Not much time for blogging recently, but I did want to state the obvious and say that beating Bush's brains in (metaphorically speaking, of course, so please stay away from my door, Mr. Secret Service man) and "leaving the Republican leadership lying in the gutter and begging for mercy" certainly works for me as the ultimate outcome of the struggle to stop those guys from gutting Social Security. See Political Animal for the details.
Scott Schwartz, of Golda's Balcony and Bat Boy fame, will direct a Jan. 20-21 staged reading of the 1970 musical The Me Nobody Knows.
The property has been working toward a possible Broadway revival for some months now. Director Maurice Hines was previously attached to it.
The new reading will feature Utkarsh Ambudkar, Nicole Lewis, Ronny Mercedes, Dequina Moore, Brooke Moriber, [Dequina Moore,] Chiara Nivarra, Sabrina Reitman, Rydell Rollins, Cedric Sanders and Orlando Torres.
Nominated for five Tony Awards, the musical had a score by Gary William Friedman, lyrics by Will Holt and its material was adapted by Robert H. Livingston and Herb Shapiro, based on a 1969 book edited by Stephen M. Joseph. The musical won the 1969-70 Drama Desk and Obie awards for Best Musical.
The collection of songs inspired by the stories of inner-city kids was embraced Off-Broadway at the Orpheum Theatre in 1970 and transferred to Broadway to be a unique voice on the commercial landscape. Critics found it to be a breath of fresh air.
Livingston directed a cast of fresh-faced kids, including Irene Cara, Northern J. Calloway, Hattie Winston, Beverly Ann Bremers, Gerri Dean, Jose Fernandez, Douglas Grant, Melanie Henderson, Kevin Lindsay, Paul Mace, Laura Michaels and Carl Thoma. Patricia Birch choreographed.
Whitehorse Productions, LLC, will present the new reading, which will take place at Off-Broadway's Vineyard Theatre.
Tonight, TCM is showing The Wild One, the 1953 biker film starring Marlon Brando. It's a little difficult to take Brando's gang of supposed motocycle toughs seriously, since it prominently features Jerry Paris (who would be best known as Dick Van Dyke's neighbor, "Jerry Helper") and Alvy Moore (best known as the ditzy agricultural agent "Hank Kimball" on Green Acres).
Obviously, those roles were in their futures at the time they made this film, so contemporary audiences wouldn't see anything odd in the casting, but looking back from this perspective, it's a little weird. If the director of the movie knew that those actors would become best known for light comedy roles, it might make them think twice about casting them, since their perceived personas undercut their roles. Sitting here in the film's future, we're in a privileged position not available to those working on the film back then.
As liberals, this thought may give us some small measure of relief. Although the major mass media is reluctant to challenge George W. Bush, or even hold him up for close inspection, history and historians will have a completely different perspective. Although it may be a little late in coming, we can certainly hope that their judgment on Bush will be somewhat more balanced and objective than that of our contemporary media, and that they see his faults (obvious to us, if not to most journalists) clearly, and report them accurately.
I get a fair amount of stuff via e-mail that purport to tell a funny but true story about something-or-other, and the first thing I do is to check them out at Snopes.com to see if there's actually any validity to them -- and there usually isn't. (That's assuming that I haven't seen them 20 or 30 times before, and therefore already know that they're not true.) The odd thing is that the stories are sometimes good enough to be funny even if they're just made up, but somehow stamping them with the imprimatur "this really happened" is supposed to validate them and make them funnier.
It doesn't work for me, and I really do object to things that are fictional being touted as fact. It spoils the humor knowing that people are being misled, and reality is possibly being misrepresented. If an idea is funny, then it can be written up and appreciated without being labelled as an actual slice of life.
Novelists, of course, sometimes go to great lengths to convince readers that they're telling real stories about real people, but it's clear from the format of the novel and where they are in the bookstore or library that they're actually fictional, and the author is simply using a convenient framing device to increase people's enjoyment of the story. The same goes for stand-up comics who present their material as if it comes directly from real-life: the format and circumstances surrounding their performance clues us in that we're getting an edited, highly stylized and hand-crafted version of reality designed to be funny and perhaps at the same time (in the best of all possible worlds) reveal some truth about contemporary reality.
But with stuff circulated on the web, there's no outer frame to clarify things, and people are indeed taken in by stuff that seems, to me at least, to be ridiculous, simply because someone has asserted that they're true.
(As one of my friends points out, we can point to the recent election as a chilling example of what happens when people believe stuff that just isn't true.)
I think it would be really nice if everyone would take a moment to check out that "true" story before distributing it to every name in their address book -- and that goes for the not-so-funny stuff as well.
Update (1/23): For those interested, I'm in favor of motherhood and apple pie as well.
One state at the time of joining the United States had the right to divide itself into up to five separate states. The treaty of annexation by which the Republic of Texas joined the United States in 1845 included this provision; the state of Texas arguably retains that right by virtue of the treaty.
Although I'm neither a lawyer nor an expert on the subject, it seems unlikely to me that the state of Texas would indeed retain the right given to the Republic of Texas. I suppose the argument could be made, but I would doubt that it would be successful.
But assuming for the sake of argument that the supposition is true, that Texas has the right to divide itself up into 5 states, why wouldn't it do so? Because congressional representation is by population, the combined states would probably (depending on how they were divvied up) maintain, collectively, the same number of representatives in the House as the state of Texas currently has, although it could conceivably lose or gain a couple. But, definitely, it would gain 8 new Senatorial seats, and 8 votes in the Electoral College, a huge increase.
I guess there's some value in being one of the largest states in the union, but wouldn't that be outweighed by the additional clout in Washington that 8 more Senators would provide? Surely DeLay & Company can maintain the same iron fist of control over a mini-region of five states that they do now over one large one? Maybe the problem might be the avalanche of attempted secessions that could follow if Texas did split itself up, but that's hardly Texas' problem (and they rulers of Texas don't seem to have a great deal of concern for the welfare of the rest of the country lately).
When Norman Mailer ran for Mayor of New York in 1969 -- with Jimmy Breslin as his running mate, standing for City Council President -- I was in favor of their proposal that New York City secede from New York State and become the 51st state (keeping the name, of course, since it was our's first). Then, as now, upstate New York wields a disproportionate amount of power over the city, considering the relative size of the populations of the two areas, and the city is often hard-pressed to get back from the state's coffers services and programs equal to the amount of taxes sent to Albany from the city.
What does New York City have more of than New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Montana, South Dakota, Delaware, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming, all put together?
What do New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Montana, South Dakota, Delaware, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming have that New York City doesn't have?
Eighteen US Senators.
New York City has gets to share two senators with the residue of New York state, which is also larger than all these other states put together. In fact, there are 16 states with a combined population less than New York in its entirety.
Doesn't seem terribly fair, does it? The arguments for NYC as the 51st state are pretty strong, even though it will most probably never happen.
(FWIW, "The 51st State" was the name of a nightly local news and public affairs program on WNET, the PBS affiliate in New York, and I recall it as being pretty good.)
Other states might consider splitting up as well: California into North and South, for instance, or Florida into Panhandle and Florida. There's been some talk about making a new state -- variously called "Cascadia" or "Columbia" depending on which scheme is being discussed -- in the Pacific Northwest.
Breaking down large current states into smaller ones is arguably a move that increases democracy, as it helps to equalize the deliberate misbalance of representation created in the Constitution. The major drawback is that we'd have to figue out a new arrangement of stars for the flag, and we're out of practive, not having had to do that since 1959.
Can a new post from Billmon be a harbinger of a general return to blogging on his part? I would certainly hope so.
Billmon, I have no reason to think you ever read this blog, but if you do, please do consider coming back into the fray. We need your intelligence, your knowledge and your considerably skills as a writer and a rhetorician. Come on down.
I think I'll occasionally re-post some of the stuff here, if only to get it all under one roof. Here's a start (somewhat reformatted):
Ed Fitz Jun 23 1997, 12:00 am
From: edf...@aol.com (Ed Fitz)
Subject: Q&E (1/5): Culture & the Media
QUOTES AND EXCERPTS (1/5)
-Collected and compiled by Ed Fitzgerald
CULTURE & THE MEDIA
We emerge from our mother's womb an unformatted diskette; our culture formats us.
"James Rosenquist's F-111"
in Polaroids from the Dead (1996)
Americans have an extraordinary love-hate relationship with the rich culture they've created. They buy, watch and read it even as they ban, block and condemn it.
Jon Katz [JDK...@aol.com]
Virtuous Reality (1997)
We have entered a period of intolerance which combines, as it sometimes does in America, with a sugary taste for euphemism. This conjunction fosters events that go beyond the wildest dream of satire - if satire existed in America anymore; perhaps the reason for its weakness is that reality has superseded it.
"Culture and the Broken Polity"
The Culture of Complaint (1993)
A confusion of style with substance is fostered by any medium that allow advertising to be integrated into its fabric and format.
Martha Rasler (attributed)
The trouble with television is that if you have 12 million people watching you're a failure. That's insane.
Fred Friendly (attributed)
The nation whose population depends on the explosively compressed headline service of television news can expect to be exploited by demagogues and dictators who prey upon the semi-informed.
A Reporter's Life (1997)
At a time when people are being bombarded daily with more and more headlines and more and more information, they are, ironically, becoming less informed.
prospectus for the creation of Time magazine
Much of the information [in the "information age"] is not true. We live in a time besotted with Bad Information. ... Why get your news from seasoned professionals when you can get half-witted rumors from random strangers [on the Internet]?
"Reality Check" in
Washington Post (12/2/96)
Information isn't always power - just ask a librarian.
[The] Law of Information: 97.6 percent of all statistics are made up.
Joel E. Cohen
How Many People Can the Earth Support? (1997)
DISTENTION: Not inattention, but the refusal to involve oneself in issues that have no relevance over one's life. A necessary survival skill in a chaos-driven world.
Jim Taylor and Watts Wacker
The 500-Year Delta (1997)
Some protests are functional; they involve people taking direct action to achieve the desired result, such as chaining oneself to a tree to prevent its being cut down. Other protests are symbolic; they seek to inform the public or call attention to an issue through activities such as holding marches or making speeches. Sometimes protests are a combination of the two: chaining oneself to a tree is a functional but necessarily short-term solution, yet such an event is usually covered by the media and thus helps to publicize the cause of conservation.
So which form of protest is this supposed to be? Its ostensible purpose is a symbolic one — to "remind the people in power that the war in Iraq is immoral and illegal" — which leaves us wondering how this form of protest is supposed to help effect any change in circumstances The merits and conduct of the U.S. war with Iraq have been endlessly debated, in every medium, since the U.S. invasion of Iraq nearly two years ago. The war in Iraq was the primary issue in a long, contentious, headline-dominating presidential campaign that ended just a few months ago. The war is still one of the lead stories in the news nearly every day. Many different polling organizations and major news outlets regularly survey public opinion on the issue. If the result desired by those who would engage in this protest hasn't yet been achieved, it's not because the issue hasn't received enough publicity or those "in power" are insufficiently aware of it.
All that aside, the suggested scheme is one of the least effective forms of symbolic protest one could devise: it literally proposes that people do nothing, and doing nothing generates little, if any, publicity or news coverage. Massing thousands of people in one place and engaging speakers to make rousing public speeches provide vivid, well-defined images for the news media to pick up on, but pictures of people not spending money just don't make compelling fodder for newspapers and television. (Images of normally bustling malls, restaurants, and airports standing eerily devoid of human traffic might make for a good news story, but public opinion on this issue is far too divided for this protest to be able to bring all business to a grinding halt.)
As a functional protest, this one is equally off the mark. Although a boycott can be an active form of protest (even though boycott participants are in effect doing nothing, they're following a course of action that directly affects the object of their protest), boycotts succeed by causing economic harm to their targets, thereby putting them out of business or at least requiring them to change their policies in order to remain in business. But the target of this boycott isn't an entity that has the power to bring about the desired resolution (i.e., the government) — those who will be economically harmed by it are innocent business operators and their employees. These people have no power to set U.S. foreign policy or recall troops from Iraq, but they're the ones who would have to pay the price for this form of protest, incurring all their usual overhead costs (e.g., lighting, heat, refrigeration) to keep their businesses open and paying employees' salaries, all the while taking in little or no income. (And no, it doesn't all even out in the end — restaurants, for example, aren't going to recoup their lost business through boycott participants' eating twice as much the next day.)
Whether the desired goal is laudable or not, a protest that has little chance of succeeding at its purpose but a high likelihood of harming innocent parties does no one any good. As we always say about these kinds of things, results are generally proportional to effort: If the most effort one is willing to put into a cause is to do nothing, then one should expect to accomplish nothing in return.
There's not getting around the fact that if the protest is so innocuous that no one will feel any effect from it, then it also so innocuous that it's worthless as a protest. On the other hand, if it's a rousing success, then the people who are hurt by it are NOT the people at whome the protest is aimed.
You really can't have it both ways. That's nothing to do with beign overly sensible, it's mere logic.
General stikes, of which this is a variation, are a pretty useless form of protest, because they're too amorphous and unfocused unless they pass some sort of tipping point, and when they do, they harm all sorts of people, and the economy, in ways that have nothing whatsoever to do with the aim of the protest.
What message are we sending by not spending money? -- that we're so pissed off about the policies of the Bush administration that we're willing to hurt innocent third parties by denying them our usual payments. Hey, maybe we should kidnap some doggies and kitty cats while we're at it and hold them for ransom, that'll show Bush he can't trifle with us. That should be effective too.
Now, if everyone were to go to Washington DC that day, not to protest, or march, or organize a demonstration with the usual stage and speakers and puppets and singers with guitars and sideshows and side issues, but simply with everyone standing in the streets with their backs turned to Bush's motocade and the White House, as I've heard some talk about doing, that would, in my opinion, be an enormously effective and powerful statement. It would generate striking images for the media to use, and that's a vital part of protesting -- what pictures are local news casts supposed to broadcast to illustrate the story that people are not spending money? They'll show pictures of people not at the mall, maybe, which will by their very nature be pictures of other people at the mall, or they'll use some kind of stupid stock footage, or they'll shoot some local loonies playing flutes and tambourines in the park. These images which send precisely the opposite message from that desired, which is that large numbers of average, everyday people are upset enough to do something.
The "middle class riot" on Bush's behalf in Florida in 2000 was enormously effective because it did appear to be the usually complacent bourgeois getting roused enough to do something. Never mind that the protest was a complete phoney arranged and paid for by the GOP and consisting of people they bought and paid for, it worked,it achieved its goals.
Sorry to be a "killjoy" about this, but that's just precisely the problem. This "protest" isn't about sending a message, or making a difference, or getting someone to reconsider, or attracting media attention, it's all about bringing ourselves some measure of joy by making us all feel better about ourselves. In other words, it's selfish and self-centered and narcissistic, about on the plane with eliminating world hunger by humbly praying for it to stop -- it makes the protestors feel good they they've done something, when, in fact, they've literally dropped a pebble in the ocean, from which no one ever sees the ripples.
I don't want to feel better by making useless symbolic protests that do nothing and mean nothing, I want to feel better by kicking the ruling oligarchy in the balls, by seducing away some of their outlying members into change parties, or getting some of their more sensible members to adopt positions that go against the official party line -- and, most of all, I want to elect people to office at the local, state, and federal levels who will stand firm against the raging neo-con ultra-interventionism and the neo-Guilded Age corporatism that Bush represents. A bulwark can be built brick-by-brick, but not if we're expending our energy on petty useless protests and expressing inchoate anger at party officials.
P.S. There's talk of impeachment, which I've said is another useless exercise, because impeachment will die on the vine, and the only signals that will be sent are (1) Democrats are just as out of control as the GOP was during Clinton -- totally partisan and unreasonable, and (2) The Democrats are the epitome of powerlessness. Those don't seem to me to be useful messages to be broadcasting to the general public.
We can talk privately about impeachment until we're all blue in the face, who gives a damn what we say? But as a public strategy for public officials who represent us, that's a far different thing. For them to harp on impeachment would be, in my judgment, a serious mistake, since I'm serious about wanting to win a fucking election now and again.
Afterthought: There's a certain amount of the culture of narcissism in this country -- and especially in liberal circles -- in which making oneself feel good or "validating" one's feelings is seen as just as important (perhaps even more so) as dealing with facts and getting things done.
In my opinion, that's booshwah -- one turns oneself inward, into a self-fulfilling coccoon, and the other turns us outwards, towards the rest of society, the people we have to live with and work with, and the culture we need to change. One's contemplative and ineffectual (except, perhaps, for achieving some preferred inner state of being) and the other is social and productive and gets things done.
I'm all for inner satori, but I'm much more interested in living in a just and moral world, and, despite any number of koans to the contrary, a balanced inner life can only lead to that if positive, practical steps are taken. Otherwise we're just staring at our navels or jerking off -- because the enemy surely isn't spending his time worrying about the niceties of inner peace, he's out there raping and looting the environment, unduly influencing government through the great financial power of large corporations, and invading foreign countries at the drop of a hat. He's totally and completely outer-directed, and is satisfied by the prosaic meat-world rewards that come with it (i.e. wealth, power, fame). Anyone who thinks we're going to fight a power like that, directed in that manner, but doing things that feels good is, I believe, very mistaken.
Those folks don't particular cares how something "feels" internally, they want results and they know how to get them. We want results and we putz around doing what feels good. Who's going to win that contest?
(Recently, my behavior was criticized by a close personal friend, but because the criticism was expressed in the language of "feelings" -- this person "felt" that I did such-and-so when I shouldn't have -- they were appalled that I would dare to contradict their accusation and offer a defense of my actions. Appalled because one isn't supposed to contradict "feelings," one is supposed to respect then and validate them, they are held to be inviolate and beyond criticism, when, in fact, in this case they were merely the sham outer clothing for what was an explicit criticism of my behavior. Personally, I refuse to be drawn in by this ploy -- everyone's got the right to have feelings, but there's not particular reason why everyone else has to respect them without reservation.
Eliot Gelwan recently linked to this Scientific American article which says that research now seems to indicate that high self-esteem -- until now the sine gua non of contemporary education, and part of the culture of narcissism I referred to -- may actually get in the way of academic achievment. This doesn't suprise me when one sees the high value placed in street culture on respect and the constant concern with being dissed [disrespected]. Such concerns get in the way of communication and understanding, and sometimes quite deliberately so: they're used as an aggressive tool for promoting conflict and resulting violence. A little less emphasis on being respected and promoting self-regard and a little more on respecting the disciplines of civil society might be helpful.)
An internal NYPD investigation has been launched into possible abuse of department-issued credit cards while Bernard Kerik was police commissioner, the Daily News has learned.
Investigators are poring through Police Headquarters computer data for evidence. Over the Christmas holiday weekend, detectives from the Internal Affairs Bureau seized all the computers from the NYPD office that issues credit cards, Social Security cards, driver's licenses and employment IDs under aliases to undercover cops, law enforcement sources said.
The sources say the investigators are studying how the credit cards were used and what they bought from August 2000 to Dec. 31, 2001, while Kerik was police commissioner.
The inquiry marks the third by a city agency involving Kerik's tenure as a city commissioner.
Since Dec. 10, when Kerik withdrew his nomination for U.S. secretary of homeland security citing concerns over an illegal nanny, The News has disclosed ethical lapses involving two simultaneous extramarital affairs, his ties to a mob-linked contracting firm, gifts he failed to disclose while working for the city and questions on renovations to his Riverdale, Bronx, apartment.
As the scandal widened, Kerik quit his lucrative partnership with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani's consulting firm.
The IAB investigators took the equipment from the Confidential Identification section, a small, out-of-the-way office in the Organized Crime Control Bureau on the 12th floor of 1 Police Plaza.
The veteran sergeant who runs the office, Ralph Chartier, was Kerik's supervisor in the Midtown South Precinct when the former police commissioner was a young cop there in the late 1980s.
Chartier has run the office since at least 1997.
Sources said that shortly after Kerik left office, allegations surfaced regarding misuse of the secret credit cards by several detectives who were close to the commissioner.
"If there were allegations back then, I assume they were investigated back then. I can only speculate on the timing of this," said Kerik's attorney, Joseph Tacopina. "We welcome any investigation, because it will separate the smoke and inaccuracies from the facts."
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne declined comment on the matter.
The bills incurred by the various undercover investigators are paid by their divisions - narcotics, for example - and the confidential ID office handles the paperwork.
The limit for most of the cards is between $2,000 and $4,000.
While not directly implicated in the credit-card probe, Kerik is the focus of probes by the city Department of Investigation and the Bronx district attorney's office.
The News disclosed that while he was city correction commissioner, Kerik broke rules on accepting gifts and offered favors to a mob-linked contractor that had hired his brother, Don.
DOI noted that Kerik failed to file a background form when he was appointed police commissioner in 2000, though he had filed one when named correction commissioner two years before that. Under current rules, all commissioners and other high-ranking officials must undergo background checks.
The Bronx district attorney is gathering information about Kerik's purchase and remodeling of two Riverdale apartments in 1999, while he was jails chief. The News reported that the apartments were combined and extensively renovated under building permits filed by a recently indicted contractor and a soon-to-be-indicted engineer. Tacopina has said the building hired the contractor and engineer.
The News disclosed yesterday that book publisher Judith Regan might be forced to testify about an affair she had with the married Kerik in the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001. At the time, Kerik was also involved with correction officer Jeannette Pinero, The News has reported.
Regan's testimony is being sought in a suit filed by a former Correction Department official who claims he was denied a promotion because he disciplined Pinero.
List of semi-finalists for this year's Koufax Awards for lefty bloggers have started to go up on Wampum. Head over there and vote for your favorites. Check back in occasionally as lists for new categories are posted, and don't forget to donate some moolah to help defray the cost of hosting the awards.
hostile to science
lacking in empathy
lacking in public spirit
out of control
Thanks to: Breeze, Chuck, Ivan Raikov, Kaiju, Kathy, Roger, Shirley, S.M. Dixon
i've got a little list...
Steven Abrams (Kansas BofE)
Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson
Roger Ailes (FNC)
Alan Bonsell (Dover BofE)
Bill Buckingham (Dover BofE)
George W. Bush
Bruce Chapman (DI)
The Coors Family
William A. Dembski
Leonard Downie (WaPo)
John Gibson (FNC)
Fred Hiatt (WaPo)
James F. Inhofe
Philip E. Johnson
by Joel Pelletier
(click on image for more info)
Stephen C. Meyer (DI)
Judith Miller (ex-NYT)
Sun Myung Moon
Elspeth Reeve (TNR)
Martin Peretz (TNR)
Richard Mellon Scaife
Susan Schmidt (WaPo)
John Solomon (WaPo)
Richard Thompson (TMLC)
Bob Woodward (WaPo)
All the fine sites I've
Be sure to visit them all!!
Arthur C. Clarke
Daniel C. Dennett
Philip K. Dick
Stephen Jay Gould
"The Harder They Come"
Ursula K. LeGuin
The Marx Brothers
Michael C. Penta
Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
"The Red Shoes"
"Singin' in the Rain"
Talking Heads/David Byrne
Hunter S. Thompson
"2001: A Space Odyssey"
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.
If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.
(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)
Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.