The ongoing saga of cats

So for all my worry that my mother would adopt a dog, it turns out we’ve adopted two cats instead. The strategy with my existing cat, Admiral Janeway, will simply be to keep them apart.

"Blackie" (L) and "Greece" (R), at my mother's house, December 30, 2012.
“Blackie” (L) and “Greece” (R), at my mother’s house, December 30, 2012.

We haven’t picked names for them yet. “Blackie” and “Greece” are the names they went by at Countryside Rescue (in the western outskirts of Santa Rosa), but we’ll almost certainly rename them.

They are adorable, affectionate cats. The black one is more inquisitive. The grey one is more shy. They are brothers that have managed to stay together since birth. The truth is, it didn’t even occur to either of us that they should now be separated.

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The irrelevance of elections, explained

I have relied heavily on James Madison’s Federalist No. 10 in declaring that the U.S. Constitution was designed to suppress popular will, that it protects the minority rights not of any disadvantaged groups of people but rather the property rights of mostly wealthy, white males.[1] The system put in place preserves itself first through an exorbitant cost of campaigning, requiring funds which are only available to the quite wealthy,[2] and second through various means of repression—both violent and subversive—of dissent.[3] These are circumstances, by the way, which well predate the Occupy movement and the Citizens United decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, and so my commentary on these two events in this blog has been muted, not because I was unconcerned, but because I was seeing so little that was truly transformative.

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  1. [1]James Madison, “Federalist No. 10,” in The Federalist Papers, ed. Garry Wills (1982; repr., New York: Bantam, 2003).
  2. [2]David Croteau and William Hoynes, Media/Society: Industries, Images, and Audiences, 3rd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2003).
  3. [3]Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present (New York: HarperPerennial, 2005).

The price of the show

While politicians put on a show around the ‘fiscal cliff,’[1] a Los Angeles man lit a homeless woman on fire, critically injuring her.[2] The Los Angeles Daily News account focused on the perpetrator of the latter crime as a criminal, while the New York Times recounted tales of interrupted holidays with families as another set of perpetrators was summoned back to Washington, D.C., to continue the show.

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  1. [1]Jared Bernstein, “Over the “fiscal cliff” we go!” Salon, December 22, 2012,; Aaron Blake, “Beware of ‘fiscal cliff’ pessimism,” Washington Post, December 28, 2012,; Lori Montgomery and Rosalind S. Helderman, “Obama summons congressional leaders for ‘fiscal cliff’ talks,” Washington Post, December 27, 2012,; Manu Raju and Jake Sherman, “Fiscal cliff deal increasingly unlikely,” Politico, December 26, 2012,; Jennifer Steinhauer, “Summoned Back to Work, Senators Chafe at Inaction,” New York Times, December 27, 2012,
  2. [2]Los Angeles Daily News, “L.A. man arrested, accused of setting homeless woman on fire as she slept on Van Nuys bus bench,” December 27, 2012,

‘Progress’ and the Union

Note: This post has been revised since it was originally posted at 1:33 a.m. (Pacific Standard time) to improve its clarity and to make minor corrections. The publication time has been altered accordingly.

In ridiculing my view that the United States should dissolve, a friend on Facebook pointed to something he called “progress,” which he apparently viewed as impossible or at least severely hampered in the absence of the Union. It’s not really clear to me what he means by progress, but my old favorite professor at California State University, East Bay, argued that he would not have been hired as a professor in the 1960’s, due to his race. And of course, there have been all the expansions of civil rights, suffrage first for all men in the wake of the Civil War, then some decades later, suffrage for women, and still some decades after that, the progress of the Civil Rights and feminist movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

It is not only the prospect that a surviving Confederacy would have stood in the way of these achievements, but that it would likely be an environmental hellhole that, in many eyes, rationalizes the Union. But such notions of progress must be taken in context, and the counterfactual case—that is, the case of what would have happened had the Confederacy been successful in asserting independence—must also be considered in any evaluation of ‘progress’ associated with the Union’s hegemony.

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A war on the “unworthy”

Writing of mass media coverage of U.S. foreign policy (for which, read “war”), Noam Chomsky distinguished between so-called “worthy” and “unworthy” victims.[1] He was describing a hypocrisy in which the deaths of “worthy” victims would be employed in propaganda to advance U.S. aims, while the deaths of “unworthy” victims would be all but ignored.

Of course, if one cares about human life, one should care about any death, not just the deaths we have heard so much about recently of 20 children and 6 adults at a Connecticut school.[2] But we hear a lot less about the ongoing slaughter of inner city children,[3], who at least are counted, and the ongoing drone attacks, almost certainly war crimes,[4] whose toll is uncounted but consists surely in part of non-combatants[5] who, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, are supposed to be protected under all conditions.[6]

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  1. [1]Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon, 2002).
  2. [2]James Barron, “Nation Reels After Gunman Massacres 20 Children at School in Connecticut,” New York Times, December 14, 2012,
  3. [3]David Muhammad, “Will Obama Cry for Inner City Youth?” Truthout, December 22, 2012,
  4. [4]Owen Bowcott, “UN to investigate civilian deaths from US drone strikes,” Guardian, October 25, 2012,
  5. [5]Noah Shachtman, “Not Even the White House Knows the Drones’ Body Count,” Wired, September 29, 2012,
  6. [6]Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, August 12, 1949, 6 U.S.T. 3516.

Not just about guns

Note: I have modified this entry to clarify what Thomas Frank wrote regarding conservative perception of victimization. (December 21, 2012)

Is this time different?

There’s ample reason for skepticism. The National Rifle Association remains . . . the National Rifle Association, whose “deep-pocketed efforts to oppose gun control laws have proven resilient.”[1] Yet, according to the Associated Press,

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  1. [1]Philip Elliot, “NRA goes silent after Connecticut school shooting,” Salon, December 18, 2012,

Raining on Terrell’s parade

People change. I should expect that.

But in this case, I suspect something else has also happened.

This is the case of my old favorite professor at California State University, East Bay, where I received a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communication and a Masters in Speech Communication. I took more classes from this professor, Robert Terrell, than any other, nearly all that he taught, served as his graduate writing assistant one quarter, and had him as the chair of the committee that administered my comprehensive exams. He taught me, as all his students, to pay more attention to the news, to develop a critical—as in analytical, in large part for social justice—attitude both toward the events themselves and to mass media coverage of those events, and to be well-prepared to argue our positions.

In short, he fulfilled a function in a college education that is all too rare. This is nothing to be slighted. I will be forever grateful to him for this.

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‘Free’ must not mean ‘cheap’

I am about to, when the disk arrives, install Microsoft Windows on a desktop system.

This is a system we bought a few months ago for my mother because she didn’t understand that Windows was her problem. She quickly ran into problems and so after considerable effort, I managed to get Linux on it. Unfortunately, I completely broke Windows in the process—it wouldn’t boot.

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