Monday, April 25, 2005

More Helpings From The All-I-Can-Link Buffet

Sorry, I know this sort of post must be getting old by now, but I've been busy and will continue to be busy (finals this weekend & Monday; also, I'll have company here soon) for another, oh, two to possibly three weeks.


Howard Dean understands populism, where Terry McAuliffe only understood technocrat elitism and a Kevin Drum-ish sort of Republican-Lite ideology.

Not much they can do about it:

But it is not clear that the Saudis have as much clout over the oil market as they used to. For one thing, the rise in prices has been driven as much as anything by surging demand from the fast-growing economies of China and India, a trend that is likely only to increase. For another, the Saudis are already pumping oil at rates closer to their maximum sustainable capacity than during previous price spikes, leaving them less leeway to increase the supply on the global market.

In 2002 Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company, said it produced 6.8 million barrels of oil per day. The Saudis are now estimated to produce about 9.5 million barrels a day. Three years ago, the spare capacity available to the Saudis to smooth out price spikes was about three million barrels a day, according to Saudi Aramco. Today it is estimated to be down to about 1.2 million barrels a day.

Thanks, neo-lib nutjobs! Three billion people: that's a bloc you just want to all buy cars and become gluttonous American-style consumers. "Yay, personal freedom!", is the typical response, yet over half of those billions don't have shit in the personal freedom department except, of course, for the "freedom" to covet, and sometimes acquire, Western status symbols. And of course the labor markets go in the tank (which sets off private giggles among the neo-libs) while the energy markets skyrocket. "Success" in Tom Friedman's bizarro world.

Anyway, the Saudis don't have much of a brake anymore. We will never again see gas under 2 dollars a gallon.


So, who was he fucking?


An interesting read on the Thai sex industry. After years of having a doctrinaire laissez-faire attitude to prostitution, I'm revising some of my conclusions. Now, I've come to think that in any society which more or less has a Western economic model, prostitution should be discouraged unless that society has embraced the Welfare State to a Northern European degree. In other words, I can more easily accept prostitution as a legitimate choice for its workers in countries that have a sufficient social safety net. As everyone but libertarian nutjobs knows, the decision to do something or starve is not a choice. Nor is it a choice to either do something and live decently (I mean with regard to food, clothing, shelter) or to do something else and live terribly. One of the most obvious evils of libertarianism is in its debasing of the definition of "choice" and, concomitantly, in its calculated ignorance of the facts of economic coercion. A poor Thai girl fresh out of the rice paddies isn't "choosing" to prostitute herself (even though intra-culturally, in the emic sense, it's not seen as the debasement that Western society considers it to be) anymore than is a poor single mother in the Bronx. Beware the creeps that tell you those "choices" are no different than deciding to drink Coke over Pepsi.

In a better society, prostitution provides a needful service and outlet. But one must insure that the women who provide that service aren't doing it to keep their family from starving, or aren't doing it because they have been denied access (in infrastructure or in $$$) to education which would provide them with genuine alternatives.

It would be nice if the Thai denied sex to those Western fucktards who use them as semen receptacles because, basically, it's cheaper to fuck Thai girls than to pay for a better society at home which would provide the same service.


Ersatz cultural populism from a self-loathing yuppie fucktard.

See also here, where Armando (the Kevin Drum of Kos: where the allegedly liberal Drum lauds the likes of Max Boot, softy Armando thinks Tacitus is honorable) even tears into all-around nitwit John Tierney, who is himself probably.. shall we say, zaftig, as well as a libertarian, and who is now echoing the talking points of NAAFA, an organisation which is built on some decent ideals but is reduced to absurdity by the presence of humorless 500 pounders claiming that they are physically healthy.


Good to hear even though it will give that blathering fatfuck Jonah Goldberg more material to reference if not steal for his dread, ill-written syndicated crapfest.



And just like the vice president, the new pope is a Jurassic archconservative who disdains the "if it feels good do it" culture and the revolutionary trends toward diversity and cultural openness since the 60's.

The two leaders are a match - absolutists who view the world in stark terms of good and evil, eager to prolong a patriarchal society that prohibits gay marriage and slices up pro-choice U.S. Democratic candidates.

The two, from rural, conservative parts of their countries, want to turn back the clock and exorcise New Age silliness. Mr. Cheney wants to dismantle the New Deal and go back to 1937. Pope Benedict XVI wants to dismantle Vatican II and go back to 1397. As a scholar, his specialty was "patristics," the study of the key thinkers in the first eight centuries of the church.

They are both old hands at operating in secrecy and using the levers of power for ideological advantage. They want to enlist Catholics in the conservative cause, turning confession boxes into ballot boxes with the threat that a vote for a liberal Democrat could lead to eternal damnation.

I don't usually care much for Dowd's work, but this was pretty funny and, I think, fairly close to the truth. It may be too early to tell about the new Pope but, yes, by what information is available, he, like Cheney, is a counter-revolutionary, an atavist who wants to roll back progress.


Crypto-fascist. Though a better word which is also synonymous would be Nixonian -- more specific, more visceral considering our milieu, and oh so fucking appropriate considering the details.


It's probably his youth, or he's just forgetful. Yglesias should consider that the religious right has been ecumenical before when it suited their purposes. Contra-Hollywood, in their unending war on culture, the God Party has had no problem overcoming sectarian rifts when their quarry was so "other" (Jews being the exception here: Steve Gilliard is right to some degree that Christian assaults on Hollywood have an anti-semitic origin, though Gilliard overstates the case). But look no further than the case of Salman Rushdie to see how all religious leaders, not just in America but world-wide, did a remarkable job of ecumenical CYA for the Ayatollah's fatwah. Not that they all hate novelists, but that they found common agreement in mutual intolerance of "blasphemy". You can't divide and conquer a coalition of theocrats -- at least, not when they are so energised and adamant. While it's true that many of them hate their "brethren", that hatred pales in comparison to what they feel for secular society.


Probably frivolous, but good on him anyway. I'm very "Jim Morrison" about this; artists selling their songs to corporations should have televisions thrown at them. Mutual promotions like, I dunno, say, U2's ipod commercial I can tolerate, but when someone sells their songs as an exclusive third-party endorsement, well, fuck them. Do they, the whores, consider people who write jingles to be artists? Fuck no; they sneer that such people are merely technicians, and they have a point. But when, say, The Stones sell a song to Microsoft, that's what they've become: jingle-writers.


Like I said, Nixonian. But then even Richard Nixon (admittedly drug-addled at the time) went down to the Lincoln Memorial to argue with the protestors. Bush on the other hand can't even entertain the thought of including the impure at his Nuremburg rallies. Conclusion: Bush is just as nasty and dishonest and concentratedly evil as Nixon was, but is less feisty and, amazingly, even less courageous.


The Revenge of Colin Powell. I don't doubt that Powell must feel poorly about being pushed out, not just from his job but from the adulation of the Republican establishment, so with this in mind I'm more likely to attribute his politicking here to personal grievance. But I also don't doubt that everything he's said about Bolton is true. If I remember right, Mai Lai only earned two short paragraphs in Powell's biography; it's not enough to say that he's not a shit-stirrer, the man is as cold as they come and is likely as any hack to cover up the depravity of his comrades. But I also think of when, not long after Powell became Secretary of State, he admitted that the United States had behaved atrociously in Chile in the 1970s, which is a fucking fact that declassified documents prove and is therefore an unwelcome subject to adminstrations like Bush's which sees so much to admire and to emulate in our past depravity. Powell was told (by Cheney?) to STFU about Chile. Classic rightwing shit: never admit when you've done evil. So anyway, what was I saying? Oh, that Colin Powell isn't that great by any means, but he's still very distinct from Bush's current crew, and that distinction creates a friction that we and the world may finally benefit from.

Greetings From Mexistan. This is so spot-on. Perfect. Exactly right.

Democracy may be all well and good, but Lopez Obrador is just not Bush's kind of guy. As mayor of Mexico City, he's increased public pensions to the elderly and spent heavily on public works and the accompanying job creation. He's criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement as a boon for the corporate sector and a bust for Mexican workers. (As economist Jeff Faux has documented, while productivity in Mexican manufacturing rose 54 percent in the eight years after NAFTA's enactment, real wages actually declined.) He's opposed to Fox's plan to privatize Mexico's state-owned oil and gas industry -- a stance that probably doesn't endear him to the Texas oilmen currently employed as president and vice president of the United States.

Worse yet, Lopez Obrador's populist politics and smarts have made him the most popular political leader in Mexico today. The much touted "free-market" economics of President Fox have done nothing to improve the lives of ordinary Mexicans. Lopez Obrador's victory in next year's election would mark a decisive repudiation of that neo-liberal model. Coming after the elections of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

in Brazil, Nestor Kirchner in Argentina and Hugo Chavez (repeatedly) in Venezuela, it would be one more indication, a huge one, that Latin America has rejected an economics of corporate autonomy, public austerity and no worker rights.

So, democracy in Ukraine? We'll be there. Lebanon? Count on us. Kyrgyzstan? With bells on. Mexico? Where's that? Maybe they should move to Central Asia, change their name to Mexistan and promise to privatize the oil. That's the kind of democracy the Bush guys really like.

I've said it a billion times and once more won't hurt: that any Bushie could claim to be a crusader for democracy is laughable. The hypocrisy is quintessential among the rightwing, but larded into Meyerson's argument is something important, something new for a MSM piece and that is the obvious collusion between Bush's foriegn policy and that of "liberal" free-traders (a.k.a. neo-liberals). This is an important connection to make, because it explains, at least partially, why so many alleged liberals were hawks before the shit hit the fan (as anyone not a fool knew it would) in Iraq. What they, and Bush, want to do is not forcibly export democracy so much as forcibly export their economic ideology. That they want to do this without the legitimate consent of the "importer" makes it evil enough on its own; that they want to do it so surrepticiously is icing on the cake. Remember how we heard that under the "interim" laws of Iraq, what the United States was most insistent upon was privatisation "reforms" and the adoption of such WTA crapola as intellectual property agreements? Recent foreign policy escapades have had nothing to do with a love of democracy or with the well-being of suffering peoples, but everything to do with acquiring resources and globalism. To the extent that Bush's foreign policy is highminded is nil; to the extent that Bush's foreign policy is about principles is only that it exists to further the principle of "free" access to certain natural resources and the principle of forcibly opening new markets to western products. That's why Bill Kristol was full of shit when he said:

KRISTOL: No, I mean not in my case. I'm much more interested in liberty and democracy than I am in
capitalism. Yeah, I was once a social democrat sort of and I? no, look, social democracy is fine, it's about
freedom and democracy. It's not about capitalism.

Too bad that programme is no longer online. I saw it when it was, and believe me when I say that Kristol knew he was serving the interests of evil when he spoke the above lines: his embarrassment was palpable.

If Bush foreign policy wasn't just about a particularly dogmatic and crude sort of capitalism, Bush & Co. wouldn't be trying to thwart democracy in Latin America. It's that simple. When they say freedom and democracy, understand that they mean something else. They're fucking liars serving the interests of corporate thieves.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Fuck you, Perry Farrell, for selling your band's greatest song to those Republican buttpuppets. But then maybe you're being "ironic" by selling it. "Cash in".


The R. Crumb museum. According to a guy on this discussion board, Crumb recently told a story about

the first time he took acid. He dropped 600 micrograms of sandoz that he got from his psychiatrist in 1965 and he puked on his wife's face. She felt warm gooey vomit spread and drip down her body and she thought she was being born. He seemed genuinely happy telling that story.

Ahh, it didn't all die with Hunter Thompson, y'all.


Negativity is healthy! Witness the all the vapid fucks who are perpetually positive; they're bullshit ought to be enough to make you consider alternatives. Yes, be a contrarian. I really like what Kunstler has to say, and how he says it. His arguments against "techno-hubris" are excellent because so common-sensical; an alternative to the ultra-radical John Zerzan, and one doesn't imagine Kunstler eating handfulls of soil as he writes. And anyone who would write

Tierney invokes the ideas of two libertarian crazies currently functioning as chief shills for the status quo: Randall O'Toole and Peter Huber. O'Toole, of the one-man Thoreau Institute, has been inveighing against railroads and the New Urbanism in recent years. He regards motoring as the ultimate libertarian right and public good and any attempt to modify America's extreme car dependency as an "elitist" plot.

Huber, author of the remarkably snotty and idiotic book Hard Green, argues that virtually all modern ecological activism and policy have been not just a waste of time but have produced only negative results. Huber writes: "We discern no ineluctable tie at all between nature's decline and humanity's."

That the New York Times would pimp for the positions of these two assholes demonstrates our culture's desperate determination to resist change that circumstances will impose on us whether we like it or not. After all, Tierney, O'Toole, and Huber's notions about the wonderfulness of our entropic lifestyle are based on the assumption that it can continue.

is instantly on my good side. Everyone is so scared to smack these short-sighted hedonist fucktard libertarians around, afraid to look like a party-pooper or back-to-nature hippie or bunkered millenialist. Fuck that. One can be an urban (and urbane) person and still point out what blind fools these ideologues are. They're the real squares in the sense that they are the reactionaries, seeking only to conserve neither life nor resources but their shitty religion of consumerism.

These fucks have nearly forgotten that the entire Green Revolution in agriculture is entirely due to petrochemicals. It couldn't last forever; we're still progressing but the returns become ever more diminshed and that's aside the coming fact of Peak Oil. Nevermind, they say, technology will find a way. And it may. But they also presume that the transition will be seamless. Sorry, it can't. And the longer they keep their idiocy up, the more painful the changeover will be. The charm of pollyannas is that their naivete is so total and so pure. Not so with these creeps; their greed and audacity make them throughly charmless.

I also recommend Kunstler's Architectural Blunders series.


The Asexual phenomenon. A really interesting read. Thanks to poly for the link. And it's not without its funny moments:

This sexually inactive group could include people from happily celibate nuns to those who are too sick, poor or unattractive to form a relationship, and who do not want to pay for sex or have a casual fling. Others may fear intimacy or have been put off sex by repressive parental attitudes.

They could be Virgin Ben. Ya think? Wasn't it Updike in more sexist days who gave A's to all his male students on the grounds that a college man's main occupation is getting (or trying to get, if you're Jonah Goldberg) laid? Of course, women have no different sex drive than men; Updike was biased, as everyone now knows. Anyway, I imagine that for some, male or female, it must be a relief to quit trying, and not just because they may be as homely as Goldberg or as fucked-in-the-head as Virgin Ben. More seriously, many writers have noted that there is a certain sweetness when they reach the age that they are no longer slave to the hormone. I can see that.

Look, I can see an etic explanation here which would argue that as homosexuals and asexuals become more accepted by Western society, it is entirely due not to some macro moral transformation (and we know better than that, anyway, don't we? Thanks, ya fuckin monotheists), but to practical concerns: child-rearing is expensive in the western world, and as resources become more scarce, that trend will continue. Of course child-rearing can be and is done on a huge level, but single or no child families are more common than they were, and the simple fact is that to function in Western society, most women must sacrifice many of their primo child-bearing years to college and career if they desire the lifestyle the culture values highest.

Also, I'd say it was inevitable that we'd find out about asexual people as a bloc because the right has already been reacting to them. Though homosexuality still gets cultural reactionaries steamed, it's become more mainstream. Now those "soft" reactionaries who may tolerate other people having warm caring gay relationships are going after those people who are straight, but won't breed, dammit, because we're losing demographically to the heathens!


I took all the old personal posts down because, mostly, they are embarassing. I didn't have as clear an idea of what I was going to do with this blog at the time, and now that I do, out they go. Unethical? Whatever.


Poland sets date for Iraq pull-out. One less "willing" member of the "coalition". Actually, it never was willing so much as a junior partner giving a quid and hoping for a quo; it hoped in mostly in vain, it turns out. And now that elections are coming soon, the government hopes to cut the ballast. The war was never that popular in Poland and became dramatically less-so after the Pope condemned it. Link via River City Mud.


Hahah. The fun in this is determing which is worst. Any decent person would wish both of them from the face of the earth, but what if you could only pick one?


Norbizness has fun with batshit David Horowitz's database. Man, I really want to make that list one day. And I deserve it! Since Horowitz obviously doesn't know what the word "network" means, he needs my special help. Crazy Davey, I promise to make you that much less of a liar if you add me to the list. How? By holding seances with the likes Rachel Carson. Come on, David. You need me!


Juan Cole tells us what we already know: that The New Republic is a terrible magazine. It doesn't hurt to repeat it, though. His links, especially to Alterman and to Michelle Goldberg, are good reads.


I can imagine the look on serial Wal-Mart apologist digamma's face when he sees his "heroic" company joining forces with (another) monolithic evil, Rick Santorum. I viewed this as inevitable. Evil attracts evil, after all. It took, like, a million monoliths to destroy Jupiter; why shouldn't Santorum and Wal-Mart likewise join forces to destroy America? One thing's for sure, I'll never think of Ol' Roy the same way.

*Edit: fixed some errors, mostly grammatical.


He's still good for laughs. Take this post in response to Rush Limbaugh's blowjob rant:

It would be easy to say that Rush has been injecting Hillbilly Heroin into his scrotum again, but that would be so unfair and, besides, who really wants to check him for track marks. Anyone? Anyone? (Sit down Guckert). So what really brought this on? One could make the case that this is a response to the stories that George W. Bush has been seeking advice from Bill Clinton lately ...

Then there is the Ben Shapiro defense that states that "although you've heard of one, you've never actually seen or experienced one". (I should note that this defense is often employed by men when confronted with the concept of the "clitoris", or as it is referred to at Liberty University's Med School: "anatomy's unicorn"). But it's hard to believe that Rush, and The Virgin Ben, could be so unfamiliar with the blow job when there is so much data available on the Internets. No. Really.

It's the parenthetical sentence that's the real slayer. Damn, man.

See also Wolcott's take.


Later, TBOGG fills out that chain-letter-esque book questionaire that's been passed around so much in the 'sphere. One of his deserted island picks is this collection of Pauline Kael's essays, which I also own and enjoy. Here's a quote from her essay on Dirty Harry that is short but perfect when you bear in mind that Kael thought the movie was "fascist":

Dirty Harry is a kind of hardhat The Fountainhead; Callahan, a free individual, afraid of no one and bowing to no man, is pitted against a hippie maniac...

I liked Dirty Harry as superfical fun, but I can also agree with Kael's analysis: if you take the film's message seriously, it's disgustingly Randroid -- which is to say, fascist.

(And no, that does not make me a cultural commissar. I can't think of a movie that genuinely pissed me off politically except Black Hawk Down, which was a jingoistic hunk of shit. As a rule, I don't make political judgements about movies unless they are historically or biographically based because, well, fiction as film is by nature usually far too ambiguous to ascertain the genuine "meaning" intended. Film is a collective artwork and as such is unlike literature, which is the product of a single consciousness; hence, a given film is subject to far greater, and diverse, interpretation than is a given work of literature. Put still another way, it's really fucking hard to be wrong about a film's meaning, no matter what you conclude about it. The pleasure in reading Kael is not in her finding any "truth" in her explanations of cinema, but in seeing how she saw the movies and reacted to them; how they got her gears turning. She had a fine mind.)


I've spent a long time now arguing against the cheating assholes (and the statheads who love them) who've ruined baseball.

This week I'm going to try to sell a bunch of books I dont want on ebay, one of which is Ozzie Smith's memoir, written in pre-steroids 1988, which nevertheless takes to task the cheaters of his day, implicitly that New York Mets fucktard Howard Johnson:

Corked bats and scuffed balls were hot topics during the season. A lot more home runs were hit, and people looked for reasons. I think it's a safe bet to say a lot of home runs were hit with corked bats. when a guy who has never hit more than 10 home runs in the major leagues suddenly hits 40, you've got to question how much is the result of working out and how much of that is due to other causes. In my opinion, when totals like that go into the books, there ought to be an asterisk next to them and the word cheating in parentheses.

Amen, Ozzie. And with regard to the present crop of (steroids) cheaters, I think most regular fans agree with Ozzie's incredulity of stat-spikes and with his recommendation of harsh punitive action. On the other hand, many if not most statheads can't spit Barry Bonds's cock from their mouths long enough to remember that baseball, as a game, is founded on the principle of fair play. But then it's hard to remember, much less advocate, fair play when the status quo narcocracy gives you players with a 1.300 or so OPS -- numbers that inspire so many spreadsheets to stick together like Ben Shapiro's family's Sears catalogs.

Bad History

The Chinese are unhappy after learning that Japan has Americanised one of its history texts:

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of the Chinese city of Shanghai in the latest in a series of anti-Japanese demonstrations.

Protesters carrying Chinese flags surrounded the Japanese consulate throwing stones and other missiles.

They are angry at Japan's approval of school textbooks which they say play down Japanese wartime atrocities.

The protests were condemned as "extremely regrettable" by the Japanese foreign minister, who is due to visit.

Nobutaka Machimura said he would "strongly protest" against the anti-Japanese protests when he arrives in Beijing on Sunday, in a visit aimed at defusing the tensions.


Japan's decision to approve eight school textbooks - which critics say gloss over the country's actions before and during World War II - triggered the current protests.

Among the issues causing outrage is the description of the Japanese army's massacre in Nanjing, referred to in the study books as "an incident".

Some 50,000 to 300,000 Chinese people were killed between December 1937 and March 1938 in one of the worst massacres in modern times.

An incident. Yeah, well, American textbooks used to be like that, especially the "Pageant of History" sorts, until histories like those of Howard Zinn corrected the propaganda and explained, more than "incidentalise," what American did to the Natives, slaves, the Filipinos, Latin Americans, the Indochinese, etc. (Though some wingnut "histories" still provide a template for the world's propagandists -- look no further than the works of Paul "Spanker" Johnson.)

But this is not to say that there isn't something else causing the Chinese angst:

The protests were also directed at Tokyo's bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat.

On Wednesday, Japan further angered China by issuing drilling rights for oil and gas in a disputed area of the East China Sea.

Right. Though neo-liberal nutballs who love sending our jobs to China don't like to admit it, China is still a totalitarian society. Sure, you can own some property now (which is the only right that matters to free-traders), but otherwise China has not changed a bit since 1989. There is not true freedom to protest in China; there is only the "freedom" to protest what the Chinese government wants protested. The only reason these events are happening is because the Chinese government wants to scare Japan for reasons that have nothing to do with history and everything to do with resource wars and geopolitical strategy. Pay no attention to official Chinese "we can't control our people's indignation!" rhetoric; it's a sham.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Via Matthew Yglesias, who manages to say some pretty silly things in his post, I found a survey that would matter more to me had my fate been slightly different:

Who Should You Vote For?

Who should I vote for?

Your expected outcome:


Your actual outcome:

Labour -43
Conservative -18
Liberal Democrat 51
UK Independence Party 14
Green 32

You should vote: Liberal Democrat

The LibDems take a strong stand against tax cuts and a strong one in favour of public services: they would make long-term residential care for the elderly free across the UK, and scrap university tuition fees. They are in favour of a ban on smoking in public places, but would relax laws on cannabis. They propose to change vehicle taxation to be based on usage rather than ownership.

Take the test at Who Should You Vote For

That's exactly what I thought I'd be (though I clicked the wrong box when it asked me to guess; I clicked conservative, obviously a mistake), a Liberal Democrat. But I didn't think I'd be so extremely anti-Labour, and I thought my support for the Greens would be higher.

Friday, April 08, 2005

History: World

Center for History & New Media

East Timor Action Network

Energy Information Adm.

First World War


HWP's World History Archives

Historical Atlas of the 20th Century

Historical Text Archive

History Cooperative

The History Guide

History On The Net

Iran: Virtual Library

Iraq & Our Energy Future

Military History @


Nuclear Age History

Parallel History Project

Perseus Digital Library

Pinochet's Chile

Radical History Review

Red Book of Peoples of Russia

Remember Chile

RRojas Databank

Roman Empire



Trenches on the Web

World Civilizations

World Systems Network

Tuesday, April 05, 2005


I haven't been blogging regularly, obviously, but that doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention. What this means for you, then, my two regular readers, is that now that I'm back, I have a lot of links to share.

Therefore, you're going to be treated to yet another "link dump"-style entry. As with most grab bag "bargains", in "buying" this entry you're probably getting ripped-off, but then that's not exactly a new phenomenon when it comes to my blog, eh suckers readers?


Seb and friends, while sharing with us some good news, present their latest discovery: The Wingnut Twins. While this Red State Zan & Jayna might have all the cornball wholesomeness (and latent homosexuality) of the purplely originals, they lack the saving grace and comedic stylings of a blue monkey sidekick like Gleek. Shit, y'all. This is like B.J. without the Bear, Clint without Clyde (or without Sondra Locke, for that matter), Dick Cheney without Dubya.

Aside my good wishes (and promises to pay child support) to Seb and his readers in reponse to his announcement of a bun in the oven, I have a request. Seb always liked this post, and the idea behind it. Or he took pity on my efforts with it (same thing!). Anyway, since Haloscan ate all the excellent replies that really made for a well-rounded collection of "Cases For Something Awful", I hereby invite Seb and his helpers to, if they like, take up where I left off and fucked-up, and renew the call to his resourceful readers and to store the collection on Sadly, No!


An ecological remnant. Isn't this cool? Just in and of itself, not for the stated reasons in the article for why it is now being studied. Now if only it could be filled-in, paved, and a nice new Wal-Mart placed on top of it, wingnutism could be possibly served in two ways: one in further homogenising the world (always wholesale good, of course), and secondly in impeding, to an admittedly slight extent, the search for alien life, the discovery of which would surely plant a seed of doubt in the average fundamentalist's blind faith.


I hope to have his passion, sense of justice, and sense of duty when I'm 39, much less 79. I wish I could write as well as he does at any age -- though the sooner the better -- but that's just a pipe dream. His essays and historical fictions (with emphasis on the historical part) are prose masterpieces.

Here's a recent interview. It's also nice to see that he's still, at that age, writing lit crit.

Wolcott wrote a nice essay on The Maestro. And here are videos of the famous 1968 DNC debates between Vidal and Buckley (whose witless threat shows just what lay behind the thin veneer of his "effortless superiority" schtick). A perfectly useless commentary on the debate can be found here, while a much better if biased one can be found here.


Krugman on the recent rightwing assault on Academe. The whole thing's good, but here's something that is so true that it's been nearly forbidden to say:

But studies that find registered Republicans in the minority at elite universities show that Republicans are almost as rare in hard sciences like physics and in engineering departments as in softer fields. Why?

One answer is self-selection - the same sort of self-selection that leads Republicans to outnumber Democrats four to one in the military. The sort of person who prefers an academic career to the private sector is likely to be somewhat more liberal than average, even in engineering.

Put that in your bong and smoke it, Horowitz.


Wal-Mart, which many people are beginning to realise is a monolithic evil, is forced to react by trying to charm the press. Of course, the press is mostly made-up of like-minded fools, so they needn't really bother, but then since they consider the Department of Labor as one arm of the corporation, why shouldn't they think the press is yet another?

Elsewhere, Wal-Mart's CEO is a perfect word-weasel. Europe has so far had the good sense to resist Wal-Mart, even though it is at least partially accidental. American taxpayers have donated, through corrupt proxies in Congress, $37 million dollars so that Wal-Mart executives' Porsches won't be forced to endure the gridlock that the peon employees' Ford Escorts enjoy while commuting to and from work. I know a bazillion roads, especially in Arkansas, that needed these funds more, and better deserved it. One of Atrios's guest bloggers told us over the holidays what we should do about Wal-Mart, and he's right, but he didn't mention that this sort of leverage can only be applied by the middle class. The working class has little choice in whom they patronise.


I can't wait for this. I'm certain the WM3 were set-up. Anyone who followed the case and was not a bigot could tell that these goofy kids were Gitchell's patsies, perfect saps upon whom the local paranoids and fundamentalist nutjobs could heap all-too-convenient blame and scorn. The "Doctor" with the mail-order degree who was allowed to testify to Echols's and Baldwin's "occult activities" to a jury of typical Arkansas True Believers was an especially nice detail to the entire railroad job.

At first glance, the casting looks good. Most of these actors are unknown to me, but Michael Madsen as the slimy-ambitious Gitchell is great, and Donal Logue as the creepy John Mark Byers is inspired.

I just wish they'd re-issue the original "Revelations" HBO documentary on dvd.

The "official" WM3 site is here.


More to come tonight and tomorrow.

Orgy Of Obituary

I dont have a lot to say with regard to the recent passing of the Pope. He seemed like a very decent man.

However, I will link to a few of the bazillion obituaries, tributes, and overviews flooding the net that say things of interest.

Roy of alicublog makes a good case that JPII wasn't much of a political friend to third world peasantry. I fear that Roy may be right, though I hope he's not.

Christopher Hitchens, whose once noble -- because somewhat compartmentalised -- hatred of religion has now become massively ignoble and has so mutated his soul that he is as ruthlessly anti-religion as the average jihaddi is pro-religion, offers little in his summation of JPII.

There is an interesting and worthy aside:

Actually, the Kennedy brothers were part of a Catholic cabal which imposed another Catholic cabal on the luckless people of South Vietnam. It's impossible to read the history of that calamity without noticing the filiation between the detested Diem dynasty in Saigon and the Kennedys, Cardinal Spellman, and various Catholic Cold-War propagandists from Luce to Buckley. However, there's no proof that the Vatican ordered this, and the Kennedys did repent by having Diem murdered, so perhaps we can let that one slide.

And then, because he is now not only a "single-issue voter" but a single-issue thinker, the inevitable Iraq War-related cheap shot:

(He behaved much better on that occasion than he did when welcoming Tariq Aziz, one of Saddam Hussein's most blood-spattered henchmen, to an audience at the Vatican and then for a private visit to Assisi.)

How many other countries, including Hitchens's sacred (and oh so recently guiltless) cows, at one time or another had diplomatic relations with Saddam Hussein's Iraq? Or perhaps Hitchens would have preferred that the Vatican had sent its ambassador straight into the lion's den, and not to just chit chat, but to make a sweet deal.

Timothy Garton Ash, on the other hand, is far more generous, more pleasingly anecdotal, and even stylistically superior to degraded Hitch. His piece is also at odds with Roy's, though thanks to Roy, I'm also more suspicious of Ash's claims. Still, I'd like to believe this:

John Paul II was a consistent spokesman for the half of humankind who live on less than $2 a day. This is also the part of the world where most Catholics are now to be found. He preached, tirelessly, every person's right to a minimum of human dignity. "I speak," he said, "in the name of those who have no voice." It was not just in communist-ruled eastern Europe that he spoke up for freedom. Opening an old file of newspaper cuttings, the first one I find is headlined "Pope takes issue with Stroessner on freedom". It records him reading the Paraguayan military dictator a fierce lesson about the importance of human rights and of free speech.

The familiar claim that he was "socially conservative" is a gross oversimplification. He consistently admonished third world dictators and western capitalists about the need for social justice. In a small Polish-speaking group I once heard him say, very plainly, that he deplored unbridled capitalism as much as communism. He was also utterly consistent in his advocacy of peace, from criticising the impending Falklands war when he came to Britain in 1982 to opposing the Iraq war in 2003. In Japan, he cried: "Never again Hiroshima! Never again Auschwitz!"

Now that's some moral clarity that recent-vintage Hitchens or his neocon friends (or their sainted President) could never grasp.

Ash is, like me, an agnostic, but it's nice how his view dovetails with that of liberal Catholic Cristina Odone:

And yet the very same liberal consensus had to abandon its easy pigeon-holing when the Pope pronounced on Third World Debt, capital punishment, or the 'scandalous' arms trade. On these issues his views were progressive, and his calls to action a challenge to the liberal conscience.

How could we in the West justify our profit from the poor in the developing world? How could we lead a life of such selfish materialism? How could we participate in an unjust war? Did we not recognise the evils of unfettered capitalism?

Wishful thinking? Maybe. Who knows what the Pope really believed, but the extant evidence is contradictory and, like the Bible itself, there seems to be in his writings and rhetoric anything that the reader or listener wants to find. Such is normal when one saw so much and lived as long as did JPII.

(Also from The Guardian, this editorial on the papal succession and probable future stances of the Church is worth reading. Of course the church is by nature autocratic -- that indeed is the nature of religion itself -- but there comes a point where materialist limits absolutely must force if not some democratisation, then a compromise. With AIDS, pedophilia, and a world of declining resources the Church must eventually compromise on issues of safe sex, priests' marital status, and birth control. This is not a "should" proposition, it's an inevitablity and ultimately an issue of self-preservation for the Church. The sooner the Church sees that, the better for not only the laity and the teeming masses of the world, but the institution itself.)

Finally, the most balanced, to my eyes, analysis of JPII's record is from Max Sawicky. Do read it, and be rewarded with Max's bonus of showing what a thorough asswipe Glenn Reynolds is in the conclusion to the entry. Nice work.

** Added: I forgot to note this exchange between Chris Matthews and Pat Buchannon. I can't find a transcript, but watch the vid and, if you can, ignore the discussion on JPII's cultural battles and instead appreciate that these two pundits, one conservative the other a flaming reactionary, agree that the Pope was decisively against economic libertarianism, and, what's more, they both agree that the Pope's position was the correct one. If this is true, and JPII saw the evil in the social darwinism of economic libertarianism, there's a lot in the Pope for liberals to admire in him (and in some of his socially-conservative followers). I won't say that it makes up for JPII's socially-reactionary stances, but it does mean that at least he was, in this regard, not just truly Christian but also truly humanitarian.