Wednesday, April 29, 2009

100 Days

As I write this President Obama is holding a news conference to discuss his first 100 days in office. I think it’s significant that on his 100th day Arlen Specter switched parties and congress passed a budget blueprint. That we measure the president on what he does in the first 100 days is kind of silly. What makes this day, other than it being a power of ten, more important than the 93rd day, or the 117th? Some people (on the West Wing, for instance) say that it is in the first 100 days that an administration gets the most done, that the honeymoon is the best time to push your agenda. But Obama, in spite of 69% approval ratings, hasn’t had a honeymoon. He’s had to face three huge crisis—the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the conflicts in Pakistan, a swine flu pandemic, and the worst economic crisis since the great depression. The economic crisis has really defined the Obama presidency so far, as well it should. He has had to react. He hasn’t had the luxury of b being able to force an agenda.

So far, like it or not, it seems obvious that President Obama has brought significant change to Washington. We are opening dialogue with Venezuela and Cuba—can there be a more profound change than backing away from a corner stone of our foreign policy that has been in place for forty years? We are engaging in diplomatic, multi party approaches to international issues in Iran and North Korea. He has been eager to tackle big issues with big ideas, but through cooperation and inquiry, not through belligerence. There are wholesale changes going on in the economy, which will indeed move us to more state influence on the economy and a wider safety net, which can indeed be termed “socialism” if you really wanted to. Those are big changes.

I had no illusions when Obama was elected. I knew that he was not going to be everything I wanted in a president. I knew that I would strongly disagree with a lot of his policies. He does not support gay marriage. He does support an assault weapons ban. His health care policy is exactly the one I didn’t want to see, essentially a give away to the insurance companies that will not solve most of the big problems with healthcare. But on the big issues, on the direction he wants to take America, on the ways that he has approached the job, he is exactly what this country needed.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Ghosts of Socialism Yet to Be

Jon Stewart is a socialist. I don't know if he's a communist, but he's certainly a socialist and he makes little attempt to hide it. So is Bill Maher, though I doubt he'd admit it: Bill rarely owns up to anything. Both of them are pretty up front that they really do want what all those tea-baggers are most afraid of: they want to turn America into Europe.

Last week The Daily Show did a great twp part bit where they sent one of their correspondents to Sweden for a piece called "The Stockholm Syndrome," which included a hilarious spoof of MTV Cribs:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
The Stockholm Syndrome
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

(Part two)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
The Stockholm Syndrome Pt. 2
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

It's an ironic look at the fears the talking heads at Fox are trying propagate that Obama wants to turn America into Sweden. The whole point of the piece is that life in Sweden is not only not so bad, it's better than life in America. By contrasting MTV cribs with a Swedish pop-star's apartment and 50 Cent with ABBA, and by the hilarious "blonds as currency" bit, the obvious point they are making is that Sweden is a better place to live than America: it's got free health care, a stronger economy, a high standard of living, a longer life expectancy, and more equitable distribution of wealth. Of course, they only joke about Sweden's high suicide rate (which is as attributable to seasonal affective disorder as to the socialist economy) and they didn't mention the fact that sixty percent of young and educated swedes have considered moving abroad, many for a greater personal challenge or for greater opportunity.

And let's face it: Sweden is not the Soviet Union. Sweden may have a strong welfare state, but they also have a strong market based economy. They let you earn a lot of money but they tax the hell out of you. They Daily Show's point is that that isn't so bad, and that our passion of ostentation wealth and hyperconsumption, symbolized by Baconaise, is perverse. Sure, it is saying, we have the freedom to make baconaise, and people will actually buy it, but that is only because we are a bunch greedy gluttons. Swedes may have a lot of their decisions made for them, and they may have to pay a to in taxes, but they also have a different kind of freedom: freedom from poverty, freedom to live a comfortable life and find personal fulfillment without having to worry about their basic needs being met. This is the type of freedom that Marx was talking about. But is it actually freedom, or is it oppression? The freedom that the founding fathers were fighting for--at least those in the Jeffersonian mold--was the Ayn Rand/Milton Friedman sort of freedom: the freedom to be free to rise to whatever heights your ingenuity and drive would take you without interference from the government. Freedom from doctor's bills and poverty was not what they were fighting for. To make things more interesting is a report from the Milken Institute last year of a study that found there is actually *more* upward mobility in Europe than there is in the United States. Chew on that for awhile.

I don't know if Obama wants a true socialist state in America (looking at his health care plan, which is basically a give away to the insurance companies, it sure doesn't look like it). But that is the America we are ending up with nonetheless. In my field, where I just knocked myself out to get to an interview for--I kid you not--a $37,000 a year job (me with a Ph.D. and over $100,000 in student loan debt), the socialist thing looks like a pretty good option. But not for entrepreneurial me, to whom taxes are a cancer.

I'm so confused! ;-)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Late to the party

Ok I admit it, I have hopped on the Susan Boyle Bandwagon. She is amazing, but what her case says about ageism, classism, and looksism (I hate that term, but what else can you all it?) is even more amazing. Plenty of people have already written about how her defiance of expectations lays bare our culture's prejudice against the plain-looking and our obsession with beauty, so I don't have to. I can just say "wow!" If you haven't seen it, here it is.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Doc Felix Blanchard

The death of Doc Blanchard today reminds us that once upon a time there were more important things than football. Blanchard was one of the greatest college fullbacks of all time and, with Glenn Davis, lead Army to two national championships and a 27-0-1 record over three years. In his final game for West Point he scored three touchdowns against Navy. Drafted third overall by the Pittsburg Steelers in 1947, he never played professional football. After completing his military obligation he stayed in as a fighter pilot. When the Army Air Corps became the Airforce, he stayed then too. He served a twenty five years in the military, fighting in Korea and Viet Nam, and retired with the rank of colonel.

Can you imagine? I mean, I know: Army guys don't get drafted very often, though Caleb Campbell and two others were drafted last year. There was a new policy in place that would have allowed them to play while on active duty for two years and then buy out the rest of their commitment, but the policy was suspended in last July and Campbell reported to active duty (which apparently means he's coaching). Reportedly, he cried. Nowadays you are supposed to want the money. Even if you do serve, like David Robinson when he came out of Navy as a basketball star, you are expected to bolt for fame and fortune as a pro athlete as soon as your commitment is up. After all, the money is so much greater now than it was back in 1947, and we are all supposed to want fame: it's the number-one currency in a postmodern world. You are supposed to want to play ball. You certainly aren't supposed to want to serve your country for your entire career, fight in two wars, and never play football again. Who does that?

(besides Pat Tillman, of course)

Sun Spots

Did Larry Ellison just pay $7.4 billion dollars for Java? Is that what it comes to? The purchase of Sun, big news in the Bay Area but not a lead story elsewhere, is an interesting one. The Chron's headline, "Larry Elison, the Sun King," is worthy of The New York Post. Ellison isn't seen as near the villain that Bill Gates is, even though he's nearly as (or perhaps more) rich, is a much more colorful character, and his Oracle Corp. is just as rapacious as Gates' Microsoft was in the 90s. In Charlie's Angels, most people caught on that Sam Rockwell's nerdish disguise was inspired by Gates, but few caught on that Tim Curry was doing a spot-on Larry Ellison spoof, right down to Ellison's love of all things Japanese. I guess it was a California/computer nerd inside joke.

Ellison espouses that old 80s saw that all business is war, and that the greatest warriors are samurai (which kind of made sense in the 80s, fueled as it was by our anxiety and fears that Japan might be buying up our country). He tries either to crush his opposition or to conquer them through acquisition. When IBM's bid for Sun faltered, Oracle, which has been buying up corporations right and left in this downturn, flush with cash as they are and not in bad business shape themselves, charged in and took it away. They topped the IBM bid by a staggering ten cents a share. Now they own one of the great Silicon Valley icons, probably the finest server manufacturer in the world and, more importantly, the inventor of Java.

It's Java that is the big deal. Ellison acknowledged as much when he said that Java was the most significant software acquisition Oracle had ever made. Sun's server market is shaky at best and in these times downright miserable. Yes, there were some areas where Sun and Oracle went together, software products Oracle had developed specifically to run on Sun platform,s that sort of thing. But hardware is not and never has bee Oracle's business. Will they be able to keep Sun's core business afloat? Will they care? Will they let it falter or, perhaps, split it off from Java and the other valuable Sun assets, and then sell it to IBM at a premium? In other words, did Larry Ellison just pay $7.4 Billion Dollars for Java?

Granny with a Gun

This story from Gothamist is great. It is unusual for New York City: Gothamist is not a webiste where I'd expect to find pro-2nd Amendment rhetoric. While it does show that New York juries are way to sympathetic to criminals (and prejudiced against guns), it also shows that even in New York a person can carry a handgun for self defense (it's an expensive permit, but it can be had). But what I find funniest is that the word is now out that this guy tried to mug. But what I find most amusing is this: how much do you think this guys life is worth now that the word is on the street that he tried to mug Bumpy Johnson's grand-daughter? There is some aging gangster out there who worked for Bumpy or for Frank Lucas who is coming after this guy.

Back from break

Today was the first day back from spring break. I talked with my students about pirates and about Basketball Jones. The two were strangely linked when one of my students said "I never thought there could be black pirates. I thought pirates were always white guys." This led to yet another discussion of racism and the portrayal of race in the media, which, of course, led to "Basketball Jones," Superfly, and the Dirty Dozen. My students, most of whom are African American came up with this: they don't mind racism as long as its funny.

As an added treat, I found this on the internet.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Squeal, little piggie!

The whining you are hearing right now from the republicans, the squeals of pain and outrage, are not feigned--not this time. Oh, some of the outrage may be mock, and some of the whining calculated, but much of it is real. From the ridiculous tea-bagging protests of April 15, to the Governor of Texas hinting that he too (like Sarah Palin) might be a secessionist, to today's cries of outrage over President Obama holding out a olive branches to Cuba and Venezuela, there is something real back there. They see their world, built up over thirty years, since the Regan Revolution, crumbling around them. And they are afraid. They are afraid of a world where America is not the belligerent, bullying redneck on the block who can kick everybody's ass and gleefully does so from time to time. They fear we will no longer be top dog. They fear an America that looks like France, with government control of industry, high taxes, high unemployment, and a stagnant economy. They fear the Europeanization of America, where the individual and individual liberties are suddenly pushed aside in favor of social interests--in other words, socialism. And they fear that their guns and SUV's and muscle cars will be outlawed. The testosterone fueled American dream is under direct attack--or so they believe--and they are afraid of the change. Change was, after all, the slogan of the Obama campaign, and change is what he is bringing in abundance. He has changed so much about America that it resembles now every nightmare of intellectual urban liberalism that the conservatives have been dreaming since the fall of Jimmy Carter. This is not just Rush Limbaugh being an idiot or Fox News whipping up a frenzy. This is real deep seated fear, like my mom and her nightmares about Nancy Pelosi taking away her guns. A sea change is going on in America right before our eyes, and they see it and they are scared of what the future holds.

I'll give them a hint: it's starting to resemble the American that those of us who spent thirty years in the wilderness waiting for the pendulum to swing back out way have been dreaming of. Take the Cuba thing, for instance. Obama is no fool. I doubt he is going to simply wave his pen and make Cuba an ally. But he is going to try real diplomacy with them, and Venezuela, and Boliva, and Nicuragua. He is going to do the thing that Texas Yahoo from Crawford refused to do, which is act like a grown up and treat the rest of the world with just a modicum of respect, on the belief that if you talk to people they might be willing to listen. Horrible thought to a group of people who view Jack Bauer as the exemplar agent of American foreign and domestic policy.

I don't think it will get that bad. Obama, like all Democrats, has to govern from the middle, so much of the American dream is probably safe. He said at his inauguration, that we have to preserve the entrepreneurial spirit of America. BUt, I admit, I'm afraid too. I believe in that America-- the muscle cars, guns, cowboy, robber baron, individualist America, the America found in Ted Nugent songs and seen in Norman Rockwell paintings and Frederick Remington sculptures. I honestly believe that God made man but Sam Colt mad men equal. And as much as I love France and Italy, and on occasion dream of living there (were I rich) I don't really want America to become Europe. There is a great difference of character, a different dream.

Here is my theory, I've expressed it before, and it is likely all bullshit. It has no basis in fact. I just kind of came up with it thinking about why we are who we are and why conservatives hate the French (after all, we owe them our country. Sure, we paid that debt back twice, in 1918 and 1945, but they are still they were our closest ideological ally once our mutual revolutions were over). It's like this. Everybody who came willingly to America after 1492 (as opposed to those who were dragged here in bondage for servitude) did so for what we have defined as "the American Dream" the desire to better their lives, to own property, a business, and so that they, or if not they then their kids, could one day be rich. This is the driving philosophy behind most of the great things in America and much of the evil as well. Tied up in that is the idea of opportunity, that the individual has to have rights that the state cannot take away and those rights center around personal security, financial opportunity, and property. Some Americans--mostly from the south it is true--were so afraid of a powerful federal government that they insisted that the constitution include a bill of right curtailing the federal government's power significantly, protections against the so called "tyranny of the majority." There are regional variations on this: the North East, where federalism was strongest, believed in a stronger federal government. The cities, with people crowded on top of one another, were the first to see the need for social reforms, a safety net of some kind, and the idea of community taking precedence over individuality. But by far the majority of people in this country have cling to the American dream: the primacy of the individual and the desire to get rich. And this is what gave us Thomas Edison (who gave us the movie industry, the recording industry, the electronics industry, and the power companies), Henry Ford (who gave us the automobile industry) Samuel Colt and John Moses Browning (who gave us the firearms industry), Andrew Carnegie (who gave us the steel industry) J.P. Morgan (who gave us the banking industry) the Rockafellers and the Gettys (who gave us the oil industry) Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, and on and on and on. In other words, the people who made America a prosperous and powerful nation.

It has often been said that Marxism doesn't really work in America because we never had a titled, landed nobility--Marx's upper class. But we also never had a peasantry either. One of the virtues of America is our rejection of the idea that one man is any better than another, or that any person has a "place" high or low, in society. We are a nation of bourgeoisie, and we are proud of it. Back in Europe the people who stayed were either those who were filthy rich already, either the nobility who were still rich or the bourgeois who had already made it, and the peasants who were either content to stay peasants or who couldn't take that leap and uproot themselves and the security of their servitude for the dangers of true economic freedom. As they gained political power through revolution and democracy, they established a peasants paradigm of democracy, one in which their security was assured: the rich are taxed, they have a strong social safety net with unemployment benefits and free health care and guaranteed housing. Most of them are employed in a job with some kind of pension, they get a lot of vacation, and they live "la dolce vita." For a long time they didn't worry about the high unemployment rate because they were happy just to live and be taken care of (though now young men in France--mostly imigrants who made the mistake of going to France looking for opportunity, are rioting in the streets).

The liberal in me wants an America that looks more like Europe, with a strong social safety net, strong banking regulations, universal health care, and people who now how to enjoy life instead of struggle in the rat race. But the American in me, who love guns and NASCAR and football, and longs to drive my old 72 Ford Grand Torino once again, worries what we would have to give up if that Euro-America were to come to pass.

So yeah, in other words, I get it.

I hope we can have a more civilized America without losing the land of opportunity or the drive to become rich that has made America what I truly believe to be the greatest nation the world has ever seen. I come from California, where we do live the good life and where people can still get rich and not be completely reviled for it. So I have to believe it is possible. I have to have that hope.

But I still love to see the little piggies squeal. They rogered us in the rear for thirty years. It's time they know how it feels.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

California Dreamin'

The news media is trying to paint it as a "back to the future" quest--an attempt by a vain politician to recapture his former glory. But Jerry Brown is running for governor of California, an office he held for two terms in the 70s and 80s. Since I have made no secret of the fact that Jerry is "my guy" the politician I truly believe in and the reason I'm a democrat, it will come as no surprise that I'm supporting him. That and a small contribution are all that he will get from me, since I don't live in California any more (though I wish I did). The republicans are painting him as too eccentric and the other democrats are painting him as too old, but none of that really flies. The "governor moonbeam" appellation tacked on him by Mike Royko after Brown suggested California invest in telecommunication satellites was never accurate to begin with, and Royko even retracted it years later (though it likely cost Bron the presidency in 1992 nonetheless, when he was running against Bill Clinton for the nomination and was clearly the better candidate. Rose Bird, Prop 13, and the Medfly--Jerry's real political problems back in the day, are all old news. The news on Jerry now is how he moved to Oakland and became its mayor because he wanted to work in the trenches, and how on his watch crime went down and investment up in one of most infamous cities on the West Coast. And after that he won his current job as attorney general. A ploy? Perhaps. It gives him law and order credentials that he never had as governor. But he has been a good one. Now he wants his old job back. The republicans are gleefully rubbing their hands together, eager to paint him as a washed out hippie, while the lesser known democrats are crying foul, that he's essentially had his turn.

But it really comes down to this: Jerry Brown was the best governor California has ever had. Who better to lead California now? No one, that's who.

Vote Brown.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Amazon stifles gay voices

I stole this from rufinia 's LJ. It is appalling. I urge everyone to go to the petition site and sign it.

Cross Posted to LJ and to Mediagrouch.


Amazon has been stripping the sales rank from and the search results of, according to people who have spokien to customer reps, "books people have complained about."

Example: My roommate's book, Yes Means Yes does not come up in a search, and the sales rank is gone. Other books include:

Books Stripped Of Amazon Sales Rankings:
Ellen DeGeneres: A Biography
Outing Yourself: How To Come Out As Lesbian Or Gay To Your Family, Friends, And Co-Workers
Gay Life And Culture: A World History
Homosexuality And Civilization
The Way Out: The Gay Man's Guide to Freedom No Matter if You're in Denial, Closeted, Half In, Half Out, Just Out or Been Around the Block
The Velvet Rage: Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World
Coming Out Of Shame: Transforming Gay And Lesbian Lives
The Gay And Lesbian Self-Esteem Book
Heather Has Two Mommies
Dude, You're A Fag: Masculinity And Sexuality In High School
Sexing The Body: Gender Politics And The Construction Of Sexuality
Chelsea Handler's My Horizontal Life: A Collection Of One Night Stands
Sex and the Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown
Full Frontal Feminism by Feministing's Jessica Valenti
Lady Chatterley's Lover
For Yourself: The Fulfillment Of Female Sexuality
Queer Theory: An Introduction
Out In Theory: The Emergence Of Gay And Lesbian Anthropology
Diary Of A Drag Queen
The Rise And Fall of Gay Culture
A Memoir Of No One In Particular
Apples And Oranges: My Journey To Sexual Identity
Bi Lives: Bisexual Women Tell Their Stories
Bisexual Women In The 21st Century
Lesbian, Gay, And Bisexual Identities Over The Lifespan: Psychological Perspectives
Social Services For Gay And Lesbian Couples
The Lesbian Parenting Book: A Guide To Creating Families And Raising Children
The Truth Is...My Life In Love And Music by Melissa Etheridge
Nasty: My Family And Other Glamorous Varmints by Simon Doonan
The Praeger Book Of Transsexuality: Changing Gender to Match Mindset (Sex, Love, and Psychology)
True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism—For Families, Friends, Coworkers, and Helping Professionals
GenderQueer: Voices From Beyond The Sexual Binary
Girl Meets Girl: A Dating Survival Guide
The Art Of Meeting Women: A Guide For Gay Women
The Mayor Of Castro Street: The Life And Times Of Harvey Milk
Victory Deferred: How AIDS Changed Gay Life In America
Women, Gays, And The Constitution: The Grounds for Feminism and Gay Rights in Culture and Law
Identity And The Case For Gay Rights: Race, Gender, Religion as Analogies
Gay America: Struggle For Equality (YA)
Queer Theory, Gender Theory: An Instant Primer
Men Who Rape: The Psychology Of The Offender
Gay Day: The Golden Age of the Christopher Street Parade 1974-1983
Gay And Lesbian Washington, DC
Created Equal: Why Gay Rights Matter To America
Stone Butch Blues: A Novel
Sexual Rhetoric: Media Perspectives on Sexuality, Gender, and Identity
Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940
Wide-Open Town: A History of Queer San Francisco to 1965
Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities
Odd Girls And Twilight Lovers

See what happens when you put "homosexuality" in the search for all departments on Amazon. Go on.

It's not just "erotica." It's not just "adult content."


Yo ho me hardies

Everybody has been making pirate jokes lately. Maddow used the Pirates of the Caribean logo on her show the other night. The New York Post, comical as always, had a picture of Johny Depp as Capatain Jack Sparrow running toward the camera, with the headline "Yo Ho Doh!" Me, I'm an old pirate fan, so I giggled along with everybody. Yes, I knwo piracy is no laughing matter, but still....

In movies, comics (well, except for Watchman) and on TV, pirates are romanticized. They are seen as a people who are beholden to no government, no country, are only answerable to one another. Lawless men on the high seas they meet the true definition of "outlaw", which is "one who is outside the law's protection." And because the law can't protect them they have to protect themselves, create their own nation of laws based on lawlessness. Jean LaFitte is the true American pirate, hero of the battle of New Orleans and privateer extraordinaire, he operated out of the Louisiana swamps, raiding shipping in the Gulf of Mexico and then selling his spoils to the rich citizens of the Crescent City. Whether in the flesh or as played by Tyrone Power or Yul Bryner, he was admired as a man of action who was answerable only to his own sense of honor. In the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, we mock the pirates but we mock authority, in the form of the British naval captain Norrington, even more. In a pirate tale, except for the greatest of the all, "Treasue Island", authority usually corrupt and piracy offers the only just, honorable, and therefore desirable alternative to modern society--a free company of men who live for the sword and by the sword with no apologies. Even in "Treasure Island" Long John Silver, the most dastardly of all the pirates, is an attractive figure, charming young Jim Hawkins into helping him right up to the end.

In real life, pirates hanged (and it is "hanged": meat is "hung", men are "hanged", though it's amazing how many people get that wrong).

It's no surprise that we glorify the freedom of piracy and make folk heroes out of Blackbeard and Jean LaFitte. We do the same to Gangsters, old West outlaws, and Robin Hood: from Bonny and Clyde to Jess James, to Don Corleon to Robin Hood--murderers and thieves all--those of us who bend, often unwillingly, to authority look to those who refuse to bend as heroes. But there is something special about pirates. Because they exist mostly on the high seas they truly are outside the bounds of law. When they come to port in their "stongholds," like Tortuga, it is in places where there is no government to try to keep them in line. They themselves are the only law.

Interestingly enough, they often act as a form of law, and do as good a job as many to keep order--in a way--and maintain the lives of the people. The image of the pirate stronghold as a din of sin and iniquity may not be far off, but it is still a functional economy, where people live and work every day in an environment if, not stable, then not completely in chaos either. It is the kind of paradise of freedom that an anarcho-capitalist like our old friend David Friedman would just love.

Somalia is more or less the same. It has an economy that functions, if on shaky foundations, and as in all places where governmental authority has no real power armed men constitute only "government." (it might be said that this is true of any government, no matter what form it takes. Mao would certainly say so). The situation in Somalia, which we deplore, is no different than that of Tortuga in the Seventeenth Century, which we romanticize. It is a mostly lawless area where anybody with enough guns can hold power, and an area where international shipping is common enough to provide easy targets for enterprising buccaneers. Piracy is, quite frankly, the only growth industry in Somalia, and the one which brings the most money into the Somali economy. And the pirates in Somalia are beloved as the type of free roving buccaneers that we've celebrated in all those Errol Flynn movies, and as people who bring real cash money into the country. The shipping companies have more or less decided that paying ransom to the pirates for the return of crew ship and.or cargo is more or less the cost of doing business, and so nothing serious is done about it.

Until now, because now they have attacked an American flagged vessel.

With the rescue of the captured captain earlier today and the capture of one of the pirates, the immediate situation is now over. But the larger one is just beginning. For years now this has been brewing, only waiting for an Ameircan excuse to take over, and now there is one. President Obama, faced with two wars (Cheney would claim on, but whatever) in two Muslim countries and a worsening situation in both Pakistan and North Korea, now has a Jeffersonian decision to make.

And comparisons with Jefferson are not out of line here, because it was Jefferson who sent the U.S. Marines to The Shores of Tripoli in America's first act of military intervention to destroy the Muslim pirates who were attacking American shipping. Sound familiar? Jefferson was successful. Obama has a harder row to how. How can we justify going back into Somalia, the site of our most ignominious military fiasco since Viet Nam? How can we take on yet another Muslim country, one that we've already been kicked out of once? We have a big enough image problem in the Muslim world without invading yet another Muslim country. But too Obama can't just ignore the situation, nor should he. Since in a capitalist republic the most important function of a government is to support (and I would argue regulate, even if the Friedmans--or is it Friedmen?--would not) commerce. We can't have pirates mucking it all up, whether they live in a society that is actually more free than our own, and which is celebrated in Disney movies, or not.

But one thing that may well happen now that the US Navy has a pirate in custody for the first time practically ever. We may actually see a trial for piracy on the high seas in the Supreme Court. Now that would be a spectacle worth watching. The Supremes would have to make a finding of fact, not a finding of law. It would be fun to see them try.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


So, I was surfing You Tube when I came upon this relic of my youth!

This is one of the greatest songs, and greatest videos, ever made. But I have a question: is it racist? Look at the physical portrayal of the main character, Tyrone Shoelaces. Look at the physical representation of the other black characters, especially the cheerleaders. Are the other black basketball players depicted as thugs?

Next, is this imagery used by whites to marginalize African Americans? Or is it typical urban imagery of the mid-seventies, used by African Americans to express pride in their racial identity and their culture? Would African Americans of the time think it was racist? (my bet is some did and some didn't. It would be easy to find out).

btw: if you are not familiar with the song, it was by Cheech and Chong, it peaked at #15 on the Billboard charts. The band included George Harrison, Carol King, Tom Scott, and Billy Preston. I never could find out who animated it, but it has the look of the cutting edge animation of the mid-seventies. Very urban and very hip. It reminds me a bit of Ralph Bakshi (especially Fritz the Cat), Terry Gilliam's Python stuff, Alegro non Troppo, and School House Rock (all of which can be found on You Tube).

Monday, April 06, 2009


So if this yahoo in Pittsburgh was worried about Obama trying to take away his guns he sure approached it in a stupid way. Not only will he never own a gun again, and will probably get the death penalty, but he just gave the anti gun folks all the ammunition they need to reinstate the assault weapon’s ban. And the worst part is, Obama was going to have a hard time of it. Yes, he said he wanted to reinstate the assault weapons ban, but it is unclear if he had the support in congress to do so. A lot of those new Democrats are really NEW Democrats, from states where gun ownership is still seen as a right (Kirsten Gilliland is a special case. She is a staunch 2nd amendment supporter but she now has to win votes here in NYC, so I don’t know which way she will blow when that comes to the floor).

If he does get it passed it’s unclear whether this version of the Supreme Court will uphold it. After Heller I don’t think it would fly. But with Binghamton and Pittsburgh you can bet the gun fight is about to heat up.