Like Rats Leaving a Sinking Ship

Tony Snow, the administration's most high-profile serial liar, has resigned.

Yeah, yeah-- I know that his health problems and his desire to not live on a paltry six-figure-salary supposedly have something to do with it. Don't get me started.

Krugman, Katrina and the Random Ten

Paul Krugman is the primary reason I'm glad the NY Times opened up TimesSelect to people with .edu email addresses. It was a pain to have to go through the library's website and access it through Lexis/Nexis, even though some of the time, he's the only thing worth reading.

Anyway, Krugman is on the post-Katrina response today, and ties it in nicely with the Op-Ed the NY Times wrote earlier this week (and which I commented on here) because it illustrates vividly just how this administration works. I'll let Krugman tell it:

Today, much of the Gulf Coast remains in ruins. Less than half the federal money set aside for rebuilding, as opposed to emergency relief, has actually been spent, in part because the Bush administration refused to waive the requirement that local governments put up matching funds for recovery projects — an impossible burden for communities whose tax bases have literally been washed away.

On the other hand, generous investment tax breaks, supposedly designed to spur recovery in the disaster area, have been used to build luxury condominiums near the University of Alabama’s football stadium in Tuscaloosa, 200 miles inland.
It seems that no matter what bit of Bush policy you look at, it always comes down to this--those who have, get more, and those who don't get crapped on, even when they vote for us. And there may be no greater recent article on this phenomemon than on this underblogged article by Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone about the extraordinary levels of corruption in Iraq, and the criminal way in which this administration has looted the US Treasury in order to reward its friends. If you don't have enough outrage to last the long weekend, read the Taibbi piece. It'll rebuild the fire in you.

Here's the Random Ten. Put your computer's music player on random play and post the next ten songs to pop up, even if Mannheim Steamroller is on there and it's not even Christmas shopping season yet. Here we go.
1. If It Ain't One Thang, It's Two--Chris Thomas King
2. Sugar, We're Going Down--Fall Out Boy
3. Low Down Man--Squirrel Nut Zippers
4. Red Beans--Professor Longhair
5. Double Up--Lifesavas
6. Praise You--Fatboy Slim
7. Be My Yoko Ono--Barenaked Ladies
8. Everythang--The Coup
9. Easy Way Out--Elliot Smith
10. Don't Look Back--Teenage Fanclub

For some other light reading, you might check out my very own Katrina blogging in the archives.

Plagiarism in the academy?

The Chronicle of Higher Education is running a story this morning about Glen Poshard, the President of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (heads up -- it's a registered user story, only).

The SIU group Alumni and Faculty Against Corruption are accusing Poshard of plagiarizing his 1984 dissertation. SIU's Daily Egyptian has more on this.

The Chonicle article explains that

There are several examples in the dissertation of what might be called classic plagiarism: Passages are lifted verbatim, or near verbatim, with no citation given. In one instance, a 68-word passage from another source is used without quotation marks or citation. The two passages are identical except for a single word change: Mr. Poshard has substituted "a" for "another."

In another example, an 80-word section, also lacking quotation marks or citation, is taken from another source with only a few minor changes -- such as switching a verb from "has been" to "was."

In addition, there are numerous examples in which Mr. Poshard appears to disregard the accepted rules of crediting someone else's work. While he may cite a particular source, he often fails to place quotation marks around passages he uses verbatim. For instance, Mr. Poshard writes that "It has become almost axiomatic to say that the welfare of the world rests significantly with the utilization of the potential of the gifted youth to solve social, economic, ecological, political, and human problems."

He cites the source but does not indicate that the passage is copied nearly word for word.


According to The Daily Egyptian (which got the documents from a source close to the AFAC who insisted upon anonymity),

Poshard said his dissertation committee had approved his work.

"They approved the style," he said. "How could they have missed it?"

Poshard said his method of citing, which he said allowed for omitting quotes when information is cited in a footnote, could help explain several examples where he used long, verbatim passages without quotation marks.

"No one on my committee said that when you reference and cite something correctly that you have to go up and put quotes around it," he said.


This sounds like plagiarism to me. The Daily Egyptian interviewed a number of experts on the topic, and they all seem to agree that this doesn't look good.

I've never been a big fan of Glen Poshard (he ran for governor of Illinois while I was in college there), but to be fair, it's important to mention some of the ongoing controversy at SIU that might be encouraging this sort of digging for information. From The Chronicle:

The allegations are the latest in a series of accusations of plagiarism against top officials at Southern Illinois. Last year Mr. Poshard asked the chancellor of the university's Carbondale campus, Walter V. Wendler, to step down after revelations that portions of a strategic plan Mr. Wendler put together came from an earlier strategic plan he helped write for Texas A&M University at College Station (The Chronicle, November 9, 2006).

Mr. Wendler's copying was brought to light by a group of professors and students close to Chris Dussold, an assistant professor of finance at Southern Illinois at Edwardsville who was fired in 2004 for copying his two-page teaching statement (The Chronicle, February 10, 2006). After his dismissal, Mr. Dussold and a group of supporters set out to uncover examples of plagiarism at the university in order to prove that he had been treated unfairly. Mr. Dussold has filed a lawsuit against the university for wrongful termination.


I don't know if Poshard did it. We'll have to wait and see -- and I understand that the administration of SIU distrusts anything that the AFAC does (Poshard describes one of the members of the AFAC as a terrorist). But it doesn't look good. The misuse of quotations is a serious problem, and a serious, serious violation of academic integrity. The explanation that "my committee passed me" doesn't do much except make everyone in the situation look bad.

Anyway ... the lesson is ... I'm going to go back to my dissertation again and make sure that I've properly cited everything. I know I've done it. All the talk of plagiarism in the academy has made me incredibly paranoid about making mistakes, so I'm going to go back and double-check my double-checking. I hope other people will be as careful in their citations.

On Horror Movies and a Random Ten

Various "spoilers" for the Halloween and Black Christmas movies follow...

As some of you know, I spent a good chunk of my summer working on a new essay about horror movies. I love horror movies-- particularly of the slasher variety. Don't get me wrong-- I'm not a huge fan of gore, but the original Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and-- to a lesser extent-- the first two Friday the 13th movies are all quite scary, effective movies-- shot for basically no money-- that never fail to entertain me.

So, as you can imagine, I'm a little curious to see what Rob Zombie's up to with his new remake of Halloween. John Carpenter's original is widely recognized as something of a horror movie classic, and is often credited as being the first slasher movie (it isn't, but more on that in a second). I watched it again just the other night (Emily hadn't seen it) and was struck once again by just how good it was. As opposed to most slasher movies, Halloween doesn't have its killer just jump out of the shadows and grab his victim; rather, Carpetner shoots his movie so that you'll see the killer-- Michael-- behind the actor in the foreground, advancing slowly. As a result, the movie winds up being an exercise in tension ("Turn around, Jamie! For God's sake, turn around!") rather than shock. As an audience, we wind up squirming in our seats in discomfort rather that jumping and spilling popcorn all over ourselves. And there's no gore at all, really-- a little bit of blood, I suppose, but that's it.

Based on a lot of the reviews I've been reading this morning about Zombie's remake, it doesn't sound like the film he's made is nearly as effective. They complain that Zombie has removed much of the tension that made the original such an effective movie, replacing it with the gore and rudeness that marked his earlier efforts House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects. Of course, I kind of liked those movies-- though not as much as I liked the original Halloween, to be sure-- so I'm not sure such changes will necessarily result in me hating the new movie. Although rumors of a hastily re-shot ending after the original failed to win over a test audience doesn't exactly fill me with much hope.

This all kind of reminds me, though, of last December, when Glen Morgan's remake of Black Christmas was released. The reviews of that movie-- both in print and online-- were universally negative. They all pointed out-- quite correctly-- that the filmmakers had abandoned just about everything that made Bob Clark's original such a great movie. What they neglected to mention was that Morgan replaced that stuff with elements that resulted in a movie that's by no means terrible-- just not as great as the original.

For those of you who don't know, Clark's Black Christmas-- released in 1974-- actually is the first real slasher film (and by "slasher" film, I'm referring to a very specific type of movie where some mysterious, deranged, unstoppable crazy hunts down young people-- I know some would argue that Psycho fits the bill, but it really doesn't-- Norman Bates killed grown-ups). Essentially, Clark's movie opens with some unseen figure breaking into a sorority house and setting up camp in the attic, while several of the house's residents are getting ready to go home for Christmas. Most have left already, but there are a few stragglers.

This was the first movie to employ the "He's calling from inside the house!" plot device, and the first to feature an unseen boogeyman character methodically stalks and picks off young women he has no connection to (in fact, both When a Stranger Calls and Halloween were originally developed as sequels to Black Christmas). The killer-- whose name we surmise is Billy-- hangs around the house, watching the sorority girls, and waiting until each is alone. Periodically, he calls the house to deliver bizarre, ranting monologues that don't seem to tie into the action of the movie-- "It's me Billy, Agnes. Don't tell them what we did!" (I should note that there are no characters in the movie named Agnes, and the only reason we "know" the killer's name is Billy is because that's how he identifies himself in the calls). Interestingly enough, since this movie was produced before the slasher sub-genre had its established "rules," the girl who manages to escape the killer is not a complete and total innocent like the survivors in Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street; she's not only the one girl we're sure isn't a virgin, she's actually the one who has just informed her boyfriend that she's going through with the abortion, and he she won't be talked out of it, because she knows it's the right thing to do. So, that's kinda progressive, anyway.

The original Black Christmas is hands-down the scariest movie I've ever seen; I love this movie. Obviously, the remake wasn't going to be nearly as scary-- fright comes out of surprise, after all. A horror movie remake usually isn't going to be able to frighten you as much as the original did, simply because it's no longer new (there are exceptions to this rule, of course, but for the most part I think it's true). So Glen Morgan wisely decided to not even try to make a "scary movie." Instead, he created a bizarre little meta-narrative about violence and voyeurism and how-- in effect-- people who watch big screen death and mayhem are themselves kind of sadistic. It was a bold choice, telling your audience that they're nothing but cruel little monsters, and it didn't seem to go over very well.

Voyeurism was already an important theme in the original Black Christmas-- the most memorable visual comes when the heroine glances through a crack in the door and sees just a small part of the killer's face-- mostly the part surrounding one eye, staring at her. The remake recreates this shot with some frequency-- it's almost like an episode of Scooby Doo-- throughout the house there are little holes in the wall, and the camera keeps focusing in to show us the eyeball gazing. There are other hints that visuals are important-- the screen saver on one victim's computer is just a series of floating eyeballs coasting by on the screen, and the killers routinely yank their victims eyeballs out of the socket. One girl discovers that a former boyfriend had secretly taped a sexual encounter with her, and the tape wound up on the Internet. The understanding in this movie is that the act of watching is intimately related to the victimization and over-the-top violence occuring throughout the film, and no one who engages in watching can claim to be innocent.

So the movie may be an unpleasant, not-particularly-scary gorefest, but it wasn't stupid, and it's not as insignificant as critics last year tried to claim. I can't really say I recommend this movie, the way I highly recommend the original and Carpenter's Halloween, but I liked it well enough that I'm not really inclined to take the critics at their word when they tell me I don't need to bother with Zombie's latest effort. They fooled me once before, and I almost missed out on a really entertaining and clever little piece of entertainment.

Anyway. Here's my Random Ten for this week. Shuffle your iTunes, record what comes up. Couldn't be simpler. But don't leave out any White Zombie that comes up-- that shit's better than you think.

1) Lou Reed-- "Cremation/ Ashes to Ashes"
2) Billy Bragg and Wilco-- "California Stars"
3) Nine Inch Nails-- "In This Twilight"
4) Rick Springfield-- "Jessie's Girl"
5) The White Stripes-- "Seven Nation Army"
6) Reel Big Fish-- "Story of My Life"
7) Rhianna-- "Unfaithful"
8) John Cale and Bob Neuwirth-- "Old China"
9) The Temptations-- "Little Drummer Boy"
10) Rolling Stones-- "Ruby Tuesday"

Because Antagonism is the Only Language They Speak

First the good news: Jeanie Curtiss got her job back.

You hopefully remember the Fort Lauderdale bridge tender who was robbed of the job she loved by some far off company to whom the city misguidedly outsourced the bridge maintenance (that bridge is now closed because in addition to taking bucketloads of taxpayer money and barely paying the bridgetenders anything, they also were not apparently doing a very good job of maintaining the bridge) because she said "hey howdy I love my job!" to a passing reporter.

Now here's the thing: Jeanie Curtiss, like most working class people, is a nice person. She's the kind of person who is respectful to her boss -- making sure to get permission before speaking to a reporter, even for a fluff piece about a wonderful little bridge in a wonderful little city. She's the kind of person to do a little extra work for free -- demand those overtime hours? No, I love my job. I'll go ahead and do it and not make a fuss, just to keep things running right. How many of us have done the same thing?

Which is why when her firing hit the papers and people started writing letters of protest, and a labor lawyer offered to take her case for free, Jeanie Curtiss didn't want to do it: she didn't want to be all adversarial with her bosses -- after all, she loved that job, she just wanted to return. So it took until she was about to be homeless before she allowed the lawyer to send a very weak letter saying that Ms. Curtiss is within her rights to sue, but really doesn't want to. All she wants is her job back, and, the lawyer added, they should give her back pay and the overtime pay they still owe her.

As a result, they gave her back her job. At which point I say: "soulless, evil, motherfuckers. You make me sick. You wouldn't give this poor woman her job back until she got a lawyer. You have no respect for human life, and only fear litigation -- you are scum, scum, scum."

But it's worse than that. Oh obviously they didn't give her the back pay and overtime pay. We were expecting that. I mean, these are disgusting pigmosters who will spend eternity as intestinal worms keeping Satan's colon clean (it's moments like this that I wish I really did believe in that sort of thing). But what really makes them detestable despicable cretins unworthy of Satan's large intestine is that, sure, they hired her back, but since she's a "new employee" she no longer has seniority.

The Sun Sentinel update says someone also just showed up on the bridge and told her to sign a paper -- what the hell was that all about?

It's time for Ms. Curtiss to stop being nice. It's time she, and all working people, realized that the bosses only understand ONE tone of voice, and it's not a "nice" one. They are Hellspawn and Hellbound, and there is no point in treating them as you would treat your fellow man. Don't worry: you work out on that bridge all alone. You won't have to see them everyday. But you make sure they know that you will not lay down and take any more of their stupid self-serving dick slaps. Enough is enough.

The Sun Sentinel update mentions several times that this outsourcing is ripe for revoking (ie: this company's contract is about to expire). We cannot let this company renew this contract, and we cannot let some other company scoop it up: this job needs to be a well-paid CITY job, with benefits and protections. And a union. No more "nice lady." You were a merchant marine, Jeanie Curtiss -- you can hand-crank a swing bridge. Show them your muscle.

Cool ... and in Iowa

From the Des Moines Register:

A Polk County judge on Thursday struck down Iowa's law banning gay marriage.

The ruling by Judge Robert Hanson concluded that the state's prohibition on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and he ordered the Polk County recorder to issue marriage licenses to six gay couples.


Of course, the decision will be appealled and Republican lawmakers in Iowa are talking constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage, but still. This is pretty cool.

The Subtle Domestic Tension of the Netflix Queue

Two or three years ago, Brian asked me to add movies I want to see to our (then quite short) Netflix queue. So I sat down and thought of all the movies I want to see and added about 20 movies. One of them was a film that I was really interested in seeing, called "Born Rich": it's a documentary by Jamie Johnson, one of the heirs to the Johnson&Johnson fortune. When I put it on the queue, I probably set it at about #3. But mysteriously, over the years, "Born Rich" kept sliding down, while movies like "Remo Williams the Adventure Begins" somehow slithered up to the top, and into my mailbox, and into my DVD player, and out the speakers, so I had to hide in the other room until it was quite done with itself. (At least Remo made his way in and out of our house in few days... The record-holder for squatting was "The Last King of Scotland," which arrived by post about five months ago, and which we finally watched two nights ago.)

But as I am beginning my second (okay, 5th, but the first three don't count, they were practice) novel before I am even done with my first (4th), and that novel concerns itself with rich kids (a subject I have more experience with than I should), the film finally reached the status of legitimate research for my vocation (vox, vocis - L. voice), and I demanded it be put at the top of the queue, and even ran it on the DVD player against objections, which is a complete first, by the way.

The film feels a little amateurish, which isn't surprising since Jamie Johnson had never made a film before, and since he had very few people to work with, very few people willing to talk about themselves, their families, and their wealth. (It's just "tacky," as at least one of them said.) But it still has its interesting moments -- like Trump's daughter recounting how, when her father was billions in debt, he showed her a homeless man and told her that that man has billions more than him. Head high she said that is why she is so proud to be his daughter, because he came back from that. Later, she has a fit because someone once asked her "what's it like to be rich and not have any problems?" -- "How could anyone be so stupid and so ignorant?!" she spat. Indeed.

Contrasted with moments like that (and worse) are things like the absolute alienation the heir to the Conde Nast fortune feels from his entire family, his constant fear of being "cut off" for wearing the wrong shoes, and his diligent attempts to live the normal life of a normal college student. Or the lifelong disorientation of the heir to the Vanderbilt/Whitney fortune, who is still angry that, at a young age, one of his uncles took him around New York and showed him all the things that were "his" -- like Grand Central Station. "How could you do that to a child?" he asks -- then recounts the two best years of his life, working with roughnecks on a Texas oil drill (where he was, he admitted, an odd fish -- but liked).

What the movie reminded me most of, though, was a story I heard a long, long time ago about a very handsome actor who nonetheless tended to date people who were not good-looking but who were interesting -- because, his friends said, being good-looking came so easily to him, that he knew it didn't mean anything, he knew you either lucked into it or didn't. He was looking for people who'd actually worked on themselves.

Some of these rich kids have the same perspective on being rich: they know it doesn't mean anything, and they seem almost to run away from it a little. But others are exactly what you'd expect of a "beautiful person" who only wants to be around other "beautiful people": remorseless snobs who see their wealth as a sign of inherent superiority. They seem to either feel sad or be sad. And, as Happy Bunny would say, that's sad.

It is the best argument for the Estate Tax I've ever seen.

More on no-fault

Let me begin by saying that I've become really proud of the Sun-Sentinel's coverage of a couple of issues over the last year or two. They were the first, to my knowledge, to start saying what many suspected about the real estate market down here, namely that it was unsustainable and was softening, and they did so over the howling objections of the real estate industry, which has a lot of clout down here. And they've done the same with the no-fault insurance story, front-paging stories not only about the expiration of the law, but also about the effects on drivers should it expire. That's generally dry stuff, and not what you'd think would sell papers, but they're running it, and running it hard.

And it's an important issue, as I've said before. The Sun-Sentinel article points out the most important problem with letting the law expire.

But two major enforcement tools will disappear along with no-fault: a requirement that insurance companies tell the state when a driver drops insurance; and the ability of law enforcement to check insurance papers any time they stop a motorist.

Mandatory insurance laws don't work without enforcement provisions--they barely work with the enforcement provisions. There were a number of times when I was an undergrad where I had the choice between driving without insurance and paying the rent, or eating--guess what won? And that was in a state where if you were caught driving without insurance, the state would tow your car from a traffic stop, and keep it in a storage yard at $60 or more a day until 1) you had insurance, 2) you'd paid the hefty fine for driving without it, and 3) paid the tow company for towing your car. And if you didn't do that within something like 30 days (the costs getting higher all the time), the state could seize your car, sell it at auction, and then charge you for the rest of teh bill, taking it out of your state income tax returns and refusing to renew your driver's license or let you register another car until you'd made good. And still, people took the chance.

So when Florida's no-fault expires, and people discover that a cop can't check their insurance card at a speeding stop, there will be a number of people who will take the chance, especially once insurance rates go up--and they will go up, make no mistake about it. They'll drop in the short term, because that's the carrot the big insurance companies have used to get the state to let no-fault expire, but they'll go up again quickly.

And for people concerned about protecting their own property, they'll probably go up immediately, because responsible drivers will worry about protecting themselves against people without insurance, so they'll add protection they wouldn't need under no-fault. How big of an issue is this statewide?

In 2006 alone, police agencies across the state issued 322,520 citations to drivers because they weren't carrying proof of insurance. At least 94,000 paid a fine.

During the same period, the Highway Safety Department issued warnings to nearly 850,000 car owners after getting notices that their insurance policies had been dropped. While many notices were the result of drivers changing insurance companies or buying new cars, 350,000 did have their licenses suspended for not having coverage.

Neither of those enforcement tools will exist once no-fault is gone.

There's contact information for your state legislators' offices in the other links on this subject. Contact them and tell them to, at the very least, renew no-fault for another year rather than letting it expire.

Do You Think His Bow Tie's On Too Tight, or What?

I think we can all agree that Tucker Carlson is an unintelligent, unfunny little weasel of a man. Lately, the blogosphere has been on fire over his claims that, in his youth, he beat up a gay man in a public restroom. The truth is, I don't really want to pile on Tucker Carlson over this one-- his initial claims were that a man "bothered him" so he grabbed him (by the dick, if I read the euphemism in the transcript correctly) and bashed his head against the wall. Seems kinda vicious, of course, but Carlson later explained that the guy had actually grabbed him first, and he was just in high school, and... Well, I don't think this is the sort of thing anyone should be bragging about (as Carlson clearly was), but it's also not the kind of thing I really want to attack someone for-- if it all happened the way he said it happened, then he fought back against an attacker. Good for him, I suppose.

Nevertheless, I maintain that Carlson-- in his zeal to present hateful, rightwing talking points as "conventional wisdom," is a shiftly little weasel. I mean, take a look at this quote:

"I'm not anti-gay in the slightest, but [gay sex in public restrooms is] really common, and the gay rights groups ought to disavow that kind of crap because, you know, that actually does bother people who didn't ask for being bothered."

Oh, fuck you. By your own admission, in 38 years of using public men's rooms, you've noticed sexual behavior exactly once. That's "really common." Using that logic, I could make the argument that it's "really common" for men involved in the Young Republicans to sexually assault other men while they're asleep-- hey, it's happened once that I know of! That surely empowers me to slander an entire group of people, right?

But I'm even more bothered by some of the crap he was spewing on his TV show last night. To be clear, I'm not a regular viewer of Tucker Carlson's-- every time I happen to catch him, though, he's saying something mind-numbingly stupid. Let's take a look at last night's transcript:

"I am interested in the principle here. Why is it in the public‘s interest to know whether or not Larry Craig is attracted to men?"

"Because he opposes gay marriage, you get to look in to see if he‘s ever had a gay experience, going back to college in 1967, 40 years ago?"

"It just seems to me there ought to be some part of a person‘s life that‘s off-limits without cause from journalistic (inaudible)..."

"Boy, I think it‘s why people hate the press."

Oh, where to begin...?

Look-- if a man devotes his life to hurting gay people, promoting the hurtful meme that homosexuals are "deviant" and "sick" and "unnatural" and "a threat" yet still likes to visit the nearest adult bookstore that has glory holes drilled into the wall... Absolutely. He needs to be outed. He's holding the rest of America to a "standard" he is unable to meet himself; he wants to regulate the romantic desires of other people even when he knows that those desires refuse to be regulated-- hell yeah, out his hateful, hypocritical ass. At least the Newt Gingriches and George W. Bushes have an excuse-- they're fucking ignorant. But the Larry Craigs and the Ted Haggards know the truth-- sexual orientation is beyond the individuals's control, and doesn't inherently make someone a bad person. Yet they continue to promote the lie in order to obtain power and money.

And also-- I'm sorry, Tucker, but you're a conservative pundit. You people are the ones who declared that nothing was "off-limits" in terms of smearing the opposition. Beginning in the 90s when people like you started snooping into Bill Clinton's marriage, the attitude among the right-wing press has been "anything goes"-- at least the mainstream media has built upon a foundation facts when discussing of the Larry Craig case; people like Tucker Carlson and his ideological brethren have promoted half-truths, distortions, and lies for 15 years when discussing Democrats and liberals. Or am I the only one who remembers when they tried to claim that Al Gore said Love Story was based on his marriage to Tipper? Or that John Kerry's wife was "too opinionated"? Or that John Edwards was effectively abandoning his wife on her deathbed in his selfish pursuit of power? Or that Bill Clinton exposed himself to women, raped women, and used law enforcement officials to help him find women to flash and rape?

No, Tucker-- the time to take the high road with regards to a public official's personal life was well over a decade ago. You and your colleagues chose to troll around in the gutter instead. You can't bitch about it now.

Rise

If you're a fan of the Coen Brothers film "O Brother Where Art Thou," you might recognize the name Chris Thomas King. You'd certainly recognize him if you saw him--he played bluesman Tommy Johnson, and contributed a good bit of music to that stellar soundtrack.

Well, he's out with a new album, and I can't recommend it highly enough, for a couple of reasons. For starters, it's just solid blues in the tradition of Son House and Howlin' Wolf, even though his voice isn't quite as ragged.

But it's the subject matter of his songs in this album that make this album so powerful. See, King is a New Orleanian, and this is his first album since Katrina, and it is infused with the wreck and ravage of that storm. The loss comes through in the powerful "Baptized in Dirty Water," and he calls out President Bush in "Faith." The review of the album at emusic put it this way:

In "Faith," the song's narrator clings to a rooftop as bodies float by and he realizes that President Bush is in a plane over New Orleans in the same instant, and it is a powerful moment that literally defines the notion of differing perspectives. Does he really care, the narrator wonders. Rise deals with loss, death and the hope for rebirth in mostly hushed tones, and while many still think of King as primarily a blues artist, the album is really closer to a kind of pop gospel outing, only stripped of much of the certainty and joy that gospel usually conveys.

I've always had an affinity for gospel music, which is odd since it was anathema to my religious upbringing--Jehovah's Witnesses had their own songs, which were fairly stolid. But gospel moves me, even now when I'm not a believer, in ways I can't even begin to define. And there are songs on this album that make me (almost) want to believe again.

You can check out samples of the album at the emusic link above--and you can join the service for ten bucks a month, which I highly recommend--or you can buy the album through Amazon or some other retailer. But check it out. If you love blues, you won't be sorry.

I'm with you



Hat tip:Orcinus

This says it all

There's a lot of interesting stuff in this NY Times editorial, but I think these two items pretty much sum it up.

The median household income last year was still about $1,000 less than in 2000, before the onset of the last recession....

Standard measures of inequality did not increase last year, according to the new census data. But over a longer period, the trend becomes crystal clear: the only group for which earnings in 2006 exceeded those of 2000 were the households in the top five percent of the earnings distribution. For everybody else, they were lower.


This is the economy that Bush and the right-wing pundits (and lots of so-called moderates) have been touting as strong for the last 4 years, and it is--if you are among those King George the Lesser calls his base (not the poor fundamentalists--the uber-rich who've made a killing at their expense).

For the rest of us, not so much. And as the editorial notes, this is about as good as it's going to get, what with the nation's predominant job-creation machine clanking noisily to a stop. I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone who was more afraid of gay people getting married than, well, of anything else worth a damn in 2004. I appreciate it.

Lunar Eclipse





These terribly blurry pictures demonstrate the fact that 1) I should get a tripod and 2) more importantly, I was awake for the lunar eclipse yesterday morning. Bradley got out of bed to see the eclipse with me at about 5:30.

Bradley, however, got to go back to bed after seeing it. I got ready for my first day of school -- my first class is at 8 a.m.

This is really just to say that I got home from the University around 3:30, talked to Bradley for about 20 minutes and then promptly took a 2 hour nap. And that's why I haven't paid much attention to anything. I'll get into more of a routine by next week. Then I can say stuff about things again.

First step down

Many yet to go.

Broward County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday night to remove Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle from the Tourist Development Council.

The vote came after Naugle's recent comments charging Fort Lauderdale has a problem with gay sex in public restrooms, and that gays are unhappy.

The leadership of Broward County's multibillion-dollar tourism industry demanded Thursday that Naugle stop his attacks on homosexuality even as he pressed them to change a marketing campaign meant to attract gay tourists.

Unanimous! Well done, Broward County Commissioners. Getting rid of Naugle completely will be far more difficult, if not impossible, but this certainly sends a message that the city itself is distancing itself from Naugle's crupid and stubatshit statements on gays.

Have Gun, Will Stay Right Here in My Shack in the Woods

The Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International studies has issued a report that says that the United States is the most heavily-armed society in the world, with 90 guns for every hundred citizens, and 270 million of the world's 875 million firearms.

Uh... doesn't that seem a bit excessive? I mean, I realize that Ted Nugent alone owns 20 guns for every hundred U.S. citizens, but that number still seems unnecessarily high to me.

Anyway. Remember that figure the next time some whiney, big baby/ little dicked gun nut starts grumbling to you about lib'rals tryin' to take his guns away from him. Yeah, this country's really hostile towards the gun owner, isn't it?

If I sound unsypathetic to the plight of the American gun owner, it's only because I am. I realize some people need to own a gun-- singular-- for hunting purposes in order to feed the family. Okay, no problem there. But since I don't think I know a single person who owns a single gun-- and I know a lot of people all over the country-- I'm going to go ahead and say that there are a lot of heavily-armed people with their own private arsenals in this country. Nobody needs a private arsenal. We have Viagra and Enzyte for those problems now.

Keep pushing

When Amy and I moved here just over two years ago, we were told by family, friends, and every story in the news media that we had to buy a house now because we were going to be priced out of the market if we waited. As it turned out, we were already priced out of the market--well out of it--so we had no choice but to wait.

Then the bubble started oozing air. The papers kept saying it was temporary. The realtors who were interviewed were confident that the market was only in a lull, and that this was the perfect time to buy, since the boom would crank up again any second. Months passed, and the realtors were saying the same thing, but there was a tinge of desperation in their quotes. And then, about a year ago, the Sun-Sentinel started writing about how the boom was over, and started asking "experts" how long it would take the real estate market to recover. First it was late 2006, which became early 2007, which became late 2007. See a pattern here? Me either.

Well, actually, I do. But condo builders apparently didn't, because they're still building, at least in Miami.

Just how many other speculators face the same dilemma in the nation's most glutted condo market will become clear during the next two years. That is when 25,000 new condo units, most of them rising in or near Miami's downtown, will flood an area already saturated with 23,000 condos listed for sale. An additional 40,000 units have been approved, but analysts doubt the majority will break ground.

I wonder how many of these condos are priced for low-to-middle income buyers?

48,000 condos for sale in a place where an analyst warned back in 2004 that as much as 70% of the units were being bought by speculators who weren't going to live in them. And this is all happening next door to Broward county, which some have speculated has a vacancy rate somewhere north of 20% itself.

We've watched prices fall, steadily, for the last year, both in rentals and to buy. We moved a few weeks ago because the apartment which had been such a deal when we came down here was less of one now--we basically bought central A/C, a pool, and modern appliances for an only slightly less desirable neighborhood (we downgraded from amazing to fine) and twenty-five bucks more a month. And we think that in a year, we can seriously consider buying something, especially if this area follows the southern California model and starts seeing triple digits a month in foreclosures.

The most recent estimate for the recovery of the south Florida real estate market is now late 2008. Given what I'm seeing, I'd say that's optimistic.

Odds and Ends

I can't quite bring myself to get properly riled up over political matters at the moment. I keep waiting for James Naugle to email me back, but I guess he's busy plotting his next press conference. And I'm fairly psyched that yet another Republican has been caught in a gay sex scandal, but it's just become old news now. At this point, I'm much more impressed that John McCain appeared on The Daily Show last night and didn't solicit anyone in the men's room, you know? Plus, as others have pointed out, as nice as it is to see these hypocritical closet cases get their comeuppance, it still seems like a ridiculous waste of resources to have policemen hanging out in restrooms waiting to bust closested gay men who don't have the confidence/social skills/ charisma/ whatever to actually pursue other men in more socially-acceptable ways. As I've said before, I don't condone sex in public restrooms-- mostly because I'm afraid someone might Naugle all over the toilet paper roll-- but it's also not high on my list of crimes that need to be dealt with right away.

The first day of school was quite good, though. Good classes. Students seem fairly sharp, for the most part. And I'm psyched about what I'm going to be teaching. I don't know if other people are like me, but I absolutely love the first day of school-- and I have since college. I love the university life, and I love seeing so many people of so many different backgrounds coming together, united in their pursuit of an education. I know, I know-- that's an idealistic way of viewing things; many of these students are only in college because they think it's a path to a high-paying job and a house in the suburbs once they're through sowing their wild oats. Bite me. I prefer my point-of-view-- these people have all gathered together to gain wisdom, man.

And now, I suppose, I should get back to my real work of getting some essays ready to send out. I've got three pieces that are ready to go (I think), but they're not going to put themselves in envelopes.

Oh, and for all of our readers who own publishing houses and just love memoirs about cancer... drop me a line. I've got a good, unpublished book I think you'll want to read.

F-You, NYTimes Ad Whores!

I don't usually put an "F U" in my header, but this is f-ing ridiculous. I go to the NYTimes website expecting to find some news and opinion, and instead I find some very un-ironically offered ANTIworker propaganda. ANTIworker in 2007. That's about as funny as ANTIblack in 1860. Yeah, that's right: I'm saying a war is coming. Look at this s#!t...



Clicking on it takes you to "the center for anti-union propaganda": they call themselves something slightly more vainglorious but that's the gist. I'm not even going to bother to explain why everything on this website is an obscene lie -- I'm just going to point out that the reason the working class in America is in such poor shape right now is because of exactly this kind of asshole club, no doubt bought and paid for by the GOP and staffed by grinning Young Rethugs, and if I knew where they lived I'd toilet-paper their mansions and bentleys, the stupid fat cat evil baby-eating pieces of shit.

Man, what a f-ing way to wake up in the... uh... "morning." :-D

Edit: to add a link to this topic being googleblogged

Ah, a New Fall Semester Begins,

and Campus is Once Again Dotted with Shining New Faces...



Is it just me, or are they getting greener?

Oh this is just bullshit



Let me tell you, in a real JW-Mormon throwdown, the Witnesses would have grabbed the Mormons' dorky little bicycle helmets, bashed them in the faces with them, and knocked their heads into the ground screaming "Where's your angel Moroni now, bitch!" Back in the day, I used to put the fun in fundamentalist.

Hat tip Pharyngula

O lovely hypocrisy!

It's gotten so common to see hypocrisy among right wing blowhards that there's little sport in it these days. But lets have some anyway.

So Ted Nugent roams a concert stage while toting automatic weapons, calls Barack Obama "a piece of -----" and says he told Obama to suck on one of his machine-guns. He also calls Hillary Clinton a "worthless bitch" and Dianne Feinstein a "worthless whore."

That Nugent, he's a man's man. He talks the talk and walks the walk, right?

Except when it was time to register for the draft during the Vietnam era. By his own admission, Nugent stopped all forms of personal hygiene for a month and showed up for his draft board physical in pants caked with his own urine and feces, winning a deferment. Creative!

Hey Motor City Loudmouth--I've got something to add to your setlist.



On second thought, no. Sir Robin only wet himself once in battle, not before.

Hat tip Crooks and Liars

My Email to Naugle

Dear James Naugle,

Please add my name to the growing list of concerned South Florida citizens who would like for you to apologize for your recent homophobic remarks. Your poorly-chosen words have hurt a lot of people, and they've resulted in a massive amount of ill-will being directed to your city-- a city which, I think we can both agree, is generally a really nice place.

Please don't misunderstand me-- I'm neither a proponent of nor apologist for sex in public places. I agree that the law should always be upheld. What I object to is your description of this phenomenon as a "gay problem," when in fact-- according to law enforcement officials-- this really isn't an issue at all. You've manufactured a controversy and received lots of free publicity, but in the end I'm afraid that your slanderous remarks about an entire group of people will wind up destroying the city you represent (and presumably feel some affection for). So, please, in the name of decency and respect for others (as well as for the sake of your city), apologize to the gay community for suggesting that their sexual orientation makes them a danger to others.

Best wishes,

William Bradley
Boynton Beach

John Ashbery Poet Laureate

of mtvU.

No, seriously.

And if you've got a problem with that, just consider that they might've played the easy card and gone the Billy Collins route.

Congratulations, John Ashbery!

You are now my myspace friend. :-D

Treatment of AIDS patients in Papua New Guinea

I realized that I can't really say much about this, except that it's really shocking.

In Papua New Guinea, desperate families are killing AIDS patients by live burial.

Margaret Marabe said families were taking the extreme action because they could no longer look after sufferers or feared catching the disease themselves.

Ms Marabe said she saw the "live burials" with her own eyes during a five-month trip to PNG's remote Southern Highlands.

PNG is in the grip of an HIV/Aids epidemic - the worst in the region.

An estimated 2% of the six million population are believed to be infected, and HIV diagnoses rise by around 30% each year.


AIDS awareness is still so new in so many places. And the responses of people who don't know much about it are alarming - as is this case. PNG's situation is particularly complicated because inhabitants of the island speak a multitude of languages, so the government is having difficulty getting the message out. I don't have a whole lot to say except that this woke me up more than the coffee did. I'm saddened and shocked by this.

(Speaking of PNG, a good travel narrative about it is Kira Salak's book Four Corners: One Woman's Solo Journey.)

Back to School

It's the first day of classes for most of us who teach here at Incertus-- actually, Emily doesn't technically start until tomorrow, and I'm not sure about Brian and Amy's teaching schedule. Regardless, the semester has started, which has meant that I've been spending the past few days worrying more about creative nonfiction and pedagogical issues, and less on liberal outrage. Sorry. I'll get back on my game this week, I'm sure.

Anyway, to celebrate the beginning of a new academic year, here are some YouTube clips of some very important, ground-breaking movies.









Alberto Gonzales to resign?

Just heard it on C-SPAN and saw the blurb on the top of MSNBC.com. I'm wondering about the timing, since any replacement would have to get through Senate confirmation--unless Bush appoints someone as a recess appointment, or unless there's a done deal with the Senate already. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.

And I'm holding off on the celebrations--I celebrated after Ashcroft resigned, and look what that got us. We could wind up with Fred Phelps as AG.

What's happened to the Daily Kos?

I'm one of those rarities at the site Atrios likes to playfully refer to as the Great Orange Satan--a three-digit user. I'm the 842nd user to have signed up for the site when it went to the registered user system. To get a sense of scale, the site now has well over 120,000 registered users (including trolls).

But over the last two to three months, I've pretty much stopped commenting, stopped posting diaries, generally withdrawn from the community. Part of the reason is related to trying to build the readership here, and because I've become far more interested in feminist and GLBT issues, and while there are voices at Kos who deal with those things, I've found the smaller blogs who specialize in those things to be far more edifying.

But I think a larger reason can be illustrated by the recommended diaries section this morning. Three of today's top ten diaries--and this is some of the most coveted real estate in the blogosphere--are titled "I will not vote for Hillary in the general election," "If she is the nominee, I will vote for Hillary," and "The Moral Emptiness of the 'I won't vote for Hillary' diaries."

I just have no interest in moral posturing over various candidates. I'm at a point in US politics where any Democrat running for President is better, by a wide margin, than any Republican or so-called Independent. (Note to the Unity 08 folks--if you're really serious about forming a unity ticket, you might want to actually reach across party lines instead of talking to a center-right mayor and a staunchly conservative Senator.)

But it's clear that lots of people in that community do want to fight over that stuff--getting a diary to the rec list is tough, increasingly so since the community hit 6 figures--so to have 3 on essentially the same subject shows a huge amount of interest. Just not to me.

I still drop by to read the stories, but I've long since lost my trusted user status, and I'm not likely to try to get it back any time soon.

Talking to the Mayor

Amy's been posting her back and forth with the crupid (or, to use her word, stubatshit) Mayor of Fort Lauderdale in the comments, but I, being the egomaniac I am, decided to post my back-and-forth on the front page. I'll update if he gets back to me on my last reply.

When I started out, it's obvious I didn't think he'd actually reply personally. Turns out I was mistaken, so I'll give him credit for that much (although I still think mayorjames@aol.com is a ridiculous email address for the mayor of a city of over 100,000 people). So here it is--my conversation with the homobigoted Mayor of Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Dear Whoever-Is-Actually-Reading-These-Emails,

I feel sorry for you, if you've been stuck with the job of answering Mayor Naugle's emails right now. You're put in the position of defending a particularly odious man, a man who apparently has hated gays for his entire tenure in public life, and has only now, because he has been term-limited out of office, decided to make his true self known to the rest of the world, to the detriment of the city he claims to love.

Mayor Naugle, if you're the one actually reading this, if you haven't set your email to auto-reply or assigned some aide or intern to weed through the thousands of emails you're receiving, then here's what I really want to say to you. Resign. Go fulfill your dreams of gay hatred from some private industry job. I'm sure there's an AM radio station just dying to give you a time slot, or some newspaper group ready to syndicate a bi-weekly column full of conservative pseudo-Christian hatred (because Jesus would never pull the crap you've pulled) for you. Just stop maligning the citizens of this city in the process. Stop doing it on the taxpayer dime. Stop damaging our city's reputation to satisfy your inner hatred of homosexuals.

Sincerely...

Thank you for your email. I don't hate gays. I am just a mayor who wants to stop the illegal activity that is taking place in our parks and public places.
Jim



Dear Mayor,
Then you're a liar and unworthy to hold the position of Mayor of Fort Lauderdale, because it has been pointed out multiple times that there is no significant illegal activity taking place in our parks and public spaces. Further, you've singled out the gay community for activity that is not uncommon among heterosexual couples. Why is that, sir? Why single out gays if you don't harbor some bias against them?

I suspect you're using gay hatred as a stepping stool to some future activity, and you're doing it at taxpayer expense. You are dishonest in your arguments, sir, and you are dishonest as to your motives, and you bring shame to our city and its inhabitants as a result.

Sincerely...

Thank you for your email. We made two more arrest in the park on Monday.

Jim


Dear Mayor,
According to local news sources, there have been a total of eight arrests in the last two years, and five of those were done in one sting. That's hardly an epidemic of public sex in an area of this size. And again I ask--why are you singling out the gay community on this matter? I assure you, heterosexual couples have sex in public places. It's practically a cliché to hear stories of kids who were conceived in the back seats of their parents' cars. Or is it just that gays get you news coverage because they're a minority you can usually pick on and know that at least one segment of the community will back you because of their own gay hatred?

Find a different scapegoat, Mayor. The gay community and their straight allies (like me) aren't going to drop this.


He's not exactly long-winded. There's also nothing reported in the Sun-Sentinel's pages about the two most recent arrests, at least not that I could find.

I also don't think Naugle is going to resign. He's in it until he's forced to leave the office, no matter what damage he does along the way. He has accomplished one good thing, though. He's brought attention to the position of Mayor in the city. Naugle has apparently been re-elected so many times in part because he's a close friend of developers, and because the position is surprisingly low profile. The fact that the election is generally held in February or March doesn't help things either. Hopefully this will change the next time there's an election for the post, and citizens will pay more attention.

This will make you ill

And if it doesn't, shame on you. Call or write your Congressperson and tell them to take whatever action is necessary to protect these people.

The Ben Gamla Charter School

Is, in my opinion, doing something good: they're teaching, right here in Broward County, the Hebrew language, and letting the students receive instruction in one regular class (science, math) per day in Hebrew. I' m not a fan of the "charter school" system (why below), but I think it's a great idea for a public school to serve its community in this way.


“It’s not a religious school,” said Peter Deutsch, a former Democratic member of Congress from Florida who started Ben Gamla and hopes to replicate it in Los Angeles, Miami and New York. “South Florida is one of the largest Hebrew-speaking communities in the world outside Israel, so there are lots of really good reasons to try to create a program like this here.”
...
Mr. Deutsch said Ben Gamla, named for a Jewish high priest who established free universal schooling in ancient Israel, received 800 applications in one week this summer. About half of the applications were from adjacent Miami-Dade County, but the school admitted only Broward County residents, ensuring that almost everyone from the county who wanted to attend could do so.
...
School officials have not asked students whether they are Jewish, Rabbi Siegel said, but 37 percent of parents identified Hebrew as their first language. Seventeen percent said Spanish was their primary language, he said, while 5 percent said Russian and 5 percent said French.

The school has a handful of black students, including members of a Baptist church that provides their transportation to and from the school.

There's nothing that improves a person quite like full-on foreign-language instruction. Learning to re-equate thoughts in a new alphabet and syntax has all the mental benefits of chemistry and math, and the added benefit of allowing people to connect with more total humans on earth, which I see as a prima facia good.

However, I also think it's worth their while to go through this painful period of national examination in which they will be forced to undertake the difficult task of removing all references to religion from their curriculum.

Rabbi Siegel said the school was proceeding with such extreme caution that even a neutral mention of religion was unlikely. The sign outside Ben Gamla was going to include a Hebrew phrase for “welcome,” Rabbi Siegel said, but because the literal translation is “blessed are those who come,” he decided against it.

“Even basic things, like if there was a page that had a picture of a shofar, I pulled it out,” Rabbi Siegel said, referring to the ram’s horn used in High Holy Day services. “We went so far overboard, it’s crazy.”

The school board rejected Ben Gamla’s first two Hebrew curriculum proposals after finding they included religious references. The second, which relied on a textbook titled “Ha-Yesod,” asked students to translate phrases like “Our Holy Torah is dear to us” and “Man is redeemed from his sins through repentance.”

Rabbi Siegel said the school would have omitted such phrases from lessons.
I think it is awesome that they are being put under this level of scrutiny, and being forced to respond in this way. This process might just result in the world's first fully-secularized Hebrew instruction curriculum. And that is a very good thing. But perhaps I should now stop praising the try and the conflict itself, and get to why I do not in general like charter schools.

Allan Tuffs, the rabbi at Temple Beth El in Hollywood, said he, too, was worried about the school and what it could lead to. “Jews have thrived in America as in no other nation,” Rabbi Tuffs said, “in large measure due to this concept of separation of church and state.”

He added, “Once a Jewish school like Ben Gamla is established, you know that fundamentalist Christian groups throughout America will be lining up to replicate this model according to their religious tradition.”

The only other charter school I have experience with is the one that my niece and nephews must go to because they live in Red River New Mexico, a very remote town with a very small charter school. It IS a Christian school. End of story. The 400 people in that small town wanted a Christian school for their kids, and they wanted the government to pay for it. And that's exactly what they got. My brother tried to raise his kids atheist and was absolutely run over roughshod -- they even taught his kids the "proper way to pray": how to hold the hands and pose the head and whatnot -- by this stupid Christian school. Rabbi Tufts obviously doesn't know this, but Ben Gamla is being discriminated against for being non-Christian. All over America Christianity is being slopped all over children at charter schools, and no one gives a damn.

Which is my last, and final reason that I like the Ben Gamla school: there might result from this conflict a national strategy for the regulation of charter schools, for keeping religious education from being paid for by all-of-us, and that would also be a very good thing.

"The miscreant fringe"

Jim Naugle's getting a lot of email these days, as one might expect of a homophobic mayor of a city with a large gay population and a large gay-friendly tourist industry. Especially when he continues to up the ante by making ever louder proclamations about what gays are supposedly doing in public places. The emails that the mayor's office forwarded to the Sun-Sentinel ran roughly 2 to 1 in support of the mayor. We need to change that, but I'll get to that in a moment.

Bradley wrote earlier that Naugle may be positioning himself for a post-Mayoral career in either a higher office or in broadcast media. At this point, I'm thinking the latter is most likely, because his support locally is limited. We have our wingnuts down here--one of the first mega churches in the US is on Federal Highway (I often raise my finger in salute as I drive past it) and I've written about my experiences with Brother Micah--but they're not enough to put anyone in Congress. Maybe the state legislature, but I doubt Naugle wants that sort of small fry. Not when a lot of his support is coming from outside Florida. Here are some of the letters:

"You should run for president! Thank you for your stand," hailed Dana Jones, a county commissioner in Cherokee County, North Carolina..

"It's time us straight people started taking our country back from these sick people and make them either get help for their disease or go to jail," wrote Robert Moon in Fort Worth, Texas, to the mayor.

Charming. The Florida ones aren't any better.

"We are glad to see that there is still someone looking out for families and morality. Some of our very good friends at Coral Ridge Towers South are gay. We like them very much. ... but the line has to be drawn," wrote Jack and Sally Tully....

"We appreciate your stand and encourage you to follow through with your convictions against evil in our city. We are truly blessed to have you in leadership," wrote Carol Krupta of Coral Ridge Ministries.

Let me just say this--Jack and Sally, y'all are assholes, plain and simple. If you're throwing your "friends" under the bus, you're not their friends, and I'm glad your gay neighbors have now had a chance to see you for what you are.

At least half the emails the Sun-Sentinel quoted came from out of state. It would be nice if they'd broken that down for us as well, but judging from the tone of the out-of-state emails, it's hard to imagine that Naugle has anything resembling a groundswell of support locally.

You can email Mayor Naugle at mayorjames@aol.com. At least, that's the email address provided on the city's webpage. Please be civil--don't get yourself into trouble over this--but be strong in your opposition to Naugle's policies and statements.

An Open Letter to Gay Vacationers from a Straight Guy and a Random Ten

As we all know by now, Jim Naugle is a hateful cretin who should be removed from office as quickly as possible. I've described him before as crazy, and stupid, and crupid (a unique combination of crazy and stupid). But I suspect I was wrong-- Naugle has consolidated a great deal of power in recent weeks, exploiting both children and public health concerns in order to promote a hateful agenda through misinformation. There's nothing crazy nor stupid about that, I'm afraid-- you see, I've come to believe that Naugle is positioning himself for a political career after his term ends. Maybe he'll run for Congress; maybe he'll just host a talk radio show. Regardless, Naugle has turned himself into a national figure, and he's rallied a lot of influential bigots to his side.

As a white heterosexual man, I can't claim to know what it's like to be discriminated against. While I certainly share your frustration and anger over Naugle's claims that homosexuals are inherently "unhappy" and fundamentally incapable of controlling their sexual urges, it would be wrong, presumptuous, and downright insulting for me to try to claim I know exactly how the gay community feels about such pronouncements. Likewise, it would be wrong for me to try to tell any gay person what he or she ought to do in the face of such abuse.

Nevertheless, I want to take the opportunity to ask those in the blogosphere and in the gay activist community at large to please, don't boycott Florida in general or Ft. Lauderdale in particular. I've read a lot of calls for the gay community to take their tourism dollars elsewhere, and I understand that motivation. The mayor's a hateful moron, the people of the city elected him, why should any sensible human being-- gay or straight-- support such a city financially?

Again, that's a sensible notion, but I think there's more at stake here then just punishing the mayor and his supporters. You see, I think Naugle was very careful not to tip his hand and reveal how he felt about gay people too early in his tenure as mayor-- it's only now that term limits are about to force him out that he's started calling press conferences to abuse innocent people and coming up with hare-brained schemed to build space-age homophobic toilets. I think I can pretty safely say that most of the population was unaware of Jim Naugle's hateful nature-- or at least how deep and irrational his hate is-- when they voted for him.

More important, though, is the fact that Ft. Lauderdale is just an awesome, beautiful, and traditionally gay-friendly city. And what's more, it's gay people who built it, really. I mean, sure, straight people had a hand in it too, but Ft. Lauderdale's unique character owes a lot to the influence of the gay businesspeople, artists, and tourists who have made the city their own. Jim Naugle and people like him would love to see the "gay element" removed from the city-- they want to turn the place into another bland, "family-friendly," personality-free place-- Orlando South, if you will. They would destroy the beauty and character of an entire city, all in the name of hate. And I'm afraid that a boycott would only serve to facilitate this transformation.

I'll admit, my motives are selfish. I've come to really like places like Ft. Lauderdale and Key West, where it seems that people are just more open-minded and friendly-- a direct result of having such an active and vocal gay community, I think. I like these places, and I don't want to see them changed. As I said before, I can't-- and shouldn't-- try to tell any gay person what he or she should do in response to Jim Naugle's rabid intolerance; it's not my place, and if I've seemed to presume to give orders in this letter, please accept my apologies in advance. But I do hope that those inclined to boycott will think hard on this, and I hope that everyone understands that Jim Naugle speaks only for himself and the small gaggle of rightwing loons who have rallied to his support.

Okay. Now, for something a little less depressing, here's today's Random Ten. Here's the dealio-- open up your iTunes, shuffle your music, and record the first ten. Even if what comes up is deeply humiliating-- like, Andrew Lloyd Webber humiliating-- record it honestly. If you can't trust a blogger, who can you trust?

1) John Cale-- "Turn the Lights On"
2) Squeeze-- "Pulling Mussells (from the Shell)"
3) Tony Basil-- "Mickey (Spanish Version)"
4) Tom Jones-- "It's not Unusual"
5) Talking Heads-- "And She Was"
6) The Rolling Stones-- "Brown Sugar"
7) Reel Big Fish-- "The 90's"
8) Morrissey-- "We Hate it When Our Friends Become Successful"
9) Elvis Costello-- "Lipstick Vogue"
10) The White Stripes-- "The Air Near My Fingers"

Caveat Emptor and the Random Ten

The headline pretty much says it all: Broward tax notices bring little relief for some property owners. Last year, during the governor's race, the talk was all about property tax relief, and the question wasn't whether there would be a tax cut, but what form it would take. Well, it's here, and it doesn't look like much of a break at all for a lot of homeowners. (Side question--why are we facing such a huge budget deficit this year then?)

Under the legislation that Gov. Charlie Crist signed this summer, local governments must roll back their tax rates. The size of the cuts depends on how much extra revenue they reaped during Florida's real estate boom, but the average savings for homeowners statewide is expected to be $174.


That's a pesky word, average. Not really good for describing the effect on a wide range of people. Better way to look at it is median.

Despite the state legislation, taxes are not necessarily going down.

Some cities, including Lauderdale Lakes, North Lauderdale and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, are considering invoking an opt-out clause in the tax-relief plan. By a super-majority vote of their governing boards, they can ignore the required cutbacks.

And while the state Legislature cut taxes to be paid to cities and counties, it increased property taxes that pay for public schools — about a third of most tax bills. Also, some governments are increasing other fees, including the assessment for fire protection.

I'm shocked. Shocked! that a cut in taxes in one area is driving up fees in another, especially in a period of economic downturn. Property owners were loving it when the values of their houses were jumping 20-30% a year, as they were at the height of the boom, but now that they're stuck with a house that's "worth" more than it should be in any reasonable market, they're complaining about the ancillary costs, i.e. the taxes.

The problem, I've said before, wasn't so much the tax rate as it was the market. The market is sorting itself out, and so should the tax situation. But it's going to sting a lot of people in the meantime. The time to ask about this sort of stuff, by the way, was back in 2006. Vague promises about tax relief do no one any good.

Here's the Random Ten. Put your computer's music program on random, hit play, and record the next ten songs to pop up. Even if it's leftover Stryper for that mix cd you made for your ex after you split up. Here we go.
1. Wayfaring Stranger--Neko Case
2. The Way You Move--Outkast
3. In Your Own Sweet Way--Dave Brubeck
4. You Turn the Screws--Cake
5. Just Like a Gillian Welch Song--Split Lip Rayfield
6. This Modern Love--Bloc Party
7. Sweet Home Chicago--Eric Clapton
8. Long Letter--Lifesavas
9. Hang On--Teenage Fanclub
10. The Days of Forty-Nine--Spider John Koerner

So what are you listening to?

I've lost a friend, and I am sad...

[...confessional mode...]

I've been having a bad week: one of my friendships, which are the things I value most in this world, has come to an ignominious end. It's been dying for the past two years -- it's been in a coma for the past year -- and now it's gone. I did everything I could to save it, I really did.

It's the accepting that is the hard part.

There was no "falling out," no conflict or bad turn of events... just a friend who closed down and shut me (she claims everyone) out. I worried for her and still worry for her, because I think she is causing herself harm, but my saying so has led to an "ideological impasse" as she puts it: I want to be friends, and she does not.

You can call this immature (commentors did when I wrote about my problems to Cary Tennis), but I really do think human connection is the meaning of life, without which we are nothing. A very Mrs. Dalloway kind of thing. Or is it Howards End I'm thinking of? Only Connect! Something like that: I love people, my heart does not stay within my own chest, and losing a friend is like losing a part of myself.

And so... I am sad.

Publication News

I learned this afternoon that Borderlands, Texas Poetry Review, has accepted two of my poems for their next issue.

To celebrate, here's a touching moment from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie. You don't have to be high to like it, but it doesn't hurt.

Some Good Fucking News

A study published in today's New England Journal of Medicine reveals that-- contrary to popular belief-- many senior citizens still love gettin' busy well into old age.

This I love:

"'Most people assume that people stop doing it after some vague age,' said sex researcher Edward Laumann of the University of Chicago.

"However, more than half of those aged 57 to 75 said they gave or received oral sex, as did about a third of 75- to 85-year-olds."

Good for them, I say. And while getting older still scares me, I'm comforted by the knowledge that I'll still be able to violate my virginity pledge as I enter my eighth and ninth decades on earth.

Naugle's still at it

And he's finding himself with fewer and fewer friends, which is a good thing. Today it was the local tourism industry's turn to ask Naugle to just shut the hell up already.

The leaders of Broward County's tourism industry demanded Thursday that Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle stop his attacks on homosexuality even as he pressed them to change marketing designed to lure gay tourists.

Executives of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau and members of the Tourism Development Council accused Naugle of damaging the reputation they sought to craft in the two decades since the demise of Spring Break. They said while some gay tourists and gay-oriented conventions are reconsidering visiting, Naugle's comments have others fearful of coming if there is rampant public sex.

Naugle's only real friends now are the far-right nutter community and perhaps the developers who haven't filed for bankruptcy yet, but they're in no shape to help him. Today's demand was for him to stop the rhetoric. Before long, I hope, the demand will be for him to resign. Our local economy is in bad enough shape from the bursting housing bubble--we don't need to have a major tourist segment start boycotting us because of one loud-mouth who happens to be mayor.

Priorities

There's an interesting article on MSNBC about how the morning-after pill has been quite popular in spite of attempts by the religious right to quash it. I worry less about the ability of the religious right to get rid of Plan B now that I've read this, because of the huge profits it's making for Barr Pharmaceuticals--if there's ever a wedge to be driven between the business conservatives and social conservatives, it's profitability, and Plan B is very profitable.

It was the discussion at the end of the article I wanted to write about, though, because it gets to the objections by religious groups, most notably Catholic, to their being "forced" to provide this drug over the counter.

Deirdre McQuade, planning director for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, also expressed concern about pharmacy employees, saying they should have the right to refuse to sell Plan B for reasons of conscience. Some states have passed laws to protect this right of refusal.

“Pregnancy is not a disease,” McQuade said. “There is no absolute duty to dispense a non-therapeutic drug, but there is a basic civil right of conscience.”

I can't say I fully understand this objection. It seems ridiculous to me, frankly. When you work in retail--and pharmacy workers do that, just with a highly controlled product--what the customer is planning to do with the items you sell them is never a concern. Do we really want that kind of scrutiny put on our everyday purchases? Should clerks be forced to ask the guy buying an air pressure gauge if he plans to use it as a crack pipe? Or the guy buying an apple if he's going to use it as a bong? Should any clothing that could be seen as sexual come with a questionnaire attached to ensure it's not used as part of a for profit enterprise?

This is the sort of thing that makes me rail against those religious types who seek to impose their consciences on the rest of us. A non-Catholic shouldn't have to get any grief from a Catholic pharmacy worker for purchasing a legal drug, no matter the reason for purchasing it. It's a transaction, not a discussion of morality.

If you rent only one musical based on a drug propaganda film this year

Okay, that's a pretty limited set, but this is a fucking awesome movie.



Reefer Madness: The Musical

A move towards something

Some time ago I mentioned the incarceration of Haleh Esfandiarin by Iran. The Iranian government has now released Haleh from the notorious Evin prison. There's still a trial, but this is an important moment.

Esfandiarin cannot yet leave Iran (she has dual American and Iranian citizenship -- a necessity for Iranian-Americans who have family still in Iran). Her 93 (plus) year old mother has put up her own household deed to make the bond.

If you're interested in what scholars are doing about this and have to say about this, check out Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

Oh my goodness

I have nothing to say about this. Pam says all that needs to be said.


Oh goodness.

Really, just go look at this.

Some (slight) movement on no-fault

There's a plan to renew Florida's no-fault insurance law for another year and then work on revamping it in the next session. Right now, that seems to be the best we can hope for. The snag seems to be in the House, where the majority Republicans want a revamp or nothing, i.e. let it expire. So if you live in a district with a Republican House member, call or email him or her and say that you support the no-fault extension, that a year more of what we have won't hurt anything, and that a better revamp can be done with more time to haggle over the details. Personally, I don't want a change, but if no-fault dies now, it will likely be a long time before we ever get it back.

The Sun-Sentinel Gets It Right

Here is an interesting, sensible editorial from this morning's Sun-Sentinel, arguing that the Board of Governors should be responsible for setting tuition at Florida's state universities and community colleges. This is, after all, one of the reasons the group was created back in 2002.

The editorial suggests-- and I happen to agree-- that the decision to give this power to the Board should be an obvious one-- they know the university system, they know what it needs, and giving them this power wouldn't be giving universities a "blank check" to just spend money recklessly (though I must admit, I'm hoping to get a fireman's pole and a waterslide in the English Department office)-- the legislature and governor will still have a role to play in terms of funding higher education, which is as it should be. But while Florida may pride itself on providing low-cost educational opportunities to students, as the editorial points out, "the state simply can't operate a top-notch university system on the cheap." And it is in the state's best interests to have a top-notch university system-- it's good for the individuals who take the classes, and it's good for the state's economy to have highly-educated people living and working here.

Conservatives Don't Read

An Associated Press- Ipsos poll has revealed what many of us have suspected all along-- people who identify themselves as liberals read more books than people who identify themselves as conservatives.

According to the poll, 22% of liberals and moderates say that they haven't read a book in the past year. Yeah, that's kind of mind-boggling, but compare that to the 34% of conservatives who admit that they haven't read a book in a year. Furthermore, "Among those who had read at least one book, liberals typically read nine books in the year, with half reading more than that and half less. Conservatives typically read eight, moderates five."

Okay, to be honest, this news isn't all that interesting. Liberals read more than conservatives-- that's pretty obvious. And a difference of 12% in a poll with a margin of error of plus or minus 3% isn't really that significant (seriously, my fellow liberals-- let's get on the stick and each try to read at least one book a year). But what I like most about this story is the response from White House spokesman Tony Fratto: "Obfuscation usually requires a lot more words than if you simply focus on fundamental principles, so I'm not at all surprised by the loquaciousness of liberals."

So, you see, conservatives don't read because words are dumb. They distract us from the simple, self-evident truths (or "fundamental principles") that conservatives just know intuitively. Of course, the fact that Fratto attacks liberals' devotion to fancy book-larnin' is especially funny, as he employs the words "obfuscation" and "loquaciousness."

Remember folks-- according to a prominent White House official, conservatives are willfully aliterate. Tell your friends.

If I win the lottery tomorrow, I'm totally buying one



Don't ask me why--I'm not sure I can explain it--but I would so spend $57,500 (in lottery winnings) to buy the new DeLorean. Okay, it's not really new--more like somewhat updated. Original body, mostly original parts, peppier engine, better electronics--the gull wing doors!

Okay, I'm geeking all over the place here. I'll get someone to clean that up.

And he just won't stop ...

Jim Naugle had yet another news conference today.

At a news conference in front of City Hall on Tuesday, Naugle and other speakers called on gays to end promiscuous sex in order to stem Broward County's HIV/AIDS crisis. Though the health department has no statistics concerning how many cases of HIV are contracted via sex in public bathrooms or parks, Naugle has tied the two issues together.


Naugle's of course using outdated statistics. Broward county is no longer the first in the nation in new AIDS cases among gay men.

Moreover,
Black, heterosexual women make up a significant number of new HIV cases. Women make up a third of the 6,913 HIV cases diagnosed in Broward in the past 10 years.


And if it weren't enough that the speakers discussed the health crisis that Naugle is claiming (admittedly, news AIDS cases are fairly high, but as you can see above, they're not isolated to the gay community), the speakers veered into discussions of morality of homosexuality.

They're really reaching in their logic. In an effort to acknowledge that the new cases of HIV and AIDS in the county are not isolated to the gay community, one of the speakers explained that this

could be attributed to men on "the down low,'' that is men in heterosexual relationships who engage in gay sex and infect their wives or girlfriends.


Really, I'm hoping this is going to end soon. Damn, damn, damn. My head hurts from this.

I don't know if it's a first

but it's a damn fine development all the same:

That wrongheaded statute declared that Oklahoma would refuse to recognize "an adoption by more than one individual of the same sex from any other state or foreign jurisdiction." In other words, if a gay couple and the child they adopted in, say, California or Maryland moved to Oklahoma or simply drove through Oklahoma on vacation, they would not be treated as a legally recognized family by any Oklahoma official -- whether a police officer, public school teacher or judge.

Sounds un-American, doesn't it? It's also unconstitutional. That's what a federal court of appeals told Oklahoma on Aug. 3 in striking down the law. A panel of three judges -- all of them Republican appointees -- of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court ruling that Oklahoma's anti-family law violated the U.S. Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause, which requires states to honor one another's judicial judgments, including adoptions.

The appeals court also ordered Oklahoma to issue a revised birth certificate for an Oklahoma-born girl so that she is listed as the daughter of the women who legally adopted her in California.

Late last week, the Oklahoma Department of Health decided not to fight the ruling, so families headed by gay couples no longer need to fear traveling through or moving to Oklahoma with their adopted children.

The fact that Oklahoma isn't going to challenge the ruling makes this good law across the country, as I understand the process. SCOTUS can't overturn a case that doesn't get appealed to them, after all.

I'd like to think that this use of the Full Faith and Credit clause to protect the rights of same sex couples and their children will have positive effects on the push for national acceptance of same-sex marriage and the repeal of the horrendous Defense of Marriage Act, but I'm not getting my hopes up quite yet. Still, a victory is a victory, and we ought to celebrate what we can.

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