Archive for March, 2011

I Was Right!

When I was a wee cub reporter and pundit for Cat Tracks, the official newspaper of Buchholz High School, I wrote frequently about controversial current events. I used to love stirring up the static and getting people to think about uncomfortable political topics. (Obviously very little has changed.)

In a column about abortion, I quoted a statistic I  had read somewhere that one woman died every three minutes from illegal back alley abortions. It ran in the paper, and one particularly cranky anti-abortion group in Gainesville got very angry about this statistic. They pointed out that the Guttmacher Institute didn’t offer numbers anywhere near what I had reported during the years of abortion prohibition in the US. They demanded a retraction and even suggested that there might be legal consequences for the paper, for me, and for the school.

This was a big deal. The newspaper adviser, the fantastic Ms. Joan Maples, gave me hot holy hell (as I suppose she should have) for not having a reliable source. I tried to remember where I had read it, and called the local Planned Parenthood for help, but they didn’t have any idea what I was talking about. Nothing ever came of the complainant’s threats, but needless to say it left a stain of dishonor on my journalistic name.

Well, guess what? I was right! Worldwide, illegal abortions do cause one woman to die every three minutes. Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal said so in 2004:

“What the United States does impacts not only American women but all women worldwide,” said Smeal. “One woman dies every three minutes from botched illegal abortions.”

Hooray! I’m vindicated! In your face, cranky anti-abortion jerks.


I’m a little sick of dubstep, but this video really made me smile. It’s from Mike Diva, the same guy who hosted the Sexy Sax Man vid.

Today I’m listening to: Terence Blanchard!

Communism is Good

Sometimes communism works. In the US we think communism is the worst thing ever, and we hate the very word itself. But in reality, we practice good communist activity every day of our lives.

The Take a Penny, Leave a Penny tray is communism in its purest form. Think about it. In 1875, Marx laid down the basic premise behind communism like this: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!” (TIL that it was a popular sentiment among socialist circles for decades before Marx’s famous sentence.)

This is precisely how the penny tray works. If you have an extra penny (the ability to donate $0.01 to someone else), you leave a penny. If you need a penny, you take one. Simple. Communist. Effective. No one gets hurt. There’s no coercion, no Big Brother ordering us to leave or take pennies. It’s self-organizing (and anarchistic, I suppose) communism, and we all love it.

Could we take this further? How about Take a Nickel, Leave a Nickel? Take a Dollar, Leave a Dollar? Seems like — as soon as the amount gets big enough — some people would just snatch it all up and the tray would always be empty. But it would be an interesting experiment.

(pic from the south in my mouth)


I haven’t watched it yet, but Cornel West is almost always worth a half-hour of our time.

Today I’m listening to: Negativland! (From where the post title comes. Please note that I do not consider Christianity to be stupid.)

Christianity Is Stupid

I’ve done a good job lately of ignoring Sarah Palin, in part because a new oblivious, insane Tea Party tool of Americans for Prosperity has come on the scene. Her name is Michele Bachmann, and she’s fascinating. Positively crazy.

The Positive

First, I need to give the devil her due. She and her husband have been foster parents to 23 children. I will assume they were kind parents, although maybe they taught those kids some weird things. Whatever; that’s a noble thing to do. Lots of kids need loving homes, so I recognize her good work there.

She once opposed a “School to Work” program because it treated kids like “trainees“. I’m also opposed to the business model of education. She and I probably oppose this sort of thing for very different reasons, but strange bedfellows and all that.

She opposed the 2007 surge in Iraq. (That surge may have resulted in fewer deaths in Iraq, but I was opposed to it too.) And she opposed the Wall Street bailout. Again: different reasons, I’m sure, but I’ll give it up whenever the venn diagram overlaps.

Teh Crazy

Okay, let’s get to the fun stuff. In case you haven’t been paying attention:

  • Despite her constant complaining about government programs, her family farm received over $250,000 in 10 years.
  • In 1991 she fought against giving money to a local hospital for a morgue, because they perform abortions.
  • She helped open a charter school in 1993 that taught creationism and banned the movie Aladdin because it supposedly teaches paganism.
  • She has worked for years to create a constitutional amendment making same-sex marriage illegal. Lots of other people endorse this too, but that doesn’t make it any less insane.
  • She voted against a bill in 2007 that increased Pell Grants and lowered student loan interest rates.
  • She introduced the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act. I swear to Jebus I’m not making this up.
  • She has called for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Again, she’s not alone, but it’s still crazy. Same with intelligent design and evolution as “unproven theory”.
  • She believe global warming is “voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax”.
  • She calls carbon dioxide “a harmless gas”. To be fair, in small enough amounts, the same can be said of Zyklon B.
  • She insisted that media outlets try to find members of Congress who are “anti-American”. (This helped convince Colin Powell to vote Democrat in 2008.)
  • She soon took back that statement, and then immediately accused Obama of endorsing socialism.
  • She refused to take part in the 2010 census.”I know for my family the only question we will be answering is how many people are in our home,” she said. “We won’t be answering any information beyond that, because the Constitution doesn’t require any information beyond that.”
  • She said of her opposition to cap-and-trade policies: “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue”.
  • She opposes AmeriCorps because she believes it will lead to “re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums”.
  • Her son, meanwhile, volunteered for Teach for America (an AmeriCorps program).
  • She made up crazy numbers about Obama’s 2010 trip to Asia.
  • She considers “ObamaCare” and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law extreme far-left bills, despite the fact that both of them are just tiny little baby steps in the right direction.
  • She said Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty’s tax-free zones were based on Marxist principles.
  • She wants to abolish Social Security and Medicare.
  • She’s a big fan of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide Ministry.

And then there’s the following seventeen-second YouTube video. Maybe she didn’t put it up herself, but I expect she authorized it. (“People won’t sit still for a three-minute discussion of the issue. Just put up seventeen seconds’ worth. It’s like the Twitter of YouTube.”)


Today I’m listening to: Groove Salad! Donate!

Against US Airstrikes on Libya

I’m opposed to the US airstrikes against Libya, mostly because I think we raced into war (yet again) without carefully deliberating on what it will mean for us and the people of Libya. Some folks in Libya want US and other countries to step in; some do not. The Arab League supported the no-fly zone idea, but the AL chief spoke out against the US airstrikes.

Despite his insistence in 2007 that the President could not legitimately order military action without consulting Congress, that’s exactly what Obama did here. He’s telling us it will be over quickly, that we’ll get rid of The Bad Man, that we’ll stay focused on our main purpose, and we’ll have Mission Accomplished before you know it. Well, as the postcard on my bulletin board at school says: “I’m not cynical. I’ve been taking notes.”

Obviously there are other despotic leaders doing exactly the same things that Gaddafi has been doing. Yemen, Bahrain. This has a lot to do with oil and geopolitical power and US hegemony, no question. I simply don’t trust the people who order US forces into battle. I don’t believe we’re actually interested in human rights or democracy or the rule of law. (If we were, we’d demand that Israel cooperate with UN Security Council resolutions, too.)

At the same time, it’s clear that the world community has insisted that Gaddafi back down from killing his own people, and that he refuses to do so. Obviously it’s a false choice to pretend like we have to either drop bombs on everywhere, or “do nothing”. So what do we do?

I’ll admit: I don’t know. I heard that we only gave the sanctions two days to work. Seems like the original no-fly zone (and only the no-fly zone) would be a good place to start, and see what happens if we only do that. But then Gates said on 2 March that we can’t have a no-fly zone without airstrikes. So then what?

To do a great right, do a little wrong”?

Is it possible that arrogant US imperialist military action could in the end save lives? Madsimian will be happy to hear me admit that this may have, in fact, happened in Kosovo. I don’t know; I don’t feel qualified to judge that situation. Chomsky refers to a Wall Street Journal analysis that contradicts the official version of NATO involvement in Kosovo. But then Milosevic withdrew only after the bombing campaign left him with no alternative. Right?

At the very least, we need to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Are we willing to bomb schools and TV stations? (As we did in Kosovo, since Milosevic was using them for military purposes.)
  • What if we bomb foreign embassies and/or civilians?
  • What’s the endgame? It seems so very tough for us to leave a warzone but we’re always so quick to jump into them.
  • How much will it cost? (I thought we were broke!)

As I say, I’m opposed to the entire affair. But I’m very interested to hear what other folks have to say.


I’ve become a fan of the Al Jazeera English show Empire, even though the host Marwan Bishara speaks in a somewhat annoying way. Here’s the show about Libya from 12 March.

Today I’m listening to: Meat Beat Manifesto! (It’s in my brain now.)

Mmmm, Pint Glasses

Thanks to my awesome brother Mark and his special lady Janeen; my buddy Steve; and Westfield Comics (which just recently opened a new branch on Willy Street), I now own the three coolest pint glasses ever made. (Click for the full-sized version.)

Special thanks to my awesome special lady Diane, for linking us to Carolyn Hax, who posted a fantastic story from one of her readers this weekend.

When my youngest son, Ethan, was about 4, we were invited to swim in a neighbor’s pool with their family. Also invited was a young man who had lost one of his legs in a motorcycle accident. Ethan watched the young man unstrap his leg at the edge of the pool, and then quietly approached him. Ethan whispered, “Are you a transformer?” The young man nodded and replied, “Yes, I am. I’m an Autobot.” Ethan was stunned. The young man slid into the water and as he performed his physical therapy my son followed in an inner tube. For more than an hour this man spun the most outrageous tales of his exploits as a transformer for one awed little boy. Before he left he told me it was one of the best days since his accident.

Freaking awesome.


I have a new favorite economist: Mark Blyth. He’s on the most recent To The Best of Our Knowledge.

I also just learned about a new documentary film (which I cannot wait to see) called The Flaw.

Today I’m listening to: TTBOOK!