Thursday, March 31, 2005

So He's A Comedian

John J. Miller, aside being NRO's (wildly inaccurate) Francophobe, is also its saturday morning comedian:

DEATH BY TRADE [John J. Miller]
This just in from the halls of academe: Free trade killed the Neanderthals.

What does this tell us about anti-globalization protestors?

Let us pause now as crickets chirp and a tumbleweed or two languidly bounce by.

Okay, then.

The reference is this article, a vaguely cultural-materialist analysis of admittedly scant information.

Now let us answer Miller's question while pretending it was not a witless sneer. Perhaps it tells us that anti-globalisation protestors don't want any species to become extinct? Biological diversity -- like cultural diversity, a horrible thing indeed to preserve, in the opinion of Repug-Neoliberal-Libertarian nutjobs like John J. Miller who are often, ironically, the most crass of Darwinists when it comes to remorselessly exterminating "lesser" species and "lesser" cultures, but decidedly anti-Darwinists when it conflicts with their own brand of batshit fundamentalism.

For what it's worth (and I naturally think quite a lot), here's the closing stave of Alfred W. Crosby's classic The Columbian Exchange:

The Columbian exchange has included man, and he has changed the Old and New Worlds sometimes inadvertently, sometimes intentionally, often brutally. It is possible that he and the plants and animals he has brought with him have caused the extinction of more species of life forms in the last four hundred years than the usual processes of evolution might kill off in a million. Man kills faster than the pace of evolution: there has been no million years since Columbus for evolution to devise a replacement for the passenger pigeon. No one can remember what the pre-Columbian flora of the Antilles was like, and the trumpeter swan and the buffalo and a hundred other species have been reduced to such small numbers that a mere twitch of a change in ecology or man's wishes can eliminate them. The flora and fauna of the Old and especially of the New World have been reduced and specialized by man. specialization almost always narrows the possibilities for future changes: for the sake of present convenience, we loot the future.

The Columbian exhange has left us with not a richer but a more impoverished gene pool. We, all of the life on this planet, are the less for Columbus, and the impoverishment will increase.

Amen to that, Dr. Crosby. Anti-globalists are against the "future-eaters", those nuts like Miller and so many others across the political spectrum who are perfectly content to play God biologically (and culturally -- the same rules and consequences apply) "for the sake of present convenience".

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Bitch & Moan

Yeah, so I haven't been blogging. What's kept me from it will soon be taken care of, so don't give up on me just yet.

(And yes, those who know me through other sites know that I haven't been completely silent. But it's so much easier to post to a message board than it is to blog. At least, it is for me.)

Anyway, I dont much care for what this site's become. It lacks direction. My old posts are too personal and some of them are just wrong. For instance, I stated that fascism is internationalist when it is not. What I meant was that it's expansionist, and so universally so that expansionism for its own sake, which is to say for power's own sake (what Henry and Brooks Adams meant by saying a country could "swing the club"), is a useful indicator for evidence of proto- or crypto- fascism. Also, I was wrong, apparently, about a resurgence of Kissingerism being evidenced by the attempted coup in central Africa, the failure of which disgraced Mark Thatcher (but then I'd be very surprised if Thatcher didnt, at the very least, have clearance from one of our fine "freedom-loving" intelligence agencies). I'm also not so sure about Ward Churchill, though I never fleshed out on this site where I thought he was right or wrong, and still view with contempt those critics of his who refuse to acknowledge that the United States government has commited genocide in its history, for which it has not paid a price, and over which there is a specter of collective guilt, and shall ever be until that price is paid.

Blah. I'm also disenchanted with some fellow-travellers and their blogging ethics and general style. Let me get out of the way the fact that I know my readers are few and my influence is tiny: this is not about self-delusion, but about principle. For one, I'm tempted to embargo, with a parting fuck-you, those liberals who are so pecksniff about "civil discourse", the euphemism for writing, often tepid, and moral and political judgments, often banal. For them, it seems, one either writes like Green Chucky & the Little Football Nazis or one must write like Josh Marshall and, heaven forbid, Kevin Drum: anything in between is right out. No passion. Worse, no outrage. Only the most knuckle-dragging of reactionaries are allowed that response, because, don't you know, real analysis comes when the objectively centrist technocrat dons the labcoat, everyone's eyes glaze, and the only heartbeat is found in the comments and trackbacks. Of course fire and brimstone can be overdone, but so too can tepidity, and few demonstrate this better than the soft- or pseudo-liberals who, generally, dispense Recieved Opinion and are loathe to utter an occasional cleansing "fuck this shit" when conditions and Repug proposals insist upon it.

Blogrolls. It seems that the rule among big bloggers is that one must blog daily or nearly daily to even be considered for their roll. This is too much to ask. Blogging is by nature the vocation of the amateur or the dilettante; the bigger bloggers, some of whom can live on their ad revenue, I think tend to forget this fact, and thus their origin. It's frankly amazing how so many adopt Republican rhetoric when this subject comes up: something along the lines of, "I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, so can you." The irony here is that the big rightwing bloggers are for more likely to share the wealth, as it were, with their own -- which is why their side of the sphere has more vitality, and ours tends to concentration with a touch of plutocracy.

But there is something else in this, and that's the liberal penchant for cliques. While it's probably true that our standards are higher, it's also probably true that we are more likely to bubble off into groupuscles, with one not trafficking much with the other and vice-versa. It's not about ideology or groupthink or anything like that; it's more about taste. The New York Review wannabes have their own bubble, the pop-culture-vulture irreverents have theirs, the "hard analysis" academics theirs, and so on.

Now, if anyone new reads the above, they will probably think I'm envious, have been spurned, etc etc, and I though I know that's a likely conclusion to draw, I honestly dont think it's true (save for one instance, when Roy Edroso of alicublog told me to remind him to add me to the blogroll, and when I did just that left me hanging and looking like a dick in his comments). Look, if I want attention, that's what trackbacks are for. Also, if someone like Kevin Drum did link to me, I wouldn't feel right about it unless it was to attack me.

Blah blah blah. Anyway, I'm thinking seriously of purging the first 6 months of the archive, and of looking into the movable type platform.

(This post was composed in a state of considerable inebriation. Sorry.)

*Edited now that I'm sobered up. Also, I'm not quitting, just bitching. One more thing, digamma should (while bearing in mind my complaint about tepidity apropos style) read this and this about the dread Kevin Drum.

** In comments, Aunt Jenna, presumably sober, summed up very nicely a point I tried to make above:

but it is funny to watch bloggers duplicate the exact kind of exclusive communities online that drove them to blogging in the first place. People excluded from mainstream journalism and academia are now excluding others from blogtopia, or something.

Yes. Now go read Jenna's blog and be reminded how wit, sarcasm, and a fine bullshit detector is preferable to the mealy-mouthed crapola that "serious" Rockefeller Republican "liberal" bloggers peddle.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


David Brooks:

Ralph Reed, meanwhile, smashed the tired old categories that used to separate social conservatives from corporate consultants. Reed signed on with Channel One, Verizon, Enron and Microsoft to shore up the moral foundations of our great nation. Reed so strongly opposes gambling as a matter of principle that he bravely accepted $4 million through Abramoff from casino-rich Indian tribes to gin up a grass-roots campaign.

As time went by, the spectacular devolution of morals accelerated. Many of the young innovators were behaving like people who, having read Barry Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative," embraced the conservative part while discarding the conscience part.

Abramoff's and Scanlon's Indian-gaming scandal will go down as the movement's crowning achievement, more shameless than anything the others would do, but still the culmination of the trends building since 1995. It perfectly embodied their creed and philosophy: "I'd love us to get our mitts on that moolah!!" as Abramoff wrote to Reed.

They made at least $66 million.

This is a major accomplishment. And remember: Abramoff didn't do it on his own.

It took a village. The sleazo-cons thought they could take over K Street to advance their agenda. As it transpired, K Street took over them.

With the on-going attack on DeLay that is landing repeated blows, there was bound to arise a Good Government group of Repugs. That Brooks of all people sees fit call for such a movement, however implicitly, shows not only how gangrenous the rot in fact is, but how Repugs are beginning to recognise the threat the obvious rot has to their hold on power.

Of course, anyone in their right mind predicted the corruption would reach this level as soon as the Repugs got power: it's just their nature. Absolute power corrupts absolutely; it corrupts even the most innocent and well-intentioned. What we are seeing, then, is how it corrupts the already corrupted.

There are two historical analogues to remember. One, the anti-corruption movement among Repugs post-Nixon, admittedly never that powerful to begin with, and eventually torpedoed alltogether by Ronald Reagan. And two, the Republican schism in the late Gilded Age, which amounted to a haphazard lysol job when in fact the whole filthy building needed demolished.

A clever Republican could go Theodore Roosevelt with this sort of thing. But then bear in mind that Theodore Roosevelt wasn't exactly sincere, for as Mr Frick of U.S. Steel said at the time, his company bought TR, too.

Monday, March 14, 2005

All Apologies

Sorry for leaving like that. I have no real excuse to offer. It gets better, though...

This week, I have to really do some studying; I doubt I'll blog again until the weekend.

Until then, feel free to browse the links left and right, or to even laugh at poorly-written rants in the archive.

Au revoir, suckers comrades.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

"Karl, Activate The Randroid"

Not that he literally has transistors and diodes within, but Alan Greenspan is robotic in the sense that he is an acolyte of supersocialdarwinist author Ayn Rand, and unlike 95 percent of people who read Rand in their youths, Greenspan has shown little evidence of putting the batty woman's theories down.

In other words, Alan Greenspan hasn't truly grown a bit since he wrote to the New York Times way back in 1957 that

Atlas Shrugged is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.

(Italics, irresistibly, mine.)

Knowing that Greenspan shares their Fuck The Poor philosophy, now it comes time, as it every so often has in the last 25 years when the rightwing has enjoyed too much power, for the Republicans to plug in Alanbot the Randroid to give a veneer of legitimacy to some batshit rightwing plan. This time, Alanbot's been activated to blame any and every looming fiscal difficulty on Social Security.

In response, Krugman calls Greenspan what he is, as does Senator Harry Reid. Wolcott simply wishes for Alanbot's decommissioning, to the weary nodding of all the rest of US fed up with retro 80s government.

The Kossacks, in an enough's enough attempt to counter the Alanbot mystique (and the all too frequent Greenspan hagiographies from the center, and even high tolerance from the left) are trolling for info. Alanbot the Randroid has had a long career, and has let his Randian cats out of several bags over the years -- which the Kossacks hope to gather.

Happily, I'm already privy to the wingnut spin on this, via an (I assume) accidental email I received this afternoon:

I just wanted to alert everyone, especially Andrea Mitchell, that she is being targeted by the readers of Daily Kos...

I thought she would be interested in knowing that she is being targeted for a slime attack merely because her husband said positive things about private accounts.

That last sentence is hilarious in its mendacity. Almost as hilarious as this paragraph from the nutjobs at AEI:

More than one member of the Collective marveled at his ability to attract beautiful women. "It was incredible how he always had a beautiful woman at his side," recalls Barbara Branden. "I think it was the attraction of his intellectual power and probably his reserve. You couldn't knock him over by batting your eyelashes at him. He certainly had a profound effect on women." Another member speculates: "Maybe he was a good kisser, from all those years as a saxophone player". His ex-wife Joan Mitchell Blumenthal offers a different explanation. "He is very clever, he knows a lot about a million things, and he has a wonderful sense of humor. Alan is charming and always interesting."

"Beautiful women" [sic!] like Andrea Mitchell -- who is, to be fair, not only a perfect match to Alanbot in the looks department, but also in the political hackery department.

In case you don't know, a "parasite" to a Randroid is the same thing as a "bum" was to the wheelchaired fraud in The Big Lebowski: the opposite of an achiever. And achievers never take -- much less need -- financial help of any kind. Achievers don't need no stinkin social security check because they take care of themselves, and only "looters" (the Randroid synonym for "parasite") would want their hard-earned dollars to be taken from them and put into a government account for safe-keeping and for later redistribution. To put it even more bluntly, a Randroid considers any government enterprise past the Army and perhaps the post office to be a totalitarian instrument of parasites, bums, and looters who, in their envy, would drag high-flying alpha-persons like ..yes, Randroids down to their level.

(Here I should mention that like the fraud in The Big Lebowski, Randroids have an insufferably high -- and false -- sense of their own talents. Rare indeed is the real life Randroid who has an iota of social skills or intelligence. Most of what irritates me about Randroids, aside the evil in their philosophy, is their delusions of grandeur: they all think of themselves as alpha humans but, in reality, could only charitably be consigned to the delta aisle, and that's on a good day. Point out the obvious to them, and they simply accuse you of envy; a self-reinforcing myth, thus the circle-jerk inside their empty noggins. Obviously, Greenspan himself has achieved in the real world, but via no arsenal of charms. The man's personality is pure chloroform; he owes his position to other means.)

Alanbot was and always will be a Randroid. It's foolish to expect political decency and fairness out of him. Let there be no more free passes for this antique Republican appliance.

*edit: made a few style changes.

A Present

For those who, during these sad times, miss the man all Arkies of a particular age call "Dad", I offer this photo taken in our apartment's living room.

Nevermind how I acquired it; sufficient to say that it was years ago and in a drunken blur.

Without fail, it gets a laugh from visitors.

Richard Brautigan wrote of a future world in which we'd be "all watched over by machines of loving grace". My apartment is watched over by a sign of graceless, homely sheetmetal. But it brings back a nostalgic feeling; and day by day Dad's era looks better and better by comparison, even for someone like me who was frequently enraged by his stupid triangulations and his Kevin Drum-esque version of liberalism.

So far, I'm pleased to report, the couch across from it and the tiles below it remain free of any crusty residue; it seems to be free of Clintonoid poltergeists. Knock on wood.

Friday, March 04, 2005

The RETARDO Chainsaw Massacre

A Wingnut Tree? Wood Would That It Was!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

It's Worth Repeating

Majikthise insists that Eason Jordan was right, and makes a good case for it.

But, like Abu Ghraib, Jordan's claim underlines the Heart Of Darkness aspects of war that the wrong sort of patriots are congenitally unable to acknowledge; hence, facts that demonstrate pigheaded callousness at best, but more likely, blatant depravity and a war criminal mindset, must be marginalised or ignored or be made to seem false.

It was the Truth's bad luck that Jordan worded his claim poorly; also, that he lacked courage in defending it.

It is the Truth's good luck that Majikthise has resurrected a defense of Jordan's claim at a time when the triumphalism of the wingnut bloggers has blown over; there is also Good Luck in that she's posting it simultaneously at hugely-trafficked Pandagon.

Now that the Social Security arguments are somewhat abating, and Gannongate is being ignored enough by the PTB to start its slide to the memoryhole, now is as good a time as any to make up for much ground lost to the wingnuts on this front.

Thanks to norbizness, in comments to Majikthise's post, I'm made aware of this timeline of atrocities at Body and Soul.

Then there's Jeremy Scahill's "Shooting The Messenger", which corroborates Jordan's claim:

Eason Jordan's comment was hardly a radical declaration. He was expressing a common view among news organizations around the world. "We have had three deaths, and they were all non-embedded, non-coalition nationals and they were all at the hands of the US military, and the reaction of the US authorities in each case was that they were somehow justified," David Schlesinger, Reuters's global managing editor, said in November. "What is the US's position on nonembeds? Are nonembedded journalists fair game?" One of the BBC's top news anchors, Nik Gowing, said recently that he was "speak[ing] for a large number of news organizations, many of whom are not really talking publicly about this at the moment," when he made this statement about the dangers facing reporters in Iraq: "The trouble is that a lot of the military--particularly the American...military--do not want us there. And they make it very uncomfortable for us to work. And I think that leading to security forces in some instances feeling it is legitimate to target us with deadly force and with impunity."

(Via Roger Ailes.)

See also this year-old story by Christian Parenti.

That the wingnuts shot the messenger and then bragged about it is par for the course but not the real problem. The real problem's that they wanted the message -- the Truth -- itself hushed, and they've largely succeeded.

Scrapyard Entry

I'm busy writing three posts which will come before this one, but I'm also working on something for class, as well as cleaning out a link folder that had become unmanagable. So... this is one of those "collection of stale links" posts whereby I collect all the crap previously unfit to print and expect you to read it. Yeah. Because I'm sadistic like that.

When you're sick of the Huge Lie, first uttered by Dear Leader and then endlessly circulated by his Cult, that holds that "They Hate Us For Our Freedom", read this piece in the NY Review. Or don't, because denial makes it easier to slag people like Ward Churchill, the late Susan Sontag, and that Anti-Christ Noam Chomsky for having a stronger explanation than Dear Leader's, or his Cult's, for the resentment the "other" feels for US.

Arthur C. Clarke from Sri Lanka. One of the links I'd meant to post during my hiatus. I'm glad Ebert took the time to post it after the tsunamis.

I'd like to read this book. I hadn't known that the FBI spied on anthropologists, but should have assumed it. The feds were capable of anything, after all -- they used to send Dr King messages urging him to commit suicide. Of course the rightwing (well, aside mAnn Coulter) which always loves this sort of authoritarianism has long since stopped trying to openly defend its practice in the past, and instead settle on a "blame it all on poor misguided Hoover" stance. But fuck them. Haha, wingnuts, charade you are! They loved it then and they love it now, which is why they embraced Ashcroft, were thrilled with "TIPS", and some even advocate(d) concentration camps; and even the technocrat liberals joined them in calling for "intelligence reform", which was ostensibly to avoid miscommunication between agencies, but in practice has made it where the agencies are but one behemoth. With an aim, I believe, that agencies like the CIA, DIA and NSA can now spy on American citizens, too, right along with the FBI, where formerly -- even in the bad old days of Hoover -- they were rightly forbidden to do so.


Who needs the Koufax awards? Norbizness has done far better for himself. Well, not really, but it's funny. Recommended for baseball fans.


I heartily recommend the Private Sector Imperialism series at Hobson's Choice.


A Regime Change I can endorse: a garden-variety wingnut's blog is hijacked by two libruls.


Ah, finally he has permalinks! The Analogy to End All Analogies. Parody or not, it's hilarious either way -- and the same could be said for the whole blog. Anyway, I'm proud to be one of the "Good People Right About The Iraq War Being Wrong" which is a far better fate indeed than being one of the "Bad People Wrong About The Iraq War Being Right".


Ahhhh. PusBoy notices that there hasn't been any terror warnings since the election. I think he's right, and am pissed, then, that I hadn't noticed it. But then everyone sentient knew they were a political ploy all through last summer and fall.


Mea Culpa. This is all my fault; I'm a homewrecker; I'm sorry. And I'm the real Daddy.


In addition to the links collected in a previous post on John "Death Squad" Negroponte, there's this, this, this, and this.


The King of all Bad Memories. I had to leave a comment.

And this was the soundtrack:

Someone's taking over
And it look like they're aiming
Right at you
Someone said we'll be dead by morning
Someone cries leaving

Red skies at night


"Outrageous and reprehensible"? Pbbbt. Fuck off.


The New York Times as horny ex-boyfriend. I told you she was good at bloggin'.


Sad story. Imperialist looting; a familiar story, too. I wonder how many of the missing treasures from the Iraqi museum wound up in private collections, and not necessarily via some Iraqi peasant's hands. Good luck to the Ethiopians, though. I hope it doesn't take them as long as it's taken (taking) the Greeks to get back the Elgin Marbles from Her Majesty's government.


The fallout of Friedmanism in Chile. In the original Times story, though, it's mentioned that

The main architect of the Chilean system is José Piñera, who was labor and social security minister from 1978 to 1980 during the Pinochet dictatorship. Mr. Piñera is now chairman of the International Center for Pension Reform, co-chairman of the Cato Institute's Project on Social Security Choice, and he has been a board member of several Chilean corporations.

Well, well, well. So CATO employs one of Pinochet's goons; since he's a Friedmanite, apparently, it's okay to CATO to employ a former member of a thoroughly fascist government. I used to think of CATO as one of the better libertarian organisations (though that is damning with very faint praise), but lately I'm thinking it might as well throw in with Dr Peikoff and all the other apeshit nutbars of that persuasion.

Frankly, there are two ways to take Atrios's observation by which he sets up a hell of a false dichotomy. On the one hand, it's probably just latent Economics Professor bullshit from Professor Black's technocrat days; on the other, if the pensions were being systematically pilfered pre-Pinochet (which I doubt), it was hardly unheard of in any South American government of those days, and probably no worse, hence hardly a gun-to-the-head scenario.

For a real assessment of Chicago School BS in Chile, read this.


What a set-up.

Late on 25 February Zakhidov and Akhmedov left the editorial office to go home but found that Ismailov?s men had been waiting for them outside. They put them in their car. "First we were told that we had a few issues to clear. Then we were taken to Tri Palmy restaurant and policemen brought in two girls," said Zakhidov. The editor said that physical force was used against him and he was undressed. Then he and Akhmedov were photographed naked with the girls. After this, Zakhidov states, they were beaten again during 15-20 minutes and taken to the police. "There it was suggested that we signed the account of the incident written by the investigator warning us that it would get worse if we refused. Then the events in question took place," said Zakhidov.

A Nixon-worthy or even Rove-worthy dirty trick for sure. Incidentally, Azerbaijan is one of those faux-democracies that Dear Leader Who Loves Freedom wholeheartedly supports.

Anyway, the story reminds me of the one Gore Vidal often mentions of his grandfather, the blind Senator T. P. Gore of Oklahoma, who was set up in a similar fashion: he was asked to meet with a constituent at a hotel lobby (not uncommon in the turn of the century, especially for Populists), the constituent turned out to be a lady hired by political enemies to lure Gore upstairs and yell, "rape". It almost worked.


More to come as I find them.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005



American Literature on the Web






Bold Type



Borges Center

Complete Review


Internet Classics Archive

JH Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism


The Literary Dick

Modern Word

Online Books



Project Gutenberg

Reviews of Books

"Sacred" Texts

Today In Literature

Networks, Press Centers, Wire Services & Raw News

ABC (Oz)



All Africa


Associated Press


Brownfield Network






Eurasia Net


Global Info

Go Greenway

Google News



Inter Press Services

News Service For Historians



Obscure Store & Reading Room

Pacific News Service



Political Theory Daily Review

Political Wire





The Smoking Gun

Third World Network

World Energy News

Does This Bomber Look Fat To You?

Just what the Doctor ordered -- our Doctor Strangeloves and General Rippers, that is, who along with the Donald Rumsfelds of the world are no doubt salivating over, and made turgid by, this technological near-breakthrough:

The cloaking device, famously used by the Romulans in Star Trek to hide their spacecraft from enemies, may yet become reality, thanks to US researchers.

University of Pennsylvania PhD student Andrea Alu and professor Nader Engheta have written a paper for the journal Nature describing how a crude cloaking device could be built.

Mr Alu and Professor Engheta say their "plasmonic cover" could render objects "nearly invisible to an observer".

So far, research into invisibility has concentrated on camouflage: a screen is coloured to match its background, for example. But the invisibility shield proposed by the two researchers is more ambitious - a "self-contained structure that would reduce visibility from all viewing angles", according to Nature.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Recipe For Disaster

I've blogged about the crystal methamphetamine epidemic before, but specifically with regard to its prevalence in rural areas.

Now I see where Andrew Sullivan has, understandably, been blogging about the meth epidemic in gay culture (see here, here, and here, for starters).

In the last link, Sully references a New York Times article about meth's effect on the immune system.

I don't agree with everything that Sully says on the subject, but am in his debt for bringing this to my attention.

I can't think of a group more ill-suited to methamphetamine than the gay community, especially the HIV+ folks among it. Methamphetamine, from my observations, wreaks havoc on even healthy people's immune systems. Sully apparently thinks that the reactions to the meth-AIDS relationship is overblown. I rather doubt it. From the Times article:

Although methamphetamine, often called crystal meth or speed, is most troubling to health officials because of its role in blotting out inhibitions and fueling high-risk sexual behavior, experts say they are also grappling with mounting evidence that the drug by itself may increase a person's susceptibility to infection by crippling immune function and facilitating disease transmission.

"There seems to be something about methamphetamine that predisposes people to H.I.V. infection," said Dr. Grant Colfax, co-director of the H.I.V. epidemiology biostatistics and intervention section at the AIDS office of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. "When we look at why methamphetamine is increasingly responsible for the H.I.V. epidemic, I do think we need to look more closely at whether it is somehow suppressing immunity and increasing viral loads."


A long-term study of more than 4,000 gay men sexually active with more than one partner recently found that the odds of contracting H.I.V. climb substantially while using crystal meth, independent of other risk factors.

About a quarter of the men who were followed said that they had used crystal meth in the six months before the start of the study. They were all H.I.V. negative when it began.

By the end of the study, called the Explore Project, about 2.1 percent of the men had become infected. Unprotected sex with multiple partners was strongly associated with infection. But even after the researchers controlled for those behaviors and others, like injection drug use, the men who were taking crystal meth were twice as likely to contract H.I.V.

"This was a really surprising finding," said Dr. Colfax, a principal investigator on the study. "There's reason to think there's a combination of factors involved."

One of them may be crystal meth's impact on immune cells. Although research is limited, studies in animals and on cell cultures have found that methamphetamine suppresses killer T cells, a type of white blood cell that fights off pathogens.

That, combined with the drug's tendency to dry out mucosal membranes and cause abrasions in the mouth and rectum, might slightly increase a person's vulnerability to infection, said Dr. Antonio Urbina, the lead author of a study on crystal meth and H.I.V. that appeared last year in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

In those who are already infected, crystal meth may take a greater toll. Studies have found that it can interfere with antiretroviral medications and set off a surge in viral loads, accelerating the progression of the disease and making a person more infectious to others.


Whatever crystal meth's influence on the immune system and viral replication turns out to be, experts stress that its most alarming impact is on behavior.

"I think that's really the biggest gorilla in the room," said Dr. Steve Shoptaw, a research psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, Integrated Substance Abuse Programs. "Being in a sex club for 36 hours on crystal meth and engaging in unprotected anal sex is really the most profound effect."

It's all very intuitive to one who knows what meth does to the psyche, and has observed the altered behaviour as well as physiological transformations in meth users.

But when I say behaviour, I dont mean to be a scaremonger along the lines of "Reefer Madness". Though I know that meth affects a person's judgement as in it makes him more impulsive, I think there's more to it than that.

I'm talking about, for instance, the fact that men using speed often have a difficulty in attaining and sustaining erections. When this is compounded with the other facts of meth use: that speed gives energy and inspiration to attempted "marathon" sex, that it generally stiffles any tendency to caution, that it encourages carelessness and impatience, that it briefly aids strength or gives the illusion of it, that it greatly desensitizes the penis, the recipe here is for disaster. The article mentions that meth dries a person's mucous membranes out, which obviously has sexual repercussions. Add to this the reality that meth's effect on erections makes frequent condom changes necessary, which meth's effect on the psyche may translate into the determination by the user that the condom's not worth the bother. Raw bits, impatience, an ability to fuck for hours once erection is achieved, often a depleted immune system... bad combination.

If you must use meth, don't fuck while you're on it.

Then there's meth's physiological effects. Tweakers eat little if at all, and malnourished people are more likely to be vectors for disease than properly fed ones. Also, the body is not meant to be denied so much sleep for so long a time; it cannot properly repair itself, and falls into ruin. The Times mentions needles, and it's especially true that hardcore tweakers are very likely to shoot meth rather than snort it.

Then there is the subject of hygiene. There is a reason why tweakers have bad teeth if they have teeth remaining at all, and it's not all due to the fact that meth has been heretofore mostly used by the poor. Whether meth itself causes the acne and boil problems of its users or merely inculcates an indifference to hygiene which in turn causes said problems probably matters little, the point is that hardcore users have many open sores.

As I read those links and now as I write this post, I'm reminded of something that has stuck in my head for a long time. Years ago, I read an article in Penthouse, I think, about a radical physician who at the time thought that AIDS had as much or more significant correlation to drug use -- and not merely intraveneous drug use -- than it did with any other group at the time: homosexuals, Haitians, hemophiliacs. The article was from the mid-80s, I think. Obviously, much of it is bunk but something has stayed with me about it, and to my layman mind strikes me as important. The doctor specifically pointed to speed, especially "poppers" (amyl nitrate, which happened to be a drug of choice of gays much more than it was of heteros), as being his major concern for the fact that he believed they were so poisonous to regular users that they alone could account for drastic reductions in the users' bodies of white blood cells and AIDS-like symptoms. Now scientists say meth may be similar.

Anyway, the point is that the gay community above all ought to take care to avoid meth. Sullivan's emailers make some good points about their community's social and cultural losses to the meth epidemic, on the grounds that tweaking is an anti-social enterprise except for the sexual aspect, and one sensibly suggests peer-pressure as a possible weapon against meth. The main concern, of course, is health. Meth is a health disaster for any group. But the gay community can least afford a recreational drug that attacks the immune system with such apparent alacrity.

Based On A True Story

I often complain here about the rightwing Cultural Commissars; a trope I employ as a thumb-in-the-eye to those whose fealty to the party line trumps their aesthetic judgement. I stole it from Hitchens who stole it from a Soviet exile. I quite like it.

Others do it rather better than your humble blogger. One of these others is Roy Edroso of Alicublog, whose periodic thrashing of wingnut kulturkrit gives delight to anyone who gives a flying fuck about the arts.

That said, the occasion of the Academy Awards has underlined some distinctions between Roy and me. He, apparently, has a doctinaire laissez-faire attitude toward the arts. I disagree; exceptions must be made for history and biography.

In comments to this post, in which Roy predicted a victory in the Best Picture category to The Aviator, I replied:

I know I'm comitting the signal crime of slagging a movie before seeing it, but if what I've read and heard about The Aviator is true, I'm glad it didnt win.

Biopics should be true to their subject, and HH was always an antisocial weirdo -- and fuck-up -- even before he dropped out completely and began the Vegas phase. He was also a lord of corruption who bribed every politico possible, from [one of] FDR's son[s] to Tricky Dick himself. From what I've heard the movie says nothing about this, and what's more, presents HH as a plucky type going up against Sen Brewster who [in real life] HH couldnt bribe because he was already bought by Juan Trippe.

Or have I been misinformed about the movie?

(Brackets are my corrections.)

To which Roy replied:

Retardo: "Confusing art with politics -- that's romanticism!" -- La Chinoise

But it's not art -- fiction -- that I'm upset about, it's that a history, even a "dramatized" one, must account for some facts. I am greatly tolerant to a selection of facts which constitutes an artist's point of view in telling the story, but some facts, by which I mean events or important characteristics, cannot be honestly excised in a work of art without eliciting legitimate complaints, regardless of the ideology of the artist or the critic.

Roy, I know, but I think biopics are an exception of sorts. I can see taking liberties, but (especially when the subject is so historically and politically significant) when it is slanted so much that it's a complete mischaracterisation, I get a little ruffled.

As an analogue, think of if someone made a biopic about Henry Ford next year and completely excised his antisemitism. I wouldnt want to see anything new about Jefferson that didn't at least account for the Sally Hemmings story. And so on. My feelings on art and politics arent much different -- I dont think -- from your own, but this isnt about that; it isnt about fiction or even having a point of view.

I actually think that The Patriot set the right precedent, in a sense, because it knew better than to call Gibson's character Francis Marion, who was in history an abominable racist even for the time. The Patriot wished to tell a certain sort of story, which is fine, but didn't bastardise history by "officially" sugar-coating Marion (nor, for that matter, "officially" demonising [Banastre] Tarleton, whom the Brit thug in the movie is based on but conspicuously not named as). If Scorsese had wished to invent an aviation hero who fought corruption, fine with me; if he'd wanted him to interact with real people history, that's fine too. Just don't call him HH -- people are taught history poorly enough as it is in this country.

Of course the specifics of this may be rendered moot if commenter ChrisV82 is right:

Retardo, didn't they say the movie was "based on" the life of HH? As in, it was "influenced" by his life, but not actually "about" it, a la Ray.

But then there is still an argument to be had on grounds of principle.

Gore Vidal, our finest historical novelist, has the same misgivings. I'll quote two passages to drive home the point. In the first, Vidal is reviewing The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth:

What is important is that Mr Forsyth and Viking Press want us to believe that the Vatican knowingly saved thousands of SS men after 1945, that six of the ten high-ranking Hamburg police officers in 1964 were former SS men, that President Nasser authorized a clandestine SS organization to provide him with a means to attack Israel with bubonic plague, and that when this plot failed, the Argentine government presumably offered asylum to Captain Roschmann. Caveat emptor.

The boldness of the author and publisher commands...well, awe and alarm. Is it possible now to write a novel in which Franklin Roosevelt secretly finances the German American Bund because he had been made mad by infantile paralysis? Can one write a novel in which Brezhnev is arranging with the American army defectors in Canada to poison Lake Michigan (assuming this is not a redundancy)? Viking would probably say, yes, why not?

He makes the point even more plainly in the "in spite of yourselves"-toned conclusion to an essay in which he roundly thrashes the bureaucratic "Priests of Academe" who attacked his novel on Abraham Lincoln:

Of course, there is a problem with historical fictions or fictionalized histories, and I tend to be on the side, if not of the paid propagandists for our corporate way of life, of those historians whose teeth are set on edge by the fantasies of the talented E. L. Doctorow or the wistful musings of the author of Roots. For a people as poorly educated as Americans (take a bow, teachers), it is a mistake to play any sort of game with agreed-upon facts. Certainly, it is hardly wise, in what looks to be a factual account, to have Harry Houdini chat with Walt Whitman aboard the Titanic, or whatever. Fantasy, as such, should be clearly labeled, even for our few remaining voluntary readers. I trust I am, in this, as reactionary as any turf-protecting bureaucrat of academe.

I set my fictions within history. Imagined characters intersect with historical ones. The history is plainly history. Fiction fiction...

This isn't about art. It isn't even about propaganda. It's about, for lack of a better phrase, false advertising. Scorsese, and anyone else, can obviously make whatever films they wish. But when they take a historical figure and hugely diverge from the facts of his life and personality, a harsh critique is warranted and it has nothing to do with politics or ideology. For instance, the History Channel is sometimes good on this, though in my opinion also often woefully inadequate and, sadly, given in its own way to an ideological purity (but again that is beside the point). But beyond all that, there is the fact that these controversies could be avoided if more artists would employ a few time-honored tricks such as, per Vidal, observing historical figures only through the consciousness of a fictional character, or, more simply, to just change the name of the historical figure when liberties are taken too far, as per the instance of The Patriot. And in lieu of such tricks, how about emphasizing the old caveat, "based on a true story", that has, post-Fargo, dropped out of favor in our blurred fiction-fact culture? When it's so easy to avoid or even minimalize such false advertising, one's suspicions are naturally aroused when those steps aren't taken by the artist; one asks, "Does he mean to say his version is definitive?"

*Edit -- cleaned it up a bit, though probably not enough.

Your Ideology Is In The Toilet

A Fistful Of Euros:

Now in Vienna they have figured out how to make toilets. There is a serioius pool of water down which the toilet is flushed then further back towards the wall a shelf which is very slightly concave so that one or two milimeters of water pool there after each flush. This is too little to splash but plenty to prevent sticking.

I haven’t seen such toilets anywhere else.

I think that squemishness about discussing this very practical issue is preventing the diffusion of this brilliant technology around Europe.

In fact, I would even be in favor of EU toilet standards if I weren’t sure that they would be dictated by larger countries with inferior plumbing.

Mmmhmm. And how did I know that the author was not ..well, full of shit, but also only touching the rim, as it were, of the issue? Because as soon as I saw this the other day, I remembered the hilarious metaphor of Slovenian genius Slavoj Zizek:

In a famous scene from Buñuel's Phantom of Liberty, the roles of eating and excreting are inverted: people sit at toilets around a table, chatting pleasantly, and when they want to eat, sneak away to a small room. So, as a supplement to Lévi-Strauss, one is tempted to propose that shit can also serve as a matière-à-penser: the three basic types of toilet form an excremental correlative-counterpoint to the Lévi-Straussian triangle of cooking (the raw, the cooked and the rotten). In a traditional German toilet, the hole into which shit disappears after we flush is right at the front, so that shit is first laid out for us to sniff and inspect for traces of illness. In the typical French toilet, on the contrary, the hole is at the back, i.e. shit is supposed to disappear as quickly as possible. Finally, the American (Anglo-Saxon) toilet presents a synthesis, a mediation between these opposites: the toilet basin is full of water, so that the shit floats in it, visible, but not to be inspected. No wonder that in the famous discussion of European toilets at the beginning of her half-forgotten Fear of Flying, Erica Jong mockingly claims that 'German toilets are really the key to the horrors of the Third Reich. People who can build toilets like this are capable of anything.' It is clear that none of these versions can be accounted for in purely utilitarian terms: each involves a certain ideological perception of how the subject should relate to excrement.

Hegel was among the first to see in the geographical triad of Germany, France and England an expression of three different existential attitudes: reflective thoroughness (German), revolutionary hastiness (French), utilitarian pragmatism (English). In political terms, this triad can be read as German conservatism, French revolutionary radicalism and English liberalism. In terms of the predominance of one sphere of social life, it is German metaphysics and poetry versus French politics and English economics. The point about toilets is that they enable us not only to discern this triad in the most intimate domain, but also to identify its underlying mechanism in the three different attitudes towards excremental excess: an ambiguous contemplative fascination; a wish to get rid of it as fast as possible; a pragmatic decision to treat it as ordinary and dispose of it in an appropriate way. It is easy for an academic at a round table to claim that we live in a post-ideological universe, but the moment he visits the lavatory after the heated discussion, he is again knee-deep in ideology.

The humble toilet as a "sign" of the dialectic's continued relevance.

Sure enough, in an effort to make me look unoriginal in my observations, a commenter at AFOE has since mentioned Zizek, and refers to a Slovenian blog that, in turn, refers to a video at East Art Map where Zizek expounds on the same "semiotic triangle".

I'm not exactly disappointed that Zizek is repeating himself nearly thirty years on, because the point is a good one. Even then, Recieved Opinion had it that soon the End of Ideology was near (would that it were so!); Zizek was right to say it wouldn't be as simple as all that. He mentions Lyotard; we could just as easily mention Daniel Bell or Francis Fukuyama. As always, Zizek's genius is to make these observations in an earthy or witty way that arrests the attention of readers whose eyes normally and not unreasonably glaze at encountering dialectical analysis. I admit that it is helpful he's not French or German, not because it would necessarily skew his analysis, but because it would render it less-entertaining to English readers. His style of earthly ebullience combined with a cheery willingness to use pop culture in his analyses makes him indispensible; a populariser who reminds me very much of Umberto Eco.

We live in a country where dialectical analysis should be a major industry. Yet when given the opportunity, our native pundits inevitably drop the ball, fumbling such easy opportunities as "red vs. blue" to triumphantly proclaim an observation of a synthesis, a "Purple Pose", that is as fatuous as it is facile.

Yes And No


Yet, exposing a vicious homophobe might have good effects. Discrediting a homophobe as a hypocrite helps to discredit the homophobic ideology. Moreover, unseating this vicious bigot might prevent him from harming gays and fomenting further bigotry. Outing such a person would expose hypocrisy, which is a morally good outcome. It may also be morally relevant to the general public to learn that their leader is being hypocritical about values they hold dear. But it might also be hypocritical of me to violate the person's right to privacy in order to expose him. This is a difficult problem, but these concerns simply don't apply to the Guckert scandal.

It is not homophobic to publicize the fact that Guckert's was an escort, nor is the publicity an invasion of his privacy--these facts are neither private nor irrelevant to the current debacle.


Andrew Sullivan:

I haven't written about it because I agree completely with Glenn. The substantive case against Gannon is trivial; the irrelevant case against him (the one that's fueled this story) is that he's gay, has allegedly been (or still may be) a prostitute, and may not agree with everything the gay left believes (although I agree with David Corn that the evidence that Gannon has written anything even remotely "anti-gay" is laughable). The real scandal is the blatant use of homophobic rhetoric by the self-appointed Savonarolas of homo-left-wingery. It's an Animal Farm moment: the difference between a fanatic on the gay left and a fanatic on the religious right is harder and harder to discern.

Uh, no. Are you fucking kidding me, Sully? I guess you're still upset that someone on the "gay left" re-posted your personal ads. This isn't exactly the same thing, but you should ask yourself whether the Gannon-Guckert saga hits close to home because he's gay, or because he's a reactionary hack who happens to be gay yet serves the forces of homophobia more or less dutifully -- something that goes beyond mere sad irony to the realms of fucking insane contradiction.