Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Air America Phoenix

It's a sad day ... the last day for Air America Phoenix. Or at least the last day at it's current digs, 1010 KXXT. Rumored to be off the air by the end of January, the actual end date was today. KXXT was sold to a Christian broadcasting company. Is the sale just business (it was sold for twice what stations of it's size usually go for) or is there something more nefarious going on? There are already 8 Christian broadcasting stations in the Valley. Bringing another one in seems ludicrous. From strictly a business standpoint, wouldn't you rather be the only station of your type in the 6th largest metropolitan area in the country? Air America has had done a great job of becoming profitable in just over a year. Other major news outlets in the Valley, like KFYI, took years to get to the same point. In a town of conservatives, KXXT, gets better ratings than the local homes of Laura Ingraham and Michael Medved,The Patriot and Michael Savage, KFNX.

This whole thing reeks of politics instead of ratings. Like the Armed Forces Radio fiasco of last year, righties are afraid of an open forum of ideas. They're looking for sycophants instead of debate.

The station manager promises that Air America Phoenix will find a new home. There is a banner on their website, KXXT, indicating a special announcement at a listener appreciation party tonight. We can only hope it is an announcement of a new home. In the meantime, it'll be internet streaming for me and:

Air America Radio

Ed Schultz

Kickback Mountain

I found this on the internet today. Hilarious:

Click for larger image

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Christian Reconstruction

Just when you thought it was safe to go out again and Evangelical Christians were not holding as much sway with the national consciousness, something new (or not so new ... but new to most of us) came out of the woodwork: Christian Reconstruction

In a nutshell, Christian Reconstructionists believe:

  • "The Old Testament ... is the inflexible guide for the society."
  • "Government posts would be reserved for the righteous, as long as they are male."
  • "There would be thousands of executions a year, with stoning a preferred method because it would turn the deaths into "community projects" ... Sinners in line for the death penalty would include women who commit adultery or lie about their virginity, blasphemers, witches, children who strike their parents, and gay men (lesbians, however, would be spared because no specific reference to them can be found in the Books of Moses)."
  • " ... the State cannot be neutral towards the Christian faith. Any obstacle that would jeopardize the preaching of the "Word of God" must be opposed by civil government."
  • " ... government should largely be limited to building and maintaining roads, enforcing land-use contracts, and ensuring just weights and measures. Unions would not exist, and neither would unemployment benefits, Social Security, and environmental protection laws. Public schools would disappear."
  • "the state is "God's minister", taking vengeance out on those who do evil."

Where Christian Reconstruction really gains its steam is in the fact that it is not afraid to use force to achieve it's means and really to claim that the bible explicitly justifies that:

" ... Genesis 1:28 commands men to have dominion over every living thing. And in Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission, Jesus commands his followers to proselytize to the world. Thus was born dominion theology ... Adam and Eve broke their covenant with God, and Satan seized dominion. Christian Reconstruction claims it has a reconstituted covenant with God and the right to a new dominion in his name.

In this worldview, the mandate for Christians is not just to live right or to help their neighbors: They are called upon to take over or eliminate the institutions of secular government.

This is what sets Reconstruction apart from the conventional Christian right and gives it a key advantage in organizing.

Reconstructionists are not the Armageddon's coming, Tim LaHaye types. They believe they can change things and, in fact, are compelled to in order for Christ to return.

"A Christian Reconstructionist is a Postmillennialist. He believes Christ will return to earth only after the Holy Spirit has empowered the church to advance Christ's kingdom in time and history." -- from The Creed of Christian Reconstructionism by Rev. Andrew Sandlin

This may sound like some loony, minor religious sect. I wish it were. Reconstructionists (whether they admit it publicly or not):

  • Roy Moore -- former Alabama Supreme Court Justice and possible future governor
  • Marvin Olasky -- in the words of George W. Bush: "compassionate conservatism's leading thinker"
  • Tom DeLay
  • "Howard Ahmanson and Nelson Bunker Hunt, both of whose families played key roles in financing electronic voting machine manufacturer Election Systems & Software"

Very few will publicly admit they are Reconstructionists but the influence on mainstream Religious Right thinking is undeniable. You almost get the feeling that it is what a lot of the Right would like to be if they were not constrained by a democratic society (and separation of church and state). Certainly the brash statements of people like Jerry Falwell encouraging the assassination of Hugo Chavez and intimations that Ariel Sharon was being punished by God seem to be influenced by Reconstruction.

For more info, see Wikipedia: Christian Reconstructionism

No Feelings

You gotta give it to the boys (the Sex Pistols) ... they're true to form even when being honored:

Sex Pistols A No-Show At Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

In Johnny Rotten's words:

"Next to the SEX PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. Were not coming. Were not your monkey and so what?" (Typos are Johnny's)

Good for them. We pretty much lived and breathed Sex Pistols for a few years in college. Sid and Nancy is one of my favorite films. I even dressed up as Johnny Rotten for Halloween one time in school. I'd have been disappointed if the Sex Pistols would have just compliantly accepted the award.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Jump in the Fire

Alright, I've been holding back some of my partisan political fire for awhile. I've got to let some of it out or I'll explode. Here goes ...

You wonder why our government is so hopelessly clueless about the environment and global warming? W consults with novelist Michael "Jurassic Brain" Crichton:

White House won't say whether they consider novelist global warming expert

The President could take on Dr. Seuss and Salvador Dali as consultants and not have a more surreal set of policies.


Did anybody see Mary Matalin's, the Wicked Witch of Washington, performance on Meet the Press this week?

The Mary Matalin Horror Show

Bizarre. She went beyond being a hired wacko apologist for Dick Cheney. She turned the volume to 11 and went straight to unhinged psycho. It's hard to believe that she could actually make Cheney look even worse. Here's one exchange with David Gregory:

GREGORY: The vice president's office doesn't feel an obligation to disclose that to the American people directly. You do it through a ranch owner in Texas? It just -- it just strikes me as odd.

MATALIN: It strikes you as odd because you live in a parallel universe....

GREGORY: If you thought he did everything right... why did you do a big national interview this week?

MATALIN: Because you went on a jihad, David. For four days you went on a Jihad.

GREGORY: And that's an unfortunate use of that word, by the way. This is not what that was.

I'm a big fan of James Carville, but there have been several occasions where I seriously question his judgment in marrying this woman.


Only the Republicans would have the audacity, the hubris, to say they are for meaningful lobbying reforms while doing the following:
  • Appointing as new House Majority Leader, John Boehner. A man who rents an apartment at below market value from a lobbyist, goes on vacation to the Caribbean with his two lobbyist friends, and is famous for having handed out checks from tobacco lobbyists on the House floor.
  • Disgraced and indicted former Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, is ever-so-lightly punished by getting a powerful Appropriations Committee seat. A seat which was ironically vacated by bribe-taker Duke "The Duke-stir" Cunningham. Hard to believe that seat could sink any further in repute. But just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, DeLay also gets an appointment to a subcommittee that is overseeing the Justice Department and it's investigation of Jack Abramoff. The phrase "fox guarding the henhouse" comes to mind.


We've been slacking in the movie department lately ... just a little too busy with work, car, etc. But this weekend we saw two decent movies (one on DVD, one in the theaters).

The first was Cinderella Man on DVD. This is the Ron Howard directed flick with Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger. Though kinda long, it was very enjoyable. The director, costumer, set designers, etc. did a great job of evoking the time period of the former boxing champion James Braddock. Howard played a little loose with the facts of Braddock's life ... especially of former champion Max Baer. But it was done for dramatic effect and does not take away significantly from the movie.

Cinderella Man is the story of depression-era boxer James Braddock. He had been a promising pro boxer with a 35-7 record who through injuries and the onset of the Great Depression had his career suffer. There was a period of time where he had to work as a a longshoreman and go on government assistance. In an unlikely turn of events, in his early 30's, he got the opportunity to fight again. What he did with these fights was nothing short of amazing. The overwhelming underdog in 4 consecutive fights, he ended up being the Heavyweight Champion of the World.

All the key acting jobs were well-done, especially Crowe and Paul Giamatti as his trainer. The movie reminded me a lot of Seabiscuit in that they were both unlikely heroes that gave hope to Depression-era common people. I'd recommend the movie if you liked Seabiscuit or A Beautiful Mind, another Ron Howard directed film with Russell Crowe.


Yesterday, we saw The Chronicles of Narnia in the theater.

This movie is obviously trying to capitlize on the popularity of fantasy-based movies that have been recently successful (LOTR, Harry Potter). That's not so much a criticism, but rather an observation. Though I don't believe it is as good as those, it's still a good movie.

The acting is fine, mostly with unknown British actors. The special effects are generally good but not perfectly seemless.

The well-publicized religious imagery of C.S. Lewis' books is apparent in the movie. The most obvious:

  • The lion Aslan represents Christ
  • The betrayel by a Judas-like character, Edmund
  • Aslan dying for Edmund's sins and ultimately returning

That there is this imagery doesn't necessarily take away from the story for me. But it does seem a little heavy-handed at times. Overall, I would say that the movie is aimed at a younger audience that LOTR ... as were the books. It has more of a sense of wonder, say like the Wizard of Oz, than one of detail and scale, like LOTR. So, if you have younger children (about 5-12), it'd be a decent movie to see.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I Pledge Allegiance?

Man, we have a bunch of flag-waving hayseeds out here in Arizona:

Bill would put flags in all Ariz. classrooms by 2007

Well, here's my flag:

I love my country, but I abhor how some would have us marching lock step and worshipping some idealized image of what patriotism should be. Thankfully we have a pretty decent Democratic governor here in the state who I can't imagine would sign such a ridiculous bill. And at least a few Democratic legislators sees the folly in such a bill:

  • "Rep. David Bradley, D-Tucson, said he appreciates patriotism, citing his own eight years of service in the Navy. "I just don't think you can legislate patriotism," he said. "It has to come from inside their hearts and minds. For us to say, 'You will do this,' has the stench of another era." He explained later he was thinking specifically of Nazi Germany's "programmed loyalty" policies."
  • " ... Rep. Ted Downing, D-Tucson, said patriotism is not like religion, where someone saying eight "Hail Marys" may be more penitent that someone who says only one. "We could fill the United States with flags. That wouldn't make us any more patriotic than if we had only one flag," he said. "

Monday, February 13, 2006

Rage Against the Machine

In my continuing series on my favorite "poltical bands":

Rage Against the Machine is arguably my favorite band of all time. They burned short but burned bright. They were a perfect synthesis of ideas, aggression and musicianship. Beginning in L.A. in the early 90's, they combined the disparate backgrounds of the members -- both musically and politically. Guitarist Tom Morello is the nephew of the first president of Kenya. His mother, Mary Morello, is the founder of Parents for Rock and Rap, an anti-censorship organization. Singer Zack de la Rocha is the son of Beto de la Rocha, a well-known chicano political artist.

The music of Rage Against the Machine is in-your-face. Even the cover of their first album lets you know exactly what you are getting ... uncompromising music and ideas:

This was not a band that was afraid to ruffle some feathers. All of their songs are political, so it's not too tough to pick some with meaning. But I'll pick five of my favorites:

Freedom (Rage Against the Machine, 1992) - This song refers to Leonard Peltier, a famous Native American rights activist who has been in prison for 27 years. He is considered to be a poltical prisoner by Amnesty International.

" ... What does the billboard say
Come and play, come and play
Forget about the movement

Anger is a gift"

Bulls on Parade (Evil Empire, 1996) - Bulls on Parade is about the military-industrial complex that oppresses and controls who they consider to be lesser peoples and how money feeds it to the detriment of everything else. "Five sided fist-a-gon" means Pentagon.

" ... Terror rains drenchin', quenchin' tha thirst of
Tha power dons
That five sided fist-a-gon ..."
" ... Weapons not food, not homes, not shoes
Not need, just feed tha war canibal animal ..."

Bullet in the Head (Rage Against the Machine, 1992) - Bullet in the Head talks about how jingoistic patriotism is really no different than blind nationalism ... like in Nazi Germany. And the media and government play it up to keep the masses in line.

" ... A yellow ribbon instead of a swastika
Nothin' proper about ya propaganda
Fools follow rules when the set commands ya ..."

Know Your Enemy (Rage Against the Machine, 1992) - Know Your Enemy is basically a song about rebellion and defiance. Don't believe everything that the system tells you. Think for yourself. Maynard Keenan of Tool has an awesome appearance on this song.

" ... Fight the war, fuck the norm
Now I got no patience
So sick of complacence
With the D the E the F the I the A the N the C the E
Mind of a revolutionary
So clear the lane
The finger to the land of the chains
What? The land of the free?
Whoever told you that is your enemy? ... "

Killing in the Name (Rage Against the Machine, 1992) - Another song of defiance. The line about crosses insinuates that many members of white supremacy organizations (like the KKK) are actually police. The beat of this song is infectious. It's hilarious to see this song played in dance clubs sometimes and to see a bunch of privileged frat boys yelling the chorus ... completely oblivious to the meaning of the song. Ah, ignorance is bliss.

" ... Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses ... "

" Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!"

Their acts of defiance and protest are as prominent as their music. On one occassion, the band stood onstage naked with tape over their mouths for 15 minutes to protest censorship and the PMRC. On another occasion, they were actually able to get the New York Stock Exchange to shut down. They were filming the video for "Sleep Now in the Fire", directed by none other than Michael Moore, outside the NYSE. The exchange shut down in the middle of the day because of fears of crowds gathering to watch the filming.

The band only released 3 original studio albums but their influence is still felt. They are arguably the most prominent political rock band of the last 20 years.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


This weekend was one of my favorite events of the year, the VNSA Used Book Sale. We've went to this every year that we've been in AZ ... 13 years. It's 600,000 used books in a building at the fairgrounds for two days every February. All the proceeds from the sale of the donated books (collected throughout the year at drop boxes around the Valley) go to local charitable organizations, including:

  • Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation - is organized to promote the self esteem, and enrich the lives, of Arizona’s foster children. AFFCF funds activities, education and other opportunities that provide the children with quality experiences while they live in difficult circumstances.
  • Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County - teaches individuals age 16 and older to read, speak English or prepare for their GED. LVMC has family literacy programs, operates two Learning Centers in Phoenix, and offers one-to-one tutoring county-wide.
  • Toby House, Inc. - was the first psychiatric halfway house in Arizona and continues to help adults with serious mental illness learn to live successfully in the community. To do this, Toby House operates various levels of residential and outpatient treatment programs.

The book sale, now in it's 50th year, raised $425,000 in last year's sale and has given over $5 million to local non-profit human service agencies since the sale began in 1957.

Some of the highlights of my purchases:

Friday, February 10, 2006

Ugghhhh ... I hate cars!!

At the worst possible time, Michelle's work car (a 2001 Saturn) went to the shitter. She drives the crap out of it (150K in 5 years), so it was bound to eventually happen. But, we'd actually been gearing up to replace my truck which we've had even longer (10 years) and which has 170K miles. And being the tree-huggin' liberal types that we are, the Toyota Prius hybrid was high on our list. But that purchase was still going to be a bit in the future because of the price.

The computer in her car is shot and would cost $1200 for parts alone to replace. We weren't the slightest bit interested in doing that for a car with that many miles. Especially after having replaced the transmission a year or so ago.

So, we had to go into panic-mode and still get something with good gas mileage, probably not new and for less than half the price of the Prius. That led us to looking at a year or two old Corollas, Echos, Civics, etc. From doing the research and visiting a lot of places, we came to find the Hyundai Elantra actually compared very favorably with all those but was several thousand cheaper. We liked the look of them, took several for test drives and ultimately bought the one below. It's a 2005 with low mileage and still under one of the best manufacturer warranties in the business.

We were not thrilled that life forced us into making a hasty decision but ultimately we were going to need to get a car soon anyway and we love what we got.

Which leads me to my original statement ... I hate cars! Society (especially western states) needs to get over their love affair with cars. They're unhealthy, dangerous, inefficient and aggravating. Phoenix is taking a step in the right direction with it's light rail system, which they've begun construction on. But it's not near extensive enough. And it had to overcome a spirited and moronic opposition by those who would give tax breaks to the rich instead of doing anything for the public good.

Glendale Chocolate Affaire

This past weekend we made our annual trek to the Glendale Chocolate Affaire, a weekend long celebration of everything chocolate in downtown Glendale. We went with the always entertaining Burleys and had a great time. The highlight for me is always the frozen cheesecake on a stick dipped in chocolate ... yum. And oh-so-bad for me. ;-)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Political Bands

If my blog has had any kind of theme in the past, it is the convergence of pop culture and politics. Those are the things that interest me in real life and I am constantly fascinated by the intersection of the two. With this post, I'm beginning an informal series on bands that I like that have made a political statement in their work (and sometimes with their actions). A lot of people are offended by artists that make political stands. I am not. I believe we would be robbed of some of the best culture of our past if we kept political statements out of art, music, literature. With art, people are trying to make sense of the world around them. That world certainly includes the personal, the natural, and the collective ... all of which can be political. If we forbid Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Diego Rivera, etc. from incorporating the political into their music, would we be better off? Or would we have a world full of Britney Spears and Thomas Kinkade? Are we critical of bands because they have a message or because they have one that we may not agree with? Why is it that jingoistic flag-wavers like Lee Greenwood and Toby Keith are applauded while the Dixie Chicks and System of a Down are villified?

The first band that I am going to profile is R.E.M. They grew out of the ashes of the post-punk movement and really marked the start of the alternative movement. Cryptic, yet catchy, they marked the return of guitar-driven pop music with a message. When I was in college in the late 80's, R.E.M, U2, the Cure, the Smiths, etc. were the defining bands of the new alternative movement. While that "alternative" tag seems to get slapped on to any piece of commercial guitar-driven drivel now days, it meant something then. These were bands that released albums constantly and built a following through touring and deeply literate and personal lyrics.

With the body of work that R.E.M. has, I could write forever, but I'm just going to discuss those songs that I feel are the most political. :

Fall on Me (Life's Rich Pageant, 1986) - This is probably my favorite R.E.M. song. Even without the outstanding lyrics, it would still be because of the beauty of the music. This song is about air pollution.

"... There's a problem feathers iron
Bargain buildings weights and pulleys
Feathers hit the ground
Before the weight can leave the air ..."

Cuyahoga (Life's Rich Pageant, 1986) - "Let's put our heads together/And start a new country up ..." - another environmental song that chronicles the polluting of the Cuyahoga River in Ohio. But it goes beyond that to really be a metaphor for what we are doing to the environment in general and what we are giving up by doing so:

"This is where we walked, this is where we swam
Take a picture here, take a souvenir
Cuyahoga, gone"

Exhuming McCarthy (Document, 1987) By using the era of McCarthyism, R.E.M was actually criticizing the Reagan era. The red scare of the 50's had found a parallel in the "patriotic" witch hunts of Reagan's time. This song is looking more and more relevant now with our current drive towards fascism.

" ... Enemy sighted, enemy met, I’m addressing the realpolitik
Look who bought the myth, by jingo, buy America ..."

Orange Crush (Green, 1988) Orange Crush is Agent Orange:

" ... We are agents of the free
I’ve had my fun and now its time to
Serve your conscience overseas ..."

Again, it's easy to attach relevance to this song even in our current time.

R.E.M's politics have not only been represented in their music but in their actions. They participated in the Vote for Change tour with Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam.

Friday, February 03, 2006


It's good to see that the American Family Association is again using their vast resources and millions of devoted followers to focus on something truly important in our modern world ... sit-com television:

Group Says 'Will & Grace' Will Mock Crucifixion

Is this to be the direction of religious activism from now on? The recent death of Coretta Scott King reminded us of the legacy of true religious activism and the power to do good. All that the AFA reminds us of is that are some that preach bigotry and moral superiority in the name of religion.

"I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. ... But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." -- Coretta Scott King

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of the Union

Our President must be living in some other country, because his State of the Union speech did not represent our country:

  • Life is good. That is ... if you have a household income of over $1 million, life is good. Those households have received, on average, a tax cut of $103,000. For the rest of us in the real world, it's not so rosy. For the year 2005, nominal wages rose only 2.4% while inflation rose 3.4%. You do the math ... that meant that our real compensation went down 0.9%. Not quite the "healthy and vigorous" economy that our President trumpeted in his State of the Union speech.
  • Bush hailed spending on research for alternative fuel sources while his actions are the exact opposite: "Fact -- Bush pushed for renewable energy cuts in latest budget: President Bush's FY06 budget request for the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) energy efficiency and renewable energy programs envisioned "reductions totaling nearly $50 million -- an overall cut of roughly four percent." (Renewable Energy Access, 2/28/05)" - Bush Wanted Renewable Energy Cuts
  • He encourages children to take more math and science to remain competitive in the world while proposing to cut education budget
  • Perhaps the most telling moment in his speech was when the Congress loudly applauded when he said that Congress had failed to act on his Social Security privatization plan.

Clueless ... completely clueless.