Thursday, June 29, 2006

Really Big Chicken Roosting

Dwayne Monroe, a must-read regular at LBO-Talk, runs a witty, eclectic blog, Weber's Polar Night, which I've added to the Roll. And it was there I found this Japanese vid showing what will happen when the 99942 Apophis near-Earth asteroid smashes into our humble planet.

This Terror Rock, pocked with numerous al-Craters, is supposed to end our existence in 2039, so there's still plenty of time to patriotically consume at home and kill and torture others abroad before the final check arrives. I'll probably be dust before this happens, but if I do make it till then, I'll be sure to ingest some mega-hallucinogens that will be invented in the future so I can fully appreciate the light show. The colors, man! Check out the colors!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Flag It

With the Fourth of July nearly here, I was hoping that the Senate would celebrate by helping to make flag burning illegal and unconstitutional once and for all. Orrin Hatch, proud patriot and all-around Good American, did his best, but alas, the amendment fell one vote short, and another Fourth will pass with the specter of Old Glory in flames still haunting us.

Say, Son -- I would think you of all people would be against such an authoritarian amendment.

Conceptually, yes. Personally, I despise national flags. All flags, even pretty ones. Flags are symbols of tribes, and tribalism is perhaps the most malignant cancer ever to afflict the race (with fundamentalism pulling up the rear). If I had my way, flags would be obsolete, as would national anthems and borders. Desecrating a flag is a humanistic act, a direct expression of freedom. The fact that there've been only four reports of flag desecration this year worries me. The problem, obviously, is that desecration remains legal. And in our fat, apolitical land, the freedom to burn, rip apart, or wipe your ass with the flag means that almost no one will bother. Thus, we remain stuck with the damn thing, flapping over us everywhere we go, reinforcing the false consciousness of "national spirit."

Our domestic Phalange, and their liberal enablers, have the (far) right idea -- force people to worship the flag. Banning desecration is but the first step. In time, each citizen must be "encouraged" to display the Stars and Stripes in one form or another, either on their clothing, in their yards, from their balconies or windows. Flag stickers on cars, mandatory. And when you apply for a marriage license, a passport, or have your driver's license renewed, bowing before and kissing the flag would be required. If you don't kiss the flag, you don't drive. It's as simple as that.

Under these conditions, we'd be able to see just how much patriotism Americans can swallow without retching. It may take years before any kind of coordinated resistance begins, but that's the bitch about history -- waiting. This may be why most Americans are so appallingly ignorant about any history that matters: we have to wait to see what happens. Allow conditions to slowly unfold. Americans hate that shit. Waiting's for pussies and the French. Diving head first into unknown waters made us great and noble. It's why They Hate Us. But that's another topic . . .

The risk of legislating mandatory patriotism, of course, is that people might grow to like it or just take it for granted, as do most caged animals or fish in aquariums. As frightening as that possibility may be to some, at least we'd know where we stood. There's a certain liberation in seeing things as they actually are, and if we are destined to be slaves to a symbol (and to those who control that symbol), then it's best to just get on with it. Still, I maintain some faith. My hunch is that if forced to Respect The Flag, more people than not will lose all respect for it and the antiquated rituals that accompany it. That's why I think Sen. Hatch is on the (psycho) right track. He's doing much more to get us to the next level of human freedom than those Democrats who oppose him because his amendment undermines what the flag supposedly represents. But then, that's what Dems do -- paint flowers on cell bars. A real and lasting Independence Day is the furthest thing from their minds.

TRIBES: Reader Jake wrote in to remind me that if it wasn't for tribalism, the human race probably wouldn't have survived. Excellent point. We can debate whether or not the race surviving this long was a good or even desirable thing, but if we choose to keep going, surely such reductionist primitivism can be abandoned, or at the very least, kept solely on political and sports talk radio.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Did I Write This, Or Dream That I Wrote This?

Allow me to take a day to catch up on domestic chores, and then some much-needed sleep. Been falling behind on that front, and am in this strange Matrixy state like Neo when he sticks his fingers into that liquid mirror and soon it consumes him. You've all been there, right? Of course you have.

As you can see, I've been on a pure writing jag of late, thanks to your help and support. My summer-long LIF (Low Intensity Fundraiser) continues, and if you are new to the site and enjoy what I'm doing, or are a regular reader and have yet to contribute and can spare a few coins, please hit the PayPal button. Every little bit helps. Honestly. I've got a lot of topics to address, and will start another jag tomorrow. But for now, errands, cleaning, and the sweet sleep of weird reason.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Seems my little Friday sermon about Noam Chomsky and his liberal detractors ruffled many grey feathers, which does and doesn't surprise me. On the one hand, I operate from a tiny pulpit, and while I take what I say seriously (jokes included), I never really know how many people do the same. On the other hand, we're talking Chomsky here, the great Dracula figure of respectable American discourse. So any defense of the man usually elicits hysteria of varied tones, or if one is trying to Be Serious, a slow sad shake of the head, a few tsk tsks, and a seemingly sincere incredulity that anyone sane could take Chomsky seriously.

In my case, I got both styles. The Serious retort came from Michael Bérubé, clearly distressed in Happy Valley, and the hysterical (in every sense of the word) response from Captain Reality himself, Marc Cooper. I'll save the Captain's ravings for last (worth the wait), and will begin with Prof. Bérubé's concerns that my critique of his original post is somehow "beneath" me -- "or should be." In fact, I'll do what the wise Prof. didn't do with me, namely, respond to the points he makes.

"Dennis Perrin who’s smart enough to know better, accuses me of practicing 'guilt by association' in linking Chomsky to Herman, Johnstone, and Parenti. Please see comment 58 for my preternaturally patient rebuttal of this charge."

Okay. Scroll down to comment 58:

"Oh, well. I guess I look at things this way: I posted a complaint about Chomsky’s claim that the Kosovo war was the cause, rather than the consequence, of Serbian war crimes (as he also argues in Failed States), and about his ancillary claim that Milosevic was not responsible for Srebrenica, but, on the contrary, horrified by it. I then noted that these claims work to license still more foul claims made by people with whom Chomsky has worked intimately, and whose work he fully endorses. In support of my complaint about this kind of thing, I adduced findings that, prior to 1999, 'Serbian forces engaged in widespread killings of Albanians, destruction of villages, and expulsions of the civilian population' (No Peace Without Justice); that 460,000 people in Kosovo had been expelled from their towns and villages prior to the beginning of war on March 24, 1999 (UN High Commissioner for Refugees); that 'this pattern suggests a coherent policy aimed at a future partition of Kosovo following the decimation of its Albanian social and political fabric—where residents have not been killed or physically forced from their homes, they leave for fear of state terror that uses torture, mutilation, and degradation to achieve its ends' (International Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights); and that Chomsky’s reliance on the 2002 Dutch report ignores the 2003 report of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, which finds that 'Milosevic had a hand in the Srebrenica massacre.'”

Again, Chomsky's main crime is that he minimizes pre-NATO bombing body counts, while sticking to the Dutch report that claims that no one has yet proved that Milosevic knew about Srebrenica in advance, and that Slobo reportedly was "horrified" when he heard the news of the massacre. The Prof. prefers the IWPR account, in which there is iron-clad proof that Milosevic was in on the grisly deed. But five grafs in, we find:

"Whether Milosevic knew that his police were sent to participate in the attack on the town is unclear. If he did, then the document will play a key role in proving genocide charges. If he didn't, it will still provide important evidence of crimes against humanity. For the former, intent has to be established; for the latter responsibility is enough."

The Prof.'s trump card appears bent and torn at the edges. It's "unclear" that "Milosevic knew" about the impending attack? Not the most compelling counter-evidence I've seen employed in an argument, but no matter. The Prof. clearly believes that Milosevic knew, and I suspect that he also believes that, far from being "horrified," Slobo was gleeful about the carnage, perhaps dancing a jig when the first casualty figures rolled in. There's no real evidence to support this, but then, there's no real evidence to debunk it, either. And anyway, aren't all war criminals happy about death?

Chomsky, as I linked in my original post, not only concedes that Srebrenica was a massacre, but that "the Milosevic regime has committed many crimes." Since Chomsky's on the record, numerous times, about this, Prof. Bérubé's main beef seems bogged down in competing body counts, a no-win exercise for anyone climbing into a mass grave, calculator in hand. The Balkans of the 1990s was a killing field all around, on the ground and from the air. If only liberals like the Prof. were this meticulous about, say, East Timor or Turkish Kurdistan, the latter of which experienced its share of mass murder and population displacement during the same period, which in many ways was worse than what the Serbian state pulled off. The key difference, of course, is that the US, under Bill Clinton, backed and financed those war crimes, but curiously, Clinton and his wrecking crew have yet to be hauled off to the Hague to face charges, and no word from the Prof. as to whether NATO should have bombed itself, for "humanitarian" reasons, naturally.

But the Prof. has plenty of harsh words for Ed Herman, Diana Johnstone and Michael Parenti, and he insists that bringing them up in order to tar Chomsky is not a "guilt by association" tactic at all. Addressing one of his readers:

"As for RobW, accusing me of playing 'guilt by association; when I link Chomsky and Herman is like accusing me of playing 'guilt by association' when I link Mats Sundin and Tie Domi. They play on the same team; one is the star, the other is the goon. And it’s really kind of standard practice to link co-authors to each other. Thanks to Peter Ramus and Paul, above, for pointing this out. Those of you who want to believe that Chomsky’s enthusiastic endorsement of Johnstone’s work is not really an 'enthusiastic' 'endorsement' of Johnstone’s work, be my guests."

I'm guessing that Herman is Tie Domi, but I could be wrong. Still, it's true that he and Chomsky are friends, though the last book they co-authored, "Manufacturing Consent," came out in 1988, nearly two decades ago. Using the Prof.'s "standard practice" of linking co-authors, and keeping the sports analogy going, it's a bit like mentioning Maurice Lucas's many on-court fights and flagrant fouls whenever Bill Walton appears in public. They also played on the same team some time ago, though I don't think you can fully judge one for the actions of the other. As for Chomsky's "enthusiastic endorsement of Johnstone’s work," even if true (complete with confetti and kazoos), does nothing to undermine, in my view, the clear anti-Milosevic statements that Chomsky has always made. The only reason the Prof. brings Johnstone up is -- well, you decide. I think it's pretty obvious.


"Dennis also asks, searchingly, 'Why Serbia? Why now, when Milosevic is dead, the matter is pretty much at rest, whatever one thinks of it, and there are other, more pressing issues to deal with (I’m thinking here of that Iraq thing)?' and answers, 'Who the fuck really knows.' Can anyone help out Dennis on this one, say, by directing him to the June 19, 2006 dateline of the New Statesman article? Perhaps we can get him to ask Professor Chomsky this question."

Well, I did read that article, and it was Andrew Stephen, its author, who raised Serbia and Milosevic, to which Chomsky responded with the comments that so vexed the Prof. and got this little train chugging. No need to ask Chomsky why he answered a journalist's question. Isn't that what someone who is being interviewed does?

And finally:

"At least we are reassured that Ed Herman is 'a very soft-spoken, polite guy'! Not at all the kind of person who would accuse longtime lefty Bill Weinberg of employing a rightwing smear tactic, or who would dedicate years of his life to arguing that only a couple of hundred people died in Srebrenica. As for the rest of Perrin’s remarks about me, they are beneath him—-or should be."

I suspect that the Prof. considers my mini-take on Herman as endorsement for all things Herman. It's not. Like I said, I talked to the guy a few times many years ago, and he was indeed soft-spoken and polite. What he does when he's not talking to me in the past is really not my concern. It's obvious that Prof. Bérubé doesn't like Ed Herman, and he's welcome to his scorn, which may very well be justified. But that's the Prof.'s trip, not mine. As for the rest of my remarks that are or should be beneath me, the Prof. might wish to specify which words brought me shame. I'd be interested to know.

Now, to Captain Reality.

When we last left Marc Cooper, he crashed into the orchestra pit after trying too hard to execute the anti-Noam. He has since yanked his fat head from a dented tuba, crawled back onstage, grabbed the nearest mike and begun bellowing:

"What a magnificent surprise. Now pinch-hitting for Noam Chomsky and moving to the left field position is none other than Dennis Perrin. You can read his ramblings on your own time; he swipes at Berube and throws a dripping little mud pie at me. It's all so predictable. I'm supposed to jump out of my skin because he calls me a liberal (the worst insult within the ossified left). And I'm accused of just hating, hating, hating anyone to my left."

Wiping mud from his brow and squinting into the lights, he continues:

"Oh, I don't think so. Among the activist left this is, of course, a common malady. Dennis ought to know. 'Nobody could possibly be more left, more pure, more righteous than I,' muse many an activist as they walk in circles in the mid-day sun. But with all due respect to Cardinal Perrin of the Church of Latter Day Blogger Revvolutionaries, I really couldn't care less who is to my right or left as those categories have been seriously degraded."

"Cardinal Perrin"? Obviously, he caught wind of my Catholic upbringing. Mother, how many times have I told you not to accept collect calls from strangers?

"What most tickles me about Perrin is his cowardly dodge when it comes to Parenti, Herman and Johnstone. This college-educated guy, a long-time lefty intellectual who runs an opinionated blog all, of a sudden turns into a bumpkin know-nothing. He doesn't reallly know much about these folks, not enough to make a real judgement -- even though two of the three (Parenti and Herman) have near iconic status on the Left. Nope, not old Dennis Perrin. He's too busy shootin' stick and tunin' up Harleys and buying hot dogs at the Little League game or wanking over pictures of Christopher Hitchens and his wife to really know:"

This is some fine rantin', but a few corrections are in order.

First, I never went to college. Graduated high school with a C-average. Jumped immediately on the back of a garbage truck into which I dumped heavy cans of rural trash for over a year, then performed various blue collar jobs, mixing and carrying hod, installing gutters on houses, before joining the Army at 19. Moved to New York City after that, and got involved with FAIR, my first real political job, four years later.

It was at FAIR where I learned, worked, researched, and wrote about the media and politics; and it's true that I was first exposed to Herman, Johnstone and Parenti while in those offices. But as I said in my original post, my interest in them was limited, save for when Herman worked with Chomsky, whose co-authored books I did read. Of course I know who they are and what people say about them, but again, I don't really follow that trio, and have not immersed myself in their later work, especially their writings on Serbia, Milosevic and NATO. Clearly, Marc has and continues to do so, though I wonder why when it drives him nuts like this. I suppose every artist needs some negative material to prime their creative pump; and when Marc goes off on "the left," or whatever he wants to call it, this stuff does the trick. But I digress.

Stalking the stage, punctuating points with a pumping fist, Coop regales the house, and me, with the horrid histories of the above-mentioned trio. Parenti is a Stalinist. Herman is a smear artist whom Chomsky won't repudiate. Johnstone is a leading Slobo cheerleader. And so on. How can I not know this? Why won't I obsess over them the way Marc does? Simply put, I don't. I have no interest in their work. I read other writers and different books, sometimes about topics that have nothing to do with certain lefty causes or celebs. I got my fill of that back in the day and have no real appetite for it any more. If Marc wants to wallow in all that jazz, he's welcome to it. Without it, he'd be reduced to writing about poker and fishing, and who visits Coop's site for that?

Pointing to me in the wings, Marc says:

"Dennis, if times are rough and you can't afford to buy any of the books from these characters about whom you claim to know so little, let me know and I'll be happy to see if I have any dusty copies piled up somewhere."

Given all the noise Marc's made about "these characters," I rather doubt their books are collecting dust in forgotten corners of his home. Or maybe Marc has their arguments committed to memory. That would explain his free-flowing riffs on their various thought crimes. He's certainly seems comfortable with the material.

As a spotlight narrows the stage to a single, illuminated point, Marc lowers his head and finishes his performance on a plaintive note:

"Finally, it's plain false that I make any connection between Chomsky and the conspiracy theorizing going on over Pacifica. HOWEVER, Chomsky was a vocal supporter of the crew that took power in Pacifica five years ago and who is responsible for the current programming. He sure as hell had no problem back then putting up his name as an endorsement on their efforts to 'take back Pacifica.' Now that they've taken it back and ran into the ground, polluting the air with, indeed, conspiracy theory, Noam has become invisible on the issue. I had long, long private exchanges with him five years ago on this matter, urging him to reconsider his endorsement and encouragement of the Free Pacifica yo-yos. All I can say was how terribly unimpressed I was by his weaknes, his unwillingness to criticize in any way those who he considered his 'friends,' no matter how right or wrong they might have been. Noam Chomsky, you see, is a human being like the rest of us. And he shares many of our shortcomings and failures, regardless of his position on the Palestinians."

Well, it was Marc who segued from Chomsky the fascist apologist to the Pacifica conspiracists by writing, "On a related note." So he does suggest some kind of connection, and immediately reinforces it by stating that Chomsky was once in cahoots with that crowd. As for the rest of his final soliloquy, all I can say is that few carry the Pacifica cross quite like Marc Cooper. That it seriously fucked with his head is obvious and evident every time he rants about "the left." I will grant him his final point about Noam, since I said pretty much the same thing at the end of my original post.

Spotlight fades. Stage darkens. Cooper's silhouette exits through the curtains as the dented tuba plays "God Bless America."

Friday, June 23, 2006

Do The Anti-Noam

Oh dear. They're at it again. A handful of American liberals shaking their hips, waving their paws and grimacing at Noam Chomsky. It's an old bit that's been going on at least since Noam began insisting that Palestinians are human beings, once a heretical thought in higher American discourse, but now, thanks to Noam (and others, like the late Edward Said), can be uttered during daylight hours without too much rhetorical blowback. There are numerous related sins that Noam is also charged with; but in the current case, it's his lack of enthusiasm for bombing Serbia in 1999 and supposed softness on Milosevic that has the righteous libs sputtering in mid-step.

Why Serbia? Why now, when Milosevic is dead, the matter is pretty much at rest, whatever one thinks of it, and there are other, more pressing issues to deal with (I'm thinking here of that Iraq thing)? Who the fuck really knows. I do know this -- some libs, not all, but some, cannot stand the thought that there are those ostensibly in or near their camp who didn't see the bombing of Serbia as the great humanitarian exercise they believe it was. I've been on the shouting end of this numerous times myself: Didn't I know that Bill Clinton stopped fascism in its tracks? Just why do I love Milosevic so? Isn't there anything worth bombing in my view, for the betterment of humanity, that is? And so on. I'm familiar with the routine, but these were discussions at lefty events or in darkened pubs. I've not really published anything about Milosevic, Serbia, and the bombing of both (though I did note Slobo's passing here), but Noam Chomsky has. And for some libs, what he's written and said is unacceptable if not sheer fascist apologetics. And that bashing Noam is considered a sign of liberal maturity also helps when the time comes to bash him, though in some corners, it's always Chomsky Bashing Time.

I won't burden you as the weekend begins with all the internecine slandering currently on display. Basically, today's Noam sliming has to do with whether or not he considers Srebrenica a massacre conducted by Serb forces, and whether or not Milosevic knew about it beforehand, and whether or not he was happy about it, or outraged by it, or just plain sad. Noam points to a Dutch government report that says that Milosevic had no prior knowledge of Srebrenica, adding that those who insist that Slobo knew have yet to factually prove this. To an academic lib like Michael Bérubé, this is "loony LaRouchie" rhetoric and outright denial of war crimes, what what's more, putting his foot down, "this kind of thing really has to stop. Now."

Boo-yah! Take that, Chomsky fans!

Not content to deal strictly with the initial charge he makes, Prof. Bérubé drags in the unholy trio of Ed Herman, Diana Johnstone and Michael Parenti, and hangs them around Noam's neck in an attempt to weigh him further down. Because, you see, Noam and Herman are friends and have co-authored books, and Noam said some kind words about Johnstone, who, like Herman and Parenti, is simply mad about Milosevic and in denial about his war crimes, and why would Chomsky associate with such people, unless . . . Then the good Prof. throws up a bunch of links to Decent Folk to show that, not only is he Decent too, but that Noam Chomsky is . . .

You get the idea.

Personally, I have no great love for Herman, Johnstone, or Parenti, but neither do I loathe them. I've talked to Herman a few times, a very soft-spoken, polite guy, and have friends who know him and say he's great, which he may well be. It's not a chief concern of mine. Parenti I met once, sitting next to him at a DC luncheon for -- who else? -- Noam Chomsky. Parenti was verbose and a bit flamboyant, but didn't seem terribly crazy to me. Maybe he is. I do know that he and Noam hardly said anything to each other that day (a plot to play down their pro-fascist alliance?), because right after the luncheon, Noam and I went for a long walk through Adams Morgan and talked about various things, none of which had anything to do with denying massacres or genocides, but again, that proves nothing. Johnstone I've never met, but used to read in In These Times. I found her pieces a bit overheated for my taste, and she seemed rather fond of the word "cult" to denounce things she didn't like. Did I find her fascistic? Not really. But then, I confess to not reading her on a regular basis. She could be Eva Braun for all I know. But what do these people have to do with the main question posed by Prof. Bérubé? Other than guilt-by-association, not much, that I can see.

Funny thing is, Noam has called Srebrenica a massacre and has said that throughout the 1990s, "the Milosevic regime has committed many crimes," for which he was attacked by an unambiguous Slobo-phile, Jared Israel. In fact, I can't find anything in print or online that shows Noam engaged in Srebrenica denial or pro-Milosevic apologetics, unless labeling the Serbian government a "regime" that "has committed many crimes," among them Srebrenica, is somehow flattering. Perhaps there's some linguistic subtext that the Prof. sees that I cannot. Anything's possible.

The sticking point for Prof. Bérubé, it seems, is that according to the Dutch report that Noam mentions, Milosevic was "horrified" when he heard about Srebrenica, a massacre he supposedly did not order and knew nothing about beforehand. In order to make NATO's bombing of Serbia gleam ever more brightly, it is imperative that Milosevic not only knew about Srebrenica, but was damn happy about it, cackling to himself and rubbing his hands while thousands of men and boys were rounded up and shot. Who knows? Maybe he did. Maybe the Dutch report is fiction. Maybe maybe. But none of us really knows for sure what Milosevic actually thought, not Noam Chomsky and certainly not Prof. Bérubé. And with Milosevic gone, the rest is speculation.

You can say, as does the diligent Prof., that the head of the Serbian state is responsible for whatever atrocities his armed forces carried out, whether he knew about it or not, or ordered it or not. That's a reasonable critique, and I share it. States, as anarchists have long insisted, are violent, coercive mechanisms that act in the interests of those who own them or wield disproportionate power. Serbia under Milosevic was no exception, but then, neither is the United States. And it will come as no shock to anyone honest that the US has poseurs like Milosevic beaten by a bombed country mile -- the only difference is, our leaders aren't held to the same standards by liberals who despised Milosevic. If Srebrenica was a war crime, then what was Central America in the 1980s, to cite one example? In that region there were many Srebrenicas, knowingly and actively backed and funded by us. Did Prof. Bérubé call for Ronald Reagan and the architects of that policy to be arrested and placed on trial for turning Central America into a mass grave? I certainly hope so, 'else his "concern" for what happened in the Balkans might be construed as opportunistic, ideological, or merely hypocritical. I doubt that he urged another humanitarian nation to bomb Washington, DC and Arlington, VA (as well as the western White House in California) for 70-plus days, hitting hospitals, schools, railways, airports and the like, not only because it wasn't feasible, but mainly because Americans are special. We don't deserve the kind of collective punishment that we regularly mete out to others. Self-criticism? Certainly, but within limits, lest we be paralyzed by self-doubt, which a great nation like ours cannot afford. War crimes trials and the bombing of our cities? What are you, a Milosevic lover?

Once Prof. Bérubé did his anti-Chomsky dance, you knew that fellow Decent Lib Marc Cooper would follow in stride. And he did, in his typically crude and clumsy way. That Cooper gets it wrong is no surprise, but you do have to appreciate the effort he makes, to the extent that his effort is at all serious. Anyone who's engaged Cooper knows that he hates hates hates most of those considered to his left, so much so that he spews out pretty much anything so long as it might stick (which it usually doesn't). And that he tries to conflate Noam with some lunatics at Pacifica is par for his grubby course. They all seem to blend together in his head, based on what springs out of it on a regular basis.

Noam's not perfect, and I've had my open differences with him in the past. But on this front, his accusers are doing all the spinning, with Prof. Bérubé gliding around quotes as Cooper loses his balance and crashes into the orchestra pit.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


When promoting a product, timing is crucial and tie-ins a must -- what the pros call cross-branding. At the serious marketing level, nothing is an accident. So it happens that the very month Christopher Hitchens waxes rhetorically about blowjobs in Vanity Fair, Hitch himself receives an audio version of same from NPR. Correspondent Guy Raz can't gobble Hitch hose fast enough; but even in his excitement, he performs adequately enough, all things considered.

What brings me to this usually verboten topic (Hitchens, not blowjobs) isn't the free pass Raz gives Hitch, nor the ongoing lies, delusions and devolving justifications for imperial violence and corporate looting (what Hitch considers "civilization"), but this photo of Hitch and wife Carol Blue, snapped by Annie Leibowitz in their DC apartment in 1990:

I've been staring at this all morning, and the feelings it raises in me are unexpected but not unknown. It's from the period when I spent a lot of time in that apartment, either alone (going through Hitch's book collection, taking phone messages from his famous friends), or with Carol, or with Christopher, or with both. It was a wonderful time for me; I learned a lot about writing and arguing political points, and experienced even more. Hitchens/Blue were extremely gracious, friendly and giving, and I'll always treasure the many hours and days I shared with them. Looking at that photo, I feel warmth and a very real and deep sadness. However angry I get with Hitch for the deceit and bloody chaos he's helped promote, I'll never be fully able to shake the fondness I have for him, nor the gratitude for his guidance. When Tariq Ali wrote that the Christopher he knew was killed on 9/11, I understood what he meant, but until this morning, I never truly shared his emotion. The Christopher Hitchens in that photo is long gone. It is like looking at a dead man.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Son Raw

Thank you, thank you, to all who've contributed to this humble site. As Ornette Coleman once said, "I remember once I read a book on mental illness and there was a nurse that had gotten sick. Do you know what she died from? From worrying about the mental patients not being able to get their food. She became a mental patient."

That has nothing to do with the Son or my appreciation. I just wanted to quote Ornette.

I've said before what I think makes Son different -- but here's another reason: no pinch-hitters. Everything that appears here comes from my head & hand alone; and your financial support allows me to go deeper as I can afford to spend more time thinking, writing, and screaming, the latter of which I do on a fairly regular basis. Scares the shit outta our cats, but those filthy beasts need to be kept alert and have their reflexes tested whenever possible. They've had it soft for far too long.

I'm gonna continue this little fund drive through the weekend, so if you like or respect what I do, just hit the PayPal button above my blogroll. Your contribution is equally valued. The response over the past couple of days has really lifted my spirits and inspired me to write write write. And I must thank Jumpin' Jon Schwarz for pimpin' my ride over at This Modern World, as well as at his space. As I've mentioned before, Jon's an Ivy Leaguer, and that crowd knows how to hustle and flow. Some of his sage advice finally cracked my hermit skull, and the result has been most fab. So thanks again Jon, and Mike Gerber, too. You know why.

Death Is Patriotic

TV talking heads aren't terribly bright, however smooth their on-air delivery. During the first Gulf War, I did a lot of shows, both national and local, and I was mildly astonished by just how stupid many of those hosts were. Of course, they were conditioned to be that way, 'else they wouldn't have been given access to whatever level of mass communication they occupied. I once did a morning show in Connecticut, double-teamed by a flesh-and-blood Ken and Barbie, and tried to explain to them and their viewers why the corporate media acts as a state press during wartime (or anytime, for that matter). Glass eyes. Blank stares. I believe a tumbleweed blew across the faux living room set. They simply didn't understand what I was talking about, even though I spoke in English, and refrained from any high falutin' pomo rad-speak. When I went back to the Green Room to collect my coat and satchel, their next guest, Vincent Bugliosi, author of "Helter Skelter" and the man who claims he would've gotten O.J. Simpson convicted, shook my hand, patted me on the back, and said, "Boy, what a couple of dopes. Wish me luck." And off he went, game face on, to engage that dim, but finely manicured, duo.

To be honest, I don't mind that TV hosts are largely empty vessels through which conventional wisdom and related clichés flow. The uncurious and gullible must earn a buck like the rest of us. But when hosts get aggressive or try to show that they know What's Going On, that's when you hit back and push them against the wall to remind them that their main purpose is to fill airtime between commercials. Chances are you'll be cut off by the producer or director, but that's okay. If you're gonna get the TV ax, do it on your terms. If nothing else, it gives the folks at home something interesting, perhaps even educational, to watch.

Michael Berg, father of Nicholas Berg, who was butchered, allegedly, by Musab al-Zarqawi, employed this tactic on CNN the other day; and it prompted host Soledad O'Brien to reveal her inner-jihadist as she prodded and pushed Berg to take some kind of pleasure in Zarqawi's death. It was one of the more despicable public displays I've seen of late, necro-porn and tribal hatred passing as "journalism." Of course, O'Brien, being a pro, tried to shade her rancid opinions by pretending she was playing devil's advocate. But it was clear that O'Brien was expressing her personal feelings, and Berg, to his credit, forcefully but diplomatically shoved O'Brien's bile back down her throat. He was a lot more patient than I would've been, that's for sure.

While it's easy to mock O'Brien for her public embrace of death, she certainly didn't set the prevailing mood. When the US Government is waving graphic pix of a dead Zarqawi in front of any available camera, what a dopey TV host does is of no serious importance -- it's mere ideological backwash. Still, it does help to remind us that American elites, and some not so elite, are as barbarous and vengeful as those they say are uncivilized (something I explored here). I'm somewhat surprised that US military officials didn't sever Zarqawi's head, pack it in ice, ship it overnight to DC and have Rumsfeld or Tony Snow or some other administration figure hold it up by the hair and encourage the Beltway press corps to file by and spit on it. God knows Soledad O'Brien would've been first in line, just to prove her patriotism if nothing else. Hey, there's still time. Think of the ratings!

Zarqawi was a thug and a murderer, and if there's any awareness after death, he's probably chuckling to himself about how the infidels are stealing his act.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ding Dong

Zarqawi's dead.

Bombed his house.

Smashed his head.

Ding dong, Zarqawi's really dead!

So sing various online munchkins this fine day. I'm glad that they have something to sing and dance about, however fleeting the moment, and fleet and flit it will. Soon, it's back to the steady inescapable carnage that is our present world, where yellow brick roads run red with Oz's many corpses, and talking trees throw grenades at the crawling survivors.

Zarqawi's death was a celebrity hit, nothing more; and it reinforces, to a small degree, the fictitious veneer of the endless, holy War on Terror. That some liberals buy into this is no surprise -- part of the contemporary lib pose is to place hand on heart and loudly state, "As a proud, patriotic liberal American, I, too, celebrate the death of the arch-terrorist Zarqawi," followed by glib cracks about blasted bodies, etc. For some, it's the price of admission to "respectable" debate, though I've no doubt that more than a few seriously believe their rhetoric. The American penchant for not only bullshitting others but also yourself knows no ideological boundaries, and in a weird way, it forms an ideology of its own. Some call it the Mainstream Media; others, the Liberal Media; others still, the Blogosphere. But like Al-Qaeda In Iraq, these are marketing labels devoid of actual meaning.

If you want a non-munchkin take on Zarqawi, consider what oil analyst John Kemp has to say:

"Zarqawi's termination is a very big propaganda coup for the coalition, but I don't think it's going to have much impact on the ground. It isn't that significant from an oil market perspective."

In other words, the Wicked Witch of the East's demise means pretty much nothing in the real world of global capital, the world that really counts. But don't tell that to those online munchkins trying to drown out grim reminders like Haditha, their high-pitched voices straining to find a steady, soothing note. To them, dead Arabs don't mean all that much, but it would be crass to take pleasure in popping rounds into children's heads. Killing celebrities like Zarqawi gives them the raw release they desperately crave, which is why the air is filled with their helium-coated cheers.

A couple of weeks back, much fun was made by libloggers about rightwingers looking for rock songs that express conservative pieties. Plenty of laffs were had, but those reactionary rock freeks aren't completely off-base. When you think about how the WOT is packaged and sold, a song like Pink Floyd's "Us and Them" from "Dark Side of the Moon" (an apt title for these times) might be stretched to fill that musical/political need. And when you lay it over footage of munchkins celebrating the death of their Zarqawi (with Judy Garland playing the Liberator -- and Margaret Hamilton Osama?), "Us and Them" could serve as a national anthem.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Meet The Son's New Pal, Pay

To help make my first Pledge Drive easier for you, I've hooked up with PayPal, the button of which you can find atop my blogroll. As I said yesterday, every donation helps, as I've done the Son for free from the jump. The more I get, the more I can write and hustle for media gigs. Because, you all wanna see my aging mug ranting on your plasma wall, yes?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Dear Readers

Been laid out with a bad back (stupid human aging), and haven't been able to sit up with any consistency since Sunday. Thus, zero posts. This really pisses me off in ways that I've yet to intellectually comprehend; just a sad sick feeling in my gut. See, I've long been a physical guy -- lift weights, play hoops, swim, sharpen what martial arts skills remain to me, and, er, well, other things. So when I'm unable to stand or walk with any authority, it frustrates and angers me. It also reminds me that I'm not as young and spry as I once was, something the wife keeps telling me, but a reality I deny as often as I possibly can. And while I've cut back on beer, coffee, cheese, most sweets, and have pretty much eliminated chips of any kind from my diet, I still fancy myself a young man who can take pretty much anything -- that is, until my back went out. Nothing like gravity to get your attention.

I have at least a half dozen posts sitting in various stages, waiting for completion. I'll finish the ones that I feel are most pertinent, even though new outrages spring up daily, and I want to stay as up-to-date as I can. But before I return to the garage to tinker with those posts still on blocks, I must do something I thought I'd never do, and have resisted since I started this thing in Nov, '04.

Put simply, in order for me to continue this blog, I need some dough coming in -- not a ton, but something. Those who've read me since pretty much the beginning know the amount of work I've put into this project. (If you're relatively new, check the archives and see for yourself.) The Son belongs to no party, adheres to no party-line, mixes pop and politics in a style that I think is unique to the Web. Because of this, I'm not picked up or promoted by most of the larger sites, since I "gore" many of their heroes as well. I do have my friends and admirers, and my posts turn up in the strangest places; but overall, the Son occupies a singular space. I take pride in this, even though it guarantees relative Web obscurity. Such are the trade-offs when you do your own thing.

Extra money will mean more posts, since I'll be able to afford the added time it takes to compose my thoughts and slanders. Remember, for years I worked as a professional writer, and rarely wrote for free (only if the cause was good). Since the start of Son, I've written the equivalent of at least two books of essays, and haven't received a dime for it. And that's what makes Son different from most daily blogs -- the majority my posts are essays, not a few cobbled sentences and links. These take hours, sometimes days, to write, which of course takes away from any freelance work I might chase down. But to be honest, I prefer writing here, since I can say what I want in the style that I choose without some overeducated editor correcting my slang, toning down my outrage, or censoring bits for fear of offending more powerful figures (and trust me, that goes on more than you probably know). I've been through that ringer numerous times, the end result being something that I cannot fully embrace (as in this piece, which is still making the rounds), since someone else's fingerprints are all over it. Thanks to blogs, that tyranny is over, at least for now. Why do you suppose mainstream journos and commentators hate and fear this form so?

Ultimately, I want to get back to where I was many years ago -- writing on a regular basis, snaring speaking gigs and getting invited on panels, radio and TV. Unlike many bloggers, I've actually engaged big-time media figures and made them squirm (provoking more than a few to say I was crazy -- corporations run the media? Conspiracy theorist!!). I've debated face-to-face people who should be on trial for war crimes. It's an environment that I thrive in, and for me to get back to that place, I need your help. Email me and I'll let you know how to do so. By tossing a few bucks my way, I can fully devote myself to the Son, who gets stronger and more effective when fully engaged.