Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Phonehenge West

The latest stir on the Internets concerns some poor post-hippie wackadoodle in rural California, in Antelope Valley just over the hills from LA, who started building his home -- which he calls Phonehenge West -- some 30 years ago using recycled materials, including creosote-soaked telephone poles and now it's an affront to his American values of freedom and independence when the county wants him to tear it down.

The county says it's not up to code. Not that he cares, since he didn't bother to get a building permit when he started the whole thing.

Now I'm all for individual initiative and all that when it comes to architectural design and personal dwelling space -- I mean really, how boring is your ordinary suburb, your run of the mill housing tract? But those building codes are there for a reason, and that reason concerns safety for the inhabitants and their visitors.

It's not a government plot, despite what commenters are saying in various blogs and websites about the house, including this one at Home Design Dot Com, which also has a bunch of pictures of the house and its owner.

I would guess that fire is likely the chief concern of the county, since creosote-soaked telephone poles go off like Roman candles once they catch fire. If you were trapped on the top floor of this monster, you'd be dead before you could even think of escaping. Plus the slow leaching of chemicals into the immediate environment, i.e. the inside of your home, which also can't be good for you.

Oh, and he's also whining about not being able to drill a well where he wants. He should have thought of that before he moved out there and paid $50,000 for that lot. No wonder he had to scrounge for recycled -- junk -- parts to build this thing.

I remember from my own hippie days, when everyone was into the whole back-to-the-land kick, a book called Handmade Houses: A Guide to the Woodbutcher's Art, which had a lot of smacked together houses like Phonehenge, but on a much smaller scale, and by and large they were so far out in the woods that whatever county they were in probably didn't even know they were there. If you do a Google Image Search on that title, you'll see a lot of photos of the houses.

This guy took that book's basic idea, put it on steroids with an obvious in-your-face attitude, and now is whining because he's losing his freedom.

Yeah, okay...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Well, We Survived

The rapture, I mean. Yeah, there's a big surprise.

I didn't do so well at surviving the local Democratic party fundraiser Saturday night. She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed was home ill and consequently I was there totally without adult supervision. So I ended up flashing my auction bid card as a game, just to drive the prices up (hey, it was for a worthy cause!), with no real intent to actually buy anything ... so naturally (and apparently I'm the only one who didn't see this coming) I got burnt by being the high bidder on -- get this -- a golf vacation in Palm Springs!!!

Jesus, I don't even play golf. I'm with Mark Twain and his assessment of the game: A good walk, ruined.

But that aside, it isn't good form for one to just skip out on this kind of obligation, so I have about six months to take up golf.

Yeah, like that's gonna happen... but hell, there's plenty to do in the desert besides play golf. At least I think so, and I have about six months to find a sufficient number of them and sell the idea to You-Know-Who.

BTW, on the home front, let's just say that She-Who-etc. was demonstrably less than enthusiastic about this winning bid. I won't repeat the actual words that were used by her in her eloquent expression of her "less than enthusiastic" attitude on receiving this particular bit of news, but you can use your imagination... And I'm healing up nicely now, thank you.

So, that aside, my son is out of the hospital and recuperating at home with plenty of pain pills (not nearly enough, he says) and a quart of Jack Daniels' to soothe his fevered butt, and I'm taking the Memorial Day holiday off starting a little early. Like right now.

See you next week.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fire in the Hole! Some Light Posting The Rest of the Week

My adult son (43!) is a somewhat unwilling guest of the burn center at Harborview Hospital in Seattle since Friday, the result of a an extremely bad and deep burn he received on his left butt cheek.They had to get a skin graft from his thigh and move it around onto his butt, where it's sewn on like a pocket. I told them to leave the top open and he can actually use is as a pocket. But guess what? Dermatologists really don't have much of a sense of practical humor. They're almost as bad as Neurologists, who are not a funny lot at all. Last year when I had my stroke, and I had a fully fleshed-out slurry of stoke-boy jokes, all of them funny (to me!), some that I'd even worked on for several minutes, and still got nothing. It was like telling a joke at a nursing home. Don't do it, they can't hear you (they have earls lie wet canvas) and you'll fall flat while some administration type will start creepily checking at you with rolling $ Dollar Signs in their eyes: A new victim!

Back to the story -- I told him that it's usually the other way around and they take skin off your butt to transplant elsewhere. That's why I refused the transplant route when I got my thumb cut off -- I was a state employee and didn't need a thumb that smelled like ass... But says he's a Farnsworth, and we always do stuff backwards. He's going to tell his future female companions that he got bit by a land shark. Hey, might work. Better that than what the truth will ultimately turn out to be.

So anyway, he got a bad burn on his butt cheek (he's been kind of duplicitous about the real reason he got it -- he works occasionally as a hot-tar roofer, but I don't think that was the cause of it -- I discussed it with my lunch posse last week and so I passed on to him the group consensus that the next time he feels like flaming a fart, be sure to shave the hair off his ass first since it acts like kindling) that had to be patched with replacement skin, so now I have to worry about him along with the other things I'm doing. Why parents get gray...

So he'll be in there a few days more, chasing nurses like Chico Marks and playing bedpan boogie on his fellow roommates' heads. Please send him some good thoughts his way, and I'll post when and if I can. I do want to do one Saturday night after we get home from the Democratic Party Fundraising Kennedy Dinner, if only so I can crow "Told ya so!" to the disappointed Armageddonists who are still around. "Gee Reverend Dickie, you mean I can't have your Mercedes? That's not what you told Little Lancie. You said he could have it because he was an altar boy. That's not fair. Reverend Dickie? ...Reverend Dickie??!!" Jeez, where did he go?"

--The F Man

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why I Never Got my PhD

Back in the late middle half of the last century (i.e., 1973-ish) I was actually enrolled in graduate school at a major university in California pursuing a Doctorate in English Literature. But shit happens and I didn't stay long enough in the program to even get my own grad student locking library study carrel or my own willing and nubile teaching assistant.

But I did stumble across a portion of my dissertation the other day when I was cleaning out my garage, and thought I would share it with the literary world.

It wasn't interested, so I am going to foist it off onto you. "Deconstructionism" and "Deep Structure" aren't the lucrative fields of English Literature studies they way they used to have the potential to be, so don't be alarmed if some terms don't seem familiar...

Prefatory Note: "Deconstructionism and Deep Structure Analysis" was a form of literary exegesis that had a brief but bright academic career in the early 1970s, following the publication of "The Greatest English Lyric? -- A New Reading of Joe E. Skilmer's 'Therese'", by Professor John Frederick Nims, which starts out, "I think? That I should never see..."

Deconstructing the Deep Structure of Shakespeare's Hamlet

Everyone is familiar with William Shakespeare's Hamlet -- it can fairly be said that it is his best-known play. But not many people, not even many academics, know the actual history of the composition of the play, that it was written as the result of a barroom bet made between Shakespeare and Lord Francis Notteby, the First Earl of Butterface, after a night of drinking and carousing from public house to public house in central London. The bet was whether Shakespeare could memorialize, in "deep structure", the name of his friend, the "special nature" of their friendship and their night on the town.
Notteby, for the record, was an amateur meteoroligist and later became both the combined perpetrator and ultimate victim of the now-largely-forgotten "Unfortunate Incident of the Trained Cormorant and the Bishop's Wife" (memorialized in Pitt and Pendulum's "Shakespeare's Secret Life", 1922), a scandal that resulted in his total erasure, not only from his earldom but also from any mention of his name in any current and any subsequent editions of Burke's Peerage. It was only through the accidental research of Bangor and Mashe in 1968 ("Hi Ludi F. Baconis: The Evidence of the Shaved Vellum") that the previously carefully-excised-by-barber's-razor pages were found in an old volume of Francis Bacon's notes (Bangor and Mashe, you will recall, successfully proved that William Shakespeare actually wrote all of the works of Francis Bacon, a discovery that set the academic world on its head in 1970, op cit.).
For example, a literary deconstructive/deep structure analysis of Hamlet's famous Soliloquoy (Act III Scene 1) shows a very different understanding of the Bard's intent:

Commonly known version:
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished.

"Deep Structure" interpretation (see notes below)
To beer, Notteby, data's the question;
Weather? Tis no blur in the mind, tooth suffer
The sling sand airs of Outer Regis Fortune,
Or to take arms against Stacy Ott Rubblesand
By opposing Endham. Today, to sleep,
No! More! And by a sleep-to, say "viand",
The heart, aachen, the Townsend National clocks;
That flesh is hair, too; 'tis a consummation
Devourly to be wished.

1. "To beer, Notteby" -- The two had consumed a large amount of ale during the evening.
2. "Data's the question" -- Witnesses claim that an argument had erupted in the Skink and Skank pub during the early morning as to whether facts, i.e., "data", took precedence over feelings, over intuition. It remained unresolved, apparently.
3. "Weather? Tis no blur in the mind" -- Notteby, you'll recall, was an amateur meteoroligist; weather was not responsible for blurring the mind -- the mass quantities of alcohol they consumed took care of that.
4. "tooth suffer the sling sand airs of Outer Regis Fortune" -- two years earlier Shakespeare and Notteby had taken a questionable "vacation" to the Hebrides island of Outer Regis Fortuna, an non-notable windswept outcropping in the North Sea, where the driving wind blew -- or "slung" -- coarse sand into their teeth; both men suffered painful and debilitating Scoured Tooth Syndrome for years afterward.
5. "Stacy Ott Rubblesand" -- Rubblesand was a drifter and itinerant vagabond who happened to be on the island at the same time and who, he later claimed, stumbled on the pair as they were locked in what he described as a "semi-amorous embrace" (both Shakespeare and Notteby denied it -- they were each protecting the other from the blowing sand, they claimed).
6. "By opposing Endham" -- Then as now, Greater Endham was a powerhouse in football (i.e., "soccer"), and Rubblesand had concocted a grand scheme to cheat at gambling by placing bets on the Endham Nine for Shakespeare and Notteby. The two men turned the tables on Rubblesand and bet against Endham, which drove Rubblesand into the shame of bankruptcy. Rubblesand was sometime later found dead, washed up on the coast of Scotland near Dunsinane, and local speculation was that Shakespeare and Notteby had added injury to insult by murdering him. From a careful reading ("take arms against"), this line appears to be a coded confession to the crime. Neither man was accused formally nor were they ever prosecuted except in the court of public opinion of the north shore of Scotland.
7. "Today, to sleep, No! More!" Obviously the two had been up late the night before and by the time Shakespeare wrote this, he was teetering on the edge of unconsciousness. He wants to sleep today, but won't let himself ("No!"); he must do more.
8. "And by a sleep-to" -- a sleep-to is known today as a "sleepover"; it appears that Notteby spent the night with Shakespeare, or vice versa.
9. "Say 'viand'" -- Viands = food. Calling for room service perhaps?
10. "The heart, aachen" -- Much has been made of the "Italian" side of William Shakespeare, but not so much of the "German" side; Aachen is a city in Germany less than 650 km from the southern border of Denmark; Denmark of course is the setting for Hamlet. Is Hamlet saying that he'd rather be German than Danish? Given the way things turned out for him, he'd probably have been better off.
11. "The Townsend National clocks" -- Townsend National was one of the first major banks in London, at the time famous for its four clocks facing the four cardinal points of the compass. Shakespeare and Notteby spent part of the early hours drinking in the Hart and Sole, within earshot of the famous bells of Townsend.
12. "The flesh is hair, too" -- A little known comestible in the Hart and Sole Pub was the "Hair Pie", which, unlike many oddly-named English foods (e.g., Toad in the Hole, Bubble and Squeak, Spotted Dick, et al.) is actually -- indeed, disgustingly -- physically descriptive of the dish itself.
13. "Devourly to be wished" -- A close examination of the original manuscript for Hamlet (when it was still called "Baconlet", before Shakespeare changed the name to protect his secret identity as Francis Bacon) shows the word to be "devourly", as in devour, as in eat... Clearly he wanted some Hair Pie.
[For the complete analysis of "Therese" by Joe E. Skillmer, see here.]

Sunday, May 15, 2011

End of the World: In Case You Missed the Announcement...

...this coming Saturday it's either the End of the World or it's the Rapturetm. Or something...

A couple of years ago I did a post on The Rapturetm and an outfit that will send out "post-rapture" emails on your behalf. (Sidebar: It's not my fault if you didn't take advantage of that opportunity; you were warned...)

So if the world ends this Saturday, May 21, 2011, everyone who makes it off the planet can feel free to sneer at me from wherever the fuck you end up, and let the welkin ring with your derisive laughter (I'm not sure if welkins can really ring, but I digress...).

I really don't think I'll be paying much attention to the whole thing, since that's the night of my local Democratic Party's annual fundraiser dinner, and I'll be busy wearing a coat-and-tie, stuffing my face with medium-rare steak and swilling moderately-priced wine.

Besides, I'm pretty sure that you, my regular readers, will not be taken up in the initial Rapturetm. But here's a heads-up: You've seen those bumper stickers that say "in case of rapture this car will be unmanned"? It wouldn't hurt to kind of hang out somewhere close to one of those cars. In case the owners do get ruptured raptured, if you're the first one there you can score some awesome wheels...

Don't bother thanking me -- I'm here to help.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Baby Doc Bush "Not Overjoyed"

And the hits just keep comin' at ya, folks.

Now Baby Doc has weighed in on Osama, saying that he was "not overjoyed" when Barack Obama interrupted his soufflé to tell him of the death of Bin Laden because the campaign to track down the Al Qaeda leader was not done "out of hatred, but to exact judgment."

Say what? But that's pretty typical, I guess, of the Rethugs. They do shit out of hatred, that's their only motivation, and that's all they understand in others.

Well, they got their wish as far as I'm concerned. I hate them.

Odd, isn't it, though, that Bush's reaction is pretty normal when it comes to showing emotion for the death of a close family friend. Let's not forget that Poppy Bush had a very close -- you can even say intimate -- business relationship with the whole Bin Laden family. Remember that the only exception to the nationwide "no fly" order in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 was a planefull of Bin Ladens who were allowed to leave the country.

And Baby Doc ought to be doing nip-ups over the fact that Bin Laden is dead, and therefore won't have to stand trial, where a lot of those nasty secret dealings between the two families were bound to come out.

So don't tell me that he's not secretly delighted over Bin Laden's death. This is a case of overcompensation in public, I think, for the fact that the entire Bush clan is tremendously relieved. "Not overjoyed" can mean that he's glad, but not "too glad".

Oh, and he was eating a soufflé? Elitist pig.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

In Your Fucking Dreams, Newtie

I really wish I had the confidence that Newtie G. will never get the Rethug nomination, let alone win the 2012 election, that this headline implies, but I've pretty much given up trying to understand, let alone "misunderestimate", the Moron-American Voting Bloc.

Now that Newtie G. is officially in the race, you'd think that some of his supporters -- or those who think they are supporting him because they remember hearing his name sometime and wasn't he the guy with that Contract on America thing? -- would actually look that gift horse in the mouth.

Over at Mother Jones, Tim Murphy and David Corn have put together a compilation of statements flowing from the diseased gums of the man-who-would-be-king. It's called Newt in His Own Words: 33 Years of Bomb-Throwing, wherein you'll find, among many more, these "greatest hits":

1980 On the House floor, Gingrich states, "The reality is that this country is in greater danger than at any time since 1939."
1985 Gingrich calls Reagan's upcoming meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev ''the most dangerous summit for the West since Adolf Hitler met with Chamberlain in 1938 at Munich.''
1994 He sums up his political philosophy: "People like me are what stand between us and Auschwitz. I see evil all around me every day."
Okay, enough of that. See a pattern developing here. Newt is so swept up in the events leading to WWII that he sees a Munich behind every treaty, an umbrella-toting Neville Chamberlain lurking inside every Democratic politician.

The scary thing is that this thrice-married family values fraud is probably more likely than any of his current Rethug contenders (Michelle Bachmann? Mike Huckabee? Get real.) to actually get the nomination. And if that happens, then it's just one October-surprise international-crisis black eye for the black president, and Our Hero will come galloping to the rescue.

This is some scary shit, and one more reason why I lie awake at night...

Monday, May 09, 2011

Five Rethug Myths About Medicare

Over at Buzzflash there's a list by editor Mark Karlin, Five Republican Myths About Medicare:

  1. "Medicare is socialist" (often asserted by pre-Medicare age Tea Party members and the vestige of the John Birch Society right wing).
  2. "Medicare is not run by the government, so it is not socialized" (sometimes claimed by Republican seniors, who then can argue against "socialized medicine" for the rest of Americans)
  3. "Members of Congress receive the same benefits as Medicare recipients" (occasionally used by supporters of Paul Ryan's Medicare voucher program to "prove" that Republicans in Congress will receive the same care that they are proposing for seniors).
  4. "Medicare is a waste of taxpayer dollars on the poor" (at times used by "poorly informed" Republicans, who don't know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid.)
  5. "Medicare costs can only be reduced through a voucher program" (frequently used by advocates of Ryan's budget)
Be sure to check out the whole thing for Karlin's trenchant analysis and easy refutation of these myths.

The fact that they are so easily refuted leads me to believe that the people promulgating them are cynical politicians who will go to any lengths to dupe the American voting sheep public.

And that observation is my "No-Duh!" moment for today...

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Blowback on Social Security

Okay, you all remember my post of yesterday about the Social Security tissue of lies email. Well, as I could have predicted, it produced a shitstorm of frothing at the mouth email replies, chief among them being that Snopes is run by a couple of liberal shills and you can't trust anything they say, as evidenced by their refutation of the Swift Boat Assholes for Lies.

So here's my broadside that I sent the group today. Eventually, I'm kind of hoping, they'll have enough smarts to take me off that list. On the other hand, I do enjoy this shit, and everyone needs a hobby...

A followup to the mini-shitstorm that my previous email stirred up:
To all of those who were so quick to the trigger with the claim that Snopes is a liberal-slant organization that lies about conservative causes, it appears to me that your talking points were taken from an anti-Snopes email circulating a couple of years ago. When even Snopes' chief competitor in the field of Urban Legends says that email was a lie (see http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/internet/a/snopes_exposed.htm) then it is apparent that you are working with ideas from the lunatic fringe.
And those of you who cited the whole Swift Boat thing as an example of Snopes liberalism, protecting Kerry, etc., well...all I have to say to you is that despite the fact that you /claim /you have done your own research, it is apparent that you have not. No, I don't want to bring up the whole Swiftboating thing for debate again -- it's ancient history now, so don't bother sending me your "proof". When even John McCain called the whole thing a bunch of scurrilous lies, you really haven't got a leg to stand on. Oh, but wait, I forgot: John McCain was the Manchurian Candidate from Hanoi who cooperated with the enemy to get a better deal as a POW, etc etc etc. How that traitor got to be a presidential candidate is beyond me. Except four years earlier it was another traitor who got to be a presidential candidate.
Don't you realize how desperately nutjob those theories sound?
That Swift Boat thing, though, is pretty much the only thing that the right wing can come up with as proof of Snopes "lying" to give a liberal slant to everything -- except of course for their even-handed treatment of Barack Obama (even-handedness being, of course, the hallmark of "flaming liberals"...). Despite the fact that pretty much every rational person on the planet who has /actually/ done any research and any /rational/ thinking on the topic knows that it was the Swiftboaters who were were the liars.
Go ahead and try to come up with some more examples of Snopes "lying" -- you can't do it because they don't do it.
Come on people, use a little common sense for once.
Everything that doesn't fit nicely into your preconceived world view doesn't have to be wrong, or a lie.
For the record, I am on Social Security myself, as well as Medicare, and, as with my VA Disability pension, I can't say anything bad about it. I'm glad that it's there for me and by all indications, despite the diabolical machinations of that wackjob from Wisconsin, it will remain there for me

Political Typology Test

It's actually more of a quiz, but I couldn't find a satisfactory alliteration for "quiz"...

Nevertheless, see the Political Typology quiz over at the respected Pew Research Center, answer a few simple questions, and find out where you fit on their continuum.

When tallied, the results will place you in one of the following groups: Staunch Conservatives, Main Street Republicans, Libertarians, Disaffecteds, Post-Moderns, New Coalition Democrats, Hard-Pressed Democrats, Solid Liberals, and Bystanders.

No extra credit for figuring out where I belong in this grouping. Anyone who has been reading this blog for any time will know the answer to that: Solid (since there wasn't a grouping for Hard-Core) Liberal.

And fucking proud of it, I might add.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

They Still Walk Among Us

I am speaking, of course, of the more semi-literate members of the Moron-American voting bloc -- those who can actually read a little bit and then hit the "forward to everbody" button in their email programs.

The latest spew of brainless nitrogenous ooze issuing from the wingnuts concerned the sinister changes in Social Security over the years and that it was always -- repeat always -- the Democrats who worked in the shadows to corrupt the "purity" of the Social Security Act.

Which up front my readers know, without my even pointing it out, that this is errant bullshit.

Never mind that these pus-infested drippings invariably come from the Rethug-inclined, i.e., those who "know" that Social Security is nothing more than anti-American socialist-fascist-communist control of a population demographic that otherwise ought to -- and would -- bask, glory and revel in the abject poverty and starvation that used to be the lot of those who had the effrontery to -- horror of horrors -- get old.

Those bastards...

I have neither the time nor the inclination to copy and paste this litany of shocking exposés of the system. If you want to see it for yourself, just drop by the detailed analysis over at Snopes and see it for yourself.

What bothers me the most, though, is that people are perfectly willing to pass this shit on without even attempting to check out the factual validity of it. As long as it fits within their previously-established parameters of "what sounds right must be right", they don't question it.

And these people vote...

Monday, May 02, 2011

More on the Death of Osama

David Swanson, writing over at War is a Crime, has what should be -- but won't -- the last word on the death of Osama bin Laden, copied here in its entirety, something I don't normally do, but I think in this case is important.

The plane I was on landed in Washington, D.C., Sunday night, and the pilot came on the intercom to tell everyone to celebrate: our government had killed Osama bin Laden. This was better than winning the Super Bowl, he said.
Set aside for a moment the morality of cheering for the killing of a human being -- which despite the pilot's prompting nobody on the plane did. In purely Realpolitik terms, killing foreign leaders whom we've previously supported has been an ongoing disaster.
Our killing of Saddam Hussein has been followed by years of war and hundreds of thousands of pointless deaths. Our attempts to kill Muammar Gadaffi have killed his children and grandchildren and will end no war if they eventually succeed. Our attempts to kill Osama bin Laden, including wars justified by that mission, have involved nearly a decade of senseless slaughter in Afghanistan and the rest of the ongoing global "generational" war that is consuming our nation.
The Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over for trial both before and after September 11, 2001. Instead our government opted for years of bloody warfare. And in the end, it was police action (investigation, a raid, and a summary execution) and not the warfare, that reportedly tracked bin Laden down in Pakistan. After capturing him, our government's representatives did not hold him for trial. They killed him and carried away his dead body.
Killing will lead only to more killing. There will be no review of bin Laden's alleged crimes, as a trial would have provided. There will be no review of earlier U.S. support for bin Laden. There will be no review of U.S. failures to prevent the September 11th attacks. Instead, there will be bitterness, hatred, and more violence, with the message being communicated to all sides that might makes right and murder is the way in which someone is, in President Obama's words, brought to justice.
Nothing is actually resolved, nothing concluded, and nothing to be celebrated in taking away life. If we want something to celebrate here, we should celebrate the end of one of the pieces of war propaganda that has driven the past decade of brutality and death. But I'm not going to celebrate that until appropriate actions follow. Nothing makes for peace like ceasing to wage war. Now would be an ideal time to give that a try.
Our senseless wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Libya must be ended. Keeping bin Laden alive and threatening, assisted in keeping the war machine churning its bloody way through cities and flesh for years. No wonder President Bush was, as he said, not interested in tracking bin Laden down.
Ending the wars was our moral duty last week exactly as this week. But if the symbolism to be found in the removal of a key propaganda piece can be combined with the recent overwhelming U.S. support for ending the wars, to actually end the wars, then I'll be ready -- with clean hands and with no nasty gleam of revenge in my eye -- to pop open the champagne.
But let's return to the morality of cheering for the killing of a human being. A decade ago that would not have seemed as natural to a U.S. airline pilot. The automatic assumption would not have been that there could be no dissenters to that celebration. A decade ago torture was considered irredeemably evil. A decade ago we believed people should have fair trials before they are declared guilty or killed. A decade ago, if a president had announced his new power to assassinate Americans, at least a few people would have asked where in the world he got the power to assassinate non-Americans.
Is it too late to go back 10 years in time in some particular ways? As we put bin Laden behind us, can we put the degredation of our civil liberties and our representative government, and our honesty, accountability, and the rule of law behind us too? Can we recover the basic moral deceny that we used to at the very least pretend and aspire to?
Not while we're dancing in the street to celebrate death.
Imagine the propaganda that the U.S. media could make of video footage of a foreign country where the primitive brutes are dancing in the streets to celebrate the murder of a tribal enemy. That is the propaganda we've just handed those who will view bin Laden as a martyr. When their revenge comes, we will know exactly what we are supposed to do: exact more revenge in turn to keep the cycle going.
An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, but the blind people think that they still see. The world looks to them like a Hollywood adventure movie. In those stories, killing somone generally causes a happy ending. That misconception is responsible for piles and piles of corpses to which more will now be added.
And what if they got the wrong guy, as one of David Swanson's commenters asked? How in the hell would we know? He was "buried at sea" and so no one will know for sure. As usual, we "know" only what our government chooses to let us "know"; everything else goes down the Memory Hole. Think you remember something? Don't count on it...

Weak Symbolism at Best

So the Internets are all atwitter over the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Big deal.

It would have been a lot bigger deal if he'd been caught and wasted some time in the first year of the War on Terratm, but now, ten years in, it's like he's an afterthought. As Baby Doc once said, "I truly don't think about him all that much." Now his death is just geopolitical symbolism, and not much of it at that.

People are still being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, we still have two ill-advised and illegal wars going on, with no end in sight, the policies of the Obama Administration are, by and large, despite what you'll hear from the wingnuttery, not so much different from those of the Baby Doc Bush Maladministration: still at war, the spying on Americans has gone on unabated, Guantanamo still open... etc etc.

So you'll pardon me if I don't share in the giddy excitement over the death of Osama Bin Laden. The only thing it will mean to me is that I'll have to scrape my bumpersticker off, the one with the picture of Osama and the slogan, "I'm still free. What about you?"

Extra work for me. And that's about it.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Book of the Month: Them

Okay, I know it sounds like that old science fiction horror flick from the fifties, but it isn't. But in many ways, it's much scarier.

The book of the month for May is Them: Adventures with Extremists, written by a British journalist/documentary filmmaker named Jon Ronson who, despite being Jewish himself, who set out to discover the Secret Rulers of the World, and consequently spent part of several years with extremists of various stripes -- Radical Islamists, the KKK, the Hayden Lake Nazis, Randy Weaver and his family, and David Ickes (who believes the world is actually ruled by 12-foot lizard people), among many others.

During the course of all this, he manages to infiltrate himself (very cleverly, by just walking in through the main gate) into the annual super-secret Bohemian Grove camporee and attempts to sneak into an-even-more-secret Bilderberg meeting in Portugal, only to be followed by mysterious dark-suited men wearing paranoia-inducing sunglasses.

Throw in Noam Chomsky (part of the Jewish cabal conspiracy, despite the fact that he doesn't really seem like it...), kidnapped sex slaves from another dimension, and Nicolai Caeusecu's shoes, overlay it with a faux-naive dopeyness and a British-subtle sense of humor, and you have a journey into the heart of darkness that you won't soon forget.

Highly recommended, if only for his insights into the minds of the men of "alternate political power", whose natural bent is to oppose everything the government proposes. Along the way, he even manages to make some of them seem human, which is not an easy thing to do.

But it's also very funny.