Hello, World!

Time flies when you’re having fun.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

It seems like years since I posted (even though it’s only been a bit over a month). A lot has happened in the world – both mine, and the planet at large.

Just before the election, I became just another Bureau of Labor statistic. I was laid off. It hasn’t been an easy thing, especially for someone like me who has been living on the financial edge for quite some time. Unemployment insurance doesn’t begin to cover basic expenses – so scrambling and hustling become the order of the day. My current situation doesn’t leave much time or energy for blogging.

That being said, I’m hoping that my muse has returned. I’m indebted to Steve for carrying the load as long as he did in my absence – and I’m sure that he’ll return shortly. One thing that happened shortly after the election is that a fatigue set in for many progressive bloggers. We’ve been pounding the keyboards for so long, spilling our guts and our passion for the causes that drive us, that once the dust had settled, an emotional exhaustion set in.

But I’m finally feeling the energy of a new day that dawns tomorrow.

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, on a whole lot of levels.

This could be interesting.

Or not.

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 by Richard Blair |
Category: Meta

The Clown is Dead. Long Live the Clown.

Larry Harmon died today. The passing of cultural icons that define our formative years also serve as mileposts in our own lives. Even so, I won’t be missing Bozo very much.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Bozo the ClownI never liked clowns. In fact, growing up, clowns scared the shit out of me for some odd reason. Maybe it was a John Wayne Gacy thing. I never saw clowns as funny. For some reason, I viewed them as threatening. Maybe it’s the makeup. I dunno. More than likely that’s why I never enjoyed the circus as a kid.

My antipathy toward clowns has mellowed over the years, though, and I suppose that’s why I really enjoy any Simpson’s episodes in which Krusty the Klown plays a prominent role. (I’m sure that a shrink could dissect the whole thing for me.)

Anyway, Bozo died today.

There’s not much of a personal need for me to mark the passing of a clown. I had no ties to or fond memories of Bozo, even though he was a cultural icon during my formative years. Then again, maybe that’s the only reason that Larry Harmon’s death resonates with me just a bit.

I lost my own mother and father within six months of each other. The anchors from our childhood years leave us faster than we’d like. From a melancholia perspective, it’s probably more of a sense that with each passing, I’m closer to my own mortality. So even though I have no direct connection to Bozo, in a sense, I do. Everyone in my generation does.

For the most part, those of us in my age demographic are now the next in line for the grim reaper’s scythe.

It’s depressing sometimes. At other times, it’s liberating. All in all, I try not to dwell on it too much.

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008 by Richard Blair |
Category: Meta

Does It Get Any Worse? 57,000 Lbs. of Chicken Stolen from Food Bank

I’ve heard of hot TV’s “falling off of the back of trucks”, but never frozen chickens. Over this past weekend, someone stole 57,000 lbs of frozen chicken (and two tractor trailer rigs) from the Food Bank of Delaware. Does it get any lower than that?

Commentary By: Richard Blair

In one of my previous life incarnations, I managed the logistics operations at an inner city food bank. I’ve written about hunger issues on ASZ many, many times, and yes, it’s personal to me. So when this story came to my attention (from a former associate), it bothered me on a whole lot of levels, because I frequently dealt with the food bank that’s involved in the story…

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Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

RIP, Hippy Dippy Weatherman – a Personal Remembrance

A comedic great died yesterday. My first introduction to George Carlin was way back in the early 1970′s. One spring afternoon, he rocked my world and opened my eyes with his biting social commentary. Every since, I don’t think I’ve viewed the world around me in quite the same way.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

George Carlin

“When you’re born, you get a ticket to the freak show. When you’re born in America, you get a front-row seat.”

–George Carlin

As a high school junior in 1971, I had never heard of George Carlin. Maybe I just led a sheltered life at the time, but I wasn’t familiar with his background as a controversial Tonight Show (Carson-era) guest host, the seven words you can’t say on TV, or any of his other schtick. All I knew is that the school I attended was hosting Carlin for a noontime show, and it didn’t cost me a thing. Talk about a hell of an assembly…

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Monday, June 23rd, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Google, Spooks, and Undercover Mil-Blogging

George Orwell was an amateur when it came to predicting the “big brotherness” of 2008. In some ways, government disinformation campaigns and the availability of personal data well exceed anything that futurists such as Orwell or Aldus Huxley could have envisioned many years ago. Personal privacy? We simply don’t have that anymore…someone, somewhere knows everything about each and every of us…or at least has access to the data.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Songwriter and artist Kevin Gilbert was apparently a born oracle. I’ve written about him before, and in particular, his song “Goodness Gracious”, which was an anthem about ten years ahead of its time:

…Goodness Gracious is there nothing left to say?
When the ones that get to keep looking
are the ones that look away
It’s pabulum for the sleepers
in the cult of brighter days


…Goodness Gracious I’m not listening anymore
Cause the spooks are in the White House
and they’ve justified a war
So wake me when they notify
we’re gonna fight some more…

Two stories popped up this morning that fill in a few more blanks with respect to the “big brother” nature of the U.S. government, and how the information around us is (or could potentially be) manipulated.

First up: Apparently, the U.S. military has figured out that bloggers carry at least some small degree of influence in public discourse. And we’re all painfully aware that the use of paid propaganda in various forums has been used (to greater or lesser effect) many times in recent U.S. political history. See: Williams, Armstrong, et.ux.

Can bloggers (or more specifically, bloggers who are, you know, actually influential) be bought? If so, what’s the price? And even more importantly, why am I not getting any of that gravy? Hmmmmph.

Next: The CIA has contracted with Google, Inc. for assistance with organizing, compiling, and sharing (internally, of course) data on known or suspected bad guys. It’s hard to tell how far that effort extends, but from the gist of the UK Times Online article, it sounds like the spooks are using Google technology for working with their own data. Still, it’s a slippery slope – I mean, google knows just about everything in my personal portfolio. Who knows what key word or tricky phrase might set off alarm bells, and trigger a download of all of my googleable personal data into the CIA’s own database?

I wonder what a futurist like George Orwell might be saying today, had he lived to see the technology revolution that has exploded in the past decade or so…

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008 by Richard Blair |

The Switzerland of the Candidate Wars

There are very few progressive websites where one can escape the candidate wars between the Clinton and Obama camps (and their supporters). The war of words has become stupid, vicious, and destructive on so many levels. ASZ strives to be a neutral site in the Dem candidate wars – simply because all of us have bigger fish to fry (and indict) once a Dem president is sworn in, whoever he or she may be.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Swiss FlagJust as a refresher, I’m the blogmaster at ASZ.

On quite a few occasions, I’ve intimated that All Spin Zone will remain neutral in the candidate wars between the Obama and Clinton campaigns, and avoid the vitriol that’s being passed between supporters of either candidate. In fact, I’m exercising a pretty strong editorial hand in ensuring that we’re able to retain a modicum of neutrality. The bottom line remains that there is a true evil among us, and this evil doesn’t carry the surname of Clinton or Obama.

Early on in the Democratic Party nominating process, the contributors to ASZ agreed to endorse Sen. John Edwards, and I’d like to think that we continue to espouse the ideals that he brought to the table, even though he’s long departed the race.

How many times can it be said that either Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama are head and shoulders above what the GOP is offering in John McCain? Over the past few months, I’ve watched as the progressive blogosphere has turned itself upside down – friendships and alliances have been torn apart – and it’s all to air grievances (to the delight of the GOP, I might add) that, in the big scheme of things, are truly minimalist. Here are a few examples of the parity between the candidates on issues that matter:

Both Obama and Clinton see the need for dramatic changes to healthcare provision in the U.S.

Check.

Both Clinton and Obama want to find an honorable (and short term) way out of the quagmire in Iraq.

Check.

Both Obama and Clinton recognize that working class Americans (irrespective of race) are being squeezed by the mortgage and credit crisis that was largely brought on by a corporatist GOP.

Check.

Both Clinton and Obama understand the necessity of increasing education opportunities for all Americans, and have pledged to increase educational funding, government supported grants, and a reduction in debt load for graduating students.

Check.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of agreement between the two candidates. I am personally conflicted that the issues which bring progressives together as a voting block can be absolutely destroyed by what I perceive (and flame me for this if you must) as petty bickering over absolute nonsense.

The GOP has taken an insider’s track this year in trying to blow up the Democratic Party nominating process. A moment’s worth of critical analysis would easily lead just about any clear thinking progressive to the conclusion that much of the discontent that is being fomented within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party has Rovian fingerprints all over it.

You say you don’t want politics as usual? Well, that’s exactly what hyperpartisanship plays into. Think about it.

I mean, there was a time in the not too distant past where I was on the fence about supporting Ron Paul. And why? Simply because Dr. Paul represented a total step change in thinking about how the country is being run. This doesn’t mean that I support the vast majority of Ron Paul’s views – to the contrary – it’s just that we can not afford another four years of congressional gridlock, internecine political in-fighting, and stagnation in addressing the core issues that confront this country.

You want real change? Someone like Ron Paul represents real change. You might not agree with him on the issues, but you have to agree that President Ron Paul would turn things upside down inside the I-495 beltway. The three candidates remaining in the major party races will not. So, don’t tell me that if you support Hillary, you support “change”. Or if you support Barack, that he’s the best change agent around. Neither is the case. Both Clinton and Obama would work within the framework of what they know: Washington politics. Both Obama and Clinton would try to bridge an unbridgable chasm between the left and right. And in the end, the proposals that both of them are backing do not ultimately represent a complete paradigm shift in the political status quo.

That being said, I’m willing to concede that either Clinton or Obama would at least get the rock moving in an uphill direction. But “change agents”? Nah. Neither of them. The real change agent would come out and say:

“I’m not thinking in terms of eight years. I’ll be lucky to finish four. There’s simply too much to repair after decades of mismanagement by a corporate sponsored Republican Party. I’m not naive enough to believe that those who oppose me in either the Democratic or Republican parties are going to be happy with my leadership. But lead, I will. And by God, I will stay true to my personal values whether popular or not, and goddamit, things are going to change. Here’s how…”

I’ve seen neither the Obama or Clinton campaign express this level of fire in the belly. Whichever candidate comes out of the nominating process as the Democratic standard bearer, they’d better be ready to adopt this radical approach. Because if they don’t, John McCain will be the next President of the United States. Hell, Dems might not even retain control of congress in such a scenario.

ASZ is not a pro-Obama or pro-Clinton site, and I’ve made that clear privately to all of the contributors to these pages, and now I’m making it publicly crystal clear to our readers. ASZ is a site dedicated to exposure of a criminal, corporatist-owned, war mongering, sexually hypocritical Grand Old Party, and the advancement of a progressive agenda. Quite simply, this means winning: beating any Republican at the ballot box, from local dog catcher all the way up the ticket to President of the United States.

Anyone not behind this single-minded cause, regardless of who the Dem nominee happens to be, deserves whatever they get on the back end.

Cripes, I don’t even want to think about it.

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

In Defense of Discomfort and Despair

Lately I have been obsessed with my own comfort. I just got put in my place, and am grateful for the despair I’ve experienced.


Commentary By: somegirl

After a long absence I feel compelled to post today after coming across an amazing post on a site I’d never been to before. Please read the whole things as it offers much wonderful food for thought. Here’s a taste:

I once had a Professor of Polish culture who was a key figure in the Polish resistance in WWII. He was captured and was dying of starvation in a prison camp at war’s end, a skeleton, ill, terrorized, barely alive. The American government brought him to the USA where he had important things to do concerning New Europe. He was put up in a hotel in New York. It was ironic, he told me, that only six weeks later, he was complaining to the laundry about how they did his shirts.

It’s bizarre, he would have said, that we spend most of our lives in search of the pleasure of comfort and ease, convinced that happiness lies there. The truth is, comfort saps your real strength. Ease is treacherous and steals your ingenuity. The devilish pair robs your intuition and dulls your vision. I have in mind also metaphysical comfort and ease, not only natural human desires for creature comforts which in practice, as we all know, are never enough.

Yesterday, I read a post on Think Progress that really pissed me off. The comments really got me riled as they showed such ignorance, and lack of caring for veterans of the Iraqi occupation with traumatic brain injuries, which it’s now estimated is a full 20% of them, a staggering statistic. The big joke was the term “mild traumatic brain injury.” As in haha it’s an oxymoron, how can it be mild and traumatic? As someone who has struggled daily with this condition for nine years, I just want to say it’s no joke.

Last night, seeing as it was meta weekend at ASZ, I was ready to list all the ways my functioning has changed and how the world has wronged me, but after reading “The Twin Evils of Comfort and Despair” my tune is changing a little. I know I am very lucky to have almost hit 40 when the life changing event of my brain injury occurred, but at the same time, it also propelled me into a whole new reality I was totally unprepared for, leading to isolation and depths of despair I had never known before. (Not that I was ever from the happy school, but this was a whole new level.)

The election of GW Bush the following year, the disintegration of our economy along with the our constitution, and the rise of fascism, American-style, have contributed heavily to my despair over the past several years. I tried to make my home in a couple other countries, but couldn’t find anything that quite worked. I have lived in alternating terror (for my own security) and exhilaration over the thought of economic collapse in the good ol’ USA because I see it as the only way out of the debt-ridden consumer culture that is quietly destroying the hearts and souls of individuals, and sucking them from the earth as a whole. I fantasize about revolution, wondering if it could bring true purpose back into my life.

And I consider this:

Psychologists instruct us that there are only four things that people really need for their happiness: a feeling of security, a feeling of belongingness to a group, a feeling that people have affection for them, and the respect and esteem of others. That’s it. Basic needs are quite simple.

I once was highly organized and able to successfully manage people in a high stress, creative environment. When I lost many of the innate abilities I depended on my entire life, I felt for a long time that I lost the things mentioned above, even the ability to feel those things. I have found the search for meaning in my life since then to be a grueling, totally unwanted struggle most of the time, and have spent an awful lot of time bemoaning my fate, all the while knowing that I still have it so much better than most people in this world. Still, we tend to focus on what we do not have. Perhaps it is just human nature, but it seems to me sometimes that we have built an entire society as a testament to that. What a waste.

Today I find hope in these words:

The much-pursued pair of comfort and ease removes and alienates us even more from reality. Comfort and ease is a golden cage. Retreat into the beguiling cocoon of comfort and ease erases the possibility of communication with the rest of mankind. It is a rejection of the reality of the world and man’s place in it.

A rejection of comfort and ease as a life goal is to choose truth over lie. It is to choose the way of extremism, of opposition to the lie. There are periods when truth exists more easily. There are other periods, mendacious and ugly periods, when truth rings seditious, subversive, revolutionary, when it however shines in its extremism.

In my mind, comfort and ease as a goal reflect anti-reality, anti-man, anti-life. For to live life, you have to accept and live with reality–in the desperation and despair it provokes. You have to learn to live without illusions. That is unpleasant at first. Uncomfortable. Uneasy. But, we can learn.

Monday, January 21st, 2008 by somegirl |

When We Walked Together

Think this is going to be another post about how “we were one” on 9/11/2001?

Nope. Because we walked together long before that – 25 years ago yesterday.

Were you around when Jim Craig draped the American flag over his shoulders and searched for his dad in the crowd? When Mike Eruzione hoisted a young group of amateur overachievers on his broad shoulders and made us believe?

America walked together on 2/22/1980. You didn’t need to be a hockey fan, or liberal, or conservative…you just needed to believe in miracles. It was a truly joyous occasion to walk together, not a temporary “unity of convenience” in the face of unexpected disaster.

The tears that were spilled came from the unbridled joy of victory over impossible odds, rather than the anguish of national peril.

And no, Dorothy — no amount of clicking the heels on those ruby-red shoes is going to take you home again.

Gawddam, I’m getting old.

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005 by Richard Blair |
Category: Meta