Log

Danger Mood Control Land
Fun with signs

This page has been archived. The current log and the log archives are available.

Something different-not complete


4.4.2004


topics (the personal and the pitiful)


In which may, may not, probably, definitely, be a randomly reoccuring ritualized cut & paste operation...

Daily Reader personals picks.

NO ONE CARES about your renaissance festival sword fighting technique.

A HOODIE IS not a coat. I hope Darwin wins out over your skinny, skater asses. You too, spaghetti strap shiverers.

I ONCE SAW a sign by a TV asking, "would Jesus watch this program with you?" The answer is "nope!" He already knows the outcome.

BUSH SUCKS! YOU braindead sissies, girly republican men. Suckers.

BUSH RULES YOU girly men liberals and unfeminine liberal women. Hail Bush. Yes!

YARR. ME, THE swarthy pirate who sailed into your warm, stinky harbours last weekend. You, the wench who wore me salty balls as a goatee. Me parrot won't stop calling me name, yee filthy harlot.
Greg Knauss Defines a word.

warblog, noun

A syndrome, consisting largely of myopia and cognitive dissonance, that prevents the afflicted from perceiving the parts of reality that make them uncomfortable.

“My world is safe and warm, because of my warblog.”
Alliteration in Arcata

[Friday, March 11] 10:47 a.m. A dreadlocked man was reported beating on a dog, then popping in at a donut shop for a snack. Cops couldn't catch the cruller-consuming canine clubber.
Frustrated imagery #1 (though I could certainly pick an arbitrary number as is the norm of the form)

...recover the illuminated darkness...
A short section on sex.

A new eight-year study just released reveals that American teenagers who take "virginity" pledges of the sort so favored by the Bush administration wind up with just as many STDs as the other kids.

But that's not all -- taking the pledges also makes a teenage girl six times more likely to perform oral sex, and a boy four times more likely to get anal....

Yes, the "What do we tell the children?" crowd apparently decided not to tell them anything. Because people who talk about pee-pees are potty-mouths. And so armed with limited knowledge, and believing regular, vaginal intercourse to be either immaculate or filthy dirty, these kids did with their pledge what everybody does with contracts: they found loopholes. Two of them to be exact.

-Bill Maher, originally a closing speech from Real Time on HBO.

Youth ministers and parents need to close the loophole teenagers have conjured up for themselves...

"The problem is that the church is telling them, 'Don't have sex.' Then they go to school, and they are told, 'Oral sex isn't sex.'"...

Part of being an adolescent is to engage in thinking that rationalizes behaviors so that guilt doesn't enter in, she explained. In this instance, teens understand the Bible says sex before marriage is wrong, so they redefine sex as not really being sex....

Teens often bring up in counseling that former President Bill Clinton said oral sex wasn't really sex...

One of the most important things parents can do for teens is to relate that sex is a spiritual matter, and God has given directions about it.

-Teens looking for loopholes in all the wrong places, by George Henson

What's known about the risk of oral sex is based largely on case reports and studies of HIV transmission in gay men.

Although there are few reliable data on the health risks, parents and health care providers can tell teenagers that there is a potential for getting herpes, hepatitis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and HIV from oral sex....

Landry said the California survey is encouraging because it shows teenagers know that oral sex carries some health risk.

"Most adolescents also correctly recognized that oral sex is less risky than sexual intercourse," Landry said.

-Study on teens and oral sex holds surprises, by Carla K. Johnson

Advocacy groups are calling on the U.S. federal government to take down one of its new websites, saying it presents biased and inaccurate advice to parents on how to talk to their children about sex.

The site — 4parents.gov — stresses the promotion of abstinence....

The Human Rights Campaign said it was particularly concerned about sections of the website that focus on sexual orientation. The group works for equal rights for gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

The site says: "If you believe your adolescent may be gay, or is experiencing difficulties with gender identity or sexual orientation issues, consider seeing a family therapist who shares your values to clarify and work through these issues."

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a separate letter to Leavitt, that describing sexual orientation as an "alternative lifestyle" is outdated and inaccurate language that can alienate youth at a time when they are particularly vulnerable.

-Globe and Mail

Abstinence educators are complaining that abstinence-until-marriage instruction is being unfairly attacked....

He says Best Choice has aligned its curriculum with state benchmarks and has no problem with comprehensive sex education in schools.

Magruder says federal guidelines for Best Choice's grants mandate that his group talk only about abstinence until marriage.

-KRQE

U.S.-supported anti-AIDS policies that promote abstinence and discourage condom use among the young are likely to lead to rising HIV infection rates in Africa, a U.S. human-rights group warned Tuesday in a report.

In a study focused on Uganda, Human Rights Watch said that African youths are increasingly being taught that abstinence until marriage is the only proper way to prevent HIV infection and that condom use is mainly for the promiscuous....

Backers of the programs--including President Yoweri Museveni's wife and church leaders--insist that abstinence is the best choice for young people and that teaching them about condoms leads to confusion. Teachers in Uganda told researchers from the human-rights group that they have been instructed by U.S. contractors not to discuss condoms in schools because the country's new policy is "abstinence only" for youth, particularly young teens.

But in a nation with nearly a million AIDS orphans, some of whom sell sex to survive, and many more teens who fail to abstain, the decision to deny children information about condoms threatens to send HIV infection rates up again, researchers and Ugandan activists said Tuesday.

"I think a number of people are really worried about this approach," said Sheila Kawamara, a women's activist in Kampala and member of the three-nation East African Legislative Assembly. "The reality is there are youths out there who cannot abstain."

U.S. government AIDS officials say the increasing focus in Uganda on abstinence and faithfulness in marriage is a homegrown change and has little to do with increasing pressure by the Bush administration.

-Abstinence-only programs faulted by Laurie Goering

The last area of the brain to reach maturity is the prefrontal cortex, where the so-called executive brain resides—where we make social judgements, weigh alternatives, plan for the future, and hold our behavior in check.
"The Executitve brain doesn't hit adult levels until the age of 25," says Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health, on of the lead scientists on the neuroimaging studies. "At puberty, you have adult passions, sex drive, energy, and emotion, but the reining in doesn't happen until much later." It is no wonder, perhaps, that teenagers seem to lack good judgement or the ability to restrain impulses. "we can vote at 18," says Giedd, "and drive a car. But you can't rent a car until you're 25. In terms of brain anatomy, the only ones who have it right are the car-rental people."

-The Mind is what the brain does by James Shreeve (quote from my dead trees version)


A shortish summary of the last section using search phrases to this website that quickly careens into sillyness

It's seems a sisyphean task to take on the combined powers of religious dogmatic manipulators and pandering politicians in their Puritanical pursuit to provide prepubescent people with propaganda-tainted sex pamphlets. So when I sighted this search phrase from last month I felt a not-too-faint sense of futility.

"what does it mean when someone says spooning lead to forking"

I'll say this. If you're not careful, you may end up with a spork or few. If things get really bad, knives might become involved; hilarity often does not ensue. However, depending on the ensuing conflict this question may arise as is did in the search phrase department of the humble website.

"girls who have been in catfights and have had the stomach claw hold put on them and want to talk about it over the internet maybe some pictures what you were wearing"

Formerly the exclusive finishing move of Killer Kowalski, the stomach claw had a brief brush with Comparable to the Chicken Wing in damage it lacked a certain, as the French say, "I don't know." This led to its inevitable decline to the point that in a wrestling match between Reese Witherspoon versus Alicia Silverstone, only 2% wanted Alicia to use the move and nobody was interested in Reese using it. Though it must be pointed out that with a combined total of 16%, Bodyscissors was a clear favorite with the improbably effective Breastscissors getting 13%. The fact that such a poll exists must account for the next search phrase.

"we are poorly educated nintendo addicted children of divorce intermingled with the occasional crack baby. those of us who haven t been lulled into a state of mild hypnosis by the fox network are mostly busying ourselves with discovering new and different parts of our body to pierce"

Speak for thineself, knave! I have neither Nintendo nor FOX news and my body remains an undiscovered country to those of the piercing persuasion. But I understand your frustration and wish to pass on this nugget of wisdom gained through experience and sent my way via a search string retention feature.

"i m certainly not gonna sign for any more packages with the word congo written in blood"

I would think that any word written in blood on a package is more than enough warning to stay clear, but I'm, perhaps, being a bit squeamish and overly sanitary-minded. Can we move to something else?

"the symbolical transformation in metamorphosis by kafka"

Ah yes, well, you see… If one examines socialist meta-realism, one is confronted with the option to either accept Lacanist obscurity-no doubt discarding "preconceptualist nihilism" as described by Baudrillard in a stupor one late Tuesday evening, where he also expressed the idea that "if God is knocking on the door, God will knocky knock exactly…" before passing out-or one must deep-six the discourse of dialectic dematerialism deconstructed by Derrida while under a dastardly degree of drunkenness. So, as you can see quite clearly and plainly as the nose sliding off Michael Jackson's face, no symbolical [self-sic] transformation can be comprehended outside your local pub. See you there!

Finally…

"where does a sri lankan mantid live?"

Cleveland.

For Grandpa


3.31.2004


topics (the personal and the political)


TRIBUTE TO LATE MR. JOHN B. NAMEST.

WHEREAS, John B. Namest has been called to eternal life by the wisdom of God; and
WHEREAS, The Chicago City Council has been informed of his passing by Alderman Edward M. Burke; and
WHEREAS, John B. Namest was the loving and devoted husband for sixty-seven years of Dorothy, nee Drufke; and
WHEREAS, John B. Namest was a longtime leader with the Boy Scouts of America in the City of Chicago; and
WHEREAS, John B. Namest was the much-beloved father of John, Jr., Mary Anne Earle, Ronald, Susan, Pamela, David, Larry and Nancy to whom he imparted many of the fine and noble qualities that he possessed in abundance; and
WHEREAS, John B. Namest was a recipient of the highest honor awarded lay persons in Catholic scouting programs from both Pope John Paul and Cardinal Francis George; and
WHEREAS, John B. Namest was a member of the Holy Name Men's Club and was a visiting volunteer to the sick, elderly and bereaved; and
WHEREAS, A man committed to excellence who maintained a high level of integrity, John B. Namest gave of himself fully to his family and was a loyal friend to many; and
WHEREAS, John B. Namest inspired the lives of countless people through his great personal goodness, charity and concern; and
WHEREAS, The hard work, sacrifice and dedication of John B. Namest serve as an example to all; and
WHEREAS, John B. Namest will be dearly missed and fondly remembered by his many relatives, friends and admirers; and
WHEREAS, To his wife, Dorothy, and his beloved family, John B. Namest imparts a legacy of faithfulness, service and dignity; now, therefore,
Be it Resolved, That we, the Mayor and the members of the Chicago City Council, assembled this fifteenth day of December, 2004, do hereby commemorate John B. Namest for his grace-filled life and do hereby express our condolences to his family; and
Be it Further Resolved, That a suitable copy of this resolution be presented to the family of John B. Namest

-Chicago City Council (pdf)

The Chicago Tribune Obit.
Chicago Tribune memorial article

Grampa never talked about that stuff to me. I knew that he was involved with Scouting and that he was energetic as long as I've known him. He was not one to brag. Growing up through the depression made him a hard worker, it taught him to be careful with money, and to save everything.

Sometimes he could be a little over-bearing in that he knew the correct way to do everything, but he was not mean. I always had the sense that his actions were motivated by love.

I remember at the funeral all the nice things that were said and how it seemed no one could stop their eyes from watering up when my Aunt Nancy beautifully sang Amazing Grace. I remember while carrying the casket down the aisle out of the Church the honor guard of Boy Scouts saluting on either side and how I almost broke down right there.

Not too long after his death, my Grandmother's brother died. He was 90 too. Where my Grandfather despised Bush, I hear, my Grandmother's brother voted for him. A twice decorated veteran of WWII that as a boy of 13 had to leave school and work to support a family of eight after his father lost his job during the depression. A loving father, a great man, and my Dad's favorite uncle, Fritz Drufke merely had a different view politically. It made me re-realize that despite being so immersed in the bitter, polemical, partisan politics that perpetually permeates the online world, there were those that could side with Republicans without being tainted by (perhaps by ignoring) their more extreme side.

During the post-funeral luncheon for Fritz, I was sitting with my Dad and some of the people Fritz had used to work with at one time or another. The conversation bounced about in the usual manner until we came to talking about the Tsunami. At one point, someone expressed the idea that it might have been God's punishment and then asked what I thought.

Well you know, Amy Chua's World on Fire is still very fresh in my mind as well as Samantha Power's A Problem from Hell. I began to offer that the Tsunami was more of a reminder of what happens when counties outside of US public concern can degenerate. It's an example of how economic interests trump social concerns. I went into as much detail as I could about the history of the region, of our involvement, and that many places have substantial Christian populations. Suddenly, I noticed that despite the fact that I was the only one sitting at the table not of retirement age they were all listening. Maybe the gap had nothing to do about age or politics. Maybe it was purely one of information.

It's more comfortable to think of it in that respect, than say, it was racism combined with a medieval religious view. For the sake of argument, what If God really is saying something through natural disasters about religious beliefs. Let's look at some of the places affected. Sumatra has a majority Muslim population, but it also has Protestant Christians and those that follow Hinduism, Buddhism, and Catholicism. Thailand has mostly Buddhists and some Muslims, Christians, and Hindus. India has a strong majority that are Hindu, but even coming in at 13.4% the Muslim population is the second largest in the world. In Sri Lanka the majority are Buddhist compared to nearby Bangladesh which has a majority Muslim population and was spared from the Tsunami. Why? Scientists would like us to think that mountainous ridge of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands protected them. Of course, God made those mountains and if it wasn't to save the majority of Muslims that were deemed unworthy in other areas, then it must have been to save the Animists.

Such logic would rob one of believing that despite the vast number of countries and wealth in the vicinity of the Indian Ocean, that they all failed to create their own version of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. They decided to ignore their own tragic history and the 2003 warnings by Australian seismologist Phil Cummins to develop such a system. It makes me wonder if the joining of Bush Senior and Bill Clinton is not so much a relief effort for the people affected, but to relieve them of some of the guilt for guiding countries in this region to spend their money elsewhere.

Why do I say this? Let's take the example of Indonesia. It was support from the US, the World Bank, and the IMF that kept General Suharto in power for 30 years. This alliance more often benefited the Chinese minority living in Indonesia while the indigenous (Pribumi= "of the soil") saw moderate gains and felt left out of the immense wealth that was being generated.

Crony Capitalism was the name of the game. Plutocrats like Bob "the ultimate crony" Hasan had Suharto writing legislation to favor his timber businesses that literally burned their way to make the most money out of the fast-disappearing forests. In 1998, Suharto resigned and the violent anti-Chinese backlash began. Three days later over two thousand people lay dead. About five thousand homes and buildings were burned and billions of investment dollars left the country. The Chinese that did stay faced such hatred that ads for "a chastity belt of stainless steel and leather, complete with tiny key," could be found in the local paper.

Where some Chinese Indonesians profited from the country's resources, the US mainly profited from supplying arms. It's a blood-soaked tradition and it continues under the guise of fighting the "war on terror" even though, "[t]he Indonesian military is the biggest source of terror to its own people."

In what would someday be echoed by the US Ambassador to Iraq to Saddam Hussein shortly before he invaded Kuwait, President Ford let Suharto know that "we will not press you on the issue" of invading East Timor. Owing to the distinct lack of western news bureaus in the area, we would likely know little of what went on if not for The Santa Cruz Massacre.

After mass in a Dili church, Allan Nairn from the New Yorker and Amy Goodman from Pacifica Radio walked with the thousands on their way to the Santa Cruz cemetery to remember Sebastian Gomes, who was killed by Indonesian soldiers. Soon after they reached the cemetery they were met by hundreds of Indonesian troops. Amy writes about what happens next in her book, The Exception to the Rulers.

We knew the Indonesian military had committed many massacres in the past, but never in front of Western journalists. Allan suggested we walk to the front of the crowd, hoping that our presence could head off what looked like an impending attack. I put on my headphones, took out my tape recorder -- I usually kept these hidden so as not to endanger Timorese caught talking to us -- and held up my microphone like a flag. Allan put his camera above his head, and we went and stood in the middle of the road, about fifteen yards in front of the crowd. By visibly showing the tools of our trade, we hoped to alert the troops that this time they were being watched.

A hush fell over the Timorese. Those in the back could run, but the thousands of people in front were trapped by the cemetery walls that lined both sides of the road. The main sound was the rhythmic thump of boots hitting the road as the troops marched in unison toward the people. Children whispered behind us. Then, without any warning or provocation, the soldiers rounded the corner, swept past us, raised their U.S.-made weapons, and opened fire.

People were ripped apart. The troops just kept shooting, moving their guns from left to right, killing anyone still standing.

A group of soldiers surrounded me. They started to shake my microphone in my face as if to say, This is what we don't want. Then they slammed me to the ground with their rifle butts and started to kick me with their boots. I gasped for breath. Allan threw himself on top of me to protect me from further injury.

The soldiers wielded their M-16s like baseball bats. They slammed them against Allan's head until they fractured his skull. For a moment, Allan lay in the road in spasm, covered in blood, unable to move. Suddenly, about a dozen soldiers lined up like a firing squad. They put the guns to our heads and screamed, "Politik! Politik!" They were accusing us of being involved in politics, a crime clearly punishable by death. They also demanded, "Australia? Australia?"

We understood what was at stake with this question. In October 1975, Indonesian soldiers had executed five Australia-based television journalists in an attempt to cover up a military incursion leading up to the December 7, 1975, invasion of East Timor. On December 8, Australian journalist Roger East, the only other Western reporter left in East Timor, was dragged out of a radio station in Dili down to the harbor and shot.

Almost exactly sixteen years later, as Allan and I lay on the ground surrounded by Indonesian soldiers, we shouted, "No, we're from America!" They had stripped us of our possessions, but I still had my passport. I threw it at them. When I regained my breath, I said again, "We're from America! America!"

Finally, the soldiers lowered their guns from our heads. We think it was because we were from the same country their weapons were from. They would have to pay a price for killing us that they never had to pay for killing Timorese.

At least 271 Timorese died that day, in what became known as the Santa Cruz massacre. Indonesian troops went on killing for days. It was not even one of the larger massacres in East Timor, and it wouldn't be the last. It was simply the first to be witnessed by outsiders.

Such was the power of their presence that a few years ago there were those that still tried to question her account and deny that the massacre took place. That is why the story of what happened there and the overall story of Indonesia is improtant. We must take interest in the world. Our ignorance becomes apathy and apathy kills.


Something has been gnawing away at me. Amy describing the effect of the gunfire as seeing that, "[p]eople were ripped apart," rekindled my feeling of ignorance and now shame that led me to make this poorly-craft post on Metafilter. Over the holidays my Uncle came to visit and for some reason the conversation turned to Vietnam. I don't think I've ever heard him talk about it before. I know that he and my Dad both served, but my Uncle was the only one to go to Vietnam. He talked about how it was mostly about making the country safe for Debeers. He also said that he was part of the group that tested the new guns to be used in the war. Apparently corpses were used to make the tests. It was the stuff of nightmares. He had to leave the room to regain his composure. I've never seen him like that and I plan to make it a point to avoid awaking that memory ever again.

Ben Thomas and three colleagues were driving north out of Baghdad… when gunmen in several surrounding buildings opened fire on them.

In a brief but intense firefight, Thomas hit one of the attackers with a single shot from his M4 carbine at a distance he estimates was 100 to 110 yards.

He hit the man in the buttocks, a wound that typically is not fatal. But this round appeared to kill the assailant instantly.

"It entered his butt and completely destroyed everything in the lower left section of his stomach ... everything was torn apart," Thomas said….

The bullet is so controversial that if Thomas, a former SEAL, had been on active duty, he would have been court-martialed for using it. The ammunition is "nonstandard" and hasn't passed the military's approval process.

"The way I explain what happened to people who weren't there is … this stuff was like hitting somebody with a miniature explosive round," he said, even though the ammo does not have an explosive tip. "Nobody believed that this guy died from a butt shot."

The bullet Thomas fired was an armor-piercing, limited-penetration round manufactured by RBCD of San Antonio.

- 1-shot killer, by John G. Roos

Art. 23. In addition to the prohibitions provided by special Conventions, it is especially forbidden -

To employ poison or poisoned weapons;

To kill or wound treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army;

To kill or wound an enemy who, having laid down his arms, or having no longer means of defence, has surrendered at discretion;

To declare that no quarter will be given;

To employ arms, projectiles, or material calculated to cause unnecessary suffering;

To make improper use of a flag of truce, of the national flag or of the military insignia and uniform of the enemy, as well as the distinctive badges of the Geneva Convention;

To destroy or seize the enemy's property, unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war;

To declare abolished, suspended, or inadmissible in a court of law the rights and actions of the nationals of the hostile party. A belligerent is likewise forbidden to compel the nationals of the hostile party to take part in the operations of war directed against their own country, even if they were in the belligerent's service before the commencement of the war.

-Hague Convention IV, Article 23

Without getting into the other possible war crimes, I want to talk about how Thomas justifies RBCD ammo's use. He simply dismisses thinking about it outside of its pure military use. "The politics, that's above my pay grade," he says. "This is purely for putting into bad guys," he says. How is one to determine how "bad" someone in Iraq is anymore? Is this person I'm shooting a fanatic terrorist that will not stop ever or is this someone that has come to believe that the US is not there for entirely honorable reasons and fights to convince us to leave? Are we so certain that we could use force guaranteed to be fatal? I'm not advocating the use of spitballs. It's just that…am I wasting my time in a country where the majority is willing to dismiss or simply ignore the widespread use of torture?

I refuse to believe that. I refuse to believe that we've lost sight of any sense that there are things more important than a feeling of safety. It's a hollow and fantasy-based feeling anyway. I refuse to believe that when presented with the truth on a constant and unrelenting basis that no matter how ugly it is, no matter how much is disturbs, no matter how much it shatters their cherished pride, people will continue to prefer the lie. I refuse to believe that party loyalty will continue to win out over a greater national and with hope someday a global sense of not loyalty, but unity. A unity not born of some freakish dystopian, totalitarian group-think, but in a cooperative sense that we are stuck on a single planet. Our collective destinies are irrevocably intertwined until that distant time that we could settle on Mars.

I reject the Armageddon Attitude that has become a mainstream mythology. I see antimonianism as a real threat and as a direct result of the Rapture Industry.

It is becoming increasingly dangerous to raise a dissenting voice. It's disturbing that matters of incontrovertible fact are seen as "anti-Bush indoctrination." It is no longer simply right vs. wrong. It is reality versus fantasy.

I believe that the best way that I could honor my Grandfather's memory is to never give way to the weight of the world. Though it and another thing have taken their toll, I refuse to allow myself to succumb to pessimism or bitterness.

I wish to thank all those that have ploughed their way through my posts over the years. Brought by such a relatively archaic and idiosyncratic way I really have to thank you for reading them at all.


American Politics: Part 3


3.26.2004


topics (Poly-ticks, Re-Lie-jun, Ache-caddy-me)


[This is part 3 of I don't know how many more. Part one was written before the 2004 election and dealt with what's now know better as The Republican Noise Machine. This led to Part 2's attempt to get at the truth asking; "what is it?" and "why do we duck it and pluck it from our view when it disturbs our pride and counters longstanding beliefs?". Beliefs such as a faith that the supreme savior of mankind is Democracy hitched to Free Markets without any sense that it has its flaws are some. Honesty about our own past and the current state of freedom in the so-called "land of the free" could curb our idealistic notions about gunboat democratization being viable and not a fantasy fueled by fascist fanatics and fundamentalist fear-mongers. Trying to peer through this fog of government/corporate propaganda to the elusive truth requires a willingness to shine a light to the shadows of our society and see the source all this strife. Or maybe it's just a matter of following the money…]

The judge smiled. Men are born for games. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work. He knows too that the worth or merit of a game is not inherent in the game itself but rather in the value of that which is put at hazard. Games of chance require a wager to have meaning at all. Games of sport involve the skill and strength of the opponents and the humiliation of defeat and the pride of victory are in themselves sufficient stake because they inhere in the worth of the principals and define them. But trial of chance or trial of worth all games aspire to the condition of war for here that which is wagered swallows up game, player, all.
Suppose two men at cards with nothing to wager save their lives. Who has not heard such a tale? A turn of the card. The whole universe for such a player has labored clanking to this moment which will tell if he is to die at that man's hand or that man at his. What more certain validation of a man's worth could there be? This enhancement of the game to its ultimate state admits no argument concerning the notion of fate. The selection of one man over another is a preference absolute and irrevocable and it is a dull man indeed who would reckon so profound a decision without agency or significance either one. In such games as have for their stake the annihilation of the defeated the decisions are quite clear. This man holding this particular arrangement of cards in his hand is thereby removed from existence. This is the nature of war, whose stake is at once the game and the authority and the justification. Seen so, war is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one's will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.

-Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

The concept of war as "the truest form of divination" would suggest that war would be most favored by those of a religious bent. Certainly those that worship the almighty dollar instead could rationalize war if they could profit from it. What if those of both stripes joined forces? What if those that despise fundamentalists joined in "holding their noses" after calculating, which fundamentalists were more of the threat? Trying to get a handle on why any one person supports the current Iraq war may involve these and countless other factors. But boldly standing at the forefront of the mass public support is one thing given great power through racism, ignorance, and impotence. It probably comes as no surprise that this is fear.
Our beloved land has been fogged with fear—fear, the greatest political strategy ever. An ominous silence, distant sirens, a drumbeat of whispered warnings and alarms to keep the public uneasy and silence the opposition. And in a time of vague fear, you can appoint bullet-brained judges, strip the bark off the Constitution, eviscerate federal regulatory agencies, bring public education to a standstill, stupefy the press, lavish gorgeous tax breaks on the rich.

- Garrison Keillor, We're Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore

Keillor highlights that much of the clamor for the open "War on Terror" is to hide the underling class war currently going strongly in favor of the rich. A bankrupt government will be powerless in the hands of its corporate masters. How many signs of this do we need? Must there be something other than the destruction of Social Security, the fighting of a minimum wage increase, the reworking of bankruptcy laws in favor of credit card companies while maintaining protections on the wealthy that do file, the minimizing of the power of labor unions, the strangulation of Medicare through the expensive drug prescription act, and the tax breaks for the wealthy before popular outrage begins to surface? The fog of fear alone would probably not succeed so well without the full force of bullshit brought to bear on a constant basis.

Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about. Thus the production of bullshit is stimulated whenever a person's obligations or opportunities to speak about some topic exceed his knowledge of the facts that are relevant to the topic. This discrepancy is common in public life, where people are frequently impelled—whether by their own propensities or by the demand of others—to speak extensively about matters of which they are to some degree ignorant. Closely related instances arise from the widespread conviction that it is the responsibility of a citizen to have opinions about everything, or at least everything that pertains to the conduct of his country's affairs. The lack of any significant connection between a person's opinions and his apprehension of reality will be even more severe, needless to say, for someone who believes it his responsibility, as a conscientious moral agent, to evaluate events and conditions in all parts of the world.

-Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit (once the full text existed here, which means…-though I did purchase a copy of the cute little book.)

Taking a small risk of bullshitting based on whether or not I fully understand him, Michel Foucault inverted Clausewitz's aphorism to, "politics is the continuation of war by other means." In this war, truth is a weapon. He describes a historical-political discourse (that originates in postmedieval Western Society) where, "The truth is, in other words, a truth that can be deployed only from its combat position, from the perspective of the sought-for victory and ultimately, so to speak, of the survival of the speaking subject himself." This effectively removes peace or even neutrality from any connection to the truth. Think about the current obsession to provide "balance" on debate shows and more recently in academia.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we all learned about this memo, just soon after you were fired that came out of NBC, that was -- that said that as we led into the invasion of Iraq, they didn't want to have their flagship show, no matter how successful it was, the most popular show on MSNBC, being one that provided a forum for anti-war voices. They didn't want an anti-war face when the other networks were waving the American flag.

PHIL DONAHUE: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response?

PHIL DONAHUE: Well, that memo was a fact, and it was reported by The New York Times and other publications. Our program was doing reasonably well. We weren't Elvis, but the program for its -- the numbers of our program on the family of NBC -- MSNBC at night, was very respectable, and I think had a prospect of growing even larger. So, the numbers did not warrant our departure, our dismissal. And along the way it became clear to us that they were terrified that we were going to become a place -- an anti-war kind of platform, where all of these radicals would come and oppose the war.

AMY GOODMAN: Like Harry Belafonte.

PHIL DONAHUE: Yes, and others. We had some wonderful – for a peaceful tomorrow. I mean, I came back to television and ran right into a wall of widows. I mean, that shocked me. I just somehow wasn't anticipating this. 9/11 widows. The New Jersey girls and these wonderful people, people who came on -- mothers, wives said, "Not in my name. Don't kill more innocent people to avenge the death of my loved one." We just were very excited about what we were doing. Along the way, it became clear that they were really very nervous about us, and the rule was laid down, we had to have two conservatives for every liberal. I was counted as two liberals. I mean, this is the truth. So I was very, very naive, you know, for a veteran guy, I can't get over – and there's probably some vanity involved here, too. I thought I was going to be a place where dissent could be heard. I really believed that that was going to happen. And it was very naive of me to think that. It made them very, very nervous.
AMY GOODMAN: Has the media regressed?

PHIL DONAHUE: Oh, I don't think there's any doubt about it. I think we are all -- everybody is under pressure to shut up and sing. And dissent is a vehicle of entertainment, really. I admire so much those progressive people who do get on Fox. By the way, progressives are more likely to be found on Fox than anywhere else, because they're inoculated against being -- against any suggestion that they're anti-American. The people in the middle are the ones who -- Michael Moore has never been on Meet the Press. Michael Moore has never been on Face the Nation. Imagine, this is -- he was considered Time magazine Man of the Year. I mean, it was in consideration. The documentary -- lines around the world – around theaters around the world, certainly the center of the 2004 presidential campaign, this documentary. He was invited on Larry King but then dis-invited when the White House refused to send a balancing act. So, the White House, by refusing to send a balancer, was able to control him. I am -- this is -- he was on George Stephanopoulos, ABC, but edited to a fairly well -- it was pre-taped and then edited. This is Karl Rove. You put Michael Moore on, you don't get Condi. You don't get access. You don't get Colin. These are the legitimizing heavyweights that grant gravitas to the Sunday morning programs. It's just – it's amazing. Follow the ball—

-Democracy Now!

If these debate shows are a battlefield of sorts, then the odds were stacked in favor of conservatives at least 2 to 1 on MSNBC. If Donahue counts as 2 liberals, does Colmes come in at half liberal, half wuss?

If debate shows are fountains of bullshit, what are presidential debates full of?

The party managers know where the public stands on a whole list of issues. Their funders just don't support them; the interests they represent don't support them. So they project a different kind of image.

If you listen to the presidential debates, you can't figure out what they're saying, and that's on purpose. The last debate was supposed to be about domestic issues. The New York Times commented that Kerry didn't make any hint about possible government involvement in health care programs because that position has, in their words, "no political support." Well, according to the most recent polls, 80% of the population thinks that the government ought to guarantee health care for everyone, and furthermore regard it as a moral obligation. That tells you something about people's values. But there's "no political support."

Why? Because the pharmaceutical industry is opposed, the financial institutions are opposed, the insurance industry is opposed, so there's "no political support." It doesn't matter if 80% of the population regard it as a moral obligation: That doesn't count as political support. It tells you something about the elite conception. You're supposed to vote for the image they're projecting. That's not surprising really. Just ask yourself, "Who runs the elections?"

The elections are run by the same guys who sell toothpaste. They show you an image of a sports hero, or a sexy model, or a car going up a sheer cliff or something, which has nothing to do with the commodity, but it's intended to delude you into picking this one rather than another one. Same when they run elections. But they're assigned that task in order to marginalize the public, and furthermore, people are pretty well aware of it.

-Noam Chomsky, Both Parties Try to Exclude People from Voting

Every time you're exposed to advertising in America you're reminded that this country's most profitable business is still the manufacture, packaging, distribution, and marketing of bullshit. High-quality, grade-A, prime-cut, pure American bullshit.

-George Carlin, You are all diseased.

Getting back to Foucalt, in his lectures, Society Must be Defended, from which I previously quoted, he explains that in the 18th century a disciplinarization of knowledges countered historicism. This eventually made way for the appearance of universities that "gave rise to a new constraint: no longer the constant of truth, but the constant of science." It's an easy thing to equate science with rational thought and that efforts to undermine science must adopt irrational arguments. Since this approach fails in more developed areas, it means forcing institutions to curb professors' speech or hire a more "politically diverse" staff is the next step.

One of the targets has been Ward Churchill. Brian Leiter and I share some opinion about this.

Having no interest in Ward Churchill, or the non-discipline of "Ethnic Studies", I have not devoted much time to a study of his ideas; I have read carefully the key "argument" of the original essay, and his more recent (somewhat revisionist) explanation of his essay. The essay is badly written and badly argued (of course, this hardly distinguishes it from much that appears in the top law reviews), and parts of it reflect a rather creepy Schadenfreude.

- Brian Leiter

Tangent: Brian's snark about Ethnic Studies being a non-discipline reminded me about another thing from Foucalt's Society Must be Defended.
…The university's primary function is one of selection, not so much of people (which is, after all, basically not very important) as of knowledges. It can play this selective role because it has sort of de facto—and de jure—monopoly, which means that any knowledge that is not born or shaped within this sort of institutional field—whose limits are in fact relatively fluid but which consists, roughly speaking, of the university and official reserarch bodies—that anything that exists outside it, any knowledge that exists in the wild, any knowledge that is born elsewhere, is automatically, and from the outset, if not actually excluded, disqualified a priori.

I was somewhat more forgiving of Ward for the lack of quality of the original essay coming so closely after 9/11. I don't know if I did any better. His "somewhat revisionist" account at least shares the message I tried to convey at the time about how we must change our ways towards a peaceful resolution owing to the fact that terrorism cannot be defeated militarily— a point which Christopher Hitchens needs to understand.

Ward tries to take some of the air out of his use of the Eichmann analogy in the following explanation.

Well it goes to Hannah Arendt's notion of Eichmann, the thesis that he embodied the banality of evil. That she had gone to the Eichmann trial to confront the epitome of evil in her mind and expected to encounter something monstrous, and what she encountered instead was this nondescript little man, a bureaucrat, a technocrat, a guy who arranged train schedules, who, as it turned out, ultimately didn't even agree with the policy that he was implementing, but performed the technical functions that made the holocaust possible, at least in the efficient manner that it occurred, in a totally amoral and soulless way, purely on the basis of excelling at the function and getting ahead within the system that he found himself. He was a good family man, in his way. He was loved by his children, participated in civic activities, was in essence the good German. And she [Arendt] said, therein lies the evil. It wasn't that Eichmann was a Nazi or a high official within Nazidom, although he was in fact a Nazi and a relatively highly placed official, but it was exactly the reverse: that given his actual nomenclature, the actuality of Eichmann was that anyone in this sort of mindless, faceless, bureaucratic capacity could be the Nazi. That he was every man, and that was what was truly horrifying to her in the end. That was a controversial thesis because there's always this effort to distinguish anyone and everyone irrespective of what they're doing from this polarity of evil that is signified in Nazidom, and she had breached the wall and brought the lessons of how Nazism actually functioned, the modernity of it, home and visited it upon everyone, calling for, then, personal accountability, responsibility, to the taking of responsibility for the outcome of the performance of one's functions. That's exactly what it is that is shirked here, and makes it possible for people to, from a safe remove, perform technical functions that result in (and at some level, they know this, they understand it) in carnage, emiseration, the death of millions ultimately. That's the Eichmann aspect. But notice I said little Eichmanns, not the big Eichmann. Not the real Eichmann. The real Eichmann ultimately is symbolic, even in his own context. He symbolized the people that worked under him. He symbolized the people who actually were on the trains. They were hauling the Jews. He symbolized the technicians who were making the gas for I.G. Farben. He symbolized all of these people who didn't directly kill anybody, but performed functions and performed those functions with a certain degree of enthusiasm and certainly with a great degree of efficiency, that had the outcome of the mass murder of the people targeted for elimination or accepted as collateral damage. That's the term of the art put forth by the Pentagon.

-Ward Churchill, interview on Democracy Now! (see also "When They Came for Ward Churchill"

It is still a stretch. The problem is that he seems to have made of a habit of making this over-broad application. Going back to an article from 2000 called "Forbidding the "G-Word": Holocaust Denial as Judicial Doctrine in Canada", he used it.

In Lipstadt's own blog, History on Trial, she notes that another one of her prominent critics is supposed American Indian scholar Ward Churchill, who recently gained notoreity by calling 9/11 victims "little Eichmanns." She links to a recent story in New York's conservative Jewish Week recalling that in an essay a few years back Churchill hurled his favorite "Eichmann" epithet at Lipstadt.

The paper predictably failed to quote the original essay beyond this one incendiary word, or provide the context of Churchill's argument. The essay, "Forbidding the 'G-Word'," which appeared in the online journal Other Voices in 2000, attacked the notion of "Jewish exclusivism," and especially the denial of the term "genocide" to describe the extermination of Native American peoples. Churchill wrote that "exclusivists" like Lipstadt engage in their own form of genocide denial, and are part of a propaganda system that legitimizes ongoing genocide against native peoples: "Denial of genocide, insofar as it plainly facilitates continuation of the crime, amounts to complicity in it ... There is no difference in this sense between ... a Deborah Lipstadt and an Adolf Eichmann."

What makes this all complicated is that Churchill's overall point here is an absolutely valid one. But by calling Lipstadt an "Eichmann" (as if every writer who suffers from some racist illusions is the equivalent of the architect of industrial mass murder), Churchill allows his own valid critique to be dismissed as the ravings of a nut. Recognition that the industrial destruction of indigenous lands and culture in the western hemisphere constitutes genocide (as defined under international law) can be lumped in with the pseudo-history of an Irving – or (more to the point) Churchill's own witless cheer-leading for mass murder in the 9/11 attacks.

And Churchill (perhaps merely through shabby scholarship) engages in his own revisionism in the "G-Word" essay. He protests that in the "exclusivist" worldview, "the fates of the Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals and others at the hands of the Nazis are routinely minimized and consigned to the ambiguous category of 'non-genocidal suffering.'" In fact, the Jews and the Roma ("Gypsies") were the only two groups explicitly targeted for extermination by the Nazis. Poles and Czechs suffered horribly under the Nazis of course, but historical accuracy is not served by conflating their experience with that of the Jews.

- Bill Weinberg, Holocaust Denial, C-SPAN and Ward Churchill

The most striking thing about the whole affair in not about the original essay, but about the with-hunt and character assassination attempts that erupted after it. He did answer them and I haven't seen much new about it since. It might be because a new book shows that the Eichmann analogy merely needs to be applied to the right people.

JOHN PERKINS: Yes. It's a game that's very very old. It's been played by empires for a long time. And we've taken it to a whole new level of perfection since World War II and especially in the last four decades. In fact we've managed to create what I believe is history's only truly global empire. And for the first time we've created an empire primarily without the military.

When the Romans or the Conquistadors or the English or the French sent their armies out to the world and created these empires, everybody knew they were doing it. The armies were obvious. But we've done it in a way that's much more subtle. A way that many people in the United States still believe that most of our aid is altruistic. It isn't altruistic for the most part. It's done in the process of creating this empire.

DAVID BRANCACCIO: But just for the sake of living with yourself when you're a younger man, I mean you must have said to yourself, "I am helping the population of this developing country, be it Indonesia, be it someplace else, by bringing, for instance, a hydroelectric project to them." Yes, it'll cost them a lot, yes, they'll have to borrow a lot. But ultimately you must have been guided by the sense that you're trying to help out poor folks.

JOHN PERKINS: Well, that's what I'd learned in business school and that's the model that the World Bank presents. But if you really get to know these countries, and I did, I spent a lot of time in them, what I saw was that the money that was going to build these projects like the hydroelectric projects or the highways or the ports, hardly ever actually made its way to the country.

The money was transferred from banks in Washington, DC to banks in Houston or San Francisco or New York where most of it went to big US corporations. The ones we heard a lot about these days like Halliburton and Bechtel. And these corporations then built these projects and the projects primarily served the very rich in those countries.

The electricity, the highways, the ports were seldom even used by the people who needed them the most. But the country would be left holding a huge debt and it would be such a large debt that they couldn't possibly repay it. And so at some point in time, we economic hit men, we go back into the country and say, "Look, you owe us a lot of money, you can't pay your debts. Therefore sell us your oil at a real cheap price or vote with us at a UN vote or give us land for a military base or send some of your troops to some country where we want you to support us."

DAVID BRANCACCIO: You think that from the word go that this kind of lending was meant to essentially put these countries into hock?

JOHN PERKINS: There's no question in my mind that this was what I was intended to do was to go out and create these projects that would bring billions of dollars back to US corporations and create projects that would put these countries into such deep debt, that in essence, they became part of our empire. They became our slaves in a way.

And, it's important to understand that what I was doing was not illegal. It is not illegal. It should be. But it isn't. Now, if I were a banker and I were to go to you and convince you to take a loan that I knew you'd never be able to repay, that's criminal. I could be taken to court for that or ...

DAVID BRANCACCIO: Yeah, it's like selling a naïve investor some sort of fancy investment vehicle. It's against the law.

JOHN PERKINS: It's exactly, it's against the law. But on the international scale, it's not against the law. We write the laws. And if you go to the textbooks in the business schools you'll see that increasing gross national product is toted as something that's good for development. And that's and we usually did that. However, in most of these countries or many of these countries, when you increase gross national product, you may only be increasing the wealth of a very few families who own most of the major resources in the country.

The people who live off subsistence farming and other activities or close to subsistence, don't gain anything. In fact, you build a hydroelectric dam across their river, destroys much of the life downstream. It destroys their farms, it destroys their fishing. It does them a great deal of damage. And they're left holding this debt that should be going to pay for their education, health services, other social services. But can't, because it's owed to us.

The reason I wrote the book, David, is because finally after 9/11 I realized that the American people must know what's going on. Because most Americans don't know. And the that 9/11 was just symbolic of a tremendous amount of anger around the world. And we in the United States don't are not aware of that. September 11th made us somewhat aware of it although I think we've really covered that aspect of it over. We say this is a rogue terrorist.

DAVID BRANCACCIO: Or that it's based in sort of religious passion. Or that it's something about Saudi Arabia in particular. This isn't really about the United States and its international relations. That's the argument.

JOHN PERKINS: That's the argument. But in fact, if you go to Catholic countries in South America, you'll see that Osama bin Laden is a is a hero amongst a lot of people. He's on billboards. He's on T-shirts. It's very unfortunate that this mass murderer has become the symbol of a David who is standing up to a Goliath. The way they see it. He's like a Robin Hood to many people.

Twenty-four thousand people die every day from lack of nutrition. Thirty thousand children die every single day from - diseases for which we have cures. For which we have medicines. And that shouldn't be happening. It doesn't need to happen. That's over 50,000 people every single day dying terrible, painful, awful, needless deaths. So 3,000 at the World Trade Center was atrocious, terrible; 200,000 or whatever the tsunami is atrocious and terrible. And they make the news. But these 50,000 plus that die every single day needlessly, don't ever make the news. And their families and the people in those countries are very angry. Because we could prevent that. And in fact, our policies and especially many of our corporate policies, foster those kinds of conditions that create situations where those people are dying of lack of nutrition and lack of medicines.

-Now (another interview on Democracy Now!- Book excerpts)

John Perkin's account of how when the economic hit man failed they sent in the CIA Jackels and when they failed, they sent in the soldiers reminded me of those not "racketeers for capitalism." Smedley Butler's War is a Racket traces a similar story from the side of the men armed with guns instead of bad loans.

So here I am still stuck trying to peel away the clean, altruistic face of free-market capitalism and have barely ventured into to factors which have contributed to how Americans gave up of much of what we believe in favor of the big lie. I'm not going to wait another 3 months before I write again and has been the norm of late—due to both personal business and other writing/research work. I have recovered a bit.


American Politics. part 2


1.22.2005


topics (Politics, History, and Religion)


…he purported to read news of the earth's origins, holding an extemporary lecture in geology to a small gathering who nodded and spat. A few would quote him scripture to confound his ordering up of eons out of the ancient chaos and other apostate supposings. The judge smiled.
Books lie, he said.
God dont lie.
No, said the judge. He does not. And these are his words.
He held up a chunk of rock.
He speaks in stones and trees, the bones of things.

-Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

It seems only fitting to see the mockery of mankind's moral imagination in the Time's choice for "Person of the Year." For it is true that Bush embodies the zeitgeist and the will of the majority in a nation now more afraid than brave and more authoritarian than free. Bush is the spirit of the new American born out the ashes of terrorism; a terrorism for decades well known and more terrible outside its borders. Bush embodies the ignorance of the masses that mock and recoil from the truth revealed by science. Where even the Vatican acknowledges evolution's validity he and his fundamentalist flock find fault for that it forces them to face the false foundation of their own belief in the infallible literal interpretation of biblical text. They are as shielded from knowledge of science as they are of knowledge of the rest of the world. A multi-billion dollar Message Defense Shield in the form of CNN, NBC, CBS, and Fox News filters Americans from the fallout of reality that would weaken our resolve to change the world through the weapons built by Westinghouse and GE. CNN brought us our first taste of Shock & Awe during Iraq war I and has been cozy with war ever since, but maybe not enough. The overall goal is to conceal and massage the truth in order to continue to wield power.

That's what journalism is. It's just all opinion. Just opinion.

-Richard Viguerie, "a founding father of the modern conservative movement" on Now

I share the view of Noam Chomsky in that all governments lie in order to maintain power. The cozy condition between corporations and government has allowed the monopolization (disguised as deregulation) of media, which consolidates their interests as they maximize their profits. The disappearing independence and diversity of opinion makes government deception easier, the liars bolder and makes it easier to demonize dissidents. They accentuate the differences in order to divide us and divert our attention to the petty politics of the moment. What's worse is that they've managed to hitch their truth to providence for many Americans.

The new ideology of the red-state bourgeoisie seems to actually believe that the US is God marching on earth – not just godlike, but really serving as a proxy for God himself.

Along with this goes a kind of worship of the presidency, and a celebration of all things public sector, including egregious law like the Patriot Act, egregious bureaucracies like the Department of Homeland Security, and egregious centrally imposed regimentation like the No Child Left Behind Act. It longs for the state to throw its weight behind institutions like the two-parent heterosexual family, the Christian charity, the homogeneous community of native-born patriots.

In 1994, the central state was seen by the bourgeoisie as the main threat to the family; in 2004 it is seen as the main tool for keeping the family together and ensuring its ascendancy. In 1994, the state was seen as the enemy of education; today, the same people view the state as the means of raising standards and purging education of its left-wing influences. In 1994, Christians widely saw that Leviathan was the main enemy of the faith; today, they see Leviathan as the tool by which they will guarantee that their faith will have an impact on the country and the world.

Paul Craig Roberts is right: "In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I see and experience much hate. It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant and irrational emails from self-professed conservatives who literally worship George Bush. Even Christians have fallen into idolatry. There appears to be a large number of Americans who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush." Again: "Like Brownshirts, the new conservatives take personally any criticism of their leader and his policies. To be a critic is to be an enemy."

In short, what we have alive in the US is an updated and Americanized fascism. Why fascist? Because it is not leftist in the sense of egalitarian or redistributionist. It has no real beef with business. It doesn't sympathize with the downtrodden, labor, or the poor. It is for all the core institutions of bourgeois life in America: family, faith, and flag. But it sees the state as the central organizing principle of society, views public institutions as the most essential means by which all these institutions are protected and advanced, and adores the head of state as a godlike figure who knows better than anyone else what the country and world's needs, and has a special connection to the Creator that permits him to discern the best means to bring it about.

-Lew Rockwell

[I found a reference to site with a 12-part series on Fascism in America at Wulfgar!'s site. It also refers to Eco's theory on Ur-Fascism. (updated-1-26-05)]

Fascism? Here? Umberto Eco outlines 14 points that disturbingly reflect American life. The rejection of modernism dangerously combines with the belief that disagreement is treason. I can only assume that power and greed is an intoxicating combination or that we really have a President wishing for The Rapture. Perhaps, in the latter he is only playing to his base as he does to the elite portion concerning Social Security. Any economist outside the Republican lie machine can tell you that Social Security's problems, if any, are a good 50-75 years away, which would only take modest adjustments to compensate for and yet the message is "act now" (fulfilling Eco's action for action's sake point) just as it was for dealing with the mythical Iraqi WMD. To serve "free market" libertarian interests (The Eric Raymond's, Reason readers/writers, and ruthless Randians) he ignores the warnings of climate change. The point at which global climate change could approach catastrophic levels may be forty years away and we are already witnessing warning signs and environmental destruction today to the point that even the Pentagon thinks it's a problem. Russia has signed the Kyoto Protocol and the only reason offered for why we haven't has been as the "richest nation" embarrassingly economical in nature. To add to this, Bush has rolled back decades of environmental legislation, made vast and far-reaching changes to the environmental protection, and sacrificed the last North American Wilderness, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Of course, there is no reason why the lust for power, greed, and the thirst for Rapture couldn't all work their way into Bush's brain as an extremely volatile mixture.

…on Feb. 1, 2002, Jim Wallis of the Sojourners stood in the Roosevelt Room for the introduction of Jim Towey as head of the president's faith-based and community initiative. John DiIulio, the original head, had left the job feeling that the initiative was not about "compassionate conservatism," as originally promised, but rather a political giveaway to the Christian right, a way to consolidate and energize that part of the base.

Moments after the ceremony, Bush saw Wallis. He bounded over and grabbed the cheeks of his face, one in each hand, and squeezed. "Jim, how ya doin', how ya doin'!" he exclaimed. Wallis was taken aback. Bush excitedly said that his massage therapist had given him Wallis's book, "Faith Works." His joy at seeing Wallis, as Wallis and others remember it, was palpable - a president, wrestling with faith and its role at a time of peril, seeing that rare bird: an independent counselor. Wallis recalls telling Bush he was doing fine, "'but in the State of the Union address a few days before, you said that unless we devote all our energies, our focus, our resources on this war on terrorism, we're going to lose.' I said, 'Mr. President, if we don't devote our energy, our focus and our time on also overcoming global poverty and desperation, we will lose not only the war on poverty, but we'll lose the war on terrorism."'

Bush replied that that was why America needed the leadership of Wallis and other members of the clergy.

"No, Mr. President," Wallis says he told Bush, "We need your leadership on this question, and all of us will then commit to support you. Unless we drain the swamp of injustice in which the mosquitoes of terrorism breed, we'll never defeat the threat of terrorism."

Bush looked quizzically at the minister, Wallis recalls. They never spoke again after that.

"When I was first with Bush in Austin, what I saw was a self-help Methodist, very open, seeking," Wallis says now. "What I started to see at this point was the man that would emerge over the next year - a messianic American Calvinist. He doesn't want to hear from anyone who doubts him."
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend - but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
George W. Bush and his team have constructed a high-performance electoral engine. The soul of this new machine is the support of millions of likely voters, who judge his worth based on intangibles - character, certainty, fortitude and godliness - rather than on what he says or does. The deeper the darkness, the brighter this filament of faith glows, a faith in the president and the just God who affirms him.

The leader of the free world is clearly comfortable with this calculus and artfully encourages it. In the series of televised, carefully choreographed "Ask President Bush" events with supporters around the country, sessions filled with prayers and blessings, one questioner recently summed up the feelings of so many Christian conservatives, the core of the Bush army. "I've voted Republican from the very first time I could vote," said Gary Walby, a retired jeweler from Destin, Fla., as he stood before the president in a crowded college gym. "And I also want to say this is the very first time that I have felt that God was in the White House." Bush simply said "thank you" as a wave of raucous applause rose from the assembled.

Every few months, a report surfaces of the president using strikingly Messianic language, only to be dismissed by the White House. Three months ago, for instance, in a private meeting with Amish farmers in Lancaster County, Pa., Bush was reported to have said, "I trust God speaks through me." In this ongoing game of winks and nods, a White House spokesman denied the president had specifically spoken those words, but noted that "his faith helps him in his service to people."

-Ron Suskind

This divine confidence has been seen before and should be seen as a warning of where we are headed, like stinkbugs in London.

Our government is failing in its mission to serve our interests. Bush is one in a long string of racketeers that have lost sight of morality, have ignored or forgotten the true cost of war, have ignored the alternatives to war, have spurned doubt in favor of dogma, and have focused us on heroes rather than horrors.

Truth and reason are not incompatible with faith. I identify more closely with the deists. I am agnostic as to the nature of the creator, but I have faith that understanding nature is the path to better knowledge of the creator. Truth and Knowledge are devalued in a culture geared to power, to action, and to immediate results. Knowledge tends to render Truth elusive, which undermines confidence, which erodes one's sense of security-the value that, currently, overshadows everything, including morality. Therefore, those that speak with knowledge are scoffed at or merely ignored while those that speak with truth are considered dangerous or worse traitorous. Many claim to value Truth, but seek out "no spin zones" for what are essentially comfortable evasions of it. More often than not, Truth is what makes us uncomfortable. It does not coddle us or conform to what we wish it to be. It is simple when we would prefer complex and multifaceted when we would prefer clarity. It stands separate and yet is inseparable from perception therefore, forever limited by the inherent limitations of our perception.

Now imagine a society in which everyone believes that what makes an opinion true is whether it is held by those in power. So if the authorities say that black people are inferior to white people, or love is hate, or war is peace, then the citizens sincerely believe that is true. Such a society lacks something, to say the least. In particular, its people misunderstand truth, and the nature of their misunderstanding undermines the very point of even having the concept. Social criticism often involves expressing disagreement with those in power -- saying that their views on some matter are mistaken. But a member of our little society doesn't believe that the authorities can be mistaken. In order to believe that, they would have to be able to think that what the authorities say is incorrect. But their understanding of what correctness is rules out such a possibility. So criticism -- disagreement with those in power -- is, practically speaking, impossible.

Recently there has been a revival of interest in George Orwell's 1984. But discussions of the book often miss the point. The most terrifying aspect of Orwell's Ministry of Truth isn't its ability to get people to keep people from speaking their minds, or even to believe lies; it is its success at getting them to give up on the idea of truth altogether. When, at the end of the novel, O'Brien, the sinister representative of Big Brother, tortures the hapless Winston into believing that two and two make five, his point, as he makes brutally clear, is that Winston must "relearn" that whatever the party says is the truth. O'Brien doesn't really care about Winston's views on addition. What he cares about is getting rid of Winston's idea of truth. He is well aware of the point I've just been making. Eliminate the very idea of right and wrong independent of what the government says, and you eliminate not just dissent -- you eliminate the very possibility of dissent.

That is the first reason truth has political value. Just having the concept of objective truth opens up a certain possibility: It allows us to think that something might be correct even if those in power disagree. Without it, we wouldn't be able to distinguish between what those in power say is the case and what is the case.

The second reason truth is politically important is that one of our society's most basic political concepts -- that of a fundamental right -- presupposes the idea of objective truth. A fundamental right is different from a right that is granted merely as a matter of social policy. Policy rights -- such as the right of a police officer to carry a concealed weapon -- are justified because they are means to a worthwhile social goal, like public safety. Fundamental rights, on the other hand, are a matter of principle, as the philosopher Ronald Dworkin has famously put it in a book by that title. They aren't justified because they are a means to valuable social goals; fundamental rights are justified because they are a necessary component of basic respect due to all people. Fundamental rights, therefore, override other political concerns. You can't justifiably lose your right to privacy, for example, just because the attorney general suddenly decides we would all be less vulnerable to terrorism if the government knew what everyone was reading, buying, and saying. The whole point of having a fundamental or, as it is often put, "human right," is that it can't justifiably be taken away just because a government suddenly decides it would be in our interest to do so.

It follows that a necessary condition for fundamental rights is a distinction between what the government -- in the wide sense of the term -- says is so and what is true. That is, in order for me to understand that I have fundamental rights, it must be possible for me to have the following thought: that even though everyone else in my community thinks that, for example, same-sex marriages should be outlawed, people of the same sex still have a right to be married. But I couldn't have that thought unless I was able to entertain the idea that believing doesn't make things so, that there is something that my thoughts can respond to other than the views of my fellow citizens, powerful or not. The very concept of a fundamental right presupposes the concept of truth. Take-home lesson: If you care about your rights, you had better care about truth.

-Michael P. Lynch, Who Cares About the Truth?

I would hope that if we didn't care about the truth, then we would care about our rights, but Bill O'Reilly is still on TV while having claimed that the ACLU (a more absolute a defender of constitutional rights you will not find) is the most dangerous organization in America. So is it that the only thing we care about, majority-speaking, is our security? Since we've rejected truth we can't even see how war has botched that. We can't see any through any lie no matter how brazenly untrue, no matter if it looms as large and loony as Limbaugh in a leotard.

Somehow we have lost our pioneer and explorer spirit, if that was the essential initial quality of our nation anyway. We honor George Bush as the Person of the Year and ignore the Opportunity to honor the Spirit of those souls at NASA that got to Mars to find what God speaks in the stones there.


Only nature can enslave man and only when the existence of each last entity is routed out and made to stand naked before him will he be properly suzerain of the earth.

-Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West

History is often seen as a barrier to repetition of past mistakes, but this works only so long as ones adheres to the truth. If the past is clouded in lies, how clear are the events of today? Going outside the state-approved textbook history of the "discovery" of America we see the event more like an invasion resulting in genocide. Even in acknowledgement of this fact Samuel Eliot Morison, the author of Christopher Columbus, Mariner (1954), accentuates the positive.

He had his faults and his defects, but they were largely the defects of the qualities that made him great¾his indomitable will, his superb faith in God and in his own mission as the Christ-bearer to lands beyond the seas, his stubborn persistence despite neglect, poverty and discouragement. But there was no flaw, no dark side to the most outstanding and essential of all his qualities—his seamanship.
I got this quote from Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, which also includes quotes from Columbus such as, "They would make fine servants…With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want."

The crimes of Columbus were nothing compared to the most evil, inhuman villain ever to enter the White House, Andrew "Trail of Tears" Jackson. His whitewashed history is clearly evident by his image honoring every twenty-dollar note. Howard Zinn explains his treatment:

The leading books on the Jacksonian period, written by respected historians (The Age of Jackson by Arthur Schlesinger; The Jacksonian Persuasion by Marvin Meyers), do not mention Jackson's Indian policy, but there is much talk of tariffs, banking, political parties, political rhetoric. If you look through high school textbooks and elementary school textbooks in American history you will find Jackson the frontiersman, soldier, democrat, man of the people—not Jackson the slaveholder, land speculator, executioner of dissident soldiers, exterminator of Indians.

-Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States

Walter Russell Mead seemed to know what was going to happen so soon after that horrible day in September though he was working on Special Providence at the time). The bloodthirsty nature of the Jacksonian tradition has been rekindled and the aversion to "limited war" has paved the way for the post-election destruction of Fallujah and the downplayed concern over widespread torture in our prisons. It explains the lack of any attempt at diplomacy since it is understood that extremism only ends in extermination. Mead's point about the fear of fifth columns becomes the basis for the book In Defense of Internment: The Case for "Racial Profiling" in World War II and the War on Terror, which was well received by the conservative press eager for justification for repressive "patriot" acts and racist actions. This leads to his final point that "Jacksonians throw stones." No better was this illustrated than by Zell Miller (Jackson and Miller were both Democrats) at the Republican National Convention, where he kind of accused Kerry of wanting to fight with spitballs and expressed the strong desire to challenge Chris Matthews to a duel when confronted about it.

This recovered ruthlessness remains remarkably resistant to relativism even as it is put to use to justify war, especially for Christian values, which also hearkens back to the Puritans citing Romans 13:2 to justify the taking of Indian land. There is a definite reluctance or inability to confront contradictions in their positions. How one can go from "blessed are the peacemakers" to pre-emptive war based on unvetted intelligence practically handpicked by Cheney boggles my mind. War is somehow seen as the answer to a threat that exists outside the state level, and yet the state is the only thing conventional warfare can deal with. Equipped with this hammer everything was seen as nails.

The conservatives have a term for facing certain truths concerning our history: self-hatred. To mention it is to join the "blame America first" crowd. They know that to tarnish the heroic image of Columbus as well as any other figure in the pantheon of our proud heritage robs a student of the essential trust in the goodwill of power. Corruption becomes much more difficult under the eyes of a wary populace. It's also best to ignore a history that largely shows conservative's contribution to society as saying "no" to progressive social change. A group that shouted, "progress" while meaning "profit". They seek self-defense and protection of property by initiated combat, conquering, and dividing the land (or reconstruction contracts) as Jackson did to the Seminoles of Florida.

Jackson's work had brought the white settlements to the border of Florida, owned by Spain. Here were the villages of the Seminole Indians, joined by some Red Stick [Creek that resisted] refugees, and encouraged by British agents in their resistance to the Americans. Settlers moved into Indian lands. Indians attacked. Atrocities took place on both sides. When certain villages refused to surrender people accused of murdering whites, Jackson ordered the villages destroyed….

Jackson began raids into Florida, arguing it was a sanctuary for escaped slaves and for marauding Indians. Florida, he said, was essential to the defense of the United States. It was that classic modern preface to a war of conquest. Thus began the Seminole War of 1818, leading to the American acquisition of Florida. It appears on the classroom maps politely as "Florida Purchase, 1819"—but it came from Andrew Jackson's military campaign across the Florida border, burning Seminole villages, seizing Spanish forts, until Spain was "persuaded" to sell. He acted, he said, by the "immutable laws of self-defense."

Jackson then became governor of the Florida Territory. He was able now to give good business advice to friends and relatives. To a nephew, he suggested holding on to property in Pensacola. To a friends, a surgeon-general in the army, he suggested buying as many slaves as possible, because the price would soon rise.

-Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States

Truth is molded to justify power, whether it is the truth of yesterday or today. That power is aided by religion, racism, anger, fear, and greed to name a few. Overcoming any one of these things is an accomplishment in itself. That struggle entails an attrition that leads to apathy and impatience. That's all that is necessary for us to find ourselves in another war, perhaps in Iran. Once again, we can not count on the Democrats.

What hope can there be in diplomacy unless we are trustworthy and our advice is sound? There is much stock being put into the Iraqi election, but there is sparse indication what positive effect it will have on the situation. Democracy combined with free markets are seen as the undeniable magic formula to peace, despite evidence to the contrary. The errors in our policy promote violence and ethic hatred throughout the world. Our blindness to this suggests certain things about us, which I will explore in part 3.


American Politics. part 1


9.12.2004


(Politics maybe?)


Conservative: A man who believes nothing should be done for the first time.
—Alfred E. Wiggam (from The Left Handed Dictionary)

Conservative: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.
— Ambrose Bierce

The liberals can understand everything but people who don't understand them.
—Lenny Bruce

A liberal is a man who is right most of the time, but he's right too soon.
—Gregory Nunn

Part 1: Parties, pundits, polemics and part of why I'm not voting for another four.

This post has been written to and put off for over a month. My initial intention was to write about the differences and similarities of the bi-polar politics this country is afflicted with in order to convince myself and maybe a handful of others that voting for the "lesser of two evils" is, in fact, worth doing even after all hope for progressives was lost after the media-sponsored crowning of Kerry many, many months ago in a small and seemingly unimportant state. I wasn't fazed by the exaggerated implication of the Dean scream as much as the consensus to ignore and make fun of Dennis Kucinich, whom I would have preferred among all other candidates.

Dennis was often painted as a socialist by those trying to say McCarthyism was a good thing. As Wulgar clearly points out, we live in "a Republic based on Democratic socialism." Such things as public schools feed a good Democracy and thing like welfare and health care for all feed the soul of this nation. Supposedly we can strike a balanced society utilizing the strengths of capitalism while using socialist policies to ensure the livelihood of all our citizens. Capitalism alone is not the answer as Albert Einstein illustrated his essay, Why Socialism?

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

- Albert Einstein

With help from an all too willing FCC, radio and TV have been opened up to abuse by huge corporations that are able to saturate the market with their messages. Nowhere is this more clear than in the land of talk radio.

Living out near the middle of nowhere leaves me with few choices of radio stations to tune to during the workday commute. For the simple fact that it comes in without static, I listen to WLS. For the most part it is strictly neo-conservative, hosting Rush and his progeny (i.e. Sean Hannity). Sean is more the attack dog to Rush's constant use satirical asides and "jokes" to cloak his attacks. According to Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, "…successful talk radio hosts are funny." This is because, "[n]o one wants to listen to three hours of a political diatribe." The humor allows Rush to make the excuse that he's "just an entertainer" and has a "…guaranteed rebuttal to anything that offends."

One of the WLS hosts has taken up Rush's tactics and her name is Teri O'Brien. The only thing is that she often fails in the humor department. Her fervent hatred of Michael Moore often devolves into fat jokes. She thinks, "…that his morbid obesity might reflect the same lack of discipline and integrity that is reflected by his deliberate dishonesty." She refuses to apologize for making weight an issue because she thinks that just because she says her comments are, "exclusively limited to Michael Moore" it somehow releases her from making connection of being overweight as obviously lazy and undisciplined. The only reason to bring the topic of weight up is to reveal your own shallowness. Mature people would not stoop to this level of discourse. It would be no different if I repeated the cliché that Teri has a face for radio. Teri is seemingly oblivious to this and I feel sorry for her students that have to deal with her on a regular basis.

Speaking of Moore, I saw his movie. I really don't care to debate whether or not it's 100% truthful (from what I've seen it is), but I don't for one second think it's anti-American. Anti-Bush? Hell yeah, but the lunatic fringe wants you to believe that the only patriot is one that believes in the Iraq war. After all, if they hate our freedom, then shouldn't the fact that we are free to disagree with our government even in times of war be what they hate too?

The professional liberals on both sides of the Atlantic have played a major part in this. The campaign against Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is indicative. The film is not radical and makes no outlandish claims; what it does is push past those guarding the boundaries of "respectable" dissent. That is why the public applauds it. It breaks the collusive codes of journalism, which it shames. It allows people to begin to deconstruct the nightly propaganda that passes for news: in which "a sovereign Iraqi government pursues democracy" and those fighting in Najaf and Fallujah and Basra are always "militants" and "insurgents" or members of a "private army," never nationalists defending their homeland and whose resistance has probably forestalled attacks on Iran, Syria or North Korea.

The real debate is neither Bush nor Kerry, but the system they exemplify; it is the decline of true democracy and the rise of the American "national security state" in Britain and other countries claiming to be democracies, in which people are sent to prison and the key thrown away and whose leaders commit capital crimes in faraway places, unhindered, and then, like the ruthless Blair, invite the thug they install to address the Labour Party conference. The real debate is the subjugation of national economies to a system which divides humanity as never before and sustains the deaths, every day, of 24,000 hungry people. The real debate is the subversion of political language and of debate itself and perhaps, in the end, our self-respect.

-John Pilger

It reminds me of back in the 8th grade when I did a paper on flag burning. I found a story about a Vietnam POW that was being tortured into admitting and, I think, signing a document saying that his country's war was wrong, which reminds me of Some Kind of Hero. At one point his captor produces a picture of American protesters burning the flag and says, "See, this proves that your people think it's wrong." His response was, "No! That means I'm right, because people are free and not afraid to protest." (Or something like that…)

Fahrenheit 9/11 is an important movie for the fact that you can see footage of the president that you would never see normally. It shows the strange relationship our government has with the Saudis. It also shows, briefly, footage from Iraq that you'd never see on Fox. It does not depict our troops in a bad light. I can picture myself like some of them. If I were ten years younger "playing" with that kind of military hardware, I'd be as psyched about the technology as they are. Hey, I spent a good portion of my youth wrapped up in military flight/air/land simulators. I was pleasantly separated from the gruesome results and I doubt if I could ever really kill someone.

It's really hard to get some people to think you "support the troops" not dying by being against the Iraq war and I've been fairly silent here about it. It just gets my stomach all up in knots. I know I have no monopoly on the truth. I know I have no crystal ball that will let me gauge the "what ifs" of things like whether or not coercive inspections would have been the best course. I know that we have been mislead and that this administration is cracking under the strain of never admitting mistakes or taking blame.

Politics today is a carnival of counterfeit conversation framed for focus groups. The pundits have plenty to talk about, but little of anything "objective" to add. They pose for the camera, as do the politicians, which fits into the footage that bookends Fahrenheit 9/11 of various members of the administration getting ready to go "on the air."

One of the other similarities between "V for Vendetta" and our current situation is that the populace is cowed by fear, to an extent, through the media, whether it's television propaganda or electronic surveillance.

Of course. One of the reasons we singled out media in "V for Vendetta" was because it is one of the most useful tools of tyranny. We invite it into our own home every night; I'm sure that some of us think of it as a friend. That might be a horrifying notion but I'm sure there are people who think of television as perhaps one of their most intimate friends. And if the TV tells them that things in the world are a certain way, even if the evidence of their senses asserts it is not true, they'll probably believe the television set in the end. It's an alarming thought but we brought it upon ourselves. I mean, I think that television is one of the most diabolical -- in the very best sense of the word -- inventions of the past century. It has probably done more to degrade the mind and intelligence of its audience, even if they happen to be drug addicts or alcoholics; I would think that watching television has done more to limit their horizons in the long run. And it has also distorted our culture.

TV and politics have always made inevitable bedfellows, but the results have been disastrous. Look at the situation we have now. Let's say that tomorrow someone who is a political genius were to emerge -- and I'm not expecting this to happen, but say that it did. Say that a politician emerged who seemed, for once, basically competent, who seemed to be able to do their job as well as the average cab driver, comic writer or journalist. If they were the most intelligent, visionary, humane political thinker in the history of mankind, but were also fat, had some sort of blemish or something that made them less than telegenic, we would not be able to elect them. All we're able to elect are these telegenic, photogenic crypto-Nazis. As long as they look good. I suppose it's too early to go into my rant on Ronald Reagan? That would be tasteless.

Actually, I was going to mention him. Especially his recent sanctification by America's television news media.

[Laughs.] Well then, OK. You've got Ronald Reagan -- the much eulogized, recently deceased former president -- who everyone seems to have forgotten was regarded as one of the most low and treacherous individuals by those in Hollywood that he sold out to the McCarthy hearings. This is someone whose response to the AIDS epidemic was probably responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. This is someone who created Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, or at least set in motion the policies that would create these creatures. This was the architect of much of the world's present misery. Why did we elect him? Because he had been in a lot of films that some quite liked. We thought him an honorable man because in his films he played a lot of honorable men. I believe there are some who believed he had an outstanding war record. Even Ronald Reagan himself talked with misty eyes about the time he liberated concentration camps, which he may have done in a movie. But Ronald Reagan was out of World War II, fortunately for him, because of ill health. So all of his memories of military service came from movies. I've got to say that there are probably better people to elect than film stars.

Salon interview with Alan Moore

The attempt to beautify Reagan is just another example of the effort to rewrite history. It's almost a daily occurrence in the talk radio land of Sean Hannity from what I've experienced.

When not trying to confuse us on historical fact, Sean is focused on trying to confuse us on rhetorical facts. During the Democratic Nation Convention Sean interviewed James P. Hoffa of the Teamsters and among numerous distortions that he lobbed during the interview he displayed an amazing ability to ignore answers to questions he did not like. He repeatedly asked Hoffa why he forced his members to pay for donations to the Democrats, while ignoring Hoffa's answer that the donations were taken from a voluntary fund.

As soon as Hoffa said Bush gave a tax cut to the rich, Sean accused him of "class warfare." So, even if Bush says that the rich elite are his base, it's bad to bring up the issue of unfair taxes because it's divisive. WTF? This is the same guy that has made the focus of his show in recent weeks near nonstop coverage of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads. This is the guy that smears MoveOn every chance he gets by repeating the lie that they ran an ad equating Bush with Hilter in their Bush in 30 Seconds contest. This is the same guy that eagerly repeated Dick Cheney's and Zell Miller's lies about Kerry's voting record and position on fighting against terrorism.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, this will only return the focus to GWB's embarrassing military career. You'd think that with all the effort to focus on their strengths that they'd shy away from the military service issue. Perhaps they have faith in their nationally syndicated liars to steer the many with too little time to pick up a paper than to turn on the TV or radio.

It has been made abundantly clear -- most recently, by Mr. Rood of the Chicago Tribune and by the invaluable Joe Galloway of Knight-Ridder -- that these Swift Boat characters are dealing in public lies. The day before, it was the NYT. The day before that, the Washington Post. We've had people outed as Republican operatives, disparaging war wounds they never saw, asserting as fact things they never witnessed, and ultimately calumnizing their own heroism. By all standard measures, this story should be over, and these people consigned to that same Phantom Zone where was dispatched that poor guy who wrote "Fortunate Son" in 2000. Can any fair person maintain that John O'Neill and the rest of the Chuck Colson Flotilla have any more credibility at this point than poor Hatfield had?

However, they live.

Why?

Television.

The print media, God love it, has done so thorough a debunking of these guys that you'd expect to hear a couple of them on Art Bell's program late one night. But because the "issue" and the "controversy" make good television theater, they must be kept alive. Which is why, the next time you see, say, Norah O'Donnell, down by the phony barn on the phony ranch, and she tells you how remarkable it is that the ads are "having an effect" despite the fact that the actual buy was so low, you should feel free to excuse yourself and go vomit in the corner. The original ad contained substantially less truth than the Hitler Diaries, but it was run anyway, over and over again, in news pieces about the "issue" and on argument shows dealing with the "controversy." In other words, television news gave up a substantial portion of its "news hole" this week to information that the people running the news operations had to know were demonstrable lies.

This is what you get. This is what you get when you get bullied by Mr. Murdoch's toy network into running an interview in which a woman makes unsubstantiated charges of rape against a sitting president, and this is what you get when you get played like a tin piano by a decades-long dirty-tricks campaign that culminated in an impeachment, and you couldn't report on the former because you were in the tank to the people bringing the latter. This is what you get when you loan your hard-won credibility to hacks and charlatans. This is what happens when you sell your craft out to celebrity, when being good on television is more important than being good at your job, when unconscionable slander is reckoned as genius because it moves the Nielsen needle. This is what happens when sneering schoolyard invective is reckoned to be actual talent because it comes with a Q rating. (Have a nice day, Tucker.) This is what happens when you run scared. Truth, literally, comes to matter not at all.

- Charles Pierce (via Steven)

So it is important that when we look at the numbers, specifically…

75 Percentage of Americans unaffected by Bush's sweeping 2003 cuts in capital gains and dividends taxes.

$42,000 Average savings members of Bush's cabinet received in 2003 as a result of cuts in capital gains and dividends taxes.

39 Percentage of tax cuts that will go to the top 1 per cent of American families when fully phased in.

49 Percentage of Americans in April 2004 who found that their taxes had actually gone up since Bush took office.

88 Percentage of American families who will save less than $100 on their 2006 federal taxes as a result of 2003 cut in capital gains and dividends taxes.

$30,858 Amount Bush himself saved in taxes in 2003.

9.3m Number of US unemployed in April 2004.

2.3m Number of Americans who lost their jobs during first three Years of the Bush administration.

22m Number of jobs gained during Clinton's eight years in office.
…it's clear that Bush has to keep Kerry focused on Vietnam. In his address to the GOP convention, Bush offered more promises without any proof he'd done anything other than line the pockets of his base, further exploit our environment, and curb science and education that conflicted with his beliefs. Much of the mainstream media ignored these stories and you can be damn sure that FOX news didn't care any of them.

When it comes to television that actually tries to counter the FOX spin, I try to turn to shows like Now: with Bill Moyers, but I have to wait until noon on Sunday to catch it. A while back they did an interview with Frank Luntz and a portion of it goes well against a recent post by Mary of Pacific Views.

George Orwell warned that sloppy language leads to foolish thoughts. One of the worst aspects of our discourse these days is how rarely our political language is used to express honest and clear thought. Of course, part of the fault lies with our schooling which tends to reward the complexity of thought and the use of obscure words. Indeed, there are those like William Buckley, Jr. who have incredibly large vocabularies and also take pleasure in using extremely obscure words to show how erudite they are. Yet, one must agree that the real problem with our political discourse these days is the purposeful use of words to lie and mislead. The result is a political environment that is dangerously toxic…

This year Luntz has produced a document (pdf) that tells Republicans how to talk about the "War on Terror". His goal was to show Republicans how to explain the policies of "preemption" and the "War in Iraq". His first point in this document was to tell Republicans that they should never use these words to discuss these policies.

"However, you will not find any instance in which we suggest that you use the actual word "preemption", or the phrase "The War in Iraq" to communicate your policies to the American public. To do so is to undermine your message from the start. Preemption may be the right policy, and Iraq the right place to start. But those are not the right words to use.

Your efforts are about "the principles of prevention and protection" in the greater "War on Terror"."

As you see, Luntz once again tells the Republicans to use imprecise and deceitful language to disguise their real policies. And in this case, he is actually advocating the adoption of a word that describes a policy that is even more immoral than a preemptive policy. Note that even international treaties affirm that countries can attack first when there is a real danger; this is the definition of a preemptive war. A preventative war on the other hand is not justified morally or ethically in any civilized society because it is based on nothing more than a suspicion of a threat. It is like locking up someone at birth because you believe that when someone grows up he/she will be a dangerous criminal.

-Mary

I think that the Democrats have always done a better job at setting the context than Republicans. And that's because they explain the "why" of the problem. If you just go in and you provide three or four solutions when someone asks you a question, you haven't set the context.

You haven't explained why you believe what you believe or why you support what you support. And that's where the Democrats have always been good. Bill Clinton was the best context setter of the 20th century. He never gave you a full answer. He never told you what he was gonna do. But he always told you why he was gonna do it. And I think that's why he ended up so popular….

And it's not messing with their heads because it's these thoughts, these ideas, these assumptions already exist. I would not... I do not believe in calling something that is white, I won't call it black.

I do not believe in calling something that's up, calling it down. This is not Orwellian. This is listening to what you care about. This is understanding who you are, what you believe, all your life experiences and then explaining things in that way. Look, if we were to do this interview and you asked me questions in English and I responded in Greek, none of your viewers with the exception of three or four people in L.A. are gonna understand me.

That's all that I do is I help people understand politics or products or services. It's an explanation. It's an education, not a manipulation.

Luntz on Now

Saying it is not a manipulation is plain insulting and Brancaccio tries to point out that mentioning 9/11 every time you mention Iraq does create a mental connection for many Americans.

BRANCACCIO: ...and tries to conflate the two is doing a disservice perhaps to the facts.

LUNTZ: Okay. But you say caused by. That's actually not the wording of the research. It's did Iraq play any role or is there a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda? I don't even know if it's Al Qaeda or Al "Kida". I hear Bush Administration officials call it both.

They don't say cause. And this is where I focus on words. Is there a relationship? Are these bad people? Was Saddam Hussein a bad person? Is Osama bin Laden a bad person? The answer is absolutely yes.

And we are better off if Osama bin Laden did not exist and I hope we catch him. And we are certainly better off that Saddam Hussein is not in power. So, I pay attention to the words, the exact phrases. And to the American people, they don't know up or down when it comes to this. But they do know that these are bad people. They know that they have killed Americans. They know that they are a threat to our national security and they want them gone. What's wrong with that?

-Now

Even the folks at the Daily Show realize the power of words, but the Democrats are not completely free of word-wizards. Now also interviewed George Lakoff who has been talking about how politicians "frame" their speech.

BRANCACCIO: Well, controversial issue that perhaps frames would help: trial lawyer. John Edwards is one. How do you use that as a political weapon or an asset?

LAKOFF: Well, you use it as a weapon because it's been made into a weapon with terms like "frivolous lawsuits," and so on.

LAKOFF: That is a frame that has been constructed by conservatives to attack trial lawyers, because trial lawyers, you know, support the Democratic Party in many parts of the country. So they're trying to de-fund the Democrats by attacking trial lawyers.

Now instead of trial lawyers, you should say what folks really are doing. These are public protection attorneys. They're doing public protection law. These are…

BRANCACCIO: Protecting the public.

LAKOFF: Protecting the public from corporations and professionals who are either negligent or unscrupulous. And they're the last line of defense we have.

That's what, you know, public protection law is really about. And the Democrats need to come back and talk about public protection law and public protection.

BRANCACCIO: It's interesting how these phrases get inserted into the synapse. You say through repetition is one good way. Want you to take a look at this. We have President Bush couple years ago talking about his Healthy Forest Initiative. And he doesn't, as you'll see, talk about cutting down trees.

BUSH: Forest policy can be common sense policy.

A policy that is based upon common sense.

We need to make our forests healthy by using some common sense.

Common sense.

Common sense.

Common sense forest policy.

BRANCACCIO: If I were covering that speech, I'd say that the lead might have something to do with common sense.

LAKOFF: Yes. And what does that mean? It means experts are not needed. And who are the experts? They're ecologists, environmentalists. This says, "Don't listen to the experts. Just think about it yourself. And we're going to tell you how to think about it."

Now when they say Healthy Forest for a bill that's going to, you know, clear cut forests and destroy forests, what do you do if you're on the other side? Well, what you have to do is rename it.

Now, I mean, if it had been renamed something like Leave No Tree Behind, that would have been, you know, perfect. Or, you know, The Forest Destruction Act. You know?

Then what that does is allow you to bring it up as an issue, and allow you to ask the experts in as the arbiters. That's the way you deal with the attempt of common sense to say, "This isn't an expert issue. We don't listen to the experts."

Now the person who I think taught me most about this is one of your former guests, Frank Luntz.

BRANCACCIO: Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster and opinion researcher.

LAKOFF: That's right.

Luntz puts out a little workbook every year or so. And last year in his section on the environment, he said something very interesting.

He said that on global warming, the Democrats have the science on their side, but we can win with language. What we need to do is use words environmentalists like, like "healthy," "clean," and "safe."

Now what that does is each word like that evokes a frame. But what they do is they evoke frames that are the opposite of what they know they mean. These are sort of Orwellian frames. These are ways to manipulate the public.

So whenever you hear an Orwellian term like "Clear Skies Act" or "Compassionate Conservative," means they know they're weak on something. And what you have to do is rename it. Rename it to fit the truth.

It is the Dirty Air Act. It is the Forest Destruction Act.

BRANCACCIO: A lot of the hot button political issues of the moment really can be framed and re-framed. Big debate this summer over gay marriage. You might re-frame it, I don't know, you could call it "right to marry the one you love." That's a different kind of frame.

LAKOFF: Exactly right.

You have to change the terms and change the words to make them your words all the time. As soon as you say, "gay marriage," the image of gay sex is going to come up.

Most people, you know, if you say, "Are you in favor of gay sex," will say, "Who me? No." But if they say, "Do you think the state should tell people who they should marry?" Different question. Different frame.

-Now

Both parties are doing the research to convince us to support them. The media doesn't challenge them on their bullshit often because they are like big business that support both parties for obvious reasons. We are expected to vote for the party that represents our views-conservative or liberal. Anyone that deviates from this dualistic tradition becomes a coveted swing voter and the most effective way to convince these people is to make the other party look worse. Sometimes this is as simple as added an adjective in front of the other guy's chosen ideology.

BRANCACCIO: We moving away from liberal? Is liberal finally… even you admitting it's a dirty word?

LAKOFF: Well, it's been branded by the other side. For the last 20, 30 years they've been putting other adjectives with liberal, like limousine liberal, latte liberal, you know, Chardonnay and brie liberal, even though more Republicans eat brie than Democrats do. Very important, you know…

BRANCACCIO: There's research about this?

LAKOFF: There's research about this. Everything has market research. But the fact is that the identity has been given to the word "liberal." And people talk about the liberal elite when, in fact, it's the conservatives who have the real money in the country and the elitism. The Democrats should use that. The Democrats have to call the people who get those big tax cuts, not just the rich, but the elite. "Rich" is a good word in America. You know, remember, you have rich experiences. You want a rich life. You know? "Rich" is a good word. But "elite" isn't a good word.

BRANCACCIO: If you ever watch the Comedy Central program THE DAILY SHOW, they have a mock newscast. But they seem to have caught the conservatives trying to use this word "liberal" as a weapon. Take a look.

[CLIP FROM DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART]
CNN CLIP: "two of the foremost liberal senators"
CNN CLIP: "two of the foremost liberal US senators"
MSNBC CLIP: "the most liberal member of the United States Senate"
CNN CLIP: "the most liberal member of the United States Senate"
FOX CLIP: "who was the number one rated liberal in the United States Senate"
FOX CLIP: "the number one most liberal senator in the United States Senate"


STEWART: Wow! Those guys are liberal! In fact if I didn't know better I'd say they were the first and fourth most liberal senators in the whole Senate. And while we don't have any idea what that means or where those rankings come from or how they were arrived at or whether it's even true, I don't like the sounds of it.
[END CLIP]

Now

It used to be that liberals were big government and conservatives favored small government, but that appears to be reversed now. This kind of flip-flopping has been going on for a while. How else can one explain how Clinton signed NAFTA into existence? How can we explain how conservatives are against conservation? As much as the conservatives value "moral clarity" I fail to see it, except in certain areas like their stance on Iraq, which brings to my mind the phrase, "fools rush in." Life seems to have sanctity until voting age, which coincidentally coincides with the age you can get into the military. Bush's call on "common sense" policy towards the environment is as much an attack on scientists as Richard J. Daley's famous quip, "What do experts know?"

The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that this election-year's federal deficit will reach $422 billion, congressional aides said Tuesday, the highest ever, yet a smaller shortfall than analysts predicted earlier this year.

The figure, provided by aides who spoke on condition of anonymity, is sure to provide political fodder for both parties during the remaining two months of the presidential and congressional campaigns. "This is by far the biggest deficit in American history," said Thomas Kahn, Democratic staff director of the House Budget Committee. "There is no credible way Republicans can portray the record deficits they have created as good news."

"Deficits are going down, jobs are going up, the economy continues to improve," said Sean Spicer, Republican spokesman for the House Budget panel. "I don't see how you can't be happy with that news."

The number was being released later Tuesday in the annual summertime forecast issued by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The projection by Congress' nonpartisan budget analysts would surpass last year's $375 billion shortfall, the current record.

-ABC News

This "down is up" talk of Sean Spicer gives credence to the Sanders Hypothesis, which Steven pointed out recently.

The worsening federal budget deficit reflects a failure to choose, and since politics is about choice, the federal deficit is a manifestation of political failure. Left unchecked, this political failure will eventually cause politicians to renege on the current social contracts between the generations, like Medicare and Social Security, as well as other government services that are now expected. The growing trade deficit reflects a deeper breakdown in the larger political economy of the entire nation, manifesting itself most directly in the ongoing shift from an economy that produces real goods to some sort of finance-based (flim-flam Ponzi?) economy that figures out how to import more manufactured goods (and maybe eventually services) than it exports on a permanent basis. No one knows where this ongoing transformation will take the United States, or what it means for the private as well as governmental social contracts binding this nation together.

What does this mean to us?

The announcement on Friday the 13th of August that the US trade deficit had grown by more than $8 billion is deeply significant.[1] Its meaning is that the US has entered a phase, long predicted by us, in which it is impossible to stabilize the American external position within a democratic and free market context. The long ascendance of finance capital from its nadir during the depression of the 1930s and the parallel erosion of real capital accumulation is reaching, in our view, a climax.[2] What appears to be the permanent loss of over three million manufacturing jobs[3] in the last three years testifies to the tacit acceptance of this state of affairs by the managers of the US political economy. This acceptance is emphasized by the Kerry candidacy for the presidency, which underlines the cross-party stranglehold that finance capital holds over the political system. There is nothing new about this; what matters here is that the numbers are evidence that we have reached a point of departure for radical systemic change….

The answer is unfortunately a messy one: as long as it takes. The US has chosen to address the problem that it does not make enough of what the rest of the world wants by going to war to monopolize control of the supply and distribution of what the world needs, petroleum. There are other war aims, of course, but control of the global hydrocarbon net is certainly the most important. One may believe otherwise, but then one may believe in magic and the tooth fairy too. The truth is that the dangerously destabilizing idea has rooted in Washington that, in the words of Vice President Cheney, "deficits don't matter (we proved that in the 90s)." He is right of course in pure power terms; a fuller expression of Cheney's dictum might well add, "as long as we are able to force everyone else to accept them (deficits)."

Control of oil is essential to enforcing that acceptance since—the conceit of the financial markets notwithstanding—economic growth is first a function of energy availability, not interest rates. The problem for the Americans is—control of the political system by the financial fraction of the ruling class notwithstanding—that most of the "real capital" fraction, that is to say the owners of the country's factories, are opting to decamp and make things where labor can be more readily exploited in order to keep their profit margins up. Matters are further complicated by the power of the military and security complex, whose members' prosperity was, until the 90s at least under Clinton, underwritten by the country's productive capital. With the factories going to China, the viability of the management-labor compact and tax base that supports the military is eroding.

As it has been for a while, the folks around George Bush have been the ones to worry about over his fairly buffoonish nature. What makes the Bush administration especially bad is people like Cheney and that crazy guy, John Ashcroft.

Oddly enough, it was the reaction of Kerry after Zell Miller's very public mental breakdown that give many of us hope that there was still some fight left in the man. …did you watch Senator Zell Miller-he morphed into John Brown, Oral Roberts and Elmer Gantry-was all fire and brimstone- ridiculed Kerry fiercely- forget he distorted and was factually incorrect--when finished, expected the audience to shout hallelujah-stamp their feet and wave handkerchiefs in the air--Senator Miller disappointed me because he did not finish with the tent preacher's flourish REPENT OR DIE--gets harder to be a Republican by the day--John Kerry figuratively was hung on the cross and died while GW BUSH gave his acceptance speech------but on the same night exactly at midnight in a small town in Ohio he was resurrected--came after GW Bush and Cheney on TV with fire and tong-tough, hard, unrelentingly critical-ad homonym--contrasting this approach after the Democratic convention when Kerry was tip toeing through the tulips until he was amBushed by the swift boaters---his campaign damaged- in a tail spin-- however, Bush's demeaning assault on Kerry turned him into a fire belching dragon--the Republican insults appeared to energize him---challenge his erudite, self absorbed professorial manner--made him realize it is bare knuckles in the alley from now on- whether he can sustain this heated approach is another problem--Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is released in DVD and tape in the first week of October-suggest Kerry carpet bomb the US with the film --if Kerry cannot figure out how to go after Bush,, ask Moore--probably stuff on the cutting floor that is very interesting-- Bush is highly vulnerable and has made many errors of historical proportion, so Kerry must master the sword and strike deeply and swiftly- as far as his use of the shield, if Kerry cannot defend himself-he cannot defend the US-it is that simple.

-Bor Komorowski. Col US Army Ret

It is unfortunate that it is easier for me to point out reasons not to vote for Bush than to point out reasons to vote for Kerry. Who do we blame for such a poor Democratic candidate? Is it a problem with the party itself or a populace that is too busy or apathetic to take a part in politics? Perhaps politics have become too nasty and corrupt. Perhaps we are all reeling from the current collision between War and Truth.

Prelude to Part 2, War and Truth

The neo-cons in the Bush house, or the 'fucking crazies' as Colin Powell puts it, reacted exactly as al Qaida hoped. Rather than counter those things that fueled extremism in Muslim societies, they strengthened the recruiting efforts and spread terrorism to areas where it never was before. The incompetence of their understanding of terrorists is only beat by their lack of post-war planning and understanding of what a task rebuilding Iraq would be after destroying much of the country's infrastructure.

General Abizaid, CENTCOM CO, has explained recently that US forces have not lost a battle in Iraq-seems I heard the same argument in RVN--hope the general realizes that the scorekeeper does not count interim victories----if you lose the last battle , you lose the war---the oil lines are now being sabotaged at distribution points instead of just interdicted-Couple weeks ago Ambassador Negroponte requested that about 2 billion be shifted from nation building budgets to security--nation building is dead because there is no security for contractors----kidnapping is widespread and a cottage industry in Iraq-some linked to the insurgency and others to criminals---Iraqis in the US sponsored interim government, and their allies are hunted like rabbits by the insurgents-War cost in dollars enormous-over a billion a week and growing--lack of security will delay elections and the war will continue--as the US kills more Iraqi civilians , it will be more difficult to insure the loyalty and reliability of recently trained Iraqi troops and police- this expectation that the Iraqis will fight for US war aims belongs in the trash heap of delusions like cake walk, WMD, terrorist links, greetings of rice and roses by the Iraqi people -Bush's policies in Iraq are bankrupt, and he really does not know what to do--Deputy Sec Def Wolfowitz recently asked for patience to fight the insurgency----my response to him is PISS OFF--YOUR WAR-- OUR BLOOD---If reelected, Bush will have an epiphany-- forced to pullout as the costs in dollars and carnage mount in the war--so far Kerry has offered no solution to the war--his national security team of Rubin and Holbrook are both pro -Israel and are advising Kerry to stay the course in Iraq as long as the last American stands--there are nuances, but Kerry's policy is still BUSH LITE--Kerry has been gagging on that drink every since he started his campaign-the appalling fact is that it looks like four more years of BUSH LITE ---- QUO VADIS?

- Bor Komorowski Col USA RET

It is often at moments like this that we would hear things like, "When faced with believing the words of a madman and defending my country, I'll defend my country every single time" or "The world is safer without Saddam." The latter point may be true, but it doesn't negate how wrong the means of that removal from power was. The former is a slick evasion of the truth that plays well with many Americans.

After all, there were other reasons to depose the Hussein regime. And the belief that Iraq was an imminent nuclear threat had rallied us together and provided an easy justification to doubters of the nobility of our cause. So what if it wasn't really true? To many, it seemed naïve to worry about something as abstract as the truth or falsity of our claims when we could concern ourselves with the things that really mattered -- such as protecting ourselves from terrorism and ensuring our access to oil. To paraphrase Nietzsche, the truth may be good, but why not sometimes take untruth if it gets you where you want to go?

These are important questions. At the end of the day, is it always better to believe and speak the truth? Does the truth itself really matter? While generalizing is always dangerous, the above responses to the Iraq affair indicate that many Americans would look at such questions with a jaundiced eye. We are rather cynical about the value of truth.

Politics isn't the only place that one finds this sort of skepticism. A similar attitude is commonplace among some of our most prominent intellectuals. Indeed, under the banner of postmodernism, cynicism about truth and related notions like objectivity and knowledge has become the semiofficial philosophical stance of many academic disciplines. Roughly speaking, the attitude is that objective truth is an illusion and what we call truth is just another name for power. Consequently, if truth is valuable at all, it is valuable -- as power is -- merely as means…

Sure, we may say we want to believe the truth, but what we really desire is to believe what is useful. Good beliefs get us what we want, whether nicer suits, bigger tax cuts, or a steady source of oil for our SUV's. At the end of the day, the truth of what we believe and say is beside the point. What matters are the consequences.

Such rough-and-ready pragmatism taps into one of our deepest intellectual veins. It appeals to America's collective self-image as a square-jawed action hero. And it may partly explain why the outcry against the White House's deception over the war in Iraq was rather muted. It is not just that we believe that "united we stand," it is that, deep down, many Americans are prone to think that it is results, not principles, that matter. Like Fish and Bush, some of us find worrying over abstract principles like truth to be boring and irrelevant nitpicking, best left to the nerds who watch C-Span and worry about whether the death penalty is "fair."

Of course, many intellectuals are eager to defend the idea that truth matters. Unfortunately, however, some of the defenses just end up undermining the value of truth in a different way. There is a tendency for some to believe, for example, that caring about truth means caring about the absolutely certain truths of old. That has always been a familiar tune on the right, whistled with fervor by writers like Allan Bloom and Robert H. Bork, but its volume has appeared to increase since September 11, 2001. Americans have lost their "moral compass" and need to sharpen their vision with "moral clarity," we are told. Liberal-inspired relativism is weakening American resolve; in order to prevail (against terrorism, the assault on family values, and the like) we must rediscover our God-given access to the truth. And that truth, it seems, is that we are right, and everyone else is wrong.

William J. Bennett, for example, in his book last year, Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism, laments the profusion of what he calls "an easygoing" relativism. Longing for the days when children were instructed to appreciate the "superior goodness of the American way of life," he writes: "If the message was sometimes overdone, or sometimes sugarcoated, it was a message backed by the record of history and by the evidence of even a child's senses." In the halcyon days of old, when the relativists had yet to scale the garden wall, the truth was so clear that it could be grasped by even a child. That is the sort of truth Bennett seems to think really matters. To care about objective truth is to care about what is simple and ideologically certain.

As a defense of the value of truth, that is self-defeating. An unswerving allegiance to what you believe isn't a sign that you care about truth. It is a sign of dogmatism. Caring about truth does not mean never having to admit you are wrong. On the contrary, caring about truth means that you have to be open to the possibility that your own beliefs are mistaken. It is a consequence of the very idea of objective truth. True beliefs are those that portray the world as it is and not as we hope, fear, or wish it to be. If truth is objective, believing doesn't make it so; and even our most deeply felt opinions could turn out to be wrong. That is something that Bennett -- and the current administration, for that matter -- would do well to remember. It is not a virtue to hold fast to one's views in face of the facts.

-Michael P. Lynch, Who Cares About the Truth?

More on War and Truth next time.


Good Genes.


8.23.2004


(life)


I got up in the usual way today and went about putting clothes on. My Father has taken up the habit of making coffee, which I neither encourage nor complain about. I would rather he sleep than get up so early and besides, I have all the coffee I need waiting for me when I arrive at my job.

As I start to fill my pockets with my wallet, keys, and such, I hear a strange groan/cry followed by a thud from the kitchen. I race over there to find my Dad lying on his back. His eyes are up and away, locked in place. His mouth is agape with a struggled kind of breathing while his hands twitched. I checked his mouth. He was not choking on anything. I recognized the sound as similar to his snoring, which was severe enough to cause sleep apnea. He didn't respond to me. Lacking any clue on what to do next, I went for the phone.

Later, in the hospital he recovered and could talk, but didn't remember anything about the incident. They think it was a seizure and ran a series of tests. He might even come home tomorrow. He'll be okay.

We're lucky it happened while I was still home. I don't like to think about all those hours when he's alone and…well, we've been lucky through all that he's been through.

There was hip replacement surgery last year that truly tested the father & son boundaries. He tried to have a sense of humor about it. At the time, I didn't feel like laughing every time I heard him call out, "Johnny, wipe me."

Just before Christmas he had a stroke/heart attack, which was a prelude to triple bypass surgery in June.

I am sometimes harsh and short with him. I think it's because I have trouble dealing with the fact that he can't do the things he used to and there's a part of me that blames him for not taking better care of himself over the years. Maybe there's also the fear that I will end up with the same problems if I don't start taking better care of myself.

His Dad just turned 90 and had heart surgery almost 20 years ago because during a brutal Chicago snowstorm he decided to get on the roof and shovel snow fearing the roof would collapse. Only recently has Grampa slowed it down. So I figure that if I at least keep reasonably healthy and avoid manual labor in the cold after my seventies, I might live to be a hundred.

There's something wonderfully stubborn about these Namest genes.


Just a dream.


7.28.2004


(dreams)


Deep down the consciousness of mankind is one.

-David Bohm

He who dreams of drinking wine may weep when morning comes; he who dreams of weeping may in the morning go off to hunt. While he is dreaming he does not know it is a dream, and in his dream he may even try to interpret a dream. Only after he wakes does he know it was a dream. And someday there will be a great awakening when we know that this is all a great dream. Yet the stupid believe they are awake busily and brightly assuming they understood things, calling this man ruler, that one herdsman--how dense! Confucius and you are both dreaming! And when I say you are dreaming, I am dreaming too.

- Chuang-Tse

We don't know exactly what happens in dreams. It is not impossible that, during dreams, we are in heaven, we are in hell. Perhaps we are someone, the someone whom Shakespeare called "the thing I am"; perhaps we are ourselves, perhaps we are God. All of this we forget at waking. We can only examine the memory of a dream, the poor memory.

I have read Frazer -- a supremely talented writer, but also an extremely credulous one, as it seems he believed everything reported by the various travelers. According to Frazer, savages do not distinguish between waking and dreaming. For them, dreams are episodes of the waking life. Thus, according to Frazer, or according to the travelers he read, a savage dreams he goes into the forest and kills a lion. When he wakes, he thinks his soul has abandoned his body and has killed a lion in his dreams. Or, if we want to complicate things a little, we may suppose that he has killed the dream of a lion. All of this is possible, and this idea of the savages coincides with that of children, who also cannot distinguish between waking and dream.

-Jorge Luis Borges, Nightmares

[Psychiatrist Montague Ullman] says that in his psychoanalytic practice he could have a patient who seemed completely unenlightened when he was awake—mean,selfish,arrogant,exploitative, and manipulative; a person who had fragmented and dehumanized all of his interpersonal relationships. But no matter how spiritually blind a person may be, or unwilling to recognize his or her own shortcomings, dreams invariably depict their failings honestly and contain metaphors that seem designed to prod him or her gently into a state of greater self-awareness….

He believes that nature is concerned with the survival of the species…and feels that dreams are nature's way of trying to counteract our seemingly unending compulsion to fragment the world.

-Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe (p62-3)

In my dreams, I have an altered sense of what is normal. I can do things like telekinesis, fly, walk through objects, heal by touch, clairvoyance, and even sing. I don't know how these things became natural to me in dreams, but because some of them are abilities claim by the waking I wonder what is it that prevents me from doing like them. Maybe it's a lack of belief that I can do it. Perhaps, the whole process of the occult is an elaborate method to fulfill that gap that seems unreachable by force of will.

I know that I have limits on my perception in dreams. Sometimes I am limited in speech, where if I do try to talk I will wake up. When I wake up and then drift back into dreaming again I am sometimes aware of my body lying in bed as well as my dream body and I have nearly a free reign in sculpting the dream. As I think of how to form the dream, images and objects appear related to the thoughts coming up like related terms when using a Google search. I've had lucid dreams before too, though not in a very long time.

My dreaming self is sometimes much more silly and somewhat mischievous and sometimes much more poetic and heroic. It's hard to paint a clear picture due to the nature of remembering dreams. Sometimes I have dreams that are so strange and yet seem to mean something that I spend the rest of the day or days puzzling them out. So I've been looking for ways to decipher dreams or at least have fun with them.

A major factor in all my speculation is that I'm currently reading The Holographic Universe. I don't know if it's something of the same that happened to true. The story of Jansenist convulsionaires seems hard to discount, even though distant. While Sathya Sai Baba is more contemporary, he is not immune from detractors.

No matter how much I admire an idea, I can not force myself to believe it. So far, I really admire the Holographic theory. Anyway, back to dreams…

Those whom heaven helps we call the sons of heaven. They do not learn this by learning. They do not work it by working. They do not reason it by using reason. To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.

-Chuang Tse (more, and more)

"But in fact, isn't man's very purpose on earth - to do things , change things, make a better world ?...I was wondering if this self-canceling centerpoised personality of yours leads you to look at things defensively. You are afraid of losing your balance... You can't try to live safely, there's no such thing as safety. Stick your neck out of your shell then and live fully!

-Lathe of Heaven, by Ursula LeGuin (Synopsis, Notes on the different movies (I highly do not recommend the A&E one), interview)

To read Aristotle On Dreams and On Prophesying by Dreams against the stuff of Freud shows how the source of dreams turned from the external/eternal to it's opposite and how for some it's going full circle, but maybe it's both. Maybe dreams are a versatile tool-a bridge and a mirror of sorts. Perhaps, more uses for this tool can be "dreamed up" such as in Prince of Darkness where someone's dreams are a transmission from people in the future.

One thing you can count on is that people are letting their imaginations go with this. For example, you might have tried to make a connection betweenUFO sightings, dreams, and crop circles, but you probably didn't contemplate the symbolic relationship between Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, dreams, and crop circles! If you did, then perhaps you never considered how important the dreams of Celine are.

Be certain I stray not into strange waters without my cloak of skepticism. I do remain hopeful that I might, to turn the cliché, find something to believe in. But for now…

To Dreams

Oh the pain of plodding posts
Oh the strain of ego boasts
Suffer no more TV'd roasts
Summer sows some yearn'n oats

Don't settle for the slash trash fiction
Or ersatz intimate friction
You're living in dereliction
Give some things a firm eviction

Pity party, perpetual pain
Life's losses focused 'til untenable strain
Invested yourself with too much blame
Stress your heart 'til split in twain

And cry out the question to empyrean plane
Can I bear to love again

But have no doubt your heart does feel
In every pulse beats something real

Take no stock in misery mete
Take no burden of regret

Time will temper and dry tears
Time will render new frontiers

But solace offered by some means
We could fulfill some things in dreams

I'm back.


7.4.2004


(musing)


As you (when I say you I mean those few that still come here occasionally to check up on whatever it is I've been writing about and not the vast majority that stumble in through search engines that for the past couple of weeks have come here in vain looking for "horny house wifes" [sic] (perhaps I misspelled it myself somewhere) and "black penis myths" or even those looking for teletubbies, which is not quite as innocent as you might think) might guess, I can't take not writing any longer. Volumes of opinion and interesting nuggets from my research have been building up in my brain.

The best thing I have to report is that overall usage has gone down after this unannounced summer hiatus. Of course, I was not completely idle. The Quickies section has been moving along and sometimes resembled more closely a "real" weblog than just a quick link facility. I do want to rekindle the very kind of writing that brings people here looking for "the sixth sephira tiphareth" and not for "steps on how to masterbate."

World events have dovetailed with personal life turmoil to send me spinning into emotional vortexes far and wide from a writing frame of mind. I have since reclaimed my sense of balance and self at least enough to come to the keyboard and work through it. Sometimes the linear trail of tragic events that roll out at certain intervals during your life leave you with the distinctly fatalistic feeling that your course is intrinsically linked to failure and misfortune. This myopic mindset tends to miss the myriad of minor miracles moving in your favor. I'm not about to surrender myself to that or allow any of my friends to wallow in it.

A short while ago I was mowing the lawn for it needed it badly and I was tired after having worked all day. The mower is in need of repair and no longer propels itself thereby ensuring that I would become uncomfortably hot and more tired as the job wore on. So it is nearing the end of this task that I get distracted by the sweat rolling down my forehead into my eyes. While barely cognizant of the mower's path I notice something and stop.

baby bunny in the grass

As you (when I say…) know, I am stubbornly skeptical concerning all things spiritual though I do not stand resolute in denying any of it so you will never find me among the atheists, but perched on the fence of agnostics seeking something to believe in while remaining neoteric. The baby bunny was too frightened by the sound to move out of harm's way and if the chain of events had shifted by a couple of seconds…

the same baby bunny in the grass

…I don't want to think about it. I had to coax the little fella to move to a safe distance and resumed mowing.

Moving the baby bunny to safety

Sometimes the simplest things feed into a feeling of synchronicity and if I let the wall of resistance down a bit I might say "spirituality." Because that day I didn't take a life through carelessness and I felt good about it-better than I had felt in a while. Maybe I can help more than just some little bunny. Maybe I can help myself and those that I love. Maybe the things that seem to separate us are illusion. Maybe the coincidences and serendipitous events are an adumbration of an irrevocable interconnectedness.

…Or maybe I'm just a guy in a silly hat.

Your host

Spring Cleaning


4.19.2004


(Review, renew, rinse, repeat)


Ego, Ego. Ego come and he won't go home!

-Mark McCollum-sung to the tune of that "banana" song

That was the very first quote that I decided to start a post with. The first post contains links to sites I haven't thought of in a while, except for Jorn Barger's site. What a racist he turned out to be. Still, a lot of people came there for James Joyce stuff or A.I. stuff. I was interested in the latter.

I thought of it because my friend Greg pointed me to the competition for interactive fiction and this /. review of Nick Montfort's Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction. It's something that I was thinking about doing a while back. "Something I was thinking about doing" is a long running theme through most people's lives as it constantly butts against the ever-changing demands of real life. "Something I was thinking about doing" for me ranges from writing a book to making a computer game. Real life is demanding funds for car maintenance, helping out the parents with bills, and, thankfully, getting to see someone special soon.

As some may have noticed, I have not been too frequent in my posting here. Part of that is due to getting a job that requires me to wake up at 5am. I have never been a morning person. If the sun is not out, I don't consider it morning yet. My body seems to agree, but considering the lack of employment opportunities within a decent radius, I have little choice in the matter.

I have not completely abandoned my book ideas or other article writing projects, but reading has become more of a luxury activity and my writing has suffered as well. Not that I think it has been all that great. I have become boring in my political obsessions. I don't think I offer too much more than the release of frustration that writing gives me. Yet, I do get the occasional person, outside of the handful that read here "regularly," that has found this place useful. The most recent example is the email that inspired this post to the oh-so-über-alles forum.

I am frustrated at my tendency for perfectionism in certain things. When I was programming, I used to spend hours writing the code in my head until I had it all worked out and then I would sit down and write the whole thing out. My writing style seems to echo this and it has resulted in a loss of a lot of ideas because I neglected to write them down. I also have a bad tendency to procrastinate unless I am saddled with a routine.

When I wrote this post about how this site has become a distraction from trying to writing for a living, I had no clue that my book idea would start an obsessive research streak in me. Part of the problem is that the streak has strayed from the original topic. At first, I had justified these tangents as worthy for the possibility of producing a couple of articles to sell. The concept involved making a connection with the Equal Rights Amendment, Gay Rights, and their opponents in religion and government. The perfectionism came in when I felt that I had to understand everything I could about people like Alice Paul, the history of homosexuality, and the history of religious treatment of women and homosexuals before I could write something I felt worthy of being published.

I have this tremendous need to be fair in my writing and if mistakes are made, they haunt me until corrected. For example, I wrote about Hawai'i almost a year ago. After getting some informative emails from Steve, I've been meaning to correct the bias of the sources, namely, Haunani Kay Trask, that I used.

He suggested Gavan Daws's book Shoal of Time and while it's in my queue, my queue is askew-not that that's new.

Another example is in the more recent post where I dismissed Terence McKenna's Timewave Zero without giving it a full read. Ezrael convinced me to give it a further look.

Ezrael: What Timewave Zero *postulates* is that a very large shift in the
way humans experience the world is coming, one so vast that it will part
time into 'before' and 'after'
Ezrael: Much as how we have a hard time understanding the way people
viewed the world before Darwin
Ezrael: Except far more magnified
Linkworthy: I guess that idea relies on a shared experience by way of the
internet or something like it.
Linkworthy: Part of it is expressed in what I wrote about how we seem to
desire ends
Linkworthy: Also I have been looking at those claiming we are coming toward
another "big shift" called the "singularity" and I have my doubts about
that. They stem from our progress with AI. These things don't all follow
directly like soldiers for Moore's law. There are real bottlenecks to deal
with
Linkworthy: I think I'm going to have to read McKenna's book. I don't want
to misread him, but most aspects of society are speeding up and this may
distort perception. I guess the idea is that this distortion will reach a
critical mass, but I want to see the cause&effect trail in the same way I
don't buy AI will come just because computers are getting faster.

-AIM chat where I must point out that Ezrael did tell me that, "the shared experience doesn't have to include the internet at all."

I also am going to try and read The Invisibles again. I sometimes have an anti-hype bias that kicks in. It is still in effect towards Lord of the Rings, which is partially my mini-protest against seeing 3 hour long movies in theaters that don't have intermissions, and Harry Potter, which is partially based on its "largely superficial" similarities with The Books of Magic and more for the fact that it's geared more for kids. Even Neil doesn't care about it and said, "...we were both just stealing from T.H. White..." Of the upcoming movie he says, "They had to un-Harry Potter Tim Hunter but I think they've done it wonderfully."

So where was I? Ah, yes! It was the perils of tangential topics turning me away from my book writing.

I certainly want to write something, but I also want it to be damn good. After reading this article though, I got the distinct impression that that could be me.

There are boxes everywhere - shelves of boxes in the stable block, rooms full of boxes in the main house. In the fields, where racehorses once stood and grazed, are half a dozen portable cabins, each packed with boxes. These are the boxes that contain the legendary Kubrick archive....

We walk past boxes and more boxes and filing cabinets and past a grand staircase. Childwick was once home to a family of horse-breeders called the Joels. Back then there were, presumably, busts or floral displays on either side at the bottom of this staircase. Here, instead, is a photocopier on one side and another photocopier on the other.

"Is this ... ?" I ask.

"Yes," says Tony. "This is how Stanley left it."

Stanley Kubrick's house looks as if the Inland Revenue took it over long ago.

Tony takes me into a large room painted blue and filled with books. "This used to be the cinema," he says.

"Is it the library now?" I ask.

"Look closer at the books," says Tony.

I do. "Bloody hell," I say. "Every book in this room is about Napoleon!"

"Look in the drawers," says Tony.

I do.

"It's all about Napoleon, too!" I say. "Everything in here is about Napoleon!"

I feel a little like Shelley Duvall in The Shining, chancing upon her husband's novel and finding it is comprised entirely of the line "All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy" typed over and over again. John Baxter wrote, in his unauthorised biography of Kubrick, "Most people attributed the purchase of Childwick to Kubrick's passion for privacy, and drew parallels with Jack Torrance in The Shining."

This room full of Napoleon stuff seems to bear out that comparison. "Somewhere else in this house," Tony says, "is a cabinet full of 25,000 library cards, three inches by five inches. If you want to know what Napoleon, or Josephine, or anyone within Napoleon's inner circle was doing on the afternoon of July 23 17-whatever, you go to that card and it'll tell you."

"Who made up the cards?" I ask.

"Stanley," says Tony. "With some assistants."

"How long did it take?" I ask.

"Years," says Tony. "The late 1960s."

-Citiz


This site: