From The Guardian...
Pre-emptive nuclear strike a key option, Nato told
Ian Traynor in Brussels
Tuesday January 22, 2008
The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the "imminent" spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new Nato by five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists.
See if you can follow the logic here...
To prevent the first use of nuclear weapons by rabid warmongers, our rabid warmongers recommend the first use of nuclear weapons.
Why not save everyone a lot of trouble and just nuke ourselves?
Why are we even having this conversation? Why are supposedly civilised, liberal-minded Western people even contemplating the use of the most devestating and terrible weapons ever developed? After living through a forty-year nuclear standoff which literally threatened to destroy human life on Earth? Did I wake up on the wrong planet this morning? Am I taking crazy pills?
There's no excuse for this. Anyone who contemplates using nuclear weapons is a monster. If we as a society can't draw the line at that, then the West truly does deserve to fall; we'll have lost the last torture-stained shreds of our collective soul.
Today in the swashbuckling world of high finance: an explanation of how the whole subprime mortgage crisis thing works for people who don't speak Business, which points out that this whole crisis came about fundamentally because the idiots who run these things don't understand basic logic.
Mark Chu-Carroll presents: The Total Stupidity of Crowds: Bad Mortgages and Circular Solutions.
So - the insurance company is guaranteeing the value of the banks mortgage loans, using money that it borrowed from the bank, which the bank had to borrow because it's got these bundles of leans insured by the insurance company. In other words, the banks are insuring their loans themselves, using the loans to pay for the losses on the loans. It's circularity on circularity on circularity - cycles within cycles of stupidity, relying on stupidity to prop it up.
The running-dogs of capitalist oppression who run the financial sector seem to have forgotten the #1 rule of running a scam, which not coincidentally is also the #1 rule of gambling: get out before anyone notices you're rolling them. Even I know that one...
Not every deeply-religious person with political leanings is an insane slavering fascist monster. But no matter how well-intentioned someone is and how leftist and progressive they might otherwise be, every, and I mean every time someone tries to blend religion and politics you end up with insanely stupid juxtapositions like this:
I believe that America is facing a culture crisis. Our national soul has been infected with a virus of selfishness. This selfishness takes on many forms, most commonly greed, extreme materialism, and instant gratification.
So far, so good. But then...
But it is not the obvious individual cases (Tyco’s Kozlowski, Bush’s Executive Privelege, internet pornography) that cause our national ills but rather the fact that they each are outgrowths of a culture that has lost its commitment to the common good.
Ding! That's right. This progressive Democrat just jumped the crazy shark by equating the President's lawbreaking, torture, lies, Constitutional malfeasance, and warmongering with Internet pornography.
And it really is just because he's religious. Because of sin and vice and bullshit like that. He's taken something beautiful and noble like the idea of the common good and ruined it with moralistic scolding.
Censorship may not be a viable or appropriate solution, but do any of us honestly believe that the ready availability of internet porn is not destroying something sacred within us?
Yes. See how he tries to universalise his own personal tastes here? The very wording suggests anyone who doesn't agree with him is likely some kind of Bad Person: they must hate the sacred! A filthy trick, and not one that a rational person who cares about preserving a pluralistic culture with free discourse should embrace.
Study after study shows that porn tends to depict women in violently subjugated positions, and can shift norms of sexual expectations.
Here he conflates two things which he'd like you to believe are the same, but which in fact are very different. It's true that lots of porn depicts situations or acts some might find shocking, and that it can be used to objectify and degrade women. At the same time, however, most people's "sexual expectations" are practically Victorian in their ridiculous prudery, and as a culture we'd be a lot better off if we had fewer hang-ups about sex, were more open about sexuality, and stopped telling people that their natural desires are bad and wrong and shameful and sinful. What could've been a perfectly reasonable statement about porn's negative consequences for women is destroyed by, again, blind obeisance to an outdated and repressive code of personal conduct rooted in religion.
Get a group of liberals in a room and there is little they will not pass judgment on, but when we start to talk about this in our politics, the conversation starts and ends with “So what are you going to do, censor it? Repress people sexually?” This is an irresponsibly false choice. Part of the conviction politics I outlined earlier this week is about calling things as we see it.
This is the real problem with religious politics: "conviction politics". Religious folk are convinced that certain things are true, often with no rational justification. They seek to impose their shining eternal truths on the rest of us in the name of the common good, when their convictions are often, alas, nonsense. Every time we compromise our secularism to make an alliance with the religious, even in a good cause, even to promote ends we can all agree on like less greed and materialism and a greater regard for our fellow people, we give tacit approval to a load of foaming hysterical dribble about private conduct and sky fairies cooked up by a bunch of sandy nomads with heat stroke. It becomes harder to attack that nonsense when the people spouting it are supposed to be your allies. This is how religion works. You give them an opening, and they'll start squeezing in their wedge.
From Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1944 State of the Union address:
It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth- is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill housed, and insecure.
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
The right of every family to a decent home;
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.
One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis-recently emphasized the grave dangers of "rightist reaction" in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called "normalcy" of the 1920's—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.
You know what alarms me more than the US economy showing a net loss of 4,000 jobs last month?
The unemployment rate, which is derived from a different statistical survey than the payroll figures, held steady as 340,000 people left the workforce. Fewer people in that survey reported finding employment in August compared with July.
That's like saying sectarian violence in Iraq is down because we've stopped counting as sectarian killings where the bullet goes in through the front of the head, not the back.
As a mathematician, I despair.
In 2003 and 2004, in an attempt to bust a Mexican drug lord, the Immigrations and Customs Executive of the Department of Homeland Security recruited and paid as an informant a homicidal maniac who, with their full knowledge, went on participate in the grotesque and brutal murders in Mexico of at least 12 people including a completely innocent legal immigrant living in the US with absolutely no ties to the drug underworld whatsoever, abducted and murdered due to a case of mistaken identity. A DEA agent and his family were almost killed as well. Nobody informed the Mexican government. The Department of Justice, with the personal involvement of John Ashcroft, concluded the best thing to do was to cover it all up and hope nobody noticed. They strong-armed into resignation a DEA agent who objected. And the drug lord in question pled guilty to trafficking in return for the US attorney in charge of the case dropping the many, well-documented murder charges, and received a sentence of only 25 years in jail.
The US media, with the exception of the Dallas Morning News, has not seen fit to cover this.
On behalf of a majority of Americans, we're very sorry for the last six years of insane warmongering kleptocracy, and we'll try very hard not to let it happen again. We were young. And drunk. And we were going through a lot of personal issues. Please don't judge us too harshly. Give us a chance to seduce you again with our happy new comparatively-sane somewhat more progressive kleptocracy.
We want to make it up to you. Here's a start: pick your favourite social, economic, military, or political matter in which the United States plays some role. Do you have it? Good. Now close your eyes, and imagine the worst possible outcome of this consistent with the laws of physics. Can you see it? Complete with Crusaders and unfettered global capitalism and dead fisheries and rising sea levels and a Venusian atmosphere and a special gay-bashing fence in every town? With the sound of jackboots on the pavement in the depths of night? Good. Now open your eyes again. Surprise! That may not happen after all. The worst possible outcome is no longer guaranteed!
I love the fact that Doctor Who is now mainstream enough that Atrios references it in jokes.
Wow, now that I think about it, that's a really fucking sad definition of 'mainstream': spoken about on blogs. You want to feel like the fringiest of the fringe? Try being a Doctor Who fan in America about five years ago.
It's weird...I like to go browsing though bits of the political and semi-political blogiverse from time to time, see what's up and who's going down...Right now there's a surprising amount of chatter about transhumanism. To my great surprise, it seems there are actually people out there who take it seriously. This is what those on the Internets call a 'WTF?' moment. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm as eager for cyber-conversion as the next man, but the Rapture of the Nerds--the Singularity, uploading, Drexlerian nanotechnology, posthumans, anti-Semitic androids from another universe who serve a giant eaty brain monster--just isn't going to happen any time soon.
I guess a bunch of right-wing nutjobs on the Internets are techno-utopians. This is just silly. Shaping public policy around a blind faith that, sooner or later, technology will find a 'fix' for global warming makes about as much sense as shaping transportation policy around the idea that one day soon we'll all have TARDISes. But that's wingnuts for you.
Still, all this Rapture of the Nerds business has made for some good science fiction. Charlie Stross, Dan Simmons, and Ken MacLeod have all been going to town on it...Iain Banks has been doing it for ages now, effectively. Even Doctor Who gets in on the action: the new Cybermen are billed as an 'ultimate upgrade' for mankind. Why is this so hot right now? What's up with the Zeitgeist?
Some absolutely charming photographs of a container ship running aground near a Mexican port from the San Diego Union-Tribune. I find shipwrecks oddly romantic, somehow. This one's quite good, evocative and somehow ethereal or possibly surreal, something in the way the ship is lit in the background. But for sheer grandeur and majesty, this one must take the proverbial cake. Just look at the size of her! And to think, wee tiny little humans like us built it...And then crashed it into a sandbar. How many species can say something that? Makes you proud to be a hominid.
A night shot! Don't you love that colour? Maybe I should chuck the maths thing in the bin and become a sailor. Pity I can't swim.
Apparently the ship is owned by a German firm called Mare Britannicum Schiffahrtsgesellschaft MBH & Co. I never could figure out how the German language can include words like that when they have so much decent beer about. "Schiffahrtsgesessellshigafahrsg...shiffiffifigafis..shis...oh bumsen es. Wo ist das crapper?"
Something to think about.
Let us pause now and think back on all the good times we've had with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
"Are parts of the car on fire? Sure. Would we like them not to be? Of course. Have I gone insane from three decades of snorting military-grade rubber cement? Quite possibly. Do we need everything to be perfect for us to go out on the road? Well, that's absurd," says Donald Rumsfeld.
"That's very true," says me. "We cannot make the perfect the enemy of the terrible."
The bridge up ahead is either out or doesn't exist. But if we waited for everything to be perfect before we did stuff well then we'd never get anythin done! Forward, onward, downward, Donald Rumsfeld!
The man who inspired the creation of this earthly commandment is Kenneth Pinyan, a Boeing engineer, who, according to a King County Examiner's report, died on July 2, 2005, due "to acute peritonitis [that resulted from the] perforation of the sigmoid colon during anal intercourse with a horse."
The absence of a law banning bestiality was never more apparent than it was on the day James Michael Tait—the man who, according to the Enumclaw Police Department, filmed the exact moment that the horse's monstrous penis fatally ruptured Pinyan's colon—stood before a judge last November. The prosecutor's office wanted to charge Tait with animal abuse, but the police found no evidence of abused animals on the many videotapes they collected from his home. As there was no law against humanely fucking a horse, the prosecutors could only charge Tait with trespassing.
The state wanted to punish this man for horse fucking but because there was no law against it at the time the horse fucking occurred, the state could only charge him with a crime as boring as drunken driving, serving booze to minors, a failed attempt to turn a trick.
The measure, which is to be heard in the House Criminal Justice & Corrections Committee on February 23, will make bestiality a Class C felony, punishable by a maximum of five years in a state prison or a $10,000 fine, or both. It is a law that points an angry finger directly at James Tait: It bans not just bestiality, but "videotap[ing] a person engaged in a sexual act or sexual contact with an animal" (including a horse) "either alive or dead."
Indeed, reading the law that was drafted by Senator Roach is very much like reading hardcore porn. Here is the last paragraph of the bill: "'Sexual contact' means any contact, however slight, between the sex organ or anus of a person and the sex organ, mouth, or anus of any animal, or any intrusion, however slight, of any part of the body of the person into the sex organ or anus of an animal, for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal of the person. Evidence of emission of semen is not required to prove sexual contact."
My tax dollars at work.
I swear, it's impossible to cook up an idea so completely stupid that some God-felching nutbug out there hasn't already had it, taken it completely to heart, and gone running pell-mell straight into the lands of self-parody.
Well, let's try another one: Jesus really WAS a fish! Literally! For real! Really!
Do we have any takers for this?
"There’s a word in Italian – dietrologia – for the science of shadowy manipulations in the background which never come to light – it’s a national pastime."
The Guardian: "Peering over the rooftops of central London like some catwalk-thin Dalek, the BT Tower celebrates its 40th birthday this weekend."
All hail the Dalek simile and the mainstreaming of geekery!
Hurricane Katrina. So terrible I'm still not even sure how to react.
Fred 'God Hates Fags' Phelps is still dedicating his life to spreading the crazy hate. If anything, it seems to be getting crazier. Apparently American soldiers who die in Iraq are honourary fags now. As is anyone who crosses Phelps. Within a few years, if this keeps up, Phelps will consider every single living and inanimate object in the history of the Earth to be completely and unredeemably faggish, apart from his wife, Jesus Christ (though not John the Baptist, whom everyone knows was a dicklicker), his Glock, and maybe the poor frightened soul who brings him his horse tranquilisers.
The scariest comic book ever written: Sean Hannity as a superhero defending America from the filthy ultra-liberals and their pal Osama. There's really nothing I can add to that. I'm not General J. C. Christian, Patriot, after all.
A new controversy rocks the world of biology. Intelligent Design versus the theory of the Flying Spaghetti Monster: both have the same weight of scientific evidence to their name. Be touched forever by His Noodly Appendage.
One of the great things about the Internet is the way it grants me access to the little nuggets of joy floating around in the television medium, without all of the baggagy crap like ads or broadcast schedules or owning a television. Today, I discovered this glittering gem from the Daily Show...
Stephen Colbert--also known as Strangers with Candy's Chuck Noblet--takes an in-depth look at the newest constituency to stretch the Republicans' big tent: pornographers. Crooks and Liars has the video.
ST. JOHN'S, NFLD. - All offshore oil platforms on the Grand Banks off Newfoundland are being evacuated before a U.S. missile test that could shower the area with debris. Offshore oil platform.
The U.S. air force will launch a Titan IV rocket on Monday from Cape Canaveral. The debris – including a 10-tonne solid rocket booster – is expected to fall near the Hibernia platform.
Non-essential workers are being removed on Thursday, while remaining staff will leave over the weekend.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams said he and federal officials are attempting to persuade the U.S. air force to delay the launch of the rocket, or to change its trajectory.
"As soon as we were aware of it, we got on to it immediately," Williams told reporters Thursday afternoon.
The evacuation involves the gravity-based structure at Hibernia and the floating platform at Terra Nova.
The drill rig GSF Grand Banks, which is working at the White Rose field, is being towed from the area.
The Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board said Hibernia's operators have been advised that debris may fall within about 27 kilometres of the platform.
Fred Way, the chief executive officer of the petroleum board, described the evacuation as "precautionary."
About 245 people work at a time at Hibernia, which is located about 350 kilometres east of St. John's.
Another 80 people work at the Terra Nova platform in a shift.
Oops. I spoke too soon. The story's been changed, and the launch postponed. Macleans.ca has more:
"This just simply can't happen," said Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams, who was briefed on the problem Thursday by the provincial offshore petroleum board.
Williams said Hibernia, the Terra Nova development and the drilling rig Glomar Grand Banks are all in the area.
"I don't think the Americans were aware, or had really thought it through, as to how close this was to the Hibernia platform," Williams said following two urgent phone conversations with Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan and a call to Frank McKenna, Canada's new ambassador to Washington.
"That has to be the case. Why would they drop a piece of space debris out of the sky and take a chance that it happens to be 15 miles in the right spot? If it's off, it could obviously have very serious consequences."
But the shutdowns could have had a significant economic impact, taking up to two weeks to return to maximum capacity again, Williams said, at a cost of $250 million.
What the devil is the Air Force playing at? Why on Earth is a Titan IV passing over that area in the first place? Is the DoD putting a satellite into a polar orbit?
A site called Spaceflight Now, which keeps track of launches and suchlike, indicates that the rocket is a Titan 4B, launching something for the National Reconnaissance Office:
Launch period: Exact time is classified but liftoff will happen sometime between 8 and 10:30 p.m. EDT Launch site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
The Lockheed Martin Titan 4B, known as B-30, will launch a classified payload for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office. The launch will be run by the U.S. Air Force. Launch delayed from Dec. 18, 2001 and July 3, 2002. It was then transferred from the original launch site of Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, to Cape Canaveral. Delayed from October 2004. Delayed from Feb. 20 due to payload issue. Delayed from April 6. Delayed from April 10 due to ground equipment troubles. [April 5]
Seems very likely the satellite is destined for a polar orbit, then. The original launch site, Vandenberg AFB, as far as I know, just does ICBM tests and polar launches. It's probably quite a large satellite, as the Titan 4B is a heavy-lift booster. Could be a weather satellite, I suppose. As it's the NRO, it could also be some form of spy satellite. As it's classified, one can't help but suspect the latter.
This probably isn't a big deal at all, apart from the brainless fuck-up of dumping debris near something important...But given the current regime's interest in weaponising space, it might be prudent to keep a close eye on such things.
UPDATE (4/10): Not a polar orbit. Probably something like 57 degrees inclination. The mission was originally intended to launch from Vandenberg...Perhaps it was destined for a different orbit before? Or perhaps you can get it to the same orbit from either place. I suppose I could try to find out, but...I'm lazy.
....Okay, I checked. Titan rockets have been launched from Vandenberg, putting reconnaissance satellites into an orbit with inclination 57 degrees.
What the shitting cock arse is this?
Ralph Nader lending his name to a release from the openly theocratic, anti-evolutionist, Intelligent Design-backing Discovery Institute, calling for Jeb Bush to save Terri Schiavo?
The press release has also circulated without any reference to the Discovery Institute. This Wesley Smith character, Nader's long-time collaborator, is, however, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, an organisation with absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever. Nader would have to be a complete fool not to know about Smith's affiliation, or not to realise the DI would use him to boost its image. Perhaps he doesn't care.
Nader has an In the Public Interest column on the same topic, which doesn't mention any tactical alliance with the DI crowd, but does seem to take the same position as the DI piece, in very understated language. It is also, for lack of a better term, pretty lame. Nader wants Schiavo kept alive (or as much so as anyone whose brain has been atrophying can be said to be), but really doesn't offer any kind of argument or analysis beyond 'why not?' But it confirms that the DI piece (fairly) accurately reflects his public views on the matter...
Ralph Nader is a man willing to get into bed with some of the worst elements of the American Right, elements completely opposed to everything remotely classifiable as progressive or even rational. There is just no excuse for this.
(Via Pharyngula, whose proprietor has done sterling work exposing the scientific dishonesty of the Discovery Institute and its Intelligent Design movement.)
If you find yourself feeling that, perhaps, those folk protesting against the removal of Terry Schiavo's feeding tube might possibly actually be decent human beings acting out of a legitimate moral concern, you ought to stop. Among other things, some of these protestors have been telling reporters about just how much they'd like to kill Schiavo's husband, Michael, and the judge who ruled in his favour.
Miles to the south, demonstrators outside the hospice in Pinellas Park were accusing Greer of "judicial murder." A woman paced in front of the cameras carrying a sign that said "Stop feeding Michael."
Next to Fayette, workers loudly pounded a metal post into the ground to brace more fencing to keep demonstrators off the streets. "That's what I'd like to do to Judge Greer," Helen Gentry, 62, said as metal clanged against metal.
In the press release cited here, Tom Delay is flat-out lying about Schiavo's condition. Large portions of her brain simply aren't there any longer, having been replaced by fluid. Terry Schiavo, as a human being, is dead. What remains is an empty husk. Claiming otherwise is deeply amoral, and deserves to be condemned as such.
Do the rightist so-called "pro-life" agitators have any real regard for human life whatsoever?
As they say in the blogosphere, "Heh. Indeed."
Back in the Old Country, it seems the House is trying to write discrimination against homosexuals into the state constitution. Way to lump yourselves, in the eyes of the whole wide world, in with the fucks in the Bible Belt, guys. Apparently the bill was called HJR 1, so if you wanted to find out who voted for this and give them a big piece of your mind, there should be a list up on some kind of Iowa state legislative website or something, somewhere. Isn't that how these Internets work? So far all I can find is this, which doesn't really tell one that sort of thing...
George Bush still wants to kill the Hubble Space Telescope. According to the Washington Post, NASA may instead be told to devote its resources to Bush's Mars proposal. You remember that one? The totally useless harebrained fucking pointless one? The one that'd never happen anyhow? The one that even total space geeks like me hate?
Bush obviously has no idea what useful science looks like. The Huygens probe sent to smog-shrouded Titan--now that was some science! Photographs of an alien shore, of pebbles of water ice worn smooth in lakes of liquid methane...Hints of volcanoes spewing ice and ammonia...Another world! A world with its own chemistry, its own geology, even its own weather. How exciting is that? I'll tell you--damned exciting.
Much as I'd like to get equally worked up about the idea of sending men and women to walk on the surface of Mars...It just isn't practical. Even if NASA devoted its every hour and cent to the project, the mission simply would not happen in the end. Human beings are squishy sacks of filthy fluid, and they require a lot of coddling to keep them slopping along in the icy depths of space. Not to mention all the fuel required to get them and all their kit to Mars and back in a reasonable amount of time, 'cause these fleshy sacks of fluid don't have nearly the patience machines do. The cost, the mass, the limited flexibility, the engineering issues...It's just a pie-in-the-sky kind of idea. Chemical rockets just aren't good enough. Until something better comes along, the prospects for manned missions deep into space will be marginal at best.
That man. I don't think I'm even going to refer to him by name any longer; I'll just call him That Man. He just doesn't seem to actually understand anything. And I mean anything in the entire world. That Man, it has been said, listens to his gut. You know what comes out of guts? A lot of shit.
King County can recount all the disputed ballots it wants, bitches. Suck it up. This ruling makes it considerably more likely that Christine Gregoire will end up the winner of the gubernatorial race, although, as the article mentions, Republicans are threatening to take it to court if it looks like she's won. Apparently winning a majority of the votes cast isn't good enough in their eyes. It didn't work for Al Gore...
Why does the Republican Party hate democracy?
Here's something I didn't know. Ohio is indeed doing a recount of the presidential votes, as one would certainly hope. What I hadn't known was that the money for this came from the Green Party. David Cobb's campaign site goes into more detail, and is keeping tabs on everything. (Where does that phrase come from, "keeping tabs"? Thank you, Google.) No-one expects it to change the outcome of the election, but this recount is important nevertheless, as there are real grounds to question the overall integrity of the electoral process this time around. Just as there were last time. This is not tinfoil hat stuff. There's been a lot of talk about unreasonably long lines at polling places, malfunctioning machines and their lack of a paper trail, voters directed to the wrong polling places, voter registration issues, potential suppression of minority voters, all coupled with very worrying pre-election statements from the Ohio Secretary of State and the Diebold moguls...The only way to find out if these effects were significant is to do a careful recount. It seems like common sense to me. If things did go wrong, this will help us fix them. If things didn't, we can all sleep easier at night knowing.
Why the cock did it fall to the Greens and the Libertarians to get this ball rolling? Why did John Kerry, with his millions of unspent campaign dollars, not foot the bill? This was something simple and obvious and (relatively) inexpensive, good for morale and fighting spirit and the future and America and Christmas and puppies and hot dogs on sticks. And Kerry and the Democrats didn't do it. Way to fuck up!
My advice to the Democratic Party: stop fucking up.
There was a brief time when John Kerry and his campaign had managed to kindle in me a tiny little flicker of faith in the essential decency and sense of the American system and people. This is now dead. A majority of Americans are not moved by facts or by truth or by reason. A majority have gone for fags and flags. I have said it before and it remains true: George Bush and his Republican fellows have a deeply pathological relationship to the truth, and appeal to the most barbaric, divisive, and fundamentally unjust aspects of the American psyche. They are artists in the media of hate and fear. That is not going to change. If anything, this new mandate will make it all worse. Now they know their scaremongering works.
Eleven states last night passed measures enshrining into law discrimination against gay people--my people; the only social or cultural or demographic or whatever group to which I have ever felt any sense of belonging. Even Oregon. I expected it of the South, and I expected it of Utah; but Oregon? The irony of Christians demonising people for experiencing and showing love is not lost on me, but it's also not remotely funny. It is toxic, poisonous. And ultimately futile; as the last four years have shown, no matter what happens, the clock cannot be turned back. We are, as they say, still here, and still queer, and people must still get used to it. Though it may, as last night showed, take some of them rather longer than one might hope, it will still happen. The powers arrayed against us are ultimately doomed; yet they are still formiddable.
But we are on the side of the angels.
Way to fuck up, America.
The New York Times has put out a really amazingly detailed and worthwhile article, if you can credit that. It's about those aluminum tubes Iraq tried to buy, back in the day. Remember them? The ones the Administration insisted were for uranium-enriching centrifuges?
It turns out that almost every single expert and nuclear scientist ever consulted about these tubes concluded that they were almost totally useless for centrifuge work, and it turns out that the tubes were in fact exact matches for tubes Iraq had purchased in the past to make short-range rockets. Let's be clear: the experts almost unanimously agreed that there was almost zero chance these tubes were for centrifuges, and they did this before 2002. Apparently no-one bothered mentioning this to George Tenet, though. That wacky CIA...What egregious blunders will they commit next? Ho ho.
Meanwhile, at the Energy Department, scientists were startled to find senior White House officials embracing a view of the tubes they considered thoroughly discredited. "I was really shocked in 2002 when I saw it was still there," Dr. Wood, the Oak Ridge adviser, said of the centrifuge claim. "I thought it had been put to bed."
The reports got little attention, partly because reporters did not realize they had been done with the cooperation of top Energy Department experts. The Washington Post ran a brief article about the findings on Page A18. Many major newspapers, including The Times, ran nothing at all.
Read the whole thing. It's really appalling. Bush and Cheney and Rice et alia flat-out deceived the public about a potential nuclear threat. Are these the kind of hot cherry ass-clowns you want rubbing their greasy members over our national security?
UPDATE: Here's a great couple of lines...
On Oct. 2, nine days before the Senate vote on the war resolution, the new National Intelligence Estimate was delivered to the Intelligence Committee. The most significant change from past estimates dealt with nuclear weapons; the new one agreed with Mr. Cheney that Iraq was in aggressive pursuit of the atomic bomb.
Today, the Intelligence Committee's report makes clear, that 93-page estimate stands as one of the most flawed documents in the history of American intelligence.
Bush looked weak and out of his depth in tonight's debate. He was a man who had very little to say and so said it all often, fumbling and pausing horrifically now and then while he tried to come up with a point. He was jittery and defensive, and looked frankly unpresidential. He promises more of the same.
John Kerry did, I thought, a very competent job indeed. He was a man in his element, dignified, well-informed, commanding. It seemed very clear to me that he had Bush on the defensive. And he said some things that desperately needed saying. Things like 'Osama bin Laden'. As soon as he brought up Osama bin Laden, I got all juicy and excited...Bush had nothing in response, absolutely nothing at all.
I remember watching Gore go up against Bush four years ago...Holy tits and ass, was that painful. I could practically feel Bush's evil folksy tendrils worming their way into American brains while he and Gore got it on. I didn't feel that tonight at all. Bush has not made his case, and it looks like he's totally incapable of doing so. He did not win any hearts and minds tonight. Kerry projected authority and dominance. He was resolute, and made his points, and didn't seem long-winded or aloof. Up against Long John Kerry and his Craggy Machismo of Destiny, Bush looked like an insecure fraud with a very small penis and testicles made of butter. And Mr Spock's ears.
Admittedly, I loathe Bush, and I loathed him back before it was cool and hip. But I tried to be objective, to imagine what a non-loather might think; and any way I slice it, no matter how stupid I try to pretend to be, Kerry won this debate. I thought it was a strong performance, and I for one am a lot more convinced now that Kerry is a strong candidate.
I feel good.
UPDATE (10/1): What the hell is with Bush and love? Did anyone else's jaw drop when he talked about what hard work it is for him to love the war widows as best he can? On TV, it was incredibly creepy. First the OBGYN thing, now this...
...Widely applicable to the current state of American politics:
'You know the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don't alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit the views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.'
Do you need more tabulated numbers in your life? Then behold the Washington state primary results!
Basically, most of the people the Stranger recommended--who happen to be mostly the people I voted for--have lost. Gregoire is crushing Sims for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Richard Sanders and Barbara Madsen will be going to the state Supreme Court. The third open spot could still be up for grabs, since there are over 300,000 ballots still to be counted; Mary Kay Becker is slightly ahead of Jim Johnson, but my man Alsdorf isn't that far behind. According to The Stranger, Sanders is a pro-life anti-gay type who admires Scalia, and Madsen is a corporate tool; both are incumbents, and I'm guessing a lot of people voted for them on that basis alone, as the average voter (myself included; I got all my information from alt-weekly endorsements) doesn't know jack about judicial races.
Over twice as many Democratic ballots as Republican ballots were cast in King County, which should come as no surprise.
Did I mention there are tabulated numbers?
Before this day is dead, will George Bush and Dick Cheney appear on national television dressed as tall buildings while Tom Ridge dances around them with his arms out going 'Brrrrrrr zoom wheeeeeeee brrrbrr brrr brrr kaboom'?
I don't buy the 'September 11 changed everything' idea. Clearly it didn't. Americans are still ignorant provincials sucking desperately at the bloated and inflamed teats of an unrelentingly consumerist way of life. The only real difference is that now your Nike SUV McJolly Meal comes with extra paranoia and no silverware. The message from our (s)elected leaders of the last few years has been not to change at all, in any meaningful way: no sacrifices, no mobilisation, no communities coming together, no meaningful projects at all in fact for the American people to undertake. Just max out your credit cards, or the terrorists have already won. And while you're here, get a big mouthful of this here gasolene and then go 'Blghlghglghglblblblghgbblgh I'm a fountain!'
Then shut up.
This whole War on Terror business has been from the get-go a made-for-TV project. Americans are meant to watch it, to cheer it, to vote for it; but never to actually participate--to join the army, learn Arabic, drive a hybrid, convince your children of the fundamental value and rightness of Enlightenment rationalism, find Afghanistan on a map. Tune in again next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel: who knows where those wacky WMDs will wind up next? The hilarity!
Terrorism cannot topple western civilisation (though it might encourage us to topple ourselves). It is not a threat to our way of life. Which is in any case already marked for death in a hundred years or so, when the climate changes and fossil fuels are exhausted. Unless we decide to, y'know, actually start doing something about it.
September 11 was a tragic day, and if someone you know was killed I'm very sorry for your loss. Humanity has seen tragic days before, and it will see others in the future. The gods of war and death will demand sacrifice so long as we worship at their rude altars. What changes?
And some day we'll die, and the Earth will die, and the stars will die, and all matter will die, and the past will die for there will be nothing to remember it, and the future will die for there will be nothing to build it, and the present will die for there will be nothing to mark it. And it will be then as if nothing ever was.
Jim McDermott is my Representative; his Republican opponent this time around is a Carol Cassady, who says 'Abortion is the American Holocaust.' That says it all, really.
Ever wonder where some right-wing figures get the frankly nutty notions they disseminate? Like just recently, when House Speaker Dennis Hastert insinuated that George Soros got his money from drug cartels? It wasn't just a lie and a smear and bullshit, it was really obviously bullshit, the sort of bullshit that no reasonable person can even begin to entertain. (It's no mystery where George Soros gets his money, whether you approve of him or not.) Where could a public figure possibly get such an inane piece of brainslobber?
The Speaker of the House gets his talking points from the nuttiest of the proto-fascist fringe. Sweet dreams.
Blah blah blah, politics politics, blah. I deeply resent large segments of the Republican Party for giving their political views the incontrovertible weight of theological dogma and running their party and campaign along irrationalist, anti-Enlightenment lines. (What, exactly, is George Bush's agenda supposed to be? More tax cuts? Or will it be more tax cuts? Or maybe he'll just come right out of left field and go for more tax cuts? So far, admittedly, his cuts haven't worked, but tax cuts are clearly GOOD, so if he just keeps cutting and cutting and cutting, sooner or later everything will have to work out. It's like some kind of political cargo cult trying to summon back the popularity of Ronald Reagan with their sympathetic magic.) I deeply resent George Bush for being so utterly hostile to my political views and personal beliefs that I've fallen in with the Democratic Party and John Kerry instead of promoting my genuine leftist agenda, out of fear of a Bush victory. I deeply resent Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly for being so damned ugly. I deeply resent Dick Cheney's total lack of balls: why is he not smacking down the bigots (like Alan Keyes) in his own party who attack his lesbian daughter? I'm generally just really pissed these days. And I don't have much that's constructive to say about the state of the Union at the moment.
But I've found out what the Most Unkindest Nethercutt of All has been up to lately: Patty Murray's Republican challenger here in my adopted state of Washington is spearheading legislation to extort immunity from the International Criminal Court from this nation's allies, on pain of losing American economic assistance. George Nethercutt has apparently decided that, at this critical juncture in history, what America really needs is to annoy its allies again with pointless grandstanding and unilateralism.
Nethercutt, according to a brief report at the end of this article, came in eight percentage points behind Murray in a recent poll run by a Republican outfit, and has only half as much money as Murray. This recent KING-5 poll, on the other hand, puts her 14 points ahead. I don't think there's really much doubt which way this will go.
Ralph Nader's made the Washington ballot, but has failed in Oregon. I have lost all respect I once had for the man, thanks to his being such a giant public tool, and I'm gladder than Hell that the Green Party refused to endorse him. I don't think Nader will matter much in this state, though; Bush-hatred is a much stronger force than wishy-washy progressivism in the Seattle area. Seattle's full of big talk on progressive issues, but very few people actually do anything about it. (I fit right in!) But we watch a lot of movies 'round these parts, and we love to bitch: George Bush is our natural enemy. In the wild, he would feel our hot espresso-laden breath and rending claws, and then we would sell him on eBay. We have the scent of entirely figurative blood in our nostrils.
(Outfoxed is showing at the Meridian 16 downtown.)
As if we really needed another. Some kind of "top Pentagon analyst" is under investigation for allegedly spying on us for Israel, passing on in particular secret information about the administration's Iran policy.
According to the Toronto Star, the analyst worked for Doug Feith, #3 man in the Department of Defense, and arrests could be made early in the coming week.
There are slightly more than a handful of people in Feith's office who specifically work on Iranian issues.
...So it shouldn't be too hard to work out who this chap is.
The Pentagon analyst who officials said is under suspicion was one of two department officials who traveled to Paris for a secret meeting with Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian arms dealer who had been a central figure in the Iran-contra affair.
...And I've no idea if that's really relevant to anything, but it should make the suspect even easier still for any interested party to finger. If anyone's actually interested at all.
The investigation has been underway for more than a year. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and top Pentagon lawyers were informed of it some time ago, officials said. But many other senior Pentagon officials expressed surprise at the news when it was first reported last night on CBS.
Even so, the case is likely to attract intense attention because the official being investigated works under William J. Luti, deputy undersecretary of defense for Near East and South Asian Affairs. Luti oversaw the Pentagon's "Office of Special Plans," which conducted some early policy work for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
A law enforcement official said that the information allegedly passed by the Pentagon suspect went to Israel through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying organization. The information was said to have been the draft of a presidential directive related to U.S. policies toward Iran.
We already knew Feith and his Office of Special Plans were liars; I guess now we know some in that circle are crooks, too.
MSNBC says: "'It's a big deal.'"
If the senior official is charged, it would be the biggest Israeli spy case since U.S. Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Pollard was arrested in November 1985. Pollard is serving a life sentence despite frequent requests from Israel to release him.
Naughty Israel! Maybe now the US government will consider pulling its tongue out of Israel's anus.
I had you going for a minute there, didn't I? You and I both know that'll never happen.
CNN seems to give the story top billing on its website at the moment. And they make it sound rather more important...
The suspect could have been in a position to influence Bush administration policy toward Iran and Iraq, the senior official said.
CBS apparently broke the story, and their account can be found here.
CBS sources say that last year the suspected spy, described as a trusted analyst at the Pentagon, turned over a presidential directive on U.S. policy toward Iran while it was, "in the draft phase when U.S. policy-makers were still debating the policy."
This put the Israelis, according to one source, "inside the decision-making loop" so they could "try to influence the outcome."
The case raises another concern among investigators: Did Israel also use the analyst to try to influence U.S. policy on the war in Iraq?
With ties to top Pentagon officials Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, the analyst was assigned to a unit within the Defense Department tasked with helping develop the Pentagon's Iraq policy.
Well, well. We'll see how this develops.
Good news! O excellent, splendid news! A King County Superior Court judge has ruled that Washington's (state) Defence of Marriage Act violates the state constitution.
Washington state's Defense of Marriage Act, which limits marriage to one man and one woman, violates the state Constitution, King County Superior Court Judge William Downing ruled today. Citing the rationale of state Supreme Courts in Massachusetts and Vermont, Downing wrote, "The Court concludes that the exclusion of same-sex partners from civil marriage and the privileges attendant thereto is not rationally related to any legitimate or compelling state interest and is certainly not narrowly tailored toward such an interest."
The suit was filed by Lambda Legal and the Northwest Women's Law Center on behalf of eight same-sex couples denied marriage licenses in King County. The case was the first of its kind to be filed in Washington since Massachusett's high court ruled in favor of same-sex couples marriage, and its outcome will have legal and political impact beyond this state.
Gay couples have been able to wed in Massachusetts since May.
The Washington suit contends that this state's law, passed by the Legislature in 1998, violates the state and federal constitutions' guarantees of equality for all citizens.
Another article here.
SEATTLE -- A King County Superior Court judge in Seattle ruled Wednesday that gay couples can marry, saying that denying their right to do so would be a violation of their constitutional rights.
"The denial to the plaintiffs of the right to marry constitutes a denial of substantive due process," Judge William L. Downing said in his ruling.
The decision is stayed until the state Supreme Court reviews the case, said Jennifer Pizer, lead counsel for Lambda Legal Defense in the case. The stay means no marriage licenses can be issued until the high court's decision.
"That's totally standard. If it turns out the appellate court disagrees, there would be that much more confusion and difficulty," Pizer said.
"Really the main point is that Judge Downing saw the couples in the court room and he's recognized that they are full and equal citizens of Washington. No more and no less."
Hot off the presses!
If you're feeling insufficiently outraged at the moment, read this.
This is even worse than the woman who was accused of terrorism for breast-feeding her baby on a plane. A would-be novelist was doing a crossword puzzle during his flight, and scribbled a line of dialogue in the margin: "I know this is kind of a bomb."
Another passenger saw this (how? For the love of fuck, what was this squealer doing reading the poor man's crossword over his shoulder?), and told a flight attendant. When they landed, the scribbling gentleman was accosted by police, and now is on Homeland Security's watch list.
For writing the word "bomb" in the context of a complete terrorism-free sentence in the margins of a newspaper.
Mmm, the cup of outrage is full to the brim and steaming, for it is full of freshest dung. That is what the current administration has been feeding us: absolute bullshit. So many Americans keep slurping it right down and asking for a refill.
Howard Dean is really rocking. I miss him. He's been quite gentlemanly in telling Nader to go piss up a rope. He didn't rag on Nader for his role in the 2000 election. He did rip on Nader for his campaign this season, facilitated and supported by naughty, naughty right-wing organisations, and for becoming a filthy tool completely devoid of idealism or real progressivism. He's coming across as impassioned but very very reasonable: he's not a screaming loon. Dean is a practical man: he's not trying to paint Kerry as a perfect progressive saint, but he is pointing out that, if you're really interested in progressive reform, you've got an infinitely greater chance of seeing it under Kerry than under Bush. He comes across as confident, aggressive but not hostile, and competent. And he has an easy, relaxed humour.
Ralph Nader keeps squawking 'Corporate, corporate, corporate, special interests, special interests.' And to a degree, Nader has a point. The electoral system in this nation does call for reform. Corporations do have far too much influence over our government. I voted for him last time because of his spiel. But he seems to have no flexibility whatsoever; Dean is just ripping him apart. Nader seems unable to defend himself and his campaign, and has no ability to adapt to the practical realities of this years' election. Is Nader just going through the motions? God, his jokes are lame.
I think Dean has done a great job of partially-defusing Nader's candidacy (assuming anyone listened to the debate), in large part by explaining quite well why he himself isn't running as a third-party candidate. Dean would've been a much more viable third-party candidate than Nader. Dean comes across as a man who understands what it takes to accomplish real things for real people in the political arena; Nader comes across as hopelessly out of touch with the world in which we live. Dean is against referenda, and points out that they've been used to deny equal rights to gay and lesbian couples; while they sound great in theory, in practice they end up often being quite destructive. Dean himself did great things defending the rights of gays and lesbians against 'the tyranny of the majority.' Nader is a man who actively refuses to even contemplate using his candidacy to actually do anything for the benefit of the people: he bitches and bitches, but won't make the slightest compromise that might give him any real influence. He wouldn't take a cabinet post, if one were offered him. What the shit, man? He has become a vanity candidate, pure and simple.
2004 is an election year. Perhaps you've heard? In the state of Washington, incumbent Democratic Senator Patty Murray is up against Republican Rep. George Nethercutt, who made the headlines last year for being a giant flaming jackass. I have nothing of any substance whatsoever to add to the political discourse here; as a gay socialist atheist, it's pretty much a given that I will never in my life ever vote for a Republican anyhow, so I haven't bothered to find out much about Nethercutt other than this Iraq casualties thing. Especially since Patty Murray seems to have a solid lead, so I don't need to go knocking on any doors for her.
There is one thing I can add, though. Google could not find a single instance of this pun's being employed, but I really doubt I'm the first to have thought of it...If I were Patty Murray, in light of the challenger's past statements, I would dub him 'the most unkindest Nethercutt of all.'
Line 193. It's funny, people. Laugh, damn it. Laugh, or the terrorists have already won.
"I wouldn't have made the decisions I did if I didn't believe the world would be better. Why would I put people in harm's way if I didn't believe the world would be better?"
Shorter George Bush: 'I did it...So it must be right!'
Watch the interview here, to see the president whining and squalling like a cross and stubborn mildly-retarded child. It's like he honestly can't see how or why anyone would ever disagree with or question him. Or how anything he believes could ever turn out to be wrong. We call such people fools.
I'm sure you've heard this one before...
Vice President Dick Cheney has been dropping F-bombs on Democratic Senators. Since this is a family weblog, I won't explain what F-bombs are, except to hint that they involve gratuitous use of the word 'fuck'. Like 'Fuck yourself.'
The best part?
As it happens, the exchange occurred on the same day the Senate passed legislation described as the "Defense of Decency Act" by 99 to 1.
On a not-terribly-related note, here is a partial transcript of an exchange in my living room several nights ago.
"Reagan made ketchup a vegetable."
"Then time made Reagan a vegetable."
In other not-terribly-related news, Monday's the Canadian election! Just to make sure you get the idea, yet another Tory MP has come out in favour of bigotry. Just in case you'd forgotten that, y'know, the Conservative Party of Canada hates gays and stands for repressive backwards-looking Bush-felching, and that Stephen Harper is perfectly willing to override the Charter of Rights.
For those of you keeping score, the polls seem to be showing...
Despite having pulled slightly ahead in the polls, the Liberals are still projected to win fewer seats than the Conservatives, because Canadian elections are a bit silly. In some ways, it makes sense to run things this way: Canada is split up into hundreds of ridings, and each riding elects one MP, in a first-past-the-post fashion. This seems like an obvious way to do things, if you want your MPs to be local (and who doesn't), accountable to local people and concerned about local things. However, there is a problem. That problem is the party system. Political parties are organised so as to impose cohesion on their members. Liberal MPs will, by and large, toe the official Liberal Party line. Conservative MPs will toe the Conservative Party line. So MPs really aren't as local as all that, when all is said and done. And party discipline opens the door to some horribly undemocratic politics.
For example, suppose the Fruit Party won 49% of the vote in every single riding, while the Nut Party won 51% of the vote in every single riding. Then despite the Fruit Party winning over almost half the populace, the Nut Party would end up with every single seat in Parliament. This clearly does not reflect the will of the people. And while, as far as I know, nothing this extreme has ever happened, this phenomenon does make itself felt. Take the NDP. Right now, Ipsos-Reid is projecting that the NDP's current polling numbers, 17%, would translate into 24 seats. There will be 308 seats total in the Commons after the election, unless I'm mistaken. 17% of 308 seats is 52 seats. And the SES-CPAC numbers would give the NDP 65 seats. However you slice it, the NDP is getting dicked here. It's a quantisation effect. Canada is partitioned into ridings coarsely enough that a significant number of voters are, in effect, being disenfranchised: the composition of Parliament does not accurately reflect the will of the populace. The Conservatives, on the other hand, are projected to win about 115 seats based on the Ipsos-Reid numbers, whereas their 31% of the vote would naively translate into only 95 seats. There is a very real chance of Canada being saddled on Monday with a Conservative government supported by less than a third of the population.
Given how entrenched the party system is, it seems only reasonable to change the electoral process to ensure that parties' strength in the Commons reflects their strength with the public. Is proportional representation the answer? I don't know; I'm a mathematician. What do you want from me? But Jack Layton and the NDP are pushing for it...And Paul Martin might consider it...And the Bloc supports it...And so does the new-ish Green Party. (David 'Nutjob Conspiracy Theorist Obsessed With Shapeshifting Reptilians' Icke hates them and accuses them of being tools of a Jewish conspiracy, and links them to Satanic ritual abuse and paedophilia. Which is pretty much par for the course for Icke.)
First-past-the-post really only seems reasonable in an election where every candidate is expected to function autonomously, rather than as a cog in some political machine. And legislatures are great big fat coggy machines.
Last but not least, Chris Morris' Jam includes the phrase 'You were born dead through your own ass.'
Think about that for a moment.
Much has been said about Ronald Reagan this week: that he has been a brain-devouring zombie for the last twenty years; that he and his administration got a good laugh out of AIDS when the queers were dropping like flies; that, if Jesus had any balls, Reagan would spend the rest of eternity--that's at least aleph-null moments, even in a quantised universe--riding a flaming pitchfork in the lowest, foulest anus of Hell, but that even so he wasn't as bad a president as the one we have now...All this has been said (by me). But with this torrential downpour of hagiography soaking us all to the skin, it is easy to lose perspective. Dazzled by the glittering mosaic of Reagan, the Senile, Malicious Old Bigot here erected in glowing tribute, one loses sight of Reagan the Man. At times such as these, when we as a nation blubber uncontrollably into our little lace hankies like a bunch of girly-girls, it behooves us all to dry those eyes and wipe the glistening snot from those noses, pull our mucus-smeared heads from the Rectum of Tribute, and have a look at the big picture.
Ronald Reagan was not only a warmed-over carcass worked by hidden strings and gears, spouting platitudes and snippets from old films, emptying his tired old bladder upon the greatest health crisis in modern American history. He was also a man. Ronald Reagan had a heart; and he had lungs; and he had a spleen. He also had a brain, pancreas, a gall bladder, a liver, kidneys, a colon, a small intestine, a stomach, adrenal glands, a thyroid, a thalamus, a hypothalamus, an amygdala, a hippocampus, a cerebellum, axons, dendrites, mitochondria, plasma, lymph, platelets, adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, smooth muscle, cardiac muscle, an aesophagus, a larynx, a bladder, a pineal gland, a pituitary gland, nodes of Ranvier, femurs, ulnae, radii, humeri, ribs, cervical vertebrae, thoracic vertebrae, lumbar vertebrae, a sacrum, a coccyx, at least one maxillary process, a dura mater, a corpus callosum, dermis, epidermis, and testes.
They're all dead now, and going all rotten and soft like a McDonald's hamburger.
Can one understand the legacy of Reagan, if one does not understand that all of his bits and organs are now utterly dead and decaying away to mush and dust? Can one truly understand what Reagan meant to the world, particularly to portions of Central America, and to the people of Iraq, without contemplating for a moment rotting corpses and the slow erosion of bones stripped of flesh by ravenous maggots and worms?
I think not.
I think not.
I told you this would happen.
You couldn't carry out the tissue ablation when I asked, could you? No, you just had to go get that sandwich first. Look what happened while you were away! Not only has his shambling zombified corpse escaped to run amok, but he's running for Vice President now.
I hope you're happy.
Ronald Wilson Reagan is still dead.
But is he dead enough?
That is the question.
Can we really take the risk that some extraterrestrial parasite might take root in his rotting cadaver and imbue him with a grotesque parody of new life as a shambling zomboid with only the barest remnants of memory and consciousness?
Just as happened in 1981?
And pretty much once a fortnight through the Nineties?
Can we run the risk that Reagan's animatronic corpse might once again propel the human species towards nuclear annihilation?
Clearly we cannot.
There is really only one sensible course of action: tissue ablation and variant regeneration. It's only a pity we didn't act sooner.
(For further details, I refer you to 'Tissue Ablation and Variant Regeneration: A Case Report', by Michael Blumlein.)
At last your body is as dead as your brain.
As dead as subtle political commentary.
But I don't hold AIDS against you, Ronald. You probably had no idea what was going on around you; you were more prune than man. Your long descent into Alzheimer's and dementia was something I would not wish on any man or woman, or house pet, or disembodied alien intelligence. But I am sure your humiliating and tragic decline was a price you would have been willing to pay so that the modern Republican Party could propagate senseless, irrational opposition to the stem-cell research that could some day keep others from sharing your incontinent fate.
As we stand now poised on the precipice of another election, your presidency seems to shine more brilliantly than it ever has before, much as a dull and leaden pebble might seem to shine when compared to a plate of hog's shit. I would rather have your baffled vacancy than George W. Bush's malevolent ignorance any day of the week. Though not as much as I'd like a government composed of rational persons.
You will be missed.
Just...not by me.
"Clap your hands, children! Clap louder, if you don't want democracy to die!"
I thought of this witty little number just the other day; surely it's worth a groan or two:
"If Saddam Hussein wanted to go cruising for anonymous gay sex, would he go to a Ba'ath-house?"
This next one isn't funny at all, not even a little. It's a campaign slogan that I invented this evening:
"Bush/Cheney '04: Because those swarthy Arabs won't rape themselves."
I've come to suspect that there really isn't a rock bottom at all to current events. No matter how shocked, horrified, or sickened you might find yourself, it seems that in a week at the most something will turn up to make it so much worse. What the hell kind of world do you call this? Fuck you, George Bush, fuck you very much for launching a war that turned ordinary dumbass Americans into rapists and torturers. Fuck you, and fuck Rumsfeld, and Cheney, and Rice, and Wolfowitz, and Feith, and Perle. And fuck Karl Rove. Fuck anyone out there who thinks "at least we're not as bad as Saddam." Fuck anyone who thinks we should shut up and "support our troops." Fuck you, every single person who has enabled this grotesque parade of disasters and atrocities. Here's a big "Hey, way to fucking go, you morons," to everyone who ever trusted George Bush, ever. Here's a very special "Go fuck the M11 'til you're hit by an articulated lorry" to Tony Blair, who doesn't have the excuse of being a deliberately-ignorant spoon-fed boy-king fucktard. There are lots of other people I'd like to swear at by name for destroying any slender chance I may ever have had of believing something positive and idealistic about this country or the human race, but I just don't have enough bile in me to really deal with the whole Iraq Bush thing as it deserves. Instead I will go drink my sake and dream of the day the machines take over. Or the ducks. Either way, I'll be cheering them on.
I think this is splendid. Apparently the socialists and other leftish types did rather well. If there's one thing India needs, it's socialism. Globalised capitalism has made India a software powerhouse, but very little of that has trickled down to the general populace: India is still rife with poverty, and lots of its people are still rural and agrarian. The distribution of wealth is horribly unjust. I think (and keep in mind that I know absolutely nothing about anything) that how the Indian people fare over the next several decades is going to have an immense impact on the future of humanity: India is already the world's largest democracy, and before too long will surpass China to boast the world's largest population. (Don't forget it's a nuclear power. And it has Bollywood.) If the Indian government could bring prosperity, health care, and education to the masses...
Well, we'll see, I suppose. We'll see.
In the looting and pillaging and wanton destruction that so untidily followed the collapse of the Ba'athist regime in Iraq last year, it seems that 60% of the documentation of modern Iraqi history was lost or burnt. Professor Juan Cole is blogging about this, and he isn't happy.
Comrades, let your brains ejaculate pure, honeyed delight at the glorious return of Randy-the-Cat, in another lovable, madcap, morally-edifying adventure for adults and kiddies alike.
This week, behold Randy-the-Cat gently coaxing the ferret of News from the trousers of Propaganda.
Randy reports, you decide.
Stay tuned for The O'Randy Factor, where author, statesman, and True American Hero Randy O'Cat tells the truths the Liberal Media doesn't want you to hear: there is no uprising in Iraq, and all the bombs and killing and gunfights and collapses of the Iraqi Governing Council you may see reported are merely mass hallucinations, twisted delusions from the dark heart of the rotten Liberal psyche brought on by their hatred of freedom and Howard Dean's hellish screaming. Randy O'Cat then huffs paint fumes and tells the world he is a self-actualising Man-God whose latest o'book has sold twelvety hojillion o'copies while cutting off his guests' microphones and lighting his o'farts on fire, much to the delight of Ann Coulter, who then kills the leaders of the New York Times and forcibly converts all the employees to Christianity, believing Christ to be a Marshmallow Peep who whispers 'Kill the fucking fuck fuck kill the fucking kill' to her from her handbag.
Coming up next: sport!
(Disclaimer: this message has not been endorsed by Randy-the-Cat Incorporated International Trust Holdings Press Media Conglomerate Unlimited and may in fact just be silly.)
Know how Condoleezza Rice is finally testifying before the 9-11 Commission today?
Guess what? Either she's horribly incompetent or she's an outright liar, because her opening statement alone is riddled with inaccuracies.
Oh, and so is the rest of it, too.
(Via the Mycenean lord of the liberal blogosphere, Atrios.)
Oh lawks, Bush administration officials distorting the truth, both to the public and to Congress. Who would ever have imagined such a thing?
9-11 widows, that's who. Apparently four of them went on this 'television' thing to rip the Preznit a new arsehole.
Oh, and as I'm sure you've heard, insurrectionists are running amok in Iraq and the White House has been lying about the extent of the uprising. And a group of gunmen is threatening to burn three Japanese hostages alive unless Japan withdraws its troops. Oh, and US forces bombed a mosque compound. Way to win those hearts and minds, guys. So things are fucked; things are fucked good and hard.
Afghanistan's not doing so hot, either. Remember Afghanistan? The place where the terrorists actually were? Where the Taliban is trying to make a comeback now, because we diverted most of our resources to fight an unconnected war against Iraq?
It's sort of comforting to see that, admid the fiery collapse of all their grand designs, the Administration still finds time to lie shamelessly to us all. Some things never change.
Can you give me one good reason to vote for these fucking assbags? That's a rhetorical question and the answer is no, no, no. Everything they touch turns to elephant shit. They should be thankful that, as loyal, moral conservatives, none of them would ever dream of touching themselves.
Someone has finally said what the rest of us could only think, deep down in the secret caramel centres of our hearts: the terrorists want Bush to win.
The statement said it supported President Bush in his reelection campaign, and would prefer him to win in November rather than the Democratic candidate John Kerry, as it was not possible to find a leader "more foolish than you (Bush), who deals with matters by force rather than with wisdom."
In comments addressed to Bush, the group said:
"Kerry will kill our nation while it sleeps because he and the Democrats have the cunning to embellish blasphemy and present it to the Arab and Muslim nation as civilization."
"Because of this we desire you (Bush) to be elected."
This message made possible by a grant from the National Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction Foundation.
(Updated around 10.33 when I remembered to add the link.)
So what's going on in Seattle?
The Stranger has a feature on the last week or so of gay marriage activism here in Washington. There's a lawsuit under way now challenging Washington's anti-gay-marriage Defence of Marriage Act, on the grounds that the state constitution's equal-protection guarantees trump it. Stupid hicks are challenging Mayor Nickels' executive order extending marriage benefits to same-sex spouses of city employees. Apparently, it's mainly Christians working with a group out of Mississippi. This group, the American Family Association, fills its website with really amusingly silly religious language, and says that 'The American Family Association exists to motivate and equip citizens to change the culture to reflect Biblical truth.' Which is to say, they're silly assholes, and God will roast their stomachs in Hell, stuffed into the stomachs of donkeys which are in turn roasting in the stomachs of some larger beasts, possibly sperm whales, or the large (but not giant) squid that live at the bottom of Puget Sound. I know this because God speaks to me personally. God also tells me that His favourite colour is lavendar, and that Mel Gibson was the worst Hamlet He'd ever seen.
Someone tried to move the Sauk River. Secretly. Without anyone noticing.
It is claimed that, back in November, while a crew was removing a Trident SLBM (equipped with about 800 kilotons' worth of nuclear warhead) from the USS Georgia at Bangor here in the Puget Sound area, they whacked the missile into an access ladder and punched a nine-inch hole in its nose cone. Do you feel safe yet?
And that's all the news that's fit for me to summarise while eating.
The Poor Man has the storyboards for the Bush campaign's hottest ads.
Beware of swarthy men, and the Frenchified Kerry from Saudi Taxachussettsstan. They hate us because we are free.
Marriage licenses are handled by the county, not the city, so Mayor Nickels can't go around issuing any marriage licenses himself...But he's issuing an executive order giving full spousal marriage type benefits to city employees in same-sex marriages licensed elsewhere (like, say, Portland, conveniently located just a few hours to the south). He's sending an ordinance to the City Council to extend this recognition citywide, although it would fall short of requiring all employers in the city to recognise the marriages and provide all the benefits. (Which would probably be technically illegal.) Still, this is one hell of a lot better than I'd expected.
Ron Sims, the county nabob, could engage in a bit of civil disobedience (Washington state has a barbaric law defining marriage as a hetero thing) and start issuing licenses...But he isn't going to. He wants to succeed Gary Locke as governor, so he can't piss off the queer-fearing hicks in Spokane and Yakima too much.
(Can we please sign a treaty donating Eastern Washington to Idaho or Montana or something? Even better, could we arrange for Western Washington to become a province of Canada? We could rename it something totally un-American, like Emerald Canuckistan.)
Mayor Greg Nickels issued an executive order Monday requiring the city to recognize same-sex marriages by municipal employees.
In an exclusive interview with KING 5 News, Nickels explained why the issue is so important to him.
"I think it's a question of fairness," said Nickels. "If two people are committed to one another, they love one another and are willing to take on the responsibilities of marriage, they ought to have the rights that go with that."
Nickels also said he'll ask the City Council to protect gay married couples throughout the city from discrimination in employment, housing or the use of parks or other city facilities. If the council approves the ordinance, it also would require contractors doing business with the city to recognize gay marriages among their own employees.
Rick Forcier, head of the state Christian Coalition and a critic of extending marriage licenses to gay couples, called Nickels' plan a clear violation of state law.
"What he's about to do is anarchy - taking the law into his own hands," Forcier said. "People cannot be recognized as married in one jurisdiction and not in another."
Nickels said he lacks the legal authority to issue same-sex marriage licenses or certificates like mayors in San Francisco and New Paltz, N.Y., have done.
State lawmakers passed a "Defense of Marriage Act" in 1998, making Washington one of 38 states defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Gov. Gary Locke vetoed the law, but lawmakers overrode the veto.
Seattle has offered domestic partnership benefits to its employees since 1989, but that process requires extensive paperwork - a step same-sex couples would be able to skip under Nickels' executive order.
State Rep. Ed Murray, one of four openly gay men in the Legislature, applauded Nickels' proposal but said the battle should be fought on a statewide front.
"We have to be clear about it: legalizing gay marriage has to be handled in courts and in the Legislature," Murray said.
More than 3,600 same-sex marriages have been performed in San Francisco in the last three weeks, and hundreds of gay couples were granted wedding licenses last week in Portland, Ore. The marriages are being challenged in court.
Nearly 40 gay couples have received marriage certificates in New Paltz, N.Y., where Mayor Jason West has been charged with solemnizing marriages without a license, a misdemeanor. A judge has temporarily barred him from marrying any more same-sex couples.
Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love
There's nothing you can do that can't be done
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
There's nothing you can make that can't me made
No one you can save that can't be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need
Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love
All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need
There's nothing you can know that isn't known
Nothing you can see that isn't shown
No where you can be that isn't where you're meant to be
All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need
All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need
Love is all you need
That is all you need
That is all you need
That is all you need
That is all you need
Oregon law states that marriage is between consenting males and females aged at least 17, but does not state that a marriage requires one of each.
When is this all going down?
Tomorrow. The report suggests 'hundreds' of couples will take the plunge.
This thing is spreading like wildfire. (Slow wildfire, but still pretty firey.)
While I still think most people suck, this gives me a small flicker of hope that suckingness isn't quite as universal and widespread as I'd thought...
Add this to the list, which currently includes gays, the poor, non-whites, women, puppies, the environment, Europe, Africa, Canada, in fact the entire world except for about twelve square kilometers of Texas, national security, health, education, freedom, tolerance, democracy, the arts, cricket, Jedi, whales, nipple piercings, music, dreams, joy, the future, your mother, your haircut, everything you treasure and hold dear, you, and the letter K.
This list is not exhaustive.
CNN posts the Wisconsin primary's results as they come in. Only 2% of the precincts have reported so far, so the numbers up right now mean absolutely bugger-all. Even so, I will mention that John Edwards is currently some 310 votes, or 3% of the total thus far, ahead of John Kerry. Wait...Now it's just under 400 votes. Dean, of course, is hopelessly dead, much like one of Steller's sea cows.
Edwards is still ahead. The numbers are still meaningless. You have time to go and get a snack.
The New York Times also has results as they materialise. Their figures have Lyndon LaRouche bringing in a whopping 0.3% of the vote thus far. The BC Marijuana Party won 3.22% in the 2001 provincial elections. That's lots more. This is much greater than the combined Other vote, which included political entities like the Party of Citizens Who Have Decided To Think For Themselves And Be Their Own Politicians, which may in fact be somewhat silly.
CNN still has Edwards very narrowly in the lead, with 7% of the precincts reporting. The Times has only 2% reporting, and Edwards also leading. Here are some numbers from Yahoo! News too, which are slightly different but mostly the same. Aren't numbers pretty?
Here are the numbers from the Official HogBlog Correspondent, on the scene here in Seattle, Washington, eating a sandwich: 6, 9830, À0.
CNN has Edwards keeping his teeny tiny lead, with 12%, they claim, reporting.
Here are some emperor penguins. Aren't they cute?
The Liberal Party in Canada has been wounded at the polls by the ongoing sponsorship scandal thingy. What does Jean Chretien think of all this? 'I don't think any more.' Jack Layton said the NDP would be willing to prop the Liberals up if they slipped into a minority government in the next election; that'd be fun.
Oh, right. America. Kerry's taken an itty-bitty lead in Wisconsin now. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.
It's a bit late, but here are some swell, swell Valentine's cards.
John Kerry and John Edwards: could their combined Johning prove as potent as that of John Flansburgh and John Linnell?
Joseph Lieberman is pulling in twice as many votes as Lyndon LaRouche. And he isn't even in the race. I did a Google search on Joementum, and wound up finding a weblog called Gay, Dead or Canadian. I haven't read any of it yet, but I'm pretty sure he's gay. I don't know about the rest.
We now return you to your regularly-scheduled programming.
Bush and the Republicans hate gays. Now tell me something I didn't know.
On Saturday there's going to be a rally here in Seattle against any constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. It'll be at noon at Westlake Park, at 4th and Pine. Bring your moral outrage. There may indeed be similar events in your metropolitan area, too. You can check this website if you feel so inclined. Or start your own. Bring some sandwiches and some pretzels and you can have a picnic afterwards. Everyone loves a picnic.
Invite Andrew Sullivan. I'm sure he'd appreciate it. He must be lonely now that his good pal George Bush has turned on him like the rabid mutt everyone else always knew he was.
But I'm grumpy like that.
As I've said, I really don't think it's going to help Kerry win the hick vote to keep harping on about how he believes in civil unions but not marriage for same-sex couples. It makes him look still too liberal for the old-fashioned parts of America, and it undercuts his progressive credibility; it's a stand that, however honest, makes him look weaker and more waffly. It looks like a stand taken for political advantage, even if it isn't. And it's going to keep pissing off people like me. The hicks aren't going to vote for him. We gay types are. Kerry should realise which side his bread's buttered on already. I don't care what he, personally, himself, deep down, thinks or feels or believes. But I care very strongly about the message he publicly sends. I care that, with his position, he's painting unions for gay couples as something different than 'real' marriage.
I'll vote for him, don't get me wrong...But I don't have to like it. He's not getting a damned Christmas card, that's for sure.
As I mentioned in my caucus post, someone in my precinct brought up the fact that John Kerry has publicly opposed gay marriage itself, while supporting civil unions with all the legal bells and whistles. Here's a statement saying exactly that on Kerry's campaign site. Although this is hardly unique to Kerry. At least according to The Advocate, all of the non-flake candidates have stopped short of supporting anything with the name 'marriage' for same-sex couples, though they all seem to back civil unions with more or less all the same legal benefits. (Although Edwards's support seems to be weakest and most limited; here's some information.)
Now, this is, compared to what we have now, still really pro-gay, and so it feels almost boorish and ungrateful of me to complain about this stance--yet, upon reflection, I feel complaint is still warranted.
I'm sure a certain amount of political calculation goes into this; candidates feel civil unions would be easier to sell to a public that includes lots of pro-wrestling fans and drooling vegetables. And they are probably right in this. To a degree. A small degree. But I don't think they're buying themselves enough of a political advantage to balance out the passive discrimination they're still pushing. Read this snippet from TAPPED. The homophobes will vote against a candidate who supports civil unions with as much venom as they'll vote against a candidate who supports gay marriage. According to this, Howard Dean at times had to wear a bulletproof vest during his 2000 gubernatorial campaign, after the civil unions issue came up. And that wasn't in Mississippi. In my opinion, no matter how many times John Kerry says he's against gay marriage, his support for gay rights and civil unions will hurt him just as much. How will conservatives spin it? They'll claim Kerry's dishonest, trying to sugar-coat his real Gay Agenda so he can force-feed it to an unsuspecting, God-fearing American public. They'll paint him as a puppet of the Pink Mafia. Or something bizarrely stupid like that. No change in terminology will stop that.*
And anything short of full equality of marriage rights, in name as well as in legal fact, is at least passively discriminatory, and will only promote the idea that gays and lesbians can be ghettoised and walled off in their own little social sectors safely isolated from 'decent folk' like Jerry Falwell. Civil unions without marriage will only reinforce the idea of homosexuals as part of the Other, as a strange, aberrant strain separate from the rest of humanity. We are not separate. And until that is acknowledged, we will not be equal.
*Addendum: The New York Times has an article up about anti-gay-marriage agitators. I quote:
"I don't care if you call it civil unions," Michael P. Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said last week. "I don't care if you call it domestic partnership, I don't care if you call it cantaloupe soup, if you are legally spouses at the end of the day, I am not willing to do that."
You cannot buy these people off with tepid language: they believe God Almighty has given them special dispensation to be bigoted assholes, praise the Lord. So the Democrats might as well take the bull by the horns already and treat this like the human rights issue that it is, instead of trying to soft-shoe around it.
It's caucus day for Washington state! Your Humble Narrator did indeed rouse himself from thick, rich, creamy slumber to go do his small part for the democratic, Democratic process. (Pausing only to buy tickets to David Bowie's April show at the Key Arena when they went on sale at 10am; I missed him at the Paramount in January, and I'll be damned if I'll be shut out again.) I made it to Seattle Central Community College on Broadway just in the nick of time to sign in; and the rest was history. Thirty-seven people, myself included, turned up from my precinct; the organisers estimated there were 500 to 600 people total in this one large hall, one of two in the building housing precincts from the 43rd legislative district. It was, apparently, quite a turnout. The organisers, alas, had not planned for it very well. The room was packed, difficult even to move through, let alone converse in. Almost all of the precincts were jammed inside in little knots, their internal conversations and debates almost drowned out by the background noise. I couldn't hear a lot of what people were saying, and I was not alone in this. It was hot and uncomfortable; discussion was very limited and lasted no more than 15 minutes; the chaotic and oppressive atmosphere discouraged people (like me) from actually saying anything, and as a result the discussion consisted almost entirely of prepared sound bytes from the hardcore campaign people.
This was my first caucus, and I have to admit that I didn't like it at all. In a perfect world, I would never have to go through this again. Maybe they're just run better in Iowa.
How did we do, you ask? As I said, 37 people turned up from my precinct. The initial breakdown was 18 for Dean, 8 for Kerry, 4 for Kucinich, 3 for Clark, 3 undecideds, and 1 Edwards, so only Dean and Kerry made the 15% cut and moved on to our fabulous Bonus Round. Then came the speaking. Kerry's speaker was hostile and abrasive, which was apparently not an isolated incident today. In my precinct, he was basically slinging mud; he claimed Dean didn't have the temperament to be president and pointed to his post-Iowa scream speech, which pissed me way the heck off because, as I've mentioned before, that was entirely an artifact of dishonest media coverage, as Diane 'Soulless Clockwork Whore' Sawyer herself has admitted. I think this guy actually turned people off to Kerry. Oh well. Kerry never had much of a chance in my precinct; the turnout was almost all homos and aging professionals, with homos holding a majority. And a Dean campaigner had very cleverly come equipped with a newspaper article about the recent Massachusetts ruling that only same-sex marriage, and not mere civil unions, would be acceptable. Kerry, as you are no doubt aware, supports civil unions but officially opposed gay marriage. That, as you might imagine, did not go over so well with the gays. When the second vote was held, Dean had 26, Kerry just 10, and one Clark guy had left before he could change his vote and so didn't count. Of our five delegates, Dean took four, and Kerry just one. It came down, modulo a few other people, to a straight split between bohemians and the bourgeois.
The Deaniac with the newspaper admitted what we all know, that Dean will not be the nominee. We acknowledged that. But the longer he stays in the race, and the longer until a nominee is crowned, the longer debate can continue and the longer the race can suck in media attention. Which is why I didn't just give up and stay home, as I'd seriously considered doing.
There are a number of things about the caucus process that bother me. Most of them boil down to precincts.
It seems as if it'd be fairer and more efficient--and less hassle--to give up the caucus thing altogether, and switch to a Single Transferable Vote primary system instead. Maybe I'm just on crack, who knows...
At least it's all over now. The results should be out in a few hours.
ABC admits that the television coverage of Howard Dean around Iowa-time was basically bullshit. And that Diane Sawyer is a soulless clockwork whore.
Gee whiz, I never would have suspected that. Not even a little bit. Not at all. Television, distorting and misrepresenting? You jest, sir or madam (as the case may be). Or so I would have said to you, right up until this here very moment right now, when my faith in the truthful healing power of television was forever shattered. I am a scarred man.
(That was sarcasm.)
It's just a shame they didn't, you know, bother mentioning this before New Hampshire.
Wait...This can't possibly be real. This is some kind of bizarre joke? Right?
I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.
But whitehouse.gov...The domain doesn't lie...
Yeah. This is just damned weird. Damned, damned weird.
He's high, isn't he? I would swear blind the only rational explanation is that Bush is high as a freaking kite in this.
THE PRESIDENT: I need some ribs.
Q Mr. President, how are you?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm hungry and I'm going to order some ribs.
Q What would you like?
THE PRESIDENT: Whatever you think I'd like.
Q Sir, on homeland security, critics would say you simply haven't spent enough to keep the country secure.
THE PRESIDENT: My job is to secure the homeland and that's exactly what we're going to do. But I'm here to take somebody's order. That would be you, Stretch -- what would you like? Put some of your high-priced money right here to try to help the local economy. You get paid a lot of money, you ought to be buying some food here. It's part of how the economy grows. You've got plenty of money in your pocket, and when you spend it, it drives the economy forward. So what would you like to eat?
Q Right behind you, whatever you order.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm ordering ribs. David, do you need a rib?
Q But Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: Stretch, thank you, this is not a press conference. This is my chance to help this lady put some money in her pocket. Let me explain how the economy works. When you spend money to buy food it helps this lady's business. It makes it more likely somebody is going to find work. So instead of asking questions, answer mine: are you going to buy some food?
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. What would you like?
THE PRESIDENT: Ribs? Good. Let's order up some ribs.
Q What do you think of the democratic field, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: See, his job is to ask questions, he thinks my job is to answer every question he asks. I'm here to help this restaurant by buying some food. Terry, would you like something?
Q An answer.
Q Can we buy some questions?
THE PRESIDENT: Obviously these people -- they make a lot of money and they're not going to spend much. I'm not saying they're overpaid, they're just not spending any money.
Q Do you think it's all going to come down to national security, sir, this election?
THE PRESIDENT: One of the things David does, he asks a lot of questions, and they're good, generally.
(Via one of these guys.)
First, entertainment: dead whales can and do explode. Watch yourself. Oh! I know! Perhaps all those weapons of mass destruction that aren't in Iraq are hidden inside the bodies of sea mammals! On Mars! Yeah...That has to be it.
Second, a pointless observation: I'm thankful that I wasn't born in the Middle Ages. If I'd lived past infancy, I probably would've become a monk. The constant sodomy would've been okay, but how much would it have sucked when the Church finally set me on fire? A lot. That's how much.
Third, despair. Teflon Tony is still Prime Minister of the UK, the Hutton Report was a tremendous let-down, and, as the Flaming Lips sang, evil will prevail. It's hard to imagine a lamer and more unsatisfying end to the inquiry...Once again it's all lick, lick, lick the testicles of the Powerful. Authority figures should never be given the benefit of the doubt. They should be relentlessly criticised and second-guessed and suspected at all times. Or else they'll squash us like bugs. Hutton should've gotten at least a little crosser with the government; gosh knows there are grounds enough and then some. But no. No, no. All we get is that insufferably assy jackass Alastair Campbell strutting around like a giant cock ejaculating insufferably assy smugness everywhere he goes. Oo, butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.
So good old authoritarian Tony Blair still reigns with his iron fist, and iron heel, and other iron things as well, except for his heart, which is very much not iron but weak and frail flesh, now clotted and sick with his accumulated evil and no doubt soon to explode much like that poor whale.
Not that the US looks any rosier right now. We are still living on the very mouth of Hell, from which horrid daemoniackal beasts like Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld crawl with fiendish plots to drag all of Earth down into their nether pits of hellish torment. And there is no Buffy to save us. I had such high hopes for Howard Dean; he would've been a great Buffy. He actually had the guts to make true statements, like that capturing Saddam Hussein didn't make America any safer. Which any fool can see is true. Even the Homeland Security people. Remember the Orange Alert thing? Damn right you do. But Dean looks pretty much dead now; first Iowa, then New Hampshire, now it seems his campaign is somehow, bizarrely, insanely, out of all that shimmery green cash it had raised, and his polls have plunged, and he's apparently sacked that Mr Trippi who masterminded his great leap to frontrunnerdom...It's a right dog's breakfast, and no mistake. And my new love, Wesley Clark, hasn't been capturing the spotlight as he should...Those were the two candidates I had real enthusiasm for. Because they didn't vote for the Iraq war. Or the Patriot Act. They didn't bend over, like the vast majority of the Democrats in Congress, and allow George Bush's pustulent, unlubricated dick to violate the tenderest, delicate buds of the American ideal. As an extremely cross and worried man filled with a sick disgust at the future this administration is carving out for what, for better or for worse, is still my country, that counts for a lot.
I have a grudge against Iowa. A new one, I mean. Besides the ones I hold due to growing up there. I am giving Iowa baleful glares from afar for voting for the candidates who weren't my favourites and spoiling all my glorious Deany dreams.
At this point, I am officially tired of the primaries. I know this is going to sound petulant and childish, but if the nominee isn't going to be Dean and it isn't going to be Clark, then I don't particularly care which of the serious candidates gets it. Fundamentally, I don't much care what any of their policy proposals are, so long as they involve not being Bush. There isn't all that much variation between them, all more or less centrist, and it isn't as if, faced with an implacably hostile, mean-spirited, and vicious Republican majority in Congress, any of their progressive proposals would make it through in any case. There are, as I see it, precisely two goals one should realistically have for a Democratic president right now: stopping the Republicans from doing any more damage, and rallying the troops to achieve a more equitable balance of power in Congress in some future election, at which point we can finally realistically hope to start moving forward again in a systematic rather than piecemeal way. The President will have to be a fighter, willing to go head-to-head with Tom DeLay and endure relentlessly partisan abuse in large segments of the media. Think the Clinton impeachment meets the Al Gore campaign. That sort of treatment.
Which is not to say that the Johns Kerry and Edwards aren't up to it. I hope they are. They probably are. I just wish they'd make me feel a little more confident. I wish I could be sure that they get it.
Have I mentioned that I never watch television? (I get my Buffy and so forth on DVD. And things like Diane Sawyer's Howard Dean interview online.) I realise that this means I will never, ever fully connect with most of the American voting public. And so I have not the remotest, faintest clue which of the candidates is most likely to connect with the public and win an election. And so my opinions really mean nothing at all, and you shouldn't be reading them. In fact, you should forget you ever saw this. You should erase your memory at once with mind rubbers. It is the only way.
Oh well. At least there's still Canada. (Eat it, Tories.)
So I was reading Electrolite this morning, and what did I find but this: General Wesley Clark is on the cover of The Advocate.
Did I wake up on Parallel Earth again? When I leave the house, will everyone have an eyepatch?
And look at him! He looks confident and relaxed, and with his overshirt hanging vulnerably open he's even vaguely sexual. This man has some great big shiny platinum-inlaid, diamond-studded brass balls. Most of the Democrats have courted the Gays to some extent or another, with their civil union proposals and so forth. Dean, of course; and I think Kerry, if I'm not completely on crack; Gephardt with his lesbian daughter; probably the rest (barring maybe Lieberman; though who knows, maybe him too?)...But that is all very manly courting and supporting.
(Thought: perhaps one thing that drew me to Howard Dean originally was the way he reminds me of Giordano Bruno, a pugnacious, sometimes abrasive little man spouting uttermost heresy.)
No-one would ever mistake Howard Dean for anything less than Dead Butch, for example. He's no metrosexual. Kerry, too. The man reeks of heterosexuality. Lieberman's sure as spitfire not going to march in any Pride Parades. They're macho, macho men. Wesley Clark, being a general and all, could very easily outdo them all in testosteronic excess. But no. Instead we get this vulnerably ambiguous cover shot. Certainly Clark has no craving for dick, and this is not to suggest otherwise. But he's being subversive. All coy and playful-like, opening himself up to say 'Hey, lookie here; I'm all yours.' It's not telegraphing merely a willingness to work for us (us, the Gays) and with us, but to be pals with us, too. 'Come to a barbecue,' his eyes are saying, and his shining white teeth. 'Flirt with my son. I'm comfortable with that. No, I won't make out with you; but I'm flattered.'
Also, he looks mad crazy hot.
That man is totally photogenic. The camera loves him. Remember when he tore that FOX anchor a new asshole? Just think of him doing that to Bush...
I am going to run out and buy a copy this afternoon. I want to read this. And I want to vote for Clark. It's crazy. We'll see if this lasts, or if it's just the heavenly light glinting off his teeth blinding me...I'll keep you posted.
(He has a tax plan, you know. And look at those teeth!)
Until Monday's Iowa caucuses, I'd forgotten John Edwards even existed.
I'm still not sure how much I care.
It is an open question whether or not the President of the United States is borderline retarded. A case could be made either way. Who among us is in a position to truly judge? Perhaps he is a genuine moron. Perhaps he is actually quite wily in his way, only spoiled and lazy. What can be said for certain is that he is self-consciously ignorant, does not care that he is ignorant, and doesn't attempt to rectify his ignorance. He is President. There are thousands and thousands of highly-qualified people in every conceivable discipline who would be only too happy to offer him explanations, or answer his questions, or what-have-you. He wouldn't even have to do much, just sit and not pick his nose. But he chooses not to ask or listen. The man has consciously decided to avoid knowing things. This is extremely apparent in his statements on his Bold New Space Initiative.
As I've mentioned, I like space. Astronomy is hot and sexy. So are propulsion systems. The ion drive on the Deep Space 1 probe made me all tingly. So I want to like space programmes. I do.
However, it's pretty clear that Bush does not like space. Read his remarks. There's no substance. The plan he puts forth is objectively pro-Saddam. Or at least ethereal. And it's pretty clear that actual scientists and engineers did not have a whole lot of input. We have yet to establish that there is, in fact, any significant amount of water on the Moon; the Lunar Prospector found some indications that there could be, frozen in eternally-shaded craters near the poles; but when the probe was crashed into the surface, Earthbound observers did not find any signs of water kicked up by the impact. And more recently, the Arecibo radio telescope found no evidence of large quantities of ice down to a depth of about 6 metres. This doesn't mean that water isn't there, in some form, and it doesn't mean that it isn't extractable. But it doesn't mean that it is there, either. Until we know more, planning a permanent Lunar outpost is just silly. Without hydrogen (and water) available locally, we'd have to ship water from Earth. Water is heavy. Water is horrifically expensive to lift into orbit. It would be a Very Bad Thing, in short. Yet the President goes on about processing rocket fuel from Lunar soil, and firing off missions to Mars...When these don't make practical sense. Either he didn't ask, or he chose to ignore what he was told.
And this venture would suck money away from real science projects. Putting people on the Moon is flashy, it's glamourous, it's potentially utopian, but it isn't good science, and I'm pretty sure the President didn't bother asking about that either, or, again, decided to ignore it.
So it seems all the time and money spent on the International Space Station is being declared officially a waste...Which it was. But no more so than this project. The cost is excessive, the goals idealistic rather than practical, the science payoff limited, the effort disproportionate.
The Shuttle's hypothetical successor has extremely loosely and poorly thought out specifications; like the Shuttle, it seems destined to try and do too many things, and so do them all disappointingly and expensively. It isn't good engineering to try and use the same vehicle for every mission. Again, it seems like no-one bothered to ask.
Bush doesn't give a shit, it seems, so long as it makes for good sound bytes.
As perhaps you may have heard, America's Fearless Leader, the Son King, may soon propose a glorious new scheme to send Americans to the Moon once again, as a warm-up to a manned Mars expedition. It is rather appropriate, given what a space cadet the miserable failure is.
Sources involved in the discussions said Bush and his advisers view the new plans for human space travel as a way to unify the country behind a gigantic common purpose at a time when relations between the parties are strained and polls show that Americans are closely divided on many issues.
"It's going back to being a uniter, not a divider," a presidential adviser said, echoing language from Bush's previous campaign, "and trying to rally people emotionally around a great national purpose."
It's also stupid. And I'd say the same thing if it were proposed by a President Dean, or a President Clark, or a President Nimoy rather than a President Bush.
Now, don't get me wrong. Unlike certain people, I have no objections to manned space flight in theory. I like the idea. I'm sufficiently interested in the hardware involved that, in my younger days, I nearly went into aerospace engineering. I consume a lot of science fiction. Space probes fill me with pleasure. My picture of the ideal future involves things like solar power satellites, asteroid mining, and permanent habitats at L5. Ideally speaking, I would be a total space freaknut.
That being said, it's still stupid.
This Gregg Easterbrook character, who is apparently famous, or reputable, or something, has already pointed out that such a venture would gobble up cash like a maddened thing that gobbles. And he isn't wrong. I guess Easterbrook isn't the gaseous universal prat I'd taken him for. Who knew?
Anyhow, as Easty notes, this project is also bad science. Any Lunar outpost liable to be approved would be a less floaty version of the International Space Station: hideously expensive, troublesome to maintain and support, scientifically sort of useless, and an unspeakable sinkhole sucking away wodges of cash from real science programmes. And basically a pork project to blow dollars up the arse of the aerospace industry, just as the ISS is partially there to keep Russian engineers building space hardware rather than, say, long-range ballistic missiles for naughty, naughty countries who mostly hate gays.
And why might George W. Bush endorse a Moon base or Mars mission? Either he's a science illiterate surrounded by advisors who are science illiterates, or it's a blank check for aerospace contractors.
I'm thinking a little from Column A, a little from Column B.
Sometimes NASA makes me so angry...Some day, manned spaceflight will be a wonderful, practical, useful thing, supplying our planet with clean, inexhaustable power, wacky new zero-gravity industrial products, new frontiers to orgasmify the human spirit, and somewhere to send people we don't especially like having around, like Lance Bass. But that day is not today. There is very little up there worth doing in the near future that machines can't do for us for a fraction of the cost, and without the risk of blowing people up and dumping their ashes somewhere horrid like Texas. There isn't a science payoff to sending people up. There isn't an industrial or real technological one, without some kind of unimaginably mega-huge attempt to build full-scale Lunar mines, orbital factories, and all manner of not-immediately-practical offworld infrastructure. People are fat and moist and gassy. Machines are slick and efficient, and don't need air, or magazines, or innovative zero-g toilets. Machines don't bitch about being sent on multi-year missions that force them to miss several seasons of Angel. They're just better.
As they stand, the Space Shuttle and the ISS just should not exist. Nor should this crackpot Moon scheme. All that money could be spent to much greater effect developing a reusable launch vehicle that doesn't suck. And sending more probes to Uranus.
I have a burning desire to probe Uranus.
I want to know more about its curious moon Miranda, goddammit.
This is nothing but a slime-encrusted ploy to exploit idealism for partisan political purposes ('uniter' my ass) and pork, and I for one am miffed. Miffed, I say!
In less than a year, we foolish Americans will elect a president. It should not surprise anyone to hear that I am not planning to vote for Bush. I'm pretty keen on Howard Dean, Ninja Warrior, but the bottom line is that I'll vote for anyone who gets the Democratic nomination, even if, as looks increasingly less likely with each passing day, that person is not in fact Howard Dean. I'd even vote for Holy Joe Lieberman if he were the nominee fielded against Bush, and I find Lieberman to be a sanctimonious ass. This leads me to wonder: what sort of person or entity would have to seize the Democratic nomination to make me even consider voting for Bush? This question is obviously not very interesting if I think about living people or historical figures; obviously, I'd vote for Bush over Osama bin Laden, or Hitler. There are trivial and uninteresting cases. So let's not think about that. Instead, let us wonder how George Bush would stack up against imaginary villains from science fiction and fantasy.
1. George Bush vs. Darth Vader
I'd have to go with Vader because he's not a hypocritical chickenhawk.
2. George Bush vs. the Master
Advantage: the Master.
3. George Bush vs. Saruman the White
No contest. I'd vote Saruman.
4. George Bush vs. Mayor Richard Wilkins III
Even if he did transform into a giant snake and eat me, the Mayor would still have my vote.
5. George Bush vs. the Borg (or Cybermen)
Honesty really is the best policy. Vote Borg.
6. George Bush vs. L. Ron Hubbard
Okay. This time, I'd vote for Bush. Happy now?
(What do you mean, L. Ron Hubbard was real?)
Am I the only one who gets creeped out every time they hear a US politician refer to our country as the 'homeland'?
I just don't think we should use that word. It has a lot of horrible, horrible connotations. It's white-supremacist language. It's fascist language. I'm not saying that anyone in the current government is either a fascist or a white supremacist; I'm saying that it's bad PR, and that bringing such language--which is already popular with people we all agree are loathesome--into common usage could help extremist groups seem more mainstream. And we have quite enough terrorism to deal with as it is, without encouraging our own domestic ultra-right brand any further.
On a brighter note, here is a math comic.
I find it rather ironic that the Bush administration and its gargoylesque hangers-on like Richard Perle should sing such hosannahs to democracy and the spreading thereof, while doing so much to discourage it here in America.
Does this count as doublethink on their part? Or just manipulative cynicism?
Or is Richard Perle just a sexually-impotent shell of a man out to substitute violence and political power for his own lost virility and charisma?
I'll bet he hasn't been able to achieve an erection since the Cold War, and fantasises about sexual congress with tactical nuclear weapons. Every now and then he probably has lustful thoughts about warheads being inserted into his anus. But that is okay; it most certainly does not make him gay. That is for damn sure.
What is the world to do with Saddam Hussein? So many people want a piece of the toppled tyrant. Perhaps the only way to appease them all would be to encourage life to imitate a Terry Bisson story. I would also like to guide the seeker after wisdom towards Michael Blumlein's 'Tissue Ablation and Variant Regeneration', but it is not, alas, available online...
Capturing Saddam Hussein is without any doubt a Good Thing, and no reasonable person thinks otherwise. Just so we're clear on that.
Anybody seen that bin Laden guy lately? Remember him? America's other arch-nemesis? You know, with the planes, and the terror, and the killing? That guy.
I mean, really...What was Labour thinking? I'm not big on children as a rule, but even I feel an immediate, visceral revulsion towards the idea of taking children away from their parents when these parents haven't done anything to prove themselves obviously unfit. It's actually hard to think of a measure that'd be easier to hate on such short notice. I mean, look at this...
I'm almost speechless, although obviously not quite. It's difficult to say exactly how repulsive and contemptible this proposal is.
Read about it here.
UPDATE (28 November): Michael Howard talks about feelings and fairness. I'm sure Margaret Thatcher would be spinning in her grave, if she were dead.
All these questions involve human beings and human feelings. We need a system that is fair and a system that is effective. And we need language that is measured and proportionate.
Despite my burning obsession with all things Canadian, and Paul Martin's coronation as Emperor of All the Canadas, and the new Liberal government's dire financial straits in Ontario, and David Orchard's pending lawsuit to halt the Alliance-PC merger, I have still been paying attention to the race for America's presidency. Since I am technically an American. And live here. And have a vote. And everything. These 'primary' things are coming up soon. I'm not sure why a lot of the Democratic hopefuls are still running. Like Joe Lieberman. No-one really liked him when he was a vice-presidential candidate; no-one really seems to like him now. I think all he has going for him is the name-recognition thing. Or this Richard Gephardt character. He's pretty boring, too. Boring helped our incumbent Unelected Fraud get into office in the first place. And John Kerry; what's up with him?
I'll tell you what's up with him.
He's not Howard Dean.
Also, he is not Wesley Clark.
These are men who rock. Other would-be world leaders who wish to learn the ways of rocking would be well-advised to observe these men in action. They are like Elvis. Elves. Two Elvises.
I started off pretty lukewarm to Clark, because of the whole military thing, but I have warmed to him...I watched several of his television appearances. I loved his FOX interview...The penis-in-a-suit interviewer of course tried to impugn his patriotism and accuse him of failing to support our troops because he'd called Iraq a bad idea. However, it seems to be the case that four-star generals, for some unfathomable reason, do not suffer such attacks in silence, or break down crying for their mothers when confronted by the massed armies of FOXdom. Clark, in short, ripped the guy a new one. (By which I mean rectum. Rectum? He darn near killed 'um!) It was extremely satisfying to watch. Clark did it with style, too. Nothing histrionic. I think he has a very good television presence. He has a sort of kindly grandfather or county doctor or parish priest air to him...I think it's all in the hair. His hair is a source of great power. I also saw him on a programme hosted by a 'Letter Man' who is apparently some form of 'television' personality. Clark has this earnest gee-whiz John Astin quality that I'd imagine Americans would eat up as if it were *insert your favourite naughty bit here*. He would make an excellent cult leader, with his hair, his air of benevolent wisdom...I'll bet he could give the Mormons a run for their money. I could see his face on the packaging of mass-marketed name-brand magic underwear.
Clark has the underwear going for him, it's true...But he still isn't Howard Dean.
Howard Dean definitely has the cool uncle thing going on. If you're my age. Or maybe he's more like your teenaged daughter's best friend's pretty cool father. You would definitely feel comfortable letting him drive your kids to the mall. You would enjoy having him as your neighbour somewhere comfortably suburban; on summer days you would walk out your front door to get the newspaper, and he would greet you cheerfully while he watered his lawn. I wonder if he fishes? Hypothetically, you could imagine yourself angling with him on a little boat somewhere, wearing hats covered in lures or hooks or whatever it is fishermen cover their hats with. He has a likeable real-person image much unlike that of George Bush, pampered sissy-boy supreme.
Howard Dean does not hate you.
This is something I look for in a president.
George Bush hates me.
Being gay makes it pretty easy to pick a side, politically. The Republican Party as a whole hates me. The Democrats, on the other hand, are slowly and uncomfortably but inexorably coming to back me up. Unless you have some serious self-loathing issues, the choice is obvious, really.
I'm a flaming anarcho-socialist. Dean's a middle-of-the-road kind of guy. We aren't ideological soulmates. Dean wouldn't give us Canadian-style health care or a healthy dose of nationalisation. But that's okay. I can deal. Dean is a decent human being with a fighting spirit who stands for meaningful but incremental changes. He's not a revolutionary. But I do think he would help make things better.
He seems as if he'd put substantial effort into environmental policy...That turns me on. And not just because I'm a tree-hugging hippie peacenik. There's a strong component of self-interest to this. I'll live to see 2050. That's a pretty long while from now. A lot could go wrong. As an avid science-fiction consumer, I have read countless visions of a dystopian blighted near-future Earth withering beneath the onslaught of a total environmental collapse, and I'd really prefer, all things being equal, if these visions did not in fact come true. There's the global-warming thing. Which does actually seem to exist, thank you very much. There's the air-quality thing. The clean water thing. The oil thing. Lots of things. The weather has been pretty consistently unseasonable for a while now, a year or few for sure. At least it has been for a several-mile radius around me. I'm not sure about you. It snowed in Seattle this week. I went out one morning, Wednesday maybe, to catch my bus and found a thin but nontrivial crispy layer of the stuff on peoples' cars and lawns. And we got totally pissed on in October, after a dry, dry summer. Normally it only drizzles here; this rain of which I speak kicked our asses, collectively. I think 20 October was the wettest day on record.
Why, when I was your age, grumble, grumble.
Anyhow. If you don't want to hunt eels from little boats on the flooded and submerged streets of a post-apocalyptic Manhattan a few decades from now, I'd suggest you give Doctor Governor Mister Howard Dean a look.
It's funny to think about 2050 actually arriving...Perhaps even funnier than it was to realise 2000 had come round at last. We're living in the future. We're going to have to start living with all kinds of crazy way-out shit you thought would never come up in the real world. Some day, we will run out of oil. That's just the way it is. Some day, we will have to deal with melting ice caps. And some day, they will try to remake Chinatown. It can't hurt to start planning for it now.
Bush's steel tariffs may cause Europe to declare war on Iowa in retaliation.
From the Toronto Star:
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said people were entitled to demonstrate, but questioned why those who planned to march against Bush had not protested Saddam Hussein's regime.
"What bothers me is the fashionable anti-Americanism that's around," he told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
"Many more people, I guess, will be demonstrating about the United States and the action which the United States has had to take since Sept. 11 than ever demonstrated against the brutal, vicious, horrible regime of Saddam Hussein.''
Mr Straw went on to say how appalled he was by the hypocrisy of 'liberal' Americans who were thinking of voting against President Bush next year: 'Many of these so-called "people" will be casting votes against President Bush while having never once voted against the brutal, vicious, horrible tyrant Saddam Hussein.'*
Michael Portillo will be standing down from the House of Commons at the next election. This makes me very sad. Who will be the butt of the political ass jokes now? Prince Charles? It just won't be the same.
I'll just bet he goes into television.
Michael Portillo, you will be missed.
Just for a lark, I took the Political Compass test to see where they placed me. I figured I'd come out on the hard libertarian left, and I did.
Economic Left/Right: -8.50 Libertarian/Authoritarian: -7.79
No surprises there. Though there are plenty of people farther to the left, and more libertarian, than I am.
Despite this, I think I might be some kind of Communist. Or maybe an Anarchist. I can't quite decide. Maybe I'm both. Maybe I'm politically schizophrenic. Maybe I'm silly.
I must say, I'm not quite sure what the astrology question was supposed to measure...Perhaps they need to add a third axis to their compass. For idiocy. Idiocy transcends left and right, authoritarian and libertarian. It really is a dimension all its own.
I had a deeply unpleasant nightmare about Tony Blair Friday morning. I was seeing through his eyes. He was in a bathroom, trimming his fingernails; the nail of his left pinky had grown to grotesquely huge and deformed proportions, coming to resemble a scythe. After trimming it, Blair began to reflect on a Commons speech he'd given, in which he'd said how deeply he felt and regretted every serviceman's life lost in the Iraq war. He then began to vomit explosively, profusely, and continually into and around the sink until he very nearly passed out.
Which is all rather appropriate, really.
I really dreamt this. I'm not making it up.
As perhaps you are aware, the UK's Tories very recently worked up the nerve to plunge into their leader Iain Duncan Smith's back the dagger they'd been polishing and fiddling with and dropping and hiding behind their backs and flashing about to impress girls for ages now. In a moving display of party unity, it seems everyone has come together to coronate Michael Howard heir to Mr Duncan Smith's throne (a porcelain throne). The Virtual Stoa is just chock-a-block with timely information on Howard, including a link to a 1997 interview conducted by the BBC's Jeremy Paxman in which Howard dodges a direct question something like 14 times and comes across as an odious little kitten-strangler, which he is. You should watch it; it's funny.
Here in an article for The Observer you can snigger naughtily as Michael Portillo* speaks approvingly of Howard's 'rod of iron'. It's actually a rather interesting read, since Portillo is one of the 'modernising' Tories whose agenda Howard does not appear to embrace. Porty laments that Howard is no 'bright young thing' like Blair was when he took the Labour helm; perhaps he fancies Tony. Read the last paragraph, particularly; Portillo gets in a solid age jab to Howard's gut, then suggests Howard's greatest accomplishment might be in keeping the party from bleeding to death 'til he can anoint a young, dynamic, sexy successor.
Heavens know Howard's not going to win the Tories any elections, horrid Thatcherite prune that he is. He actively repulses swing voters, leaving many actually less likely to vote Tory than they would've been under IDS, if such a thing can be believed.
Oh, Tories...You do warm my heart, with your wacky antics. And your inability to win. And your new undead vampire leader. Someone should make a sitcom...Or maybe work Howard into a Buffy: The Vampire Slayer spinoff. Oh! Oh! All about Giles! And Willow! In England! Yes! It's too perfect. Willow and Giles, battling a vampiric conspiracy at the very heart of the Tory Party, led by evils from the dawn of time bent on resurrecting the lifeless bodies of Margaret Thatcher and Vampire Queen Victoria with the blood of fresh young voters...
*: Michael Portillo makes an excellent butt, if you will, for gay jokes because he's publicly admitted to being a cock-hound in his university days. It gave the world some very entertaining anti-Portillo campaign slogans, and served as a bottomless fount of inspiration for Chris Morris. I would like to see him emerge as Tory Leader, just to see how the Conservatives would react to having Portillo on top, if you will.
As the knives come out for the hapless Iain Duncan Smith, I think we should all pause for a moment and reflect on how entertaining it would be if he were succeeded as Tory leader by Michael Portillo, who, carried away by the boisterous good spirits surrounding his ascension to power, then snogged Chris Morris on national television.
The Guardian has a lot of pictures about of Iain Duncan Smith looking like a turnip. But then, doesn't everyone?
Tom Tomorrow's latest strip brings together two things very near and dear to my heart, political satire and Batman. Though this isn't the first time, of course; the world will not soon forget Dick Cheney as the Penguin. It's the most perfect match since hazelnut butter and raspberry preserves.
I have a sick, sick desire to see these turned into Flash-based cartoon political ads. Featuring the voice of Adam West. He's not dead, you know. In fact, he has a vaguely-creepily-Bat-centric official web site. He's hosting a comedy night in Olympia soon.
The following is a (non-exclusive) list of those who are more qualified for the governorship of California than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Anyone who chose Schwarzenegger over any of these is clearly a fool.
I've got some bad news, I'm afraid...It looks like serial sexual assaulter Arnold Schwarzenegger has become governor of California.
It made the Times of India.
On the bright side, Minnesota is no longer the stupidest state in the Union.
On the dark side, Arnold Schwarzenegger has become governor of California. Living on the West Coast, this makes me uneasy. I would not be altogether surprised if Governor Steroids decided the best way to balance the California budget was to loot and pillage neighbouring states like the Vikings of old; I'm not sure Oregon would be enough to satiate his ravenous hordes. He certainly doesn't seem to have any more practical proposals on the table. We have a bunch of ballistic missile submarines sitting in the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard; maybe that'll deter him.
This really shakes one's faith in humanity. (As if King George wasn't enough.) Just how stupid are people, anyhow? The man has nothing but fame and an Austrian accent, and now he's won an election. I mean, think, people. Think. You wouldn't hire a one-legged narcoleptic midget to drive your car. You wouldn't hire a waste-paper basket to babysit your hyperactive pyromaniac children. You wouldn't make a smirking chimp your president.
Well, it's the principle of the thing. It's just dumb. Just really, profoundly dumb. Shockingly dumb. Amazingly, colon-spasmingly dumb. If you're going to vote Arnold, why not just admit flat-out the whole thing's a joke and go for Gary Coleman instead? Or just write in David Lynch.
Now there's a thought. Imagine a parallel universe in which David Lynch just became Governor of California. Dressed as a giant chess piece he would announce a garmonbozia tax in his budget, backwards, while two lesbians made out on a heap of cocaine. Legislators would find their minds swapped at random, until they were replaced with tiny clowns made out of wood, one by one. Traffic lights all across the state would suddenly start changing in a much more meaningful fashion. And then everyone would die.
But at least it would not be what it seemed.
I do not think the Governator has any such hidden depths. What you see is, alas, what you get.
Oh well. While it might be a great setback for the human species, at least I, personally, can sit back, point, and laugh at the freak circus to my south.
But honestly! He has no discernable talents whatsoever. I'd made a better governor than Schwarzenegger! I've known cats that'd make better governors. Has America become so obsessed with celebrity that any no-talent ass-clown with a famous face can win its support? Where will this end? Britney Spears for Congress? President J. Lo? Pope Shatner I?
Let's just make Leonard Nimoy our God-Emperor and be done with it.
Details are emerging, as the newsmen might put it, of the Iraq Survey Group's upcoming report on the hunt for Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.
Downing Street branded the story "speculation about an unfinished draft of an interim report".
While this is indeed the case, the thrust of the report is unlikely to succumb to any last-minute revisions; they don't seem to be waffling much.
Mr Neil said, according to the source, the report will say its inspectors have not even unearthed "minute amounts of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons material".
They have also not uncovered any laboratories involved in deploying weapons of mass destruction and no delivery systems for the weapons.
Or, in short, the report will, as it were, report that Iraq did not, in point of fact, actually have weapons of mass destruction after all. Not even a little.
It's only an interim report, it's true, but if any, and I do mean any, slightest trace of NBC (a far more informative acronym: nuclear, biological, and chemical) material had been found, the Powers That Be would be arsetrumpeting it from the rooftops. Especially poor Tony Blair, who genuinely seemed to think they'd turn up. Boy, is his face red.
So all the intelligence was wrong, and all the dossiers were bollocks, and Britain and the US were led into the invasion of Iraq with a string of fabrications and fuckups.
Oh, and while I'm at it...
Andrew Gilligan's original story on the Today programme was, as it was planned, factually accurate after all. Gilligan just flubbed his lines. Hence referring to his source as the 'intelligence services' rather than 'experts'.
Critically, Mr Dingmans said the new evidence showed the BBC story "would have been absolutely correct as we now know from Bryan Jones and others".
Mr Jones is an intelligence officer who gave evidence during phase one of the inquiry, claiming parts of the dossier had been "overegged".
Well, bugger me.
Also, see the incomparable Calpundit and behold Colin Powell announcing in 2001 that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.
Well, piss my soul!
So I guess pretty much all the prominent Bushistas are lying, lying liars, lying lying liar-pantsed lying liarriffic liars. And they lied. It's hard to spin this into anything but a blanket condemnation of the entire run-up to war and everyone involved. The Bush administration systematically deceived the general public into supporting an untimely, poorly-thought-out war on fabricated grounds.
Well, twist my titties and call me Susan!
It all seems pretty conclusive to me. Does this make you angry? It should. It really and truly should. Phrases about 'new brooms' and 'sweeping all clean' float through my head. Also little catch-phrases like 'The Doctor is in' and 'Prescription for change', in reference, in case you hadn't heard, to that delightful Mister Governor Howard Dean, MD. I'm positive the time is ripe for a quip involving Bush and a rectal thermometer.
Simon Hoggart presents: The Wind in the Fucking Willows.
Living outside the Brent constituency in which she was fighting for election provided ammunition for opposers - including former MP and now London Mayor Ken Livingstone - who accused her of not being as "local" as she claimed.
That reprehensible Thatcherism Section 28 is being repealed, which demonstrates again that Britain is much better than the US. BBC News Online announces this with a very tasteful photo of two men snogging. The Telegraph article, on the other hand, concludes with a bizarre frothy santorum*-like passage claiming schoolchildren are being presented with hardcore wife-swapping S&M pornography in the guise of sex education. Go on, read it. I dare you.
Tory Baroness Blatch proposed the replacement clause allowing parents to veto sex education materials. Schoolchildren were being exposed to explicit "pornography" in the form of information supplied by health authorities and other organisations to teachers, she warned.
Children as young as 11 were being given details of sexual activities including anal sex, sado-masochism, use of pain, dressing up, tying up, multiple partners and partner swapping.
This** is why we need the BBC.
*Santorum: 'that frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.' --Dan Savage
**This, and more of The League of Gentlemen.
So, the big political news tidbit for those of us only now sobering up is that General Wesley Clark has officially thrown his medal-encrusted hat (a Pickelhaube?) into the Democratic ring. Will he be a loose cannon, rocking the establishment boat? Or all in all will he be just another brick in the wall?
The Washington Post had an article about him, which you can read here. Or not, depending. This single article constitutes most of what I know about Clark at this stage. Despite my complete lack of real information, I am compelled to pontificate: this is a blog, after all. I can't fail to talk about things simply because I'm grossly unqualified. (So teaches St Andy, patron of all blogs in Christendom.) Clark has been rousing a fair deal of excitement (excrement?) among some Democrats for quite a while now, as some people's Ideal Candidate...I've heard sentiments like 'I'm for Dean...For now. But if Clark comes into the race...' And I'll admit, the guy has some serious image going for him. Rhodes Scholar, general, commander of a major NATO military operation, CNN talking head, patrician but in that cute homey Southern way...It is true that Bush would likely shit himself if forced to debate national security with such a person, with more or less impeccable security credentials...And Clarkistas are right to giggle at the prospect.
That seems to be the one thing you can point to about Clark and say, 'Yeah. This is why he's my man,' that image of Bush shitting himself on national television.
Now, don't get me wrong. I want to see Bush squirming in his own excrement as much as the next man. I'm just not convinced at this stage, with the Republican Attack Machine all geared up to grind challengers' bones to bake Bush's bread, that one befouling will be enough to bring Bush down.
This is not to say I think Clark couldn't do it. I really don't know enough to say at this stage. I don't think anyone does. He hasn't campaigned yet. He doesn't have...positions, or anything. He's just a pretty face. Maybe he'll be great. Maybe he won't. Who can say? If he can win the nomination, I'll support him. But I've seen nothing yet that makes me think he can pull that off. While, on the other hand, Howard Dean is still a motherfathering rock star.
On the other hand, Howard Dean has proved himself a really potent candidate already. Dean...
Dean is hardcore. Dean is kicking bottom and taking names. At this point, it may well be that Clark is the only credible non-Dean candidate. But maybe not. Maybe Clark will prove himself. But maybe not. It's all going to come down to how well they can campaign; issues-wise, they both seem to be more or less centrists of some stripe, so I doubt that'll differentiate them much. We'll just wait and see.
My money's still on the Doctor.
Democracy triumphs, on a small scale. Seattle voters overwhelmingly defeated an Espresso Tax which would've tacked on 10 cents to the prices of lattes, cappucinos, Americanos, and their iced equivalents to pay for preschool and child-care programmes. And good riddance. While preschools and child care are good things and need to be funded, the tax itself was poorly-thought-out and regressive. Think of the bookkeeping headaches it would've caused for independent coffee-shops. And it's so arbitrary; why tax espresso? Why not tax SUVs? Or gasolene? Or crack whores? Or whatever-the-hell-else that isn't espresso? Espresso is such a dominant component of Seattle's image...It's like trying to tax shotguns and pickup trucks in Nashville. How could they have imagined such a thing could conceivably pass?
I don't drink coffee or espresso anyhow, so I have no personal stake in this. So you know.
And voters have resoundingly approved Initiative 75:
A. The Seattle Police Department and City Attorney's Office shall make the investigation, arrest and prosecution of marijuana offenses, where the marijuana was intended for adult personal use, the City's lowest law enforcement priority.
According to the Post-Intelligencer story, certain critics of I-75 were worried that passing the measure would send the message to young people that smoking marijuana was 'okay'. This is Seattle. That's like worrying that kids might somehow get the impression that the ocean is a bit damp. You can't swing a dead cat by the tail here without hitting someone smoking the reefer. (Not that I advocate swinging dead cats, by the tail or otherwise.) The War on Drugs is over, and drugs won. (As if there was ever any doubt.) Nothing anyone can do is going to stop people smoking marijuana, and it's time we acknowledged that and legalised it already. While it's largely symbolic, I think I-75 is a step in the right direction, a useful propaganda victory for the pro-legalisation cause. And it's still significantly less than (old news, I know) what Prime Minister Chretien has proposed for Canada.
Seattle takes pride in its liberal image; it's no wonder I love it so.
Also, and I know that, strictly speaking this isn't local, but it's at least on the same coast...Via SullyWatch, Bay Area Communists (Left Wing FC) and Anarchists (Kronstadt FC) recently faced off in an anti-imperialist soccer match on fields expropriated from the bourgeois. See their flier. Here are photos from the abortive August match, which tied 2-2. Mere days ago, the cheerleaders gave an 'A, A, A for Anarchy' and Kronstadt FC achieved the very non-hierarchial victory, 4-2. There's still time for the Communists to tie it up by taking the next match, very portentiously scheduled for some time in October; I think our valiant comrades can bring this one home. Win one for the Revolution!
Surely it is a fundamental axiom of any news service besides an open and unashamed propaganda outlet that, when in doubt, the government is always wrong.
Isn't this the way it should be?
Essentially, the media is the only way for the population to keep tabs on its government, unless you happen to live within easy commuting distance of your capital and enjoy spending your days nodding off in a stuffy public gallery during filibusters (or insert your own geographically appropriate quirky yet beloved parliamentary practice here). The odds are good, though, that you have better things to do. Much, much better things. We elect representatives so we can foist all that crap off onto them. No single person can stay on top of it all, not with the size and scope and obscenely bloated paper trails of a modern industrialised quasi-social democracy. That's why press coverage is so vitally important. No matter what the ideological position of a paper or channel, it is vitally important that they attack the government at every opportunity. Whatever they say, their readers or viewers will, unless they're terminally stupid, take with a certain grain of salt, knowing the source's ideological bias. Any attack on the government will be weighed accordingly. Spurious attacks will, hopefully, averaged over the entire population, be disregarded. But if the news outlets make no attacks at all, how is anyone ever to know anything is wrong? And something will be wrong; something is always wrong. If no-one criticises, nobody knows where to look. If everyone criticises, people can seek out the eigencriticisms, compare notes, work out what might be plausible and what's probably hysteria. It's this relentless criticism that stands between a vaguely representative system of government and a secretive self-interested oligarchy manipulating the populace through its tamed media outlets for its own venal gain (not unlike the Bush administration).
It is infinitely better to be critical on a hair-trigger than it is to give the government the benefit of the doubt. Isn't it?
This is exactly why I think the BBC was right to stand by Andrew Gilligan's story, despite its qualms about his intemperate language. If a journalist sees any significant possibility that their government is behaving abominably, it's their job to report it. That's what journalists are for, in some sense. They are our, the people's, tools for monitoring their, the government's, activities.
If you think the government is always on our side, and that 9-11 changed everything and that criticising the regime is unpatriotic and antisocial and that now is the time for all good men to rally round the banner and mangle their cliches...Then you're probably stupid.
If you give the Powers That Be a free pass, you get the PATRIOT Act.
Behold! According to Joan Walsh, writing for Salon.com, not only is Howard Dean a mighty political Juggernaut crushing all those who stumble beneath his relentless wheels (like the DLC, who are amazingly, wonderfully good at losing elections), but he is also sort of short, apparently, and a total stud muffin.
He's also sort of ... sexy, which I mention because it counteracts the associations folks have with short, which is supposedly not charismatic or presidential, and also probably because I'm shallow.
It just goes to show. Short is sexy.
I happened to visit Andrew Sullivan's site again today, because I'd heard he was turning on the Church of Rome. And he is. And that amuses me. Maybe next he'll turn on the Republicans. But that's neither here nor there. I noticed a teeny bit of commentary about the Kelly Affair in the UK, and it's the funniest darned thing. Sullivan has a positive loathing for the BBC, and attacks it every chance he gets. (Along with Paul Krugman.) Naturally, he's convinced that Lord Hutton's inquiry will be a huge black eye for the BBC. He links to this story from the Guardian on Andrew Gilligan's grilling by the Commons foreign affairs committee, just before Dr Kelly's suicide. The Guardian has seen transcripts; I love the way UK papers lace their stories with phrases like 'the Observer can reveal' and 'the Guardian has learned'. It's charming. Anyhow, members of the committee accused Gilligan of bald-faced distortion, of changing his story on his source's (Kelly's) fingering of Alastair Campbell as the source for a specific (false) claim in an intelligence dossier. The committee was accusing Gilligan of having cut this from whole cloth, of having put these words into his source's mouth. Sullivan's summation: 'Hard to get more damning than that.'
Now, the punchline! The esteemed Mr Sullivan didn't read past the first two paragraphs, which report only what the committee members claimed, not what Gilligan actually said. The rest of the story asserts completely the opposite: 'The transcripts reveal Mr Gilligan holding his ground that Mr Campbell was responsible for transforming the dossier in the final weeks prior to publication.'
Andrew Sullivan is no more a journalist than I am a bag of crisps.
I certainly don't know exactly what Dr Kelly said to Mr Gilligan. I'm inclined to think, however, that it was, for the most part, just as Mr Gilligan claims. Newsnight's Susan Watts also broke a very similar story about the Government's diddling of intelligence, also based on information from Dr Kelly, also casting doubt on the '45 minutes' claim, though not attributing it specifically to Campbell. Furthermore, Ms Watts recorded one of their conversations. Moreover, and so forth, it appears that Gilligan discussed with Dr Kelly which quotes from their conversation he could and could not use, prior to his report. The BBC has his notes, which are, with the recording and all the other records kept, a formidable body of documentary evidence. If the notes did not bear out Gilligan's claims, the BBC would be utterly sunk, and a lot of resignations would be in order, given that the top brass have all come out in Gilligan's defence. If the BBC is willing to stick to its guns, it probably has a solid case, and the inquiry will show it.
Vote Liberal Democrat, dammit.
The Vatican is shooting itself in the jigglies.
I'm sure you've seen news articles like this one in your paper of choice. It's entirely possible television news has even given it a mention; I don't watch television. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I did turn on Public Access twice, a few months ago.) The Pope has issued a venomously-worded denunciation of gay marriage, calling upon Catholic lawmakers everywhere to rally round the banner and stamp out gay marriage whenever it might rear its head. You can read the whole thing on the Vatican website. I won't quote from it, because it's grotesquely offensive. I find most fecal the passages saying that, of course, the Church condemns discrimination against homosexual persons; the lady, as it were, protests too much, methinks, given that such sentiments are immediately followed with the most despicable condemnations of homosexual acts and relationships, claims that gay people cannot love each other, claims that letting gay couples adopt children does palpable damage to the innocent tykes. (This last is especially funny, coming from an organisation whose clergy raped and molested over 1,000 in the Boston area alone.)
That being said, I don't think this bilious text will hurt gay rights in the least in the developed world. I am of the opinion that it can only further reduce the Vatican's dwindling influence, because there are a heck of a lot of Catholic legislators out there who don't agree with these hateful sentiments, and aren't going to obey. The Catholic Church as an institution is pretty horrid in a lot of ways. Catholics are not.
Jean Chretien is Catholic, as is his inevitable successor, Paul Martin. Both support the coming legalisation of gay marriage in Canada. Both have already announced the Vatican's outburst will not influence them in the least.
Charles Kennedy, leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats, is, at least nominally, a Catholic. He also likes David Bowie. By all accounts he's a dreadfully nice person, and it would delight me to no end to see him Prime Minister. He has also vocally courted the gay vote, supports Britain's upcoming pseudo-marriage partnerships, and even specifically mentions the transgendered. Britain, embrace him!
For that matter, also Catholic is the Conservative leader, Iain Duncan Smith. He's also 1/8 Japanese, apparently.) Even he has supported the partnerships. He couldn't switch sides now without another Tory revolt. (Michael Portillo was raised Catholic, too, and no matter what he might say, I'm convinced he's not only a total butt pirate but quite possibly Chris Morris's secret former love slave. Have you read the Paxman/Portillo slash? Making Light linked to it ages ago. I once saw Michael Portillo walking through a parking lot roundabouts Westminster Palace. His briefcase looked gay.)
Even Andrew Sullivan is Catholic.
Basically, what I'm saying is that Catholic politicians are now in a situation where they are practically and morally incapable of following the Vatican's line. It'll erode away the Church's remaining power, until the Vatican realises that it's become toothless and senile, a great gilded corpse. Minus the hyperbole, it means the Vatican can say all it wants, but the more it says, the less likely it becomes that anyone will listen. Which I think is an end devoutly to be desired.
Times change, and if the Church won't change with them, it condemns itself to irrelevance.
In my journeys across Blogistan, I've found a lot of politically active Democrat types who, whichever candidate they're favouring at the moment, say that they'd switch sides in a heartbeat if only General Wesley Clark would join the race. See, for example, this article from Not Geniuses, and the comments following, or sentiments from the Cattle Call threads at the Daily Kos. He is painted in glowingly generous terms as having much the same outsider appeal as Dean, only without any actual positions and with the whole general thing going on, making him an unstoppable election behemoth on foreign policy. And while he is a Rhodes Scholar and undoubtedly competent and all of that, I feel deep and serious reservations about him.
And the reason is quotes like these:
'Because there is no pattern, the fact that the Wesley Clark of today is the same one who toured Britain justifying the My Lai massacre is no more than a bizarre coincidence.'
I am having very little luck finding more concrete citations...Most of the 'Clark is a Vietnam apologist' statements I've found on the web have been on sites which at first glance do not seem, as it were, necessarily entirely reliable. But my gut instinct is to always think the worst of the military...
Can anyone confirm, deny, or clarify this for me?
The top story in all the UK news outlets I've checked has, for the past two days, been the death of Dr David Kelly, a microbiologist attached to the Ministry of Defence who had done work related to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (back when they existed). Dr Kelly appears to have committed suicide Thursday, slitting his wrist after leaving for a walk. Kelly was caught up in the polymorphous scandal hounding Tony Blair's government over the war with Iraq, which has evolved into an ongoing row with the BBC. On 29 May, the BBC's Andrew Gilligan reported on the Today programme that, according to an intelligence source, the Government's dossier on Iraq's weapons had been 'sexed up', a phrase which appears religiously in press coverage. The government denied it. Alastair Campbell, Blair's chief spin doctor, demanded an apology. The BBC stuck by its guns, from Gilligan up to Greg Dyke and the board of governors. The Ministry of Defence demanded the BBC reveal Gilligan's source. The BBC, quite rightly, refused. David Kelly had come forward to MoD officials and told them he had met with Gilligan, and in the MoD's attempts to get the BBC to spill, Kelly's name became public. He was questioned by the MoD, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and the Intelligence and Security Committee, who at the time concluded he could not be Gilligan's primary source; yet Downing Street still harped on the possibility, hoping the BBC would relent. He was bombarded by the media. The experience left him feeling that, in the words of his friend Tom Mangold, 'this was really not the kind of world he wanted to live in.' Now Dr Kelly is dead.
The coverage of this story has been extensive. The Observer has a lengthy article with biographical details. The Guardian has kept up with events as they've developed; I first read that Kelly's cause of death had been ascertained there. The Telegraph is now reporting that MoD officials have admitted to leaking Kelly's name to the press, directly contradicting earlier claims by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon. The Independent touches on Downing Street's and the BBC's denials of responsibility. The Times follows suit. The BBC News Online site, freakishly, appears to be offline at the moment (11.58pm Pacific).
It seems the press is more or less united across the ideological spectrum in its hostility towards the Blair Government. The papers are describing this as the biggest political crisis Blair has ever faced, and reported copiously the calls for his resignation already being hurled. The Government has behaved disgracefully. Whether or not one specific claim is true or false, that Campbell had personally ordered the assertion that Iraq could have chemical or biological weapons ready to fire with 45 minutes' notice added to the Government's dossier, which is what Campbell has tried to focus all the attention on, the fact remains that all the claims Blair and his team made about Iraqi weapons, based supposedly on intelligence reports, have proven false. Certainly intelligence was distorted on this side of the Atlantic; I think it overwhelmingly likely the same was done on the other. Not, perhaps, in terms of outright falsification, but certainly in terms of emphasis and qualified doubts. Downing Street simply has and had no fact whatsoever to use in its defence. Its claims about Iraq, for whatever reasons they were made, have been shown to be false. So it attempted to sidetrack the media by making the dispute with the BBC something personal, a vendetta against Campbell personally. Dr Kelly was brought forward to draw fire, and to help discredit this specific '45 minutes' claim in the hopes that that single claim would help smokescreen all of the other entirely false things Downing Street had claimed. Kelly's public interrogation before the parliamentary committee was a circus, mired in political manoevuring, badgering, leading questions, and personal agendas. How else would you describe a session full of questions like 'I reckon you're chaff. You've been thrown up to divert our probing. Have you ever felt like a fall guy?' Kelly's privacy, dignity, and, to even their shock, life were sacrificed by Blair's people in an attempt to whitewash their own image. Blair's culture of spin has destroyed a man's life.
The Government is being painted as the, or at least a, villain in the media on both the right and the left, and I believe this is entirely justified. I think the reputations of Campbell, Blair, and Hoon at the very least have been permanently destroyed. This wasn't a tragedy off in some foreign land, a war on someone else's soil, something distant and divorced from ordinary life. This was an intensely personal and human event, with a very British face, and so Orwellian; this ordinary and to all appearances well-liked and decent man, who played cribbage at his local, was abused by those in power, hounded and harassed until he took his own life. People aren't going to forget.
It is time Tony Blair resigned. He is not an evil man; he is not George Bush. He appears to act out of principle, not opportunism; he seems to believe the war with Iraq was the right and moral thing to do. But his good intentions cannot save him from reprehensible deeds and conduct. He has broken faith with the British people. He has behaved in a heavy-handed and undemocratic way. No amount of spin now can hide the consequences. The only way the government can regain the trust and clear mandate of the people is for Blair to step aside, and a new Prime Minister (Gordon Brown, alas) to make a stab at a fresh start.
Of course, that's no guarantee that Blair will resign. He could well hang on a good long while, his position growing steadily more uncomfortable and the Labour Party growing steadily more uneasy. Iain Duncan Smith is useless, so I don't think there's a serious danger of the Tories dislodging him in the next election. But sooner or later Blair will decide he's had enough, or Labour will decide it has had enough of him; Blair can leave now, and cite his conscience; or fight it out a few more years, and end tired and broken; or be forced out, and end in bitterness. If he stays, it will be all downhill for him.
Dr Kelly was used, callously and opportunistically. The parties involved must take responsibility, or these sad events will taint the political world indiscriminately.
(Note: I'm an American and I live in Seattle, so when I talk about anything to do with the UK, I reserve the right to get it completely wrong and talk out of my proverbial butt. You have been warned.)
UPDATE: The Toronto Star follows the lead of the UK press; the article's worth inspecting for the photograph of the front pages of dead-tree UK newspapers. The Mirror and the Daily Mail are particularly heavy-handed: 'Spun to Death' and 'Proud of Yourselves?' respectively, with Blair, Hoon and Campbell (I think) below the second.
Blair will not be effective or popular for the rest of his tenure, however long he decides to stay. The media will undermine him at every turn.
The numbers are starting to trickle in on the Democratic candidates' fundraising totals this quarter. (Speaking of numbers, let Teresa Nielsen Hayden point you towards healthy, educational fun with ancient mathematics.) The leader of the pack this quarter seems to be none other than your friend and mine, Howard Dean, MD. The good doctor took in over $7 million this past quarter, including over $800,000 in a single day on 30 June. Online. One of the things about Dean's campaign that excites me so is this potentially new model of fundraising he's using. Instead of trolling around to businessmen and lawyers and PACs and corporations for handouts, Dean has been getting his support, in many, many small parcels, from ordinary Americans. President Bush has raised about a hojillion times more by now, and will raise many hojillion times more before the election, it's true, but, like most candidates, his is whore money. Bush's financial support comes from the sort of people who can afford to drop $20,000 to give him the secret plutocrats' handshake at a dinner (where, of course, the working poor are used as furniture). With this sort of money coming in, Dean has proven himself to be a serious candidate: Dean is a bling-bling deity. He is also owned by his grassroots supporters. It's true. Without his activists not only would he have no campaign and no publicity, he'd have no money. He needs us. He is in our power. I like that in a candidate. I like that a lot. A whole lot. Bush is owned by big business. Most candidates of either party are. Dean, on the other hand, is owned by his posse.
I find this pleasantly socialistic.
Let me digress a moment, as it is Canada Day and all...The amount of money being spent on the presidential campaign here in the US is absolutely amazingly obscenely absurd by Canadian standards. As of a year ago, Sheila Copps had raised barely $50,000; bear in mind that the next Prime Minister will be chosen this November, so July 2002 would be roughly as far before the Liberal leadership conference as we are from the US presidential election now. Paul Martin, the lucre-heavy nabob, as of November had pulled in just over $1,000,000. (Canadian, of course.) Bush, on the other hand, is talking of amassing $200 million. The amount of money spent on US campaigns is disgusting, and will remain disgusting for the forseeable future.
I thought of trying to Cruise for Dean at Sunday's Pride march and rally, but some clever customers had beat me to it. There was a sizeable party of Dean partisans marching in the parade, and a whole Dean booth set up in Volunteer Park at the shindig following. Homosexuals, by and large, are enthused about Dean.
Even Andrew Sullivan has nice things to say about him, or at least not entirely nasty things. Which helps to demonstrate, I think, the sort of broad support Howard Dean could, with the right campaign, muster, should he gain the Democratic nomination. Unlike most of the other Dems, he's got a demonstrated ability to rouse and enthuse lefties like me and get us out working the streets. You might reply that Ralph Nader in 2000 had a bit of that, and look where it got him. (It wouldn't, alas, get Kucinich much further.) And you'd be right. The left can't swing an election in the US on its own, even though, in my humble opinion, the left is right, and everyone else is, well, wrong. (Yay socialism!) Dean can appeal to a wide spectrum of voters, however. He can court the NRA. He's not anti-business. He can reassure fiscal conservatives, with talk of balanced budgets and so forth. He can even wring grudging words of faint praise from intellectually-bankrupt Bush-whored sham pundits with nothing of substance left to contribute who still can't stop talking. Dean has something for everyone. Who knows, it might even help him out to play the gay card. Not actively. Dean's very supportive of gay rights, and asking him to be more outspoken on that point would be unlikely to bring him greater support and might turn off some of the less liberal potential voters. But he's made his position clear, that he is for equal rights. What if he were to confront Bush on the issue? Bush has been awfully, weaselly careful not to take a really firm stand on anything gay. He's refusing to involve himself in Frist's calls for a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage, just as he tried to steer clear of Santorum's man-on-dog fracas before. Bush still tries to pretend he's compassionate, you see. At the same time, he has to keep his Religious Reich freakshow happy, too. If someone could maneuver him into taking some firm unequivocal position, he'd risk alienating elements either of the center or the right: either the Average Joes would see exactly what a right-wing tool and creep Bush actually is, or the Fundies would yell bloody murder about him straying from the Holy Path. Either way, it could only harm him.
Just a thought.
MoveOn.org has announced the results of its online primary. MoveOn.org had pledged to throw its support--its membership, and several million dollars' worth of proven fundraising potential; these are not small new potatoes mashed with rosemary and garlic--behind a Democratic candidate who took more than 50% of the votes in the primary. Given that there are still nine declared candidates, it seemed unlikely any candidate would win this round. I am happy to announce, however, that my man Howard Dean came close, with 43.87%! Given some more time and outreach and such, I feel a nice warm glowy confidence that Dean can capture MoveOn's support in the next round of voting. These results also show, by the way, that the wingnuts of FreeRepublic.com weren't able to bugger the voting. So ha.
You may ask yourself (where is that large automobile?) why an old-fashioned Old Labour socialist like myself would be so keen on Dean, when it is readily apparent, despite the bizarre counterfactual spins the American media like to put on things, that Dean is not remotely left-wing. He's firmly centrist, by any reasonable standard. He's pro-gun, anti-spending, in favour of the death penalty in certain cases, opposed to big defense cutbacks, essentially pro-business...Whereas I am, well, a socialist. I like nationalised utilities. Is that so wrong? And I like Canada's health care system. I like the decriminalisation of cannabis, and safe-injection sites for intravenous drug users. I like a nice rousing rendition of William Blake's 'Jerusalem'. Ideologically, I'm much closer to Kucinich than I am to Dean. Why, then, am I a Dean partisan?
Politics is the art of the possible, as someone once said.
Democracy is about compromise. There are a lot of ideologies out there, and only one president (at a time, at least). If you stick strictly to your ideological framework in every particular, you will wind up with either all of the pie, or, far more likely, none of the pie. Not even those little crumbly bits of crust people leave behind on their plates. Kucinich is, unfortunately, a no-pie sort of candidate. There are too many conservative voters in this country to make a real leftist candidate viable. Even if he were elected, the sort of policies he and I like, like socialised medicine, simply won't be passed. The health care industry wouldn't allow it. I can't have all the pie, no matter what. So I have to settle for one piece of the pie, instead. Preferably with ice cream on top. Howard Dean is willing to give me some pie. He's flexible. He's willing to change his mind. But he isn't willing to bend over. He's also willing to fight. You've probably noticed that already. Dean can motivate and impassion people; look at the grassroots support he's conjured up. He isn't a tool.
Fundamentally, I think the country would be a lot better off with Howard Dean as its president than it is now. I think a Dean presidency would defend my interests and foster an acceptably congenial national atmosphere. I think Dean would be good for civil rights, and I don't think he'd push intrusive Big Brotherly measures like TIA and PATRIOT. I think he'd be good for diplomacy; his America would be less of a bull in a china shop. And he wouldn't pursue a scorched-earth economic policy to raze Social Security and the few other bastions of socialism left in America. Admittedly, a lot of these are negatives, things he wouldn't do; Kerry or even Gephard (who I think is a tool) or most of the other Dems would also not do these things. I'd happily vote for Kerry, or somewhat less happily but still pretty darned happily vote for any other Dem, even, although here I wouldn't be very happy at all, Lieberman. But I think Dean has the most potential. Dean could make things happen. He's got the verve, the oomph, the thingy. Kerry, my second choice, has been low on thingy lately. Kucinich, alas, has no thingy at all: he favours things I like, but he couldn't make them happen. I think he could be a lot more productive staying in Congress, though I want him to stay in the presidential campaign to get his views heard and add a genuine spark of leftism.
But until Art (who has an MA in maths from Columbia University, by the way) enters the fray, I'm sticking with Howard Dean.
I'm hungry, and Dean has the thingy to get me some pie.
Behold Billmon's Dao of American Politics. Take the time to read it all. It's a bit good.
It does tend rather to crush one's tiny delicate blossom of hope. Dialectical struggles of the sort Billmon describes, and the sort that'll be required to shove the current crop of conservatives out of power, can run to decades. Dubya and his heirs might well retain the throne until I'm old enough to run for president myself. Or longer.
(Vote Hog in 2016! A pig in every pot, and pot in every pig!)
It goes well with Ken MacLeod's first novel, The Star Fraction, with its healthy doses of Trotskyism and revolution...
The Supreme Court has struck down Texas's anti-sodomy laws in a ruling which appears, in fact, to invalidate all anti-sodomy laws in the US, and about jolly time, too. The vote was 6-3, with, as you might expect, Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas dissenting. For a good look at just how creepy these three are, the AP reports Scalia as saying that the Supreme Court "has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda," while Clarence Thomas believes in a strict interpretation of the Constitution and therefore finds that Americans have no right to privacy. Read the opinion here, delivered by Kennedy. Quite a good opening:
Liberty protects the person from unwarranted govern- ment intrusions into a dwelling or other private places. In our tradition the State is not omnipresent in the home. And there are other spheres of our lives and existence, outside the home, where the State should not be a domi- nant presence. Freedom extends beyond spatial bounds. Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes free- dom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct. The instant case involves liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions.
Perhaps, if Clarence Thomas can still claim Americans have no right to privacy, we ought to legislate one...Given programmes like Total Information Awareness and Ashcroft's PATRIOT Act, the sheer quantity of sensitive information on our citizenry held in various databases, encryption issues, RIAA lawsuits, Orrin Hatch's desire to blow up my computer, and so forth, a constitutional amendment guaranteeing a certain freedom from physical or virtual intrusion might not be a bad idea.
ASIDE: How dreadful a job have the US forces done securing Iraq's nuclear materials? Greenpeace has been rounding up and returning looted radioactives for them. This story is confirmed by the Guardian:
A team from Greenpeace handed American troops a large, abandoned canister of "yellow cake" - low-enriched uranium powder used as raw material for radioactive fuel.
Perhaps George Bush's theme song ought to be 'The Sun is Burning'...
Horlicks: 1. A sort of malted milk beverage powder thingy consumed by old English people to help them sleep. 2. A mess. 3. What Alastair Campbell made of Britain's WMD dossiers, according to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. 4. Insert Andrew Sullivan joke here.
If anyone wants to start a chapter of Cruising for Dean here in Seattle, I noticed as I walked past the other day that the notorious gay Turkie 1 cruisy video sex humping bar Manray (Man-spray) has a Howard Dean poster up on its window already...It is ripe for the plucking.
1. Turkie (tûrk): a dirtie beast who engages in fowl and unclean activities, including, but not limited to, gobbling, the consumption of pork rinds, telemarketing, and tawdry bar hookups. See also Turkie Cock.
Today I was thinking yet again about my lack of enthusiasm for being American. And I was thinking yet again how much nicer it would be to be British, for in Britain, despite Tony Blair's best efforts, the levels of ambient evil are still significantly lower. Or Canadian; I'd enjoy being Canadian. Even if their Prime Minister does speak out of the side of his mouth like a Prohibition Chicago gangster. (Any Canadians out there who quite reasonably think the sovereignty of the British monarch over Canada ought to end are invited to contemplate my humble self as her replacement. I'm small, I wouldn't make any fuss, and I don't cost much.)
That in turn led me to ask myself this: what, exactly, is it I find so attractive about the UK?
That being a somewhat overly broad question, I later asked myself this: what is it I look for in a country?
That too being of unmanageable size, I finally asked myself this: what ought a government do for its people? Governments don't exist for their own sake, after all. We have governments instead of anarchy because governments can do things for us that, at least at this stage in human social evolution, anarchy can't, like build roads and keep people from stealing our Playstations and so forth. Governments are utilitarian things, there to ensure we have a congenial environment to get on with our lives in. (I like to end sentences with prepositions sometimes. Also propositions.) What sort of things should a government be expected to do, then? There's the obvious stuff, like national defense, police forces, roads, post offices...But national defense gets far too much press in the US. While preventing terrorist attacks is certainly a Good Idea, there are a lot of other Good Ideas a reasonable government ought to act on, in no particular order...
1. Universal health insurance. The unemployed, the low-income, and particularly children ought to be guaranteed a reasonable level of coverage.
2. Accessible higher education. Deferred loans or outright grants ought to be available to send anyone of reasonable competence to a public university.
3. Welfare. This is not a dirty word. Even Otto von Bismarck saw the need for some provision for the unemployed, the elderly, and those unable to work.
4. Corporate regulation. Big Evil Corporations should not be able to dick over the public. For example, manufacturers shouldn't be allowed to shit into rivers. Nor should firms be allowed to dominate the media and impose their ideologies on the news. Nor should they force us to call in and activate our copies of Windows XP. See also #7. Things like water, power, and rail ought to be in the public sector, not the private.
5. Freedom to enjoy. Governments should ensure that people can rave, dance, listen to rock and roll, fornicate, drink, listen to gangsta rap, play supremely violent video games, watch porn, watch Ashton Kutcher, have sexual intercourse with frozen dead chickens, smoke reefer, watch old episodes of Doctor Who, not go to church, and generally do whatever it takes to keep themselves amused and extract a decent amount of pleasure from life, so long as this doesn't hurt anyone else. Government is not, or should not be, in the morality business.
6. Human rights. Government should be in the business of ensuring everyone gets fair and equal access to the opportunities society offers, regardless of their sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disabilities, body piercings, age, socialism, unpatriotic character, and other factors I haven't the time to enumerate. Women have the right to seek an abortion; gays have the right to marry and, if they cut the mustard, adopt.
7. Freedom of information, and the right to privacy. Government should also be in the business of ensuring that the free flow of information is not disrupted, either by the government itself, or by corporations; and that the citizenry are free from unreasonable intrusions into their private lives. Strong encryption should be publicly encouraged. Total Information Awareness and the DMCA should not. People have been making mix tapes for decades; what was Napster but the next logical step?
8. More grant money for mathematicians. We're cheap. A mathematician, after all, is a machine for turning controlled subtances into theorems.
This is by no means an exhuastive list, nor are Canada and Britain necessarily getting top marks on all of these. But American politicians have been showing a disturbing lack of enthusiasm for most of these ideas lately. Even my preferred presidential candidate, Howard Dean, doesn't go nearly as far as I would in support of universally healthy well-educated socially secure anti-monopolistic pot-smoking equally-protected file-sharing mathematics. Dean is solidly centrist; only in America could anyone call him 'left-wing' with a straight face. Far better a centrist, though, than a trained monkey bent on taking America back to the Gilded Age.
These are things that I consider important. America's leadership doesn't, nor does a large segment of its population. This is why my country and I don't get on very well.
Jan O. Karlsson, the Swedish Minister for Migration, has got himself into trouble after calling the American President «that fucking Texas geezer».
It is quite a short article, but even so, the phrase 'that fucking Texas geezer' appears as the headline and also three distinct times in the body. By my calculations, including the headline but not the by-line, the phrase 'that fucking Texas geezer' accounts for 5.44% of the total wordage of the article. If we include this sentence but nothing beyond, then the phrase 'that fucking Texas geezer' accounts for 16.33% of this posting. This does not include the headline. If anyone thinks I ought to include my headline, I am entirely likely to chance it to 'that fucking Texas geezer' just to keep my numbers up. I think it would be fun to see how often one could work the phrase 'that fucking Texas geezer' into conversation. In quotation marks, of course. If one says it out loud, one is obliged to make quotation marks in the air: 'that fucking Texas geezer.' See?
If you do not care for the phrase 'that fucking Texas geezer', I am told that the phrase 'no-talent ass-clown' is also an acceptable one.
Did you know that 'that fucking Texas geezer' is an anagram of 'acreage Fez text tug knish'? I'll bet you didn't.
This news snippet comes to me via Why Do They Call Me Mr Happy?, who also points me to another online philosophy test, Taboo. I said it was morally acceptable to have sexual intercourse with frozen dead chickens, and then eat them. I am a very bad vegetarian. But a philosophically consistent one.
Scrolling down, I find that this Mr Happy runs a heck of a fun blog. He's even got a Chris Morris quote in his sidebar.
Why couldn't I have been British?
I'm sure it's 'that fucking Texas geezer's' fault somehow.
I am overwhelmingly fond of the Guardian's Simon Hoggart's reports on the doings of Parliament:
Poor old Gordon Brown. They laughed at him. They didn't use to do that. Once they watched him with awe, even with reverence - the Iron Chancellor, keeper of the cement piggy bank, now more like some aged Scottish dominie pursued down the street by his former pupils, jeering and tugging the tails of his coat.
It's not surprising. His statement on the euro yesterday was painful. He doesn't like the euro. The very idea makes his skin crawl. I thought of a middle-aged man asked by the neighbours if he and his good lady would like to try wife-swapping. Every instinct is against it, but he doesn't want to give offence. "Well, that sounds like a fascinating idea, but I don't know if the time is right. I find that my stamp collection is absorbing most of my leisure these days..."
At one point poor Iain Duncan Smith began coughing dreadfully, and you can bet some of his back benchers hoped it was Sars.
Much more entertaining than C-SPAN.
Can you imagine Tom Daschle standing up in the Senate to call George Bush a turkie-fucker?
I didn't think so.
According to Robert Baer, formerly of the CIA, in an article published in the Atlantic Monthly, the Saudi royals, who now number some 30,000, have something like $1 trillion invested in the US stock market.
You should read the article. Saudi Arabia is scary. But you probably knew that already.
Satirical roguery from Jesus' General, describing the next target in Bush's War on Terra:
One hundred and fifty years of shame The case for war against Pender Island, British Columbia (Part 1)
On June 15, 1859, those who hate America because we're free sent a pig into Lyman Cutler's garden on San Juan Island in Oregon Territory. That pig was a message. A message of disrespect for all we stand for. Lyman Cutler answered that message in the only way a true American can. He shot the pig. Thus began what became to be know as the Pig War.
The British terrorists moved across the Haro Strait to Pender Island. Their progeny live their today, smugly taunting America with their pigs and gardens. We may have the land, but the Pender Islanders have our stolen honor and they mean to keep it. That's why they have acquired weapons of mass destruction and have opened terrorist training camps. More on that in future installments.
Scroll up for vital information on the Pender Islanders' diabolical clams.
As you have no doubt noticed, I haven't been blogging much lately. The academic year is coming to a climax here at the University of Washington, meaning, if you happen to be an undergraduate, here or elsewhere, all of your TAs, like myself, are grotesquely overworked, and you should drop down on your knees and grovel with thanks that we have time to help you review for your final exam at all, grovel and squirm like the lowest of insects at the feet of Baphomet.
Since Memorial Day, I've been more or less oblivious to the outside world, only sporadically keeping up with news and the doings of the blogosphere and suchlike. I now find myself with a few days between my last homework assignment and my first final exam, so, for kicks, I thought I might pull my head out of sand for a moment and see what the world's been up to in my absence.
It seems increasingly likely that there really were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that, moreover, the intelligence services of the western powers knew it, and that, gosh, the Bush Administration and its allies just didn't care.
Paul Krugman is very cross.
'One reason I find some of the grand-standing over WMDs increasingly preposterous is that it comes from people who really want to avoid the obvious: more and more it's clear that the liberation of Iraq was a moral obligation under any circumstances.'
Hold on. A large glowing rainbow has been projected across my living-room floor. Either I have just spontaneously become three times gayer than before, or something is up.
All is well. It's the sun refracting through my roommate's salamander tank.
As I was saying...
I think perhaps I might have figured out why it is the things Andrew Sullivan says are so often at variance with the objective external world. The crucial discovery was this: Andrew Sullivan has a beard.
Suddenly everything became ever so clear. Andrew Sullivan's complete divorce from fact and reality isn't due to his ideological blindness, lack of journalistic integrity, and burning desire to felch his way into the chummy ranks of America's ruling junta. Far from it. Andrew Sullivan is completely honest and integral and is not putting any ideological spin whatsoever on the news he reports (secondhand). It's just that he reports the news from his home universe.
It is a well-known fact that every universe has a mirror image, which physicists term a 'barbiverse', which is its complete moral opposite. In the barbiverse, the good and virtuous of our universe become evil and base; the liberator becomes the oppressor; Leonard Nimoy becomes a pop star; and of course vice-versa. Evil becomes good, and deceit becomes truth, and cynical manipulation becomes idealism. Also, and this is a dead giveaway, people have beards.
The necessary conclusion is almost too obvious to state.
Somehow, somewhere, our universe's Andrew Sullivan, a Buddhist socialist who publishes scholarly works on sociology and raises rabbits, changed places with his barbiverse double, and this double has taken up a career as a columnist and blogger, faithfully reporting all the news from his native cosmos. In his world, as I said, all things are morally inverted. George Bush is an honest, compassionate defender of liberty, and Donald Rumsfeld is a selfless servant of the people; and Iraq was actually a threat, harbouring al-Qaeda forces left and right, and aggressively pushing its nuclear weapons research programme, and threatening the United Provinces of Vinland itself with cataclysm and destruction. Just in the nick of time did Bush thwart Saddam Hussein's insane plans for world domination, which had already paralysed Europe and Asia, and in a daring last-minute action Bush himself fought the Iraqi dictator hand-to-hand to keep his finger off of the fatal button, thus saving all of mankind from utter annihilation. The UP was only too willing to fund a complete reconstruction of the afflicted land; collateral damage had been kept to an absolute minimum by the timely intervention of Vinlandic forces as the Iraqi regime began to crumble and violence and anarchy threatened to sweep the streets, museums, telephone exchanges, and water treatment plants. Freedom and democracy blossomed like daisies upon the rejoicing and prosperous land of Iraq.
Which is why Sullivan appears so confused, when he encounters media from this universe, and why he has to twist the facts so to fit what he knows to be the truth.
It's all so clear now.
Post Scriptum: I am aware that I, too, have a beard. But do not be deceived. I am not from the barbiverse; I am actually from the oculo-barbiverse. For, just as every universe has its inverted, bearded dual, so also does every universe have another, equally inverted, oculiverse double, distinguished by the presence of eyepatches. The oculi-barbiverse, being doubly inverted, is indistinguishable from the universe you and I currently inhabit, barring, of course, the beards and eyepatches. I just lost my eyepatch somewhere. I'm always losing things. Memory like a thingy, you know, full of holes. You send water through them. Thus everything I say is reliable and accurate. So there.
Much has been said in days and years past to the detriment of boredom. Some scandalous wags (not wangs) seem to find in its antithesis, 'excitement' or 'excrement' if you will, something devoutly to be desired. (HogBlog is thinking now of a Shakespeare line HogBlog cannot quite recall at the moment, to speak in the third person without use of pronouns.) Boredom is something to be fought to these poor, sick bastards, a disease to be cured, a pox, if you will. To such people as these, This Modern World must seem heaven-sent, for truly we live in Interesting Times. If you will.
Why does boredom have such a bad reputation?
Given that Interesting Times typically involve political turmoil, crusades to fight, dragons to slay, calls to arms, heroic rescues, divers alarums, war, chaos, destruction, death, burnt toast, left luggage, blood, sweat, tears, urine, semen...What's the attraction? Really?
Who wants to live in a time of upheaval and turmoil?
The proper state for any society really worth living in, if you ask HogBlog--and HogBlog knows that you didn't--is a sort of muddling, good-intentioned stability in which uninspiring and possibly unimaginative yet competent political figures with no definite agenda guide the nation through a long, dull national nightmare of peace and prosperity, while the great masses of the populace go about their diurnal lives in a deeply noncombative yet quietly progressive tide of advancing liberal sentiment, paying heed to politics only when it suits them, secure in the knowledge that their elected representatives, without their own personal constant supervision, will get things, if not quite right, then not wholly wrong; or sufficiently right for most tastes, will stumble perhaps but at least when they fall they will fall forward, gaining inch by awkward inch.
In short, in times of boredom We The People can exercise our fundamental God-given right to political apathy, which, really, is what makes life worth living.
Politics should not be a major concern to anyone not directly involved in governance, most of the time. And sometimes not even to them. The State, after all, is nothing but a convenient fiction. There is no entity out there called America, a living thinking creature with passions, desires, goals, fears, hobbies, parent-teacher meetings. (Unless you're living in a John Crowley novel.) This fiction exists solely for the comfort and convenience of We The People. In Interesting Times such as these, less boring and less benevolent regimes often gloss over this fact, bludgeoning an unprepared populace over their collective head into obedience with the Idea of the State, when the reason the State exists at all is to serve Us. Remember? To handle things like the post, sanitation, roadways, schools, law enforcement, environmental preservation, public libraries, Fermilab, the National Endowment for the Arts? Not in fact to shit the Patriot Act into our mouths?
Why should the concerns of this fictitious State trump those of actual, breathing people, We The People who exist, breathe, love, excrete, consume, read, build, who watch hockey, who pay outrageous box office prices to see X2, who make the society the State claims to represent? We who do the things that make history happen? Who live the lives that will become the future's stories, and make stories out of the lives of the past? History is not a triumphal parade of generals, battles, dates, and revolutions; history is the story told by women and men, written by women and men, for women and men. We are not its slaves, but its parents.
The important things are the details of small, ordinary human lives.
A boring State is a safe State. Look to the north. Look to Canada. What do you see? You see what America could have been under President Gore: with a federal leadership that might be a bit of a joke, but a harmless one, quiet and prosperous, its currency at unprecendented highs, with a firm international standing, and liberal ideals slowly seeping over the land despite everyone's best efforts.
Compare that to what the US currently has. The shouting, the rhetoric, the Republican Attack Machine, the paranoia, the patriotism, the propaganda...
One wants to grab America by the shoulder and say 'Dude, just chill out already. Dude.'
America would be a much happier and less hostile place if our elected leadership and unelected presidential frauds were required by law to smoke pot on a weekly basis. Say, on Friday nights. They were tailor-made for pot-smoking, as Dan Savage describes it in his book Skipping Towards Gomorrah, in which Mr Savage theorises that marijuana acts like a vacation compressed into the space of a single weekend for vast legions of overworked, under-relaxed American toilers and wayfarers. They'd be so much mellower, and less likely to oppress us ruthlessly beneath the iron heels in their velvet jackboots.
In conclusion, then, three cheers for boredom, a sure sign of a well-managed state!
Politics can be boring. Even to politicians. Despite his rumoured grudge against Paul Martin, or possibly his rumoured grudge against John Manley (no-one's quite sure), Prime Minister Jean Chretien preferred to watch an NHL hockey game to the first Liberal debate.
Chretien jokingly weighed in on a controversy around the Saturday debate between Paul Martin, Finance Minister John Manley and Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, saying he frequently switched to an NHL playoff game between the Ottawa Senators and the Philadelphia Flyers. "I watched TV, sometimes I switched to hockey, I came back, I'm like any other citizen," Chretien said following his weekly cabinet meeting.
When asked whether he found the viewing boring, Chretien responded, "the hockey, no."
Which is entirely reasonable. And displays exactly what I like about Canadian politics right now. It's safe. Even if Paul Martin has himself crowned Emperor of all the Canadas, the absolute worst-case scenario is still, well, not bad. Whoever becomes the next Prime Minister, they won't try to block gay marriage, or crack down on recreational drug use--which, in Thomas Pynchon's Mason&Dixon, is endorsed by no less a personage than George Washington himself--or privatise everything, or introduce a Total Information Awareness programme headed by a convicted Iran-Contra conspirator, or fight a series of unjust and cynical wars for political gain, or prostitute the nation to mega-corporations...
In short, Canadians have nothing to be afraid of. While, down south, George Bush is one of the worst things ever to happen to America, and there's unfortunately a very real chance we'll have four more years of him. And then quite possibly four years of his chosen successor, Jeb. And then plagues of locusts, and waters turning to blood, and the star Wormwood plunging from the heavens, and dead Reagan-era conservatives rising from the grave to take up important Cabinet posts...Living under the Bush regime is somewhat worse than having a cactus forcibly inserted up one's rectum. A cactus covered in poison. One is just waiting to see which of one's moral and intellectual orifices they'll violate next. It is very much like Kafka, I think. In Kafka--one sees it even in the comparatively lighthearted Amerika, which I've been reading--authority figures are all arbitrary, cruel, vengeful, petty, and out to get you. You. Especially you. Even if you're just the tiniest cog in their vast bureaucratic machine--it's hilarious what a baroque Hapsburg monstrosity Kafka conjures up for a simple hotel--and you're hardly worth the notice of your superiors, they will still take time out of their busy schedules to crush you personally and absolutely. Kafka populates Amerika with capricious wrestling rich girls, grotesquely fat businessmen, Head Porters with imagined grievances, policemen who ask for papers like something from the Soviet Union, manipulative Frenchmen forcing one into servitude...All sorts of authority figures for his poor hero Karl to run up against and be tormented by. He is at the mercy of anyone with money, or power, or strength. Even his uncle, Senator Jacob, is cold and distant and controlling, and casts him out in the end.
Kafka would've found the Bush regime very familiar, I think.
Politics ought to be boring. Politics ought not to inspire massive protests, or fear. Politics is not supposed to be about passions. It's supposed to be about muddling through and keeping people more or less not entirely displeased. Quietly and efficiently. Without interfering overmuch in people's lives.
Good politics are boring politics.
As I was standing at a bus stop today, I noticed this story on the front page of the Seattle Times:
Majority of antiquities feared lost found at Iraq museum
By Christine Spolar
BAGHDAD — The vast majority of the Iraqi trove of antiquities feared stolen or broken has been found inside the National Museum in Baghdad, according to American investigators who compiled an inventory of the ransacked galleries over the weekend.
I was thrilled. The looting of the National Museum and burning of the National Library were senselessly obscene acts, and while one can hardly compare a loss of things to a loss of lives, or an Iraqi boy's loss of limbs graphically and horrifically described, it is still not insignificant. The cultural destruction wasn't even a malicious act; it wasn't collateral damage, or a regrettable necessity, or in any way remotely justified by any larger military necessity. It was a display of supreme indifference. If one US tank had agreed to move about 60 meters, or a few American soldiers had been stationed to prevent looting, it would never have happened. The US forces just didn't care enough to make the effort.
Imagine, then, my delight! Having forgotten to synchronise my Palm Pilot this morning, I couldn't search for more information until returning here to the Halls of HogBlog, where I pulled up the story. And then I noticed something very, very unsettling:
Thirty-eight significant pieces, not tens of thousands, are now believed to be missing. Among them is a single display of Babylonian cuneiform tablets that accounts for nine missing items.
The single most valuable missing piece is the Vase of Warka, a white limestone bowl dating from 3000 B.C.
Investigators broke through hastily constructed cinder-block barricades Saturday to search five large storage rooms in the museum's basement. Only one of the rooms had been broken into, and even there hundreds of cardboard storage boxes were intact. About 90 plastic boxes, containing perhaps 5,000 less-valuable items, were missing.
Investigators are concluding that little damage occurred to antiquities at the museum. They have counted 22 damaged items, including 11 clay pots on display in corridors. Most of those damaged artifacts are restored pieces and can be restored again, museum officials told investigators.
...After reading which, I came to a much less heartening conclusion: it's propaganda. Which is not to say it isn't true, insofar as its figures are concerned. Googling, I find the story popping up in quite a few papers around the US. All quoting the same figures, with are much better than I'd feared at first. All, however, with headlines and spins on the story that are patently false. In the sense of not being true. From the headline and the tone of the article, one would conclude that the Museum came through the war largely intact, yes? Very few items stolen or destroyed? Not, perhaps, such a big deal as all that, hmm?
Which is completely false. The article, first of all, seems to think the only important artifacts are the monetarily valuable artifacts. That's irrelevant here. These items aren't important because they're worth money. They're important because of their historical significance. Note how offhandedly the article mentions that, by the way, about 5,000 items were definitely taken from one storeroom, but it's okay because they weren't that expensive anyhow? Bunk. Shash, even. We can't exactly walk out to the shops and buy another one, can we? 5,000 artifacts is a not inconsiderable figure, and all of them are important. This figure of 5,000 is also by no means established, given that the Museum's catalogues and documents were all destroyed, and the surviving copies abroad may be out of date, and the Museum staff, who are in a much better position to make judgements than American teams, have yet to inspect the vaults thoroughly. And the damage to the Museum is soft-pedalled to a shocking degree. While it is true that the Museum's collection is in much better shape than was feared (keen use of the passive voice, eh?), the damage was significant and still cannot be fully judged. What's more, since the Museum's files and records have all been destroyed, it'll be extremely difficult to reconstruct what, exactly, the Museum had in its collection before the war, and what has gone missing.
So if anyone tells you that the Museum is just fine, take off your shoe and beat them about the head and shoulders with it until they cry for their Magna Mater. Figuratively speaking.
And complain to the news agencies which are trying to sanitise a fat bloated sickly American blunder, or whitewash that seething pus-filled boil on the anus of the Iraq War. They do a disservice to human civilisation.
PS Andrew Sullivan smells like poop, too.
It's official! May 1 is Loyalty Day!
Because May Day is for dirty Commies.
Our children need to know that our Nation
--'Our Nation'...Sort of like 'Our Father'. As in, 'Our Father which art in heaven'. Only more patriotic--
is a force for good in the world, extending hope and freedom
and cluster bombs
Especially others who live on top of rich and bountiful oil fields.
By learning about America's history, achievements, ideas, and heroes,
but not the Godless heresy of evolution,
our young citizens will come to understand even more why freedom is worth protecting.
We must defend against all heinous unarmed parties our God-given freedom to be monitored by government agencies without regard for privacy or civil liberties. It's freedoms like that which separate the decent, noble United States of America from the filthy and degenerate Canadians.
God bless America.
Deborah Wolfe, a Canadian citizen who was just breast-feeding her son and changing his diaper while en route between Houston and Vancouver, says her "subversive" actions led to her being threatened with detainment, RCMP involvement and legal charges for terrorist action against a U.S. citizen in international airspace while on an American flight during a time of war.
Wolfe began to nurse the baby again, using her own bib and blanket. She says the man got out of his seat, walked over to hers and stood staring at her. She says she approached him afterward and twice asked if he had a problem with her feeding her son.
"He marched past me and to the very back of the cabin to talk to the flight attendant," she wrote. "He told her, 'This woman just assaulted me.' ... He then explained that the asking of two questions by a 'foreign national' in international airspace made him feel the victim of terror and as such he wanted to file an assault charge."
She says the flight attendants also began to call her and her travelling party "foreign nationals in international airspace on an international flight during a time of war." And she was informed both of the complaint and that it could be upgraded to a Level 3, which meant possible mandatory detainment by U.S. authorities for 24 hours, RCMP involvement and criminal charges for an act of war upon an American.
Fly Air Canada. They have prettier planes.
PS...Turtablism is, I'm told, 'the act of spinning vinyl records on turntables and "scratching."'
In an interview published yesterday with the Associated Press, Rick Santorum, the third highest ranking Republican in the Senate, compared homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery. I am outraged by Senator Santorum's remarks.
That a leader of the Republican Party would make such insensitive and divisive comments-comments that are derogatory and meant to harm an entire group of Americans, their friends and their families-is not only outrageous, but deeply offensive.
The silence with which President Bush and the Republican Party leadership have greeted Sen. Santorum's remarks is deafening. It is the same silence that greeted Senator Lott's offensive remarks in December. It is a silence that implicitly condones a policy of domestic divisiveness, a policy that seeks to divide Americans again and again on the basis of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation.
It is a policy that must end, and it is a policy that will end with a Dean Presidency. This Saturday, April 26th, marks the third anniversary of the signing of the Civil Unions bill in Vermont. I signed that bill because I believe no human being should be treated with less dignity than others simply because that person belongs to a different category or group. I also believe that, as Americans, it is our duty to speak up when others are treated wrongly-especially when others are treated wrongly by a member of the Senate leadership.
I urge all Americans, and members of both parties, to join me in condemning Sen. Santorum's remarks. They are unacceptable, and silence is an unacceptable response. By standing up against such divisive rhetoric-whether one is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight-we can begin to achieve the American ideal of equal rights for all people.
There are, indeed, differences between Democrats and Republicans. I am delighted beyond measure that Democrats are finally articulating them. How any homosexual could even dream of supporting the bigoted and homophobic leadership of the Republican Party is beyond me.
In fact, Texas law allows anyone to have sex with their dog in private, if they are so inclined. (In the same year that Texas passed its current anti-sodomy law for gays, it repealed the law against bestiality.) You can even have same-gender gay sex with your dog and the law in Texas will protect you. It's only if you're gay and want to have consensual sex with another adult in private that the law draws the line. Now, recall what Santorum specifically said. His concern was that allowing gay people to have sexual privacy would lead to "the right to anything." Anything. Yep. That means for Santorum, the right to practice bestiality in the privacy of your own home isn't part of the slippery slope toward Gomorrah but a gay couple's private relationship is. And the awful thing is that I don't think I'm misreading him. I think he thinks that a gay man's sex life is the moral equivalent of -- no, worse than -- an animal's. And this is the young face of the Republican Party in the Senate.
(And if my citing Sullivan in a favourable light should shock you, remember: 'The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.' Though elsewhere Sullivan does grossly exaggerate, as usual, the impact MP George Galloway's possible payoffs by Iraq might have on the anti-war movement. Sullivan calls the repercussions 'epic'...I don't see how, exactly. Galloway's always been a bit creepy; from where I'm sitting, it seems as if the inspirational anti-war voices in Parliament have been Robin Cook and Tam Dalyell. Robin Cook has given some kick-ass speeches since quitting the Government, which you might still be able to watch on the BBC News site. Anyhow, the point is, Galloway isn't in the driver's seat of the anti-war movement, and anti-war people can be creepy, too. Don't conflate one individual with the movement; that's like thinking Santorum speaks for Sullivan because they're both pro-war, to bring this back to a semblance of topicality.)
PS: Hog. Do other people use 'hog' as a slang term for 'penis'? Is it just an Iowa thing? Is it just a 'me and two other guys I know' thing?
So I was all set to put myself to bed early this evening and sleep the sleep of the just, when I suddenly realised I'd forgotten something. The University of Washington has decided, with the world in the state it's in, that we should have a time of reflection over the war in Iraq this Wednesday, appropriately called the Time of Reflection: The War in Iraq. As the colon suggests, this is apparently a sequel to a previous time of reflection held in October of 2001. As the e-mail informs me,
As you know, instructors are encouraged to use class time on that day to address related issues. Although they are not required to alter their course content for the day, faculty are encouraged to use the lens of their disciplinary expertise to explore these issues where appropriate.
And technically I am an instructor. So technically, since I only meet with my students on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I am encouraged to possibly consider exploring some of the issues raised by the Iraq war today, even, potentially, if I so chose. Which is tempting, in one way; some of my foxy, foxy pupils in quarters past have come to class wearing 'Not My President' T-shirts emblazoned with unflattering George Bushes, so I'd be unlikely to be lynched if I started to spout off. On the other hand...
Instructors are free to respond to the day in any way that uses our academic context to respect a full range of perspectives.
Which is a bit of a problem, since, if anyone cared to voice the perspective that possibly George Bush wasn't as bad as all that, and that we've done a wonderful thing in Iraq, I'm not sure I'd be able to stop myself vaulting over my desk and delivering a mighty wedgie while shouting 'Blow it out your arse-trumpet, you reactionary capitalist bourgeois sea-haddock of oppression,' and then breaking out into a rousing rendition of William Blake's 'Jerusalem'.
(Contrary to the impression you may be getting, it is possible to have a quiet and sensible discussion with me, so long as I can get the invective out of my system first. I do like a bit of invective.)
Which brings up an extremely pressing and ubiquitous problem in this modern world: how does one carry on a reasoned, democratic, and civilised discussion with people who are more or less immune to persuasion? Politics is becoming a religion in America, if it wasn't one already: huge numbers of people are simply accepting things, big and important things, on faith, rather than attempting to think critically about them, or gather evidence, or subject these things to the sort of intellectual and experimental scrutiny one would generally hope to apply to big and important things in general, like, say biology, or foreign policy. People are told that Saddam Hussein has Al-Qaeda ties, that he is connected with 11 September, that he has weapons of mass destruction, that the US has hard evidence that, for whatever reason, it can't actually tell us about just yet...It sets up the notion that there are certain priviliged forms of knowledge, like divine revelations, that the Great Unwashed Masses simply aren't cleared/sufficiently holy to share in, and must just take the Cabinet-level clergy's word for. And lots of the media parrot these things: it's a pervasive phenomenon. There are consequences for unbelievers: heretics don't care about national security, or hate America, or want to kill our troops. They're demonised. Naturally, like the Pope, our President is infallible. (Also like the Pope, he was not elected by the laity.) Naturally, since we have the Word of God/Wolfowitz, we must be right, and any other nation on Earth that disagrees must be wrong and dirty and evil like the French, and must be either shunned or converted, or, if they happen live near convenient oil deposits, blown up. For their own good. We are always selfless and noble, and everything we do is for their own good. Our leaders preached compassion(ate conservativism); but sometimes the most compassionate thing to do is to bloody the ol' righteous sword a bit and do some smiting. And while things may seem a bit harsh in this world/election cycle, and certain (poor) people may have to make some sacrifices, it is Promised that all our suffering now is for the highest of causes, and we'll all reap our rewards in a later, more exalted phase of existence, of cheap oil, low taxes, and a democratic, America-felching Middle East. Really. Trust us.
Or burn in bleeding-heart big-government liberal hell for all eternity, or at least until Jeb Bush runs.
It's exceedingly difficult to talk someone out of their faith; I've been trying for years, and haven't managed it once. This is very unfortunate, if said faith preaches that you are yourself a naughty heretic and that the Inquisition of Homeland Security would like a few words if you please.
George Bush as a Borgia Pope, wearing a hat shaped like a giant wang: I can picture it now.
Would Howard Dean then be Martin Luther, or Giordano Bruno?
Post Script: On an unrelated note, here is mockery of Rush Limbaugh. It is pleasantly full of invective.
I'm sitting in my office in Padelford Hall right now (a grotesquely ugly building, built to withstand sieges, but some lovely views of the Cascades and Lake Washington from the upper storeys; shame I'm in the basement, with a view of the escalator) and we've just been e-mailed a bit of a warning by one of our faculty. Given the horrible things that have happened to international students leaving the country and being denied re-entry, he's suggesting that every international student planning to leave the country for any reason, for any length of time, even if they have a valid visa, should get from the Powers That Be a letter affirming they're real live mathematicians being supported by the department...He says:
According to Steven Olswang, Vice Provost for International Education, "there is not [a] mechanism to obtain, prior to departure, a guarantee of the right to re-enter the United States."
In other words, if you leave, they don't have to let you back in. Even if you're from a cooperative US ally like Poland, which sent special forces into Iraq. Sort of a 'you scratch my back, I'll wipe my boots on yours' arrangement, I suppose.
Here's an article on it, a month old now but still very representative.
Her study is among scores of research projects that have been hampered or derailed by new security procedures for screening foreign visas, enacted in response to 9/11. Hundreds of international scientists, some eminent in their fields, have been blocked from entering the U.S., slowing research on diseases such as AIDS, West Nile virus, Alzheimer's and leukemia, and in areas such as space science, nutrition and genetic mapping.
Even research to combat chemical and biological terrorism has been stalled by the visa jam.
But interviews with dozens of scientists and educators around the country reveal that the problem persists - and may be getting worse, especially with the Iraq war heightening security concerns.
Visa delays and denials are disrupting research at all institutional levels, from public universities, to the National Institutes of Health to the prestigious Mayo Clinic. World-renowned scientists who had visited the U.S. with ease in the past are suddenly finding themselves locked out.
But scientists and educators complain that consular officers are using vague, arbitrary standards to decide which visa applications to refer for security reviews, trapping legitimate foreign researchers in a frustrating backlog.
American research has become increasingly dependent on foreign talent because too few U.S. students pursue science, educators say. More than 40 percent of doctorates in the physical sciences go to non-U.S. citizens.
Educators say a number of foreign students who have encountered long delays have given up and enrolled in universities abroad. William C. Stwalley, head of UConn's physics department, said he believes "most, if not all" of the Chinese physics students denied visas have opted for schools in Canada, England and Australia.
It goes on and on...There's a whole catalogue of research programmes--cancer research, AIDS treatment, a West Nile virus vaccine, Alzheimer's research that could prevent Ronald Reagan from constantly shitting himself, not to mention security projects and particle physics--that have been crippled by State Department refusal to let the researchers back into the country. I fail to see how highly-educated, secular scientists can conceivably represent much of a security threat. What's the State Department afraid they'll do, exactly? Hijack aircraft with their pockets full of lethal chalk? Least-squares-fit Manhattan into rubble? America has become so paranoid it's begun to choke to death intellectually on its own bile.
Canada: it's where it's at. (Tautologically, even, if you define 'it' to be 'Canada'.) Let us all move there now. You know you want to.
The other day, I began reading Kafka's Amerika. I don't get nearly as much time to read as I'd like these days, so the odds are good that I'll be working my way through it for the next few weeks. I mention this solely so I can title this 'Amerika' rather than 'America' without appearing to draw some kind of sick parallel between the United States and Stalinism.
With that being said...
I've always had an uneasy relationship with the country of my birth. I'm not particularly patriotic; I thanked the Queen Mother when I graduated from the University of Iowa--none of the ISO members applauded--and I have a large Canadian flag hanging on my bedroom wall. I have, once or twice, claimed to be Canadian while abroad; but what self-respecting US citizen hasn't? Lots of times, I get the feeling that America doesn't necessarily like me much, and other times, I wonder if perhaps I don't much like it. This is one of the latter times.
This evening I was checking up on my favourite weblog, Teresa Nielsen Hayden's Making Light. There were two new postings, on the chaos in Baghdad and the burning of Iraq's National Library, and on how Donald Rumsfeld's war plan left US forces too weak to prevent this, and on how Rumsfeld might not want to prevent it in the first place: with essentially all the records destroyed, there's no evidence left to contradict the administration when it lies again about Iraq's supposed stockpile of biological and chemical weapons, and hints this elusive stockpile has been moved to Syria to give the US an excuse to ravage that nation next. It's...obscene. The US has just destroyed a civilisation, killed thousands of its people, burned its books, smashed its history, and thrown millions of lives into a terrifying lawless uncertainty. And why? What's it all for? Each reason the Bush junta offered the American people for this war was a lie. And they weren't even good lies. And it's not just me, in my radical leftist dream-land, saying so. My father, a habitual Republican and gun enthusiast, didn't buy the administration's case against Iraq for a second. Their claims were all so transparently false.
Yet somehow, on large segments of the population, they worked.
What's it all for?
Was it for oil? Was it to give the stock market a nudge? To keep Americans in such hysterical blindness that PATRIOT II can slip past them? To bring about a Pax Americana? Was it to give a bunch of old white rich men a chance to cock-slap the entire world?
These are not new thoughts. People were saying such things long before the war began, people who know vastly more than I do, and have vastly greater insight. If blogging is the future of journalism, then that future belongs entirely to those people, who can assimilate, research, analyse, and disseminate, who can keep alive news stories that might otherwise be squashed, and who can say all the things that Ari Fleischer doesn't think Americans should say in a time of eternal war.
There are a lot of these people.
Yet America still went to war. And 59% of Americans continue to believe that Saddam Hussein bears 'Some', 'Most', or 'All' of the responsibility for 11 September.
Which brings me to the matter I wanted to discuss to begin with. I'm not a journalist, and I'm politically naive; I have nothing to add on any of that that's worth adding. One of the few things I feel qualified to blog about is the very subjective experience of being an American right here and now. And it's a frightening experience. I live in Seattle, which is flamingly liberal, and a hotbed of anti-war sentiment. Ironically, the loudest pro-war clamourings I heard from a Seattlian came from Dan Savage, nationally-syndicated sex columnist, flaming homo, diehard liberal, and editor of the Seattle alternative weekly The Stranger. Though before the war began, even he had changed his mind, because of the sheer ineptitude of Bush's diplomatic lead-up. There were protest marches; lots of my fellow graduate students went, even some of our faculty. Even the mathematicians here are flaming liberals. If one is going to be an American right now, Seattle is one of the places in which one would be well-advised to do so. Yet Seattle, it seems, is not entirely representative. Not even slightly representative. And neither is New York, somehow, or San Francisco. No matter what we do, the Bush administration pays no attention, and God help us all, it's somehow swindled half the country--in places like Iowa, for example--into supporting it.
One feels, at times, a sense of futility. If one is me. America has become this vast, impersonal, capricious and hostile force, a Juggernaut steered by Bill O'Reilly bearing down upon me, something incomprehensible and pervasive and panic-inducing as Kafka's bureaucracies, and as arbitrary; and sometimes I'm afraid of what will happen next. I've even started reading the Globe and Mail on my Palm Pilot on the bus in the morning, so I can pretend for a few minutes I'm somewhere else, in this magical, idyllic land where the Liberals have just won in Quebec, and the Prime Minister is getting in some good golfing with Bill Clinton in the Dominican Republic, and where, sure, there's SARS, but to make up for it, there's lots of hockey, and films about curling...
Is this common, to feel anxious about and a bit threatened by being an American? Although I never voted for Bush or lent my support to any of his adventures, do I still share in some national, collective guilt? Does this feeling have a name? Are there support groups? Are there pills other people take for this? Is there a cure?
Possibly Howard Dean.
So that's it, then. That's essentially all I had to say. It's late now, so I'll go to sleep, and this panic attack will, with luck, have passed by morning. It isn't hopeless, after all. I'm too young to be that cynical. Terrible things have happened, and terrible things will soon follow, and North Korea may have ballistic missiles pointed at me, and Jeb Bush may be Dubya's chosen successor, but there are also a lot of angry Americans out there who aren't rolling over, and 2004 is not too terribly far off.
They say it's always darkest before the dawn...
But then, they also say you'll go blind, and we know what a winner that one was. We'll just have to wait and see.
'Time will tell. It always does.'
In Saturday's Guardian, Donald Rumsfeld speaks.
On one of the bleakest days since the invasion began, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld yesterday shrugged off turmoil and looting in Iraq as signs of the people's freedom.
"It's untidy, and freedom's untidy," he said, jabbing his hand in the air. "Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things."
Apparently it is a hallmark of freedom that people can burn their libraries, loot their museums, and pillage hospitals, but not engage in consensual homosexual intercourse. We have to draw a line somewhere, after all. I mean, what would Jesus say? What matters 5,000 years of human civilisation and the welfare of millions of people, when men could, by mutual agreement, be pleasuring one another in the privacy of their own homes somewhere in Texas, and bathing their decent God-fearing communities with deadly Gay Rays?
Let's keep our priorities straight. As it were.
From Le Monde:
La Bibliothèque nationale de Bagdad, qui renfermait des documents originaux exceptionnels, a été incendié par des pillards après avoir été volée, a constaté un journaliste de l'AFP sur place. Situé face au ministère de la défense, qui, lui, n'a pas été touché par les flammes, le "Palais de la Sagesse", bâti en 1961, abrite également le Centre national des archives. Cet incendie intervient après le pillage vendredi du musée archéologique de Bagdad, qui renferme la plus importante collection d'oeuvres du riche patrimoine irakien.
The cultural loss is incalculable. Iraq has a long and rich history, of which it has every right to be proud. A lot of that history has just gone up in flames, or been carted off by rampaging mobs. When a new Iraq emerges from this chaos, how much identity will it have left?
It's like the Taleban and the Buddhas all over again. Only this time, it's pretty much America's fault. Iraq contains thousands of archaeological sites dating back to the earliest human civilisations. It was the site of Sumer, Babylon, Assyria, and Chaldaea; its inhabitants invented a positional sexagesimal numeral system, were perhaps the earliest users of agriculture and written language, likely originated the mythologies appearing in corrupted form in the Old Testament, and developed, by some fluke, electrical batteries over two millennia ago. In short, it's one of the most important regions in the world, archaeologically. And now that's being destroyed.
In the capital, looters ransacked the Iraqi National Museum, smashing display cases to grab treasures dating back to thousands of years to the dawn of civilisation in Mesopotamia. "They have looted or destroyed 170,000 items of antiquity... They were worth billions of dollars," said the deputy director, Nabhal Amin, weeping openly.
Maybe the stolen items (and how many were destroyed?) will turn up on eBay, along with autographed vials of Donald Rumsfeld's thin and watery semen.
Fuck you, Don.
My father forwarded me an e-mail the other day, which seems to be circulating fairly widely at the moment.
When in England at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush. He answered by saying that, "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."
It became very quiet in the room.
Which, on the surface of it, seems like a fine and upstanding patriotic quip from Mr Powell, which may indeed reassure one that the Bush administration is not composed entirely of baby-strangling oil junkies, and makes one think perhaps Europe is overreacting, probably under the influence of those damnable French. Unfortunately, it's also untrue. This is a distortion of an exchange at an economic conference in Davos, Switzerland, where Powell spoke; he was asked a question by the former, not current, Archbishop of Canterbury, who did not accuse Bush of empire-building, but suggested perhaps America was relying too heavily on military force and not on what was called 'soft power', i.e. humanitarian aid, diplomatic persuasion, and so forth. So, yes, the administration is full of baby-strangling oil junkies after all, and Europe is, in fact, right.
There's a transcript here on the State Department website.
Now, I'm no political guru, it's true, but it seems to me if one wanted to get a handle on the State of the Union right about now, a good place to start might be, for example, this Observer report that the US is spying on the UN Security Council for nuggets that would help the Administration browbeat them into giving their blessing to Bush's war in Iraq. Big Brother is indeed watching you. Especially if you speak Foreign.