"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Marathon Man

A big part of my job, I realize now, is writing. I think I wrote about 4 or 5 thousand words today. I feel a little guilty that this makes me tired.

Read More


Talkin' Terrorism

Inspired by Pandagon: No Plan, No Problem, and a comment.

I lived through 9/11 in New York, and I recall doing quite a lot of very serious thinking in the days and weeks and months after about what the hell we should do. The vision that kept returning was of Jefferson's post Amercan revolution revelation that unless the sharecropping rentier farmer class that had been a large part of the revolutionary army were tied to the new order somehow, a series of unproductive repeat uphevals were in the mail for sure.

There are so many people out there who are not in any way partners in our massive and unparalelled prosperity. That's a significant root cause of the problems we face.

If you follow this line of reasoning, some people might accuse me of wanting to kowtow to murderers. You obviously can't have a policy of negotiation with individual terrorists as in a hostage situation, but there's a lot of value in looking at the ends a group of people are attempting to achieve by means of a campaign of terror, and try to figure out if there's a way to solve with without killing. We make truces with people who go to war. Sometimes it's even a good idea.

The resistence to this kind of reflection in America -- a resistence characterized by accusations of some isiduous desire to "blame America first" -- is really just a desire for us to be easy on ourselves and not challenge our assumptions about how the world works.

So, I don't want to sound un-American, but if you look at the set of reasons the likes of Bin Laden gives for making war on the US, they're pretty understandible. They don't "hate our freedom." That is and always has been an outrageous lie. This war isn't about Playboy; it's about geopolitical power.

What they hate is having US troops in Saudi Arabia (and now Iraq), US companies buying their oil at discount prices, and US power backing repressive and corrupt regimes throughout the region. The realities of petropolitics mean we can't just grant concessions on most of these things, but the demands are not really crazy or anything. It's really, "get your boys out of my hood, quit jackin' my shit, and quit backing up local thugs."

Until we can find a way to meaningfully address these concerns without sacraficing our national interests, we're stuck with more-than-nuisance terrorism. The Neo-Con fantasy in full regalia sort of represented one way out: proving the terrorists wrong in the moral sphere by conjuring a prosperous, US-friendly democracy in their midst. Problem is you can't "create" a democracy any more than you can "give" anyone freedom. It doesn't work like that. It was a great wet dream, but come the fuck on.

The alternative as I see it is waging a serious campaign of law enforcement, counter-proliferation and diplomacy while systematically weaning ourselves of the Saudi Smack over the next 10 to 20 years to the point where we can actually give the people what they want: the chance to take their freedom from the regimes which supress them and charge us whatever they want for that sweet black gold.

That won't be easy, and it will take a lot of political will, and I'm not saying Kerry will do it. But it's probably going to have to be done.

Read More


Like Science? History? Business? Vote Kerry.

I know I live in a country with a decidedly anti-intellectual bent. Our greatest demogague, O'Reilly, likes to use the term "pinhead." For real. But still, come the fuck on, America. Science rules! Listen to what the nerds have to say!

The New Scientist:

"At its birth two centuries ago, this republic was governed by men who had a deeper understanding of science than most of their successors. The Founding Fathers were children of the Enlightenment, of the Age of Reason.

Today we are governed by people who do not believe in evolution. They have few qualms about distorting scientific knowledge when it does not conform to their political agenda. They speak as if they are entitled not only to their own opinions but also to their own facts."

So said Kurt Gottfried, chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists, in the opening passage of a damning report released in July on the politicisation of science in 21st-century America. Put bluntly, Gottfried’s charge, and that of the UCS, is that President Bush does not understand science.

He has little interest in the subject, and his administration has grossly manipulated the process by which objective science informs policy. As a result, the US has made the wrong decisions over issues such as climate change, energy, reproductive health and the environment.

So let's run it down. Scientists? Bush must go. Historians? Ditto. Business Professors?

The data make clear that your policy of slashing taxes – primarily for those at the upper reaches of the income distribution – has not worked. The fiscal reversal that has taken place under your leadership is so extreme that it would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. The federal budget surplus of over $200 billion that we enjoyed in the year 2000 has disappeared, and we are now facing a massive annual deficit of over $400 billion. In fact, if transfers from the Social Security trust fund are excluded, the federal deficit is even worse – well in excess of a half a trillion dollars this year alone. Although some members of your administration have suggested that the mountain of new debt accumulated on your watch is mainly the consequence of 9-11 and the war on terror, budget experts know that this is simply false. Your economic policies have played a significant role in driving this fiscal collapse.

That's a scathing indictment. And Nobel Winners agree. I could go on like this. I wanna do the ethical/moral case against Bush too, but all this brain-weight gives me ideas for another ciritique.

In any event, it should be clear that this arrogant manchild of a president cannot listen to criticism or reason, which is clearly a pointed difference between him and his opponenet, and from my perspective this anti-factual bullheadedness is one of the most compelling reasons to work for regime change here at home.

Read More


Terribly Uptight

Confession. I have become terribly uptight. I just now attempted a little light yogic stretching as learned back in my days at the Experimental Theater Wing, and found it more difficult than I ever remeber: harder than when I first started (kinda understandible as I've got more muscle to stretch now than in those early twiggy days) and vastly moreso than the last time I remember really trying to stretch, which had to be around the beginning of the summer. I've also noticed that I've gained quite a little bit of weight (gut flab, mostly) in the past few months.

Things seem to have taken a turn. The life is taking its toll, I suppose. But I've decided that all this "I can't wait until the election is over" fatalism has got to end. That's right; I can't wait until the election is over.

For starters, that's not the end of the road for me. It's hardly even a break. I can't sleep for a year, or even a month. Things will need doing the week after, so saddle up and be ready.

And moreover, a lot of this stuff shouldn't be postponed. I'm not going to go clothes shopping any time soon, but getting my physical life in order is an endeavor that's going to take a while, and there's no compelling reason not to start right now. The actual daily investments of time and energy are modest. It just takes discipline, and discipline is something I could use more of at the moment anyway. So there. Reasons abound.

I'm pretty convinced also that overcoming this physical tightness, as well as working off the flab, will help me continue in improving my mental and emotional state. I'm a confirmed believer in the mind-body connection. It ebbs and flows, but it's always present. Your body and brain are all one connected system, so none of this should be at all surprising. Still, some people still think that there's a hoky new-age smell to believing that having a rich physical life is a critical component to a good mental and emotional experience.

I don't bother to question it or to be sanctimonious about it; I'm more concerned with what it means for me and my life pragmatically. To put it another way, I'm not one of those people who frets over food or obsesses over exercise. I'm one of those people who thinks, "damn, I'm bummed out. I should take a giant bike ride up some really tall hills and then go get sushi, maybe start stretching more and eating veggies again."

And anyway, for any of this shit to really work, it's gotta be sustainable. Terriby uptight is not sustainable because it's not an optimal condition for production, and high production is going to be a must for the next ten to twenty years or so at least. I don't think I'll really be able to slow down for a while, nor do I want to. But to live up to that date with velocity, I've got to get my engine running cleaner and smoother.

Read More

Good Point

Trying to figure what I think about Matt Stone's ambivalent comments re: voting in the latest Rolling Stone. I think his point is that if you're looking to their movie to figure out how to vote, you need to find better research -- but the manner in which he expressed it was unfortunate. There is some shame in not voting, because basically it means you're telling other people to run your life.

Which, as this bright woman points out might mean ending up barefoot and pregnant. So yeah; don't take your cues from a puppet show. Take it from Robin and vote.

Read More


Viacom: Shhh! Don't Bother The Children With Those Pesky Issues

So there's this venture that wants to do youth-oriented political advertisements. They're called Compare, Decide, Vote. The ads are a little cheeky, but they're certainly no more offensive than any candidate ads, and a damn sight less creepy than any of that Swift Boat nonsense. They point out where Kerry and Bush differ on issues that might matter to younger voters -- college costs, minimum wage, Iraq -- and urge the viewer to compare, decide, and vote.

The idea was to run them during the Daily Show, TRL, Chapelle, etc; get some good issue-based content out there to remind us tykes there are real choices at stake on Nov 2nd.

Pretty simple, right? Well, Viacom, which has a near-monopoly on young-adult oriented programming (MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, BET) is refusing to allow the ads to air.

Wanna do something about it?

Let me explain exactly why this is TOTAL BULLSHIT. First of all, Sumner Redstone (the tycoon in charge) is a Bush supporter by virtue of W's pro-consolidation platform. Suspect. Secondly, they've given no real reason why they're not going to air the ads. They probably believe they have a right to refuse to run political advertisements because they give space to 501c(3) orgs like Rock The Vote and Declare Yourself, which urge people to vote more or less "just because."

But here's the thing: becoming an engaged participant in civic life and the political process isn't something you do "just because." It's about formulating and acting upon opinions. It's about making choices based on your (hopefully informed) judgement as to which candidate(s) will best protect and advance your interests, not printing a voter reg form off the internet because a celebrity implied that it was cool. While I'm glad that Rock the Vote and Declare Yourself exist and are registering gobs and gobs of people to vote, they by no means in and of themselves express or constitute an informed political consciousness.

Viacom apparently believes that their channels, which reach millions of potential young participants, are not an appropriate forum for data which might set their viewers down the path towards forming such a consciousness for themselves. They are fine with other consciousness raising messages, though.

"Your Skin Belongs To Noxeema?" You bet it does.

"Girls Gone Wild?" They sure have!

"Unleash The Cold Filtered (and right-wing owned) Taste of the Rockies?" Mmmm... twins...

"Compare, Decide, Vote?" What the... get that crap off the air!

So, yeah. The message is clear. Consumerism, intoxication and sex are great, but don't try and give our kids the grist from which they might form some political opinions. We oppose that. We will not take your money to run ads which do this.

Can you think of anything more fucking condescending than that? Anything more patronizing? Anything more un-fucking-American? Our future is on the line -- our jobs, our education, our health, the looming spectre of widening warfare and compulsatory military service -- and the corporate masters of our media universe want to keep us in a happy hazy trance.

That and they want to hide the fact that Bush's record and agenda sucks ass from the youth perspective. I think there's a mix here between Sumner Redstone having a paternalistic moment and wanting to "protect" his products (young viewers are the product, don't forget) from those troublesome bits of data that might upset their valuable little consumatronic lifestyle, and him simply trying to help his man out by keeping Bush's record on education and the minimum wage off the airwaves. My response? Fuck you, Sumner. I will burn you down.

Make a stink. I'm so tired of the anesthetization of our generation by the broadcast giants. This is bullshit, and we shouldn't stand for it. If we can put the screws to Sumner and the Viacom cronies, maybe we can get them to re-think their position.

Read More


Things I've Done

This weekend:

- Had a drink with a man who played keyboard with Nine Inch Nails on the Pretty Hate Machine tour; ate late-nite breakfast at It's Tops.
- Talked to (at?) the kids from Baobobs about blogging.
- Got real high with Luke and rocked out to Iron Maiden and Lenyrd Skynrd b-sides (they sound a lot more like Jimmi Hendrix than "Free Bird" would lead you to believe).
- Listened to Chelsea and Jees play kickass guitar/banjo -- Porch Skank! -- before they take off for New Zeland (and possibly an arena tour of China). Fell asleep on couch.
- Watched The Shawshank Redemption, which I'd never seen before and which almost made me cry.
- Had date; and a good one at that.

And I'm still in a state of internal conflict about what I'm doing and where it's going, but I'm remembering that, hey, this is my life and I can do what I want with it, and I should. Life is holy and every moment precious. It's high time I reclaimed the dignity of my own experience.

Read More


Kerry 1971 Video Before The Senate Foreign Relations Committee

By popular demand: one of John Kerry's finest moments. It's (ugh) windows media because that's what I was able to find. It's also a big-ass file, but because it's (ugh) windows media I can't cut it down.

Read More


Anyone Need Some Wood?

George W Bush invented the internets.

...oh, and yeah, he's got a temper. An ugly tepmer.

Read More


Outlandish Josh Endorses John Kerry

I'm an independent political operator. I work for a 527 that's probably aimed at helping out Democrats more than anyone else this cycle, and while I'm pretty sick of Democrat-bashing, I also don't think there's much of a future in the party as it's currently configured. Point is, I'm on my own shit.

But I'm voting for John Kerry, and not just because I don't want Bush. I honestly have some hopes for Kerry. This page is all about telling you why I have this hope.

First of all, I'm going to lay out our reasons for endorsing John Kerry on his own merits. I won't even mention his opponent here except in references to specific changes we can expect to see from JFK if he's in the White House. This is my case for the candidate on his own merits.

In a word, the reason to vote for Kerry is because he represents progress, and because he is not fucking around. I think our country is on the wrong track, and more than just stopping our progress down the wrong road, I think Kerry can help steer us in the right direction. He's clearly no Bill Clinton on the campaign trail, but there's good reason to believe he would be a great deal better at actually running the government than Clinton ever was.

There are reasons to see this election as something better than a choice between the "lesser of two evils." In fact, I believe that in this election and beyond, it is essential for our larger purpose, for the movement towards a progressive America, to be hopeful for victory rather than fearful of defeat.

So here goes. The Seven Reasons Outlandish Josh Hopes John Kerry Wins...

1 - Iraq
The ongoing war in Iraq is the single biggest issue in this campaign, and one of the most important for our generation's future. Kerry began his public life as a leader in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Check the 1971 video. He knows a quagmire when he sees one, and if anyone can get us out without screwing over the people of Iraq even more, it's him.

John Kerry will make it a priority to build a real international coalition for reconstruction and peacekeeping in Iraq. He will end the profiteering by the likes of Halliburton and Bechtel, and set a real timetable for an end to the US occupation.

Kerry has made it clear that under his leadership, the US will have no (zero, zilch, none, nada) long-term or permanent military presence or designs in Iraq. He will dismantle the 14 "enduring" bases currently under construction, and end our dangerous flirtation with straight up imperialism. I can't stress how important this is.

A continuation of our current quasi-imperial military foreign policy of "preemptive wars" and "unilateral projections of American values" (aka Neo-Con Bukakke) would be a disaster. No empire in history has lasted, and in a centure where events move faster than ever, an attempt to create a Pax Americana would almost certainly fall apart in our faces. A peaceful and prosperous future will be built through partnerships, compromise and fair play. Putting John Kerry in office will set this process in motion.

2 - Health Care
Can you say 27 million more people with coverage? That's what Kerry's plan will do. It's paid for by rolling back Bush's tax cuts on the super-rich, and this is the main reason most of Kerry's other proposals are somewhat less grand in scope. Coverage for 27 million people is a lot to bite off.

It's not universal health care, true, but think about 27 million people who don't have to rely on the emergency room. That's progress.

Also, Kerry will put the medical science back into health policy. Stem cell research can resume; HIV/AIDS prevention funding won't be tied to moralistic (and statically unhelpful) abstinence-promotion; a woman's right to choose will be protected.

3 - Energy Independence
This is kind of a new term in politics, but it's an old idea. Basically it's a bad thing for our entire way of life to be completely dependent on energy resources (oil) which are located half way around the world under some other people's ground.

Whether your motto is "no blood for oil" or "stop pandering to the Saudis" this is the only real answer. On the domestic front, energy independence means renewing our energy infrastructure. This promotes home-town job growth, gives some real national purpose to research and development, and at same time is the strongest and longest-lasting step we can take to protect the environment. Imagine that: conservationists, scientists and regular working Americans all on the same team.

The best overall presentation of the Energy Independence concept is the Apollo Alliance. They totally break it down for you. Kerry's proposals are a little less ambitious, but he's talking about it, and any step to address our crippling and polluting dependence on foreign oil is a step in the right direction.

It's not a hot-button issue these days, but for our generation environmental protection matters. We're going to have to live in this world for many years to come, so it's crucial that we begin creating a sustainable way of life today.

Energy independence will also save consumers and city/state governments a shitload of money, reducing state budget deficits. This money can be reinvested into city infrastructure, local/state education and any number of programs that are suffering. A serious long term plan for energy independence is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet for a number of pressing problems. The "hydrogen economy" is a great future possibility, but that makes it something to research, not something to wait on.

4 - The Supreme Court
It's almost 100% certain that in the next four years at least one -- and possibly as many as three -- Supreme Court Justices will retire or die. The Supreme Court upholds our rights under the constitution, protects a woman's right to choose, and is responsible for checking both Congress and the White House.

Supreme Court Justices serve for life, and as such their impact on the county is felt for many years down the line. For instance, Justice Antonin Scalia -- who's been a controversial figure on the bench lately -- was appointed almost 20 years ago by Ronald Reagan. The legendary "Warren Court," which was comprised over the years by justices from Roosavelt, Eisenhower and Kennedy, struck down the doctrine of "separate but equal" underlying segregation, paving the way for the Civil Rights movement, as well as protecting the rights of the accused, freedom of speech, and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure.

Today here is a danger that we could see a change in the supreme court that would endanger such landmark decisions as Roe vs. Wade. There's also the reality that the court could be made even more conservative and corporation-friendly, precisely at a time when we need the Judicial branch to stand up for the rights of citizens and consumers. The next few appointments will set the tone for the court for the next thirty years. The choice matters.

Kerry has made it clear he would not appoint a judge who would overturn Roe vs. Wade, and he will be more open to lobbying on behalf of citizens groups when a new opening emerges. People complain that they have no influence on government, but the choice here is stark -- this is one way your vote will really make a difference for decades, and determine radically different directions for this country going forward.

5 - Education
Kerry also wants to pay teachers more, especially teachers with good track records who are willing to work in schools that need them. This does two things immediately. On the one hand it helps to improve the quality of education by giving quality instructors an incentive to stick with it, and at the same time it will increase the number of teachers who are earning a living wage, which is the right thing to do and will help the economy out much more than $100K tax breaks for playboys and CEOs.

On the higher ed front, one of the biggest issues just beginning to break through the radar is the ridiculous profiteering on the Federally Funded Education Loan (FFEL) program by the likes of Sallie Mae (who, full disclosure, I kick about $250 a month). Kerry can lead the fight against this kind of abuse of the system, and the results could be huge. If we move back to the Direct Loan program, estimates show it will free up anywhere from $4.5 to $6.6 billion that can be used for additional aid.

Kerry also plans to simplify and streamline the FAFSA as well as offer up to $4,000 in credit (read: non-loan aid) to people paying their way through college. This would be four grand you won't end up with in debt.

6 - The Deficit
Right now we're charging more than $400 Billion dollars a year to the national credit card, a record level of debt to be repaid, someday/somehow, by future generations (e.g. us). Not only will we have to clean up this mess, the whole situation is so out of control that it threatens to undermine the stability of our current economy.

Out of control deficits endanger our future, and they also hurt us immediately. cause service rollbacks. They mean education cuts, cuts in housing assistance and job training. Big deficits mean higher interest rates, which not only make it harder for us to pay for school, car, etc, but also that it's tougher for new businesses to start up, which means fewer decent entry-level jobs.

This has got to stop. Kerry will roll back Bush's tax cuts on the ultra-wealthy and close loopholes in corporate tax law that let companies officially reside in Bermuda and skip out on their obligation to support the USA. Controlling the deficit is vitally important to preserve our future opportunities.

7 - An Open Presidency
One thing that should be abundantly clear at this point is which of the two candidates relies more on stage-management and message control. This is a liability for Kerry on the campaign trail, as he'll occasionally slip up and say something honest that can be used to make him look bad.

However, when it comes to actually being in the White House, this is the kind of attitude you want. When it comes to the work of governing, "message control" essentially means not really trying to listen or answer questions, essentially opting out of the deliberative process that underpins the whole work. It is fundamentally undemocratic.

Kerry's got a history of supporting open government. He came out against the covert -- and at the time unacknowledged -- bombing of Cambodia in his work against the war, despite the fact that this made him a target for Richard Nixon's dirty tricksters. In his first month in the Senate, Kerry drove the investigation that cracked the Iran-Contra case.

John Kerry is nowhere near perfect, but he's a great deal more than useless. He has quite a few good ideas for new solutions to the problems we face, and he clearly has a strong commitment to working for the common good rather than his own benefit. While he hasn't been a Nader-like anti-corporate crusader, he's hardly what anyone could call a corporate whore. He wrote the first bill reducing acid rain, and fought to raise the minimum wage. His positions are hardly radical, but they represent real, serious, attainable and sustainable progress on the issues we care about most.

Kerry's record is one of real commitment to doing the right thing, beginning with volunteering to the Navy because he believed in the words of John F. Kennedy to "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." After discovering first hand the truth about Vietnam, Kerry took an enormous personal risk in becoming a personal enemy of then-President Nixon by working to form Vietnam Veterans Against The War and explain to the American heartland what was wrong with that conflict.

While his opponents would probably say this is just another "flip flop," to me it seems like an incredibly difficult and courageous thing to do, and anyone who has not yet seen it to watch Kerry's 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

John Kerry has spent his life in public service. While that means he's got the style of a Senator and the ability to equivocate that only a career politician can muster, it also means he's not fucking around. And that's important. For him, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. In the darkest hours of his primary campaign, he mortgaged his house to stay in the race. That's commitment.

If Kerry takes a seat in the Oval Office, it will be his great chance. For him it's not a step up on some career ladder or just another opportunity to enrich his family and friends. It's the peak of a life's work and purpose. John Kerry set out to improve America and to change the world, and he has spent decades working through an imperfect system to do this. While you might think it's creepy to spend such a long time building up to such a thing, it at least reflects seriousness.

And these are serious times. We need a serious leader who looks forward and thinks deeply about the world. John Kerry fits the bill, and given the choice we have in this election, he takes it by a mile. I hope he wins.

Read More