Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Go Rest On That High Mountain, Delaney

When my husband and I were a new couple almost 20 years ago, Delaney Bramlett was one of the first friends of David’s that I met. David had been writing and playing with Delaney for a few years, and he took me out to the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ranch” to visit with Delaney and his mother Mamo, who fixed us sweet tea from her bottomless pitcher. Delaney gave me a big ol’ hug and kiss, and I was a goner. He helped us move our furniture when we moved in together, and we found our first rental house down the street from Delaney’s.

When we had our first baby, Delaney couldn’t have fussed over him more if he had been Delaney’s own - and in a way, like every child he came across, he was. Delaney adored kids and kids loved Delaney. No matter how many people there were in a room, if there was a kid there, Delaney made that child his first priority – he went and got him some sugar. Kids were hugged and loved up and made a big deal over, not ignored or shunted aside while the big people talked. When you went to Delaney’s there were chickens to chase around, and Junior the horse to feed carrots to, and a yard full of dogs and cats to play with. There was a horseshoe pit, a swimming pool and a big front porch swing to swing on, and Mamo always had a warm hug and something good to eat on the stove. Delaney would show you his roses and even cut the prettiest, best-smelling ones for you to take with you. At Delaney’s, you forgot you were in Los Angeles, where ‘image’ is everything, bullshit is the language of success and style matters more than substance - you were somewhere in the back woods of Mississippi, and life was good.

When you went to visit Delaney, you drove past the white fences, and turned up the gravel road. You got out, unchained the fence (being careful so the dogs didn’t get out), opened the gate, locked it back up when you went through, then drove up the rest of the way to the house. You parked the car and walked up the drive, through the breezeway, past the studio and ‘61 Ford truck on the left. But you didn’t enter into Delaney’s house by the front door. You walked in from the back, through the kitchen. This was the heart of the home. Everything that mattered happened in the kitchen. You sat down at the kitchen table, talking and eating and laughing and cooking and singing.

All sorts of people found their way to Delaney’s. There was always a bed or couch available, and you could put your feet up on all the furniture and help yourself to whatever was in the fridge. There was always someone staying there for a little while till they got back on their feet, or a music legend just stopping by for a glass of Mamo’s sweet tea and a little pickin’.

Pickin’ was the heart and soul of life with Delaney. Singing and playing were the air he breathed, and he shared it with everyone around him. Music was in the dirt, in the flowers, in the walls and floorboards, on the roof, in the kitchen, in the bones and the very blood that ran through his veins. And everyone was welcome. The little studio in the shed on the other side of the breezeway was always packed with family, old friends, new friends, and strangers, and he loved to crowd as many people in as possible to sing the elaborate background parts that were his production signature. Music was a family affair, and everyone was family to Delaney.

When you are the spouse or the child of a person in the public eye, it can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful to have strangers lay claim to intimacy with that person based on the briefest of encounters – especially at a time of your own private grief. Delaney had a way of making each and every person he met feel special. He touched the lives of millions of people with his soulful music, raw honesty and loving spirit and as a result many people felt that they had a personal connection with him. But as much as he gave to the public, it was his family who knew him best and loved him most, and brought him the most joy.

Delaney was extraordinary. Yet, the way that he was extraordinary was how extra ordinary he was. What made him so amazing was that it wasn’t his talent, great as it was, that made him extraordinary, but his giant heart, his empathy, his understanding of life and human nature and his ability to view it with love and amusement even as it landed on him like a falling safe. What made him great - what touched every person who knew him, met him, heard him, or heard of him - was his deep humanity, the enormity of his ordinariness, his passionate love for life and living, of everything and everybody around him. He wasn’t about restraint or holding back. He did nothing half-way. He was just Delaney, and very few of us can say that we are that fully ourselves.

He was always, all the time, all about love. And when you heard him, you felt that love. And you walked around in the blanket of warmth and love that he spread over you. He loved his family madly. He adored his children, his mother, his brother, the ladies he married, and they were enclosed in his private circle of love. But the love didn’t stop there - anyone who encountered him, however briefly, was included in that love. If you needed something, he was there, no questions asked, with whatever he had at his disposal. But most of all, he gave of himself, and he gave himself. He moved furniture for me when I had barely met him. He showed up with his heart hanging out, and this is what made him a great artist. It was the fact that his heart was out there for all to see that reached us, and changed us, and opened our own hearts to him in return.

There was never a false note with Delaney - nothing that was not authentic and real. He was completely himself, warts and all, and if you didn’t like it, you could take a long walk on a short pier. His failures were as visible as his successes, and what you saw was what you got. He lived life all the way down to the bone - he fought, he yelled, he cried, he swore, he fell down and got up again. He didn’t try to impress anyone; he didn’t show one face to one person and a different face to someone else. He had integrity - in the true meaning of the word. He was firmly rooted in the good, rich earth of country, home and family, and he never abandoned those roots, but celebrated them, and they nourished him and made him who he was.

Delaney was a soulful man. He loved his Lord and was not ashamed to get down on his knees to pray. He was not ashamed to cry. He was not ashamed to kiss a grown-ass man and say, “I love you, honey.” He put everything - his pain, his tears, his joy, his passion, his fears, his dreams - into his music and shared it all with us.

There are artists, and there are artists. Some people are well-known because of their prowess on their instrument or voice; they are admired, they are amazing, they are iconic, they are impressive. But Delaney, with as much talent and accomplishment as any of them, belongs in another class. He was not above or apart or better or different - his genius was love, and his music reflected it like a still lake at sunset.

His daughter Bekka, who knew the part of Delaney that he shared only with his family, summed it up perfectly:
“My daddy was a giver. Some people have completely mastered their instruments, and they can sing any note in the world, but they’re not givers.”
Delaney Bramlett was a giver.

Delaney knew the secret. Life is about giving. Love is about giving, and about forgiving – not about being perfect, but about making your mistakes out loud and getting back up and becoming stronger because of them, and maybe being a little more understanding of others’ mistakes because you’ve been there, too. He knew the secret and we loved him because he shared that precious secret with all of us.

So, go take your rest, Delaney, and hug Mamo's neck for us. We’ll see you a little further on up the road.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


We lost our very dear friend Delaney Bramlett this morning shortly before 5:00 AM. He had been fighting for his life for the last few months after a botched gall-bladder operation which cut into his intestines. We thought things were looking up, and he had moved onto the 'regular' floor of the hospital, when he took a turn for the worse, was sent back to ICU and died after an emergency surgery.

Please keep his wife and children in your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

On the Day of the Birth of the Prince of Peace

Warm wishes from our family to you and yours, and may the coming year bring a change for the better - whether it comes from the top down or the bottom up.

Love to you all - Alicia

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Yes, Attaturk Said It Best!

"He dodged those things like they were 'Vietnam'"


But the real kicker is that he has no idea how badly he was shamed!

Ignorance is bliss.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My Blog Friends Rule Because...

...when I go to check in with them, in commenting on their posts, I get whole ideas for posts of my own - verbatim from my comments and e-mails!

So if some of these posts seem vaguely familiar, check your comments or e-mail inbox.

A Bush-Eyed View

Tengrain has a very apropos quote from His Majesty the Baby. It made me think of one of my favorite poems by the wonderful Don Marquis, from one of his Archy and Mehitabel books:

warty bliggens, the toad

By Don Marquis, in "archy and mehitabel," 1927

i met a toad
the other day by the name
of warty bliggens
he was sitting under
a toadstool
feeling contented
he explained that when the cosmos
was created
that toadstool was especially
planned for his personal
shelter from sun and rain
thought out and prepared
for him

do not tell me
said warty bliggens
that there is not a purpose
in the universe
the thought is blasphemy
a little more
conversation revealed
that warty bliggens
considers himself to be
the center of the same
the earth exists
to grow toadstools for him
to sit under
the sun to give him light
by day and the moon
and wheeling constellations
to make beautiful
the night for the sake of
warty bliggens

to what act of yours
do you impute
this interest on the part
of the creator
of the universe
i asked him
why is it that you
are so greatly favored

ask rather
said warty bliggens
what the universe
has done to deserve me
if i were a
human being i would
not laugh
too complacently
at poor warty bliggens
for similar
have only too often
lodged in the crinkles
of the human cerebrum


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Looking Back - Hooterville, Four Years Ago - Part 1

I started this blog four years ago.

I didn't start out thinking of myself as a writer. I left college in my first year to go on the road as a musician; I took a four-year detour to work in the circus and carnival, went back to music and that's where I've been ever since. I moved to Los Angeles in my late 20s to see where I could go with my music, and ended up finding love, marriage and children - something this old road hag did not expect to find. I also found myself as an artist, and settled into a nice groove of music and family.

I grew up with two progressive parents, and always thought of myself as liberal, but was never what you'd call politically active or even particularly politically aware. My first glimmerings of attention to the particulars of politics came when Newt Gingrich mobilized the Republican Party and began his campaign to destroy Democrats, demonize liberals and hijack the government. The 'Contract on America' I found offensive in the extreme, and the subsequent hunting of the Clintons left me slack-jawed with astonishment at the gall and hubris of the right wing. I began taking notice of the names of the players, but I still wasn't in the game.

During the 2000 campaign, I was repelled by George W. Bush. I learned all I needed to know about him when I read about the Karla Faye Tucker incident. That someone who had the power of life and death over other human beings (and flexed it more than any other governor) could laugh and joke about killing a woman who was begging for her life, (and had been 'saved' and forgiven by the same Jesus who purportedly turned Bush's life around, his sister in Christ) showed me that that this loathsome man was a sociopath as well as an ignoramus and a boor. I was shocked that quite a few of my progressive friends were considering voting for him. Yet, even as I worried about the appointment of Supreme Court justices by a conservative president, I had no idea of the damage this ne'er-do-well smirking frat-boy could inflict upon this country. Even as I was taken aback by the audacity of Dick Cheney appointing himself Vice-President, I did not have an inkling that we were about to be driven over a cliff, along with so many of the basic rights and freedoms that we had taken for granted as irrevocable.

I didn't think he had it in him. I thought he was too stupid to do much damage; that his Daddy's old friend Dick Cheney would keep him in check; that he'd be in and out so quick that we'd hardly know he was there, sort of like Gerald Ford. I did not know that I would soon not recognize my own country.

After 9/11, after the Patriot Act, after the invasion of Iraq, after "smoke 'em out", "Axis of Evil", "dead or alive", "bring 'em on" and "Mission Accomplished", I knew better. And, I thought, so did the rest of America.

But on the morning after the election of 2004, I was staggered to find that George W. Bush was still occupying the office of President of the United States. Gobsmacked might be a more apt description.

I felt as though my perception of reality had shifted. Had I landed in the Twilight Zone? Was I the only person who was outraged by the actions of this criminal and his gang? Was there something I was missing that everyone else was understanding?

I was absolutely 'dazed and confused.' I wandered through the next few days in a fog. But then, an idea came to me.

Earlier that summer, I had heard about 'blogs'. I didn't know what they were, so I Googled 'blog' and found out. I was interested, not so much from a writing standpoint as from amateur geekitude. I checked out WordPress; I wanted to see if I could make it work - it would be cool to install those little bits of code and see what happened. I got a nice-looking little site going - I was mostly interested in the aesthetics and design aspect. It was a lovely, lovely blog. All it needed was something to say.

I put up a few posts, mostly along the lines of "uh, it's eleven o'clock at night and I have no idea what I should write about." They weren't even posts; they were place-holders - lorem ipsums in English. But as I explored the blogging platform, I found myself stumbling across political blogs. I happened to be reading a Washington Post blog - have no idea who the columnist was, but the commenters intrigued me. One in particular interested me enough that I went to visit his blog, a Blogger blog called Left of Center, and we began corresponding. Although my own blog was still empty, I found more to say in my conversations with Mr. M. But I was still in no respect a real 'blogger'.

Fast-forward to the fall and my dilemma.

What about blogging?

I could rant and rave as much as I liked on a blog, and maybe it would help me pick myself up and start moving again. My WordPress blog didn't quite seem right for a political blog, though, and most of the blogs I had come across from the Left of Center blogroll were Blogger blogs. Mr. M suggested that I get a Blogger blog, a StatCounter account and a BlogRolling blogroll, and I would be on my way.

But what should I call it? As I thought about this, I realized what my feelings of disorientation and confusion reminded me of. I remembered watching an old sitcom called Green Acres as a kid, and feeling a similar sort of unease while watching poor old Mr. Douglas get played by the local yokels. It was a place where brains and good intentions were no match for corn-pone cunning and chicken-fried chicanery, and everyone was in on the racket, including his wife; a place where he was lied to, stolen from, and tricked into buying things he already owned, and where pigs held positions of prestige and influence. Green Acres, we are there!

And Hooterville it was.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday - Coming Up For Air (the TMI Edition)

You are welcome to skip this post if you are looking for political commentary.

This week has been a busy one. 

This quarter at school, we've had our biggest enrollment ever, so I am working 4 days a week instead of 3. I get up at 5:30 to get the kids off to school with my husband - my son who is a senior goes to a jazz music magnet across town, so has to be at the bus stop by 6:30. The other two are at school by 8, so I start getting ready for school. I am now taking public transport most of the time, so I head off to the bus stop to get to school by 9. I'm done with school by 6 or 7, depending on the day, and usually I'm done, but this week I've been doing studio work for Richard Perry, so as soon as I get home, I hop in the car and go to the studio until 1 or 2 in the morning, and get to bed by 3 or 4 AM.

After Wednesday, the session work was done for this week (except for some take-home work) so Thursday after school, I get to stay home.  I read the littles their bedtime story (we're going through the whole Wizard of Oz series; we're on The Emerald City of Oz right now) and I fall asleep in bed with my daughter at 10:00.

I sleep until 6 AM Friday morning, get up with the kids, we get them all out the door, and at 8, I go back to bed and sleep till 4:30 in the afternoon. I'm still woozy from trying to make up the sleep deficit, but I manage to do the dishes and make the kids' favorite dinner, spaghetti - my husband has been holding down the household chores for the week. I know I should be doing some blogging or writing - I have the Second Life Virtual Book Signing at SeattleTammy's Virtual Jackson Street Books coming up tomorrow and I need to do some prep work, but I just sit in my chair like a lump and hang out at Café Wellstone for Dancing Liberally - they spin some great tunes. I watch a little bit of crap TV on my laptop and go back to sleep around 11:30.

This morning, I think I have finally made up my sleep deficit, and can maybe begin to get caught up on my life. I owe so many phone calls that it's not funny, but I'm never in a place during the week when I can make a call, because they would all end up being at least 45 minutes, which would not be possible in my work-week schedule. I have several blog post ideas started that I need to work on, since I do not even have an election post up! 


Here I am, looking forward to a nice productive day! 

The Virtual Book Signing is at 2:00 PST so I'll be getting my notes together for that, and get some long-promised phone calls made. I hope to put up the audio from my interview with the Rev. Barry Lynn, which was so much fun. I hope to get around to visiting my blog friends and perhaps even leaving a comment or two, so they don't think I have forgotten them. I hope to get caught up with my school writing. I am having to write my curricula as I go along for my Keyboard Accompaniment, Finale and GarageBand classes - it's pretty much writing a textbook on the fly, but at the end of it I may be able to pull together an instructional book out of it, which would make it worthwhile. I also need to get my studio home-work done, editing some MIDI files and re-recording some piano parts that I can e-mail to the people I'm working for. 

Other than that, I'm just chilling.

Monday, November 17, 2008

AU Bloggers - Let's Start Planning For Next Year!

Sue J of Nailing Jello to the Wall (did I say that that's my new favorite blog name?), who I didn't get a chance to really talk to, got me thinking about next year.

What if we start planning now to spend a few extra days in DC and really do it up right?

That was my only complaint about the Meetup - it was too short to get to talk to everyone I wanted to get to know!

As I said to FranIAm, I suggest we start now on planning for a few extra days in Washington - maybe start a kitty for that purpose, and try to clear our work schedules (for those of us in thrall to The Man) and really have a serious blogger hang.

If we all start throwing a few bucks a week into a kitty, by next year we'll be able to afford it, and those of us who have a little extra can help out those who don't, and a good time will be had by all. We can share rooms, find cool local places to eat and drink at, and see the sights (which I never have time to do.)

Plus, we'll have time to hook up with DC bloggers, and who knows what else?


Sunday, November 16, 2008

On the Radio Tuesday With Rev. Barry Lynn!

Heads-up! This Tuesday, Nov. 18, I'll be doing a radio interview with the awe-inspiring Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, at 1:00 PT. The show is called Culture Shocks and it can be heard on the radio live in these markets:

Los Angeles and the Inland Empire - KCAA 1050 AM
Washington, D.C. - WMET 1160 AM World Radio
Monterey, CA - KRXA AM 540
Cameron, TX - KTAE 1330 AM

and also streaming live and podcasting from Culture Shocks.

I hope you can tune in to the show live!

The call-in number is 1.866.582.9933, and I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, Nov. 18 - 1:00 to 2:00 Pacific time!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Future Is Here! Virtual Bookstores Rule!


I have just been checking out Second Life, thanks to a new friend I met via Jesus' General (who I met in DC after reading him for a few years now), SeattleTammy of Jackson Street Books, a fine new and used book store (what is cooler than books? Nothing!). JG has a Second Life hang called Café Wellstone, which is a gathering-place for progressives to chat, hang out, dance, and dress up their virtual selves. Tammy helped me get going on it, and it's a blast.

Today, Tammy has put up a Book Report up at Jesus' General for The Price of Right, and she has also invited me to do a Virtual Book Signing at her SL bookstore Virtual Jackson Street Books (that's a Second Life url, which takes you to the location in SL) next Saturday, a week from now, at 2:00 SLT (which is PT).

Anyone who wants to try it out and see what's up can contact me or SeattleTammy. It's free and it's fun.

I can't wait. The future is here!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pix From AU Meetup!

Although the General and I were both photographically-challenged, others were not!

Check out FranIAm for more photo phun.

(From top - FranIAm & BlueGal, the prizewinning Tengrain, DCup & Yours Truly, Rev. Barry Lynn & DCap, Rev. Barry Lynn & Yours Truly )

Monday, November 10, 2008

In Which I Return To Los Angeles With Fond Memories of BlogFriends

We did have a simply grand time.

To get to reconnect with my friends from last year and meet in person other fave bloggers was very much a treat. From last year (in addition to the aforementioned bloggers in the last post):

Vast Left and Lambert Strether from Correntewire
Bruce from Mainstream Baptist
Leo from the Neural Gourmet (and proprietor of Carnival of the Liberals!)
Dennis from One Pissed Off Veteran

And new this year:

Ed from Dispatches from the Culture Wars
DCap from Distributorcap NY (even younger-looking and cuter than his picture!)
The very darling and fun Fran of Fran I Am
The devilishly handsome - and award-winning - Kevin from Mock, Paper, Scissors
Sue, who totally has the coolest blog name ever - Nailing Jello to the Wall
The wise and witty Card-carrying Buddhist at No Blood for Hubris
The esteemed Dr. Zaius of Zaius Nation
And...we were honored by the testosterone-soaked übermanliness of the one and only Patriot Boy, Jesus' General!

But the real star of the show was BAC of Yikes! for putting it all together and making it look easy. I don't know how she manages to appear so unruffled and charming in the midst of chaos.

An august gathering indeed. And for a worthy cause - spreading the word about Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I think that this organization epitomizes the core of the democratic and liberal values that defend the liberty that our Declaration of Independence promises, and our Constitution delivers, and I'm very proud to be a member. AU is equally comprised of people of faith and atheists working together for a common cause, and is at the forefront of the issues important to me - keeping science from becoming just another 'belief', subject to religious interpretation; keeping politicking out of the pulpit; keeping my tax dollars from supporting discrimination - keeping a rational point of view in a world gone mad. They support womens' rights, LGBT rights, voting rights, privacy rights.

They are First Amendment fanatics - who can't love that? In a culture which has come to bash anything that smacks of education or intellect, AU is unapologetically not only intelligent, but wise. Executive director Rev. Barry Lynn is an ordained minister who passionately and articulately makes the case for keeping religion out of government and extends that case to not only the right but equally to the left, which gives me confidence in the intellectual honesty of AU. They are one of the groups along with the ACLU who filed (and won!) the historic Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial over attempts to insert the idea of 'intelligent design' into science curriculum.

I got to give copies of my book to Barry Lynn, my blogger friends and other AU attendees.

I just wish our trip wasn't so short, and that I hadn't been so tired that I forgot my phone on the way to the airport.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

In Which I Travel To Our Nation's Capital With Americans United!

I am writing to you from our nation's capital, Washington, D.C. I am here for the weekend for the 2nd Annual Blogger Meetup with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, along with blogfriends BAC, DCup, AddieStan, Blue Gal, PZ Myers, and many more (which will fill you in on later today.)

Good times. I will keep you posted as events unfold, but I am out the door to go mingle.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Thoughts On the Eve of the 2008 Election

Four years ago…it seems like another lifetime. I feel like a different person.

On the eve of the last Presidential election, I was sure that Dubya and his vile coterie would be out on their ears, now that the public knew what kind of a monster he was. Talk about "getting fooled again!" Sick to my stomach, in shock, I began to write purely to save my sanity.

In beginning the uncomfortable work of self-examination, I came to a realization about my values, my worldview, and whether they were worth taking to the next level. I knew that if I didn't do my part, in whatever way available to me, I would have no right to the kind of democracy that is worth fighting for.

In four years, I have gone from a bystander to a participant. I have put my money where my mouth is. I've written a book. I've volunteered for candidates, both local and national, who share my values. I've joined organizations who work for the issues I care about. And I became a pollworker.

I've worked the polls with the same people for the past 3 years. We usually only see each other once or twice a year, when election time rolls around, but we have a bond that comes with hanging out with each other for 15 hours at a stretch and a shared commitment to participatory democracy. The woman who volunteers her garage is also part of our 'team'. We usually go to set up our equipment the night before so that everything starts off as smoothly as possible. My co-poll-workers have known about my book since I started working on it a couple of years ago, and I brought a copy to my inspector this evening. She actually shrieked. Of course, when people say, "I'm writing a book", it's like saying "I'm writing a screenplay" here in Los Angeles, so I think the fact that it has actually materialized was rather shocking. But it was great to be able to share it with my compadres.

In a way, it's almost like Christmas Eve - not in the way of expecting fabulous presents the next day, but in the contemplation of the fact that something momentous will be happening tomorrow. Certainly this will be the busiest election I've ever worked the polls for. We've honed our routine over the past couple years, and I hope it pays off tomorrow. I hope the crowds aren't too big to handle, and that we have the resources we need.

One thing I do know, is that as far as our little polling place, every vote will get counted at our end.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Write To Marry" Day - October 29

Join us by writing your own post on or before October 29 for Write To Marry Day, and submit it to Mombian to add to the blogswarm. Or, if you care to, you can show your support by using the image above to link to the Write To Marry Day site.

All bloggers who are against Prop 8 are welcome to contribute posts, regardless of where they live or whether they are LGBT or not.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

In Which I Meet the Mutant Poodle At Last!

Had a delightful get-together with my friend Mutant Poodle at a nice Italian outdoor café. We've been online friends for some time, but this was the first time we got to meet in person. He's just as cute and smart in real life. I got to sign his copy of The Price of Right, and of course we talked politics until even the waiter remarked about it...

I really enjoy meeting up with my online friends. It reminds me that what we're doing and what we're about is real and tangible, and not just 'keyboard kommando-ism'. Plus, they're invariably very cool people. We got a photo memento thanks to MP's trusty iPhone.

Hooray! AM New York Says I'm A 'Rabble-Rouser'!

I received a newspaper review from AM New York.

If they meant to be critical by calling me a 'rabble-rouser', then they do not know of whom they speak.

They couldn't give me a higher compliment. I'm thrilled. My aim is definitely to rouse the rabble. Fuck the phony 'objectivity' that thinks you can sit around and academically 'discuss' what is happening to our nation with the same kind of bloodless, dispassionate attitude with which one might lay wagers on an ant-race.

Hell yes, I'm mad; hell yes, I'm pointing fingers. It's way past overdue. The right has turned 'liberal' into an epithet that makes Democrats and the media alike quake in fear at the thought of being labeled as such; mostly because that's the Republicans' worst fear - real liberals, real liberalism. And the same can be said of 'angry liberals'! We have learned to back off of standing up for ourselves and our values for fear of being branded 'angry'.

Oh noo-oo-oo-o! Please, Mr. Luntz, pleeeze don't call us 'angry'! Look! You can kick us in the groin as hard as you like - we won't be mad! Go ahead! Kick us! See, we're not angry at all! Just don't call us that scary word!

Just as Barack Obama has to find a way to avoid being called the 'angry black man', so as not to ignite the fears and prejudices of the most ignorant section of the electorate, Democrats should know that calling us 'angry' is the Republican way of telling us what they're most afraid of - Democrats who are mad about the way they've been rolled in the back alley by this administration. When African-Americans decided they'd had enough of being treated like shit for hundreds of years, and decided to do something about it, civil-rights activists were accused of being 'angry', because those who had the power and privilege - white men - were terrified that they were going to have to deal with this just fury. So the tactic of accusing the disenfranchised of being 'angry' is a time-honored Republican tradition. And for the last eight horrific, traumatic years, Democrats have been disenfranchised.

Call me what you want. I don't care. I'm mad, and I hope you are, too.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words - No! On Prop 8

A Little Sarah-Snack For Your Consumption

Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has not sat for an interview on Meet The Press, nor has she been made available for an interview on any other Sunday morning show.

She has, however, appeared on “Saturday Night Live.”


Every Little Bit Helps

Yesterday, in the break room at work, I helped someone to vote.

A co-worker was saying that he wasn't sure if he was going to be able to vote on Nov. 4. He had recently moved and had changed his registration, but he didn't know how to check to see if it had gone through. He was afraid of going to the polls and being turned away.

I hooked him up with our local county registrar website, LA Vote.net, and we put his current info into the questionnaire.

It turned out that, yes, he was correctly registered.

That was a vote that probably would not have been cast. I walked around for the rest of the day feeling as if I had done something worthwhile.

Little things mean a lot, y'all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

PoliTits Is No Boob On Economics!

DCup from PoliTits has just put up one of the breast - uh, I mean, best ways I have ever read of describing the real-life effect of 'trickle-down' economics.

Go there at once, I tell you!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Buddy Got Married! Hell to the No On Prop 8

(please go to No On Prop 8 to donate or volunteer - it's crucial!)

Over the weekend, my friend Doug got married.

After 17 years of living together, and 7 years of parenthood, he tied the knot with the love of his life in a small, private ceremony.

When marriage equality was approved in California, he told me he didn't know whether or not he and his partner would get married or not, because of the real possibility of an amendment to the California constitution that would rescind that civil right. Just thinking of the ability of someone who has no business in Doug's private life being able to give or take away his right to marry makes me see red.

Who do these people think they are? How dare they?

I was driving along in the Valley the other day when I passed a park with some Yes On (H)8 picketers marching around. One sign proclaimed "Prop 8=Religious Freedom".

At least that comes right out and says it. According to these people, if you do not codify their belief system into law, even if their beliefs are unconstitutional, even on a matter which is none of their business and robs you of your civil rights without having an impact upon them in the least, you are denying their religious freedom.

Equal rights for my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters is an issue that is extremely important to me. I don't blog about it on a regular basis, mostly because I don't feel as a straight person that I have the right to be a 'spokesperson' for the LGBT community. But I do feel that it has to take all of us, gay and straight together, to stand up for what's right on this issue - not 'special rights' but equal rights. All I have to do is think of how I'd feel if some Nosy Parker decided that they could undo my marriage just because of their own twisted and perverted belief system and a shitload of money. It is revolting. It is disgusting. And it is wrong.

I must say that I don't get how anything that encourages stability and family values, like marriage, can possibly be anything but good for society as a whole. But, this of course is not about logic - it is about fear.

I'm so happy for Doug, and I'm glad he and his partner husband decided to 'go for the gold' even in the face of possibly losing it. I wish my friend Kenny could have had that chance to stand up in front of everyone and celebrate his love and commitment. The God of my understanding created Kenny exactly the way He wanted him to be, with a heart full of love to offer another person. I will be working for the right of all my gay and lesbian friends to be able to exercise their right to marry, which is inherent to all people, but is currently being denied by people who should have absolutely no say in the matter.

I will trot out my article "The 'Defense' Rests" again, although I've posted it several times over the past 4 years, because it sums up my feelings on this issue and my intersection with it.

The 'Defense' Rests

I received my first marriage proposal at the age of eighteen. My fiancé, a year older than I, was a real catch. A Tom Hanks look-alike, he was tall and lanky, with curly brown hair and a sweet, slightly loopy smile. Kenny was smart, funny, athletic, a gifted actor and a talented saxophone player who helped me get a full-tuition music scholarship at the community college he attended a year ahead of me. His mom had been my first piano teacher, and we had been friends ever since I was in the eighth grade. We bonded in high school, both of us being theater geeks, band nerds - not terribly popular but cool with being 'on the fringe'. Music and drama helped us both to find our own place in the spinning vortex that is high school.

Kenny was a college sophomore and I was a freshman when he proposed. We were both music majors, and both had jobs as well - I was playing keyboards in local bands at night, and he was the night manager of a convenience store. Unlike most of my other male friends, Kenny was already planning for a home and family. Hard-working and thrifty, he was putting away money for a down payment on a house. I adored him. We had so much in common - including the fact that we both liked guys.

Yep, Kenny was gay. It was not a 'lifestyle choice'; it was not a 'sexual preference', like 'preferring' tea to coffee. Believe me, Kenny did not just wake up one fine morning and say, "I think I'll alienate my family, exclude myself from the social mainstream, jeopardize my ability to choose where I live and what I do, and lay myself open to rejection, discrimination, violence, hate, and fear." Folks, I'm afraid he was born that way. Take it from someone who grew up with him.

As close as we were in high school, we never talked about it. He had a 'girlfriend', a sax player at another high school, and we both pretended that he was in love with her long enough for him to have a prom date. It wasn't until after I graduated in the late '70s and disco was king that Kenny opened up to me about being gay. He introduced me to the gay subculture in our town, and I went with him to the gay bars and the all-night discos. He would have crushes on guy after guy, always so sure that this one was 'the one', but somehow it never seemed to work out. Although finally free to 'be himself' with other people who felt the way he did, the long-term relationship and stability that he wanted so much was at odds with the hedonistic excesses of the era, and there was no social framework in place to support him.

This was where I came in. As we saw it, our getting married could solve a lot of difficulties (Your Honor, I plead the ignorance of eighteen). Kenny's mom knew me and liked me; she would be happy that Kenny would have 'social validity'; Kenny could have the home and family he wanted - well, at least the home and the appearance of a family. I could have my cake and eat it, too - a partner who would be there for me financially and emotionally without asking for sexual fidelity, who would give me a home and not care what time I came back to it!

Well, as it turned out, we didn't get married after all; there was that pesky detail of 'being in love' that we knew, as young and nutty as we were, was the real reason for getting married. As much as we loved each other as friends, there would never be a marriage in our hearts. We went our separate ways; I went on the road and he stayed in our home town, still working, still saving, still waiting and hoping for the dream to come true. We still kept in touch, and when I came home to visit my family, we'd get together and catch up on each others' lives. Kenny eventually got the home, but the life partner to share it with never came along.

After a few years, I moved to California and my visits were spaced farther and farther apart. Sometimes I saw him, sometimes I didn't, but there was always 'next time'. I got married (for real) and after the birth of my first child, I flew back home with my husband and new son, eager to introduce them to my family and friends. I couldn't catch up with Kenny; I left messages on his machine, but in the whirlwind of activity surrounding the new baby, I put Kenny on my 'next time' list.

Two weeks after I went back to California, my sister called me to tell me that Kenny had died of AIDS.

When I hear people talking about the "Defense of Marriage", it just makes me want to spit. I believe that if Kenny had been allowed to marry, if there had been a social structure in place at that time that encouraged and rewarded commitment in gay people as well as straight, that Kenny would most likely be alive today.

Just who are they 'defending' marriage from? Is there some straight woman that won't be able to find a mate because the gay boys 'got' all the good men? The arguments that the staunch 'Knights of Matrimony' throw out don't hold water to me.

Jan LaRue, a member of the Concerned Women of America ('concerned' with getting all up in other peoples' private lives!) - a lawyer, for gosh sakes - talks about why gay marriage is so very wrong...

"Granting a marriage license to homosexuals because they engage in sex is as illogical as granting a medical license to a barber because he wears a white coat or a law license to a salesman because he carries a briefcase. Real doctors, lawyers and the public would suffer as a result of licensing the unqualified and granting them rights, benefits and responsibilities as if they were qualified."

Qualified? Qualified?!?

Yes, I guess the lovely and talented Lyle Menendez is 'qualified' to get married. No doubt the devilishly handsome Scott Peterson, with his boyish charm, will be married before you know it, taking his pick of jailhouse proposals from the coterie of killer-hags that are inundating him with marriage offers. After all, he is single!

point: A child should have a mother and a father.

counterpoint: First off, I think it pretty much goes without saying that in today's society, reproduction is not the only reason to be married. I don't remember the 'Fertility Test' when my husband and I were applying for our marriage license. There are straight couples who (gasp!) choose not to have children! And how about the couples who just can't and decide to live with it? Should their licenses be revoked? What about parents who have lost a partner to divorce or death? Should their children be taken away from them?

Then, of course, what about the straight couples who have absolutely no business having children, and have them any old way? Abusive parents, neglectful parents, parents who, in their heart of hearts, don't want children but have them because of outside pressure? Am I to believe that a loving, committed gay couple would be worse for the emotional health of a kid than parents like these? Apparently so. That's right along with the "Murphy Brown" school of condemnation - those awful, selfish women who want a child so badly that they choose to have one without being married. Selfish? Most single (by choice or not) moms (and dads) I know have very little 'self' at all - they're too busy trying to raise their kids right in a two-income society. They're always at the bottom of the list. But I digress. Maybe we could force them to marry a gay man or woman. One of the opposite gender, naturally. Serve them all right.

No doubt about it, mothers and fathers are great. Optimal, even. I am not suggesting that the mom-and-pop deal is just another family model choice. It's not. It is the dominant one, and, all other things being even is the situation that our society set up to best suit a family. But all things are not always even, and just as no one in their right mind today would force a woman to stay with an abusive man 'for the sake of the children', the idea that any two heterosexuals (no matter how sick and dysfunctional) are better parent material than any two homosexuals (no matter how emotionally healthy and loving) is not an idea that I am prepared to accept. I am sure that there are bad gay parents out there. But I know there are bad straight parents, lots and lots of them, and no one is suggesting we abolish marriage for straight people because of that. I might even posit that, as a group, gay parents might have a higher percentage of good parenting because they often have to go to extraordinary lengths to have children, and in the face of strong opposition. It doesn't just 'happen', and I suspect the process would tend to weed out the less-motivated.

Gender role modeling? Maybe. But the overwhelming majority of gay people have (drum roll, please)… straight parents! What happened there with the 'gender modeling'? Good parents of any kind make sure their kids have positive models around them.

And then there's always the trump card - IMMORALITY! Who sez? God sez! Whose God? My God! Oh, my God. I'm not even going to bother to discuss the Bible quotes in Leviticus that are trotted out on a regular basis - smarter people than I have refuted the 'cherry-picking' of Levitical laws employed by those who feel that God Hates Fags. To these people, I say, "Fine. You're absolutely right. No one should force you to marry a gay person." Like any self-respecting queer would want to. Our country was founded by people who left their homeland and traveled thousands and thousands of miles to be free to worship as they pleased. And, yes, they were Christians. But the whole idea
(and a radical one it was) as expressed by our Founding Fathers, some of whom were religious and some of whom were not, was to build a country where everyone was free to worship as they pleased - not just Christian Puritans. Freedom of religion. Freedom NOT to worship if so inclined. Again, I'll leave the debating of the Constitution to my betters, but unless I'm way off the mark here, the United States of America is not a theocracy*. Isn't that exactly what we're trying to avoid setting up in that other place…what's it called again?…oh, yes - Iraq!

Well, folks, I'd better get out while the getting's good - I can see I'm heading into deep water here. But I'm still not convinced that there is any sort of justice in the fact that a mass murderer can marry and have children, if he or she chooses a partner of the opposite sex, but a law-abiding, upstanding member of society - if gay - cannot. To my mind, Your Honor, the 'Defense' doesn't have a leg to stand on.

(*note - I wrote this in 2004 - obviously that was a naïve and foolish statement.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Radio Interview This Morning - Basham & Cornell!

*Update below - audio link!

This morning I'll be talking to Lydia Cornell and Doug Basham on their wonderful Las Vegas-based morning progressive radio show Basham & Cornell. The show is on at 8 AM Pacific time.

I met Lydia at a Progressive Dems of LA meeting, and I was so impressed with her smarts, her humor and her spirituality. We were both in the process of writing books. At the time she was receiving death threats from Ann Coulter acolytes when the Coultergeist published Lydia's personal information online in retaliation for challenging Coulter's grotesque lies and misinformation thinly disguised as 'humor'. Doug Basham and I share similar backgrounds in music and magic (I was a magician's assistant) before becoming involved in progressive issues.

I am excited to be on their show!

Update - you can listen to the audio from the Oct. 15 show here!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Monday, October 06, 2008

First Interview Coming Up This Friday - Alicia On With the Young Turks

Here comes my first interview!

I'm scheduled for the Young Turks this Friday, October 10 at 7:30 ET.

I hope you can tune in - I can use the support.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Yesterday, I had a lovely lunch in Hollywood with my friend DivaJood of Journeys With Jood (and the previous mea culpa post). I met the Diva several years ago through an SCTV newsgroup, and we found out that we had many more things in common. The beauty of the Interwebs is that I got to meet her at all. Even though she is relatively close by as the crow flies, we wouldn't have connected since our work and social circles don't intersect. So I'm lucky that our paths crossed this way.

I was sent this great link to a hilarious Sarah Palin rap video. Enjoy!

Managed to survive the debate without my brains dissolving into mush and leaking out of my head. Biden rocked; Palin was a small-town weather girl. I kept expecting "Film at eleven!" as she mugged for the camera. She had the TV personality's unsettling trick of staring directly into the lens - it's creepy how camera-cognizant she was. I'll go into more detail in the next post later today. But Biden did great, and he had quite a tightrope to walk.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Mea Culpa - Forgive Me, Diva!

I need to take a minute here to thank my dear friend, the wondrous DivaJood, for her kind review, both on her blog Journeys With Jood and on Amazon, that has sent some of her fine readers my way - and even sent them to buy The Price of Right!

And I must beg her forgiveness, for she recently informed me (I blush with shame even now) that she was not on my blogroll!

As I said in her comments, my only defense is that, her being such a good friend and fave blogger, I naturally assumed that she had been on the blogroll all along.

It has been corrected.

And lunch is on me.

A Chat With Hank and Benny - How To Fix Your Big Mess

Hank, Benny - we need to talk.

I know you're supposed to be the whiz kids, financial-wise. And I know that I'm just another dumb consumer with no arcane inside knowledge like you fellas.

But I'll tell you one thing. You guys - you Masters of the Universe, pulling the strings from on high - claim you "never saw this coming."

Guess what? I did.

I've seen it coming for a long time, and so have a lot of other people I know. We've been talking about it for years. What is surprising is how long it took to finally happen.

Maybe it's too basic for you to understand - maybe that's the problem. But you guys have always been about the supply-side, trickle-down theory of economics, and after trying it your way for almost 30 years, it's time to admit that your way doesn't work.

Y'all are all about "if we give everything to the big guys at the top - the mega-corporations and wealthy investors - then their success will mean success for everyone else on down." But I'm afraid that hasn't panned out too well. It's one thing if it's just the wage slaves that are being crunched. Eventually, though, it ends up biting you in the ass as well.

So - Benny, Hank, I have a proposition for you. It's kind of an old idea, but it worked pretty darn well while it was implemented, and it just might be worth a shot.

Have you thought about the trickle-UP theory?

I know it sounds crazy, but just listen.

Okay. You see, the bottom of the food chain is where the action is. And we wage slaves have been seeing our incomes drop steadily (when adjusted for inflation) over the last 25 or so years. Once Reagan castrated the unions, he upset the power balance that makes the so-called 'free market' a viable way to conduct business. If there is no advocate with the strength to represent the workers, negotiations over pay become completely one-sided. This means that businesses are free to eliminate raises, and cut salaries and benefits as low as they can, which makes their profit margin higher.

Are you with me so far, fellas? Good!


This cut in wages is not accompanied by cuts in the cost of living. The cost of living continues to increase at its regular rate. While big business is getting wealthier, and wealthy individuals are getting wealthier because much of their income is derived from investments, which are taxed at half the rate of wages earned through work, the wage slaves are paying a higher and higher percentage of their income towards basic living expenses. Even if their pay is not cut, but remains the same, it turns out to be a pay cut anyway if their expenses on essentials (food, transportation, utilities, mortgage or rent, medical, etc.) rise every year.

So, what do people do? They take on more work if they can. They cut back on expenses wherever they can. But you get to a point where both of these options are finite, unlike the raise in the cost of living. And the implementation of NAFTA and the free-trade frenzy means that there are less jobs available, and the ones that are available pay less.

Now, you smart guys have told us that when the consumer stops spending, the economy goes into a tailspin. And the last thing you want us to do is to tighten our belts.

So what do you guys do?

Here's where we're at the crossroads.

If you want people to continue to buy things to keep the economy going, there are two ways to do it. One way is to pay them better wages so they can afford to buy more. The other way is to make them go into debt to do it. That way it doesn't come out of business' bottom line; make consumers pay the credit card companies (Bush's biggest campaign donors) for the privilege of going into debt.

You guys picked the second way.

Not a smart idea.

You hyper-inflated the housing market and put wage slaves into a position where the only way they can keep their heads above water is to borrow against their 'equity'.They can't work any more hours; they can't cut any more expenses; and the Bankruptcy Bill made sure that there's no way around the problem other than to go into debt. That way you keep the consumers quiet and spending for a little while, anyway - long enough to give you time to finish grabbing up all this crazy money laying around.

Pretty soon, though, the borrowing has to stop. Even an uninformed idiot like me can see that. And, as the consumer goes, so goes the nation - from micro to macro, we've been borrowing as a nation the same way wage slaves have been borrowing as individuals.

The merry-go-round spins faster, faster, faster! Higher and higher we go!

Then - pow! The ride stops, the brakes are on and everyone flies off the painted ponies. A rush to the bottom ensues.

So my suggestion is that we try Idea #1 - the trickle-UP.

Start at the bottom by paying wage slaves well enough that they can buy things. It may seem as if that would cut into business' bottom line in a way they don't care for. Salaries are a liability, not an asset. But in the long term, it is an asset because you are buying future customers with that money! It is a sound investment with a very high rate of return.

People with paychecks can buy stuff. People without paychecks can't buy stuff. It's as simple as that.

When we had strong unions, everyone was paid better, not just union workers, because non-union companies had to compete salary-wise. Better-paid workers are better customers; better customers are better for business. Better-paid workrs pay more income tax, but since they have more money anyway, it does not cut into their quality of life. Better regulations insure that not only the public, but the businesses are protected also. Everyone wins here - maybe not the zillionaire CEOs, but how much gold can one person eat anyway?

So there you have it, Hank and Benny.

No need to thank me, fellas - just go and do the right thing. Start helping the folks at the bottom, and it will trickle UP - even to you guys!

It works - it's been done before.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Hell Yes, I'm An Elitist!

I received this great link to a Sam Harris article from my friend Larry Brown.

One of the most truly terrifying things about the last eight years has been the triumph of ignorance. There has always been a tendency on the right to demonize intelligence, referring to educated, intelligent people as 'ivory tower elitists' and 'eggheads', and conflating brains with being 'out of touch' with the 'real folks'. But, until 2000, this tendency was not making national policy decisions.

George W. Bush, in celebrating his own lack of intellect and curiosity, has made a virtue of ignorance, and by breaking the glass ceiling on stupidity, demonstrated to those who already think this way that there are no limits to where ignorance can take you. He has also demonstrated that governing by ignorance is not only possible, but easily done, and that ignorance can beat intelligence, given the right set of circumstances.

The vile presidency of George W. Bush will not finish when he leaves office. With his obsession over his 'legacy', it turns out that the repercussions from his assault on the country will be rippling far and wide for a long time. Any future president who wants to exercise unlimited power with no pesky Constitutional constraints will find the way made smooth by the precedent set by George W. Bush.

Case in point is the love child of George Bush and Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin. While George Bush is a relative latecomer to the fundamentalist fold, he insisted that "God told him to attack Iraq." He relies on his 'gut' instead of brains, and considers that a completely acceptable, even preferable choice. Sarah Palin takes those traits to a whole different level. No Johnny-come-lately she, Palin was steeped in fundamentalist principles from birth, and is both far more radically religious and far less educated than George W. Bush. Which, in the Bizarro-World of right-wing logic, makes her...even better! According to the Bush standard, all you need is a mule-stubborn refusal to yield to be a successful world leader, and intelligence just gets in the way of that. Sarah Palin describes it as "you can't blink." What she means is "you can't think."

This demonization of intelligence is getting worse, not better, as the ignorant and venal are rewarded ever more richly in our society. If the unthinkable come to pass, with a McCain presidency Sarah Palin - would-be book-banner, science-hater, reproductive-rights-destroyer, Rapture-ready end-timer - will be a fibrillation away from being the leader of the free world. One would not think it possible, but she makes George W. Bush look like Noam Chomsky.

Hell, yes, I'm an elitist. You should be, too.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Repeat After Me: "Privatize the Profits; Socialize the Losses!"

I have this feeling that it's starting to sink in to the American people - this laissez-faire 'free market' crap is the biggest swindle of all time.

And I think this simple phrase is one reason why.

"Privatize the Profits; Socialize the Losses".

I think it puts it in a way that we can all understand, as succinctly as possible. This one phrase encompasses the major underlying philosophy and strategy of the predatory capitalism (and the conservative ideology that supports it) that is on the verge of destroying our nation.

So - use this phrase every chance you get!

"Well, it looks like it may rain tomorrow. Privatize the profits, socialize the losses."

"I saw that new Rambo movie last weekend. Speaking of Rambo, privatize the profits, socialize the losses."

"Did you pick up my suit at the dry cleaners?" "Did you say 'take me to the cleaners?' Privatize the profits, socialize the losses."

In the words of the magnificent Frank Luntz:

"There's a simple rule: You say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and you say it again, and then again and again and again, and about the time that you're absolutely sick of saying it is about the time that your target audience has heard it for the first time. And it is so hard but you've just got to keep repeating, because we hear so many different things--the noises from outside, the sounds, all the things that are coming into our head, the 200 cable channels and the satellite versus cable, and what we hear from our friends. We as Americans and as humans have very selective hearing and very selective memory. We only hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest."
And in the words of the worst president in the history of the United States of America:

“See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.”
So, let's start catapulting!

If Even Ben Stein Can See It, Bust Out Your Parkas - Hell Just Froze Over

Wow. I'm agog.

Ben Stein momentarily emerges from his intellectual coma and makes sense.

Good on ya, Benny my man.

What Is It About Working Men and Women That You Find So Offensive?


I don't get it.

If this 700 billion is a arbitrary number, as we have been told - just picked to look big - then why is there no room for mortgage relief? Why is it that it is out of the question to give judges the option to renegotiate the terms of a mortgage so people can find a way to say in their homes?

I am simply staggered that they are asking us to foot the bill for this monstrous theft perpetrated upon us, while at the same time prohibiting us from receiving any relief from the bailout for the thieves that we are paying for!

Is every single person in Congress owned by the credit card companies?

Hyenas, vultures and jackals.

Oh my.

Update: House fails to pass bailout package, 228-205.

Everyone's scared of losing their seat this close to election time.

Which means, of course, that they know how deeply the American people are opposed to it.

And they would have voted for it anyway, except that they knew they'd get their asses kicked at the ballot box.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hypocrisy So Thick, You Can Eat It With a Fork

"Taxpayer Mortgage Assistance A Deal-Breaker For Republicans".

I might have known.

These thugs are happy to mortgage our children's and our grandchildren's financial futures so as to spare the wealthiest corporate gamblers, swindlers and spendthrifts a moment's discomfort over the mess they made robbing us blind. But make an attempt to help the victims of this theft - even in the smallest way - and they're beside themselves in righteous indignation.

All of a sudden it's 'too expensive'. All of a sudden they 'can't afford it'.

Child, please.

That's Republicanism for you. Helping corporate thieves avoid any consequences for their thievery is "necessary". Helping the taxpayers they stole from is a "deal breaker." And they don't blink an eye while saying this.

While Democrats, led by Nancy Pelosi, predictably roll over and agree because they 'need Republican votes to get this bill passed.'

What a thing to stand on principle on - adamantly refusing to assist the taxpayer whom they intend to saddle with a trillion dollar debt in order to make things better for the criminals.

There is a point where I simply cannot wrap my head around this. I'm not anatomically equipped.

Friday, September 26, 2008

First Official Review of "The Price of Right" - David Swanson!

The first official review of The Price of Right comes from activist and writer David Swanson of AfterDowningStreet.org and Let's Try Democracy. I'm so excited, and very happy that my first review is a reasonably favorable one with fair criticism from someone whose work I appreciate very much.

Wooo hooo!

Here's My Economic Plan

All right. Enough is enough.

Here's what I'm thinking:

Go on and let the motherfuckers fail.

That's right. In the words of the Kowboy Koward of Krawford, "Bring 'em on!"

That same old tired threat - give up (fill in the blank) or the worst thing that could happen will happen. And we fall for it every time.

Let me backtrack for a minute.

For the last 6 months or so, I've noticed that emotionally, I've gone into 'survival mentality'. I've started to ask myself what would happen if the worst came to pass. What can I do without, what can't I do without? I've started detaching mentally from what possessions I have (not that I have all that many.) What would we do if we lost everything?

And I realize that, basically, we'd be OK.

A while back, my husband and I agreed that when times get tight financially, that we would pull closer together instead of taking our worries out on each other. Money problems are the number 1 reason for marital strife. So, instead of letting the pressure of financial issues damage the one thing that has nothing to do with money - which is love - we're going to make this a time that we and our kids will remember forever in a positive light.

If we have to live in a tent, we'll make it into a cool camping trip!

So...back to my original point.

I don't think there's going to be enough political will to make the changes tht are necessary without something as catastrophic as another Great Depression. Folks, it's coming, so we might as well get it over with, and save ourselves the trillion dollars.

Tell 'em to go pound sand and see how they like it.

Now, I realize that this sounds like a very irresponsible idea. And perhaps I am underestimating the severity and global ramifications of a complete market collapse.

But if I am underestimating the scope and severity of the upcoming depression, a trillion bucks ain't gonna hold it back. If it's as bad as that, there's nothing we can do but watch it happen.

So here's my plan: if they aren't willing to help taxpayers get back on their feet - before further enriching the fat cats who caused it in the first place with their radioactive neoliberal economic policies - then tell 'em "no deal, Neil."

Let the market decide. Let them live with the consequences of their failures for once - God knows we've been living with it long enough.

And what about us?

Here's what we do: prepare for the worst.

Get used to the idea that we may lose a lot, possession-wise, and start planning how we're going to deal with taking care of the necessities - food and shelter. If you have food and shelter, share. Take care of each other. We may need to double-or-triple-up housing-wise. We may need to sleep in tents. But what's important is that we try and take care of each other so that no one starves or freezes if we can help it. Those of us who don't lose everything should help out those of us who do. We'll need to band together as Americans, and support each other emotionally as well as physically.

I know that sounds disgustingly socialistic, but it's what families do.

These are real family values, and that's the only way we're going to get through something as devastating as a global financial collapse.

And once we get through it, everyone will understand (from a first-hand perspective) that we need the kind of social and government policy that brought us back from the last Great Depression, and gave us a true middle class.

So I say hang on to our trillion bucks - if it really is as bad as they are trying to tell us it is, a trillion dollars will not fix it - it will just go to ease the pain of the investment class. And I say fuck them. Ease my pain, you lying, thieving pigs.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

No One's Asking Why People Can't Pay Their Mortgages!


When I hear a description of the reasons for this financial game of 52-Card Pickup, it goes something like this:

The investment companies who bought and sold the bundled mortgages took a hit because of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. They're all connected to each other, and when one sector goes down, they drag everyone else down with them. And the reason the sub-primes went down is that people were defaulting on their mortgages.

That's where they end the narrative.

But nobody's asking why people can't pay their mortgages.

Listen, folks - it isn't just sub-primes. Do they just think that, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, huge swaths of people who have never had trouble paying their bills, who are never late on a payment, are unable to make ends meet? Did they all just go on a mad spending spree? Did they get hit on their heads so hard that the financial sense was knocked out of them?

This is the root of the problem and this is what everyone is not talking about.

So instead of addressing this problem, they're going to throw crazy money at the profiteers who made massive fortunes by taking advantage of the fact that it's getting harder and harder for regular people to keep up.

Good move.

I personally would receive a great deal of psychological benefit if Henry Paulson threw a shitload of money my way. It would be extremely therapeutic.

Fool Me Twice - We Won't Be Fooled Again

Is it just me, or do the last few days have an oddly familiar feel?

Haven't we heard this somewhere before? "Hand over the booty right now, or we're all gonna die! No time to think about it - we have to have it immediately! Do you want the destruction of the nation on your conscience?"

After 9/11, Saddam was thisclose to blowing us all away as he plotted with his BFFs the Al-Qaedas to use his vast but cleverly-hidden arsenal of WMDs on us - right this minute! Fortunately, we headed off Armageddon with a quick authorization to use military force (not an actual war or anything, for heaven's sake!), and stopped certain destruction dead in its tracks.

But wait!

Those crafty Al-Qaedas could be anywhere - or anybody! That little old blue-haired grandma who shuffles off to the library every day is probably getting plans for a dirty bomb! And because of those antiquated, old-fashioned, out-dated 'privacy' rights that are just using up extra parchment in the Constitution - and were just 'tacked on' anyway - it's imperative that we sign a PATRIOT Act (see - all caps! You can tell how important it is!) to cut through all that useless red tape that keeps us from taking the Al-Qaedas down! Quick - sign it! Sign it! Today! Not tomorrow! Tomorrow could be the mushroom cloud!

So now that they've neatly disposed of our rights and our moral authority, along with most of our money, it's time for the coup de gras - time to hand over ALL the rest of the money - in perpetuity!

"Gimme a trillion dollars in unmarked bills right now - or the economy gets it, see?"

Then, of course, if they manage to pretend like they're giving up ground with things like 'CEO Pay Caps' (that's a hot one!) and 'More Oversight' (another knee-slapper), maybe everyone will look the other way while they finish the job they started 8 years ago.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Conservatism - The Elephant In the Room

Well, here we are at last.

When I started writing The Price of Right over two years ago, the idea that I wanted to express in the book was that, as horrific a president as George W. Bush was, he was not the cause but the ultimate expression of a systematically destructive social, economic and political ideology that was driving our country away from democracy and towards, if not fascism, certainly feudalism.

It is not only Bush, but the system that produced a Bush - conservatism. It is conservatism itself that made the Worst President Ever a reality.

Ever since the 60s, when a consortium of über-wealthy conservative Republican power-brokers decided to wage war on liberals by linking everything bad in society to liberalism, and making ‘liberal’ a pejorative of the worst kind, conventional wisdom laid the blame for all of society’s ills at the feet of liberalism. Even liberals themselves accepted this - Democrats no longer wished to be called ‘liberal’ when that word could lose you an election faster that you could spit - and attempted to define their values along lines that they thought conservatives would agree with. As Republicans moved farther and farther to the right, Democrats moved right with them in an ‘Overton window’ sort of way, until ‘moderate’ Dems were more like Republican-lite, and what was now the Commie-radical far end of the left-wing spectrum would have been considered merely left of center only a couple of years ago.

When I began writing this book, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was approaching 12,000. In April of 2007, it reached 13,ooo, and only three months later, in July 2007, the Dow topped out at 14,000. In what looked to me as a repeat of the Roaring Twenties, when stocks were going wild, thanks to ‘new and creative investment instruments’, and every one was an investor, it seemed to me that the disparity between the dizzying profits at the top of the heap and the reality that average people were becoming poorer, while working longer and harder and struggling more was an indication that this kind of financial hot-rodding was doomed to crash. Next stop - 1932!

If you step back and look at the situation from a macro rather than micro perspective, several things become clear.

1.Working people of all strata were making less money.

With the onslaught of ‘downsizing’ and layoffs, people were being forced into a financial corner not of their own making. Those that were fortunate enough to keep their jobs either had to accept rather drastic pay cuts, or assume the laid-off workers’ jobs without extra pay. Raises to keep up with the cost of living were out of the question. Those that lost their jobs had a difficult time finding another at a comparable salary; many had to take jobs that paid much less, with little or no benefits. And most families needed two working partners just to make ends meet, so there was no ‘safety net’ where a stay-at-home partner could get a job to take up the slack.

2. While income from wages dropped, prices rose.

Prices of essentials, such as housing, energy, food, and transportation, continue to rise as usual, but the money to pay for them did not increase proportionally, but either stayed the same (which is a de-facto decline in real income) or actually declined.

3. Meanwhile, corporate profits soared to record levels.

This would seem to be a good thing for the economy. But much of that profit could be attributed to money saved by laying off workers, and freezing or reducing the salaries of those who still had jobs. Wall Street rewarded the corporations who cut jobs, stole pensions, reduced benefits. And the profits that ensued were often moved off-shore so as to not pay taxes on it, thereby depriving Americans of the tax revenue due to them by creating an environment in which the corporations could make those profits - providing both physical and legal structure for the corporations to utilize, such as roads, communications, power and water, and also a legal system that allowed them to be able to make contracts and conduct business with the assumption that there were laws in place to enforce contracts, and a justice system to make sure that the contracts are enforced.

The corporations did not create these physical and legal infrastructures - they were paid for by taxpayers and were the property of the American people. Yet they considered the profits they reaped theirs alone, and to pay taxes on these profits were regarded as stealing their property.

This is theft, pure and simple.

Theft of our labor - if you ask me to work for you for 12 hours and you pay me $10, you have stolen my labor. There’s no other way to put it. Saying that ‘you can’t afford to pay more’ is not an excuse - you either can afford to hire an employee or not. And paying ten guys $1 an hour instead of one guy $10 an hour is not creating ten jobs!

The Myth of the Free Market is exactly that - a myth. It’s a Utopian model that does not work in real life, because it only works if all things are equal - if the worker, the employer, and the consumer all have equal power and influence. And we know that is not true at all.

So - up to this point, we have: wages falling, prices rising, and profits escalating.

If the profit margin were roughly equal to the wage and price margin, one would assume that the market was working correctly - if there was a downturn that was felt by all, then it would be more or less attributable to forces that were outside of the wage/price/cost/profit structure - perhaps a natural disaster, governmental upheaval, or a failure of some aspect of production.

But if profits are rising for corporations, and growth is rising, and consumers are getting poorer at the same time, the only reasonable explanation is that those profits are coming from somewhere within that system - not wealth creation, but wealth transfer.

That transfer of wealth has been from the bottom to the top.

This is the natural progression of conservatism.

It’s like holding a big juicy steak in front of a starving man who only has 50¢ in his pocket, and offering to sell it to him on credit for $50, after which the poor man is excoriated for “buying something he couldn’t afford”. What the hell do you think that man was supposed to do? Say “No, I can’t afford that steak - I think I’ll just crawl off over in a corner and die”?

I (and many others) could see this week’s financial meltdown coming years ago. We knew that the economy was unbalanced. As I’ve said before, the problem with impoverishing workers to fatten your bottom line is that eventually you run out of consumers. If workers are not paid enough to meet their basic needs and have spome left over for discretionary spending, there will be no discretionary spending! Yet, conservative economic theory insists that the way to prosperity is to make the already-prosperous more prosperous, even at the expense of the majority of the workforce. So, when we actually ran out of money a few years ago, the solution to keep the masses spending and keep the economy afloat, was to dangle credit in front of us, and force us into spending money we didn’t have after taking all the money we did have.

Why is this a conservative problem?

Because of one of the deep frames of conservative cognition - the metaphor that says “Wealth=Morality”

I truly believe that this deep-rooted conviction is at the heart of the conservative mindset, and it transfers to every aspect of conservatism. It is responsible for the conservative Christian ‘Prosperity Gospel’ which says that God shows His approval by bestowing earthly wealth on those who obey His wishes, and whom He favors - and therefore, the wealthier you are, the more moral you are. It is also responsible for the assumption that, because you are rich, you are hard-working, honest, smart, responsible, strong, self-reliant and deserving - whether you are any one of those or not. The corollary is that people who are hard-working, honest, smart, responsible, strong, self-reliant and deserving should be the people in charge!

This is the core of conservatism. This is also why even poor conservatives support the rule by the rich - because they really believe, deep down - whether they are conscious of it or not - that “wealth=morality”.

So, this is the mentality that is driving us over the cliff. And this is why conservatism itself is doomed to fail if we truly want an America that works on (small d) democratic principles.

The United States was formed to escape that mentality altogether - the mindset that says the Golden Rule is “He who has the gold makes the rules.” Conservatism, when followed to its logical conclusion, leads to feudalism - a large, poor, overworked, under-educated, powerless underclass supporting a small, powerful, wealthy, leisured ruling class.

There can be no other outcome.

I wrote about just this sort of thing two years ago, when the Dow was popping like a cracked-out Orville Redenbacher. This magical belief that tax cuts plus borrowing plus war spending equals a sound economy was never challenged because of the irrational certainty that if the wealthy get wealthier, that all will be well.

The equivalence of money and morality is a key component of the fatally flawed philosophy that is conservatism, and we are living with the results now. This is the common thread that binds together big-business Republicans and right-wing evangelicals.

Of course, you can still see the influence of this belief in the approach of Paulson to this crisis - that the perpetrators of this debacle will pay no price for their perfidy and theft. The idea of ‘too big to fail’ also means ‘too big to punish’, and ‘too big to hold accountable’. Punishment and accountability are only for the little guy. Adamantly opposed to helping the people who these policies have damaged, and instead dumping the bill for their own destruction upon the victims, while the perpetrators sail off unscathed, their stolen booty intact, thus adding insult to injury, the people in charge of ‘fixing the problem’ will instead continue the policies that have brought us to this disaster.

Just like John McCain’s idea of a cure for the havoc that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy have wreaked upon us are - more tax cuts!

They simply do not get that if you kill the golden goose, you get no more golden eggs.

If you make it impossible for consumers to spend, the economy will screech to a halt. You can tell that they still don’t get it when they talk about ‘unfreezing credit’ so that people can spend again. In other words, the only way that people can spend is by going into debt! What about the notion that people could be paid enough to spend money without going into debt? That’s a novel concept, isn’t it?

This irrational idea is simply too strong and deep-seated to be changed by those who subscribe to it. Those of us who are not hostage to the idea that both wealth and poverty are meted out to those who deserve it need to start connecting the dots, and understand that it is this conservative belief system that has led to the destruction of the middle class, and that there are other values besides profit and money - the liberal American values of liberty and justice for all, and the liberal idea that we as Americans have a responsibility to all other Americans whose very lives are being decimated by this childish, selfish, destructive philosophy.

We cannot afford The Price of Right one more minute.