Thursday, January 28, 2010

The State of the Union Is Tore Up

Last night, I sat on the bed with David. David was playing Scramble on his iPhone, and I had my computer on my lap, iTunes tuned to WNYC, and my Twitter open. As President Obama gave his State of the Union address, I live Twittered the experience, and I joined thousands of others that were giving their responses, analysis, and transcription of/to the address.

I have to say that there were a number of times during the speech that more than one "hell yeah" came out of my mouth. Obama had some great things to say, with some witty one liners, and some pointed jabs at both the left and the right. I am behind him with putting his foot in the asses of banks. I am with him on fixing health care. I am with him on job creation. I am even with him on closing the gap in import/exports. I do not advocate militarism, but I do advocate for the right of queer folks to serve openly in the military, though I would prefer that the military, as we know it, would be disbanded and reconstituted using a just defense framework.

I can not get behind Obama on some of the relativist imperialism that espoused. I don't believe in the actions, policies, and necessary oppressive actions that are necessary for the USA to remain #1 in the world. I lamented the lack of a more harsh criticism of the Supreme Court's recent decision on corporate personhood, and I really wish Obama would have stopped his speech, left the podium, and punched Justice Alito in the face when he had the nerve to mouth, "that's not true."

I wish that Obama had spoken about New Orleans and demanded that Congress commit the money to really rebuild the entire Gulf area. I was listening for an acknowledgment that we are not post race or class or sex or gender or oppression. I wanted to hear something about the rebuilding of our social safety network, which the current economic crisis has exposed as a colander and not a net.

I am happy that Obama owned that clean energy and green jobs and industry is the way of the future, but I reject the notion that there is anything such as "clean coal" technology, and I stand firmly against any expansion of nuclear power. How many Chernobyls and Three Mile Islands to we have to have before we understand that nuclear energy is never and will never be safe.

And there was too little about foreign policy. What about Israel and Palestine? What about Afghanistan and Iraq? What about Haiti? What about the climate change treaty? What about IMF reform and World Bank reform?

In the end, I think that Obama did well in his speech. I wasn't looking to agree with everyone he said. And I know that the State of the Union is political positioning at its finest. I think that Obama put some fire under the Republicans. Now, I can only hope that he will use the bully pulpit and channel his inner angry black man and get some real shit done or at least go down in a glorious ball of righteous flames in the effort to make real change and create real hope in the USA.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Supreme Court Decides that Wal-Mart is a Person

Fuck me three ways til Tuesday.

Today has been a hell of a day. First the racist, classist, and ugly young woman working at the Genius Bar at Apple, without looking at my brand new iPhone 3Gs, suggested that "some people," fall and smash their phones on purpose when new ones come out, so that they can get an upgrade. Therefore, she was going to have to charge me $200 to replace the glass front of my the way...was the only thing broken on the damn thing...the LCD and touch screens worked just fine. And I did my research, the glass costs $24. So I guess that's $175 for labor. Fuck you Genius Bar.

And then, I come home, and lo and behold I log into Facebook only to find that the Supreme Court has all the balls that seem to be missing from the Democratic members of Congress. Against 100 years of precedence, the Roberts Court (may your dick shrivel and fall off) went right on ahead and said it was unconstitutional and the court saw no compelling argument for limiting in any way the right of corporations (oh and unions...throwing the left an old, run down, and chewed on bone) to speak freely and spend freely to promote their speech during political campaigns.

Excuse me?

The U.S. Supreme Court has lost its damn mind. This is what I was the Supreme Court that magically decided way back in the 1880s and 1890s that corporations, which didn't really exist in 1776, were actually entitled to all the rights and privileges of a living, breathing human being. Successive court rulings places some limits on the ability of corporations to engage in direct political speech and advocacy. But the Bush Supreme Court that we now have went on ahead and bucked 100 years of court precedence and said...what the fuck...Wal-Mart can run on Exxon Valdez and Dow Jones why don't you and DuPont just go on ahead and pick a couple of your stock holders names out of a hat and they can be U.S. Senators.

Basically, the judges wrote a total of five different opinions on the ruling totally 175 pages. I can boil all that down for you into one short letter.

Dear U.S. Democracy,

Fuck you. Go buy a McDonald's Happy Meal.


And you see, thanks to our wonderful system of checks and balances, which, since Bush took office, really hasn't worked worth a damn...this opinion rips apart state laws in roughly half of the states and writes corporations a blank check signed Chief Justice Roberts.

I think I am going to vomit.

The midterm elections next year are going to ridiculous. Special interests, labor unions, and corporations spent $1 billion in the 2008 presidential elections and that was WITH spending limits. Every CEO on Wall Street just got a fat dripping chubby when this news came down.

I can smell the end of the farce that has been called "democracy" in the United States. But, let me be clear, this country has never been a democracy and now, finally, the mask is coming off and the corporate dictatorship that has run this nation for the last century is going to show its true face. Time for the American Revolution Part Deux.

(Though I would rather pretend this didn't really just happen, here is a link to an article with more and less angry details.)

And, if you are as pissed off as I am, there is something you can do. Sign this petition asking Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban corporate personhood.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hey Democrats! Grow a Pair

Yesterday, the people of the Massachusetts, in not their finest moment, replaced the venerable Ted Kennedy, the last Prince of Camelot, with Scott Brown, a Republican. Not since 1972 has that bluest of blue states elected a Republican to the Senate.

Shit happens.

All of the pundits that are not on FOX are very clear: this was not a critique of the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, but it was a comment on the continuing frustration of the slow pace of economic recovery and the even slower pace of real change in the lives of everyday people. Basically, the anger at those in power continues, and the people will shift their anger to whoever is in power, Democrats or Republicans.

Why oh why people continue to flip back and forth between two options that have gotten them nowhere fast for a long ass time is beyond me. A year ago, Republicans were evil. This year, Democrats are evil. Wake up people, it's time for a viable third party system in the United States.

But I digress.

What is really annoying the hell out of me is all the woeful tears around health care reform. Oh no! The Democrats have lost their filibuster proof majority. I have a few things to say about that.

1.) The Democrats never had a 60 vote majority. The had 58 votes in their column. There are two independent Senators: Socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Idiot Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. That smegma sucking Lieberman demonstrated very clearly during the health care reform debate process that he had no issues with jumping the Democratic ship when necessary or whenever he had an itch in his saggy nuts. Maybe now that the illusion of the filibuster proof majority in the Senate has been shattered, Harry Reid will smile, pat Lieberman on the back, and then strip that bastard of his chairmanship and let him try his luck with the Republicans. Good morning, Joe and fuck you very much.

2) Since when has a filibuster meant death and destruction? Senators have grown soft. Let me tell you a story. Back in 1963, President Kennedy introduced a bill called the Civil Rights Act. At the time, the Senate was controlled by the Democrats and the Democrats were split between Northern and Southern wings. At the time, also, it took 67 votes to invoke cloture and cut off debate, thereby ending a filibuster. Northern Republicans and Northern Democrats felt so passionately about the Civil Rights Act, particularly after the assassination of President Kennedy, that they called the oppositions bluff. Debate on the Civil Rights Act took place, non-stop, for 57 days. But, in the end, justice and patience won out. Enough pressure was applied on those that opposed the Civil Rights act that they caved. This was done both by internal doggedness by bill proponents, and external pressure by the Civil Rights movement.

Yes, indeed. Real change happens when the public demands real change. When oh when will we learn this lesson?

So yes, Democrats, the "easy" passage of the health care reform bill (and what a compromised fiasco it is already) is now out of your grasp, unless you plan on railroading it through before Senator-elect Brown can be sworn in. But passage of the bill is NOT impossible, it just requires your courage, conviction, and commitment. Unfortunately, I believe that he days when Lions walked the Senate halls are dead. Now only angry ghosts and fainting goats leap from hearing room to hearing room, bleating loudly, and falling over at any loud sound.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sleeping Pills or New York, NY

Right now I feel as if I downed a bottle of Nyquil, chased it with a bottle of vodka, and then topped it off with a hand full of valium.

Holy Spaced Out Batman.

Last night, I had one of those NYC moments. I started off the evening at the fucking fantastic 48 Lounge in the McGraw-Hill Building on 48th Street between 6th and 7th avenues. This upscale lounge caters to the corporate crowd during the week and the show goers in the evenings and on the weekends. It is right in the heart of the Theater District, and it is conveniently located right off of several major train lines. The decor is chic and there is a breathtaking giant photo of a rock formation from the Arizona desert that dominates the back wall of the lounge. The ceiling in the VIP/bottle service area features lighting that mimics a constellation in the shape of an infinity symbol. The music was a PERFECT blend of some of the best music from the1980s-today with remixes of Susanne Vega, Michael Jackson, Sade, and others. There wasn't a single song that came on that I didn't love. Check out 48 Lounge, but be prepared...the drinks are flawless but they come witha hefty price tag.

I met my friend, Jamila Anderson, another Minnesota ex-pat living in NYC for drinks. Jamila is one of the most brilliant actors I know. She also has a soulful voice and is working on some big things, so you all should keep her name in mind. So Jamila and I met at the 48 Lounge, which is being managed by my friend Jason. We chilled, talked about boys and dick, and had an all around great time. Jason checked in on us and made sure we had impeccable service, plus he ain't hard on the eyes himself.

My plan was to have a few drinks with Jamila and head home but NYC had a different plan for my behind. While we were sitting there, my girls Shelley and Lisa texted Jason, as they may all become roommates together, and my two favorite sorority girls popped up from the Lower East Side and met us from an end of the evening drink. Then, my friend Karlo called and said that he was going out with a friend from LA, and he swung by and picked me up.

Good lord. I meant to be home by Midnight, but I stumbled in the door around 6:30am. We ended up going to two more bars last evening for a grand total of three.

Now don't let the gays fool you. We can get just as rowdy at a bar as our straight counterparts. We just look better when we do it. While we were at Barracuda, a friend of one of Karlo's friends, said something to a porn star that really pissed off the porn star and the porn star's man. Not sure what was said, but that 7' tall power bottom looked like he was about to lay a hurting on the black queen that was Karlo's friend Scott's friend. And when voices get loud, my PTSD kicks in, and I gots ta go.

That situation, having simmered down, was replaced by Armahn getting into a row with one of the servers at Barracuda. Things got real tense for a moment when the bouncer was brought in. I was all ready to believe that the server was being a major diva, but she was nice to me, so I downgraded her from Super Bitch to Stressed Waiter, which comes with certain allowances.

I was so wired and jacked up from such a fun night that I absolutely could NOT sleep. I laid in bed begging the Sandman to swing by and punch me in the face, but he refused to cooperate. Finally around 7:30, I got up and took two Tylenol PM, but my body refused to process the damn drugs. Finally, around 10:30, after eating a bowl of spaghetti and downing two more "sleepies," I passed out until 2:00pm.

Let it be a lesson to you all that trying to shut down your bodies manic energy with four Tylenol PM ain't cute. I didn't want to while away my whole day in a chemically induced coma, so I forced myself to get up and make out with my dog a little bit (and David too). But when those damn little pills say allow for 8 hours of sleep, they are not lying. My eyes keep unfocusing while I type this, and I am about to run outside, butt naked, to try and wake myself up.

In the end, it was an awesome NYC night. There are very few places where you can have a such a night. And where else can you start the night with an actor/hip-hop artist and end it with two high end make-up artists and a former Associate Director of the Ice Capades. Only in the Big Apple. New York....I got to be a part of it!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Letter from Indiana University Regarding Murder of Dr. Don Belton

A friend of mine from undergrad at Warren Wilson College, Abbie Hantgan, was loving enough to send me this letter today. This letter was sent out by the Provost at Indiana University regarding the murder of Don Belton. I deeply appreciate the university's remembrance of Dr. Belton and also recognizing that his murder has reached far beyond the IU community.

Letter from Indiana University Provost Regarding the Murder of Professor Don Belton

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

As the campus begins the new semester, we must acknowledge a terrible loss.
Some of you may just now be returning to campus after the holidays, and I am
very sad to inform you that the Indiana University community lost a dear
colleague during the semester break.

Don Belton, a faculty member in the English Department, was slain at his home
in Bloomington on December 27. (An arrest has been made in the case.)

In his relatively brief time at IUB, Professor Belton earned the admiration
and affection of his colleagues and students. He was a gifted writer and a
highly-valued member of the faculty of our distinguished Creative Writing
Program, in the Department of English. He was very well liked and very
well-respected. His death is a loss not just to his family and friends, and
our academic community, but also to the extended world of arts and letters and
to all who value the humanistic traditions. His absence will be profoundly felt.

The murder of Professor Belton has evoked strong emotions throughout the
community and indeed the nation. I trust that all members of our community will
exhibit tolerance, compassion, and respect in the wake of the loss of a valued
colleague. Let us also show respect for one another and for the many and varied
ways in which we express our grief over such a tragedy.

A memorial service to celebrate the life of Professor Belton will take place on
Friday January 15, at 5 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Fee Lane
in Bloomington.

Our heartfelt sympathies go out to Professor Belton's family, friends, and

Karen Hanson
Provost and Executive Vice President

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Avatar: Great White Hopeless But See It Anyway

So, on the surface (and beneath the surface) Avatar is what David Brooks describes as a "White Messiah" movie a la "Dances with Wolves" and a dozen other popular cinema, literary, and animated fables. The movie is of course about a white man that goes native, and in this movie he literally goes native in the end swapping his human body for an alien body, and leads the indigenous people to salvation. He falls in love with an alien version of Malinche/Pocahontas/Sacajewea/Insert Any Other Woman's Name Here Blamed for Giving Access to Her People By the Colonizers. And, of course the indigenous people are at one with the natural environment, have perfect bodies, exist without war amongst themselves, and live in a big tree. They are the noble savage perfected.

I should have hated this movie for all of those reasons, but I absolutely loved it.

I won't allow that James Cameron was sophisticated in his race analysis. He wasn't. But what he did was provide a very clear depiction of what corporatism and white colonization has done and continues to do to indigenous peoples and populations around the world. He doesn't represent the corporate/military industrial complex on Pandora as having some sort of benevolent intentions...he strips away the niceties that are often present in these movies that portray the "bad white guys" as simply misguided or doing evil in the name of good or higher intentions. He tells it like it is and shows how decisions are really made in the real world when indigenous communities are sitting atop a valuable resources that is desired by the industrialized world. And, the part that won me over, was that James Cameron, for the first time that I can remember in a major world wide cinema piece, directly and clearly makes the connection between capitalism, corporatism, and the military industrial complex. He shows clearly and definitively that they are conjoined, something many of us already knew, and that they can not and will not exist separate from one another. He pushes all of his characters to their illogical extremes. But in doing so gives a more realistic view of the "bad guys" than one is likely to get in a corporate backed theater in the Western World.

He also does a weak critique, but a critique none-the-less, of the clash between Western scientists and indigenous science and technology. Let's be clear, indigenous communities have had and continue to have technology that is culturally appropriate and may not look like Western technology but is still technology. Unfortunately, Western science fails to understand or understands incorrectly indigenous knowledge, medicine, science and technology. And, in this movie, they fail again. Except Sigorne Weaver, who magically comes to a complete understanding of the indigenous science and faith system just before she departs to live with Eywa. Pullllleaassse.

One interesting side note is that Cameron did something interesting. He used a derivation of the Aramaic word for God, which is Elaw. I know this because I use that name for God in the novel that I am writing. Score one for Cameron actually opening a book and doing some research.

In the end, I found value in watching Avatar, but not for the reasons, I am sure, that James Cameron wanted. The plot was thin, but it did communicate some messages, starkly, that the world needs to hear.

On another tip, entirely, I fully believe the special effects in this movie will redefine special effects in the way that the Matrix did almost a decade ago.

In the end, I support folks going to see Avatar. Walk into it knowing that it will again be a storytelling of the Great White Hope. If you accept that up front, you will be able to get past it and enjoy the movie for what it does offer in terms of originality. If nothing else, see it in 3-D...cuz...really...the special effects are fucking cool.