“It makes me wonder what happens when the language of argument and the language of ridicule become the same, when the address of a potentate is voiced no more soberly than the goofings of some rube.” (Wyatt Mason



“No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. ...moreover, any piece of intelligence which is obtained under duress, through the use of abusive techniques, would be of questionable credibility, and additionally it would do more harm than good when it inevitably became known that abusive practices were used.”
(Lt. General John Jeff Kimmons)

"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."
Thomas Paine

“The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe. (Mark Mazzeti in the NYT


“George W. Bush's Sept. 15 outburst - threatening to stop interrogating terror suspects if Congress doesn't let him revise the Geneva Conventions to permit coercive techniques - is part of a pattern of petulance that dates back to even before the 9/11 attacks but has resurfaced as Bush faces new challenges to his authority.
“In summer 2001, less than six months into his presidency while confronting congressional obstacles to his domestic program, Bush told followers that he was ready to "go back to Crawford" if he didn't get his way on legislation....Back then, Republicans framed Bush's "back to Crawford" threats as a sign of his principled leadership as well as a new self-confidence in asserting his authority.” (Andrew Bard Schmookler, author of “Parable of the Tribes”)

“Britain's leading scientists have challenged the US oil company ExxonMobil to stop funding groups that attempt to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change. In an unprecedented step [first time in 364 years], the Royal Society, Britain's premier scientific academy, has written to the oil giant to demand that the company withdraws support for dozens of groups that have "misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence". The scientists also strongly criticize the company's public statements on global warming, which they describe as "inaccurate and misleading".”
(reported in The Guardian UK


The Royal Society—the world’s oldest learned society—has publicly taken on Exxon. Just so you know: this is the first time in the Royal Society’s 364 years that they’ve done something like this.

Britain’s leading scientists have challenged the US oil company ExxonMobil to stop funding groups that attempt to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change.

In an unprecedented step, the Royal Society, Britain’s premier scientific academy, has written to the oil giant to demand that the company withdraws support for dozens of groups that have “misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence”.

The scientists also strongly criticise the company’s public statements on global warming, which they describe as “inaccurate and misleading

"You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once."
Robert A. Heinlein

“In New Mexico, Gov. Bill Richardson has instituted what many consider an even better solution: Voters use paper ballots, which are then scanned and counted electronically....
“Paper ballots will not completely eliminate the threat of tampering, of course - after all, election fraud and miscounts have occurred throughout our history. As long as there has been a paper trail, however, our elections have been conducted with some measure of public scrutiny. But electronic voting machines are a hacker's dream. And today, for-profit companies are being given unprecedented and frightening power not only to provide these machines but to store and count our votes in secret, without any real oversight. You do not have to believe in conspiracy theories to fear for the integrity of our electoral system...” (Robert F. Kennedy Jr.)

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (AP) -- A national black Republican group is running a radio advertisement accusing Democrats of starting the Ku Klux Klan and saying the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican, a claim challenged by civil-rights researchers....
“Dr. King was a real man. You know he was a Republican. Democrats passed those black codes and Jim Crow laws. Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan....Democrats fought all civil rights legislation from the 1860s to the 1960s. Democrats released those vicious dogs and fire hoses on blacks.... Democrats want to keep us poor while voting only Democrat...Democrats want us to accept same-sex marriages, teen abortions without a parent's consent and suing the Boy Scouts for saying 'God' in their pledge.... Republicans freed us from slavery and put our right to vote in the Constitution."



"Cap is about freedom more than anything else. He's about altruism and not being in anyone's pocket. He'd be repulsed by the idea of doing this as a job. He's all about civic duty. He's no lapdog and is bigger than any government, whether it's Republican or Democrat. He represents the ideal.... That said, I live miles away and am quite safe and it all makes great comics. Remember how dull books were under Clinton? Like the 80s, we need a Republican in the White House to react against to make good comics. Well done, Bush. May you reign forever." (Mark Millar)


“On 26 October 1988, the New York Times carried a full-page advertisement for liberalism. Headed ‘A Reaffirmation of Principle’, it openly rebuked Ronald Reagan for deriding ‘the dreaded L-word’ and treating ‘liberals’ and ‘liberalism’ as terms of opprobrium. Liberal principles, the text affirmed, are ‘timeless. Extremists of the right and of the left have long attacked liberalism as their greatest enemy. In our own time liberal democracies have been crushed by such extremists. Against any encouragement of this tendency in our own country, intentional or not, we feel obliged to speak out.’
“The advertisement was signed by 63 prominent intellectuals, writers and businessmen... But who, now, would sign such a protest? Liberalism in the United States today is the politics that dares not speak its name... As befits the new Gilded Age, in which the pay ratio of an American CEO to that of a skilled worker is 412:1 and a corrupted Congress is awash in lobbies and favours, the place of the liberal intellectual has been largely taken over by an admirable cohort of ‘muck-raking’ investigative journalists....the critical intelligentsia once so prominent in American cultural life has fallen silent.”

(Tony Judt in The London Review of Books)

“Avoiding prosecution under the War Crimes Act has been an obsession of this administration since shortly after 9/11. In a January 2002 memorandum to the president, then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales pointed out the problem of prosecution for detainee mistreatment under the War Crimes Act....Gonzales also understood that the specter of prosecution could hang over top administration officials involved in detainee mistreatment throughout their lives...
“....To "reduce the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act," Gonzales recommended that Bush not apply the Geneva Conventions to al-Qaida and the Taliban....The administration has apparently decided to secure immunity from prosecution through legislation. Under cover of the controversy involving the military tribunals and whether they could use hearsay or coerced evidence, the administration is trying to pardon itself, hoping that no one will notice.... Creating immunity retroactively for violating the law sets a terrible precedent....A president who knowingly and deliberately violates U.S. criminal laws should not be able to use stealth tactics to immunize himself from liability, and Congress should not go along.” Elizabeth Holtzman, “Bush seeks retroactive immunity for violating War Crimes Act”

“One central characteristic of the [9/11 conspiracy] nuts is that they have a devout, albeit preposterous, belief in American efficiency, and hence many of them start with the racist premise that "Arabs in caves" weren't capable of the mission. They believe that military systems work the way Pentagon press flacks and aerospace salesmen say they should work.”
(Alexander Cockburn in The Nation 9/25/2006)

As we are liberated from our own fear, our prescence automatically liberates others.
(Nelson Mandela)

"[Marvel Comics’] Civil War" provides problems in spades. The story opens with a reckless fight between a novice group of heroes (filming a reality television show) and a cadre of villains. The battle becomes quite literally explosive, killing some of the superheroes and many innocent bystanders. That crystallizes a government movement to register all super-powered beings as living weapons of mass destruction. The subsequent Registration Act will divide the heroes into two camps, one led by Captain America {against registration, thus criminalized by the Act], the other [pro-government] by Iron Man. Along the way, Marvel will unveil its version of Guantánamo Bay, enemy combatants, embedded reporters and more. The question at the heart of the series is a fundamental one: "Would you give up your civil liberties to feel safer in the world?" ( The Battle Outside Raging, Superheroes Dive In by GEORGE GENE GUSTINES in The New York Times)


“So, why did they hate us after all? We sure blew off that question nicely. As with everything else in this country, our response to 9/11 was a heroic compendium of idiocy, cowardice, callow flag-waving, weepy sentimentality (coupled with an apparently bottomless capacity for self-pity), sloth, laziness and partisan ignorance.... We did just about everything except honestly ask ourselves what the hell really happened, and why.”
(Matt Taibbi


"The first thing a principle does, if it really is a principle, is to kill someone."
Dorothy Sayers


"As I stood before the gates I realized that I never want to be as certain about anything as were the people who built this place."
Rabbi Sheila Peltz, on her visit to Auschwitz


“What fears and desires does Civil War reveal? The fear is that we are coming apart; the secret desire is not for social and political unity, but instead for open conflict. The 20th Century hero fought for all of us and for an American Way that everyone supposedly shared. In the 21st Century, superheroes will fight over the very meaning of the American Way. The winners will decide who is an American ... and who is a criminal.” ( Jeremy Adam Smith)

The Times Tries to Shut Up Noam Chomsky

Okay, Gray Lady, this is horseshit. An article by Motoko Rich about Hugo Chavez's endorsement of Noam Chomsky's book "Hegemony or Survival" is an attempt to turn Noam Chomsky into just another crazy lady on a bus.

You know how you make a crazy lady on a bus? When she speaks to you, don't answer back. She'll keep trying to talk and look crazier and crazier because no one's listening to her.

Not one comment from someone who thinks Chomsky's book is essentially correct. The facts say he is (although he and I would disagree on the motivation behind American aggression-- he ascribes sinister intent to our foreign interventions, and I think it's unplanned: the inevitable result of human nature and the types of personalities that are attracted to these situations, the "Logic of Empire". But I'm a novelist, and man enough to admit that a professional researcher knows more than I do.)

Click on the "sampler" from "Hegemony or Survival" and we're given two paragraphs of Chomsky's interpretations but not his reasons for reaching those conclusions. Four paragraphs of Alan Dershowitz (insert choking sounds here) deriding Chomsky as being unreadable, but not one word of the book's actual content and not one word refuting Chomsky's facts. (Dershowitz has been shown by better men than I to be a notoriously sloppy researcher and cherry picker himself).

While we're at it, how come the coverage of Chavez focuses on his theatrics and not on his facts? Sure, he called the president a "devil"-- but when I saw the clip I thought, and still think, Chavez was trying to make a joke with a clumsy metaphor. It would be interesting to see an serious public discussion of whether the devil really is in the house. He also called Bush an “ex-alcoholic” who had “a lot of hang-ups” and tried to walk “like John Wayne"; these accusations are all painfully true, and so under-reported by the people who tell us what to think.

Neither does Chomsky defend himself in this hack piece. The article mentions a Thursday interview with the times itself, but no link is provided, a mistake I rectify here

So go back to sleep, everyone. Chavez is a crazy man. Chomsky is an old crank that no one listens to. Nothing to worry about until the next Church commission or the next Oliver North scandal or the next time a plane comes flying from the Third World into Our World.

My Time Has Come

"Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world", muttered Shelley, probably while peering through an absinthe fog and wearing Mary Wollstonecraft-Godwin's teenaged thighs for earmuffs. Such things may fill a man with hubris and make him think he can go sailing in a thunderstorm or walk on water.

Until today, I have avoided the call to the dusty arena of politics. My hat was never in the ring. If nominated, I would not serve, if elected, I would move and change my name to Osbert Fleadick. Anyone who wants power over other human beings probably shouldn't be trusted with power.

An unfeeling public would almost certainly reject my plan to bring back the buffalo west of the Mississippi and restore the forests east of the Mississipi to pre-1850 numbers. They say a squirrel could travel from the Atlantic to the Mississippi in the trees without ever touching the ground. Swimming the river, he could travel on the backs of the buffalo herds to the Rocky Mountains, again without touching the ground.

I admit there were provisions in my platform that some found troubling. The call to re-establish grizzly bears to their former range "because Americans need a large dangerous animal in their environment to knock the snot-nose out of them" could probably have been phrased differently. The red states aren't ready to vote for a candidate who's come out in FAVOR of pornography, and the blue states don't see the need to purge all advertising agencies with a guillotine set up on Madison Avenue.

But now my time has come!

Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology Michael Wynne wants to test "nonlethal" microwave devices on American citizens, to see if they really ARE non-lethal. "If we're not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation," says Wynne. "... if I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press."

Never mind the world press, Wynne. The first concern will be my foot up your ass, as soon as the tremors wear off.

Candidate for governor Richard "Dick" DeVos ("Dick DeVos before he dicks you") wants Creationism-- excuse me, "intelligent design" taught in science class to "expose our students to more ideas, not less."

Ideas that once would have been derided as stark raving batshit are now in the mainstream. A once skeptical media, afraid of being "partisan" (that's what happens when you whore after advertisers or sell out to a conglomerate) now reports this stuff with a straight face.

America! I have heard your call!

America! I'm putting my loony shoulder to the wheel!

An Appeal for Sanity

"In handling a stinging insect, move very slowly." (Robert A. Heinlein)

The Arab "street" evidentally can't handle a Danish cartoon or a statement from the Pope without going batshit. In their defense, it must be said that Muslim clerics and governments are distorting what is said in Europe and America for their own reasons. The fairly innocuous Danish cartoons were distributed by Arab clerics in a pamphlet containing cartoons that definitely WERE inflammatory. As long as they can keep the masses whipped into a frenzy against the Western infidels, the masses won't start asking questions about their own conditions at home.

And our president-- can we impeach him YET?-- can't open his mouth without making things worse. I am personally in favor of parachuting the administration and their "advisors" into Iraq and letting them clean up the mess they made-- but that mealy-mouthed sonofabitch is going to get us into so many wars, we're going to wind up having to protect his sorry ass even though we hate his guts.

Pope Benedict ought to have known better. Quoting a Byzantine emperor--"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached"-- is probably not the best approach to bridge building. We used to call this guy Cardinal Ratfuck-- I mean, Ratzinger-- back when he was in charge of the Inquisition; now he commits this public relations disaster and Machiavelli won't take his calls.

Not to worry-- we have the noted Islamicist Karen P. Hughes leading the defense of Western civilization.

I offer this, an appeal for sanity, one of my favorite short essays from Monty Python's Flying Circus:

Voice Over: And now, an appeal for sanity, from the Reverend Arthur Belling.

[Cut to studio. Close shot of a vicar sitting facing camera.]

Reverend Belling [played by Graham Chapman]: You know, there are many people in the country today who, through no fault of their own, are sane. Some of them were born sane. Some of them became sane later in their lives.

[The camera pulls back and we can see that the vicar has an axe in his head.]

Reverend Belling [continues]: It is up to people like you and me, who are out of our tiny little minds, to try and help these people overcome their sanity. You can start in small ways with ping-pong ball eyes and a funny voice and then you can paint half of your body red and the other half green and then you can jump up and down in a bowl of treacle going 'squawk, squawk, squawk...' And then you can go 'Neurhhh! Neurhh!' and then you can roll around on the floor going 'pting pting pting' ... [he rolls around on the floor]

Voice Over: The Reverend Arthur Belling is Vicar of St Loony Up The Cream Bun and Jam.

Ciao Bella, Oriana Fallaci

I just learned of the death in Florence of Oriana Fallaci, killed by the cancer that's been gnawing at her the last few years.

She was a handsome, intelligent woman, with the kind of expectant glare that made you want to be more than you are, to live up to her standards . She was the only person I ever heard of that was angrier than me and not in jail.

She died as she lived, in a pissing match with Islam, which ironically made her a darling of the right, though conservatives would drop her like a hot turd if they ever read any of her other works.

She saw no difference between murders committed in the name of Yassar Arafat and murders committed under the fat self-satisfied hand of Henry Kissinger. She outed Arafat before "outing" was even a verb; she exposed Kissinger's fantasies: "... I've always acted alone. Americans like that immensely. Americans like the cowboy who leads the wagon train by riding ahead alone on his horse, the cowboy who rides all alone into the town...”

Fair enough, though saying it to Fallaci opened that first crack for cartoonists to drive a truck through. "Henry Kissinger may have wished I had presented him as a combination of Charles DeGaulle and Disraeli, but I didn't. . .out of respect for DeGaulle and Disraeli. I described him as a cowboy because thats how he described himself. If I were a cowboy I would be offended."

Fallaci: "Don’t you find, Dr. Kissinger, that it’s [Vietnam] been a useless war?"
Kissinger: “On this, I can agree.”
Only in a world drunk with advertising could this man be presented as a successful diplomat after leaving a million corpses in his wake.

The Greek poet Alexandros Pangoulis was her lover, until murdered by the generals who had tortured him in prison and murdered his brothers. She was almost killed herself while covering a 1968 protest in Mexico City. Mexican police killed several hundred protestors. Fallaci took three bullets, was dragged down stairs by her hair and left for dead.

Oriana Fallaci was the one who agreed to cover herself as precondition to interviewing the Ayatollah Khomeni, then asked him "how do you swim in a chador?", stripped off the garment and threw it to the floor. Khomeni pouted for two days, then came back for his medicine. She'd gotten in Riza Pahlavi's face, too, calling him a "a highly dangerous megalamaniac, because he combines the worst of the old and the worst of the new", and damning the Shah with his own words.

She is the better artist, and I leave her own words from the preface of Interview with History as an obituary. It sums up a great deal of the anger that drove her, and a large part of why I loved her:

"Perhaps it is because I do not understand power, the mechanim by which men or women feel themselves invested or become invested with the right to rule over others and punish them if they do not obey. Whether it comes from a despotic sovereign or an elected president, from a murderous general or beloved leader, I see power as an inhuman and hateful phenomenon... Of course, to live in a group requires a governing authority; otherwise there is chaos. But the tragic side of the human condition seems to me precisely that of needing an authority to govern, a chief...
"....To the same degree that I do not understand power, I do understand those who oppose power, who criticize power, who contest power, especially those rebel against power imposed by brutality. I have always looked on disobedience toward the oppressive as the only way to use the miracle of having been born. I have always looked on the silence of those who do not react or who indeed applaud as the real death of a woman or man. And listen: for me the most beautiful monument to human dignity is still the one I saw on a hill in the Peloponnesus. It not a statue, it was not a flag, but three letters that in Greek signify "No": oxi. Men thirsting for freedom had written them among the trees during the Nazi-Fascist occupation, and for thirty years that No had remained there, unfaded by the sun or rain. Then the colonels had obliterated it with a stroke of whitewash. But immediately, almost magically, the sun and rain had dissolved the whitewash. So that day by day the three letters reappeared on the surface, stubborn, desperate, indelible."

Una mattina mi son' svegliato,
o bella, ciao! bella, ciao! bella, ciao, ciao, ciao!
Una mattina mi son' svegliato
ed ho trovato l'invasor.
O partigiano, portami via,
o bella, ciao! bella, ciao! bella, ciao, ciao, ciao!
O partigiano, portami via,
ché mi sento di morir.
E se io muoio da partigiano,
o bella, ciao! bella, ciao! bella, ciao, ciao, ciao!
E se io muoio da partigiano,
tu mi devi seppellir'.
Mi seppellirai lassù in montagna,
o bella, ciao! bella, ciao! bella, ciao, ciao, ciao!
Mi seppellirai lassù in montagna
sotto l'ombra di un bel fior'.
Tutte le genti che passeranno
o bella, ciao! bella, ciao! bella, ciao, ciao, ciao!
Tutte le genti che passeranno
mi diranno «Che bel fior'!»
«E questo è il fiore del partigiano»,
o bella, ciao! bella, ciao! bella, ciao, ciao, ciao!
«E questo è il fiore del partigiano
morto per la libertà!»

This morning I awakened
Oh Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye! bye! bye!
This morning I awakened
And I found the invader
Oh partisan carry me away
Oh Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye! bye! bye!
Oh partisan carry me away
Because I feel death approaching
And if I die as a partisan
Oh Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye! bye! bye!
And if I die as a partisan
Then you must bury me
Bury me up in the mountain
Oh Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye! bye! bye!
Bury me up in the mountain
Under the shade of a beautiful flower
And those who shall pass
Oh Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye! bye! bye!
And those who shall pass
Will tell me what a beautiful flower it is
This is the flower of the partisan
Oh Goodbye, Goodbye, Goodbye! bye! bye!
This is the flower of the partisan
Who died for freedom

Halfway Through September: Commonplace Book of Current Readings

“.... there are things that prose can do that visual media require both far more effort and vastly more artistic acuity to put across. What they are good at is transmitting extremely simple ideas; the villain kicks a dog, the hero grumbles at the outrage and shoots him. This is great if your goal is to sell a million movie tickets. It ain’t particularly good for the development of complex thought. Or, indeed, any thought at all.”
(John M. Ford, on the blog Making Light)

“It would be impossible to be taken seriously as a reporter or expert on Russia, France, Germany, Latin America, or perhaps even China or Japan without knowing the requisite languages but for "Islam" no linguistic knowledge seems to be necessary since what one is dealing with is considered to be a psychological deformation, not a "real" culture or religion.“
(Edward Said)

"In the aftermath of 9/11, the world was united with America. Even in Arab and Muslim countries, the sense of shock and feelings of solidarity with America far outweighed any sympathies with the terrorists. ...Immediately after 9/11, Al Qaeda seemed to be losing its battle with America and the West. Unfortunately, that changed when America invaded Iraq. The fight against the jihadists will not be decided simply on the battlefield; it will also be decided in the sphere of international legitimacy. ... Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and the situation in Iraq could hardly be called successes.”
( Joschka Fischer)


“All the same, I suspect that we will miss Tony Blair when he is gone. The boyish charm is fraying but still intact. The exhaustion, the desperate need to convince everyone of the truth of his own delusions, the raw emotions worn as a kind of exoskeleton, all show one of the great actor-managers in heroic decline. Blair may be the last British prime minister able to trade openly on his emotions. He knows that we are secretly rather drawn to bad acting and are happy to collude in his exposure of his weaknesses.

“He is the beaten husband, still in charge of the car keys and the TV remote, but aware that the rest of the household despises him and is impatient for him to bring down the curtain. He jokes and winces, and makes fun of his own despair. The longer he hangs on, the more he can steer us towards the steamy, emotional bath we were happy to help him prepare. Would he like to drown us? After all, we like being lied to, we like promises that will never be kept, we like being locked into his smiling neediness.”
(J.G. Ballard)

“For me SNAKES ON A PLANE is like an ex-girlfriend: my feelings toward it are complicated. There is a lot to say about my relationship with this movie, and I'm gonna try to say it all. But it all boils down to this: I used to think I loved SNAKES ON A PLANE, but now I just want to be friends.”
(Outlaw Vern for 8/21/06)


“Unfettered power... cannot go berserk like this and expect to hold it all together.” (S. Roy)


“Is there anything about the current [9/11 commission] hearings that does interest the administration? From the evidence so far, they're interested in controlling what you and I find out about what happened, and what the administration did and didn't do about it. But they're only concerned about that because we vote, and because Dubya's perennially sensitive about the lustre of his reputation. Our actual safety doesn't enter into the calculation.”
(Teresa Neil Hayden on her blog Making Light)

“Fending off the chaos that would almost certainly come with civil war would be a reason to stay the course, although it does not inspire the full-throated rhetoric about freedom that Mr. Bush offered last night. But the nation needs to hear a workable plan to stabilize a fractured, disintegrating country and end the violence. If such a strategy exists, it seems unlikely that Mr. Bush could see it through the filter of his fantasies.” (NYT editorial)


“Another attempt on the scale of the 2001 attacks hasn’t been necessary. The last one is still doing the trick, and the terrorists’ resources are limited.”
(William Gibson)

“In cultural evolution, [Susan] Blackmore claims, the replicators are hypothetical entities called memes, a term coined by Dawkins as a cultural analogue for genes. Dawkins intended it as a metaphor, but Blackmore (and others) argue that memes are real physical entities, like genes (DNA). Moreover, memes have a mind of their own; they compete among themselves "for their own sake" [Blackmore's emphasis]. ... Memes have taken control of our cultural evolution, she says.....
“The trouble is, memes don't really exist as a distinct causal agency in evolution, and saying they do won't make it so; I predict that they will prove to be more elusive than the Higgs boson. As a metaphor for various forms of learned cultural "information", the term might be quite useful. It has the advantage of being more generic than such familiar terms as "ideas", "inventions", "behaviors", "artifacts", etc., and it is certainly preferable to such clumsy neologisms as Edward Wilson's "culturgens". But as a shaper of cultural evolution independently of the motivations, goals, purposes, compulsions and judgments -- in short the minds -- of human actors, memes rank right up there with the fiery phogiston and the heavenly aether.”
(Peter A. Corning, Ph.D.: “The Invasion of the Memes: Is It Science Fiction?”)


“Earlier this month Banksy surreptitiously placed a blow-up doll dressed as a Guantánamo detainee inside the fence of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride at Disneyland, where it apparently remained for more than an hour before park officials shut down the ride and removed it. Recently he also smuggled 500 altered versions of Paris Hilton’s new CD into record stores around Britain and placed them in the racks.... [a] panel van with the notice on the back, “How’s My Bombing?” and an 800 number that links to a Navy recruiting office in Phoenix.... “1.7 billion people have no access to clean drinking water. 20 billion people live below the poverty line. Every day hundreds of people are made to feel physically sick by morons at art shows telling them how bad the world is but never actually doing something about it. Anybody want a free glass of wine?”...Many comment on war, like the stark image of a television camera crew filming a child amid ruins as the producer holds back aid workers to allow for just one more shot.”


"ONCE Toto parts the curtain, the Wizard of Oz can never be the wizard again. He is forever Professor Marvel, blowhard and snake-oil salesman. Hurricane Katrina, which is likely to endure in the American psyche as long as L. Frank Baum's mythic tornado, has similarly unmasked George W. Bush." (Frank Rich)

GLOBAL WARMING: Oh, Rose, Thou Art Sick...

The yellow border shows the old extent of the ice cap. The larger composites show the ice caps from 1979-2000 and 2003-2005 respectively.

Remember that sick feeling when you first discover the blight of an injury or tumor on an otherwise healthy animal, and you know you're going to lose them...

They Would Rather Lose the War on Terror Than Admit That They Were Wrong

84% of the readers polled at Foreign Policy magazine think we're losing the war on terror. If you'da ast me, I coulda tole ya.

It's not likely that the corridors of power will start consulting Noam Chomsky, the late Edward Said, or my current crush Arundhati Roy.

And I am certainly not advocating that politicians follow the advice of intuitives/amateur story-tellers who've read a little history like yrs. truly.

But in the name of all that's holy, the establishment is going to keep losing this war until they at least incorporate the warnings from Chomsky, Roy, Said, et alia into their calculations. America refuses to know its enemy because they don't WANT to know their enemy. They'd rather lose the war on terror than challenge capitalism's assumptions about the Middle East and Third World.

A reading of Al Qaeda strategy only underlines how the Bush administration has played into their hands by shooting from the hip. Evidence suggests that the invasion of Iraq was planned before the 9/11 attack. George W. Bush is the greatest recruiter al-Qaeda ever had. Can we impeach him NOW? Can we do any worse?

See also:
Lessons Pancho Villa Taught Me When They Finally Shot His Ass

Dead Children of a Lesser God: Why the Terrorists are Winning, #247 in a Series

Blue Eyed Body Count: Bush/Zarqawi

Why We're Losing the War on Terror: #370,001 In a Series

Why They Voted for Hamas

Goodbye, Benjamin

Seventy years ago, the last known thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger died in the Hobart zoo on September 7th. The Aussies are remembering the anniversary as Threatened Species Day.

Rumors hold out hope that there may still be survivors out there in the forest. The Fortean Times reports an agreement among cryptozoologists that if a living thylacine is ever found, it will be kept secret to protect them from prying eyes.

Now E. O. Wilson is trying to talk sense about species diversity and the need to reverse the coming extinction event.

In one of his novels, John D. MacDonald imagined a character who became so disraught at the clearing of a nature preserve, she fell into a killing depression and catatonia. I tremble to think of the effect on my friends when the last wild tiger is killed to make medicine for a Chinaman's penis or a fur rug for a Russian gangster. At that point we might want to reconsider our rejection of the eco-terrorist's methods, but it won't bring back the thylacine or the last tiger.

LABOR DAY: The Self-Hatred of the Working Class

I am still puzzled (though no longer surprised) by how often workers identify with their bosses' interests instead of their own. Union meetings are spent on back-biting, complaints against other union members and fighting over crumbs, while the CEO still takes the biggest piece of cheese.

Administrative executives are given car allowances, golden parachutes, retirement packages, arbitrary power-- and they fight tooth and nail against every pittance that might be spent on the business instead of themselves. This is supposed to be evidence of the Invisible Hand: the marketplace wouldn't be paying CEOs these high salaries if they weren't worth it. Forbes reports in April of 2005 that "the heads of America's 500 biggest companies received an aggregate 54% pay raise last year. As a group, their total compensation amounted to $5.1 billion, versus $3.3 billion in fiscal 2003."

Never mind workers' wages-- I'd settle for investment in infrastructure, in an improved work environment. It was a mistake when workers took cash instead of a seat on the board. We traded a boat in the driveway for our birthright.

Why don't working people laugh out loud at the annual call to abolish the estate tax? Only about 2% of all estates will ever be subject to the tax. "Death tax", the Republicans are intructed to call it, as though the IRS were taxing the right to die.

Years ago, I asked Doc Clark why so many people were eager to turn against each other to do favors for the powerful. "I guess people like to hang out with rich people; they think some of it might rub off on them," he said. Maybe that's part of it: a desire to curry favor, like the knights who murdered Beckett because they thought it would please the king. In the feudal south, my father remembers poor whites defending the landowner's interests against black sharecroppers, though the crackers would never see a dime themselves.

I've seen a head waiter tyrannize the wait staff because he thinks he owns the restaurant. Imagine his disappointment when the owners pass him over in favor of a relative. There's some kind of class-warfare version of the Stockholm syndrome going on, where the captive over-identfies with the kidnapper instead of his rescuers.

In 2001 the top 1% of households owned 33.4% of all privately held wealth. The next top 19% held 51%. That leaves (let me take off my socks, so I can count on my toes) 15.6% for the rest of us to fight over.

You probably know the stories of outrageous compensation for administrators and executives, the examples of waste better than I, and yet it's union members who are attacked in ads sponsored by something called The Center for Union Facts out of Washington, D.C. -- as if the employees had a voice in spending priorities or work conditions! Thus the Chamber of Commerce shows its true colors.

American workers fantasize that they have more in common with their employers than with other working stiffs. They haven't learned that even though you love your job, the job does not necessarily love you.

The collapse of Ford and GM under the weight of the health care system might knock some sense into us. The New Yorker has a remarkably clear piece on something called the"dependency ratio" that explains what's really going on when a company can't keep its promises to its workers, why China, India and even Ireland are outpacing us.

Instead of letting workers invest in a centralized health care and pension fund, the big corporations insisted on private funding for their employees. Now, after decades of improvements in manufacturing and a growing pool of retirees, there are fewer workers than there are dependents. Simply put, our old fear of socialism is catching up to us.

As Malcom Gladwell puts it: "This crisis is sometimes portrayed as the result of corporate America’s excessive generosity in making promises to its workers. But when it comes to retirement, health, disability, and unemployment benefits there is nothing exceptional about the United States: it is average among industrialized countries—more generous than Australia, Canada, Ireland, and Italy, just behind Finland and the United Kingdom, and on a par with the Netherlands and Denmark. The difference is that in most countries the government, or large groups of companies, provides pensions and health insurance. The United States, by contrast, has over the past fifty years followed the lead of Charlie Wilson and the bosses of Toledo and made individual companies responsible for the care of their retirees. It is this fact, as much as any other, that explains the current crisis. In 1950, Charlie Wilson [the CEO] was wrong, and Walter Reuther [the union guy] was right."

It was the bosses that shot themselves in the ass. And Joe Hill, God bless him, has the last grim laugh.

"The Preacher and the Slave" by Joe Hill

Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked how 'bout something to eat
They will answer in voices so sweet:

CHORUS: You will eat, by and by,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die

And the Starvation Army they play,
And they sing and the clap and they pray,
Till they get all your coin on the drum,
Then they tell you when you're on the bum:

CHORUS: You will eat, by and by,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die

Holy Rollers and Jumpers come out
And they holler, they jump and they shout
Give your money to Jesus, they say,
He will cure all diseases today.

If you fight hard for children and wife-
Try to get something good in this life-
You're a sinner and bad man, they tell,
When you die you will sure go to hell.

Workingmen of all countries, unite
Side by side we for freedom will fight
When the world and it's wealth we have gained
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain:

You will eat, by and by,
When you've learned how to cook and how to fry;
Chop some wood, 'twill do you good
Then you'll eat in the sweet by and by.

Joe Hill, 1879-1915


If right-wingers are too quick to use epithets against an argument they don't like, the left is just as guilty for throwing the word "fascist" around too quickly.

Now the White House speechwriters are tossing the f-bomb around on a PR offensive featuring the president talking to the VA--tough crowd, gutsy move. Apparently he's asking the rest of us to help him clean up the mess he himself made, a familiar litany in this man's life. The Donald (Rumsfeld) is using it too, talking about "a new type of fascism" and honking about appeasement, the broad hint being that anyone who opposes Rumsfeld must be an appeaser and a Very Bad Person.

Rove’s Republicans must have been concerned that the left still had one powerful word left in their quiver. Now every neo-con from Bush to Rumsfeld to Tony Snow to Rick “I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator”Santorum to Majority Leader Bill “Cat Killer” Frist is evoking the shade of Chamberlain at Munich.

I try to stay close to the word's etymology: those who emulate a bundle of sticks or "fasces", a political organization wherein the individual is subordinate to the state, and things get damned uncomfortable for the sticks that don't quite fit.

The irony is that nothing resembles modern fascism quite so much as the Bush administration’s insistence on a monolithic point of view. The Japanese phrase “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down,” fairly describes the national dialogue during the rush to invade Iraq. Digby’s Hullabaloo has called them on it, and the Los Angeles Times are drop kicking the analogy as well. The Christian Science Monitor lets the word speak for itself. If this propaganda initiative fails, I wonder what vile phrase the Rover Boys will next tie to their test balloons.

Keith Olbermann has articulated as well as anyone why we refer to this administration as "fascistic”. I first saw Olbermann as a hockey reporter on ESPN, and still miss the phrase “drop the chalupa”, but an essay like this is worth his disappearance into the shadows of MSNBC.


"Public interest is clear in this matter. It is the upholding of the Constitution. . . . It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control. (U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor of Michigan)

“One judge in Michigan has done what 535 members of Congress have so abysmally failed to do.” (NYT editorial)


“Socrates asked: what do a beautiful woman, a beautiful vase and a beautiful bed have in common? His answer: the idea of beauty. My question is: what do extremist ideologies like the communism or Nazism of yesteryear and the Islamism of today have in common? After all, they support ostensibly very different ideals – the superior race, mankind united in socialism, the community of Muslim believers, the Umma. Tomorrow, it could be altogether different ideals: some theological, some scientific, others racist. But the common characteristic is nihilism.
“The root element is the attitude that anything goes, particularly when with regard to ordinary people: I can do whatever I want, without scruples. Goehring put it like this: my consciousness is Adolf Hitler. Bolsheviks said: man is made of iron. And the Islamists whom I visited in Algeria said that you have the right to kill little Muslim children, in order to save them.
“....Religion is only the cloth, the excuse and the justification. What is essential is the practice. For there is a direct connection between the Islamic suicide bomber and the general serving under Franco who shouted out in front of the University of Salamanca: “Long live death!” This is the connection that I was trying to grasp.”
(André Glucksmann, in a terrific interview considering Bin Laden in the light of Dostoevsky’s “The Possessed”)

“Strategic bombing has been a failed military concept for ninety years, and yet air forces all over the world keep doing it. ... You have to hunt like a network to defeat a network. Israel focused on bombing against Hezbollah, and, when that did not work, it became more aggressive on the ground. The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.” (John Arquilla, defense analyst at the Naval Postgraduate School, quoted by Seymour Hersch in The New Yorker August 21, 2006)

The Geek Heirarchy

“How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?” (Charles Bukowski in “Factotum)

“[During the Cuban Missile Crisis] Kennedy was deeply influenced by Barbara Tuchman's classic, "The Guns of August," which recounted how a seemingly isolated event 92 summers ago -- an assassination in Sarajevo by a Serb terrorist -- set off a chain reaction that led in just a few weeks to World War I. There are vast differences between that August and this one. But Tuchman ended her book with a sentence that resonates in this summer of crisis: "The nations were caught in a trap, a trap made during the first thirty days out of battles that failed to be decisive, a trap from which there was, and has been, no exit."
Preventing just such a trap must be the highest priority of American policy. Unfortunately, there is little public sign that the president and his top advisers recognize how close we are to a chain reaction, or that they have any larger strategy beyond tactical actions. (Richard Holbrooke, The Washington Post

“Ralph Giordano, a German writer and, by the way, a Jew, has noted that Mr. Grass was only 6 when Adolf Hitler was invited to become Germany’s chancellor. (The overused phrase “seizure of power” badly distorts what happened around Jan. 30, 1933, the date of the Führer’s accession. A coup d’ état would have been bad enough; that Hitler’s appointment was perfectly legal only makes it worse for German history.) And Mr. Giordano has asked, reasonably enough, “What else could he have done during that time in the face of the Nazis’ all-powerful propaganda apparatus?” And answers his own question: “Nothing.”.... It is not that a public personality should get a free ride simply for being famous, let alone popular. Herbert von Karajan may have been an outstanding conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, but this would not erase the fact that he joined the Nazi party twice — these were the acts of an adult, after all. The uncomfortable question that remains for Mr. Grass is this: Why did he keep this interlude as a servant of the regime so tight a secret? .... I am not Mr. Grass’s analyst, nor have I ever met him. But it seems to me that he failed to come forward all these years simply because he was too ashamed.” (op-ed by Peter Gay in the New York Times

(Ward Sutton in The Village Voice)

"All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency.
“They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.
“....Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests."
(George Washington)


".... The snakes will reveal themselves to be not a counter-Phallus, but rather an expression of the rage of the Medusa, the radical queer postcolonial feminine. What is at stake here is not a battle between "snakes" and the "plane," but rather the contest between transgressive Oedipalized subjectivity (memorably described by Jackson's line, "there's motherf---- snakes on the motherf---- plane") and the anti-Oedipal, serpentine, body-machine complex...."
(A Pre-Reading of "Snakes on a Plane" by Amardeep Singh)


“... And I’ve been killing my way to the truth ever since.”
(Marv, in Frank Miller’s “Sin City”)