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Friday, January 07, 2005

Poor Bastard 


Now he'll have to wait till he gets out of office to get that high-paying Board of Directors appointment, and those $25,000 a pop speaking engagements. Until then, he'll have to live on a pittance. Brave soul.
Commerce Secretary-nominee and former Kellogg CEO Carlos Gutierrez has promised to sell his millions of dollars worth of cereal company stock if the Senate approves him for the Cabinet job.

Gutierrez's portfolio includes Kellogg common stock valued at $5 million to $25 million, holdings that brought him about $100,000 to $1 million in dividends in 2003 and 2004, a financial disclosure report he filed as part of his confirmation proceedings shows.

That's a pretty decent swing, between 5 million and 25 million. But I guess at that level it doesn't really matter too much.

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Uggh 


My younger brother asked me the other day what people always mean when they say someone "sold out." It was tough to put a specific definition to it, but I think I came up with something like going against one's convictions or beliefs simply for money. This is a very good example of that very concept. For shame.
Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.

The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004.

Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in."

The top Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. George Miller of California, called the contract "a very questionable use of taxpayers' money" that is "probably illegal." He said he will ask his Republican counterpart to join him in requesting an investigation.

I'm sure Mr. Williams wanted to do it, and the quarter-million dollars sure didn't hurt. How is this legal? If it is, the laws need to be changed. Williams may differ from reporters in that he also fills his show with commentary, but this goes beyond the merely ideological blurring of media and government: this is PAID ADVERTISING under the guise of journalism. More insidious even than the mock news reports the White House produced touting the new Medicare bill. Not unbelievable.

Boycott his show. Never watch it or listen to it and send off an email telling him how much this pisses you off.

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Thursday, January 06, 2005

History 


It's sad that it doesn't matter, but the state of things is pretty sad right now, so we'll carry on with a story about Election certification hearings in Congress. Of course the media will turn this in to a partisan action of desperation, but it's still the second time an election has been challenged before the legislature since 1877.
One by one and in alphabetical order, certificates of each state's electoral votes were withdrawn from ceremonial mahogany boxes and read aloud. The session usually goes quickly, but when Ohio's votes were read 16 minutes into Thursday's meeting, Tubbs Jones and Boxer issued their challenge to Ohio's 20 electoral votes. The state had put Bush over the top.

By law, a protest signed by members of the House and Senate requires both chambers to meet separately for up to two hours to consider it. Lawmakers are allowed to speak for no more than five minutes each.

The Senate session lasted just over an hour and ended when the chamber voted 74-1 to uphold Ohio's votes. Boxer was the lone vote.

The last time the two chambers were forced to interrupt their joint session and meet separately was in January 1969, when a "faithless" North Carolina elector designated for Richard Nixon voted instead for independent George Wallace. Both chambers agreed to allow the vote for Wallace.

The previous challenge requiring separate House and Senate meetings was in 1877 during the disputed contest that Rutherford Hayes eventually won over Samuel Tilden.

So the last time it happened, a racist upheld the proceedings, and the time before that, it was an actual case of election fraud -- or at least, cronyism.
When two sets of returns were sent to Washington from the states of Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina and Oregon, the two houses of Congress agreed to the appointment of an extra-constitutional body, the Electoral Commission. Though Tilden appears to have won the popular vote, there were enough Commission votes from the Republican-controlled states in the Reconstruction South to throw the election into the United States House of Representatives. The House awarded the presidency to Rutherford B. Hayes after he promised to end Reconstruction.

And what do we have today? Something very similar, though some of the positions have been changed to refelct the times. I should also share these statements by Hilary Clinton, forwarded to me in an email, so I cannot vouch for their absolute integrity.
Can we assure the continuity of our democratic process. We admired people of Ukraine. In a few weeks we're going to see an election in Iraq. People
dying in Iraq for a right to cast a vote. We stood with Ukraine, Iraq.
I worry that if this body doesn't stand up on a bipartisan basis for
the right to vote here at home our moral authority will be weakened.
Freedom our most precious value. We have worked to form a more perfect
union. At first not everyone permitted to vote in our own company. We
expanded the franchise. Anniversary of Voting rights act. How will we
move it into the 21st century.

India's election, 550 million people voted. They voted on electronic
voting machines. They had uniform standards, nonpartisan board that
oversaw the election, did it with integrity. surely we should be
setting the standards.

Surely Bush voters across the nation are open minded enough to listen to that plea?

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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Life 


What is it about life? No matter how good you feel one day, the very next -- sometimes even in the span of a few moments -- all can seem insurmountable, uncontrolable, tragic. Why is this? Isn't it enough to rejoice in being alive? To take this "magical gift" as my friend said yesterday just for what it is? To just be?

No, we have to think and feel. Our greatest atribute, it seems, is our most destructive. We create gods and movie stars to tell us why we feel the way we do, to show us how to feel the way we do, because beneath it all something is unsatisfied. At least for me. There's a great, big, empty space, and I think this is the thing most people spend their entire lives trying to fill. But the more you try to fill it with things from the outside, the bigger the space becomes. It's just accommodating temporary feelings, sensations, thoughts. There needs to be something much bigger, much more whole to fill it. And it must be the exact size of the empty space and fill all of it, otherwise there's room, and whenever there's room, we want to fill it. And when we want to fill it we feel empty and desperate and ashamed and scared.

Why do I so rarely feel satisfied? I write this sentence and take a sip of wine, wanting so intensely to smoke a cigarette. It can offer me nothing filling, but the smoke will distract me from filling the space; for this is all I me I wants to do every waking moment. I fill my life with distractions and words, but where is the thing to fill the space?

If I know I need to fill it, why is it so hard? That damned chorus, that voice, "the committee" as another friend once referred to it, is always pestering you in the back of your head. Nothing is good enough for the committee. Nothing. And everything is wrong, all the time, and it's always your fault. Even though what is merely is and can be no other way forever and ever.

This is a concept. A concept that happens to be true, but putting concepts into practice is harder than it seems or we'd have free love and world peace and teleportation devices.

Right now I feel as though almost everything I touch gets destroyed. I'm carrying with me the guilt and shame of 26 years of living, through every situation, to every person I meet, to everything I do. It's a phase. But it's a destructive one beacuse my mind, the closest thing I me I knows to what is truly I, is thinking and projecting destruction.

What you say is what you get, and baby, I ain't kiddin'.

So why so hard to get out of all this? The space, man, the empty space that has to be filled. But then looking at the emptiness as something wrong or something that needs to get fixed only increases the anguish, the weight, the importance. Doesn't it? So, amazingly, you have to accept the emptiness and your real I's desire to fill it, and then forget it. And then follow the things that seem to fill it, that follow what you believe in and what you are.

But what is that?

Aw, crap.

None of this is specific to me, I know, but something's got to give specific to me, soon. I don't think things are any different or really any harder than they were hundreds of generations ago. I just doubt that they spent as much time then wondering about why they wonder about wondering about why they felt so empty. They didn't have so many external forces creating realisitic and powerful images designed to play with your emotions and manipulate your mind. When I suffer some hardship, I react for a moment from the heart, then I think about how I look, how I will talk about it, how it compares to Al Pacino or Edward Norton's version. I exaggerate here slightly (though not, in fact, very much), but only to further prove my point: representation is everything. We're represented everywhere by false and fictional versions of ourselves and this is what we're meant to fill out to.

I cannot blame my blues on Jerry Bruckheimer, but I can tell you a fragile, loosely associated society such as our own doesn't offer much in the way of community healing nor a standard set of rituals or rites of passage to help one of its members through life. This used to be, in some groups, the most important goal any of its members would strive for. Not just because life is tough, but because they needed to survive. As a whole. What do we have now when we're wondering What It's All About? Prozac? Gillmore Girls? We can't trust the church, we can't trust the governement, we can't trust the TV or the Radio or the Internet. You can't, I guess the lesson is, really trust anyone. Because what is trust?

Aw, crap.

Expectations will kill you. A very shallow but very prominent example from my own life is the goddam email. I check it with the expectation that that potential employer or that potential girlfriend or that person I think I pissed off will write, and when the inbox is empty I collapse into a jumble of despair. What is this?! What the hell is this?! How can I allow something inert, something designed to make my life easier bring such sorrow? It's ridiculous. And yet I torture myself, every five minutes, knowing full well that it will be empty each time and that I will feel the same anguish. Right after I finish this, if I feel satisfied, I'll immediately try to sabotage and disrupt the feeling by checking my damn email. Because this time, maybe... But our whole lives are filled with these expectations, with these narratives, these stories about what our lives should, could or would be. Never what they are. I shouldn't speak for all of us. I me I, I mean.

It's all very boring, I know. But I haven't even been able to look at the news or consider adding a new post in the past couple days, and it means a lot to me, so I wanted to write something. Just send me the bill, doctor.

Of course life isn't always like this. Life is always amazing. Vast and complex and violent and lovely. And perfect. Always perfect. I just have to remind myself every once in a while.


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