Thursday, March 24, 2005

 

Losing Their Souls Part Two

When I was young, I was told, taught, heard four things about Republicans. First, that they were rich. Second, that they looked out only for the rich and were strictly for fiscal responsibilty. Third, that they believed in small government that needed to be run like a business. Fourth, that they believed that whatever government there was (preferably "states rights") should stay out of people's lives as much as possible.

My education and experience with Republicans confirmed most of these early understandings.

During the Vietnam war, I even thought that perhaps I aligned more with the Republicans than the Democrats just simply because of the fourth premise. The door for my switching alliances opened with my dislike for L.B.J. That began when I was 11 and John Kennedy was killed. You see, Lyndon Johnson simply wasn't J.F.K., so I disliked him immediately. But soon, my negative feelings toward the man were enhanced when during the 1964 Democratic convention, Robert Kennedy, my new hero received that seemingly never-ending ovation and Johnson looked pissed during the cutaway shots of him. The real knife in Johnson's back was, however, the war. It was HIS war and I hated him for it!

Still, what were the other choices?

I kind of liked Nelson Rockefeller, though I didn't know much about his real politics. And then there was Nixon. Something told me that in spite of loathing Johnson, that given a chance, I could grow to loathe him even more. My intuition was correct.

It was George McGovern who pretty much totally converted me to a life of proudly proclaiming myself as a Democrat.

Still... that idea of keeping government OUT of my life seemed like at least a rather noble one. Privacy has always been a key issue with me.

And so, while I kept Republicans at a distance, there at least seemed to be some redeeming quality to them. All that changed in 1980.

It was with the entrance to the big national political spotlight of Ronald Reagan that the Republican party began to change. You see, after Watergate and the defeat of Gerry Ford, the Republicans panicked. They believed themselves to be on the brink of not only losing control of the White House and Congress, but possibly sinking into political oblivion as well. Many within the party firmly believed that in order to survive, they needed to develop a new voter base, not just the wealthy upper-class, but a kicker (if you will). They searched and they researched, they polled and repolled until they finally found their only opening, their only hope. The always disenfranchised religious right!

You see, the RR had never found a home in politics. The Dems didn't court them because they were out of step with the more liberal agenda. The Reps didn't court them because of the clearly defined separation of church and state. Besides, for the Republicans, those elitists of money and higher education, the RR were... far too common. To put it plainly, the two were totally incompatible.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. They were sitting there, ripe for the picking and the Reps needed something to help put them back into the game. Of course, the irony is... they sold their souls to the devil for the return to power.

Slowly, but surely, the RR began to demand their pound of flesh in return for delivering those precious "follow like sheep" votes. More and more, their religious beliefs worked thier way into the Republican party politique. The result is that the fourth clear cut understanding about the heritage of the Republican party wanting to stay out of people's lives evaporated.

Sure, the hard core traditionalist would argue that the Reps still believe in the concept... as in, less governmental hand-outs and bureaucracy, but what good is that bigger picture when at the same time they begin trying to legislate morality? Who cares about smaller government, if that smaller government wants to control what goes on in your bedroom? Who cares about the bigger picture when that smaller government wants to monitor and restrict your most private intimate choices and actions?

So now, here they are stuck. Like the little boy who wanted a little brother, only to later discover that the little brother is now twice his own size. Perhaps a better analogy would be be the traditional Republican as the chimpanzee trying to hide a gorilla by sitting on the gorilla's head.

And while I'm in the mood for a little Republican bashing, don't think that I've forgotten for a moment that it was the same Ronald Reagan who SWORE in the 1980 election that he would balance the federal budget (in traditional Republican style) and then turned around and quadrupled it, mainly over his Communistic phobia and a silly, misconceived notion about a "star wars" program.

Yes, the Republicans have totally lost their heritage... their soul. Personally, I'm just waiting for the day that the truly satanic religious right grabs the collar of the Rep party and pulls them down into the firey hell that so deservingly awaits them. The time will come, my friends, trust me on this one.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

 

Losing Their Souls Part One

The Terri Schiavo case. Another media event, non-event.

It's not unlike the night that ONE jerk in Des Moines, Iowa slipped a razor blade into an apple and dropped it into some kids bag on a slow news day. The result was that it got huge national attention and suddenly all of your neighbors were suspected of doing it too, thereby ruining the yearly anticipated ritual of "trick or treat" for millions of kids.

The Schiavo case is one in several THOUSAND such cases that happen all over this country annually. The only difference is that her parents knew who to turn to for attention, anti-abortion activists and the press.

But wait. Even the anti-abortionists, when forced into a corner, apparently disagree with the idea of keeping a vegatative human being alive for the sake of... ???? In a recent poll, over 90% of all Americans said that they would not want to live on in such a state. 82% of respondents who identified themselves as "fundamentalists" said that they too would NOT want to be kept alive under those conditions.

And then there is the White House and the Republicans... the debt-laden Republicans.

By taking a stand against cutting off Schiavo's feeding tube, they can pay back part of that huge debt that they owe the fanatical religious right. "See we kept our word," they'll say, "we're with you."

Personally, they could give a shit whether or not Schiavo dies or not. Frankly, there's little doubt that Congressional Republicans are praying for a ruling from a Clinton-appointed federal judge to blame the whole things on those liberal Democrats.

One needs only to look at Bush's record in Texas to see that he SIGNED a Republican-sponsored legislative bill into effect that allowed the state to remove feeding tubes! So has George found religion since stepping into 1600? I don't think so. What he's found is more politics.

It's all a part of the Republican party losing what little soul and legitimacy it had for ever existing with any influence in the first place.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

 

Once Again, The Answer Is Greed

It's "America's Favorite Pastime." Major League Baseball.

By the time that I was eight years old, I knew enough about it to root for the Pittburgh Pirates against those damned Yankees in the 1960 World Series and went on to become a Pirates/Steelers fan for life as a result of that great upset.

Still, I know now that I grew up in the transistion era. I believe that it was in 1966 that Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals challenged the owners unquestionable rights to "own" a player for the life of their careers. He won his case and free agency followed.

Now, I don't fault Flood for doing what he did or the courts for overturning the old ways. After all, team ownership could make a player's career a living hell if there was a run-in somewhere and often there was. But after the case was decided in favor of the players, the "Flood gates" (sorry) opened quickly and the bidding began on a new style of baseball... out and out full-blown greed.

It wasn't that the owners of old weren't greedy, but the newer set-up made it possible for whomever wanted to pay the most to acquire the best players over time and therefore potentially (if not assuredly) the best teams. Of course, this was great for the players, great for some owners, but horrible for the fans of a more economically-minded team.

For example, it meant that a team like the Priates could scout out great talent and sign them for as long a term contract as they could convince the player to sign. That's how the Pirates got Bobby Bonilla and Bobby Bonds. But of course, as soon as those two started posting superstar-like statistics, they moved on to teams that offered them the moon and the stars. Like I said... great for the players...

Where Major League Baseball screwed up from DAY ONE after the Flood case was in not establishing salary caps for teams like both the N.F.L. and N.B.A. do. It's a simple case of lack of self control and a grand dose of greed. It means that there is no parity in baseball. In fact, there are several INDIVIDUAL players who make more money per year than the ENTIRE Pittsburgh Pirates team payroll!

The players and the owners almost killed off the professional game with strikes in both the 80's and the 90's. To lure fans back to the ballparks (and to enhance their big television contracts), the owners knew that they had to do something.

Their bright idea was to introduce a new baseball that had more of a lively jump to it when hit. Of course, fans love home runs and that's what they got... more home runs. Whether or not corked bats are secretly allowed in actual games can only be left to speculation, but consider this fact. On one day in the 2001 season, there were more grand slam home runs hit... on ONE SINGLE DAY than in the entire 1966 season combined! Thank you owners, thank you new baseballs, thank you juiced bats, thank you steroids!

So now, an apparently bored U.S. Congess is looking into to the use of steriods in Major League Baseball. Talk about too little too late. Baseball has already taken it's "tough" stand on steroid use. Why a player caught using can be made to sit out a whole ten games! Wow. Spank my bottom.

Poor Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle and the rest of the all-time greats of yesteryear. Their legacy has been traded for a buck.

If Major League Baseball goes down the tubes on all of this, I say good riddens. Personally, I'd rather sit around and read about the real athletes of the game from long ago. Better yet, I'll go watch my local high school team play. Now that's some good, entertaining and pure sport.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

 

Goodbye Gonzo

It was labeled "Gonzo Journalism."

I'm not sure who coined the phrase, it may have been the author himself. But to a teenager with a yen for politics, his writings in Rolling Stone during the early stages of the 1972 Presidential campaign war, made it easy to understand the meaning of the description.

Hunter S. Thompson's writing was akin to letting Godzilla loose on the downtown district of a major city. His words flew carelessly and freely like the arms of a large out of control beast, striking unpredictably wherever they happened to land.

Frankly, I never knew what to believe. Thompson wrote that way. One line he would be claiming that he knew that Edmund Muskie was using some exotic drug from South America, the next he'd be sitting at a bar in New Hampshire with George McGovern at two a.m. discussing campaign strategy.

Maybe all of it was true. Maybe none of it was.

It didn't matter, really. It still left a lasting impression, if not for the inferences that he made, then just for way that he expressed them.

It was enough for me to make a direct connection when I met Hubert Humphrey in early '72 in downtown Dayton, Ohio. The main thing that I noticed about "The Happy Warrior" was that his eyes were totally glassed-over.

"I wonder if he's on those drugs that Hunter Thompson said that he was on?" I thought to myself.

And so it would go that winter into spring in Ohio in '72. I was working for McGovern (the youngest titled staffer in the local office) and weighing into what was "really" going on out there on the trail, via Gonzo.

I remember the Ohio Primary election night at the Neal House in Coumbus, being in the crowd of supporters and wondering if I'd see him there in the ballroom while we awaited George's arrival (I never did recognize anyone who looked like him, but did piss next to Howard Metzenbaum in the men's room and chatted briefly with Frank Mankowitz about the results).

I tried reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas but the subject matter didn't really grab me and the style, when applied to anything other than something I was madly into, didn't work for me either. This suburban Catholic boy knew about as much about drugs then as I did programming a computer back then (or now, for that matter).

Still, Hunter S. Thompson will always be special to me.

He opened my eyes to the fact that a writer's only limitations are those to which he himself cares to assign. Otherwise, it's all fair game.

That's no small gift, even if I use it sparingly and clumsily.


Blogger's Note: I have little doubt that despair over Bush's election this past November played no small part in Thompson's suicidal choice.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

 

It's A "Southern" Thang

"We talk real funny down here.
We drink too much and we laugh too loud.
We're too dumb to make it in no Northern town.
And we're keepin' the niggers down."

Such are part of the lyrics from the Randy Newman song "Rednecks," a rather sarcastically sad, but true piece of art from one of the best (and more under-rated) songwriters in the last 40 years.

The fact of the matter is, the old south is still very much alive, even 32 years after Randy penned those words.

Sure, Blacks have their legal rights, but "rights" without respect usually amounts to squat.

But the southern "good old boys" are still here, stretching from the Carolinas through Texas and as far north as little Dixie, Indiana (still, home to the largest population of card-carrying KKK members in the nation).

Some of these folks have learned to be a bit more politically correct. They'll size you up before using the word "nigger" to refer a black person.

Still, change in the south has been anything but swift. They like it that way... and for a reason. You see, the old ways still offer that stupid, ignorant good old BOY (they call themselves "boys" for a reason) something in their own minds that make them superior to something... someone.

The old mentality shows itself in many ways, but one comes home to roost with the recent Daytona 500.

The same boys who love to proclaim "you hit 'em, you get 'em" (an old bowling phrase) only apply that phrase when it works to their point of "reasoning." Why else would thousands upon thousands of fans curse Jeff Gordon after winning the 500 this year? Why else would so many of these "good old boy redneck NASCAR fans" hate such an influential and successful driver?

It's simple really and southern boys don't root for underdogs, so it's not because they think that Gordon has won too often.

The fact of the matter is that Gordon ain't one of them. He's mannerly, intelligent and well-spoken (hell, he ain't even got hardly no accent neither!). Forget the fact that he has proven himself to be one of the greatest stock car drivers of all-time. He ain't one of them dumb-as-a-rock boys. Dale Earnhardt Jr., now THERE is a good old boy. Born and raised in North Carolina with that thick accent that the boys wear like a medal, complete with the aww-shucks, the misuse of the English language, peppered with a few generally censored expletives. Now THERE'S a man to be loved, godammit!

To make matters worse, Gordon has been to a large part the reason why NASCAR's popularity has expanded to the astounding rate that it has today and that's the last straw.

To the boys, it's like a northerner visiting his southern aunt one summer and running off with her daughter Betty Sue, the town sweetheart.

You see, the boys think that THEY own NASCAR, not the whole damned country! And for years, NASCAR was just like the boys... down and dirty, stupid and ill-mannered. Not any more.

Today, NASCAR is politically correct, just like the NFL, minus the "niggers," so Gordon is NASCAR's "nigger."

So it's "fuck you Gordon, you pansy-assed faggot" (the boys love calling any and everyone a faggot that hasn't fucked their sisters, so that excludes most of their friends and family). Just like Sherman, Gordon has marched to the sea once again and robbed the south of something that the boys feel is rightfully theirs.

As I said, these good old boys don't take to change too well. Gordon took their dirty, petty (no pun intended), even sometimes hateful little sport and put a bright new spotlight on it. For that, he is to be damned.

But the year is not a total loss. The boys did after all get four more years of one of their own kind, stupidity and all.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

 

Here We Go!

From A.P., yesterday, Wednesday, February 16... this case deals with pornography.

Billed as the government's first big obscenity case in a decade, the 10-count indictment against Extreme Associates Inc. and its owners, Robert Zicari, and his wife, Janet Romano, both of Northridge, Calif., was dismissed last month by U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster of Pittsburgh.

Lancaster ruled prosecutors overstepped their bounds while trying to block the company's hard-core movies from children and from adults who did not want to see such material.

The Justice Department said it will appeal the ruling to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. While acknowledging the importance of the constitutional guarantee of free speech, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said selling or distributing obscene materials does not fall within First Amendment protections.

"The Department of Justice remains strongly committed to the investigation and prosecution of adult obscenity cases," said Gonzales, who pledged during his confirmation hearing to pursue obscenity cases.

If allowed to stand, Lancaster's ruling would undermine obscenity laws as well as other statutes based on shared views of public morality, including laws against prostitution, bestiality and bigamy, the department said in a statement.

Zicari said he was not surprised by the decision to appeal. "They touted my case for almost a year and a half about this being an important step in kind of stamping out the adult product as we know it," he said in a telephone interview. "You'd think our government has a lot more things to worry about with the war in Iraq ."

Prosecutors charged Zacari and Romano and their company with distributing videos to Pittsburgh through the mail and over the Internet. Mary Beth Buchanan, the U.S. attorney in Pittsburgh, has said the case was not about banning all sexually explicit materials, just reining in obscenity. Extreme Associates' productions depict rape and murder, Buchanan said.

When she announced the indictment in August 2003, Buchanan said the lack of enforcement of obscenity laws during the mid- to late-1990s "led to a proliferation of obscenity throughout the United States."

In his opinion, Lancaster said the company can market and distribute its materials because people have a right to view them in the privacy of their own homes.

Lancaster relied in part on the Supreme Court's June 2003 ruling that struck down Texas' ban on gay sex, which it called an unconstitutional violation of privacy.

So, let's see if we've got this straight. The Bushettes are spending a ton of taxpayer money to send a pornographer to prison for "DEPICTING" rape and murder in his videos.

And this is from the folks on the White House crew who are actually committing or condoning sexual abuse (Abu Ghraib) and murder (Iraq).

If the White House handled this case like it handles it's own blunders, the kid who boxed up those x-rated videos at the warehouse would go to prison for ten to fifteen, while the owners and producers would be called a heroes by the president.

Personally, I have no use for pornographers and their wares. I have even less use for the lying, hypocritical, piece of shit bastard who has the gull to stand up and claim to the world that "it's all about freedom" while sanctimoniously picking and choosing our own.

This is just the beginning of round two of this bull shit.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

 

And The Winner Is... (Part Two)

Hooray! Hooray! Tonight is the annual Grammy Awards! It's music's answer to the Oscars.

Now, in all fairness, while there are hundreds of films released each year, there are literally hundreds of thousands of recorded tracks released in any given year. That's a whole lot of listening, even for a large committee. And that's where the problem begins.

Only a fraction of the released music even gets heard in the first place and THAT music is submitted by the record labels. Needless to say, it's the major labels who put on the biggest campaigns to promote their goods.

But Grammy history has proved to us time and time again that even though the whole initial process is terribly flawed, it only gets worse from there.

You see, these committee members are charged with screening and selecting the nominees based on the merit of the music that is eligible for that year. So, in 1989, Milli Vanilli actually struck the screening panel's ear as one of the five best new artists of that year? I mean, forgot the fact that we had two "actors" playing the parts of the studio vocalists who actually put their notes on the recording. The fact of the matter is, it was a bad record with bad vocals (by whomever did them) singing off-key to bad songs with bad melodies and bad lyrics! To make matters worse, they actually WON the award for Best New Artist that year. Huh? Obviously, something's rotten in Grammyville.

But the problems aren't just a matter of whatever bribes the voting members took to pick an awful choice for Best New Artist. There's proof that the Grammy voters don't even listen to what they vote on at all!

The perfect case in point is the 1994 and 1995 Grammy winners.

In 1994, a wonderful album titled "Seal" was released by the atist with the same name. It was a real work of art. Seal was becoming the new Marvin Gaye of his generation (something that is sorely needed today). Warner Bros. hit the Grammy selection committee hard on this one and rightfully so. It ended up being nominated for Best Album of The Year, with "A Prayer For The Dying" being nominated from the album for both Best Song of The Year (a songwriting award) and for Best Record of The Year (a producer and artist award).

Unfortunately, it lost in all three catagories. But while that's where the Grammy story should have ended for that episode, it's where it really begins.

You see, the next year, the same brilliant Grammy nominating committee somehow found it possible to nominate Seal's "Kiss From A Rose" from THE SAME ALBUM that was nominated the year before. "Kiss" was now nominated in the new year as both Best Song of The Year and for Best Record of The Year. Now understand something here. This wasn't a new version or some type of special remix of the original track from the year before, but rather the very same track that appeared on the previous year's nominated album.

And the winner is... Seal... "Kiss From A Rose" for both Song of The Year AND Record of The Year!

So, let's get this straight. A track that was eligible for nomination the previous year (when it was released) was totally overlooked one year, only to come back a year later (after it shouldn't have even been eligible) and take the TWO TOP GRAMMY PRIZES?

First of all, it proves that Grammy doesn't even follow it's own rules of eligibility, but more important, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Grammy voters DIDN'T EVEN BOTHER TO LISTEN TO THE NOMINATED ALBUM the year before!!! Now, we're not talking about the voters being burdened with listening to 100 albums to decide the best of the year... there are only FIVE that they have to listen to in order to decide. Obviously, the majority of voters couldn't even be bothered to do that before they cast their sacred ballots or else "Kiss From A Rose" would have come to light the year before. And shouldn't not one, but TWO nominated song and record of the year be enough to win an album the Grammy for Album of The Year? The obvious answer is, "of course... hands down!"

Combine these pathetic "little slip-ups" with an Eric Clapton winning a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal for singing all of two lines in the chorus on a track from a Santana album that features an otherwise unknown female vocalist singing the entire rest of the song and you start to understand the real worth of these fraudulent awards.

That they claim to have ANY merit is the fraud. It's an industry gimmick to sell more wares to gullable consumers who are either too ignorant to see the scams or else too trendy to care. After all, radio stations have been jamming the "right" music into our eardrums for years, why not crown it all off with a ceremonial shitfest grand enough to shove into our other orifice?

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