Should Oracle Stay in Her Wheelchair?

It seemed to me the character of Barbara Gordon was more interesting (and important to the fictional universe) as Oracle than as Batgirl. The editorial reasoning seems to be if comic book science can heal Batman's spinal cord, it's silly to keep Barbara in a wheelchair.

Why not have both? If they'da asked ME, I would have given her a cybernetic body, like a drone plane, that she could inhabit as Batgirl, while still living day-to-day as chair-bound Oracle. And Barbara as a wounded vet, so to speak, of the "war" that started in Crime Alley has more resonance, more skin in the game for the reader.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your American Taliban

Rick Perry and the New Apostolic Reformation have downgraded all non-Republicans to soulless demon status. They are not speaking metaphorically. This makes anything they do to achieve power justifiable, as those who oppose them are not even human.

Their "Seven Mountains Mandate" calls for religious control of business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion. They believe that God, or their idea of God, must take "dominion" over the political and legal structures of the United States.

Welcome again to Weimar America, land of Glorious Godfrey.

Commonplace Book: Readings, August 2011

“The plague of publishing these days is to mistake ubiquity for significance.”
-- Arts and Letters Daily and Alexander Nazaryan on Knotted: How the Necktie Changed the World. and other such titles

“I was turning 40 and thinking, Oh dear, I'm probably going to have one of those midlife crisis things which always just bore the hell out of everybody. So it would probably be better if, rather than just having a midlife crisis, I just went completely screaming mad and declared myself to be a magician. That would, at least, be more colorful. So, I announced, on the night of my 40th birthday party — probably after more beers than I should have had — that, ''from this point on, I'm going to become a magician.'' And then the next morning you have to think, Oh, what have I said now? Are we going to have to go through with this? So I had to go about finding out what a magician was and what they did.
.... The mystics all seem to want to go straight to the Godhead; the magicians tend to be more curious. They want to explore all of the other aspects of the universe. For me, there is very little difference between magic and art. To me, the ultimate act of magic is to create something from nothing: It's like when the stage magician pulls the rabbit from the hat. And then you can turn that idea into a film, a book, a painting, a piece of music, something that other people can experience. That in itself is stunning. And I suppose this is one of the reasons I got into magic, because I was tired of ducking that question that people always ask writers, which is, '’Where do you get your ideas from?’''

-- Alan Moore

“my family use to go see him [“Macho Man” Randy Savage] in his early career at hazard ky. my aunt loved leaping lenny. they wrested one time and the loser had to painted yellow.of couse macho man aunt jumped up and ran to the ring.she was half way under the bottom ring where lenny was laying so she grabbed hold of him.she was calling macho names.he said come on old woman.she ended up with yellow paint all over her and two police officers had her by the legs trying to pull her out of the ring. everybody there was dying laughing at her. she almost went to jail, but macho man talked to the police to keep her from going to jail, so he was a good man.”
-- comment by msireta on news of Randy (Poffo) Savage’s death by natural causes

“Just by virtue of walking into a theater to see a movie called Transformers, I'm fully agreeing with just dispensing with a the laws of physics and accepting that nobody can tell which $200,000 car is a Transformer, for the same reason that James Bond is a secret agent who tells everyone his full name and drives around in the flashiest car he can. The problem is that it doesn't stop there. The movie brings things up as major plot points that are immediately contradicted, and even the internal logic of a movie about giant robots from space isn't consistent. ... You can make every allowance for it, you can talk about how it's about giant robots so it doesn't have to have logic or how it's for kids and they're dumb anyway, and you're still left with the core problem. Nothing makes sense, even from one scene to the next, and everyone's an asshole, so there's no reason to be interested or to care who lives or who dies.”

-- Chris Sims


Guillermo del Toro: In the next 10 years, we're going to see all the forms of entertainment—film, television, video, games, and print—melding into a single-platform "story engine." The Model T of this new platform is the PS3. The moment you connect creative output with a public story engine, a narrative can continue over a period of months or years. It's going to rewrite the rules of fiction.

Wired: It sounds like you're talking about an entirely new form of storytelling.
Guillermo del Toro:Think about the way oral tradition became written word—how what we know about Achilles was written many, many years after it made its way around the world with different names and different types of heroes. That can happen when you allow content to keep propagating itself through different kinds of platforms and engines—when you permit it to be retold with a promiscuous form of mythology. You see it when people create their own avatars in games and transfigure their game worlds.

Wired: How is that interactivity going to change Hollywood—and the way directors like you make movies?
Guillermo del Toro: [Legendary B-movie producer] Samuel Arkoff once told me there are only 10 great stories. That's where the engine and promiscuity come in. Hollywood thinks art is like Latin in the Middle Ages—only a few should know it, only a few should speak it. I don't think so.

-- Guillermo del Toro in Wired


“Many parts of sub-Saharan Africa are a libertarian's paradise. The region as a whole is a low-tax utopia....Rather than unleashing entrepreneurship, this low rate of taxation means that basic public services like health, education, and pothole filling are starved of funding. The physical infrastructure on which a modern economy rests like roads, courts and the police are missing....people are free to protect their own families, and indeed they are forced to.”

-- Francis Fukuyama, The Origins of Political Order

Favorite Authors and Favorite Artists

(Lady Macbeth, by Steven Pugh)

The author of the website Hey Oscar Wilde! It's Clobberin' Time! asks comic artists for sketches of their own favorite authors or literary characters. The collection has grown enough since 1998 to be written up in the Los Angeles Times. There are some small treasures that may someday be regarded as the definitive portrait of their subject.

There's an ongoing tradition in fandom of collecting sketches by favorite artists. Some of the more interesting collectors bring their own sketchpad and collect different artists' interpretation of a particular character. (And some unscrupulous "collectors" auction them off on ebay, getting hundreds of dollars of a sketch that cost them ten to fifty dollars.) This is the collection I've seen that has interest beyond the world of fanboy/art class freaks like me.

Here is Colleen Coover's (Small Favors, Banana Sunday) take on Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice:

... And Jill Thompson's sketch of Carson McCullers (Ballad of the Sad Cafe, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter):

Eric Canete's Truman Capote...

... And Gene Colan's sketch of the great Bill Mauldin:

David Hahn's Yossarian...

And Jeeves and Wooster by Roger Lanridge.

More literary-artsy goodness here; the artists and subjects are listed along the right-hand column.

Christina Rosetti, Robinson Jeffers, Revenge, Public Shame and Private Justice

"Saints are ready to receive all sinners: all sinners are not ready to receive saints."
-- Christina Rossetti, “The Face of the Deep”

“...This gig requires a highly developed sense of irony. Say you're doing a story (as Gladstone did last fall) about the fact that the press will come down harder on a politician who lies about himself than on a candidate who lies about his opponent, and that it's much easier to get away with misrepresenting policy than with fibbing about personal matters. As a result, slandering your opponent's position on healthcare reform causes less of a fuss than claiming you dodged sniper fire on a diplomatic mission to Bosnia when you didn't.
Interviewing the analyst who made these observations (Paul Waldman of The American Prospect), Gladstone summarized one of his explanations thus: "The media have less expertise to evaluate a policy charge, and anyone is an expert when it comes to personal matters." When Waldman argued that reporters should instead pay closer attention to the veracity of claims that directly pertain to what the candidate might do in office, Gladstone remarked, "You're asking them to focus on the relevant" -- in a tone that was tantamount to a raised eyebrow. Then both of them laughed, because there are times when you have to laugh to keep from weeping or screaming.”
-- Laura Miller, in a review of The Influencing Machine
by Josh Neufeld,Brooke Gladstone

“More fundamentally, we have to thank Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, who provided the mean-street-walking existential characters we willingly confused with the actors who played them. The new retro cool I wallowed in had Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade as its source: the hard men with soft, democratic centres, American Romantics tinged with the Founding Fathers and Melville’s melancholic sense of humanity, the people’s Lancelots, who were dragged, flinching with distaste, into the dirty underworld by good and bad men and women, and by their doomed vocation to set the world to rights. Private eyes, but really public defenders. Always disappointed but always trying, never letting love get in the way of justice or their own essential solitude, but expressing enough righteous anger and controlled violence to keep them more interesting than, say, Jesus at his gentlest and most mild. They were dream soldiers of fortune who never came into their fortune because they couldn’t help but look after the weak....
After the war, in books but most of all in old movies, these reluctant action heroes became perfect modern exemplars for the likes of Camus, who saw in them a stoic refusal to be held back by the status quo. Men who behaved as if there was a point in trying to right wrongs, even if they knew the world better than that... And maybe, later on, it was Marlowe and Spade who gave us the courage and foolheadedness to take to the streets. We were young and had energy to expend, so movies and books weren’t quite enough. We couldn’t all be private eyes. And the lurking socialism in Chandler and Hammett fitted well with a postwar generation’s fidgety need to blow holes in the self-sustaining establishment. I think they were part of the equation for the brief explosion of political and social activity.”
-- Jenny Diski, “A bout de Bogart”, in The London Review of Books

“Galbraith delighted in puncturing the self-importance of his profession. He was a satirist of economics almost as much as a practitioner of it... Other economists believed that consumers were rational, calculating actors, whose demands and tastes were deserving of the utmost deference. Galbraith saw people who were easily manipulated by savvy corporations and slick advertising campaigns, who had no real idea of what they wanted, or why.”
-- Kim Phillips-Fein on John Kenneth Galbraith in The Nation

"States and municipalities, for instance, have toughened criminal penalties and immigration laws at the behest of the private prison industry; empowered Wall Street banks to not only collect taxes but levy additional tax penalties; and allowed energy companies to exploit so-called forced pooling statutes, thereby creating what one Republican governor calls a new power of "private eminent domain." One state is now even considering making it a criminal act to share your Netflix password with friends and family, because that is cutting into Netflix revenues.
In Washington, D.C., the federal government just enacted a healthcare bill whose individual mandate forces citizens to purchase private insurance, and the Pentagon has developed a reliable pattern of using military power to occupy resource-rich countries -- and then to privatize those resources at the barrel of a gun.
This same government, which has granted corporations the rights of "personhood," has also used its power to let corporations avoid the responsibilities of personhood -- effectively using state power to create a new privileged status that is above the law. For instance, federal statutes have trampled the concept of "equal protection" by deliberately exempting corporate interests from the laws the rest of us live under -- laws like the Safe Drinking Water Act (which doesn't apply to natural gas drillers) and antitrust statutes (which still don't apply to private health insurers). Federal courts have used judicial power to limit corporations' legal and financial liability for fraud and lawbreaking."
-- David Sirota in Salon
That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new. That America must accept
Like the historical republics corruption and empire
Has been known for years.
Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you. Watch the wheel slope and turn;
They are all bound on the wheel, these people, those warriors.
This republic, Europe, Asia.
Observe them gesticulating,
Observe them going down. The gang serves lies, the passionate
Man plays his part; the cold passion for truth
Hunts in no pack.
You are not Catullus, you know,
To lampoon these crude sketches of Caesar. You are far
From Dante's feet, but even farther from his dirty
Political hatreds.
Let boys want pleasure, and men
Struggle for power, and women perhaps for fame,
And the servile to serve a Leader and the dupes to be duped.
Yours is not theirs.

(Robinson Jeffers)

“For revenge loudly disputes the virtue of ‘winning’. It is by definition a loser’s weapon. Not even the avenger ‘wins’. If his revenge is to be pure, he must gain nothing from it but the satisfaction of payback. He usually pays a heavy price to even the score; in revenge drama he almost always dies.
Revenge subverts the ethical basis of a competitive society. It is also a revolution in miniature; it assumes that the existing state of affairs is insupportable, and it actively seeks to transform it... In this exciting analysis of English revenge drama at its Elizabethan and Jacobean zenith, Linda Woodbridge argues that early modern audiences and playwrights enjoyed and celebrated revenge, associating it with the pursuit of social and economic fairness. Revenge, she notes, is an evening of scores, a leveling. ...
Of course, Christianity nominally reserves revenge for God, and much revenge drama is driven by the tension between Christian ethics and the vengeful impulse... The virtues of forgiveness are preached by the victorious to the defeated, while their own vengeful desires are legitimized as universal morality: “what they desire they call, not retaliation, but ‘the triumph of justice’”.
.... The predominant critical strain presupposes that revenge is reprehensible. The inference, as Woodbridge puts it, is that “anyone with ethics . . . will oppose revenge”. This book powerfully demonstrates that this is not so. Its literary analyses are based on the rational and well-documented contention that audiences and playwrights admired, valued and relished revenge.
They enjoyed it because revenge satisfied an increasingly widespread fantasy of social equality.”
-- David Hawkes, The Times Literary Supplement

New Gods for Old; Women Who Work in Comics

Over at Comics Alliance, an essay by Chris Sims on why the archetypes running loose in Jack Kirby New Gods can trouble our thoughts thirty years after they first appeared. "[Darkseid's] actions are geared towards conditioning people to embrace and exploit their own base hatred and fear. That's how he wins and remakes the world in his own image... devoted not to death but to Anti-Life... a slavery that masquerades as freedom by allowing its victims to give in to the dark side of humanity. [Darkseid] is a villain who exploits the small selfishness that we all see, experience, and even commit on a daily basis and shows how it all adds up to towering evil, and that makes him one of the most genuinely terrifying villains in comics."

Pursuant to an earlier conversation with friends, there's also a short list of prominent women working in comics-- my own favorites, like Amanda Conner, Gail Simone, Colleen Coover, a mention of Karen Berger's importance as an editor on Sandman-- and some I'd never heard of, like Emma Rios and Ramona Fradon. In the appendix of David Hajdu's The Ten Cent Plague, roughly half the artists who lost their jobs in the Wertham purge were women. The only one I knew as a child was Marie Severin on Dr. Strange; at least two generations have no idea the big studios used to cater to all readers, and they've never quite recovered.

Kirby and the splash page for the first episode of New Gods; Amanda Conner, one of my imaginary girlfriends, and her take on Supergirl and Power Girl; Colleen Coover on an unintended side-effect of four color printing.

Opinions are Like Assholes

Charles de Gaulle is supposed to have thrown up his hands and asked of the French,"How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?"
I'm starting to wonder about the United States-- how can you govern a country with 300 million opinions, half of those uninformed, half-baked or selfish-- but every single one of them convinced that they're righteous and deserving of the same respect?
During an NPR story on the Three Cups of Tea controversy, a woman called in to attack the expose because it came from "journalists, elitists and intellectuals" who only wanted to tear down someone who'd actually "done something" for girls in Afghanistan. It startled me, because she used the same malediction and emotional straw men you'd expect from a teabagger on a scooter.
When archeologists of the future sweep away the rubble of the American republic slash empire, will they find the same chemicals in the water supply that destroyed the Roman ruling class? There is learned speculation that the bizarre behavior at the top of the Roman social structure was caused by lead and mercury in the glazes used on aristocrats' tableware.
I don't think it's lead in the water supply that's making us stupid and mean-- we test for that, surely? Or is wickedness contagious, like the social breakdown observed in a crowded rat cage?

Commonplace Book for March 2011

"The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule."
-- Walter Benjamin

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." -- Sinclair Lewis

“Now that blind ambition no longer carries the slightest taint and the term "sell-out" holds no meaning, now that earnest young men sing not of love but of ‘want(ing) to be a billionaire so frickin' bad,’ now that narcissistic outbursts and trips to rehab are tantamount to self-promotion, now that, on blogs and Facebook and Twitter, millions of self-branding voices cry out and are never silenced, now that reaching for the stars is encountered less, by young people, as euphemism than high-priority action item, it may be time to question, at long last, the reigning ethos of super-sized individualism.... Warrior-speak is so much the common lexicon of reality TV that each on-camera confession could stand in for any other: She wants to win at all costs. He's not going to give up, no matter what. She doesn't care who has to eat dirt along the way. The parlance of high school football coaches and insurance salesman has become the native tongue of cable TV.”
-- Heather Havrilesky, in a review of Limitless, a film of Alan Glynn's novel The Dark Fields

Now I will tell Meader’s story; I have a moral in view.
He was pestered by a grizzly so bold and malicious
That he used to snatch caribou meat from the eaves of the cabin.
Not only that. He ignored men and was unafraid of fire.
One night he started battering the door
And broke the window with his paw, so they curled up
With their shotguns beside them, and waited for the dawn.
He came back in the evening, and Meader shot him at close range,
Under the left shoulder blade. Then it was jump and run,
A real storm of a run: a grizzly, Meader says,
Even when he’s been hit in the heart, will keep running
Until he falls down. Later, Meader found him
By following the trail – and then he understood
What lay behind the bear’s odd behavior:
Half of the beast’s jaw was eaten away by an abscess, and caries.
Toothache, for years. An ache without comprehensible reason,
Which often drives us to senseless action
And gives us blind courage. We have nothing to lose,
We come out of the forest, and not always with the hope
That we will be cured

-- Czeslaw Milosz

“Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century—inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today. The justification they came up with was called “marginal-productivity theory.” In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society. It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich. Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin. The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years—whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative—went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards “performance bonuses” that they felt compelled to change the name to “retention bonuses” (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance). Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin.”
-- Joseph E. Stiglitz, ”Of the 1%, By the 1%, For the 1%”

“You go to war with the liquor cabinet you have, not the liquor cabinet you wish you had.”
-- Memzilla, commenter on Wonkette

Commonplace Book of Quotations, February

"Hey, Sarah Palin, hows that hatey, killy, reloady, crosshairsy thing working out for ya?" -- Frank Conniff

“Now, it's true that the [Wikileaks] cables were legally available to well over 1.5 million Americans, who had adequate security clearance. But trivial? Don't believe it. The cables show the daily business of a mighty empire acting in manners diametrically opposite to public pretensions.... The WikiLeaks documents show that the picture of the international business of the United States offered by the major U.S. media to the public is an infantile misrepresentation of reality.”
-- Alexander Cockburn

"I remember when I was dying in Silver Surfer...The director was like, 'It looks too real. It looks too painful. Can you be prettier when you cry? Cry pretty, Jessica.' He was like 'Don't do that thing with your face. Just make it flat. We can CGI the tears in.'" -- Jessica Alba in Elle

“Stupidity defeats you in some way. Especially when time is at a premium. And sometimes these questions are themselves mischievous.”
-- Arundhati Roy

“George W. Bush said Friday he will not visit Denver this weekend as planned because WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was invited to attend one of the same events as the former president.... [Bush spokesman David Sherzer] said Bush doesn't want to be part of a forum that invited someone who has ‘willfully and repeatedly done great harm to the interests of the United States.’"
-- Sheila V. Kumar, Associated Press

“... Sam disliked the attitude of moral superiority above all else... One merely had to tip open the Britannica to discover that between the years 1912 and 1945 the Germans had destroyed a hundred million lives out of a basic assumption of moral superiority. And this was only the most notorious example that could be extrapolated in every direction in human history, including our own extermination of over a hundred Native American cultures, up through Vietnam, and perhaps Nicaragua in the future... Part of the ethos, the soul history, of American capitalism was to destroy absolutely everything that wasn’t immediately useful.”
-- Jim Harrison, “Sunset Limited”, in The Woman Lit by Fireflies

-- "Because the mongoose isn't fighting snakes for food, or for territory, or for survival -- it's fighting snakes because fuck snakes.
-- Danny Vittore, "Six Animals That Just Don't Give a F@*k"

Ghosts at Reagan's Banquet

Alexander Cockburn, who I first remember for trying to get at the truth of the 1980s and beyond, has a short, simple correction to all the aggrandizement of Ronald Reagan on the hundredth anniversary of his birth. If you're feeling less than moderate, there's a new book of Tim Kreider's cartoons, driving a stake through Reagan's dead black heart and putting his head on a pike, finally keeping those dead Guatemalans company in the history books.
The journalist Allan Nairn, who was there in Guatemala in 1980, says "I’m hearing about how Reagan is being celebrated, and I don’t know, I suspect that a lot of people in Central America when they hear about that, maybe feel the same way that a lot of Americans feel when they hear the stories about people in other countries wearing Osama bin Laden t-shirts."

Francis Fukuyama Discovers the Limits of Francis Fukuyama

Francis Fukayama came late to the party. Still, the Lord loves a prodigal, no matter his rolling in the mud with neo-conservatives before he got here:
"What was truly troubling, however, was that the collapse undermined the fundamental moral justification for material inequality in a politically egalitarian society. Basic to the legitimacy of market capitalism is the efficient market hypothesis—that is, the notion that in a truly competitive market everyone earns something close to his or her “social” rate of return. This means, in other words, that if your investment banker earns 100,000 times as much as your plumber, it’s because he or she is contributing roughly 100,000 times as much to society’s total pool of wealth.
The crisis made it glaringly obvious that the efficient market hypothesis was wrong: Oversized returns were flowing to innovative financial entrepreneurs who, in their avidity to create new and more complex financial instruments and products, were destroying rather than creating value for society as a whole."

No shit, Sherlock.

Let me get this straight; it took two wars and an economic collapse for a tenured professor to realize what my sharecropping ancestors knew in their bones?
(Link) View more John Mc Clane Sound Clips and Bruce Willis Sound Clips
Francis Fukuyama is the fellow who announced "The End of History" in 1989, after Russia lost the Cold War. This made him a lot of friends among fans of Ronald Reagan. He later explained that what he really meant was an end to interpreting history as having a goal, as Hegel, Marx and apocalyptic Christians do.
I could almost buy his equivocation, but Fukuyama's inner Pangloss never knows when to shut up: "... while earlier forms of government were characterized by grave defects and irrationalities that led to their eventual collapse, liberal democracy was arguably free from such fundamental internal contradictions." Say wha--? Democracy (or republicanism, if you prefer Latin to Greek) is chock-full of "fundamental internal contradictions"-- that's why Lincoln warned that democracies are inclined to self-destruction; why Churchill called democracy the worst except for all the others. You're a hard man indeed if you can see the dead at Fredericksburg or Wounded Knee as nothing more than a perfect system correcting itself. Call me Manichean, but I still see history as a struggle between forces of creation and destruction, Thanatos and Eros. It only takes a moment for a soldier to kill Archimedes.

I am not calling for F.F. to start wearing an IWW shirt and become a neo-socialist. I just want him to discover that there might be a reason the left feels pissed off and pissed on. And this does give me another excuse to assign the reading of Kipling's "Gods of the Copybook Headings", despite its misuse by the odious Beck, unable to recognize himself in its warnings.

I would not bother with this if Francis were just another Wanker Like Me with a blog. But this guy is a paid lecturer in the if-you-have-to-ask-you-can't-afford-it range. Francis Fukuyama has made a spectacular career out of being wrong, but being wrong in a way that flatters the masters of our world.
I'm all in favor of being wrong and making grand barroom pronouncements-- as a storyteller and a reader, I embrace six impossible things before breakfast, hoping to unearth those poetic truths that "burn like cold iron", as Lewis said of Tolkein. We bohemians (cough slackers cough) are, after all the secret legislators of the world. But when I wear a history teacher's hat, I have to answer "I don't know" a dozen times a day, puzzling innocents who think a mastery of trivia and telling anecdote is the same as knowing "everything", then try to turn the things I don't know into a problem for them, like a cat giving kittens a crippled mouse to bat around. But my foibles don't end in a body count, as Fukuyama's did when he signed William Kristol's letter urging regime change in Iraq.

It may be that a repentant Francis is trying to find his way home, to move the bead of isn't-it-pretty-to-think-so a bit closer to what is. He's just about the only neoconservative I can stand to read without gagging, certainly the only one capable of conceding that he might be wrong, and any sign of enlightenment is to be cherished-- for this thy brother was lost, and is found. So, my turn to make a pronouncement, though the thoughts of Francis Fukuyama are worth 100,000 of mine, and it's a truism the ancient Chu Yuan knew in his drowned bones: No courtier ever went broke by telling the bosses what they want to hear.

Egypt, Tunisia, and Tianamen Square

Speaking out of pure ignorance, I suppose everyone's waiting to see what the army does next. In Tunisia, the military identified and sided with the civilian protesters-- but at Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government very deliberately brought in provincial troops (and provincial kids) from the Chinese equivalent of Alabama. They told the soldiers that the Tiananmen demonstrators were dangerous radicals, hippies, college punks, commie reds (what does a communist call a commie?). Thus, Chinese soldiers very cheerfully gunned down Chinese democrats.
I've no idea what social class Egyptian cops and soldiers come from, whether they'll support their neighbors or the government. Looting is breaking out, as well as attacks by agent provocateurs, and that works for a dictatorship, not against it.

In our own country, I suspect our military class is becoming more and more segregated from the people and the Constitution they are sworn to protect. This was part of the dynamic that led to the shootings at Kent State. If push came to shove between Fox News Corps and a serious progressive reformer, does anyone want to guess which way the American military would jump?

From Cairo to Istanbul

THURSDAY UPDATE: John and Jeffery are in Istanbul now, taking advantage of the local beer, and the layers of a city going back to Byzantium:
So we have fled the country temporarily. We are currently refugees in Istanbul (not Constantinople) which offers all of the typical trappings of a refugee environment: stunning views, great food, a local beer, Ottoman history everywhere. The usual.
For the time being we are safe and sound. Depending on how the situation in Cairo progresses this week, we will either return to Egypt next week or set up camp in an undisclosed location until further notice (not the United States). The American University in Cairo plans to reopen next week and begin a new session the week after.

More at John's blog here.
I tried reaching John Martin's blog from Egypt, and sure enough, it's blocked, but if you type/paste in your browser's address window, it will take you to a Google page that can circumvents the Egyptian block, and from there you can reach John's blog-- You Can't Make Mistakes If You Don't Know What You're Doing-- though comments are disabled. Anyway, forwarded from the suburbs of Cairo, dated January 26:

Situation update for those concerned about our safety

.... There were widespread protest demonstrations in Cairo yesterday and in about 10 other cities as well. They have continued tonight, but on a smaller scale. There was a good deal of violence at one point late in the evening yesterday when the police finally decided to clear out the occupied areas. Tear-gas, water cannons and rubber bullets were all used. There were no live rounds fired. There have been several deaths and in Cairo about 250 people were injured and are now hospitalized. This could well be the beginning of something huge here, not unlike what happened in Tunisia. There are reports of rumors coming in that the son of the President (and his perceived successor) has left the country and is presently in London. It is rumored that the First Lady has also left. These reports have been vehemently denied by the American Embassy and should probably be considered unlikely to have actually occurred.
It will be interesting to watch how the situation progresses, but it will be unlikely to cause any problems for us. This seems so far to be a primarily secular popular revolt instead of one lead by the Muslim Brotherhood or other politico-religious groups. It is unclear where exactly the organization is coming from though. The protesters are regular, working-class people seeking governmental reform and measures to relieve the grinding poverty that Egypt is experiencing.
Social media sites and some news sites are being blocked variously throughout the country. Twitter confirmed earlier that they were in fact blocked yesterday. People are using external proxies in order to circumvent the internet blockades and communicate with each other. This will likely lead to stronger measures undertaken to control the flow of information both to news outlets and to those involved in the demonstrations. There are rumors that mobile phone service is being cut off for known activists. There were reports last evening that mobile services were cut off in Tahrir Square in central Cairo.
We are quite safe at present in Maadi (a southern suburb/district of Cairo). The part of the city we live in is far from the action, and the likelihood of anything happening in this particular suburb/district is low considering that it is inhabited primarily by wealthier folks and expatriates. Regardless, we’re keeping our eyes and ears open and making only leaving the house when absolutely necessary. Some of our more foolhardy friends are headed downtown regularly to scope out what is happening. They are brave, but perhaps a little foolish. It is understandable though. This is an exciting time here.
I am paying pretty close attention to what is happening and I will keep all of you informed in the case that the situation changes, possibly necessitating our evacuation. In that extremely unlikely scenario, our plan is to catch whatever flight is available to somewhere in Europe and then regroup and figure out what to do next. We will be extremely grateful to our friends in the EU if they will be willing to take in refugees at such a time as it becomes a necessity....

Blessed are the Big Noses

Don’t know much about physiognomy, but remembering what Lincoln said about a man earning his face, the cartoonist in me has been thinking about the noses worn by J.P. Morgan and his current avatar, Rupert Murdoch. Is there something about a bulbous nose that is not content with owning just part of the world, but has to own everything, knock any opposition to the ground?

Both men reached the enviable postion of doing whatever they damn well please and ignoring the laws of lesser men. Morgan got fat by controlling railroads and steel, dominant of their day, while Murdoch has sought hegemony over the space between the electorate’s ears. Morgan had a famously bulbous, purple nose deformed by rhinophyma, the result of untreated rosacea. Rupert Murdoch's seems to have been shaped by character, curling his upper lip and squinting his eyes at all the smells of a world he doesn’t like. He wears a frown that cannot, cannot permit any serious worldview that diverges from the worldview of Rupert Murdoch.

We have the miserly, pinched image of acquisitiveness, as captured in cartoon shorthand by the likeness of Scrooge, caricatures of Rockefeller, and Henry Ford— traits combined in the design of The Simpsons' C. Montgomery Burns, and before that, the stock figure of Pantalone. Morgan and Murdoch and their noses are of some different order altogether. Did this nose possess W.C. Fields, who could never drink his fair share, but had to drink it all?

How powerful was Morgan? It was Morgan who bought out Andrew Carnegie from U.S. Steel, the first billion dollar deal in history. How rich was he? In 1895 Morgan bailed out the federal government itself, then rescued it again in 1907. (It was the second bailout, incidentally, that prompted creation of the Federal Reserve system as an alternative to the whims of billionaires). The New York Times itself was purchased by the Ochs family with a loan from Morgan.

And Murdoch? Murdoch is "the organizer of half that is evil and nearly all that is undetected in this great city. He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows every quiver of each of them-- beg pardon-- that's Moriarty, not Murdoch. Of Moriarty's nose we know very little, though Alan Moore might make something of these connections, il miglior fabbro. and all that. Rupert Murdoch has shaped the world in his own image, sold his prejudices to the English-speaking world, giving the uber-rich a grip on power and resources that a medieval despot would envy. No need to instill a belief in the divine right of kings-- Rupert has empowered the ruling class to steal the common man’s shoes and then sell them back to him, taught them to deny the existence of a ruling class, hold out the pretense that the economic deck isn’t stacked, mock anti-Murdoch forces as fools and villains.

Urologists in London have debunked the penis-to-ratio myth-- so what is it about these men, that they spend their lives trying to fuck us?

Second Amendment Solutions

Gabrielle Giffords, U.S. Representative for Arizona's 8th congressional district, was shot in the head today while attending a meet-the-representative event outside a Safeway grocery store. After shooting congresswoman Giffords, the assailant fired into the crowd at random, killing a nine year old child, a federal judge, and several others.

Sarah Palin's webmasters quickly moved to take down her PAC ad that featured crosshairs on Giffords' name. When asked about this during the campaign, Giffords told MSNBC, "We're on Sarah Palin's targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action.”

Giffords' opponent held a rally during the election with the following ad: "Get on Target for Victory in November / Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office / Shoot a fully automatic M15 with Jesse Kelly".

"Commonsense Conservatives & lovers of America: "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" Pls see my Facebook page"

It is expected that the political right will profess to be "horrified" and describe this act as "random" and "senseless". If they were capable of insight into their own culpability, they would not be who they are.