Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Republican Offensive

Here's Juan Cole on the Netanyahu State of the Union speech upcoming Tuesday:

There are many salient points in the Cole post--just read it. It is remarkable that the party of God-Bless-Merica would so boldly undermine an active, on-going diplomatic effort to reduce tensions in an area that could otherwise exhibit the first nuclear exchange in world history. Congress is rapidly overtaking the worst congressional historical moment in our history of exceptional history-making: among a number of worthy candidates, that would be rejecting membership in the League of Nations at the end of World War I.

Meanwhile, the criticism of "American Sniper" must be hitting a nerve at the base of the lizard brain: the gangleon that operates the slashing spiked tail of the dinosaur. Last night Mr. O'Reilly (yes, he's returned to the Dish) presented a remarkable editorial attacking "the internet" in toto because people are criticizing the movie. He particularly singled out a review on, a site I rarely visit:

I'll repost the link I posted yesterday:

This is not the review by Ms Taub which O'Reilly directly attacked. But for that matter, Mr. O'Reilly really didn't directly attack anything, except the character of Ms Taub, which he denigrated by quoting from a piece she wrote last year in which she tried to understand just what the hell the Taliban in Pakistan was thinking when they attacked a military school in the Tribal Region and killed over one hundred school children. From this premise, O'Reilly vaulted to an overall indictment of the internet (why he didn't say Internet Tubes I don't know), invoking as his conclusion the historical fact that Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia both used state news sources to affect their population's understanding of world events. Mr. O'Reilly didn't bother to mention that the New Yorker had published last year a major piece of reporting on the facts concerning this particular U.S. Army sniper, his service, his fairly bizarre post-service civilian career as a self-marketer, and his even more bizarre murder at the hands of a fellow serviceman. The New Yorker is of course one of the most impeccable of news sources, vetting their work to the maximum. As far as I've read anywhere, no one has denied the New Yorker story. Here's the link Mr. O'Reilly didn't bother to furnish, easily available on Google (took me ten seconds):

The criticism of the movie American Sniper concerns various omissions about the historical Chris Kyle which Clint Eastwood makes in the process of the portrayal of his freshly fictional doppelganger. This is of course the basic nature of almost every movie proporting to offer historical material. What is remarkable is not that it happens in American Sniper, but that the movie is in many quarters being described as "the truth about the war in Iraq," or about what it means to be a soldier in the Iraq theatre.

Yesterday on NPR an ex-Marine was quoted as saying that the movie shows that when soldiers return the civilians around them (such as their wives and children) shouldn't expect all roses and rainbows. Indeed not. The question is not this, but how to understand it. Are we to take the soldiers who have experienced pure hell, and four tours of it, as the final arbiters of the truth about war? What truth? Mr. Kyle is quoted as saying that the Iraqis were all "savages," and that he enjoyed killing them. Is that the truth? I wonder if it's even Eastwood's truth, for all of his weird appearance for Mr. Romney at the last GOP convention, and the empty chair muddle he presented as theatre.

When Mr. Bush committed our military to the appalling Iraq adventure, it was obvious to many that it would not end in May on an aircraft carrier with the banner "Mission Accomplished" and a grand marching band. Indeed, Mr. Bush committed to our withdrawal from Iraq before he himself withdrew to Texas, and it was only left to Mr. Obama to oversee the event later on. Mr. Bush prepared the ground for ISIS. The war prepared the ground for Eddie Routh:

The Washingon Post was not cited in Mr. O'Reilly's diatribe last night. It's not "the internet." But the fact that Clint Eastwood has picked Kyle to be the Captain America of the Second Iraq War is necessarily woven into the story of Eddie Routh, American Veteran of that war. Perhaps Eastwood will have to undertake a sequel, if his concerns are historical. It certainly doesn't take a propagandist to appreciate the many and deep ironies which abound.

This week in Iran people rioted because of the Charlie Hebdo cover responding to the massacre of its editors. The cover depicted Muhammed weeping over the murders. The people in Iran rioted because the Prophet is never supposed to be depicted at all, at least according to one dominant strain of the Muslim religion. This is a Homer Simpson moment. Another is Mr. O'Reilly declaiming against media being used as propaganda, or (for that matter), in naming his bit of nightly entertainment "The No Spin Zone."

It has been a commonplace since at least The Red Badge of Courage that there are different and to some degree contradictory levels which must all be comprehended and appreciated if we are to understand the human activity of war, and it's fundamental insanity. People in war can indeed be heroic, brave, even trustworthy and reverent. And they can exhibit all these revered human qualities in service to causes which cannot be respected or revered. If being courageous and brave was all there was to it, we could embark on wars willy-nilly, in the service of producing a generation of great warriors. It seemed to work for Sparta. Those were much simpler times, and actually, it didn't work for Sparta either. When Mr. Bush embarked on Iraq, a lot of people said he'd totally forgotten the lessons of Vietnam. Those critics were absolutely right. American Sniper proves them right. Eddie Routh's story is more obvious, that's all. There's nothing new to any of it. The Hurt Locker, another movie not mentioned by Mr. O'Reilly last night, gets it right too.

The authoritarians among us have only one real rule. Shut up. It doesn't take an internet. It was already there in print. Meanwhile, as the innocent amongst us focus on the alleged defamation of a brave American Hero by the left wing internet (never mind the plain facts of the story, Chris Kyle is now Chris Kyle (c) and don't you forget it), our congressional "representatives" are fashioning a strategy aimed at demolishing our President and State Department's active and ongoing efforts to deflect an on-coming war with Iran--a war which none of them will fight, and which will produce should it occur an even more gigantic tragedy than the one still ongoing in Iraq. What cheap thrills for O'Reilly and his band of cheerleaders.

Here's one last bit of information:

The deeper story of the movie American Sniper is its function in the manipulation of the American voter's perceptions. This is what Mr. O'Reilly was very concerned that you not notice, in his diatribe last night. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

One more link. This is a serious, responsible review of American Sniper, the movie:

Our American propensity for substituting comfortable myth for uncomfortable reality is hardly new. It is deeply, perhaps ultimately fatally unfortunate that we now have whole mainstream networks devoted to serving the myths, propping them up, never even allowing the smallest question to filter in from somewhere outside the bubble. Perhaps this was the true motivation for Mr. O'Reilly's diatribe the other night: somehow commentary on the internet was at least bruising the bubble of Chris Kyle, American Hero. Aside from the advent of Mr. Murdoch, nothing else is very new. You want to watch something that will shake your fantasies of America? Try Barefoot Gen, parts 1 and 2. Hey it's just a cartoon, how hard can it be? No one was "really" killed. If you do watch it, I'll bet it's the first time in your life you ever really tried to imagine the truth of Hiroshima: that there was simple human life going on at the moment the atomic bomb went off that August day. If we are to be adults, we must eventually face the facts, whether it's Chris Kyle or Hiroshima. Too bad Mr. O'Reilly isn't interested in helping the long hard process.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

At Least It's Not Freezing

From Charlie Pierce:

The GOP has also announced it will be offering a Spanish-language rebuttal, which will be delivered tonight by freshman Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a young conservative from a diverse Miami congressional district. But there's a wrinkle. According to a press release from the House Republicans, Curbelo will not be sharing his own thoughts and words with the public. Instead, he will only be reading a Spanish translation of Ernst's speech. Curbelo's office confirmed that he will not be delivering his own remarks. By the way, Ernst has endorsed English as a national language and once sued Iowa's secretary of state for offering voting forms in languages other than English. Her office did not respond to requests for comment. Curbelo has broken with his own party on immigration to support a path to citizenship for undocumented residents. Ernst has repeatedly expressed opposition to "amnesty."

I couldn't watch the SOTU last night. Fact, it was my birthday and our anniversary, and after a great meal of beef stew and some bon-bons, I went to bed at about 9 pm. I knew the speech would be good. Libby said people reported it to be one of Mr. Obama's best. She said when Mr. Obama said he would not be running again, the Republicans clapped. He's good at setting them up, in this case allowing them to show just how infantile they are. After a perfect pause he said, "I already won."

This isn't a new observation, but I'm very sorry, in retrospect, that Mr. Obama did not fully realize that he is dealing with an opposition party that has no interest at all in governance, and does not see the plain truth that there is always a need for governance connected to reality, to the Now. The Republicans have been working the Past and the Future since the moment Mr. Obama was elected. They represent the same body of Americans who, in 1968, got rid of the last charismatic black leader actually capable of effecting deeper change in a social structure that they liked just fine. These Republicans stand behind the idea that it makes great sense to co-join a holiday commemorating Martin Luther King,Jr., with the commander of the Confederate Army and as profound a traitor to the United States and the vaunted "founders" as Benedict Arnold: Robert E. Lee. Robert E. Lee. He was asked by Lincoln to lead the U.S. Army. Had he done so it is likely that there would have been no American Civil War. At worst he would have decisively won the first battle of Bull Run, and that would have been that. It is likely that many of the best West Pointers would not have resigned and joined the Confederate Army, following Lee's example. This is Lee's legacy. In Arkansas and other states, he is commemorated on the same day as Dr. King. Well, they were both Generals. Why not toss in MacArthur?

I wish Mr. Obama had never had the thought that he could work with the Republican Party and build a coalition, and actually get things done. I wish he'd allowed the Bush Tax Cuts to expire when they were supposed to, and never given an inch on the Debt Ceiling blather, and used his powerful skills at rhetoric to show these Republicans for what they truly are: the servants of oligarchs and racists, and the deceivers of the innocent. To assume there is some place a reasonable man can meet with these people is to start out a failure. By making the long long effort Mr. Obama has simply allowed his time in power to drip away. Now he's left with speeches and little else. Before his speech yesterday, Mitch McConnell said "Sounds like his proposals are just more 'tax and spend.'" When I heard that I decided I wouldn't even watch. What does it matter that Mr. Obama can easily make them all look like fools. That's still playing on their turf, where that's the whole point of gaining power. Get elected and get rich.

Here in NC we're racing in retrograde. Last week the Republicans, who've gained total control of state government, fired the President of the Consolidated University of North Carolina without cause. The speculation was, the lone fact against him was he'd been appointed by a Board of Governors which had been controlled by Democrats. That's it. But Duke University trumped that. After proclaiming that a Muslim call to prayer would be broadcast from the Duke Chapel bell tower every Friday at noon (there being quite a number of Muslim students at Duke, a seriously international university), they backed down because of some sort of "threats." NC's own Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, chimed in with his criticism. Lord how the money rolls in. Maybe they need Coach K to jump over to the Duke academic leadership side of things. He don't quit at least.

As it is, the two top educational institutions in North Carolina have each received vicious wounds in the same week, with precious little succor so far. We're about back to the Speaker Ban. With two Republican Senators, NC may this year resume its place at the pinnacle of bigotry and ignorance which we reluctantly gave up when Jesse Helms retired. Oh fraptuous joy.

Update: I read this today.

The marketing of outright lies is endless and constant. Ads for this film are at the moment endless too. It'll probably win a lot of awards. Most people will then believe the implications of its framework. Voters don't have a chance.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Place Where the Circle Squares

Mr. Edroso takes note today of a fresh new column by Ron Dreher:

In the column, Dreher follows the corkscrew tail of Satan right up Satan's... errrrm... fundament, and never even notices. Here's his genius conclusion, after two chalk-boards of equations:

...But the decadence represented by Charlie Hebdo is probably a greater threat to Western civilization than anything the Islamists can dream up, and it’s important to keep that straight even as we defend the right to free expression and a free press.

Dreher then goes on to put Lena Dunham's tv show, Girls, into the same bucket with the swill he's sloshing, based on a brief glimpse of a sex scene which for reasons unknown to me in 2015 has apparently caused some sort of "stir" amongst some folks or other:

Scrolling my Facebook feed last night, I found this New York magazine feature about the season premiere of HBO’s Girls, which featured a scene in which a man performs oral sex on his girlfriend’s anus. It turns out that this is a thing in pop culture now.

Edroso rightly questions the "pop culture" reference, which can mean little more than "on the teevee". What's shocking--but also revealing--is the ease with which Dreher essentially defends the real actual no shit murder of a bunch of cartoonists (one of them was 81 years old, another just 18) as a blow for I guess you could say the 'murrican way.

Here's something everyone needs to get straight. It's a lesson in logic I guess. The deal is, you can't actually just say one thing, and then a contradictory thing, and then by simply stipulating that there is no contradiction, go right on to whatever conclusion you might desire to achieve before your space limit is attained and you can draw your check from your publisher. This is one way that logic is rather like math. And a corollary of this is probably that if you do mix in a contradiction or two in your argument, you'll find that you can seem to conclude damn near anything you want to conclude, and even convince yourself. And once you've convinced yourself, if you're a decent writer, you can probably convince your readers, or some significant percentage of them. This is how we are making our sad way to a fully American authoritarian, fascist society, one red state at a time, one police force after the next. What would DesCartes make of the new police dictum: "I thought he had a gun."

In point of fact--I watched the episode of Girls in question, as HBO was free last weekend--and what exactly Ms Williams' boyfriend was doing is not actually depicted in said scene. Mr. Dreher has lept to yet another conclusion, as has the New York magazine's reviewer (if indeed such conclusion was lept to in Dreher's cited source). We don't know what exactly is happening between Ms Williams' character on the show and her character's partner on said show. We can only say that they were having sex, as later Ms Dunham's character on the show has sex with her boyfriend. Ms Dunham, by the way, engages (acts) a scene of traditional woman-on-bottom facing man-on-top sex, thus defending the barricades alongside of Mr. Dreher, against the charging Orcs. Moreover, Dunham's fingernail polish is as perfect as my mother's was, in 1958. Orcs surround the bed in their death throes by the end of the scene, and Dunham leaves for Iowa, where possibly Dreher is scheduled to teach an elective course in blather in the coming semester.

Meanwhile, Presidential Hopefully Mike Huckabee (sheesh, he was actually elected to a governorship one time!) has taken a shot at the Obamas' parenting abilities, suggesting that they should not "allow" their teenage daughters to view Beyonce's videos. Does he think that task would be easier that trying to get the Tea Party Congress to actually cooperate in governance? And as was pointed out by a blindfolded archer, this same Huckabee hangs around with Ted Nugent, who had a published song back in his rock days lauding sex amongst the preteens. Hell, even the Stones got the girls into teenhood before they pointed out the truth: "it ain't no hangin' matter, ain't no capital crime."

The right trades in this Major Hoople rocking chair shock. Why it never grows too old to work it's hard to say. Maybe blood just trumps every logical synapse. As Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, the French parliament voted 488 to 1 to attack ISIS militarily, in a reaction to the murders at Charlie Hebdo. The voices who ask the right questions are buried under the hurricane's wind.

The question is: why does the radical islamist movement want the West in a mindless tizzy. Because. OBVIOUSLY!! That is the goal, just as it was on 9/11. As happened then, now fourteen years ago, the trap worked. George Armstrong Custer must be turning in his grave. David Seaton spells it out in his most recent post:

If these attacks cause anti-Muslim sentiment in western countries, so much the better... France's Marine Le Pen and Germany's Pegida movement are some of radical Islam's most valuable western assets as they prove to the masses of "Muslim countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan" the Islamist message that their unelected rulers are collaborators with the enemies of their religion and culture.

In Saudi Arabia last year the government beheaded 83 people.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Grand Street Pavers

Hayat Boumeddiene

Now the bricks lay on Grand Street
Where the neon madmen climb
They all fall there so perfectly
It all seems so well timed
And here I sit so patiently
Waiting to find out what price
You have to pay to get out of
Going through all these things twice
Oh, Mama, is this really the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

(c) Bob Dylan

Back when I was attending UNC in the early '60s I read a book by Eric Hoffer called True Believer. It compared the politics of radical communists to the beliefs and actions of religious fanatics, suggesting that there was something close to a hidden identity in the thinking of both groups of seemingly disparate people. By the mid-'60 Jean Luc Godard had made Le Chinoise, a film about a group of young Maoists sitting in the apartment of one of their adult relatives and indoctrinating themselves in the politics of terrorism. At the end of the movie some of them rush out to commit an absurd crime, and the apartment owners return to find their expensive digs vandalized with various Maoist dicta scrawled across their living room walls. A bit later, Antonioni made a similar film called Zabriski Point, which leads to a similar end: absurd violence. It is set in America. Later, in the '70s, Fassbinder returned to the topic in Third Generation, which follows the self-hypnosis of a kind of Bader-Meinhof gang in Germany. It too ends in absurdity--an absurdity which Fassbinger highlights more obviously than did either Godard or Antonioni.

About the same time that Fassbinder was working on his film, a group of idealistic, radicalized students, mostly medical students attending Duke University, decided to hold a rally in Greensboro. They called the rally "Death to the Klan." The North Carolina Ku Klux Klan, some of whole resided in the tiny farm town of China Grove, and one of whom was actually a police informant, decided to attend. They carried weapons, and opened fire on the group assembling to march, killing a number of the students and wounding a number more. Later the Klan group was acquitted because their defense raised the possibility that actually a marcher had fired one shot first. The informant was said to have encouraged the Klan group to go to the rally.

In 2001, a small group of men, mostly from Saudi Arabia, hijacked several American passenger airliners and flew them into two very large office buildings in Manhattan, and into the Pentagon, in Washington. Some three thousand more or less random inhabitants of the office buildings were killed, along with the hijackers and passengers. The only thing distinguishing the Manhattan buildings was their height and their globalist name: World Trade Centers. Of course the Pentagon symbolized and in fact was the center of the United States military, but the attack there also killed mostly office workers.

In 1995 a presumably Christian zealot blew up a US government building in Oklahoma City, killing many office workers and a number of small children who were in the day care center that the government had provided to aid workers who were also parents. In 1993 some Islamist fanatics drove a car filled with explosives into the World Trade Center underground garage and damaged one of the towers. Among the injured was the mother of a UNC basketball player, who was at work in the building.

It is reasonable to understand the 9/11 events as an attempt to leverage a great world power, the United States, into a war with the Islamic world. The attempt succeeded. The wars did not. Indeed, our war with Iraq seems to have perfectly prepared the field for ISIS, which did not exist in 2001.

According to news reports, the sole surviving French terrorist, Hayat Boumeddiene, has now fled to Syria, where ISIS battles to overthrow the dictator Assad, who is a secular tyrant of a middle-east country which is neighbors to Iraq, which was led by a secular tyrant until the US overthrew him in 2003 as part of our response to the events of 9/11.

Mr. Rupert Murdoch has said this about the Charlie Habdo assassinations:

Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.

As far as recognizing growing cancers, pot, meet kettle.

I continue to be thankful that Mr. Murdoch continues his jihad against the Dish Satellite Network, so that we remain directly ignorant of the shit-stirring Murdoch's minions toil at with the aim of further inflaming the public against muslims. Murdoch's task and aims are apparently identical to those of the now deceased murderers in Paris. Much of the press, meanwhile, breathlessly reports every possible glimpse of the pretty girl in the story. Ms Boumeddiene should cut a single in Damascus and post it on Youtube.

We can hardly wait for the official Congressional reaction. 2015 begins.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Being Played

This is the first thing to read if you want to understand the Paris massacre yesterday.

I would have wished for much much better coverage by MSNBC at least. Chris Matthews' hand-wringing was close to O'Reilly's stock and trade emotionalism, so thank heavens the boycott by Fox News continues. Meanwhile, the American Right is pounding it's fist against the efforts to rein in the CIA and NSA, and this and every atrocity are its tools.

You'd think that the very well known history of this sort of tactic would be of at least minimum interest. The story of the Stalinist rise to power is recent in historical terms, and very instructive. The United States and much of Europe was played by the 9/11 attacks as well. A decade plus later and the ground in Iraq has been prepared for ISIS--by us!

There is this very sensible historical analysis from Charlie Pierce as well:

Given that we have so many and frequent examples of unscrupulous fear-mongering to choose from, you'd hope at some point we'd learn something about how and what to react to when something like the Paris atrocity occurs.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


[Photograph Alice Munro: Andrew Testa/Rex Features]

Living out in the NC boonies as we do, a few years back we decided to buy the Dish Network service so's we could live like the city folks do, watch some of the hit movies and as many of the great TCM presentations as we could fit into our busy daily schedule, use the DVR feature of our Dish Box to save even more stuff for later viewing, catch a lot of NASCAR and UNC basketball and "ladies" softball. And although we'd at first been unable to see any local TV via the sat because we were in some sort of never never shadow between the Triangle and the Piedmont Triad spheres of influence, last year or the year before we suddenly did manage to start receiving all the Raleigh broadcast stations. At that point I took down the translator box duct-taped to the tv that allowed us to see the fancy-dancy digital signals being broadcast from the Triangle, a signal that was frequently disrupted on its travel to our antenna by rain, snow, wind, and or wavy tree limbs, because we were, like it or not, at the place where those two circumferences of Triangle and Triad briefly intersected. Now the only thing stopping the signals was heavy snow on the dish mounted out in the field below the house.

So then lately our Raleigh CBS and Fox Affiliate, Capitol Broadcasting, has chosen to leverage the NFL playoffs just commenced into more money from the Dish company. This coincides not uncoincidentally with the choice of Fox News to try the same tactic at the same moment. Thus, as we tiptoe into the new year, we are not able to view the NFL playoffs aired by either CBS or Fox. Balancing this more than sleight exasperation is the fact that we can no longer go over to the Fox News channels to see, even for a very few seconds, what garbage Mr. O'Reilly, Mr. Hannity, Ms. Kelly, et al., are at that moment spewing out to confuse a gullible public.

Ah well. TCM is back on. The Carolina Panthers won their game yesterday on ESPN, and will wait for a whole week to be summarily slaughtered by either Seattle or Green Bay on the blacked out Fox Sports Network. What this on-going negotiation amongst the titans of industry should show us, since it is actually significantly news relevant to all our lives, is just how little Fox and Capitol really cares for its supposed clients, the public. Capitol has put up a gloriously ridiculous apologia so lawyerly crafted that one is not even allowed to cut and pasts a quote. Here's the link:

It's tough to avoid the obvious fact, that the Dish company isn't in the position of banning anyone--that Fox and Capitol control their content, and can allow Dish to run it or not. Thus, Fox and Capitol actually are fine with using their own hopefully decreasingly loyal viewers as pawns in a money grab. Miss the playoffs Archie? Well go buy an antenna. Miss hearing your usual suspects bashed every evening? Too bad. Listen to Rush more. But if you want to know what's going on, don't expect WRAL to tell you straight. Some local news they don't touch with a ten foot pole. The link is posted on the WRAL website. That's the deal.

I'll admit, it's actually consistent. This is what conservatives do, and what they care about. It's kinda pitiful that our own very local Capitol Broadcasting is getting wagged by the Murdoch. I went to high school with Capitol's President, Jim Goodmon. He's a nice guy. We elected him our class president for some reason, back in 1960, and it wouldn't be fair to hold him responsible for the rise to power of Jesse Helms, who was a pundit on Capitol's flagship station, WRAL, before he became a Senator and the very model for the Tea Party mooks who are auguring in our Federal Government. Back then Jim's parents and gramps were making the business decisions over there on Western Blvd, and Helms was riding his racist rocket two years after we all graduated, in '61--attacking everyone in sight who might sympathize with Martin Luther King, Jr. Jim's taken care of the company and tended its remarkable growth. That was his job. A lot of other folks have and had jobs because he did what his family wanted him to do with his life, which isn't to say that he didn't intend to do what he wanted to do every step of the way. My guess is the Murdoch empire has him by the balls for complex business reasons. The Durham Bulls play at Goodmon Field, fer gawd's sake. Give him a pass.

So let's enjoy the silence. The TV voices of the hard right are gagged by their handlers' overriding lust for even more money. For the Right, that trumps policy or principle every time. If we have to miss a few football games, or even Daytona, maybe we'll get to see some baby owls instead of a late winter afternoon, or a hawk catching a mouse at the edge of the wood, or the first green shoots of yet another spring. The best news I've seen in the new year, so far, is Alice Munro's most recent book of stories, "Dear Life." Read that and forget the whatever is it of the moment. You won't miss nothing much, and you might even come to appreciate Mr. Goodmon's sacrifices, obscured as they are by his triumphs.

An interview with Alice Munro:

Note: If you care to click around Alice Munro and her Nobel Prize Triumph of 2013, you will likely find Mr. Brett Eston Ellis's sneering dismissal of not only Mrs. Munro's work, but even of the honor she has been awarded. Ellis didn't even have the courage of his rather transparent misunderstandings, back-pedaling his arch dismissals once he discovered that almost no one agreed with him. "I'll have to try reading her again," he said. It didn't surprise me that Ellis was left sitting on the ice, like Ms. Munro's failed-triple-axel metaphor. After all, Ellis owns his own success, such as it is. American Psycho is surely the best existing argument for censorship, and it's even been made into a bad movie. Hopefully he'll never get the Nobel for pornographic violence.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Clean Slate Again

We have the black-eyed peas soaking, and will start that pot after a while. Put in some country ham, some bit of greens (I'll probably use spinach or epinards as the bag calls them), but mustard greens might be perfect, one small can of tomatoes, plenty of black pepper. After a while the pot will be ready--when the peas are soft basically. What deliciousness to start the year. We should also make corn bread, but I'm not sure that'll actually happen.

The tragic (or something) homicide in Idaho, of a young mother shot by her 2-year-old son when he reached into her bag whilst sitting in her shopping cart in a Walmart at 10:30 AM in a very small town, and found her loaded pistol, is most of all a symptom of the great problem we have trying to manage being a democracy. The millions of people who have fallen entirely into the religion of the gun, which is pretty much exactly like the religion of Baal, and driven by exactly the same fears, is a symptom of a feature of human psychology which seems entirely unchanging when we look at our silly, stumbling species from any historical perspective at all. The crafty and craven, of whom we always have aplenty (another trait of the species one might say), understand both consciously and unconsciously how to exploit fear. For some of them, the invisible levers are always in plain view. Let anything untoward occur, be it a surprising green comet never before seen in our tiny history but an object which was last nearby at the very start of the world as we know it today, a world free of its ice sheet; or a new outbreak of a virus which occurs almost entirely among humans too poor to make a market for a scientifically achievable vaccine, immediately the crafty and craven will stir panic and fear amongst all those susceptible, a pool of millions.

Even without the manipulators, people will do a pretty good job of letting fear drive their behavior. What's a tragic problem for our species is the way this trait is never noticed in the moment. The maw of death spurred by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand seems to mean nothing at all to us when airplanes crash into our skyscrapers. In Idaho, the husband of the deceased mother, whose little son will carry with him through his whole life that terrible fact that he shot and killed his mother, asserts that "she did nothing wrong." Certainly the little boy did nothing wrong either, but who will convince him of that. For the believers of Baal, their faith carries all. Everything else is at fault. The solution is more guns. The deceased mother's gun was in a new handbag, a Christmas present, with a special compartment just for the pistol. Some entrepreneur saw an obvious market. I'll bet that bag is for sale in my county, at the boutique gun shops which have sprung up this late past year to tend to the distaff trade, ladies pistols for the ladies who fear a 10 AM stroll in our Walmarts. Common sense would not allow a raccoon near such a handbag, much less a little boy.

It is this way of thinking... err "thinking"... which leads us to a Congress such as what we are now cursed with (or an NC Legislature, for that matter). These representatives, selected by millions of voters in the thrall of fear stoked to a blue flame by the hard work of so-called news organizations which are in fact propagandists, not to mention the politicians themselves, either driven by the same fear or bought and paid for by the manipulators, are then supposed to solve the weighty problems which do in fact confront us all. Thus it is that Senator James Inhofe (R,OK) becomes the new chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee when the new Congress convenes. His goal is less "government regulation" and more military spending.

I looked for the green comet last night. It's supposed to be somewheres around Orion, which was wonderfully visible, as was I believe Saturn, coming up in the east whilst Orion hung at more or less eleven o'clock in the southern sky. The moon was too bright I believe. It's supposed to gain in brightness well into January, this comet Lovejoy, named after the Aussie who spotted it back in August. In ancient times Mr. Lovejoy would sit at the side of kings, and whisper in their ears, and corn would be planted according to his notions, and goats sacrificed.

Boy oh boy it's a pretty day outside, January 1, 2015.

[Lovejoy photo from NBC News]

Further reading: