A trio of Nina Simones

>> Saturday, April 30, 2011

In keeping with yesterday's post, a trio of Nina Simone cuts.


Quote of the week--American history edition

>> Friday, April 29, 2011

There's the perspective on this week's Not-Really-News big news item. The reminder of how, when you get right down to it, birtherism is nothing but simple, old-fashioned, disgraceful racism, and not even racism in brand new drag; it's just the same old shit in the same old sordid dress.

Listening to this clip again while I set this up to post on Friday, I find myself at a loss for words. Imagine that. But maybe it's not even my place to have words for it. Thurston is dead on in his indictment of Trump and everyone else riding that bandwagon. They aren't crazy and they aren't curious: they're bigots, they're racists, they're the same dumbass honkies the racist white elites exploited in 1861, 1915, the 1950s and the 1980s. Ignorant fucking crackers, racist tools, bigoted morons. And if you don't get that, well, maybe you don't have a good grasp on American history and on the fact that for most of the century between 1865 and 1965, voting rights were defined by grandfather clauses, literacy tests and poll taxes.

Yeah, actually, Thurston's right: this was a national humiliation this week, a fiasco.


Dumb quote of the day--self-serving edition

>> Thursday, April 28, 2011

Get over yourselves, MSM. And do your job - not defending the right of people in power to protect themselves, but scrutinizing them relentlessly, with every fact and document you can get. You don't defuse conspiracy theories or end legitimate doubts by telling public officials they need not provide clear and available evidence to rebut them. Yes, some will still suspect. But many will walk away. That's worth doing.

Do you know what I am saying?

-Andrew Sullivan, "Why Did Obama Wait So Long?"
The Daily Beast, April 27th, 2011.


Okay, okay, okay: I kid, I know exactly what you're saying, Mr. Sullivan. You're saying that Salon hasn't really made you look like a moron and a jackass over your whole "Trig Truther" schtick because all you were doing was asking legitimate questions that needed to be answered. So, like Donald Trump, you haven't been embarrassing yourself so much as you've been vindicated for asking the tough questions that somebody else needed to step up to the plate and answer.

Good for you!

(Not really.)

Look, there are actually several problems with what Sullivan's saying. The first is that he commits the fallacy of shifting the burden of proof away from the proponent. If somebody says that Barack Obama isn't qualified to be President or that Trig Palin is Sarah Palin's kid, it's not on Obama or the Palins (or anyone else, for that matter) to rebut or even respond to those claims unless the original proponent has some sort of evidence to back up what he's saying. This is particularly true where Obama's qualifications are concerned, since he was, in fact, legally required to assert his eligibility for the office of the President when he filed to run for it: having affirmatively demonstrated to the satisfaction of fifty states that his name can go on the ballot, he's entitled to the presumption that he's proffered sufficient proof until such time as anyone has any evidence he engaged in some kind of deceit.

If I were to write, "Andrew Sullivan killed Vince Foster" (note: I am not claiming Andrew Sullivan killed Vince Foster and have no reason to believe he did), it's on me to offer some evidence, to offer something more than some random assertion. It's not on Sullivan, to prove he didn't. Indeed, it can't be his obligation (or yours) to rebut every single batshit crazy claim I could possibly make up, because my imagination is fairly considerable and other people probably need to devote time in their schedule to such minor considerations as sleep, food and hygiene instead of having to dig up evidence to show that Andrew Sullivan isn't actually the Loch Ness Monster, part of an alien invasion conspiracy, the father of twenty-three illegitimate children, the Zodiac Killer, the pen-name used by a Malaysian neo-Nazi, a member of a terrorist organization devoted to a campaign of ultraviolence unless all livestock is henceforth put into frilly dresses, the director of musical snuff films, the love child of Marilyn Monroe and Bobby Kennedy, the output from a surprisingly successful Turing Test, the twenty-first hijacker, a CIA plant, a houseplant, an eggplant, the eggman or the man who came in from the cold. (I can keep 'em coming, folks, I'm not going anywhere.)

This is basic reasoning, but apparently not so basic as to be commonly understood by the general public. It's not up to anyone to prove vaccines don't cause autism or that the "psychic" John Edwards doesn't talk to dead people or that man wasn't created by a big magical sky man on the sixth day of the week or George W. Bush to prove he didn't plan the controlled demolition of the World Trade Center or that there aren't baby unicorns hiding in my refrigerator behind the milk and iced tea. It's on whomever wants to make these claims to provide affirmative proof, and then someone can rebut the claims, and so on, back and forth until someone is satisfied or someone just gives up. And yet we seem to live in a time and a place where people want to say, "Oh, well I know that vaccines cause autism in spite of a lack of credible evidence for it, so prove they didn't" or "There may not be any actual evidence that Sarah Palin faked a pregnancy nor a plausible motive for her to do it, but prove she didn't" and that somehow gets passed as smart skepticism or vital questioning, when maybe it's just a bunch of stupid bullshit from people who don't understand how critical thinking actually works.

And that's just the first problem with what Sullivan is saying. The second major problem is the statement about legitimacy--"You don't defuse conspiracy theories or end legitimate doubts by telling public officials they need not provide clear and available evidence to rebut them." There's actually not a lot of legitimacy to doubts about Obama's candidacy, simply because of the fact that if there were, Hillary Clinton and/or John McCain would have pressed them, unless you really think they didn't want to be President Of The United States all that much. And there's not a lot of legitimacy about doubts over Trig Palin's parentage (what Sullivan is really concerned with, one suspects), because who gives a fuck? I mean, seriously, there's a lot of reasons to hope and pray that Sarah Palin is never within a heartbeat's distance of the Presidency--she's a pathologically narcissistic, under-educated, not especially intelligent, ruthlessly vindictive, essentially dishonest, selfish, lousy excuse for a human being, and that would still be true if Trig Palin were the son of Bristol Palin, a Nazarene virgin, or the wife of a Kryptonian scientist preparing for the sudden destruction of his homeworld. Trig Palin could be a magical homunculus capable of curing warts when his belly is rubbed, and Sarah Palin would still be an abominable and detestable woman; he could be the star-child from 2001 or a changeling planted in the cradle by Titania herself or an undersized vermicious knid in toddler's clothes, and Sarah Palin would still be a vile bitch.

You defuse illegitimate doubts and stupid conspiracy theories by ignoring them. And, anyway, you have to ignore them as much as possible because they're a bloody waste of time. To treat idiots as intellectual peers who deserve a response is to invite madness, because the sad, sorry truth is that there will always be a small, tough pit of unreachable idiots that cannot be cracked and you'll break your teeth trying. If you give them the rebuttal evidence they ask for, they'll accuse you of faking it with the same fervor with which they accused you of hiding it before you procured it. Debunk a claim that Oswald met with David Ferrie and Jack Ruby on a Wednesday, and they'll demand his schedule from Thursday. Show them photographs of airplane wreckage on The Pentagon lawn and they'll mutter darkly about Photoshop. They like the old pixelated photos of Cydonia more than the new ones that have obviously been scrubbed. Oh, and also: weren't the conspiracy theorists right about Watergate (you mean a conspiracy in which participants were caught red-handed because a security guard noticed a piece of tape over a door latch?) and wasn't the establishment wrong about the Earth being flat (not really)? Because, you know, if there was ever a conspiracy or anybody was ever wrong at any point in history, then the conspiracy nuts must be right, that's logic.

You know what the most ironic thing about the Sullivan quote is, in my mind? It's that the big fault of the mainstream media in matters such as Obama's birthplace isn't that they defer to people in power (that would be the mainstream media's fault in covering things like the buildup to the Iraq war); the media's big mistake in dealing with things like birtherism (or global warming or vaccination) is that they legitimize stupidity by giving it equal time, covering "both sides" as if there actually are more that one side. "Truth," Howard K. Smith said, "is not equidistant between right and wrong." He was speaking of moral right and wrong, but the principle is just as applicable to factual or rational right and wrong; well, hell, there's a moral principle there, too, if you believe that the rational has moral superiority to the irrational and facts are morally superior to lies. There's no moral victory to be had in asking a stupid and irrelevant question.

POSTSCRIPT: After I wrote the above, I came across a smart quote from Slate's David Weigel:

...Donald Trump gave—of course!—a press conference, taking credit for the release and asking why it didn't happen sooner. Look: There's really no way to spin this that doesn't reveal Trump as a buffoon or a conspiracy theorist. The White House's position for more than two years was that all "birther" questions were answered by the COLB. And the long-form certificate proves that the COLB was legitimate and answered all reasonable questions about Obama's birth. If you were "just asking questions" about the COLB, you were not a truth-seeker. You were a fool.

That. Exactly.


An open letter to Dr. George Williams

>> Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Dr. George Williams

From: Dr. George Williams (info@georgwilliam.com)
Sent: Wed 4/27/11 2:32 AM

Dear Friend,

Please I will like to know if you have hired Attorney John Palmer as your representative towards the collection of your Inheritance with the deposit company. Because am corresponding to the false Email claims I daily receive from Attorney John Palmer. That you have requested and hired his services as your representative Attorney to make the collection of your $1.5Million USD inheritance estate cheque funds collection.

I will not oblige to his request, the reason is because you have not personally notify me about his coming and also after making consultations with the law suit Chamber he claimed he represent. I was told such name do not exist with the law firm either in the past or present. Without wasting much time, I have taken your cheque inheritance collection to the finance ministry to de-activate the Encrypted code been placed on it by your benefactor. All this activity was done by me last week to enable me conclude the final phase of your transaction with the finance ministry.

Meanwhile, I have received response from the Deposits company that they have received your package collection Friday last week at about 14:00 GMT.Because they were the issuing bank deposits company that notify me earlier that you have a package collection consignment for pick up as bestowed in the will document papers of late Rev Father James. Elias who issued you this $1.5Million USD payment cheque in your name. So as the attorney to the deceased I was out-rightly informed about your collections which prompt me to take decisive actions immediately by following what was stated in his will papers.

Once again, I hope and pray you use your Inheritance collection payment as issued to you wisely by investing with it and paying One tenth of it as your tithe to any Red Cross society or orphanage homes near you in helping a soul today.

Furthermore, your compliance towards this E-mail is highly anticipated, to enable the deposit company remit your inheritance payment cheque to you immediately, thank you.

I really want to know your stands on this matter before I pull OFF.

Barrister George Williams.
Legal Consultant on Mortgage Equity and Financial network.
E-mail: georgewilliams250@inbox.ru

Dear Dr. Williams, you ignorant and deceitful bastard,

You're damn right I hired John Palmer. Haven't heard of him? Well then I'll tell you: he is the meanest, most vicious, most bloodthirsty litigator in the world. To call him a shark doesn't even do it justice, Dr. Williams: John Palmer is like a school of super-intelligent telepathic piranha that acts as a single living creature, a single living creature that acts as if it was made of nothing but lots and lots and lots of sharp, pointy teeth. A composite organism that can flense a fat stupid cow like you, Williams, in seconds,and is still hungry for the sweet, sweet tang of blood.

You're going down, Williams.

I remember the first time I saw Palmer in a courtroom. A group of lazy, dirty orphans was trying to sue a respectable, state-licensed orphanage for various minor matters like putting sawdust in the gruel and not having running water. Some parasitic toddler, couldn't have been more than five unless her growth was as stunted as her character, was up on the witness stand weeping about how she and another group of tow-headed goldbrickers had been given presents donated by the Salvation Army for Christmas one year but had to burn them all for warmth because the superintendent of the orphanage took the prudent conservationist step of having the electricity turned off (I swear, liberals: you do something good for the environment and they still find something to bitch about, like some little brat is too good to wear a moth-eaten sweater patched with old pieces of newspaper). I have to admit the little girl's attorney wasn't ineffective during her direct examination--I almost felt sorry for the child, until I reminded myself that even her own parents hadn't wanted her; sorry, that is, until John Palmer began his cross-examination. By the time he'd finished with the blubbering little fool, she'd confessed to stealing food and socks, breaking into one of the nailed-up bathrooms in the facility and damaging the antique plumbing inside by sawing off a piece of pipe to beat rats with, scorching a corner of the floor by setting fire to a piece of lint during a blizzard, assaulting one of the floor wardens by kicking him in the shins when he broke up a fight between two children over half a can of soup that had somehow found its way into the dormitories, and at least a score of other malfeasances. He not only made her cry, but he taught her to say the f-word and persuaded her to use it multiple times in nearly every sentence, laying the groundwork for a brilliant closing in which he successfully characterized the children as a bunch of foul-mouthed, dirty little liars.

At the end of the trial, not only was the case against his client dismissed, but the children were assessed one million, five hundred thousand dollars in attorney's fees, ordered to write a letter of apology to the court for wasting its time, and charged with various offenses in juvenile court including acts of animal cruelty against the orphanage rats. The orphans' lawyer was immediately disbarred and ordered to be Mr. Palmer's slave for a year and a day (American courts can do that). The jury, incidentally, delivered their verdict for the defense in the form of a standing ovation for Palmer and the judge said in summation that the greatest travesty of all was that little brats could file such frivolous lawsuits in the first place and he was going to give the state legislature a piece of his mind for allowing such matters to waste the time of a brilliant legal mind like John Palmer's.

As soon as he left the courtroom, I naturally joined the throng lined up to retain Mr. Palmer's services; a good thing I acted so quickly, too, as it was shortly after this that Palmer was engaged to represent alleged serial murderer Robert Elroy "The Ladystrangler" Watkins, the case which ended moments after Palmer's opening statement with the prosecutor tearfully apologizing on behalf of the district attorney's office and law enforcement for bringing charges and then shooting himself in front of the jury, after which Palmer became hard to find because his name became a killing word which no other attorney will utter.

What do you think he's going to do to you?

Especially now that you've wasted his time by encrypting the codes and holding the funds hostage until I make some sort of pledge to give my money to orphans or the Red Cross. Dr. Williams, if my late uncle who left me the inheritance wanted the Red Cross to have that money, he wouldn't have embezzled it from them in the first place, and now you tauntingly insist I dishonor his obvious wishes by giving them back ten percent? I won't even give them a receipt. And Mr. Palmer, my attorney, is going to crucify you, Doctor. I mean that literally, not figuratively: he informed me today that he's filed a motion with the court that will allow him to conduct depositions in the middle of a desert while hooded, smelly men slowly nail you to a crosspiece while a leatherclad harlot pours a trail of honey from the nearest anthill to your nether regions (I suspect the orphans' former attorney will be wearing the corset, domino mask and ballet heels, as her term of servitude doesn't expire until mid-August and this is what he usually puts her up to). He expects this motion will be granted (American courts can do that, also). Have fun.

See you in court.


Quote of the day--truth in strange places edition

>> Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What interests me a great deal, and what I have not heard talked about much, is the way that the government's failure to provide healthcare places power with business. Businesses are not democracies.

The good thing about governments giving health insurance is that it strengthens democracy. We can influence how health insurance is managed and conducted if we are able to vote on the people who run it.

We don't really trust democracy, do we? We don't really trust our fellow citizens. We would rather trust business owners. Why is that?

My passion is for democracy. Democracy is a really great idea.

Cary Tennis, "My family insists I be insured"
Salon, April 25th, 2011

An advice column seems like an odd place to find such a wonderfully succinct observation of the political landscape. But there it is.

I mean, this is a fundamental puzzle about the way this country mishandles healthcare, and a puzzle about those who advocate privatizing Social Security and other functions handled by government, or about anything we've handed over to corporations or are in the process of handing over to corporations--the privatizing of national defense and diplomacy by way of companies like Xe (formerly Blackwater). If some mid-level government bureaucrat flubs something up, I can vote for somebody who will fire him, but if some mid-level company man screws up, what's my recourse? The complaints department? And yet businesses are purportedly more responsive than the government.

And then there's the fact that government, in a democracy, is us (at least to whatever extent the country still qualifies as a democracy), while a corporation is an artificial person looking out for "his" interests. Somehow the wisdom of a crowd is suspect, even a wisdom bounded by the various checks and balances we've put on ourselves, while the self-interest of a fake person created for the primary purpose of generating a profit for itself is to be trusted implicitly. I realize, of course, that the employees of private companies are friends and neighbors just like government employees are friends and neighbors. But that isn't quite the point; the point is that I own the State and Federal government (at least in principle) and hold a stake equal to any other citizen over the age of eighteen who hasn't been convicted of a felony; meanwhile, I don't own a single share of corporate stock and the most I could ever afford to purchase if I scraped all my lunch money together for a month probably wouldn't equal the voting share of a mogul of industry. Furthermore, if I don't like what my government does, it's really ultimately my responsibility, while if I don't like what a corporation does, well, it's a legal entity designed with the express purpose of distributing and even evading responsibility on the part of any actual human by spreading losses and civil or criminal liabilities.

Like Tennis is suggesting, it's a hell of a funny thing, isn't it?


Your daily moment of what-the-fucking-fuck?!

>> Monday, April 25, 2011

Wow. This may be your moment of WTF for the week, maybe even the month.

You may have heard the whole business about Terry Jones--the amusing one who takes all the pratfalls, not the British comedian--going to Michigan to protest a non-event and nearly blowing his foot off while he sat in his car. Jones, you may also recall, is the firebug who gets his rocks off burning the Qur'an because, you know, every time a Qur'an is burned, a Muslim loses his wings. Or something. It's all very theological and biblical and so on, or I assume so because Jones is apparently a pastor somewhere. I don't recall the exact bit of scripture that deals with how bibliocide can be an act of sympathetic magic against an enemy (you know, like a voodoo doll), but I'm pretty sure it's in there somewhere, along with all the other magic spells contained in the Bible.

So, anyway, Jones goes to Michigan to burn some books again, and almost shoots himself in the foot (if he was aiming for his brain, his ass was about two feet higher, so I guess that's a miss). And, as you might assume, lots of individuals and organizations have issued statements calling out Jones for his hatred and bigotry and taking him to task over this and previous "protests," including the President Of The United States, General David Petraeus, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Vatican, the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Ku Klux Klan--

Yes, you read that correctly. Told you this might be your WTF moment for the month.

Yes, it seems that the enlightened souls at the Ku Klux Klan ("A Proud Tradition Of Hating Minorities Since 1865!™") have issued a denouncement of Jones, saying (per The New Yorker):

There are without doubt Islamic sects that teach extreme views of Islam but, going down to their level of hatred by burning their books is a dangerous and ignorant way to confront their teachings. The flames made by such unholy fires never die out! The Ku Klux Klan, LLC. opposes this most un-American thinking and activity.

I mean, seriously, just how nutty and fucked-up do you have to be to have the fucking KKK denounce you as a bigot? Seriously? The dudes who pretty much reinvented and defined American racism with a history of terrorism--hangings, burnings, bombings, murders, mayhem, assaults, vandalism, crosses burning in yards and shadowy vigilantes in pointy hats, etc.--are saying there's a line they won't cross. I mean, these fuckers have established that they will burn anything--except, apparently, a Qur'an, and Terry Jones is a douchenozzle extremist who goes too far....

In fact, I'm actually not entirely sure if the what-the-fuckery of this news item is wholly at Jones' expense. Some of it, really, is that the organization whose name is synonymous with cross burning is apparently out there going, "What, no! I mean, sure, it's made of paper and it would probably burn nicely, but that would be mean and hateful!"

One almost wonders if the Klan's real gripe with Jones is that he's honing in on their turf. It's probably been pretty tough on the Klan's membership rolls and balance sheet to have to deal with competition over the past century from Nazis, neo-Nazis, crypto-Nazis, blackshirts, brownshirts, skinheads, etc., and now here's this little punk from Florida with a cigarette lighter and a hole in his floorboard. A line must be drawn in the sand, this aggression will not stand, yada-yada-yada. In an age in which a majority of the populace puts an African American in the White House, the pool of racist cranks is dwindling--hell, even the GOP is honing in on it with the whole Birther wing of the party. All this splintering market share and brand dilution is hell on the annual dues, y'know?

In which case, I have to wonder if this is going to be a trend. "While The Ku Klux Klan, LLC, fears for the safety of this nation's white women while there's a Mulatto in the White House, the Klan is satisfied that he is an American citizen who was born in Hawai'i and is eligible to be President and asks the public to focus on the real issues." Or: "The Ku Klux Klan, LLC, is a Christian organization, but nonetheless has no objection to dusky infidels building a recreational center within sight of the former location of the World Trade Center." Crazy, right? But could it actually happen?

This is why we drink.


The significant other

>> Sunday, April 24, 2011

Yes, I've already posted smaller versions on Facebook. Sue me.

Hope you're having a delightful Easter Sunday, whatever you believe in. Me, I believe the world is sometimes an alright kind of place, sometimes.


Some kind of Hole, "Malibu"

>> Saturday, April 23, 2011

I think... I think I have to say that, as much as I adore Courtney Love (despite her obvious faults), Hole really isn't Hole without Eric Erlandson. Sure, there was a "Hole" record last year, and I don't want to snipe at it, especially since I never actually got around to listening to it. But it's hard for me to not call it an ersatz Hole album, considering that it's Corurtney and four other people, which just doesn't seem like the band, y'know?

The really curious thing is the way the superawesome Melissa Auf der Maur seems like part of the "classic" lineup even though she joined the band as a replacement for the poor, late Kristen Pfaff after the release of the band's magnum opus, Live Through This. It's funny how that works with bands. Sort of like the way the definitive lineup of Fleetwood Mac isn't the version of the band that had Peter Green, notwithstanding that it was originally his band.

Anyway, whatever the definitive or classic lineup might have been, here's what you might call "Hole classic" (despite last year's "new Hole") performing "Malibu"--Love, Erlandson, Auf der Maur and... well, shit, the Hole classic lineup had Patty Schemel on drums, except she was in a rough place during the Celebrity Skin sessions and left the band; I think that's actually Samantha Maloney back there, though you may notice the rest of the band gets strategically placed in front of the drumkit throughout the video to muddle the issue. Well, shit.

Gods, this band was always a fucking train wreck. But I love 'em. Some kind of Hole, "Malibu":


"Life On Mars?"

>> Friday, April 22, 2011

It's possible I'm wrong and there is a God. I'm only allowing for the possibility merely because His name might be David Bowie. Search your feelings. You know it's true.

And this is "Life On Mars?":


In an Interpol kind of mood...

>> Thursday, April 21, 2011

Okay, so I won't argue with anyone who suggests Interpol have been listening to waaaay too much Joy Division in the course of their career, but, hey, I find they're a great band to write to, among other things. And I don't think I've ever posted any of their stuff.

But: dilemma! I could go for the cool, kinky, decadent video that epitomizes the Interpol sound but might be a little off-putting, or I could go with the straightforward, fairly conventional music video.

Or... I guess I could do both. It is my blog, isn't it.... Hmm....

Starting with the relatively conventional, here's "Barricade" from last year's eponymous Interpol:

...and from the same album, the a-little-more-outré "Lights":

What's not to like about a woman in latex? And anyway, it's totally scientific: that's exactly how beetles reproduce, I saw it on the National Geographic this one time.


Going Galt

>> Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I don't always set out to do timely posts, but with the feature film adaptation of Atlas Shrugged burning up movie screens across America and getting such notable reviews, I feel like I should jump on the bandwagon. (I call drums, because I don't think they have guitars on bandwagons and I don't know how to play trumpet or tuba, but I can probably hit something in a vaguely rhythmic manner.)

Where was I? Ah, yes. Atlas Shrugged. Well, you know, I haven't read it and it doesn't look like I'll be making it to the cinema to see it before it withdraws itself from the clutches of the parasitic takers who can't appreciate its essential, self-actualizing nobility something something, etc. And I've probably somehow conveyed an impression that I don't think much of Ayn Rand as a writer, so you'll probably be expecting me to say something nasty about Rand or about Atlas Shrugged.

Au contraire, mon frère. I come to praise Ms. Rand, not bury her.

Well. To praise one thing, rather. (And no, it's not that handsomely boyish hairdo!)

See, while I haven't, technically speaking, read Atlas Shrugged, I have read the Wikipedia article about Atlas Shrugged. Which, you know, makes me better informed about Atlas Shrugged than George W. Bush was about Iraq when he invaded--whoa-ohhhhh, rimshot, high five, oh-no-he-didn't-yes-he-did. Sorry. Sort of hoping I'd get a late-night talkshow gig out of that line, but I guess I'll keep the day job. Anyway, yes: I have read articles in Wikipedia, and so I am familiar with the concept of "Going Galt."

As I understand it, the whole idea of "Going Galt," which I believe much of the plot of Atlas Shrugged concerns itself with, is that all the productive people in society--the business executives, the engineers, the artists, the scientists, the model-train enthusiasts, etc.--all get sick and of having to support the lazy, awful parasites who pay them to be productive, and therefore hie themselves away to some distant retreat and withdraw from society. Which then collapses, allowing the people who Went Galt to ride around on trains and drink martinis and point and laugh and wipe their noses with their formerly-useful currency and stock and bond certificates, happily safe from the restless horde of the anarchic mob that is still in possession of all the guns, knives, torches, pitchforks and thermonuclear devices that the Gone Galt crowd couldn't stow away in their luggage. They are happily safe because the anarchic mob, incapable of fending for itself, is too stupid and lazy to seek out the retreat of the noble, self-actualized, rough-sex-enjoying, train-enthusiastic producers and murder them all for causing the collapse of civilization, so it all comes out to a happy ending when everybody in the human race who isn't a railroad magnate or classical conductor dies from violence and/or starvation.

This idea, naturally, has gained a great deal of traction among wealthy Republicans, old retired white people, and college freshmen who are smarter than their stupid old professors what with their Ph.Ds and decades of scholarly work that makes them think they're so fucking smart but they're not. So we've heard discussion from teabaggers, for instance, about how they shouldn't have to pay any taxes and they're going to Go Galt, just you wait, we'll all miss them when they're gone just like that time they hid in the closet and mommy and daddy searched for them for half-an-hour before deciding that dinner was getting cold and they'd come out eventually so they ate without them and boy, weren't they sad about their little precious having to eat room temperature tuna casserole two hours later or what?


Now, a lot of people would say that "Going Galt" was a puerile, stupid, unrealistic and silly idea. These self-styled "critics" might try to point out that a lot of the people who talk about "Going Galt" these days and even some of the people who Go Galt in the Rand book really aren't, actually, when you get right down to it, really all that important or productive after all--there are, after all, lots and lots of CEOs who really, honestly, they could die in a fire and the company stock probably would go up, at least for a few hours. Such critics might hint that much of the productive work of America is really done by the middle managers, factory floor employees and regular salaried or hourly workers at various tiers who pretty much only hear from the upper echelons when someone gets indicted. Other naysayers might go so far as to suggest that if the "productive classes" abruptly vanished, there would be plenty of talented people who would jump in and fill the void, would welcome the opportunity to take over a steel company or conduct a symphony or what-have-you. Some idiots might try to imply that the sorts of people who would Go Galt are largely selfish, narcissistic reactionaries, and that not all (not even most) engineers, business owners, scientists, artists, etc. would withdraw from society at large and would, in fact, persist in participating in the world's affairs out of some sort of misguided sense of "moral duty" to their "communities" or "loyalty" to their "country," blah, blah, blah.

To these cretins rejecting Rand's profound contribution to our cultural and intellectual heritage, I say: give it a chance or get stuffed.

Indeed, I have a proposal.

My proposal is this: not only should "Going Galt" be an option, but I think we lazy, altruistic, community-minded parasites ought to encourage those titans of commerce, culture and politics to do it. I propose a list.

For example, the Koch Brothers. Is it fair that they're taxed? Is it fair that they are robbed blind by the selfish non-producers, the thieves and redistributionists? No. It is not. They should Go Galt.

Or what about the great American artist Thomas Kinkade or the brilliant filmmaker M. Night Shymalan? These men are clearly too good for Western Civilization. We take, we take, we take--why are these men obligated to give any more than they already do to a culture that clearly does not and cannot appreciate their contributions? They should Go Galt.

And how about the astute and persuasive political observer Thomas L. Friedman? Here we cretins are, constantly sponging off his insights and wisdom, and then we ask him for his money, on top of that? I don't think so! Mr. Friedman, you need to Go Galt!

And the list might go on. Indeed, I'd love to see suggestions in the comments thread--I am sure we could come up with a list of fine, fine, fine men and women we might encourage to teach us a lesson by "Going Galt."

But I do have one small objection to Ms. Rand's marvelous concept.

You see, my understanding is that all of the people who Go Galt in Atlas Shrugged end up in Colorado. No, no, no. This will not do. To the best of my knowledge, there are no nuclear proving grounds scenic, beautiful, paradisaical retreats in Colorado.

This will not do at all.

No, I propose we encourage those folks who will be "Going Galt" to relocate to a suitable location in Nevada. We might mark the center of this real-world "Galt's Gulch," I think, with a ceremonial tower," something constructed out of steel, perhaps (doesn't John Galt invent a new kind of steel? It would be symbolic), capable of supporting a large thermo... fireworks display. Yes, a thermofireworks display, as I was saying, which could be triggered in celebration once everybody was within the blast radius... excuse me, Blast Radius with capital letters, as in, that would be the name of their township, Blast Radius, Nevada. It's Spanish, I think, possibly. Blasto del Radio, I believe, yes, if I'm not much mistaken. It means "beautiful sunset." You'll love it, Messrs. Koch, now get on the fucking train... I mean, get on the fucking train, sirs.

Anyone else you'd like to see boarding Taggart Transcontinental?


Scott Adams is still a choad

>> Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This is difficult, this is a problem. On the one hand, you don't want to give an idiot more press than he deserves; on the other, it can be hard to resist commenting when somebody is being an enormous jackass, especially when said jackass is managing to serve as an object lesson in the process.

On the third hand, there's also how much one actually cares--repeated posts on one subject may convey a misleading impression that one is hot and bothered by that subject, when one might really be mildly amused and in dire need of low-hanging fruit to harvest for blogsagna (an Italian dish made by baking layers of pasta, cheese, and self-indulgent opinionating). Then on the fourth hand, there's the question of what is up with all these hands, and what planet are we from, anyway? But let's skip that last question and let it pass.

A few weeks ago, I featured Dilbert creator Scott Adams in a "dumb quote" post. And then, two days ago, I called him a choad. This ought to be all one ever has to say about Mr. Adams, but then Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams posted a piece referencing a recent post by Adams that can be found here, if you so care.

I don't actually care all that much, myself, and I can't suppose you have much reason to, except you might be a bit like me and be one of those people who sometimes gets gulled into rubber-necking traffic accidents on the information superhighway. So I went to Adams' blog and read his post on being unmasked as a sockpuppet, and I gotta tell ya', there was blood and glass everywhere. If you really want to push the metaphor, there was blood and glass everywhere and Adams is wobbling around with a bottle of Wild Turkey in one hand and his keys in the other while he tries to unlock the ripped-askew passenger-side door of his accordioned Datsun 210 because he thinks he needs to exchange insurance information with the guy driving the cement lane divider that hit him. Also, he isn't wearing any pants, and I don't know if that happened before the accident, or after.

But that's not really worth a blog post. What's (vaguely) worth a blog post (maybe) (since I don't have anything else in mind right now) is Scott Adams on ethics. Get this:

Let's try this the old-fashioned way. I'll give you all of the facts about this scandal, and some proper context, and you can assume every word of it is bullshit. And that leads me to my first point about context: As a general rule, you can't trust anyone who has a conflict of interest. Conflict of interest is like a prison that locks in both the truth and the lies. One workaround for that problem is to change the messenger. That's where an alias comes in handy. When you remove the appearance of conflict of interest, it allows others to listen to the evidence without judging. [italics in original]

Oh, jeez. No, no, no.

See, as you're probably aware, the thing about conflicts-of-interest is not that you "work around" them. The thing with conflicts-of-interest is that they are so bad that you not only should avoid actual conflicts-of-interest but you shouldn't even have the appearance of one. The general remedy for conflicts-of-interest, therefore, is to openly acknowledge the conflict, and (if appropriate) decline to participate. That is, sometimes it's merely sufficient to report the conflict, but where that isn't sufficient, one is ethically obligated to abstain from voting, withdraw or resign from membership or representation, insulate oneself from any contribution (however meaningless or accidental), etc. What one absolutely doesn't do is say, "Well, there's a conflict here, but if I pretend to be somebody else we can pretend the conflict has gone away."

To do that, you see, is to demonstrate that one is either an idiot who doesn't understand the problem or that one is ethically and morally challenged--although these possibilities aren't exclusive, so one might be dumb and unscrupulous, ouch.

If Adams' mentality were confined to one inordinately successful syndicated cartoonist, it still might not be worth mentioning. Unfortunately, one fears Adams may not be a single, hardly relevant data speck, an ethical anomaly and situated in a field in which he is mostly harmless (after all, an unethical daily cartoonist is hardly in the same ballpark as an unethical doctor, lawyer, accountant, bureaucrat, building inspector, etc.). One frets, for instance, that there are any number of elected officials and probably at least two United States Supreme Court Justices (I'm not naming names, ::koff::clarencethomas::antoninscalia::hack::wheeze::), and perhaps some number of folks holding important stakes in the private sector who share Adams' mindset. "Well," these people say, "I realize some hypersensitive souls might say this looks shady, but I know I'm right and the results are worthwhile, so I'll do it anyway."

Which is just awful. When we talk about the ends not justifying the means, we don't just mean those means which are especially gruesome; there are also the banal and ordinary means we use to achieve our ends. The merits of our objectives don't justify lying and other dishonorable and unethical conduct. We do what is right not because we're afraid we might get caught, but because we can hardly hope others will take steps we're not willing to take to make sure that something is done honorably and properly. It's part of that whole mensch. You follow the rules because it's right and because it would be better for all of us if everybody always did the right thing, you don't go looking for ways to get around the rules or to wave them away.

And maybe it isn't fair to single Scott Adams out as a choad in a world full of choads, but we have to start somewhere, right?

EDIT/UPDATE APRIL 20th, 2011: Looking at the piece today, I see there were some sentences where my thought fractured or trailed off. I've edited those lines for clarity but haven't changed the meaning or thrust of the lines; basically, they were badly proofed, and I suspect some readers would get the gist anyway. For those who noticed, were annoyed, and were kind enough not to say anything: thank you.


Hey, gang, let's all help Rick!

>> Monday, April 18, 2011

No, we're not going to have a car wash or danceathon to save the old diner--that's next weekend! This week, we're going to help Rick Santorum!

That's right, you read that correctly. Put your eyes back in their sockets. We're going to be magnanimous because that's how we are here at Giant Midgets.

Here's the background: it seems that Rick "Goddamn You, Dan Savage" Santorum had a bit of an incident last week on Ruination Day where somebody kind of sort of pointed out that Rick had borrowed his presidential campaign slogan ("Fighting to Make America America Again") from a pro-union poem written by a (probably) gay black leftist. Oh noes! This prompted Mr. Last-name-no-longer-suitable-for-general-audiences to disavow the slogan, as reported by the Union Leader:

"No I had nothing to do with that," Santorum said. "I didn't know that. And the folks who worked on that slogan for me didn't inform me that it came from that, if it in fact came from that."

The student, whose name was not immediately available, was referring to the poem "Let America Be America Again." When asked a short time later what the campaign slogan meant to him, Santorum said, "well, I'm not too sure that's my campaign slogan, I think it's on a web site."

It was also printed on the campaign literature handed out before the speech.

Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! People are going to be horribly unfair to Rick about this, not realizing that the busy task of running to be nominated for president requires constant attention and effort, and it's only reasonable to delegate such mundane tasks as choosing the primary mission statement for your campaign to anonymous staffers! I think would-be critics need to consider the possibility that Rick is too busy running for president to have to worry about everything, including such petty and trivial details as deciding upon a catchy, symbolic phrase summarizing the essence of why he's even bothering to run.

Which is why I feel sorry for him. Genuine pity. And I think it is only fair, however much we might disagree with some of Mr. S's ideological agenda, to help him out so he can focus on the important and difficult, executive-level aspects of campaigning. Which is why I'm calling upon all of my loyal readers and any random visitors to help Mr. S. find an alternate campaign slogan to put on his website and campaign literature. I can't offer any prizes, I'm afraid, but that's not really the point of this--the point is to brainstorm a good campaign slogan for Mr. S. so that he doesn't have to be tarred with an association with one of America's greatest poets who just happened to be really left-wing and possibly one of those awful homosexuals who are trying to make this the United States of Gay.

So, please help in the comments section. Really good campaign slogans are positive and don't reference the opposition (no negative campaigning, please!), and the best, I think, will have some familiarity to the general public, whether they can quite put their fingers on it or not. Some examples of the kind of thing I have in mind:

Restoration Calls For More Than Changes In Ethics--This Nation Asks For Action, And Action Now! Rick Santorum For President

Rick Santorum's Land Is Our Land!

Which Side Are You On, Boys? Rick Santorum Is On Yours!

You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Chains! Workingmen Unite For Rick Santorum!

Rick Santorum Chooses America As His Home Because He Values Freedom, Democracy, Civil Liberties And An Open Society! Vote Rick!

I Am Rick Santorum And I Have Come To Liberate America!

I think those make for a good start, and I don't see any way Mr. Rick could get into any kind of complications regarding attribution or similarity to anything said by anybody else, ever. But don't let those restrict you if you have a really good one for Mr. S. (but do try to be... "nice," kids). So, gang, are you going to leave me hanging or do you have any suggestions for our frothy friend? Share 'em in the comments if you've got them, and cast any votes for your favorites down there, too!


Scott Adams is a choad

>> Sunday, April 17, 2011

I'm laughing my proverbial ass off: Dilbert creator Scott Adams has been busted creating a sock puppet to talk about how awesome he is.

Really? Yes, really. Good gods, what a choad.

I just wanted to pop this up on the blog because I'd featured the Dilbert creator in a "Dumb Quote Of The Day" post a couple of weeks back. A couple of regulars even suggested, basically, that I'd given Adams too much credit as a thinker. Which is apparently pretty accurate--I mean, how dumb and insecure are you if you have to go around creating imaginary friends to vouch for how cool you are? And it's also amusing, as P.Z. Myers notes, that Adams' response to being caught acting like a jackass is to blame the readers who caught him for not getting the joke.

Ah, but see, Mr. Adams, we totally get the joke. The problem is that you're the punchline.


The Decemberists, "This Is Why We Fight"


A spherical jackass in a vacuum...

>> Saturday, April 16, 2011

Oh, goody, something else for the legions of the besieged to get the vapors over: puportedly there's some school in Seattle that's trying to call Easter eggs, "Spring spheres." Guess it's just a matter of nanoseconds before we atheists finally get to turn the United States into a radical Islamic country like we've always wanted.

Now if we can just get all these state lawmakers to stop introducing all this anti-sharia law legislation so we can go ahead and stamp Beelzebub's name on the currency.

No, here's the thing: I don't know if the "story" about the school's hostility towards Easter (significance of the quotes will be apparent in a moment) would even be worth mentioning but for one thing--it smells like rotten Spring spheres. Drew Grant at Salon alludes to the fishiness when she asks, "Is this real? This seems like one of those Onion News Video[s]," and she's right to raise the question. "Spring spheres?" Really?

If you go to Google with "Spring spheres," what you (unsurprisingly) find is that everything--all the angry blog posts, Fox News affiliate sputtering, rabid comments, etc., etc., ad nauseum all appear to go back to one source: initially, an article at MYNorthwest.com by Stephanie Klein about a teenager named "Jessica," allegedly a private school student, who dialed a radio call-in show to tell them about a community service project she was working on at an unspecified public elementary school. "Jessica" (and is that her real name?) claims:

"At the end of the week I had an idea to fill little plastic eggs with treats and jelly beans and other candy, but I was kind of unsure how the teacher would feel about that," Jessica said.

She was concerned how the teacher might react to the eggs after of a meeting earlier in the week where she learned about "their abstract behavior rules."

"I went to the teacher to get her approval and she wanted to ask the administration to see if it was okay," Jessica explained. "She said that I could do it as long as I called this treat 'spring spheres.' I couldn't call them Easter eggs."

Which school? She'd rather not say. Which schoolteacher, which administrators? That would be telling. What's this girl's last name and what private school was she attending? SHHH! Isn't this poor whistleblower entitled to some semblance of privacy? (And while we're asking questions: what the hell is an "abstract behavior rule," I'd just like to know?)

Is it a surprise that the Seattle school board hasn't been able to confirm the incident occurred at all? (Sure, of course they've investigated--random wackos all over the world are incensed on this frontal assault on the most sacrosanct of all religious traditions, celebrating the slow torture and murder of the savior of mankind by painting eggs and hiding them. Second only in the Western world to the custom of commemorating the physical manifestation of the One True God by paying too much for a dying pine tree and hanging trinkets from its branches.)

See, I could be wrong, but I'm guessing none of it happened. There's the essentially anonymous nature of the source with no way to track her down--a radio call-in who doesn't give a last name. There's the purposeful vagueness of the narrative--no names provided for any of the schools involved. The set up itself is a little fishy: while I can't say that there are no public schools in the United States that allow student volunteers to show up and plan events for classes, the increasing litigiousness of parents and corresponding paranoia of administrators have (at the very, very least) put such programs into decline (if they haven't, in fact, eliminated them altogether). And even if the Seattle school district does allow student volunteers onto campus, little plastic eggs full of "treats and jelly beans and other candy" is also exactly the kind of thing schools are discouraging these days (the school really had a problem with the nomenclature of the eggs and not the lack of nutritional value of the choking hazards "Jessica" was bringing into their classroom, really?).

And "Spring spheres"? Oh, come on. (N.b. the previous sentence should be read very slowly in a sort of sarcastic guttural with the single syllables drawn out as long as conveniently possible.)

What this has, is it has "urban legend in the making" written all over it. Okay, it could be true. I can't, at this time, disprove that it happened. But what I really expect is that "Jessica No-last-name" will quickly fade beneath the furor (do we even know if she's really a high school student and not some adult fabulist getting her rocks off?), while the story continues to spin 'round the great circular current of the angry dispossessed white conservative Christian right. "Did you know," one of these people will still be saying in five years, "did you know that you can't even say 'Easter egg' in public schools--you have to call them 'Spring spheres.' But you sure can tell children they come from monkeys." Bill O'Reilly will still be filling space with it during the holidays if he doesn't have a pacifist war widow to call a pinhead. Et cetera. The story may or may not have been true the first time it was told, but it will have become certain fact by the two-hundredth or two-thousandth time it's trotted out and run around the track and made to jump over a hedge and through a hoop and stand on its hindquarters.

We are a nation full of people who industriously manufacture outrage. Of course, getting angry about things that merit anger (Federal employees publicly molesting six-year-olds, anybody, anybody?) might require some level of introspection or acknowledgment that there are certain flaws in Americanism; better, then, to make up something to be furious about. I just sort of wish we could do a better job of exporting and monetizing it, with the economy in the shape it's in; a few people get jobs at the Fox News affiliates and some of the bloggers probably sell some advertising, I guess, but probably it isn't enough. If we could get every family in China to buy a stupid thing to be angry about, in much the same way we Americans hoped we could sell all of them bicycles, we'd be rolling in the dough. Filthy lucre, yes, but so what?

But it would never work. The shit works here because we're a credulous people, lacking in healthy skepticism and basic critical thinking skills. I saw this on the news and it must be true: in American schools, kindergartners are taught how to sodomize farm animals as part of "sex education," but if a child says "Jesus" they execute the child and bury him or her in a shallow grave beneath the monkey bars. (And don't believe the lie that few schools have monkey bars anymore because kids kept cracking their heads open and the schools kept getting sued--if schools didn't have monkey bars, where would the bodies of good Christian children be buried? This is basic logic, see?) The schools are all trying to turn kids into vegetarians, because liberals admire Hitler and Hitler was a vegetarian and an atheist. If you stand in front of a mirror and say "Bloody Mary" three times, Karl Marx will manifest and turn you gay and you will put Obama stickers all over everything and your children will be Jewish Muslims and have tails. Here's how to be angry and afraid--after a quick word from our sponsor.


Friday Night Movie: "Mockingbird"

>> Friday, April 15, 2011

Earlier this week, Salon featured an interview with producer Drew Daywalt, whose studio, Fewdio, produces the film version of flash fiction--very short horror vignettes. Of those featured by Salon, the best (and first) would be Marichelle Daywalt's "Mockingbird," a creepy and ambiguous bit of nastiness:

Some of Fewdio's other efforts perhaps don't pan out quite so well ("Ninja Clown Monster" turns out to be little more than its title and both "Breach" and "Bedfellows" would actually be better if the filmmakers hadn't settled for FX-enhanced jump scares). But it's an interesting idea and I hope they're able to keep making these things. One of the problems feature-length horror films run into time and time again is that sometimes the necessities of plot and characterization drag down a clever gimmick or shock--or, rather, the failure to pay heed to the necessities of plot and character over ninety minutes, one might say. That is, a six-minute film might well get away with some character being an idiot and opening a door that's better left closed, but a feature might require a character to be a serial moron just to pad out the length to something worth paying ten bucks for. (After all, how many horror movies would end up being five minutes long if the heroine simply said, "Whoa, fuck this--I'll dial 911 from a well-lit parking lot in the next county," as soon as she tripped over the first bit of nastiness.)

Kudos are also due to the Fewdio folks and Daywalt for doing something like "Mockingbird," which is all the more horrifying for not showing anything at all, a nice little trick that Jacques Tourneur was especially gifted at that seems to have largely been lost. Honestly, I can imagine a lot more gore than Eli Roth can even afford, and the stuff in my head is inevitably a lot more plausible-looking than anything the best SFX guys will ever be able to paint a set with. This is one of those things that shouldn't even need to be said, but here we are.


Michael Penn, "Try"

>> Thursday, April 14, 2011

Well, like The Stranger says in The Big Lebowski, some days you eat the ba'ar and some days the ba'ar eats you. And I don't think he means in the naughty way, neither.

So the bear got me this afternoon, but it's okay. Here's some classic Michael Penn to make me feel better, and I hope you like it, too.



Concerning the rape-bears of northern Iraq...

>> Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Even an animal respects a man's desire, if it wants to copulate with him. Doesn't a female bear try to please a herdsman when she drags him into the mountains as it happens in the North of Iraq? She drags him into her den, so that he, obeying her desire, would copulate with her? Doesn't she bring him nuts, gathering them from the trees or picking them from the bushes? Doesn't she climb into the houses of farmers in order to steal some cheese, nuts and even raisins, so that she can feed the man and awake in him the desire to have her?

-a passage from Saddam Hussein's
Zabiba and the King,
(as quoted by Suzanne Merkleson,
"Bad Politics, Worse Prose,"
Foreign Policy, April 8th, 2011)

Because, you know, as if I needed any other reasons to stay the hell away from Iraq, there's also the lovelorn bear rapists in the north. (As in bears who rape, not rapists who go after bears, though, honestly, after reading that, gods only know. Though I don't think I have as much to worry about from men who rape bears as I apparently do from a ladybear who takes a shine to me.)

Q: How do you know if you're being mauled by an Iraqi bear?
A: Can you hear Barry White in the background?

One notes that the bear doesn't try to get the herdsman drunk, perhaps because she respects Islamic restrictions on the consumption of alcohol (wine = forbidden; sex with bears = possibly okay but try to hold out for hors d'œuvres). But I'm still trying to figure out whether this makes Iraqi bears superior or inferior to our American bears, which (unless I'm much mistaken) will frequently avoid contact unless attracted by food or unless they perceive a threat to themselves or their cubs, and then will merely maul the hell out of a human instead of trying to get a little something-something for themselves first. And note that the late Iraqi dictator isn't saying that an Iraqi bear won't maul her paramour; it's perfectly conceivable that after the loving is done, she'll bite off an arm or rip someone's face off or something. Hopefully just a face.

For a brief moment I even entertained the notion that the late Iraqi dictator was speaking euphemistically. I don't mean metaphorically (Ms. Merkleson, in the Foreign Policy piece, helpfully tells us, "The book's English translator believes the bear is supposed to represent Russia"); I mean that "bear" is, as you may be aware, a slang term--here, here's some help from Wikipedia:

Bear is LGBT slang for those in the bear communities, a subculture in the gay/bisexual male communities and an emerging subset of LGBT communities with events, codes and culture-specific identity. It can also be used more generically to describe a physical type.

Bears tend to have hairy bodies and facial hair; some are heavy-set or muscular; some project an image of working-class masculinity in their grooming and appearance, though none of these are requirements or unique indicators. Some bears place importance on presenting a hypermasculine image and may shun interaction with, and even disdain, men who exhibit effeminacy. The bear concept can function as an identity, an affiliation, and an ideal to live up to, and there is ongoing debate in bear communities about what constitutes a bear, however a consensus exists that inclusion is an important part of the bear community.

Bears are almost always gay or bisexual men, although increasingly transgender men (transmen) and those who shun labels for gender and sexuality are also included within bear communities.

One observes that Saddam Hussein was, himself, a hirsute, heavy-set man who made some big deal about his masculinity and prowess (well, come on, I'm not trying to imply anything, but it's true). Perhaps what he was trying to tell us in Zabiba and the King is that northern Iraq is or was home to roving gangs of burly-but-romantic gay men out cruising for shepherds. Given the sad cultural tendencies towards homophobia in the Middle East, one might even see something heroic and tender in the fanciful image of bearded, leather-clad men, prohibited from seeking human contact in Baghdad, Basra and Tikrit, roaming the plains with their carefully-gathered gifts and offerings. One might even see something surprisingly progressive, on this subject at least, in Hussein's accepting treatment of these poor, lovelorn men.

But, no. Sadly. Looking at the paragraph again, and assuming the translator wasn't so daft as to misconstrue a subject's gender, Hussein is repeatedly talking about female bears; an oxymoron, I believe (though I'm no expert), unless we're talking about a member of family Ursidae. No, I'm afraid the rape-bears of northern Iraq are shaggy quadripeds armed with huge claws and an insatiable hunger for hominid lovin'.

Which, as I think about it, does suggest a hypothesis. Many believe that Mesopotamia was the cradle of civilization, and give much of the credit for the birth of civilization to the Fertile Crescent's fecundity and geography. But what if the impetus driving the unification of human beings into the first sustainable cultures wasn't the opportunities afforded by agriculture? What if humans banded together and developed civilization to defend themselves against horny bears?

Think about it. The development of writing and record keeping? Lets you keep track of whether bear rapes are on the rise or decline and to post signs warning people away from places frequented by Iraqi rape-bears. Agriculture? Allows you to hoard food so you don't have to go outside where the rape-bears roam. Irrigation? Bear-moats. The wheel? Bear-evasion device. Division of labor and the rise of a caste system based partly on military training? It's useful to have a class of trained bear-fighters supported by agrarian peasants in exchange for protection from being bear-raped. Fermented beverages? Well would you want to be sober if you've been caught by a rape-bear? Learning to quarry and work stone? Bear-walls, duh. Religion? There are no atheists in rape-bear holes.

I submit to you that almost any achievement of a stone-age civilization has, not coincidentally, an anti-ursine application. In which case, I suppose, we ought to praise Iraqi rape-bears for being the mothers of human civilization... but not too much. If you know what I mean.


Dumb quote of the day--maybe we could eat them or something edition

>> Tuesday, April 12, 2011

We need another Civil War. One that will weed out all the jackasses in this country who waste money, feed off the hard work of others, who take no responsibility for their actions and who are into celebrity worship.

-"Domenic-1582481," a commenter responding to
"Nation marks 150th anniversary of Civil War,"
MSNBC, April 12th, 2011

I wouldn't normally respond to something from a comment thread at MSNBC or any other news site--hell, I usually don't even read comments at places like MSNBC--but that's the meanest thing I've seen anyone say about old people in years. I mean, sheesh, is America turning into some kind of '70s dystopian SciFi movie or something?


The things you stumble upon on YouTube...

In this instance, a very nice arrangement of Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz," a song made famous by the American physician Dr. Frederick Von Frankenstein (who'd perform it at scientific symposiums), performed by Cory Hall:

I can't possibly call myself an Irving Berlin fan, perhaps because I inevitably associate him with a Very Famous Song that represents to me the worst kind of American blowhard-ism (I much prefer the response1). Which maybe isn't fair to Berlin: he was an immigrant who pulled himself up from nothing (I mean, goddamn, Cossacks burned his house down and everything); he was happy to be here, proud to be here, needed to spread his love somehow. And I dig his need to express his joy over his new homeland, I just wish the damn song wasn't so full of itself--especially when you compare it to the plainspoken wisdom and simplicity of Woody Guthrie's reply.

But whatever--Berlin knew how to write a catchy tune, no doubt about it.

1Until I pulled up that video, I'd forgotten about the "This Machine Kills Fascists" sticker on Woody's guitar--the best piece of guitar graffiti ever.


Thank god for the budget settlement, because nothing's as American as shooting Americans

>> Monday, April 11, 2011

Oh, good news, everybody: thanks to the budget deal, South Carolinia will still get to commemorate the 150th anniversary of their treasonous assault on American soldiers tomorrow. Well. Glad that gets to go off without a hitch, then.

I might be less annoyed over the whole business if I really thought the business was going to be restricted to historical reenactment and/or a remembrance of the tragedy that was unleashed when certain Southerners decided they'd rather own human beings as chattel than participate in an evolving experiment in republic democracy. But I think it's pretty likely that a big part of this will be certain idiots waving their traitors' flags and thinking about how differently things should have turned out.

And I might be less annoyed if South Carolina wasn't a state whose elected representatives like to turn up their noses at Federal expenditures. I mean, I can't imagine this shindig is going to cost all that much, probably the equivalent of a spit-drop in a hurricane of phlegm, but all the same, could we maybe have some intellectual or ideological consistency? Especially in the context of celebrating an act of insurrection against a duly constituted representative government (elections aren't illegitimate just because your side lost, y'know).

Basically, as best I can tell, South Carolina has no interest in paying taxes for roads or schools nor accepting Federal money for the same, but it seems they're happy to accept those taxpayer funds for the purpose of pretending to shoot American soldiers serving their nation. And this makes them, per the logic of a certain segment of our society, patriots, because the Federal government has no business educating future participants in democracy, nor any interest in the practical aspects of literal, actual interstate commerce (i.e. the transportation of goods between and across states by way of an interstate highway system), but there's evidently some sort of Federal interest in memorializing the time a bunch of people tried to destroy the United States Of America and took up arms against it.

I can't help feeling that while I love historical reenactments and find them educational and sometimes thrilling, there's a ghoulish element to this one I find unpalatable. If one proposed a reenactment of Pearl Harbor or 9/11, I imagine a lot of people would find it in poor taste and if spectators showed up to wave Japanese flags or to shout "Death to the Great Satan!" or whatever, I'd imagine there would be a pretty severe ass-kicking handed out to someone. At the very least, one can imagine congressperson after congressperson taking the floor to deplore this tasteless recreation of a day that should live in infamy and how should Joe and Jane Public be required to pay for anti-American insults?

I'm not being fair, am I? Our congresspersons would absolutely be up in Washington lamenting tomorrow's events if they weren't so busy protecting America by defunding NPR and Planned Parenthood. There's only so much time in the day, and NPR's consistent contempt for the nation that tolerates it, expressed in the form of news programs that attempt to be reasonably objective and factually accurate, is a far greater threat to the solidarity and unity of this nation than honest, down-to-earth patriotism expressed in the form of pretending to blow up government property. And anyway, the patriots will only be firing blanks because real cannonballs might hit a tourist.


Do you ever feel like everything would make more sense if you were an alien observer who'd recently landed here and so didn't actually understand anything? "These earth-creatures are incomprehensible, Sam," you could say to someone presumably named Sam. "I have no hope of understanding any of their strange behaviors or the noises they make, but it's alright, I go back to Plaaxu on Thursday, thank Yxxarian." And you'd twiddle your tentacles and pine for the rational and sensible febrile Flaxonians gimbling in the wan ochre moonlight and gas-green fires of Lake Zzzlplx during the holiday season of Two-Thirds Wogglesday, you know, really banal and clichéd stuff like that, but soothing in its simple orderliness, especially after trying to figure out Americans.


Gil Scott-Heron, "New York Is Killing Me"

>> Sunday, April 10, 2011

SiriusXMU has been playing Jamie xx's remix of Gil Scott-Heron's "New York Is Killing Me" a lot, and it's impossible not to crank it every time they do. 'Tis awesome, verily so.


Quote of the day: you don't deserve praise for barely doing your job just because you barely did it edition.

>> Saturday, April 09, 2011

Quoted for truth:

Imagine a restaurant, Chez Polis, in which the chef and the manager are bitter rivals. One evening they bicker and almost come to blows over a meal. Their one patron is about to walk out but moments before he does, they declare a truce and deliver the smallest of three courses. They put the plate on the table and immediately start patting themselves on the back. This seems strange to the patron, who thought delivering a starter course was a restaurant's basic task.

-John Dickerson, "What's the Big Deal?"
Slate, April 9th, 2011

I mean, look, I'm happy that a Federal shutdown (and all the havoc it would have wreaked) has been avoided. Everybody ought to be for reasons that would be obvious to any adult in possession of more than a grizzled, unused stump over his brainstem. But I sure as hell won't be giving anybody any credit to Democrats and Republicans in Congress and the President for brokering a deal--that's their fucking job, has been their fucking job for more than two hundred years, and the fact that they've recently been performing that part of the job so clumsily and with such sound and fury (signifying nothing, the sounds of idiots, to paraphrase the man) is a bit of a national embarrassment.

Or: another metaphor that comes to mind is that you're on a bus and realize too late to get off that the driver is drunk and possibly high, and he proceeds to put the peddle to the floor and run the next five stoplights, only averting killing and injuring all of his passengers through a deft and mostly lucky series of accidentally-executed bootlegger's maneuvers climaxing in a brilliantly and fortuitously-performed powerslide down at the docks that leaves the bus' rear tires dangling precipitously off the end of a pier so that the vomiting and gasping passengers may delicately stagger off the bus to collapse in relief and gratitude that they only almost died, thank the gods, praise Jesus, Allahu Akbar, ♥ the laws of physics and then the driver pushes his puffy red mug through the door gates and slurs, "Well aren't'cher people gonna thank me?"

Like hell. You, sir, are a terrible bus driver.


"This is not a deep observation..."

So I'm finding slim pickings for the blog as of late and have been a bit too busy to come up with material here. And, y'know, I haven't had anything to vent about here.

In fact, this about sums it up at the moment:

No doubt there'll be some piss and vinegar coming back at some point. But for now, I don't seem to have something darker to say. Trenchant pith, etc., will no doubt return, never fear. But life, like they say, is grand.


Kitten, "Kitten With A Whip" (excerpt)

>> Friday, April 08, 2011

Kitten at The Marq--not the set I saw, but it gives you an idea of the band's kinetic set, anyway. Their EP "Sunday School" is out and more information on the band is at their website. A hell of an intense band, and I'm still a little blown away at the presence lead singer Chloe Chaidez has when, honestly and meaning no disrespect, she's practically a fetus. Anyway, the set I saw was a hell of a good set and they held their own sharing a gig with The Joy Formidable.


The Damnwells, "Werewolves"

>> Thursday, April 07, 2011


The Republic Tigers, "Buildings And Mountains"

>> Wednesday, April 06, 2011


Quote of the day--can we rewind the tape and get a do-over edition

>> Tuesday, April 05, 2011

...the times required a synthesis of John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier in domestic policy and Dwight Eisenhower’s New Look in foreign policy. Unfortunately, President Obama has provided the exact opposite, combining the domestic policy of Eisenhower with the foreign policy of Kennedy.

-Michael Lind, "Bad influences: JFK, Ike and Obama,"
Salon, April 5th, 2011.

I mean, yeah, that pretty much settles the scorecard so far, or comes as close as you can without losing the pithiness of it. JFK is an overrated President and Eisenhower is underrated, and the reasons for both those things go to the points Lind makes: Kennedy gets too much of a pass for his domestic strengths and Ike rarely gets enough credit for his savvy and often effective foreign policy. Of course (as Lind also notes), what the times have really called for is an FDR, but fat chance of that in an era where a President is labeled a socialist for embracing and pursuing Nixonian domestic policies. (I can't help imagining Helen Gahagan Douglas would be getting a good laugh out of that, were she still around somewhere.)

Of course, let's also put this (valid) criticism into perspective: if President Obama seems to be emulating some of the worst traits of two of the 20th Century's better presidents, at least he's emulating some of the worst traits of two of the 20th Century's better presidents. One could actually do worse than following Eisenhower's domestic footsteps, which is, in fact, what the present Republican leadership seems intent on doing. Ditto when it comes to JFK's spy-versus-spy aggressive interventionism. Obama is at least using playbooks written by smart presidents who tended to surround themselves with technocrats, and not the Tijuana bibles of demagogues who surrounded themselves with drooling bootlickers and howling ignoramuses. Point to Obama, then, even if it's kind of like scoring by the opposing team's forfeit.


Dumb quote of the day: masturbating intellectual nihilist edition

Regular readers of my blog know that the goal of my writing is to be interesting and nothing else. I'm not trying to change anyone's opinion, largely because I don't believe humans can be influenced by exposure to better arguments, even if I had some. But I do think people benefit by exposure to ideas that are different from whatever they are hearing, even when the ideas are worse. That's my niche: something different. That approach springs from my observation that brains are like investment portfolios, where diversification is generally a good strategy. I'm not trying to move you to my point of view; I'm trying to add diversity to your portfolio of thoughts. In the short term, I hope it's stimulating enough to be entertaining. Long term, the best ideas probably come from people who have the broadest exposure to different views.

[emph. added].

I'm not sure whether anybody around here was following or even much cares about the hoopla that blew up recently over Dilbert artist Scott Adams recent douchebaggery. You can read the link to Salon in the previous sentence or Adams' own blog post linked in the above quote if you're unfamiliar with what's going on, or skip this post, or here's a summary: Adams wrote a post on the "men's rights" movement wherein he suggested that men who are in that movement ought to stop whining and start treating women the way Adams evidently thinks the mentally retarded ought to be treated, or something.

I mean, if you want, go read his original comments: they're really fucking stupid.

And then he went and wrote a non-apology-apology, one of these "I'm sorry you took offense at my offensive comments" numbers where he pretty much suggests that anybody who doesn't agree with him isn't smart enough to be one of his regular readers. 'Kaaaaaaaaaaaay....

Me, I'm mostly detachedly amused by the whole thing. Well. I'm amused in part that Dilbert still exists now that the tech boom of the '90s is pretty much dead and the cutting-edge IT world Dilbert once represented has sort of become less a matter of absurd humor and more a matter of everyday life; as far as I'm concerned, at least, Dilbert is much like Peanuts or Ziggy--a daily cartoon that was edgy, irreverent and relevant once-upon-a-time that has turned into a repetitive, irrelevant shadow-strip, except it only took fifteen years because of the high speed at which changes now occur in the environment Dilbert mapped (as opposed to the decades it took Peanuts to become a sad, stale shadow of itself). Oh, and of course it's likely my indifference to Dilbert these days is further shaped by the Garfield-like saturation of the strip: there were, or probably still are, Dilbert calendars, mugs, dolls, pillows, condoms and spittoons--if there is a kind of object that has a surface area upon which an image may be affixed, it's surely had Dilbert or Dogbert or the pointy-haired manager guy on it.

But let's talk about that dumb quote. Much of it isn't all that objectionable. It's that sentence that I bolded that holds my attention, I just included the entirety so I couldn't be accused of removing context. I don't have a problem with a blogger just trying to be interesting--been there, done that, probably failed most of the time. I don't disagree that a variety of ideas is healthy and helpful. But this:

I'm not trying to change anyone's opinion, largely because I don't believe humans can be influenced by exposure to better arguments, even if I had some.

Where to begin with that?

I mean, first there's the cynical intellectual nihilism of the premise of the thing: "I don't think people can be persuaded", is pretty much what he's saying there. To which the obvious response is, "So why don't you crawl in a hole and die, then?" Seriously. I mean, suppose better arguments fail nine times out of ten... no, suppose they fail ninety-nine times in a hundred? If you don't think that one percent is worth a shit, why bother? Just shut the fuck up then, if that's how you feel about it. I state a case not because I have high hopes I could change somebody's mind on a matter I consider important but because I do believe that I might every now and again, because I believe people are capable of using these clumps of nervous tissue encased at the tops of their bodies to not be stupid, even if they so hardly ever do it.

And then there's that second thing, the bullshit self-effacing, "even if I had some [better arguments]. Basically, what Adams is saying right there is that nobody should care what he's writing at all, so there's no point in him writing it at all, so why is he writing it. Allow me to translate what he's saying there, in case he stuttered: "I am wasting your time," is what Adams is saying. "I have nothing worth saying, but I'm saying it anyway, so what's your problem that you're reading it?"

Which brings up the third thing, and that is that Scott Adams is full of shit. No, I'm not talking about his ridiculous "women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It’s just easier this way for everyone," asshattery; I'm talking about the fact that the paragraph I quoted at the top of this post is a lie. Adams doesn't believe that what he says isn't worth listening to. He doesn't believe that his words can't affect how people think about him or how they think about an issue. If he believed that, he wouldn't waste his time with a fucking blog, would he? Hell, he wouldn't even have started scribbling that cartoon in the days before it was picked up by a syndicate and became lucrative (and you can imagine for yourself what kind of cynical, soulless douchebag he'd be if he really spent his whole life drawing a cartoon he thought had zero affecting merit solely because he was a whore who doodled in exchange for Universal Features paychecks). No, he isn't saying he thinks his words are meaningless because he believes his words are meaningless--he's saying that because he doesn't want to accept responsibility for what he did say; it's your fault if you took him seriously, he was just prattling.

And there, dear readers, is our object lesson for the day, and the point in my writing this post: Adams may be a silly man who said a stupid thing and then couldn't bury it deep enough to cover the smell of it, and it might not be that worthwhile to kick him for it, but it's a useful example, isn't it, for the kind of assholery any of us might avoid. Gosh knows it's tempting as hell when I put my foot in my mouth to dodge, duck and weave and pretend my words don't carry any power at all to anyone; sometimes, when I've pissed somebody off, it would be damn nice if that were true. But the fact is that my words are capable of having an effect, even an unintended one, just as anybody's words are. And instead of being, to use Adams' choice word in his original posting on men's rights, a pussy about it, I need to be a mensch, don't I? Even when it hurts.

And this applies to you, too, Scott Adams. You fucked up. And you're an asshat for not simply acknowledging that if you had a point, you had a lousy way of putting it, aside from maybe that your point was horseshit to start with.

And the horse you rode in on, Adams.


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