Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vacation Videos - Western Union

by Dick Mac

The Five Americans on The Steve Allen Show, 1968. I'm sorry it's so grainy, it's the only video of this song I've ever found. It was a fave of mine during the Summer of 1967:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This October: Time to Take it Back to Washington

by Al Falafel

It's been quite some time since we had a good old fashioned National March on Washington for LGBT-Q Rights. Momentum is starting to build for a massive gathering on the Mall in October. Cleve Jones is recognized as the driving force behind this one dubbed "EQUALITY ACROSS AMERICA."

Jones was the originator of the AIDS Memorial Quilt twenty years ago. At its first national appearance the AIDS Quilt literally blanketed more than half the Mall for our last big March in 1988. It was overwhelming then to walk among the thousands of panels, each one created for a person lost to AIDS.

By 1992, for the National March for AIDS Awareness it had grown to be too big to lay out on the Mall and we only got to see part of it.

Now the sad fact is that the quilt could probably drape the moon :(!

It's always been too much for me to get anywhere near it without having a total emotional breakdown.



WILL YOU BE THERE? Sign up at the website for news, updates, and developing information. http://equalityacrossamerica.org/

SEE YOU IN OCTOBER!

Monday, July 27, 2009

"Dis"Respect the Hierarchy

by Cavebat

I've been there.

When the police – thankfully – show up because they've gotten the word of a possible break-in. In my case, it's been the alarm company alerting them, rather than a nosy neighbor. But it's still the same story, a warning to the people willing to save me that I might need to be saved.

I didn't.

But they still came.

More than once. (*cringe*)

What I've done (more than once) is put the alarm on, forget about it, and take the dogs out. So there I am when the police roll up in their cruiser, standing outside my home, in the yard, in the dark. I explain to them over the 2 barking dogs that I forgot about the alarm. I'm mortified, I'm apologetic, I'm thankful, I'm respectful.

But I'm not black.

They listen, they mask their irritation, they roll off. They don't ask me for ID, they don't grill me, they don't actually do anything to make sure my story is true. They accept me at my word and move on.

But I'm not black.

Which begs the question, why do we allow that to matter? If I happened to be innocently speaking with any of my neighbors who are black, would the police be allowed to treat me differently when they arrived? If the young black man who lives next door happened to be walking up to HIS house at the same moment, would that turn our idyllic mise-en-scène into a potential crime scene? With him hand-cuffed outside his home, and all parties reduced to barking wildly at each other?

My young, gentlemanly neighbor may very well know that he has one option in that scene, and that is to act subservient, do not challenge the police in any way, shape, or form, and say "sir" as many times as possible.

Our President certainly knows that that is his only option.

He forgot it for a moment.

He thought that speaking precisely would obviate his status as a black man who needs to bow before the hierarchy, knowing full well that even a highly intelligent person can "act stupidly." So that saying someone acted stupidly is not equivalent to calling them stupid. Nor does saying that when one person acts stupidly in their job it means that every other person in that job in the entire country is stupid.

But the President got the message loud and clear that he forgot his place and acted uppity.

Now he has remembered. It took one phone call with a cop to remind him that his
only option is to act subservient, do not challenge the police in any way, shape, or form, and say "sir" as many times as possible.

Now, to the President, his "brother" is no longer justifiably outraged. The brother forgot to hang his cane on the doorknob and bow down. The brother forgot to be set aside his PhDs and lifetime of service and pretend to be subservient. The brother forgot to say "sir."

In the President's view, this grown man is not allowed to be exhausted from a long journey, be irritated and aggravated at his stupid door that's stuck AGAIN, he's not allowed to be FED UP with a lifetime of injustice and just be allowed to get into the sanctuary of his own home, to be left alone, take a hot shower, and go to bed.

No.

He has to shuffle. He has to be nice. And passive. And say "sir" as many times as possible.

I have a saying at work – it keeps me in line, and I repeat it for others who need it. "Respect the hierarchy. Even if you don't respect the person." But the reason we need to repeat that, the reason that we are obligated to follow those words at work, is because we have VOLUNTARILY joined that hierarchy. If you work in a corporation, then you voluntarily join that hierarchy. So you have no choice but to respect it.

But it doesn't apply to society. It doesn't apply outside of those who voluntarily joined. There's no hierarchy in life that says that I have to say "sir" as many times as possible, and that if I don't it's a crime.

Those who take the job to protect me deserve my utmost respect for the job that they do, and they have it. They are willing to put their lives on the line to keep me safe. They have my undying gratitude and my sincere respect.

But when one of them fails in their duties – when they abuse the power I have entrusted them with, then in return they lose my respect.

And when someone on the receiving end at that abuse of power gets hauled away in handcuffs, guilty of being black, then we are one step closer to anarchy. And all of us, those that might get hauled away, as well as those who never will, need to stop tolerating that behavior.

How do we end the cycle of abuse when we placate the abuser, and insult the victim as having "overreacted?"

Because nothing is more discouraging about seeing an end to racial division and inequality in our lifetime than seeing our President be put back in his place, again required to be subservient to that power, bowing to that abuse of power. Publicly playing out his one option to not challenge the police in any way, shape, or form.

And saying "sir" as many times as possible.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Liars Lie - Minimum Wage

by Dick Mac

If the liars stop lying then those of us who tell the truth won't hold such a virtuous spot in our own minds; so, the liars lie and those of us not lying at that moment can feel superior.

The most insidious of liars are the economists. Understanding the economy and economic theory seems to be more difficult for the average person than understanding law, medicine, or rocket science. So, economists generally speak with authority and go unquestioned.

Today's debate is, of course, the evil of increasing the minimum wage.

Let's start with two facts: (1) a person working full-time for the new minimum wage earns. $15,080 annually; (2) economists consistently argue that an increase to the minimum wage will hurt small business.

Wikipedia describes: "A small business is a business that is privately owned and operated, with a small number of employees and relatively low volume of sales. The legal definition of "small" often varies by country and industry, but is generally under 100 employees . . . " Small business, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Now, to the anecdotes and opinion!

Many minimum wage workers are single mothers. So, two people are actually surviving on fifteen grand (less taxes). I live in an urban setting: Brooklyn, New York, where there are many small businesses: bodegas, fruit stands, contractors, and the usual array of small businesses. These small businesses stand alongside and compete with huge businesses like CVS, Walgreens, grocery store chains, Home Depot, etc.

My conversations with small business owners who employ US citizens and legal immigrants, and the people who work for them (my neighbors), reveal that most of the staff already earn more than $7.25 per hour; and often as much as ten dollars an hour. My conversations with those who manage big-business chain outlets reveal that big business usually pay only minimum wage. A small business needs to pay a bit more to get more talented people to help them run their operation. A chain needs anybody available to push buttons like an automaton in an automated enterprise.

In the debate about increasing the minimum wage, citizens and politicians generally say this is a good thing, and economists generally say the increase will be the death of small business. And then, of course, there are the people who watch Fox News and believe what they hear (but that's a different conversation).

My experience is that small businesses already pay more than the minimum wage, that only big business pays the minimum wage, and that everybody benefits from modest and regular increases in the minimum wage.

Hell, even the economists benefit, because they get air-time to spread their lies about the fragility of the marketplace, potentially increasing their audience for sale of their latest book.

I don't really think anybody is hurt by an increase to the minimum wage. Well, shareholders and CEOs are probably exposed to potential decreases, but they just raise prices and fire people on the bottom of the ladder to ensure their gain. I do not believe, however, that small businesses are hurt by the increase; and small business does not fire staff because they are now entitled to $7.25 an hour.

In the late-1970s, economists began getting air-time to promote their favorite topic: supply-side economic theory. For the past thirty years, we have allowed them to implement this strategy, to disastrous results. Supply-side theorists always lie, not because they are liars, but because their theory is completely flawed and illogical. You can't give all the money, tax breaks, and benefits to the people at the top of the economic ladder and believe that the money will somehow come back down to benefit the entire nation. It's illogical, and after thirty years we see that it is a failure.

Yet, the news agencies continue to let these liars talk on-air about the evils of progress and regulation. And, sadly, many listeners believe them and vote for politicians who espouse their theories as sound economic policy (that is, four of the last five Presidents of the United States - only Bush I spoke out against the folly of Reaganomics).

So now the economists are telling us that an increase in pay to fifteen grand for the poorest of Americans is a bad idea.

Who are these economists and on which planet do they live?

It seems to me that many small businesses already pay more than the minimum wage, and will not be hurt by this increase; and that minimum wage is a tool of the powerful used to ensure that big business never has to pay their employees very much money.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Minimum Wage and Health Care

by Dick Mac

We Americans decided to eliminate the social safety-net that had been established between the Depression and the Great Society. Americans can't really go "on the dole" anymore, but that also means they have nowhere to turn if their life suddenly takes a turn for the worst.

Sick Americans used to be able to get health care with Medicaid or Medicare. We have made it nearly impossible for Americans, even children, to get Medicaid, and the Bush II administration gutted Medicare and pawned it to the lowest bidders in the early part of this decade. So, even though Medicare still costs a lot of money, many elderly people are not getting the health care they need.

The minimum wage is going to rise to $7.25 per hour.

When I got my first real minimum wage job in 1974, the wage was $2.25. As a 16-year-old that Summer, I had more purchasing power as a teenage dishwasher than a single-mother earning minimum wage today. Sadly, there are Americans, including economists and people in power, who think we should not increase the minimum wage.

A cup of coffee and a gallon of gas each cost two bucks or more! How can $7.25 be too high a wage? And since poor people spend ALL of their money after every payday, giving them more money will actually stimulate American purchasing!

The President wants a new health care system. Sadly he wants to base it on generation-old economic theory that has failed every facet of American life.

We don't need a new national health care system. We already have a national health care system: Medicaid & Medicare. The solution to the current health crisis is to undo the ludicrous changes to Medicare that the supply-siders instituted under the reign of Bush II, and extend the Medicaid & Medicare programs to all Americans. Period.

Increase the staffing and funding for Medicaid & Medicare, and make them work as they did in the mid-20th Century: as successful health care providers. Remove the "free" market (which doesn't really exist) from the equation, and provide health care to all citizens.

Then, if you want real competition, employers who want to attract talented people can augment that basic health care with private health insurance, purchased from health insurers, that provide even more benefits. If employers choose against offering this benefit to staff, then they will lose a competitive edge in the marketplace.

We do not need President Obama to invent another tax-based citizen benefit rooted in supply-side economic theory. That's the last thing Americans need. The President needs to restore existing, previously successful systems to their former greatness.

Will this mean a big bureaucracy? Yes. We are talking about the government; the government is a big bureaucracy - it is supposed to be a big bureaucracy. The government is not a corporation, should not be expected to run like a business, and needs to be restored to a properly funded, functioning government.

Then perhaps it can start protecting its citizens, not its corporate citizens, its individual citizens, and start making real decision based on real facts, instead of trying to implement ridiculous new enterprises based on supply-side economic theory that has destroyed American capitalism, and the American government, at its core.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Fond Look At "Instamatic Karma"

by Dick Mac

May Pang was the other woman to John Lennon's other woman, Yoko Ono.

The two years she spent with Lennon were his most productive as a solo artist, and his most famously debauched.

An older Lennon referred to those years as his "Lost Weekend" and may have regretted some of the public reporting of his lifestyle; but, there are no stories I've heard that differ terribly form the stories we all can tell about the years between 1973 and 1975.

This book follows Pang's earlier book about her time with Lennon, "Loving John."

Allan Kozinn writes a nice review of her new book at the New York Time site: A Fond Look at Lennon’s 'Lost Weekend'

Instamatic Karma
May Pang

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wendell Potter - CIGNA

by Al Falafel

Wendell Potter recently stepped down as Head of Corporate Communications for Philadelphia based CIGNA Corporation, one of the largest "managed-care" health insurance companies in the world. In that job he served as the top commander in the industry's propaganda war against real health care reform in the US. His charge was to protect and advance the exorbitant profits of his employer and its investors -- at all costs.

Potter now admits to making full use of scare tactics, lies, disinformation and well-funded efforts to discredit any attempt to make the American public aware of the truth behind our corrupt, greed-driven HMO system.

In May he defected from the dark force army of Corporate Health Insurance and joined up with the Center for Media and Democracy where he has assumed the title and role of Senior Fellow on Health Care. Potter has newly committed himself to exposing those "No holds barred/Take no prisoners" tactics he previously employed to keep Americans ignorant and in debt to CIGNA and other profit-gouging companies, no matter what the expense to our health and even our lives.


His courageous turnaround at this moment in history is an act of true patriotism as a heavily-lobbied Congress grapples with reforming the American Health Care system. The industry, on the other hand, only continues to defraud the people. And, by its on-going profiteering and buy-outs of our representatives in Congress, they have played a mostly stealth role in the wrecking of the global economy. They have not yet found a rationale for trying to bilk the government for a bail out like other industries have .

You can follow Potter's blog on CMD's website at http://www.prwatch.org/blog/35267

One of the health industry's major targets in the propaganda war Potter managed was the 2007 documentary "SICKO" and its director Michael Moore. The depths to which CIGNA stooped to discredit Moore and his movie's comparison of our pathetic for-profit health care system to the state-run systems in other countries is downright astounding. This weekend PBS stations across the country are airing an episode of Bill Moyer's Journal where Potter reveals in an interview how his job was to stop the movie from reaching a wide audience (and, more importantly, from having the widespread political impact the industry feared "Sicko" would have).

Potter tells Moyer that "Sicko," in fact, "hit the nail on the head" and told the real truth about how much better people in other countries have it when it comes to their health care.

See the clip below and check your local listings...



See also ABC News Report:Health Insurance Insider: 'They Dump the Sick'
Retired Health Insurance Executive Blows the Whistle on His Former Industry


And, "In the Belly of The Beast: Interview with Wendell Potter" at OpEdNews.com

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lies, Damn Lies, and... Statistics?

by Al Falafel

In his Autobiography, Mark Twain famously wrote " There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

This phrase came up recently on BBC Radio's coverage of the American debates on health care reform. BBC commentators often ridicule our overwrought fears in the US of socialized medicine and universal health care, which they take for granted. And feel very protective of. As do most of the industrialized countries in the world. It is hard for most people on the planet to conceive of a situation where free access to health care is not considered a basic right.

And they are not afraid to call it what it is: Socialized Medicine. It seems that the only people on the planet who let any form of the word "socialism" stall needed health care reform efforts are easily manipulated citizens of a country that professes a natural right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

When it comes to health care you can always count on scaring Americans into voting against their own self interest if you frighten them with the "specter of Communism," as Karl Marx called it.

Even Repugnican proponents of the status quo that is our profit-driven, insurance-company-controlled system acknowledge ours as the most expensive health care system in the world. But since high cost to consumers means high profits to corporate shareholders Repugnicans take this as a positive thing! No matter how it is framed, however, the rest of the world sees right through this disingenuous point and laughs at us for allowing shameless Repugnicans to get away with it. They marvel at how ignorant and gullible we Americans are to buy into such baloney, especially when they hear that 40 million of us have no health care coverage at all!

It was in reference to our glaring inadequacy and the often suppressed statistics which embarrassingly point up the inferiority of the US health care system - our relatively high infant mortality rate and short life expectancy - that the BBC commentator made the observation that Repugnicans "have long engaged in lies, damn lies and statistics... but now they don't even bother with the statistics!"

Infant mortality rate - number of deaths/live births per thousand & number of deaths-by-age-5/thousand live births - coupled with average life expectancy is a common sense and widely accepted measure of health care effectiveness. In both cases the US ranks behind all the European countries, including those that provide socialized medicine. We barely outrank Croatia, Malta, Martinique and Poland: our nearest competitors in infant mortality. New Caledonia, Cyprus and Brunei slightly beat us on this measure. That's the company we keep though. And it's no better in the area of life expectancy where we do a little better here than they do in Albania and Kuwait. But one area where we consistently outrank every other country in the world is in health care SPENDING! According to statistics, spending on health care in the US is 53% higher than all other countries! USA! USA! USA! We're number 1!

Speaking of damn liars, the Repugnican ogre we know as Pat Buchanan reared his ugly head again this week and had it neatly handed to him by the wonderfully unflappable Rachel Maddow. On her nightly MSNBC program Maddow graciously provided Buchanan an opportunity to show his true colors, which are, of course, white, whiter and whitest. Never one to back down from any chance to assert his racist ideology, Pat gave a spirited defense of his heart-felt belief in the superiority of "his people" (whites) and their exclusive entitlement to the best of everything that exists. He summed it all up in his statement that "White men wrote the Constitution and it was White men who built this country!"

When it comes to recalling how this country was founded and built, of course, Buchanan ignores certain embarrassing historical facts while selectively affirming others, like all damn liars do. He would undoubtedly agree that those white men of the 18th Century who wrote the Constitution and before it the Declaration of Independence, relied heavily on the then revolutionary principles that came out of Western Philosophy's Age of Enlightenment.

Sounds so nice, doesn't it? Enlightenment!

At that time however, the onset of the Industrial Revolution had not yet hit the North America shores. So through most of the 18th and 19th centuries the bulk of work that it took to build this nation's agriculture-based economy was done primarily by our indispensable reliance on slave labor.

Remember slavery and slave ownership?

Especially in the Southern States where Buchanan, native to Washington DC, has his strongest following today, the indisputable fact is that mostly African slave labor provided the means of production that built this country. It was the introduction of internal combustion machinery and electrification of our farms and cities that made slavery obsolete. American-owned slaves, who comprised less than a tenth of the total Southern population in 1680, grew to a third by 1790. According to Economic History Services: http://eh.net , "Nearly 4 million slaves with a market value of close to $4 billion lived in the U.S. just before the Civil War."

Who did you say built this country, Pat?

,

Old fogies like Buchanan and his Repugnican ilk would have us ignore the historical record of these last couple of centuries if it works against their political agenda. When working their "strict constructionist, original intent" theories of interpreting Constitutional law, they resent outright any mention of this country's and our founders' greatest shame: an accommodation of slavery.

They argue that the War Between the States and the Emancipation of Slaves in the 19th Century negated all that ugliness so why does it ever have to come up again?

Of course, when arguing against such things as women's equality, reproductive rights and especially same-sex marriage they feel it is wholly appropriate and legitimate to rely on intentional misinterpretations of not just centuries but millennia of history to falsely justify continuing ignorance and legal discrimination in the 21st Century.

Rachel Maddow told Buchanan he was "dating" himself by spouting such racist, sexist and homophobic arguments.

She is right, of course. And the same applies to all those crude and despicable Repugnican Senators who had the gall to suggest that Justice Sotomayor is a racist like themselves. They ineloquently twisted her powerful and inspiring words into something vile that supposedly needs to be defended. They demean her obvious wisdom while addressing her, a sitting Federal Judge, with little more than thinly veiled contempt. All of this as the glare of TV lights and cameras captured every malicious crack in their ultimately impotent attempts to quash her All-American aspirations for a seat on what they would preserve as a whites-only bench in the ultimate old boys' club.

Viewers were spared an even uglier spectacle than what could have come during the televised Senate confirmation hearings -- thanks only to the Repugnicans' considerable restraint of their true feelings toward Puerto Ricans and African Americans such as our President who nominated Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice.

The Repugnican Party is rightfully concerned about alienating what's left of their inexplicable but dwindling voter support among immigrant and minority populations. After being beaten by an honest-to-God black candidate topping the Democratic ticket, Repugnicans have failed to stop the hemorrhaging of their minority membership. Nor have they fooled many minorities by reacting to the outcome of the last election: propping up an unknown and ineffective token, Michael Steel to confuse them (black faces do not all look alike to people who aren't totally racist). And their cynical embrace of that back water blow-up doll named Sarah Palin as a potential party leader on the national level continues to blow up in their faces.

So concerned are they for their survival as a Party that their behind-the-scenes leadership, for the benefit of the viewing audience, obviously enforced a muzzle on their rabid bitches who hold seats on the Judiciary Committee: Lindsey Graham, John Cornyn, Orin Hatch, Jeff Sessions, Charles Grassley, Jon Kyl and Tom Coburn. Each of them a white male, barely able to hide his snarling frustration at being a member of the dominant race that is soon to reach statistical minority status in the United States.

On Rachel Maddow's show Pat Buchanan pathetically decries what he sees as rampant discrimination against white males everywhere. With minority populations growing fast, long suffering white Repugnican men seem to be in practice under Big Daddy Buchanan's tutelage. Is he teaching them how to cry "discrimination!" in preparation for an ever nearer future when they will finally lose their last ostensibly credible claim to privilege and entitlement as part of some majority that no longer exists?

It is correct to say that by their attitudes they date themselves.

It is perhaps more correct to say that they have outlived their usefulness to their party, their country and humanity itself.

Isn't it time the Repugnicans, as a national political Party, do the world a favor go the way of the Whigs?

_________________________________________________



Judge Sotomayor has often and intentionally been misquoted in that now famous speech she made at the University of California in October, 2001. What she actually said was this...

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman, with the richness of her experiences, would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Repugnican blowhards have plumbed the most extreme depths of their own shame misreading this quote to find some shred of evidence that she practices "reverse racism."

We can imagine that, if she had just put it a slightly different way, George W. Bush might have nominated Sotomayor himself and she would have breezed through the confirmation process when the Repugnicans were still in charge. Heck, she could already be Chief Justice on the Court had she just tweaked her wording to read something like this...

"I would hope that any white male would more often than not reach a better conclusion than the wisest Latina woman whose wretched life experiences could obviously never measure up to those of her white male overlords... In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, amen."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Human Sexual Response, "Land Of The Glass Pinecones"

by Dick Mac

This might be the most commercially accessible song by Human Sexual Response, but it retains that edgy anarchy that made them so wonderful. (Am I in this audience?)



And does anyone know if there is a copy of "Straight To Hell," the feature-length film that includes HSR members, available anywhere?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Human Sexual Response, "Butt . . . "

by Dick Mac

Human Sexual Response pulled a fast one on the FCC in 1982 when they performed their song Butt-F*ck live on Boston television. Note that there are some Boston music scene notables in the dancing crowd, including the wonderful Lou Miami. The song was not allowed to finish, as the producer suddenly laid a vocal track over the whole scene and broke away from the performance.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Human Sexual Response, "Cool Jerk"

by Dick Mac

Human Sexual Response was one of my fave bands in the late 70s and early 80s. Their performances were wonderful. Here they sing a cover of The Capitols' "Cool Jerk"!

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Pitch for PDA

by Al Falafel

Is there a single progressive-minded person out there who regrets the election of Barack Obama over John McCain?

Ousting right-wing Repugnicans from the White House was THE major victory that progressives of every stripe fought for and achieved as a united and determined force.

Yet it is a maddening reality that the Obama administration has embraced a number of offensive and unacceptable policies--from serious backtracks on civil liberties to massive corporate-friendly bank bailouts to the escalation of war in Afghanistan.

Progressive principles don’t take a holiday when a Democrat is in the Oval Office. In no way do we side those brainless anti-American bigots who "want Obama to fail." But we must continue to work for such core agendas as defense of the Bill of Rights, economic justice, environmental protection, clean elections and guaranteed health care (not merely insurance policies) for all.

And--no matter how many people are opting for silence in the midst of what Martin Luther King Jr. described as “the madness of militarism”--true progressives WILL continue to work for peace.

Among the many organizations that were formed over the course of the bygone regressive Bush/Cheney years, the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) is one that has effectively fought for progressive principles. They continue to do so without compromise.

PDA does not chase popularity. But it is significant that every year since PDA was born half a decade ago, they have grown stronger nationwide.


Progressive Democrats of America is a grassroots PAC that works both inside the Democratic Party and outside in movements for peace and justice. Our goal in 2009: Expand progressive influence in Congress as we build on our 2008 electoral successes. PDA's advisory board includes seven members of Congress and activist leaders such as Tom Hayden, Medea Benjamin, Thom Hartmann, Jim Hightower, and Lila Garrett.

Some folks seem to believe that integrity requires self-marginalization, perhaps with wooden rhetoric thrown in. Others have become so obsessed with winning that they’ve forgotten the ideals that made political work compelling in the first place.

PDA’s mission isn’t about such false choices. It’s about educating, organizing--and agitating. As PDA board member Jim Hightower observed many years ago: “What’s wrong with being an agitator? In a washer, the agitator gets the dirt out.”

In celebration of their fifth anniversary PDA has set a goal of signing up 500 new supporting partners who will strengthen our common efforts. Their program, "Change Makes Change" provides an easy way to join and help sustain this vital organization. I urge you to consider joining me in this program and help keep our elected leaders' feet to the fire in the face of the right-wing regressive backlash that has only just begun.

For more information about Progressive Democrats of America go to: http://pdamerica.org/index.php

Thanks for all you do.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Gold Marilyn

by Dick Mac

Gold Marilyn Monroe
Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)



1962. Silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint on canvas
6' 11 1/4" x 57" (211.4 x 144.7 cm).


From the collection at MoMA

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Tuesday In July

by Dick Mac

Here we are on a Tuesday in July. Tuesday is an important day in the United States, as it is the day of the week we generally hold elections.

Holding elections on a Tuesday ensures that you will minimize the number of voters, because it is a day of work/school, so it is a most inconvenient day on which to schedule the single-most important citizen function of a government structured on democratic principles.

Sensibly, we should hold elections over the course of a weekend: noontime Friday through noontime on Sunday. This way you are allow people to work, worship, and party, and still find time to vote.

The cynic in me believes that the ruling class doesn't really want people to vote, even though they want the government to funnel lots of money into elections. If only the privileged voted, then there would be fewer messy situations like public discourse, anti-discrimination laws, and debates over funding the public good.

Fortunately, enough people actually participate in elections (though the number dwindles as television viewing increases) so that we can pretend we have multiple parties representing multiple points of views.

One of these instances is the election of the junior senator from Minnesota.

Eight months ago an election was held, and six months ago a winner, Al Franken, was declared. The loser, Norm Coleman, refused to concede until the Minnesota Supreme Court reiterated that the counting of the ballots proved he lost the race, by a very slim margin.

The United States Senate has been operating with 99 Senators, and today, Tuesday, July 7, 2009, Franken will be sworn-in as the 100th Senator.

It took a while, but we now have a full Senate.

Congratulations, Mr. Franken. Minnesota has sent some remarkable men to Congress (Norm Coleman was never one of them), so let's see if you can make a difference.

Post edited to fix error in title.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Independence Day in Alaska

by Al Falafel

The citizens of one state have a big extra reason to celebrate Independence Day this weekend.

The announcement of Sarah Palin's abrupt resignation as governor frees Alaskans, at long last, from the embarrassing public perception of them as a pathetic people who think they can see the other side of the world from their bathroom window. Not to mention the much -ballyhooed neo-conservative, ethically-challenged, backward political stranglehold she has held them under.

Congratulations to the good people of our 49th state! Happy Independence Day! A very happy nation celebrates with you!

Obviously, there is much more to Palin's decision to quit all of a sudden than she is letting on about. For any aspiring contender to the Presidency or other political office, this is the stupidest move a sitting governor can make. Especially since her most stinging, sneering criticism of Barack Obama is that he had little prior experience in any executive position. Now she has shown that she cannot even complete a single term in the executive office of the country's least populous state!

If she is doing this to help seal her credentials as some new kind of mavericky politician, she must think Americans have no memory at all and/or are even stupider than she is.

Speculation about what her real motives may be is rampant across the internet and in the mainstream news.

I'm just wondering how long it may be until we learn the name of the person who, all this time, held back the indisputable proof that Palin is not the mother of Bristol's unfortunate little Trig - as she swears to be.

I know. I know! We are not supposed to talk about this. Ever since it first came up during the campaign - with so much credible supporting evidence - the idea is so distasteful on every level I must say I dutifully feel dirty just mentioning it here.

But what else could it be? After all the scandals, gaffs, ethics probes, in-fighting with her own party that thrust her into our consciousness less than a year ago (thanks for nothing, McCain!)... and after her recent desperate grabs for media attention through totally fake outrages directed at the press and at the likes of David Letterman, it seems that it would take a real and irrefutable expose of her deepest shameful secret to get her to give up the national spotlight.

We don't really need to know what her deeply guarded secrets are. Since she has opted to step off the national stage, largely as she says due to how she and her family have been treated in the media, let's hope that the media finally gives her what she wants. Let her fade away now - back into the blessed comfort of obscurity forever.

Speaking of unspeakable scandals - why is the media ignoring the definitive DNA evidence that proves the real father of Michael Jackson's children is none other than Chaz Bono?

I'm just asking...

Friday, July 03, 2009

Independence Day Reading

by Dick Mac

There are some pieces of writing, documents, that have dramatically changed the course of civilization. One of my faves, and one that seems to have fallen out of favor in the past decade, is the Bill of Rights. Guaranteeing these fundamental rights is what made the formation of the United States so unique.

Bill of Rights

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Our founding fathers instructed us to meet regularly in Constitutional Conventions to address these and other rights, and to ensure that our government was functioning properly. You need not be a right-winger or a left-winger, or a dullard, to know that our government is broken. I believe our failure to convene Constitutional Conventions on a regular basis has led to this.

Now that a ruling class has been so firmly established for two centuries, and we are trapped in a single-party system, the notion of a Constitutional Convention seems quaint, and I fear would be ineffective. Still, the founding fathers had a great idea.

Other documents worth remembering or investigating are The Magna Carta, The United States Constitution, and The Manifesto of the Communist Party, among many others.

Documents like these are what shaped Western Civilization, for better or worse. If you haven't read them, or if it's been a while, I recommend them.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Bowie on Dick Cavett, 1974

by Dick Mac

In 1974, David Bowie appeared on the Dick Cavett show, and to this day explains that the event is barely a blur in his memory.

His performances on the show were brilliant were brilliant. In the video below, he and his amazing band (including Luther Vandross, David Sanborn, Carols Alomar and other young, soon-to-be-famous musicians) do a version of the very funky "1984" from the then-current "Diamond Dogs" record.

This video then cuts to a series of clips of Bowie fiddling with a cane, sniffling like a coke-head, and talking a-million-miles-an-hour. Do you remember those days?

This era was my favorite of Bowie's creative genius. I am a fan of the funk-filled "Diamond Dogs" and "Young Americans" records, and the coke-crazed "Station To Station" record. The music and lyrics are some of his best, and the bands he assembled in the mid-70s (including John Lennon during the added-on New York "Young Americans" sessions) were amazing.

The Dick Cavett interview is a classic, and I recommend you seek it out and watch it in its entirety.

"Ladies and gentlemen, yet another David Bowie":

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Norm Coleman Loses

by Dick Mac

A sleaze-bucket is a bucket full of sleaze.

Keeping that in mind, I am thrilled that Norm Coleman lost the Senate race from the State of Minnesota.

After months of obstructing the constitutional process of the United States of America, sleaze-bucket Norm Coleman finally admitted that he had lost. Like a sleaze-bucket, he didn't concede because he lost, which had become crystal clear months ago when mathematics and election laws proved that Al Franken had beaten him. No! Like all Republican sleaze-buckets (not that all Republicans are sleaze-buckets, but those that are sleaze-buckets fit here), Coleman wasn't going to let anything like mathematics or law get in the way of his plans, he was going to have the highest courts he could reach (often filled with Republicans, sleaze-buckets or not) decide, hopefully ignoring the mathematics and laws.

Fortunately, the Minnesota Supreme Court would had had enough of the charade, and declared Al Franken the winner of the election. Coleman, in his concession, mentioned nothing about the votes of the citizenry, instead he discussed the courts:

Sure I wanted to win. I thought we had a better case. But the court has spoken.

Coleman, like a good sleaze-bag, did have a good case, but he had LOST the election; and fortunately the Court realized this was about an election, not a case to be made.

And, finally, Al Franken will be sworn-in as Senator from the State of Minnesota. Now the clowns in Washington will have a real comedian to contend with!