I read yesterday when this article first appeared. So my response in this post seems a bit over-the-top now, which I take full responsibility for and am only grateful that more reasonable and informed voices have been added to the comments thread including, it would seem, at the beginning of it.]

Thursday, July 22, 2010

SLAMMING OPEN THE DOOR

I first heard about this series of poems— SLAMMING OPEN THE DOOR by Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno—on NPR. I can't remember which program, but it was an interview with the poet in which she read from this book, and it was impossible not to be moved.

The poems are a response to the murder of her grown daughter, a recent nursing school graduate. The show was difficult to listen to but also engaging and enlightening as well.

There used to be, among the poets I came up with, a quick judgment of poems that seemed to exploit personal tragedies, as if they were all "cheap shots." And there's a more recent criticism that the only narrative prose and poetry that can get any attention now has to be based on some form of sensationalism.

But in the case of Bonanno's experience and the ways she informs it and us, that kind of criticism is useless.

These are powerful poems individually and as a group, and seem as necessary as our instinct to turn away from what they convey.


This opening poem—"Death Barged In"—gets it right [you probably have to click on it to enlarge it in order to read it].








As soon as I got this book, loaned to me by poet and friend Theresa Burns, I had the feeling I knew Bonanno, even the photograph on the back of the book looks familiar. But maybe it's just that we have all heard versions of this story too many times in our lives and this response is so vital and so basic it feels like personal history somehow.

And just as difficult to generalize about. Some of these poems are beautiful lyrics whose heart is an image that cannot be ignored. Some are fragments of the most reductive observations and yet the poignancy of their impetus creates a power few such poems can match.

There is no way to separate the horrible reality the poems are about, whether directly or indirectly, from their power so I decline to even take part in that argument. Maybe a future generation can judge the relevance of that ingredient on their lyric or anti-lyric power, for now all I can do is marvel at their clarity and precision, and unflinching honesty. here's one of many examples:

CONFESSIONS

Don't pity me:
I was too lazy to walk
up the stairs
to tuck her in at night.

When I brushed her hair
I pulled hard
on purpose.

And always—
the sharp,
plaintive edge
on the rim
of the spoon
of my giving.

The craft that went into the line breaks—simple but rhythmically, and narratively, complementary—especially in that last stanza with the hard, pounding "masculine" endings (as they used to be defined, that is the emphasis falling on the last syllable) of "sharp" "edge" "rim" and "spoon" followed by the softer (yet meaning-wise much harsher in this context) "feminine" (that is the last syllable in the line being an unstressed one) ending of the last line—"giving"—is a pretty fine example of turning grief and piety as well as sympathy and empathy into the harsh reality of the mix of qualities every instance in life contains.

It would be hard to imagine anyone but a fine poet getting that so right and so succinctly. It's a powerful read I recommend.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

IGNORANCE

"Live ignorance rots us worse than any grave" — Philip Whelan [woops, I meant Whalen] from the poem: "For C."

I always dug that quote from the too little known now Philip Whelan since I first read it half a century ago.

It seems even more appropriate now.

I recently read about "The Dunning-Kruger effect" in the July 5th New Yorker. It's about how "people who don't know much tend not to recognize their ignorance, and so fail to seek better information."

It cites studies where people are sure they got answers correct but didn't, etc.

It's like our whole society, and too many in the rest of the world, are suffering from it.

Like in recent polls that show a vast majority of our fellow citizens think it was President Obama who bailed out the banks with the TARP funds, when it was the previous administration that came up with and executed that plan.

And a majority think Obama has raised taxes when his administration (with a majority Democratic Congress) actually lowered taxes for most of us, especially working people and the non-wealthiest among us.

It's not just a case of the influence of rightwing Republicans on the media, which is obviously extensive (see today's brouhaha over an administration member from the Department of Agriculture being canned in response to a rightwing internet attack on her and the NAACP because of a speech she made to that group in which an excerpt was taken out of context to show she's "racist" even though in context she was talking about coming to terms with the reality that, to paraphrase her, it's not about black and white, it's about rich and poor, whereas she had previously thought it was the former, being an older African-American woman who grew up in the South during segregation).

Nor is it simply that the education system has failed to keep up with the world as it is and instead is struggling to incorporate a corporate mentality into a centuries-old approach to learning when neither is adequate to the challenges we face to actual considered thinking, i.e. logic and reasoning etc.

It's more like some movie satire (several of which have been made in recent years) about the elevation of ignorance to not just acceptance but an honored place in the national dialogue about what's needed to solve some of this country's most pressing problems.

The idea that somehow allowing a building two blocks away from Ground Zero in Manhattan that will accommodate Islamic prayer as well as interfaith activities etc. is somehow a threat to the country that enshrined religious freedom in its Constitution and that those who are objecting the most claim to be the lone defenders of that Constitution is just one so obvious and sad example of the level of discourse now being carried on in the media and obviously in people's minds.

The subtle and the nuanced are too difficult for too many of our fellow citizens now who need the "black and white" simplicity of received but incomplete or incorrect "knowledge" to satisfy their own sense of knowing things they obviously haven't a clue about.

[PS: Thanks to my son Miles for pointing me to this recent Paul Krugman summation of another example of seemingly willful ignorance at play in our national dialogue about the economy.]

[PPS: Thanks to Butch who suggested a link to an article (see comments) that led me to this link that almost breaks your heart (as did her whole speech which I listened to this morning and was moved and touched by her courage and insight and willingness to change her youthful attitudes anout race despite the fact her father was murdered by white racists!)]

Monday, July 19, 2010

TRAILER FOR DO NOT DISTURB

Here's a video just added to youTube, a trailer for an independent film I made a few years ago which is finally coming out soon (we hope) in which I play a very messed up rabbi! Too bad it doesn't include my character's singing (audibly I mean, you can see me singing just not hear me), because that was my favorite and most unusual scene (for me in a flick).

[Sorry that the screen's cut off in this embed so you miss my sweet mug in a few bits and my name in the credits at the end, still can't figure that out exactly. And no, it's not real "coke" of course.]

Sunday, July 18, 2010

SUMMER FUN

A few days down the Jersey shore again, this time with my older son, Miles, and my daughter-in-law and grandson and his uncle, my youngest.

Rough surf at times, windy and hot and humid, and the pink-skinned among us (my daughter-in-law, me and my youngest) got patchy sunburn, but ultimately one of those great beach experiences where you're just happy to be alive and together with loved ones.

And then there was the observing of the various tribes. When I was a boy the dominant ethnic groups (Irish, Italian, Jewish, African, etc. all hyphenated "-Americans") gathered in different towns along the coast. And in Belmar, the town my family went to, gathered at different beaches.

Belmar has changed. Where there once was old Victorian hotels with Irish bars in the basement and Mass said in the dining room on Sunday morning, there are now ugly condos. And among the few little bungalows left, there are those McMansions taking up too much of a lot and monstrously designed as if to prove their bad taste.

But it's still a party town where some of those bungalows and even some of the monstrosities are rented out to groups of young people (late teens and twenties and even early thirties) for beach going and partying. We watched them circulate in small groups all of which seemed to have agreed on the uniform of the night (think "Jersey Shore" the reality show) but to our surprise, there were cops or security officers on almost every corner where there were bars nearby.

As I understand it, the new million dollar behemoth owners don't want young people partying in the town they have invested in so deeply. It didn't seem to be stopping the partying cold, but maybe is having a dampening effect. What a shame if that continues.

But now that Jersey has a Republican governor, it will be even more millionaire friendly and working folk neglectful (as in the recent two percent cap on property taxes the governor (speaking of behemoths) put in, while at the same time raising the cap on taxes for ordinary folks and making any tax raise for the rich verbotten) etc.

So, as I recover from a summer cold and some spotty sunburn back in my apartment in North Jersey, I'm catching up on the news I missed and seeing that people are still murdering one another around the world, global warming seems more in evidence than ever, and the rightwing Republicans are continuing to spread big lies about their subservience to corporate dictates while also continuing to fight any extension of unemployment benefits for ordinary out-of-work "Americans" and blaming everything on Obama, who actually does deserve credit, for getting more done in a year-and-a-half that helps ordinary people than the Republicans did in, well, ever.

DESPICABLE ME and KNIGHT AND DAY

DESPICABLE ME is a "computer animated" feature film, or what they used to call when I was a kid "a feature-length cartoon." But no matter how it was created, what makes it so satisfying is a clever script, great animation and great characters, especially Steve Carell's voice as the vaguely Russian or some kind of Slavic accent. It's hard to believe it's him, he disappears into the animated lead character so well.

It, of course, is a touching story of transformation from evil to good etc. Maybe we've seen it before, but never quite like this.

KNIGHT AND DAY is another wild couple on the loose shooting lots of people dead and not exactly blowing things up but being around a lot of things being blown up. A familiar formula in recent years, but, for my money, this time out it works. No expectations for great art or even great Hollywood movie making. Just solid, competent turns by two hard-not-to-like-in-these-kinds-of-roles movie stars—Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise.

I know I know, Cruise has become more and more bizarre in real life, but he can still pull off the movies. Both of them show off their bodies which are pretty stunning for their respective ages, no matter how they achieved that. And both can charm audiences into falling for their action-movie antics. What can I say, I thought KNIGHT AND DAY worked well enough for me to have had no regrets for taking my little guy's suggestion.

Yes, it's over the top, but satisfyingly so for my taste. See for yourself. But remember, no big expectations.

Friday, July 16, 2010

ANOTHER HEAT WAVE

So, many records broken this summer, for hottest days and hottest days streaks.

Yet not a peep from the same rightwingers who were gleefully challenging all the major scientists (the vast majority) who cite proof of global warming when it snowed in DC last winter.

Typical.

Any ordinary fact (hey, it's winter and it snowed) can be twisted to serve their propagandistic purposes (i.e. whatever's best for the big corporations that fund them is to be justified and whatever threatens the hegemony of these corporations no matter how correct must be lampooned and misrepresented and overwhelmed with the big lie(s) etc.

So tiresome.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A SLIGHT (COMIC? OR TRAGIC?) DIVERSION

Can be found here.

THE IRISH AND HOW THEY GOT THAT WAY


THE IRISH AND HOW THEY GOT THAT WAY is a musical/historical revue written (more like compiled) by Frank McCourt, the author of the popular and now classic memoir ANGELA'S ASHES. The latter in many ways began the modern trend of memoirs outselling fiction (and their veracity being questioned—in ANGELA'S ASHES case not the facts but the details—how could he remember exact dialogue from when he was a boy half a century earlier? etc.).

There is a revival at the Irish Repertory Theater in Manhattan of this stage piece, which has been performed widely including on PBS. I saw it last night with my good friend, the poet and traditional Irish music songwriter and performer Terence Winch, and his son Michael, an amazing traditional Irish musician himself—mostly on the fiddle— and my youngest, who enjoyed it thoroughly (my youngest that is, as did Terence and I, though Terence's son may well have rather been somewhere playing Irish music himself than watching a cast of actor/performers entertaining a mostly white-haired audience).

It occurred to me during the show, where a cast of two men and two women singer/dancers, along with a musical director piano player who led the songs and another musician—mostly on fiddle but occasionally the mandolin and bodhran, the Irish drum—used old Irish and Irish-American songs to illustrate Irish and Irish-American history, that this may be the easiest way to make what colleges used to call a history survey class palatable to the growing non-book bound student population, like my youngest.

And that's not a bad idea. I suspect my little guy learned more about the history of the main strain of his ancestry in a few hours last night than he might reading several thick tomes over the course of months and years. I'm a book lover and a book writer so I'm not saying I think he or anyone else shouldn't experience the pleasures and satisfaction of all that books can offer, but he has some problems, actual clinically diagnosed problems, with some of that, and if he can compensate for it by a musical revue on stage (or screen or computer), more power to the revue I say.

In a way, I felt the experience of seeing my son's attention and intelligence engaged by the combination of song and dance, speeches, dramatized readings and historical narration was seeing the future. Not the specifics of the technical aspects of the old fashioned revue, but the idea of summarizing, with specific details as well, through entertaining means the knowledge we want our children to have access to and familiarity with.

As for this production, it's probably not quite as exciting and fresh as the original was, but it'll do. The two lead men—Ciaran Sheehan and Gary Troy—were terrific, Troy embodying what used to be called the "bantam" cockiness, physically and attitude-wise of Jimmy Cagney and that whole old early 20th-century style, very appropriate, while Sheehan (who's the only cast member from the original production in this revival) had the pure Irish tenor tone and musicality to manage to bring me to tears with the now cliched "Danny Boy"—his rendering so totally controlled and precise and understated, I can't think of a better rendition out of all the times I've heard this old chestnut.

The two lead women, Kerry Conte and Terry Donnelly matched the men in enthusiasm and personality and in Conte's case in musical vocal technique and in Donnely's case in role-and-accent shifting trouper virtuosity. The musical director piano player Kevin B. Winebold unfortunately couldn't match the leads' stage presence or vocal agility and talent and kept reminding me of the lead character in WAITING FOR GUFFMAN which was a little, but only a little, distracting.

I heard enough to know that the other musician, Patrick Shields, is probably a fine violinist, but Terence's son could have shown him a few things about Irish fiddling and Terence's brother Jesse could have taught him some improved technique on the bodhran and maybe he wouldn't have been as tentative on it.

If I had any input into this show I would have included a few details and facts McCourt left out (and as Terence pointed out, not cut some of the songs, as in leaving out the most poignant line in "Galway Bay" about how "the strangers came and tried to teach us their ways") and shaped the ending differently (it featured a U-2 song that seemed tacked on later and Terence wondered if it was even in McCourt's original production). But overall the production was worth the time and money spent and the experience in general was a delight, sharing our common history with my best friend and his son and my youngest, I only regret my older son and daughter weren't experiencing it with us. But maybe they will some day too.

[PS: The sweetest moment of the evening may have been when they the performers went through a list of important Irish and Irish-Americans and my young son leaned over and whispered in my ear "and Michael Lally and Terence Winch!"]

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

TULI KUPFERBERG R.I.P.



It's been eight months today since my brain surgery, and I couldn't think of a more memorable way to mark it than by the fact that I just spelled Tuli Kupferberg's name up there in the title of this post before I actually looked it up. Tuli and his fellow Fugs—the folk/rock/Beat/poetry/protest/satirical band-review—made their mark on the 1960s for a lot of us with their song "Kill For Peace" that became an early anthem of the anti-war movement.

I encountered it while I was stationed at a SAC (Strategic Air Command) Air Force base and it resonated perhaps more with me and those who worked at this and other SAC bases because their motto, written at the top of a metal arch or band across the entrance to the base (much like the famous Nazi concentration camp motto "Arbeit Macht Frei" loosely translated as "Work Makes You Free" ) was "Peace Is Our Profession"—this from a branch of the service whose mission it was to always have a fleet of bombers with Atom and Hydrogen bombs in them en route to the Soviet Union and China, so that if the USA were attacked by nuclear weapons and wiped out at least we could do the same to China and the Soviet Union!

Tuli got the ridiculous irony in those kinds of Cold War doublespeak and along with poet Ed Sanders and drummer Ken Weaver (later joined by two others from the Holy Modal Rounders—the band Sam Sherperd played drums in early on—Peter Stamfel and Steve Weber) started The Fugs to express the ridiculousness of it all through words and music (and for Tuli, art and writing as well).

The music wasn't always great or even good, but their impact was. I'm sure Country Joe and the Fish's famous anti-Viet-Nam War anthem "Next Stop is Vietnam" as well the "Yippies" and hundreds of other bands and cultural and anarchic anti-war protest groups would not have been as in-your-face rowdy and/or sadly funny etc. without the influence of The Fugs and to a large extent that meant Tuli.

In fact, along with the usual suspects for how the staid and conservative and drab "Silent Generation" of the 1950s morphed into the colorful explosively-expressive anarchic "Flower Children" and "Hippies" (i.e. the influence of Kerouac's ON THE ROAD, the pill, etc.) Tuli Kupferberg should be included. You probably had to be there, but to even just see that slogan KILL FOR PEACE in print (I tore it out of the poetry mag I first saw it in and stuck it to a collage I made c. 1964, around the same time I read his 1001 WAYS TO LIVE WITHOUT WORKING, a big influence on my life!) was like a slap in the face to everything the 1950s stood for, and a revolutionary act of liberation, as in, hey, you're not alone in thinking all this Cold War propaganda is absurd and life deadening, nor in wanting to do something about it.

In many ways, Tuli Kupferberg was the pied piper of the 1960s generation, and I do mean "pied" and "piper"!

[Here's the NY Times obit.]

[PS: That's Tuli at the bottom in shorts in the photo up top.]

Monday, July 12, 2010

HARVEY PEKAR R.I.P.


I didn't know the guy personally, but like a lot of us, I felt like I did. That was his art. And his greatness, in my estimation came from his determination to make of his "prosaic life"—as many critics referred to it, a work of art.

Of course he is mostly known for turning his life into a series of comic books with various comic book artists illustrating his frustrations and disappointments and occasional triumphs and transcendence. So some critics refer to his art as that of the comic book. But he made his life a work of art.

The movie that was made from some of these comics, AMERICAN SPLENDOR, is another great work of art, in part thanks to the director and the actors, but without Harvey and his words and even presence in the film it would just be a really good movie. But because of Harvey it's a truly unique and great American work of art.

May his wife and friends and admirers find solace in the significance and enormity of his achievement, which was to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, and without sacrificing one iota of his personality and character. A true original.

[Here's an obit from his hometown.]

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A FAVORITE QUOTE

"While looking for the light, you may suddenly be devoured by the darkness and find the true light." —Jack Kerouac (from THE SCRIPTURE OF THE GOLDEN ETERNITY)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

DUMPSTAPHUNK

Just got back from the first day and night of the two-day music festival they have in the town I live in (the festival's known as "Maplewoodstock"). The last act was Ivan Neville and Dumpstaphunk from New Orleans (which their tour bus with Louisiana plates parked next to our town park made clear).

I wish my oldest son had been there. I'll put a link up to their website where you can hear some of their music, and there's some youtube videos of obviously earlier gigs because the drum set is much smaller than what I saw tonight and the line up slightly different in most of the videos and the sound not nearly as tight.

They came on late, had technical problems, and then did a two-hour gig you couldn't stop moving to. These guys were so solid I felt I was listening to George Clinton only fresher and even more funky. Unbelievable. One of those experiences you had to be there to appreciate. I even got up and went down to the front of the stage where a couple of hundred people had preceded me, so I could hear and see everything more clearly. And dance.

Man, they rocked my soul. Tight tight tight. Like James Brown's Famous Flames, I mean, damn. Wish you all had been there. If you see they're coming anywhere near you, please, go and hear them live and make your soul vibrate with all the good stuff.

(Here's the link. And the other earlier acts included a few gems too, Rich Pagano and a group that included sidemen that had toured with Dylan and Patti Smith and such, and local favorites of mine 13 Scotland Road, with the two permanent members Aran and Bill and a new third one sounding better than ever. Sweet day after driving back from South Jersey in rain that cleared up as soon as my youngest and I got to the park and the festival around three so he could start his four hours of volunteer clean up. Summer days.)

[PS: Here's a link to another local blogger's take on this.]

Friday, July 9, 2010

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO



I haven't read the book, but from what i've read about it, the movie seems to have the same qualities, i.e. not the greatest writing, but a solid enough mystery story that transcends some of the cliched aspects of the plot and its evil characters by the uniqueness of the good guys and their relationship—a troubled young female hacker and a middle-aged crusading magazine reporter.

The story is scheduled for an "American" version, but the Swedish original I saw the other night to get out of the heat and the power outages again, will be hard to beat. The lead actors are terrific, even in the most operatic moments of melodrama or emotional and plot manipulation.

I'm always grateful when watching a European movie because the leads are almost always willing to expose themselves physically as mortals with the usual human flaws, especially physically, that no Hollywood movie seems capable of matching (except for the overgrown-boy comedy male leads where the women are still usually pretty perfect, in fact usually too perfect to believe they're with the lead, but that's usually the point as they're won over by his humor and sincerity etc.).

Anyway I'm distracted as I write this that the airport connection seems to have broken in one of my nieces' house down the Jersey shore on Long Beach Island. I've been here with my twelve-year-old for two days, an invitation that got us out of my neighborhood's continued power outages and into a rough but warmly inviting ocean and the love of family.

So I'll cut this short and hopefully catch up over the weekend. But my final verdict on THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is that though some of the violence is gratuitous—even if for a good cause, and unfortunately realistic and believable in this world—it's a pretty compelling story about anti-fascism metaphorically and literally, but more specifically anti-evil. A little too broadly done, but always moving the narrative along, keeping it full of suspense and unexpected shifts in tone and rhythm. I loved it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

THE KARATE KID


The power has been going on and off all day, a day when temperatures were over 100 degrees and the heat index made it feel even hotter.

I found ways to cool off, including the gym, and then this evening my twelve-year-old decided we should go see the new remake of THE KARATE KID—in China it's known as THE KUNG FU KID which makes more sense.

I went because he wanted to, but had little interest, even though I knew Jackie Chan was in it and who can resist Jackie Chan? Most reviews I'd read were critical. But after seeing it I wonder how those critics' hearts work.

I found it engaging and thoroughly entertaining, but also moving. Of course it's a formulaic plot, most are, and it's a remake which many critics say is not as good as the original. I think it's easily as good and probably better, or at least more universal.

And it's kind of cool to be present at the dawn of a dynasty, because as much as Jaden Smith looks and even acts like his famous father Will, he definitely more than holds his own in this flick. A star is definitely born here.

As much as I would have loved to not have liked him or this movie and seen it as nepotism and privilege and elitism at work etc. Jaden won me over pretty quickly and by the end I was a fan. And the complaints that Jackie Chan doesn't have enough action scenes are silly. It's not a Jackie Chan movie.

I noticed Jaden got top billing over Chan in the opening credits, which initially got my back up, but again, I was won over not just by Jaden's cinematic appeal but by his achievement. He obviously worked almost as hard or maybe more so than the character he plays has to in the movie. And Chan brings so much to the character of the disenchanted disillusioned brokenhearted teacher—or "master—it elevated that cliched role to unforgettable.

I left the theater more than satisfied, I left it happy, even despite the overwhelming heat that hit us when we exited back into the night air, arriving home just in time for the power to go out totally. No more on and off, just off.

But it's a few hours later, past midnight, and the power just came back on and we got to spend some quality time with our new upstairs neighbors getting to now each other while sitting on the front steps because it was too hot in our apartments. Just like neighbors on my street when I was growing up would spend the night on steps and stoops during a heat wave because back then we didn't have air conditioners and we all suffered together. As a kid I found it exciting and festive, everyone seeming more friendly and more candid in the dark of the middle of the night.

But, I'm grateful the one little air conditioner we have is on again and the fan blowing the cool air from my little guy's room down the hall in the direction of mine is spinning again and , knock on wood, hopefully they will continue to through the night.

Monday, July 5, 2010

WHY KEROUAC MATTERS


If your a fan of ON THE ROAD or of Jack Kerouac's in general, you'll probably dig this book. Even if you disagree with the author, John Leland, about what Kerouac was doing and trying to do in ON THE ROAD, or about who Kerouac really was, as oposed to the author that critics and academics still can't seem to entirely embrace, or even consider as important as he obviously is.

Few books, let alone novels, have had the impact ON THE ROAD had and continues to have. And though the media image of Kerouac created almost immediately upon publication in 1957—"King of The Beats" bad boy drug using free loving out-for-kicks pied piper of his and following generations—was distorted, and either untrue or only a tiny part of the truth, there have been readers, myself included, who have seen through that and been sympathetic to a committed artist who was deliberately trying to change the way stories are told. And did.

Though I don't concur with a lot of what Leland has to say about Kerouac's accomplishment(s) and what ON THE ROAD specifically means and what Leland thinks Kerouac was tyring to achieve, I still really enjoyed reading WHY KEROUAC MATTERS. Some of Leland's points are entirely well taken and as someone who has read everything I could fine that's out there about Kerouac, a lot of Leland's points either haven't been made before or not as effectively.

One of the best things about WHY KEROUAC MATTERS is that Leland doesn't get bogged down in the academic and critical jargon that has dominated literary criticism for too long. His takes are personal and expressed with energy and a lot of appropriately hip idioms as well as lines and titles that resonate with musical and other cultural references without being "hipper-or-cleverer-than-thou" self-satisfied.

I think he's wrong, for instance when he says you could read the interviews Kerouac gave throughout his life from first to last "without encountering much sign of a noteworthy intellect." He goes on to say "Like Bob Dylan, who has talked twaddle in public for four-plus decades, the real Kerouac is best encountered through the artifice of his fiction."

Even in some of his most drunken interviews Kerouac was capable of gems of wisdom and insight as well as critical acumen. Dylan too. Leland makes other judgments I don't agree with (he seems to think BIG SUR is Kerouac's best book, seemingly because Leland sees it as Kerouac's most honest in delineating his deterioration from the effects of fame and alcoholism). But, he's entiteld to them, and he articulates them engagingly and often originally.

His big original point—though I've read less specific versions of it—is that Rick Warren and the "Jesus movement" that arose from the same generation that produced the flower children, come more out of ON THE ROAD and its influence than the hippies did. And there's a kernel of truth to that. Kerouac was a spiritual seeker and ON THE ROAD does encompass and incorporate a spiritual quest.

But the greatness of Jack Kerouac and his writing, is that he got down his own unique personal vision and struggle and expreince—intellectual as well as sensual and spiritual—not a generation's or movement's or even literary coterie's. There's never been anyone like him before, or since. That's a hell of an achievement, even if you don't dig the results. I happen to.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

HAPPY FOURTH

There's been a reappearance of rightwing trolls, or maybe it's all the same one since they leave their comments anonymously (or maybe it's my old nemesis Jim just writing under the "anonymous" moniker—it's impossible to know because they all parrot the exact same rightwing propoganda of the day, week, month, etc.).

But on this day of all days, it's time "to take OUR country back"—a slogan associated too much with right, especially the so-called "tea-partyers" these days.

The campaign to paint any disagreement with rightwing positions as somehow "unAmerican" and "socialist"—or in Glenn Beck's terms socialist/facist/progressive/liberal/communist as in his ill-reasoned and ill-informed diatribes they somehow are all equated—has been going on almost since the founding fathers and mothers.

But just to clarify, even if reason and logic and facts have no sway with the right, but as an exercise for my own peace of mind, the choices in our politics have been relatively limited to right and center for a number of years now.

The claims of the rightwingers in comments on this blog and throughout the web and the media that Obama and Demcorats in the House and Senate somehow represent leftist or even "liberal" or "progressive" positions are false.

There are liberal Democrats, but their political positions are still almost exclusively centrist, not leftist. While there are almost no centrist Republicans left, and even the right wing of the Republican party—which IS the Republican party—isn't right enough for many of the most influential rightwingers: Beck, Limbaugh, Palin, et. al.

On the political spectrum of right to left, here's the right's position on healthcare: it should be entirely private, with little or no government regulation at all.

The left's position is: healthcare is a fundamental right and government should make it available to everyone through a single payer system.

There is room for nuance in these positions, but these are the basic perspectives. So Obama's healthcare plan is obviously a compromise between these two positions, thus centrist (the right will say it's leftist because there is an insurance mandate, the left will say it's rightist because of the concessions to the insurance and drug corporations).

On corporate power, the right's position is simple, little or no regulation, ala the oil companies which leads to BP's gulf catastrophe, whereas the left's is government regulation of corporations as in the elimintation of any energy processing that isn't "clean" or as clean as possible. On this Obama and the Dems for the most part are right of center.

But let's do a quick and condensed roll call of the right's and the left's positions historically:

The most liberal or leftist of the Founding Fathers wanted to eliminate slavery arguing that no citizen of this new country could be considered free if some weren't. The right argued for the continuation of slavery. The compromise unfortunately was to the right. In order to have a unified front against the British and enough unity for a central government. The right won out here.

But coninued pressure from the left over the next almost century led to more and more erosion of slavery as an institution and the "rights" of slaveholders until the defeat of slavery all together as a result of the Civil War, etc.

The right's position then became segregation and "states rights" and unfortunately for a number of decades, in order to win national elections the Dems compromised to placate the Southern right wing of their party, but saw the light and under LBJ finally passed a Civil Rights act that led to the end of the most egregious of instituional segregation laws, etc.

We could repeat this history for womens rights, workers' rights, etc. etc. etc.

The only consistent psotion the right has maintained in its history is resistance to progress and support of corporate interests over individuals (it's ironic I guess that Teddy Roosevelt had to fight the right wing of the Republican Party to "bust the trusts" i.e. corporate powers of his day).

We could do this straight down the line, but it's too tedious and most who read this blog I'm sure are aware of all this anyway.

But when I watched the fireworks tonight with my twelve-year-old in the Jersey town I live in I thought of all the struggles people had to go through to extend rights and protections to citizens previously left out and it made me proud to be a part of that history of struggling for more freedoms, more equality of opportunity, and more protections and guarantees for "the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness" as Jefferson so aptly put it in the declaration this day celebrates.

[PS: This article has links to many sad examples of the right's anti-reasoned vitriolic destructive propaganda.]

Saturday, July 3, 2010

LUCKY DAY

This is the way I felt after my brain operation when they said it wasn't cancer. Thanks to Tom G. for hipping me to it. And hey, watch it to the end.

Friday, July 2, 2010

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY


That U2 refrain has been going through my head for the past two days. After another mini=heat wave (and another on the way) the past few days and today have been extraordinarily beautiful. Perfectly warm but breezy, blues skies but with those puffy whites ones that don't auger storms but instead seem there just to enjoy and watch float slowly by.

It's made me think about yesterday's post and the negative feelings I was projecting about the seeming ability of the rightwing propaganda machine to hypnotize people into believing what's worst for them is what they need and vice versa.

But the fact is, until Rupert Murdoch gets replaced by a "liberal" nemesis (too bad George Sporos doesn't use his fortune to buy up the media as Murdoch has done), it looks like there's not much we can do about the influence of FAUX NEWS et. al.

But fortunately, there's also a lot of good news that doesn't get much attention but is pretty interesting and comforting. Like the fact that a lot of what we used to call "third world countries" and now call "developing countries" are actually doing better by many measurements, including economic growth and recovery from the Great recession, than the USA and other so-called "advanced" countries.

Not that I don't want my country to do well. But I do want us to stop using up a majority of the world's resources so we can get fatter and consume more junk etc.

The Great Recession has impacted countries all over the world, but most South American countries are doing better than us and most of Europe interestingly, as are some Asian and African and even "Mideastern" countries, like Turkey. I think that all bodes well for an evening out of the playing field and the rewards of play.

And within our own country many things are improving. Some of the fastest growing businesses are about the movement to eat locally and leave less of a carbon footprint. The raising-your-own-chickens biz being one of them. And one dear to my heart as my father once bought a bunch of little chicks to sell to families for Easter (over half a century ago this is) only got them too early and they were too ugly by the time Easter arrived so I grew up with a chicken coop in the back yard and our own chickens for dinner. (check out backyardchickens.com).

And there was an article in last Sunday's NY Times about how even though the spotted owl is disappearing in the Northwest, the battle to save it led to Clinton's setting aside a lot of federal land for old growth forests and ended up creating a growing ecology and tourist business as well as preserving a lot of the ecosystem.

So, all in all, as throughout history or in any given moment, there is what someone will see as "bad" and "good" but in the end is just reality, for which I try to be grateful—and then go ahead and work to change what I think needs to be changed.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

THE TRIUMPH OF HYPOCRISY AND/OR MASS HYPNOSIS

How well the "conservatives" have manipulated the media and sold their "big lies" like:

The problem with the economy is the deficit. We must make cuts to save the economy! [When economists whose track record of being correct I respect (like Paul Krugman) present solid evidence arguing it is too soon to start cutting and if we do the rescue of the economy that the stimulus package helped generate will be for naught, but government will be slashed until it is even weaker and less regulatory and supportive, which is the conservative agenda in the first place, so it's win/win for them and lose/lose for the rest of us.]

Or:

We care about small businesses and working people and those being impacted by the "oil spill" and/or the recession! [But not enough to extend unemployment benefits, which the Republicans voted solidly against, using the deficit as their excuse and a distraction for the media, while people without jobs or help from the government can't buy things which means less economic activity and therefore more job loss etc.!]

Or:

The "oil spill" is Clinton's fault, or Obama's! [And not the last administration's which gutted the agency that regulates drilling in the gulf and was in the breast pocket of the oil corporations! et-endlessly-cetera!]

But the one that always riles me the most is their flip flopping on "states rights" and any kind of "local rights" depending on whether or not it lines the pockets of corporations or their own. Like the rightwing dominated Supreme Court's decisions in case after case in favor of states against anything the federal government tried to do in terms of regulations and practices etc. until the 2000 election when Florida's Supreme Court ruled to continue counting votes and was overruled because suddenly the federal position trumped states rights.

Or too many other cases to list here, so I'll end with one of the latest, that local municipalities and states have no right to limit access to firearms or write laws limiting them because the NRA trumps elected officials and common sense.

Et-incredibly-cetera.