Thursday, March 30, 2006


Going away for a few days, visiting various sites from my youth. I may post over the weekend, should the urge strike; but more likely, I won't return till Mon.

A few items for your amusement:

A piece by and interview with Gore Vidal. Either read or listen, or listen as you read. Like having Gore telling you a very Grimm bedtime story, with no ending in sight.

A bunch of videos about and by Alan Moore, author of "V For Vendetta" and "Watchmen", among many other fine comic tales.

A 2004 New Yorker profile of Larry David, which I just stumbled across. Gets inside the head of the guy who makes pettiness poetic.

Also, HOORAY for Jill Carroll being released unharmed in Iraq! Great news. As for other stories coming out of Iraq, well . . .

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Hear that sound?

What sound you ask?

All right -- you got me. There is no sound. Not a fucking pip yelp cry or scream from any of the bigger libloggers concerning recent reports about US troops massacring Iraqi civilians, among them children. I spent this morning searching through various liblogs, and unless I totally missed it, there was no mention, much less condemnation, of the killings in Haditha and Balad. And now we have reports that US troops may have killed some 20 worshippers at the Mustafa Husayniyah in Baghdad -- but don't tell this to the online libs. You might distract them from anticipating the final results of the all-important Koufax Awards.

So here we are, entering the fourth year of this bloody madness, with reports of Americans committing war crimes, and stateside liberals remain mostly silent, preferring to tell us how much more virtuous they are compared to Republicans. I recently caught a clip, via Crooks and Liars, of Markos Moulitsas, Mr. Daily Kos himself, appearing on CNN's laughably-titled "Reliable Sources"; and Kos beautifully played the smug, self-absorbed liblogger that is more common than not on his side of the Web patch. He spoke about wanting a liberal Noise Machine to counter the right's endless propaganda. And I wondered what exactly would Kos and his friends do with a Noise Machine -- pimp for Dems? Well, duh. What else? Well, whatever they choose to blast from the thing, it sure won't have much to do with mass murder in Iraq. If libloggers can't get angry over images like this --

Then what the fuck are they supposedly doing online?

To be fair, it seems that the majority of the American public, while expressing misgivings about this whole Iraq thing (without fully knowing the history that led up to this disaster), really couldn't be bothered to care about more dead Iraqis, much less what is happening in that region. So perhaps American liberals are merely playing the mainstream card. A crude generalization? When was the last time you and a neighbor, or a co-worker, or a relative, had a serious discussion about the war? I don't mean trading Isn't-it-awfuls -- I'm talking about a real, heartfelt exchange. Do you hear or see anyone in public mentioning it, pro or con, apart from Support The Troops yellow ribbon magnets on their mini-vans? When, while standing in a check-out line, you are forced to listen to another person's cell phone conversation, how often is the war a topic? As I said last year, whenever I tried to bring up the war with other parents at my son's school, they wanted nothing to do with it, averting their eyes while changing the subject. Too depressing, they whispered. Yeah. Too depressing. Imagine that.

Fact is, unless we are somehow directly affected by this madness, like those countless thousands of Americans who've lost loved ones or have seen them come home minus limbs or peaceful minds, the bulk of the US will go to great lengths to ignore what's happening in Iraq. As Justin Raimondo recently put it:

"Today, Americans look on the Iraq war as little more than a form of entertainment, a series of flickering images darting across their television screens, disturbing but no more real than the latest horror movie. Although we are not quite as bad as the Romans – yet – in that no one seems to be enjoying the show all that much (save, perhaps, for Max Boot and Michael 'Creative Destruction' Ledeen), we are inured, like our Roman antecedents, to the moral meaning of what we are seeing, numbed by our own powerlessness and a paralyzing indifference. Infantilized by a culture of narcissism and insulated by our enormous wealth, we place a comfortable distance between the actions of our rulers and ourselves. The atrocity stories coming out of Iraq seem unreal, as if they are happening in another dimension, and certainly we bear no personal responsibility for the crimes being committed in our name.

"Or do we?"

Good question. And I think the answer is obvious.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Dane In Vain

Peeps of pro-Dane supporters continue to be heard here and there; and while the concept of free speech -- specifically in this case, the freedom to offend -- is all well and good, has there been a less inspiring political spectacle? Tiny crowds of (mostly) white people waving Danish flags and blow-ups of the Muslim-bashing cartoons in question haven't done much to rattle the gates of power. But then, these people aren't really interested in confronting their own governments or statist personnel; they wanna show that they, too, can be nasty when it comes to towelheads, for if you can't publicly wipe your ass with pages of the Koran, then what is the point of Western civilization?

Now, in my view, newspapers, mags, websites, etc., should be allowed to publish or print what they want without fear of violent reprisal. That's a general given. And yes, I was aghast at the bloody riots that came in the wake of Jyllands-Posten's decision to run those caricatures of Mohammad. People shouldn't be killed over images, no mater how crude, offensive or racist -- and don't fool yourself, several of those caricatures were indeed racist, quite consciously so, and that was the point: to rub the Muslim Other's face in the crudest stereotypes of the Western, or in this case, Danish imagination; to show absolute contempt for Islam as a whole, and not with a specific wing or strand thereof. While there were, lamentably, violent reactions to this provocation, there were plenty of nonviolent protests in Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan. So the Muslim response was mixed, with tens of thousands doing little more than chanting anti-West slogans before dispersing.

One wonders if those who support the War On Terror (or believe that one exists) really desire any peaceful co-existence with the Muslim world, much less a peaceful integration of cultures. If so, then it seems odd that some would cling so dogmatically to caricatures that are guaranteed to offend and sadden Muslims who have no intent nor desire to wage war or otherwise commit acts of murderous violence. There's an almost adolescent insistence by the Danish flag wavers that they not only piss on Muslim symbols, but that they be applauded for it. These tiny Jyllands-Posten support groups are among the dumbest and most clueless pseudo-political gatherings in memory, which is why, I suspect, they remain so small. Despite their grand claims of Fighting For Freedom, they have nothing real to say about the world as it actually is, and are giving a pass to those in power who are doing far more than publishing offensive cartoons. When these twerps start demonstrating against, say, US forces denying Iraqi civilians (children among them) of their freedom to breathe in their own homes, as was done in Haditha and Balad, then perhaps we can better measure their supposed commitment to liberty.

And speaking of Jyllands-Posten, friend Jon Schwarz just posted a rather tasty editorial opinion from that paper's past, one that was forwarded to me a few weeks ago, but which I wanted to see confirmed before putting up. Seems it's the real deal. Concerning Kristallnacht in 1938, the freedom-lovers' martyred paper wrote:

"You have to admit Germany its clear right to rid itself of its Jews. But one must insist that it happens in a decent manner."

More about Jyllands-Posten's pro-Nazi feelings here. Wave your Danish flags over that.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ill Literate

"No books today. Just movies and old Dick Cavett shows."

Icy glance from the librarian as I set the borrowed items in front of her. I smiled in return, then said to the wife, "Wouldn't it be great if the whole library became an upscale video/DVD store? And it's free! No more Hollywood or Blockbuster. Just think of it!"

"Honestly," she sniffed, rolling her eyes, "how did I end up with you?"

"I wonder about that myself." If you saw us side by side, you'd know that was an honest statement. But I still considered what the library would be like sans tomes.

"It's the next logical human stage. We've passed from oral histories to the written word and now rely more and more on the audio/visual. Our kids are developing a literacy of movement, sound, and light. Books will always be around, of course, but little black specks arranged on white paper doesn't really bring the noise. Book readers are already a minority, and that'll remain the case for quite some time, if not for all time."

"You don't know what you're talking about."

"Well, that could well be, but I'm willing to bet I'm closer to the mark than not. Did you ever read Hans Magnus Enzensberger's essay 'In Praise of Illiteracy'?"


"It's great. Came out in the mid-80s. He believes that the pre-written age was, if not a golden one, then certainly an interesting and creative one. I dunno if I completely agree with him, but I find it worth thinking about."

"That's absurd," replied the wife, smiling. "You're Absurdy Absurd the Third, the absurdist man I've ever known."

"At your service, m'lady," I said in my Dick Van Dyke "Mary Poppins" cockney accent, bowing.

The librarian finished checking everything out and looked at me with utter disdain. Perhaps it wasn't polite to conceptually reduce her role to that of a video store clerk while in her presence. Ah well, live and learn.

I've since re-read Enzensberger's essay, translated from the original German, and reproduce it here for your appraisal. I'd be interested to hear what you regs have to say about it. I think it's even more pertinent today than it was 20 years ago. But then, I'm a very absurd man.

by Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Can we dispense with the written word? That is the question. Anyone who poses it will have to speak about illiteracy. There’s just one problem: the illiterate is never around when he is the subject of conversation. He simply doesn’t show up; he takes no notice of our assertions; he remains silent. I would therefore like to take up his defense.

Every third inhabitant of our planet manages to get by without the art of reading and without the art of writing. This includes roughly 900 million people, and their numbers will certainly increase. The figure is impressive but misleading for Humanity comprises not only the living and the unborn but the dead as well. If they are not forgotten, then the conclusion becomes inevitable that literacy is the exception rather than the rule.

It could occur only to us, that is, to a tiny minority of people who read and write, to think of those who don’t as a tiny minority. This notion betrays an ignorance I find insupportable.

I envy the illiterate his memory, his capacity for concentration, his cunning, his inventiveness, his tenacity, his sensitive ear. Please don’t imagine that I am speaking not about romantic phantoms but about people I have met. I am far from idealizing them. I also see their narrow horizons, their illusions, their obstinacy, their quaintness.

You may ask how it comes about that a writer should take the side of those who cannot read. But it’s obvious! -Because it was illiterates who invented literature. Its elementary forms-from myth to children’s verse, from fairy tale to song, from prayer to riddle-all are older than writing. Without oral tradition, there would be no poetry; without illiterates, no books.

"But" you will object, "what about the Enlightenment?" No need to tell me! Social distress rests not only on the ruler’s material advantages but on immaterial privilege as well. It was the great intellectuals of the eighteenth century who discerned this state of affairs. The people had not come of age, they thought, not only because of political oppression and economic exploitation but also because of their lack of knowledge. From these premises, later generations drew the conclusion that the ability to read and write belongs to any existence fit for a human being.

However, this suggestive idea underwent a succession of noteworthy reinterpretations in the course of time. In the twinkling of an eye the concept of enlightenment was replaced by the concept of education. "In terms of the education of the populace," according to Ignaz Heinrich von Wessenbergm, a German schoolmaster in Napoleon’s time, "the second half of the eighteenth century marks a new epoch. The knowledge of what was accomplished in this regard is joyous news to any friend of mankind, encouraging to the priests of culture, and highly instructive for the leaders of the commonwealth".

As far as the project of literacy goes, we’ve made great strides. Here, it seems, the philanthropists, the priests of culture, and the leaders of the commonwealth have scored triumphantly. By 1880, the illiteracy rate in Germany had fallen below one percent. The rest of the world has also made enormous progress since UNESCO raised its flag in the fight against illiteracy in 1951. In short: Light has conquered darkness.

Our joy over the triumph has certain limits. The news is too good to be true. The people did not learn to read and write because they felt like it, but because they were forced to do so. Their emancipation was controlled by disenfranchisement. From then on learning went hand in hand with the state and its agencies: the schools, the army, the legal administration. The goal pursued in making the populace literate had nothing to do with enlightenment. The friends of mankind and the priests of culture, who stood up for the people, were merely the henchmen of a capitalist industry that pressed the state to provide it with a qualified workforce. It was not a matter of paving the way for the "writing culture", Let alone liberating mankind from its shackles. Quite a different kind of progress was in question. IT consisted in taming the illiterates, this "lowest class of men," in stamping out their will and their fantasy, and in exploiting not only their muscle power and skill in handiwork, but their brains as well.

For the unlettered human to be done away with, he had first to be defined, tracked down, and unmasked. The concept of illiteracy is not very old. Its invention can be dated with some precision. The word appeared for the first time in a French publication in 1876 and quickly spread all over Europe. At about the same time, Edison invented the lightbulb and the phonograph, Bell he telephone, and Otto the gasoline motor. The connection is clear.

Furthermore, the triumph of popular education in Europe coincides with the maximum development of colonialism. And this is no accident. In the dictionaries of the period we can find the assertion that the number of illiterates "as compared with the total population of a country is a measure of the people’s cultural condition." And they do not fail to instruct us that "men stand on a level higher, on the average, than women.:

This is not a matter of statistics, but a process of discrimination and stigmatization. Behind the figure of the illiterate we can discern Hitler’s concept of der Untermensch, the subhuman who must be eliminated. A small, radical minority has reserved civilization for itself and now discriminates against all those who will not dance to its tune.

Today we find that the illiteracy we smoked out has returned. A new figure has conquered the social stage. This new species is the second-order illiterate. He has come a long way: his loss of memory causes him no suffering; his lack of will makes life easy for him; he values his inability to concentrate; he considers it an advantage that he neither knows nor understands what is happening to him. He is mobile. He is adaptive. He has a talent for getting things done. We need have no worries about him. It contributes to the second-order illiterate’s sense of well-being that he has no idea that he is a second-order illiterate. He considers himself well-informed; he can decipher instruction s on appliances and tools; he can decode pictograms and checks. And he moves within an environment hermetically sealed against anything that might infect his consciousness. That he might come to grief in this environment is unthinkable. After all, it produced and educated him in order to guarantee its undisturbed continuation.

The second order illiterate is the product of a new phase of industrialization. An economy whose problem is no longer production but markets has no need of a disciplined reserve of army of workers. The rigid training to which they were subjected also becomes redundant, and literacy becomes a fetter to be done away with. Simultaneous with the development of this problem, our technology has also developed an adequate solution. The ideal medium for the second-order illiterate is television.

The educational policy of the state will have to align itself with the new priorities. By reducing the library budget, a first step has already been taken. And innovations are to be seen in school administration as well. You can go tot school now for eight years without learning German, and even in the universities this German dialect is gradually acquiring the status of a poorly mastered foreign language.

Please do not suppose hat I would want to polemicize against a situation of whose inevitability I am fully aware. I desire only to portray and, as far as I can, explain it. It would be foolish to contest the second-order illiterate’s raison d etre, and I am far from begrudging him on the pleasures or his place in the sun.

On the other hand, it is safe to say that the project of the Enlightenment has failed the slogan "Culture for Everyone" begins to sound comical. And a classless culture is even further from view. On the contrary: we can look forward to a situation I which cultural castes will become more and more distinct. But these castes can no longer be described by using the traditional Marxist model, according to which the ruling culture is the culture of the rulers. Indeed the divergence between economic position and consciousness will continue to grow.

It will become the new rule to see second-order illiterates occupying the top positions in politics and in business. In this connection, it is sufficient to indicate the current president of the United States and the current chancellor of the Federal Republic. On the other hand, you can easily find whole hordes of cabdrivers, newspaper hawkers, manual laborers, and welfare recipients whose thoughtfulness, cultural standards, and wide-ranging knowledge should have taken them far in any other society. But this kind of comparison falls short of portraying the true state of affairs, which admits of no clear analysis. For even among the unemployed you can find zombies; even in the presidential office there are people who can read and write and even think productively. But this also means that in questions of culture social determinism has become obsolete. The so-called privileges of education have lost their fearfulness. If both parents are second-order illiterates, even the wellborn child has no advantage over th worker’s son. One’s cultural cast will hencefoth depend on personal choice, not origin.

For all this I conclude that culture in our country has come to an entirely new situation. As for the perennial claim that culture provides a common denominator for all people-that we can simply forget. The rulers, mostly second-order illiterates, have lost all interest in it. As a result , culture cannot, and need not any longer, serve the interests of a ruling class. It no longer legitimates the social order. It has become useless-but there is a kind of freedom in that. Such a culture is thrown back on its own resouces and the sooner it realizes this the better.

Where does all that leave the writer? For some time now it has not been a class privilege-or requirement to be concerned with literature. The victory of the second-order illiterate can only radicalize literature. When it has lost its value as a status symbol, as a social code, as an educational program, then literature will be noticed only by those who can’t do without it.

Whoever wants to can bemoan all this. I have no such desire. Weeds have always been a minority, and every city gardener knows how hard it is to do away with them. Literature will continue to thrive as long as it commands a certain agility, a certain cunning, a capacity for concentration and a good memory. As you recall, these are the features of the true illiterate. Perhaps he will have the last word, since he requires no other media than a voice and an ear.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Better Make That To Go

Today, as you proud Americans surely know, is the third anniversary of our invasion and subsequent pummeling of Iraq. Many will blow out the flesh candles on the blood-frosted cake in their own way, but I'm gonna mark this date by highlighting a domestic tradition that taps somewhat into our desire to kill, rob & torture people overseas -- shootings at fast food restaurants.

Recently, in southern California, there've been three shootings at three different Denny's in three days. The most serious attack occurred in Pismo Beach, where Lawrence Woods, sporting a "glazed expression", walked calmly into the restaurant, a firearm in each hand, and began shooting, killing two and wounding two before he killed himself. Predictably, the chief concern is not why this guy felt the need to murder strangers as they ate, but how to salvage Denny's "family friendly" corporate image (though an unnamed stock analyst told CBS News that the series of shootings probably will not hurt the chain financially -- phew!). Then again, this is usually the case. Perhaps because we Americans are so conditioned to random outbreaks of public carnage, every fresh ballistic freakout merely reinforces the sad cynicism within us. So why would we care what pushed this or that person into pulling the trigger? So long as it doesn't raise the price of Happy Meals or alter daily dollar menus, we can live with the violence and the off-chance that we may end up face down on an unmopped KFC floor.

When you look back over the past 20 years or so, it's amazing how much violence has taken place at public eateries. Most times it's a robbery gone wrong, but every once in a while we get the glass-eyed gunman who's not interested in money. Think back to July 18, 1984, when James Huberty entered a San Ysidro McDonald's and fired 245 rounds from a 12 gauge shotgun, a Browning 9mm, and an Uzi carbine, killing 21, wounding 19 before a police sniper picked him off. Or to October 16, 1991, when George Hennard drove his truck through the dining area window of Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, got out, fired a Glock 17 and a Ruger P89, killing 23, wounding 20, then killed himself after being wounded by police. Clearly, if you want to make a murderous statement, fast food joints are handy places to do so, given the bottomless American hunger for junk meals. You're bound to find ample targets at pretty much any time of day.

I knew that after Huberty's rampage, the McDonald's he shot up was demolished, seeing how subsequent customers might find eating there a tad uncomfortable. But what I didn't know was that after they cleared the bodies from Luby's, the restaurant remained open for another nine years, finally closing in 2000 for financial, not tasteful or moral, reasons. In other words, people kept eating in what was, for a long afternoon, a human slaughterhouse. If there was a lingering death vibe, faint echoes of shots and screams of the wounded and soon-to-be-dead hovering in the atmosphere, it obviously didn't bother those who later shoved cheeseburgers and onion rings into their faces. Hey bubba -- shit happens. Pass the ketchup.

As much as I would like to believe that this was strictly a Texas mania, I fear it is very much a part of the American whole. A culture that sells mass murder, rape and torture as games for kids to play, where taunting and trash-talking are encouraged and celebrated, where imperial war is sold as the highest moral good, isn't gonna get too shaken up by ordering a pizza in a place where a few weeks before dozens took their final breath. In a morbid way, it's rather fitting, and something to consider as we enter our fourth year attempting to make Iraqis more like us.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Molly Curdled

I'm working on some longer posts while listening to a shitload of music that just arrived in le mail (thanks brother Luke!), plus I've been watching a lot of interesting video offerings which I may touch on as well -- but I didn't want to go another day without tossing something up, so, in time-honored mega-blog tradition, when you feel you must post post post or else lose your audience to those who display pix of their cats behaving most adorably ("Here's spunky Boots chewing through a vole!"), I'm cutting and pasting another person's hard work, namely, Molly Ivins's latest column for The Progressive. While I'm not a Dem, believe the party to be beyond any serious political repair, disgusted with the whole presidential con game that never ends, and strongly reject "liberal patriotism" as a way to win over the abstract masses, I do like much of what Molly lays out below. It's more a Zen exercise than anything else, pointed words for those who cannot hear and will not see, but still, some angry lib noise is needed, and Molly brings it righteously. Enjoy.

Enough Of The DC Dems
by Molly Ivins

Mah fellow progressives, now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of the party. I don’t know about you, but I have had it with the D.C. Democrats, had it with the DLC Democrats, had it with every calculating, equivocating, triangulating, straddling, hair-splitting son of a bitch up there, and that includes Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I will not be supporting Senator Clinton because: a) she has no clear stand on the war and b) Terri Schiavo and flag-burning are not issues where you reach out to the other side and try to split the difference. You want to talk about lowering abortion rates through cooperation on sex education and contraception, fine, but don’t jack with stuff that is pure rightwing firewater.

I can’t see a damn soul in D.C. except Russ Feingold who is even worth considering for President. The rest of them seem to me so poisonously in hock to this system of legalized bribery they can’t even see straight.

Look at their reaction to this Abramoff scandal. They’re talking about “a lobby reform package.” We don’t need a lobby reform package, you dimwits, we need full public financing of campaigns, and every single one of you who spends half your time whoring after special interest contributions knows it. The Abramoff scandal is a once in a lifetime gift—a perfect lesson on what’s wrong with the system being laid out for people to see. Run with it, don’t mess around with little patches, and fix the system.

As usual, the Democrats have forty good issues on their side and want to run on thirty-nine of them. Here are three they should stick to:

1) Iraq is making terrorism worse; it’s a breeding ground. We need to extricate ourselves as soon as possible. We are not helping the Iraqis by staying.

2) Full public financing of campaigns so as to drive the moneylenders from the halls of Washington.

3) Single-payer health insurance.

Every Democrat I talk to is appalled at the sheer gutlessness and spinelessness of the Democratic performance. The party is still cringing at the thought of being called, ooh-ooh, “unpatriotic” by a bunch of rightwingers.

Take “unpatriotic” and shove it. How dare they do this to our country? “Unpatriotic”? These people have ruined the American military! Not to mention the economy, the middle class, and our reputation in the world. Everything they touch turns to dirt, including Medicare prescription drugs and hurricane relief.

This is not a time for a candidate who will offend no one; it is time for a candidate who takes clear stands and kicks ass.

Who are these idiots talking about Warner of Virginia? Being anodyne is not sufficient qualification for being President. And if there’s nobody in Washington and we can’t find a Democratic governor, let’s run Bill Moyers, or Oprah, or some university president with ethics and charisma.

What happens now is not up to the has-beens in Washington who run this party. It is up to us. So let’s get off our butts and start building a progressive movement that can block the nomination of Hillary Clinton or any other candidate who supposedly has “all the money sewed up.”

I am tired of having the party nomination decided before the first primary vote is cast, tired of having the party beholden to the same old Establishment money.

We can raise our own money on the Internet, and we know it. Howard Dean raised $42 million, largely on the web, with a late start when he was running for President, and that ain’t chicken feed. If we double it, it gives us the lock on the nomination. So let’s go find a good candidate early and organize the shit out of our side.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Fox And The Pig

As you know, Tom Fox, a Christian pacifist kidnapped in Iraq, was found dead over the weekend. There's really not much left to say about Fox's commitment to his principles, a level of commitment that, if taken seriously, can and in this case did end tragically. Still, this risk continues to be fully understood and accepted by those who survive Fox and plan to carry on his work. As Fox himself put it, perhaps anticipating that these might serve as his final words, "We reject violence to punish anyone. We ask that there be no retaliation on relatives or property. We forgive those who consider us their enemies. We hope that in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening nonviolently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation.”

As I wrote back in December, attacking this philosophy is like punching water, which is why those who mock or slime activists like Fox look extremely pathetic and ridiculous to everyone save to themselves and those splashing next to them. And of course there are those Americans who essentially share the mindset of Fox's killers, who celebrate each kidnapping and act of torture and murder as a form of righteous punishment, an instance of brutal "irony." My friend Jon, the Tiny Revolutionary, graphically made this connection a couple days ago, and it bears repeating. Right after the Christian Peacekeepers were captured in Iraq, Rush Limbaugh coughed up the following:

"Fine, they get kidnapped. They get kidnapped at gunpoint. If that version of this is true, then -- OK, you've met the bad guys, and you tried your technique on them, and now you're blindfolded in a room with guns pointed at you and knives at your throat. I don't like that. But any time a bunch of people that walk around with the head in the sand practicing a bunch of irresponsible, idiotic theory confront reality, I'm kind of happy about it, because I'm eager for people to see reality, change their minds if necessary, and have things sized up."

Now, to anyone even remotely sane, Limbaugh's remarks are self-refuting, especially when you remember that throughout his worthless life, Limbaugh has avoided direct physical risk, whether it was the military or simply his inability to handle criticism up close and personal. If you want to see a pork-stuffed buffoon sweat and stammer and ultimately clear the room of those directly challenging him, check out this video from 1990, when Limbaugh guest hosted Pat Sajak's dying late night talk show. It's a beautiful illustration of his cowardice; and if a couple of audience members disturb him to such a serious degree, can you imagine Limbaugh making his way, unarmed and unescorted, through the alleys of present day Baghdad?

Tom Fox would forgive Limbaugh for taking glee in his dire predicament. But then, Fox gave his life for his beliefs. He was secure in his philosophy and faith. Limbaugh, on the other hand, oinks and snorts on behalf of American elites to amuse the rubes who revere him -- a swine who keeps a safe distance from the slaughterhouse, but who tap-dances to and laughs at the screams that emanate from within it.

Friday, March 10, 2006


"I'm just not feelin' it this week."

"Why is that?"

"Dunno. I've said pretty much all I have to say. But now that I have readers, I feel this strange duty to keep them entertained, or distracted. Something."

"Well," replied Jon, proud parent of A Tiny Revolution, a site starting to make "inroads" among the informed set, "all this comes pretty easily to me. But then, you have to remember, I went to Yale, and they do not admit people who cannot produce fresh material filled with new and startling ideas."

"Yeah," I said wearily into the phone, "I know you Ivy Leaguers are a special breed. Hell, I married one, and she reminds me of this constantly. I don't know how you guys do it."

"Breeding is only part of it," Jon informed me. "But there's a deeper quality that, if you do not possess it, you would not recognize, much less clearly understand."

"I suppose you're right, as always."

"Do not let this dissuade you from further composition," Jon encouraged. "You do have a knack for this, albeit in an undereducated, nearly primitive kind of way. It is charming, at times quite amusing."

Jon then excused himself. He had to finish his newest graph chart highlighting the connections between recently unearthed Bechtel inner-office documents and the rise of extrajudicial executions among various Burmese Maoist groups, while I went to You Tube to watch videos of hillbilly teens pelting each other with rocks and garbage.

Man, this has to be biggest start/stop/trash week I've experienced since I kicked Red boy into action. Six, seven new posts, all outlined and planned down to the close, all abandoned with a shake of the head. It's not a matter of writer's block -- I simply lost enthusiasm for each post a few paragraphs in. And anyway, much of what I had to say I've said already, numerous times. It was then that I began to realize, rather late in the game, admittedly, that the secret to successful blogging is being able to repeat yourself ad nauseum, day after day after day day day, and not get sick of your repetitive voice. I think that readers, for the most part, like this too, esp at the more ideological sites. It gives them the hive security they dearly crave, and the bloggers, if they are at all ambitious, will grind out the same shit for their readers to swarm to.

Formula, baby. What makes the wheels spin.

It got so bad for me this week that I actually started to write a response to Andrew Sullivan's latest Time essay, where he "re-thinks" his position on the Iraq war.

"Mon Dieu, Monsieur D'neese! Surely you know this is the fool's errand!"

Yes, I know. But I was desperate and figured I'd work my way back into shape by hammering this preening pretentious faux-warrior poseur and his new "regrets" that perhaps things didn't go as planned with tens of thousands dead and God knows how many maimed or psychologically shattered or tortured or kidnapped or otherwise beaten and plowed into submission and silence but we are where we are and there's no turning back and maybe things will look brighter tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya tomorrow, you're always a day away . . .

Then, after tapping out some twisted rejoinders, I bagged the whole thing, feeling more mechanistic than someone trying to make honest sense of a sordid topic. A bit like Dwayne Hoover in Kurt Vonnegut's "Breakfast of Champions," who snapped and began believing that he was the only real human left, that the others around him were simply robots pre-programmed to behave as they did daily, which eventually led Hoover to violently explode, sending 11 people to the hospital before the cops cuffed him and took him away.

But I'm a much calmer man than Dwayne Hoover, however fictional we both may be. So no restraining orders are necessary.

Oh, I suspect I'll get past this patch and write more of the long-winded crap I'm becoming known for. Whatever works. But before I go, I must share with you the close to today's Justin Raimondo column at Like me, JR is disgusted with the utter hysteria and political hypocrisy over the Dubai Ports deal; and after trudging through all of the bullshit that's been on prominent display, he concludes:

"The revolting display now taking place before our eyes – of pro-war Republicans and phony "antiwar" Democrats uniting in hatred and fear of a tiny emirate on the Persian Gulf that has been abjectly loyal to the U.S. – is almost enough to make one retire to the sidelines and forget about the follies of humankind: because if this is a taste of what the future has in store for us, then we are doomed anyway, and the few sane people who still care about such things would just as soon retire to a beach somewhere and live out their days contemplating the sunset of reason."

With a stiff drink in hand and a loved one at your side. What better way to watch reason sink slowly into the horizon?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

No Hitter

Recently, I was informed that this blog, or whatever the hell it is, is up for a Koufax Award in the category of Most Deserving of Wider Recognition. 'Course, when I got to the polling place, I found that Red State Son is listed as Red Grange Run which, as you regs know, was me fucking around with the title out of boredom. Not that either title really matters, for as I scrolled down beneath the list of nominees, I discovered that I've received zero votes. Not a single bite. A complete shut-out. Even Dennis Kucinich is laughing at me.

Frankly, I dunno who nominated RSS in the first place. I'm not the award-grubbing type, and I don't see the point to these things. It's nice to be appreciated and all, but honestly, must we ape the larger culture to such a literal degree? It's been said that bloggers, primarily the political ones, are the new pamphleteers. If so, then giving each other awards undermines what real cultural effect we might have, to the extent that we have any (though I believe Thomas Paine won for Best Incendiary Prose, 1777, and he still made a dent). It's little more than blog branding, which is fine, I suppose, given the present corporate environment. Maybe it delivers overlooked thoughts to newer audiences. Who knows. But the idea that the stuff I write should be up for an award seems extremely absurd to me. And judging from the lack of turn-out on my behalf, many of you out there thankfully agree.

Monday, March 06, 2006


Watched the Oscars last eve, and while the show itself was so-so (usually is, though I liked Jon Stewart's non-Hollywood tone -- you could feel the cool audience chill through the screen), I still enjoy all the gaudy bullshit, phony smiles, and self-congratulatory mood. The whole production is so utterly absurd that getting angry about it or cynical toward it is wasted emotion. But what truly delights me is how depraved the Oscars must seem to solid Red Staters nationwide. It's a knee-jerk reflex, a happy negativity, I admit, yet the girl can't help it. Hollywood is the one area of modern American life that, more often than not, actually lives up to its sordid rep (unlike, say, the Dems being commies) -- that is, if you find films about queers, racism, and corporate crime beneath your contempt. Me, I revel in it.

Having been raised under rather conservative conditions, showbiz was one of my aesthetic life rafts (music especially: first Bowie and Elton John, then crashing through the glitter rain, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Devo, et al). I was lucky enough to become culturally aware in the midst of the early/mid-70s period of New Hollywood films -- both Godfathers, "The Conversation," "The Last Detail," "American Graffiti," "Chinatown," "Taxi Driver" . . . you know the list. These and other films inspired me while stuck in the rigid Midwest, and they told me that I wasn't alone in my creative thoughts. And after I saw "Annie Hall," I swore to myself that I would move to Manhattan and chase my dream, which I did about four and a half years later. So I have an extremely soft spot when it comes to the movies. I won't say that they saved my young life, but they did help to define it, and this gave me a much-needed framework in which to develop artistically.

I loved what James Wolcott posted last week about Hollywood being "out of touch" with Wholesome American Values, and agree with him completely (also, ditto what George Clooney said last night in his acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor: "And finally, I would say that, you know, we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while. I think it's probably a good thing. We're the ones who talk about AIDS when it was just being whispered, and we talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular. And we, you know, we bring up subjects. This Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I'm proud to be a part of this Academy. Proud to be part of this community, and proud to be out of touch.") And while a "Brokeback Mountain" Best Picture win would've been nice, if only to stick it up the collective reactionary ass just a bit further, it'll soon be on full display at Blockbusters nationwide, softly calling to those repressed, fearful souls, "Rent me . . . buy me . . . watch me again and again . . ."

In Vanity Fair's current Hollywood issue (the one featuring Scarlett Johansson's pale Rubenesque figure on the cover), Peter Biskind, author of the highly-entertaining book about New Hollywood, "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls," looks into the making of "Reds," Warren Beatty's lush 1981 film about American communists John Reed and Louise Bryant, played by Beatty and Diane Keaton, respectively. It's your typical behind-the-scenes/"Where's the money gonna come from?" accounts, covering all the anxiety, in-fighting and egos that make up big Hollywood productions. A decent fluid read, and it stirred memories of how "Reds" affected me when I first saw it a quarter century ago. Back then, I was slowly emerging from my semi-apolitical shell, slightly liberal but lacking any real informative substance. Upon watching "Reds," however, I was stunned to learn that not only was there a vibrant American antiwar movement opposed to US entry into World War I, there once existed a bohemian/intellectual/artistic world that helped the early 20th century start to live up to its name. I'd never heard anything about this, and it certainly wasn't taught in my high school "history" classes. Excited by this fresh information, I went back to view "Reds" three more times in less than a month, noting all the names of those figures portrayed -- Emma Goldman, Max Eastman, Floyd Dell, Big Bill Haywood of the radical Industrial Workers of the World (who, played by Dolph Sweet, tells a gathering of "unskilled" laborers, "And the war the IWW wants you to get into is not a war in Europe, but class war against the capitalists!") -- then going to the library and various bookstores to find what I could about them.

It was a true eye-opener; and within weeks I learned all about The Masses, the radical mag John Reed wrote for, as well as Woodrow Wilson's violations of civil liberties like the Palmer Raids and the Sedition Act (in school, Wilson was presented as a great freedom fighter -- imagine my surprise discovering otherwise), and a good number of other historical facts and ancedotes about the 1914-18 era. This of course got me thinking about other parts of American history that I thought I knew well, which sent me once again into the library and bookstores, a search that was substantially expanded less than a year later when I moved to New York and had access to info I never dreamed existed.

It was liberal Hollywood that pointed me in this direction and made me aware of real American history, and it continues to offer alternative, vital counterpoints to the larger mainstream discussion. That's a major reason why cultural reactionaries hate Hollywood so. In their fevered minds, the less you know about what's happened in America, the better American you are, which is why Good Americans are among some of the worst people you'll ever meet.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Killing Is Job 1

An Italian parliamentary commission, looking into the 1981 attempt on Pope John Paul II's life, has decided that, yes, the Soviets were indeed behind the act, via a "Bulgarian Connection," a connection that was never proved in court. The Russians deny this and dismiss it as absurd. And Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who pulled the trigger and who's changed his story countless times, once claiming that he was Jesus Christ, was released from a Turkish prison in mid-January, only to be thrown back inside days later to serve out the rest of his sentence for killing a Turkish journalist, Abdi Ipekci, in 1979. As he was led into jail, Agca shouted to the media, "I declare myself Messiah! I am not the son of God, I am Messiah! I am declaring the doomsday!"

Nice to see that one of the surviving actors hasn't forgotten his role.

Back in the day, a few colleagues of mine were fascinated with the Pope shooting and with the rightwing conspiracy, led by Claire Sterling and the New York Times, that the Soviets tried to ice the Pope in an effort to deprive Poland's Solidarity movement of its spiritual/political icon. The whole plot, later picked up and disseminated uncritically by other US media outlets, never made much sense, especially given that the gunman, Agca, had deep ties with violent Turkish fascists who were anti-Soviet. Perhaps the best and most thorough debunking of this Reagan-era disinformation saga remains "The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection" by Edward S. Herman and Frank Brodhead, which came out in 1986. This review gives you the basics, and may suck you into that bizarro world, as it did my old friends.

While I agree that the Soviets had nothing to do with shooting the Pope, I wouldn't be surprised if they did. States are violent mechanisms. States kill. And if the Soviets ordered the shooting, then even more embarrassing for them. It puts them on the same level as John Hinckley, who winged but did not kill Ronald Reagan (though he severely damaged Reagan's Press Secretary, James Brady). A large, nuclear-armed power as inept as a crazy, suicidal loner with a Jodie Foster obsession -- not the stuff of heroic murals depicting the sweeping triumph of the October Revolution.

Of course, when it comes to effectively murdering outspoken religious figures who might complicate matters for you and your business/political interests, few states can hold a candle to the USA.

At home:

And in other countries, like El Salvador:

Americans know how to Get The Job Done.

The Pope? Piece of apple pie.