Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Bit of a Re-Evaluation

Today during meeting we were fortunate to have the company of five students from a Quaker school in North Carolina. Three weeks ago we received a similar visit from a different Quaker school in the same general area. I wrote then at some length about the feelings of ambivalence I had upon the arrival of the first group of Quaker high schoolers. Now, having spoken with these students at length, I seem to have come to a somewhat different conclusion.

What I noticed about these teenagers, all female, is how well-adjusted they seemed. Each of them were intelligent and mature for their years but they were also comfortable being average adolescent girls, too. They weren't jaded, deliberately apathetic, or maddeningly superficial in the way many their age can be. In the public school where I attended, feelings of self-worth and self-esteem were rarely the case with any student, particularly anyone who dared to be creative, different, or smart. And I began to wonder if this in and of itself was worth the $15,000 per year tuition price tag that their parents dutifully footed for all four years of high school. I began to wonder if emotional, spiritual, and social health could only be accomplished in an alternate setting like this one.

There was a time where I felt like going through the emotional wringer like I had gone through in my awful adolescent years was some badge of accomplishment. It was meant to be painful, everyone suffered equally, and once over, one had the satisfaction of having acquired the scars, complexes, and neuroses that all humans held for the rest of their lives. Now, this attitude seems supremely silly. It doesn't just seem silly, it seems wrought of sour grapes and residual bitterness. I really wanted to fit in as to we all, regardless of age. I really wanted to be accepted as I was, without feeling misunderstood and drawing back within myself as a defensive measure.
And though I was too self-absorbed at the time to realize it, I wasn't alone in those same negative feelings.

What troubles me still is that if my logic proves solid, good health can be bought. These kids are remarkably similar in makeup. Almost all of them are white. Almost all of them are children of highly educated parents, many of which are academics. An argument could be made that these kids are not really getting a good idea of what life is like for most people and that they have no clue how the other half lives. But it's not as if they don't know anything else---several talked about negative experiences in public school and how these horror stories had convinced their parents to shell out the cash for Quaker school tuition.

By contrast, my mother was a firm believer in John Dewey and his egalitarian view of public education. As she rose through the ranks towards upper level administration in the public school district where I and my two younger sisters were enrolled, she resolutely kept us there even when we hated it and begged to be sent elsewhere. If it were up to Mom, there would be no private schools whatsoever. In her opinion, private schools were deeply elitist, siphoning off the achievers and leaving behind the at-risk or behavior problems, complicating matters for students, teachers, and administrators alike. Private schools, in her mind, were scarcely worth the prohibitive cost to parents and provided students an unrealistic bubble in which they were never confronted with the concerns of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds or races.

Still, I wonder if the fact that I was around a very diverse group of students did me more harm than good. It's not like we ever blended well or much at all. The black kids sat at the same table at lunch. Geeks like me isolated ourselves from the popular crowd, who wanted no part of serious pursuits and instead were engaged in social games that I always felt were foolish and asinine. An argument could be made that throwing the masses together in one school poisons everyone but hurts most the high achiever, the budding intellectual, the artist, and the precocious. I just don't know anymore. I fight with myself and my own opinions, which sometimes believe that true equality is possible and sometimes believe that true equality is the domain of only those capable of understanding how to create it for themselves.

A few things persist to bother me. I continue to find it perplexing that the faith tradition most represented among the student body of an average Quaker schools is often Judaism. In a student body of roughly 150, I was told today by the young women that perhaps six of their classmates were, in fact, actual Quakers. Yet, each of these young ladies expressed an appreciation for Quaker virtues and though most of them were predominately secular in identification, they did believe that Quakerism had real practical application in their own lives. And if this is the lasting example left on a group of young people who are by in large skeptical of religion, I believe it to be a success.

Quote of the Week

"No servant can serve two masters, because either he will hate one and love the other, or be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and wealth!"- Jesus of Nazareth.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Saturday Video

This song has remained a favorite, though I am, shall we say, less inclined to agree with the first verse as I was when I was sixteen. And since Patti Smith herself wrote it at around that same age, I take it as the statement of adolescent rebellion it was then will always be.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Good Riddance, Hummer

With the impending bankruptcy of GM will come the end of the wasteful, ostentatious, gas guzzling, environmentally unhealthy monstrosity of consumer culture called the Hummer. The brand could conceivably be sold to another company, but I doubt any other automaker would wish to take a chance on it, mainly because it's highly likely that gas prices will spike again in the future. Not only that, with the rise of climate change awareness among the public and arrival of more environmentally conscious car choices, vehicles like the Hummer will become even less, not more, commercially viable. I believe this to be a good thing for everyone.

So for those of us who always decried the mentality of some who seemed to believe that having enough wealth, or status, or possessions somehow justified owning something this thoroughly disgusting, may I be one among many to follow by saying, "Goodbye and Good Riddance!"

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Head's Up

A week from today my girlfriend arrives in town. We are going to be spending ten days together from start to finish. Though most of the time we'll stay here in Birmingham, we do have romantic three day stay at the beach planned, too. It has been two and a half months since I left DC and came back here and to say that we've missed each other terribly in the interim would be a vast understatement. Though I try to keep this blog focused on my public face, I might post a few pictures upon my return.

The point of this is to say that I will be otherwise indisposed beginning seven days from today. I enjoy blogging and don't like contemplating an extended hiatus, but this is a special occasion. So, to provide some advanced notice to my regular readers and whomever else might have stumbled across this blog, I will not be blogging between Thursday, 4 June and Saturday, 13 June. I'm sure you all understand my reasons.

Take care,

Comrade Kevin.

Birth Control Euphemism Delight

I've only recently discovered Sarah Haskins, but wish I'd known about her much sooner. In her person, I find much to love: a woman of intelligence, deadpan wit, dead-on social criticism, and sensible activism. Above is one of her best videos.

What is really interesting to me, as I myself confessed to a friend--Ms. Haskins is merely a year older than me. I'm getting used to this idea of public figures being my age or even a little younger. But then again, I am getting close to thirty so I know I should expect more of this, not less.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Beyond Lock 'Em Up and Throw Away the Key

In the middle of the debate regarding same-sex marriage, torture techniques, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Nancy Pelosi, and the imminent demise of the Republican Party came this article from Virginia Democratic Senator Jim Webb. At first I was tempted myself to take it with a grain of salt, since it first appeared in Parade magazine, which is often the home of celebrity fluff or softball news. This might be why it wasn't covered much in more reputable periodicals and made almost no impact on the public consciousness. Yet, quite honestly, this issue rarely finds its way into public discussion and is found even less in the blogsophere. It's a matter that liberals can't really sink their teeth into and one that conservatives believe is pretty much an open and shut matter: prison reform.

As often happens when the mainstream media or the substantive blog voices take aim at a few singular issues rather than spreading its coverage more thinly, important matters like these slip through the cracks. To wit, prison reform goes well beyond just the cell block walls. It touches such hot button issues as arrests and convictions for simple drug possession, the staggering number of African-American men currently under lock and key, the Mexican drug cartel skirmishes still smoldering south of the border, the number of inmates in prison suffering from untreated or at best, ill-treated mental illness, and the ever-increasing tax burden of keeping people behind bars for years.

To include a brief passage from the article itself---

The United States has by far the world's highest incarceration rate. With 5% of the world's population, our country now houses nearly 25% of the world's reported prisoners. We currently incarcerate 756 inmates per 100,000 residents, a rate nearly five times the average worldwide of 158 for every 100,000. In addition, more than 5 million people who recently left jail remain under "correctional supervision," which includes parole, probation, and other community sanctions. All told, about one in every 31 adults in the United States is in prison, in jail, or on supervised release. This all comes at a very high price to taxpayers: Local, state, and federal spending on corrections adds up to about $68 billion a year.

Furthermore, incarceration has become an industry. What was originally intended to be a means to isolate from the rest of society the worst offenders in an effort to keep the public safe has now become a profitable endeavor. Billions of dollars are spent every year building new prisons. With these new correctional facilities come jobs for guards, wardens, administrative staff, low-skill employees, and those who make a living out of designing and constructing them from bottom to top. In a rapidly-changing economy moving increasingly towards information dispersal rather than unskilled industry, the corrections industry has stepped in to fill the void left by mills and plants.

The consequences of this, as you might well imagine, are grim. Prisoners who likely need to serve only probation or house arrest are sent to jail instead. Jail terms are often extended beyond any reasonable length of time and the pressure placed upon judges and prosecutors to opt for an extended sentence makes them more, not less likely, to send convicted offenders to the big house. Alternative methods such as counseling or prisoner education which seek to reform behavior rather than harshly punish it have frequently proven to have achieved higher rates of success and fewer rates of recidivism.

Quite simply, what concerns me most is that the methods which aim to directly confront the unresolved and often barely confronted problems of a convicted felon have proven to be far more effective than those which summarily punish wrongdoing with impunity. In addition to being unfair to opt purely for jail time rather than at least consider other options, automatic incarceration is also extremely inefficient and wasteful from a monetary standpoint, particularly towards taxpayers who foot the bill. I am reminded again of how often we try to attack a problem by addressing its effects, not its root causes, and this is one such glaring instance. I marvel, however, at the number of people who will get up in arms about the prospect of having to fund basic social services or public infrastructure projects, but will consider their tax dollars well spent provided they send criminals to prison and in doing so, keep them there. I firmly believe that our priorities need to be seriously reevaluated.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Generics a Bargain? Maybe Not.

This article proves to be a distressing read, particularly for those of us who use generic prescription medication on a daily basis. Indeed, many of us are locked firmly into relying on generics because even the best insurance plans often insist upon covering them rather than the much pricier name brands. My regular readers have noted that when the cost of medication per bottle or per unit without insurance is obscenely high in general, lower cost alternatives are a godsend. Though it should be noted that not every medication with a generic equivalent should be considered suspect, this is enough of a problem that it might be good sense to do one's homework from henceforth.

For bare-bone insurance plans like Medicaid or Medicare, many times the only way name brand medications are covered at all are unless the doctor insists upon prescribing a name-brand or if no generic alternative is currently available. And as I have dealt with myself, just being handed a prescription is often no guarantee of coverage. Medicaid, in particular, tries to save as much money as it can by bullying doctors into prescribing lower cost alternatives so that the General Fund from which all medical expenses are drawn from is not depleted. This is tantamount to a medical system informing doctors that their discretion is better and if I were a licensed practitioner, I might take serious offense to it. The only way that Medicaid agrees to cover certain flagged drugs is when additional paperwork is filled out and sent in, specifying that the exact medication prescribed is the most effective treatment and that lower cost alternatives have been tried before and have not worked.

Still, the matter does cut both ways. Many doctors receive gifts and money from pharmaceutical companies, which certainly influences their choice of prescription, even if that medication might be more expensive for the consumer than another one. As the above article point out, with prohibitively expensive prescription drugs and in keeping with a global economy, more and more industry has been outsourced to the third world and so perhaps it was inevitable that pharmaceutical manufacturing would head the same way. Regrettably, the American consumer's hands are tied in the matter. Unlike insisting upon buying American or making a conscious choice to buy environmentally friendly products in a store, the cost differential between name brand drugs and generic equivalents is vast, and cannot be compared to paying a few dollars more for organic laundry detergent or produce. Furthermore, as noted above, with the insurance companies taking their roles as an inescapable middle man, one has no choice but to play by their rules and jump through their hoops.

When one compares the matter to the past, one thinks of the historical precedent for FDA regulation and approval of medication, which was the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. This reform measure eventually established the Food and Drug Administration though it was designed specifically to combat quack and patent medications which were frequently marketed as cure-alls to combat a variety of illnesses, but were often comprised overwhelmingly of alcohol, cocaine or morphine. What is needed now is a new set of regulations and firm parameters that must be adhered to for the safety of the consumer. When regulation is whittled away to suit the aims of business, the health and safety of everyone inevitably suffers mightily.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Another Timely Song by The Kinks

I think I'm so sophisticated, 'cause I'm living my
life like a good homo sapien

But all around me everybody's
multiplying, and they're walking
round like flies, man

So I'm no better than the animals
sitting in the cages in the zoo, man

'cause compared to the flowers and
the birds and the trees -- I am an apeman

I think I'm so educated and I'm so
civilized 'cause I'm a strict vegetarian

And with the over population,
and inflation and starvation,
and the crazy politicians

I don't feel safe in
this world no more,

I don't want to die in a nuclear war

I want to sail away to a distant shore,
and make like an apeman

I'm an apeman
I'm an ape, apeman
Oh, I'm an apeman

I'm a king-kong man
I'm a voodoo man
Oh, I'm an apeman

'cause compared to the
sun that sits in the sky

Compared to the clouds
as they roll by

Compared to the bugs and
the spiders and flies
I am an apeman.

La la la la...

In man's evolution he's created
the city and the motor traffic rumble

But give me half a chance and
I'd be taking off my clothes
and living in the jungle

'cause the only time that I feel
at ease is swinging up and down
in a coconut tree

Oh what a life of luxury --
to be like an apeman

I'm an apeman
I'm an ape, apeman
Oh, I'm an apeman

I'm a king-kong man
I'm a voodoo man
Oh, I'm an apeman

I look out the window,
but I can't see the sky

The air pollution is
a-fogging up my eyes

I want to get out of this city alive
And make like an apeman

Come on and love me -
Be my apeman girl
And we'd be so happy -
In my apeman world

I'm an apeman
I'm an ape, apeman
Oh, I'm an apeman

I'm a king-kong man
I'm a voodoo man
Oh, I'm an apeman

I'll be your Tarzan a
nd you'll be my Jane

I'll keep you warm
and you'll keep me sane

We'll sit in the trees
and eat bananas all day
Just like an apeman

I'm an apeman
I'm an ape, apeman
Oh, I'm an apeman

I'm a king-kong man
I'm a voodoo man
Oh, I'm an apeman

I don't feel safe in this world
no more, I don't want to die
in a nuclear war

I want to sail away to a distant shore,
and make like an apeman

This Boy

Though this song was only a B-side (to "I Want to Hold Your Hand", no less), I have always liked it. It's very different from most of the other early Beatles songs and the original version features some strong three-part harmonies. Naturally there's no way for me to mimic those and the relatively primitive technology in making a performance video makes it difficult to add them in to a live take.

I think it's kind of interesting to hear how the song sounds with just one voice.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Quote of the Week

Someone has said that it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think
.- Emma Goldman

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Saturday Video

A comment on soft news.

Baby, you don't know
what you're saying

Because you're a victim
of bright city lights
And your mind is not right

You think the world's at your feet
'Coz you're starstruck

Friday, May 22, 2009

Posible o Imposible?

Intelligence officers of the United States were not trying to rough up some terrorists simply to avenge the dead of 9/11.- Dick Cheney

In the latest version of our contest, is this...

Posible o imposible?

You decide!

Or, to put it another way...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

When Someone Tells You We Can't Have Universal Health Care

Respond with this telling statistic.

The United Kingdom has had socialized health care (The National Health Service) for sixty-two YEARS and furthermore, it was established at a time (1946) when the country was nearly bankrupt as a result of having fought for six long years in the Second World War. The program proved to be so successful that every party in the House of Commons embraced it. Indeed, for the next thirty years, no one dared to speak in opposition to the vast amount of good it created in the lives of ordinary Britons.

We can do the same thing here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tools, Not Religions

A Friend of mine's pet theory is the notion that we as a society get into trouble when we treat broad concepts like Capitalism, Socialism, Secularism, Liberalism, Conservatism, and the like as religions rather than change agents. We take our viewpoints very seriously and frequently see those who criticize them as heretical muckrakers rather than honest petitioners. On some issues like capital punishment and abortion rights, there will always be sharply drawn lines in the sand and one would have to be a fool to believe otherwise. But in less emotionally charged matters where compromise could be an option, we don't bother to even entertain the prospect of common purpose, seeing only adversaries where we could see friends.

Occasionally I encounter a sardonically titled book, written by some right-wing talking head that proceeds to rake liberals over the coals for daring to slight the traditional role religion has played for centuries--instead, as the argument inevitably goes, liberals superimpose their own brand of bigoted secular humanism in place of devout religious conviction. The comparison is not entirely without merit on its face, pejoratives aside, but what it fails to take into account is that the right frequently acts in a similarly restrictive and intolerant fashion when it proposes and asserts its own agenda. In short, everyone wants to be supremely right and few want anyone telling us otherwise. We also have a disconcerting habit of wanting to go for the jugular, as though opposing points of view were neurological toxins. It's pure propaganda to insist that liberals are amoral people because they don't hold religious beliefs just as it is to assume that all conservative Christians are hypocritical and stubbornly inflexible. Once again, we are assuming the worst instead of allowing for the possibility of common purpose.

Both of us like to trot out extreme cases in an attempt to make our case, which to me has always been like equating a man who kills someone in a bar fight to a serial killer. Rarely are we ever defined by our radical or reactionary fringes. Yet, if one listened to the multitude of cautionary tales spread through e-mail, watched alarmist documentaries, or read written expose accounts in magazines, one might assume that every liberal was a militant anarchist bound on destroying the framework of society or that every conservative had a hood, sheet, and swastika prominently displayed in his or her closet. The problem with us is that we tend to think tribally rather than communally and in a nation built on immigration and uncomfortable coexistence, it might be wishful thinking to assume we would believe otherwise.

The Culture Wars are merely a convenient label for the trials and tribulations of a deeply heterogeneous society that is becoming more this way, not less so. As the punk group Sleater-Kinney so aptly noted, We are all equal in the face of what we're most afraid of.

Monday, May 18, 2009

nobody loses all the time

I'm still a little sick today, so please accept this poem instead of an actual post.

nobody loses all the time

i had an uncle named
Sol who was a born failure and
nearly everybody said he should have gone
into vaudeville perhaps because my Uncle Sol could
sing McCann He Was A Diver on Xmas Eve like Hell Itself
may or may not account for the fact that my Uncle

Sol indulged in that possibly most inexcusable
of all to use a highfalootin phrase
luxuries that is or to
wit farming and be
it needlessly

my Uncle Sol's farm
failed because the chickens
ate the vegetables so
my Uncle Sol had a
chicken farm till the
skunks ate the chickens when

my Uncle Sol
had a skunk farm but
the skunks caught cold and
died so
my Uncle Sol imitated the
skunks in a subtle manner

or by drowning himself in the watertank
but somebody who'd given my Unde Sol a Victor
Victrola and records while he lived presented to
him upon the auspicious occasion of his decease a
scrumptious not to mention splendiferous funeral with
tall boys in black gloves and flowers and everything and

i remember we all cried like the Missouri
when my Uncle Sol's coffin lurched because
somebody pressed a button
(and down went
my Uncle

-ee cummings.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

GOP Survey "Questions"

Yesterday I was over at my parent's house and encountered a Republican National Committee survey resting on the kitchen table. My father, as you might recall, helped campaign for George H.W. Bush in the late 80's and probably registered as a Republican around the time of Ronald Reagan. This is why the survey ended up being mailed specifically to him. The party is obviously quite desperate, since he never used to receive such mailings. I have no doubt that they've gone through decades worth of names and sent informational mailings to anyone who might be the slightest bit sympathetic.

I'm always curious to know what tricks the GOP are up to these days. The survey, if one can call it that, is nothing more than a bunch of loaded, propaganda-laced, often straw-man infused questions meant to inflame and to spread outrage. I'm not surprised, of course, but I thought I might post these questions to show to what lengths and depths the party has stooped to now. Many of these questions are worded very subtly and very pointedly, so observe them carefully.

I doubt a similar DNC mailer would resort to these same tactics.

  1. Do you agree with Barack Obama's budget plan that will lead to a $23.1 trillion deficit over the next ten years?
  2. Do you believe that the federal government has gone too far in bailing out failing banks, insurance companies, and the auto industry?
  3. Do you support amnesty for illegal immigrants?
  4. Should English be the official language of the United States?
  5. Are you in favor of granting retroactive Social Security eligibility to illegal immigrants who gain U.S. citizenship through an amnesty program?
  6. Are you in favor of the expanded welfare benefits and unlimited eligibility (no time, education, or work requirements) that Democrats in Congress are pushing to pass?
  7. Do you believe that Barack Obama's nominees for federal courts should be immediately and unquestionably approved for their lifetime appointments by the U.S. Senate?
  8. Do you believe that the best way to increase the quality and effectiveness of public education in the U.S. is to rapidly expand federal funding while eliminating performance standards and accountability?
  9. Do you support the creation of a national health insurance plan that would be administered by bureaucrats in Washington, DC?
  10. Do you believe that quality and availability of healthcare will increase if the federal government dicatates pricing to doctors and hospitals?
  11. Are you confident that new medicines and medical treatments will continue to be developed if the federal government controls prescription drug prices and sets profit margins for research and pharmaceutical companies?
  12. Are you in favor of creating a government-funded "Citizen Volunteer Corps" that would pay young people to do work now done by churches and charities, earning Corps Members the same pay and benefits given to military veterans?
  13. Are you in favor of reinstituting the military draft, as Democrats in Congress have proposed?
  14. Do you believe that the federal government should allow the unionization of Department of Homeland Security employees who serve in position critical to the safety security of our nation?
  15. Do you support Democrats' drive to eliminate workers' right to a private ballot when considering unionizing of their place of employment?

A separate note from Michael Steele insinuates that the Republican party is "not dead". I find this most telling.

Quote of the Week

In the beginning, the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.- Douglas Adams

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday Video

Oh, I used to be disgusted
but now I try to be amused

Friday, May 15, 2009



Taking a Break from the Greek Chorus

Lisa put it best. Sometimes we bloggers have a way of being remarkably consistent as regards the topics we write about. And understandably so, of course. What we write about are in reference to important news events and political happenings that deserve our attention, though after a while, finding a unique perspective that hasn't been covered already a thousand times over is rather difficult. A few of my regular readers have noted that they have a tendency to quickly skim through or even ignore a post on a subject that has been extensively covered in other places. If I was wholly concerned with hits at the expense of quality content, I might take this heart more than I do.

Today, I suppose I could write about Nancy Pelosi, credit cards, torture, or the recession. Quite honestly, I don't have anything further to note about them other than the predictable conclusions the rest of you out there have likely drawn for yourselves. Sometimes I wonder if the point of blogging as a political force is solidarity or original perspective. I lean towards the latter, though with so many worthy voices and excellent writers, we're bound to run over the same ground eventually. Sometimes I hit the zone and can add a vastly original idea onto the existing popular sentiment raging, and when that happens, I feel fully content. We all have strengths and we all have our personal wheelhouses and right now, nothing going on caters to my own.

And on days like this, I just read through my blogroll and appreciate the talented folks who I have come to know over the years. Have a pleasant weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I saw something of myself in you
Too much, in fact

The way you preened
before a mirror
talked a little too loudly

Projectile vomited
your life story
in the direction
of anyone within earshot

They only rolled their eyes
clucked their tongues
make circular motions
around their temples

when you weren’t looking

I tried not to notice

the intoxicated swagger
you seemed to mistake
for self-confidence

I never pointed out
the brightly lit stage
you strode upon

was held up by
contradiction and condescension

I knew
that myths and fairy tales
kept your heart beating

Thus I wasn’t surprised
to find the death
of your last panacea

covered in your own blood

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mambo Sun

Sorry I got this up so late today. I was very busy doing other things.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hypocrisy, Hypocrisy, Hypocrisy

I have no idea why the Miss California "scandal" qualifies as actual news, but I would like to say a few words. First, an especially pertinent paragraph or five from the internet.

The Sunday after the Miss USA pageant, Prejean was greeted as a hero by the congregation at her San Diego-area megachurch, the Rock Church. Shortly after, she signed on to be a spokesperson for the National Organization for Marriage’s campaign against same-sex marriage.

More recently, Prejean told James Dobson of “Focus on the Family” that Hilton’s question about gay marriage was the work of the devil.

I felt as though Satan was trying to tempt me in asking me this question,” she said on Dobson’s radio show. “And then God was in my head and in my heart saying, "Do not compromise this. You need to stand up for me and you need to share with all these people ... you need to witness to them and you need to show that you're not willing to compromise that for this title of Miss USA."

That controversy over her pageant statement was still raging when the Web site posted a racy photo of Prejean wearing pink panties and a smile. Prejean said the picture was taken for a modeling shoot when she was 17. She said just one picture existed.

But then the gossip site posted another picture, saying it had more, and other sources came out saying that Prejean was over 18 when she took the shots. Then, on Monday, another gossip site,, posted more pictures of Prejean, this time from the front and topless.


Next, a few pertinent words from the source.

  • "Not all who sound religious are really godly people. They may refer to me as 'Lord' but but still won't get to heaven. At the Judgment many will tell me, 'Lord, Lord, we told others about you and used your name to cast out demons and to do many other great miracles.' But I will reply, 'You have never been mine. Go away, for your deeds are evil.'
  • "Woe to you, Pharisees, and you religious leaders---hypocrites! You are so careful to polish the outside of the cup, but the inside is foul with extortion and greed. Blind Pharisees! First cleanse the outside of the cup, the the whole cup will be clean....You try to look like saintly men, but underneath those pious robes of yours are hearts besmirched with every sort of hypocrisy and sin."
  • "You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way round."


Ms. Prejean, I cannot stress overmuch-- gladly underwent breast augmentation surgery, a procedure which was paid for by the Miss California pageant. In addition to being another example of everything wrong with a society obsessed with outsides and superficiality at the expense of internal purity, the very same phenomenon Jesus spoke against in his day, what I am most appalled with, frankly, is the behavior of the megachurch which has welcomed her into their fold with open arms. What strange, opportunistic bedfellows this makes and how unfortunate it is that a church which espouses the teachings of Jesus would adopt a by-any-means-necessary approach to defeat the scourge of same-sex marriage. That they would overlook and completely ignore the words of their spiritual leader to advance their own agenda is what truly troubles me most.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Blame it on the Tetons

I posted this song as a Saturday Video a few weeks back and figured it deserved a performance video, too.

Blame it on the Tetons
Yeah, I need a scapegoat now

No, my dog won't bite you
Though it had the right to

You ought to give her credit
Because she knows I would've let it happen

Blame it on the weekends
God, I need a cola now

Oh, we mumble loudly
Wear our shame so proudly

Wore our blank expressions
Trying to look interesting

Blame it all on me because
God, I need a cold one now

All them eager actors
Gladly taking credit
for the lines created

By the people tucked
away from sight

Is just a window from
the room we're bound to

If you find a way out
Oh, would you just
let me know how?

Would you just let me
know how?

Blame it on the web
But the spider's
your problem now

Language is the liquid
That we're all dissolved in

Great for solving problems
After it creates a problem

Blame it on the Tetons
God, I need a scapegoat now

Everyone's a building burning
With no one to put the fire out

Standing at the window looking out
Waiting for time to burn us down

Everyone's an ocean drowning
With no one really to show how

They might get a
little better air

If they turned themselves
into a cloud

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Quote of the Week

Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. Don’t assign to stupidity what might be due to ignorance. And try not to assume your opponent is the ignorant one — until you can show it isn’t you.- Hanlon's Razor.

Free Four

The memories of a man in his old age
are the deeds of a man in his prime.

You shuffle in the gloom of a sickroom
and talk to yourself till you die.

Life is a short, warm moment
and death is a long cold rest.

You get your chance to try
in the twinkling of an eye:
Eighty years, with luck, or even less.

So all aboard for the American tour,
and maybe you'll make it to the top.

And mind how you go,
and I can tell you, 'cause I know.
You may find it hard to get off.

You are the angel of death
and I am the dead man's son.

And he was buried like a
mole in a fox hole.

And everyone is still on the run.

And who is the master of fox hounds?
And who says the hunt has begun?

And who calls the tune in the courtroom?
And who beats the funeral drum?

The memories of a man in his old age
are the deeds of a man in his prime.

You shuffle in the gloom of a sickroom
and talk to yourself till you die.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Movie Review: Kind Hearts and Coronets

The most successful and best of the Ealing Studios pictures, Kind Hearts and Coronets is also paradoxically one of its most atypical offerings. While most Ealing productions were jovial, patriotic, wholesome, and practically bereft of sexuality, Kind Hearts and Coronets was full of spleen towards the British class system, possessed of a healthy eroticism underscored by actress Joan Greenwood's huskily voiced femme fatale, and unapologetic for both. On paper, it would seem to be impossible to sympathize with Dennis Price's Louis Mazzini, who personally and methodically kills six members of his family to be first in line for a Dukedom. Mazzini's reasons for seeking revenge are a result of the fact that the D'Ascoyne family disowned his mother for daring to marry beneath them and to marry a foreigner, an Italian opera singer. This would seem to be a petty and inexcusably vindictive reason for seeking blood justice. However, the priggish, cold, and thoroughly inhuman behavior of most of his victims make it difficult, if not impossible to feel that each of these haughty, disdainful, and supremely calculating aristocrats deserve nothing less than death. Furthermore, Mazzini is blessed by a smooth grace and easy charm that endears him to the audience, even as he disposes of his relations with scientific precision. This might be one of the more chilling conclusions drawn from this skillfully constructed, brilliantly scripted, cynical black comedy but it certainly isn't the only one.

To understand the film, one must first understand a bit about the studio of its birth. Ealing Studios was a British film (and later television) facility whose apex in the public eye ran for roughly a decade, 1945-1955. It had been around for roughly a decade before then, but Ealing found its niche with a series of satirical comedies, for which it is best known today. The studios were run by Michael Balcon, a second-generation Eastern-European Jew, who embraced the British way of life and his new country the way only an earnest convert can. At times, Balcon's desire to show the greatest number of rosy, thoroughly British customs and mannerisms possible led to the incorporation of a superfluous number of on-screen mentions (tea time was overemphasized whenever possible) and correspondingly hackneyed sayings into the screenplays of his company's films. Daring to identify as so unapologetically U.K. was a risky move in those days, since British film already had a reputation overseas of being inferior to Hollywood and in the years before Anglophilia, American audiences felt the same.

The film was groundbreaking in a multitude of ways. The talented Alec Guinness plays eight separate parts, each of which are thoroughly convincing, which was an especially difficult task to pull off with any credulity since it was filmed in the era before even rudimentary special effects. Ealing had budget limitations that occasionally were to the detriment of its pictures, but it did maintain a talented makeup division, to whom all the credit in the world is due in creating a skillful rendering of each of Guinness's D'Ascoyne characters. The tradition of playing multiple roles within the same picture is inherited from the stage, would be a motif often adapted by subsequent British actors as a way to show off their acting prowess. Peter Sellers, in particular, played three separate character in Dr. Strangelove, and had every desire to play four until he sprained his ankle in the middle of shooting. Lindsay Anderson's second directorial effort, O Lucky Man!, required most of the primary actors to take on as many as five and six separate parts.

Kind Hearts and Coronets narrowly missed being severely edited before it reached audiences. Ironically enough, this had nothing to do with the sheer number of stylized murders committed or the suggestion that the murderer might conceivably go free at the end, but absolutely everything to do with the charged eroticism (beyond tame by today's standards) between Mazzini and Sibella as well as the unapologetic adulterous affair the two conduct without expressing the slightest pangs of guilt. Studio head Balcon was well-known for his substantial Puritanical streak and had to be talked into leaving the picture just as it was by Director/Screenwriter Robert Hamer. Balcon might have conceivably been concerned about the film's potential loss of financial gross in the United States, since it was quite possible that several elements of the film would violate the still potent restrictions of the Production Code.

As it turns out, upon American release, the film was changed substantially. Six full minutes were removed. The ending was, in fact, completely changed to fit the Code's insistence that those who commit crimes must always pay for them in the end. The most blatantly adulterous language between Mazzinni and Sibella was toned down, a few choice remarks criticizing an incompetent Christian Parson were removed, and a particularly offensive children's nursery rhyme was sanitized. More than any other objectionable feature, the film is, I fear, not in as wide a distribution as it could today be because of this roughly two-minute section that is undeniably quite racist. In it, the new Duke and Sibella recite a familiar rhyme that includes a dreaded racial slur that begins with the letter N. Notwithstanding, a modern audience will find Kind Hearts and Coronets very engaging today, in the way that only art which is years ahead of its time can be. The callous, cynical tone struck by the film--one that makes no attempt towards atonement or overt moralizing-- would prove to be a lasting impression that would find more, not less frequent expression with the passing of time.

Saturday Video

Don't let me hear you say
life's taking you nowhere


Friday, May 08, 2009

Behind The Scenes

While applying for jobs today, I found a posting that called for a Customer Service Representative to an Abortion Clinic. Contrary to what I thought initially, the duties go well beyond simply answering a phone and providing rudimentary information. This occupation requires so much emotional strength from whomever works it, I decided to post the list of responsibilities below, cut and pasted directly from the job listing itself.



  • Responds to inbound calls, provide caller responses to questions with unbiased and factual information, offers confidential and non-judgmental support and case management for women.

  • Refers callers to appropriate supervisor as necessary;

  • Performs data entry for setting abortion appointments for consultation/procedures;

  • Conducts patient registration, insurance registration, and fee scale assessment. Provides all information necessary to ensure that patient is prepared for the visit to a PPMW health center.

  • Conducts benefit verification and pre authorization for services with third party payers. Ensures detailed documentation of coverage.

  • Confirms abortion appointments with patients through outbound calling;

  • Answers post abortion patients queries.

    Those of us who are pro-choice are, of course, eternally grateful for those who perform services such as these. Without them, reproductive rights could not be extended to women who make a conscious choice to terminate their pregnancies. Still, I have to admit I don't think I could handle the stress and the trauma of a job like this. I would wager that few people can. Those who have the stamina to do this sort of work have my supreme respect.

    This is the ugly underbelly of abortion that we often sanitize away and don't like to think about much in depth. That we put extreme responsibilities like this on entry-level workers makes me very upset. It's not exactly fair, is it?
  • Thursday, May 07, 2009

    Regarding Yesterday's Poem

    Though it serves well as a poem, "The Smartest Person I Know's" original function was as a song. To provide some additional information that readers asked about, Chris Butler was the songwriter and band leader of a musical group, the roots of which stemmed from the same Akron/Kent State, Ohio, scene that produced Devo and The Pretenders. Butler's intention was to create a band with a strongly opinionated female lead singer. A personal friend of his named Patty Donahue agreed to take the role. Butler did such a credible job of writing from a female perspective that many people assumed Donahue had written the lyrics herself.

    The early 1980's experimental New Wave group Butler formed was subsequently named The Waitresses. These days, everyone recognizes the outfit for exactly one song, (posted below) which was regrettably its only real hit.

    This song, clever though it is, unfairly cast the band as some kind of snotty novelty act, when a survey of The Waitresses' entire catalog finds many lyrical gems and songs of great quality, such as "The Smartest Person I Know", which I included on my previous post. And as for this whole "fifth wheel" business mentioned in the text, your guess is as good as mine. Unsurprisingly, Butler is also a blogger. Perhaps you can ask him yourself?

    So now you know the rest of the story.

    Wednesday, May 06, 2009

    The Smartest Person I Know

    consider this...

    the smartest person I know
    was worried that they don’t fit in

    when everyone’s running this way
    they’re always running that way.

    the smartest person I know
    was worried about their career

    their work was once important
    now it’s empty and redundant
    and when they mentioned

    something ‘bout a fifth wheel...

    I told the smartest person I know

    “big wheels turn real slow
    when you finally get a bone to throw
    there’s no dog around to catch it.”

    “the trouble with you is you’re right
    you’re awkward because you’re normal

    you’re worthlessly over-qualified
    and hopelessly hopeful.”

    “the trouble with you is you’re right,
    you’re the smartest person I know,
    that’s why you feel like a fifth wheel...”

    “the trouble with you is you’re right
    isn’t that most inspiring?

    really such a comfort
    useful and encouraging.”

    “the trouble with you is you’re right
    and the smartest person you know

    also probably feel like a fifth wheel...”

    the smartest person I know
    was worried about their lover

    “we were both going this way
    now we’re both going that way.”

    the smartest person I know
    asked if anybody else was sick of living

    with the end just around the corner
    under the boom that never comes.

    and again they mentioned

    something ‘bout a fifth wheel...

    “the trouble with you is you’re right
    you’ve got values so you’re immoral

    you struggle ‘cause you work too hard
    not cool ‘cause you’re too real.”

    “the trouble with you is you’re right
    like this other person I know who says

    I’m the smartest person they know
    and be glad that I feel like a fifth wheel...”

    -Chris Butler


    As I write this to you, yet another batch of bad weather is headed my way. One gets blase about tornadoes after a while because one can go years before they threaten any area remotely close to you. Tornadoes are tiny and extremely fickle creatures. If one of them touches down in a neighborhood, it is not unusual to see one house completely demolished while its neighbors to the east and west are completely spared. Unlike hurricanes, which destroy whole swaths of ground in every direction and hang around for hours or even days at a time, there is no solid rule to explain or estimate for how long tornadoes will remain on the ground or hold together long enough to do serious harm. Some last mere minutes from start to finish. Some threaten to touch down but pass overhead harmlessly instead. Some stay on the ground for extended periods of time. Some decide, by an unknown quirk of fate, to only touch down for two or three minutes in totality before diving back upwards and then eventually falling apart altogether.

    The statistic below shows you what I've been dealing with since I returned back to Alabama, roughly two months ago. I arrived at the beginning of Spring and the Spring months comprise our busiest tornado season. We also have a second season that, while milder, is still destructive. That one occurs in November. Soon Spring will give way to summer and conditions will become unfavorable for tornado development. One often forgets just how brief tornado season is because the end results are so very destructive.

    Preliminary Storm Prediction Center stats show that through Monday, there have been over 70 tornadoes in Alabama, which leads the nation in 2009. This total through early May is about 3/4 of the total number of tornadoes for ALL of 2008.

    What I will say is that I have never understood why tornadoes favor certain parts of town more than others. Anyone who has watched the news for an extended period of time has observed how many under-educated working class whites are the victims of tornadoes and cringes to hear their bad grammar, simplistic explanations, and pronounced twang while being interviewed by the latest local news station. I'd rather not attempt to explain their economic or education situation and instead focus on the tragedy. These people often don't have the money to buy a house and resort to trailers instead. Trailers are especially unsafe during tornadoes, so people frequently perish or are severely injured when they are blown to and fro in the high winds of the storm or when felled trees fall on top of the modular homes and crush the inhabitants living within them.

    Yet, oddly enough, as a passive observer I've noted the track tornadoes take, and they hit the same towns and sites over and over and over again. These locations are by in large peopled by poor whites. The cycle never ceases. Schools, churches, and homes are destroyed by the latest round of storms. Camera crews are called to the scene. People mourn. Then the rebuilding commences. A few months later, a tornado touches down. Schools, churches, and homes are destroyed by the latest round of storms. Camera crews are called to the scene. People mourn. Then the rebuilding commences. And so on, and so on.

    If it were me, I'd move somewhere else.

    Tuesday, May 05, 2009

    Learning How to Discern Properly

    Don't give holy things to depraved men. Don't give pearls to swine! They will trample the pearls and attack you.

    I've felt like this person many times before. When I first started blogging I came to understand for myself that a particularly notable site was packed full of metaphorical swine. Many of you, I'm sure, got burned there yourselves in the beginning before you learned better. The point of this post is not to further criticize those lost souls but rather to encourage fellow bloggers to learn how to pick their battles both in their internet lives and in their face to face lives with others. I love my regular readers and also those whose unique and worthy viewpoints I so value that I keep them on my blogroll and on my Google Reader feed. Our conduct towards each other is almost always civil, respectable, and calm.

    Part of my persistence to enlighten those who clearly are misinformed is an result of an optimistic belief I carry that if one summarily writes people off without trying to help them, this implies that no one can reform his or her conduct and change his or her attitude for the better. Many people hold this belief out of a desire to protect themselves but doing so leaves no room for forgiveness later if it is deserved. To me, this is a particularly petty and unfair stance to hold. Still, one manner of conducting oneself does not fit all when it comes down to human beings or internet personalities. On certain boards and on certain sites, I've learned the hard way that it is futile to try to teach certain concepts to people who don't want to listen and will only tear apart what I have to say. That doesn't mean I shouldn't correct those who will be receptive, but I should be wise and above all, discerning in that which I teach to whom so that I won't be wasting my time.

    It's tempting to play the victim a bit when writing a post on this subject. Certain bloggers I have observed have taken a somewhat condescending, patronizing, self-righteous tone when they write about their hate mail. It takes something of a thick skin to put strong opinions out here where they can be easily read by anyone with an internet connection. I fully admit that I have been unprepared for the viciousness, the anger, and the churlishness that often stifles rational discourse. We must resist the temptation, however, to see others in absolutes. If we go along with the popular opinion at all times we will be blown back and forth by the prevailing currents and meander without a rudder. I'd rather not postulate as to why the internet seems like a haven for people stuck in a perpetual state of arrested development, but rather encourage us to recognize who we need to avoid and who might have enough of an open mind to actually listen. It's amazing what you can learn about someone when you actually listen to them.

    Monday, May 04, 2009

    The Testimony of Discomfort

    Yesterday, our meeting greeted a group of 40 to 50 high school students. These 9th through 12th graders attend a Quaker school in North Carolina and were here in town as a scheduled stop as part of an extended Civil Rights Tour that, by the time it concludes, will span five southern states. Call it a very lengthy Field Trip if you will. Non-Friends often are unaware that a significant population of Friends live in North Carolina. As a matter of fact, the state trails only Pennsylvania in total Quaker membership in the United States.

    After I said my goodbyes to everyone, helped clean up the meeting house, and headed home I found the school's website. Out of curiosity, I looked to see how much a year's worth of tuition cost. It was even higher than I expected. Starting at Kindergarten, tuition per annum begins at a mere $8,500 a child and then by the time high school comes around, it increases prodigiously to $14,000. This strikes me as somehow wrong, particularly when I am reminded of that fact that as Friends we hold true and dear a Testimony of Equality which states that all people are equal in the eyes of God and in the eyes of Friends. Furthermore, we also hold sacrosanct a Testimony of Simplicity that encourages us to live a simple life with few frills and unnecessary possessions. Though I am sure scholarships and payment plans are available to needy and deserving families who wish to enroll their kids in this school, the reality is that even then, few families could live a spartan, minimalistic life without the trappings of some degree of luxury and be able to afford the cost. As a brief aside, those who attend Quaker schools or send their children there are not required to be Quakers themselves (for example, President Obama, Michelle, and their two daughters are not), but I know that many that send their kids to Friends school are.

    A two-income family making a total of $100,000 a year between two breadwinners would find approximately 15% of their yearly paycheck consumed in tuition cost alone. There are other expenses to factor in as well like trips, special functions, organic/socially conscious food products, textbooks, and unforeseen costs which always pop up in an educational setting. Put together, I can't say there's much in the way of equality here, either. What I observed Sunday was a bunch of middle to upper middle class white kids whose parents clearly had substantial means. They were well-behaved, highly educated, and extremely homogenous. I couldn't help contemplating the immense expense in proportion to my own educational career. For me, FOUR years of undergraduate at a state university cost $17,000 in tuition alone. At this school, that sum would merely cover all of ninth grade and a small fraction of tenth grade.

    I don't want to seem like an disloyal Friend. No doubt these children get special privileges and specialized lessons as part of their enrollment. They are taught a progressive curriculum that emphasizes social justice, liberal values, and Quaker virtues. Certainly I don't want to imply that the schools which bear our name and spread our teachings are somehow hypocritical. I just wonder if perhaps we haven't strayed a bit from our core principles in a desire to create the most perfect educational experience ever developed. I wonder sometimes if these kids even realize just how good they have it. Rather ironically, social justice often comes with a steep price tag attached, meaning that those who wish to be as earth-friendly, socially conscious, and ecologically helpful as possible are far too often the only ones who can monetarily afford to be.

    Sunday, May 03, 2009

    Quote of the Week

    "There is an unfortunate disposition in a man to attend much more to the faults of his companions which offend him, than to their perfections which please him". - Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke

    Saturday, May 02, 2009

    Food for Thought

    Don't take yourself too seriously
    There are precious few things
    worth hating nowadays,

    And none of them are me

    I was only trying to say
    how things used to be

    'til we grew up and
    we all went our separate ways

    Looking for our own paths to immortality

    This is how I thought
    I'd start my song

    And it seems a little silly
    when I think of it

    But now I'm so far along
    And no one really wants
    to know that he's wrong

    That his ears can't really hear
    or he's blind a bit

    Or that he's really weak
    when he thinks that he is strong

    Now I'm in the middle
    and I just don't know

    If I'll make it any further
    if the words don't flow

    When you live in silence
    any sound is dear

    But for those who don't,
    take heart because the end is near

    This is the ending of my song
    It has made me blind and deaf and weak
    but most of all

    It shows you that I'm wrong
    For you see it's really twice this long
    And if I should die tomorrow it will carry on

    -Todd Rundgren, "Chain Letter"

    Saturday Video

    for E.

    Friday, May 01, 2009

    Proposing, Not Opposing

    I've noticed a few people on my blogroll who have remained mostly silent or at least severely subdued since Obama took office. Though it is nice to not have a daily reason to express righteous indignation (i.e. eight years of the Bush Administration) it appears to me, at least, that that awful time in our recent past made it all too easy for some to slap up a post. Take one part facts, two parts opinion, one part outrage, shake well, and then spew forth onto a monitor. Done.

    I have faith in the creativity of fellow bloggers even if they might not have faith in themselves. My advice is to not limit yourself to politics, nor reserve the focus of your blog to merely one or two topic areas. Let your imagination take you places and then document the results. This blog focuses on music, movies, social commentary, opinion, and a variety of other topics that aren't limited to a strict focus on politics. The rules are few out here in the blogsophere, though we'd sincerely appreciate that you back up your strong opinions with a few well-placed facts here and there.

    There are, of course, others who have never stopped complaining. They remind me of the critical theorists of my graduate school days, who always had something to gripe about, no matter how minuscule or banal. These people will never be satisfied, since they expect to have absolutely everything they want without compromise. This attitude is simply unrealistic and borderline delusional. This way of thinking runs contrary to the whole way politics is run or the way that humans resolve conflict and propose reform.

    A friend of mine put it best.

    The Green Party only knows how to oppose, not to propose. And I mention this truism as a person who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 and does not apologize for it. Everyone I've ever met who is a Green Party member or supporter is a genius at griping, identifying the problem, elucidating the background injustice behind the rhetoric, but their tragic flaw is that they propose few practical solutions to fix these matters, aside from steadfastly advancing their party's rise to power, which is a highly unlikely outcome owing to the fact most Americans are simply not that liberal, nor that progressive.

    Here's an example of the sort of oppositional, not propositional thinking that one often encounters. I have mentioned U.S. Representative Artur Davis on this site before. He has recently begun the lengthy process of running to be this state's highest elected official. If elected, he would be Alabama's first Black governor, which is no small feat considering the deplorable history of racial inequality with which this state is automatically tagged by the rest of the country. The General Election will be held in November of 2010 and, true to form, Davis has already begun to position himself as a moderate. Regrettably, this means that certain concessionary measures must be made and when hate crimes legislation came up for a vote a few days ago in the House of Representatives, Davis completely reversed his prior stance and this time voted against the establishment of criminal prosecution laws for hate crimes against LGBTs.

    I received a series of vitriolic e-mails from LGBT Alabamians and their allies, one claiming that Davis was not the Alabama version of Barack Obama after all and furthermore that he was not going to support him in his campaign after all. This seems a little short-sighted to me, honestly, since Davis, if elected, would be a far more effective ally for the LGBT community than any Republican good old boy. Don't get me wrong. I understand the plight of LGBT citizens, who have frequently been promised basic rights by politicians, only to find yet again that their concerns have been jettisoned at the first sign of potential conflict for the sake of political expediency.

    In a predominantly white, conservative, Republican state, Davis really has no choice. Recent fratricidal behavior aside, the GOP still reigns supreme in this state and it will take the votes of rural whites for him to defeat whomever will be his Republican opponent in the General Election. If he does not aim for the center, he will be immediately pegged with the highly pejorative label of "liberal", which spells automatic political demise here. Though I was disappointed by Davis' vote, I understand it, though I certainly lament that his decision was made for transparently political reasons. In times like these, I recognize that I could not be an effective politician because I would often have to go against my personal convictions or resort to opportunistic tactics to win and then to stay in office.

    Still, life requires give-and-take, not all take-take. Some activists seem to wish to believe otherwise and when they remind me of spoiled eight-year-old children, I make a point to take a step back and use my sense of pragmatism as my guide.