Thursday, July 31, 2008

With An Ol' Banjo On His Knee

Gomer Owens shows off his fancy book-learnin' and in the process just totally proves no rightwinger could ever kill a fellow countryman in cold blood over political differences:

Time for a history lesson.

As a matter of unquestioaned fact, the majority of political assassinations in America have come from the left.

John Wilkes Booth was a cross between Robert Byrd and Alec Baldwin, Charles J. Guiteau was a John Edwards-type lawyer who was told by the great beyond (perhaps channelling?) to murder President Garfield, Leon F. Czolgosz, who shot William McKinley was a leftwing anarchist. Guiseppe Zangara who tried to kill FDR was a whacked-out anti-capitalist, and we all know Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist sympathizer.

Wannabe white Black Panther Sam Byck got himself killed trying to take out Nixon, and a year later, loonie lefty cultist Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme tried to take out President Ford, who was the target of lefty counterculture loser Sarah Jane Moore just 17 days later.

Andrew Mickel, an Indymedia contributor, carried out the latest purely poltical assassination I'm aware of on American soil. Not surprisingly, this guy was a graduate of far left Evergreen State College. He has been convicted of murder, and has been sentenced to death.

The evidence is pretty convincing that if there is a political assassination attempt in America, that either the left or the mentally ill are behind it.

Internationally? Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Castro, Che...

Shall I go on? Whether you prefer to discuss purely domestic political violence, or look at the international scene, the far left has a bloody, wide and deep track record of political killings. [...]

Posted by: Confederate Yankee at July 29, 2008 05:16 PM

Sorry, Bob, but you're bluffing. I'll see your three sets of false teeth and raise you a quart of moonshine:

Actually, Booth was a cross between the 'Confederate' part of 'Confederate Yankee', and Ron Silver. Well, except that Booth was a famous actor before he was a murderer, while Silver has always been a Hollywood c-lister, and has only murdered on screen.

Guiteau, before he became a murderer, was the 19th century equivalent of a bitter, sexually-frustrated and semi-literate wingnut blogger, a former wannabe-hippie (he had tried to join the Oneida Commune) who resented being rejected by the sexy ladies. He shot Garfield because, he said, God told him to. He was infatuated with the murder weapon, wanting the pistol with the fanciest grips. In this sense he was like the average, no doubt impotent, NRA superenthusiast, enthralled by shiny and deadly penis substitutes.. he was rather like... well, like one of those slack-jawed doofuses who work behind gun counters. You know the type. After he pulled the trigger and was seized, Guiteau declared that he was a Stalwart and [Chester A.] Arthur was President. A Stalwart was sort of like an anti-RINO of the day, someone who feared and loathed any internal reform of his party's corrupt practices.

Czolgosz indeed had leftist beliefs, but his methods were rightwing. He was rejected by every anarchist organization to which he'd tried to attach himself; in fact, his methods were so extreme most anarchists assumed he was a government mole.

Zangara I don't know enough about to answer. Advantage, Cletus.

The Manson Family wanted to start a race war -- not exactly a left-wing enterprise.

Mickel's a fair point. But you get Tim McVeigh and Eric Rudolph. You also get all the Muslim terrorists who are the reactionary, rightwing fanatics of their cultural context. And speaking of "internationally," you get Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Salazar, Suharto, Somoza, The Shah, Pinochet, Col. Armas, Admiral Kolchak, Marcos, Stroessner, the Greek Colonels, Batista, the Apartheid South Africans, Peron, Galtieri, Ian Smith, Mobotu, Nixon, Kissinger, etc., etc., ad nauseum. So there's that. Then there's this, from one of Gomer's loyal commenters:

I'm going to lay this out nice and ugly for you on the Left.

First of all, I myself don't plan on copying this guy. I've got a life to live, and I don't intend to end it in police gunfire (or my own), or to spend the rest of my life behind bars. So no, I'm not a "future shooter."

Furthermore, it's possible that the people shot didn't deserve it. They were probably just typical lame but relatively harmless liberals.

This does not apply to you on the far Left, however. You are swine, and although I don't actually intend to kill you personally, I would not shed a tear if someone else did. [...]

Let's lay this out nice and ugly. Somewhere out there is someone who hates you just as much as I do, except that he has terminal cancer. He can kill you, and there's nothing you can do about it. If you try to enact gun control, we will wipe the electoral floor with you, as we always do when gun control is the issue. Read the polls sometime. About twice as many love the NRA as hate it, and that's according to the left-leaning Pew poll. 75% (!) think guns are an individual right. So if you even touch this issue, down you go.

So basically what you're left with is hoping that we don't get cancer and turn you into hamburger. HA HA HA HA HA.
Posted by: Ken at July 30, 2008 12:41 AM

Possum on a gumbush, Bob! You done got yerself a real card there!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Centrifugal Forces

I can't think of a time when I wasn't interested in this topic. Most people -- wrongly, I think -- consider highly consolidated and homogenous societies and cultures superior to fragmented ones. Cuz after all, that's what great empires are; power comes from centralization. Or, as per Brooks Adams's dictum: "all civilization is centralization; all centralization is economy."

But just as biological sameness invites disaster from pathogens or environmental changes, so too does social, political and cultural homogeny (or intense consolidation). Michael Crichton has Ian Malcolm say, in one of the Jurassic Park novels, words to the effect that the invention of the internet means the end of human evolution. Why? Because biological and cultural diversity was maintained, and technological and cultural innovation furthered, through semi-isolated bands.

But semi-isolated bands do not enslave the massive amounts of people or flex the economic muscle which together are needed to build great monuments or organize massive campaigns. So they're devalued by history.


The following is part of an essay on Cahokian identity by Robert L. Hall and included in the book Cahokia and the Hinterlands: Middle Mississippian Cultures of the Midwest (pp 26):

I attribute the decline of Cahokia, in sum, to the operation of what I call the Shmoo Effect, a frontier effect bringing about the devolution or breaking down of social organization in the face of abundance and diminished need for interdependence... The Shmoo Effect operates in reverse of the principle of circumscription that Robert L. Carneiro (1970) offers in explanation of the origin of the state. An example of a frontier effect selected from the literature of anthropology would be that provided by Elman R. Service for the Maori of New Zealand:

The Maori originally came from the central region of Polynesia where chiefdoms were highly developed, but when they colonized the huge, open environment of New Zealand, they subdivided and scattered. In so doing they reverted to a less centralized and less organized form of society, eventually coming to resemble tribal society more than their original chiefdom form...

[T]he Polynesians who settled New Zealand found a wide-open environment to expand into, so that frontier-like pioneering was possible and a leader of low heredity position could nevertheless by charismatic force gain a following and raise his status by achievement in carving out a new domain. Thus the Maori of New Zealand have been described as more "democratic" than most of the other Polynesian chiefdoms (1962:147, 161).

A frontier, of course, can be opened by migration and discovery, sometimes assisted by force of arms, or by technological innovation that creates a new resource area or improves an old one. If this frontier model is correct, it makes the process of Mississippian decline in the Cahokia area essentially isomorphic with the process of Hopewellian decline in Illinois a thousand years earlier, as that decline has been interpreted by several investigators...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What the Lord Gibbon, the Lord Taketh Away

Funny that, traditionally, wingnuts have attacked liberals for allegedly doing the things that "made the Roman Empire fall," implying that the cultural influence of lefty sexual libertines will make the American Empire fall in the same fashion. But which side is really like the Roman "degenerates" of yore? From Sexualia, an awesome overview of the history of human sexuality, come these quotes:

Pps 220-221:
At the end of the Republic in the first century B.C. and under the emperors from Augustus... onwards, a burgeoning literature contains much discussion of licentiousness and shows an increasing preoccupation with forms of sexuality outside the monogamous heterosexual model. Even before this, the expansion of Roman dominion had led to an increasing cultural influence from Greece (which Rome had conquered) as well as from Egypt and Persia. All these exotic "oriental" regions were portrayed as centers of decadence and vice, in contrast to the supposed purity and austerity of traditional Roman values. In particular, pederasty was presented as a Greek custom and passive male homosexual behavior as a Greek vice.

Roman law in all periods shows a great concern with adultery. The moralist Cato congratulated a young man whom he saw coming out of a brothel because it kept him away from other men's wives (although seeing him again a few days later, he added "But I only advised you to visit the brothel, not to live there!"). Various punishments were prescribed at various times for women and their male lovers, including the homosexual rape of the latter by the aggrieved husband or his slaves, or the thrusting of a mullet up their anus...

The preoccupation with adultery was built on the ancient Roman perception of a link between marital breakdown and political decay. Especially condemned were sexual relations between high-status women and low-status men such as slaves, since this threatened the entire social structure and called the position of elite men into question. Despite the examples of victims like Lucretia, our (almost entirely male) sources see uncontrolled female sexuality as a metaphor for political and social breakdown, especially among the upper classes of senators and knights. Men making speeches regularly linked political opponents with notoriously immoral women. These were not merely courtesans, but often their opponents' own wives and sisters. Such rhetoric played on the deeply-rooted sense of the threat posed by female immorality to the stability of the state, in order to imply that their opponents were less than men because they were unable to control their women....

The Republic broke down after a generation of civil war and the victor, Augustus, gave himself the newly-invented title of imperator (commander). As part of a wider drive to assert his control over every aspect of Roman life, he intiated a large-scale program of political and moral reform. Declaring that religion and public morals were both in decline, he restored temples and commissioned authors like Livy to write down early morality tales, such as the rape of Lucretia, for the edification of modern readers. He tightened state control over domestic morality, portraying himself as a "universal father," so that the whole state effectively became his household.

Adultery became closely assimilated to treason against the state, with similar vocabulary and legal procedures. It was thus clearly a dangerous accusation which could be used effectively to ruin opponents. Various laws passed under Augustus prescribed that a father should kill his daughter as well as her lover if he discovered her committing adultery and required a husband who knew of his wife's adultery to divorce her within three days or himself be accused of complicity in the act. Women convicted of adultery could be forced to wear the clothing of a meretrix (prostitute). Informers could be rewarded and slaves could be tortured to force them to give evidence, a procedure which was normally reserved for crimes of utmost seriousness.

Other factors also lay behind Ausgustus's laws. The marriage and birth rates among the upper class of senators had been falling for some time, and Augustus enacted a system of penalties for those who remained unmarried and of rewards for those who produced children...

Now to go back to the Greeks (pps 190-193):

[Homer's epic poems] portray a world of heroic kings and warriors in which sexuality is focused on male-female relations, often with considerable tenderness. [But b]y the 6th and 5th centuries... literary evidence as well as the iconography of painted pottery suggests a tighter, harsher tone in male-female relations, with elaborate and socially institutionalized forms of male homosexuality. This largely corresponds to an expansive militarism among competing city-states. In the Hellenistic period from the 4th century onwards, as the city-states became absorbed into the empires, first of Alexander the Great and then of Rome, life became more bourgeois and the emphasis shifted again to heterosexual relations, including those of the married couple. Whereas much 5th-century art is blatantly sexist, portraying women as sex objects, a great deal of Hellenistic and Roman art suggests more mutual... enjoyment between men and women. It was probably also aimed at a female audience.

The Romans dated the founding of their city by Romulus to 753 B.C. As they expanded they came into increasing contact with the Greek world, which they absorbed into their growing empire in the second century B.C. The Roman attitude to Greece was always ambivalent, and an alternative legend has it that Rome was founded by Aeneas, a refugee from Troy and thus an enemy of the Greeks. Having conquered Greece by military means, the Romans found themselves nevertheless conquered by Greece in a cultural sense. From the second century B.C. onwards Greek ideas, philosophy, literary forms and gods steadily gained in status among the educated classes. This provoked repeated purist backlashes in favor of wholesome Italian customs against what were seen as decadent and licentious Greek practices.

Both Greek and Roman society were sharply differentiated by gender, class and legal status. Freeborn citizens were distinguished from slaves and foreigners, rich from poor, and male from female, and very different sexual behavior was expected from each of these. Indeed, one's sexual behavior was part of what defined one's social status, and there were often severe punishments for behaving inappropriately. Though there was a steady concern with male and female procreative powers, the main categories of sexual behavior throughout Greek and Roman history were not so much male and female as active and passive, penetrator and penetrated. The dichotomy of penetrator and penetrated was linked to a sharply divided evaluation of power. Penetration through any orifice, whether vagina, anus or mouth, made the penetrator masterful and in control and the penetrated person weak or subservient. A male who allowed himself to be penetrated was supposed to be of a lower class than the penetrator. If he was from an upper class then it was considered that he was defiling himself. This feeling was at its most intense in the context of oral sex. Many poems and graffiti testify to this, and furthermore Latin vocabulary even distinguished the humiliating fellatio, the sucking of someone's penis, from the aggressive irrumatio, the thrusting of one's penis into another person's mouth. Male thieves and trespassers were sometimes punished by being raped anally or orally, and the widespread use of phallic boundary stones and gateposts as aggressive markers or territory embodied the implicit threat of this. In Athens, male adulterers could have a horseradish thrust up their rectum, perhaps symbolizing the penis of the outraged husband.

Implicit misogyny is inherent in these values. Since, owing to their anatomical structure, women can only be penetrated but never the penetrator, they are explicitly or implicitly given a subservient status. At the same time however, women were often seen as inherently lustful and their desires as dangerous for men. Evidence from this period tends to reveal strong male anxieties about controlling women's sexuality and ensuring their fidelity, while at the same time not being bound by such restrictions themselves.

Since the object of a penetrating male could equally well be a woman or another man, the categories of heterosexual and homosexual were not so clearly distinguished as they are in the modern world and the bisexual tone of much ancient literature does not seem to have been felt as anomalous. There are many similarities in the ways in which boys and women are described and desired by men. But there are some important differences, including, in Greek culture at least, the repeated assertion that boys are generally more desirable than women and that the desirable stage of their lives is much more fleeting. The 8th-century poet Hesiod advised that taking a partner was desirable if only to provide for old age, but that even the rare man who found a sensible wife would experience more evil than good. He also said that it was better to buy a woman than to marry her, because then it was easier to make her follow the plough.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Soul of Man Under a Recession

What condition the poor's condition is in? Such that they are being forced to steal from the ultimate victims, the dead:

Local and national outbreak of grave robbing
By Nicholas J.C. Pistor

Grave robbing has become an above-ground affair.

Gone are the days when enterprising thieves would dig up an old grave and pillage for gold teeth and rings. Today, it's mostly the bronze markers and flower vases that draw their attention.

Rising scrap metal prices, coupled with the lagging economy, have triggered a string of cemetery thefts both locally and across the nation.

"I can't think of anything lower," said David Evans, general manager for Valhalla Gardens of Memory in Belleville. "Nothing's worse than stealing from the dead."

But grave robbers beware: The authorities are getting wise. States are passing laws and police are cracking down.

In March, the Madison County Sheriff's Department arrested three people for stealing 40 vases from two Metro East cemeteries. The owner of a Granite City scrap recycling center turned them in.

Late last year, a trio of thieves hit the Valhalla Memorial Park cemetery in East Alton. They stole 17 bronze vases from graves in the cemetery. A month later, they went back and stole a dozen more.

The two men and a woman were arrested after a tipster reported a suspicious vehicle. Charges are pending.

The scrap value of a bronze vase is about $10, according to cemetery operators; the replacement price often tops $300.

Grave robbery was more common in the 19th century, when thieves dug up the dead in a search for gold. Sometimes they snatched the bodies for medical experiments.

In 1876, three men broke into Abraham Lincoln's burial site in Springfield, Ill., in an attempt to steal the body and hold it for ransom. The men were caught in progress.

Through the decades, such nefarious acts became uncommon.

But now, grave robbery is quietly sweeping the nation. Again.

Three men were arrested earlier this month on charges of stealing more than 1,000 brass vases and headstones from nine Chicago-area cemeteries. Also this month, about 150 bronze vases were reportedly stolen from a West Virginia cemetery. In addition, a man was arrested on charges of stealing 55 vases from grave sites in the Fort Myers, Fla. area.

In the last few weeks, robberies have been reported at cemeteries in Arizona, Maryland, Michigan and North Carolina.

Stronger laws and new technology are helping catch the thieves.

A Missouri law passed last month is aimed at helping police track thieves who steal brass and bronze and sell it to scrap metal dealers. The state stiffened the fines for dealers who don't keep proper paperwork and requires them to get a copy of a photo ID for those who aren't regular customers.

Illinois enacted a similar law earlier this year.

Ed Wilkerson, the police chief in Millstadt, said his department has begun paying for an Internet-based system,, that tracks the sale of scrap metal online and in pawnshops.

He said the Mount Evergreen Cemetery in Millstadt was robbed of bronze vases last year. No arrests have been made.

Evans, the Belleville cemetery manager, said his facility has stepped up security.

"They come and take a few at time, and then wait awhile before coming back," said Evans.

Evans said there has been no theft at his cemetery since one of the Madison County arrests.

Apparently, there is a way relatives can keep their deceased loved ones from becoming targets of thieves.

"Most of the stolen vases we've had come from vases that didn't have any flowers," Evans said.

Bonus recession news, and something wingnuts will no doubt cite to prove that the system works: businesses that cater to the economically stressed and fiscally shafted are thriving:

"[Save-A-Lot] ha[s] a message that's right on point, given today's economic environment," said Jim Hertel, a managing partner at Barrington, Ill.-based Willard Bishop, a consulting firm serving the retail and food-service industries.

These basic grocers keep costs down by utilizing smaller stores with lower employee costs and limiting inventory to products that customers most often purchase. Despite the sometimes Spartan selection, cost-conscious consumers are flocking to the stores.