Saturday, January 29, 2011


This brilliant post by driftglass connects a lot of important things that don't usually get connected.  I don't have much to add.  I particularly like the comparison of the flawed thinking involved in the Challenger disaster to that regarding global warming "denialism."  It might also be noted that the truly flawed decision-making that led to the Challenger launch is pretty much vanished from press discussions of the anniversary.  Yet it would seem to me that actually reminding ourselves that bad decision-making has gigantic consequences, the reminder being that vapor trail explosion in the sky, would be the best commemoration of those brave lives lost that day.  When Mr. Bush decided to start pulling the war levers after 9/11, my first thought was, "Didn't he learn anything from Vietnam?"  Of course that question has buried within it other questions, such as, "Why are we spending such a gigantic fortune on a military machine that can, in the end, only be so effective?"  Such a question gores too many oxes I guess.  Meanwhile, the world continues to out pace and out flank our notions of control--today Egypt is "doing" what Egypt wants to do.  Like everyone, I hope peace will return to that ancient and beautiful country. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Next Iran

the assassination of Anwar Sadat

Hey look, I'm no foreign policy expert, and although I do have a cousin who had a State Department career, I only hear from him now and then at Christmas, and we haven't talked about anything political since the time he mentioned, off hand, that in the halls of the Department, everyone said Bush was going into Iraq precisely because "he tried to shoot my dad," which was what Bush actually said in an off hand moment.  So, I certainly don't know anything much about Egypt.  I do know that bin Laden's "right hand man" is Egyptian, and was radicalized by Mubarek's brutal treatment of him and his family.  I read that in the New Yorker way back when.  So I expect it's probably more or less a factual thing.

But it does kinda look like Egypt might be the next Iran, doesn't it?  Precisely because we have not been looking critically at Egypt since Nassar was dismissed.  This was kinda the deal with Iran.  The Shah was a friendly, western-talking man who was happy to work with the United States in different ways, particularly with regard to his location on the Soviet Union's southern flank, and with regard to his location viz other regional powers, and with regard to his stash of oil.  We didn't really think much at State about the internal situation in Iran.  At least I don't think we did.  And so one day we were utterly shocked when the place blew up and took our Embassy hostage and tossed out the Shah, and we ended up with what we have now, namely a black box where we don't really know what Iran is up to, but we're pretty darn afraid it ain't good. 

Egypt right now feels pretty much like five minutes before the Embassy was captured.  At least from this old nail keg I like to rest my butt on, down at the Texaco.  Just sayin'. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What He Said

Driftglass linked to this remarkable essay today, and I'll just pass it on as well.  This gentleman knows what he's talking about.  Thank you, sir.  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Keef O

Jack Paar

 It feels pretty strange to have made that offhand comment at the end of my last entry, and then to see it come to pass last night.  I was actually watching "The Woman in the Window," Fritz Lang's noir femme fatale opus with Edward G. Robinson.  Libby came in and said Keith Olbermann just signed off his show.  We were both pretty stunned for the rest of the evening, and I never saw the end of "Window."  My first thought was that it didn't take even a week.  But it may be that Comcast is too early to be a factor at all.  Certainly there have been other similar moments where effective, engaging television personalities have abruptly left the stage.  Dave Chappelle, for example, shocked his audience by basically disappearing.  Back in the day, Jack Paar shocked his devoted viewers at least twice with resignations.  (He was the guy who did the Tonight Show before Johnny, kids.)  Paar was a lot like Olbermann, come to think of it.  Politics was just as brutal then, but Paar was willing to talk politics, and more than that, willing to be open-minded and run his show at a level that would be interesting to people able to read good novels.  His guests included a reformed heroin addict/comedian who had written a book called "May This House Be Safe from Tigers," and who argued on the air that the problem with heroin wasn't the addictive nature of the drug, but the fact that it was, in it's illegality, a source of much crime and destruction.  There was jazz.  There was (I'm guessing, but I'll bet I'm right) Norman Mailer.  And this was back when the politics was submerged--Eisenhower was President when he started, and JFK when he left--'57 to '62.  Hedy times.  

The first thing I did when Libby told me Olbermann was dark was to click over to Fox.  Sure enough, Hannity was still there.  It wasn't some kinder gentler space beam focused on the industrial/media complex by our Martian overlords.  Olbermann's departure will sorely damage the pundit lineup of shows at MSNBC.  While Maddow has many nights done wonderful work, her interviews with Pelosi and Steele have been little different from interviews Brian Williams or even Chris Wallace might have accomplished.  (Wallace would of course have been more grating.)  Pushing Ed Schultz to 10 pm is unfortunate, and he made reference last night to being unwilling to change his tone, which might be a hint of things to come.  Cenk, who now appears in Ed's former slot, I personally find boring.  O'Donnell is sometimes excellent--his argument with the gun fetishist this past week was worthwhile if little more than a shouting match--but he's what is called a "Villager."  Same with Matthews--it depends on the segment.  Olbermann was dependable: and one of the most important things he did was to offer resistance to the constant pressure applied by the right wing pundits towards the end of the Big Lie--a pressure which is effective as we can see, and which is so powerful that it's gotten to the point that a Democratic Tennessee congressman can't even point out that Goebbels perfected the science of it without being called down and forced to apologize for bringing the Nazis into the conversation.

Once when I had a tooth pulled the anesthetic seemed to have a depressive effect on me for a few days.  Suddenly my whole life seemed dark, a series of failures and pointless efforts towards nothing.  I constantly felt like weeping.  And, after about 48 hours, this emotional cloud simply lifted and vanished, and things looked pretty much as the do, day in day out.  Which was how I determined that perhaps it was the effects of the anesthetic, added to the small fact that losing a tooth is in some ways a sad moment, because after all, we are familiar in the most intimate way with our teeth, and do not really think of them as having shorter life-spans than, well, "us."  Anyways--my immediate sense after the Olbermann departure what that this is the tip of the iceburg of corporate dominance of our political life here in America.  Certainly it is in a large if vague sense corporate power that funds the Big Lie of Right Wing punditry.  Certainly the FCC in this merger has ruled on the side of contentless "business," versus considering that the Right Wing "noise machine" might need to be countered by a voice like Olbermann's.  As far as the teevee business goes, probably a large majority of viewers would be delighted with sports, "womens shows," late night soft porn, and a weather forecast now and then.  Break in for the thrice a year serious disaster coverage--the tsunami, the hurricane, the outrageous rather than commonplace multiple murder--that's all most viewers really want, and what most viewers will accept.  I have relatives who keep the telly on during all waking hours, tuned to Fox, sound off, the constant scroll of horrors at the bottom of the screen a backdrop to whatever conversation or task is occurring in the somewhat overheated kitchen-living room smelling faintly of cabbage where they live their lives of quiet desperation.  I presume these nice folks to be pretty typical Americans. The Supreme Court has already ruled that corporations are citizens, and can give unlimited funds to political campaigns.  The idea that money is power is possibly a tautological truth.  Already many interesting ideas are utterly marginalized politically, no matter that they may now and then be considered in the museum of the college graduate seminar.  James Galbraith's notion that we should lower the age of social security eligibility so that older workers can retire and open jobs for younger folks is so intelligent it is never even seriously mentioned by politicians--and certainly not by Republicans.  Not to mention that over the Reagan decades, social security has been made so pitiful that actually living on it in retirement is now pretty much impossible.  We can, however, afford two wars and plans for more wars, and a tax cut for the richest amongst us.

It should be understood, at least, that there really are two worlds in the US of 2011.  In the world of those top two percent, everything which in an ordinary person's is a subject of budgeting planning, of endless payments on time, of choosing this essential or that, all of this stuff is, practically speaking, FREE.  Oh, it's possible for a millionaire to actually blow it.  Now and then it happens.  Mike Tyson pretty much blew his fortune through endless stupid decisions.  So did Joe Lewis.  One can always put the whole kielbasa on red 23.  But the fact remains.  Life at the top, given some common sense, is life free of financial worry.  Need a car?  Get one.  Need a place at the beach?  Ditto.  Health care?  The worry is that some sort of governmental "interference" might somehow rock your boat, that including the entire population in some kind of health care insurance plan simply because they are citizens will cause some kind of inconvenience which at present isn't on the radar.

Money is power.  Mr. Olbermann is, quite suddenly, silent.  It's hard not to draw conclusions.  It's the same kind of conclusion drawn with regard to the general over-heated gun-rhetoric and the happenstance of a Tucson Massacre.  It's in the water.  Yet it's also true that on a chilly day in January, two days after I turned 68 and celebrated with a big bowl of fat shrimp and a cold beer and my arm around a wonderful wife of 27 years who loves me, plays music with me, and generally makes my world full of light and happiness--I have to say that we just don't yet know what the year will bring.  I lived through the most interesting '60s, and the most interesting '70s as well.  The one thing we all should keep in mind, as a constant, is that whatever progress gets made, there are now vast numbers of people who will be of a mind to turn the clock back.  It is no longer a viable option to just come out and vote in one big election and then go back to sleep.  We have the choices we have: Democrats and Republicans.  Same as it ever was.  One major underlying emotional factor in the political emergence of the Tea Party is the fact that there's a black man in the White House--same as it ever was.  It may be that corporate power is simply not going to brook any real change in the American status quo, and that in the lame duck tax compromise which Mr. Obama accepted with reference to "hostages," he was referring to himself as much as anyone else.  The year, nonetheless, remains young.  Winter has its beauty.  There are no ticks.

Update.  A commenter asks me to pick the most "interesting" event of the '60s-'70s era, as though eras were lists of events.  He omits the two, let's call them "thangs", I'd pick--Watergate, and the Warren Commission's in plain sight coverup of the JFK assassination.  I have no books listed in my profile, but I'd recommend Peter Dale Scott's "Deep Politics," Seymour Hersh's "Dark Side of Camelot," the magnificent work on Vietnam "A Bright and Shining Lie," and anything by Noam Chomsky, including his work on the deep structure of language. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Taking the Long View

Jack Palance in "Shane"

Here's a piece of reporting you probably didn't see on your teevee yesterday:

It's one of those facts that I do realize makes my attempt, in the last post, to actually reason with people committed to whatever it is the Right is committed to, naive, laughable even.  The truth is, the Right is happy to accept the collateral damage, if it should occur.  But the Right is also unwilling to admit that straight out, except when expounding to its own committed audience.  The conversation between Hannity and Palin last night was instructive.  They both understand that Palin happens to be holding the "smoking gun" of that "crosshairs poster," not to mention Giffords own objections to it, in advance, months before the massacre.   And since that's not really a problem beyond being a problem of publicity, what can they do but hem and haw till the hour is blessedly over.  Amongst their true believers, there is no problem.  Jesse Kelly ran a campaign against Giffords which suggested that "2nd Amendment Solutions" were needed.  He posed with assault weapons.  He suggested that Ms. Giffords was a thief of public monies.  Since the shooter was "crazy," there can be no question of any of the rhetoric actually having any consequences.  The Limbaugh poster has been removed as it was tasteless under the circumstances.  Perhaps Limbaugh has even stopped pillorying the Sheriff.  These things have a shelf life. An actual victim of the shooting has already been arrested for losing it in a public forum and shouting what could be construed as threats at the man who actually has said that Giffords bears responsibility for the massacre for not having private security in place at her meeting with the public. 

And anyways, if you wanna know who this guy Martin Luther King, Jr., really was.  Why just google him. 

Goddard made a good movie once called "Contempt."  It starred Jack Palance and Bridget Bardot, and had a role for Fritz Lang, playing a director.  It'd make a good double feature with Blake Edwards' "SOB," which I watched over the weekend.

Update.  The FCC has approved the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal.   Of course Olbermann and Maddow have the right to have blogs just like this one--we have freedom of speech in America. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Imagining What Might Happen

photo by katie pangburn

Here's what we used to call a "thought experiment," meaning in this case simply thinking about consequences before they happen.  A very simple example to start:  You're driving along and well ahead you see a stop sign.  You imagine a choice--brake for the sign, or run the sign.  You imagine the possible consequences of each choice.  You then choose accordingly.

Ok.  We're up to speed, yes?  Now.  Imagine a situation rather similar to last week's Tucson Massacre.  That is, a number of innocent people, including children, are killed and wounded by an armed assailant.  And, let's suppose in this imaginary case that the assailant is proved to have acted because of inflammatory statements made by pundits and politicians.  How proved?  Well, let's just stipulate that.  It's proved.  We know, in this imaginary case.  Now, let's ask these culpable pundits and politicians a question: would you say the same inflammatory things if you knew this result was going to ensue?  This is a fork in the road, rather like the choice to brake or not.  And the content of this imaginary case isn't necessarily "right" or "left." 

I can imagine one justification for what must be described in this imaginary circumstance as reckless behavior, even as we all must admit that by definition "reckess behavior" has built into it the cautionary "do not do this" warning.  One could argue that some other things, such as, for example, the fate of the whole country, made risking the collateral damage of this imaginary act worth the risk.  For example, we do actually make this calculation in war.  And, for example, when the United States has killed various al Qaeda leaders with lethal force, there have been cases where entirely innocent women and children have also been killed.

This is almost the only case I can think of where one might justify reckless behavior in the face of an outcome as negative as that which occurred in Tucson.  Specifically, would anyone really argue that because they simply had the "right" to be inflammatory, that this justified being inflammatory given such an outcome.  And if someone did, would any one actually accept such an argument?  The situation isn't really about "rights," but about prudence and commonsense.  And how is "but they do it too" in any way a justification?  "He just ran the stop sign, officer, so I followed him right into the path of the school bus."  Really? 

So then.  Let's look at the argument that the shooter in Tucson was "crazy," and therefore immune to influence.  Suppose we went into his room, at his parents house, and found a poster with the Palin cross-hairs on his wall.  Would that be evidence, given that he's "crazy?"  Would anything be evidence, given that he's "crazy."  And since nearbout every gunman in these distressing cases is almost by definition "crazy," are we then to simply preclude the possibility that inflammatory rhetoric can conceivably affect behavior?

This conclusion seems hardly likely.  After all, the point of the inflammatory rhetoric is to influence behavior.  For example, would any sort of negative public reaction to the Obama Health Care Reform Act have been at all likely without the inflammatory rhetoric.  So if the point of the rhetoric is to influence behavior, are we to assume that "crazy" individuals are a kind of insulated, special case?  No matter what's going on around them, these people (whomever they may be) take no notice, are entirely involved in their own private fantasies?

I think the question not being asked, with regard to the Tucson shootings, is--was the inflammatory rhetoric justified by the circumstances to the extent that collateral damage was simply a price that might have to be paid.  And when Mrs. Palin has her conversation with Mr. Hannity tomorrow night, I hope she will address this important question.  Namely, was she and is she willing to risk the wounding and/or murdering of entirely innocent bystanders, including children, by using inflammatory rhetoric in support of her political cause?  And that answer would give any reasonable citizen some information about Mrs. Palin and her qualifications for responsible public office.  Does she or anyone really imagine that our current President, duely elected,  is a danger to the United States equivalent to the danger posed by the al Qaeda members that we kill with missiles and drone attack planes--even if collateral damage is an actuality.  And if the answer is surely a resounding, "NO," why are these people, pundits and politicians alike, risking what they are risking?  How glib do you get to be?  How many stop signs do you get to run?

I have serious doubts that Mr. Hannity will ask any such questions, of course.  But they're there, to be asked, and they're pretty easy to perceive.  Who is going to assert that only rational sensible people are going to be affected by reckless, inflammatory rhetoric, and only to do rational, sensible things, like vote or go out to a public rally.  The problem for the Right generally--Hannity as much as Palin, Gingrich as much as Limbaugh--is not that no one can prove that a crazy person was influenced by what they've said.  

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ice is Melting... Some

I guess it's time to see if the road is more or less clear.  Two days ago there were over 2,000 traffic mishaps in North Carolina.  Mine wasn't really a mishap either.  I've just been reading the continuing conversation over whether the general "tone" of right wing political discourse is relevant to the events of last Saturday.  I'd recommend Driftglass's rebuttal of David Brooks' predictable view that, no, right wing rhetoric is NOT relevant.  Roy Edroso also has an excellent post up, with many excellent comments.  But the following is worth a thought:

Palmetto Armory has apparently taken the page down because of all the publicity.  Or possibly because there's a legal problem with a Congressional Seal they used. Or because the item has sold out. Or whatever.  Fact is, they put this page up.  And the question is, I suppose, would some shooter somewhere sometime be connected to right wing rhetorical excess if he didn't use one of those "clips" (haha Mr. Gun Nut, I used that word just to be annoying). Or if he did, for that matter.  What does it take, anyway?  We're not talking about the law here, but about language and common sense.  And here's a simpler question for you.  Would you go to a political event--even a little "meet your congressperson in the parking lot" kind of deal, if you believed it likely that people would be there carrying machine pistols and assault weapons, in a "display" of their "Second Amendment Rights."  Fact is, I'd guess quite a few sensible people would rather not be anywhere near people "displaying" their supposed "Second Amendment Rights."

This has a name.  The name is intimidation.  This is how democracy is bent to the will of people who use effective intimidation tactics.  And Mr. David Brooks can get his nightly shot on the News Hour, that bastion of rationality, and complain that Loughner likely never heard of Sarah Palin's "reload" metaphor, because he was too much "in his own world."   Fact is, some of this blood might have splattered out there on the right wing ranters, and they know it.  It's not about some legal argument to be made in some trial of Loughner or anyone else.  It's about a decades long history of mischaracterization and intimidation and "culture war."  Mr. Limbaugh took offense at Clinton's speech after the Oklahoma City bombing.  McVeigh too was, in some sense, a "lone nut."  So, for that matter, are the 19 people who flew the planes into the buildings. (And the attempt to tar a billion-member world religion with those 19 is ok with Hannity, Beck, Palin, et al.--so what exactly is their problem anyway?)

Only on a blog can you end a piece with a parenthetical rhetorical question--ain't America wonderful!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Good Country Folks

Gloucester, NC, Mardi Gras, 2010

I went out yesterday, about 7:30 or so, intending to drive the eight miles in to work.  About two-thirds of the way there I encountered a road entirely glazed with ice, and noticed a number of folks slipping and sliding, and then parking their vehicles in fields and on shoulders as quickly as they could.  Out here where I live it had not been this way, and I was driving South--which of course was in the direction in which the weather was coming.  My little 2Xdrive, light truck started sliding around at about the moment I noticed the parkers.  Several times I nearly went into the ditch, but fortunately I avoided that and maintained a bit of progress towards town.  There was no on-coming traffic.  After a few hundred yards I came to a driveway with some decent parking places and got myself into one of them.  Almost instantly the owner of the place drove up, on the way to town, and said it was fine for me to leave the truck there.  I called Libby, told her what was happening, called work, embarked on the walk home.  I was decently dressed for the weather, although my very comfortable standing on concrete shoes are not nice and warm like the work boots I wear to cut wood and generally be outside in.  My great Kyle Busch toboggan which was a Christmas present was sitting at home in the kitchen, but I did have a hat.

It wasn't long till I got offered a ride, by a woman in a big blue 4X Dodge truck.  The road was so slick that I was unable to walk across it to the truck, so I told her thanks, but just worry about your own situation.  She drove down the road apiece, parked in a church parking lot that was kinda flat, and I eventually reached her, where I got in.  She was going precisely my direction, and getting to miss a 6 mile walk was pretty nice in my book.  As we rode along she told me she was going to see her parents in Burlington (about 20 miles or so to the north at that point), and had taken this particular road because it was scenic, not realizing it was iced.  Her parents, she said, were both stroke victims and needed assistance in the on-coming winter storm, which had already dropped some 5 inches of snow and ice on Georgia.  We chatted about parent care and such, and it turned out that her parents were both a good bit younger than me.

I don't usually pick up people she told me, but in this weather....  Anyways, she said, I have a gun.  I smiled and told her my name, and how Libby and I had been stuck in a snow-induced traffic jam just south of Roanoke on US 220, a few years back.  Ever been on 220 I asked her.  Nope.  She went around a stationwagon that was totally stalled on an uphill.  That situation had caused the big jam we had been stuck in.  My rescue-er said both her parents smoked.  I asked if she did and she said yes.  You ought to quit I said.  I know she said.  Maybe when the stress of dealing with my parents is less.  Yeah I said, I know.  (I quit back in '84; it was not easy.)  We got to where my road T's into the road we were on.  I said let me out here, I can walk the rest--you don't need to go out of your way.  I told her my name and shook her hand.  Then I got out and started walking.  Another person came along and gave me a ride the rest of the two remaining miles.  Good country folks, every one.  I didn't even have my fiddle in hand, as a credential. 

Later, in the evening, we watched Ed Schultz interview a young guy who'd been one of the people to tackle the shooter in Tucson.  He revealed to Ed that he'd been armed.  I always carry a gun he said.  I saw what was going on, had the safety off.  I would have killed the guy if I'd of needed to.  What had happened was, he saw a man with a gun, ran and grabbed him.  Then someone said, no, not that guy, this one.  So he went and grabbed the real shooter and helped hold him down.  He said there was blood everywhere, screaming, crying.  The worst thing I ever saw he said.  He was glad he carried a gun.  I thought that it was also good he hadn't shot the wrong person--that first guy he saw, with a gun.  Still, the guy did good, no doubt about it.

I was also glad my rescue-er had been armed.  Otherwise, she would not have rescued me.  And I was glad she wasn't crazy, and glad she didn't shoot me.  Glad that things had pretty much been for me what I'd expected, aside from that moment when my truck went sideways and it turned out there was ice on the road.  And I was glad I didn't wreck the truck, for that matter.  And that nobody stole the wheels till I could go get it later, when the ice had melted.

It was over all a pretty good day yesterday, for me.  Made me think of the Robert Hunter lyrics:

"See here how everything, lead us to this day
And it's the same as it ever was:
Sun comin' up and then, the sun it goin' down
Shine through my window, and my friends they come around...."

This year's Gloucester Mardi Gras is February 19.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Right "Response" to the Giffords Massacre

A Klan Wedding, Washington State, 1923

You don't need citations to know that right wing response to the Giffords Massacre is primarily a matter of deflection and/or refocusing the question.  For example, some have tried to focus the issue on the character of the gunman, arguing that he was a "liberal" because his unhinged rantings included Marx.  "I doubt he listened to Glenn Beck," someone said, "because he quoted Marx."  (Of course Beck quotes Marx from time to time--just sayin'.)  The other response is to express concern over "free speech."  This tack has a history in the defense of the Tea Party--every racist sign was either "free speech" or "an outlier, maybe a liberal even... but what can we do?"

As you know from reading this blog, I've come to the conclusion that actually having a conversaton with committed Right Wingers on any topic is pointless, because I'm convinced that the Right is now completely committed to "winning" by any means, at any cost.  Thus, in this tragic case, they aren't really defending free speech.  They're just defending their weapons cache.  Hate is a powerful weapon in the Right Wing arsenal--without it it's likely that much of the fervor it generates amongst the millions of voters who have very little in depth understanding of what's going on--on any subject--would dissipate.  But there's also a kind of structural issue in this particular example.  The only solution to a world with irresponsible, unfettered hate speech is probably a governmental one--some kind of "Fairness Doctrine," backed by legal sanctions, for example.  Tikkun wonders this morning why a Democratic Congress didn't generate a Committee on Hate Speech while they had the chance.

The fact is, the complete cynicism concerning government which is a foundation block in the Right Wing philosophy (drown it in the bathtub, to use the short hand) makes solutions to situations like our current Hate Speech Fest impossible.  This is of course convenient for the Right--they want the leverage Hate Talk brings.  But if we were to assume for the moment the counterfactual idea that the Right is actually appalled at the Massacre and shares with us the hope that there might be some solution, let it be noted that the Right has already closed the door to a solution, and insured the continuing circularity of what passes for conversation.  Indeed, Arizona may point the way to America's future.  As the sheriff of Pima County, where the Massacre occurred, said last night on C-Span--"Arizona is the Tombstone of the United States."  Forces are now in control of Arizona government such that all citizens of that state may, if they wish, carry concealed weapons anywhere, any time, and can obtain said weapons without background checks.  The fantasy of the Old West has apparently returned to Arizona.  The fetish of the Gun has been instituted in law. (And Tea Party right-wingers in Pima County are already calling for the Sheriff's resignation--apparently he's run afoul of the thought police which must accompany any rigorous institution of Doctrine such as has occurred decades back on the Right.) 

Howard Hughes once made a very strange movie called "The Outlaw," which, for its obvious subtext, should be required viewing this week.  He got into trouble with the movie because it's female lead, Jane Russell, showed a bit of cleavage.  Miss Russell (a wonderfully real, down-to-earth individual who, if she wrote an autobiography, you should definitely read it) was not the real point of the movie.  The real point was Mr. Hughes subconscious, and the symbolism of the gun.  It's all there, even if rather humorously portrayed.  In Arizona today, apparently "The Outlaw" has been realized.  Except, of course, in this version children lie bleeding and dead on the dusty floor, and a sparkling, earnest Congresswoman who would be a star in any District's crown now lies in a hospital in critical condition, able to respond to simple commands.  I hope she fully recovers.  I am saddened by the likely life she now faces.  I am shocked that an obviously crazy person could buy himself a machine pistol in Tucson, a city I've played music in and love.  Indeed, I'm saddened that Tucson's citizens now bear the burden of being the place where the Giffords Massacre occurred.

There is no good reason for this tragedy.  That fact should not be used as a justification for doing nothing, for continuing with hate as usual.  I'm afraid that's exactly what will happen.  It's just what we do.  Next week there's the Martin Luther King Holiday.  No doubt some right wing wag will argue that because there's a Martin Luther King Holiday, there can't be racism.  Maybe it'll be Mr. McCain who makes that argument, on the floor of the Senate.  Wouldn't be at all surprised, would you?  McCain's career of hypocrisy and 180 about faces would make even thoughtful constituents crazy.  He's Arizona's Senator.

Update:  David Frum, who surely should know better, argues that the problem is pot.  How's that for deflection.  (See Tbogg for the details.)  There is already much nuanced discussion of the crazed shooter's pyschology and thoughts, particularly as he was articulate enough to have written some of his ideas down on the internet and elsewhere.  Here is one of the best pieces I happened to have run across so far:

Insofar as they're not just dissembling, the Right needs to try and understand that it's possible both for the shooter to be, in extreme shorthand terminology, "crazy," and for there to be a rhetorical atmosphere that encourages extreme acts, such as the act he perpetrated on Saturday.  Moreover, the ceaseless "they do it too" statements by a mainstream media more afraid of, e.g., Sarah Palin's reaction to any criticism than to the remote possibility that some next crazy person might come their specific way, are most unhelpful, since they just encourage everyone to fall back into the circular and meaningless conversation.  Can't we just get real for a change?  It's real blood on the saddle right now.  (An unlikely hope I realize: driving to work earlier today, an effort which was ended in ice and a long walk back home, the truck now parked in someone's driveway six miles towards town, the "Rush Radio" morning blather mused that the shooter might have been a "set up" for some sort of new gun regulations.  Ain't that a pip.  From a Massacre to "they're coming to get your guns" in 48 hours.  And you wonder why I say talking the the Right is pointless?)

Other very good posts on this subject:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

If You Were In the Park, and It Was 1968

Ms Giffords opponent last fall

 Let's start with this:,-continuing-updates%29

 The link presents the facts.  That is, the "atmosphere," if you like.  All the perfectly crafted responses from "Tea Party Spokesmen" and from various politicians and main stream media people mean absolutely nothing.  Also meaningless is the analysis of the kid's ravings, e.g., "Oh look, he mentions Marx, he must be a liberal."  This, Mrs. Angle, is a "Second Amendment Solution" in action.  This tasty phrase has been all the rage this political season.  It's in the water now.  

The sad fact is, the simple minded rhetoric about weapons is just as simple minded as the simple minded rhetoric about debt ceilings, and the simple minded rhetoric about government in general.  It is being proposed that we be led by the simple minded.  They are in fact winning elections.  Mrs. Virginia Fox (R, NC) is now head of the Education Committee in the US House of Representatives.  That picture is worth about the same as the one of Rummy shaking hands with Saddam.

If there is one lesson to be learned at this juncture, it is that people who bother to vote in some sort of seemingly special circumstance, such as the election of Barack Obama in '08, have got to understand that they can't just go back to their ordinary lives and forget about politics for another decade, until something else so bad develops that once again they decide to be bothered.  The right does not rest.  Their goal is utter destruction, and they are working on it without respite. Moreover, they have vast resources, including an army of highly effective sales personnel who command innumerable radio and television shows.  And the right, in the form of corporate dominance of the terms of discourse, is already so powerful in the US as to almost make democracy an illusion, just as things stands.  Don't expect an Obama to manage to change much. Read a little Chomsky if you want to understand the lay of the land.  But if you bothered to vote in '08, you'd best plan on staying in the game.  The alternative is out and out fascism, which is what assassination and terrorism amounts to.

What a tragic waste.

Update:  Laurie is correct that "their" goal is not really utter destruction.  Their goal is control and power.  They do hope to utterly destroy the New Deal and various assertions in law and fact that bring the founding phrase "all men are created equal" more to reality.  For more discussion see:
Be sure to read the comments.  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


I-540, Raleigh, NC, one day in 2010
It's been a relief to write "2011", and I have a feeling that my metaphorical ears have popped just a bit (although like Mr. Edroso we're struggling under a nasty sinus and lung gunk attack that makes me actually wonder if the thousands of dead blackbirds out in the midwest isn't some as yet unrecognized symptom of a Change).  What I noticed yesterday, at any rate, was that the morning NPR "analysis" of the new lay-o-the-land politically speaking is just the same old "balanced" meme, so neutral that you'd imagine a memo had gone out to "keep yr heads down fer gawds sake, Issa's on the prowl."  Could be.  Even the dead birds story they covered without real curiosity.  An "expert" just said, "yeah, it happens some times; may they got skeered by a noise."  The Inquiring Mind said "uh-huh."  Next, in Katmandu, ...

I'm not trying to start a rumor about the birds (or the big fish kill either).  Who knows.  It does happen.  We'll possibly find out, if there's any funding left in the till for a bit of scientific investigation.  I'm just saying that the incredible short-memory problem that the main stream media has developed has become so obvious, at least to me, that I just can't take anything these media analysts say any more seriously.  And that includes the so-called "liberal" Chris Matthews.  Maddow and Olbermann I'll still give an ear too, but I won't say "uncritically" there either.  Today the new Congress starts up.  We'll see if the "Revolutionaries" really have something beyond more of the same in a flat key.  I'm curious as to whether the Democrats will actually try to kill the filibuster as we know it.  The Republican threat that "if you do that, the Tea Party might pass some weird stuff," is pretty amazing in its utter insanity, yet another example of the Clevon Little Hostage Situation in action.  Perhaps that one image from Mel Brooks is symptomatic of the whole scam that's been successfully run on America by one of our Great Parties since 1980, one acid drip at a time.  And this just isn't news, dear friends.  Ten years back we all saw the picture of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam.  That picture was worth a million unspoken words, and still is. 

So Happy New Year.  At least it's not 2010.  Get over the flu.  The nice thing about winter down here is, there ain't no ticks.  And already the days are getting longer.  Also, copper, the metal that runs the modern world, is at its highest value ever.

A Link:  If the Rummy-Saddam hugfest photo didn't shine a light, there was this, way back in March, '10: