Monday, February 27, 2006

Deadly Dancing

Give online libs their due -- unlike their reactionary cousins, who screech and growl when faced with unpleasant facts, libs, in the main, can perform impressive verbal dances when dealing with issues for which they have no real answer. Instead of throwing up their hands and admitting that they are stumped, they leap, twist, stretch, hop & slide across their respective stages, trying to make it seem like a lot is going on when instead they're merely buying rhetorical time.

A few days ago, Glenn Greenwald, a New York City litigator who's become an online lib darling, posted some thoughts at Crooks and Liars about a possible US withdrawal from Iraq and pondered what would be the "moral" rationale to support such a thing. Greenwald does the On The One Hand/On The Other shimmy, herking and jerking to the music in his head, but he never really comes to any solid conclusion:

"There is a good case to be made for troop withdraw [sic]. But it can’t be persuasively made by easy anti-war sloganeering. Such a case can only be made by arguing that our ongoing military presence will not help to salvage a country which we have shattered."

And in case you didn't appreciate that move, he does it again, almost immediately:

"There is a compelling argument to make that we should withdraw our troops. But that argument can only be based on the premise that our troops -- contrary to the views of the elected Iraqi government -- are doing more harm than good, not that the invasion was unjustified in the first place."

In fact, this single point is pretty much his whole argument, which is why he repeats it over and over, trying to make it look serious before the curtain falls. Had Greenwald been honest, he would have tapped out the above observation once, then admitted that, frankly, he had nothing else to say about the subject. Still, I'll give him a few style points for attempting to pass off a simple step as a fully choreographed number.

A lot of online libs like Greenwald may have opposed this "war of choice," but now are hesitant to advocate US withdrawal for fear the violence in Iraq might worsen. What I haven't seen from this corner is acknowledgment that far from the invasion being a "choice" as opposed to a "necessity" (read: Afghanistan), the US attack on and occupation of Iraq was inevitable, an outgrowth of nearly a half-century of geopolitical meddling, but more directly related to Saddam's betrayal of his regional role on August 2, 1990. Once Saddam invaded and displaced our dear friends in Kuwait, the clock began ticking on his regime. And recall that even after Iraqi conscripts were chased out of Kuwait (a good number of whom were incinerated by US forces as they retreated), there was no serious call for "democracy" in Iraq among US elites. As the NYTimes's Tom Friedman flatly put it at the time, the best of all possible worlds would be Saddamism without Saddam -- a dependable, obedient "iron fist" to keep the various Iraqi factions under control. And even after Saddam was deposed, that authoritarian concept was continually peddled, either through installing exiles into power like Ahmed Chalabi, or allowing Paul Bremer to be the American Viceroy over the natives. Of course, the natives had other ideas, primarily the Shi'a, for whom our invasion has been a positive, albeit bloody and savage, political and tribal boon. Greenwald claims that the "elected Iraqi government" opposes our immediate withdrawal, but recent polls suggest that those who elected that government want to see us go, some sooner, some a little more down the road, even though the majority of Shi'a, as well as the majority of Sunnis and Kurds, believe -- quite rightly -- that "the US plans to remain permanently."

This is why online debates about the Whys, Hows and Morality of our departure mean nothing to those in charge. Yes, there are those in the American power structure and elite press who are making noises about an eventual withdrawal (based on tactical concerns), but does anyone truly believe that after devoting all this money, time, energy and, oh yes, lives, to this corrupt and murderous enterprise, the US will voluntarily quit? Or that after three years of death, torture and ongoing chaos, a continued US presence will magically shift Iraqi reality in the opposite direction? The only way we're leaving is with a collective Iraqi boot up our ass -- or to put it so Glenn Greenwald might better understand, via the Euphrates Riverdance.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Amid The Chaos

Feel like I should say something about Iraq, but honestly, at this savage point, what is there left to analyze? What was predicted by those who didn't think invading Iraq was such a hot concept is not only taking place, it has deepened and accelerated, as you may have noticed over the past few days. So much for the "flypaper" strategy once so happily touted by war supporters like Andrew Sullivan (wherein the insect Muslims stick to Iraq and are exterminated). But then, flypaper isn't known for effectively catching mortar fire, exploding cars and flying body parts. Perhaps a series of large, armor-plated roach motels? Or more white phosphorus serving as Raid?

I haven't really checked, but are any of the pro-war singers still warbling about the God Almighty Glory of our wondrous Iraq crusade? I mean, who wouldn't love to hear Clint Black belt out "Iraq and Roll" right about now? Click here, crank up your speakers, and git those boots a'stompin' dammit! It's your wipin' out the ragheads when they ain't killin' each other right!

And thanks to pal Jon Schwarz, who reads the New Republic so people like me don't have to, we now discover that Iraq's Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari is a Noam Chomsky fan, and wishes that Noam would visit Iraq. First Pat Tillman, who was to meet with Chomsky upon his return to the States, then Jafari. I wonder what a certain Beltway war mongering media hungry scribe thinks of that?

Monday, February 20, 2006


Haven't really read much rightwing material of late, save for the occasional peek at the creatures in FrontPage's terrarium (comedy relief mixed with incomprehension). Back in the day, I spent weeks in the New York Public Library at 40th and 5th, up in periodicals reading thru bound copies of the early National Review and The New Freeman (a pseudo-libertarian/elitist mag from the late-1930s that attacked FDR, the New Deal, among other actual socialist targets), so what passes for "conservative" thought today is pretty lightweight compared to those earlier, denser essays, few of which I agreed with, but at least those older reactionaries put some thought into their work. Jonah Goldberg, Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter would've never been able to hold their own against the likes of James Burnham, Whittaker Chambers and Albert Jay Nock. At best, they could fetch coffee or run out to buy fresh typewriter ribbon, when not sweeping up the office and making sure the lights were turned off at the end of the day.

However, many online libs are obsessed with today's rightwingers, quoting some of their crazier comments and mocking them for partisan sport. You'd think that after the 257th reference to Kate O'Beirne's raw lunacy, the point would be well established and the libs could Move On to other pressing items, like dissecting the Dems and agitating for some kind of structural change. Hell, even some good ol' radical idealism would be refreshing, anything but more "Aren't those righties assholes?" posts. It's become as repetitive as a Coulter rant.

This is not to say that we should completely ignore the reactionsphere; that would be equally ridiculous. But timing, topic and context should be considered when engaging the trogs. For example, while perusing some lib sites the other day, I came across a post at Hullabaloo dealing with Who Hates More: the right or the left? This has to be the dumbest question I've encountered this month, sorta like asking "Which breed of wild dog bites harder: Cape Hunting or Tri-Colored?" Your flesh is ripped all the same as you try to beat down and escape from the mauling cur. The left & the right can be and are equally vicious, noxious, nasty and crude. And in the US, the majority of these people openly identify with one of the two ruling parties -- parties that not only engage in hateful language, aggression and corruption, but actually kill people, mostly on foreign turf, and rob the survivors of wealth and political choice. When your city is cluster bombed by Americans of both mainstream persuasions, does it really matter if one hates a bit more than the other?

This "You're a bigger hater than me!" crap further illustrates the narcissism and narrowness of online political gab. Libs like Digby in the link above may truly believe that the right makes a better living peddling hatred than do the Dems, and I'm sure that one can toss out a few isolated cases that supposedly answer the larger question. But no matter how expansive an online liberal's thinking may appear, when pushed, he or she will rally to the mule and try to hoist the filthy stubborn beast on their shoulders. In other words, the libs are as inherently tribalistic as any rightwinger they oppose. And tribes waving flags (of purity, distinction, political sagacity, whatever) need an Other to justify their existence. In short, someone to hate.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Their Trust

Been soaking in D.W. Griffith's Biograph shorts from 1909-13, and you can see early on how unique his work was compared to other American filmmakers of the time. Each frame is carefully, studiously composed; the outdoors scenes are lush, interiors semi-claustrophobic. The actors are committed to their roles no matter how small. A table of diners far in the background engage each other as if they were the main characters in close-up. Griffith clearly demanded complete fidelity to every scene before him, and he received it in full. Plus, for me, there's the kick of watching people in what was a totally different world, flickering shadows from a long dead time. But there is one short that got me thinking about the present.

"His Trust," shot in 1911, shows a house slave's devotion to his plantation master's family. George is a white-haired, soft-smiling manservant, seemingly dignified compared to the leaping, clapping, dancing slaves around him. He's clearly his master's favorite; so when the master suits up in Confederate gray and is about to march off to fight the Northern aggressors, he asks George, in the event of his death, to watch over and take care of his wife and young daughter. George accepts with a solemn bow of his head, then joins the other slaves outside to praise the Confederate army as it goes forth to protect their hallowed way of life.

Of course, the master is immediately killed in battle, and after a messenger gives the new widow the bad news along with her husband's sword, George assumes his sworn responsibility, not only keeping the widow away from drunken, maraudering Union soldiers, who loot and torch the mansion, but rescuing the daughter from the flames, then running back into the house to retrieve the master's sword as well. Now homeless, the widow and her daughter are given George's humble shack to sleep in for the night. As for George, he goes outside, throws a blanket on the dirt, and lies down to sleep, beneficent smile on his face. Loyal to the end.

As I watched this unintentionally hilarious film (Griffith staged it as tragedy), I again realized that romantic notions of how the Darker Folk want to be just like their white superiors are nothing new. The symbolism put forward by Griffith is even more literal, given that all the slaves are played by white actors in blackface, thus making the slaves' "inner-whiteness" immediately apparent. But what really got me was how "His Trust" could be seen, with a few tweaks here and there, as a pre-invasion fantasy of how the Iraqis would hail and eagerly submit to their Anglo-American saviors.

The whites in Griffith's film take for granted the obedience of their Negro lessers, and they cannot begin to conceive that perhaps these indentured souls are filled with despair. Not that there are any hints of dissatisfaction -- Griffith's slaves are happiest when they are lowest, as shown in a scene where George tries to cheer up the daughter by letting her ride on his back as he crawls in circles, while two other slaves looking on clap, wave their hands and jump with appreciation (the girl's mother adds to the fun by pushing George even closer to the ground, which makes him smile).

What a fitting propaganda film "His Trust" would've made had it been shot in 2002, and imagine the accolades it might've garnered from neocon and war liberal alike. For when you boil down their loftiest claims from that time, you're left with a cartoon-like scenario as Griffith imagined it nearly a century ago. The idea that the invasion would provide fertile ground for resistance, corruption, torture, ethnic cleansing, religious and tribal death squads, or that the entire exercise itself had (and has) nothing to do with democracy or human rights, but rather with geopolitical and imperial concerns, wasn't expressed by those so hot for Iraq's "liberation." Instead, the natives were gonna sing and dance ahead of each advancing regiment, immediately recognizing the civilizing nature of their new overlords. At least in D.W. Griffith's world, the "slaves" could wipe away the burnt cork and return to their respective lives. In the war lovers' world, no such escape exists for those trapped inside it. The romantic drama they envisioned has become a long-running snuff film, their popcorn drenched in the actors' blood.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


In eighth or ninth grade, before I learned how to better defend myself, a trio of school bullies forced me to make a hard choice: either I would kick the shit out of a smaller, effeminate boy on the playground, or they would work me over on the spot. I didn't know the kid all that well, but he wasn't a pleasant sort, constantly complaining and bitching about whatever vexed him. Still, I had zero desire to beat him up, yet if I didn't, my ass would get stomped thrice over. So, with the bullies right behind me, I started an argument with the kid, which got him snapping back, and as the thugs urged me on, I kicked the boy right in the gut, sending him to the ground.

"Finish the fag off!" they kept yelling, pushing me forward. "Go on -- do it!"

So I kicked that kid I don't know how many times, THOMP THOMP THOMP on his ribs, stomach and once his face. I'll never forget his high-pitched screams, his pleas that I stop. At this point I didn't care about getting beat up -- I simply couldn't take what I was doing (though I was holding back somewhat) and the pain and fear it caused. So I stopped and helped the boy up. Told him that I was forced into it. He didn't believe me, swore that I would pay for my assault, wiped away his tears and ran back into the school.

The thugs laughed. One of them slapped my back. "Not bad," he said, "for a pussy." Having had their fun with me, they pretty much left me alone for the rest of the year.

When I explained myself to the principal, I received a stern lecture and told I was on "probation," which I didn't fully understand at the time. The wounded boy stayed clear of me from then on. I wanted to apologize, make it up somehow, but to him, I was one of those ratty bullies who preyed on the schoolyard weak.

This foul memory was rekindled when I watched the video of British troops beating several Iraqi teens in Basra in 2004. Like the kid from my youth, these boys screamed and pleaded for mercy, which not only didn't stop the Brits from bashing them, it seemed to spur them on to further violence. Their cruel excitement was shared by the Brit Cpl. who taped the beatings. The man was audibly enthused, laughing and taking great pleasure in the stomach-turning spectacle. One wonders if the exposure to a war-torn environment ate away whatever humane impulses the Cpl. once possessed, or if the guy was just another sick fuck when he enlisted. I don't know the man, but something tells me that it was probably a fair share of both.

The official PC stance one is supposed to take when discussing military matters is that regardless of how awful things might be, you still must honor the troops and believe them to be a special, holy breed. To me the problems are structural, not personal, so I tend to criticize the larger system that allows and encourages such vile behavior. But even given that, there are some truly twisted personalities in uniform and at all ranks. I saw it first-hand, from Basic on. A few of these psychos were so anti-social that they were eventually discharged. But I've broken bread, mopped floors and cleaned M-16s with those who were not only prone to viciousness and violence, they were steered by ranking personnel into the Infantry or Special Forces. It was felt that they could be taught to keep their darkest impulses in check, while using that crazed energy to master combat training. This clearly was nothing new, and judging from the videos, photos and numerous reports from Afghanistan, Iraq and Gitmo, the same shit goes on today.

When arguing this point with war supporters, I've encountered either pious denial, as if the very suggestion of thuggery in the ranks was so bizarre that no sane response was possible; or, when that facade crumbled, direct admission that yeah, we beat, we torture, we sadistically kill on occasion, but what do you expect? In war you gotta break "the rules" in order to survive. And besides, these goat fucking terrorists have it coming. Whether or not all those jailed or in detention are guilty of terrorist acts is never truly examined. To those who get off on the mere suggestion of beating a hooded prisoner into the blood-soaked dirt, the concept of innocence has no real meaning. My physically assaulting you proves your guilt -- why else would I do it?

A couple of weeks ago, in one of my rare moments of CNN viewing, I watched a report about Russian skinhead gangs who terrorize primarily African immigrants, killing and severely injuring those who, being "non-Russian" and of darker hue, are asking to be savagely attacked. Those who manage to survive these assaults don't bother reporting it to the officials, believing that the cops, when not turning a blind eye to the violence, privately support the skinheads' campaign. One skinhead interviewed on camera (bravely wearing a ski mask, as did his comrades) said that these gang attacks are an effort to protect Russian civilization from the mongrel hordes, and that when fighting "animals," you must become an animal yourself. And as video ran showing several skinheads repeatedly kicking a young, unarmed man in the face and ribs, I thought to myself, "Hmmm, that sure sounds familiar."

Monday, February 13, 2006


There's something to be said for being unplugged.

Scarcely 2 hours back online, and I've absorbed a week's worth of wretchedness and general human sickness. I suppose spending quality time with the fam and reading books is vastly overrated, esp when there's so much political and cultural bullshit to wade thru and examine. It's comforting to know that no matter how long one spends away from the Web, you can get caught up reaaaal fast and thrown brutally back into the pit.

God bless high speed connections.

Anyway, I plan to post a lot this week, starting tomorrow. So you've been warned. Aloha.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

More To Come

Been sans computer for nearly a week (using a borrowed box in a bustling ofc on the other side of A2, so extensive posts are out till I get my mended machine back home), and I've forgotten what life is like away from the keyboard & mouse. It's nice. Quiet. No visual chaos. I've got several posts in the hopper, but I'm sketching them out on paper with pencil and pen. This also gives me time to work on my present project -- a short book on the many many downsides of American patriotism, and how it poisons what passes for our political/cultural debate, esp post-9/11. Yeah, that should be a big bestseller. Nothing people like more than to be told that flag waving and anthems are empty gestures and how our rulers use these symbols to keep us under thumb. Oprah can't wait for her copy.

So please be patient -- Red Boy will be barking at his screen quite soon.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Laugh It Up

Two editorial cartoons, each satirizing the divinity and holiness of revered Christian and Jewish figures, were immediately embraced by religious and political leaders of both faiths. The first, depicting Jesus Christ as a homosexual predator of pre-teen boys, appeared in the French political weekly Justine. The artist, B. Gistang, shows a lecherous Christ trying to lure two 10-year-old boys into a tent filled with sex toys by promising them "instant salvation." The second cartoon, drawn by Joao Santos for the Portuguese monthly O Deus Está Inoperante, renders Moses as an AIDS-infected rat raping Christian pigs at izmel (circumcision knife) point. Both cartoons have been reprinted in various US papers, and the response has been overwhelmingly favorable.

"First-rate parodies," said "700 Club" host Pat Robertson. "Unlike Islam, ours is an expansive, flexible faith, and we Christians, being secure in our belief, welcome any and all attacks on our Savior Jesus Christ."

"Personally, I think that the Son of God would get a kick out of it," chuckled Jerry Fawell. "Jesus loved a good joke, the nastier the better, and I believe that He would find this cartoon totally hilarious, as I and many in my congregation already have.

"This is what separates Christians from Muslims," added Fawell. "We can take a joke. They simply can't."

Jewish writer and moralist Elie Wiesel concurred. "Judaism is the embodiment of comedy, and this cartoon showing Moses as a diseased rodent celebrates our devotion to a humorous God. How do you think we survived countless pogroms and the Holocaust? By laughing at ourselves!

"I only pray that Muslims can view their Prophet Mohammad as casually and sardonically as Jews and Christians view God." Wiesel shook his head sorrowfully. "I would say more, but it is simply too painful."

He paused, then cackled, "NOT!"

The ability of Christians and Jews to laugh at coarse and racist assaults on their beliefs has led to a cottage industry of novelty religious products. One young entrepreneur, Zack White of Mendham, New Jersey, has cashed in on this growing market.

"I've been swamped with orders," said White, founder of Edible Faith. "I've had to take on additional staff in order to keep up."

His most popular gift items?

"Milk chocolate crucifixion nails packaged in a cross-shaped box," White answered with a smile. "The biggest orders for this come from Catholics, especially around Easter. Then there's the 'Toraham', which is a Torah made of ham with passages written in a honey glaze. My Jewish customers order this wholesale during High Holy Days. It serves as both a religious text and as a filling meal, and the leftovers are a blessing on rye. It's oy-licious!"

Monday, February 06, 2006

Rough Boys

Just before the corporate pigskin pig out yesterday, the wife and daughter went to see "Brokeback Mountain," leaving me to watch the game, and the boy to play on his GameCube (he doesn't like football -- what have I done?).

"Enjoy queer cowpokes in love," I said as they left.

"And you enjoy queer jocks in denial," the wife responded, smiling.

Indeed. Doubtless there were a few gay Seahawks and Steelers banging helmets in the big game. How could there not? Law of averages. Of course, the very concept of queer jocks, outside of women's golf and the WNBA, remains insanely taboo, esp when it comes to football, perhaps the most homoerotic American sport there is. But you'll never hear that discussed with any seriousness on sports TV & radio, assuming that the topic arises in the first place. For a good many American sports-loving men, queers are supposed to be girlish, swishy, not physically-ripped trash-talking power hitters in pads. Imagine a bunch of NFL players, some of them All Pros, suddenly coming out. The wounded angry voices of the faithful would saturate sports radio, and sports discussion boards would seethe with hatred and fear. It would do a heavy number on those who paint their faces in team colors and go shirtless at home games. I mean, they might have to explore why they identify so closely with GULP a queer player, and no Reggie White around to have their, umm, back.

All this reminds me of a summer afternoon from my Army days. Returning to the barracks after work, I saw a sign that said "EMERGENCY FORMATION: 1645 HRS. MANDATORY." These were rare, so of course everybody was a bit nervous about what might be coming down. The company assembled in the barracks' rear parking lot. Top (First Sergeant) called us to attention. Rigid silence under a merciless sun. Our commanding officer, a young Captain from West Point, emerged, and told Top to order us to parade rest. Normally our CO was pretty easy going, and his door was always open. But this day he wore a very severe expression. He walked deliberately back and forth in front of the formation for a few minutes without saying a word. Finally, he came to a halt and said:

"As some of you may have already heard, two of your fellow soldiers were found this afternoon having homosexual sex in one of the barracks' showers. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE. These men will be dealt with according to military law. But that's not my concern here. What I want to be fully understood by each and every member of this company is this: EVERY MAN UNDER MY COMMAND IS STRAIGHT. THAT IS AN ORDER. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?"




Then we were dismissed.

Turns out one of the guys nabbed was considered one of the tougher men on base. Someone you didn't fuck with, as opposed to . . .

I doubt that was the only time two American male soldiers engaged in consensual queer sex. And what swings in the military must certainly swing in the NFL, or at least a small portion of it. A natural expression of Warrior Culture, however muted or denied.

Friday, February 03, 2006


Believe it or not, Sporadic Posting Son has numerous posts just waiting to be delivered in this fine space, but, alas, my computer seems to have ingested a virus, and I cannot sustain a page at all (typing this little ditty on a borrowed machine across town). Hope to have the fucker flushed by Mon afternoon, but this means no weekend rants. And man, I had a nice mega-blast about the fascist nature of football (Nuremberg rallies with end zones) and how appropriate it is that this Sun's Über Bowl is being played at Detroit's Ford Field, owned by the family whose patriarch, Iron Cross Hank, was friendly with Hitler and who tried to warn America about the International Jewish conspiracy to destroy Christianity, usher in unionism, mixed marriages and Moses knows what else. But I have limited time, so nothing new till next week. But please visit my blogroll until we again meet -- plenty of good reading there, esp over at my pal Jon Schwarz's Tiny Revolution joint. JSwaz's been really bringin' it of late, so pop in there and say hey.

Oh yeah -- I'm going with the Steelers, though I haven't truly enjoyed the S. Bowl since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970. Consolidation smothers everything.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

"Scalito" -- No?

Call a new Supreme Court Justice a "judicial trog" and what does he do first thing? Side with the majority of the Court in staying an execution in Missouri!

Gotta say, Alito's already giving me fits.

Now, yesterday was only the first day of the rest of his Supreme Court life, so there are many many more big votes to come, doubtless some bad ones (he's a Federalist, after all). And while Alito's vote didn't swing the Court's decision (6-3), it should be applauded by death penalty opponents everywhere. Well, maybe some slow, sarcastic clapping, like a certain family in Southampton, Long Island. Again, we've got a loooonnnng way to go with this guy.

Cynical Son believes that Alito voted against Missouri's death machine simply to cross people up. "Ha! You thought you knew Sammy A! Thought I'd barge RIGHT IN and kick the police state into high gear! Well, how's it taste now, muthafuckas!" Practical Son thinks that Alito may be "pro-life" across the board -- that he opposes the death penalty (at least in specific cases) and the right to an abortion (in all cases?). We'll see. One thing's for sure: new Chief Justice John Roberts won't disappoint. He joined Scalia and Thomas in pushing for immediate lethal injection. Good. With the midterm elections coming up, Democratic scare groups will need a reactionary poster boy to frighten shaky libs into voting for any and all Dem candidates, in order to stem the fascist tide before it's too late. Of course, many of those elected Dems may vote for reactionary measures down the road, but that's a problem for another day. At least we know that Roberts can be counted on to play his nefarious role. Alito -- the second coming of David Souter?