Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Too Little, Too Late

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been clamoring for this for a long time.

So in response, I say this.

Dear Barack,

I hope that you have learned a tough political lesson; namely, the one that states a candidate must go for his opponent's jugular as quickly as possible. Nice guys finish fifth.

Imagine what it could have been like if you hadn't waited to fall a full thirty points behind Hillary Clinton before going on the attack. Now your attacks seem motivated out of desperation rather than out of righteous indignation. If you had reacted this way back during your honeymoon period with voters, imagine where you might stand now in the polls.

Please now allow me a brief five minutes of I-Told-You-So.

P.S. The consolation gift you will now receive is a copy of a book called All The King's Men

Dear George W. Bush

Happy Halloween, readership!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Irony, at a Base Level


The Klan is protesting itself.

Or rather, one Klan group is set to protest another. This is another one of those "Only in Alabama" sort of events.

The protest is set to occur in Cullman, an area of Northwestern Alabama which is a lily-white small town that has been well known for its history of past racial intolerance. Thirty years ago, it was a sad fact of reality that Black folk better pray their car didn't break down anywhere near the place.

I think it stems from jealousy, myself. Can't Grand Dragons get along?

What if we had a gay version of the Klan?

Oh wait, Dave Chapelle already thought of that.

File under wrong, wrong, wrong.

On a related tangent, I hate Illinois Nazis.

Halloween War Games

Tomorrow is Halloween, which contrary to what some may believe, ISN'T a pagan holiday. I just thought I might clear that up, because I have my reasons. I still often hear people, particularly right-wing ultra-religious wingnuts, utter that tried-and-true condemnation of an utterly harmless holiday.

Halloween, cynically speaking, is a holiday that keeps the profits up for candy companies. It's also a way for people to scare other people in socially acceptable ways. It also provides needed impetus for people to dress up like Zombies without being thought of as hopelessly eccentric and at war with conventional concepts of reality. But most importantly, it's another in a series of good reasons to get sick drunk at a party. At said party, it is imperative to lock yourself and your latest sexual partner in the one available bathroom of a house where said party is being thrown. This forces everyone to have to relieve their urination situations out on the front lawn. This also encourages you to take silly risks like having sex in a sink. Assuming the sink doesn't give way, flooding the bathroom with water from burst pipes, then all should be well.

When Comrade Kevin was a boy, he knew to avoid the houses of the Pentecostal sorts who instead of leaving candy, left a bowl full of religious literature. He also knew to avoid the houses of certain evasive sorts of folks (usually old people) who didn't want to deal with us urchins and instead left bowls of bad candy, like say butterscotch, out on the front porch. A silly move by any stretch of the means, mostly because this meant that problem kids usually took the liberty of taking the entire bowl and dumping it into their Hefty Hefty cinch sack already chock full o' candy.

I plotted for Halloween like a mini-fucking Napoleon. My friends and I schemed weeks prior to get the maximum amount of candy. We would start our rounds early, when it was still light out, not quit until late at night, and have a good four months worth of candy to show for our efforts. One memorable Halloween, we trick o' treated for five hours straight and I had HALF a garbage bag full of sugary sweets.

If lolcatz had been popular then, my personal lolcat would have stated:


Monday, October 29, 2007

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Not like he ever really gets the opportunity to forget this, readership, but Comrade Kevin lives in a fairly conservative part of the county. Alabama middle-class suburban residents often lend their support to Libertarians in times such as these as a sign of rebellion, protest, and dissatisfaction with the current slate of candidates. Their true colors show in times like this, times when they figure they have nothing else to lose.

Forgive me for being blunt, but to these eyes, the libertarian political persuasion is a viewpoint so very close to logic, and yet so far away from sense at the same time. I ought to know this better than most due to the fact I grew up with a libertarian father. Some months back, in a conversation I had with fellow bloggers, someone described Libertarianism as attractive at first glance, that is, of course, until you closely examine the postulates.

I've said this once, and I'll say it again. The irony of many ironies is that most white Alabamians, though they vote GOP, are really libertarians. The idea of small government and limited government interference with one's personal life and affairs are political viewpoints which are quite widespread and popular amongst the masses. In areas like the city in which I live, Hoover, people have enough education to realize this.

The city I live in is more liberal than say, Dog Patch, but far less liberal than any town in a blue state. Suburbia is at least more educated than Podunksville, and so I am grateful for small favors.

Let me tell you, I get down on my hands and knees everyday and give thanks for the fact that I was never raised in the small town South. Scarily enough, this could have very easily been a reality. Had my father gotten his way, I would have spent most of my formative years in a backwoods rural county and I can safely say I would have managed to feel even more isolated, alien, and alone then I did already.

Like David Cross said, "Can you imagine me trying to fit in with a guy named Skeeter?"

Your humble narrator has seen many signs around these here parts that say: "Annoy the Media, Vote Ron Paul 2008." I agree that such an action would definitely annoy the media, if by media you mean Faux News. I'm not exactly sure how the rest of the so-called liberal media would react to a Paul presidency, but I'm not going to even entertain such an silly fantasy.

If I lived in a more liberal part of the country, I might very well see Kucinich stickers thrown up every so few yards as a means of protest. Speaking of which, this Southern boy took a trip to Boston a couple years back in which he encountered absolutely zero W stickers. It was a comforting, yet utterly bizarre experience. Culture shock max factor one.

Comrade Kevin grew up in an area where David Bowie is thought of as a degenerate, the female condom is an exotic concept, vegetables are mushy and over-salted, LGBT folk are either invisible or quietly out, and intercourse is punctuated by a steady diet of missionary, missionary, lather, repeat, rinse.

That being said, I was very naive, uninformed, and unaware of the sort of minutia that characterizes radical leftist activist politics until I reached my earlier twenties. Rest assured that my eyes were opened. Here, the left is easily stereotyped as passive, weak, peace-loving, meek, and generally so mild as to be inconsequential. Radical politics I associated with a time long since past. I wasn't aware the left had the same kind of ugly anger to it that I associated with a few batshit crazy ultra-conservative wingnuts who didn't celebrate Halloween.

Instead, this is what I discovered.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I Love This Bit

The Losing End (When You're On)

This song badly needs backing vocals.

More Songs

Sometimes the medication I take for sleep prevents me from having the concentration necessary to write for any length of time, so here's another song.

This song is pretty timely, actually. Particularly the lyrics of the first stanza.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dear Universe

A message from Comrade Kevin

Hope Nobody Hears

I did about thirty takes of this before I was satisfied. It's a tricky song with a clever little key shift about three-fourths of the way through.

Saturday Nonsense

This is why I had the nickname "Square Root" as a child.

Nude taking picture of self in mirror.
by Comrade Kevin.

2007, digital.

The digital camera produced such an interesting blur, I figured I might as well.

My friend Camilla Taylor has a whole STREAM of such images. Camilla's Photostream.

Friday, October 26, 2007

This is Why I Love Poetry

I love the way this poem keeps the reader in a slight sense of "where is this going?" before it reaches its inevitable conclusion. In my opinion, this poem must have been written by Ted Hughes in the immediate aftermath of Sylvia Plath's suicide. The images are so fresh, the pain so obviously close at hand.

Yet, since the author has passed on, we might never know for sure. Do we really need to, though? Sometimes forming one's own conclusions and coming up with individual interpretation without the Cliff's Notes quick capsule summary in review is more fun.

*Still, it would be nice to have gotten Hughes' perspective on this. He died leaving so much unsaid. The pain must have been unbearable.

The Blue Flannel Suit

I had let it all grow. I had supposed
It was all OK. Your life
Was a liner I voyaged in.
Costly education had fitted you out.
Financiers and committees and consultants
Effaced themselves in the gleam of your finish.
You trembled with the new life of those engines.

That first morning,
Before your first class at College, you sat there
Sipping coffee. Now I know, as I did not,
What eyes waited at the back of the class
To check your first professional performance
Against their expectations. What assessors
Waited to see you justify the cost
And redeem their gamble. What a furnace
Of eyes waited to prove your metal. I watched
The strange dummy stiffness, the misery,
Of your blue flannel suit, its straitjacket, ugly
Half-approximation to your idea
Of the proprieties you hoped to ease into,
And your horror in it. And the tanned
Almost green undertinge of your face
Shrunk to its wick, your scar lumpish, your plaited
Head pathetically tiny.

You waited,
Knowing yourself helpless in the tweezers
Of the life that judged you, an I saw
The flayed nerve, the unhealable face-wound
Which was all you had for courage.
I saw what gripped you, as you sipped.
Were terrors that had killed you once already.
Now, I see, I saw, sitting, the lonely
Girl who was going to die.

That blue suit
A mad, execution uniform,
Survived your sentence. But then I sat, stilled
Unable to fathom what stilled you
As I looked at you, as I am stilled
Permanently now, permanently
Bending so briefly at your open coffin.

People Think They Know Me (But They Don't)

Song clip for today.

The Bipolar Soul

If any of you ever wanted to know what it's like to be bipolar, then watch this.

The first part is hypomania personified, well, perfectly. The second part shows foulest depression of the worst sort.

If we think of both conditions being tied closely to serotonin levels in the brain, then you can see that lots of serotonin = euphoria and not enough = depression.

The clip shows the effects of Ecstasy on "average" humans and granted this has some degree of romanticized gloss being that it's been pulled from a movie. Don't take this as anything scientific but do enjoy the brilliant witticisms. Oscar Wilde is a much better narrative companion than any random pedagogical stranger.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Life Imitates Art Imitates Life

I didn't post much the past couple days, so I figured I'd post two today. I have to be productive when I have the opportunity, or I might not get it again.

President Pryor

Do click on the link above. This is the best quality clip that YouTube has to offer. I didn't want to subject you to an inferior quality truncated clip. Embedding on this video was disabled by the user's request and I can understand why. Parts of this clip could easily be used to flame the fires of race-related flame wars. That's not at all what I'm gunning for in this post.

Richard Pryor's demeanor in this skit, undertaken intentionally in an over the top and shockingly informal manor, plays for laughs. Hard to believe there was a time when Presidential press conferences were dull affairs punctuated by stuffed shirts. They may still be dull, but for the past almost seven years they have been full of W's verbal gaffes, earthy comments, and brazen belligerence.


I find it tragic that certain people actually believe an Obama Presidency would result in something like this. This sort of fear is so pervasive that it has been exhaustively personified in media, dating back as long as the moving image itself--as far back as The Birth of a Nation.

On Voting

Thanks for all the well-wishes. I'm feeling a touch better today--good enough to blog at any rate. If I'm up to the task, I will drift over to your own blogs and leave you comments.

A little over a year from now, we will FINALLY be casting ballots to elect the next President of the United States. Yes, it really is that long from now.

When it arrives we will all go down on our hands and knees.

Dear God, thank you! Thank Jesus! Thank Buddha! Thank Muhammad! Thank somebody!

Those of you who are, like me, already sick and tired of the 2008 Campaign need not worry. We only have twelve more months of this! Oy. Someone ought to coin a new adjective for this election cycle that cleverly encapsulates how sick and tired the overburdened American public are with the early deluge of hyperbole and histrionic. Which, if current opinion polls are to be trusted, is not really going to be much of a race in the first place.

I read in the British media about a week ago that the 2008 Presidential election has become a kind of "Extended Coronation of the Sun Queen." I agree.

Today I wanted to talk about the importance of voting. Please don't worry that this is going to be some of civic exercise punctuated by a film-strip and a PowerPoint presentation; I am not going to throw a lot of heaviness your way. Instead, I'd like to talk about my own experiences.

I voted for the first time when I was eighteen years old. Slipping under the wire, I barely made the cut-off date in time to be able to cast my ballot in the November general election. How excited I was! How depressingly few of my classmates had the same sense of zeal which I did! I chalked it up to another instance where I was much more in line with older adults and out of step with my peers.

Being a smart child is tough enough. By fourth grade I was reading Thoreau. I would try to explain it to my classmates and their response was often That sounds really smart, Kevin. Now I'm going to go play kickball. Being a smart teenager is worse. For whatever reason or another, adolescent coolness is attached strongly to how carefully you can casually disengage yourself from any behavior your parents might condone, or God forbid, follow. Not caring a whit about anything of substance thus becomes some badge of honor. I wish it were not so.

The only time I've seen a goodly number of people my own age bothering to even show up is for major events like the Presidential Election. The media tends to bemoan the fact that few young people bother to vote, making it almost appear as though they are the sole reason turnout is often so depressingly low. In reality, that's an BIG over-generalization. Though more older adults vote than people in the 18-30 year old demographic, there have been numerous elections where people who supposedly should know better can't be bothered to turn out either.

When I was a Unitarian, I often heard variations of this joke.

Q: What do you call a Unitarian Universalist?

A: An atheist with children.

Maybe it takes having kids of your own to feel some sort of passion for the issues. Maybe when you're raising your own family and are having to bust your ass to provide for your own hungry brood--maybe that's when you buckle down and get serious about issues that affect your life directly.

Then again, think about how many campaign issues are directed only towards older adults, usually with children. Think about how almost every campaign entertains at least one token issue that deals directly with Senior Citizens. In contrast, think about how FEW campaign issues are directed towards single adults, particularly single young adults.

I used to wonder why candidates didn't pay more attention to people my age, and then I realized that they had no reason to. If we made our voices heard and they could actually LOSE elections based on whether we turned out as a bloc, then they might pay us more than cursory lip service. Campaign money is better spent where it can direct influence voters who go to the polls versus just eligible voters in general. T hat's how I perceive of it. There are two kids of voters: those who can and those who do.

I cast my ballot every applicable Tuesday at the polling place which doubles as a Catholic Church most other days of the year. With only a few occasions, I've never had to wait more than two minutes to flash my ID, sign my name to certify I am who I say I am, collect a paper ballot, and then find a quiet place to bubble in letters just like a standardized test. Some people make up their minds when they arrive at the polls; I'm not that sort of person. I've normally decided who I'm going to vote for days, if not weeks before "the day".

In saying this, I make a point to show up for each and every election, no matter how supposedly minor it might be. If I don't vote, it's likely because I was violently ill on election day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pictures of Fall

Dear Readership,

I was getting myself all angry. A long time ago I realized that I have two options on days like this: lie in bed all day and feel sorry for myself, or push myself to keep going. Naturally, I chose the latter.

This it to say, I have been meaning to leave comments on many of your own individual blogs. Please don't think I don't care about you all and don't read your words on a daily basis. Nothing is more annoying than lurkers, so I do make a point to make my appreciation known.

Fifty or so blogs are bookmarked inside Firefox. I read over about ten earlier today and had every desire to leave substantive, thought-provoking comments like normal. But the words didn't come. It was an effort just to think and my perfectionism reared its ugly head.

A voice entered my head. It said, do what you can. It's your birthday, for God's sake. It doesn't always have to be balls to the wall. Relax.

It's a beautiful day outside, for weirdos like me, at least.

Overcast, dreary, cold, rainy.

I sat outside in the rain and took a few pictures. Enjoy.

Birthday Video

If I felt better, I'd have done another take of this.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Head's Up

Tomorrow is my birthday. I will be old, old, old.

Twenty-seven years old old old. I have reached the point where birthdays are largely anti-climatic affairs that don't grant a person further societal rights. Perhaps I will get lower car insurance, though. That would be worth celebrating. And not by switching to GEICO.


I missed you all. I had every intention of attending Blue Gal's salon last night and even logged into Skype early, but then I got a horrific case of the brain zaps.

They are a side effect of a even larger phenomenon doctors call SSRI Discontinuation Syndrome.

Last week, my psychiatrist decided to taper me off of Effexor and put me on a MAOI inhibitor.
I have a three week washout period until I can start the new medications, because if I started them now, then I'd likely get serotonin syndrome.

I'm not feeling especially blogging-inclined at the moment.

This is how I feel right now: haunted, shirtless, and dangerously close to the monitor. I mean, sick.

I live with a chronic illness. Some days are good, some days are bad. I've just learned to delight in the good days and fight through the bad ones. What else can you do? *shrugs* Giving up isn't much of an option. I could throw my hands up in despair and to be honest, I sometimes do feel rather powerless and throw my own private pity parties, but I do what I can every day.

I just hope I don't come across as pandering for sympathy or bitching. This is my life. This is my cross to bear. Tomorrow is another, hopefully better day.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Word of Thanks.

I have the best readers in the entire blogosphere. I may be biased, but so be it. :-)

Those of you who leave regular comments are most appreciated and loved.

With great affection,

Comrade Kevin.

Violation of Trust

Sexual Misconduct in K-12

Stories like this are becoming more and more frequent in the news these days. One wonders if these incidents have always been so prevalent, or today's instant information society has removed the stigma of reporting such things openly. Perhaps it's a product of the increasingly sexualized times in which we live. I'm skeptical, though. This has probably existed for years.

Seemingly everyone I talk to has a personal anecdote to share regarding this topic. As the article points out, it may not be an exaggeration to say that there's an offender in ever district. When I was in grad school, this topic came up in conversation with four young Freshman giggling girls, who quite casually remarked that in their high school a female teacher routinely seduced male students.

I myself can recall one such event from my own life quite clearly. When I was in middle school, allegations of sexual misconduct from ten years in the past surfaced regarding the male choir teacher of the middle school I attended. This was years before I had developed anything resembling gaydar, and my interactions with the man were minimal, at best. Still, I do remember he always gave off a particularly unsettling vibe that I characterized at the time as just eccentricity. Surely enough, the allegations proved true along and came complete with a particularly creepy mugshot of him that surfaced on the five o'clock news. He was gone, never to return. No one breathed a word about him ever again and it was as if a ghost had previously graced the choir room.

My mother has a role of some degree of authority in her school district, and she mentioned recently, rather casually that a female teacher who taught at the alternative school was recently fired for sleeping with a female student. This incident, however, will receive no press and will be quietly brushed under the rug. This is what this article talks about in some detail. Only when criminal prosecution is a necessary step do such things ever reach the attention of the general public.

The sort of power that authority figures have over our youth is pretty powerful. It's a product of the paternalistic society in which we live. Several of my college professors manipulated it rather skillfully to ensnare many a generation of sycophantic lovers. However, the difference between that and K-12 is that these students were of legal age. Trust is the issue at hand here.

I will resist the temptation to rush to judgment and point fingers at the usual culprits of morality, self-restraint, and irresponsibility. Sure, all these things are factors, but I'd rather cite the basic foundation by which our society is founded--the Patriarchal system which places supreme authority in the hands of a dominant male or dominant authority figure. Here in the conservative south, this is an especially relevant and potent mindset.

I can think of any number of young women with Daddy complexes who married at a very early age, seeking a father figure. I can also think of so many young women who crave validation and the need to be considered sophisticated by an older male. They wish to show off as how mature they are, or rather how mature they THINK they are. That's part of adolescence. The need to be taken seriously. The need to not been seen as a child.

Lest I seem limiting, some of the events I've cited concern woman for male or woman for woman sexual misconduct, too, so clearly this isn't simply a purely masculine construct. It must be the link between authority and sexuality that is to blame, which we give winking treatment and almost tacitly encourage, but then get utterly outraged when a few cross the line. We, in so many ways, have transformed many taboo subjects into metaphorical cock-teases. Don't engage in violence, ever, ever, ever, but look how gorgeous and attractive we can make it on the movie screen. Sex is shameful, but look at our model stripped down to a minimal amount of clothing, and make sure to buy whatever it is he or she is hawking.

I overheard two women talking around this time last year.

One said, I can't understand why anyone would want to shop on the day after Thanksgiving.

Another replied, I know! So what time are we leaving?

The line between fantasy and reality is a far finer thing then many of us like to admit. Indeed, it gets us all in trouble from time to time as I'm sure most of us have, in Jimmy Carter fashion, lusted in our hearts.

I certainly had foolish crushes on my teachers. That's one of those cultural motifs that has crept into songs, plays, and literature. Thankfully, I was never presented with any opportunity to consummate these desires. Had I been seduced by a teacher, I am pretty sure I wouldn't have thought twice.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Jewish Pornography!

I find it comforting that someone else has the same off-kilter sense of humor that I do.

This is for all of you who are regular participants at Blue Gal's Monday Night Salon. In it, we have an excellent encapsulation of three favorite topics: Jews, Food, and Sex.

Would you mind moving the matzah a bit to the left, please?

Saturday Video

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rarr Grrr Growl

How I feel right now.

Hmm. Guitar strings need to be changed.

Dr. James Watson Proves...

you can discover DNA and still be stupid.

Race Remarks Get Noble Winner in Trouble

Circumstantial evidence, at best, supports his flimsy claims. Does anyone besides me find it unsettling that Social Darwinism persists to this day? I find his opinion unintentionally amusing in a way. He's the personification of pseudo-intellectual Tom Buchanan, Daisy's husband in F. Scott Fitzgerald's book The Great Gatsby. I needn't remind you all this is the guy who is responsible for cracking the genetic code, which has saved lives, solved crimes, and improved the lives of many humans.

I don't know what quote of his I find more offensive or ridiculous. This wasn't the first time he's made such statements. If we follow his advice, apparently mothers should have the right to abort their babies if it is determined, in utero, that they are homosexual. I think my favorite quote is his assertion that skin pigment is directly proportional to sex drive and prowess in bed. Under that logic, all Latinos are better lovers than say, Norwegians.

Wingnut alert!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Roots of Activism

Greetings, everyone. Birmingham today is overcast and threatening rain. As we are in the middle of a tremendously pervasive drought, anything that falls from the sky in the form of precipitation would be a Godsend. Our neighbor to the east, Atlanta, is even considering rationing water if conditions do not improve drastically. The potable water situation here is not nearly as dire, though it could become much worse. A report that came out a couple months back informed us all that it could be next SPRING before we see any kind of relief.

I did appreciate a much less humid summer than normal and I did appreciate far less mosquitoes than is typical, but nonetheless I'm concerned. This is not good.

I will now decline the opportunity to segue into a discussion about global warming. Whether it be global warming or changing weather patterns, I do know this. Even in my own relatively brief lifespan, I have seen temperatures stay warmer later and become warmer earlier. Though it never snowed here with any sort of frequency, I fully expect I've seen the last of it here. This is a most depressing thought for snow lovers like myself.

Allow me to change the subject, if you will.

An Australian friend read yesterday's post and commented that after reading it, she could understand now why I was possessed with such strong political opinions. My reply was that I always had strong political opinions, but personal situations like those further solidified them. In truth, I grew up in a typically boisterous, opinionated, loud family. We didn't keep our feelings or impressions of any issue to ourselves. Politics and other such serious matters were routine dinner conversation, and emulating my father, we all developed our own personal soapbox issues. Some families talked about the Fall NBC lineup and we talked about communism and current events.

I have a bit of a different viewpoint than many liberal bloggers. I was not raised in a patently liberal, NPR tote bag, Whole Foods family. I can't claim to be the latest in a long line of like-minded thinkers. My mother is a liberal Democrat in her own way, a bit of a radical feminist in her own way, but views are severely tempered by a strong conservative streak. My grumbly Libertarian father could easily be considered an activist in his own way, though he would take great pains to never characterize himself as such. He's a study in contradictions: a member of the local board of Planned Parenthood before I was born and an active defender of Richard Nixon. Even back in the days when Hippies reigned supreme, he defiantly kept his hair short, worked straight jobs, and took a skeptical, Frank Zappa a la We're in It For the Money approach that never hastened to call bullshit on the excesses of Flower Power and Free Love.

A question to all of you out there-- what forces in your own life gave rise to your desire, almost compulsion, to state your opinion openly and with much gravitas? What in your formative years created this sense of you which cries out for justice and change? If you have children, do you consciously try to impart this same sense of urgency amongst your progeny? Why or why not? Discuss.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Personal Post

Many Americans may not be aware of how much of a rip-off medical care has become. Oh sure, you've paid cursory attention to the news, the latest Michael Moore movie, and the debate being proposed by Presidential candidates of both parties. Some of you have even paid attention to the arguments for and against single-payer universal health care coverage. Still, you haven't been presented with a compelling real-world, concrete example of the Highway Robbery and legalized thievery that is our health care system. Decry universal coverage if you wish, but instead of talking about how expanded government in any form is anathema and how much of a financial drain such an endeavor would be, what would you do instead?

I'm tired of people who criticize universal health care but don't propose a better solution. I instead wish you to contemplate my own story.

This way you can't say that you don't KNOW someone whose life has been directly affected, and affected for the worst.

I would like to take a break from seemingly abstract political posturing to take the opportunity to show how for-profit health care has affected my life. I am Caucasian, twenty-six years old, college-educated, raised solidly middle class, so there's no reason, readership, why you should think of me in terms as some impoverished person who lives in a world totally foreign to your own. I am not a third-world resident living in a hut. I do not reside in a trailer. I was not sold for crack as an infant.

For-Profit Health Care

1. Ambulance Ride- $750. This includes $5 per MILE surcharge.
2. One ER Visit- $1,300
3. One DAY of Hospitalization- $3,000
4. Routine blood work- $750
5. Prescription drug bill, per MONTH- $2,200

I cannot pay these bills. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than to tell smarmy bill collectors that they will not likely be receiving payment at any point this century. I even make a point to tell them point-blank that I know they're only doing their job, but have they contemplated their role in this sort of exploitive racket? Are they aware that they are doing Satan's work? Most of them can't hang up the phone quickly enough.

Dear Medical Insurance Companies Bigwigs, Pharmaceutical CEOs, and Owners of Hospitals,

How do you sleep at night? Does it not bother you how many peoples' lives you have ruined over the years? Do you ever ponder how many children go without necessary medical coverage because their parents simply can't afford it? Do you know how many bankruptcies you have contributed to over the years? Do you care? Or are you raking in the big bucks and delighting as your stock goes up a tenth of a percent?

Thanks to an illness I did nothing to cause and was born with, I have horrific credit. I've had some of the best medical care in the world, and I have the bills to show for it.

Imagine if everyday items cost as much.

If Everyday Items Cost as Much as Routine Health Care Procedures

1. One gallon of gasoline- $10
2. One loaf of bread- $8
3. Newspaper- $6.50
4. New automobile- $275,000
5. A month's rent in Southern California- $20,000

Studies have shown that many homeless people, drug addicts, and criminals are mentally ill and/or have massive personality disorders. Imagine if these people had access to quality medical coverage or adequate sessions with a qualified therapist. I doubt they'd be roaming the street babbling to themselves, contemplating their next fix, or scheming up their latest illegal action.

You don't think of things in such terms, of course. No, you are a red-blooded American who wants those vermin off your streets. Lock 'em up and throw away the key, you say. Three-strikes and you're-out, you say. Not in my community, you say. I can see you locking the doors to your house right now, just to make sure. You have four sets of dead-bolts and love the musical sound they make as you turn them. Makes you feel secure.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One Question

Would YOU want to sleep with this man?

I don't get it. Ladies, help me out here. I just don't see the appeal.

He has a beer gut, a rat-like nose, a second family (Baby Daddy to two children), a wife with apparently major low-self esteem issues, and engages in flagrant affairs with administrators on school field trips.

This guy must have been HEAVY on the sense of humor you women talk about in your little ladies' polls.

A Few Random Posts

I'm feeling a tad bit better today. Allow me to post on a couple pertinent points.

Another blogger has joined the ranks of ex-Unitarian Universalist.

Interestingly enough, I had a conversation with someone at the Atlanta church about the very issue that has caused him to leave. She was also a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic faith group. I admit to being ambivalent about political posturing of any kind from the pulpit. Part of me rejoices in the validation of my own viewpoint, and part of me recoils a bit. These are hyper-partisan times but if I wanted to go to a political rally, I'd do so.

Maybe it depends on who is speaking. The minister of the Birmingham church I attended didn't make her sermons political rants. She didn't make them particularly interesting except for once in a blue moon, but that's another topic altogether. It wasn't until I went to the Atlanta church that experienced anything remotely similar.

I think part of it too is that in previous stops along the line, in Methodist and Baptist churches, I often saw overt moralizing but not overt politicizing.

  • Chalice Chick posts about common sense and critical thinking in a time seemingly bereft of both. Good for her.
If none of this thrills you, then you can amuse yourself by listening to the song.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Days like this, I don't know what to do with myself
All day -- and all night
I wander the halls along the walls and under my breath
I say to myself
I need fuel -- to take flight --
And there's too much going on

-Fiona Apple

i remember reading the entry plath wrote in her journals when she was mired in depression and though i could not see a reproduction of the page i knew what it must look like. one huge run on sentence mess of words thrown together and forced into some hasty order. obviously type written. you could see how hard she was trying to write something decent, something good, but how the depression weighted her down. how she wanted to say everything on her mind. i could almost see the page itself stained with coffee and tears and frustration. i understood because i too have put such things to paper and am doing so now.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I Feel My Luck Could Change

I am too sick to blog today. I'll be back tomorrow, readership. In the meantime, enjoy the song.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I Love This Scene

I love this scene for lots of reasons, but particularly for the way it reduces Americans to self-important windbags. Unfortunately, we can very easily come across this way to the rest of the world. This is why I make a point to measure my effusiveness whenever possible, back up my arguments with fact rather than boisterous opinion, and remember to take a dose of humility. Because I'm used to being right doesn't mean I am always right. Because I have a college degree and half of another doesn't mean I am always right. I remember upon a visit to NYC I had a chat with a Romanian named Josef. His English wasn't that good, but what I do recall him saying is, with no small dose of surprise: You are American! But you are normal!

I shall be honest with you, readership. No one could ever confuse me as normal. I am the same person whom one of my dear professor friends remarked, "Ah, Mr. Camp. Strange young man, but focused." I want it on my tombstone after I pass on from this life.

Here lies Kevin Camp
1980- whenever

Strange, but focused.

The point of this post is not to pat myself on the back. It's just to say that it's a very easy temptation for anyone who lives in the consumer paradise like we do to develop a sense of entitlement and privilege. This was a fact that was beat into my head constantly by my British friends when I was in London a few summers back. They were nice about it, never preachy, in that typically tactful, sideways, English manner but they never failed to remind me about how wasteful American culture can be. A cursory visit to the Supermarket can prove my point quite well. Look at how very much food we have. Food for every taste and every palate. An orgy of consumption. Food which has been niche-marketed for every individual taste possible. Rest assured someone is working this very minute to find another variation upon a food theme in an effort to make maximum profit. This strikes me as obscene, somehow. You can delight in it like a '50s ephemeral film, or you can ponder how it is that some in this world have so much and some have so very little.


Congratulations to Al Gore for winning the Noble Prize. Global Warming is an issue which up to this point is mired in political debate. I will be honest with you. I believe Global Warming is a real thing, but I wonder if we've not been inundated with the worst-case scenario in an effort to warn us against the growing storm. An Inconvenient Truth was criticized for portraying a Doomsday scenario of climate change. It's almost forgivable, because these days it takes a catastrophe of massive proportions to get us off our duffs. Still, the part of me which clamors for truth above all else wants the honest-to-God facts without political spin or well-meaning but paternalist clap-trap.

Global Warming and Climate Change are, at least for the moment, a study in competing ideologies, logistical studies, line graphs, hypothesis, counter-hypothesis, and dueling graphical interpretations. No one knows for sure. Instead we have educated guess versus educated guess. Though wholly insufficient, it's the best we've got right. Any time this kind of stalemate exists in the forum of public discourse, we break into us versus them teams. The issue becomes transmogrified into a political football and because none of us are sure, we have no bones about attaching emotional response, political opinion, supposition, logical fallacy, and knee-jerk reaction to it.

As it stands, Global Warming is a faith statement right now. I wish it were not. But like any good scholar, I have to entertain some sort of rational doubt upon the veracity of much of the information on the topic spilling from both camps. Much of it has been hyper-politicized for the sake of maximum impact. I shall level with you, readership. Often I do not know who to believe.

*edit. Notice how they drive their cars to heaven, instead of walking with The Grim Reaper. I just noticed that.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

World on a String

I'm much more comfortable in this role.

Blue Gal takes her glasses off. I suppose I'll rock out instead.

Art and Chaos Day!

A few pictures taken by yours truly. A break from politics.

Not just anyone's feet, Gordy.
They're mine.

This was my smoking spot.

Happiness is a warm gun.
Bang, bang, shoot, shoot.

Hobble, hobble, limp, limp, gimpy dog.

My First V-Blog!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

In the election for mayor of Birmingham, the masses have spoken. Proving yet again that the Proletariat cannot often be trusted to act in its own best interest, it has embraced the politics of division rather than unity. With a whopping twenty-four percent of registered voters even bothering to show up at the polls, Larry Langford, whose previous stops in public service have resulted in increased taxation and accounting nightmares, was elected mayor of the city of Birmingham yesterday. I wish I could say that I was surprised, but I am not.

Birmingham citizens have proven themselves over the years incapable of making good decisions in whom they elect to office. Regrettably, it has always been this way. This was true when whites were in power, determined to fight a battle destined to fail, desperately holding to the notion of segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever. It is, sadly, true now that blacks have taken control. For the past twenty-five years, Birmingham has had a majority African-American population, which has, up to this point, stubbornly refused to work hand-in-hand with whites to build the city back to its former stature.

Birmingham has elected representatives who don't ever hesitate to dredge up painful memories and do not shy to use these memories to pad their own political nests. If ever called out and asked to provide a list of positive accomplishments made for the betterment of the city during their tenure, these elected representatives instead trot out images of fire dogs attacking demonstrators, church bombings, and fire hoses being turned on demonstrators. It's the Late Twentieth and Early Twenty-First Century example of waving the bloody shirt

If Birmingham residents and Birmingham politicians were truly serious about putting aside our troubled past, they would not have reacted this way--the way they have reacted for years. If they were serious about change, they would not have settled for a succession of exploitive demagogues of which the new mayor is merely the latest in a long line. Poor old Birmingham. The proposed building of a domed stadium to attract a high-caliber sports team will not redeem thirty-years of bad leadership. Nor will it succeed in its purpose. It will be, instead, another government boondoggle. I need not remind you, readership, that there are no panaceas in politics, nor in life.

Cities which have embraced racial unity have prospered. Cities, like Birmingham, which have clung to the same divisive, venomous rhetoric have failed. Langford's campaign could serve as an excellent study in how easy it was to manipulate the anger, envy, and resentment of Birmingham's black population. How easy it was, indeed, to channel hostility against the affluent, majority white suburbs that exist Over the Mountain. Langford won, despite proposing few concrete pledges and holding fast to a vague notion of change, exemplified perfectly in his slogan of "Let's Do Something."

In response, I say, Do something? How? Where? When?

What most infuriates me is that Rovian tactics (naturally, no one would ever characterize them as such) of division, racism, and fear succeeded again. Never underestimate the power of ignorance in a political setting, my friends. It has been proven yet again that political substance can be trumped by racial intolerance every time. Every.single. time. Racial conflict leaves Birmingham farther and farther behind. Birmingham's black residents can continue to gnash their teeth and cast dispersions of resentful ire upon whites and white wealth, or they can come together in a spirit of mutual financial interest, becoming successful capitalists in the process. They can hold fast to their prejudices, or they can lay them aside for a win-win situation that would benefit everyone.

It is true that white flight took a toil on Birmingham. It is true that beginning in the late 1960s, white money and white influence flowed away from the city center out to the former countryside, which was transformed into subdivisions, and now looks like any other conglomerate of faceless lily-white suburbs. It is, however, a gross oversimplification to suggest that this mass migration was motived simply out of racism or a racist desire for maximum self-determination without minority influence.

The other side of the coin, which few want to contemplate, is that newly empowered African-Americans were loathe to work together with their white brothers and sisters for the betterment of the city. Why should this come as any great shock? The Civil Rights Movement taught us that people are people, regardless of skin color. I doubt any ethnic group has any less or any more indebtedness to human nature. Such feelings were only natural, but they were still wrong.

Out of frustration, white leaders left the bargaining table, and Birmingham has never been the same.

Apologists for the African-American community can state their case to whichever degree they wish, but that doesn't change the fact that Birmingham has never moved forward, swallowed its pride, and made a commitment towards making Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's dream a reality. Instead, city after city in the Deep South have taken Dr. King's words to heart and in doing so moved well past Birmingham. Believe it or not, Atlanta and Birmingham were the same size after World War II. Now Atlanta has five million people, continues to grow by leaps and bounds, has a large degree of national recognition, and is home to the busiest airport in the country.

Atlanta became the capital of the New South because both races worked together, not at cross-purposes. Atlanta realized early on that capitalism is a much more potent and profitable -ism than racism. I've heard every argument proposed by the Apologists and may very well hear another batch of them for having the gall to post on this topic. In my defense, let me state that moving forward requires neither looking back in anger, nor falling prey to the same tactics when previously employed, kept a group in shackles. If it be so difficult a task, then why have Atlanta, Memphis, and Jacksonville managed to accomplish it?

Before I lived in Atlanta, I used to believe that racial tensions and the inevitable divisive politics which were derived from them were the same everywhere: in every state, in every region of the country, and in every city. After spending nearly a year in Atlanta, a year in which I saw a spirit of mutual tolerance and respect amongst all races, I now know that it doesn't have to be this way. Birmingham politics, with a new Langford spin, will likely continue a long tradition of blaming Whitey, playing racially-motivated Robin Hood taxation games, and falling farther and farther behind the rest of the South. Birmingham will increasingly grow less and less relevant, more crime ridden, more poverty-stricken, and its people will scratch their heads and wonder why.

Birmingham residents, you have only yourselves to blame.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Polarizing Times

I was reminded of this Chappelle's Show scene. Clearly, we have a ways to go.

A Quick One (While He's Away)

I wanted to thank you all for expressing your concerns. Today I'm feeling a little bit better. I hardly ever use this blog to share my personality in an anecdotal fashion, but now is as good a time as any.

Smoking was something that, like many young teenagers, that I picked up out of a desire to want to fit in with my peers. Back then, I was very naive, very sheltered, far more introverted than I am now, and extremely shy. My purity factor was at its highest apex when I was fifteen. Nowadays, it's not so much. Hardly anyone who knows me now can easily comprehend how different I was then. I myself have a hard time reconciling the way I am now versus the way I was back then.

My first job involved sacking groceries and following the examples of the wilder, more worldly, more risk-taking boys, I had a friend steal a pack of cigarettes for me. They were, as I recall, Marlboro Lights. This was back in the day when cigarettes were under $3 a pack. Now they are as much as $4.50, even in this state of relatively low taxes and tobacco-friendly lobbies. Upon a visit to NYC a few years back, I paid $8 a pack, which is enough to make anyone want to quit.

I remember the first time I took a puff on a cigarette. It was like sucking on a burning rope. Still, I was hellbent on figuring out how to perfect this habit. Around midnight, one memorable night, I sneaked out of the house through the downstairs bathroom window. I managed around half a cigarette before I felt so woozy and out of sorts that I found standing upright difficult. I climbed back in the window but in a moment of clumsiness, I lost my balance and in doing so, fell back inside the house, hitting my head on the toilet seat in the process.

If I had the opportunity to address a group of people younger than myself, I would tell them emphatically to not take that first drag on a cigarette. It's like opening Pandora's Box. I shall probably crave cigarettes the rest of my days to some degree or another. Once you start and begin any sort of habit, you seem to be doomed to a lifetime of picking up and setting down the habit. Indeed, I can't say that my days of smoking are over. I often wish they were illegal, cause that would probably be the only means by which I would never be tempted to start again. That, and I'm too lazy to want to go to the trouble to grow my own tobacco.

Monday, October 08, 2007


Dear Readership:

Comrade Kevin is ill today. This means you will be having a substitute. I want you all to be on your best behavior for the substitute.

(Substitute enters room)

Hello Readership.

Comrade Kevin left a note for you all in which he attributes his illness to the end result of having quit smoking, again. For the seventeenth time, at least. He says that for those of you with particularly vivid imaginations, picture if you will chunks of mucus and general congestion-like substances escaping the sinus cavity by running down the back of the throat. It creates nausea and general feelings of unease.

I want you all to know that Comrade Kevin has every intent of being back tomorrow. Now, please fill out the worksheets thoughtfully provided for you. If you finish early, you can talk to your neighbor, but please keep it down.

Comrade Kevin will make every attempt to be at Blue Gal's salon tonight.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Sunday Video

...takes a turn for the weird.

Imagine Sylvia Plath's poetry read in a Eastern European accent.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Sign of the Times

I never thought I'd be defending Scott Stantis. For those of you who aren't Birmingham, Alabama, residents, Stantis proudly holds the title of local obnoxious conservative political cartoonist. His often-smarmy diatribes in ink usually raise my blood pressure to its highest pinnacle. So it was much to my surprise that apparently, even a snarky Republican occasionally can speak the truth, albeit an unpopular one.

His daily cartoon of this past Tuesday, which I cannot for the the life of me find a copy to show you all, concerns the currently on-going mayoral race of the city of Birmingham. In short, Birmingham has seen better days. Like many major metropolitan areas in this country, its affluence, infrastructure, national stature, and white population has long since fled for the suburbs. What remains is a predominantly African-American populace, a decaying city center riddled with violent crime, and a number of residents consumed with memories of the city's past glory.

The Birmingham mayoral field contains eight candidates. Out of that swollen field of candidates, the most shining example of progressive leadership is a man named Patrick Cooper. He is articulate, well-spoken, and highly educated. I think him far and away the most qualified candidate for the job. His opposition apparently sees him the same way, for two of them have resorted to deplorable tactics in attempting to undercut his support among voters. Incumbent Mayor Bernard Kincaid and Jefferson County Commissioner Larry Langford have taken great pains to smear Cooper, painting him as both white and Republican.

In truth, Cooper is of mixed racial descent. He's facing the same sort of argument that has plagued Barack Obama in the Presidential Race. Cooper's credentials are being called into question because: let's all say it at once, he's not black enough. Now, if Cooper were actually a Republican, I can understand why that might count against him. The GOP hasn't exactly been a friend to the Black community, particularly the current Presidential administration. The truth, of course, is that Cooper happens to be a Democrat.

What I strongly object to are campaigning tactics which cater to prejudicial viewpoints. I make great pains to point out that similar tactics were used by former Alabama Governor George C. Wallace to draw out white support and effectively neutralize the black vote. If the African-American community wishes to fix its current problems, it must not resort to the same tactics that for years kept it in shackles. Yes, I am aware that all minorities live their lives under a microscope and are often held to impossibly high standards by the rest of us. However, I am not willing to give the Black community the benefit of the doubt in situations like this. The stakes are too high.

I challenge the numerous contradictions we hold within ourselves. Black or white, rich or poor, we all are guilty. We all have been taught to strive to be well-educated in this society. Think of how easy it is to paint a politician as too cerebral, too academic, and too out of touch with the concerns of the average working person. We strive to open up opportunities for educational advancement in minority groups who have historically been denied these rights. Think of how easy it is to reduce educated African-Americans to little more than Uncle Toms or wanna-be Caucasians. Many of us spend our whole lives in the pursuit of wealth. Think of how easy it is to stereotype the rich as selfish, money grubbing elitists.

Exploiting sour grapes for political gain might as well be a science.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and a plethora of local black leaders came out with guns blazing, asserting that Stantis' cartoon was deeply racist, offensive, and had no place in today's discourse. They called for Stantis' unconditional resignation. It was not forthcoming, nor will it be, nor should it be.

I wonder if they were looking at the same cartoon as I was. Indeed, if they were really serious about getting him fired, they could have cited any number of far more offensive cartoons. I suppose it's just another example of a sort of myopic tunnel vision of which we all can be often guilty. As Leonard Pitts points out, "When race becomes an issue, people get stupid."

Rail against it, criticize it, but be aware of this fact: black activists must learn to pick their battles. For every genuinely glaring example of racism that exists, like the Jenna Six controversy, there are an equal number of instances like the Duke Lacrosse Rape Case which can be reduced to little more than false alarms.

Martin Luther King had a dream. In his dream, America would be transformed into a color-blind society where people would be judged not for the color of their skin but for the content of their character. Perhaps it's naive of us to think that his message would not be perverted over the years. To wit, nothing makes me more angry than people who champion the revolutionary ideals of Dr. King, but don't adhere to them personally. I've seen example after example in the black community of those who use his name and a perversion of his idealistic dreams for their own personal political gain. Nothing upsets me more than those who use the name of a martyr for their own self-interest on one hand, but resort to race-baiting, fear-mongering tactics on the other hand, tactics that would have King rolling over in his grave.

This is another poignant example of what Rudyard Kipling noted in his poem: If--.

"If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools."

I'm also reminded of how many people have taken the deeds and words of another martyr, Jesus of Nazareth, and have skillfully twisted his words to suit their own selfish whims. Though this may be a very human response, we must all fight against it. This kind of gross hypocrisy is what fosters stereotypical attitudes and reduces moral causes to mere caricature.

I conclude this post by including a pertinent quote from Dr. King.

  • Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.
    • Stride Toward Freedom: the Montgomery Story (1958)

The Politics of Hope?

You heard it here first. Today's headline: Obama's Plan

Two weeks ago, I commented on the very same thing. And lest I forget, I initially brought this to the attention of the blogosphere a week before that.

I know I'm sounding like a broken record here, but the politics of hope can only go so far. A cursory study of political history will reveal that we've heard the politics of hope from Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, and Jimmy Carter. In those days, it was known as "refusing to go negative". Mr. Obama, you've harped on the failed policy of President Bush's Iraq War strategy but I wish you'd also entertain the notion that the entire logic upon which you've based your campaign might be faulty.

Pardon me for being skeptical, sir, but what to you and your campaign staff seems audacious I find to be indicative of a lack of testicular fortitude. Don't get me wrong, I know you're the cerebral, intellectual sort and you might find the idea of playing hardball a bit distasteful. I know you're not exactly the kind of candidate to use such strong-arm tactics. You never have before, certainly.

It is quite possible that you don't want to ruin your party's chance to win the Presidency in 2008. If the GOP alone resorts to mudslinging tactics, she could always come back to paint such efforts as desperate tactics. Indeed, that's the exact manner in which Bill's campaign portrayed Bob Dole in 1996. She'll lose this opportunity if she engages in a nasty fight for her party's nomination. It is also quite possible that you think negative campaigning will backfire and that a nasty fight between you and Senator Clinton will be a supreme turn off for voters.

Mr. Obama, your current strategy is bold in its optimism and idealism, but I just don't think it's going to work. It's been tried before many times, with limited success. When the Clinton money machine resorts to the politics of reducing you to an inexperienced, naive, pretender to the throne then we'll see what sort of a candidate you really are. I'm not holding my breath, sir.

If I am wrong, I will be the first to admit it. You get the rights to say I-told-you-so, to me and all the other naysayers.

I think you want to be President, but not until 2016.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Trends in Action

I'm going to take a break today from saving the world, lifting up the oppressed, shedding light onto the injustices of the world, and calling a spade a spade. This entry focuses on blogging itself. Every now and then we need to turn our focus inward rather than outward. Those of you who have been blogging for a while have realized how complex and multifaceted a place is the blogosphere. I'm not going to address all of them in this entry, but I will highlight a few archetypes I've seen over the past fourteen months of almost-daily blogging.

Over the past several months, I have watched many blogs shift from free accounts like Blogger or Wordpress towards self-contained sites. These self-contained sites do afford their users more control and provide better avenues for creativity. If my HTML skills were better, I might consider doing so. However, I consciously try to keep this blog pretty bare-bones and simplistic. Bells and whistles are fantastic things but I find they can overwhelm a viewer with a visceral experience that distracts from the content. The other side of that is that if a blog is too heady, too cerebral, then it can be overwhelming to the audience.

I am reminded of one blog in particular which unfortunately falls prey to John Kerry Syndrome. A seminary student, her blog entries read like academic journals and I must admit that deciphering such intensely complex entries often leaves me exhausted. Here's a tip. Exhausted readers do not often leave comments.

Some bloggers need to lighten up. Yes, we all get a case of ain't it awful syndrome from time to time, but taken to extremes, it makes a person seem like a crabby misanthrope. We have more than enough Archie Bunkers in the world. I spent my formative years with one in the person of my father. When I find myself acting like him, I make a point to take time out and re-channel my thoughts.

My personal pet peeve regards the sorts of people who put a minimum of fifteen hyperlinks to other sites in one blog entry. Sure, this sort of behavior does easily fill up a page, but neither does this reveal your original voice. Furthermore, who is really going to take the time to look at fifteen different websites? We know you have something original to say, so say it. Disambiguation pages are for wikipedia.

Some bloggers, however, post entries so inconsequential and fluffy that it's tough to take them seriously. That's what livejournal or xanga is for, buddy.

A few examples to avoid are Mommy blogs or the Wingnut sorts of which Pammy is a good example. Mommy blogs have occasional merits, though they do tend to be pretty narrow in focus. Some of you recent mothers feel a compulsion to document everything your offspring touches, smells, feels, or speaks. Not that I don't share your joy at having brought a new life into the world, but the minutia of raising children often wears pretty thin. In addition, you must hold great expectations for your son or daughter, because the sort of details you reveal would only be of interest to future biographers or sycophantic admirers.

The typical wing-nut blog says absolutely nothing of consequence, reports supposition as fact, reveals the inherently narcissistic nature of its owner, and confuses rational critique with screamed epithets. Avoid.

The key, of course, is to strike a balance in your own writing. Strive to comment on a variety of different subjects. Don't be afraid to display your strengths. If you have hidden talents, then reveal them to the world. This is supposed to be fun, after all.

Happy blogging, everyone.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dear Child

Dear Child,

When our paths last crossed you were hard at work producing hideously ugly drawings that every mother finds beautiful. Now you have exchanged your ballerina dreams, your frilly socks, and your little girl dresses for the teenage uniform of sullen rebellion in blue jeans. I know full well what has transpired in all these years, know full well why you now walk ramrod straight, full of purpose, scornfully mocking the world, know why you do not acknowledge me as I try to reconcile the way you were then with the way you are now. I see it and my heart breaks. Once I was like you, child.

Once I was at war with the world, too, and for many of the same reasons.

I see you now as you will be for quite some time to come. The spitting image of your mother, or should I say, one of your mothers. Child, you have changed. Back then, you bashfully smiled, swaying to a rhythm inside your head, your every step a prance. I recognize fully that I knew you in a prior incarnation and granted, we were both much younger then. Now I find my hair thinning and know that thirty is no longer an abstraction. Before you had the cheerful grace of childhood and now I see you have tasted the reality of adulthood, its disquieting uncertainty, its acidic bite, its regrettable consequences, and I notice how it has molded you. Two seconds glance was enough to bridge the gap of four years' absence.

I see you in a series of progressively evolving yearbook pictures. You will return to these when you are my age, remembering only the good times, glossing over the bad times with a kind of romanticized, deliberate distortion we call nostalgia. I saw the template of who you are, what you have become, and what you shall be with the passage of years. I fear your worst time are yet to come. I see a wild-eyed, wild-haired, wild child testing boundaries. I see your name being mentioned by other children in your teenage years, alluding to you as one of those freaks who sits at the back table. I see drugs and bad boyfriends and worse friends.

You will not understand what I am saying now, child. You will not understand until you are my age, until you look back upon the world with different eyes. You will not understand until you look upon past trials and tribulations without priding yourself upon your own mad courage. You may reach that point and you may not. Some realize it sooner than others and my prayer is that you will reach it long before most other do.

The Pursuit of Change

Many of us activist types want wide sweeping change. Well versed in political, social, and moral matters and quite aware of the world around us, we are motivated to give voice to needed reforms. We see so much which could be so much better. Our hearts break. A sense of righteous indignation swells within us. We lash out against the old ways that hold us back and wish to usher in new ways which will liberate us.

Having recently involved myself inside the political process to some small degree, observing the hierarchies, strata, and pecking orders, I have come to realize, with no small degree of frustration that the current political system is not geared for wide sweeping change. The candidates of both parties are indebted to special interest groups and other powerful lobbies which wish to preserve the status quo. Any change made from election cycle to election cycle often focuses on one key area. Its effects are minor and especially minor when compared to all which desperately needs to be accomplished.

From time to time, massive change will be undertaken by our elected representatives. However, much of it is intrinsically negative in character. I cite Watergate, the Iraq War, Vietnam, and Iran-Contra as a few recent examples. These are the exceptions, of course, rather than the rule. Likewise, I'm sure many of you readers could propose any number of monumental policy decisions that turned out to be greatly beneficial to our country. But as we are well aware, most government undertakings can be easily reduced to mere minutia and fine print. Occasionally moments of political theater and stirring drama come to the forefront but these remain relatively rare.

Rather than decry what cannot be done, I would much rather focus on what can be done. I would much rather focus on one particular issue and push it a fraction of an inch forward. If I succeed in doing so, then I will consider it to be a great triumph. I will tacitly concede that the world will always be broken and that there will always be a great need for change, although nothing puts fear into the hearts of people so much as that.

In my mind, the best candidate running in the Democratic primary is Dennis Kucinich. He speaks his mind without fear and best articulates the desires of the liberal base. He is willing to both attack the current administration as well as to attack the current complacency in the Democratic party. He's another in a series of liberal darlings who in appealing to activists and intellectuals, unintentionally alienates the rank-and-file. Kucinich does not fear to use constructive criticism; he does not sugar-coat. Yet, as my father often pointed out, most people can barely stand constructive praise, much less constructive criticism.

Kucinich is too left-learning to attract the sort of widespread support needed to win the Presidency. I wish it weren't so. There is nothing America needs more than a dose of tough love. Kucinich advocates wide sweeping change and as much as that thrills me, and thrills many of my fellow activists/bloggers, I realize yet again how resistant most Americans are towards their own best interest.

I have worked, to a very small degree, with the Obama campaign. I did this is out of a desire to keep Hillary Clinton from winning the nomination without much of a fight. I do not regret it, for it provided an excellent education in the way the current process works. I have observed the current political structure as it current stands. I find it full of egos, deceptive games, power grabs, subterfuge, and other such dubious virtues. The more I observe politics, the less I like it. If we out here in the netroots really want to make our voices held we have one of two options: play ball or propose a different way. I am neither wise, smart, or influential enough to do it by myself. This is why I try actively to get more people involved in this large-scale grassroots effort called blogging. For every person I convince to put their voice out there, I celebrate.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Presidential Politics, Then and Now.

Thanks to a mention in a recent episode of The Colbert Report, I decided to explore the following website: The Living Room Candidate.

It's a site worthy of exploring because it provides excellent examples of how much has changed in the past fifty-five years and also how little has changed. The site gets the Comrade Kevin Seal of Approval, hands down. To quickly summarize, The Living Room Candidate features the actual TV ads run by all participating major candidates in every election year since 1952. Political science geeks like me eat this shit up. I found myself entranced by the evolution of media in politics, the establishment of central campaign themes in every party, and the framework of party platforms that are often still in effect today.

I do have to admit that I don't recall seeing many of these ads when they originally ran and a major reason why is that Alabama has never been a particularly competitive state, even as far back as the 1800's. As such, neither party has felt compelled to feel the need to bother even trying, placing their money, resources, and TV spots in hotly contested states instead. Immediately after the Reconstruction, the Democratic party grabbed a stranglehold on state politics, making it little more than a one-party-state. FDR's New Deal reforms further reinforced its stature as a Democratic mainstay. It wasn't until 1964, when it was one of a handful of states to give its electoral votes to Barry Goldwater, that the tide began to change. By 1980, Alabama voted solidly GOP in Presidential Elections, a tradition it hasn't broken. The last Democratic candidate to win Alabama was Carter in 1976, and even that was a narrow win.

I will say this. After having taken the time to closely examine over fifty years of television commercials, one motif in particular I found to be glaring obvious. Candidates who put their opponent on the defensive with a series of well-crafted, aesthetically pleasing, highly critical, scathingly negative ads usually won. Those who skillfully smeared the reputations of their opponents almost always won. Those who stretched the truth to suit their own needs almost always won. Those who struck first almost always won. Those who did not hesitate to respond decisively and effectively to the charges and criticisms of their opponents almost always won.

In comparison, candidates who either refused to go negative or went negative far too late almost always lost. Better to reign in hell than rule in heaven? I wouldn't use so drastic an analogy, just to say that politics are not light and sweetness. Candidates who do not harness the awesome power of negative reinforcement, fear, and scare-tactics almost always end up in second place. In my opinion, one can fight it and lose, or employ it reluctantly and win. Naturally, negative campaigning can be taken to an extreme and such were the tactics of Karl Rove. Instead of being cautious and carefully weighted in the use of negative advertising, Rove embraced it with open arms. His dirty tricks and tactics took mudslinging to extreme lengths. This we do not need to see ever again, from any party's candidate.

Negative reinforcement is a much more potent means of securing attention; I suppose that's because we as human animals respond much more acutely towards threats to our personal wellbeing and our survival. Positive reinforcement does not have the same sort of power. Yes, I agree it would be nice if we would evolve to the point that these unfortunate realities were not so, but as yet, we have not.

In every election cycle, some candidate stands up to tell the American People that politics as usual are no good and must change. In every election cycle, a candidate decides to be supremely ethical and makes an attempt to seem above the fray. In every election cycle, someone advances the optimistic, idealistic notion that noble intentions, positivity, and good sportsmanship are sufficient in and of themselves to win elections. This time around, it's been Barack Obama who has been the latest reincarnation of politician to embrace this policy. As I have mentioned several times before, his hesitance to attack his opposition in ways that are hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners, and aggressive is the primary reason why he remains in second place to Hillary Clinton.

The ONLY time in recent history when an almost exclusively upbeat, positive overall message has won an election occurred in the 1976 election, which pitted Carter against Ford. In saying that, let me strongly emphasize how unusual that particular election was. A nation weary of political scandal and largely furious at President Ford for pardoning Nixon, would have elected a chimpanzee President. Indeed, at one point during the race, Carter held a huge 30 point lead over Ford. It rapidly disintegrated due to a few ill-advised statements and actions made by the former Georgia governor. To wit, Ford himself didn't close the gap, rather Carter's missteps did.

To expand this argument, the political graveyard is littered with candidates who simply didn't step up to the plate and adjust to changing times. Many of them might easily have won if they had been more acutely aware of current trends. Many also made crucial mistakes in stating their case to the American people. These miscues go far beyond just the reluctance to go in for the kill. They can also include a hesitance to properly defend themselves. I'll cite a few examples.

  • In 1988, Michael Dukakis didn't respond early enough to a battery of charges leveled at him by the Bush 41 campaign, costing him the election. In particular, he didn't provide a definitive counter-attack to the infamous Willie Horton ad until it was too late. Wishing to seem strong on defense, Dukakis strapped on a helmet and rode in the belly of a tank. Instead of looking powerful and firmly in control, he came across looking like little more than an uncoordinated weakling. The ad was such a disaster that Bush's team ridiculed it in its own spot.
  • In 1952, Adlai Stevenson, feeling that television advertising was undignified, refused to be featured personally in any of his campaign spots. Little more than glorified radio spots, his political ads did not make effective use of the new medium of television. Dwight Eisenhower, however, had no qualms in putting his face out over the airwaves. Ike's snappy, Madison Avenue designed ads were light years ahead of anything Stevenson could muster.
  • In 2004, as we all unfortunately remember, John Kerry's campaign was effectively derailed by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. This group's series of ads cast serious doubt on Kerry's assertion that he was a genuine war hero, an issue which he had made the central theme of his campaign. The ads worked so effectively that many voters perceived the Democratic nominee to be a manipulative phony rather than a true patriot. The Senator from Massachusetts finally responded to the ads, but his delay in doing so cost him dearly at the polls.
Go take a look for yourself. It's well worth your time.