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June 23, 2005

Cultural initiation

No matter how badly you may wish to ameliorate the STAR WARS cravings of a child too young for the real deal, don't ever, ever get the STAR WARS--DROIDS (or, presumably, EWOKS) DVD. "We're doomed!" becomes 3P0's "Wutchootalkin'bout?" and you might as well be watching Scooby-Doo. Garbage.

We've been skirting a bit around the actual source material ever since Max discovered the action figures at the home of an adult friend who's managed to hold onto his childhood toy fixation. We've been collecting the chunky Playskool STAR WARS figures, and the lodestone purchase has been "Luke's X-Wing," which both the Luke and R2 figures fit in, and which makes keen sounds like the "wikk-a-wikk" of laser cannon; Luke saying, "Red Five, I'm goin' in!"; and the full-on "STAR WARS Theme," which Max kind of croons along with now.

So this has been building for awhile. There was a brief, earlier foray into The Empire Strikes Back, but Mom eventually nixed it as too intense. But it turns out three isn't really too young for the original STAR WARS. Max can't make out the smoking corpses of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, but you do have to create a diversion when Ben lops off the hooligan's arm in the cantina. Other than that, it's all death by sterile laser-fire!

Max had a little trouble pronouncing "Obi-Wan Kenobi," but he's developed a credible imitation of the sound of a light-saber igniting, and waggles his souvenir mini-baseball bat convincingly. True appreciation of the jump to light-speed took a little nudging, but he doesn't seem too jaded yet by modern CGI: The Millenium Falcon dogfight and the attack of the X-wings are both still grippers.

We haven't gone too deeply into the ways of the Force, but he gets that when the target-thingy zaps Luke in the butt, it's because he hasn't mastered his feelings. We're all still working on that.

Posted by pk at 11:02 AM

June 17, 2005

An old banker frets, dithers

Who said it:

The income gap between the rich and the rest of the U.S. population has become so wide, and is growing so fast, that it might eventually threaten the stability of democratic capitalism itself.

Alan Greenspan!

[T]he U.S. now has a significant divergence in the fortunes of different groups in its labor market. "As I've often said, this is not the type of thing which a democratic society--a capitalist democratic society--can really accept without addressing," Greenspan told the congressional hearing.

Has he often said that? I've never heard him say that. Jeez, nobody wants Mr. Potter to have a conscience. It would spoil the fun of dragging him out of his wheelchair and gang-stomping him. But don't worry...

America's powerful central banker hasn't suddenly lurched to the left of Democratic National Committee chief Howard Dean. His solution is better education today to create a flexible workforce for tomorrow--not confiscation of plutocrats' yachts.

That's a relief--most of them only got those yachts after what's-his-name cut their taxes. They've barely learned to paddle them!

U.S. children test above world average levels at the 4th grade level, he noted. By the 12th grade, they do not. "We have to do something to prevent that from happening," said Greenspan.

Yes, we sure do. I wonder what?

If he thinks of anything, he should phone "Bush's Man Mitch" Daniels, now Republican governor of Indiana, for whom education is clearly not a priority.

At least Greenspan can say, "I told you I was worried," come the revolution. And to think I once called him a warped, frustrated old man. Unfortunately, the scurvy little spider wasn't much help when Bush manfully shifted the taxes of trust-fund babies and wealthy gad-abouts onto workers whose real wages are lower than they were 30 years ago. If only they'd been better educated....

(Quotes snipped and flipped as needed. CS Monitor story here.)

Posted by pk at 10:51 AM

June 16, 2005

Giving the word "mob" a bad name

I won't go as far as Kos and say that those who remain on the list below (updated) are there because they support lynching. But I will say that they are afraid of those who do. They obviously have constituents whose clout and numbers are sufficient that they must be appeased.

People have made statements this week disparaging the worth of the apology resolution, and I've tended to agree with them. This belated sympathy card cannot make up for crimes against humanity.

Thinking about it now, though, the fact that this list even exists--the fact that there are 15 United States Senators afraid to sign onto an innocuous, superficial apology for a criminal legacy the Senate was once powerless to even condemn, let alone halt--is all the validation this apology needs.

It's suddenly obvious that this is not some pointless, feel-good affirmation of something we all agree on. Apparently, surprisingly, we don't all agree, and there are people in this country who need to have it demonstrated for them that they are not in the majority.

Whereas only by coming to terms with history can the United States effectively champion human rights abroad...

Lynch mobs no longer stalk the backroads, and their damage is long since done, but if you need proof that America's public tolerance for Afghan and Iraqi civilian casualties and mistreatment of Arab terror suspects--including innocent ones--is, at least in part, rooted in racism, look no further than this list of (currently) 15 Republican senators, and consider their constituencies.

"The past isn't dead. It isn't even past." -- William Faulkner

Posted by pk at 1:13 PM

June 15, 2005

Wouldn't want to offend any lynch mobs

"Here are the Senators who 1) refused to co-sponsor the anti-lynching resolution passed yesterday, and 2) refused a roll-call vote [that would have required them] to put their name on the resolution."

List updated* 6/21:

Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Robert Bennett (R-UT)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
Michael Enzi (R-WY)
Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Trent Lott (R-MS)
Richard Shelby (R-AL)
John Sununu (R-NH)
Craig Thomas (R-WY)

UPDATE I: "Senator Landrieu, who sponsored the resolution, has a list of the cosponsors AND 'supporters' up on her site. Interestingly, and confusingly, she lists other Senators who 'support' the legislation, but still refuse to cosponsor. That's a bit odd, and strikes me as some CYA that Landrieu is doing for the pro-lynching crowd. These Senators currently have the choice to add their names retroactively to the list of cosponsors and they're not doing it. And I'd like to know why. Because it's creepy as hell, particularly since they're all Republicans. Walks like someone pandering to racists, quacks like someone pandering to racists...."

UPDATE II: Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley come off the list. AMERICAblog has phone numbers, if you'd like to "call the holdouts and ask why they're opposed to a strong statement against lynching."

MORE: "The resolution was adopted under what is called 'unanimous consent,' whereby it is adopted as long as no senator expresses opposition. But the group...behind the resolution asked [Senate Majority Leader Bill] Frist [R-TN] for a formal procedure that would have required all 100 senators to vote...and asked that the debate take place during 'business hours' during the week, instead of Monday evening, when most senators were traveling back to the capital. Frist declined both requests." (Emphasis pk's.)

*UPDATE III: Hutchison and Smith come off. And is anybody else getting sick of seeing Robert Byrd's Klan past--40-50 years past--continually used to smear Democrats while this list of Republicans is stinking up the joint?

Posted by pk at 10:28 AM

June 12, 2005

United we fall

From "War: Realities and Myths," by Chris Hedges, author of What Every Person Should Know About War and War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (via):

There is no more candor in Iraq or Afghanistan than there was in Vietnam, but in the age of live satellite feeds the military has perfected the appearance of candor. What we are fed is the myth of war.


This myth, the lie, about war, about ourselves, is imploding our democracy. We shun introspection and self-criticism. We ignore truth, to embrace the strange, disquieting certitude and hubris offered by the radical Christian Right. These radical Christians draw almost exclusively from the book of Revelations, the only time in the Gospels where Jesus sanctions violence, peddling a vision of Christ as the head of a great and murderous army of heavenly avengers. They rarely speak about Christ's message of love, forgiveness and compassion. They relish the cataclysmic destruction that will befall unbelievers, including those such as myself, who they dismiss as "nominal Christians." They divide the world between good and evil, between those anointed to act as agents of God and those who act as agents of Satan. The cult of masculinity and esthetic of violence pervades their ideology. Feminism and homosexuality are forces, believers are told, that have rendered the American male physically and spiritually impotent. Jesus, for the Christian Right, is a man of action, casting out demons, battling the Anti-Christ, attacking hypocrites and castigating the corrupt. The language is one not only of exclusion, hatred and fear, but a call for apocalyptic violence, in short the language of war.

As the war grinds forward, as we sink into a morass of our own creation, as our press and political opposition, and yes even our great research universities, remain complacent and passive, as we refuse to confront the forces that have crippled us outside our gates and are working to cripple us within, the ideology of the Christian Right, so intertwined with intolerance and force, will become the way we speak not only to others but among ourselves.

In war, we always deform ourselves, our essence. We give up individual conscience – maybe even consciousness – for contagion of the crowd, the rush of patriotism, the belief that we must stand together as a nation in moments of extremity. To make a moral choice, to defy war's enticement, to find moral courage, can be self-destructive.


War is always about...betrayal. It is about the betrayal of the young by the old, idealists by cynics, and finally soldiers by politicians. Those who pay the price, those who are maimed forever by war, however, are crumpled up and thrown away. We do not see them. We do not hear them. They are doomed, like wandering spirits, to float around the edges of our consciousness, ignored, even reviled. The message they bring is too painful for us to hear. We prefer the myth of war, the myth of glory, honor, patriotism, and heroism, words that in the terror and brutality of combat are empty, meaningless, and obscene.

We are losing the war in Iraq. We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are pitiless to others weaker than ourselves. We have lost sight of our democratic ideals. Thucydides wrote of Athens' expanding empire and how this empire led it to become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home. The tyranny Athens imposed on others, it finally imposed on itself. If we do not confront the lies and hubris told to justify the killing and mask the destruction carried out in our name in Iraq, if we do not grasp the moral corrosiveness of empire and occupation, if we continue to allow force and violence to be our primary form of communication, if we do not remove from power our flag-waving, cross-bearing versions of the Taliban, we will not so much defeat dictators such as Saddam Hussein as become them.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by pk at 5:47 AM

June 7, 2005

Robin Hoodlums

"The Bush Economy," The New York Times:

With all of the debate about taxes, the economy, and domestic spending, it is hard to imagine anyone supporting the notion of taking money from programs like Medicaid and college-tuition assistance, increasing the tax burden of the vast majority of working Americans, sending the country into crushing debt--and giving the proceeds to people who are so fantastically rich that they don't know what to do with the money they already have. Yet that is just what is happening under the Bush administration.


By 2015, those making between $80,000 and $400,000 will pay as much as 13.9 percentage points more of their income in federal taxes than those making more than $400,000, assuming the tax cuts are made permanent. Below $80,000, most taxpayers will see their share of taxes rise slightly or stay the same.


One cause is that the further up the scale one goes, the more of one's income comes from investments, which under the Bush tax cuts enjoy about the lowest rates in the tax code. But many families making between $100,000 and $200,000 are not exactly on easy street. They don't face choices anywhere near as stark as those encountered further down the income ladder, but they face serious tradeoffs not experienced by the uppermost crust, particularly when hit with the triple whammy of college for the children, care for aging parents, and preparing for their own retirement.

There is something deeply wrong about a system that calls into question a comfortable retirement or a top-notch education for people who have broken into the top 20 percent of income earners. It starts to seem politically explosive when you consider that in a decade, those making between $100,000 and $200,000 will pay about five to nine percentage points more of their income in federal taxes than those making more than $1 million, assuming the Bush tax cuts are made permanent.

This is not about giving wealthy people more money to invest back into the economy. At this level, it's really about giving more money to those who have nothing to do with it except amass enormous estates for their heirs. Fixing the problem will require members of Congress to summon the courage to say no to a president who wants more for the richest of the rich at the expense of everyone else. We're not holding our breath.

-- "The Bush Economy," The New York Times

OK, that pretty well describes my family's "plight." But there's something even more deeply wrong with a system in which anyone can work 40 hours a week (or 60, or 80) and still not be able to afford safe, permanent housing; insurance; health care; child care; transportation; or evenings and weekends with their children.

Last week I heard another story on the radio about an American school district that couldn't afford something (books, computers, it doesn't matter) and I thought, as if for the first time, "Why should that be?" Why should kids in public schools in suburban Indianapolis or Charlotte or Denver get indoor pools, while kids in public schools in the Bronx or Mississippi or Wyoming don't have enough books?

Why should any American public school ever want for anything?

Why should any American full-time worker ever be unable to afford the basics?

God knows, there's plenty of money. (Link, link, link, link. Link, link, link, link, link.)

"It starts to seem politically explosive."

You'd think so, wouldn't you?

UPDATE: I hope I made clear by the quotes around "plight" that I don't consider my family of four to be "in" one, particularly, except in comparison with people who have "family compounds." And Matt Yglesias is right in saying we all need to pony up. I am more than ready to.

Posted by pk at 11:19 AM