Sunday, April 30, 2006

What he said!

Steve at Troubled Times correctly tells us why the primary reason there was so much immigration from Mexico starting around, oh, I don't know, the mid-1990s. Gee, I wonder what policies went into effect then?

Oh yeah, the NAFTA.

NAFTA screwed American citizens on our side of the border, screwed peasants on the Mexican side of the border, and then beggared our workers with desparate peasants seeking work inside the US after losing their farms and small plots of land. Steve correctly calls President Clinton and Robert Rubin part of the Wall St. wing of the Democratic Party. I know we're nostalgic for intelligent bankers after five years of ignorant, reckless, and frankly, stupid bankers. But they're still all bankers.

Colbert at the WH Correspondents' Dinner

Colbert's smack down of the Worst President and his (mis)administration and the pliant, venal White House media reporters and their superiors at corporate-owned media is a must see and must read.

Here is the read.

Here is the see (Not the beginning, however). But while seeing, listen to the silence of most people in the audience, who are obviously outraged or worse, afraid to laugh while the Worst President sits among them.

A few choice sentences from Colbert's speech:

"I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."

"I believe in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe it is possible -- I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical. And though I am a committed Christian, I believe that everyone has the right to their own religion, be you Hindu, Jewish or Muslim. I believe there are infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior."

"A excited as I am to be here with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president's side, and the vice president's side."

"But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they're super-depressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished. Over the last five years you people were so good -- over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew."

"John McCain is here. John McCain, John McCain, what a maverick! Somebody find out what fork he used on his salad, because I guarantee you it wasn't a salad fork. This guy could have used a spoon! There's no predicting him. By the way, Senator McCain, it's so wonderful to see you coming back into the Republican fold. I have a summer house in South Carolina; look me up when you go to speak at Bob Jones University. So glad you've seen the light, sir."

Bonus question from MF Blog
: When was the last time a White House reporter got a scoop that wasn't an administration's controlled leak? Answer: Never in most living Americans' lifetimes.

Elitist and weak-kneed. Your White House correspondents. I'm sure the guy or gal who booked Colbert is already being fired.

And of course, the Worst President was not very happy at the accolades from his "#1 fan."

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Crude oil supply is steady or up, so what's the problem?

The problem is not a lack of supply of crude oil. The problem consists of oligopolistic oil companies who take their refineries off line for "maintenance" and then make mucho profits when refined oil gets scarce. And between the screw up of the Gulf Coast from government incompetence on top of Hurricane Katrina and (contrary to the prewar promises of the Worst President and Worst Vice President) the invasion of Iraq leading to a decline in Iraqi oil output, more refineries are off line than in a damned long time.


1. Enact a windfall profits tax against the oil companies. And make it hurt these bastard companies. Oh, and please save me the line about stockholders. Most stockholders would like lower gas prices instead of a few dividend bucks for their stocks.

Katrina and Iraq are not the primary issues. That's crisis thinking or short term thinking--not institutional or longer term thinking. The oil companies have been perfecting their off lining of refineries for years. This is what is primarily driving up oil prices.

2. Let's get creative with regulation of oil companies since nationalization is not something we are allowed to talk about on corporate owned media outlets. That would be worse than saying f**k on radio or television because it questions the right of international capitalists to...well, exploit us.

For starters, let's propose that a law be passed to require oil companies to spend a portion of their remaining profits to modernize (and also replace older parts with pollution control devices) or build new refineries. Unfortunately, this would now also require a reversal of the law the Worst President, Worst Vice President and Worst Congress recently passed.

And let's also open further oil company books and records regarding refinery maintenance and, if we find what I believe we'll find, start prosecutions of corporate executives at the oil companies for gouging. It's pretty obvious what's going on to anyone who has watched the oil companies over the years.

I'm not saying we shouldn't buy hybrids or seek other solutions. It's just that the solutions I am proposing must be the first two steps or we are either handholding singing Kumbaya or we're not serious about solving institutional challenges and structures of the oil industry in the US and elsewhere.

ADDENDUM: For an understanding of the patterns and practices of the oil companies who control the refining and distribution of oil, reading any one of the following four excellent books will suffice:

1. Robert Engler, "The Brotherhood of Oil: Energy Policy and Public Interest" (1978, New American Library);

2. John Blair, "The Control of Oil" (1978, Vintage Books) (Blair, a lawyer with the Federal Trade Commission for decades, specialized in studying the oil industry);

3. Anthony Sampson, "The Seven Sisters" (1975, reissue 1991, Bantam);

4. Joe Stork, "Middle East Oil and the Energy Crisis" (1976, Monthly Review Press).

All of these books were written in the backdrop of the series of energy "shocks" of the 1970s, yet remain profoundly current. Each book provides a slightly different political perspective of the author, but tell the story in ways that show us how the industry works, how OPEC can be itself undermined by oil company control of refining and distribution, and how the consistency is Big Oil's oligopolistic power. The Big Oil players don't always win and one can find years of lean profits, too. However, the larger point is that the Big Oil companies can almost always count on its lobbyists to convince our nation's leaders to write them tax breaks and other laws that harm America's security interests and the interests of American workers and their families. The latest supply manipulation through "off line maintenance" and "just in time inventorying" of crude oil is merely the latest example of market manipulation for what most of us understand is a fairly inelastic demand compared to most goods or services.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I wish constitutional law professors knew more about civil procedure

Eugene Volokh, a fairly right-leaning law professor at UCLA who is one of the leading constitutional law scholars regarding the First Amendment, believes the decision in Harper v. Poway Unified School District was wrongly decided. Here are my two posts on the subject.

After an initial post setting forth his disagreement, Eugene wrote a later post criticizing Judge Reinhardt, the author of the Harper decision, for inconsistency. He noted that Judge Reinhardt, in a decision from 2002 involving a student suspended for writing a violent-laden poem, held the student had First Amendment rights that a school could not abidge. Judge Reinhardt, therefore, is a hypocrite in deciding for the student in Lavine v. Blaine School District (2002) (which involved a school district in Washington state), but deciding for the school district in Harper.

I wrote to Eugene with my explanation as to why the two decisions are not as inconsistent as he concludes and that he was unfair to Reinhardt. Eugene's response was a short, "we will have to disgree." In fairness to Eugene, he is deluged with emails and is again, a famous legal scholar with reference to the First Amendment. I am merely a trial lawyer who has litigated a wide variety of cases, including cases involving First Amendment issues, and know the laws of civil procedure fairly well (State court more than Federal, though!).

I reprint my response below to Eugene's post regarding Judge Reinhardt, which the careful reader may notice that I am asserting my knowledge of civil procedure as a consideration in how to view the two decisions Eugene is citing. I am also setting forth my substantive point that a school's affirmative duty to foster tolerance of individuals' protected status (sex, race, religion, sexual orientation) may sometimes trump the right to say intolerant things about other individuals' status. Here, without changes, is my response to Eugene's post on the Lavine (decided in 2002) and Harper decisions:

"I read Reinhardt's and Kleinfeldt's dissents in Lavine and believe their dissents were more directed at the fact that Lavine was expelled (later reduced to a significant suspension) for a poem that talked about someone killing himself. The kid had a rough family life, with a violent Dad, but apart from a couple of fights, and despondency over a girlfriend who left him. However, he was 'normal' after a professional evaluation, a fact that would have likely protected the district if it was sued by third parties if Lavine later acted out violently.

"Also, I must say you were less than fair in failing to note that Reinhardt's dissent clearly distances himself from Kleinfeldt's 'sky is falling' rhetoric. In fact, Reinhardt's phrasing recognizes the importance of school administrators' discretion in these matters. His concern about 'pro-Taliban' views was less about religious opinions that are intolerant of other students' status, than about having an unpopular political foreign policy view concerning the US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001 (the decision was written at the beginning of 2002). I recall supporting Bush's decision in invading Afghanistan and overthrowing the Taliban--and drew the ire of some Chomsky fans who said it was wrong to overthrow the Taliban because of bin Laden. They said just get bin Laden.

I think your readers who don't link would have wanted to read this:

(MJF Note: This quote is from Reinhardt in his dissenting opinion in Lavine): "While I agree with most of what Judge Kleinfeld says and therefore join his dissent, I do not share his bleak view of the effect of this decision on the rights of students in this circuit. I do not agree that the erroneous result arrived at in this case compels or authorizes this court, or district courts, in future cases, to uphold discipline that impinges on the First Amendment activities of students, even when those students are emotionally disturbed. I read the panel's opinion essentially as approving only a brief suspension of a student pending determination of the existence of a safety question. Because the Washington statute contained no express provision for immediate "suspension," the panel treated the"emergency expulsion" section as if it were such a provision. As Judge Kleinfeld so eloquently points out, in doing so, the panel erred -- in my opinion, largely because it left the impression that it approved of the imposition of discipline, discipline that simply was not warranted and that violated the student's First Amendment rights."

Also, I think, with all due respect, you are not looking at the proceedings in which these cases were brought to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. This also lessens Reinhardt's hypocrisy. Lavine dealt with an expulsion and the question of whether Lavine, on a summary judgment, should have the right to have the permanent record changed. Reinhardt felt the facts justified that PARTIAL summary judgment. Me? I'd still give the school district a chance to argue its case to the jury and would have agreed with the majority opinion.

But procedurally, let's compare that to the Harper case, where the student was merely detained for the day for wearing the t-shirt. And what Harper was seeking with the 9th Circuit was a PRELIMINARY injunction, which has a high standard of proof, higher than federal rules on summary judgment.

Is Reinhardt still insensitive to religious speech in the Harper case? Yes, I think he is. I did not like his flourish at the end that Harper had essentially little chance of defeating the Poway school district at trial. That was unnecessary to his opinion and showed that he viewed religious viewpoints on homosexuality with less respect from a judicial perspective than they deserved.

Your disagreement with Reinhardt, however, is that you wish to have a brighter line of content neutrality. I initially agreed. Where I am less in agreement now is that, as with the argument going on in Europe, to what extent should society protect the rights of free speech of those who dissent from tolerance for protected classes of people? I still would not go as far as Tony Blair's new laws, precisely because of the First Amendment. However, I think a strong argument can be made that tolerance and civility have a primary status for schools due to schools having tort duties to prevent harassment or violence against those in the protected class. That is also subject to caveats of the circumstances and I think it is vital to consider those circumstances. In Harper, the Poway school district had in a lawsuit at the time for not doing enough to protect students who had homosexual tendencies or feelings. It was ultimately held liable for that conduct. It carefully treaded with Harper and did not suspend him or place anything in his permanent record, unlike Lavine. Lavine wrote a poem for a class that appears not to have been read aloud. The school took steps to protect Lavine and then to protect the school from Lavine, the latter without as much reason as to justify summary judgment for the school. At this point, the differences between Lavine and Harper become significant enough to greatly lessen the charge of hypocrisy against Reinhardt.

I know you don't buy the primary status argument with reference to the First Amendment over other amendments--I used to be partial to that primary status, but find myself becoming less so in middle age--and I can guess that is why you are so strong on content neutrality. But there are distinctions to be made as to what proceeding is involved when weighing issues in different types of proceedings, something I don't think Reinhardt did as good a job as he could have (What is it with these federal judges, including Kosinski, looking for the flourishing words at the expense of the proceeding's limits on their scope of their reasoning?). I also think the difference in wearing a t-shirt during classes that is the subject of controversy is different than writing a poem that was not read to the class is something to consider.

Again, I would have agreed with the majority of the panel and held Lavine's partial summary judgment granted by the trial court was improper and should be reversed. This again was a case for trial before a jury, not a summary proceeding or a preliminary injunction situation. Hard cases make bad law, and I think the duty of those of us in the practice of law, including law professors, is to keep in mind the procedural issues when discussing and analyzing substantive issues, including vital amendments such as the First Amendment. Heck, we may even teach federal judges like Kleinfeldt, whose decision was far more inflammatory, why their flourishes are unhelpful to maintaining what law professor Ronald Dworkin called the integrity of the law.

Saying this, I wish to be clear that I am not enamored with Justice O'Connor, who drew distinctions in ways I sometimes found to be completely unjustified! Oh well, law is an art, not a science..."

Well, I think we've sufficiently covered that subject, though I am open to comments or challenges, as usual.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Public schools: Balancing civility, tolerance and the unpopularity of intolerance

My previous post provided my initial thoughts of what was admittedly a less than fully engaged reading of the majority and minority decisions in the California based 9th Circuit case of Harper v. Poway Unified School District.

I have now re-read the decisions with a careful eye, including footnotes, and have read the decision of Tinker v. Des Moines393 U.S. 503, a US Supreme Court decision from 1969, and other decisions including a later Supreme Court opinion from 1986, Bethel School District v. Fraser, 478 US 675. and Scott v. School Bd. of Alachua County, 324 F.3d 1246, 1249 (11th Cir. 2003).

My conclusion is that it remains a close call as to whether the Poway High School student, Harper, may wear the particular t-shirts on the day of and day after an school sponsored pro-gay rights event ("Day of Silence"). However, because he sought extraordinary relief of a permanent injunction without a more complete record of a jury trial, the 9th Circuit was correct to deny Harper's pre-trial relief against the school district. Because this was a pre-trial proceeding, I would also counsel the US Supreme Court to not take this case because we should wait and see how the rest of the litigation goes.

I would also state, as I do in more detail below, that the US Supreme Court has already ruled against a broad reading of Tinker, contrary to Justice Kosinski's dissent in the Harper decision. The duty of schools to promote tolerance and civility will, in most cases, overrule a student's right to wear a t-shirt that expresses negative statements against homosexual acts where California law has already established that people who practice homosexuality are a protected class no different than, say, blacks or Muslims. A school has a greater right and duty to discipline students for wearing a t-shirt that denigrates others than one that would express pride in oneself (i.e. You may say, "White Pride" in a t-shirt as opposed to "Black people are inferior to whites" OR you may say, "Proud to love Jesus" as opposed to saying "Reject Jesus: Burn in hell").

The promotion of tolerance is strong in the fish bowl known as schools, where schools have a separate and abiding duty to act "in loco parentis", which means they have semi-parental and affirmative duties to protect the feelings of their students. Schools must be more vigilant against negatively expressed messages by students against each other than postively expressed ones, even though for example, "White Pride" statements have a rather ugly history.

Thus, my initial conclusion about the "Hitler was right" or "Hitler should have finished the job" t-shirts worn on the day of studying the Holocaust is no longer a close call, as I thought in my initial post. A school principal, under my more careful reading of the law, would be acting with appropriate discretion in having the student change the t-shirt or not be allowed in class.

However, I still have sympathy for Harper's position to this extent: We as a society have to have some tolerance of intolerant messages in the fish-bowls known as public schools, where people are in a group and have to get along. As I note below, Harper's t-shirts were worn for a limited time and responded to the particular event by expressing a religious viewpoint that may not be completely eradicated in the name of that duty of civility and tolerance. That is why, while the motion for a permanent injunction was properly denied at this point, perhaps a full trial and oral testimony and expert witnesses best serves our further understanding of the tension between religious speech and the secular demand for tolerance.*


Seventeen years after Tinker, the US Supreme Court, in the Fraser decision, held a school had a right to discipline a student who delivered a clever student council candidate's nomination speech because it was filled with sexual innuendo (The speech contained no profane words, and could only be understood by those who already knew the common words could be used in a slang context to mean fornication--it's a funny speech by the way; see the opening of Justice Brennan's concurring opinion). In Fraser, the US Supreme Court, after citing Tinker, recognized that a broad reading of Tinker was not warranted because of the fact that schools are a small fishbowl where school administrators are "in loco parentis" which means they gotta take care of the kids' feelings and safety. But note the tension of how the Court states this duty in Fraser:

"These fundamental values of 'habits and manners of civility' essential to a democratic society must, of course, include tolerance of divergent political and religious views, even when the views expressed may be unpopular. But these "fundamental values" must also take into account consideration of the sensibilities of others, and, in the case of a school, the sensibilities of fellow students. The undoubted freedom to advocate unpopular and controversial views in schools and classrooms must be balanced against the society's countervailing interest in teaching students the boundaries of socially appropriate behavior. Even the most heated political discourse in a democratic society requires consideration for the personal sensibilities of the other participants and audiences."

While the US Supreme Court, on many occasions, most notably in Terminello v. City of Chicago, 337 US 1 (1949), said that the First Amendment means that the "unpopular" speaker cannot be silenced by the violent reaction of those taking the "popular" opinion, there is again a tension inside schools because schools have a higher duty than the society at large to prevent violence against students.

The majority opinion in Harper focuses on the gay students whose right to be free from violence and verbal abuse is what was being promoted by the school. As the majority opinion in Harper states and as Kosinski unfairly belittles in my view, the Poway schools had just been found liable by a jury in 2005 for failing to protect gay students from harassment. Thus, the school district's actions against Harper and his t-shirt seems more defensible than they might otherwise be. Schools have to make prctical deicsions on existing facts and can't be easily subject to second-guessing.

Kosinski's disenting opinion, however, better understands the tension between a student's right to express a traditional Western religious viewpoint against the now more popular view exaulting tolerance, even of those who are practicing homosexuals. Still, Kosinski doesn't quite face that tension between society's goals of civility and tolerance on the one hand, and the right to verbally dissent from being tolerant. Kosinski would rather punt to the US Supreme Court, despite recognizing the way out of his conundrum. Kosinski himself recognized the primacy of teaching tolerance in a school when he wrote:

"Tolerance is a civic virtue (footnote omitted) but not one practiced by all members of our society toward all others. This may be unfortunate, but it is a reality we must accept in a pluralistic society (footnote omitted)." (Italics added)

With my quote from Fraser above, Kosinski is far closer to the majority's ruling than he might like. In footnote 8 to Kosinski's dissent, which is the second of the footnotes from the single paragraph in the main body of Kosinski's dissent, Kosinski tries to rescue Harper and himself:

"Indeed, tolerance may not always be a virtue. Tolerating wicked conduct, bigotry or malicious gossip, for example, may not be in the least commendable. Then there is the question of whether we should tolerate intolerance, a question as imponderable as a Möbius strip. Whether tolerance is a good or a bad thing may turn on what we think about the thing being tolerated."

Where Kosinski's own flourishes fail is that California, as a matter of public policy and law, has already decided that discrimination against people based upon sexual orientation is wrong. In fact, homosexuals have essentially every right that non-homosexuals have except a legal right to legally call their civil unions with each other a "marriage."

Kosinski's point that the student Harper is the new "minority" whose rights should be respected is theoretically laudable, but we have to remember what it is Harper is expressing. He is expresing a negative viewpoint about the practices of other students, which practices the state of California has held should be protected as much as those who are heterosexal in their sexual practices. (Nobody said this, but are we supposed to be only talking about the schools promoting the idea of homosexual and heterosexual practices since people in California are not allowed to actually engage in sexual activity until they are 18? Ah, the interaction between sociology and legal jursiprudence is a fascinating one, isn't it?)

Anway, is it possible that Harper should still be free to wear the t-shirts (there are two) in this set of facts? Not enough to win his pre-trial motion that the school was wrong, but enough to say let Harper have his day in court for a jury trial. Let's not forget the words on the t-shirts (there were two), lest we think he said something like the Rev. Fred Phelps who likes to make signs that say "God Hates Fags!". However, Harper's t-shirts read as follows:


“HOMOSEXUALITY IS SHAMEFUL: Romans 1:27” (back of t-shirt)

On the day before his detention, which was the day of school event, his t-shirt was slightly different:


“HOMOSEXUALITY IS SHAMEFUL: Romans 1:27” (back of t-shirt)

Analyzing the words used on the two t-shirts, front and back, and considering Harper wore the shirt on the day of the pro-gay event and the day after, I am of the view that Harper's minority right to be intolerant was reasonably expressed in a manner that was relatively civil. He did not single out any homosexual to be harmed. He used the word "shame" and expressed the viewpoint, hardly controversial, that God (read: the Bible) condemns homosexuality (We need some good faith in viewing Harper's t-shirt and give him the benefit of the doubt that he speaks of the Bible as being the "word" of God). Still, considering the school district's affirmative duties under the law to prevent students from being "harassed," Harper pushed the envelope on the second day, which was the day after the event. The school district would have, in my view, a harder time justifying itself if on the day of the event, they prohibited Harper from attending classes with the t-shirt. But, the second day, well, that's why Harper's case was close, but not close enough to automatically rule against the district's right to defend itself at a jury trial.

* My friend, Besty, a schoolteacher, eloquently reached a similar conclusion in far less words in her comment to my previous post. However, as may be more clearly stated in my longer analysis, Betsy, in my hopefully humble view, is too quick to want to limit the right of people to expess statements (not actions) of intolerance in our public schools. She is also making a too sweeping statement against the right of students to express a religious-based intolerance toward homosexual acts, which is what both t-shirts condemned. The t-shirts did not condemn homosexual people, as people, but expressed a religious-based belief against homosexual acts. That is probably too parsing if one is homosexual and has experienced hateful statements and physical attacks, but it is not as overly technical because of the fairly unambiguous view in all three major Western religions against homosexual practices. At this time, our society is not too far removed from condemnation of homosexual acts to render the religiously expressed viewpoint so far out of bounds as to be completely prohibited in a school setting--where a primary societal duty of a school is to promote civility and tolerance.

Phew! Off to work today!


Friday, April 21, 2006

Tinker and Gay Rights

I'm off to a deposition this morning and have been super busy at work this week. Here is Eugene Volokh, however, on a decision involving the school district in which I live.

It's a doozy of a fact pattern: A high schooler, apparently opposed to homosexuality, wears a t-shirt that says in part "homosexuality is shameful" and that homosexuality is against God. No profanity is on the t-shirt nor does it advocate violence against homosexuals. The student wears the t-shirt during a time when the student gay alliance group is having a "day of silence" semi-protest or awareness event. The school policy prohibits harassment on the basis of religion, sex, race, and sexual orientation.

So, when the school says the high schooler has to take off the t-shirt or face detention, etc., is the high schooler within his First Amendment rights--or does the school policy prevail? The 9th Circuit held the student's First Amendment rights were overruled by the school's inherent right to protect other student's from a hostile environment while they are in school.

As someone who loved, in my youth, the Tinker decision, cited at some length in the majority and minority opinions, I am very sympathetic to Kosinski's dissent and yet, like Kosinski, I share concerns about the scope of Tinker, as I, too, have finally (or is it quickly?) reached middle age.

The problem with this decision is that too many of us "breeders" are simply uncomfortable with homosexuality. Before you scream "free speech," imagine this scenario: High schoolers in history class are learning about the topic of the Holocaust against Jews by the Nazis in World War II. While the discussion is on-going for say, two days, on the second day, a high schooler comes in with a t-shirt that says "Long Live Hitler" or better yet "Hitler should have been allowed to finish the job" and wears a Nazi armband. Bad taste or disruptive and oppressive to Jewish kids in the class?

Do we have to let courts make a distinction about how far a t-shirt can go in terms of advocating oppression or even violence against a particular minority group before we ban it and punish the high schooler who refuses to take off the shirt while at the school grounds? If so, we're really asking the court to do too much micro-supervision--or maybe not.

I agree with a couple of commenters so far at the Volokh web log site that perhaps this is an excellent case for the Supreme Court of the US to trim the sails of the Tinker case. Tinker, by the way, held the First Amendment allowed students to wear black armbands that the students said was a protest against the Vietnam War. Yes, some high schoolers who had Dads (or more rarely, Moms) serving in Vietnam could have been offended, but one could be against the War and in favor of soldiers fighting there--despite some modern right-wingers who still don't get that.

Still, this decision regarding the Poway School District is one I will analyze further this weekend. And so far, I'm forced by Tinker to allow the high schooler to wear the t-shirt (and would probably give freer reign to the high schooler wearing the pro-Hitler t-shirt). However, from a pedagological viewpoint, and the fact that schools (non-college) are more likely to be considered less than full free speech zones, I am wondering at the continued validity of a broad reading of the Tinker decision. This is especially so, based upon other decisions in recent years, including the banning of Confederate flags at schools with a predominately African-American population (noted in both the majority and minority decisions).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Losing theologians who had compassion and wisdom

In the past week, we've lost two activist theologians who, in the parlance of the mid-20th Century, spoke truth to power and stood with those who were most vulnerable in society.

Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg died yesterday at the age of 84. He was a great analyst of public affairs, a scholar and teacher, and a thoughtful activist. Here is an article Hertzberg wrote in 1987, published in the New York Review of Books, that makes for enlightening, if poignant reading today.

The Reverend William Sloan Coffin died last week at the age of 81. Unlike the more scholarly Hertzberg, Coffin was more at home behind a microphone and was a force at street demonstrations. Coffin was a powerful voice in a media driven age and will be missed.

Neither man was perfect, of course--and would be startled and unhappy that anyone thought them perfect. But each man was worthy of a hearing wherever they were and whenever they spoke. When we reflect upon each man's life's work and deeds, we know one thing: Had the leaders of our nation heeded their counsel and wisdom on more ocassions, we'd be a stronger, more just nation today.

Monday, April 17, 2006

It's worse than we think...?

First, I wrote about Israel provoking Hamas into war. Then, came the statement from a retired US Colonel who took part in US war games against Iran who says the Terrible President and Even Worse Vice President have already decided to go to war against Iran.

This morning, after Israel's military and diplomatic provocations, came the predictable suicide bomber, from a different group than Hamas--with Hamas maintaining the cease-fire it has had for almost a year. Yes, Hamas' spokesperson said he understood the reason for the retaliation, but that is far different than actually doing the deed.

But Israel, still acting with provocation, says the following in this afternoon's AP article:

"After Hamas defended a deadly suicide bombing Monday, Israel's U.N. ambassador warned that recent statements by the Palestinian government, Iran and Syria 'are clear declarations of war, and I urge each and every one of you to listen carefully and take them at face value.' (Emphasis added)

"Ambassador Dan Gillerman cautioned that a new 'axis of terror'—Iran, Syria and the Hamas-run Palestinian government — was sowing the seeds of the first world war of the 21st century. (Emphasis added, again) (MJF inner comment: What? Syria? I mean it: WHAT?)

"'A dark cloud is looming above our region, and it is metastasizing as a result of the statements and actions by leaders of Iran, Syria, and the newly elected government of the Palestinian Authority,' he said."


"Israel said it held Hamas responsible for the attack in Tel Aviv even though a separate group, Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility. Islamic Jihad has close ties to Israel's archenemy, Iran." (MJF comment: Huh? Is this spokesperson for Israel off his rocker to hold Hamas responsible?)

So what does all of this mean? I hate to say it, but this is what I think it means:

The US government has decided to attack Iran. It's a done deal. Israel, like presumably Saudi Arabia, knows this and has been told by the US that there is no choice but to follow along. Israel is following along. Therefore, it has also decided to provoke Hamas, knowing that Iran has continued to support Hamas. Thus, Israel will attempt to take advantage of the situation the US is creating such that, by having a formal war with a Hamas-led government in Gaza and the West Bank, Israel's government can displace and even kill far more civilians than it can in the gray zone of attacking terrorists who live among civilians. Another "catastrophe" for the Palestinians may be looming if the Hamas decides to take Israel up on this war. Hamas should be organizing people's marches right now because it can't win a war against the strong military machine that the Israelis have. But the virgins in Heaven may prove as powerful an illusion as the Ghost Dances did for the Native Americans in the late stages of the US wars against the Natives in the late 19th Century. For years, I've said this is the most analagous situation to the fight between Palestinians and Israelis and the analogy continues to hold--though the Israelis have not engaged in the wholesale massacres the US government did during the 19th Century.

I can't believe I'm writing this, but this is how it looks when I analyze the timing and statements of the past few days. I hope I'm just overreacting to the coincidence of these statements and events, but it does not look good for the US or Israel, let alone Iran or the Palestinians.

Bush's motives are the worst possible motives. Short term political gain, creating fear in our nation to justify more power for the Republican Party. Israel's government appears to have equally base motives. They simply don't want a moderating Hamas that would agree to recognize Israel and have to give up any true power in the Gaza or West Bank.

If someone can tell me I'm wrong, I'll say this: Let's hope my current sense is wrong. But these statements from Israel this afternoon are needlessly provocative and almost apocalyptic. Why such language unless the Israeli government knows a massive US bombing campaign against Iran is imminent?


Israeli and Palestinian mutual policy of retaliation

As I posted last week, the Israeli government decided to bomb a couple of Palestinian camps and renounce any intention to deal with Hamas--just at the moment Hamas was having an internal dispute to recognize Israel and enter into peace negotiations.

The last paragraph of my post said:

"The election of Hamas has given Hamas a choice of peace or war. What the Isreaelis are doing is forcing Hamas into war. But who in the US media will denounce these acts by the Israeli government? Chances are nobody will. But we can bet the next suicide bombing will be covered and we will hear people in the US say 'Those Arabs just don't want peace, do they?'"

Today, there was a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, but Hamas, at least officially, did not perpetrate it. It was from yet another terrorist group that has sprung up. While President Abbas denounced the suicide bombing as terrorism, Hamas, which has been observing a cease fire since February 2005, said:

"'We think that this operation ... is a direct result of the policy of the occupation and the brutal aggression and siege committed against our people,' said Khaled Abu Helal, spokesman for the Hamas-led Interior Ministry."

This is why both sides must renounce the policy of retaliation. Hamas' verbal justification for the suicide bombing is obviously a direct result of the Israeli government's provocations last week.

On the other hand, and this is vital for Palestinians: The provocation bombing-suicide bombing is why the Palestinian leadership must adopt a Martin Luther King-Ghandi type of approach. March for dignity and freedom. Don't bomb when you are outgunned. If Palestinians must die, let them die for peace, not more war and retaliation. March--and if the Israeli government acts like the infamous Sheriff "Bull" Connor in response, such a response won't last long as a majority of Israelis will support peaceful efforts on the part of Palestinians. Think about how much more the Palestinians would have gained had they used the King-Ghandi approach against the Israeli government's occupation and oppression starting in the late 1980s, for example.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Col. Gardiner tells me, "Whoa, pardner!"--and he's correct

Retired Colonel Gardiner explains in this CNN clip from that there are 20 different military sites throughout Iran that the US would have to hit--and we can't just leave because the Iranians have lots of ways to retaliate. We'd have to overthrow the government and then, of course, I can fill in the blanks and note that the ones in Iran with the guns become the first insurgents. Oh boy. Col. Gardiner certainly is persuasive.

Worse, he says, reaffirming the great Sy Hersh's likely spot-on reporting in the New Yorker, the administration of the Terrible President and Even Worse Vice President have already made the military decision to attack Iran. Double oh boy. And a big gulp. The Terrible President and Even Worse Vice President will do anything to create fear, provoke crises and use the fear and crisis situation to aggrandize more power to themselves and their corrupt colleagues in the Congress.

It took less than 24 hours for me to say, you know, the best of the worst policy choices is diplomacy and engagment with the people of Iran, in order to help their nation moderate itself away from fundamentalist theocracy. Sigh. Bush and Cheney sure messed this up, didn't they? Can't people see that four years ago, we were better off staying focused on bin Laden and Al Queda and, if we wanted to get tough with any particular nation in that region, it would have been to help dissidents in Iran?

Mostly irrelevant final comment: I was in Costco today and checked out their book section, as I usually do. And guess what I found there? Noam Chomsky's newest book, "Failed States" (Metropolitan Books, 2005). And instead of $24.95, it was $14.49. Of course, I bought it. Ever since Costco began stocking books, it has been constantly improving the seriousness of its book selections. By stocking Chomsky, they have reached a new level of seriousness and hopefully, people will take the time to at least read part of Chomsky's work, as opposed to getting their opinion of him from some shallow right-winger. The peace movement was surprisingly strong, but not strong enough, against the build-up to the Iraq War II. Maybe, this time, with Costco stocking Chomsky, and most Americans realizing what screw-ups and liars are leading our nation right now, the peace movement will be strong enough to stop this next level of insanity.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Now that the Terrible President is finally focused on Iran...

I'm reading lots of stuff the past two weeks about Iran. Back in 2002, when the country began its media enhanced hysteria over Iraq, I kept saying, among other things, "It's Iran, not Iraq, we as a nation should be worried about..." And, of course, to no avail--and worse, being told I "hated America" for not succumbing to that hysteria.

Anyway, here are my tentative thoughts as to what I would like to see with respect to Iran:

1. Impeach and convict Bush and Cheney. Really. Why, you ask? Because they are incompetent. And when not incompetent they are liars, delusional and just plain bad administrators who have shown they are both dangerous and stupid with respect to our nation's security and best values. And the Republican Congress has indeed been a "rubber stamp" and closing its ears to what is obvious to nearly 70% of the nation.

2. Bombing Iran's nuclear facilities: If the US can bomb Iran's nuclear facilities the way the Israelis did in 1981, such a response might be most effective. That ought to get my pacifist readers screaming, but I have never been a pacifist. Does anyone think the current Iranian president is not interested in using nuclear weapons once he gains possession of them? And please, this is not about Israel. I'd say this if Iran's president was saying this about England or France (though I bet most Republican pundits would be supporting the Iranians nuking France, wouldn't they?). Oh, by the way, before we get too haughty as a nation, remember that Harry Truman used nukes, too--and don't get me started about whether he was even remotely thinking about saving the lives of American troops, either.

3. If, however, bombing Iran's nuclear facilities is futile because Iran has "hardened" facilities that are buried deep under the ground (and Bush's plan to use so-called "tactical" nukes is definitely nuts), then the US should probably seek diplomacy and engagement with Iran as a nation where those who are tired of the leadership may have an opportunity to assert themselves. Before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was a strong a movement away from the power of the mullahs in Iran. It's been largely pushed underground--something the US proponents of the Iraq War II told us was not going to happen. We can begin a program of "trust, but verify"* where we send in inspectors and test the truth of the statements of the Foreign Minister of Iran. And with the current dissent and protests happening inside Iran, this may be a good time for diplomacy rahter than pushing for war. The one thing the current occupants of the White House don't get, that even Reagan understood, was an understanding of timing within diplomacy and policy-making. The Terrible President and Even Worse Vice President remain wedded to ideology and a political cynicism geared toward short-term domestic politics that would make Richard Nixon blush.

4. Is there another military solution besides bombing the facility and diplomacy? Well, not if our nation continues to keep its troops holed up in Iraq. Even the Iranian military understands this. But let's say we began an immediate pullout of Iraq and sent our troops to Europe at least to rest up. What else could we be doing? If I was part of the US leadership inner circle, I would ask our military leaders to analyze the military feasibility of the following: A relatively fast dash into Iran where our soliders, guns blazing, enter the nuclear facilities, and with the air force strafing and providing some cover, destroy the facilities. Then, when finished, get the heck out. No occupation. Just leave. If that was militarily feasible, I'd then want to look at the expected casualties among the Iranian people and destruction to Iran's buildings and water systems, if any. I think it is important at this point to note that the Iranian people appear to be rather pro-American, if not pro-US leadership. And again, the latest dissident activities inside Iran may be what is causing their president to use Jew-baiting as a cornerstone of his thinking--you know, kind of the way the Terrible President uses cloning, homosexual marriage, and euthanasia to keep his flocks diverted.

If, however, our nation chose this alternative military route, our nation must agree to pay significant monetary compensation to Iran and through international groups that would be obviously be going to Iran (such as Doctors Without Borders and the Red Crescent). Why? Because it's only right to pay such compensation if the reason for destroying the nuclear facilities was to stop the current Iranian leadership from gaining nukes.

Despite my thoughts about #4, I'm still leaning toward diplomacy and engagement and I'm still convinced that if the current White House occupants undertook anything of the nature of #2 and especially #4, they will likely be incompetent in executing such military policies. Too often, the current White House leadership have shown they will follow their own short term, political judgment--and ignore the more reasoned judgment of military leaders who need to have some discretion as to executing a war.

Finally, I am less than certain about what to do with Iran no matter how confident my prose reads. I do know how much I detest Iran's current leader and much of the current Iranian leadership that sustains him. What I don't know quite yet is what are the real options besides diplomacy--or if now is the very time for diplomacy due to Iran obviously starting to have some internal uprisings and the Iranian leadership using anti-Semitism to justify its existence. What I do know is that the loss of four years by the bumbling, dangerous US leadership with respect to Iran, particularly with the depletion of our nation's good will immediately following 9/11/01, the loss of military morale, the exhausted state of many of our soldiers, among other factors, appears to have had significant consequences in limiting our nation's and the world's options.

* Yes, I hate it too when I quote Ronald Wilson Reagan ("Mr. 666") in any remotely positive way. I will never forgive Reagan for his Central American policies, for starters.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Busby gets 43.92% (minus absentees)

Francine Busby, the Democrat running for the now-open seat once held by the Father of the Bribe, received 43.92% of the vote yesterday. Not enough to win outright (she needed 50% plus one vote).

She'll run against Brian Bilbray, who is not seen as right wing enough for certain folks in the Republican camp--and his status as a "lobbyist" isn't probably the best profession to have right now when running for office. Note, however, in the comments section of the link provided that others recognize Bilbray stands an excellent chance of winning a close election due to the high Republican voter registration lead in the district--a district tailor made for Republicans by the compromise reached between incumbents in both the Dem and Reep parties in our State's legislature. However, Busby's chances of winning are better than most would have predicted even a few months ago--and frankly, quite good.

See here for final tally. See here for MyDD's commentary, which is pretty spot on. I agree with Atrios that 130,000 voters is not a good turnout, though I hate to say it is better than other special elections.

If I was advising Busby, I'd say focus on populist themes, starting with the bad trade deals and illegal immigration. Then, I'd hit hard with the Iraq War II screw-up by the Terrible (and very unpopular) President, particularly since Camp Pendleton, the closest military base, has one of the highest casualty rates of any base fighting the Iraq War II. Yes, it's a risk. But, really, straight talk is what she needs to put her over 50%. And that's what people want to know, especially from a candidate who identifies him- or herself as a Democrat.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dean Baker's new blog is a must link

Dean Baker has a new blog called "Beat the Press." Baker is a truly great economist who possesses both common sense and knowledge about sociology, history and public policy. That is a rare trait among economists, most of whom are idiots wedded to naive metric models and whoring for the pro-corporate status quo.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Early Monday morning reading...

Didn't get onto the computer last evening. So, here are a few articles of interest I noted this morning:

1. A review of a book that forces us to consider how the filet got to our plates and the societal implications of changing the method of farming.

2. Henry Seigman's thoughtful article about the potential opportunity Israel has if Hamas continues its internal argument over whether to come to a table seeking peace, not war and terror.

3. John Gray, an old Tory in England, who is now finding he better understands William Morris and William Blake, and their lefty biographer EP Thompson, writes about the often delusionary supporters of global trade dictated by international corporations. It is a nice primer that connects environmental issues to trade issues in addition to showing there was more movement of humans across national boundaries before WW I than today. However, the article falls short in its failure to recognize that nations need to develop with a combination of mass transit (to lessen fossil fuel use) and through internal wage and port's edge tariff policies that will more evenly spread wealth created from manufacturing goods and the subsequent creation of a service economy. This alterntative strategy is a far better strategy to create the internal stability that may lead to less warfare than the push, for the past 55 years, for "one crop shop" economies so favored by the modern purveyors of the 19th Century trade and market advocate, David Ricardo.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Rick Perlstein has a new web site

Rick Perlstein, who has written the definitive book on the rise of the New Right from the ashes of the 1964 Goldwater defeat, has a new web site up. Check it out.

UPDATE: Or maybe not. It appears to be down. It was working before...

UPDATE II: It's back up. Check out his articles, starting with the one where he describes his appearance at a pro-Republican panel. A fascinating read.

An example of when Israeli leadership does not want peace

Abba Eban, the great Israeli diplomat, coined the phrase that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. However, this applies to the Israeli government as well over the years. Examples of this include the invasion of Lebanon, the continued building of settlements, the diversion of water wells away from Palestinians villages and other actions. Here we have the latest example:

First, there is hope that Hamas might actually present a peace plan. Hamas' leadership, however, is not quite ready, so it offers a continuation of a ceasefire.

This is welcome news, right? Well, here is the Israeli response to these developments:

1. "Israeli air strike in Gaza kills six";

2. And then the Israelis follow up with more attacks here.

3. And here, we find that the Israelis are claiming they are responding to a ultimately ineffective rocket attack from the Gaza area--but it was not from Hamas. It was from a splinter group of Al-Fatah, known as the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Yet, note the article says the Israeli attacks are directed at...Hamas members. Plus, the earlier attack was against an umbrella group of Palestinians militant organizations. Again, here is what President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has told the reporter:

"Abbas, meanwhile, said Hamas has started to realize after just a week in power that it cannot govern without the world's recognition, but it is still grappling with the international community's demands that it moderate its positions."

4. And, now, this morning, the Israeli Security Cabinet has called for complete cutting of any ties with the Palestinian governing body.

The election of Hamas has given Hamas a choice of peace or war. What the Isreaelis are doing is forcing Hamas into war. But who in the US media will denounce these acts by the Israeli government? Chances are nobody will. But we can bet the next suicide bombing will be covered and we will hear people in the US say "Those Arabs just don't want peace, do they?"


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Impeach the Terrible President and Mr. Other Priorities

Another fundamental lie from the President. And this was not an ordinary leak having to do with policy. This was a leak designed to place at risk a CIA agent. This was a leak designed to hurt the spouse of someone who was a critic of the President's policy.

When one looks back at the President's statements on this subject, the ease of his lying and depth of his lies become overwhelming.

We can also bet, before this is over, that the Vice President is in up to his eyeballs in the orchestration of this cover up as well. UPDATE: The noose gets a little tighter around the Vice President already...

How leading Democrats can say they won't even censure these two guys is beyond belief. If this was a Democratic executive administration, the president and vice president would have to wear flak jackets in public because far right loonies, egged on by hateful right wing talk radio, would be gunning for them. "How dare they expose a CIA agent to protect their lies about this war?!?" I will never forget, for example, Ann Coulter's infamous statement about Clinton that the only two choices were "assassination" or "impeachment."

Fortunately for the President and Vice President, those of us who are considered left-wing or even liberal, merely want to impeach them.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Republican Congress lies, corruption and undermining of US workers

Republicans in Congress say they want to keep the federal government small and let States make decisions. Here is one more example of why that is not really a principle of such Republicans.

The real principle is this: We Republicans take money from powerful corporate lobbyists and promote legislation that helps those corporations at the expense of everyone else.

And let's not rejoice over the new Republican "solution" on Capitol Hill to "illegal immigration" ("Thanks, leading Dems," as Eric Alterman refuses to say, for supporting this monstrosity). The new legislation tentatively agreed to yesterday is what Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria calls "the European solution," which is essentially a "guest worker" program--which codifies the use of foreign workers to lower wages for physical labor positions and treats the non-citizen as a "second class" citizen. In Europe, which provides a more generous social contract for its citizens, that has led the citizens in those nations, on a slightly higher scale than US citizens, to not accept lower paying jobs. In the US, where the social contract with citizens has been frayed, a guest worker program will simply lower wages and increase the income gap between the top 5% and the rest of the nation.

As Zakaria eloquently wrote:

"The United States has a real problem with illegal-immigrant flows, largely from Mexico (70 percent of illegal immigrants are from that one country). But let us understand the forces at work here. 'The income gap between the United States and Mexico is the largest between any two contiguous countries in the world,' writes Stanford historian David Kennedy. That huge disparity is producing massive demand in the United States and massive supply from Mexico and Central America. Whenever governments try to come between these two forces—think of drugs—simply increasing enforcement does not work. Tighter border control is an excellent idea, but to work it will have to be coupled with some recognition of the laws of supply and demand—that is, it will have to include expansion of the legal-immigrant pool.

"Beyond the purely economic issue, however, there is the much deeper one that defines America—to itself, to its immigrants and to the world. How do we want to treat those who are already in this country, working and living with us? How do we want to treat those who come in on visas or guest permits? These people must have some hope, some reasonable path to becoming Americans. Otherwise we are sending a signal that there are groups of people who are somehow unfit to be Americans, that these newcomers are not really welcomed and that what we want are workers, not potential citizens. And we will end up with immigrants who have similarly cold feelings about America."

And if we think deporting someone who committed a crime in the US back to the nation in which they were born is less punitive than placing them in a US prison, think again here.

The Five in One plan represents the most effective policy to stop this winking and nodding and then wrongful blaming of the immigrant without the proper paperwork.

UPDATE: A little ray of hope. Enough Democrats started to realize the illegal immigrant bill was a victory for cigar chomping rich Republicans. The bill is no longer considered even a tentatively done deal. Let's hope the guest worker program is permanently shelved, though I don't have much hope of that, either.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

My cousin Jenna, the radical librarian

In an admittedly shameless promotion of my family, here is an article about my cousin Jenna Freedman, a self-identified radical librarian who is the keeper of often non-commercial magazines known as 'zines.

Jenna is a brilliant, witty person who makes a positive impact, culture and society wise, wherever she works. Identifying and maintaining the 'zines will in fact become an important historical collection for anyone wanting to understand our time. Ironically, such praise embarrasses her more than the fact that my Mom doesn't like her blue hair (and, as I now have children, neither do I!)--as shown in the photo.

I should also mention that Jenna is a co-founder of Radical Reference, an on-line information and community website that includes a protestor's "kit" for effectively protesting, avoiding arrest, or if arrested, knowing your rights. The web site was originally created for those who were on the outside (and those who thought about sneaking into the inside) of the Republican National Convention held in NYC in 2004. However, it continues to grow as things often do on the world wide web.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Kevin Drum says it so I don't have to...

Kevin, over at the Washington Monthly, has two short, brilliantly insightful posts today:

One post concerns the fact that 70% of the money saved through eliminating the dividend tax went to 2% of the tax filers--the top 2%. I wonder what the Terrible President's supposed hero, Jesus, thinks about that policy.

The other post reveals why the Terrible President is misleading the nation--again--about his supposed determination to spread democracy. I've noted the Terrible President's lack of commitment to the values of open, freedom-oriented governments here and in comments elsewhere. However, Kevin provides a nice, compact analysis that is worth bookmarking and sending to any remaining friends we have who still believe the Terrible President invaded Iraq in order to promote "democracy" in the Middle East or elsewhere.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Sunday night reading

This evening we find:

1. A thoughtful article about the sociology of religion in Europe, but with an understanding that the same or highly similar arguments reverberate around the world and through today. If you find this article one that does stoke further wonder and thoughts, I recommend one of the most profound meditations on the subject I have ever read, which is the late Michael Harrington's "The Politics at God's Funeral" (Henry Holt, 1983). Harrington's thesis is that we all live with doubt and the ones who call themselves fundamentalist have so much hate and anger because they, too, understand the doubt--but hate to admit it. It is worth the read because Harrington brings such a diverse range of sources among secular and religious thinkers through the centuries and helps us see both religious and secularist impulses in different ways, while reaching a new understanding of both--and how to live with both simultaneously. Another book that blends into Harrington's book is Daniel Bell's brilliant work, "The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism" (Reissue, HarperCollins, 1996). Ah, rapture!

2. Garry Wills, one of our nation's most insightful historians, reviews the final book of the trilogy of Martin Luther King's impact upon the 1960s and American history. A lengthy article, but a primer designed to help us understand the cross-currents of that decade--and how to harness its best achievements and values as we move deeper into this new century.

3. And speaking of the 1960s, Ian Buruma, a historian of international culture and history who knows more about various individual nations than most domestic minded historians within those nations, writes an intriguing article on R. Crumb, the artist most associated with the despair and degredation of the best hopes and values of the 1960s. I do have a slight dissent from Burama's analysis of Crumb's work, however. Despite Burmua's brilliant comparison of Crumb's work with that of (some warning to sensitive persons) George Grosz, R. Crumb was more often a "dirty-minded" all-American boy of the repressed 1950s who kept all that repressed, misogynist baggage--while taking dope and engaging in sexual promiscuity--while defining a certain, unlamented element of the 1960s and 1970s in the USA. There is also the element of the 1950s hipster in Crumbs' drawings and dialogues, which also has, ahem, a misogynist element, what Barbara Ehrenreich correctly labeled as "The Playboy Culture." I still love Crumb's work (well, at least half of it, anyway), as well as Gilbert Shelton's now classic "Adventures of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers." The Freak Brothers have held up for me because Shelton is quite clear about the consequences of too many people acting like the Freak Brothers and how the "Brothers" are ultimately self-destructive. His work is enjoyable to read, and view, because there is a long, strange and very funny trip along the way.