Tuesday, May 31, 2005

A Good Ride Spoiled

It’s been a long, peaceful respite, away from the news and the shameless, preening babblefest we can always expect from our government any time of the year that patriotically-themed holidays are on the calendar. We’ll be getting another in 35 short days, and then again in November. (Flag Day, June 14, seems curiously lacking in interested parties, but as it has always been focused on the cloth and not the blood spilled around it, I expect it holds too little titillation for all the armchair warriors who so enjoy blatting about the joy of death on behalf of those who can no longer give an opinion.)

But I couldn’t even get through the 10 hour ride home without my blood pressure skyrocketing to stroke level every time I heard snippets of the Memorial Day speech coming out of that slack-jawed hayseed that squats in the West Wing like a foul toadstool, let alone his riposte to the Amnesty International report, him and his henchman, Is that the best you could manage, George, you impotent worm? In one breath he pushes for a totally bogus evisceration of Social Security, saying "The easy path is to say, `Oh, we don't have a problem. Let's ignore it -- yet again", while almost at the same time waving away the thousands of pages of ACLU evidence, the army and FBI's own reports, with the words:
"It's an absurd allegation. The United States is a country that promotes freedom around the world," he said, adding: "We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees. It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of — and the allegations by — people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble — that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report."
That's right, people who've been trained to disassemble! As in, disassemble the truth.

But that pack of bald-faced lies and brazen Orwellisms was a mere amateur's work compared to the Memorial Day speech. I give you:

"America has always been a reluctant warrior."
Lies! He sought this war; he manipulated every event, turned every phrase, pressured every iuntelligence analyst, to make the war he so dearly wanted a reality. And this:

"Because of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, two terror regimes are gone forever, freedom is on the march, and America is more secure. "
More lies! The Taliban are alive and well in Afghanistan (where women are still looking for that marching freedom), making inroads just about everywhere except Kabul, and Kabul isn't looking so well these days. The civil war we unleashed in Iraq is gaining ground and shows no sign of containment. Our own Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Strategic Communication warned last year that our actions since 9/11 have actually made us less safe. But his hubris and gall know no bounds. He reads from letters written by the dead, to families back home, reads the parts that say things like this:

"...I gave my life so you could live. Not just live, but live free"
He goes on to tie it up neatly with this:

"And we must honor them by completing the mission for which they gave their lives, by defeating the terrorists, advancing the cause of liberty, and building a safer world."
Where did he get these letters? How did he get his hands on them? How do we even know they're real? And how do you "defeat" terrorists, when every violent act only creates another one?

What a bitter homecoming, to have to listen to a man not fit to lick my cat's ass "disassemble" the truth from atop the pile of dead he has made, and watch him wrap himself in the borrowed glory and pity of those lives left broken and shattered in his own hateful wake.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Tale Of Two Wars (Memorial Day Special)

A few moments in time to make some observations, then I'll probably be gone till after Memorial Day. Ha! Memorial Day. We surely do love to beatify our dead. How else would we get the living to continue to join their ranks? How else could we turn the greed, pride, and cynical powermongering that has fomented most of our conflicts into a siren song for young idealists with visions of heroism?

Here's your idealism: cannon fodder for the louts running the abbatoir in Washington, as seen through the doleful eyes of Juan Cole.

"Therefore, I conclude that the United States is stuck in Iraq for the medium term, and perhaps for the long term. The guerrilla war is likely to go on a decade to 15 years. Given the basic facts, of capable, trained and numerous guerrillas, public support for them from Sunnis, access to funding and munitions, increasing civil turmoil, and a relatively small and culturally poorly equipped US military force opposing them, led by a poorly informed and strategically clueless commander-in-chief who has made himself internationally unpopular, there is no near-term solution.
In the long run, say 15 years, the Iraqi Sunnis will probably do as the Lebanese Maronites did, and finally admit that they just cannot remain in control of the country and will have to compromise. That is, if there is still an Iraq at that point."
Go ahead. Read the entire post, which ticks off the many, many reasons why the war in Iraq is going so badly, and why we are not likely to leave anytime soon, given the sickening Accident on the Potomac that squats over our nation right now. Then, for your holiday entertainment, I recommend "Johnny Got His Gun" by Dalton Trumbo, from which I will leave you with this:

"He thought here you are Joe Bonham lying like a side of beef all the rest of your life and for what? Somebody tapped you on the shoulder and said come along son we're going to war. So you went.
But why? In any other deal even like buying a car or running an errand you had the right to say what's there in it for me? Otherwise you'd be buying bad cars for too much money or running errands for fools and starving to death. It was a kind of duty you owed yourself that when anybody said come on son do this or do that you should stand up and say look mister why should I do this for who am I doing it and what am I going to get out of it in the end? But when a guy comes along and says here come with me and risk your life and maybe die or be crippled why then you've got no rights. You haven't even the right to say yes or no or I'll think it over. There are plenty of laws to protect guys' money even in war time but there's nothing on the books says a man's life's his own.
Of course a lot of guys were ashamed. Somebody said let's go out and fight for liberty and so they went and got killed without ever once thinking about liberty. And what kind of liberty were they fighting for anyway? How much liberty and whose idea of liberty? Were they fighting for the liberty of eating free ice cream cones all their lives or for the liberty of robbing anybody they pleased whenever they wanted to or what? You tell a man he can't rob and you take away some of his liberty. You've got to. What the hell does liberty mean anyhow? It's just a word like house or table or any other word. Only it's a special kind of word. A guy says house and he can point to a house to prove it. But a guy says come on let's fight for liberty and he can't show you liberty. He can't prove the thing he's talking about so how in the hell can he be telling you to fight for it?
No sir anybody who went out and got into the front line trenches to fight for liberty was a goddamn fool and the guy who got him there was a liar. Next time anybody came gabbling to him about liberty- what did he mean next time? There wasn't going to be any next time for him. But the hell with that. If there could be a next time and somebody said let's fight for liberty he would say mister my life is important. I'm not a fool and when I swap my life for liberty I've got to know in advance what liberty is and whose idea of liberty we're talking about and just how much of that liberty we're going to have. And what's more mister are you as much interested in liberty as you want me to be? And maybe too much liberty will be as bad as too little liberty and I think you're a goddamn fourflusher talking through your hat and I've already decided that I like the liberty I've got right here the liberty to walk and see and hear and talk and eat and sleep with my girt I think I like that liberty better than fighting for a lot of things we won't get and ending up without any liberty at all. Ending up dead and rotting before my life is even begun good or ending up like a side of beef. Thank you mister. You fight for liberty. Me I don't care for some.
Hell's fire guys had always been fighting for liberty. America fought a war for liberty in 1776. Lots of guys died. And in the end does America have any more liberty than Canada or Australia who didn't fight at all? Maybe so I'm not arguing I'm just asking. Can you look at a guy and say he's an American who fought for his liberty and anybody can see he's a very different guy from a Canadian who didn't? No by god you can't and that's that. So maybe a lot of guys with wives and kids died in 1776 when they didn't need to die at all. They're dead now anyway. Sure but that doesn't do any good. A guy can think of being dead a hundred years from now and he doesn't mind it. But to think of being dead tomorrow morning and to be dead forever to be nothing but dust and stink in the earth is that liberty?
They were always fighting for something the bastards and if anyone dared say the hell with fighting it's all the same each war is like the other and nobody gets any good out of it why they hollered coward. If they weren't fighting for liberty they were fighting for independence or democracy or freedom or decency or honor or their native land or something else that didn't mean anything. The war was to make the world safe for democracy for the little countries for everybody. If the war was over now then the world must be all safe for democracy. Was it? And what kind of democracy? And how much? And whose?
Then there was this freedom the little guys were always getting killed for. Was it freedom from another country? Freedom from work or disease or death? Freedom from your mother-in-law? Please mister give us a bill of sale on this freedom before we go out and get killed. Give us a bill of sale drawn up plainly so we know in advance what we're getting killed for and give us also a first mortgage on something as security so we can be sure after we've won your war that we've got the same kind of freedom we bargained for.
And take decency. Everybody said America was fighting a war for the triumph of decency. But whose idea of decency? And decency for who? Speak up and tell us what decency is. Tell us how much better a decent dead man feels that an indecent live one. Make a comparison there in facts like houses and tables. Make it in words we can understand. And don't talk about honor. The honor of a Chinese or an Englishman or an African negro or an American or a Mexican? Please all you guys who want to fight to preserve our honor let us know what the hell honor is. Is it American honor for the whole world we're fighting for? Maybe the world doesn't like it. Maybe the South Sea Islanders like their honor better.
For Christ sake give us things to fight for we can see and feel and pin down and understand. No more highfalutin words that mean nothing like native land. Motherland fatherland homeland native land. It's all the same. What the hell good to you is your native land after you're dead? Whose native land is it after you're dead? If you get killed fighting for your native land you've bought a pig in a poke. You've paid for something you'll never collect.
And when they couldn't hook the little guys into fighting for liberty or freedom or democracy or independence or decency or honor they tried the women. Look at the dirty Huns they would say look at them how they rape the beautiful French and Belgian girls. Somebody's got to stop all that raping. So come on little au' join the army and save the beautiful French and Belgian girls. So the little guy got bewildered and he signed up and in a little while a shell hit him and his life spattered out of him in red meat pulp and ho was dead. Dead for another word and all the fierce old bats of the D.A.R. get out and hurrah themselves hoarse over his grave because he died for womanhood.
Now it might be that a guy would risk getting killed if his women were being raped. But if he did why he was only striking a bargain. He was simply saying that according to the way he felt at the time the safety of his women was worth more than his own life. But there wasn't anything particularly noble or heroic about it. It was a straight deal his life for something he valued more. It was more or less like any other deal a man might make. But when you change your women to all the women in the world why you begin to defend women in the bulk. To do that you have to fight in the bulk. And by that time you're fighting for a word again.
When armies begin to move and flags wave and slogans pop up watch out little guy because it's somebody else's chestnuts in the fire not yours. It's words you're fighting for and you're not making an honest deal your life for something better. You're being noble and after you're killed the thing you traded your life for won't do you any good and chances are it won't do anybody else any good either.
Maybe that's a bad way to think. There are lots of idealists around who will say have we got so low that nothing is more precious than life? Surely there are ideals worth fighting for even dying for. If not then we are worse than the beasts of the field and have sunk into barbarity. Then you say that's all right let's be barbarous just so long as we don't have war. You keep your ideals just as long as they don't cost me my life. And they say but surely life isn't as important as principle. Then you say oh no? Maybe not yours but mine is. What the hell is principle? Name it and you can have it.
You can always hear the people who are willing to sacrifice somebody else's life. They're plenty loud and they talk all the time. You can find them in churches and schools and newspapers and legislatures and congress. That's their business. They sound wonderful. Death before dishonor. This ground sanctified by blood. These men who died so gloriously.
They shall not have died in vain. Our noble dead.
But what do the dead say?
Did anybody ever come back from the dead any single one of the millions who got killed did any one of them ever come back and say by god I'm glad I'm dead because death is always better than dishonor? Did they say I'm glad I died to make the world safe for democracy] Did they say I like death better than losing liberty? Did any of them ever say it's good to think I got my guts blown out for the honor of my country? Did any of them ever say look at me I'm dead but I died for decency and that's better than being alive? Did any of them ever say here I am and I've been rotting for two years in a foreign grave but it's wonderful to die for your native land? Did any of them say hurray I died for womanhood and I'm happy see how I sing even though my mouth ~ choked with worms?
Nobody but the dead know whether all these things people talk a;bout are worth dying for or not. And the dead can't talk. So the words about noble deaths and sacred blood and honor and such are all put into dead lips by grave robbers and fakes who have no right to speak for the dead. If a man says death before dishonor he is either a fool or a liar because he doesn't know what death is. He isn't able to judge. He only knows about living. He doesn't know anything about dying. If he is a fool and believes in death before dishonor let him go ahead and die. But all the little guys who are too busy to fight should be left alone. And all the guys who say death before dishonor is pure bull the important thing is life before death they should be left alone too. Because the guys who say life isn't worth living without some principle so important you're willing to die for it they are all nuts. And the guys who say you'll see there'll come a time you can't escape you're going to have to fight and die because it'll mean your very life why they are also nuts. They are talking like fools. They are saying that two and two make nothing. They are saying that a man will have to die in order to protect his life. If you agree to fight you agree to die. Now if you die to protect your life you aren't alive anyhow so how is there any sense in a thing like that? A man doesn't say I will starve myself to death to keep from starving. He doesn't say I will spend all my money in order to save my money. He doesn't say I will burn my house down in order to keep it from burning. Why then should he be willing to die for the privilege of living There ought to be at least as much common sense about living and dying as there is about going to the grocery store and buying a loaf of bread.
And all the guys who died all the five million or seven million or ten million who went out and died to make the world safe for democracy to make the world safe for words without meaning how did they feel about it just before they died? How did they feel as they watched their blood pump out into the mud? How did they feel when the gas hit their lungs and began eating them all away? How did they feel as they lay crazed in hospitals and looked death straight in the face and saw him come and take them? I! the thing they were fighting for was important enough to die for then it was also important enough for them to be thinking about it in the last minutes of their lives. That stood to reason. Life is awfully important so if you've given it away you'd ought to think with all your mind in the last moments of your life about the thing you traded it for. So did all those kids die thinking of democracy and freedom and liberty and honor and the safety of the home and the stars and stripes forever?
You're goddamn right they didn't.
They died crying in their minds like little babies. They forgot the thing they were fighting for the things they were dying for. They thought about things a man can understand. They died yearning for the face of a friend. They died whimpering for the voice of a mother a father a wife a child They died with their hearts sick for one more look at the place where they were born please god just one more look. They died moaning and sighing for life. They knew what was important They knew that life was everything and they died with screams and sobs. They died with only one thought in the* minds and that was I want to live I want to live I want to live.
He ought to know.
He was the nearest thing to a dead man on earth.
He was a dead man with a mind that could still think. He knew all the answers that the dead knew and couldn't think about. He could speak for the dead because he was one of them. He was the first of all the soldiers who had died since the beginning of time who still had a brain left to think with. Nobody could dispute with him. Nobody could prove him wrong. Because nobody knew but he.
He could tell all these high-talking murdering sonsofbitches who screamed for blood just how wrong they were. He could tell them mister there's nothing worth dying for I know because I'm dead.
There's no word worth your life. I would rather work in a coal mine deep under the earth and never see sunlight and eat crusts and water and work twenty hours a day. I would rather do that than be dead. I would trade democracy for life. I would trade independence and honor and freedom and decency for life. I will give you all these things and you give me the power to walk and see and hear and breathe the air and taste my food. You take the words. Give me back my life. I'm not asking for a happy life now. I'm not asking for a decent life or an honorable life or a free life. I'm beyond that. I'm dead so I'm simply asking for life. To live. To feel. To be something that moves over the ground and isn't dead. I know what death is and all you people who talk about dying for words don't even know what life is.
There's nothing noble about dying. Not even if you die for honor. Not even if you die the greatest hero the world ever saw. Not even if you're so great your name will never be forgotten and who's that great? The most important thing is your life little guys. You're worth nothing dead except for speeches. Don't let them kid you any more. Pay no attention when they tap you on the shoulder and say come along we've got to fight for liberty or whatever their word is there's always a word.
Just say mister I'm sorry I got no time to die I'm too busy and then turn and run like hell. If they say coward why don't pay any attention because it's your job to live not to die. If they talk about dying for principles that are bigger than life you say mister you're a liar Nothing is bigger than life There's nothing noble in death. What s noble about lying in the ground and rotting. What's noble about never seeing the sunshine again? What's noble about having your legs and arms blown off? What's noble about being an idiot? What's noble about being blind and deaf and dumb? What's noble about being dead. Because when you're dead mister it's all over. It's the end. You're less than a dog less than a rat less than a bee or an ant less than a white maggot crawling around on a dungheap. You're dead mister and you died for nothing.
You're dead mister. Dead."

Friday, May 20, 2005

Fair Warning

On a personal level, a lot of things are happening in the next week and a half that are apt to keep me preoccupied and away from the computer, so posting is likely to be erratic. Wish I had something better to say, but the news is too depressing to fight back right now.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Back To The Future

So John McHugh’s bright idea to restrict women’s combat roles, which would have virtually eliminated their support roles in medical and maintenance units, went down in flames after withdrawing the amendment amidst a howl of protest from veterans and the Pentagon. Instead we get this:

“The House Armed Services Committee approved the narrower provision after Democrats, along with the Army, said the amendment rammed through a subcommittee last week would close nearly 22,000 jobs to women, undermine morale, and hamper operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We want women to serve everywhere, except in ground combat," said Rep. John McHugh, a New York Republican. McHugh, chairman of the personnel subcommittee, said the amendment would require Congress to vote before women would be allowed in direct combat units.”
McHugh is no friend to women, as his voting record shows, and this attempt at faux chivalry stinks of the very sort of discriminatory selectivity the right claims to hate so much when it means giving consideration to groups that have been shut out of equal treatment for centuries.

But this is nothing new. Women are not exempt from the front lines, in this or any war. They have suffered and died in wars since the beginning of time, but have seldom been outright allowed to shoulder the weaponry and exhibit the aggression that might let them fight back. Furthermore, the idea that a woman’s life is somehow of greater value or more precious than a man’s is not only obscene, but merely a bullshit excuse belied by the actual treatment of women and the low value our culture puts on them.

McHugh is part of the Christianist right-wing patriarchy, eager to recapture the good old days of female subservience justified by religious interpretation and primitive biblical texts 3000 years old.

Rather than awaken to the horror that war truly is (as I'd hoped might happen when women began serving at the front), it seems some of us would deal with that by retreating back into a comfortable old duality, with men being torn to smithereens in combat, and women dutifully waiting at home to pick up the pieces, or suffering and dying as civilians with the combatants.

Ah, the good old days.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Epidemiology of the Human Diaspora

gross2 When you see a possibility that an epidemic may spread...that a lethal virus could multiply...that an infectious bacteria might take hold and completely destroy the healthy tissue on which it lives---you would do whatever you could to contain it and eliminate it, wouldn't you?

Then think about what it would take to contain this infectious disease:

"The Air Force, saying it must secure space to protect the nation from attack, is seeking President Bush's approval of a national-security directive that could move the United States closer to fielding offensive and defensive space weapons, according to White House and Air Force officials.
The proposed change would be a substantial shift in American policy. It would almost certainly be opposed by many American allies and potential enemies, who have said it may create an arms race in space.
A senior administration official said that a new presidential directive would replace a 1996 Clinton administration policy that emphasized a more pacific use of space, including spy satellites' support for military operations, arms control and nonproliferation pacts."
The clean flesh of space, of an entire ecosystem almost virtually unblemished by the black touch of human infestation, about to be contaminated in ways never attempted before. Then, in a bit of Kafkaesque comedy, we have this:

"Air Force officials said yesterday that the directive, which is still in draft form, did not call for militarizing space. "The focus of the process is not putting weapons in space," said Maj. Karen Finn, an Air Force spokeswoman, who said that the White House, not the Air Force, makes national policy. "The focus is having free access in space."
No, we come in peace. No wait, we lied:

"With little public debate, the Pentagon has already spent billions of dollars developing space weapons and preparing plans to deploy them.
"We haven't reached the point of strafing and bombing from space," Pete Teets, who stepped down last month as the acting secretary of the Air Force, told a space warfare symposium last year. "Nonetheless, we are thinking about those possibilities."
In January 2001, a commission led by Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the newly nominated defense secretary, recommended that the military should "ensure that the president will have the option to deploy weapons in space."
It said that "explicit national security guidance and defense policy is needed to direct development of doctrine, concepts of operations and capabilities for space, including weapons systems that operate in space."
This stuff has to be read to be believed: the pure, unadulterated paranoia, the unvarnished agression, the stomp-on-your-face exuberance of things like the quaintly-named "Rods From God" that "aims to hurl cylinders of tungsten, titanium or uranium from the edge of space to destroy targets on the ground, striking at speeds of about 7,200 miles an hour with the force of a small nuclear weapon." The laser beams bouncing off mirrors, the radio waves "whose powers could range "from tap on the shoulder to toast." Reading the plans and justifications of these toy soldiers reminds me of the big, bragging ideas that used to come out of my little-boy friends when we were all about 7 years old, except that these guys are decades older and still haven't learned anything.

It's a virulent disease, and the Bush administration is the nutritious culture in which it flourishes like never before. The question is, can a cure be found before it eats away so much healthy tissue that the whole organism finally bleeds out?

Outsourcing Our Moral Compass

Go watch Galloway give Norm Coleman the evisceration he so richly deserves, here, courtesy Crooks and Liars.

Sometimes a wee bit of truth and nobility sneaks past the 3-headed guardian at the Congressional gates. Too bad it has to come from off-shore, but then, if we can't find anyone worthy to answer our phones, fix our operating systems, and sew our shirts here in the land of the free, why should we expect to find anyone who can behave honorably in a position of public trust?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Trout Mask Replica Blogging

As is usual on Tuesdays, I'm posting at Kevin Hayden's American Street. This week I'm ranting on about Ayn Rand and the Objectivist toilet down which our government is fast disappearing. I'm particulary pleased with the old Beefheart cover I scrounged off the net for illustrative purposes.


The Power of the Virtual Pen

Kuwait must have read my post back on May 3. How else can one explain this?

"Kuwait's Parliament granted full political rights to women on Monday, making way for them to vote and run for office in parliamentary and local elections for the first time in the country's history. The surprise amendment to Kuwait's election law ends a decades-long struggle by women's rights campaigners for full suffrage, and promises to redefine the city-state's political landscape."
Although no one seems to have seen it coming:
"The vote climaxed an extraordinary turn of events, just two weeks after the Parliament had thwarted a measure allowing women to take part in city council elections."
Hah! Apparently my small cache of readers includes the Kuwaiti parliament, whom I have shamed into doing the right thing.

Clearly then, the implication is that the White House has no shame. But we knew that anyway.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Newsweek: Public Enemy Number One!

PubEneJC The dirty rats. They went and destroyed American credibility throughout the Muslim world! Or in the words of one of the administration's poster boys for credibility, Scott McClellan:
"The image of the United States abroad has been damaged."
Heaven forfend! And we were doing so splendidly up to this point, too. Back in December 2004, the Washington Post reported on our work in Afghani prisons, via several Army and DoD reports:
"Many of the officials at Abu Ghraib had served in Afghanistan and honed their approach to handling prisoners there, according to two Defense Department reports issued in August. The reports said, for example, that the idea of using dogs to intimidate prisoners at Abu Ghraib migrated from Afghanistan, where U.S. soldiers noted that many citizens feared dogs; other methods transferred to Iraq included stripping prisoners, forcing them into stress positions, and depriving them of light, sleep or human contact.
Also, a report by investigators with the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, completed in May on the eve of Jacoby's visit and stamped "For Official Use Only," implicated more than two dozen military policemen in the deaths of two Afghan prisoners in Bagram, Afghanistan, in 2002.
That Army report, obtained by The Washington Post, also said that a senior officer of the 377th Military Police Company based in Cincinnati and eventually deployed to Iraq had admitted he knew his soldiers were striking detainees in Afghanistan, and it concluded that his dereliction of duty contributed to routine prisoner mistreatment.
The report listed a range of abuses committed by members of the 377th and a battalion of military intelligence officers from Fort Bragg, N.C., during their deployment in Afghanistan, including slamming prisoners into walls, twisting handcuffs to cause pain, kneeing prisoners, forcing a detainee to maintain "painful, contorted body positions," shackling the detainee's arms to the ceiling, and forcing water into the mouth of the detainee "until he could not breathe."
And before that, Human Rights Watch reported in March 2004 on the "systemic abuse" of Afghani prisoners, with John Sifton, Afghanistan researcher, stating,"Afghans have been telling us for well over a year about mistreatment in U.S. custody. We warned U.S. officials repeatedly about these problems in 2003 and 2004."

No question about it, we were doing so well up till now, and then Newsweek had to go and spoil it all, damn them. Comedian Richard Boucher, warming up for the State Department, remarked in a moment of exuberant dissociation from reality:
"We have made clear, I think, that there is the utmost respect for religion of the prisoners."
Oh, without a doubt--that business of rubbing breasts and fake menstrual blood on Gitmo captives had nothing whatever to do with their religious beliefs.

Once we get this whole worldwide Muslim uprising in hand by publicly stoning Isikoff and renditioning Whitaker's ass out to Egypt, I'm sure the MSM can safely go back to filing reports on runaway white girls and the child abduction/molestation/murder epidemic, and they will never trouble our sleep with inconvenient stories of American atrocities again.

Which is, after all, the whole point.

The "I've Got Mine, Jack" Theo-Political Defense

So on the one hand you've got your humanists, or more importantly, your secular humanists, who=liberals, who=Democrats, who=immorality. Why? Because they believe (the humanists, not necessarily the liberals or Democrats) that living a moral life doesn't have to require a religion or belief in a creator.

The right abhors this concept, and clings to the idea that morality without theology is like a car without an engine--you just can't make it work. So it would seem that the philosophies underpinning the right would require a deity in order to give them tenability, no? So the right=conservatism=Republicans=morality. And what right-wing philosophy seems to animate the present regime and zeitgeist?

Grover Norquist's fairy godmother, Ayn Rand, gave us that capitalist tool and free-market PR campaign, Objectivism--the ultimate reactionary justification for drowning government in the bathtub and withholding help to the less fortunate. From Wikipedia:

"My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievemen as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute."--Rand

"In summary, Objectivism holds that "existence exists" separate from any conscious recognition of it, that human beings are conscious of this existence, using a process of reason to interpret and understand sensory data, that the proper moral purpose of one's life is to pursue one's own rational self-interest, and that the only moral social system is full laissez-faire capitalism with a minimal government limited to courts, police, and a military."
And if you can't get enough of this:

"Thus, Objectivism contends, the fundamental right of human beings is the right to life. By this phrase Objectivism means the right to act in furtherance of one's own life — not the right to have one's life protected, or to have one's survival guaranteed, by the involuntary effort of other human beings. Indeed, on the Objectivist account, one of the corollaries of the right to life is the right to property, which is assumed to always represent the product of one's own effort; An Objectivist respects the rights of other human beings out of the recognition of the value to himself or herself of living in a world in which the freedom of action of other rational (or potentially rational) human beings is respected.
According to Objectivism, then, one's respect for the rights of others is founded on the value, to oneself, of other persons as actual or potential trading partners. Objectivist political theory therefore defends capitalism as the ideal form of human society. Objectivism reserves the name "capitalism" for full laissez-faire capitalism — i.e., a society in which individual rights (as defined by Objectivism, including property rights) are consistently respected and in which all property is (therefore) privately owned. ...the proper role of institutions of governance...is limited to using force in retaliation against those who initiate its use — i.e., against criminals and foreign aggressors. Economically, people are free to produce and exchange as they see fit, with as complete a separation of state and economics as of state and church."
This is the right-wing philosophy that informs Grover Norquist's attack on government, and Bush's attempted murders of Social Security and Medicaid. You can see it in action, in all its moral grandeur, in the argument made last December on the Ayn Rand Institute website against sending aid to tsunami victims. These are the people with whom the proud, boasting theocrats of the evangelical Christian church have aligned themselves, and thus delude themselves that they are more ethical than the left and all those "secular humanists." This is where the worship of money and the justifcation of godliness converge, and how the powerful and the mean-hearted have convinced themselves of their moral superiority even as they take shelter away from the homeless and food away from the poor.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Tempus Fugitive

Tempus Fugitive was the name of the second car I owned, a '73 Plymouth Satellite that introduced me to the unsavory tactics of the local AAMCO. But it was also a reminder that nothing lasts, and we need to make the most of things while they come our way. Like beauty and happiness.

Instead of bitching and moaning, I've been working in the yard, planting living things, watching the cats play, making myself sore, and trying to make paradise. I truly get sick of myself when everything that comes out of my mouth (or off my keyboard) is so unrelentingly negative. With the beautiful weather outside, I couldn't even make myself blog, except to sit down and share a couple pictures that I took in England last year. They make me feel happy, and I hope they might do the same for you.

Wistman's Wood, in Dartmoor
Witsman's Wood

Glastonbury Tower, Glastonbury
Glastonbury Tower

Lydford Gorge, Lydford
Lydford Gorge

Thursday, May 12, 2005

God Bless Lowell George


When I listen to Little Feat live after a rum punch, I swear that nothing is impossible.

We've Been To The Mountaintop, And It Is Us

Walter E Williams @ townhall.com has a solution to poverty so simple he can't believe he didn't think of it before. "Avoiding long-term poverty is not rocket science," he chuckles. Which I guess explains why only stupid people are poor. He goes on to explain:

"First, graduate from high school. Second, get married before you have children, and stay married. Third, work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage. And, finally, avoid engaging in criminal behavior. If you graduate from high school today with a B or C average, in most places in our country there's a low-cost or financially assisted post-high-school education program available to increase your skills. "
And if you take that minimum wage job, you'll be halfway to the gated community of your dreams:

"Most jobs start with wages higher than the minimum wage, which is currently $5.15. A man and his wife, even earning the minimum wage, would earn $21,000 annually. According to the Bureau of Census, in 2003, the poverty threshold for one person was $9,393, for a two-person household it was $12,015, and for a family of four it was $18,810. Taking a minimum-wage job is no great shakes, but it produces an income higher than the Bureau of Census' poverty threshold. Plus, having a job in the first place increases one's prospects for a better job."
Setting aside his bogus positioning of the poverty threshold numbers, which haven't been properly adjusted as real wages in years, let's look at the life of this dutifully married couple, whom we can assume have stayed out of jail, finished school, and have taken the first jobs they could find. Here are my calculations on that fat $21,424 paycheck our mythical hardworking folks will be luxuriating in, before taxes, if they have no children, do not own a home, use none of it for entertainment or leisure purposes, and assuming they don't fall sick and lose some of their pay. These expenses are based on average costs in the Philadelphia area, and are on the conservative side:
    1) 1 yr rent @ $700 mo: $8400
    2) 1 yr electric, gas and water at (respectively) $70, $80, & $20 mo (total $170 mo): $2040
    3) 1 yr telephone (1 landline) @ $40 mo: $480
    4) 1 yr transportation (for 2) ($60 wk) @ $240 mo: $2880
    5) 1 yr food/groceries ($75 wk) @ $300 mo: $3600
    6) 1 yr clothing purchases @ $100 mo: $1200
    TOTAL: $18,600yr
Leftover: $2824 yr. or $235 mo. out of which to pay taxes, emergencies, car payments (if any), health insurance and/or medical care (unlikely to be included in a minimum wage job), and to put into savings.

I don't know what world Williams lives in, but it's not Planet Earth. He then breaks into the standard dance number done by the trophy Negroes of the right-wing--racial discrimination is dead, and can't be hidden behind as an excuse by those whining civil rights organizations:

"The civil rights struggle is over, and it has been won. At one time, black Americans did not have the same constitutional protections as whites. Now, we do, because the civil rights struggle is over and won is not the same as saying that there are not major problems for a large segment of the black community. What it does say is that they're not civil rights problems, and to act as if they are leads to a serious misallocation of resources."

Bad schools? Dangerous neighborhoods? If you're in them it's your own fault, is Williams' logic. He equates high per-student spending, as in D.C.'s school district, with being able to allocate resources to education, and figures if they have the cash, they have no excuse for bad schools. He stresses that laying the blame for Washington's abysmal schools on racial discrimination is "madness".

Now, the money spent per student in Philadelphia is very high, too, but much of it goes to policing, patching crumbling infrastructure, and combat pay for teachers. (My own child went to a magnet school that didn't even have a sink for the chemistry class, but it wasn't automatically my fault.) Money goes to pay psychologists to counsel grieving students and teachers when yet another child is gunned down just outside a playground. And, after being found guilty of that old myth, discrimination, the Philadelphia District was forced into a years'-long desegregation process by the state Human Relations Commission that has yet to be completed.

I have investigated allegations of such discrimination for years, and I can tell you from first-hand knowledge that racism and the different treatment arising from it is alive and well in large and small companies, in schools and colleges, and in stores and clubs. But the right uses people like Williams to give credence to their bias, and people like Williams are happy to let them, because it helps them weave a world around themselves they approve of, as opposed to the world they actually live in. It would be sad, if it wasn't such a betrayal.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Culture Of Life You Wouldn't Wish On A Dog

Originally posted at American Street yesterday, I wanted to have this in my own archives, too:

_41126605_dogafp203 In Kenya, a baby is thrown away in a plastic bag, but rescued by a stray bitch and adopted into her litter.

In Florida under the watchful eye of the famous Dept. of Children and Families (who fought so hard for Terri Schiavo), a baby is battered and abused, sent to the hospital for 2 months, then despite the enormous amount of evidence of her torment, released back into the custody of a mother who didn't want her, whereupon she is again beaten so badly that DCF sends a lawyer out to the hospital to request a Do Not Resuscitate order:
"DCF's missteps were so obvious and horrific that a grand jury recommended the firing of nine DCF workers, and the cases of Moesha and two boys who died in 2000 became teaching tools for new DCF hires. Investigators wrote that Moesha's mother, Guerland Pierre-Louis, "appears as if she did not care about the child," rarely visiting the hospital or calling to check on her."
During the baby's previous hospital stay, her mother would actually spank her; the child would cry on the few occasions her mother came around. When she was scheduled for release, hospital staff "pleaded with DCF" not to send her back to her mother. But they did. A few weeks later she was back in the hospital, barely alive, and DCF was asking for a DNR.

Cut to the present. Now 6, little Marissa (formerly "Moesha") has to be fed through a tube in her stomach. She cannot walk, wears a diaper and is confined to a wheelchair, will have the mind of a toddler the rest of her life, and DCF wants to wash their bloodstained hands of her:
"The girl DCF gave up on four years ago has been spending recent days in her wheelchair in Palm Beach County Courtroom 11B, as lawyers for DCF try to convince a jury that the agency should not have to pay for her continued medical care. "
Before Marissa, DCF was requesting DNRs every 3 or 4 months, according to John Walsh, a Legal Aid attorney who did the requesting for them. DCF's concern has never seemed to be very great for the children in its care, but that hasn't stopped them from attempting to compound their fuck-ups.
"Gov. Bush has appointed two more secretaries to lead DCF since the agency initially mishandled Moesha's case under Ms. Kearney, but an unfair practice of valuing some lives more than others continues to hurt some of the neediest and most fragile Floridians. In 2003, after failing to protect a severely mentally retarded woman from being raped while in state custody, DCF fought to save the woman's fetus. Similarly, late last month, after failing to protect a 13-year-old in state custody from becoming pregnant, DCF fought to save the girl's fetus. While the state was fighting fiercely to save the unborn, it continued quietly fighting — using private lawyers — to avoid financial responsibility for a living child, one irreversibly harmed while dependent on the state for protection."
In a poignant counterpoint, author Elisa Cramer's Palm Beach Post article ends with this:
"When the agency sought to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case, a DCF spokeswoman told one newspaper: "We have a duty to protect the vulnerable and investigate allegations of abuse." President Bush urged "all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others." In January, Gov. Bush vowed his all to help keep Terri Schiavo breathing: "I will do whatever I can do within the powers that have been granted to me by law and by statute. I'll do whatever I can."
"Whatever he can" doesn't appear to encompass protecting the children already in his care, as they continue to be maimed, raped and killed.

Maybe we could learn something about being human from a dog.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Beer, Here

beer1 This has been a pretty demoralizing day for blogging. In fact, the more I do this, the more I see a resemblance to television, where serious, important information and artistic expression consistently loses in the ratings to drecky fluff like "The Apprentice" and sado-tittilations like "Fear Factor". You post a piece you put your heart and soul into, maybe you spent hours getting it just right and running down all the links and verifications, and it falls on its face like a drunken ape on rollerskates. But put up a picture of a pussycat, or tell a goofy joke, and the response can be immediate and overwhelming. I'm still getting hits on a post I did months ago which was nothing more than a couple of sentences bitching about Caitlin Flanagan done in a rum-soaked funk. I know, I know, there are some wonderful writers blogging who are also appreciated--just like you get the occasional "Oz" or "Seinfeld" on TV--but face it, they're in the minority. I know I'm puking self-pity here, but so what? Hardly anyone will see it, and I can soothe myself with the knowledge that I can say anything I want, barring some kind of Treasury Department bot-sweep on the lookout for insults to the Dauphin.

So tonight I'm posting something suitably content-free and lightweight: the fate of beer. At Slate, in an article subtitled "the great American beer crisis" we read these doleful reports:
“Last week, two leading beer companies reported disappointing results. Anheuser-Busch, which claims more than half the U.S. beer market, announced it was suffering from falling demand and rising costs. The volume of Bud and Michelob sold in the U.S. fell 2.7 percent from the year-ago quarter. Newly merged cross-border beer powerhouse Molson Coors reported a loss, with net sales in the U.S. down 2 percent, and U.S. operating income off by nearly one-third. The most recent trading statement of Miller, the No. 2 U.S. beer brand now owned by SABMiller, showed marginal growth.”
Dire times, indeed. And made all the more mystifying by the veritable blanket of advertising the megamarkets have smothered us with these last few years, most of which seems to consist of trying to get the beer drinking public to identify with coozy blonde hormone grenades and mouth-breathing overgrown prepubescents engaging in stunts so imbecilic that it would take a self-loathing bordering on suicidal to identify with them. Setting aside the not inconsiderable matter of the taste of the bear-whiz they're selling, who wouldn't want to be cajoled into hoisting a Bud or a Miller by being told one will join the ranks of the moronic in doing so?

The article goes on to blame yuppification--thin, snotty left coasters, roly-poly 50-somethings, Village types in black, the joie de vivre crowd--for turning the thirsty American herds to the more delicate and sophisticated joys of wine and liquor:
"The real problem is that Americans increasingly tipple with wine and hard liquor. Health-conscious baby-boomers, fretting about waistlines and heart murmurs, are eschewing high-carb beer for cardiac-friendly merlot (or, post-Sideways, pinot noir). According to the Wine Institute, U.S. wine sales have risen smartly in recent years, from 558 million gallons in 2000 to 627 million gallons in 2003. Meanwhile, the young and hip—traditionally the biggest consumers of beer—are looking for harder stuff. Club-goers want less Molson Ice and more Maker's Mark. The spirits crowd has become better at marketing, too, especially to younger consumers."
Not much mention of the low-carb craze (which I'm guessing has probably hit beer-makers like it has bread-bakers), but more important, no mention of the incredible growth of microbrews and home brewing over the last 20 years. This is a "fad" that has transformed the beer drinking landscape, for those of us who merely drink, and those of us who also brew. Brewpubs are fast becoming a staple in large and medium-sized cities and environs, and beer styles have grown enormously. CNN was on top of it last year:
“There are now more than 1,400 craft breweries in the United States. Nearly 1,000 of those are brewpubs (restaurants that make their own beer), with 440 microbreweries and regional specialty breweries.
Sales volumes of beer made by the majors grew by 1.6 percent last year, and imports rose by 2 percent. Craft brewers, however, rose by 5 percent.
"Beer drinkers are changing their tastes," says Gatza. "They have much less loyalty to individual brands than they once did. They're more willing to experiment with different beers and styles."
Indeed, every region of the country now boasts one or more strong local microbreweries, capturing shelf space at stores and appearing on tap handles at bars and restaurants.”
It’s not that people aren’t drinking beer…it’s that they have become educated about what real beer should taste like, and are putting their money where their mouths are, so to speak. Even the megamarketers are acknowledging it--Bud started selling Michelob Amber Bock in 1995, and went into partnership with Seattle's Redhook micro in 1994. Miller bought up and made a subsidiary of the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co, which makes and sells weisses and bocks.

So I wouldn't bemoan the death of beer just yet. But I have to admit that watching a year's worth of Coors Lite being shot toward the sun in order to make room at the tap for a Victory Hop Devil would be my kind of funeral pyre.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Poor, Poor Pitiful Me

On the sidebar at left is a little box offering to help you discover how rich you are. Created by a London-based company called "Poke", the calculator takes your yearly income, in dollars, euros, etc., compares it to the incomes of the rest of the world's earners, and then tells you where you rate in the wealth hierarchy:
"The Global Rich List calculations are based on figures from the World Bank Development Research Group. To calculate the most accurate position for each individual we assume that the world's total population is 6 billion and the average worldwide annual income is $5,000."
Although I think my income is pretty modest, my results showed that I'm one of the top 0.899% richest people in the world, and richer than more than 5 billion, 9 hundred and 46 million other folks. What motivated Poke to do this?
"We are obsessed with wealth. But we gauge how rich we are by looking upwards at those who have more than us. This makes us feel poor.
We wanted to do something which would help people understand, in real terms, where they stand globally. And make us realise that in fact most of us (who are able to view this web page) are in the privileged minority.
We want people to feel rich. And give some of their ‘extra’ money to a worthwhile charity."
Americans do a lot of poor-mouthing and indulging in self-pity when they can't afford a car for their kid or the size house they want. And it's true that even the worst-off of us is generally better off than the rest of the impoverished world.

In a world where, as they say, the 225 richest people now have a combined wealth of $1 trillion--equal to the combined annual income of the world's 2.5 billion poorest people--can anyone with the privilege and access enabling them to read these words not afford to give? They provide a direct link to enable donations to CARE International, their particular pet charity, but the message is, "Just pick one and give, whatever it is."

Saturday, May 07, 2005


08derby.1843 "Personally, I like underdogs. If they lose, it's not a terrible surprise, but if they win, it makes you feel so damned good, like finally somehow, somewhere, somebody got some justice."--Riggsveda


Update: The recipe for the Mint Juleps worked out swimmingly. I made them in a silver cup that frosted up just as nicely as the photo, and they were quite good. Aromatic, not too sweet, just as delicate and evanescent as a butterfly on its first flight, and as deceptively powerful as 4 month old bull. Say what you will about the south, but there's a poetry there in the literature and the liquor.

5 Basic Principles of Liberalism

Over at Altercation, Eric has a question for us:
"I was watching a panel on foreign policy called "Are We Making the World Safe for Democracy?" at the L.A. Times Festival of Books on C-SPAN and a questioner asked “My conservative friends can enumerate four or five basic principles of what it means to be a conservative, but what are the principles of the liberals? I would really like to find out what are the basic principles of the liberal worldview… My liberal friends are not able to elucidate them for me. I’m serious…. For my conservative friends we can rattle off four or five principles, if you could just rattle off four or five things that are basic.”

Nobody wanted to answer. David Rieff said, “I think it’s a provocation this question. If anyone could argue for the ability to rattle off, as you say, four or five principles I would take issue with the seriousness of those principles.” Reiff is right, but the political problem is real and central. Anyone want to try and answer? If you solve it, I’ll credit you in the next book, and you will have made the world a better place."
Well, hell, I would have thought that was like falling off a log. Lemme try:
    1. Equity: equal treatment; equal worth; the end of favoritism and the worship of wealth and power; the same consideration given to the needs of the weak and few as to the strong and many; an even hand in foreign policy and trade towards nations strategically important to us as well as those which are small and economically insignificant.
    2. Justice: Where inequity exists, it is removed, and where wrongdoing is found, it is stopped and retribution is made, regardless of status or connections; nations engaged in murder, repression and genocide are held to account, even if they are allies or strategically important, and even if it means some sacrifice on our part.
    3. Mercy: Punishment is a means to rehabilitation, not vengeance; help is given to those in need, and is a social debt we each owe to the community of our common humanity; empathy and refusal to judge others are the building blocks of socila interaction.
    4. Humility: Recognizing that we don't always have to be the biggest, the best, the strongest, the wealthiest, the most favored by God; that we have obligations to the natural world; that we are interdependent with other animals, plants and nations, and that we survive because of them whether we are aware of it or not.
    5. Intelligence: That a love of knowledge and curiosity about the world is what animates us as a race, and is to what we owe everything we are; that real education is a right as surely as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and that a free market without free education is merely a bazaar for auctioning off wage slaves.
I'm sure others can come up with ideas I've missed, but I have to tell you, it didn't take me any longer to get these down than it did to type them in. And anyone who wants to interject a spirituality into the above can easily do so...there are any number of holy books in which one can point out the same ideals.

Why do our allies on the left have such a hard time speaking for themselves? Is it that maybe, deep down inside, they may actually be ashamed of holding these principles? That maybe they're afraid of being called "soft"? Death and greed and cynical manipulation and neglect of those in need is a so much manlier, isn't it?

From Grand Inquisitor To....Grand Inquisitor

inquisition4 And so it begins:
" An American Jesuit who is a frequent television commentator on Roman Catholic issues resigned yesterday under orders from the Vatican as editor of the Catholic magazine America because he had published articles critical of church positions, several Catholic officials in the United States said.
The order to dismiss the editor, the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, was issued by the Vatican's office of doctrinal enforcement - the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - in mid-March when that office was still headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter... "
But what the article then goes to say is that articles were published that gave both sides of a story, and that was hard for the Ratzingers of the church to take. This is a magazine the Chicago Tribune called one of the 50 best magazines, saying it "takes a hard-edged approach to such subjects as the just war theory, the New Age movement and talk of an American empire." A magazine of which the AP said "The venerable weekly has become required Roman Catholic reading under editor Thomas Reese." A magazine where debate was welcomed, in the Jesuit way, as a method of seeking truth and understanding. The Jesuits are the "intellectuals" of the church, and if any group could be said to have liberal leanings as a whole, it would be them, if only because of their scientific and scholarly methods.

You will note that the issuer of this fiat, now head statesman of the Church, Pope Benedict the Somethingorother, could have chosen to rescind this order in his new role,, but did not. So much for his much ballyhooed outreach since taking the office, when he said:

"My real program of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him so that He himself will lead the church at this hour of our history."
How many injustices have been praised as "God's will" when people in power found their own desires just "happened" to coincide with what God was "telling" them? He went on to say:

"Finally, like a wave gathering force, my thoughts go out to all men and women of today, to believers and non-believers alike."
He's thinking about them, all right. Thinking about how he can corral their sinful-ass recalcitrant souls and bend them to his--I mean, God's--will, and as with most of the church's missionary history, it has nothing at all to do with tolerance. To return to the NYTimes article:

"In recent years America has featured articles representing more than one side on sensitive issues like same-sex marriage, relations with Islam and whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be given communion. Church officials said it was the publication of some of these articles that prompted Vatican scrutiny...
Catholic scholars and writers said in interviews yesterday that they feared that the dismissal of such a highly visible Catholic commentator was intended by the Vatican as a signal that debating church teaching is outside the bounds."
Without a doubt; and that is exactly the effect Ratzinger was intending, both then and now. Even my 86-year old mother-in-law, the most devout and decent Catholic I know, has dreaded his ascension to Pope. I don't see how this can't bode an eventual schism in the church in the next 50 years. Unless a New Inquisition silences dissent altogether:

"After the election of Pope Benedict XVI, America ran an editorial that said: "A church that cannot openly discuss issues is a church retreating into an intellectual ghetto."
"Intellectual" may be giving them too much credit.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Mint Julep Blogging

In honor of the venerable Kentucky Derby, I offer you Mint Julep Blogging Friday,top_mint_julep and a little something to go with--a story on making the perfect julep, and a recipe for it as well. First, the recipe:

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water (branch water is ideal)
Fresh Mint
Crushed Ice
Kentucky bourbon (2 ounces per serving)

Make a simple mint syrup by boiling sugar and water together for 5 minutes; cool. (This recipe makes enough syrup for 44 juleps.) Place in a covered container with 6 or 8 bruised mint sprigs. Refrigerate overnight.
Make a julep by filling a julep cup or glass with crushed ice well-packed into the cup, then adding 1 tablespoon of mint syrup and 2 ounces of bourbon. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost outside of cup or glass. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig and a straw cut short enough so that you almost bury your nose in the mint as you sip.

And now, the story, from a 1937 letter at the Buckner Family website:

"Go to a spring where cool, crystal-clear water bubbles from under a bank of dew-washed ferns. In a consecrated vessel, dip up a little water at the source. Follow the stream through its banks of green moss and wildflowers until it broadens and trickles through beds of mint growing in aromatic profusion and waving softly in the summer breezes. Gather the sweetest and tenderest shoots and gently carry them home. Go to the sideboard and select a decanter of Kentucky Bourbon, distilled by a master hand, mellowed with age yet still vigorous and inspiring. An ancestral sugar bowl, a row of silver goblets, some spoons and some ice and you are ready to start.

In a canvas bag, pound twice as much ice as you think you will need. Make it fine as snow, keep it dry and do not allow it to degenerate into slush.

In each goblet, put a slightly heaping teaspoonful of granulated sugar, barely cover this with spring water and slightly bruise one mint leaf into this, leaving the spoon in the goblet. Then pour elixir from the decanter until the goblets are about one-fourth full. Fill the goblets with snowy ice, sprinkling in a small amount of sugar as you fill. Wipe the outsides of the goblets dry and embellish copiously with mint.

Then comes the important and delicate operation of frosting. By proper manipulation of the spoon, the ingredients are circulated and blended until Nature, wishing to take a further hand and add another of its beautiful phenomena, encrusts the whole in a glittering coat of white frost. Thus harmoniously blended by the deft touches of a skilled hand, you have a beverage eminently appropriate for honorable men and beautiful women.

When all is ready, assemble your guests on the porch or in the garden, where the aroma of the juleps will rise Heavenward and make the birds sing. Propose a worthy toast, raise the goblet to your lips, bury your nose in the mint, inhale a deep breath of its fragrance and sip the nectar of the gods.

Being overcome by thirst, I can write no further."
Me, too.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

In Search of Truth, Wisdom, and the American Way

Sometimes I just love to read quotes. Something about the neat succinctness of those aphorisms and insights just cuts right through the bullshit like a zen koan. This morning David Brooks' typical half-assed history lesson on Abraham Lincoln sent me off in search of something to set the record straight, but in that way the internet has, it sucked me down an information wormhole into a different universe, and I found the Everett Peace Action site, and these gems:
"Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose—and you allow him to make war at pleasure." - Abraham Lincoln

"Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices. - Voltaire

"There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people." - Howard Zinn

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." - Sinclair Lewis

"News is what powerful people don’t want you to hear; everything else is just publicity." - Bill Moyers

"A little patience and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt..... If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake." - Thomas Jefferson, 1798"
And for you ironic juxtaposition fans:

"But you’ve got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops. And I’m for the president to chase them all over the world. If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord." - Jerry Falwell, CNN Late Edition, October 24, 2004

"Don't let anybody make you think that God chose America as his divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, "You're too arrogant, and if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I'll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name." - Martin Luther King, Jr., April 30, 1967

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Haloscan Weirdness

So something's been up with Haloscan. Granny said it kept blowing up her computer when she tried to open it, and now, although you can post comments and they appear when you open comments, the number doesn't register properly, so there may be comments where it says there are none, or one. I'm babbling.

Who wouldn't?

Reefer Madness

Feeling harried, I cross-post this from corrente:

Everyone from NPR to the Houston Chronicle is abuzz about the study, "The War on Marijuana; The Transformation of the War on Drugs in the 1990s", done by The Sentencing Project, which shows that a renewed focus on low-level marijuana users resulted in arrests rising from 28% to 45% of total drug arrests from 1992 to 2002. Of the rise in total drug arrests, 80% of the increase came from marijuana arrests of mostly small, recreational users. The price for this is high: the report estimates about $4 billion a year is spent on arresting and prosecution. Think of the health insurance or decent housing that could buy!

Also (unsurprisingly, given the racism of the enforcement mechanisms), although blacks make up only 14 % of the population, they accounted for 30% of arrests, despite the fact that 74% of regular marijuana users are white:
"A Maryland study on marijuana enforcement observed that police officers knew where to go if they wished to make an easy drug arrest, and suggested that they could do so whenever they wished in certain neighborhoods These neighborhoods are those where drug use and selling is most likely to be in public spaces, allowing for easy apprehension. Research by criminologist Alfred Blumstein supports this point, observing that disproportionate arrest rates are due to a more dense police presence where blacks reside.
The study also notes that possession cases generally receive longer sentences than trafficking cases. In fact, 24% of marijuana offenders in prison were found to have been first-time offenders with no weapons or trafficking issues.

And despite all this, use of weed has held relatively steady over the years, and NPR reported that approximately 47% of the general population has used it. From an anecdotal point of view, I can tell you I know a good number of folks who are regular smokers. Many are in their 40s and 50s, and all of them are taxpayers and productive human beings who have been smoking for anywhere from 10 to 35 years, and not one of them ever robbed a bank, raped a woman, or went mad. All of them live that part of their lives with a combination of martini-drinking casualness and furtive paranoia, and the idea of putting any of them in jail is not only outrageous, but daft. The fact that they cannot be open and truthful about it relegates them, in many ways, to the shadows in which women who had abortions live, except that being exposed as a person who once had an abortion doesn't put one at risk of jail time.

I'm not going to rant about the stupidity of our drug laws. Even the general public has gotten bored with marijuana as a scare tactic. But the report recommendations are extensive and include suggestions for a national dialogue on decriminalization, and at the very least, we need to heed them.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

I Can Watch For Freedom Better From The Vantage Point Of Your Crumpled Body

arab_woman Remember the justification for the first Gulf war back in 1991? Let me refresh your battered memories, using quotes from George the First's own "Address to the Nation Announcing Allied Military Action in the Persian Gulf" from January 16th, 1991:
"This conflict started August 2d when the dictator of Iraq invaded a small and helpless neighbor. Kuwait -- a member of the Arab League and a member of the United Nations -- was crushed; its people, brutalized."

"Our objectives are clear: Saddam Hussein's forces will leave Kuwait. The legitimate government of Kuwait will be restored to its rightful place, and Kuwait will once again be free."

"Our goal is not the conquest of Iraq. It is the liberation of Kuwait."
Good times, eh? Freedom was on the march. Never mind that Hill & Knowlton, the world's largest PR firm, was hired to sell the war to the public. Never mind that the most poignant and horror-filled anecdote used to whip people into a war-mad frenzy was a complete and utter lie. Never mind that the Bush administration approved a sale of data-transmission devices usable for missile launching on the very eve of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, or that when Hussein made threats toward Kuwait to Ambassador April Glaspie and asked her thoughts, she told him the US had no opinion, which he took as a go-ahead.

Because the whole thing was about freedom. FREEDOM for the poor Kuwaitis. Freedom for them to do this:
"Kuwait's Parliament effectively killed a measure today that would have allowed women to participate in municipal elections for the first time this year, delaying any further discussion of the measure until after the elections are called. The measure's failure ends any chance that women will be able to vote or run in elections for another four years."
This is not new. This struggle has been going on for decades, and even as the women's suffrage movement grows, the government continues to vote against their right to vote.

So you see, all those people who died back then for "freedom", were only dying for the freedom of half the Kuwaiti population--and for that half's freedom to take freedom away from the other half. That's more of that Bush dynasty math.

My Head Wants To Explode

Mushroom%20_Cloud First, because of this:
"The gulf between Iran and the United States deepened Monday when the Bush administration, at the opening of a conference on the future of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, demanded that Iran dismantle all the "equipment and facilities" it has built over the past two decades to manufacture nuclear material...
Mr. Rademaker's statement on Monday was intended to focus the conference on loopholes in the 35-year-old treaty, which he charged that Iran and North Korea have exploited. "Today, the treaty is facing the most serious challenge in its history due to instances of noncompliance," he said. Though the International Atomic Energy Agency has said it has yet to find concrete evidence of a weapons program in Iran, Mr. Rademaker expressed no doubts about what Iran had done."
Because we were oh-so-prescient about all that weapons-building Iraq was doing, weren't we? And then there's the stellar example we've set for non-proliferation ourselves:
"The Bush administration is seeking $8.5 million to resume a study by the Energy and Defense departments on the feasibility of a nuclear "bunker buster" warhead, but the proposal is generating opposition in Congress and some leaders are pushing for a broader review of the nation's multibillion-dollar nuclear weapons programs."
And this:
""A secure energy future for America must include more nuclear power," Bush said."
But those furriners don't need a secure energy future, since we can't trust them to runthings, anyway. Thess hypocritical lines are not lost on them, however, which is why Radmaker's statements caused such a fuss at the UN and required Kofi Annan to step in and try to make nice.

Can someone remind me why we still hold ourselves up in our own mythology as the paragon of nations? Doesn't anyone but a few two-bit lefty bloggers notice this shit?

Monday, May 02, 2005

On The Hindquarters of Rattus Norvegicus

rat Please God. I've only been back to reading the net and watching TV for a few hours and already I can't bear the thought of one more article on the runaway bride, or Pickles and her hilarious stand-up routine Saturday night. Too tired to get it up? Starved for sex and hanging out at strip joints? Husband brain-dead? Aside from the fact that it came from the handmaid of the Dauphin, what on earth makes the cruelty and puerile subtext of such stupid yuks newsworthy? It certainly gives insight into what they must see in each other, if you subscribe to the theory that like attracts like--one shallow, smiling creep to another.

Aside from that psychological insight, who gives a rat's ass?