Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rest in peace, man.

Dennis Hopper passed on. Here's one of my favorite scenes in film:

National Sacrifice

From John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, 1961:
Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.

Dulce Et Decorum Est, by Wilfred Owen, 1918:
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

On this Memorial Day, let's talk about national sacrifice. Wilfred Owen, in the most famous poem about war (with the possible exception of the Illiad), derides national sacrifice as "the old Lie." His poem does not provide a political explanation for why holding the pointy-hats at the French border failed to equal the loss of England's blood and treasure. It was probably self-evident to his audience. On the other hand, the crotchety old fucks who were grateful for the war surely viewed Owen's poem as treason. Surely it was also viewed as arrogant. If I were one of those crotchety old fucks, I would press Owen on the relevance of "the blood / Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, / Obscene as cancer". Of what importance is the loss of individual life when compared to the Cause? Surely, of even less importance is the manner of such loss. Is not dwelling on "vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues" a bit indulgent?

While Wilfred Owen did not find it necessary to mix war and politics in his famous poem, plenty of people at the time were starting to awaken to the fact that war is politics by another means, or vice versa. Class struggles in the nineteenth century caused the citizens of the great empires to differentiate between the interest of the state and the interest of the people. This is the dominant theme in the late Howard Zinn's studies of history: history from the point of view of the people, rather than from the state. (Before nationalism came to dominate conservative political thought, it was also a dominant theme of conservatism-- that is, the primacy of the individual.) Zinn wrote, "... we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been." (Again, I can't help it. William F. Buckley could have said that, yet Zinn is the communist. Go figure.) The thoroughly liberal concept of the individual and the community decoupled from the state must inform all discussions of national sacrifice. Specifically, we may determine national sacrifice to be justified if the nation acts in the interests of the community. If the nation projects alien or perhaps foreign interests onto the community, or needless to say, when it lies or exaggerates a threat, then losses to the community in the course of protecting the state's interests are in vain.

The idea of national sacrifice is as old as civilization, but it has certainly evolved. In the beginning, pharaohs would slaughter millions of their own in battle in order to kidnap and rape the opposing pharaoh's harem-- or something. Today, pawns like us have defense mechanisms against such abusive treatment, but not nearly as much as liberals like Howard Zinn would have liked. Noble sacrifice in service of the nation is something that we all pretend still exists but which no one really understands with any sophistication. We generalize too much when it comes to soldiers and war. When the newly sacrificed are fresh in the ground, we dare not ask if the cost is justified. And even as those who died in Vietnam were turned to bone, Democrats dared not question the liberal bona fides of JFK.

The truth is, there are few instances in which national sacrifice can be described as trans-partisan or in the interest of communities across our nation. Lincoln's implicit message at Gettysburg was that every life sacrificed on that famous battlefield was equal in value. He knew that was bullshit. The South slaughtered both Northern and Southern soldiers because they wanted to continue to slaughter Africans for profit. National sacrifice has been a corrupted idea, a mere political meme, for a very long time. The new liberals who broke with the Establishment during Vietnam were certainly not the first to realize this, but they were perhaps the first with the potential to do anything about it -- namely, to stop the next aggressive war from happening. They clearly failed, and that's really fucking depressing. What's more depressing is the reason why they failed: our stupid parents are still fighting not only Vietnam, but the Civil War as well. Here's something fun to try: go back in time and show Lincoln -- just before the Gettysburg Address -- maps of the last 150 years of electoral college results. He would have stood at the podium on that sacred ground and told the audience, "Screw you guys, I'm going home!" And as for Vietnam's terrible legacy -- John Kerry lost the 2004 race because he fought in Vietnam. If 40 years ago, Kerry had joined the Massachusetts Air National Guard and kept his mouth shut about the justification for war, he would have won.

A democracy can only last so long without fighting tyranny before it loses its purpose. The United States ran out of external threats long ago, and terrorist organizations are unworthy substitutes for authoritarian superpowers. With each Memorial Day that passes without being engaged in a credible Manichean struggle with evil, citizens will continue to look inward for those Who Hate Our Freedoms. In the case of myself, I look at news like this everyday, and I can't wait until we pass on the World Police badge to people who are not crazy -- or better yet, to no one at all.

Well, I don't know how to wrap this up. Do you really need it wrapped up, though? I feel like you've got the gist.

UPDATE: Dennis Hopper is dead.

UPDATE 2: The oilocalypse continues.

UPDATE 3: Fuckin fuck balls.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Scott Brown is a traitor to bears everywhere.

Scott Brown made history in February when he became the first bear to serve in the U.S. Senate. Well, not anymore he's not. Sources deep inside the Brown administration have revealed that he is about to relent to a relentless Teabagging: "It's ugly. They're threatening that if Brown dares to follow the 2/3 majority (of his voters!) who support repealing DADT, then he will not enjoy Teabagger support in 2012." Head Teabagger Sarah Palin cried, "Scott Brown has fucked us for the last time! From now on, it is we who shall do the fucking! My army of unwashed balls and taints shall descend on Taxachussets and mercilessly rub out all opposition to wingnut orthodoxy!" She then added, "Mwahaaahaaahaaaa!"

Monday, May 24, 2010

no one knows what libertarianism is: one of the many reasons why libertarianism is stupid

So libertarianism is still being talked about because Rand Paul is still saying stuff. (I know, calm down people.) The latest thing he said was some racist bullshit about the Civil Rights Act. Read this on how Rand and his supporters don't actually care about staying true to liberatarian philosophy (O RLY!!!). Read this on how we should never be surprised when it turns out that libertarians are shallow people who don't actually have any convictions. Finally, read this on how it sounds when libertarians desperately want to be accepted by liberals (not to mention non-crazy people):
The basic libertarian position on civil rights is as follows: (1) Private discrimination should, in general, be legal (this includes affirmative action preferences, btw). Many libertarians would make exceptions for cases of monopoly power, and most would ban private discrimination when the government itself ensured the monopoly by law, as with common carriers like trains; (2) The government may not discriminate. If necessary, the federal government should step in to prevent state and local governments from discriminating; (3) The government may not force private parties to discriminate, and the federal government should, if necessary, step in to prevent state and local governments from forcing private parties to discriminate; (4) The government must protect members of minority groups and those who seek to associate with them from private violence. If the state and local government won’t do so, the federal government should step in; and (5) As part of the ban on government discrimination, and to prevent rent-seeking voters from taking advantage of the disenfranchised, members of all racial groups should be treated as individuals for voting purposes, and thus members of all groups should have equal voting rights. If state and local governments don’t guarantee such rights, the federal government should step in.
Well shit, if it were not for point (1), I would be a libertarian. Too bad point (1) is the sum totality of everything that is wrong and stupid about libertarianism. The reason that (1) is everything is that libertarians want everything privatized. Also, the modern corporation can be just as oppressive as government. Just ask people who work as slaves in the third world. Do you think they care whether their government or a multinational corporation (often in collusion with their government) is oppressing them? No. The result is the same: oppression.

But just because I'm thorough, let me deal with points 2 through 5 as well. First of all, the notion that the federal government must step in to uphold civil liberties and due process protections is called liberalism. That's our turf, damnit. If you want to act as though 2 through 5 are your thing, then awesome, but don't write it down in a blog and claim that it's your thing. It's a liberal thing. I seem to remember the Democrats taking great political risk in passing the Civil Rights Act, officially making it our thing. Back off of our thing.

Lastly (damn you thoroughness!), points 2 through 5 violate a central tenet of libertarianism (at least the sort of libertarianism that conservatives associate with, which is the only sort that matters politically): smaller government is more accountable to voters than bigger government, so federal government should not interfere (unless of course the GDHs legalize weed, then Big Brother should kill said GDHs). Is that about right? I mean, are libertarians going to violate this central tenet just because the darkies have a problem with the locals? See, to me, this gets to the heart of the matter. Libertarianism is too filled with contradicttion to make any sense. Either civil liberties are protected, or they are not. There are few gray areas-- and certainly not the gray chasm of "state's rights". The problem is that the vast majority of libertarians hold the "state's rights" view or at least associate with the "state's rights" crowd. The "state's rights" argument, since slavery, has almost exclusively been evoked in order to limit civil liberties, not expand them.

The conclusion here is always the same when the subject is libertarianism. As tristero at Hulaballoo says, "Everything good about libertarianism is already part-and-parcel of liberalism." Everything else about it is stupid or dangerous.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ron and Rand Paul: Why some on the Right are isolationists.

Back when I was a bit more politically naive, I appreciated the paleocon worldview. Yeah, they're racists. Yeah, they are the nadir of human progress. But they oppose neocons. And the enemy of my enemy is my-- well, let's just leave it at that. For example, I would watch Pat Buchanan on Chris Matthews say something old and grizzled and bitter about Bush and how he was fucking up everything and I would say to myself, "Awww. He's jusa big o' teddy-baywr! How'd he get mixed up in the Nixon administration?"

Now, despite their isolationism, I would prefer that paleocons not get anywhere near positions where they can affect foreign policy. I would go as far as to say that neocons are slightly better because, although every corner of the globe they touch turns into a charred hellscape, the neocons rape and pillage to provide for our economy. For now, we have money. This means we can use our lucre to buy the myriad goods and services gained through our globe-raping. On the other hand, if paleocons were in charge, Jesus would seriously think about coming again.

Obviously I'm just being a smartass, but my gut says paleocons would be worse. Exhibits A and B are Paul Sr. and Jr., or Ron and Rand Paul. Read this post by digby for some good background on the Pauls. The post explains that Paul Sr. was very much a part of the black-helicopter crowd in the nineties. He only gained cross-partisan support in 2008 because he was anti-war and anti-neocon, but he is nonetheless a liberal's nightmare. His son seems to be no better, and maybe worse. Like his dad, Junior rejects the neocon agenda of world domination and has actually parroted his father's controversial statements about how meddling in the Middle East contributes to terrorism. However, he has thrown in his lot with the Tea Party, a group of people who's respect for human rights is limited in scope to those with white skin and penises and limited in substance to property rights. Rand Paul also leads an army of militia-types with automatic weapons, who Rand claimed were merely protecting the integrity of the ballot during his recent primary victory. His opponent from the GOP establishment was complaining about these intimidation tactics, which made me do my Nelson laugh.

Ron and Rand are, above all else, very good politicians. They have found a highly nutritious niche market of voters to feed on, and now that our economy is in the shitter, their niche has turned into a veritable ecosystem of discontent, racial resentment and downright hate. This ecosystem is what fuels isolationism on the Right. That, and the fact that warfare has not gone very well for us lately. Anti-war liberals must remember that all anti-war sentiment on the Right is maintained exclusively by racism and xenophobia. If it were not for xenophobia, everyone on the Right would be like William Kristol, as opposed to Pat Buchanan. Isolationism has always been out there as a political force. It did not disappear in the Cold War. Remember the Balkans in the nineties? Somalia? Back then, when Clinton was directing America's military might against non-commies, everyone on the Right was a goddamn hippy. Hint: they were not being peaceful. They were being isolationist. Big difference. For fuck sake, right-wingers criticized Clinton for killing Iraqis!

Conquer them! Make them states! Free their women-folk!

Read this post by Greenwald. I propose that we re-liberate Iraq and Afghanistan and make them the 51st and 52nd states. That way, they would not be battlefields anymore, and the administration would have no grounds to hold prisoners there indefinitely. Also, the four senators from Iraq and Afghanistan would be teh awesome.

word of the day

pornoseptuagenarian - A prostitute who is in the age range of 70 to 79 years old.

Friday, May 21, 2010

footprints of wingnuttery

Just saw a Vanguard documentary on the Ugandan anti-gay climate at the time that the Ugandans were considering a bill which would have punished gay people with life-imprisonment or death. It was fucked up. I remember the row it created. Rick Warren had to issue a condemnation of the Ugandan bill because the fuckwit was part of a cretinous milieu of wingnuttery that has descended on Africa recently. The American Right has come to Africa under the pretenses of missionary work and fighting HIV. But what they are really doing is spreading right-wing ideology. The main dude spreading the hate, fiery evangelical Pastor Ssempa, said two things that drew my immediate attention: "liberal media" and "George Soros." Now who do you think taught the goodly pastor about the twin terrors of the liberal media and George Soros? Probably not Jesus.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dio, I hardly knew ye.

Seriously, I didn't. But he's gone now, died of cancer. Here's Dio being epic:

And a fitting tribute by Tenacious D:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

just, just -- fuck...

via Digby:

The US airbase at Bagram in Afghanistan contains a facility for detainees that is distinct from its main prison, the Red Cross has confirmed to the BBC.
Nine former prisoners have told the BBC that they were held in a separate building, and subjected to abuse.

This is pretty big news and I'm gonna read it in a second, but I want to say a few words on that last part for a second. Nine former prisoners were held in the secret, shitty prison. It's always the former prisoners, isn't it? As in, they used to be prisoners. As in, they were let go. As in, they probably didn't even take a shit where they were not supposed to, yet they were held in the pound-me-in-the-ass prison. How many former prisoners are wandering out there in the world, free? Well, there are about 500 that were special enough to land in Gitmo. That's just the tip of the iceberg though. Many, many more went through Bagram, Abu Ghraib, the black sites, the blacker sites, etc... How many of them would be as pissed and unforgiving as I would be? That is to say, really, really unforgiving. Like, homicidal? How many are going back to broken homes and broken communities? How many have nothing? How many have no one?

Then think about this -- because it's fuckin' fun, that's why! -- think about how many people in the business of running this morally bankrupt government give a rat's ass. If you have not thought about that, you do not deserve to be a fucking dog catcher.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

me making fun of Thomas Sowell

Sadly No has brought to my attention a piece by Thomas Sowell, who I remember reading in my hometown paper's op-ed section. He was creepy back then, and -- yeah, still creepy. Allow me to add another "shorter" to Sadly No's summation:

Shorter Thomas "Asian is the new White" Sowell: "The only thing black students learn in our failing public schools is liberal political philosophy -- and probably buttseks."

Sowell explains that when black students are exposed to the guiding light of white skin, or the equally impressive incandescence of the yellow man, they lose all aspiration. Back in the good ol' days, the White Man was the "Pied Piper" of black people, leading them out of poverty with His gay tune of prosperity. Why, in those days, the White Man had only to stand up straight and tall and say, "Look at me coloreds! I pulled myself up by the bootstraps! You can too!"

Now its all gone to hell. Ever since liberals started preaching equal opportunity, black students see high-achievers, and their first thought is, "Hey, according to equal opportunity, I should achieve similar results as the high-achievers. But I'm not. Even though we're in the same classes, our unequal performances must be due to an unequal distribution of capital vis-a-vis the inequity inherent in laissez-faire market economies. The failure of my school system to properly address this inequity is an injustice that me and my fellow low-achievers may correct by stealing the lunch money of the high-achievers." By Jove, Dr. Sowell, you have cracked the case! The solution must lie in teaching students accountability. But how? What criteria must teachers use to judge the achievement and progress of students? If only there were some sort of scale to express said achievement quantitatively? Jeez, I guess figuring out this teaching thing is tough work. It's like, conservative bromides about personal responsibility are not enough anymore. This does not bode well. Oh well, at least there's White Heaven:

Saturday, May 8, 2010

a crisis of probability is not a crisis

So I just heard a discussion between David Frum and Glenn Greenwald. If you want to know what David Frum is thinking now, or how a reasoned discussion between liberals and conservatives is conducted, then I recommend it. What prompted this posting is something Frum said at the end of the discussion about bad things that leaders do during crises. Greenwald tried to get Frum to say whether he believed presidents ought to be able to break the law and be immune from the criminal justice system, but Frum evaded. In that back-and-forth, Frum said, "Bush may have done some things that ... everybody would have thought before [9/11?] were illegal ... that a lot of people think were immoral, and we don't do them anymore, the crisis has passed, the country has found a new footing." I'd like to focus on the "crisis has passed" part.

What I'm gonna say about this crisis of terrorism might sound a little neocon-ish, but to paraphrase one of my favorite comedians, Patton Oswalt, "I'm gonna bring you to Mordor and take you right back to the Shire, so stay with me!" I don't think the crisis has passed at all. Frum is saying what everyone else is saying, but everyone else does not know what the hell they are talking about. I think that the probability of a major, 1000-plus-casualty terrorist attack occurring in September, 2001 was similar to the probability of one occurring today. Of course, the probability was greater in September, 2001 because Richard Clark and other Clinton officials with knowledge of bin Laden's activities were warning the shit out of Bush that something would likely happen and Bush was sitting on his ass. But accounting for that major exception, the probability of calamity is the same today. I can say this because there is almost no data with which to calculate the probability of foreign terrorist attacks. This is up for some debate, because the definition of terrorism is usually in debate, but there have been only two relatively recent foreign terrorist attacks in the U.S. in which people have died: the first and second WTC attacks. Given those data, one could reasonably say that a U.S. citizen's probability of dying in a terrorist attack is ill-defined, but most likely the probability is vanishingly small. This near-zero probability existed in the eighties, the nineties, and the oughts, and it will probably continue to exist forever -- until someone blows up the universe.

My simple conclusion is this: It would be nice if -- in the period of time between now and the end of the universe -- we deal with the vanishingly small probability of terrorism in a rational way. We may do this by keeping the rule of law and democracy in tact.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Debbie Schlussel hates fat (and brown) people and the liberals hiding behind them. So much fat, so many liberals.

Debbie Schlussel is concerned -- in a rather morbid way -- she's morbidly concerned that liberals are engaged in an evil plot to rid the world of junk food, starving us all except for the Hollywood elite, who shall grow to Jabba the Hut sizes. Hollywood will then exalt morbid obesity as the new unattainable body type. We shall all huddle around our few old CRT televisions and watch as the Jabba the Hut version of Kristin Chenoweth is carried down the red carpet by her skinny, disgusting manservants, and we shall lick our lips at the prospect of scavenging enough caloric intake to one day be as satiated and luxuriant as Jabba Keifer Sutherland.

Why -- how, God -- does Debbie Schlussel divine these things? Does she consume Teh Spice? Does she commune with Ronald Reagan's ghost? Does Spice provide access to Ronald Reagan's ghost? Nej. Debbie Schlussel has deduced the foul liberal agenda because People magazine editors "They" have determined Gabourey Sidibe, Oscar-nominated actress of Precious fame, to be a "Most Beautiful Person". Sidibe is an obese African-American woman. Debbie Schlussel objects to this new definition of beauty, and she adds these racially charged racist remarks, because why not: "she's not just any fat actress, she’s a Black fat actress in a ghetto movie promoted by Oprah and based on a 'gangsta lit' book."

As I see it, People is promoting an excellent actress who broke through Hollywood's glass ceiling for large women and non-whites. That's beautiful. As Debbie sees it, however, People magazine editors Hollywood is thinking one of two things: (1) They really think Gabourey Sidibe is beautiful, which is ridiculous because everyone knows that Hollywood thinks that only size six bodies can be beautiful (QED). (2) They love food more than they hate fat people, so their alliance with liberal foodie Nazis is really an effort to impoverish Real 'Murica of food and concentrate food in Hollywood, where the stars will feast and grow enormous at our expense. In the latter construction, Gabourey Sidibe is a dry run for Jabba Lindsey Lohan.

In summary, Debbie Schlussel is ugly -- on the inside.