Sunday, December 31, 2006

Islamic Jihadists and George Bush: Common Ground?

I somehow missed a New Yorker article by Lawrence Wright titled "The Master Plan." Subtitled, "For the new theorists of jihad, Al Qaeda is just the beginning," the piece appeared in the September 11, 2006 issue of the magazine. In it, Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11," basically says that Al Qaeda is defunct, or at least irrelevant, because even though the U.S. failed to capture bin Laden and even, for all practical purposes, abandoned its search, the type of indiscriminate slaughter espoused by Al Qaeda type groups is seen by jihadist ideologues as counter-productive. The jihadists have extended plans for action that cause less collateral damage and destroy the economy of the infidels.

One of these "new theorists," Abu Musab al-Suri, is certainly not "new" to Al Qaeda or bin Laden. In fact, the Syrian-born jihadist has been a member of the organization's "inner council," but he has deeply-held differences with Al Qaeda on how to proceed. He also has a shrewd take on U.S. policies and goals in the region. For example, he claims that the American attack on Afghanistan was, in Wright's words, "not really aimed at capturing or killing bin Laden; its true goal was to sweep away the Taliban and eliminate the rule of Islamic law" -- Shari'a. Since Suri published his sixteen hundred page book, Call for Worldwide Islamic Resistence, on the Internet in 2004, he already knew about the invasion of Iraq the previous year, so his views don't exactly qualify as prescience, but history has nevertheless born out their truth. In fact, one of the primary flaws even Americans found in the Bush Doctrine was its eagerness to abandon the search for bin Laden and withdraw significant numbers of American troops from Afghanistan for re-deployment in Iraq.

Wright further portrays Suri as viewing the invasion of Iraq as "pos[ing] a dilemma for Al Qaeda. Iraq is a largely Shiite nation, and Al Qaeda is composed of Sunnis who believe that the Shia are heretics." In retrospect, this gives lie to the claims of Cheney and the rest of the neo-con team who justified the offensive incursion by claiming a Saddam-Al Qaeda link. Our politicians should have known better. (Is Hillary Clinton so ignorant about what is going on in the Mideast, and especially among Islamic peoples? She must be. She voted for the war.)

Another of the jihadist ideologues is Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, a Palestinian sheikh, who mentored the bloodthirsty, cruel killer, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but disagreed with him on such tactics as suicide bombings, like the one in Madrid, in which Zarqawi had a hand. Maqdisi condemned "vengeful acts which terrify people, provoke the entire world against mujahideen, and prompt the world to fight them" and advised jihadists to steer clear of Iraq. Jihadist involvement in the Iraqi civil war would, in Maqdisi's words, be an " God, the biggest catastrophe." To which warning Zarqawi responded that he took orders only from God. And this, as Sam Harris and others have observed, just happens to be the same claim made by George Bush. In a world where everyone and his brother commits slaughter on orders from God, somebody's got to be lying.

Abu Bakr Naji, another jihadist theorist, actually draws sustenance from Western thinkers, including a Yale historian named Paul Kennedy. It seems that Naji has quoted Kennedy in an Al Qaeda website article based in part on the professor's book, Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. In this 1987 tome, Kennedy observed that imperial overreach leads to the downfall of empires. If the semi-literate Bush had read enough history, he might have revisited Tsar Nicholas and the conditions in imperial Russia prior to the Bolshevik Revolution. Nicholas's downfall -- indeed, the end of Tsarist Russia altogether -- was brought about by preemptive, offensive, and above all costly foreign incursions, first in the East, then in Europe. He bankrupted Russia and brought about mass starvation and political unrest, leading ultimately to his undoing. But, no, Bush knows nothing and doesn't want to learn anything either. Early on, commentators fretted over his "total lack of curiosity," but they scarcely could have anticipated Bush's "reading contest" with Karl Rove! When Bush announced he was reading Herman Hesse, I had to laugh. Reading is one thing. Understanding is something else.

Finally, there is Fouad Hussein, who met both Zarqawi and Maqdisi in a Jordanian prison, interviewed them extensively (I mean, what else is there to do?!), and ended up writing what Wright terms a book about Al Qaeda's "apocalyptic agenda." It is indeed scary. The key to Al Qaeda's strategy, Hussein says, is "dragging Iran into conflict with the United States," since
"[e]xtending the area of conflict in the Middle East will cause the U.S. to overextend its forces." In turn, in retaliation, Iran will likely cripple or destroy oil installations in the Persian Gulf, "which would cut off sixty percent of the world's oil supplies, destabilizing Western economies." That scenario seems right out of Doctor Strangelove.

But that's not all. It gets even more nightmarish. In fact, Al Qaeda almost seems to be maneuvering American foreign policy in the Mideast. Hussein predicts that the U.S. and Israel will first rid the region of Hezbollah, then go after Iran on one front and Syria on the other, Syria being "Iran's principal ally in the region...." It seems that Al Qaeda has long wanted to infiltrate Syria, so removal of the Assad regime, "a longtime goal of jihadis," will at long last put them in proximity to Israel. Knowing this, how can the Bush administration continue to ignore those who, like James A. Baker and the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, argue that it's time we involved both Syria and Iran in our discussions of the Iraqi situation. Both nations have vested interests in the outcome of the situation at hand. But, no, Bush stubbornly continues, ostrich-like, to stick his head in the ground and go his own
way. He reminds me of the old laundry detergent ad depicting a young man whose mother keeps trying to help him wash his clothes. Frustrated, he says, "Mother! I'd rather do it myself!"

But wait, there's more! Attacks on the Mideastern petroleum industry will continue as the circle of confrontation will expand. Eventually, Al Qaeda will destroy our electronic infrastructure by hacking into government and banking websites and undermining our economy world-wide. By then, secular Arab governments will be under attack or already dismantled, Turkey dealt the same fate as Syria and the final conflict with Israel begun. Such plotting alarms European jihad-watchers; for example, the Dutch, following the jihadist assassination of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, launched exhaustive studies of radical Islamist plans for world domination. One of the Dutch studies, titled "From Dawa to Jihad," classifies radical Islamics to include a "new generation" whose ideology "is alarmingly vague" but includes a facile division of the world into "sons of darkness" and "sons of light."

Jihadists also believe that a fight to the finish between these two groups "is the will of God." Now, the parallel to Bush is complete. Although he may not be a member of the same whacko fundamentalist sect taking the supposed eschatology of The Revelations of John quite literally (unless I am mistaken, former Rep. Tom DeLay belongs to the group), Bush nevertheless espouses a "born-again" or evangelical belief system. Just like this new generation of jihadists, such people believe in the inevitability of the Apocalypse. No matter that sane people think -- i.e. those who do not believe in Santa Claus, much less the elves -- such views are only held by loonies. Unfortunately, we're helpless to stop the march of the monotheists' self-fulfilling prophecies. As Sam Harris has argued in his insightful, brilliant The End of Faith, the world's monotheisms all have ulterior motives for bringing about The Final Conflict. To the Christers, it is the Rapture. To jihadists, it's virgins in Paradise.

Wright concludes with the scariest realization of all: "Although American and European intelligence communities are aware of the jihadi texts, the works of these ideologues often reads like a playbook that U.S. policymakers have been slavishly, if inadvertently, following...."

Oh? Really? How "inadvertently"?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The President's Analyst?

One of the vogue definitions of insanity is repeatedly performing the same task and expecting a different result. George W. Bush needs a psychiatrist. He appears to be the only guy in the world who actually thinks "victory" is possible in Iraq. And he refuses to follow the sage advice of a non-partisan blue ribbon investigatory committee joining those who say that it is time to get out of Iraq. Bush appears to be getting truly desperate, employing an old Vietnam era trick designed to convince the skeptics that the war is winable: the body count.

Standing in front of the joint chiefs in the Pentagon press room, Bush announced that during a ten-week period from October, 2006, until the second week of December, some 5,900 enemy had been killed. He did not say who had killed them -- U.S. troops, Iraqi forces, Shiite militiamen, or Baghdad's pathetic police. This is critical in that without knowing the political alliances of those who died and who, exactly, pulled the trigger, there is no way for us to know whether the feckless Iraqi government played any part soever in the kill. As any trial attorney knows, sometimes a half truth is the worst form of lie.

Worse, body counts proved counterproductive in Vietnam. For one thing, as the My Lai massacre demonstrated, soldiers saddled with a phoney goal of wiping out just so many enemy troops are much more likely to shoot first and find out who's been killed later on. Routinely, collaterals are counted right along with the insurgents and al-Quaida types, just to satisfy the quota. The tendency of Vietnam officers to inflate the figures became almost legendary. Fibbing about the kill was the norm rather than the exception.

It also spawned perhaps the only levity to come from the Vietnam war, the spoofing of the military leadership by merry jesters who'd turn up at sit-in's, peace rallies, and even Renaissance Pleasure Faires. I personally met two of these Dadaist clowns: "Gen. Wastemoreland" and "General Hersheybar," after the commanding officer in Vietnam (Westmoreland) and the chief draft architect (Hershey), respectively. Dressed up like South American dictators bearing so many ribbons and medals you wondered how they walked, they would show up at any gathering where they could expect to boost the morale of the anti-war forces. At first, the latter were mostly dope-smoking longhairs, peaceniks. Later, though, especially after the Kent State "police riot" and, later still, Walter Cronkite's reports on what he'd seen overseas, the numbers included all manner of consciencious citizens. It was a genuine pleasure, and a great honor, to meet these generals poseurs.

But the falsifying of numbers is also redolent in a way of another, earlier ugly episode in our policitical history: the McCarthy era. Will Bush be telling the press tomorrow that, during the same period, "over 6,000 enemy were killed," and, in January, that during the same period "9,000 enemy were killed" -- during the same ten weeks? There's no sure way to "prove" that exactly 5,900 "enemy" were killed, nor do we know, from Bush, who is or is not an "enemy." In the kind of civil war going on now in Iraq, everyone would seem to be an "enemy" under a given set of circumstances.

As for Bush, I say the guy's a certifiable looney. I might advocate having him committed to a mental institution were I not more eager to see Congress bringing articles of impeachment. Among the grounds they might allege, I would certainly include the fact that he has failed to learn the lessons of history, for by such willful ignorance, Bush has condemned the American people to relive it.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Am I missing something? Why are we still debating whether to "stay the course" or "cut and run"? Koffee Annan says that the U.S. cannot win in Iraq, nor can we leave. I say we should leave before we lose...more U.S. troops. We are clearly caught in the middle of a fight-to-the-finish religious civil war, Sunnis against Shias. We dare not arrest Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, but he's using Irani money and materiel to wage war on the Sunnis. In short, he's nothing but a terrorist. The situation is even more absurd when one considers the helplessness (or refusal) of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to end Shia militia violence and/or arrest al-Sadr. Maliki knows that his fragile coalition government (which is really a Shiite government with a few Sunnis and Kurds around to pick up the crumbs) could never survive a crack-down on the Shia clergy. Dissolution of the coalition would be the price to pay for getting rid of al-Sadr. It's ridiculous for military leaders, pundits, and pols to go on saying the situation is not yet a civil war when every indication is otherwise. I understand that the Shias are now claiming that the Sunni insurgents are backed by the U.S., understandable given the background of Shia-U.S. relations, and especially the Shia majority of Iran. With that kind of mistrust rampant in the majority of Iraqis, the idea that our presence is still welcome there is just plain stupid. The notion that leaving now will admit defeat and weaken us world-wide is simply ridiculous. When all of the phony, data-mined, cherry-picked "justifications" for going into Iraq turned out to be bogus, the administration claimed that regime change was sufficient reason to invade. OK, been there, done that. It's only a short time now before Saddam is hung. Now, let's get the fuck out. Who gives a damn whether the Sunnis and Shias slaughter each other? I'd rather redeploy the troops to the Sudan and stop the "ethnic cleansing" (read: genocide) in Darfur than try to help a bunch of ragheads whose religion is repugnant to me and who show no signs of being deserving of anything akin to democracy. Saddam may have slaughtered a lot of Shias and Kurds, but at least he kept order. Like Mussolini, he kept the trains running on time.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

P.S. The Real John McCain

A while back, noting that Sen. John McCain made a commencement speech at Larry Faultwell's so-called "university," and pointing out that, earlier, he had denounced Faultwell for his crypto-Nazi sentiments, I suggested that this was an instance of McCain showing his true colors -- those of a colossal hypocrite. I kept wondering why no one -- at least, none of the pundits -- brought this to McCain's attention, confronting him on the flip-flop, which was so obviously made to curry favor in the ranks of the religious (and bigoted) right. When I wrote the blog, I had to cast about for a paraphrase of exactly how McCain had put it. He had linked Faultwell, Robber'sson, and one or two other Jesus freak loonies together and characterized their behavior as downright anti-American. This morning, however, McCain appeared on Meet the Press, and, finally, someone confronted his hypocritical turn, Tim Russert. Russert reminded us of what it was McCain had said about Faultwell &c. -- that they were "agents of intolerance." And he pointed out that McCain had flip-flopped when he made his appearance on stage with Faultwell. McCain's lame-ass answer: "He came by my office in Washington and wanted to make amends." Yeah, sure.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Rudeness & Punditure, or Why I Love to Hate Ann Colder

Right off, I will confess that there is no way I can write a blog dealing with Ms. Ann Colder without injection of ad hominem remarks. The exposé of plagiarisms in her latest asinine attempt to be amusing at liberals' expense, Godless, has produced a bonanza of bellicose blogging designed to point up her foolishness and, at long last, her journalistic dishonesty. In response to an article about Colder's plagiarism, appearing online at the Raw Story site, a reader who signs on as "goingsnake," wrote (tongue obviously planted firmly in cheek), "[A]nn [C]oulter is a man, right? [O]r a transvestite or maybe an alien from like Jupiter. [H]e has a great [A]dam's apple, dog ugly though." My sentiments exactly! But I wouldn't denigrate drag queens or extraterrestrials by such a comparison. (In case you wish to read Raw Story's take on the Colder plagiarism flap, check it out: -- really informative stuff.)
Yes! Of course, it is possible for some of us to think Colder ugly and mannish. In fact, when she appeared on the cover of a national news magazine, sitting with boney legs splayed out to the bottom corners of the page, she looked like nothing so much as an anorexic transsexual (although I wouldn't want to denigrate those folks, either!). Part of my philosophy holds that beauty really is skin deep, which means that if you cannot admit that Ms. Colder is ugly as puke, you're probably a neocon ideologue who thinks George II is the Second Coming and, as Ms. Colder has actually suggested, all liberals should be sent to concentration camps and eventually exterminated. (Yeah, I know, she didn't say exactly that, except in so many other words, but I demand the right to fight fire with fire. As the primary tool most commonly used by right wing pundits is the Big Lie -- they got it from Joe Goebbels who knew that if you bullshit people long enough and often enough, they forget what was really true -- I demand the right, as a Flaming Liberal, to tell a few whoppers of my own.)

Initially, though, I confess. In all honesty, I think Colder is ugly as spit. No, not one of those mucusy little bits of expectorant, but a big gob of oyster-like, sidewalk goo you'd avoid stepping on even if it meant jumping into the street in front of a speeding truck. Ann is plug ugly. She's as putrid as poop. She tries, though. When she goes on the talk shows (fewer of them lately, I note), she keeps using her long falling wig as a prop, wiping it out of her eyes, the better to reveal what she obviously believes to be a sort of classic beauty: high cheekbones, a long rather than round face, puckered liptation, Revlon blush, Clairol mop, and so forth. (You didn't really think that was Colder's own hair, did you?! I'll even wager it was fellow right wing pundit Fucker Harlson who put her onto the wigmakers. I hear he's bald as a post.)

Her demeanor constantly reminds the viewer with any insight into fallacious argument and compassion for one's fellows that Colder is a Cunt. She has gotten to the point where, politician-like, she avoids answering difficult questions by mid-sentence changes of subject and silly little snappish swipes at her detractors designed to demean them by implying that they're not worthy of expressing an opinion about her, much less world affairs. Someone should strap her down to an "old sparky" chair (complete with wrist shackles), administer a hefty, mailine injection of LSD, and play a droning tape of "Sister Ray" with a new vocal track: Bill Clinton repeatedly barking: "Opinions are like assholes, Ann: everyone has one."

What astonished me was that after the bruhaha over her observation, in Godless, that the 9/11 widows of police and firemen were "harpies" meeting with Hilary for personal gain (and had been on the verge of dissolving their marriages before the Twin Towers attack), almost all, if not all, GOP and neocon ideologue talk show guests refused to condemn Colder for this latest instance of her insouciant evil mentation. They claimed that Colder was only speaking the truth, because the heroes' widows really had met with liberals. My Webster's defines "harpy" as a "relentless, greedy, or grasping person." My, my, Ann, this sounds more like YOU! YOU make your living by being a lying, vicious, perverted, total Cunt.

She actually pretends to relish going to college campuses to speak and being attacked, sometimes only by hissing and booing; other times, by attempts to paste her ugly mug with banana- or coconut cream pies. On the talk shows, she simply laughs off these incidents of "liberal" stupidity, but five will get you twenty she's had no end of hate letters, life-threatenign phone calls, and close shaves (oops, you should pardon the pun) involving a bit more than whipped cream or meringue in the face. In fact, I would be even more astonished to learn that the woman has no full-time bodyguards. After all, an assailant could break one of those skinny, ugly legs with the fingers and thumbs of one hand.
Hannibal Lecter, where are you now that we need you?
As for the plagiarism itself, the allegations surfaced in a New York Post piece by a plagiarism expert, John Barrie, who employed some sort of computer software to run checks on works suspect of, well, er, uh, borrowing from others. Called "iThenticate," the program can dig up instances of literary theft faster than a speeding bullet. As it happened, the software revealed that, among other things, Colder lifted verbatum "a list of adult stem cell treatments from a Right to Life website," says Ron Brynaert of Raw Story. Several other publications and many bloggersites jumped on the bandwagon and faster than Colder could pop a hormone pill (you didn't think those tits were real did you?), and now, Brynaert says, Colder's press syndication distributor, U.P.S. (a Rev. Son Hung Poon organization, it should be pointed out) promised to "look into" the charges.
Again, as Brynaert notes, Colder's publisher, Crown, responded to the allegations by claiming that, "as an experienced author and attorney, Ms. Colder knows when attribution is appropriate...." That's interesting. Since when did the populace put any faith in anything an attorney says? The old joke asks, "How do you know when an attorney is lying?" and the usual answer is: "when she's opening her mouth." As Rude One of observes, the claim of Colder's people that Godless has extensive endnotes is besides the point. "To say that her endnotes prove her innocence is not unlike saying that the guy next door went his whole life without killing anyone until he blew a brain gasket and went on a ten-state hobo-stabbing spree...." The endnotes take up 19 pages and include hundreds of attributions. Rude One points out that "The entire book has page after page of uncited material, no matter how much [Colder] actually cites stuff elsewhere." It's certainly ingenuous -- silly, really -- to claim that extensive footnotes prove lack of cribbing.
Colder's crew obviously believes that holding their ground in the current climate of neo-fascist aggrandizement and appeasement will soon put the boiling controversy on a cold back burner. They may be right. To paraphrase H. L. Mencken, "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people." Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the whole affair is that some bloggers, anti-Colder pundits, and news hounds appear to be missing a very important point. Not only does the crypto-fascist neocon far right wing religious bigot bunch spread filth and lies, they engage in endless hypocrisy. One does not need to be a Korzybski to uncover all of the semantic fallacies in a work by such as Colder, or to see that she is hardly above employment of double standards.
Take for example the following Colder rip-off from the Illinois Right to Life website. In the seventh chapter of her latest tome, Colder says that the "Church of Liberalism" devotes itself to a "war on science" that prompts liberals to lie about stem cell research, saying that "...the working," when Colder-IRL know that it is not. She claims that the reason liberals perpetuate this lie is "to elevant [a] science that has produced nothing." Perhaps she has not heard the latest medical news about how stem cell applications promise victory over spinal cord injuries! But that inconsistency pales, too, upon consideration of the truly bogus junk science promulgated by Ronald Reagan and mythologized rhapsodically by the GOP and especially their military-industrial complex campaign contributors in the entire post-Reagan era -- the missile-thwarting technology nicknamed (probably faceciously, or so Fred Barnyard claims on The Beltway Boys) "Star Wars." For years now, this cabal has insisted that the technology works, although every non-lobbying scientist insists that Star Wars is only a ruse, an unworkable folly. The tests have been so fraught with failure that almost all the other TV pundits admit that the system could not be counted upon if and when Dim Dumb-Ill shoots off intercontinental bowel movements from North Korea. Even if he did have the ability to arm his ICBM's with nuclear or other mass-destructive warheads, our Star Wars technology could not stop Dim from turning the West Coast into toast. Whew! Glad I no longer live in L.A.!
I only hope that the boiling controversy over Colder's lies and larcenies does not overshadow discussion of her use of a common tool of the cabal: repeated insistence that what is good for the goose is not good for the gander -- or vice-versa. That is, it is OK for the Colders of this world to condemn one science as unworkable but ignore overwhelming evidence that a science they favor, despite its proven unworkability, is perfectly good and can justify the waste of a gazillion dollars.
When all is said and done, I still believe Colder is an ugly Cunt.(1)
(1) I apologize to all the ladies out there if they are offended by this word. It has ancient and honorable origins; in fact, it most likely has its etymological foundation in the worship of an Oriental Great Goddess "known as Cunti, or Kunda, the Yoni of the Universe," as George Ridley Scott says in his Phallic Worship. (For some interesting insight and comment, see I only refer to women as cunts when they're being shits or doing anything deserving of the epithet. I also refer to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as a nigger. Honi soi qui mal y pense!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Dim and Diane: An Afterword

The pace of geopolitical developments makes one giddy. The consensus of the political pundits, even those inclined to denigrate if not demonize Dubya, is that the only way out of the current crisis between Dim Dumb-Ill and the U.S. is for China to intervene. Unfortunately, China is disinclined, in part because North Korea is a trading partner, and in part, as was pointed out by right-wing pundit Tucker Carlson, because the fall of Dim and his slavish subjects could lead to a mad dash of refugees into a country already vastly overpopulated. And before we accept the answer that "the U.S. is a trading partner, too," Sino-American relations should be a bit more closely examined.

To begin with, just exactly what can the U.S. use to persuade China into intervening, into putting pressure on its neighbor to the Southeast? Those who reply, "Why, a warning of trade sanctions, of course!" take the position that China needs the U.S. to function, to stay fully operative, but it's a two-way street; to mix metaphors, a double edged sworn. Initiation of trade sanctions cannot stay unilateral for long. I don't know about you, but the last time I was in Wal-Mart, about 70% of the goods had "Made in China" stamped on the stickers. Fact is, Wal-Mart has earned a rep for putting a lot of American manufacturers out of business because its purchase of Chinese goods keeps U.S. companies from being competitive. And if the Chinese can make acceptable products for less, perhaps their U.S. competition should fade into bankruptcy. Those of us who regularly shop at Wal-Mart know that the Chinese brands are not only acceptable, they're a whole lot cheaper.

It almost goes without saying, too, that the U.S. cannot stand a trade war with China for an even more important reason. China is a major financier of our trillion-dollar deficit, which means, in effect, that they're helping, indirectly, to finance the Iraqi War. Helping to finance the Iraqi War makes the Veep's "blind" trust Halliburton stock go up and increases the sales of Humvees. We've already seen what the yuan can do on the international oil market. China imports few commodities that other nations indifferent if not hostile to the U.S. cannot supply, mainly, machinery and equipment, plastics, iron, steel, and various chemicals. Don't look now, but they've been very chummy with their neighbor to the northeast can supply most if not all of those goods, and the Chinese have already become a major player in the oil game. In fact, it's safe to say that our $3.00-a-gallon petroleum got that expensive, in part, because of competition from the Chinese. China has the fourth-largest economy in the world.

My hunch is that the U.S. would utterly lose any trade war with China. It's like a Mafia loan-shark or bookie "calling in the chits." Beijing says to Shrub: "Fock you!, give us our money. NOW!" China votes against us in Security Council resolutions almost routinely. Take their reluctance to assist us with attempts to isolate Iran. Why would the Chinese want to alienate a twerp like Ahmadinezhad and his mullah puppetmasters when they're importing Irani oil and gas? (For that matter, Iran and North Korea are cosy trading partners, too. If only to diehard conspiracy buffs, it's beginning to look like these countries are set to lock the U.S. in a vise!)

Years ago, circa 1980, I saw Texas pickups driving around with an ironic -- and prophetic -- bumper sticker. At the time, the redneck nation was making a big whoop-de-do about how Yankee snobs were sucking up cowboy oil. The high cost of energy was planted firmly on the shoulders of Northeasterners, whose long, cold winters sent heating oil prices skyrocketing. The cowboy bumper sticker read, "Let's Turn Off Their Oil and Freeze 'Em All to Death!" Not only the silliest, most geocentric sentiment imaginable, but one certain to come back to roost and haunt the clods who made the boast since it failed to take into account that our energy problems are universal. They're every American's problem. I must be a diehard conspiracy buff myself because I believe that we invaded Iraq not only to guarantee its sale of cheap oil, but because we wanted to establish a foothold in the Mideast, nation-hopping, as it were, with Afghanistan giving us an initial staging area, leading to a jump into Iraq, then a move on Iran.

I don't think we should be as worried about the lack of full U.N. Security Council support for our position on North Korea as we should wake up to the fact that the leadership of most other nations is hardly so naive as to miss the implications of such bullying. The greatest failure of the administration of King George II is its inability to lie its way out of a wet paper bag. None -- let me repeat, NONE -- of the reasons Dubya has given us to justify the Iraqi invasion bears out factually or withstands the cold light of truth. It should not be necessary to, and I don't want to bore the reader with, the litany of justifications for the unprovoked attack. The neocons continue to perpetuate all of the myths -- from Saddam's harboring al-Qaida terrorists, to plans for going nuclear (as if the WMD controversy wasn't resolved two or three years ago!), but none of it will wash. It's all b.s. Right wing neocons really do look like Nazis when they practice ol' Joe Goebbels's favorite trick: telling a lie often enough people no longer remember the truth.

The fact of the matter is, once the world powers tire of U.S. bullying and big stick political machinations, they're bound to unite to smite us. In a certain sense, we have become the new Nazis. And if we aren't careful, the nations with oil will cut ours off and freeze US all to death.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dim and Diane: The Odd Couple

Now that the North Koreans have used the occasion of our nation's celebration of independence to rattle the sabres and fire off seven defective I.C.B.M.'s (intercontinental bowel movements), we witness strange bedfellows crawling out of the Murphy bed woodwork, as witness California Senator Diane Finegrind (D-Cal.), with her insistence that the U.S. should agree to direct talks with the representatives of North Korea's lunatic dictator Dim Dumb-Ill (S. -- for Stalinist -- Pyongyang). For once, I side with the opposing view of Dubya and the GOP, that only resumption of the six-nation talks exclusively represented by Pacific Rim and Russian diplomats, is acceptable, direct talks being a kind of reward for the posturing and provocations of Dim, carried out without question by his millions of blind, brainwashed followers, who think him a God ("Dear Leader").

Finegrind is an idiot and doesn't know her history. England and, to an extent, the U.S., tried to appease Adolf Hitler in the 1930's to the result that they did just what Dim Dumb-Ill has done to the six nations: violate their solemn word. The Germans invaded eastern Europe and the North Koreans, after promising to curtail uranium enrichment proceedings, simply racheted up the threat to obtain more concessions. Giving into Dim now is tantamount to throwing in the appeasement towel. Shrub, and his U.N. man, John Bolton, refuse to kowtow to Dim's demands, feeling that giving in to North Korea at this point would only encourage additional threats later on. Holding direct, bilateral talks at this point is rather like paying off a blackmailer. You can't be assured he won't come around again with new demands.

And although the U.S. leadership would like us to believe that it has the man- and firepower to keep on the negotiating table an armed attack on this "axis of evil," North Korea probably has the largest standing army in the world and could attack, say, Japan, or, more likely, South Korea, its prosperous peninsular neighbor, which would certainly draw us into an apocalyptic scenario. There is a relatively narrow window of advantage (if it can be called that): the interim between these failed missile tests and North Korea's actual ability to deliver nuclear warheads. Nevertheless, insisting that Dim and Crew deal only with the six powers in talks just makes sense. The most obvious reason is that South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, et al., are neighbors. They have the most to lose.

Since when does the U.S. respond to the threats of terrorists? We never caved in to the demands of the Ayatollah Khomeini, Muammar al-Qaddafi, or Hafez al-Assad (unless you count the criminal activities of Lt.-Col. Oliver North's arms-for-hostages exchange as such), we have consistently given terrorist rulers the peeled banana. And if anyone doubts Dim Dumb-Ill's qualifications for the title of "terrorist," I recommend the article by Brendan I. Koerner, "What Kind of Terrorism Does North Korea Sponsor?" (Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and a fellow at the New America Foundation.) He claims that the North Koreans (1) sold weapons to separatist groups, (2) did an arms deal with the Moto Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines, (3) bombed a (South) Korean Air Lines flight, (4) attempted to assassinate a South Korean president, (5) killed of a South Korean diplomat in Vladivostok, and (6) gave comfort and shelter to exiled Japanese terrorist groups like the Communist League-Red Army Faction, and so forth.

Add to this the growing intelligence revealing how North Korea treats its own. Literally millions have died of starvation and forced labor in Dim's gulags. Some Dim apologists like to claim he's "crazy like a fox" and is actually a shrewd and savvy leader, but in my opinion, he's just plain nuts -- and I 'm not even taking into account his having a perennial bad hair day. We know that this nitwit had secret agents kidnap movie stars and film crews from places like China so that he could feed his ego by indulgence in a favorite pastime: motion pictures. (He boasts the biggest film library, presumably on VHS or DVD, but maybe in 35mm. prints, as he can afford them, anywhere in the world. He is said to be particularly partial to James Bond movies and such slasher fare as the Hallowe'en franchise.) And if we're to believe, Dimmy Boy drinks a lot, regularly injects himself with pain killers, and stages banquets with an "Entourage of Delight" -- disco dancers ordered to strip nude and provide a floorshow for his banquet guests. (Although the dictator allows his guests to "look," they are not permitted to touch the dancers, "for these are my children.")

The NewsMax story is based on a published account by the tyrant's personal chef of 13 years, a Japanese named Kenji Fujimoto, who claims that Dim indulges in such pricey delicacies as Iranian caviar and sips such expensive imported liquors as Johnny Walker scotch, noting that an estimated 2.8 million of his subjects starved during a single three-year famine. (Apparently, this claim has been authenticated by the BBC, which produced a documentary about Dim.) It seems that the North Korean military built up rice reserves on Dim's orders even as hordes of peasants were withering into skeletal non-existence.

The worst aspect of the situation is the notorious unpredictability of the man. No one knows what he will do next, or even what outrages he is capable of. But for a twit like Findgrind to suggest that we humor this fool in an attempt to resolve the "missile crisis" is misguided at best...and insane at worst.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Will the Real John McCain Please Stand Up?

I am beginning to think that the reason McCain has been guarded in his criticism of the Bush administration is not just that he is towing the party line; it's that he's not that much different from Bush. Both of them are liars, phoneys, and hypocrites. During a speech some time ago, he virtually lambasted Pat Robber's Son and Jerry Faultwell as dangerous lunatics whose pronouncements were an affront to mainstream America. Now, he goes to Faultwell's "university" and gives a speech.

No wonder the New School commencement class hissed, boo'ed, and gave McCain their fannies. He doesn't stand for anything but the so-called principles Bush embraces. Meaning that there will be almost no change if McCain is elected. He, too, will have to mollycoddle the Far Right bigot bull moose loonies who are down on everything from abortion to stem cell research. (At least one GOP stalwart has already declared that the party will NEVER support a Pro Choice candidate.) McCain, then, will have to put a lie to every middle of the road principle he has espoused.

Sure, pandering is hardly the exclusive domain of the GOP; in fact, Dems do it more blatantly, if anything. But McCain seemed a breath of fresh air when he jumped on religious fundamentalists beford turning 180 degrees to seemingly embrace their lunacy. I once thought that if the Dems put up a knee-jerk liberal with ideas a little left of Lenin, I might vote for McCain if he's running on the Republican ticket, but no more. The Dems can run anyone now -- maybe even a yellow dog -- and I will pull their lever. McCain is a phoney hypocritical twerp.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bush's Big Gamble

Dubya's oval office primetime speech on immigration reform was his best, ever. Mindful, one assumes, of Lincoln's famous observation that you can fool some folks part of the time, some folks all of the time, but never all the folks all of the time, George II craftily used a carrot and stick approach that allows National Guardsmen to be stationed on the Mexican border at least temporarily, while about 6,000 new customs officers are trained, a provision certain to please the conservatives in hopes they'll go along with the "guest worker" program that will, eventually, legitimate the 11 to 12 million illegals currently living and working in the US. Bush has learned the old adage that politics is the art of compromise, and the fact that there are far right elements resolutely refusing to pass any bill with an "amnesty" program suggests that the Prez is on the right track.

His form of "amnesty" -- it isn't even fair to call it that -- calls for illegals standing in line behind those who are here legally and working on green cards and, ultimately, nationalization, as well as payment of penalties/taxes, making a good faith effort to learn some English, and other demands quite unlike the program set up by Ronald Reagan earlier. Hardliners will continue to insist that amnesty by any other name is still amnesty, but the Bush administration points out that a country founded and developed by immigrants has no business rounding up 11 million people and deporting them wholesale. Bush was so passionate about it, it seemed to me that it was the first and only evidence of his campaign promise/slogan, "compassionate conservatism." Even Karl Rove strode over to the congressional office building to implore votes in favor of the reform proposal.

Unfortunately, the agenda falls short of tackling what I personally feel to be the Number One roadblock -- and it's not on a highway across the Rio Grande. Like drug legislation designed to fight the importation of controlled substances from places like Mexico -- which fails because we spend little or nothing to reduce the demand (e.g. treatment programs) -- illegal immigration mainly exists and grows because there are too many employers here (including major corporations) willing to look the other way when hiring, sometimes with the excuse, "Well, he showed me a Social Security card," a piece of identification so easily forged it might have been dummied up by a blind man. Enforce the permissive hiring laws and word might get around in places like Mexico that the job market is so poor in the US, one might as well stay home.

Conservatives always argue that illegals are taking jobs away from Americans, but liberals -- and Vincente Fox -- insist that Mexican workers come to the US to take jobs we Americans are unwilling to do. This almost always leads to a chicken-egg argument. Do the Mexicans take the jobs because their standard of living is low, allowing them to work for minimum wage (or less!). or have the salaries for like employment dropped to take advantage of the "slave wages"? Labor leaders gripe about illegal immigration lowering the wages of the American worker, but would the employer be able to stay afloat at all without the illegals?

In my posts to egroups devoted to such topics, I have pointed out that a reduced illegals labor force would inevitably increase the cost of goods and some services. I asked fellow members, "Would *you* pick onions, potatoes, or other ground produce bent over all day with a tool guaranteed to give you carpal tunnel syndrome?" It's a rhetorical question but an increasingly important one. All indications are that the spiraling cost of gasoline at the pump is being passed on to the consumer by retailers who utilize the transportation industry (almost everything we buy!), which translates to the most dreaded word in the language: inflation. In turn, inflation is bad for the 401-K. Seems to me, it is the wrong time be reforming immigration. For what most employers are paying the illegals, most American workers could not live, especially when a five-ounce ground sirloin patty selling in a butcher shop here yesterday at 75 cents was going for 79 cents today.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding

Fist and Factotum are at it again -- that is, Senators Bill Fist and Rick Factotum. They were the prime movers behind the silly, ultimately insidious bill to give all Americans a one-time hundred dollar "rebate" equivalent to about nine months of gasoline taxes. That was their response to voter complaints that the major oil companies are gouging and that the government should pass a windfall profits tax, hold hearings on overreaching by Exxon et al., and come up with some sort of plan to deal with the damage being done by three dollar gas at the pumps of America.

Why should anyone be surprised to learn that this plan had "linkage"? Yep, as the wire services explained, "Frist (sic), last week linked the $100 rebate to an energy-relief package that included...a call for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a proposal the Senate frequently rejects." Boy, does all this SMELL, and not just of "sweet" crude. It stinks of nothing less than bribery. That's right. Approve the "rebate" and the Senate gets to award special interests (read: big oil) with more than a windfall, a veritable motherlode of black gold. In all likelihood, Fist has Exxon et al. in his blind trust of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, and what about Kerr-McGee, a subsidiary of Halliburton. Whose blind trust is going to swell in the wake of passage of the proposed rape of Alaskan wildlife? Why, none other than Prick Chaney.

Surprisingly, the new majority leader (no stranger to K Street type graft him), John Boehner, made reference to the Fist plan as "insulting." He didn't clarify that remark so far as I know, but presumably he saw the tit for tat for what it was: a brazen attempt to get the American tax-payer predisposed to the same shenanigans practiced by their elected officials. Exchange of rebates for environment-busting oil exploration is precisely the sort of thing Jack Abramoff was up to. At least some Republicans are smart enough, and sensitive enough, to recognize a scam when they see it. Boehner was expected to be just as corrupt as Tom Relay, but he's a lot smarter it seems.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"Open Borders"? Really, Now!

I belong to an e-group, newsgroup, or whatever they're called, devoted to the subject of gay Mexico. Not unexpectedly, a string began a debate on the current legislative push for criminalization of illegal border breaking and other stringent, even draconian measures. One group contributor, who uses the screen name of "vanycle2000," said: "I'm for an open border with Mexico and Canada. This road to nationalism is well trod and perilous." The following is my response:

If you mean by "open borders" unchecked, unmonitored crossings, I am afraid I cannot disagree more. Unfortunately, the one good argument the hardliners have in this national debate is the spectre of 9/11. Just because bin Laden has not attacked people or places on our soil since the initial Al Qaida airplane suicide doesn't mean the terrorist group (and possibly others) have no plans for other hits or means of carrying them out.

It is characteristic of fundamentalist Islamic terrorists that they can and do lie in wait with the patience of Job until "just" the right time to hit. Many of the 9/11 loony-thugs who brought down the Twin Towers crossed over the Canadian-U.S. border on their way to Boston, where they boarded the planes. And, given that not only the smugglers but organized crime is involved in the border breaking, few questions are asked, *dinero* being the only consideration. A mideasterner or two with terrorism on their minds are not going to have *that* much trouble finding someone to help them make it across the Rio Grande into one of the border states. My bet is that it has already happened -- more than once.

Yes, I know, 9/11 has been used as an excuse to plan such silly ass actions as building a wall across the Mexican border and stationing National Guard troops on the Rio Grande. Fear is a potent weapon when wielded by the bigots who want all illegals charged with a felony offense (where do they think they'll find prison space for those of the 11 million illegals they now routinely return to their native soil?!), but if you were living in a place like Corpus Christi, as I am, you would be frightened with or without the fear mongering of the Mitch McConnells, Bill Frists, and Tom Tancredos.

Our seaport is the nation's fifth largest, and just happens to be the primary port for onloading of military materiel bound for Iraq. I get spooked every time I hear an airplane go over the city. It's depressing as hell, a kind of perpetual rendition of what Americans went through in October of '62, without the empty shelves at the local supermarkets, only now it is bin Laden instead of Khruschev. In my idyllic liberal youth I saw borders as necessary evils at best, thinking it silly that when my train passed from Germany to Switzerland, customs inspectors boarded my wagonlit to inspect passports and stamp them with visas. I held more or less the same bemused skepticism until 2001, but I can hold it no longer.

I get tired of hearing that dumb-ass clown from Crawford go on about 9/11's having "changed everything." But guess what? He's right about that one thing. (Not that he can legitimately use it to justify such a pre-emptive use of force as the invasion of Iraq!) No, I am afraid I cannot agree that policing of U.S.-Mexican and Canadian borders should be abolished. Those Border Patrolmen help me sleep better nights.

Friday, March 17, 2006

God and Country - Part II

During the Terry Schiavo fiasco, when a small number of reckless politicians, ignorant or disdainful of the Constitutional doctrine of separation of powers, sought to derail judicial reiterations of the right to privacy and the right to die, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback was right there in the forefront, along with Sen. Rick Santorum (a blithering halfwit with the morals of a slug) and Rep. Tom DeLay (an unscrupulous, degenerate bigot who'd sell his mother for a golf junket), and, lurking in the wings, Brownback's buddy and Operation Rescue founder, Randall Terry. In a blog supplement to his mammoth Rolling Stone portrait of Brownback, Jeff Sharlet pointed up the inconsistencies -- double standards, really -- that characterize Brownback and Company's position on capital punishment, on the one hand, and such end-of-life issues as discontinuance of life-sustaining treatment on the other.

Brownback co-sponsored, with another of his Prayer Breakfast group senators, a bill called the Streamlined Procredures Act, which would short-circuit -- foreclose, actually -- the right of a person convicted of capital punishment to appeal from state courts to federal by way of writ of habeas corpus. (Curiously, Brownback is a "reformed evangelical," having switched from fundamentalist protestantism to Catholicism at some point, and, like a majority of American -- if not worldwide -- Catholics, conveniently ignores the Vatican's condemnation of the ultimate penalty.) As Sharlet points out, habeas corpus was appropriate for intervention in the Shiavo Affair to keep a basket case alive, but not for a convicted murderer, no matter how weak (or even trumped up) the evidence.

But Brownback's Number One Pet Peeve, hands down, is homosexuality and especially the attempts of gays and lesbians to attain "special rights." Special rights are nothing more than the same privileges and perks enjoyed by stright people, including marriage. If the Sam Brownbacks have their way (and they have to a great extent), gays could never marry; a gay or lesbian partner cannot keep vigil with their significant other in a hospital room; they cannot become beneficiaries of retirement plans, and so on and on ad infinitum. The only justification offered by such bigots is that the sacred American Family must be protected, which is what marriage is all about, isn't it? The Brownbacks of this world want to have their cake and eat it, too. Gays and lesbians are unstable and can't maintain longterm relationships, so it's best to deprive them of the main thing that tends to cement relationships, the commitment of religious vows. The instability argument, vis-a-vis denial of the right to marry, just won't wash. About 50% of all straight marriages end in divorce. So, just exactly who is unstable?

The right wing religious nuts' positions on homosexuality boil down to one thing and one thing only: bigotry. They claim that gays have an "agenda" that is designed to recruit youth and initiate young people into a perverted lifestyle. This ignores medical science just as creationism ignores biology. Granted, nurture plays at least some role in the process of becoming gay, but nature dictates a genetic predisposition. One cannot "make" another person gay. Neurobiology says otherwise. But, then, no one ever accused the Brownbacks of this world of being educated or intelligent. They would rather wallow in ignorance and superstition than subject their silly notions to the cold light of scientific experimentation and confirmation of theory by statistical analysis.

The Brownbacks include such Senator Sam associates as Robert Wasinger, his chief of staff, who led a college crusade to rid Harvard of gay and lesbian faculty members, writing in a student review -- sponsored by the right wing Heritage Foundation -- that he was anti-gay because he hated to see sperm cells "swimming in feces." Perhaps aware that Biblical condemnations of homosexuality have been questioned as mistranslations of Aramaic and outright distortions, Brownback claims that his negative position on the matter is dictated by "natural law." This concept, as it is used by Brownbacks, derives from an epistle of Paul. Paul was the greatest misongynist in history and a sexually crippled closet queen who interiorized the homophobic attitudes of his fellow Zealots and illegitimated the religion he founded by perverting the Truths of its prophet. Although you might think that the word, "natural," is intended in the sense meant when someone refers to a practice as "unnatural," Paul meant an innate ability to discern between right and wrong. (Aquinus took it up, too, but it was thoroughly, wittily, devastatingly examined by Robert Anton Wilson, in Natural Law, or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy.) Suffice to say, natural law is about as sensible a justification for being down on queers (you should pardon the expression) as a preference for tea makes Coca-Cola unpotable.

Finally, Brownbacks view the Revelations of John of Patmos as self-fulfilling prophecy -- easily the scarriest and most dangerous idea they maintain, much worse that their desire to see women go back to coat hanger abortions in dark alleys and gays put in concentration camps or simply executed, &c. To the Brownbacks (I was going to call them Brown Shirts, but that one has already been taken), Armageddon will be the final conflict of Muslims on the one hand and a Judeo-Christer coalition on the other. Hey, I always suspected a nuclear holocaust would ensue sooner or later, burning the planet into a cinder. I just don't think Brownbacks should hurry it up.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

God and Country - Part I

I may only be showing my age, and it is entirely possible that such things are no longer taught in American history or "civics" classes, but I seem to recall my grade school teachers informing us that the First Amendment's anti-establishment clause (no "official" religion) grew out of the Founding Fathers' fresh recollections of the persecution (even, in some cases, the forced conversion) of religious minorities. France may have been the Champeen pogromist, slaughtering Huegenots, Cathari, and witches during what the latter, after the favorite method of execution, called "the Burning Times."

In a mere 230 years since the forefathers brought forth a more perfect (read: free) union, a nation taking pride in its freedom from religion, we are witnessing an unprecedented clamor for theocracy, a movement marked by hypocritical lip service to the idea of religious freedom, but with unmistakable subtexts of Christian fundamentalism. Maybe fundamentalist Christers are by nature reactionary, and the more we assert our right to be agnostics or atheists, the more they push an agenda that is little more than a thinly disguised plot to make the USA the Jesus Freak equivalent of Iran. Fundamentalism is bad no matter who the prophet and what the gospel. A right wing evangelical with a "pro-family" agenda is no different than an obdurate Shi'a mullah who finds in Shari'a law an agenda for keeping great numbers of the world's population firmly ensconced in the 18th century.

When this sort of thing is allowed to flourish, unabated, it results in things like the mutaww'un, or "enforcers of obedience" of Wahhabism, who've been characterized as "a kind of private religious police, monitoring not only public but also private conformity to Islam." (The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, emphasis added.) With the establishment of a Christer theocracy in the USA, we may see the return to such early American practices as hitting people with rods when they doze off in church, and putting them in stocks on proof they worked on the Sabbath. Who are the front men for this nonsense? Would it surprise you to know that the Number One Bull Moose Looney just happens to be a United States senator?

Yep. He's Sen. Sam Brownback, GOP, Kansas. (Where else?) Senator Sam plans to run for chief exec, and he's got most of the Christer voting block -- the same evangelicals who helped put Dubya in the White House -- backing his efforts. If any one individual epitomizes the follies and evils of theocratic political philosophy, it's Brownback. A February 9th Rolling Stone portrait of the man had me screaming and puking at turns, as Brownback represents everything sick and evil in post-Vietnam America. The author of the "National Affairs" piece in Rolling Stone, Jeff Sharlet, a New York University professor, says that Brownback (1) held off on signing Newtie's contract on America "not because it was too radical but because it was too tame," (2) once told a group of businessmen "he wanted to be the next Jesse Helms -- 'Senator No.' who operated as a one-man demolition unit against godlessness," and (3) compared Roe v. Wade to the Dred Scott decision, although the former legalized abortion -- an expansion of freedom -- while the latter legitimated slavery, a curtailing of it.

Sharlet portrays Brownback and spouse as plain vanilla Americans, she in the kitchen while he is fiddling with the remote to block those channels on TV deemed "too sexual," including, at times, the nightly news. After all, it was Brownback who, in the wake of Janet Jackson's unfortunate tit-plop at Super Bowl halftime, introduced $325,000 fines for such shenanigans in his Broadcast Decency Reform Act! Senator Sam is a member of the Promise Keepers, portrayed by Sharlet as proselytizers not only for Christeranity but worldwide conversion. Theirs is "a vision of manly Christianity dedicated to the expansion of American power as a means of spreading the gospel," Sharlet writes. So this is what the Bush Bunch are up to in the Mideast! And just when one is starting to wonder how dangerous such twits can really be, Sharlet lays The Biggie on us. He claims that Brownback is a member of a secret group called The Fellowship, headed by a lunatic named Doug Coe.

"They [strive] ultimately, for what Coe calls 'Jesus plus nothing,' a government led by Christ's will alone. In the future...everything -- sex and taxes, war and the price of oil -- will be decided upon not by democracy or the church or even Scripture. The Bible itself is for the masses; in the Fellowship, Christ reveals a higher set of commands to the annointed few. It's a good old boy's club blessed by God...." (Emphasis added.) I've highlighted some select clauses in this part of Sharlet's report in hopes you'll note that this scenario is already being followed by Rev. Robber's Son and Rev. Faultwell. When disaster strikes, it's God's punishment on America for our sinful ways. Never mind that such thinking commits the logical fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, best illustrated by reference to the aboriginal tribe whose chief kicked the bucket during a total solar eclipse. Lest the Gods look down unfavorably on them, they made sure that later chiefs were whacked whether sick or well.

Wait, there's more. But I will reserve it for Part II. (Although I dearly love Mr. Google's Blogger, longish pieces become cumbersome, difficult to edit, and hard to keep stable. It's probably easier to break a long blog into parts.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Stark Frist of Removal

One certainly hopes Sen. Bill Fist doesn't really think he can take over where Dubya left off in 2008! (Yeah, yeah, I know, it's Frist with an "r," but I've gotten into the habit of playing around with the surnames of boobs, nits, crooks, and swindlers, as witness my fondness for "the Rev. Jerry Faultwell," "the Rev. Pat Robber's Son," and so forth.) Sen. Fist bussed in hordes of Republicans so he could win a straw poll in Memphis, beating off a challenge by John McCain, considered by some an early front runner and the man to beat in the GOP primaries in '08.

Silly John McCain. Didn't he learn his lesson in the 2000 race, when he allowed Rove-inspired rabbit punches to humiliate him in debates with Bush? Haven't the more astute pundits hinted that McCain's mainstream middle-of-the-road pronouncements cannot get him ahead in Republican primaries because the party itself has been hijacked by far right wing nut cases who think that the First Amendent means nothing and it's high time we established a theocracy of blithering idiot snake oil salesmen pounding Bibles and denouncing everything from abortion to gay rights.

No, McCain would best be advised to take the Perot route and start a third party with a platform appealing to sensible folk. I really cannot see McCain stumping at places like Bob Jones University (as Shrub did in '00). Many of McCain's positions on various issues place him in a position of anathema to bussed-in bigots from the rabid religious right -- abortion, for example. At least two other participants in the Memphis poll stand a better chance in the long run: sappy, half-witted Sen. George Allen, and Sen. Sam Brownbeck of Kansas, a liberal's worst nightmare, the epitome of the nuclear-familied Christer breeder geek eager to junk the Constitution, initiate forced conversions, and round up anyone who believes differently than he does, putting them in concentration camps. (See the wonderfull -- if harrowing -- Rolling Stone portrait of Brownbeck if you question my suppositions. Penned with surprising objectivity by Jeff Sharlet, it nevertheless manages to skewer "God's Senator," surely the religious right's man with a theocratic plan and a very likely nominee if the party fails to see the light of reason.)

Fist has some moderate views as well, but his straw poll front-run begs the question of whether the GOP thinks it can keep its House majority in '06 and win in '08 by maintaining the status quo, by conducting business as usual. The lessons of K-Street, DeLay, Abramoff, &c. have already been lost, and the Republican Party seems condemned to repeat their own sordid history. Fist, too, is part of the Culture of Corruption that Sen. Nancy Pelosi spoke of. Fist's own cultural contribution concerns his insider trading of family-owned for-profit hospital stocks that were supposed to be in blind trusts, so that no communication could be had by beneficiary to trustee. Then why, when HCA stocks were set to take a tumble due to lowered earnings announcements in June, 2005, did Fist order his trustee to sell off all his HCA shares -- two weeks before a 15% drop in value. Seems to me that this is just the sort of thing for which Martha Stewart narrowly avoided conviction (although, of course, she was sent to prison -- for obstruction of justice).

The point is simply this. Sneaky little twits like the flaccid Sen. Lindsey Graham are saying that of all the participants in the Memphis straw poll, McCain alone can expand the party's base to embrace Democrats and independents. "[The straw poll voters] are looking at electibility. Republicans are smart enough to know that the trends right now are not favorable for us." This is as disingenuous as it is miscalculating. McCain has no appeal to the neo-conservative element of the GOP, the people who make such hoopla over that nebulous sillyness called American family values -- and especially the people Rove pulled into the polling places to cast ballots for Dumb-Ass Dubya: the religious right. Now that both the S.E.C. and United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York are looking into Fist's follies, it's almost certain that he will be so besmurched in coming months -- if not pilloried to prison -- he will lose any chance of beating even the despised Hillary in '08. Besides, he takes stands on some issues at odds with the Christer bigots as well, e.g. stem cell research.

It's going to be interesting to say the least! Five will get you ten that Fist will not set foot in the Oval Office as chief executive.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Guess Who's NOT Coming to Dinner

It took me a day or two to get over the slight of seeing a cloying, manipulative, "safe" film like Trash -- oops, I mean Crash -- win the Best Picture Oscar a few nights back (03-05-06). There, I had been thinking, I was fairly certain, that this particular Academy Award belonged to the gay-themed Brokeback Mountain. I should have guessed the outcome when the voting members handed out the Best Screenplay award to Crash, many of my objections to it having their basis in the movie being an annoying concatenation of unlikely, unbelievable plot twists, "coincidences" that called attention to their own improbability. But of equal concern to me was the "dated," almost anachronistic subject matter. I mean, Crash would have been daring and even radical in, say, 1967. That's when the studios gave us Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, a cloying, manipulative, "safe" picture (which, incidentally, did not get the Best Picture Oscar, either). No wonder the hype for Crash emphasized that it was "years in the making." It might have been groundbreaking 20-30 years ago.

Although it initially suffers a tad from the sort of wishful thinking and wouldn't-it-be-pretty-if... tone of optimism that mars some "gay lib" rhetoric today (an equal amount of it being marred by shrill, "bruised fruit" rhetoric), the following in some respects sums up my feelings about Oscar's slighting of the story of Ennis and Jack ("Homo on the Range," as one wag dubbed it). That is to say, the posting (I was not informed if it came from a blog, an email, whatever) sums up my feelings about why the skittish Academy members ignored the mountain for the hills of racist Los Angeles. I suspect this will come as a bit of a surprise to right wing pundits and fundamentalist religious bigots, but Hollywood remains a bastion of homophobia. In any case, this missive was written by someone named Lamar Damon, and it came to me from a friend of a friend under the subject line, "Could Not Have Said it Better Myself." Neither could I. Here it 'tis:

"Sometimes you win by losing, and nothing has proved what a powerful, taboo-breaking, necessary film 'Brokeback Mountain' was more than its loss Sunday night to 'Crash' in the Oscar best picture category.

"Despite all the magazine covers it graced, despite all the red-state theaters it made good money in, despite (or maybe because of) all the jokes late-night talk show hosts made about it, you could not take the pulse of the industry without realizing that this film made a number of people distinctly uncomfortable.

"More than any other of the nominated films, 'Brokeback Mountain' was the one people told me they really didn't feel like seeing, didn't really get, didn't understand the fuss over. Did I really like it, they wanted to know. Yes, I really did.

"In the privacy of the voting booth, as many political candidates who've led in polls only to lose elections have found out, people are free to act out the unspoken fears and unconscious prejudices that they would never breathe to another soul, or, likely, acknowledge to themselves. And at least this year, that acting out doomed 'Brokeback Mountain.'

"For Hollywood, as a whole laundry list of people announced from the podium Sunday night and a lengthy montage of clips tried to emphasize, is a liberal place, a place that prides itself on its progressive agenda. If this were a year when voters had no other palatable options, they might have taken adeep breath and voted for 'Brokeback.' This year, however, 'Crash' was poised to be the spoiler.

"I do not for one minute question the sincerity and integrity of the people who made 'Crash,' and I do not question their commitment to wanting a more equal society. But I do question the film they've made. It may be true, as producer Cathy Schulman said in accepting the Oscar for best picture, that this was 'one of the most breathtaking and stunning maverick years in American history,' but 'Crash' is not an example of that.

"I don't care how much trouble 'Crash' had getting financing or getting people on board, the reality of this film, the reason it won the best picture Oscar, is that it is, at its core, a standard Hollywood movie, as manipulative and unrealistic as the day is long. And something more.

"For 'Crash's' biggest asset is its ability to give people a carload of those standard Hollywood satisfactions but make them think they are seeing something groundbreaking and daring. It is, in some ways, a feel-good film about racism, a film you could see and feel like a better person, a film that could make you believe that you had done your moral duty and examined your soul when in fact you were just getting your buttons pushed and your preconceptions reconfirmed.

"So for people who were discomfited by 'Brokeback Mountain' but wanted to be able to look themselves in the mirror and feel like they were good, productive liberals, 'Crash' provided the perfect safe harbor. They could vote for it in good conscience, vote for it and feel they had made a progressive move, vote for it and not feel that there was any stain on their liberal credentials for shunning what 'Brokeback' had to offer. And that's exactly what they did.

"'Brokeback,' it is worth noting, was in some ways the tamest of the discomforting films available to Oscar voters in various categories. Steven Spielberg's 'Munich'; the Palestinian Territories' 'Paradise Now,' one ofthe best foreign language nominees; and the documentary nominee 'Darwin's Nightmare' offered scenarios that truly shook up people's normal ways of seeing the world. None of them won a thing.

"Hollywood, of course, is under no obligation to be a progressive force inthe world. It is in the business of entertainment, in the business of making the most dollars it can. Yes, on Oscar night, it likes to pat itself on the back for the good it does in the world, but as Sunday night's ceremony proved, it is easier to congratulate yourself for a job well done in the past than actually do that job in the present."

As Ennis or Jack might say...'Nuff said.

Fred's Freudian Slip

I sometimes find myself watching one of Fox News' "buried" pundit programs ("buried" because stuck in one of the forgotten, unwatched slots: 5 p.m. Saturdays. The name of the show is The Beltway Boys. It features Fred Barnes. I might say that it features Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke, but Mort's presence is neglible, he is so cowed by the far right wing views of Barnes. (In fact, in case you've failed to notice -- and the documentary movie, Outfoxed certainly noticed -- Fox systematically hires unattractive, nerdy, unlikeable, or ineffectual persons to be the fall guys and stooges for its mainstream crypto-fascist commentators. Hannity and Combes has its Combes, and The Beltway Boys has its Kondracke, just to name a couple. (Of course there are major exceptions: Bill O'Reilly will brook no regularly appearing liberal dissent, no matter how mealy-mouthed, on his dictatorial, monomaniacal program, probably because no one wants to sign on knowing they will have to play the stooge, their every pronouncement subjecting themselves to being characterized as a "pinhead" -- itself an abhorrent, insensitive epithet, since actual pinheads are victims of congenital defects; in a word, a type of mongoloid.)

If I bother to examine my motives for even watching The Beltway Boys, I find it appeals to my sadistic streak; that is, I enjoy watching Kondracke -- the dummy liberal -- squirm. I like to see how far Kondracke will go to carefully, painfully, almost pathologically, avoid any direct disagreement with Barnes. This past Saturday (03-13-06), Barnes made a bizarre comment that either completely slipped Kondracke's notice, or else the latter simply let it slide, possibly (again confirmed by Outfoxed) fearing the network's retaliation. (At Fox News, you tow the line or you move on. Certainly gives falsity to their claim of fairness and impartiality!) Barnes treated the TV audience to a photo of George Bush embracing a foreign dignitary by placing his palms on the man's cheeks. Never mind that in most of the world's countries, this would go unnoticed. In fact, men in most countries feel no shame but rather closeness of friendship when touching each other -- even hugging and kissing, on the cheek at least. (For all their notorious macho, it is only apocryphal that the Mexicans invented the abrazo to prevent the other guy from drawing his six shooter.) Why should they not be as forward as women toward each other? They're secure in their self image. They know who and what they are.

Barnes took issue with the photo, blurting, "What's he DOING there? If he tried that with me, I'd knock him out!" Kondracke let it go. Strange, since he has, in the past, voiced quite tolerant attitudes toward gays. If it had been a true debate (as rare as hen's teeth on Fox), he might have pointed out that Barnes's outburst showed nothing so much as how insecure Barnes is about his own sexuality. Freud had a word for it: "projection." It's the imparting to others traits one dislikes in oneself. The incident suggests that Barnes might have repressed homosexual traits and that he acts macho-straight to ward off his (mostly imaginary) suggestions he might be a homo himself.