Friday, October 29, 2004

Don Williamson Stripped the Rock

CONCEPT

Flintstones. Get mad.

Article by Carol Azizian at the Flint Journal:

Robert Katrinic, a Burton artist, has rescued the layers of painted graffiti that once covered the huge concrete rock at 12th Street and Hammerberg Road and converted it into art.

"It was radiating emotions and feelings," he said of the pile of paint someone scraped off "the rock." "I had to take the pile and make something out of it."

So far, he's constructed a nonfunctional purse, a large abstract painting and a palette with paint pan, spray can and roller, all found on the site.

It all started more than a year ago when Katrinic painted the message "Help Wanted 2 Clean Da Hood" and his phone number on the side of a S. Saginaw Street building near his Leatherman workshop.

The sign drew the attention of Don and Patsy Lou Williamson. They eventually contributed 2,000 gallons of paint, an automatic sprayer and trash bins to spur his efforts to cover graffiti-covered buildings and make aesthetic enhancements to streetscapes.

Katrinic said he and another man painted nearly 100 graffiti-scrawled buildings, houses, fences, trees and viaducts.

Recently, Williamson's anti-graffiti campaign targeted "the rock," where local residents for three decades have painted messages ranging from their feelings on the war in Iraq to memorials to birthday wishes. Signs erected nearby warn of a $1,000 fine and work crews twice coated the city pump station, dubbed "the rock," in the mayor's trademark anti-graffiti brown color.

Katrinic first saw the paint lying on the ground near the rock when he drove by it one day last summer. Someone had inscribed the words "Don Williamson painted my town brown" on it."It caught my attention," he said. "I looked down and couldn't believe what I saw. This madman had stripped the wall (the rock) and it really upset me.

"I saw a pile laying there and I freaked out," he added. "My conclusion was it was one of these graffiti guys."

The rock holds sentimental value for Katrinic. Back in the mid-1980s, his wife and four children weathered the cold February temperatures to paint the words, "Happy Birthday Leatherman" on it.

"It (the paint) had come off real smooth in one piece," he recalled. "It weighed a ton. I had to rip it in pieces to get it into my truck. When I brought it back here (to his workshop), I started playing around with it.

"It stacked like paper," he said. "You go through it and find wild colors, patterns, textures. It excited me." One piece says "Remember the Troops."

A self-described compulsive junk collector, Katrinic is known for his large leather sculptures. One of them, a Statue of Liberty, has been exhibited at a Coach leather show in Paris and at the Coach headquarters in New York. A chair and robots constructed of Harley-Davidson motorcycle parts is en route to a car and motorcycle show in Germany.

Katrinic said he'd love to make more art objects from the paint scraps if he had a sponsor or help from fellow artists.

"I don't want to throw it away," he said. "I'm willing to share it with anybody who wants to make something out of it. It has created a lot of good feelings."


I hope a giant block drops on Don, all Otranto style.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

www.yesbushcan.com endorses Kerry

EVENT: CONNOR

EDIT: This was a hoax. I've also had revelations that the moon isn't made of cheese, that the world gullible is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, and more significantly, that I am evidently not owner of the Brooklyn Bridge. Curse you yesbushcan!

EDIT: A friend mentioned some other worthwhile hoaxes of this sort: http://www.billionairesforbush.com and http://www.communistsforkerry.com. I leave my original post below as evidence of my all-too-fallibility.


Pretty incredible.

I just got the following email:

A week ago, we sent you an email asking for help debunking anti-Bush
documents. After receiving hundreds of responses, it become clear that
all the documents were actually real: the Bush/Cheney DUIs, the Ken Lay
letters, and even the bin Laden memo. For more information visit the
documents page:
>http://www.yesbushcan.com/falsedocs.shtml

We also received hundreds of emails from concerned bloggers that
eloquently expressed the problems with the Bush administration. And as
we traveled across America campaigning for Bush, we learned more than
we wanted to know about Bush's policies. We came to see that this
administration is a catastrophe for most people.

As a result, we are abandoning our support of Bush and officially
endorsing John Kerry for President. You can read more at the Yes Bush Can web site:
>http://www.yesbushcan.com/
We deeply regret our misguided support and apologize for our previous
email. This will be the last email we will send directly to bloggers.
If you want to join us in supporting Kerry, you can find out more here:
>http://www.yesbushcan.com/act.shtml

Thank you for your understanding,

Yes Bush Can

Well, it's all over.

CONCEPT

We've learned a lot, specifically that:
1. Darth Vader does die, eventually.
2. The Tigers don't suck anymore.
3. The Cubs are more cursed than the Red Sox, and
4. Nader will be elected this week.

For worthwhile accounts, read Whet's and Moacir's blogs.

~ Connor

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Detractor Love

CONCEPT

Liz and her band of ruffians drawn (largely from the ranks of the Chicago Maroon) have come out with an election issue of the The Saturnine Detractor.

http://www.detractor.org


It includes a short fiction piece by your's truly:

Burroughs vs. Bergamot
http://www.detractor.org/content/v02i02/fiction.html



Other features include articles, commentary, anecdotes, and other cool stuff.
They have an Occlusion Blue layout, too.

~ Connor



Check it out!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

On the Menu

EVENT: CONNOR

1) My personal "endorsements" for Michigan voters
2) Ditto Illinois
3) Six blogs and one dozen political links

These three posts will take me a lot of time, and I also have to submit a grad. school application by this weekend, so I don't expect to post much of anything else.
Still I invite anyone who would like to post political content on Blue Skies Falling before the election to contact me; there's still time to do this.

November, I expect to be somewhat burnt out, politically, as will most of us.
That's okay, because artistically a lot is looming on the horizon. Look for an invitation to Gothic Funk Party #1, and read the Gothic Funk Manifesto. Participate in National Novel Writing Month. And save up for the holidays, kids! They're fast approaching.

~ Connor

I-Magery Correspondence

EVENT: CONNOR

I got an email from Michael at i-magery.com several days ago. We've begun corresponding, and I've enjoyed his blog more than any other pro-Bush site I've come across.

His original email wasn't short (and my response downright long-winded), so I'm posting the guts of our correspondence here:

* * * * *



Michael wrote:

Perhaps you would understand our support of the president if I mentioned:

1) My father's friends were tortured in North Vietnam to the sounds of Kerry's senate testimony, much of which has since been proven to be outright lies. It makes him hard to vote for. I hope you can see that. If the Dems
had put someone a little more conservative up to bat, they might have gotten our vote.

By the way, my father has received five purple hearts and served two tours of duty in Vietnam.

2) I am a veteran of Desert Storm, Bosnia/Herzegovina and Mogadishu Somalia. We can discuss how that affects my choice of president if you wish, but it has a great deal with the manner in which former President Clinton managed
the military and how I have even less respect for Kerry in light of 1) the accusations of the Swift Boat Vets, the POWs that have taken a stand against him, the families of the MIAs, etc. and 2) the conduct in which he conducted
himself when he returned. Protesting the war is no big deal, more power to the protestors. This is the land of the free. ...but the despicable conduct of the people pretending to soldiers in the Winter Soldier episode along with the reports of Kerry's persuasion and coercion simply disgust me.

We could have a long discussion about his senate record as well.

At the same time, Michael is not unequivocally supportive of Bush:
I am not pleased with the Patriot Act though I recognize its tactical necessity. It still does not
please me.

I don't like how the focus on marriage has taken a central plank in this election, though I recognize its tactical advantages as well. It doesn't mean I like it. I think it is wrong.

The WMD thing does not bother me so much because I would have thought him incompetent if he ignored our intelligence and the intelligence of our allies. A lot of people were very persuasive about this, even Kerry agreed
in the beginning. There is still much we don't know, and I still suspect much that we are not being told; I think Osama is a smear on a cave wall, for example, but we can't ham it up because of how it would affect things.

Personally, I think we should have invaded Iraq long ago. Clinton should have made that call 3 or 4 years into his presidency. We killed far more people with those sanctions than we did in either war or both combined.

* * * * *



I wrote back:
My response was broken into statements on war records, social policy, and Iraq. I framed it in the context that my biggest objection to Kerry is actually that he is too centrist for my tastes...
VIETNAM and WAR RECORDS

I do not, personally, have any military experience to bring to bear on my views, although I am belied by my father and many of *his* friends who served and some who fought in Vietnam and support Kerry today. Honestly, from every measure I've seen, there does not seem to be concensus among Vietnam (including MIA families or POW vets) behind *either* candidate.

With regard to Kerry's war record... and the same could be applied to his senate record... I respect someone who has taken risks and made mistakes more than someone with limited perspective. It limits me in our own conversation; I have
to grant you a latitude of experience I cannot access... I have to allow that whatever you learned might be very different from what I'd guess. I apply the same to Kerry and Bush. I'd rather trust a leader in war who has personal knowledge of war and is witness to its expenses, even with a burden of heavy mistakes, (ie. Winter Soldier) than someone with a clean slate and no firsthand knowledge.

I also think, however, that Kerry hasn't gotten a fair shake in this area. I'm cynical enough that I've always translated the Republican advantage in campaign spending to allow them to "set the stage."

The Swift Boat Veterans, for example, claimed to be a non-partisan group, but many key contributors (Bob Perrys, the Crows, Kenneth Corties, Benjamin Ginsberg) had close ties to the Republican party and to the Bush campaign. Moreover, many SBV members had praised Kerry in earlier testimony, and after the ads came out, many men who served with Kerry (I remember William Rood's poignant editorial in the Chicago Tribune) came forward on his behalf.

On the other hand, regardless of whether Bush used his connections in the National Guard (which still seems plausible to me), he chose to exempt himself from the conflict. Cheney deferred five times. At the very best, they have no
*personal* accountability.

I might weigh this less closely in peacetime (after all, Clinton simply refused to go), but it seems a little ironic that our reserves are fighting this war full-time for us today.

SOCIAL ISSUES

My own experience comes to bear in this area... I grew up in Flint, Michigan, which has pretty much fallen apart in every way in the last forty years.

It's made me look at economics and social responsibility very closely. I do think the incentive markets provide are very important, but I also think that the polarity an unregulated market instigates easily get out of control. My friends went to school without toilet paper, proper lighting, insulation, sometimes in buildings that had been condemned... in Flint the homicide rate rivals that of several nations in civil disorder, largely because kids think they'll make more selling crack than working at Burger King. (Unfortunately, As a college graduate from a good school whose applied to hundreds of jobs and works as an office temp, I think they're right.)

So yes, I'm a big fan of social programs, so long as they're continually made more efficient.

The fact the Clinton balanced the budget where both Bushes and Reagan shot it is telling...

1) Making social programs efficient is not always the same as eliminating them or curtailing them. When there's a long-term return on the investment (eg. universal health care ~ higher life expectancy overall, or EIC ~ decreases in crime and
poverty), they pay themselves off or even make a profit.
2) I'm not such a bleeding heart that I'll insist tax cuts cannot aid the economy, but *Bush's* tax cuts aided it very little. The groups most affected were the corporate class (ie. those with such high incomes that their level of consumption is steady anyway) and the upper middle class (ie. those who will put it away in a trust fund to use when their kids go to college). My parents put their tax break towards bills. They didn’t go out and buy a VCR or take a cruise or even go to a restaurant. This isn’t economic stimulation.
3) Tax cuts and massive military spending in wartime simply don't work. Look at our budget turnaround in the last four years for a poweful example. I'm not in denial... I won't blame Bush for the recession happening in the first-place. The bubble burst. But I will blame him for handling it terribly.

TERROR and IRAQ

This may be fertile ground for agreement between us.

I could admit some Patriot Act provisions, though I think the whole thing is entirely too sweeping. And John Ashcroft (and alum of my alma mater) is just creepy to me.

bin Laden may very well be a smear on the wall. Though it'd be nice to know for sure.

You are right that the sanctions killed far more than the war. But if there was a *right* time to take out Saddam, it wasn't 2001, or 1996, but 1991. I remember an NPR interview with various representatives of the CIA back in 2000; they all said that WMD's were not a likely scenario with Iraq. Even at the time, with the exception "African uranium," which had been found to be disputed intelligence at that time, but even at the time. And yes, I do fault Kerry for supporting such aggressive action in Iraq when we so clearly had bigger fish to fry, but he didn’t pursue the war with the sort of adamancy that Bush did.

I think Kerry's absolutely correct, actually, in terms of needing to build broad international support. Bush has described terrorist networks as "shadowy enemies." In such a situation, our reliance upon intelligence, the fact that we are not fighting a based enemy consigned to a particular geography mandates a level of cooperation with our allies.
The Bush administration has made the argument that Kerry would not break from our allies when necessary, but I’ve seen far greater evidence that Bush has broken when it’s been reckless and unnecessary: We can't credibly lead a war against terror when we refuse to sign chemical weapon bans, or encourage nuclear disarmament when we withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missle Treaty.


That’s what I wrote in sum. Actually, literally, because I accidentally sent the email before I was finished.

~ Connor


Sunday, October 24, 2004

2 Pieces of News

EVENT: CONNOR

THE FLINT JOURNAL PRESIDENTIAL ENDORSEMENT


The Flint Journal endorsed Kerry, which is good, although they've written the wimpiest nomination I've ever read for any candidate in any periodical.

First, they outline Bush's achievements, with some qualifications... their praise touches upon the ousting of the Taliban, No Child Left Behind, the introduction of Homeland Security, and one of the most incomprehensive paragraphs I've ever encountered in a newspaper, regarding the war in Iraq:

History will judge whether Iraq should have been included in this terror war, but it's certainly part of it now. With no weapons of mass destruction found, it's easy in hindsight to say there was no justification. But with Saddam Hussein's record of defiance, the case was strong at the time. At least with Saddam in custody, he's no threat to re-start those weapons programs. And an Arab country has the opportunity to develop a free and open society, which could spark changes throughout the Middle East.

I personally disagree with all of their main assertions, and the second... that we are now safe from Hussein developing WMD's in the future... seems justified more by the wish to express themselves in threes than from any actual evidence.

The Journal goes on to outline Bush's failures, again, with qualifications: the problems with the war in Iraq, the irrisponsibility of wartime tax cuts, and the health care crisis. They are tongue-tied on Iraq, which surprises me, but more powerful discussing taxes and health care:

Taxes were cut irresponsibly as the deficit soared. Bush should have asked Congress to rescind some of those cuts, especially for high earners. He also could have vetoes pork-barrel spending. Doing neither showed he cared more eabout his political base than the country's well-being. We now have the largest deficit/debt ever. Clearly, the recession he inherited and a costly war contributed, but Bush's budgetary recklessness has created a fiscal debacle.

The health care crisis has not been seriously addressed. With the rising cost of medical benefits, U.S. employers hesitate to hire workers and are always lookng for cheaper places to do business. A determined president could make a difference in this area. Indeed, only with a national approach can we reduce health care costs in a comprehensive way and provide coverage for the 45 million uninsured.


Including the author of this blog.
Finally, they conclude:

Bush, who turned out to be more conservative than compassionate and who has made the nation even more divided, must be held accountable for these failings. John Kerry is the only serious alternative to four more years of this flawed presidency. We are putting our faith in his potential to do better.


And there it is. The endorsement seems almost entirely based on Bush's flaws and not Kerry's strengths. Sometimes, it isn't even clear what the editorial's saying. I suspect there was dissent in the cutting room. Maybe the Bush administration should be targeting the Journal for flip-flopping.

Still, an endorsement from the main rag in the town that birthed the UAW and GM will be an asset to Kerry disproportionate to Flint's size and the Journal's circulation.

They Flint Journal endorsed Bush in 2000.

* * * * *

BASEBALL


We're three games away from Nader winning the election.

~ Connor

Saturday, October 23, 2004

New Blog: THE CUMMINS FAMILY HOME PAGE

EVENT: CONNOR

The Cummins Family Home Page

http://www.i-magery.com/


I said I'd link a Republican blog, and here it is.

I tend to find that political blogs on the whole are obnoxious and unreasonable... which is easy to over look as long as you agree with them. It wasn't fun, therefore, to sort through Bush-supporting blogs laden with (what seemed to me) unreasonable accusations, sarcasm, and vitrol.

And then I found the Cummins Family Home Page.

The Cummins are a conservative family from South Florida, and before Michael, Wendy, and Danny stick their hands in the mud, they tell us a bit about their favorite music and ice cream. The site is clear, simple, well-organized. Posts are to-the-point, interesting, and often funny.

This blog is solidly pro-Bush, don't get me wrong. Almost every entry is dominated by commentary. Still, the Cummins maintain a candour, friendliness, and energy I have to respect. In many ways, they seem to parallel the Paxtons who I profiled earlier this month.

So there it is! Give them a visit, give them a read, and think about what they say. They didn't persuade me not to support and vote for Kerry, but they did persuade me to visit again.

~ Connor

And this is alarming...

Count Cenci vs. Lord Manfred

CONCEPT

A respite from politics: what happens when Petrella meets Otranto.

First, Lord Manfred tries to stab Count Cenci while the latter is praying... but Cenci doesn't pray. Ever! Instead Lord Manfred stabs a stuffed dummy placed before the altar by Francesco. He kicks over the cross, laughing cynically, and draws his sword. Lord Manfred calls for his guard to seize Cenci and imprison him beneath a massive plumed Trojan helmet. But Cenci has already bribed the guards and threatened their daughters, so the guards stand still and silent. STILL AND SILENT! Then Cenci slashes Manfred across his knuckles. Manfred falls to his knees and begs for mercy, promising to go join a convent. But Cenci stomps him to death. Because he really is that bad. The end.

~ Connor

PS. Respite's over. Here are 100 reasons and 1 opinion why not to vote for Bush.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Provocation: Naderites

EVENT: CONNOR

I often express more distaste for Nader and other third party presidential candidates than I do for Republicans.

In fact, not only do I fully acknowledge this seeming contradiction, but I would argue that, in fact, such distaste is consistant with my hopes for a more progressive, egalitarian society.

The explanation is simple; the detailed logic a bit more complex:

I differ philosophically with conservatives... we see the world in fundamentally different ways. Conservatives believe that society is bettered through a deregulated economy than can aggressively expand... I believe that effective regulation allows society to benefit to a greater degree, and that some basic human needs are more important than economic growth. Conservatives believe that the religion, language, and cultures of the majority can be taken for granted in a society... I believe that the margins must be assured an equal place in public institutions. Conservatives believe that discrimination et al must be addressed through a sort of civic evolution that does not involve government intervention beyond the provision of basic rights... I believe that government must take a more active role in the redress of inequality. There are more examples, but I've tried to generalize.
These are not differences, however, which are likely to be resolved by anything other than a very open and willing sort of conversation, or personal experience. They, I believe, are also differences informed more by perspective than maturity.
I am prompted, therefore, to object to conservative ideas as opposed to conservatives.

I share much, philosophically, with Ralph Nader and his supporters… even moreso than I do with the Democrats.
Most Nader suppporters would agree the beliefs I've outlined above.
We would agree that the dominant "left" party in America is a little too far right for our tastes.
After all, Clinton abandoned universal health care but bore the fruits of welfare reform. Al Gore was a vocal supporter of the Death Penalty. Today, Kerry avoids discussion of gay marriage at every opportunity, while trumpeting his work with McCain above any achievements within his own party.
I share with Naderites a basic dissatisfaction with America's "liberal party," which often seems to be hardly liberal at all.
Differences, however, stem from our interpretation of facts and situations, which I'll outline below. Nader supporters, as a group of voters, activists, and citizens, are a large factor in a choice of almost ungraspable consequence. Their lapse is a lapse of awareness, discretion, and vision. Their choice is irresponsible.
I am prompted, therefore to object to progressives’ conduct as opposed to progressive ideas.

It’s an objection that is more frustrating to me, spoken in a more personal way, and so it is “more distasteful.”

* * * * *



In 2000, when Ralph Nader was the nominee of the Green party, and refused to pull out of the election even when it seemed that a few percentage points might mean the difference between a status quo Democrat and a president who would create staggering deficits, reward corporations for outsourcing union jobs, and preside over the most abysmal environmental policy in American history, I asked my Green voting friends what made such a risk worthwhile in Florida, in Ohio, and in Maine.

They gave many different answers, but to a soul, they claimed they wanted third parties to be more of a visible force in American politics… they praised Parliamentary systems in Europe that allow some authority to drift away from the mainstream. 100% of Americans, that is, are forced to abide by the decisions of anywhere up from (and sometimes less than) 51%, and our political leadership would be better on the whole if it refleted more than two facets of our national personality.

In 2004, third parties have lost ground. Republicans have ironically become Nader’s allies on petitions and in court. Even were the reputation undeserved, Greens have acquired the image of spoilers, dividing the liberal vote in its hour of need. Our now bitterly partisan country has its eyes on the presidential goal, with little more than contempt for Libertarians, Greens, the Reform party or any other political entity not represented by a donkey or an elephant.

While I don’t doubt superficial sincerity on the part of Nader supporters, either now or in 2000, I don’t think they’ve been objective about their situation.

They want, above all, to promote other choices? I cannot believe this at heart. Why, then, aren’t the Greens (or any other third party) running a candidate in Flint’s one state house seat race? Flint is more likely than most places to elect a progressive candidate... the city is an example of the failures of both Democrats and Republicans to adequately solve problems.

Nor is a third party candidate running for either of the state senate or houses seats I could vote for in Illinois. I would very likely vote for them, if they were there!

Rather than be a spoiler (Potential spoiler? Partial spoiler? Shareholder in the spoilage?) of an important national election they can’t possibly win, wouldn’t it be more productive for third party candidates to build support from the ground up? Most of us think progressives are unrealistic, unyielding, and in a sense of denial. Perhaps if we see Greens or Libertarians effectively running the city council or county board of commissioners, we'll be more disposed to trust them in more important positions. It's not a matter of worth as much as of exposure... positive exposure.

It's not enough to hope to educate the public about progressive policies. The public has to see the soundness of these policies in action before it will be likely to trust third parties in prominent congressional or presidential positions.

And ironically; third parties should be able to obtain these positions. They are more likely to run uncontested, or only contested by one of the dominant parties. They are more likely to attract undecided or swing voters, because the stakes are lower, and less attention is heaped upon any candidate. Some democrats or republicans might even go out on a limb and experiment, since they know their Ombudsman cannot raise taxes or bomb Iraq.

I said earlier that my differences with conservatives were informed more by "perspective than maturity." Maturity is precisely the problem with Nader supporters... because there is little glory in winning County Commissioner... it doesn't generate energy among hordes of college freshmen, and it doesn't hector the Democrats on the national stage. It's a slow, boring process of spending decades purchasing credibility from a recalcitrant public.

But, for those hoping to give third parties a voice of consequence, it's the only realistic option.

Naderites and other third parties must face the truth: we don't live in a Parliamentary democracy. There are only two dominant parties, and for any third party (liberal or conservative) to enter the mix on a national level could only split the vote, draw animosity from would-be allies, and unite opposition. And much as we hate to admit it, the differences today between our center-leaning Democratic party, and the right-moving Republicans, are numerous and important.

To Naderites, I issue this challenge. Take down your Nader signs. Vote for Kerry. Nominate Green, Libertarian, or independent candidates for City Council, Board of Education, Office of Comptroller, County Commissioner... you will be doing more for your country, the progressive movement, and your own party.

It would be mature progressive conduct.

* * * * *



There's one more point I think is necessary to make:

My distaste for those who do not vote exceeds that of voters for any party.

Numerically, a vote for Nader is equivalent to not voting at all, since there can be no doubt of Nader's losing. The same applies to any non-Democrat and non-Republican vote. On the other hand, no presidential election (even 2000) was ever determined by less than 100 votes... most have been determined by millions, so really, unless we register 100 or 1000 voters, we're all essentially "throwing our vote away," as so many like to say.

My criticism of Nader supporters is framed within the context of our national conversation, of which voting is only one part (albeit a very important part). Progressive contributions today are confusing and contradictory, which is still, I think, better than removing yourself from the conversation altogether.

~ Connor

Thursday, October 21, 2004

New Blog: UNOFFICIAL VOTE4NADER BLOG

EVENT: CONNOR

Unofficial Vote4Nader Blog

http://vote4nader.blogspot.com/



I promised to post links to at least two blogs explicitly divergent from my own political beliefs.

This is the first of the two. It is not so much a blog in the sense of a structured commentary on running events as it is a compilation of articles and events put together by Morgan, a fervent Nader supporter. Considering the posts together with links and shared articles, the blog imparts some of the better logic and moments of the Nader campaign this year.

Those of you who know me are aware that I have more antipathy for most Nader supporters than most Bush supporters, and I will address this distinction in my next post.

At the same time, I'm worried that this blog will become overwhelmingly one-note (too late, right?) A moment of tension is appropriate for a breath of fresh air.

Right?

~ Connor

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Provocation: Abortion

EVENT: CONNOR

It's been a couple days, and I'm afraid it's going to be a few more: I'm back at the hospital, 40 hours per week as of tomorrow.
More on that later.

I don't have the time tonight to read/research political stuff (my "Pyramid politics" thing will have to wait), but I'll open a couple cans of worms for chewing in the meantime.

Tonight I'll tackle abortion.
Tomorrow I might try the Greens.

* * * * *


Assumptions are endemic... people look at you, your affiliations, your basic ideas, and they assume all sorts of things. They must be correct sometimes, but then, I am often surprised how often people are incorrect. Something that has come up several times in the last two weeks for the first time in years is where I stand on the abortion debate. As an artist and socialist, most people assume I am unequivocally pro-choice.

This is simply not true.

I believe my view is nuanced, and don't like throwing myself into either camp. When cornered, I describe myself as being reluctantly pro-choice. The way I prefer to state my belief is that:

A) I believe an embryo is a human, and given the availability of contraception, there are more responsible ways to remain childless than the termination of life.

B) At the same time, raising a child is extraordinarily difficult today, particularly given the circumstances many abortion-seekers find themselves in. There is discussion about whether our society is a level-enough playing field, but it seems to me to be a broken playing-field. Why should we rain fire and brimstone on a single mother when we will feed that child water laced with mercury and lead (East St. Louis), leave thousands of cihldren homeless every winter night (Chicago), and consign them to neighborhoods with homicide rates rivalling Baghdad today (Flint)?
In fact the groups clamoring most noisily against abortions are the very same groups for tax cuts for the rich, no universal health care, no Affirmative Action, the cutting of social programs... all programs which are likely to reduce the number of abortions.

C) In short, the best way to address abortion, is to raise the standard of living for poor single mothers, who would often risk a dangerous illegal abortion above the risks and implications of motherhood today. That means more spending, more social programming, and better social programming.

I don't like to call myself pro-choice, because I belive an embryo is human and life is sacred, but I hate to call myself pro-life, because pro-lifers advocate restriction but don't involve themselves in solutions.

The bottom line, however, is that I currently oppose banning abortion.
You might expect that this view would put me most at odds with pro-lifers, but actually, the pro-choice crowd in my life has been more vocal in their opposition. And this is my lead in to...

THE POINT



Conservatives, as a group, while they fall into a couple "different" camps... particularly the Religious Crowd and the Wall-Street Crowd, they have a lot in common: they are white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, (male, suburban and rural) America. And this is a tremendous strength, because much is shared in the foundations of this group. It lends itself to organization. Conservative America draws strength from the fact they represent the segments of society with the most in common.

Liberals, as a group, represent the margins of society. Not necessarily numerical margins in every case, but non-dominant groups struggling for assertion... the point of connection, in fact, often is the margin. Take for example, libertarian feminists, many who vote Democratic, who would happily do away with Affirmative Action. Compare this with the African American community, which has a strong religious base often vehemently opposed to homosexuality. Or look at the tension in my hometown, all vigorously democratic, where members of the black community and the labor unions view each other with more dislike and distrust than crusty suburban conservatives. Liberal America is weakened from the fact that dissent proceeds from separated margins.

I believe that this weakness could potentially be a great strength, if only we were skilled listeners... if only we were really open to hearing each other. The wide-openness of liberal America is a field of potential, if only we can avoid that conservative, that very human pitfall of hoping everyone will be like us. In short, the margins must be made aware of each other. There must be recognition and far-sightedness. The solidarity I've heard so many auto-workers site as their strength must be genuine and extend. We must learn to listen and stand solid together in spite of distinct differences.

As it is, I have had several conversations with pro-life friends, and because of my point of view, more conservative than most of my friends, these have been discussions instead of shouting matches or stony silence. I'm able to ask my questions from a point of connection: Should this really be outlawed? Would it work? And moreover, are we responsible, ourselves, do we have a share in the creation of a world in which so many seek abortion? What obligations does that imply?

I find it regrettable than many of my friends respond to my views on abortion with anger and dismay.

I believe that my centrist stand on this issue makes me an asset to progressive America.

I believe that an open, flexible, and conversational progressive movement is the best rejoinder to conservative ossification.

~ Connor

Monday, October 18, 2004

Bloody felchers

EVENT: WOLFBARONXYLO


Stolen from... fuckifIknow. Somebody.

I got the greatest e-mail ever today!

From helpwin@yesbushcan.com

RatherGate proved that bloggers are the best fact checkers. That is
why we are writing to a few bloggers asking for help.
Yes Bush Can has collected several documents that are clearly suspect.
But we need your help to prove they are fake:
http://www.yesbushcan.com/falsedocs.shtml
Let's spring to action before these documents needlessly tarnish the
reputation of our Commander and Chief. You know the drill: analyze the
handwriting, search for factual errors, and post your discoveries.
And keep us posted by sending email to FakeDocs@yesbushcan.com.
Thanks in advance for your help.
YesBushCan


Bloggers are the best FACT CHECKERS?! The fuck? This made me laugh... a whole lot. Rathergate? Is this a scandal? "Well the documents had the right information, but the font is still in use today! So you see it is all lies!" After sitting on this a while, I felt I needed to respond.


The answer: YesBushCan!

The question: CanAnybodyBeDumbEnoughToForgetThatTheyOwnATimberCompany?

-X



Blog that motherfucker. No reply yet. Maybe it was a fake e-mail I sent them. SCANDALOUS!

Now I shall use my powers to make KIRBY Dance!
<('.'v) <('.'<) <('.'^) <('.')> v(-.-)v ^(-.-)^ <('.')> (^'.')> (>'.')> (v'.')>

<('.'v) <('.'<) <('.'^) <('.')> v(-.-)v ^(-.-)^ <('.')> (^'.')> (>'.')> (v'.')>

Fuck, that looks better in my font...

-x

Email Xylo at kingrandom@earthlink.net if you have any pastries or money. Otherwise, sod off.


Email Connor at connor@afterdusk.org if you have any questions.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

New Blog: THE BLOG FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION

EVENT: CONNOR

The Blog from Another Dimension

http://www.blogd.com/



You probably thought I was going to start close to home and work out, but I didn't!

While Luis is an American, he lives in Japan.

He also dislikes Bush with a vehemence almost unparalleled among the blogs I've profiled recently. His posts are very thorough and detailed; and he writes with passion... these days primarily on the election, though you'll also find him covering Japan, Macs, and Pigeons.

The Blog from Another Dimension is energized, comprehensive, and holistic.
Liberals should read it to decrease blood pressure.

~ Connor

PS. I got the link to Michael's blog wrong. The correct link is: http://www.livejournal.com/users/wolfbaronxylo/

PPS. This is an unofficially partisan blog, but I don't want it to be stifling. My next profile will be of a coherant conservative site.

What we played: Halcyon and On and On

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Post-Debate: Passion and Candour

EVENT: CONNOR

Here's the post-debate post, as promised.

Here's what the DNC has asked me to do, as part of their Media Corps.:

We need your help to keep the Republican spin machine in check --write letters to your local newspapers and call in to local radio stations. Over three debates, John Kerry has left no doubt that he has the strength and character we need in a commander in chief. He has shown the American people his command of the facts, steady demeanor, and well reasoned arguments. He offered hope and optimism, and showed that he will fight for middle class families.


And here is where I, Connor, build credibility through candor.

I did not think Kerry had a particularly strong performance tonight.
I did think that, after tonight's debate, to the unresolved, Kerry may well have left "doubt that he has the strength and character we need in a commander in chief." He doesn't have the Andy Griffith smile. He doesn't have the affable laugh. He has a more solemn, less congenial, manner, and it left him at a disadvantage tonight, a night when he should have enjoyed a tremendous advantage.

HERE'S WHAT YOU SHOULD DO NOW:

- Write a letter to the editor of a local periodical.
- Call a radio program.
- Talk to friends and relatives about their vote. Usually there is a tactful way to do this.
- Request an absentee ballot. That way you can volunteer for a get out the vote drive on election day.
- Volunteer on the webpage: www.johnkerry.com.
- DON'T SIMPLY PREACH TO THE CHOIR. It does help the blood pressure, but it does not cost Bush votes. You have to be clever and sensitivie in order to do this; many "undecided" voters have been harangued and are tired of being barked at. Listen, and then speak.
- Don't chirp up the party line... make acknowledgments of points scored.
Moreover, don't pander... be aggressive in pursuing your points.
One thing we as citizens can exploit is the desire most Americans have for an honest and vigorous debate uninhibited by unyielding decorum and the priorities of certain constituencies.
- Need points? Here are some starters, ready for use because Kerry has let many slide:

a. Bush has declared Kerry to be the "liberal Senator from Massachussetts," vs. Ted Kennedy In actuality, Kerry is one of the most centrist Democratic candidates that has ever run for president, partly explained in his choices to break from his party on issues like welfare and his much-maligned vote on Iraq. Reports on his voting for tas increases are easily matched by the number of times he has voted against them. This divide in votes actually shows a sense of discretion regarding what should and should not be reasonably taxed.
Bush, on the other hand, has been so fiscally reckless that he had divided a large portion of his own party against him, to the extent that his hopes now rely on social conservatives and an effective PR campaign. While he decries liberal "government meddling," through the Patriot Act and Homeland Security, the Bush Administration has given the government unprecedented access to our lives. In short this is an easy argument to make, because evidence is plentiful that Bush, more than Kerry, demonstrates a radical political inclination.

b. Bush often wins support on the account of the war against terror.
When we argue, the most commonly pursued threads in this argument involve our disengagement of Afghanistant, Iran, and North Korea. These are good arguments to make. The pro-Bush argument contends that resources have not been directed away from these situations.
One appropriate response is to demonstrate attention... given the Bush-pushed doctrine of preemptive war, it is the threat of waging war that induces states (eg. Libya) to disarm. The problem is that we're not much of a threat when our attention is all caught up in Iraq.
Moreover, HOLD PEOPLE to the notion that we were in Iraq because of WMDs. This is one front where I think the Democrats have been too passive. They want to address all justifications the Bush camp has made. It isn't necessary: we went on a presumption of a tangible threat that we deemed the most grave. Period. We need not engage questions of whether there were terrorists trained in Iraq or Saddam Hussain was a monster, because terrorists haven't led us to bomb Syria, nor did we touch Molosivic with a ten foot pole without full NATO support.
An underutilized argument in the War on Terror are the ballistic arms treaty we withdrew from (ie. how can we discourage nuclear proliferation if we don't agree to cut back ourselves), the chemical weapons ban we rejected (ie. how can we discourage the manufacture of such weapons if we don't agree not to manufacture them ourselves), and the Kyoto protocol (ie. how can we build broad support internationally over issues supposedly of priority (the War on Terror?) if we can't make concessions on matters of less gravity).

c. Domestically, everything has gone wrong. Most pro-Bush arguments have relied on an extremely superficial glance at the facts. They'll almost always fall back on the increase in education funding.
This argument, again, should get them nowhere, because the No Child Left Behind (besides being an awful bill in the first place) was very ambitious, but was never adequately funded. Furthermore the "accountability" checks on public schools as a result of NCLB is a piece of abysmal planning that ensures that poor public schools, already strapped for resources, tend to receive even less.
Shoot down the Pell grant remark. Less money is awarded overall. Period. The fact that coservatives rely so heavily on one marker suggests that their argument is fragile in the first place.
Unemployment. Median wage. Outsourcing. These are not superficial arguments. Make them again and again. Draw comparisons to the 80s recession, the oil crisis of the 70s, the tumult of the 60s and Vietnam, the red scare, World War II, and Pearl Harbor. These are powerful enough points to bring up numerous times, and as do so, round it out with a bit of fiscal wisdom: NO PRESIDENT HAS ROLLED BACK TAXES IN WARTIME.


~ Connor



EDIT: Incidentally, I was wrong again about the debate. Kerry won decisively in most polls.

Coming Soon!

EVENT: CONNOR

Feeling activist tonight? Look for a post shortly following the debate to find out what you can do to help.

Radiohead? Khufu? Bombs? Dantè? What?! An "informal essay" I've been working on. Look for it tomorrowish.

More blogs! My tour of political blogs continues!
So far I've linked to a brilliant lecturer at the U of C, an articulate and numerous family from Flint, and a cool kid in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
The next several blogs will be less local and more global.

~ Connor

New blog: CHAPATI MYSTERY

EVENT: CONNOR

Chapati Mystery

http://www.chapatimystery.com/index.html



While I cast about the midwest looking for a good midwestern blog to link to, I'm back in Chicago with this blog. Sepoy is a doctoral student and lecturer in History and South Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago.

Having incidental experience with that institution, I can tell you it's a path not to be sneezed at.

Sapoy's blog is a delight to read, and very informative. He balances an informal tone (he tries "desperately to stay on topic") against a very measured and thoughtful discussion of his subject (ie. he's Pro Kerry, but eloquently quotes the "Muslims for Bush.") The emphasis here is both political and South Asian Muslim communities, with plenty of crossover, but he also discusses history and movies in recent posts.

But Sapoy is not only fun to read... given the stakes of this election for not only Americans, but Muslims around the world, an understanding of Muslim American perspectives are, I think, essential in making a well reasoned choice on November 2nd.

I cannot urge you strongly enough to check out this blog.

~ Connor

'Nuff said.

DIARY

...

A Couple Changes Around Here...

CONCEPT

First, I've linked to Xylo, the Wolf Baron, better known to some of you as Michael. He's an old friend and fellow Mathewsnic (resident of Mathews House, Burton-Judson dorm), and I would've linked to him a long time ago, except I didn't have the link.

This isn't part of my "October series" of links, though, which I will continue.

Second, over the next couple weeks, I'm posting the entirety of the text of The Castle of Otranto by Horace Warpole, which I read two days ago for Euphemism research. The novella is considered the first work written in the genre of "Gothic literature," and I found it very enjoyable... sometimes with a sense of irony and without.
Today is a bit of a freebie: I'll only post the Forward and Dedication. The story is 5 chapters long, and about 35,000 words.

A true fanatic can labor through The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe, with me...

~ Connor

Monday, October 11, 2004

We get schooled...

EVENT: CONNOR

I was going to post tonight, but instead, I think I'll simply sit and soak in the flurry of recent postings... this is exactly what I've been hoping for!

:)

~ Connor

Politics, etc.

EVENT: WOLFBARONXYLO

What a fucked up country this is.

Politics... hmmf.

Here are some Cliff’s notes for you, if you haven’t been paying attention:

They are lying. All of them. Because you are not paying attention.

Let’s review.

And just so you know, I’m only going to cite a couple of sources, because I am not getting paid to write. If your fact checker does find a mistake here, most likely you are wrong. E-mail complaints to Kingrandom@earthlink.net. However, be warned that Xylo the Wolf Baron is a mean and godless motherfucker.




Liberals lie.

Examples? Catastrophic man-made global warming, the dangers of second hand smoke, the benefits of homeopathic medicine, the dangers of GM crops, etc. Liberals lie to make us afraid, so that they can increase regulations to protect us from ourselves. This ties into anti-corporatism. The big anti-corporation liars are generally recognizable by their scientific illiteracy, and their terrorist like tactics. That is to say, groups like Greenpeace, PETA, etc. Sometimes these lies can lead to good things. Global warming bullshitery tends to reduce overall pollution. Clean air is nice. Sometimes it leads to bad things. We capriciously ban DDT, despite the fact that is could save millions of people from dying of malaria.


Moderates lie.

But they usually aren’t that good at that. Some of them barely say anything at all, aside from recapping past event. Some take a neutral position on most topics. Others take both positions on a single topic, even if it is logically puzzling. You’ll find a lot of doormats, pleasers, and wimps in this category. Moderates tend to bore the piss out of me with their remarkable lack of nutsack.


Neo-conservatives are the best liars.

See, when liberals lie, they usually don’t understand the truth. When neo-cons lie, they often do so in the face of irrefutable contrary evidence. And when the truth interminably comes out, they change history. They lie so much about so much let’s just focus on one common example:

Why are we at war with Iraq? (grouped first by topic, then by chronology.)

1. 9-11, Saddam and Osama are buddies.

Oops, that’s not true. I never said that.

2. 9-11, Saddam and ALKIDA ( sic.) are buddies.

That’s no really true either. I guess what I meant to say was-

3. A couple of terrorists were in Iraq. 9-11!

Ah shit, a couple of terrorists lived in Buffalo too. Well I guess we’ll go to-

4. Weapons of Mass Destruction! 9-11!

We don’t need to finish inspections. We know he has them. We even know exactly where they are... Wait what’s this that the AP says:
Contradicting the main argument for a war that has cost more than 1,000 American lives, the top U.S. arms inspector reported Wednesday that he found no evidence that Iraq produced any weapons of mass destruction after 1991. He also concluded that Saddam Hussein's weapons capability weakened during a dozen years of U.N. sanctions before the U.S. invasion last year.

Wait hold, on maybe over- I tell you it’s always the last place you look. Well, we never said he had them, what we meant was-

5. 9-11! Saddam was making Weapons of Mass Destruction! He was advancing I tell you!

Hmm, this AP thing again:
Contrary to prewar statements by President Bush and top administration officials, Saddam did not have chemical and biological stockpiles when the war began and his nuclear capabilities were deteriorating, not advancing, according to the report by Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group.

Shit the bed. What I really said was-

6. Saddam had intentions to start making WMDS, and subsequently use them on Americans. 9-11! He hates America because of it’s freedom!

Except...
Interviews with Saddam left Duelfer's team with the impression that Saddam was more concerned about Iran and Israel as enemies than he was about the United States. Saddam appeared to hold out hope that U.S. leaders would ultimately recognize that it was in the country's interest to deal with Iraq as an important, secular, oil-rich Middle Eastern nation, the report found.


7. Well, you see the Iraqis love us and are really better off-

Okay so maybe their country is in chaos, and 50,000 of them are dead, but at least we’re not torturing them like Saddam would. Oh we are? At least we aren’t rapin- that too huh? It’s not like we’re indifferently gunning down unarmed civilians... Oh shit well we’re doing that too.

8. 9-11 changed things. Our oceans don’t keep us safe anymore.

Remember how safe our oceans made us feel during the cold war?

9. We hate brown people, but love their oil!

Oh wait, that’s just not right.



I’m not actually sure right now what reason they currently give for this war, if any. When confronted with the topic, everyone jumps to why we must stabilize Iraq, as opposed to why we destabilized it in the first place. In my head, W looks straight into the camera and says, “I didn’t like Saddam’s face!” I actually prefer that reasoning to the old “God told me so” answer he has given a couple of times.


How can everybody be lying?


Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV

And you think you're so clever and classless and free

But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see


They hate you if your clever, and they despise a fool. They lie, because you sleep. And not in a Matrix sense, because those movies are garbage. The average man doesn’t know how a microwave works. He thinks supernatural forces are guiding events. He votes for the taller candidate with the better tie.



Right now in our country, Creationism is being taught as science. Sylvia Brown is lying about somebody’s dead relative on Montel. Congressmen are trying to give the FCC power to charge individuals fines of half a million dollars over what they arbitrarily call indecent. Right, John Kerry is being called a flip-flopper for slightly modifying his world views over the last 30 years. Right now our collective attention span can only handle issues in sound bites. We need the world dumbed-down for us. If we care to get news, we require a filter to make sure none of it is upsetting. Americans don’t like external truths invading our beliefs. We all think we have it figured out, and seek only the information to prove ourselves right. Our leaders like it this way. They think it makes their job easier, because it, in essence, nullifies democracy.



Ah, sweet censorship and propaganda. The two greatest tools of manipulation. The wonderful thing about censorship is that it effects the poor most. Think about it. If you can afford cable TV you can see and hear things that is not allowed on broadcast TV. If you can afford satellite, you can hear things they don’t allow on FM or AM. And who dictates what the poor people can hear and see, and subsequently THINK? A few nutjobs. People who believe that the Earth was made in 7 days because a 5,000 year old story says so, are telling you what you and your kids should be able to watch.



People were up in arms over Janet Jackson’s nipple. A nipple. A functional female body part that has nothing intrinsically to do with sex. This is somehow going to damage our children. The indecency of it all? What’s next? The back of the neck? Is a woman going to expose her ankles?


And remember you can’t say fuck on the networks. Heaven forbid.



You can however show all the sweet violence in the world though. As long as one of two conditions is met. Condition the first, it is on the news. There anything goes. Soldiers gunning down kids, exploding busses, you name it. Or it must meet condition the second, the violence must have no consequences. You can shoot the bad guys, as long as the bad guys aren’t shot. Let me elaborate. Life is not like a videogame. In most videogames, the bad guys vaporized after they are hit enough times. They fade away. In reality, getting shot hurts, a lot, but it rarely instantly kills. People tend to suffer. Whether they are deemed good, evil, smart or stupid. They bleed. But our culture will not let us think about this. The idea cannot come into our heads that a human might just be a collection of steaks that dreams it has a soul. Too depressing.


But who should I vote for?


The whole bloody point if for everybody to figure it out his or her self. But I will give you notes.


A. A third party vote this year is meaningless. Two guys got a shot at winning. Deal.



B. Ask yourself, are you better off than you were 4 years ago? The President of the US is not responsible for everything that goes right or wrong with the nation. However, he is in the quarterback role, and thus takes the blame for bad and credit for the good. Let’s quickly overview the last 4 years.

1. Poverty has increased every year of the Bush presidency after decreasing every one of the seven years previous.

2. The Bush economy has been the first since Herbert Hoover to lose more jobs than it has created.

3. The deficit has increased every year of the Bush presidency. Previously, Clinton turned a deficit steadily into a surplus.

4. Over 1,000 Americans are dead. The reasons given for this have changed numerously.

5. The rest of the world has grown to dislike us immensely.

6. 9-11 occurred. The accused perpetrator has not been caught.

7. North Korea and Iran have increased nuclear capabilities. (or if you are Bush, nukular)

8. The United States has broken it’s own anti nuclear proliferation promises.

9. Bush stated the vast majority of his tax cuts were going to the poorest people. Yet the richest 1 percent received over 1/3 of the benefit of these tax cuts.

10. Cost of living increase has greatly outpaced income increase.

11. Johnny Cash has died.


That last one is probably not the fault of the current administration.


C. Do you consider yourself progressive? AKA Liberal? Your not gonna want to vote for Bush. As a species liberals tend to dislike Bush, even the lesbians! Liberals will vote for notBush. Kerry happens to be the other guy.


D. Are you a Goldwater conservative? Well Bush has shown himself to be fiscally conservative. He has increased the size of government. Bush says he wants to balance the budget, but also says he will not reduce spending nor cut taxes. Kerry seems to have a plan to balance the budget here on Earth. It is probably very boring though.


E. Do you care about service to the country? I don’t. To compare, Bush cut in line to get into the Guard to avoid service in Vietnam. Kerry volunteered for Vietnam. Bush was grounded for missing a flight physical, got transferred to parts unknown, went missing, showed up again, and left before his commitment was up in order to go to grad school. Kerry also left his service prematurely because he had managed to be injured in battle three times, acquired three purple hearts (and some other medals/ribbons), and went on to protest the atrocities of that conflict.


F. We are at “war.” Maybe... Mission was Accomplished, then wasn’t. There is some sort of war on terror, that Bush says we both can and cannot win. We don’t change Presidents during official wars, but that doesn’t tend to hold up for the other conflicts. Especially the losing efforts. In the last hundred years we have officially declared war twice. Both times we were on the winning side. Both times Democrats were President.


G. Hate abortion? Neither candidate will make anybody get an abortion. That is all that matters.


H. Hate the gays? Both candidates are against gay marriage. Bush’s proposed amendment however should make all true conservatives cringe because, say it with me now, it unnecessarily steps into the domain of STATES RIGHTS.


I. Like checks and balances? Right now both Houses are red. The executive Branch is red. The Supreme court is slightly red. Now, between 2 and 4 Supreme court justices are on the way out. That is to say the man who wins next month will appoint them. That is to say Bush or Kerry will decide the swing of the Judicial Branch. I believe Roe v. Wade currently stands by a 5 to 4 margin.



That’s all for now. I’ll leave you with that old proverb:
Where there is doubt, there is freedom.

-X

No Polish were filmed in the harming of this picture. Three were eaten with mustard.

Email Connor at connor@afterdusk.org if you have any questions.

EDIT: Just tweaked the code in this post so it had the same font size as the others. Connor.

Comments on America

EVENT: ELISABETH

To introduce myself - I am a 23 year old American who grew up in Michigan, went to high school in northern Idaho, and went to college in London and Florence. I've just returned and am now living in Chicago. This is the first time I have lived in a large American city.

***

So two days ago I 'got mugged' - a guy came up and wrestled me for my video camera until the thought crossed my brain that really, the camera wasn't worth a physical fight, and I let go and off he ran. I ran into the police quite incidentally about five minutes later and they set off to find him but really it's very unlikely he'll get caught. I was not scared at all - my inner calm never even quivered, oddly enough (or not). But boy, did it make me angry. Not an anger about my camera. An anger about this stupid country and this stupid city and the violences here and the desperations here and the discrepancies and the HUGE gaps between groups of people. The segregation.... And the... what's the word? Instead of a word, have a scenario I witness every time I go downtown:

Walking in pristine Downtown, huge beautiful skyscrapers and clean streets and paris-like shops. Everything is pristine, beautiful, shiny, clean, rich. There are very few 'beggars' in the sense that I have known them in England and Italy (people asking for money, sitting or standing). No. Instead of these, there are people literally lying on the ground, half on the street, or right across the sidewalk, unconscious. Everyone steps past them. I have seen this over and over and over. It's like, am I in the Twilight Zone? No, it's just an American City. There really isn't a difference. It's so goddamn unreal. The same goes for the neighborhood I live in. It's filthy rich, and surrounded by filthy poor. It's utterly deceptively happy-looking. Like a bomb painted with flowers. The same with downtown. It's sickening.
This country...

It's so un-free. It's... there's something truly Jekyll and Hyde about it. Something Europe lacks utterly. This kind of deception doesn't exist there, or at least not in the places I've lived.

In England there are complaints about the amount of money people have to pay in taxes in order to uphold the health system which guarantees free healthcare to everyone. Frankly folks, this is CIVILIZED. I'm willing to give half my paycheck if it goes towards that incredibly humane way of life. America, on the other hand... is (gasp! will I really dare to call it this?) just plain uncivilised.

I'm figuring out America. It's not pleasant.



Thursday, October 07, 2004

New Blog: PAXTONLAND

EVENT: CONNOR

paxtonland

http://www.paxtonland.com/index.php


Well... I have my Flint blog, and what a blog it is! At first, I had a bit of difficulty getting oriented, and I'm still figuring out the Paxtons' politics.
As it turns out, their blog corresponds to a family of eight.

Despite outward cynicism, the Paxtons take politics from an exploratory angle. They actually go out and look up facts, and report back objectively on what they find. I suspect they're a bit more centrist than most of you, but reading them is so much fun, I'm happy to link.

Now I've posted five times in 24 hours. I should give it a rest. Yes? Yes.

~ Connor

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Watch debate. See Bush "whooped."

EVENT: CONNOR

Blue Skies Readers!
Come to our debate party on Friday.
Here is the invite as posted on the Kerry campaign website:



WHEN:
October 8 @ 7:30 PM
WHERE:
Connor and Sam's LAIR of GOTHIC FUNK!

5820 N. Kenmore Ave., #801

Chicago, IL  60660
Edgewater Beach. Ardmore and Kenmore.

HOST:
Connor Coyne
INFO:
We're post-college kids from Flint, Michigan stuck in Chicago, and this is our party.
We'll watch the debate and celebrate afterwards.
Expect a few South Siders comingling.
Limited Old Style available, assuming you're of age.
Good music, too. And pretzels.

Directions from South Side / downtown

By car: Take LSD to terminus. Turn left on Kenmore (1 block past Sheridan). We're 3 blocks north in a brick midrise on the left. Allow time for parking; it's crowded around here.

By CTA: Take Red Line to Thorndale. Turn left out of station. Walk 2 blocks to Kenmore. Turn right. We're 1 block south in a brick midrise on the right.

Letter to the Editor: Determination and Discretion

EVENT: CONNOR

I just sent a Letter to the Editor of the Flint Journal.
It's nothing new to most of you...

This is the letter to which I respond:
Bush Always the Right Man
http://www.mlive.com/columns/fljournal/index.ssf?/base/news-5/1097076270119700.xml

Here is my letter:

DETERMINATION AND DISCRETION

Brenda Harris' posted a compelling letter Wednesday in favor of President Bush. She says he's been steadfast in the face of "unpopular political hurricane winds." She should be commended for her passion and sincerity. Unfortunately, her rationale is misguided.

Republicans have insisted on taking Kerry's Iraq votes out-of-context in attempt to draw attention away from the White House's more perilous contradictions. Harris writes that "this president intuitively knows '9/11 changed forever how Americans must think.'" Evidence argues the opposite.

Why would we have alienated our few allies in Iraq by awarding a no-bid contract to Halliburton if our designs there were not economic?

Why would we have backed out of a non-proliferation treaty if nuclear proliferation was a huge concern?

Likewise, why wouldn't we agree to a chemical weapons ban if condemning use of such weapons ourselves?

Why would we shift attention and resources away from Afghanistan, Iran, and North Korea, which are proven threats if winning the War on Terror is our highest priority?

Why would we pass tax breaks in wartime, a folly avoided by every past president, Democrat and Republican, if we really supported our military?

These choices all rest upon our president's head.

Determination and resolve are qualities found in every good leader. But frankly, determination and resolve are also found in many mediocre and bad leaders. A good leader must also possess a sense of discretion and restraint. I cannot believe that our president "intuitively" understands our times; his reckless and short-sighted administration has endangered America with its unilateral and inflexible policies while neglecting the most tangible threats. He has scattered our resources, strained our military, and divided the American people more than the winds of any hurricane in Florida or Harris' letter.

Kerry's strength is determination and resolve tempered by discretion and restraint. His voting record is not that of a man who is weak, but a man who learns and grows and adapts to changing circumstances. Republicans would have you think this election is defined by Kerry's inability to speak clearly. It is defined, rather, by Bush's unwillingness to listen. Because sometimes a president must listen. So listen carefully for the voice beneath the hurricane winds of the spin machine, and vote for Kerry this November.

Connor Coyne
Flushing Township

Vote, anyone?

EVENT: CONNOR

This one's easy.
All you have to do is vote for who won the VP debate last night.
Some of these polls might be closing soon:

http://www.cnn.com
http://www.msnbc.msn.com
http://www.foxnews.com

ABC and CBS have concluded their polls, determining respectively that Chaney won and Edwards won.

Apologies...

EVENT

For the lack of recent posts...
For some reason the last two didn't publish for two days.
Tonight I'll be posting on Edwards/Cheney, some Chicago politics, and hopefully a new link.

Also: Tom Scharbach, my godfather, might be posting here this month.
I'm sure you'll enjoy him!

~ Connor

Monday, October 04, 2004

Euphemism reads, October

CONCEPT

This month I will be reading the following as research for Euphemism:

1. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Warpole
2. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
3. History of Western Civilization: A Handbook, Sixth Ed., Part I, by William H. McNeill
4. A History of the Ancient World, Ch. 1 - 8, by Chester Starr
5. The Visual Arts: A History, Fourth Ed., Ch. 1 - 3, by Hugh Honour & John Fleming

If anyone wants to join me in reading any combination of these works, we can have a lively discussion.

~ Connor

A Couple Links

CONCEPT

To depart from politics for a moment...

Amber sent me her diary's url. It is www.livejournal.com/~_mercygirl_.
I actually have no memory of how or why it got taken down.
Contrary to what she thinks, my friends are welcome to be as egotistical as they like!

Also, because of the emphasis on the election right now, I'm afraid NANOWRIMO will get drowned out.

Nanowrimo is a month-long adventure in which a ragtag band of misfits around the world spend the month of November each year banging out a 50,000 word novel. Nanowrimo 2003 is responsible for Adrift on the Mainstream which, of all my writing, has the best prospects for publication so far.

Check it out: http://www.nanowrimo.org. I will continue to post on it as November draws nearer.

Today I am reattempiting my earlier walk along Route 66 to Joliet.
If you want to read about the earlier attempt, check out the July Archives under The 27th Summersdawn, Vol.s I, II, and III.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

New Blog: AN EMPIRE WILDERNESS

EVENT: CONNOR

#1. THE NEW BLOG

An Empire Wilderness

http://www.empirewilderness.com/weblog/index.php


An Empire Wilderness is maintained by Cory, a graduate student in Ypsilanti, Michigan. He is a vegetarian, Eagle Scout, and bitterly cynical Bush-hater.
His comments, however, are reasonable and grounded, qualities I find often lacking in those of us irate at the current administration.
I look forward to following his progress for the next month.

* * * * *


#2. ADDING BLOGS

Throughout the rest of October, whilst in this "hyper political" mode, I will add links to 7-10 outside blogs. They will provide additional perspective to the discussions occurring here.

Geographically, they will demonstrate the following characteristics:
1 Flint-based blog
1 Michigan-based blog (see above)
1 midwestern-based blog
2 non-midwestern American blogs
2 non-American blogs, ideally one of which will be from a country with an Islamic majority

Politically, they will demonstrate the following characteristics:
At least one moderately conservative blog (ie. blogger will vote for Bush)
At least one radically progressive blog (ie. blogger might describe the DSA at "too fettered by capitalist notions")

Obviously, I will look for the most articulate, forceful, coherant, and interesting blogs with these characteristics.

If this works out, I may continue on to add more.
If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

~ Connor

Politics #3: DEBATE FALLOUT, FLINT

EVENT: CONNOR

Not much to write today.

I began to draft a Letter to the Editor of the Flint Journal, but I don't think it's quite time.
I'm better at responding than I am at opening, I've found.

I was referred to MoveOn.org's Media Watch, which supposedly works in the same way as the DNC's Media Corps. I volunteered. I'm waiting to hear from either.

MORE DEBATE FALLOUT


In other news Survey USA conducted a rigorous poll indicating that Kerry is the perceived winner of the debate by a majority in 11 out of 14 state, running the gamut from red to blue. Most telllingly, Kerry was perceived winner in Florida by 45% to 31%. I'd also add with pride, that Kerry won by the largest margin in Detroit of any metro area: 56% to 21%

FLINT, MICHIGAN UPSET


NOTE: This is relevent to ALL OF YOU. If you have a stake in America, then you have a stake in Flint, because Flint is an articulation of how our processes and institutions have failed.

The most significant news you haven't heard about today is Flint's continual descent into a Banana Republic. In the past, I've unironically compared my hometown to the developing world, in terms of economic dependence, standard-of-living, and endemic violence. While we've always prided ourselves on the singular incompetence of our leaders, and more recently, the usurption of local power by the state, we seem to have entered a new epic era of political corruption.

In the past few months, Mayor Putin, erm, I mean Williamson, has stepped up his consistant and aggressive policy of stripping from power anyone who publicly opposes his policies, while the city council tries to fleece the financially strapped city government for back pay from the last several years, when the council's role was largely ceremonial.

I'll drop the didactic tone with Flint, which it shows signs of irking someone.
For now, though, sarcasm helps blood pressure.

Here are some links to articles on these subjects:
10/1. CITY AUDIT MAY BE LATE: http://www.mlive.com/news/fljournal/index.ssf?/base/news-24/10966445643500.xml
9/30. CITY CLERK BANNED FROM CITY HALL: http://www.mlive.com/news/fljournal/index.ssf?/base/news-24/109655808968900.xml
9/29. MAYOR VS. CITY COUNCIL: http://www.mlive.com/news/fljournal/index.ssf?/base/news-23/1096385342268870.xml
9/25. MAYOR PULLS BAN ON NEWSPAPERS: http://www.mlive.com/news/fljournal/index.ssf?/base/news-23/1096385342268870.xml
9/22. MAYOR, POLICE DETAIN NEWSPAPER CARRIER: http://www.mlive.com/news/fljournal/index.ssf?/base/news-23/1095867413188420.xml

While I wouldn't describe the Flint Journal as an excellent newspaper, I think they tend to do a decent job with the resources available. That said, it's problematic that as a regional news source without major competition and implicated in a feud with the mayor, they often are in the position of reporting on issues that affect them directly.
My heart goes out to them... they seem to be taking some pains to objectivity. Still, it's a hairy paradox.

For a different perspective that I often prefer to the Journal, check out this monthly editorial paper:

THE UNCOMMON SENSE: FLINT'S VOICE OF REASON

More later.

~ Connor

The Godfather, The Ethiopians, The Canaries

DIARY

This is, of course, still a personal blog.
I haven't gone all political.

Two things from the last month I left out that I didn't want to, and one addendum:

* * * * *



THE GODFATHER

About a month ago, Jess and I went to Saturday Mass at St. Thomas, and we ran into Tom, my godfather, and his friends Michael and Mike. They invited us back to Tom's apartment for dinner, and so we joined them afterward.

Tom used to lived in a gorgeous house on Harper... it's the sort of place I want more than anything some day... maybe in Carriage Town rather than Hyde Park... but the sort of large-but-cluttered, rambling-but-bright Victorian house, with trees breathing all about and three floors of books and carpet and the smell of coffee, tea, and mothballs.

Tom moved, though, to a spartan garden apartment near the Ray school, and has filled it with his paintings; gorgeous portraits and profiles, all rendered in black and purple and blue and gray, and all with pensive expressions.

We made linguini and salad, and sat and talked for many hours, generally about politics. It's interesting; all of my friends have soemthing vested in current events, but it turns on such a different angle for each of us. For Tom and his friends, the issues circle around the relationship of the Church to gay Catholics, which is, of course, mirrord in the so-called secular debate of the Federal Marriage Amendment.

(Was I supposed to capitalize that? See, that's why I don't get to write among the Big Blogs...)

Justifying Current Obsessions:
All of the questions asked in the political sphere right now are one of the doubles that Artaud constantly referred to... the connection to what we really want is, for now at least, deep and rooted. I think that's why our logic has become so knotty and tangled:

1. You want to convince someone of what you want, but the reason you want what you want is not the most effective argument.

2. You defer to a more effective argument, easier to defend, but with which you are far more unfamiliar.

3. It's because the reasons you can provide for wanting something are not up to the rationales you can provide for wanting it.

And so on.

(I should edit that whole last bit out. See, that's why I don't get to write among the Big Blogs...)

* * * * *



THE ETHIOPIANS

About two weeks ago, Sam and his father came down when I was in the final stages of setting up my room. This was about 2 days before out apartment warming party. They went down to the Museum of Science and Industry that day. I remained and worked on my room. They came back. We all went out for Ethiopian food.

I'd only had Ethiopian once before, in New York, at eighteen. So I'd pretty much forgotten the experience. The incense we smelled upon entering the small restaurant on Broadway reminded Mr. Harbin and I both of the sort of incense they burn at High Mass. Colorful sashes hung on the whitewashed walls, with stylized paintings.

The waitress allowed us to choose between "tables" and "traditional" and we chose the latter; a sort of wooden basin supported by circular woven reeds. The food arrived on a flat pan and consisted of three entrees and three side dishes, all set upon a spongy cake. The grain was native to Ethiopia, and had the consistency of a thin pancake, but a distinctly, faintly spicy, sour flavor. We are until we were full, but walked easily afterward. The waitress happily expalined the customary "right" way to eat, so we didn't embarass ourselves too much. And the coffee... I loved the coffee. Not dissimilar to Turkish coffee, I thought, but less bitter.

We walked up Broadway, taking in the smells of Bosnian, Mexican, Cajun, and barbecue as we went. At Devon, we turned off and walked through the campus of Loyola, passing clusters of students; nineteen-year olds giggling and probably a little tipsy. We hoped the rope guard at the lake and hopped along the rocks. Then, we made our way back to Sheridan, and the alley, and Kenmore, and home, and Jessica came over to visit.

* * * * *



THE CANARIES

I finally compiled all the corrections made to the Canaryville context page and was in the middle of revising it when my password stopped working.
So if I get any more hate mail, I'll just reply, "Hey. I was working on it. I got kicked off the site."
I've written to Topcities.
I'm waiting to hear back.

~ Connor

PS. Let it be noted that Gemma and Ben didn't leave until 3 AM. ;)

Friday, October 01, 2004

Politics #2: DEBATE IMPRESSIONS, LINKS

EVENT

Experience has made me a bit more cynical about these things, and maybe I overshot reality in my perception of the debate yesterday.

A lot of commentary has shown that, while there wasn't a definitive winner, Kerry succeeded in kicking off some of the shackles that have clung to him throughout the campaign, while Bush seemed as mired in his usual weaknesses as ever.

A friend emailed me and complained that nothing was said during the debate.

As an audience member; I marginally disagree...
Throughout the argument about the Iraq war (which took up almost three-quarters of the debate) many of their disagreements were in the past tense. This doesn't mean I would expect their policies to be similar. Rather, their future differences were necessarily vague, since Bush depends on a follow-through of efforts already initiated, and Kerry hopes for an international dialogue which is almost completely lacking right now.
The differences on Iran, Russia, and the Sudan, while not necessarily what I might have expected, were appreciably different.

As an actor, I strongly disagree with my friend.

And this is based on my cynical supposition that Americans are more interested in comfort than reason.

I don't mean comfort in the "I love my La-Z-Boy" sense, as much as a desire of calm assurance.
While much of the debate may have centered on glossed-over repetitions of facts, there was plenty of rhetorical action. Yesterday's debate had more to do with body language, coherance, and most of all, sharp clarity, than any other debate I have seen. Bush knew, I think, that if he could imply Kerry to be a you-know-what on national TV, it would stick with many voters. And Kerry knew that Bush's one-note argument is one of self-assurance... to cast it instead as what Paul Krugman calls an "infallibility complex," was basically all he needed.

In short, they've both passed up on the nickel slots and have hit roulette wheel. There's only one number you can win on, but when you win, you win big.

I initially thought that Bush was coming out ahead... precisely based on my "comfort vs. reason" theory. Bush emotes... his voice shakes with sincerity... I appreciate the technique, the discretion, and the subtlety of this... if you project humility, you never really have to admit you're wrong.
Kerry projected thought and clarity. He pulled fewer punches than he has in the past (despite what my other friends thought last night). But he's still down on account of a lack of "warmth." It's just easier for your Michigan swing-voter to picture Bush as the guy you'd sit down next to in a bar, who'd share your concerns and worries, and not an inept businessman who somehow got put at the helm of the most powerful nation in the world.

I'm taking a few rhetorical liberties myself, but you see my point.

It looks from a number of polls and editorials like Kerry might have ultimately come out on top of the debate.

And while I wasn't so optimistic last night, it did seem like in the final moments, the respective strengths of the two flip-flopped. In his closing statements, Kerry spoke calmly but with almost spontaneous sense of assurrance. And Bush delivered his Biblically inspired wind-down with stiff rigidity, as if from a cue card. I thought spontaneity was his corner of the ring.

I'm intrigued. I'm curious to see where this goes next.

* * * * *



Here are some links that may be of interest:

The Overview. Bush and Kerry Clash Over Iraq in Debate. New York Times.

The Lone-Star Iconoclast.
This is the local Crawford rag, and it does seem to be the local Crawford rag. They've endorsed Kerry. It's an interesting read, although their sentiment is apparently not representative of the town as a whole.

EDIT: I also liked Whet's take on this.
Read it at Radiation Vibe.

More later.

~ Connor

A quick and up-to-date...

DIARY

In the last two weeks, not much exciting has happened.

I finished unpacking for the most part. Visited Jessica several times during the week, all while the students at Loyola and the U of C filtered in and took over.

Last Friday, Sam and I threw an apartment-warming party, which was also the unofficial ribbon-cutting ceremony for "gothic funk". For more news on this, look for the gothic funk manifesto, or simply listen to Des'ree whilst wearing a Hawai'ian shirt, dancing through blacklight, and firing off your taser. (I'm generally pro gun-control and anti taser-control, which puts me at odds with most legeslation). But I'll talk more about gothic funk later.

The party was to kick off with a barbecue at the Thorndale beach at sunset, but I was the only one who came. I crawled into the water with early aspirations of swimming out to the buoy. But it was cold. I did finally take the plunge and go under, and then, shivering, I crawled back up on those rocks and let the wind beat me dry. I went back home.

I'd been home for about an hour, but still hadn't bought the beer or snacks, when Amber (whose link I've somehow misplaced) arrived. I was a bit taken aback... she'd gone down to the beach for the barbecue, but nobody was there. I was very abashed, and continued being abashed, and then Liz arrived. We walked down to Jewel and bought a 30-pack of Old Style, pretzels and tortiallas, salsa, and garden burgers et al. (Incidentally, why are garden burgers so expensive, considering what goes into them is so much cheaper than actual meat?!)

In the end, the party was attended by Amber, Jessica, Liz, Ben, Mercedes, Joe, Gemma, and Colin... and Sam and I. Liz took off early. Jess showed up but was exhausted from her long day at work, and went to bed almost right away. The FIST crowd arrived more or less at once, with Ben showing up a bit later... and Sam getting back from work at one. Ben and Gemma left around one. The rest of us hung on 'til the bitter end... 4 AM. We polished off, in total, some 40 Old Styles (I contributed 10 myself, that being required for the pyramid I was building). We talked about the range of things, but the topic kept shifting back to politics.

Hence, the current appearance of my blog.

The next morning, Jess and I returned to Hyde Park. By this time I was getting more emails about the Canaryville context site. I've agreed to make some changes, but I'm not going to alter my revision process as soon as I get a pissed-off email. I sent the 29th as a tentative revision date. We hung around Hyde Park, unfortunately missing church on Sunday, but we did enjoy a nice lunch at Salonica with Elisabeth, and then headed out to buy a suit for an interview I attended Monday. Well, we got the suit and shopped around, but Jess' car broke, and I didn't make it back to Edgewater until 11. Skyler had come down to visit and interview... Sam was up in Marquette getting his stuff... and now I realize that the context I need to provide to make this make sense is more than I want to get into right now.

Suffice it to say that Skyler went to his interview Monday, and I went to mine, and as far I know, neither of us has heard anything. We sat up and talked... politics of course... ate quiche and Ramen, and I watched clips from Bowling for Columbine over and over, but mostly just the part where the kids are on the rampage, and listened to the song Cryptochid by Marilyn Manson. Together, they make me angry. Angry, and more angrily articulate in repetition. And that gives me the energy to break from inertia, and actually accomplish what I think I should be doing these days.

Last night... at Colin's... the first debate.

~ Connor