Thursday, March 31, 2005

O Canada

For the next few days, I'll be visiting our civilized, patient neighbor to the north, so no new posts till Sun or Mon.

Looking forward to being in a country not run by the likes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and DeLay. A brief, artificial reprieve, true, but I'll take what I can get. However, I will revert to my vulgar American self Sat night when I watch the Final Four, ranting for Louisville and Michigan State in a Toronto hotel room. As much as I enjoy Canada, I'm still a Hoosier at heart. Hoops in the blood.

Rest In Peace

A silent prayer for Terri Schiavo, who finally passed away this morning.

Hopefully, the circus and freak show outside her hospice room will move on. What transpired over the past few weeks has been disgraceful, egged on by the media, cable chatters, charlatans, religious extremists, self-serving pols and camera-hungry publicity whores. It was as ugly a display of human behavior as I've ever seen, and I fear that Schiavo's death will serve to fuel even coarser displays. No way that fascist Randall "I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good ... Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a Biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism" Terry disappears, not after getting his brand back. And Jesse Jackson? He'll render unto Murdoch what is Murdoch's. It would take a court order to get the microphone removed from his face.


Adding the aptly-titled Crooks and Liars to the blogroll. I know C&L has long been at fixture at many lib blogs, but I'm still relatively new to the terrain, and I take my time when endorsing this or that site.

I love C&L's numerous vid links, which show us the utter stupidity and depravity of cable chat. This past week has been a veritable Joe Scarborough laff fest, clip after clip displaying Scarborough's brick-headed idiocy and ideological arrogance. Y'think the MSNBC suits had this in mind when they dumped Phil Donahue, whose ratings were higher, by the way, in favor of Scarborough and the lovely Michael Savage? Recall that the suits thought that Donahue gave the network a "bad" image in wartime. Do they honestly believe that MSNBC looks better now?

Pass the gasoline around, boys. Someone has a match, I'm certain.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Bullied Teen Terrorists

One of the joys of living in a corporate-owned country is that everything gets branded. Human commodities require bar codes and bright labels, 'else there'd be no way to fully understand what anybody says. Arguments, beliefs, poses, attitudes -- all need neat, distinctive tags in order to be sold and responsibly consumed.

The latest brand -- to me, anyway -- is Bullied Teen Terrorist (BTT). Snappy. Very Anthony Burgess, or maybe Burroughs in his "Wild Boys" period. Simply take a perennial social category/problem -- bullied teens -- and yoke it to the Grand Term of our time -- terrorist. New product! Perfect for cable chat! (Once Terri Schiavo passes on, that is . . .) Fresh meat for sociologists, child psychologists and professional moralists!

Much of this noise comes in the wake of Jeff Weise's Red Lake, Minn. murder spree, a deadly Columbine knock-off that sent a few dozen more volts through the body politic, making every moody picked-on teen who seethes and makes hit lists the Next Danger, or BTT.

Now, this doesn't mean that there aren't genuine threats from a few nihilistic teens (esp when, like Weise, they give a strong hint of what's going through their stormy minds). I doubt, sadly enough, that he'll be the last boy to cut loose with firearms and/or bombs. Part of the battered landscape, alas. But if every teen boy who's pushed around, belittled and intimidated by bigger kids decided to go ballistic, then we'd be in a serious mess. There'd be several shootings a day.

Still, there are teens who, fed up with getting hassled, fantasize about striking back, their hard feelings usually expressed through hit lists, a very American pastime (is there another culture where lists enjoy such popularity?). A recent Detroit Free Press story examined a couple of Michigan teens who are being held as potential BTTs, one of whom had an arms cache at home, the other simply caught making a hit list. Both have been charged under an "anti-terrorist" law passed in 2002 by the Michigan Legislature. And while even prosecutors admit that perhaps this law is on the broad side, such legislation is seen by many as a necessary step in the War on Terror (another hot brand).

Sullen bullied American teens = Islamic fanatics? Looks that way. Americans love overkill while pursuing the easily defined. This is the beauty of With Us Or Against Us: anyone can become a deadly enemy at any time for any reason. And those who have the power to make and enforce enemy distinctions do so by -- that's right! -- making lists. Hence the need for ready labels and the branding of human emotion.

Having been a bullied teen myself, I empathize with those kids who, because they are sensitive, shy, artistic, weird, confused, queer, undecided, rebellious, get the shit kicked outta them by jocks and young Repub goons who feel threatened by their presence. In my case it got so bad that in the summer between freshman and sophomore year, I began martial arts training -- Tae Kwon Do, Hapkido, Chinese Kenpo -- and really devoted myself to it. After four solid months of exercise, drills and sparring, I returned to school with a different attitude, and had exactly one fight: a big farm boy who singled me out in gym and came after me behind the bleachers. Two sharp kicks and that was it. On his back. When he finally got up, he wanted to be friends. So not only was I able to defend myself, I gained a physically large ally in the process. I never had a problem with bullies again.

The idea of stockpiling weapons and shooting up the school never occurred to me, and I was used to being around relatives who owned firearms (a few years later, however, some of my martial arts buddies got into handguns, resulting in one of them getting accidentally shot and killed). A different time, though I'm certain that the majority of bullied teens today wouldn't dream of going Columbine. That's why exploiting isolated tragedies like the Red Lake shootings to justify perpetual war overseas and assaults on liberty at home is absurd and insane but ultimately useful. It expands the target field for those who are on the hunt, and it makes criminals of kids who've done nothing but catalogue their fear, anger and desperation.

Perhaps, in time, the BTTs can be rehabilitated and encouraged to channel their raw violent feelings in a productive way -- like warblogging, for example. There they can advocate mass murder and torture without alarming the authorities. Context is everything, or as Nike chief Phil Knight likes to say, the brand is sacred, assuming it's the Correct Brand.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Hey Father Death

Karma. You can't get around it. What you put out you get back. Guaranteed.

Can't wait to see the spin on this. Meantime . . .

Friday, March 25, 2005


Do you feel it yet? Have you had your fill? How much more Schiavo-related madness and hypocrisy can you take?

This is one of the uglier political/religious displays I've seen. And while a solid majority of Americans believe that the Bush Bros. & DeLay are using Schiavo's weakening body for political advantage, our domestic phalange, represented by those waving "Auschwitz" signs outside the Pinellas Park hospice, are just warming up. Once Terri Schiavo passes from this lunatic realm, we'll see what this gang is really made of. They're already offering their children up for arrest. What will the next wave bring?

I won't further beat this disfigured topic, but it provides a candid glimpse of the faith-based authoritarians among us. How tight they really are with the Bush White House is open to question, but any connection should put one on guard. For all its talk about fighting "fascism" in the Middle East, this government seems quite comfy with an Americanized version of same.

Aargh. It'll get worse, I fear. A culture where a thug like Tom DeLay isn't ripped raw by the press and sent crawling into a sewage drain is one that'll tolerate all manner of ugliness. And it does, as you may have noticed.

Here's what disability rights activist Marta Russell thinks about the current show. Like me, Marta's part of LBO-Talk, and she's been lighting it up over Terri Schiavo in the past few days.

And check out Doug Ireland's takedown of Ralph Nader, who has linked arms with our phalange. I wrote for Nader in 2000. And this is how he thanks me?

Bracket Trashed

I'm out.

Oklahoma State, who I picked to win the Dance, lost last night to Arizona when Salim Stoudamire sank a beautiful jumper with 2.8 ticks left. This is what makes the Dance so great. And it's the reason why I should never enter a tournament pool.

The good thing is that now I can put my full support behind Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals, who whipped Washington and are now one game away from Pitino taking his third college program to the Final Four. Pitino's a brilliant coach. He should never have left Kentucky for the Celtics, as he now admits. But when a storied franchise like Boston hands you the keys to its Brinks truck and says "save us," that's gotta be nearly impossible to reject. No matter. Pitino's back, and look for Louisville to be in the Top 10 mix for years to come.

And while it's extremely negative on my part to take pleasure in Bob Knight's loss to Cinderella West Virginia, I simply can't help it. The fucker practically asks for it. Yeah, he's a hoops genius, a Hall of Famer, etc. But he is one of the pettiest, nastiest individuals I've ever seen in American sports. What he did this year with Texas Tech is a great story. Problem is, Knight sullies it by throwing shit at Indiana and its coach Mike Davis, who had the unenviable task to replace Knight in Bloomington. Davis's struggle should be enough for Knight, who gives schadenfreude a deeper meaning. But no. Knight has to pile on. His nature. Zen General he's not.

So, go Louisville! West Virginia's had an inspired run, but it ends Saturday -- or not. Such is the beauty and drama of the Dance.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Like I Said

In these heady days of Democracy Export, there is the Right kind of "freedom," where the US invades, occupies and privatizes (or funnels money to those who see things Our Way), and then there's the Wrong kind. The editors at the Washington Post wholeheartedly agree, which explains their rather open and honest disgust for populist expression in the Americas.

I ran across WaPo regs here and there back in my media activist days. My closest brush came when I debated the WaPo's editorial page editor, Stephen Rosenfeld, at the Smithsonian (topic: media during wartime). Spent a week prepping for this. Took the gig quite seriously. When the day came and I sat through Rosenfeld's opening statement, I realized that the guy had done no homework and was relying on conventional wisdom and the fact that he was a WaPo heavy hitter. It became one of my easier debates. The guy had nothing. And his contempt for my argument for greater media independence and news consumer awareness deepened when, after asking me where I'd gone to college, I replied that I hadn't.

"Well then, how do you know all this stuff?"

And that's when I truly understood the corp media mentality. The idea that average people can study and learn about the power structure and who it serves, or worse, can actually debate those who frame the news, simply astonished him. I don't think he ever really considered it. So the above WaPo ed attacking poor people for fighting foreign corporate dominance is nothing new. Their contempt remains intact.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Pull The Plug

Been thinking about this sketch over the past few days. It's from SNL's second season, February 26, 1977 -- an absurdist take on the Karen Ann Quinlan case from that period. You won't see today's SNL trying something like this (the current crew seems to prefer Entertainment Weekly over the Financial Times), esp given that Michael O'Donoghue had a hand in writing the below bit. O'D's style of humor wouldn't make it on today's SNL. Hell, O'D himself would be banned from the building.

Wish I had a video link for this (the script comes via SNL Transcripts, though I cleaned it up a little). Lots of physical humor, and the broad expressions are key. But if you're familiar with how the players perform, you can adequately picture it in your mind -- just like radio!

Pull The Plug

Doctor: Steve Martin
Mrs. Dionosopolis: Jane Curtin
Mr. Dionosopolis: Bill Murray
Buddy: John Belushi

[Open on interior, hospital room; Doctor stands with Parents in front of Buddy's bed, as Buddy lies in a coma]

Doctor: I'm sorry, Mr. & Mrs. Dionosopolis, but your son can't get any closer to death than he is right now.

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Tomorrow's his birthday.

Mr. Dionosopolis: Doctor, isn't there a chance that Buddy could come out of this coma?

Doctor: Well, let me put it this way - if you want to get Buddy something for his birthday, I would suggest moss for his north side.

[Mrs. Dionosopolis cries in agony]

Doctor: Hey! I'm just trying to lighten things up a little bit!

Mr. Dionosopolis: [comforting his wife] Thank you, Doctor! It's a good joke! It is. I'm sure that Buddy would have laughed.

Doctor: Well, I think you should know that the machine that keeps Buddy alive is costing you $500 a day.

[awkward pause]

Mr. Dionosopolis: I think you'd better pull the plug, Doctor.

Mrs. Dionosopolis: [outraged] Buddy!!!

Mr. Dionosopolis: Now, you heard what the man said. Buddy has no motor reflexes, his mind is gone. Do you think he's having fun? Look at that! [pointing to Buddy]

Doctor: Now, listen, uh.. according to law, I cannot deliberately pull the plug.

Mr. Dionosopolis: I see.

Doctor: Buuuut. . . if the plug were to, uh.. "accidentally".. be pulled from the wall, I don't think anyone's gonna make a federal case out of it. I think you know what I'm talking about, huh? [winks]

Mr. Dionosopolis: Mmm-hmm. Well, I think we should probably just put him out of his misery..

Mrs. Dionosopolis: [outraged] Honey!!

Mr. Dionosopolis: [calmly] Cathy, I never told you this, but about a year ago, Buddy came to me, and he said, "Dad, if I'm ever in a bad accident at work, and I'm hit in the head with a sledgehammer and lapse into a coma and have to kept alive by a machine, I want to die with dignity. So, please pull the plug."

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Wellll . . . if that's the way that Buddy wants it, then . . . pull the plug.

Doctor: Accidentally.

Mr. Dionosopolis: Accidentally.

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Accidentally.

Doctor: [begins his act] Okay! Well, hey, I've got to, uh, run up to surgery. I'm, uh, kinda late right now, so I'll probably be taking off! See you later -- they're calling me! [pretends to trip over the plug as he makes his exit, getting tangled in the cord] Oh, no! My leg is tangled in the cord! It . . . it could cut off the circulation! Help me!

Mr. Dionosopolis: [playing along] Okay, here, here . . . let me get your foot out . . .

Doctor: Yeah! Maybe you could just pull on it!

[both men struggle with the cord, yanking on it, putting their feet on the wall for leverage, but the plug will not come out of the electrical outlet]

[suddenly, Buddy opens his eyes and sits straight up in bed]

Buddy: Hi Mom! Hi Dad! I'm not in a coma anymore!

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Thank God!

Mr. Dionosopolis: [embarrassed] Buddy..? Buddy..?

Buddy: [sees the men tangled in the cord] Ohhhhh . . . what are you doing? Were you pulling the plug on me!

Mr. Dionosopolis: Buddy, the doctor told us you were a vegetable.

Doctor: I, for one, am baffled!

Buddy: But pulling the plug!

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Buddy, we were just doing what you told your father about "dying with dignity." You know? If you ever got hit in the head with a sledgehammer and had to be kept alive by machines? You remember!

Buddy: I never said anything like that, Mom.

Mr. Dionosopolis: Oh, yeahhh . . . you remember, don't you? It was that one day, remember? You weren't acting yourself, you were real strange. I thought, "Gee, that's not like Buddy, wants to die like that." But I figured, what the heck, okay! You said it, though! You said it. You just forgot!

Buddy: [laughing] I probably forgot about it!

Mr. Dionosopolis: Well, Buddy, do you feel good enough to go home?

Buddy: [excited, bouncing out of bed] Yeah, that would be just great!

Mrs. Dionosopolis: All right. I'll fix you a nice big lunch!

Mr. Dionosopolis: And we'll go hunting first thing next week, okay? [turns to Doctor, now with scorn on his face] Thanks a lot, Doctor! Thanks for almost killing little Buddy!

[family exits hospital room]

Doctor: [to camera] Well, excuuuuuuuuuuuuuse ME!!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Holocaust Kitsch Redux

I try to avoid raw meat feeding frenzies like the Terri Schiavo spectacle, esp when the state gets involved. It's so fucking degraded, so utterly hypocritical that I'm forced to go into my backyard and start whacking the trees with a baseball bat (a show the neighbors love). Dozens of bloggers have weighed in on the sickening display (Lindsay Beyerstein lays it down in typically fine fashion -- here & here), so I won't go into the particulars, most of which you all probably know by now. But there's one element of the Schiavo Show that I do wanna touch on -- the comparison of her plight to Auschwitz.

Yes friends, to some, this family's personal hell is on the same level as a Nazi death camp. I've seen the "Auschwitz" sign held up in front of the cameras a few times, and to my knowledge, no one in the media or in the political world has criticized this stupid and deranged equation. It's Holocaust Kitsch for the Theocratic Crowd. And, apart from the cynical use of genocide for religio-political purposes, it's a terribly insensitive image to flash in the faces of Schiavo's family and close friends. They have enough to deal with, and I seriously doubt that they welcome the inclusion of European death machines from the middle-20th century.

But the feelings and needs of the Schiavo family are way down on the rightwing hit list. Swinging this poor woman's listless body around for political gain is all that matters, and when someone as corrupt and vile as Tom DeLay is in on the action (lecturing others on moral behavior, no less), one's gullet can barely keep down the bile.

Where have all these "pro-life" people been when it comes to Iraq? Countless Iraqi dead and the climbing death & mangled toll among American troops don't seem to excite them much. And if the tussle over Terri Schiavo (who is, at this writing, still alive) is comparable to Auschwitz, then what the fuck is the meatgrinder in Iraq? I suspect that if antiwar protesters kept waving "Buchenwald" placards in front of Army recruiting offices, corp media yakkers would find something critical to say. The ongoing media tumult over Ward Churchill's "little Eichmanns" crack is evidence of that.

Years ago, in the mid-80s, I was walking near the Capitol in DC when I came across a fairly large group of "pro-lifers" planting cardboard tombstones in the ground, chanting and praying for all the dead children who never saw the light of day. Spent about 20 mins watching them. Then a couple of women came up to me and offered pamphlets and buttons.

"No thanks," I said, waving my hand. "But I'm curious -- what's your position on all the dead children in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua?"

The women didn't blink. One piped up, "We're against abortion in every country."

"I'm not talking about abortion," I responded. "I'm talking about your and my tax dollars being used to slaughter children in Central America. What is the 'pro-life' position on that?"

They looked at each other. The same woman then said, "We're focused on stopping abortion. We don't have a position on Central America."

"You don't!" I laughed at them. "You mean to tell me that once a kid is born, death squads can invade his or her village and wipe them out, and you don't take a position on that! What kind of 'pro-lifers' are you?"

A few of their comrades yelled for them to get back to planting fake tombstones. "We have to go. But we'll pray for you."

I thanked them. They seemed sincere in their stupidity. As I look back, there clearly was a humane impulse they were trying to tap, but the politics of "life" distorted whatever true and decent desire they possessed.

I don't have an answer for the Terri Schiavo case. I feel for those involved, but ultimately, it's none of my business. And judging from a new ABC News poll, a healthy majority of Americans feel the same way. Sometimes the Beltway bastards overreach enough to knock average citizens out of their consumerist/patriotic haze. It doesn't last long, but at least an opening exists. There may be hope yet. Maybe.

UPDATE: Via Majikthise. By fucking with the separation of powers, DeLay and Co. are making the Schiavo saga our business. Clearly, this is not over.

UPDATE 2: Matthew Yglesias digs up more Schiavo-related hypocrisy & cynicism, as well as a class angle.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

An American In Palestine

Go to Jon Schwarz's site and read the illustrated musings of his friend, Jerry Neufeld-Kaiser, who recently spent time in the West Bank and Gaza, the latter of which is mired in extreme poverty. But, who gives a fuck about them, esp when you can slobber over this.

Note to Palestinian women -- less wailing, more shaking your party thang. In order to snag the Freedom Lover demographic, you gotta do the Gaza "Strip."

Saturday, March 19, 2005

My Time Of Year

Day 3 of Big Dance madness. The NCAA men's basketball tournament is by far the best sporting event of the year. No matter how many high schoolers and college freshmen go pro, the allure and power of The Dance remains. (Still, think of tournaments where Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett might've played.) Nothing can diminish its intensity. Even Sixteen seeds, none of whom have ever beat a One, are electrified by the spectacle.

(Thirteen & Fourteen seeds as well -- Bucknell smacked Kansas? Vermont did Syracuse? The Dance is not choreographed, baby!)

When I was a kid, the entire NCAA field consisted of 22 teams, usually dominated by John Wooden's UCLA squads. Teams had to win their conference in order to compete. Because of this, the NIT, which established the first college tourney, put on a great show of its own, and was sometimes more entertaining to watch (this ended in 1975 when the NCAA expanded its field to 32, then to 64 in 1985). You never knew who might win the NIT, as opposed to the NCAA where, for the better part of a decade, the Bruins marched predictably to the Final, taking out Purdue, Jacksonville, Florida State, Memphis State, or whatever team was served up for sacrifice. The two breaks in that march came in 1966, when Texas Western's (now UTEP) African-American starting five smashed Adolph Rupp's apartheid Kentucky squad, and in 1974 when the NC State Wolfpack, led by "Skywalker" David Thompson, vanquished Marquette.

Many of my happier sports memories are tied to the Dance. NC State's other victory in '83, over Houston's Phi Slamma Jamma (boasting Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, perhaps one of the most talented teams never to win a championship) was a beaut to watch, last second jam by Lorenzo Charles to win it all. Villanova's sharp performance against Patrick Ewing's Georgetown in '85 was one of the finest offensive displays I've ever seen. Then there's Indiana's Keith Smart, hitting that smooth jumper to beat Syracuse in '87. And while not a great game, the '79 match up between Larry Bird's Indiana State and Magic Johnson's Michigan State had tremendous marquee appeal, a preview of the Eighties NBA.

The greatest Dance game, and for me the saddest, was, without doubt, the '92 East Regional final between Kentucky and Duke. Edge of your sofa shit. I was especially invested in this game because the Wildcats were my team. When Rick Pitino left the Knicks to take over a sanctions-straddled Kentucky program, I went with him. I lived in New York at the time, and was energized by what Pitino had done in his brief stint as the Knicks' head coach. His full court pressing style, willingness to run and shoot the trey whenever open got the Knicks back in the playoffs, but ultimately, Pitino's type of game was more suited for the college level. Within two years he turned Kentucky around, got them out of sanctions, and began recruiting some of the finer high school ballers nationwide.

I was convinced that Pitino would become the next Wooden -- or at the very least, another Mike Krzyzewski -- a fast-forward Wizard for the three point age. So when he faced Coach K in that regional final, I felt this was the breakthrough point. This was where Pitino would usher in the New Age of college hoops.

He came close. His squad, while extremely talented (led by Jamal Mashburn), was not quite on the level of Duke's power trio, Grant Hill, Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley. Still, the Wildcats played as equals, primarily late in the second half, answering every Duke basket with one of their own, every great play with an even better play. The teams shot a combined 63% in the final 25 minutes, including overtime, where it was clear that whichever team had the final possession would win. To this day I do not understand why Pitino, who coached a brilliant game, did not put a big man in Grant Hill's face to stop, deflect or hurry his in-bounds pass. Hill had to throw it nearly full court. Why let this son of a Dallas Cowboys running back see the whole floor and take his time to plant and pass? I know -- double team the player receiving the ball. He'd have to catch and shoot immediately, so better to have two men in his face rather than in Hill's.

Well, we saw how that worked. Laettner, who was having one of his best offensive performances (31 points, 10 for 10 at the stripe), executed the catch and shoot flawlessly.


Man, that really depressed me. I hadn't felt that crushed since the Reds came back to beat my beloved Pirates in the '72 NLCS (Roberto Clemente's last game). I could barely watch the Final Four the following week, knowing in my heart that Kentucky should be there.

That's what you get for caring too much. Part of the American fan's pitfall, the place where emotion burns so hot, reason and sanity can barely breath. All fans have felt it at some point, and I'm willing to bet that the Big Dance has broken more hearts than any other event.

Me, I don't get as involved as I used to (I like to save my pain for the New York Jets). But I'll be watching every game I can (btw, I picked Oklahoma State to take it all -- just a hunch). Who knows -- if Pitino's Louisville Cardinals make a run and end up in St. Louis, maybe the old passion will return, along with the hurt. A seasonal reminder of why fans are mostly nuts.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Miracle Spread

It's the latest fad -- liberals who dislike Bush (can't use "hate" -- too strong an emotion for liberals) are clearing their throats, shuffling their feet and acknowledging, semi-reluctantly, that maybe Dub "got it right" in Iraq.

"You gotta hand it to the guy," a local Dem recently told me as he scraped the Kerry/Edwards bumpersticker off his car, "he's really ushering in a new democratic age."

"I never thought I'd say this," said another local lib, adjusting the "W" pin on her brown tweed lapel, "but George Bush is a political god. He makes Lincoln look like Chester Arthur."

Genius. Giant. Visionary. Lord Of All That Moves. Yes, George W. Bush has it all goin' on. His glorious invasion and occupation of Iraq sent magic ripples across the Middle East, renewing oxygen levels and purifying the water. Anything good that happens is Bush's doing. He can rightly take credit for pretty much everything positive, no matter how inconsequential it might seem to lesser minds.

Faced with such life-changing phenomena, I decided to do some research on this magic ripple effect. After just an hour's work, it appears that Bush's miracle touch is altering far more than the once-grim features of the Arab world. Below is a partial list of things that can be directly attributed to the invasion of Iraq. (To list everything would take weeks. To read everything would kill you -- the intensity of goodness is that great.)

Liberals voting for the Bankruptcy Bill.

Mega-profits for the prosthetic limbs industry.

Dianne Feinstein groveling at Condi Rice's feet.

ChemLawn's guarantee to "produce a thicker, greener carpet of grass."

Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank.

The commercial rise of gang bang DVDs.

Prison torture going mainstream.

The fall of Michael Jackson's regime.

Larry The Cable Guy's showbiz ascension.

American literacy rate dropping.

The Ten Commandments rebranded.

Fast food consumption now "patriotic."

Bush's re-election.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


A few items for your consideration . . .

*Do you ever get the raw sick feeling that Africa is just fucked? Wars, disease, starvation, massacres, corruption, sexual slavery, genocide -- the quivering meat wheel smashes everything in its path, and no let up can be seen. Today, northern Uganda is suffering horribly from religious insanity, mass murder and internal displacement. Can anything be done? The World Bank has called for a 60% increase in aid for '05. We'll see.

*Turning from the dying to a diva deluxe, here's a little memoir by Terry Castle about her years as Susan Sontag's acolyte/hanger-on. It's a highly entertaining, if sometimes excruciating, read. I've been in scenes that Castle describes, and it all rings true. Arrogance and egomania are required traits. If you aren't up to behaving monstrously and boorishly, then you don't belong.

*Looking for another argument to support the US invasion of Iraq? This might help. See, if we hadn't invaded, chances are good that Hitler would've gotten the bomb, won the war, then supplied Arab nationalists with nuclear technology.

"But Red boy, wouldn't that require a complete twisting of the space/time continuum?"

Yes. Welcome to the world of neocon logic.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Wrong Kind Of Freedom

People in the streets. A head of state under fire. Demands issued for populist autonomy and greater democratization. Wealthy elites erecting more walls to protect their privilege.

Sounds like something the swivelchair commandos would bang their keys over, yes?

Uh, no.

The above is happening in Bolivia, a country we're not hearing too much about. Why? Hard to say. Perhaps because it doesn't reinforce the current script where Bush is leading the world to a New Democratic Dawn. Indeed, Bolivia's indigenous population, along with its labor movement, are demanding a tax hike on corporations that are exploiting the country's natural gas reserves. Not the kind of thing that warms Halliburton's fans, or those who believe that Real Freedom means allowing foreign multinationals to override local concerns in order to export a country's natural resources for private profit.

Those Bolivian elites who benefit from such an arrangement are now demanding that they be even further isolated from the grubby masses. How can they enjoy their privilege and inordinate wealth with all those poor people clogging the streets?

Clearly, the Bolivian protesters and activists are not aware that street actions and demonstrations only count as "democratic" so long as we Americans say so -- like, for instance, in Lebanon. If you won't accommodate the needs of the Right People, then you aren't "free."

Another thing -- Real Freedom comes from above, not below. It comes from powerful foreign states and energy companies who must be allowed to do whatever they want to the country of their choice. If that means leveling cities and killing untold thousands of civilians, well, hey -- that's the price that must be paid. We didn't say it would be easy. As Rumsfeld once put it, freedom's "messy."

Someone better tell all this to the Achuar, Shuar and Kichwa peoples of Ecuador. Looks like they're drawing the wrong lessons as well.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Weasels Ripped His Flesh

Here's a classic bit of TV -- a March 1986 "Crossfire" episode that pitted reactionary clown John Lofton against conservative musician/composer Frank Zappa. Topic: Obscenity in music videos. The two are flanked by Robert Novak and Ol' Tom Braden, the former CIA man who played "the left" on "Crossfire" way back when.

Watch Lofton and Novak go right for the (what else?) incest button. Watch Zappa swat them down. Watch Braden imply, between brief naps, that he doesn't masturbate.

Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson got nuthin' on these guys.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

High-Tech Puppets

Very busy, but amid all the "democracy" braying that's currently choking the Web (what? you disagree? freedom hater!!), I wanted to post the latest entry from Riverbend's Baghdad blog. Anti-Saddam & anti-occupation, she provides a glimpse from ground level in "liberated" Iraq, and describes the installation of a new system of control there:

"What it seems policy makers in America don't get, and what I suspect many Americans themselves *do* get, is that millions of Iraqis feel completely detached from the current people in power. If you don't have an alliance with one of the political parties (i.e. under their protection or on their payroll) then it's difficult to feel any affinity with people like Jaffari, Allawi, Talbani, etc. We watch them on television, tight-lipped and shifty-eyed after a meeting where they quarreled about Kirkuk or Sharia in the constitution and it feels like what I imagine an out-of-body experience should feel like.

"In spite of elections, they still feel like puppets. But now, they are high-tech puppets. They were upgraded from your ordinary string puppets to those life-like, battery-powered, talking puppets. It's almost like we're doing that whole rotating president thing Bremer did in 2003 all over again. The same faces are getting tedious. The old Iraqi saying sums it up nicely, 'Tireed erneb- ukhuth erneb. Tireed ghazal- ukhuth erneb.' The translation for this is, 'You want a rabbit? Take a rabbit. You want a deer? Take a rabbit.'

"Except we didn't get any rabbits- we just got an assortment of snakes, weasels and hyenas."

Read the rest.

More on Lebanon, the masses stirring in Bolivia (where?), and some Palestinian blogs I've come across. Be back soon. Aloha.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Majikthise States The Obvious

Which is becoming more of a radical act these days. Check her take on the whacking of CNN's Eason Jordan, who had the temerity to tell the truth.

In fact, why not just add Lindsay Beyerstein's site to your daily reading. Well worth it.

No Time For Tots

Ask, and ye shall not receive.

A short while ago, I wrote about battle boy Michael Totten's decision to take a vacation in Puerto Rico while working class mothers and fathers are being sent to Iraq to kill and die for Tots's fantasies. I openly, and personally thru e-mail, asked him to explain why someone who publicly calls for political assassinations (a la Rafik Hariri in Lebanon) and who beats his toy drum for expanded war would take time to stroll a quiet beach when the military desperately needs fresh bodies to keep its "liberation" going.


Which is just as well. Unlike Steve Gilliard, who seems to really enjoy putting his foot up Jonah Goldberg's ass, I ultimately lack the burning desire to corner these stateside battle boys and wring from them some kind of explanation. I dunno if Steve G. truly wants to see the likes of Goldberg dodging roadside bombs in Baghdad, but I don't. All I wanted was some kind of rationalization, to see if it fit my expectation. Call it a minor semi-sociological experiment.

People like Totten are unreachable, I've decided. Esp when you read simplistic, chest-thumping crap like this (and note the "we" again when it comes to celebrating combat). Best to leave them in their backyard sandboxes, crashing plastic planes into plastic tanks, making BOOOOM noises and wetting their pants with excitement.

Pod Boy

The experiment continues. Soon -- sound, fury, minutiae.

Thursday, March 03, 2005


"It's just going to be a rough year." Tell us about it.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Deadly 16

When I moved back to the Midwest from NYC several years ago, I was immediately reacquainted with the insanity of teen drivers. They blow past Stop signs, speed thru residential areas and parking lots, are an absolute fucking menace on the interstate, and generally try to push their parents' cars and SUVs past NASCAR limits. And when they are drinking . . . well, my best friend back in the day, Bob Hoffmeyer, was killed by a drunk teen in a pick-up. The kid lived (apparently, later in life, he asked for and received forgiveness from Bob's parents), but that's not always the case. In any event, drunk or sober, teen drivers, esp 16-year-olds, are extremely dangerous.

USA Today pubbed an interesting article on teen drivers. Two things hit me: 1) "The part of the brain that weighs risks and controls impulsive behavior isn't fully developed until about age 25, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some state legislators and safety activists question whether 16-year-olds should be licensed to drive." And 2) the majority of teen auto fatalities are in (drumroll . . .) the South! "Highway safety officials from Southern states, including Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, say lax enforcement of speeding or alcohol laws and many rural, tree-lined roads that provide little margin for error make their states deadlier for young drivers."

More valuable contributions from our Red State friends. They really are the backbone of America.

Free To Starve

"Freedom" and "democracy" are tossed around liberally these days, esp by the swivelchair crowd. Of course, what they really mean when they say "freedom" and "democracy" is simply "shut up." These words are conversation-enders, not preludes to expanded debate. Criticize the war? Then you hate "freedom," so clam your traitorous ass. Believe that the Bush gang is corrupt? Then you despise "democracy" and need to be escorted from the room.

"Freedom" and "democracy" have been used to cover all manner of crimes and madness, but now the strain is starting to show, primarily in Iraq, but also in mostly-forgotten Afghanistan where we are told, when the topic bobs up, that "democracy" is taking root. No need to explain further. Go back to your regularly-scheduled life. Praise Bush. Shop Wal-Mart.

As in Iraq, Afghanistan's elections were supposedly proof positive that, finally, true freedom had come to that battered land. As I argued last December, elections are a very limited form of popular expression in the US, much less in a war-ravaged place like Afghanistan, where armed tribes control different areas, and the living standards are among the lowest in the world.

The awful conditions that Afghans continually endure were verified in a recent report commissioned by the United Nations Development Program. Titled "Security With A Human Face," it paints a horrid picture of a supposedly "free" Afghanistan:

*Life expectancy: 44.5 years
*Poorest 30% of the population receive only 9% of the national income, while upper third receive 55%
*One out of two Afghans can be classified as poor
*Twenty percent of Afghan children die before the age of five
*More than 300,000 children may have died as a result of recent wars
*Adult literacy: 28.7%
*Over 80% of girls do not attend school
*Opium economy is 38.2% of official GDP
*Over 25% of the population has sought refuge outside Afghanistan
*Only Burundi, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Sierra Leone are poorer

Afghan women continue to suffer, facing rape, forced marriage, violence and malnutrition. And according to the report, a woman dies of pregnancy-related problems every half-hour.

There are some bright spots amid all this despair, primarily some economic growth in certain areas. But overall, Afghan reality is very bleak, and could get worse.

Now, if this were happening under the Taliban, we'd be reminded of their inhumanity hourly by the media and war bloggers. But when the above report was released over a week ago, I saw only a few stories dealing with it (The New York Times, the BBC and Radio Free Europe). I'm sure there were more, but there's hardly been an avalanche of concern. Why should there be? After all, the Afghans are "free."